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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: Safety Matters Q2 2018

How much damage can a workstation do?

Dangerous places, offices are. Sure, perhaps not as dangerous as working with heavy machinery or at height. But a computer workstation can cause more than its fair share of problems, if not set up correctly.

Let’s consider the desk surface. A bad set-up can lead to back and neck pain and also contact stress on the arms. The top of the desk should be at an appropriate height for the user (adjustable height desks are becoming more common). Computer monitors should be placed at head height and about 50cm from the eyes. These will help to avoid strain on both the eyes and neck.

The desk should provide enough space to accessibly house all equipment which the user frequently uses. Having to stretch repeatedly to reach stationery, or twist into unnatural positions is bad for posture.

It’s best to have desks with rounded edges. These help the circulation when arms rest on them – compared to angled edges – helping to prevent tingling and soreness in the fingers. If your desks have sharper edges, you could consider overlaying a softer material like foam.

And what about under the desk? In a busy office, it’s tempting to pile boxes or files under desks, but this isn’t advisable. Such obstructions can force the worker too far away from the desk top, or restrict leg movement – both of which can cause back and neck problems.

Who’d have thought there was so much to consider with the humble desk! But normally a little care and attention can render them harmless, and help you keep a healthy, productive workforce.

Good health and safety is great for your business

When people talk about health and safety, it’s often with just legal compliance in mind, and preventing people (and equipment) coming to harm – reactive policies to stop bad things happening. But what about the positives that a proactive health and safety policy brings to your business?

Being seen to take health and safety seriously by your staff brings you significant benefits. First, there is the cultural impact. You create a culture in which you clearly care about your employees, and an environment in which they can carry out their work effectively. This professional approach will play its part in recruiting and retaining high calibre workers.

Good health and safety will also help you operate more efficiently. According to the HSE, 31.2 million working days were lost last year due to work-related illness and injury. Reduce the lost days in your business and think of the management time saved and the avoided costs of covering for absent workers.

So investing a little in health and safety can deliver valuable returns through more effective employees and reduced absences. And that’s before you even consider savings in legal costs and compensation when things go badly wrong.

April Showers

 April is a month notorious for its changeable weather, and in particular showery rain. This can pose extra risks for employees who work outside, and to the entrance areas of buildings.

For outside workers, the correct clothing and equipment for rain are essential. Slips and falls become much more likely. So footwear with non-slip rubber and thick grooves in the soles are a must, particularly for people working at height. Other waterproof clothing is important but ensure that vision and hearing aren’t compromised. Hand tools should be suitable for outdoor use and have non-slip handles.

And for those lucky enough to be working indoors when the heavens open, there is still a heightened risk to manage. Main entrances to buildings can become extra slippery. So good quality entrance matting is advisable. If you do not have permanent matting up to the task, you could store reinforcement matting for especially wet days along with slip hazard signage.

Need help conducting a wet weather risk assessment? Call The Health and Safety Dept.

Health and Safety Myth Busters

It’s unfortunate but enduringly true that health and safety is a go-to excuse for managers and frontline staff when they introduce or enforce an unpopular policy. The HSE calls out such policies when they wrongly blame health and safety legislation. Here is our round-up of some of the latest myths they have dispelled.

Myth: Packed lunches banned from being eaten in the playground
With the weather turning warmer, nothing could be more pleasant than eating your lunch in the gentle sunshine. One school outlawed their children from eating their packed lunches alfresco, citing health and safety as the reason. However, government regulations do not touch upon this. Therefore, the decision was part of an internal management policy and should have been presented as such.

Myth: Providing empty tester perfume bottles
Most of us like to smell nice, and for many this means buying an expensive fragrance. Or if we’re lucky, being given one as a present. Some of us even like to collect empty tester perfume bottles, apparently. But one unfortunate enthusiast was prohibited by a store assistant from taking away such perfume bottles for, you’ve guessed it, health and safety reasons. Could it be that they were made of glass? Or were somehow unhygienic? Who knows? But in fact there is no legitimate health and safety reason why these empty glass bottles couldn’t be given away. It turns out that this was simply an internal waste and recycling policy.

