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Employing Child and Young Workers

#HRFridayFact: Young and child workers are subject to different working rules so make sure you are compliant before offering summer jobs

With the summer holidays upon us, some businesses may offer summer jobs to young people and child workers to cover staff holiday and/or increased seasonal demand. Employers must ensure that they comply with their legal responsibilities regarding the employment of young and child workers.

In the UK, part time work may start from the age of 13. Children who are below age 16 in their current academic year are classed as child workers. Those between 16 and 18 are classed as young workers. The two groups have specific rules and rights when it comes to employment and even for temporary summer jobs, employers should be aware of and pay heed to these.

Rules for child workers are often governed by local bylaws set out by the local council. It may be a requirement to obtain a work permit for example, even if the worker is your own son or daughter.

Child workers are also prohibited from working:

  • in places like a factory or industrial site
  • before 7am or after 7pm
  • for more than 4 hours without taking a break of at least 1 hour
  • in most jobs in pubs and betting shops and those prohibited in local bylaws
  • in any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education

During school holidays 13 to 14-year-olds are only allowed to work 5 hours per day (2 hours on a Sunday) up to a maximum of 25 hours a week.  15 to 16-year-olds can only work a maximum of 35 hours a week with a maximum 8 hours per day. (Again, 2 hours on a Sunday).

Furthermore all child workers must have a 2-week break from any work during the school holidays in each calendar year.

Young workers cannot usually work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week and these hours cannot be averaged over a longer period like adult workers under the Working Time Directive. Those who work for more than four and a half hours must have a rest break of 30 minutes. Rest breaks must be taken in one block and at some time during the work period, not at the end.

Young workers should also get 12 uninterrupted hours rest in each 24 hour period in which they work and get two days off each week. These two days should be taken together and cannot be averaged over a two-week period. Ie working 6 days one week and 4 the next.

Full-time students who are just working a holiday job and will be returning to full-time education after the holidays may not need to pay tax through PAYE but will still pay National Insurance if they more than the weekly threshold. As they will have a national Insurance number from age 16 you should put them on your normal payroll.

Young people will be keen to earn some spending money, which makes them targets for exploitation. Remember that the National Minimum Wage will apply and that you have your other employer responsibilities to consider such as ensuring a safe working environment and that no-one is subject to any age discrimination.

For further help and support with employing young people, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

22 July 2016, 13:33

Drug and Alcohol Testing at Work

#HRFridayFact: Drug and alcohol tests in the workplace should apply to all staff or a truly random selection to avoid victimisation claims

Drug and alcohol testing at work should form part of your employee handbooko Health and Safety policy, particularly where you have employees who’s ability to do their job safely could be impaired if they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Employees that would be considered to be in ‘high risk’ groups include amongst others, drivers, those who work at height, handlers of hazardous substances or those who work with vulnerable adults and children.

To avoid risks of victimisation or discrimination claims, drug and alcohol tests should be carried out either on the entire workforce, or on a selection of employees that you can prove has been chosen at random. Testing only the high risk employees amongst your workforce is acceptable and we would advise this is done as a minimum under a business’s corporate manslaughter responsibilities.

However you may choose to test all staff, or representatives of all staff or departments to ensure that workers are not on site under the influence of illegal substances.

Although self-use kits are available, when conducting tests it’s a good idea to use a professional external organisation, to maintain consistency and avoid mistakes. You’ll also be able to ensure that proper records are kept and it is less likely that any positive results are objected to.

The frequency of tests and whether they are applied to the whole workforce or a random selection and/or just high risk employees should be information contained within your staff handbook. This should also detail the likely consequences of a positive test result depending upon which substances are identified in the test.

We recommend that it is made very clear that tests will be held at random. Giving notification to drug and alcohol test totally negates the reason for applying them.

For further help and support in managing drug and alcohol testing, your staff handbook wording and what to do in the result of a positive test, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

15 July 2016, 13:54

E-cigarettes and Vaporizers in the Workplace

#HRFridayFact: E-cigarettes fall outside the scope of smoke free legislation so employers can choose whether to allow them at work or not

Whilst it wouldn’t be illegal to allow the use of E-cigarettes and vaporizers in the workplace, employers should give due consideration as to whether or not to allow their use as there may be advantages and disadvantages for doing so depending on your working environment.

