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Tattoos and Company Dress Code

#HRFridayFact: Tattoos are becoming increasingly prolific. A company’s dress code policy is the place to address what body art is acceptable

A report commissioned by ACAS suggests that employers might be overlooking talent due to their attitude towards visible tattoos. However, a company is within its rights to dictate standards of appearance and this includes tattoos and piercings.

We’ve covered visible tattoos in a previous blog, however the ACAS commissioned report makes a good point. Research shows that nearly 30% of adults between the ages of 16 and 44 have a tattoo. By rejecting potential workers because they have a tattoo that contravenes the company dress code, businesses will potentially be reducing the available talent pool by nearly one third.

It is reasonable for a business to maintain that its representatives present themselves to a certain standard. And it is up to the organisation to decide what that standard is. Most of us would expect sales or showroom staff for example to wear a business suit and perhaps a tie or matching skirt and jacket. By the same token then, it would be understandable for an employer to insist that tattoos remain covered.

A ban on visible tattoos could be enforced across a workforce regardless of whether or not staff are customer facing. Consistency in applying any policy is paramount to avoid any discrimination claims. Whilst we’re not aware of any religious requisites for a tattoo, it would be wrong to allow men to have them on show but to prohibit women from showing them.

Another reason for including the company stance in a policy is to avoid individual manager’s interpretations of what is and what is not acceptable. Unambiguous guidelines will mean that all staff are treated equally.

It’s worth mentioning at this point however that the tattooed workers of today are the managers and directors of the future. It may be worth adopting a more open minded approach sooner rather than later as attitudes towards tattoos are likely to change at some point in the future anyway.

As with all policies, we recommend that employers adopt a realistic viewpoint taking into account the company’s needs, culture and the working environment. Whatever your approach, have it in writing in your dress code policy in your company handbook and make sure everyone is aware of it and has access to it. For more help and support with this topic you can call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

23 September 2016, 12:54

Mobile Phones and Driving - Corporate Responsibilities

#hrfridayfact: Asking employees to handle calls or texts whilst driving could mean prosecution for employers up to Corporate Manslaughter

Businesses that provide mobile phones to employees, or who reimburse the cost of work related calls and texts on private phones will make themselves culpable to any associated offence if their employees are put in a position where they are expected to make or receive calls whilst driving.

Following the release of figures this week from the RAC that 31% of motorists admit to having used a handheld mobile phone whilst driving, with some texting and even taking photos whilst driving, we thought we would revisit corporate responsibility regarding mobile phone usage.

It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving and it is also illegal to “cause or permit” a driver to use a hand-held phone whilst driving. So an employer who requires employees to use hand held phones whilst driving can be as liable as the driver.

Even hands free mobile phones can cause distraction and mean that the driver is not in complete control or driving with appropriate attention. If a police investigation determined that it was the use of the hands free phone for a work related matter that contributed to an accident, the employer could be found to be liable.

Penalties for private drivers include 3 penalty points and fines up to £100. This rises to £1,000 or £2,500 if the vehicle is a bus or a goods vehicle. Depending on the severity of the situation, the driver could also be prosecuted in court and receive a driving ban.

In a worst case scenario, if a fatality ensued that involved a business that required drivers to use mobile phones whilst driving, the directors of that business could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

It is not enough not to require employees to use mobile phones whilst driving. We recommend that employers actively forbid their use and that this is clearly laid out in a robust mobile phone policy. With the available functionality of modern smartphones, your policy should go further than the making or receiving of calls and should include texting, taking photos and gaming.

Drivers should wait until they are safely parked before using their phones and remember that being stopped at traffic lights or in heavy traffic does not count as being parked.

It’s also worthwhile making sure that any office based staff are equally aware of the rules so that they are not tempted to make calls to colleagues whilst they are driving thereby inadvertently leaving your company open to prosecution.

For further details or help with your company mobile phone policy, call us on 01452 331331 or email info@hrchampions.co.uk

16 September 2016, 09:40

Enforcing Holiday During Termination Notice Periods

#HRFridayFact: To enforce taking holiday during an employee's notice period, notice of twice the length of the holiday period must be given

When an employee leaves your business, you may want them to use up any untaken holiday during their notice period rather than having to pay them additionally for their holiday. However in order to enforce this, you must give notice of twice the period of the length of the holiday.

We have written before on this blog about the statutory notice periods required when employees request holiday, and the same is required when employers want to dictate when holiday is taken. The required notice period for either party is twice the length of the holiday period. So a holiday of one week requires two weeks’ notice to be given.

