Back To Work As The Lockdown Is Eased

With many businesses having re-opened or planning to re-open shortly, employers will need to consider how to keep staff and customers and clients safe and put certain measures in place.

Risk Assessments

It is important to remember that businesses have a legal obligation to protect employees and visitors to their workplace. Employers should carry out a Risk Assessment and make sensible adjustments where necessary.

If an employer refuses to carry out a Risk Assessment, the Health and Safety Executive or local council can issue an enforcement notice.

Employers can visit https://bit.ly/31mmi6u to carry out a Risk Assessment.

Social Distancing

Two-metre social distancing will still be required, albeit that the Prime Minister has stated that where it is not possible to stay two-metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a distance of ‘one-metre plus’, meaning people should stay one-metre apart, and also take other precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.

To help staff and customers to adhere to the social distancing rules, employers should: –

  • Put up signs to remind staff and visitors of social distancing guidance;
  • Avoid sharing workstations;
  • Use floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a two-metre distance;
  • Arrange a one-way traffic system around the workplace.

If it isn’t possible for staff and visitors to keep two-metres apart, employers need to think about how they can be kept safe. Employers should, therefore, consider the following: –

  • Does an activity need to be carried out in order for your business to be able to operate?
  • Keep the time required for an activity as short as possible;
  • Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other;
  • Stagger arrival and departure times of staff and visitors.

Hygiene Procedures

It is extremely important that staff and visitors carry out good hand-washing, cleaning and hygiene procedures.

The frequency of surface-cleaning and hand-washing should be increased: –

  • Encourage everyone to follow the guidance on hand-washing and hygiene;
  • Provide hand sanitiser around the workplace;
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces which are used and touched regularly.

Home Working

Many businesses have decided that their staff will not return to their workplaces until January 2021, with staff continuing to work from home. If this is the case for your business, it is important that staff continue to be consulted and feel valued.

  • Make sure that staff have access to all remote working systems;
  • Communicate regularly with all staff, both as part of team-meetings (via video conference) as well as individually;
  • Ensure that staff have the right home insurances in place.

Employers are also still responsible for the health and safety of staff who are working from home, so you should ensure that staff complete a DSE risk assessment (https://bit.ly/3eJQ88S). This will need to be completed each time a staff member moves their workstation (from one room to another, for example) and also when they return to their workplace.

Staff morale is likely to be low and people will be missing their colleagues. It is extremely important to ensure that staff are looking after their own physical and mental well-being.

Further Guidance

The Government has produced guidance for different sectors to help employers, as well as employees and the self-employed, to understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find this here https://bit.ly/3g81GTv

Remember that your staff are likely to be nervous about returning to the workplace. You should talk to your staff and ask them if they have any concerns, and reassure them of the measures that you have put in place to keep them safe.

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

The Furlough Scheme Is Ending. What Are My Options?

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retentionsion Grant also known as the Furlough Scheme has been a welcome gift to both employees and employers across the UK. It has meant that businesses have been able to keep staff in jobs which will help some businesses to recover to full health.

The option to have staff return to work on a part-time basis will also be a great resource for many but we know that it is coming to an end in October 2020.

Businesses will need to start thinking about how they rebuild the business in an economic landscape which has changed rapidly over the last 4 months. The goal will be to protect the business so that it can be restored and save some jobs. We will take a look at some options that you may want need to consider:

  • Reduced Hours also known as Short Time Working

In an ideal world business would bounce back in an instance and everyone would return to work on full hours and full pay. If a full quota of staff is not an option for the business you may consider reducing the hours of some or all staff members.

In order to reduce staff hours you must have the contractual right to do so. This would be stated in the Employment, Worker contract or in another document. If you do not have a contract you will need to negotiate  with staff and create a new agreement or agree to amend the existing agreement. This must be done in writing and staff should be made aware of their right to claim redundancy if the reduced hours continue for a period of time. Staff will want assurances that if they are made redundant in the future will be based on their original pay and hours.

Do ensure that you are not acting in a discriminatory way if you are reducing the hours of some staff.

Always seek advice before reducing hours.

  • Lay-off with no or limited pay

Some contracts allow an employer to place an employee on standby without pay. A lot of furlough agreements also sneakily added this right into the contract. With this option staff receive no pay other than guarantee payments of £29 per day for 5 days within a 3 month period. Staff also have the right to request redundancy after a period of time and it is important that the correct procedure is followed. Failure to do this correctly can be very costly to a business.

