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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter February 2015

Are you missing out on this pool of talent?

More than one in three disabled jobseekers feel they have been discriminated against during the recruitment process, according to a survey carried out by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI).

This should make companies sit up and listen. Aside from the fact that it’s illegal to discriminate, a whole host of talented people may be being overlooked when a business is searching for the best candidate. One out of every eighteen applicants is classified as disabled, so in a workforce of over 30 million, a big talent pool is being ignored. Part of the problem could be down to a perception gap. Employers are required to make ‘reasonable adjustment’ to accommodate disabled applicants. But the survey also revealed that whilst 82% of recruiters think they make this reasonable adjustment, 58% of candidates said that they experienced no such adjustment. That maths does not add up.

This is obviously a sensitive subject. And sometimes a tricky one to get right during what can already be a stressful process. But for businesses that invest the time to fulfil their requirements, their reward could be to find a star performer who would otherwise have been missed. If you need guidance in formulating your recruitment policy, including adequately catering for disabled applicants, then contact your local HR Dept today and let our experts help you get your processes compliant and optimised.

Nothing more romantic than a contract

With Valentine’s Day nestled at its heart, February is a time when love is in the air. And the workplace is as fertile ground as any. In fact, co-workers don’t need the cover of Valentine’s Day to get together. Given all the time we spend at work, it is little wonder that staff fall in lust or love with each other throughout the year. It is also unsurprising that the fall-out of office trysts can be damaging for the workplace environment and often, sadly, for the individuals involved. Gossip, affairs, inappropriate sexual conduct at work, sexual harassment claims, jealousy… They’re all nasty by-products of love in the workplace and the stuff of an HR nightmare.

For all the highs and lows that an office romance will bring to various parties, it is the unfortunate Boss or HR Manager who is likely to be encountering the lows. And owing to the collision of professional and private life it may feel like a blurred line as to where and how you should get involved. It will certainly help if expectations of appropriate conduct are clearly communicated. A ‘love contract’ is one route to go down. These have been making their way over from America and not only set out expected behaviour, but also help defend a company against a sexual harassment claim. Whilst for many a less formal approach will be preferred, some may even go one step further. Fashion giant American Apparel recently banned certain workplace romances outright.  For guidance on this, call us and we will gladly be your office Love Doctor.

“So fat you can hardly walk…”

…Was at the milder end of a litany of un-pleasantries inflicted upon a morbidly obese employee.

This playground-like bullying by a colleague became newsworthy because it prompted the first instance of a UK Employment Tribunal finding obesity to be a disability. This follows a ruling last year by the European Court of Justice on the dismissal of an overweight Danish child-minder. The UK case (in Northern Ireland) was Bickerstaff v Butcher. The judge said he was satisfied the claimant was “harassed for a reason which related to his disability, namely his morbid obesity condition.” It is significant that the tribunal appeared to pay little regard to a medical report stating the obesity was self-inflicted and could have been reversed with life-style changes. The tribunal was most concerned with the impact of the condition on the employee, not its origins.

For its part, the employer, Randox Laboratories, said it had dealt with the issue as soon as it became aware of it – dismissing the antagonist, and was committed to a zero-tolerance attitude to discrimination. However, the ruling represents a new level of workplace protection for the obese. Now that it can be regarded as a disability, employers need to take additional measures. So if this might affect you, what do you need to do? A unique feature of disability discrimination law is that an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments.  If a policy or task puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage then the employer should take steps to remove that disadvantage: maybe allocating a specific task to another person or changing a place of work.

It is a judgement call and if you get it wrong it could lead to a tribunal. Call the HR Dept for help with managing the HR risks associated with obesity, and other forms of disability.

Talk to the hand

Who hasn’t become exasperated with the number of cards in their purse or wallet? Bank cards, driving licence, and in the last ten years, a proliferation of loyalty cards. Many of us also have a swipe card to gain access to the workplace.If yours is bursting at the seams and you pray they will all just disappear, be careful what you wish for! A company in Sweden is pioneering a bionic chip – injected under the skin in the hand – that the wearer (is that the right word?!) can use to gain access to their workplace.In fact it does more.

In the trial they can use the photocopier with a wave of the hand and in the future pay for food in the café. We are all for progression, but the application seems a bit underwhelming given the whole ‘injection in the hand’ process you must suffer first.Time will tell whether this sort of thing catches on, but if you have had any issues with ‘wearable tech’ (such as the ill-fated Google Glass) at work already, speak to your local HR Dept to get some policies in place.

£100 John Lewis voucher up for grabs!

In the next few weeks we shall send out our annual client surveys, and we would love to hear your views. Last year we scored over 93.5% for satisfaction. But we understand that we will only continue to excel if we seek and act upon your feedback. Last time round half of respondents replied which was fantastic, but we aspire for even more. Therefore we are adding a prize draw to the survey this year. Complete the survey within the deadline (TBC) and we will enter your name into a hat to win £100 worth of John Lewis vouchers. Keep your eye out for the survey which will be coming to an Inbox near you soon and tell us what you think to be in with a chance!

