HR Masterclass seminar

Every business has different standards of what is deemed appropriate or inappropriate behaviour. While some forms of behaviour will always be inappropriate, it is important that everyone in the business understands where the line is drawn.

1. Bullying: undermining and humiliating another person. For example, off-colour jokes may appear to be simply bad taste, but it depends on the situation. They can be used to target an individual or group.
2. Harassment: unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which violates an individual’s dignity. Such behaviour could manifest in subtle ways such as a creeping invasion of personal space.
3. Substance abuse can be identified by unusual changes in a person’s judgment, alertness, perception, performance and emotional state.
4. Violence can be easier to identify than other forms of inappropriate behaviour, and swift action is vital to deal with any incidents.
5. Disregard of company rules; reoccurring lateness, theft, disregard for company property etc.

By watching out for these 5 signs, Managers and businesses can be confident in their ability to offer staff a working environment free of inappropriate behaviour.

For guidance on inappropriate conduct at work, contact Solve on 0131 300 0433

Natwest has found itself at the forefront of the media recently when an employee went on an anti-vegan rant to one of their customers. The debacle made headlines when a Natwest customer phoned up for a loan with the bank and although the customer didn’t meet the loan requirements, the call was recorded and after investigation, it can be revealed that she spoken to in a manner which would not suggest great customer service.

After the staff member learned that the customer was vegan, he was recorded saying that “all vegans should be punched in the face” and told her that he felt vegans were forcing their beliefs on him. The customer stated that she felt his tone was “really unpleasant” and didn’t feel she should be punished for her lifestyle choices by a “big organisation.”

After listening to the recording, the bank decided to accept her loan request for £400 and pay out just under £200 in compensation.

Last year, Starbucks had to deal with public fallout after an employee mocked a customer with a disability. The customer had a lisp and the employee wrote his name on the cup as “SSSAM”.

Like the Natwest story, both of these incidents have a great impact on the Company’s branding. Poor practice, especially within visible customer-facing roles or roles susceptible to media coverages raises questions about how engaged employees are with the Company’s corporate ethos.

The impact for a Company’s brand is huge if their employees are not upholding the tone or image that is expected of the Company.

Often, improving employee engagement is incumbent on HR, as they are looked upon to improve how employees feel about the Company and how they engage with their work. A recent survey found that only just over four in 10 employees knew what their Company stands for.

If you would like help on employee engagement and retaining your company image through your employees, contact us at Solve.

Should Staff Get Paid For Snow Days

Should Staff Get Paid For Snow Days

It’s that time of year where the UK is prone to experiencing periods of heavy snowfall.  Our article aims to answer some of the more common questions on the impact of severe weather conditions.

Do I have to pay employees who cannot get to work because of severe weather?

In short, no, you are well within your rights to refuse to pay an employee who does not appear for work due to severe weather such as heavy snow.  This is because an employee who is not working is not fulfilling their contract of employment, and so therefore, you don’t have to pay them.  That said, you may wish to take a reasonable approach and pay your staff on a ‘snow day’ to maintain staff morale and your reputation as a good employer.

Do I really need a policy on severe weather?

It is good practice to have a Severe Weather and Travel Disruption Policy in place to ensure that employees are aware of the rules and procedures that the Company adopts should they experience difficulties in attending work due to bad weather or disruption to travel.

What can I do if I need employees to work even though the weather is bad?

In the modern world of work, many jobs can be done from home, and employees who frequently work at home should be encouraged to do so when bad weather approaches.  If you know that the weather is going to be bad, you might want to take a proactive approach and seek mutual agreement from staff to ensure the business can run effectively during these periods.  You should be careful about asking employees to work at home when a requirement to do so is not included in their contracts of employment.  To require an employee to work at home in severe weather will constitute a unilateral variation of his/her contract of employment requiring consultation in advance.

You should also consider the implications of the employees’ health and safety before imposing a homeworking requirement: some employees’ homes will simply not be set up to be turned into a temporary workplace.

Can employees take holidays when they cannot get to work because of bad weather?

Where employees are unable to get to work because of bad weather, taking the time as a paid holiday may be an option.  There is nothing to stop you asking the employee if they would like to take a holiday if they are unable to get to work.  Many employees will find taking paid holiday preferable to losing a day’s pay.  However, there may be circumstances in which this might not be possible. For example, where the employee has used their holiday allowance or they wish to keep their holidays for a later date.

If you are going to insist that employees take the time as holiday, you must provide them with the minimum statutory notice.  For example, if you request an employee to take 2 days holiday, you must give then at least 4 days’ advance notice.

