Getting ready for Autumn

October is almost upon us (yes, it really is!) and so now is a good time to start
preparing for the colder months. We have a few hints and tips for you for coping
with the colder weather: –
Adverse Weather
It happens every year. Snow, ice, frost and fallen trees can cause havoc on our
roads and also on public transport, so much so that you could have staff who are
late to work or even unable to make it in at all because of the winter weather.
You are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work, but it is
always a good idea to put things in place which allow your staff to maintain pay and
also for your business to continue to function.
Think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home or make up their
hours on another occasion.
If you do decide to pay staff who cannot attend work, ensure that they are told that
it is an act of goodwill and is not intended to be contractual.
School Closures
The weather is also a factor when it comes to schools and sometimes, even if staff
can travel, their children’s schools may decide to close, meaning that staff have no
childcare and, therefore, might be unable to get into work.
Again, you are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work but it
might be a good idea to think about what staff could do if they have no childcare.
As above, think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home or make
up their hours on another occasion, and perhaps even allow them to bring their
children into work (as long as they are aged between 8 and 16 years old). This is
also a great way to give some educational, interactive and inspiring experiences to
school-aged children, and also takes the pressure off their parents a bit as well.
Get the children involved in simple tasks and keep their minds occupied. But make
sure that your insurance covers you when children are in the workplace.
Staff Sickness
Coughs, colds, sniffles and maybe even the flu are inevitable at this time of year,
and this can mean that businesses experience higher absence levels than normal.
October, November and December are the perfect months to promote good hygiene
in the workplace Provide your staff with hand sanitisers, sweet-smelling
antibacterial soaps, telephone and keyboard wipes to help reduce germs spreading
and to keep staff healthier for longer.
Now is also the perfect time to review your sickness policy and remind employees
who, how and when they should contact work if they are sick.
Annual Leave Reminders
Some businesses have their holiday year starting on 1st January and ending on 31st
December. If this is the case for your business, now is the perfect time to remind
staff about their unused annual holiday allowance.
You do not have to allow staff to roll over their unused holiday into the next year
unless there are exceptional circumstances such as maternity leave or illness.
Remind staff that unless they use up their holiday entitlement, it will not roll over
into 2020. As the saying goes, use it or lose it.
And believe it or not, you are also able to refuse holiday if it is not a convenient time
for your business or if there are too many staff off.
That being said though, it is good to give staff time to rest so you should be
reasonable when receiving holiday requests.
Many employers are also unaware that they can impose annual leave. So if your
business has a down period or if your staff have unused holiday you can simply give
them a day off. Remember to give notice though.
Halloween
Festivities
With October comes Halloween, and one of the associated acts of Halloween is
dressing up as ghosts and ghouls and maybe even a few clowns. Some businesses
even use dressing up as a motivating factor.
In a similar vein to dress-down Fridays or dressing up for Children in Need,
managers still need to set some expectations of what is and isn’t considered
appropriate behaviour if they are going to facilitate a dressing up day.
In particular, employees should be reminded that Halloween is not an excuse to
cause an offence.
A few years back Tesco and Asda withdrew two Halloween outfits from its shelves as
they were named ‘Mental patient’ and ‘Psycho Ward’. The outfits were seen as
offensive to those with mental illness and so Tesco and Asda donated £25,000 to
Time to Change.
Outfits such as these could give rise to a discrimination and harassment claim and as
an employer, you would be liable.
It isn’t sufficient to simply tell your staff not to wear outfits which might cause
offence. You should give your employees examples of scenarios of acts or clothing
which may be considered harassment or discriminatory.
You may want to tell your staff about tribunal cases surrounding fancy dress so that
they see what consequences could arise from their actions.
Also, remember that not everyone celebrates Halloween, so you need to be mindful
to not exclude or discriminate against any staff members.
Trick or Treat?
Another common action during Halloween are pranks and the trick or treat custom.
Whilst no employer wants to be the grim reaper of fun, you need to take care to
ensure that staff do not feel threatened or intimidated by the acts or behaviour
around them.
That being said, employers should be aware that they need to strike a balance. It
has been known for a pagan employee to bring a discrimination claim against their
boss for not taking Halloween as seriously as other beliefs. In 2011, there was in
excess of 50,000 people in the UK who identified themselves of pagan.
If you would like any other information on things to deal with in the run-up to
winter, drop us an email at
info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk