Things that employers should be thinking about leading up to Christmas

Not long now until we start hearing Christmas jingles and seeing Christmas adverts on the TV and everyone starts talking about mince pies and mulled wine.

Of course, there are some people who think November is too early to start talking about Christmas, whilst others are literally counting down the days. And some have even finished all of their Christmas present shopping! 

We have a few tips to help you, as an employer, get through the Christmas period, and get your staff motivated and productive, instead of wishing the days away until they get a break.

Christmas Opening Hours

First of all, you should be confirming to your clients and customers, as well as your employees, what your Christmas opening hours are. If your business provides services all year round, inclusive of bank holidays, you need to start letting your employees know when they will be working in order to avoid poor attendance over the festive period.

Payroll

Secondly, start planning your Christmas payroll. Will you be paying your employees early? Does payday fall on a Christmas bank holiday? Will your employees be paid after Christmas?

Be organised in this regard to avoid delays in paying your staff.

 

Christmas Parties

Whether you are organising an official or unofficial Christmas party, it is always wise to remind your staff about what you expect from them.

Send an email or memo to your staff to gently remind them to behave appropriately, drink responsibly and arrange appropriate transport. No one wants to come back to work after Christmas without their driving licence or having to face a disciplinary over events that took place at a work party.

Also, remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas, so you need to be mindful to not exclude or discriminate against any staff members.

 

Bonuses

Many businesses reward their staff with Christmas or end-of-year bonuses and this is a great way to help staff morale.

However, we would always advise employers to have a policy in place regarding bonuses, in order to avoid being sued for discrimination or non-payment of a bonus.

This policy should state that bonuses are non-contractual and it should also clearly set out qualification terms, including that staff members must still be working for you at the time of payment in order to receive the bonus.

 

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 into work 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.

 

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.

November and December are the perfect time to promote good hygiene in the workplace. Provide your staff with hand sanitisers, sweet-smelling antibacterial soaps, telephone wipes 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 2019. 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.

We hope that these tips help you to get through the festive period smoothly and efficiently.

But remember to have fun as well!

For any help with staffing issues, Employment Law or HR you can contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

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A quick overview of Sick Pay

Although we are currently enjoying the Indian Summer we will, at some point, start experiencing cooler weather. With this, it is common to have staff off work with coughs, colds, sniffles and maybe even the flu so this month we are blogging about sick pay.

There are two types of Sick Pay and they are often referred to as Statutory Sick Pay and Company Sick Pay.

Here is a quick guide to sick pay.

Statutory Sick Pay

If an employee is unwell and too sick to work, they could be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). As an employer, it is your legal obligation to pay this to your employee.

There are certain criteria which need to be met for an employee to receive SSP, including: –

  • They must be classed as an employee and must have carried out some work for you;
  • They must have been ill for at least four days in a row (including non-working days);
  • They must earn an average of at least £116 per week;
  • They must tell you that they are sick before the qualifying deadline – or within seven days if they do not have one.

Agency and casual workers, part-time staff and staff on fixed-term contracts are also entitled to receive SSP (as long as the above criteria are met).

Of course, there are exceptions to the above. An employee will not qualify for SSP if: –

  • They have received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks) in any one year;
  • They are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay.

An employee will still qualify for SSP if they started working for you recently but have not yet received eight weeks’ pay.

If your employee has regular periods of sickness, these may be classed as ‘linked’. In these situations, the periods of sickness should: –

  • Last for four or more days each;
  • Be eight weeks or less apart.

However, the employee will not be eligible to receive SSP if they have a continuous series of linked periods that last for more than three years.

Your employee is only required to provide a doctor’s fit note (previously called a sick note) if they are off sick for more than seven days in a row (including non-working days).

Statutory Sick Pay is paid at a rate of £92.05 a week (as at October 2018), for up to 28 weeks in any one year. As an employer, you cannot pay less than this amount. However, you can pay more if you have a Company Sick Pay Policy (see below).