If I close my workplace because of bad weather, do I have to pay my staff?

 If an employee is unable to work because you have made the decision to close the premises, this will in effect be a period of lay-off, therefore, unless there is a contractual provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, you should pay your employees their normal wage.

I have employees with children at schools and nurseries that are closed because of the severe weather. Do I have to give them time off when they have no childcare?

Employees have the statutory right to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependants.  This right applies where an employee needs to take time off work because of unexpected disruption to the care arrangements for a dependant.  An employee taking advantage of this right must inform you of the reason for the absence, and likely length of the absence.

If your business would benefit from a Severe Weather Policy, contact us at Solve. HR.

Most employers nowadays offer some form of mental health awareness in the workplace, but is enough being done to address the implications that the menopause can cause?  The menopause can arguably be closely linked to Mental Health, considering it can lead to anxiety and depression and can affect every woman differently.

The menopause can have affect women emotionally and physically, as well how they perform and interact with colleagues and customers in the workplace, which can affect their absence levels and work productivity.  Some of the more common symptoms include night sweats, insomnia, lack of concentration and forgetfulness which can lead to problems with work performance, difficulties in making decisions and a decrease in an employee’s confidence levels.  Therefore, providing a supportive and understanding culture could potentially lower the Employer’s risk of a claim for sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Employment Tribunals

The first successful employment tribunal concerning the menopause was in 2012 and was in the case of Merchant v BT plc whereby the employee alleged that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of her gender when her employer failed to deal with her menopause symptoms in the same way that it would have dealt with other medical conditions. The employment tribunal held this discriminatory and unfair and said that a man suffering from ill health with comparable symptoms from a medical condition (in this particular case, affecting concentration) and with performance issues would not have been treated in the same way.

Previous case law has recommended that employers should take medical information into account in situations of capability and employers tend to seek advice from an employee’s GP and / or Occupational Health.

Considering more woman in the UK are now returning to work after having children and working later in life, employers would be wise to put in place the means to support their female employees through menopause transition.

How can employers help?

There is much advice and support for employers available and Solve. Can offer your business support when a women is going through the menopause.  Below are some useful hints and tips to get you started: –

  • Highlight menopause as part of a wider occupational health awareness campaign, so that all employees know that their employer has a positive attitude to the issue and that it is not something women should feel embarrassed about as well as providing guidance on how to deal with the menopause.
  • Sickness absence procedures should make it clear that they are flexible enough to cater for menopause-related sickness absence. Women should experience no detriment because they may need time off during this time.  Employers may choose to record sickness related to the menopause as an ongoing health issue instead of a series of short-term absences, which will ensure that the Absence Management Procedure will not be invoked unnecessarily and in turn will provide peace of mind to employees when discussing their health concerns.
  • Raise awareness amongst your leadership and management team of how menopause symptoms may affect women in the workplace.
  • Provide women in the workplace with information on how they can get support for any issues that arise as a result of the menopause. Because of the way society treats the menopause, many women will feel uncomfortable going to their line manager, especially if it’s is a man, and other options should be available. This may be through human resources or a welfare officer. Many employers have Employee Assistance Programmes that can act as a go-between and therefore, employers should communicate their Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
  • Where possible, aim to accommodate flexible working requests that will help women manage their symptoms, which can include exhaustion, anxiety and depression because of sudden changes in their hormone levels.
  • Consider giving employees the means to adjust the temperature e.g. provide a fan, ensure that employees take their rest breaks, and provide cold drinking water.
  • Where appropriate, refer female employees to occupational health.  And ensure that managers are aware of reasonable workplace adjustments that may be necessary to support women who are experiencing the menopause.
  • Promote physical activity, making full use of wellbeing opportunities as an added value benefit by some healthcare and group risk providers.

For help and guidance on any health related concerns, contact us at Solve.

Fixed term contracts can be effective when used properly and fairly, for example if a business has a specific project that has a limited time period then a fixed term contract would be a good option but it’s important to be mindful of the risks involved when it comes to terminating a fixed term contract.

Employees who are on a fixed term contract have the same legal rights as permanent staff.  There is also the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 to take into account when considering terminating an employee.  So it is not as straight forward as simply terminating once the contract has reached its end date and failing to take into account the risks involved can prove very costly.