  • Redundancy

Redundancy is where a role has significantly reduced or disappeared. It is about the role and not the person and so employers must think about placing all those who do a particular role at risk. 

Staff should not be discriminated against and the correct monies should be paid. 

It is worth noting that there is no redundancy pay for staff who have less than 2 years service. They will still be entitled to notice pay and other outstanding payments such as unused holiday. 

For businesses who will be making 20 or more redundancies within a 90 day period. There is a strict procedure which must be followed so employers really need to think ahead. One of the things they need to think about is timing as the process will be a minimum of 30 days for business making between 20 and 99 staff members redundant. For business making over 100 redundancies within a 90 day period there must be a consultation period of at least 45 days.

There will be instances where putting a settlement agreement in place is the best way of protecting the business.

  • Restructure

This is similar to a redundancy. This may be where the role still exists but you may decide that it can be done differently or absorbed into another role. In this instance staff should be consulted and just like any other dismissal they will be entitled to notice pay.

If you would like advice or support with any of the options above or for guidance with any Employment Law or HR matter please feel free to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

If you have found this blog useful please share it with someone else.

Jemma’s experience and tips for managing teams remotely during the pandemic

This month’s blog is all about managing a team remotely. Probably for the first time in history more businesses than I care to imagine are managing whole teams remotely and whilst that can be good it certainly comes with some challenges.

At Orchard Employment Law we have always had an element of working home but it was nothing like this. We still tried to have an office day together at least once a week, however, since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the introduction of the term self-isolating, we have been working from home since 17th March 2020.

The biggest challenge was not doing the work. We try to be eco friendly where possible, our clients have always been able to contact us via telephone, email, and video conferencing. We have a CRM, a cloud storage system, electronic invoicing, and the ability to sign things electronically so we can technically work from anywhere. My preference would be a beach in the Caribbean but a few sunny days in the UK will have to suffice.

The challenge was and is keeping the team happy and motivated. Not one to do things by half, I onboarded a new member of staff at a time when we are compelled to work remotely. So I want to share some of the tips that might help other managers during this time.

 

  • Health and safety

 

For many working from home was not planned, this means your staff could be working around the kitchen table, on an ironing board or some other makeshift office space. Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees and whilst you cannot pop round to their home at the moment you can talk to them about protecting their health. One easy thing you can do is to ask your staff to complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) questionnaire. You can find this online and it is free to fill in.

 

  • Let clients know that team members are working remotely

 

This will help to manage the client’s expectations and ultimately relieve some of the pressure from you and your team. Your clients will probably understand your position and may well be working from home too.

 

  • Have daily video meetings.

 

Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, Whatsapp, Google hangouts and all of the other video conferencing apps are not a substitute for human contact but they are still very good. Most people communicate with more than just words, we use eye contact, facial expressions and other forms of body language to convey how we are feeling.

We have found that daily video meetings with the whole team each morning have been helpful in building and maintaining a working and personal relationship. 

 

  • Have a plan

 

I am not usually one to plan each day but in times of uncertainty, it is even more important for staff to have a sense of leadership and direction. I have found it useful to have a written plan for the next day. This plan is then used in the daily morning video meetings.

 

  • Understand the plan won’t always go to plan

 

Sometimes stuff happens, sometimes the best plan in the world can’t be followed through. This could be for a number of reasons. A piece of technology could fail, the internet might be slow, a client may do something different, your staff might have a personal concern or there could be a power cut.

It is ok if the plan doesn’t go to plan. 

 

  • Acknowledge that your people are people

 

This is not like being at work in the office and it is probably not like the usual working from home. The house might be full of people they live with, your staff may be trying to homeschool, the neighbors might be noisy, the dog might be barking or they could just be feeling stressed due to the pandemic.

Take all of these things into consideration and let your staff know that you are available to talk.

 

  • Be clear about your expectations of work

 

You may have acknowledged that your people are dealing with a lot of unusual external factors but the work still has to be done right?

Be clear and realistic about your expectations, this is not a chance for staff to make unreasonable mistakes, be rude to customers or to spend very little time working. If staff are struggling to work in their normal hours consider moving their hours temporarily, you may get more output early in the morning or late in the evening.

