FAQ’s From Employers In Another National Lockdown

Here we go again.. although we had all hoped that lockdowns were limited to 2020 the latest announcement of the prime minister on the 4th January saw the nation back in lockdown.

In this blog we will answer some employer frequently asked questions.

My business is not allowed to open, what do I do with my staff?

The furlough scheme will remain open with the government contributing 80% of pay to staff. There is no legal requirement for employers to furlough staff as it is entirely at your discretion. However, in an ideal world  you will want to keep all of your staff as it is better for them, it also will allow you trade as soon as your business is allowed to.

Remember that there is no automatic right to furlough staff and that you may need a written agreement. For more information read our blog Furlough Explained here: https://orchardemploymentlaw.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/furlough-explained

Although furlough is the preferred option for most employers and staff it is not free. The employer may still have to spend time or pay for someone to do the furlough administration.  Employers still have to consider pension contributions, national insurance, tax, accrual of annual leave and possibly employees gaining an extra years service which could have cost implications in the future. 

I cannot afford to furlough staff what can I do?

If you cannot afford to furlough your staff or you choose not too you may need to make redundancies.

Nobody likes to make redundancies but with ongoing costs such as rent, tax and insurances and little to no income you might not have much choice. There are rules and processes  around redundancies including, how much notice you should give, who can be selected and how meetings should be conducted. Always seek advice before making redundancies.

We are holding a webinar on how to conduct redundancies, you can Friday 22nd January you can email us for information on info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or book using the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/135518029073

We are a business which is allowed to open, do I have to let my staff work from home?

The national lockdown guidance is that all those who can work from home should work from home.

There are obvious positions where staff will not be able to work from home such as construction, engineering, child care, retail, manufacturing and the list goes on. In these instances staff will not be allowed to work from home.

As an employer you have a duty to keep your staff safe, this may extend to protecting them from catching Covid19 in the workplace wherever possible. So, if your staff are able to work from home effectively and productively you should allow them to do so.

That being said, not all job roles can be done effectively from home. They may be required to be physically present to open post, respond immediately to situations or you might not have the infrastructure to allow them to work from home.

The guidance may also vary person to person as well as job role to job role. You are still able to expect a reasonable output from staff and if a staff member is not productive or effective when working from home they might not have this option.

It is important to remember that fear of catching coronavirus can be a genuine concern and should be treated sensitively. You should try to reduce risks in the workplace such as social distancing, heightened hygiene and providing screens.  If staff are still unable to come to work you may consider other options such as using annual leave, unpaid leave or furlough. It is better to seek advice on a case by case basis and each situation will be different.

My staff are unproductive because they are homeschooling as well as working from home, what are my options?

In the first instance try to be understanding, working from home around dependents is no easy task. Maybe you could agree to a more flexible work pattern to allow staff to manage home and children. An example of this might be allowing staff to start earlier or later in the day, compressing their hours or reducing their hours. 

Any agreement is just that and should be done by consent.

Even the most understanding employer can still require work to be done accurately and productively if staff are unable to work productively at home you may want to consider using furlough or asking staff to use either parental leave or annual leave.

Be careful because you do not want to accidentally discriminate against women who are known to be more likely to  have the burden of childcare.

I have some staff members who can work from home but want to attend work, are they allowed to?

This is a matter for employers to decide, there will be some individuals who want to attend work for mental wellbeing reasons or because they do not feel able to work from home. If you are able to reduce risks in the workplace by making the environment Covid secure you are able to allow them to work from the office.

What about staff who are shielding?

Shielding came back into action on 4th January 2020 for the most vulnerable members of society. Staff who are shielding should have received a letter from a medic or the NHS informing them that are to shield which means that she should not leave home.

If staff are told to shield employers should not expect them to work away from their home. If they can work from home you should allow them to do so. If they are unable to work from home you can either put them om furlough or Statutory Sick Pay, staff also have the option of using annual leave.

We hope that you found this blog useful, if you did please share it with someone else who may benefit from reading this.

This blog is general information and is not intended to substitute advice, if you would like specific advice or support with Employment Law you can contact us via our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Unpicking the Job Support Scheme

Orchard Employment Law provide answers to some frequently asked questions.

Both Employers and employees have been concerned about the future of jobs once the Furlough scheme ends on the 31st October so it is no surprise that people were eagerly awaiting the announcement of the new job support scheme. 

We bring you answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is the Job Support Scheme in a nutshell?

This scheme will allow employers to reduce staff hours and to claim some monies from the government.

All small and medium businesses will be eligible to use the scheme but large businesses will only be able to claim if they can show that their turnover has reduced as a result of the pandemic.

How many hours must an employee work to be eligible for the scheme?

Under the new scheme the employees work at least at least one third of the employees normal hours. The minimum hour requirement might increase after January 2021.

What will I have to pay as an employer?

As an employer you will be required to pay national insurance and pensions. You will also have to pay 100% of the hours which the employee works.

You will also have to contribute towards the hours which the employee does not work. Your total contribution will vary depending on the percentage of time the employee works. The total minimum contribution from an employer (including hours worked) will be 55% but it could be as much as 80%.