SSP is payable from the fourth ‘qualifying day’ (the day on which the employee is normally required to work). The first three qualifying days are called ‘waiting days’. SSP is not normally paid for the first 3 qualifying days unless the employee has been off sick and getting SSP within the last 8 weeks. Payment of SSP stops when the employee returns to work.

Remember that the employee’s period of sick leave does not stop if they are on annual leave/holiday during their illness.

If the employee has worked for just one minute before going home as sick, you cannot count that day as a sick day. If the employee works a shift that ends the day after it started and becomes sick during the shift or after it has finished, the second day will count as a sick day.

It is entirely up to you how you record your employees’ sickness absence. However, remember that HMRC may need to review your records if there is any future dispute over the payment of SSP for a particular employee.

You can no longer claim back SSP for sick leave from the Government.

 

Company Sick Pay / Contractual Sick Pay

Some companies have a Company Sick Pay Policy, sometimes called a Contractual Sick Pay Policy. In these cases, the employee’s Contract of Employment must state what the company’s sick pay policy is and how much they will be paid.

For example, the employee’s contract may include provision for payment of the employee’s normal salary in circumstances when they are off sick. Alternatively, the Contract of Employment might state that the employee will receive their normal salary less the amount of statutory sick pay.

If under the terms of the employee’s contract, contractual sick pay is not payable at all, the employee will only be entitled to receive SSP.

Why monitor sickness

Monitoring sickness can help you to identify trends. It may be that your staff member is off sick every Friday or at the end of the month.

You might find that sickness levels are related to stress or that the staff member has a disability.

By monitoring sickness levels you can reduce absences and help your staff.

If you would like more information about matters relating to Employment Law or HR, please contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

What should employers know about Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, to raise awareness of the devastating disease that is Alzheimer’s, with the aim of challenging the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 

There are over 100 types of  Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia. This year (2018) marks the 7th World Alzheimer’s Month.

World Alzheimer’s Day is on 21st September each year and 10th October is Mental Health Awareness Day.

Dementia in the Workplace

People can live well with Dementia, however, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease automatically qualify as a disability so employers need to be aware of disability discrimination. Some employers choose to have an Equal Opportunities policy, Bullying and Harassment Policy and an Anti Discrimination Policy to help prevent discrimination from occurring. It also helps staff to know what they should do if they feel they have been discriminated against.

According to the ACAS website, “More than 40,000 people under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with Dementia in the UK – and 18 per cent of them continue to work after a diagnosis. As the number of people with Dementia is forecast to increase (to over 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2051), and with a greater number of people expected to work later in life, it’s an issue that’s bound to become increasingly significant in the workplace.”

The future is unclear on the matter of Dementia in the workplace, but it is highly likely that businesses will see an increase in employees who have Dementia over the coming years, and this could become an issue because some employees may find it difficult to cope with this syndrome whilst at the same time still trying to perform their work duties. 

Being aware of the symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s and the different stages of this disease will be invaluable to both employers and employees, in order to improve the response to supporting affected employees in identifying their symptoms and moving forward and helping them to live well.

Although memory loss is a well-known symptom of Dementia and Alzheimer’s, some other early signs of Dementia could include: –

  • Loss of initiative;
  • Changes in mood and behaviour;
  • Changes in personality;
  • Problems with abstract thinking;
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks;
  • Poor judgment;
  • Disorientation of time and place;
  • Misplacing things.

With improved awareness, employers (and their staff) can reduce the likelihood of misinterpreting some of the early signs of Dementia and mistaking them for capability or misconduct issues.

The Alzheimer’s Society says that “Employers must be prepared to support … people aged under 65 with Dementia, many of whom continue to work following diagnosis …

“The Equality Act (2010) requires employers to avoid discrimination and make reasonable adjustments to ensure people with Dementia are not disadvantaged in the workplace. Employers are also obliged to consider requests for flexible working from carers under the Flexible Working Regulations (2006).