Sometimes you may still need to look at capability or disciplinary procedures.

 

  • Open your eyes to flaws in your systems and processes

 

This may be an opportunity to see weaknesses in a system that you believed was functional. Now is the perfect time to take feedback from staff on processes that could be improved to aid remote working. The chances are that it will strengthen the business in the long run.

 

  • Keep giving feedback

 

Don’t forget to provide reassurance and positive feedback when you can, it will help to boost morale. At the same time let staff know what can be improved, provide training and examples remotely if possible.

 

  • Have a switch-off time

 

Try not to contact staff on non-working days and outside of working hours. Encourage your team to switch the emails off and to divert phone calls so that they can switch their brain off from work. This will help with their mental health and stress levels.

Ask for help

We are here to help you with your queries about Employment Law, HR or general managing people. Contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog,

Jemma

Essential Businesses, we haven’t forgotten about you

We love the NHS but we also want to show our appreciation to all of the Keyworker businesses working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic which is why we are extending our 20% charity discount to all those Essential Businesses.

Community is one of our core values and we try to add value to the community wherever possible. 

Supporting each other as a community during this time of uncertainty has become even more important, lots of businesses are struggling, individuals are losing jobs and others are literally risking their lives to provide services to the public.

We understand the challenges that you are facing in these unprecedented times. Some of you are recruiting paid staff and or volunteers to meet the demand for your essential service. You might need help with permanent or temporary employment contracts.

Some of your staff are worried about what is happening around them, they are working long hours, homeschooling children, facing abuse from the public and are concerned about loved ones. We want to help you to help them at a time when they may be feeling stressed.

Other businesses may need to furlough staff who are shielding or who you are unable to provide work for and we to give you peace of mind. We want you to be confident that you have done everything right.

Perhaps you need help with covid1 19 frequently asked questions, a contingency plan or you are so busy on the front line that you need help with day to day HR and Employment Law. Whatever the problem, we want to help you find a solution.

We are practising social distancing. We don’t want to put you or others at risk and so we are all working from home. We will still hold your hand (albeit virtually) through your challenges. 

We are using technology to provide clear and uncomplicated support to employers over the phone, via email, video meetings and webinars.

Thank you Essential Businesses for doing your part in our community.

Carers, cleaners, teachers, GP’s, Doctors, Nurses, Transport, Freight, Refuse, food retailers, Veterinary practices, Pharmacies, MOT services, Petrol stations, Funeral directors. 

We salute you all.

Furlough Explained

Many businesses across the UK have been experiencing a downturn in revenue as a result of the worldwide covid19 outbreak and had to make some difficult decisions about staffing levels.

On Friday 20th March 2020 the government announced that they would support businesses and staff by introducing a Coronavirus Retention Scheme. The scheme means that the government will pay up to 80% of an employees salary up to the value of £2,500 if they have been furloughed during the pandemic.

The big question is what is Furlough and how do you do it?

The general rule is that employers have an obligation to provide work for employees (not zero-hours workers) as stated in the employment contract. This means that you are still required to pay your staff for their contractual hours if you send an employee home due to a shortage of work.

However, you will not have to pay employees to stay at home if you have the right to lay-off (also known as furlough) their staff. 

Lay off or furlough is not redundnacy or dismissal and they continue to accrue annual leave and other employment rights during this period. Lay off us usually or reduced pay with a minimum payment of £29 per day for 5 days within a 30 day period. In this instance, the staff will be paid a reduced salary.

Do I have the right to furlough staff?

Employers can furlough staff if they have a contractual right to do so. This is often termed as a lay-off clause in the contract.

If you have a lay-clause you must still follow some rules including:

  • Explain to staff what lay-off means
  • Tell staff of their rights during lay-off
  • Tell staff how long you expect the lay-off to last
  • Tell staff how much pay they will receive.

What if I don’t have a  lay-off clause in the contract?

The Coronavirus Retention Scheme is still subject to current UK Employment Law. This means that if you do not have a lay-off clause contract you will need to negotiate with staff to add an additional lay-off term.

At the moment, many staff are agreeing to the term but you cannot force them to do so.

It is important to note that any amendment to the terms of employment should be done in writing.