Under smoke free legislation, the act of smoking requires something to be burnt. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) such as E-cigarettes and vaporizers instead produce a vapour, which is how they escape the smoke free legislation. However this vapour, often scented, could be considered off-putting or offensive to other members of staff and/or customers.

Furthermore, whilst ENDS are claimed to be safe, they are still a relatively new product and therefore too new for any meaningful studies to have been undertaken of their long term effects; upon both users and anyone who lives or works in an environment where they are used.

Because the use of ENDS mimics normal cigarette smoking, allowing their use might give the impression that smoking is condoned in your place of work. This in itself may give rise to complaints from other members of staff. It may even draw argument from smokers of real cigarettes that smoking should be allowed.

Of course it is in an employer’s interest to have a healthy workforce. There is no doubt that normal smoking can be the cause or underlying cause of very many health issues. Having staff off sick is disruptive to production and service levels and puts pressure on other team members. Although the long term effects are unclear, ENDS are marketed predominantly as a mechanism to quit normal, unhealthy smoking. Most health practitioners would certainly seem to favour e-cigarettes over normal cigarettes.

With this in mind, where an employer has a high proportion of smokers in their workforce, it may be advantageous to actively promote the use of ENDS at work. Not only will it potentially lead to a healthier workforce, it may improve productivity if smokers are currently allowed time away from their workstations for a smoke-break. Of course the NHS to provide a free quit smoking service the employees could be directed towards.

Whatever an organisation’s decision, the wellbeing of the entire workforce should be considered. Policies, as usual should be clear and unambiguous and made available to all employees in a staff handbook. Policies should cover what is and what is not acceptable including information regarding smoking breaks and where it is acceptable to smoke. There is no obligation to allow smokers more rest periods than other staff.

For further support and advice call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

08 July 2016, 08:20

Notification of Sickness Absence

#HRFridayfact: There is no legal obligation for an employee to call in sick. So make sure a clear policy exists in your staff handbook

If an employee is incapable of attending work through sickness or injury, there is no statutory law which says he or she is obliged to inform their employer that they will not be attending work. It is therefore vital that you have a clear and meaningful sickness absence policy within your staff handbook that states the procedure employees are expected to follow when they are absent.

We would usually expect employees to telephone into work if they will not be attending due to sickness. But if you don’t have an absence procedure detailed, or if you haven’t issued contracts and handbooks, then strictly speaking, you are not in a position to do anything about it if they simply don’t turn up.

Employees are allowed to self-certify for sickness for up to seven days. Without proper procedures in place then, an employee could be absent for a week without you knowing whether or not they are planning to return to work or if you need to take on somebody else, either long or short term, to cover their workload.

A good absence policy will detail who an employee needs to contact, by what time and with what communication method.

Who - A direct line manager is usual, or a specified person within the organisation. Whoever is responsible for the absent person’s workload may influence this decision as a replacement worker may be needed for the day. It’s also a good idea to specify an alternative contact in case the first is not available. Ultimately the person responsible for payroll will need to know also so that adjustments to pay can be made.

By when – This may depend on the role but prior to the commencement of the employee’s shift is usual; again, so that cover can be organised if required. A specific time can also be acceptable such as 9.00am.

How – Telephone is the commonly accepted method and this could be to the business’s main landline or to the line manager’s mobile phone, especially for off-premises workers. A phone call guarantees that contact has been made. The time the call was received should be recorded. Text messaging is traceable as there will be a time stamp on the time the text is sent and/or received but text messages can be missed or affected by phone signals and account balances. E-mail also provides an audit trail but if it is a workable solution may depend on when the recipient accesses their e-mails. A read receipt should always be requested.

It is also a good idea to specify how often the employee must make contact. You could state that they should contact every day of their illness at least for the first week, after which a doctor’s sick note should be obtained anyway.

So long as you have your policy in place and you are confident that your workforce are aware of it, then failure to follow procedure becomes a disciplinary event. So there will be consequences if an employee fails to contact the business if they are absent. Failing to notify also makes the absence unauthorised.

As usual, we’re here to help with contracts and handbooks on 01452 331331 or info@hrchampions.co.uk

01 July 2016, 13:57

Notice for Holiday Requests

#HRFridayFact: The statutory notice required by employees when requesting annual leave is twice the period of the leave requested.

Unless your policy differs, the notice that employees must give when asking to take time off work for holiday is twice the length of the period of holiday for which the request is made. So if an employee wants to take one week’s leave, they must enter their holiday request at least two weeks prior to when the holiday period starts.

Even for just one day’s holiday, the employee must give two days’ notice.

Employers should respond by at least the period of the holiday being requested. So within one week of the start date of a week’s holiday and at least a day in advance of a single day’s holiday.

In reality of course, staff will usually book their holidays with plenty of notice, particularly for their annual family getaway. Other occasions that require time off are also usually well notified so in the vast majority of cases, a little forward planning will mean holiday requests can be accommodated.

An event that may spark a short notice holiday request could be the sudden late availability of tickets to an event, such as Glastonbury, or an unforeseen sporting event; England getting through to the Euro 2016 cup final perhaps.

Employers are at liberty of course to refuse holiday requests, but as employees have a statutory right to holiday there must be a sound business reason if a request is turned down. Sound reasons may be that others are already on holiday during the same period creating a potential under-staffing issue; or that the holiday is requested for a period where there is a company-wide ban on holidays which might be appropriate for businesses with seasonal workflow variations.

Furthermore, there is no obligation for employers to uphold a holiday request just because the employee has already paid their deposit at the travel agent. It’s the responsibility of staff to ensure that they are allowed to take time off work before committing any money.

As usual, we strongly recommend that to eliminate any confusion and maintain a clear understanding of procedures amongst your employees, you have an unambiguous holiday leave policy within your staff handbook. Decide how you will manage holidays and make sure your staff know. Include the procedure in your induction programme so that new starters are fully briefed.

A first come - first served basis is quite common and acceptable practice for managing holiday, as is a system of mutual agreement where it's important to fairly share school holidays for example.

Don’t forget that it is also allowable for employers to dictate when staff should take their holiday. Between Christmas and New Year is a good example of when this might be expected.

For any advice or support with managing holiday in your business or with your absence policy, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk


24 June 2016, 09:48

Keeping Records of Job Applicants

#HRFridayFact: Failed job applicants have up to 3 months to bring a discrimination claim. So keep records including your selection scheme

You don’t have to be an employee to bring a discrimination claim against an employer. Job applicants can enter a claim if they think that they have been discriminated against during the recruitment process.

The time period to bring a claim is usually three months. For this reason we recommend that employers or recruiters keep all recruitment records for up to this length of time so that it can be used as evidence should a claim be made.

When recruiting, a clear and consistent process should be followed and recorded so that it is indisputable that the same selection criteria was applied to absolutely everyone.

We recommend that a scoring system is used that allocates points for key criteria that the vacant position requires, specific qualifications for example. You may also want to award points for previous experience in a similar role. So a point for every year perhaps. Whatever your system, use it consistently across all applicants and keep records which show that it has been applied.

Some elements are likely to be subjective. You may favour a particular applicant because of the quality of their covering letter. This is fine so long as it is documented and a similar criteria is applied to everyone.

If you have a lot of applicants, you may want to apply different criteria at different stages. Again, this is fine so long as you are consistent. So, you may discard everyone without at least a GCSE grade B or equivalent in Maths at stage one, if it is a requirement of the role. This should leave you with a smaller pool of applicants to then apply further criteria to arrive at a shortlist.

If you use a job application form, remember that apart for in exceptional circumstances, you can’t ask applicants to provide a date of birth as this could lead to a case of age discrimination. If possible, design your application form so that applicants’ names are on a separate page or not visible during scrutiny so that the risk of unconscious bias is avoided. We also recommend that equal opportunity information, including medical information is kept separate to the main CV or application form to ensure objectivity.