“Employers should provide appropriate support throughout the journey of a person with Dementia. As the condition advances, employees will require information, advice and guidance about finishing work.”

Supporting people with Dementia is going to be an ongoing matter for employers, but employers do have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for staff with Dementia in order that they are not disadvantaged at work.

Such adjustments could include clear signage, having quiet areas, and installing visual barriers to minimise distractions. They might also include a review of the employee’s current job description, reallocation of duties, a change of working hours, or redeployment to another position within the business.

Of course, at some point in the future, it may not be possible for the employer to continue to make adjustments to accommodate a Dementia employee, and the time may come that the employee will no longer be able to continue with their duties. However, when that time does come, employers should avoid using capability and disciplinary procedures, and should instead follow a ‘dignified exit package and strategy’.

The diagnosis of Dementia will be a difficult time for the employee. However, honesty about options over a long period of time will ease some of that difficulty and help them to continue with their working commitments as much as possible.

If you would like any further advice on Dementia and Alzheimer’s in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or give us a call on 01634 564 136.

Flexible Working Uncovered

What is flexible working?

Well, in short, flexible working is a different way of working which will suit an employee’s needs and requirements, e.g. having a flexible start and finish time, or working from home.

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers. This is known as ‘making a statutory application’. However, an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks in order to be eligible.

Are there different types of flexible working?

Yes, there are indeed different types. These include: –

1. Job sharing

This means that two people carry out one job and split the hours between them.

2. Working from home

Sometimes, it can be possible for employees to do some or all of their work from home or somewhere away from the office.

3. Part-time

I think we all know what this means, but to clarify, it is working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).

4. Compressed hours

This means that an employee could work full-time hours but over fewer days, e.g. instead of working 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday, an employee could work 9am until 7pm Monday to Thursday.

5. Flexitime

In this example, an employee can choose when he or she wants to start work and when to finish work (within agreed limits) but could still work certain ‘core hours’.

6. Annualised hours

In this instance, the employee is required to work a specific number of hours over the course of the year, but they have some flexibility about when they actually carry out that work. There can be certain ‘core hours’ which they work regularly every week, and the rest they work on a flexible basis or when there’s extra demand.

7. Staggered hours

Here, the employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.

8. Phased retirement

In this example, older staff can choose when they want to retire, and so they are able to reduce their hours and work gradually.

A flexi-time case study

Employee perspective

Orchard Employment Law’s Personal Assistant, Lucy, works part-time and does flexi-hours at home. This is what she has to say about flexible working: –

“The one thing that I dreaded about going back to work after I had my son, was that my previous employer wouldn’t be flexible about the hours that I wanted to work and also that I would potentially need to take time off if my son was poorly etc. I basically didn’t want to be held ransom or made to feel guilty because my child needed me.

I have been working with Jemma since December 2017, working from home on Mondays and Fridays and in the office on Wednesdays.

My now three-year-old toddler goes to nursery on Mondays and Fridays (and to Nanny and Grandad’s house on Wednesdays) so working from home gives me the flexibility to be able to take him to nursery and pick him up, without the worry of having to battle rush-hour traffic and potentially being late for work.

During the nursery/school holidays, I work around my son, so will do an hour here and there when he is entertained by his toys or his own books, or I start at 7am before he wakes up and in the evenings when he has gone to bed. I also sometimes stagger my hours so that instead of doing all of them on Mondays and Fridays, I spread them out over Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. This means that I don’t miss out on spending quality time with my son, but still get my hours done.

Another advantage of flexible working and working from home is that if my son (or

myself for that matter) is poorly, I can still do my work but be at home to look after him without having to take time off sick or as a holiday.

The downside of working from home is that it can get a bit lonely at times. But Jemma and I always make sure that we talk at least once a day on the phone. And when I’m in the office on Wednesdays, I actually get to speak to adults and have a proper conversation.

I also know that if I have any issues that need to be dealt with urgently, I can email, text or phone Jemma (depending on the urgency) and not have to worry that problems won’t be dealt with until I’m actually in the office.

As some of you may know, Jemma and I have an office in a co-working space in Chatham, so when we are in the office we are able to not only bounce ideas off each other but also our co-workers, who will give us their honest opinions on our ideas and tell us if they think they will work or if we should scrap the idea completely. There are also always lots of treats in the kitchen area, which is never good for the diet, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m only in the office once a week!

Even though I only work in the office once a week, I still feel like part of a team. I do think that if I was always working from home then I would feel quite isolated and not part of a team but thankfully that’s not the case.

Flexible working with Jemma was the answer that I was looking for when I decided to get back into law after having my son. Working from home two days a week and in the office once a week is the perfect situation for me.

 

Employers perspective

Prior to starting the busienss, I had experienced the benefits of working flexibly and so I knew that I wanted to use some of those principles when I became an employer. By hiring Lucy on family-friendly terms has been beneficial in many ways.

I was able to secure a high calibre employee with over 15 years of legal experience because I was forthcoming in offering a family friendly method of working. I also believe that we have less absenteeism because Lucy is able to work extra hours in her own time.

However, this way of working only works because we have the correct systems in place. We have a good, real-time computer system which allows both myself and Lucy to keep abreast of work done with clients. We keep in contact by phone regularly and we have weekly face to face meetings to discuss client updates, business development and personal development.

I would recommend flexible working to any business.

If you would like more information about flexible working or any other HR matter. Please contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

 

 

 

A Managers Guide To Surviving The Summer Holidays

The summer holidays are upon us and you may very well be tearing your hair out at the thought of having to accommodate staff who need to juggle childcare with continuing the smooth running of your business.

We have a few hints and tips to help you cope with the inevitable challenges that the summer holidays bring: –

 

  • Flexible working

 

Business isn’t all about working 9am to 5pm. By allowing your staff to work flexible hours during the summer holidays, you’re making their lives easier as well as making sure that they are still productive and working hard for your business. Think about allowing staff to work condensed hours or take annual leave by the hour rather than by the day. This allows them to spend time with their children as well as continuing to work.

 

  • Home working

 

Another way of solving staff absences during the school holidays is to allow your staff to work from home. Many employers find that employees are more productive when they work at home and this can help employees who struggle with childcare. It’s not a suitable solution for all types of work or industry but it’s definitely worth thinking about.

 

  • Temp staff

 

Yes, temporary and agency staff will come at a cost but they can be a great help to the workplace when there is a staff shortage. Hiring agency workers or students during the holiday period could be the answer you’ve been looking for.

  • Use a Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistants can help keep your business running over the holiday period. Whether you need a telephone answering service, someone to keep an eye on your emails or some extra admin support they can help you out.

 

 

  • Manage the workload

 

It’s important not to burn out staff who are left behind during the holiday season. Remember that not everybody has children, but the holiday period can be as equally hard for those staff as it is for those that do have children. Try not to overload one person with all of  the work. Where possible, spread the workload evenly to help prevent the quality of work being compromised. This will also help to reduce staff illnesses and a feeling of resentment.

It might also be worth using the summer holidays as a time to reflect on your business. Catch up on jobs that you’ve been putting off, like your accounts or refining some processes. Get ahead before everybody gets back in September and things start to pick up again.

 

 

  • Refusing Holiday Requests

 

Remember that you can refuse a holiday request from a member of staff if it’s at a time which is inconvenient for your business. However, you shouldn’t be unreasonable and you should try to accommodate staff requests as much as possible.

But don’t treat parents differently to non-parents. Yes, parents obviously have childcare arrangements to think about, but non-parents are also entitled to a break and some, if not most, would like to be able to relax and enjoy some time off in the sun as well.