Depending upon an employee’s role, you may or may not want him or her in the business during their notice period. Sometimes a handover period is desirable but on other occasions you may wish to apply payment in lieu of notice (PILON) or garden leave. In these latter two situations you’ll probably want to avoid paying your employee for the notice period as well as for any outstanding holiday that they’re owed if you’re able to.

So, whether or not you are able insist that the holiday is used as part of the notice will depend on how much holiday is accrued and the length of the termination notice period. There may not be enough time for an employer to give the required holiday notice for the entire amount of holiday; however there should be enough time to enforce some.

For an employee who has accrued one week of holiday but only needs to serve one week’s notice for termination of employment, there clearly isn't time for the employer to give the required two weeks’ notice. However there may be time to enforce one or two days of holiday for which two or four days’ notice, respectively, would be required.

This may not amount to a huge saving in the grand scheme of things but it’s all grist to the mill. Certainly for longer termination notice periods, of say a month or more, a substantial saving could be made, particularly as employees who are required to give longer notice periods are more likely to be earning a higher salary.

Any unused accrued holiday that an employee has at the time his or her employment finally ceases, should be included in their final pay calculation.

Holiday allowances above the statutory 5.6 weeks holiday entitlement may be treated differently depending upon the employee’s contract. It might also be worth including a clause outlining the company’s position regarding holiday during notice periods in contracts and/or handbooks so that employees are fully aware of the situation.

For more help and support with holiday, notice periods and contracts of employment, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

09 September 2016, 09:11

Treatment of Part-Time Staff

#HRFridayfact: Part time staff should not be treated less favourably, regarding employment terms, than full time staff doing the same job

Whether part time or full time, staff with the same job who have the same duties and level of responsibility should be treated equally regarding their terms of employment. Failure could expose the company to a grievance that could ultimately result in a financial penalty.

Just because an employee works less hours than a colleague, it doesn’t mean that he or she is any less of an asset to an organisation. Therefore they should not suffer any differences in how they are treated or the terms under which they work compared with their full time colleagues.

Of course, for part time staff, some terms and benefits will be pro-rated such as holiday entitlement and pay. Here, an adjustment will be made proportional to the part-time vs full-time allowances. Thus, a part-time worker who works two days per week is entitled to two-fifths holiday and pay of what his or her full-time equivalent receives (assuming a five-day working week).

Accounting for the pro-rata adjustment, it would be wrong to give full time workers more holiday or pay just because they worked full time.

This rule obviously applies to any other benefits or terms that a company provides for its staff. The exception may be pension auto-enrolment if, on account of the part-time worker’s reduced hours, their salary was not high enough for him or her to qualify for auto-enrolment. Offering a voluntary opt-in to the pension scheme may still be appropriate however.

If a part-time employee feels that they are being treated differently to their full time counterparts because of their part-time status, they have the option to take up a formal grievance, which would be handled internally. If this doesn’t resolve the issue it could be escalated and be taken to an Employment Tribunal.

If a part-time employee felt so aggrieved at being treated differently that they resigned from the company, there could potentially be a case for constructive dismissal.

For help and support with any aspect of HR management and Employment Law, call us on 01452 331331or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

02 September 2016, 11:19

Managing Social Media at Work

#HRFridayFact: Even when done outside work, comments on social media that bring a company into disrepute can still be a disciplinary matter.

Even when done on their own personal accounts, comments posted on social media by employees that offend colleagues or clients, or that bring the company into disrepute, can be grounds for taking disciplinary action.

A throw-away comment posted on Facebook or Twitter by an employee may appear fairly innocuous at first, but there is no telling what reputational damage could be done if that employee is connected to a customer, client or colleague who takes offence. Even if there is no immediate contact, it can take just minutes for information and comments to spread across social networks.

Equally, a video that shows an employee flouting Health and Safety regulations for example, whilst being visibly connectable to his or her employer through perhaps, uniform or a branded vehicle, is effectively bringing the company into disrepute and therefore subject to some form of discipline.

Social media has become the most prolific method for people to find information. News stories tend to break first on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter before any of the more traditional news channels.

Social media is also incredibly fast and effective at distributing news on a global scale; and it doesn’t discriminate. With the right connections, anybody can read anything that has been posted by anybody else. That means friends and associates of course, but also suppliers, competitors and customers.

It’s crucial that employers have something in place to help to control and manage the effects that their employees’ social media activity may have on their organisation. We recommend having a robust social media policy in place that can be relied upon when disciplinary action is deemed necessary following an employee’s social media antics.

If you have a policy in place, then you must make sure your employees are aware of it. It may form part of your staff handbook in which case employees should have signed to say they have read it or at least know where it is to read. It might be a good idea to remind employees that your social media policy exists from time to time. Including a reference to it in your staff induction process also makes a lot of sense.