Just as with furlough, it is likely that the employee will be on a reduced salary on the job support scheme.

Can I use the scheme on a new employee?

Employees who been employed on of after the 23rd of September 2020 are eligible for the scheme.

What if the employee has not been furloughed in the past?

There is no requirement for the business to have used furlough in the past or for the employee to have been furloughed before.

Can I rotate staff on the scheme?

Yes, you can rotate staff  on and off the job retention scheme but they must be on the scheme for a minimum of 7 days at a time.

Is there an automatic right to put an employee on the scheme?

No, as this will be a reduction in wages you will need to check your contracts to see whether or not you have the right to reduce pay. If you do not have the right to reduce pay you should negotiate with your staff and have a written agreement for them to be on the scheme. We recommend you take advice on this so as not to end up with a claim against you.

You should also have clear and transparent reasons as to who is put on the scheme and who isn’t. You are still required to follow UK employment laws and this means not discriminating against people.

Will I still be able to make redundancies if I use the scheme?

You will still be able to make redundancies but you cannot use the scheme during the notice period. Employees should receive their full redundancy and notice pay (pre furlough and job support scheme.

Do I have to use the scheme instead of using redundancies or lay off?

No, there is no obligation for an employer to use the job support scheme.

Can we contact you for support?

Yes, we provide advice and support to employers  with all HR and Employment Law matters. You can contact us at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Planning for changes in Employment Law for 2020

2020 is another year of changes to the world of employment law and HR. In this blog, we are talking about some of the changes that we know are already going to happen, and, of course, that much discussed and debated subject that is Brexit.

Written Statement of Terms and Conditions (Contracts)

First up, we have the Written Statement of Terms and Conditions, also known as a Contract.

Currently, an employer has up to eight weeks to supply Terms and Conditions of Employment to all employees who have been continuously employed for more than one month.

From 6th April 2020, all new employees and workers will have the right to a Statement of Written Particulars from their first day of employment. Additional information will also need to be included as part of this new extended right.

Employers will need to prepare for this change during their recruitment process and have the Employment Contract sent to their chosen candidate before ‘day one’ of employment.

Employers will also need to consider who will qualify as a worker, and issue Employment Contracts to employees whilst using a separate template when issuing particulars for workers.

 

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

There is currently no law regarding bereavement leave and pay for parents.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 is due to come into force in April 2020. However, this has not yet been confirmed.

If it does come into force, parents who suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18 years or a stillbirth after 24 weeks’ of pregnancy, will have the right to two weeks’ bereavement leave and, in some cases, pay.

We have not yet received any details of the new entitlement or those who will qualify and these will be set out in separate regulations.

However, we do know that bereaved parents will be entitled to take this leave in one two-week block or in two separate blocks of one week and that the leave must be taken before the end of a period of at least 56 days beginning with the date of the child’s death.

Bereaved parents who have been continuously employed for a minimum of 26 weeks will also be entitled to receive Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay. Parents with less than 26 weeks’ continuous service will be entitled to take two weeks’ of unpaid leave.

 

Agency Worker Rights

There are three important changes to Agency Worker Rights which will come into effect on 6th April 2020: –

  • Currently, the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 entitles agency workers to receive the same pay and basic working conditions as direct employees once they have completed 12 weeks’ continuous service working in the same role.

Under the Swedish Derogation (sometimes referred to as ‘pay between assignments’ contracts), agency workers are able to agree to a contract which removes this right.

From 6th April 2020, the Swedish Derogation will be abolished and these contracts will no longer be permissible. All agency workers, after 12 weeks’ continuous service, will be entitled to the same rate of pay as their permanent coworkers;

  • From 6th April 2020, all agency workers will be entitled to receive a Key Information Statement which sets out more clearly what their employment relationship is and the terms and conditions with their agency;
  • From 6th April 2020, all agency workers who are considered as employees will be protected from unfair dismissal and/or suffering a detriment if the reasons are in relation to asserting rights linked to The Agency Worker Regulations 2010.

 

Holiday Pay Calculations

The current way to calculate holiday pay can be complicated, especially for those employees with variable hours and variable rates of pay. The current holiday pay reference period is 12 weeks.

From 6th April 2020, this holiday pay reference period will increase to 52 weeks, meaning that employers will need to look at the previous 52 weeks where a worker has worked and received pay (disregarding any weeks when the worker did not work or where no payment was received) in order to calculate the average weekly pay.

 

National Minimum Wage Amounts

National Minimum and Living Wage amounts always change in April of each year and 2020 is no different.

The current rates are as follows: –

Age Rate

25 years and over £8.21

21 to 24 years £7.70

18 to 20 years £6.15

Under 18 years £4.35

Apprentice £3.90

From 6th April 2020, these rates will change, as follows: –

Age Rate

25 years and over £8.72

21 to 24 years £8.20

18 to 20 years £6.45

Under 18 years £4.55

Apprentice £4.15

 

Brexit

First of all, we all know that the UK is due to leave the European Union at midnight on Friday 31st January and when this happens, it is likely to bring about changes to the way the employment law world works, although any changes are unlikely to happen straight away. However, businesses will still need to be prepared.

At the moment, existing legislation and case law still applies and will continue to do so until new legislation is brought in.

Whether or not the UK is able to withdraw from current EU legislation and requirements will, ultimately, depend on the UK’s relationship with the EU and other countries. It is possible that trade agreements with other countries will be based upon some if not all, current EU employment legislation.

Any changes that do come into force will not necessarily be immediate or even significant, for the following reasons: –

  • A lot of EU employment law is based on UK legislation, meaning these will remain in place until amended;
  • Many UK employment rights, such as National Minimum Wage Amounts and unfair dismissal rights, do not arise from EU legislation.
  • In many other cases, UK legislation provides protection which far exceeds the EU minimum, for example, maternity leave and the right to 5.6 weeks’ holiday (EU law states a four-week minimum).
  • Changes to primary legislation need the approval of Parliament, and so the Government at the time of any changes will need to consider whether any amendments are politically favourable.

If you have any questions or queries about anything in this blog, or if there is anything employment law or HR related that you need help with, please get in touch with us by emailing 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.

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.

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.

 

 

Winter Blues and Don’ts

5 Tools to take your staff to the end of the year.

 

This autumn and winter you can keep your staff productive your and business running by following these steps.

 

Sickness

Coughs and colds are an inevitability this time of year and this can mean that businesses experience higher absence levels than normal. November is the perfect time to promote good hygiene in the workplace. You can do this by providing telephone wipes, keyboard wipes, sanitsers and sweet smelling soaps. This will help to reduce germs spreading and keep staff healthier for longer.

Now is the perfect time to review your sickness policy and remind employees who, how and when they should contact work. If you would like some help reviewing your existing sickness policies and procedure please fill in the contact form at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

Adverse Weather

Fallen trees, ice, frost and snow can cause havoc on public transport and our UK roads. You may find that staff are late to work or unable to come to work because of the winter weather. There is no obligation to pay staff who are not able to attend work but you may want to put things in place to allow your staff to maintain pay and for your business to continue to function. Consider allowing staff to arrive at work later, 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.

Black Friday

Black Friday sales in the UK are becoming increasingly popular. You may find that employees attention to work and productivity levels drop as they try to find the best online bargains.

Managers are advised to ensure they have an up to date internet rules and usage policy. This policy should also be shared with staff. Whether you take a more relaxed approach to the use of computer devices or a strict approach be sure to be consistent so that you are not accused of discrimination.

Annual leave reminders

If your holiday year runs from January to December now is the perfect time to remind staff about their unused holiday allowance. You do not have to allow staff to roll holiday over into the next year unless there are exceptional circumstances such as maternity or illness.

You are also able to refuse holiday if it is not a convenient time for the business or if there are too many staff off.

That being said it is good to give staff time to rest so you should be reasonable when in receipt of holiday requests.

Many employers are unaware that they can impose annual leave. So if the business has a down period or your staff have unused holidays you can simply give them a day off (with notice of course).

Christmas

Christmas do’s and bonuses are a lovely way to boost morale, bring the team together and enjoy the end of the year but there are a few things that employers should bear in mind.

  • Not everyone celebrates Christmas so be mindful not to exclude or discriminate against any staff members.
  • Bonus can become contractual if they are given consistently year after year. Always remind staff that the Christmas bonus is not intended to be contractual.
  • Sometimes staff behaviour at Christmas parties is unacceptable. Remind staff that they are still expected to comply with harassment and disciplinary policies whilst they are having fun.

 

For HR advice or support and help with Employment Law please contact us at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or email info@orchardemplolymentlaw.co.uk

 

Halloween in the workplace.

Yes, you guessed right. Employment Law even has an impact on Halloween in the workplace. Although, many people see it as harmless, employers should still set boundaries and expectations around this pagan festival.

Fancy dress?

One of the associated acts of Halloween is dressing up as ghosts and ghouls and this year there may even be a few clowns. Some workplaces have used dressing up as a motivating factor. In a similar vein to dress down Fridays or dressing up for Children in Need but managers should still 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 offence to those with mental illness and so Tesco and Asda donated £25,000 to Time to Change. Outfits such as the above could give rise to a discrimination and harassment claim and as an employer you would be liable.

It isn’t sufficient enough to simply tell your staff not to wear outfits which might cause offence. Orchard Employment Law encourages employers to go the extra mile and to give employee’s scenarios and examples 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.

In the case of Brown v Youngs Co Brewery  a black man won a claim of harassment after his employer had told him that he looked like a pimp  as he was wearing a promotional hat and in a case of X v Y a homosexual won a claim of harassment when his male colleagues had dressed up as women and spoke with a female voice.

Trick or Treat?

Another common action during the Halloween period is pranks. Resulting from the trick or treat custom. Whilst no manager wants to be the grim reaper of fun care should be taken 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 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 were in excess of 50,000 people in the UK who identified themselves of pagan.

So if you are celebrating Halloween in your workplace this year, be sure not to be landed with an employment tribunal claim which turns out to be the most frightening trick of all.
To find out more about how Orchard Employment Law can help you with your staff visit www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or email info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk