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

Employer Right to Work Checks

The world is going through a phase right now of increased hacker activity, and as companies we need to respond and show that we are taking steps to protect employees. Here is a quick outline of 4 basic steps you can take to do that.

1. Data Encryption

It’s becoming more and more advisable that all data for your company is kept on an encrypted hard drive. This essentially is a locked hard drive that requires the unique key to open it. It’s easier than ever now to make use of high level security features with online cloud storage making huge strides towards online security for your data.

2. Keep what you need, nothing more

Part of the data protection act requires that we don’t keep data we don’t need, and though companies follow this rule, generally, well, we could tighten it up for ourselves, and make a distinct effort to not keep data on an employee we really don’t need or could do without. By reducing what we keep on our employees we reduce the amount of information a hacker might get hold of. Mothers maiden names are now so dangerous due to their overuse as “secret question” answers. We can get better at this!

3. Use dedicated online systems

We wrote a blog post a while back on using an HR Management System in your business, and while these can be practically rewarding due to simplicity, they offer security benefits. Essentially, you don’t store HR related data onsite, it’s elsewhere, and you can generally be assured that these companies are doing their best to keep this data safe, if they didn’t they wouldn’t exist long! While it’s common it’s not a given, so research the security of the system you are considering before you invest.

4. Keep it non digital

This seems drastic, and counter intuitive to what we are saying about HR Management Systems, but we aren’t saying don’t use them, just add an extra level of protection to some data by keeping it in hard copy only. It depends on what data your company needs, but it might be worth a consideration that not all data requires instant access, and it could be safer in hard copy only.

Maintaining a healthy work life balance in any organisation is essential, however, the pace of our lives can make this difficult to achieve. Five ways that will enable employees to have a sense of wellbeing and reduce stress, whilst still maintaining high productivity levels are:

1.No More Late Nights at the Office
Research has proven that removing the company culture that celebrates employees working long-hours can help to achieve better productivity whilst assisting with individual work life balance. For instance: –

• Placing a time ban on sending emails after a certain time in the day;
• Inviting the arrival of the weekend with an early Friday finish;
• Introducing a shorter working week – Interestingly research has shown that there has been no drop in productivity yet has improved morale and staff retention.

Setting clear lines between working and personal time inevitably enhances staff productivity. However, that said, if the company is facing a surge in workload and staff are therefore required to work longer hours, it is important that they feel comfortable to ask for help along with the assistance of training opportunities for other team members, can be a good way to combat learning and delegation of unmanageable workloads.

2.Manage time spent in meetings
Attending meetings that go on longer than anticipated can often distract us from our essential day to day workload. Here’s some handy tips you can use to reduce the impact: –

• Staff can be encouraged to assess whether their attendance is absolutely necessary, or whether a post-meeting update would suffice.
• Promoting shorter concise meetings within the company will ensure that the meeting has a more direct focus.
• Changing the format of the meeting, for example asking everyone to stand, this changes the tone of the meeting and they can be kept to the point; or introducing walking meetings, which mean that the pace of the meeting is rapid and there is less need to digress.

3.Reduce the need to review emails
Studies have proven that employees have noticeably higher stress levels when using email. Here are some tips to reduce these: –

• Emails which individuals are copied into can be routed into a separate mailbox, leaving only the emails which are sent directly ‘To’ the individual in their inbox; and
• By switching emails off and scheduling a specific time in the day for them to be read, can reduce stress levels and enable employees to feel in control of their working day.

4.Eliminate distractions
There are a number of distractions in the workplace that can increase stress levels, which in turn make employees less productive. Here are some tips to reduce stress levels and increase the productivity of staff: –

• Introducing quiet working areas in the office can help those working on more contemplative tasks the option to not be distracted;
• Staff should be encouraged to turn off emails and mobile phones and disconnect from messaging and social media tools at the end of the working day; and
• Offering flexibility, such as allowing staff the option to work from home.

5.Drawing a clear line
It is important that work and personal life remain separate and the lines between the two do not begin to blur. Here’s some tips to help staff make the distinction:

• Encourage staff to leave work at work;
• Ensure that staff turn their work mobile and laptop off when work has finished for the day; and
• When an employee is on holiday or work has finished for the day, ensure that their email and remote access are configured to stop staff logging on.

To make ourselves healthier, happier and live a longer and more fulfilled life, we need to reduce our stress levels and get our lives in balance. The key is finding an appropriate amount of time for each, so that one side does not have a detrimental affect on the other.

Employees still don’t feel mental health issues get enough support at work.

Employers should take more preventative steps to promote good employee mental well-being, encouraging a culture of openness and provide training to managers to help support and signpost employees.  Investing in preventative measures, as well as building an open and supportive culture within the Company around mental health, could help to enhance people’s mental well-being.

The top 5 ways that employers can help provide support to their employees at work, include: –

1. Phased Return to Work Programmes

2. Access to Flexible Working

3. Access to Occupational Health Services

4. Access to Counselling Services

5. Access to an Employee Assistance Programme

There are several types of support that are not rarely provided, such as: –

1. Resilience or mindfulness training for employees;

2. Training for line managers in managing and supporting people with mental health problems;

3. Having mental health champions to raise awareness of the importance of mental health at work and the support available.

Employers should consider implementing these more preventative types of steps to promote good mental health, as well as reactive approaches that come into play when people are already experiencing poor mental health.