It’s also important that if there is a breach of your policy, appropriate action is taken against the employee so that it is made clear that you will not tolerate improper use of social media and you are ready to stand by your policies. At HR Champions, we have been involved in a number of cases for our clients where posts in Facebook have led to disciplinary action including dismissal.

For more information or advice regarding social media at work, including the advice on your own social media policy call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

26 August 2016, 11:13

What Constitutes Bullying Behaviour?

#HRFridayFact: Whether or not behaviour is considered as bullying depends on how it’s perceived by the recipient

What one person sees as general banter or light-hearted fun may not be regarded in the same way by another person, who may interpret it as being very aggressive or even bullying. It is the recipient's view which counts.

Bullying and harrasment is very often a reason for grievance cases. Even if it's not the main reason, it can be thrown for good measure. Different types of behaviour is subjective. What one person perceives as loud, quiet, aggressive or passive may be considered differently by another.

Because of this discrepancy, the law stipulates that it is the way in which behaviour is received that determines how it is classified. This makes perfect sense. Even if they don’t show it, people can be very hurt or offended by another’s throw-away comment.

But outward, aggressive behaviour or name calling isn’t the only form that bullying takes. Persistently ignoring or excluding others from group activity could also give rise to a case of bullying.

A complaint of bullying in the workplace needs to be taken seriously. A proper procedure should be followed that may end in taking disciplinary action against the bully. Therefore it makes far more sense to recognise and deal with behaviour that may be considered as, or escalate to, bullying before an incident arises.

Organisations tend to develop their own cultures, which are generally driven by behaviour from senior managers. Employees will want to be seen to fit in and please their boss and so often adopt their manager’s behaviour. Unfortunately, if this behaviour is of an intimidating or aggressive manner it can easily lead to an organisational culture of bullying. This is why we recommend that a company adopts an organisational bullying and harassment policy that is embraced from the top down.

If you are interested in reviewing your own organisations Bullying and Harassment Policy, please get in touch. We have policies, procedures and fact sheets available and we can deliver company-wide training that explains the cause and effects of bullying and harassing behaviour. Email info@hrchampions.co.uk or call us on 01452 331331.

08 August 2016, 16:14

Paying Staff for Medical Appointments

#hrfridayfact: Employers are not obliged to pay staff when they are absent for Doctor appointments. Unpaid leave or holiday are options

Whilst most employers will grant their staff an hour or two of paid leave to visit the doctor or dentist, there is no obligation on the employer’s part to do so. Under the employer’s duty of care, it’s right that the employer grants time off for employees to seek medical help, though they are entitled to withhold payment for the time that employees are not working for them.

The exception is for pregnant women attending doctor or hospital appointments related to their pregnancy and employers must grant paid leave in these cases.

Employers are also obliged to allow time off work for employees to deal with issues involving dependants, ie children or elderly relatives. However this does not have to be paid leave.

Most of the time, occasional absence for a few hours isn’t going to damage a business and it is good for employer/employee relations to allow this time off as paid. More persistent absence however, such as for a course of physiotherapy, may require a different approach. Under these circumstances an agreement may be that the time absent is either unpaid or the hours are accumulated and taken as holiday.

We recommend that employers encourage their staff to arrange medical appointments either at the beginning or at the end of the day to minimize the impact on the normal working day. This can be published in the staff handbook so that it is recognised as normal company practice.

08 August 2016, 15:17

Is Self-Employed the New Zero Hours?

Deliveroo, a company which engages self-employed cycle couriers to deliver premium takeaways to consumers across London has come under fire for wording in their couriers’ contracts. Allegedly, the contracts include a clause which precludes the couriers from bringing a court claim that they are employers or workers.

This follows on from a case being brought against Uber, the online taxi booking service, where a number of Uber-registered taxi drivers are bringing a claim that they are workers as opposed to self-employed. As workers, they will be entitled to workers’ rights including the living wage, holiday and sick pay and pension contributions. From the drivers’ point of view it certainly seems worth a punt.

Deliveroo is accused of effectively trying to pre-empt similar future legal challenges by including a clause in their couriers’ contract which reads: “You further warrant that neither you nor anyone acting on your behalf will present any claim in the employment tribunal or any civil court in which it is contended that you are either an employee or a worker.”

There certainly seems to be a major shift towards ‘workers’ engaged on self-employed arrangements. Some contemporary business models seem to rely on the fact that their workforce will be made up almost exclusively of self-employed. The Guardian newspaper had previously highlighted the case of parcel delivery company, Hermes which engages 10, 500 self-employed couriers.