 

 

  • Ban on Holidays During Specific Periods

 

You can also put a clause in your Employment Contracts that bans staff from taking holiday during particular times of the year, e.g. during January for accountants, during the Christmas period, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day for florists etc.

 

 

  • Bring Your Child To Work Day(s)

 

If you have staff members who have children aged between 8 and 16 years old, why not allow your staff to bring their children into work for a few days throughout the summer holidays? It’s 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 them involved in simple tasks and keep their minds occupied. But make sure that your insurance covers you when children are in the workplace.

 

 

  • HR Management System

 

To make life easier for yourself and your staff, why not invest in an online HR management system? It helps staff to find documents and policies or your staff handbook, without the need to actually ask you for a hard copy of it (thus saving on paper and printing!). You can also incorporate a holiday calendar within that HR management system so that staff can see exactly how much holiday they have left to book, and can also see who else has already booked time off and when. This will save time on having to work out remaining holiday entitlement and work around already booked holidays.

 

 

  • Overtime and Commission

 

If your staff undertake regular overtime, whether it’s guaranteed or voluntary, you need to make sure that you’re including this overtime in that staff member’s holiday entitlement and pay. Also, if you pay your staff commission you will need to include this commission in their holiday pay.

If you need any further advice on anything HR or employment law related, drop us an email at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or give us a call on 01634 564 136.

Worker rights for Pimlico Plumbers

A case heard at the Supreme Court last week could have a lasting effect on the so-called “Gig” economy here in the UK.

What is the “Gig” Economy?

The “gig” economy is described as “the labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs”.

People who work within the gig economy will only be paid for the work that they carry out, e.g. couriers etc. Though sometimes they may be entitled to holiday pay.

Background

Plumber Gary Smith worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers and was classed as self-employed for tax purposes. Mr Smith paid self-employed tax and was VAT registered.

Mr Smith worked for Pimlico Plumbers for six years but after suffering a heart attack, he requested a reduction in his working hours from five days per week to three days. Pimlico Plumbers denied this request and Mr Smith was dismissed.

During his time working for Pimlico Plumbers, Mr Smith was required to wear the company’s uniform, drive the company’s branded van, work when he was told to, and could not pass any work to anyone else of the same qualification and experience.

Original Hearing

Mr Smith brought proceedings against Pimlico Plumbers at an Employment Tribunal in 2011, alleging that: –

  • he had been unfairly dismissed;
  • Pimlico Plumbers had unlawfully deducted amounts from his wages;
  • he had not been paid for a period of statutory annual leave; and
  • he had been discriminated against because of his disability.

The Employment Tribunal made the decision that Mr Smith had not been an employee under a contract of employment, and therefore could not complain of unfair dismissal.

However, the Employment Tribunal did decide that: –

  • under section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, Mr Smith was a ‘worker’;
  • under Regulation 2(1) of the Working Time Regulations 1998, Mr Smith was a ‘worker’; and
  • under section 83(2) of the Equality Act 2010, Mr Smith had been in ‘employment’.

This meant that Mr Smith could proceed with the latter of his three complaints.

The Employment Tribunal made directions to consider these complaints substantively at a later date.

Pimlico Plumbers appealed this decision at an Appeal Tribunal and then at the Court of Appeal, but were unsuccessful at both attempts.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Smith was a worker because of his lack of control over the work that he carried out (he was contractually obliged to do a minimum number of hours work per week) and also because he did not have the right to transfer his work to a subordinate.

Supreme Court Ruling

Pimlico Plumbers then appealed again to the Supreme Court but this did not go in their favour again.

The Supreme Court was asked to consider whether or not Mr Smith had the right to send a substitute to carry out any work he was given by Pimlico Plumbers. The Supreme Court found that Mr Smith was entitled to do this but that any substitute had to be under contract with Pimlico Plumbers.

Therefore, the leading feature of Mr Smith’s contract was one of an obligation of personal performance.

Another issue asked of the Supreme Court was whether or not Mr Smith was marketing his services elsewhere or whether he was an integral part of Pimlico Plumbers, and as such, whether Pimlico Plumbers was a client or customer.

The Supreme Court held that Mr Smith had some independence in terms of operational and financial obligations but that his services were marketed by Pimlico Plumbers. He was also subject to Pimlico Plumbers’ strict regulations (e.g. he was required to wear the company’s uniform, drive the company’s branded van, and work when he was told to etc). Therefore, Pimlico Plumbers was not a client or a customer.

This meant that Mr Smith was a worker and therefore had various employment rights including the right to be paid minimum wage and holiday pay.

Mr Smith’s complaints will now be sent back to the Employment Tribunal for it to make the final decisions.

Implications

This case will have a far-reaching effect on the gig economy and the rights of all independent contractors.

Other businesses who use independent or self-employed contractors could see a huge wave of claims made against them as a result of this ruling.

Charlie Mullins, CEO of Pimlico Plumbers, said “… thousands of companies across the UK, who use contractors in an honest and responsible way, remain exposed to huge potential claims in the future.”

However, it is highly unlikely that other cases, like those involving Uber and Deliveroo, will be stopped in their tracks.

All businesses have different ways in which they work. They also have different contracts and make different demands on their staff.

For example, some businesses will allow a worker to ask someone else of equal qualification and experience to do the job instead, but others don’t.

And that is one of the key tests of employment status.

If you would like any advice on the gig economy and how this ruling may affect you and your staff, contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or call us on 01634 564 136.

New case could affect Notice Periods

You may well have seen in the news recently the reports of an Appeal Case regarding when a Notice Period starts in relation to the termination of employment.

What was the case about?

The case concerned Mrs Haywood, who was made redundant by Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust in 2011.

Having been informed that she was at risk of redundancy, Mrs Haywood had advised the NHS Trust that she would be on holiday from 19th April 2011 until 3rd May 2011.

The NHS Trust then sent three letters to Mrs Haywood on 20th April confirming that she was being made redundant with 12 weeks’ notice, which the NHS Trust advised would expire on 15th July 2011.

One letter was sent to Mrs Yahwood by recorded delivery and an advisory card was posted through her letterbox on 21st April. Mrs Haywood’s father-in-law collected the letter from the sorting office on 26th April and left it at her home on the same day.

Mrs Haywood returned from holiday in the early hours of 27th April and went straight to bed. She read the letter later that morning.

The other two letters were sent to Mrs Haywood by standard post and to her husband’s email address, which Mr Haywood read mid-morning on 27th April.

The important question raised by Mrs Haywood was, when was her letter of notice of termination deemed to have been received?

If Mrs Haywood’s notice period expired AFTER her 50th birthday, then she would be entitled to receive a higher pension but she would need to have been given her letter of notice of termination after 26th April 2011.

There was no clause in Mrs Haywood’s contract which expressly stated when notice applies and so the High Court found that the notice of termination was only effective once Mrs Haywood had actually read the letter of notice, which was on 27th April 2011.

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust appealed this ruling which was subsequently dismissed by the Court of Appeal, which held that, because there was no express clause in Mrs Haywood’s employment contract which specified when a notice of termination is effective, the notice of termination only takes effect from the date it is received by the employee, giving them chance to personally take delivery of the letter containing the notice.

In this case, Mrs Haywood opened and read the notice on 27th April, meaning that her notice period expired on her 50th birthday and that she was therefore entitled to receive a higher pension.

What does this mean for Employers?

This ruling could have a major impact on employers, because the Court’s decision implies a term into all contracts of employment that notice to terminate the contract of employment will only take effect from the date on which the employee has read the letter giving notice (or has had reasonable opportunity to do so).