For smaller businesses, where they may be only one or two Directors, implementing a rigid and formal recruitment process may seem to be a time consuming and labour intensive process. Whatever you choose to do remember to be consistent and keep records.

Discrimination grounds cover the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, maternity, pregnancy, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Therefore avoid any opportunity to mention any of these or bring them under scrutiny during recruitment.

Finally, if you want to hold on to applicants’ details for longer than six months, you should ask for permission as this may contravene data protection legislation.

For help and guidance with any aspect of your recruitment process, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

17 June 2016, 13:52

Maximum Workplace Temperature

#HRFridayFact: There is no maximum workplace temperature. However employers should consider the ‘thermal comfort’ of their employees

Strictly speaking, there is no maximum workplace temperature that employers must adhere to. However, employers cannot simply ignore soaring temperatures and must remember that they have a duty of care to their employees.

The Health & Safety Executive has avoided prescribing a maximum workplace temperature and instead refers to “Thermal Comfort” when discussing employers’ legal responsibilities. This seems a fair approach as thermal comfort, one’s satisfaction with the thermal environment, comprises more than air temperature alone. Air flow and humidity are among other factors to consider, as is the employees own clothing which may be constrained by uniform or Health and Safety policies.

We should remember that sunshine normally brings a higher pollen count, so cases of hayfever, asthma and related illnesses may see an increase for both employees and their children. We should also consider the potential risks of:-

  • Dehydration and even Heatstroke
  • General irritability leading to conflict with other employees
  • Tiredness, resulting in accidents
  • Higher stress levels and associated ailments

Occasionally, unauthorised absence during hot weather may give rise to scepticism of the legitimacy of any reason for absence given by the employee. An effective absence policy will help to manage this.

Ultimately, during warm spells we think common sense should prevail. In remembering their duty of care towards their employees, there are a number of simple steps that employers can take to contribute to their employees’ well-being and reduce any suffering caused by intense heat: -

  • Ensure airflow through the building is sufficient
  • Where possible, open windows and doors or provide fans
  • Make drinks readily available and encourage employees to take an extra break
  • Consider alternative shift patterns or working hours ie. earlier start and finish times
  • Introduce a comfort zone where the temperature can be controlled and allow managed access to it
  • Relax the dress code, within reason
  • Investigate the possibility of alternative working environments. eg. Another office, home, outside
  • Pay special attention to those at higher risk ie. pregnant or older employees

Apart from creating a more comfortable environment during hot weather, such actions will also promote the image of a caring employer, which will in turn bring its own rewards.

For help and advice with managing your workforce and work environment under exceptional weather conditions, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

10 June 2016, 11:15

Recording Investigation & Disciplinary Meetings

#hrfridayfact: Audio, mechanical or digital recording of disciplinary meetings is only acceptable if all parties agree. Otherwise take notes

It is critical to the disciplinary process that all investigation and disciplinary meetings are accurately recorded. If however, any party wants the meeting recorded on a mechanical or digital device, either in addition to or instead of written notes, then all parties must be in agreement of this.

Modern technology makes it very easy to record anything audibly or visually. Most smart phones will come with this facility and digital sound recording devices are inexpensive and have taken over from the tape based Dictaphones of a few years ago.

Whilst a recording of a meeting during a disciplinary process may make a good back-up, there are some disadvantages to relying on them entirely.

  • Some people may be uncomfortable knowing they are recorded and this may preclude them from speaking openly and freely
  • Digitally recorded files can become corrupt
  • Digital recordings are not immune to being tampered with using audio editing software
  • A transcript still needs to be typed up to produce a submit-able witness statement

It is our recommendation that an independent note-taker is used to make written notes for meetings held during a disciplinary process. This frees up the interviewer to concentrate on the answers given by the interviewee and consider the appropriate line of questioning to continue with.

Written notes also makes it quick and easy to read out a recorded comment and make immediate amendments to it so that it is understood with the correct meaning or in the correct context. And on conclusion of the meeting, they can be immediately signed by the interviewee to agree their accuracy.

Hand written notes should also be typed up and again signed by the interviewee and a copy kept on file for reference in the case of any dispute over content.

In case you were wondering, covert recordings of meetings is a big no-no. On the organisations side, it is a breach of trust and confidence and undermines the integrity of your disciplinary process. On the interviewee’s side, it may even be seen as a misconduct issue in its own right.

For the avoidance of doubt, have your organisation’s stance on the recording of meetings included in your company staff handbook.

For help and support with disciplinary processes, including having us mange a disciplinary process for you as an independent third party, just call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

03 June 2016, 11:08

Employee Statutory Notice Periods

#hrfridayfact: Employees need only give 1 weeks’ notice regardless of length of service. This can overridden by their contract.

Not setting a notice period in an employment contract means that statutory law applies so employees only need to give one week’s notice of resignation. Even though a contract is a legal requirement, not issuing one at all would have the same effect.

We recommend that you make the employee’s notice period contractual and therefore specific to each position as appropriate. The length of notice period to implement will depend upon your industry and the particular job role.

Considerations when setting notice periods should include how easy it will be to replace any particular employee. Positions that demand specific skill sets or qualifications that may require some specialist recruitment will demand a longer notice period. Specialist Engineers or a medical qualification are good examples and a notice period of say, three months may be appropriate. This will give opportunity to recruit a replacement and include a period of hand-over so that the new employee can be brought up to speed by the person leaving.

Whichever notice period you decide upon however, consider the cost implication if you choose to offer Payment in Lieu of Notice (PILON) or Garden Leave. Both of which could cost a lot of money for zero return in productivity.

Unskilled jobs or those with a transient labour force where workers traditionally come and go, might better suit just a week’s notice. In such situations where you decide not to ask the employee to work their notice, you will only be obliged to pay for one week, so minimising expense.

We recommend that even minimum notice periods appear in the employment contract to avoid confusion. It also keeps you in the habit of specifying a notice period when contracts are issued.

Notice periods required by employers to employees fall under a different set of rules.

Getting your notice periods right can be challenging. Being able to predict your employees’ performance and contribution to the business is unlikely at the outset of their employment. You can amend a contractual notice period but be sure to follow a process that includes a period of consultation and gives the employee opportunity to resist the change.

For help and guidance in calculating notice periods and with employment contracts in general, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

27 May 2016, 09:03

Managing Flexlible Working Requests

#HRFridayfact: Only one application for flexible working can be made in any 12 month period, although appeals against decisions are allowed

Making flexible working requests is a statutory right for all employees after they have been employed for 26 weeks and an employer is obliged to give all such requests proper consideration. However, requests for flexible working do not have to be granted by the employer.

Flexible working can take a number of different forms. For example

  • Part time working
  • Job sharing
  • Flexitime
  • Homeworking

Employees making requests for flexible working must do so in writing, stating the date the request is made. The request should detail the change to working conditions being sought, what effect this may have on the business such as improved efficiency, and the date the change would take effect from. Any previous requests and the date of those requests should also be included.

It’s a good idea to have a flexible working request form made available to employees to ensure that all the correct information is captured.

Requests must be considered by the employer and a decision made within three months of receipt. If a request is rejected, the employee can appeal the decision and appeals must similarly be considered and decided upon within three months.

It’s good practice to meet with the employee to discuss the flexible working request. The employee is not obliged to disclose the reasons why he or she is making the request, but if it can be discussed then this may lead on to a compromise or whether any alternative courses of action can be considered.

Requests should be given reasonable consideration and can only be rejected if there is a solid business grounds to do so. Reasons for rejection must come from the following list:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand 
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • a planned structural changes to the business

If the request is accepted then this will by default result in a permanent change of contractual terms of employment and so new contract should be issued. It may be worth considering a trial period for the new working arrangements to ensure that they work for both parties before a final commitment is made.

If it is just a temporary arrangement that the employee is looking for however, then other options should be explored.

We have document templates available to help with flexible working request, and of course we are available for telephone advice on 01452 331331.

20 May 2016, 10:39