Choosing who to furlough

If all staff are not subject to lay-off it is important that you have a clear and transparent selection criteria for who will be laid-off.

Employers should be careful not to discriminate on the against staff on the grounds of 

  • Race
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Pregnancy or Maternity
  • Religion or belief
  • Disability

We hope that you have found this information useful, Contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk  if you would like advice or help with documentation for furlough or any other HR matter. 

Questions & Answers on Managing Staff Who Isolate Due To Coronavirus

We are all aware of COVID-19, the Coronavirus which is spreading throughout the world. We are, also, all aware of the preventative measures which we all need to be thinking about and doing in order to help stop this disease from spreading further.

Therefore, we did not want to give you another generic blog post preaching about and reminding you of all the things that you’ve already heard and read.

Instead, we thought it would be much more useful for you all to have some practical steps about what to do in your business in relation to COVID-19.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff cannot attend work because their child’s school is closed and they do not have childcare?

Answer

Just because your business is staying open and your staff are well and have not been told to self-isolate, their children’s schools or childminders may decide to close, perhaps for a deep-clean, which means that some of your staff have no childcare and, therefore, might be unable to work.

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.

Perhaps 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. Of course, you need to ensure that the child in question is well and also not showing any signs of illness. They also need to be aged over 8 years old for insurance purposes. Allowing children into the workplace is 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.

Parent’s are also entitled to take parental leave which is unpaid leave to look after children.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff has not been informed to do so by NHS 111 or their GP but still chooses to self-isolate?

Answer

If a member of staff is showing no signs of illness and has not been advised to self-isolate by a medic, but they still CHOOSE to self-isolate, you are under no obligation to pay that staff member.

However, it is good practice to allow the member of staff to take annual leave or unpaid leave or have alternative working arrangements.

Question

If I choose to close my business down for a period of time, do I still have to pay my staff?

Answer

You are under a legal obligation to provide work for permanent staff (unless you have a lay-off clause in your contract).

If you feel it necessary to close your business premises then, if possible, you could ask your staff to work from home or another location in order for you to not have to close down completely.

If you do not have a lay-off clause and you are unable to offer home-working or provide any work then you will still be required to pay your staff their normal wage or salary.

You can also force your staff to take annual leave. However, we strongly recommend against this unless it is absolutely necessary and you must give them 2 days notice for every day you want them to take off. Of course, you could ask your staff if they would prefer to take annual leave but we would recommend that they be the one to make that decision.

Question

What is the current legislation in relation to Statutory Sick Pay and Coronavuris?

Answer

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will be initiating emergency legislation in relation to Sick Pay.

It is proposed that the new Law will allow staff who self isolate to reduce the spread of Coronavirus to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1 of isolation.

Although this is emergency legislation, it could still take up to 3 months to come into effect.

Currently, staff who are unwell and earn on average at least £118 per week are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from day 4 of illness.

Employers are encouraged to pay Statutory Sick Pay to staff who self-isolate even though the law only applies to staff who are unable to work due to illness (or medical recommendation) and not those who self-isolate by choice.

Do you have more questions?

For further advice and guidance in relation to staff and Coronavirus or any other Employment Law query, contact us on 01634 564 136 or email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

What Do I Need to Know Before Taking on An Unpaid Intern?

As a nation, we are more qualified than ever before. Higher education and apprenticeships have increased and yet employers are still complaining about a skills shortage. 

Whilst qualifications are important, there is no substitute for on the job experience. That is where we learn how to put what we have learnt into practice, it’s also where we build upon our soft skills.

With this in mind, it is not surprising to see more people both young and old wanting to do unpaid internships and work experience.

There are other benefits to employers In addition to a feeling of fulfilling your corporate sense of social responsibility.

Taking on an intern or volunteer can give an employer an opportunity to assess whether their processes are working. This is done by testing whether a person outside of the company can follow your instructions.

It is an opportunity to learn and get fresh ideas from your intern and you may even find a suitable candidate for future employment.

From an Employment Law perspective, there are some do’s and don’ts which are listed below.

 

DO

  1. Ask volunteers, interns and work experience candidates to sign a volunteers agreement. This will set out the level of expectation between you and the volunteer.
  2. Take information from the intern which you may need for health and safety. This includes next of Kin details, Allergy information and Health complications or illnesses.
  3. Give your volunteer lots of support, introduce them to staff and assign a dedicated mentor

 

DON’T

  1. Promise to offer them a job before or during the placement. If you tell an intern that they will get a job they will be entitled to the minimum wage for the duration of the placement.  That being said, you may decide to offer the intern a job once the placement has been completed.
  2. Pay for anything which is not an expense. You can pay for travel but you should be able to show receipts are equal to the payment. If you pay more than the expenses are worth you may find that you are liable for minimum wage for the duration of the placement.
  3. Leave your intern to do work which is unsupervised. Try to remember that they are there to learn and to shadow others.

If you would like advice about hiring an intern or any other Employment Law or HR matter feel free to contact us via our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

The Pro’s and Con’s of using HR Software

Have you ever wondered what an Online HR Information System is? Or why it could
be beneficial to use one?
Well, put simply, a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) is an online
software solution for data entry, data tracking and data information for the Human
Resource department of a business, including payroll, management and accounting
functions. It is an incredibly useful tool for all processes that a business wants or
needs in order to track and from which to gather useful and purposeful data.
As your business grows, you may find that managing your business’s human
resources can become more and more complicated as the number of employees increases.
In a lot of businesses, the HR person or department often face a dilemma with managers
wanting to be able to improve the overall work environment for employees but also
needing the time to be able to deal with the paperwork and routine administrative
tasks that come with the job.
To address these routine tasks, many businesses will use a Human Resource
Information System (HRIS) to help improve productivity.

Benefits To The Employer

There are many different benefits to using an HRIS, for both employer and
employee. These include: –
Faster Integration
With many businesses growing rapidly, it is obvious that new employees are
required. But with new employees comes more employee integration into the
business, and this can mean that many, many hours are eaten up with paperwork
and processes and administrative tasks, simply to get that employee up and running.
By using an HRIS, the integration process can be a more efficient and consistent
one. Such a system provides easy access to training materials and handbooks for
new employees, and employee information can be stored in one convenient, easy-
to-access place.
Access To Information
How often do you or your HR team need to access employee information? We can
imagine that this is a fairly regular need and if you keep employee records in a well-
organised filing cabinet in the office then this won’t necessarily take up vast amounts
of time. However, if your files are kept in a storage room, or a highly disorganised
filing cabinet, you could be losing hours and hours of productivity. Your files are also
at a high risk of being lost or compromised.
An HRIS system can eliminate paper and turn all of your employee records into
easy-to-access online data, which can then be retrieved by anyone with the correct
authorisation.
Recurring Tasks
Many businesses will have various different tasks that recur on a regular basis and
which could be easily automated by the right HRIS.
For example, by automating your payroll system with your HRIS, you can take back
hours of work for your HR department.
Tasks such as holiday requests and employee time management can also be
approved or denied automatically, saving even more hours for your team.
Employee Tracking
Your business will always run more smoothly when you know who is working where
and who is unaccounted for.
An HRIS will allow your HR team to know exactly where your employees are in case
they are needed or if there is an emergency.

Benefits for the Employee

An HRIS id not only a benefit to your HR department. Your employees also
get added benefits and a more flexible work environment.
Quicker Access to Information
Employee self-service is on the rise within a lot of businesses at the moment. But, of
course, employees will always have questions about the terms and conditions of
their employment, salaries, holiday and other types leave, and many more things.
This means that your HR department will always be busy answering these questions
for each and every employee in your business.
The correct HRIS will provide a better employee self-service and, thus, higher
employee satisfaction.
Of course, with pros also come cons, and online Human Resource Information
Systems are no different.

Cons Of Using an HR Information System

High cost
Most people are pleasantly surprised to find that HRIS is not very costly. Although there is a cost attached it does save you and your business money in the long-
run.
Not all HRIS’ are perfect for all businesses
There are also many different systems available, all offering different solutions to
different problems and they may not always be the best fit for your business. This
can mean changing systems until you find the right one for your business
Therefore, if your business is lacking in sufficient upfront funds, this can prove to be
difficult to achieve.
Impersonal
Some businesses may see an HRIS as very impersonal and may decide to stick to
the traditional way of doing things.
Of course, this may be an issue and we would, therefore, suggest having regular
meetings or catch-ups to ensure that you keep the personal side of things going.
Perhaps hold a monthly staff meeting to find out if any employees have anything on
their minds, or if they have any suggestions to help the business move forward
further.
Wellbeing meetings are always a good idea as well. The purpose of these
meetings, held individually, is to ensure that each employee is happy and there are
not any issues that need to be dealt with.

Summary

The benefits of having a Human Resource Information System are vast for both your
HR team and the rest of your employees.
You need to make sure that you choose the right system for your business and once
you have done so, you will save both time and money, as well as provide a cutting
edge work environment that your entire team will benefit from. We are happy to say that both we and many of our clients are already using an online HRIS and we absolutely love the simplicity of it.
We sell a system provided by Breathe HR which is available as part of our packages
or stand-alone. If you would like any more information, contact us at
info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

How hot is too for work? Keeping work going during Summer.

Summer is here and the sun is shining brightly. But it’s still business as usual for all of us and that means knowing how to cope in the hot weather when we still need to be working inside.

We have a few hints and tips for you for dealing with the working environment during the summer months: –

Office temperatures

There is no law for there to be a minimum or maximum working temperature in a workspace (i.e. if it is too cold or too hot to work).

However, during working hours, the temperature in all indoor workspaces must be reasonable. Guidance suggests a minimum of 16ºC (or 13ºC if employees are doing physical work).

There is no guidance for a maximum temperature limit within a workspace but employers must adhere to the laws contained in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, including: –

  • keeping the temperature at a comfortable level; and

  • providing clean and fresh air.

Ask your staff to talk to you if they feel the workspace temperature isn’t comfortable.

Dress code

We know that sometimes it’s important for your staff to wear a suit and tie or formal attire for business meetings. But when your staff are simply in the office, allow them to remove these and cool down a bit. Perhaps suggest to staff that they wear natural fibres and light colours to avoid attracting the heat so much.

Ice, ice and more ice

If you have a freezer, keep it stocked with ice cubes and ice lollies for your staff. If you don’t have one, perhaps think about investing in a small one specifically for this reason.

Fresh fruit

Although your staff may still want to munch on cakes and cookies, keep a selection of fruit in the fridge as well, in case they want something fresh and cool instead.

Drinks

Hydration is important for the mind as well as the body. A well-hydrated employee is likely to be more productive. Keep a selection of different fruit juices and squashes in the kitchen for a nice cool, refreshing drink for your staff.

Cool breeze

It might sound counter-productive but instead of having all the windows and doors open, keep them closed, pull the blinds or curtains and put the air conditioning or fan on. The closed windows and doors will prevent the hot air seeping in and the closed blinds or curtains will keep the direct sunlight out.

Outdoor meetings

Instead of holding your staff meetings in a stuffy, uncomfortable office, head into the garden or over to the park instead. Staff will enjoy sitting outside in the sun (or shade) and will appreciate a break from the office.

Picnics

Perhaps think about having a weekly or fortnightly staff picnic outside. This will help boost morale and get staff socialising and relaxing.

Summer hols

Remember that with the summer months also comes the summer holidays for parents. Juggling childcare with work can be a stressful time for parents. Think about allowing staff to work from home or do flexi hours so that they can still work but look after the kids at the same time.

Some businesses start the business day an hour earlier to allow for an earlier finish but be mindful of this if it is not in your contract.

Bring your child to work day(s)

With the above in mind, 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 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.

Summer break

Unless it’s essential for business reasons, don’t reject staff holiday requests unless it’s absolutely necessary. Everyone needs a holiday and will always be more productive once they’ve had a break.

If you would like any further tips or guidance on dealing with the working environment during the summer months, drop us an email to info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Did you know we have over 30 blogs on our website? Visit http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk to read a few more.

Are Men Being Discriminated Against For Taking Shared Parental Leave?

Employees may be entitled to receive Shared Parental Leave (and Statutory Shared Parental Pay) if they have recently had a baby or adopted a child.

Employees can begin Shared Parental Leave as long as they are eligible and they or their partner end their Maternity or Adoption Leave early. The remaining leave would then be available as Shared Parental Leave.

Shared Parental Leave can give parents more flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption.

Parents are entitled to share up to a maximum of fifty weeks of leave and up to a maximum of thirty-seven weeks of pay. They can also choose to take the leave and pay in a more flexible way, such as each parent taking up to three blocks of leave, rather than in one full block.

Eligible parents can be off work together for up to six months or alternatively stagger their leave and pay so that one of them is always at home with their baby in the first year.

Discrimination Against Men?

In May 2018, two decisions were made by the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the question of whether a man taking Shared Parental Leave is entitled to the same rate of pay as a female employee taking Maternity Leave.

Case One – Hextall v Chief Constanble of Leicestershire Police (1) and Working Families (Intervenor) (2)

Leicestershire Police paid eighteen weeks’ Enhanced Maternity Pay to mothers who were on Maternity Leave. However, they only paid Statutory Pay to those parents who chose to take Shared Parental Leave.

Mr Hextall took fourteen weeks Shared Parental Leave. If he had been a woman on Maternity Leave during that same period, he would have been entitled to receive full pay.

Mr Hextall claimed that this amounted to both direct and indirect sex discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal made the decision that it was neither direct nor indirect sex discrimination. Mr Hestall appealed the finding of indirect sex discrimination at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Indirect discrimination is when a practice, policy or rule applies to everyone in the same way but has a worse effect on some people than others. The Equality Act says it puts a person at a particular disadvantage.

Unlike direct discrimination, it is possible for an employer to justify indirect discrimination.

In the above case, the practice was that Leicestershire Police only paid Statutory Pay to parents who took Shared Parental Leave. The Employment Tribunal held that this practice did not put men at a disadvantage because the same amount was paid to men and women who took Shared Parental Leave. The Employment Tribunal felt that Mr Hextall’s true case was that men were not disadvantaged by the practice but instead were disadvantaged by the fact that they cannot get pregnant (and this is not something that was capable of being indirect sex discrimination).

Case Two – Capita Customer Management Ltd v Ali and Another

In this case, Mr Ali argued that Capita’s practice to pay Shared Parental Leave at the Statutory rate amounted to direct sex discrimination.

Mr Ali compared himself to a woman who was on Maternity Leave and who would receive Enhanced Maternity Pay.

He also alleged that this was an act of indirect sex discrimination because it was a practice which was more likely to disadvantage men than women.

The Employment Tribunal found in favour of Mr Ali and confirmed his claim of direct discrimination. This was on the basis that Mr Ali could compare himself to a hypothetical female employee taking leave to care for her child after the two-week compulsory Maternity Leave period.

Mr Ali’s indirect discrimination claim was dismissed.

Capita appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld.

They found that Mr Ali had not been discriminated against and, also noted that the primary purpose of the European Union Parental Leave Directive, which is the basis for Shared Parental Leave, is the care of a child, whereas, the Pregnant Workers Directive is on the basis that paid Maternity Leave provisions promotes of the health and well-being of the mother.

Accordingly, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that Mr Ali could not compare himself to a woman in the first twenty-six weeks’ of Maternity Leave and the correct comparator was a woman on Shared Parental Leave, who would then also receive the same pay as a man.

Court of Appeal Rulings

On 28th May 2019, the Court of Appeal made a ruling that it is not discriminatory for employers to pay Enhanced Maternity Pay but only pay Statutory Pay for staff who choose to take Shared Parental Leave.

In this latest stage of the ongoing Court battles between Mr Hextall and Leicestershire Police and Mr Ali and Capita, the Court upheld the ruling that both Leicestershire Police and Capita were indeed allowed to offer Enhanced Maternity Pay without having to provide the same benefits for staff on Shared Parental Leave.

The Judges decided that the main purpose of Maternity Leave is for the mother to recover from giving birth and not about childcare. This need is not shared by the mother’s partner and, as such, it is not discriminatory to offer more generous Maternity Leave.

The Court also decided that there was no case for equal pay because the law gives employers the option to make exceptions for those female employees who are pregnant, who have recently given birth or who are breastfeeding.

Conclusion

This Court of Appeal ruling will be seen as a positive step for employers. An opposite ruling could well have seen a lot of employers pulling their Enhanced Maternity Packages, and thus, denying women the protection which Maternity Leave offers them.

Employers should remember that this Law only states the minimum pay and not a maximum. So if an employer would like to pay more money to fathers on Shared Parental Leave they can do so. This will help employers to be more attractive and competitive.

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