Myth: Ban the safety pins
Do you have fond memories of your local swimming pool? Perhaps the changing rooms are not held so dear. Soggy floors, cramped cubicles, and those fiddly safety pins used to attach the locker key to your swimming costume. Thankfully, these safety pins are becoming a thing of the past as wristbands and clips are now preferred. One swimming pool blamed the demise of the safety pin on health and safety. Again, aside from general common sense, the HSE are not concerned with safety pins, so it was simply a commercial decision that there are better ways of attaching a key to your person when entering a swimming pool.

If you have a good reason for introducing a policy that is unpopular, then why not just use it to explain the policy? If there is no good reason, then perhaps you should change the policy. But don’t blame it on “health and safety”.

2017 sees huge rise in health and safety enforcement fines

When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published its enforcement figures for 2017, they showed huge rises in fines. They were up 74% on the previous year to about £61 million. Significant custodial sentences were handed out, too. This follows the introduction in 2016 of harsher sentencing guidelines and penalties.

There were some stand-out cases. These included a £2.2 million fine for Wilko when a 20-year-old female worker was crushed under a cage full of paint tins and paralysed. Kentucky Fried Chicken was fined just under £1 million following two employees being severely burned. And Aldi was fined £1 million after a new employee damaged his foot while operating an electric pallet truck without the proper training.

Lengthy jail sentences were handed out to the directors of more than one company following the deaths of employees falling from height.

That should be more than enough to make business owners sit up and take notice. And it is not just the punishments meted out by the HSE which business owners should be concerned about.

Depending on the nature of the accident, there could be further financial cost from repairing damage to machinery and equipment, lost revenue if operations are shut down for any length of time, and the time and money spent in preparing for the court proceedings.

Then there’s the human cost to consider. There will often be physical or mental damage to the immediate victim. But bad feeling could permeate throughout your workforce if it is perceived that you do not take workers’ welfare seriously. This could lead to recruitment and retention problems.

Appropriate risk assessments are at the heart of good health and safety policy. These include learning from near misses at your own organisation, and from the mistakes of others. To ensure you are handling health and safety correctly, get in touch with The Health and Safety Dept for an initial consultation.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter April 2018

A call to ban trial by unpaid labour

Trials by water or fire were outlawed centuries ago, but there is one type of potentially unfair trial that is currently not illegal – and what’s more, it is on the rise. We are talking about unpaid trial work shifts. These see job candidates come in and work for free for a period to demonstrate they have the right skillset to do the job.

Used fairly and as part of a recruitment process; short, relevant unpaid trials can be effective. They can even work as a two-way process, with the applicant seeing if they like the work and the employer seeing if they are suited to it. However, where businesses insist on full day unpaid trials, a sensible approach to recruitment degenerates into exploitation and free labour. It is a particular problem among organisations in the hospitality sector such as bars and cafes, and it is a growing trend.

Real examples of bad practice in this area include forcing new employees to undertake 40 hours of unpaid training or using unpaid trial staff to cover holiday or sickness absences of regular staff. There is a clear unfairness in such practices, and in the case of absence cover, the business is actually commercially gaining from it at the candidate’s expense. In light of this, a group of MPs have supported a private member’s bill that prohibits such unpaid trial shifts.

The bill would require employers to pay at least the National Minimum Wage and to structure the trial so that a job description is provided as well as a list of the qualities they are looking for. Key information, like how many roles are available and feedback to unsuccessful applicants, would also have to be given. Unfortunately this bill has now been dropped, but no doubt will be raised again.

Time will tell whether the bill becomes law, but much of what is included in it is what we would describe as part of a fair approach to recruitment. For advice in structuring your recruitment processes fairly and effectively to help your business fly, speak to The HR Dept.

 Childcare vouchers extended by six months

For many businesses, childcare vouchers have been an important employee benefit. If you offer them, you will probably be aware that the scheme was due to be closed to new applicants this April.