In order to reduce or remove the effect of this ruling, employers should,

  • where practical, give notice of termination to the employee in person and follow this up in writing.
  • If this is not possible to do, then the employer should send written notice of termination by recorded delivery, which will assist in proving that notice has indeed been sent to the employee.
  • The employee would then need to provide evidence as to why they did not have reasonable opportunity to read the letter.

However, the best way to mitigate the effect of this ruling is to include an express clause in your employment contracts to make in clear of when notice is deemed to take effect.

If you would like any more information on this matter, or for more information on what clause to put into your employment contracts, email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Recruiting and Appraising

Whether you record your year from January to December of April to March I am sure you will agree that this quarter has zoomed by.

Now that the Big Freeze has left us we are all looking forward to Spring. April can be a busy yet exciting time for business. For many it is the beginning of the financial year often meaning a fresh look at recruitment, marketing, budgeting and planning.

If you are recruiting you should be mindful about the wording you use for your advertisements. Employers can be liable for discrimination before a person has even worked for you so it important not to use unnecessary descriptions that imply you are looking for a man, woman or a person of a particular age.

Your job advertisement is just like any other marketing material. It should speak directly to the type of person you are trying to recruit.

If you are a fun and flexible business the language which you use should ooze fun. If you are a traditional business which is looking for corporate applicants then the wording you use should be reflective of that.

A diverse workforce is a strong workforce. Not only should be seeking not to discriminate against applicants of various ages, cultures and gender but we should also be seeking to employ people with disabilities.

Craft your recruitment process in a way that is disability friendly. It is perfectly acceptable to state that you are a disability aware employer and that you are seeking to employ someone from all backgrounds.

April is Autism Awareness month. Job candidates with autism do not always thrive in a traditional interview but they may be the best person for the job. People with autism often have a great ability to focus on a task, recall data and pay attention to some of the smaller details.

One of the ways which you can make your recruitment process inclusive is to have a working interview. Invite all candidates to work with you for an hour or two and see how they perform in action.  You could also use specific questions rather than general questions on an application form so that a person who is autistic will find it easier to answer correctly.

Whilst it is great to recruit it is also important to nurture your existing staff. If you are not doing appraisals, you may want to reconsider. Appraisals can help you to find out any ambitions that your staff may have. Once you know that an employee would like to become a supervisor, a manager or to broaden their skill set you can create a path to help them reach that destination within your business.

Lots of businesses lose talent because it has not been nurtured or appreciated and this can be both a financial cost and loss of skill to an employer. Use appraisals to tell your staff what they are doing well and how they can improve.

If you have concerns about a team members, work, performance of attitude you can also use this opportunity to document and discuss your concerns. Early intervention can reduce problems with staff later in the year.

An appraisal should be a two way communication tool. Create an open environment where staff can tell you about things which you could improve as an employer. This will make your working environment a better place for current and future staff.

Whether you are recruiting, or appraising April is the perfect opportunity to review your current employment contracts and employment policies. Ensure that they are still working for you and that they are still legally compliant.

If you would like HR Support or Employment Law advice please contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

Have you got staff who are on-call?

A recent case could have a big impact on employers who employ staff who work “on-call” and on “standby”.  Restaurants, Hotels, Care providers and Hospitals may have to revisit their policies following the case of Maztak v Nivelles Fire Service

Mr Matzak was a volunteer firefighter with the Nivelles Fire Service in Belgium, who was employed to work alongside professional, full-time firefighters to help with operations and standby services, which were arranged by rota at the beginning of each year.

All volunteer firefighters were paid an annual allowance for their standby work.

Under his contract of employment, Mr Matzak and other volunteer firefighters, as well as professional firefighters, were required to adhere to specific residence requirements, including: –

  1. To be domiciled or reside in a place so as not to exceed a maximum of eight minutes to reach the Nivelles fire station when traffic is running normally and complying with the Highway Code;
  2. During periods of standby duty, every member of the volunteer fire service serving at the Nivelles fire station must: –

 

  • Remain at all times within a distance of the fire station such that the period necessary to reach it when traffic is running normally does not exceed a maximum of eight minutes;
  • Be particularly vigilant so as to remain within range of various technical means used to call staff and to leave immediately, by the most appropriate means, when staff on standby duty are called.