When an employee is nearing the end of a fixed term contract take the following points into consideration:

  1. The need to understand, if any, what notice provisions are included in the contract.  Once you know this, you can determine when to start discussing terminating or renewing the contract with the employee.  Depending on how the contract of employment is written, some fixed term contracts may expire automatically on the expiry date or completion of a task but this would need to be specified in the contract.
  2. If there is a requirement to serve notice before the expiry date, failing to do so may entitle the employee to a payment in lieu of notice or an extension to the contract.
  3. If looking to terminate the contract early (with the exception of a gross misconduct dismissal) then it’s important to have a break clause otherwise this could prove costly as the employee may be able to make a claim for loss of earnings for the remainder of the term.
  4. By law, the non-renewal of a fixed-term contract amounts to a dismissal. Even where employment continues past the end of the term, there may still be a dismissal if the terms and conditions are different from the original contract, even if the employee has accepted the new terms.
  5. If an employee has two or more years’ continuous service you can only terminate if you can show one of the five potentially fair reasons for dismissal (conduct, capability, redundancy, illegality/contravention of statutory duty or some other substantial reason).
  6. If using redundancy for the reason for non-renewal consideration will need to be given to the pool for redundancy as well as the availability of alternative employment.  The employee may also be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment.
  7. If a fixed term contract has been used to cover the absence of a permanent employee, the fixed term employee will not be made redundant upon the return of the permanent employee.  In this case you would need to rely on the ‘some other substantial reason’ (SOSR).

In order to reduce the risks it’s important to have clearly written clauses within a fixed term contract and to monitor the operation of a fixed term contract.  It’s good practice to diarise the expiry dates of fixed term contracts so that decisions can be made in good time as to whether a contract is to be renewed or terminated.

For help and guidance on fixed term contracts speak to us at Solve.

Employment Law

Employment Law

You may have heard the term employment status on the news at the end of October 2016 in relation to Uber drivers.  This has prompted many business owners to think about the status of the people they engage.

1.     What is Employment Status?

  • Employment status looks at the nature of the relationship between an employer and the people that work for that company / provide services to that company.
  • Employment status looks at how bound and obliged the 2 parties are to each other and defines the employment status accordingly.

 

2.     What are the key categories?

The key categories when looking at employment status are:

  • Self employed
  • Workers
  • Employees

The Uber drivers were found to be ‘workers’ and not self employed

 

3.     Why is Employment Status important ?

Employment status is important because it determines employment rights

(Self-employed have the least rights, employees have the most rights)

  • Independent contractors – the truly self-employed have very few rights in relation to their work; for example, they have no entitlement to be paid minimum wage, holiday pay or sick pay.
  • Workers have various employment rights such as the right to minimum wage, paid holiday, appropriate daily rest breaks,
  • Employees have all the employment rights that workers have but have some additional protections including (subject to length of service) the right to: bring an unfair dismissal claim; request flexible working; statutory maternity pay; redundancy pay; and to a minimum notice period.

The HMRC website has an employment status indicator that you can use to look at how the Inland Revenue view employment status with respect to the paying of taxes.

 

4.     Surely if I agree with someone that they are self-employed and they are happy with that, then that is okay

  • That might sound okay and work out okay at the start of the relationship, however if the person is truly a worker or truly an employee attaching the label of self-employed to them doesn’t make them self-employed.
  • Furthermore it is always a good idea to look at a relationship – not when things are going well – but when things are not going so well. For instance when you want to part company with the person – if they are not self-employed then parting company with them may not be as easy as it would be if they were truly self employed
  • When determining employment status a  court will look at the reality of the situation – they will look at what happens in practice
  • A court will look at the detail of the relationship with a fine tooth comb

 

5.     How do I work out what someone’s employment status is?

To work out someone’s employment status there are many different tests but here are a few key areas to look at:

  • One of the most important things to consider is ‘mutuality of obligation’ – does mutuality of obligation exist between the company and the person?  If there is mutuality of obligation then that points towards the person being an employee. If there is a lack of mutuality of obligation then that points towards the employment relationship being looser and therefore the person could very well be a worker or self-employed.
  • It is worth looking at control also. How much control do you have over the person?
  • In the Uber case the court looked at the amount of control the employer had over the drivers. The court looked at the substance of the relationship between employer and driver – not the language of the documentation issued to the drivers – again just because you call someone self-employed does not make them so
  • The Uber situation isn’t new law – it was a case of applying old law to a set of modern circumstances.

 

6.      So once I have worked out employment status for each person then I don’t need to bother checking it again?

  • That is a very good question.   It is worth being aware that some employment relationships develop over time and can mutate/change into something different. For instance – someone may start off as a casual worker but over time there becomes a mutuality of obligation that makes them move from being a casual worker to actually being an employee.

For more information and advice please visit out Employment Law section or simply Contact us