However, following a parliamentary intervention by Labour and then a DUP MP, the government has reluctantly extended childcare voucher registration until October.

A replacement tax-free childcare scheme has been running in parallel since April 2017. It works differently – some parents would be better off under the new scheme whilst others gain more from childcare vouchers.

If you offer childcare vouchers and have employees who may be eligible but have not signed up, now would be a good time to publicise the scheme. As long as your employees are registered before October 2018, they can continue using childcare vouchers as long as you offer them. But after that date, only the newer tax-free childcare scheme will be available.

The danger of wearing high heels at work

Having high standards is one thing, expecting your employees to totter around in high heels is something entirely different. It’s an issue that hit the headlines last year when a receptionist was sent home from work for not wearing heels.

After challenging the decision, an inquiry threw the spotlight on the unfair demands placed on some women at work. Although there is protection against sex discrimination, no men we know have been asked to wear heels, many still feel pressure to look a certain way – with 76% unsure what’s appropriate.

But it’s not just about looks. Asking your employees to wear heels may have serious health implications. It alters the centre of gravity, putting pressure on the spine, heart and lungs – probably not something you want to be responsible for! For advice on dress codes, talk to The HR Dept.

New case law: How to calculate part-time holiday leave

In an important decision in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (Brazel v The Harpur Trust), a judge has clarified how a part-time teacher’s holiday pay should be calculated.

Mrs Brazel, a part-time music teacher, worked at a school in term time on a zero-hour contract, and her hours fluctuated weekly. She had a contractual right to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday, mirroring her statutory right.

The school calculated her holiday pay using the Acas guidance for casual workers. This is pro rata to the proportion of the year worked. For her, the calculation was:

5.6 weeks (statutory holiday entitlement) / 46.4 weeks (number of working weeks per year) = 12.07%.

So 12.07% of her total pay.

However, on a working ‘year’ of 32-35 weeks, this approach disadvantaged her. She had less holiday pay than she would have been entitled to if the school had calculated her holiday pay in line with the Working Time Regulation. This looks at the normal rate of pay averaged over the 12 weeks prior to holiday being taken. In this instance, the school were required to take a 12 week average of pay from weeks actually worked, ignoring out-of-term weeks.

The appropriate calculation is therefore:

46.4 (number of working weeks per year) / 32 (number of working weeks per school year) x 12.07% = 17.5%

This case highlights how holiday pay for these types of workers should be calculated. Use a percentage of the average hours they have worked in the preceding 12 weeks immediately before the payment is made.

Japanese woman “guilty” of ignoring pregnancy timetable

We all like to be organised, but one company, a childcare centre in Japan, could be accused of taking it a bit far.

Their director worked out a schedule showing when female workers could marry and when they might have children, depending on their seniority in the company. But it seems one employee forgot to check the schedule before finding herself with child!

The worker who got pregnant “before her turn” was reprimanded by the director and labelled “selfish”. Her stunned husband wrote to one of Japan’s leading newspapers highlighting their plight, and was met with overwhelming support.

Although this is an extreme that would never happen in this country, illegal maternity discrimination is still all too common. If you need advice on how best to support your pregnant employees, that’s where The HR Dept can help.

Tribunals up 90%

Following last summer’s Supreme Court ruling to abolish tribunal fees, the number of employment court cases has virtually doubled. The work load for Acas advisors has increased so much that their union said they had “major concerns” about issues facing Acas, claiming the service was “severely under-resourced” with the increase in calls and talks are being held to avoid strike action.

Now that there’s no financial barrier to being taken to court, it makes the complexities of employment law a heightened business risk, particularly for SMEs where one successful claim could bankrupt you.

The HR Dept offer an insured advice line which gives you unlimited telephone and email access to an HR expert. You’ll also be fully insured against tribunal claims as long as you follow our advice. Call us to find out more.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter March 2018

Avoid HMRC fines for minimum wage breach

Recently, 179 employers were fined by HMRC for breaching minimum wage legislation. They were also named and shamed. Fines totalling £1.3 million were levied, in addition to back pay awards of £1.1 million. And let’s not forget the cost of reputational damage.