I contend that this will be the next major issue to follow on from zero-hours contracts. To all intents and purposes, it’s the same thing. If a delivery company didn’t have any parcels to deliver then it would give its couriers any work. Much like if Sports Direct didn’t have any orders to pick, then it wouldn’t give work to its warehouse staff.

Whilst we argue that there is a place for both in the UK economy, we should still strive to exclude exploitation of workers. There are strong cases for some industries to rely heavily on self-employed workers, but we should remember that strong and progressive companies are built from a driven and motivated workforce. Something that is hard to manage when you don’t have ultimate control over the people working for you.

For help and support in with organisational structure and employee engagement call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

05 August 2016, 12:50

Wrongful vs Unfair Dismissal

#hrfridayfact: In dismissal terms, Wrongful and Unfair are not the same thing. Wrongful will most likely be due to a breach of contract

Employees with less than two years’ service have no rights for unfair dismissal. Whilst an unfair dismissal claim can’t be bought against an employer for sacking an employee of less than two years, a wrongful dismissal claim has no employee qualifying period at all.

It is possible for an employee to have only been employed for one day and bring a claim for wrongful dismissal.

Most cases that we deal with involving wrongful dismissal are bought about because the worker wasn’t given the correct notice period at dismissal and/or there was an error in calculating their final pay upon leaving. The latter commonly being related to owed holiday pay.

An employee’s notice period should be detailed in their contract of employment, otherwise statutory notice periods will apply. Statutory minimum notice for an employee who has worked for more than one month but less than two years is one week.

Employers may wish to increase this notice period, particularly if the position is difficult to recruit for. This brings about its own problems however because the employer needs to balance the risk of recruiting the wrong person with the needs of the company in having an extended notice period.

It’s useful to appreciate that claims for wrongful dismissal can not only be made at Employment Tribunals (up to three months after the dismissal date) but also at County or High Courts (for up to 6 years after date of dismissal). The maximum claim at Tribunal is up to £25,000, but damages are uncapped based on notice period pay.

So before your organisation become dismissal happy with employees with less than 2 years’ service, think through the risks for wrongful dismissal and appropriate notice pay payments. A phone call to us on 01452 331331 or an e-mail to info@hrchampions.co.uk before you decide to dismiss might save you some time, money and grief in the long run.

05 August 2016, 12:47

Enforcing Health & Safety Wear

#hrfridayfact: Failing to wear protective clothing provided by an employer could be seen as misconduct & so a potential disciplinary matter

In warmer weather, employees may wish to minimise what they are wearing in order to keep cool. Not wearing employer provided protective clothing however exposes the company to prosecution, and so it may be necessary to enforce that protective clothing is worn.

Employers have an implied duty of care for their employees and so must take reasonable steps to ensure their safety and well-being at all times. The law plays a part in this by issuing Health and Safety regulations and guidelines to which employers must comply.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 state that every employer must ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his or her employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work. Except where the risk has been adequately controlled by some other equally or more effective means.

Such protective equipment might include hi-viz jackets, toe-protector boots, hard hats and face masks. These should be provided individually to employees who regularly work in controlled areas. Others should be made available for anyone who may have occasional need; an office based employee who needs to go into a warehouse every now and again.

Should an employee fail to wear the protective equipment that has been provided and subsequently suffer an accident, not only would the company be exposed to a potential damages claim from the employee in question, but it would also be liable to prosecution and a substantial fine from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In addition there is the potential of a corporate manslaughter charge should an employee die and individual fines for managers who do not enforce health and safety policies.

Because of this potential exposure to these not insignificant risks, which would by association bring the company into disrepute, an organisation should insist that its employees wear any protective equipment it provides.

Should an employee refuse to wear such equipment then that would be deemed as failure to follow a management instruction and disciplinary action would be an appropriate course of action to take.

The outcome of any disciplinary action may escalate in line with persistency of offence but it might also be reflected in the severity of the potential consequences of failing to follow the instruction. For example, persistently failing to wear a hi-viz jacket in a warehouse that only stocks small items may result in a verbal warning followed by a written warning and then dismissal. Smoking in a non-designated area on an oil-rig on the other hand may result in immediate dismissal.

Above all, we advocate consistency when dealing with such matters. Have clear guidelines regarding breaches of your health and safety policies that are communicated to everyone and applied uniformly across the business. Not only will this keep your workers safe, it will overt the risk of any claims of disciplining employees differently.

Call or e-mail us for practical advice and support in enforcing any of your company policies on 01452 331331 and info@hrchampions.co.uk

29 July 2016, 10:25