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter January 2015

Your checklist for 2015 Employment Law changes

With 2015 set to be a busy year in the world of HR here is a checklist of changes on the horizon. All are launched in April unless otherwise stated:

  • Shared parental leave – OK not technically on the horizon as it was launched on 1 Dec 2014. This gives parents freedom to choose how they split childcare in the first year after birth. For more information go here.
  • Managing sickness absence – A free service for employees, employers and GPs to provide an occupational health assessment after four weeks of sickness absence.
  • New statutory pay rates – Statutory pay for maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave will rise to £139.56 per week. Statutory sick pay will rise to £88.45.
  • Statutory adoption leave and pay – The 26-week qualifying period will go. Adoption pay will match maternity pay (90% of normal earnings for first six weeks).
  • Unpaid parental leave – On 5th April this right will extend to parents of any child below 18.
  • Surrogate parents eligible for adoption leave – Surrogate parents will have the same leave and pay rights as ordinary parents. These include unpaid time off for two antenatal appointments.
  • Reservists’ exemption – Reservist employees will be exempt from the two year qualifying period for bringing an unfair dismissal claim, if it’s related to their service: timing to be confirmed.
  • Young people – All must remain in education/training until aged 18.
  • Jury service – The upper age limit will increase from 70 to 75 in England and Wales: launch date to be announced.

What a misfire!

A man in India has finally been fired after not turning up for work for 22 years! The engineer last showed up in December 1990, but the company has been unable to fire him due to the country’s labour laws. Compare this to employment legislation her and never complain again! Employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed, but they will have had to have been employed for at least two years’ continuous service. This doesn’t mean there is no risk to the employer. A fair process should always be followed and remember that an employee with less than two years’ service (minus notice period) can still take a claim forward for discrimination. For all matters hiring and firing get in touch.

Should you be concerned by staff’s New Year resolutions?

What are your employees’ New Year resolutions? Knowing these – and helping with them – could be a powerful management tool. Aside from the rapport it builds, you may well find their interests are aligned with the company’s.

For instance, the old cliché: “I want to get more healthy!” Achieving this could obviously lead to fewer sick days being taken and a more energised and productive workforce. There are simple measures you can take to facilitate this.

How about stocking fruit-bowls? It discourages less healthy snacking and brightens up the office. Subsidised gym membership is another idea. Some businesses we know even bring in an in-office masseuse to ease tensions.

One New Year resolution especially popular this year is pledging to find a new job! In fact, more than one in three people have this in their sights – nearly double the amount of people who aspired to do this the year before, and three times as many as in January 2013 (Source: The Institute of Leadership and Management).

OK, you may be glad to wave some staff goodbye, but for others it could be a disaster. A knowledge gap. Short-staff issues. An employee walking off to a competitor with your prized customer list.

How can you handle this proactively? The quoted survey cited “More opportunity for progression”, “Better pay”, and “A more interesting job” as the top reasons. All things normally within your control.

So why not survey your own staff and find out what they want from their role before they start looking elsewhere? It could be as simple as more recognition for a job well done, or perhaps more training and development. There is real scope to use this to grow the company as well as improve staff satisfaction.

And failing that, make sure you have strong restrictive covenants in place! The HR Dept advice line can now provide insurance cover for restrictive covenants, ensuring you can afford to take out injunctions to protect your customer base. Call us for more information.

Holiday-pay overtime: Retrospective claims limited to two years

Employers can breathe a little more easily on the holiday-pay overtime issue. The Employment Tribunal ruling last November not only left companies with a future cost burden of having to take non-guaranteed overtime into consideration for holiday-pay, but also left the door open for claims for past holiday leave.

But the government has acted to limit these back-dated claims to two years. This prompt action will be greeted with relief, although there is of course still liability there.

For guidance on this issue, contact your local HR Dept.

From the High Court

Amidst the Christmas rush an important ruling was made at the High Court.

A Judge rejected a judicial review brought by Unison who wanted to have tribunal fees ruled unlawful. It was the second time in 2014 that the trade union has failed in this objective and it has promised to appeal.

Employers will be relieved that, as the law remains the same, there will be no short-term surge in tribunal cases. However, the world of HR is fluid. And in this an election year, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have indicated that they want to see the current fees go south. So these could be back on the agenda in the second half of 2015.

If you are facing a tribunal make sure you get in touch with your local HR Dept for assistance through the process.

Anti-social media

Sackings, data disputes, snooping…

The murkier side of social media has come to the fore in the last month.

Stockbroker Rayhan Qadar made an ill-judged tweet suggesting he had perpetrated a hit-and-run. Cue online outrage, police investigation, national news coverage and instant dismissal for poor conduct.

Then a law firm warned: who owns LinkedIn contacts when an employee leaves? Restrictive covenants normally protect against ex-staff soliciting clients. And most sensitive data sits on company infrastructure. But a LinkedIn contact list resides on third party servers. And LinkedIn can automatically notify someone’s contacts when they change jobs. Solicitation by proxy? It’s a grey area.

Finally, for ‘Big Brother’ bosses, software is available to track staff social media usage to monitor who may imminently hand in their notice. Useful? Ethical?

Whether you embrace social media or not, it’s important to have clear social media policies and ensure other legal documents are fit for purpose in this digital age.