It is not a situation you want to find yourself in. But could you inadvertently be in breach of the minimum wage laws? Even large companies – Wagamama’s and TGI Fridays – were caught out in this latest purge. And it is no coincidence that many of the companies were restaurants, catering venues or hair and beauty salons where staff are often on minimum wage.

Typically these types of establishments have a dress code, for example requiring staff to wear black trousers, white top and black shoes. The sort of clothes all of us have in our wardrobe. But for HMRC this is a uniform and should be bought by the company.

The HMRC definition of a uniform is any specific clothing that you stipulate employees must wear. So the cost of those clothes is deducted from the minimum wage payment and low and behold they have breached the regulations.

They not only have to pay the back pay to the employee but HMRC will fine them 200% of the total amount owed to staff.

Understanding your pay period is an important aspect of getting this right. Whether you pay your employees monthly or weekly could make all the difference as to whether uniform costs take staff below the minimum wage. The solution is simple if this affects you. You either need to provide the uniform yourself or pay a reimbursement for the cost of the specific clothing.

Everyone reading this will know one place where the staff wear a uniform. We are sure if you tell them about this they will be very grateful and you may even find a few extra chips on your plate. Or better still, point them towards The HR Dept so we can help them avoid all the employment pitfalls.

Should women disclose pregnancy at an interview?

In a recent YouGov survey, six out of ten small to medium sized business owners believed women should disclose whether they are pregnant during the recruitment process. And 41% said that pregnant employees put an unnecessary burden on the workplace.

Any manager tempted to act out these views, would be seriously advised not to. It is illegal and you can be taken to a tribunal even if the recruitment process went no further. If the judge finds against you, and they take a dim view of any form of discrimination, the best case scenario is likely to be paying an award for injury to feelings.

If the tribunal decides that were it not for discrimination, the candidate would have got the job, it could get much more expensive. Compensation may have to be paid for the financial loss of the person not getting the job.

But let’s not dwell on those penalties. What about the benefits of having a progressive, family-friendly attitude to business? Acting in accordance with the law and supporting a woman through pregnancy is likely to leave you with a good will dividend that may prove very valuable over time. Think of the loyalty and commitment to your company, as well as the experience retained.

One good practice to consider in this area is to advertise roles as being flexible, including part time or as job shares. There are many talented people either with families or thinking of starting one, and this can be an excellent way to recruit from this pool of high quality staff.

40 winks

The Working Time Regulations 1998 state that all staff working for more than six hours must have a 20 minute break away from the workstation (four hours for under 18s). But Public Health England are going a step further, saying that sleep and recovery should be embedded into an organisation’s culture.

They explain that after just a short period of reduced sleep, people are less productive at work and more likely to succumb to infection. Brain function also deteriorates increasing the risk of accidents.

But by providing a quiet space where staff are able to rest, you can reduce stress and improve sleep patterns in them.

Lower absence rates and fewer accidents looks like a winning combination to us. So if you want to review working patterns, do talk to The HR Dept.

Payroll changes ahead!

April is the big time for payroll changes. On 6 April, new Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates kick in. See the latest rates in The Indicator, just below this article.

A detail that does sometimes get forgotten regards apprentices: if 19 or older, they’re entitled to the age-appropriate minimum wage after their first year of apprenticeship.

Employers also need to be mindful of employees’ birthdays. Higher wage rates become an entitlement immediately following a birthday that takes them into the next bracket. Fortunately our Toolkit personnel system can remind you of all such important dates.

Another change this 6 April affects termination payments. HMRC are ironing out a quirk that allowed pay in lieu of notice to be tax free if it wasn’t a contractual provision. Now, this will be subject to tax and National Insurance. We await HMRC guidance on post-employment notice pay (PENP) as to whether this also includes bonus and commission payments.

Equal pay claims soar

Some of the UK’s largest supermarkets are facing supersized equal pay claims. Morrisons is the latest to be targeted. The crux of the claim relates to whether jobs are of comparable value to a company, rather than how much the individual tasks of roles differ.

In this case, warehouse staff (mainly men) have been paid approximately £2 per hour more than shop floor staff – who are mainly women. If the two roles are deemed to be of equal value, it is irrelevant, for instance, if one involves heavy lifting whilst the other is customer service. They should be paid the same.

It shows the level of care that needs to be taken when working out remuneration structures. Taking expert advice is the best way of ensuring you don’t inadvertently breach equal pay laws.

What would you do?

When it was announced that Ant McPartlin had been arrested for drink driving, most of us felt sympathy for this popular North East legend and hoped he could get his life back on track.

But what if he was an employee coming into work today? How would you react?

Would your decision to support be based on the employee’s likeability, or would you manage to be objective?

There really are no easy answers, but consistency in your approach to managing staff is essential. This is where our Advice Line clients find talking through difficult situations with an HR Dept adviser really helps.

Also, if there is reputational damage our Crisis Communication team can be there to help manage any press interest.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter February 2018

Women in top roles delivering above-average financial performance

International Women’s Day takes place on 8th March 2018. This year’s marks 100 years since women won the right to vote in the UK.  This might seem like progress, but there’s still so much more to be done. There are more FTSE bosses called Steve or Stephen than there are female CEOs. And more Davids too!

UK firms are well above the global average when it comes to women taking the top tier positions, with around 15% of executive roles held by women and the number of women on FTSE boards has soared over recent years due to government and shareholder pressure to boost diversity.

From April this year, all UK companies with 250 staff or more will be required to publish the gap between what they pay men and what they pay women. This will certainly provide data to further highlight the gender pay gap. It is to be hoped that the shame of what is revealed will speed up the closing of this gap – on current trends gender pay parity is 200 years away.

Some critics of this policy have argued that gender pay reporting could reduce family-friendly policies and attitudes of bigger employers to enforce gender equality, although it’s just common sense to pay people the same wage for the same job as well as supporting people through their career as they start a family.

Britain’s most successful companies have women at the top with the most gender diverse companies being 20% more likely to have above average financial performance compared to those with a less diverse workforce.

And what about smaller businesses? There is a significant gender pay gap at this level, too. How gender diverse is your business? Many businesses will benefit from seeking advice on how to implement processes that encourage equality and reduce bias. For example, one positive step would be to create wage bands that are applied equally across the genders.

Finance manager who faked terminal cancer is convicted of fraud

Derby Crown Court recently heard the case of a finance manager who faked a terminal illness and stole £17,000 from her employer. The employee made nine fraudulent transactions including stealing £1,000 within the first three days of starting her new role.

Her fraudulent behaviour was uncovered whilst she was off work to deal with her alleged cancer. It transpired that this finance manager had two previous fraud convictions, in 2012 and 2015.

For her latest crime, she was sentenced to 20 months in jail.

As is typical in such cases, her employer needed to dedicate a great deal of time and money investigating what had happened, and in getting their accounts back in order.

A useful tool for understanding and managing the risk of employee fraud is The Fraud Triangle. It is a framework designed to explain the factors at play when an employee commits fraud. The triangle is made up of, first, motivation: greed is the most common motivation, followed by debts and gambling. Opportunity is the second point of the triangle and examples may include weak internal controls, no training and no checking of references. Rationalisation is the third point – for instance the employee feels that the company is too big to notice, or deserves to be punished, or that the employee has “earned it”.

Understanding this model highlights the importance of due diligence and stringent recruitment processes as well as the need for robust internal controls.

Why staff shouldn’t bring their own computers to work

A bring your own device (BYOD) IT policy is often seen as the trendy way to work. But whilst you may think it will slash your IT spend and let employees revel in the latest gadgets, there’s increasing push-back against this practice.

According to a survey by Damavo UK, many IT directors feel that BYOD is not cost-effective. The company can end up forking out extra for individual costs such as data plans, and employees tend to use the IT department as a first line of support even if they’re not meant to.

There could be cultural issues too, with disparity between the kit that employees can afford.

Perhaps most importantly, it presents data security risks, with it being harder to provide standardised security measures and to enforce robust IT policies.

Jobbledygook– Some of recruiters’ weirdest job titles

Wily job recruiters are forever thinking of ways to stand out and make their job listings more appealing. A current fashion is to come up with the weirdest titles possible for job roles. A practice known as ‘jobbledygook’.

A few of our favourite job listings include, Five-a-Day Collection Operative (Fruit Picker) and Transparency Enhancement Facilitator (Window Cleaner).

Whilst these may provide some passing amusement, job seekers can find it difficult to understand what the role actually entails. This means that businesses which use such recruitment techniques are running the risk of losing potentially high quality candidates.

Smart employers are investing in staff commutes

While it isn’t news that long commutes have a big impact on health and productivity, one survey has quantified the productivity hit.

A study developed by VitalityHealth found that those who commuted to work in less than half an hour gained an additional seven days’ worth of productivity each year, compared to those with a commute of an hour or more.

Some smart employers are recognising the benefits of mitigating the commutes of their staff. These include reducing lateness and absenteeism, cutting error rates and lowering staff turnover.

Initiatives that might ease the commute for everyone’s benefit could be to offer the option of commuting outside of rush hour, a cycle to work scheme, or even flexible working.

The worst excuses employees use when calling in sick

It’s amazing what excuses some employees use when calling in sick. Some real examples that are unlikely to have been heard with a sympathetic ear include a fish being sick and the dog eating the employee’s shoes (the adult equivalent of the dog eating your homework).

One employee even called in saying his dog had had a fright and he didn’t want to leave him.

The first rule of managing absence is having clear policies.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: Safety Matters Q1 2018

Welcome to the Health & Safety Dept

Welcome to the first edition of our newsletter under our new Health & Safety Dept brand.

As part of the HR Dept’s commitment to you to be a one stop shop for everything to do with employment, we have developed the H & S Dept, to protect and support your business with all Health & Safety matters.

So, what services will we offer?

We can provide you with pragmatic and cost-effective solutions to all health & safety issues to ensure your legal compliance. These solutions include our advice line and legal expenses insurance, Toolbox Talks, COSHH compliance advice, safe systems of work, an online H&S compliance system, fire risk assessments, on-site audits, training, accident investigations, health & safety policy, risk assessments and more.

As qualified professionals in our field, we pride ourselves on our high-quality service and down-to-earth approach. Ultimately, we work with you to provide practical and cost-effective solutions to real issues that impact on your business.

We hope you enjoy this quarterly newsletter in which we will be sharing seasonal health & safety tips, bring you news of high profile health & safety court cases, and dispel health & safety myths. It will also be complemented by a regular blog.

If you would like guidance on any of your health & safety policies or have any questions, pick up the phone to The Health & Safety Dept – we’re here to help!

Latest HSE figures published

The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) recently released their annual report on health & safety statistics for Great Britain. Here we take a look at some of the headline figures of work-related injuries and incidents.

According to the latest figures, there were 1.3 million work-related ill health cases and 0.5 million cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety. And whilst there were over 70,000 non-fatal injuries to employees, there were also sadly 137 cases of deadly injuries in 2016/2017.

The impacts of such incidents and cases of ill health are felt far and wide, not least by employers. The HSE estimates that 31.2 million working days were lost due to ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. So aside from the human cost, there is a huge financial impact on corporate Britain. This can often be felt hardest by small and medium-sized businesses.

These figures hammer home the message that it really pays to take health & safety seriously and mitigate the risks to your workforce. If you need help writing your health & safety policy, or modifying or updating your existing one, contact The Health & Safety Dept for advice.

Health and Safety Myth Busters

Health & safety has a mixed reputation. And whilst some may think it focuses overzealously on irrelevant policies, sometimes it is incorrectly used as an excuse by employers to introduce unpopular rules.

Myth: Hot drinks and food are banned
Many of us need a coffee (or seven) when we first get into the office in the morning. Yet one employer banned the presence of a kettle or microwave in the workplace – again, no health & safety policy forbids the use of these, let’s face it, rather essential office appliances. There is no ban from HSE on these in the workplace, and hopefully never will be. This shows that it was clearly a commercial decision dressed up as a health & safety issue to prevent the employer receiving the blame.

Myth: Flip-flops are against the law
Some companies state that flip-flops are not allowed in the workplace because of rules that are out of their hands. Whilst slips, trips and falls do account for 30% of all workplace incidents, there is no health & safety rule imposed in place to prevent this sort of footwear being worn in an office. Any company doing so is imposing this rule at their own discretion rather than it being a legal requirement – although such a rule might well apply in jobs that require safety apparel, such as in construction.

When it comes down to it, if you would like to ban something in the workplace, it’s best to be up front with it rather than blame it on health & safety. If trivial rules are blamed on health & safety, then the real health & safety rules won’t be taken seriously.

To get the balance right on health & safety, it’s good to check with a professional. Contact The Health & Safety Dept for advice.

Winter workplace health & safety

As the weather is still on the chilly side, it is important to make sure your employees are safe in the workplace and any risk of harm is controlled.

Whilst there is no maximum temperature, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states there must be a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius if your employees work inside.

If their work requires them to do much physical activity, 13 degrees Celsius is the minimum. You can make sure your heating system remains compliant by having it serviced or upgraded if it is not reaching the appropriate temperature.

If you have employees who drive for work, such as goods vehicle drivers, couriers, service engineers or other itinerant tradesmen, it is important to make sure the appropriate precautions are taken. Ensure their vehicle is properly serviced and equipped for the weather conditions and they have a road safety kit if they happen to break down. A risk assessment might also identify the need for an advanced winter driving course to ensure the drivers have all the skills and training they need to do their job safely.

Slips and falls can happen all year-round – and ice and snow boost the risk of these happening to employees. To help prevent such incidents occurring, you should prevent ice forming on walkways and paths by gritting them, and placing suitable entrance matting in doorways to your building so people can wipe their feet properly.

As an employer, you are responsible for controlling hazards that your employees and other people are exposed to in the workplace – and it is important to be extra careful at this time of year. For advice on ensuring you are not breaching health & safety regulations this winter, contact The Health & Safety Dept.

Risk assessments: Do you need one?

Risk assessments are required by law. All businesses with five or more employees, including the managing director, must ensure they have appropriately documented risk assessments in place – and it is the employer’s legal responsibility to have them.

A risk assessment is part of the risk management process. It identifies what hazards currently exist or may be foreseen in the workplace and how effective the precautions are. Risks need to be considered in all areas of the working environment – including potential hazards such as the use of electricity and fire, cleaning with chemical substances, maintenance work, working hours, shift patterns and stress, and any other factors that may be reasonably anticipated as a hazard.

Whether you are conducting a risk assessment for the first time or want to have your current one reviewed, we can help. For advice and guidance on this important legal requirement, contact The Health & Safety Dept.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter January 2018

When Cupid’s arrow strikes the workplace

February is just around the corner and this means that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Whilst this is generally considered to be a day of love and happiness, it can have a negative effect on your business. Only 12% of company managers have been provided with training on managing workplace romances, so let’s look at some of the issues.

Employees falling for each other isn’t rare – a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 43% of HR staff have encountered workplace romances. SHRM also found that 99% of employers with policies on workplace romances state that romantic relationships between supervisors and their staff are not allowed. After all, the superior’s impartiality and authority will be compromised, and this can affect a team’s morale.  You certainly don’t want employees accusing a manager of weakness or favouritism – and this is if the relationship doesn’t turn sour with the problems that could bring!

As written about in so many classic novels, unrequited love is difficult to handle. If an employee ‘has the hots’ for a co-worker who does not feel the same, any pestering must be dealt with the moment the issue is raised. The last thing you want is a sexual harassment tribunal case on your hands.

Some of us enjoy a gossip from time to time, but unfortunately the relationships between co-workers can be prime subject matter. Ensure this doesn’t go too far and reduce productivity. Malicious gossip is very corrosive to team morale. It can also start cliques and bring other problematic issues. Therefore it is worth making sure this doesn’t get out of control.

Even if you don’t have an official policy in place and are seeing an office romance blossom, it may become necessary to remind the happy couple to remain professional whilst they are in work. And if you think it’s required and fits the culture of your business, you could draw up an office policy on romances.

Managing staff throughout the Six Nations 

The Six Nations is one of the most highly anticipated tournaments in the rugby world. And whilst many rugby fans will want to support their country this February and March, it’s important to ensure your business isn’t impacted by the matches.

If you think it will be an issue, remind employees in advance what standards are expected. Most matches will be played on weekends, so if you employ weekend staff, remind them not to come into work under the influence or hungover.

Some businesses choose to show matches in the workplace. This stops employees surreptitiously checking the score on their phone every few minutes. Another option would be to encourage flexible working – perhaps even a day’s holiday would be appropriate for avid fans.

If you want to make sure your absence planning and staff policies are up to scratch, or you want to sin bin someone for bad behaviour, contact The HR Dept.

Fit for Work service declared unfit for work

The UK government has announced that referrals and assessments under its Fit for Work scheme will come to an end in England and Wales in March 2018, and in Scotland in May 2018 due to a low take-up.

The scheme was designed to provide free occupational health, and support to employers on sickness absence. Provisions will be in place before the referral service ends and its helpline, website and online chat service will still be accessible.

Employment tribunals soar after abolition of fees

There has been a 66% rise in the overall number of employment tribunal claims in England and Wales in the three months after the mandatory claimant fees were abolished. The claims increased from 549 in July 2017 to 2,926 in August and 2,027 in September. The figures were published by the Courts Service.

Between the years 2013 and 2017, employees had to pay £1,200 to take their claims to an employment tribunal. But now that staff can take their employers to court for free, the number of cases of small businesses ending up in court are expected to continue to skyrocket – particularly for small claims relating to holiday pay and the deduction of wages.

Matthew Taylor author of the Taylor Review, a review of modern working practices, spoke at our recent HR Dept conference, stating “Small businesses don’t end up at tribunal because they’re evil people. They end up there because they don’t have any HR to guide them through complex employment law”.

Considering this trend and the reasons behind it, you’ll want to take proactive steps to ensure you don’t find yourself on the wrong end of an employment tribunal award. Our retained advice line is an invaluable service for SMEs to help ensure they keep on the right side of employment law. Better still, it is backed by our market-leading tribunal insurance which covers all legal costs and any award providing our advice is followed, giving you peace of mind.

For more information on our tribunal insurance and our advice line, pick up the phone and call The HR Dept today.

Pensions regulator stepping up prosecutions in store for HR?

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has made their first successful prosecution for flouting auto-enrolment pension rules. The company, a bus services operator called Stotts Tours Oldham, had failed to provide a workplace pension for 36 of its employees.

Automatically enrolling staff into a pension scheme is now compulsory by law. If you fail to do so you can face an unlimited fine alongside two years in jail – not to mention also having to pay the pension contributions you should have been making previously.

Forgetting or wilfully refusing to auto enrol your employees is a criminal offence and, as this case highlights, will ultimately cost you. Our payroll, pensions and auto enrolment services help to make sure you are in line with the law and your employees are enrolled in their pension. Contact The HR Dept for more information.

Quirks of the 2018 holiday rota

The annual leave section in many employment contracts states ‘20 days plus statutory holidays’. This normally equates to 28 days – the legal minimum for full time employees.

However, if your company’s holiday year runs from April to April, they’ll only get 27 days due to where Easter falls in 2018. To remain legally compliant, you’ll need to give another day of leave.

Fancy another 2018 holiday rota curveball? Due to how the bank holidays align this May, some of your staff may try to use 14 days of leave to book 24 days off. Whilst you shouldn’t obstruct employees taking leave, do ensure you’re not understaffed if employees choose this.

Our electronic holiday and absence management system, MyHRToolkit, can help you keep on top of holiday – including the curveballs!