Mr Matzak brought judicial proceedings against Nivelles Fire Service in December 2009, after his one-year probation period ended. The details of the proceedings were that his employer had refused to pay for his “stand-by” hours.

He also claimed that his employers had failed to pay acceptable compensation for his services as a volunteer firefighter, and, in particular, that his standby services should be classed as working time.

Although the Nivelles Labour Court upheld Mr Matzak’s case in March 2012, the Nivelles town appealed the ruling at the Brussels Higher Labour Court.

The Higher Labour Court partially upheld the appeal in September 2015, because under Belgium law “volunteers in the public fire services and the rescue zones as provided for in the law […] on civil security and volunteers in operational civil protection units do not fall under the definition of workers”.

After this ruling was made, the court was asked to determine the correct definitions of working time, in order to decide whether or not Mr Matzak’s standby services should be classed as working time or not.

All European countries must follow the Working Time Directive. The Working Time Directive provides minimum health and safety requirements for working time, including daily and weekly rest periods and annual leave.

“Working time” is referred to as “any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activity or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice”. “Rest period” is referred to as “any period not classed as working time”.

The court was asked to consider whether or not volunteers should be classed as workers and therefore included in the regulations under the Working Time Directive.

They were also asked to consider whether or not Mr Matzak’s standby work should be considered as working time under the Directive, despite him being at home whilst on-call “given the constraints on the worker at the time preventing him from undertaking other activities”.

The court found that Mr Matzak was indeed a worker, even though he held a voluntary position.

The court also found that if the standby period was excluded from the concept of working time, this would have a serious impact on the objective of ensuring the health and safety of the workers by granting them satisfactory breaks and rest periods.

The ruling will mean that there is more than likely going to be a huge deviation in legislation because staff who work “on-call” and “standby shifts” at home will be counted as “working time”.

This will have wide-ranging implications upon any employers who need their employees to keep to specific criteria regarding their working hours but which restricts their movements during their free time. 

All employers who have staff working on-call need to carefully consider whether or not they need to place significant restrictions on their employees’ activities when they are on-call.

It may mean that employees are working more than 48 hours each week. It could also have pay implications.

If you would like any further information or advice on this matter, please call us on 01634 564 136 or email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Do you need to give an extra day as holiday this Easter?

You were probably as shocked as me to see that UK shops started selling Easter eggs on Boxing day and whilst I refused to buy Easter eggs before valentine’s day it makes sense for business to prepare ahead of time.

This year the Easter holiday is early with Good Friday being on 30th March. This may have a  direct impact on businesses whose holiday year runs from April to March in line with the tax year.

This is because the early arrival of Good Friday means that there are 9 bank holidays in this financial year instead of the usual 8. The impact will depend on the wording of the employment contract.

If an employment contract states that an employee is entitled to 20 days leave plus bank holidays they will have an extra days holiday this year. I am sure no staff will complain about that. However if your contracts state that employees are entitled to 28 days annual leave inclusive of bank holidays there will be no changes.

That being said employers may want to remember the following things about bank holidays.

 

  1. There is no legal right for employees to have bank holidays off.
  2. There is no legal right to be paid time and a half, double time or any extra pay for working on a bank holiday.
  3. Employers can impose annual leave on staff if they have a shut down period on bank holidays.

 

Of course these things are all subject to previous conduct and what is written in the Employment Contract.

 

If you would like help with Employment Contract, managing staff, HR or any Employment Law matters contact us via our website at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk/contact

 

In the meantime, start stocking up on Chocolate and get ready to have a Happy Easter.