How Do Employers Manage Quarantine After Holidays?

We may have had Freedom Day in the UK but the pandemic is still very much here. What do employers do if employees wish to holiday abroad and how do we manage swift changes in the isolation rules? 

Holidays abroad seemed like a thing of the past for a while until the government introduced a traffic light system which has different procedures for those who wish to travel to another country.

The Traffic Light System

Currently Green countries are those countries which do not require quarantine upon return to the UK.

Amber destinations are deemed to have more risk than Green countries and will require quarantine for people who have not been vaccinated or travel before the rules change on August 16th 2021.

Red destinations are countries which the government has advised against travelling to and require a hotel quarantine period.

But what happens when a country moves suddenly from Green to Amber, Amber to Red or when the rules change at short notice just as they did with Paris?

Banning Staff From Going Abroad

Of course we cannot and would not want to ban staff from travelling abroad. Travelling means different things to different people. For some it is the joy of seeing somewhere new, to others it may mean a long awaited hug from a family member or loved one and for others still it is a matter of business.

It would not be reasonable or appropriate to stop staff from travelling and if it resulted in dismissal it could lead to an unfair dismissal claim.

However we do suggest advising staff that travelling might be at their own financial risk if they are required to isolate.

Do I have to pay staff to Self-Isolate following travel?

The current rules are that staff who are required to self isolate by law are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from Day One of isolation. You can pay more but SSP is the minimum that you must pay.

Can I request that staff work during isolation?

If staff are able to work from home and they are well enough to do so you can ask staff to work from home. If staff are working from home they should receive full pay.

Can I insist that staff attend their place of work during Self Isolation?

As of September 2020 it became illegal for an employer to allow a member of staff to work anywhere but their place of isolation during self isolation. Insisting that a staff member attend work when they should be in quarantine can result in a £10,000 fine for the employer.

Aside from the legalities and the fine, it would also put other staff, service users and clients at risk.

What can I do if my employee asks to use annual leave during self isolation?

There is nothing stopping you allowing a staff member to use annual leave during self isolation. It may well help them financially.

Employers can also request that staff use annual leave at any time providing they give twice as much notice as the leave they would like the employee to take. In real terms this means, 2 days notice for 1 day annual leave or 8 days notice to use 4 days annual leave.

Should I be telling my staff the procedure for self isolation following the holiday?

There is no legal requirement to outline a self- isolation procedure following annual leave but this is good practice. It will help staff know what they should do if they find themselves in a quarantine situation after a holiday. It also helps managers know what they should be doing.

Where can I get HR and Employment Law Support with staff?

You can get free advice from acas and from our newsletters.

We are always happy to help employers with Employment Law, email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or visit our website at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk to see how we can help you.

Do I Need A Working From Home Policy?

Working from home and Hybrid working has been a normality for some businesses for many years. However, many other businesses began working from home on a much larger scale during the pandemic. As we start to recover from the pandemic some employers have decided to ditch the office altogether whilst others have decided to opt for a Hybrid solution. 

I didn’t have a Working From Home Policy last year, why would I get one now?

Most businesses were not prepared for Boris’ ‘work from home if you can’ announcement in March 2020, but British businesses are adaptable and resilient and we rose to the challenge in a hurry. That meant scrambling for laptops and PC’s, moving documents onto a cloud and a mass rerouting of telephone lines. For many, the legal and security implications were not a consideration but we are still required to follow GDPR ( General Data Protection Regulations), Employment Law and Health and Safety Laws.

Data

You must still ensure that staff data and client data is secure. This can mean you need to consider a number of things such as:

How do staff dispose of documents containing data, will you supply a shredder, a confidential waste bin or require old documents to be returned to the office for safe disposal?

Are staff able to store documents safely in a locked cupboard?

Will they be sharing their computer with other members of their household?

Are they wearing headphones when they are having conversations which include sensitive data?

Is the email and internet usage encrypted?

Health And Safety

Employers are still responsible for the safety of staff whilst they are working from home. This doesn’t mean you need to do a daily home visit but you may well ask staff to carry out a risk assessment. At the very least you will want to ensure that they have the right chair and desk set up.

Who  Will You Allow To Work From Home?

Working from home is not suitable for everybody, some people do not have the space, the internet speed or the desire to work from home. If you are introducing working from home or hybrid working for a selection of staff then you should be able to explain why you have disallowed it for others. A working from home criteria is useful to help avoid discriminating against groups of people.

Expenses and Bills

Working from home can incur additional expenses for staff, your working from home policy should set out who is responsible for bills and expenses.

Avoiding An Us And Them Culture

If some staff are able to work from home whilst others are in the workplace you will need to make an effort to prevent an us and them culture.

You will still want everyone to feel a part of the team and although working from home has many benefits it can mean that staff miss out on general chit chat where friendships are built or they miss out on the social activities which workplaces inspire. It can also lead to resentment from work based staff who would like to work from home. Keep having regular meetings either via video link or in person and team activities to keep the team together.

How do I get a Homeworking Policy

We are able to supply you with and Homeworking and Hybrid working policy for your business. To enquire about our working from home policy contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

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

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

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 

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.

Supporting Staff During Ramadan – Avoiding Discrimination

All staff have the right not to be discriminated against because of a protected characteristic. Religious beliefs are one of the nine protected characteristics recognised in Employment Law under the Equality Act.

An employer could find themselves facing an Employment Tribunal claim if they are seen to have discriminated against a member of staff.  Religious discrimination is the unfair or unfavourable treatment of a person because of their religious beliefs. This can include policies or practices.

To help to avoid discrimination employers can have policies or Equal Opportunities, Bullying Harassment and clear Grievance procedures.

Ramadan is a religious period observed by many Muslims. This year, Ramadan began on 5th May and ends on 4th June.

Ramadan happens every year, in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this 29 or 30 day continuous period, Muslims will not eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset (known as fasting).

Ramadan is seen as one of the five pillars of Islam. Most Muslims (there are exceptions for the young, the elderly and the sick) will fast between sunrise and sunset and will also partake in prayer, reflection and charity work.

For the majority of Muslims, Ramadan will not have any effect on their day-to-day work. However, others may very well be greatly impacted. Therefore, it is very important that employers give consideration as to how they can assist their employees during Ramadan.

  • Fasting may very well affect the employee in certain ways. They may become a little irritable or slightly tired during the latter parts of the day. Therefore, some understanding from managers and colleagues is helpful.
  • It may be obvious to your other employees that the employee isn’t eating and if they do get a little irritable, which can be natural, why they are not their usual self. Therefore, it would be a good idea to suggest that the employee informs their manager and colleagues that they will be fasting.
  • With the above in mind, the employee may wish to start work earlier in the day and finish earlier, so that they can rest during the latter part of the day at home. The employee may also wish to work from home, and you should consider allowing them to do this.
  • It can also help to hold meetings and undertake more challenging work in the mornings and perform more routine tasks later in the day.
  • Although the employee should still take their breaks, a shorter lunch-break could make it easier for the employee to manage their workload if they wish to take time off to carry out additional prayer or worship.
  • The employee may also wish to use some of their annual leave entitlement during Ramadan, especially during the final ten days, as this is a particularly special time for Muslims.
  • It is a good idea to suggest to colleagues that they should refrain from offering food and drink to those who fast, and also ask other staff to not eat during meetings.
  • It can also be helpful to avoid social events and even full team meetings during Ramadan.

 

Understanding the employee’s experiences and accommodating their particular needs shows great management skills and will also help to ensure that staff perform to the best of their abilities. Putting in place policies that are accommodating to all religious events can also lead to a better mutually trusting relationship with your staff and ultimately lead to higher staff retention, better morale, more effective teams and greater productivity.

If you would like help with policies or training on avoiding discrimination please contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk.

We can also assist with HR meetings such a grievances and Employment Tribunal representation for employers.

For all Employment Law or HR matter contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

6 Questions Employers Should Not Ask During an Interview.

It is always important to ask questions of a potential employee. How else will you know if they are the right fit for your business otherwise?

However, you should ensure that your questions don’t delve too deep into the potential employee’s personal details. After all, you don’t want a discrimination case brought against you, even if you did not intend to discriminate.

Therefore, it is important to know what questions are a definite no-no. So, here goes: –

 

  1. Are you married?

 

Any questions about marital status, children or future family plans are simply not permissible.

Such questions are too much of a personal nature and could even be potentially discriminatory. Asking a potential employee if they are married could be seen as trying to determine their sexual orientation and this has absolutely no bearing on whether they have the ability to do carry out the job or not.

  1. Were you born in the UK?

 

Yes, you have a legal obligation to ensure that your employees are eligible to actually work in the UK. But you should not ask questions about their race, religion or native language.

A question of whether or not English is the potential employee’s first language is irrelevant, even if your employees are required to speak fluent English.

If the potential employee can speak and write in English to the standard that you require, and they can provide proof of their legal right to work in the UK, then they may well be the perfect person for your business.

 

  1. How old are you?

This question might seem innocent enough, but there are very few reasons why you need to know a potential employee’s age.

Yes, some businesses require their employees to be a certain age for legal reasons, i.e. to sell alcohol, but otherwise, a potential employee’s age should not affect their ability to carry out the job effectively.

Instead, you can ask the potential employee for their date of birth on a separate Equal Opportunites Form, but remember that the interviewer is not be allowed to see this.

 

  1. How many sick days did you take in your last job?

Questions along the lines of health, sickness or indeed disabilities should always be avoided at all costs.

The only time you may need to ask such questions is if you need to find out if the potential employee might need an assessment to establish their suitability for the job, or to establish whether adjustments need to be made in order to accommodate their needs (e.g. fitting a lift or disabled toilet).

 

  1. Do you have any previous criminal convictions?

Potential employees are not required to advise of any criminal convictions if they have already served their sentence.

Therefore, you should not ask such questions, nor refuse employment because of a previous crime. The only exception to refusing employment is if the position relates to teaching, childminding, financial matters etc.

Remember that criminal records checks can be requested from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for certain roles (e.g. working with children, healthcare etc). However, these should be requested before the interview stage.

 

  1. Are you a member of a trade union?

The Government website advises that an employer must not use the fact that a potential employee is a member of a trade union for or against them when deciding whether they are suitable for the position or not. This includes not employing them because they are a trade union member, or insisting that they join a trade union before you offer them the job.
The above questions are the big red flag ones that should not be asked of a potential employee during an interview. If you would like any further information on what you can and cannot ask or any other Employment Law query please get in touch via our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk