Monthly Archives: April 2016

Staff Handbook: Handy or a Hindrance?

staff-handbookSUMMARY: Employer’s bid to change its staff handbook is rejected by the Court of Appeal… Read on to stop this happening in your organisation.

Staff Handbooks are a great way of telling staff what you expect from them at work and how they will be treated in return. A constantly evolving handbook with inherent flexibility to adapt to organisational change can be a very effective people management tool.

To ensure there are no limitations on an employer’s ability to make changes, the handbook should be a guidance document, which does not form part of the contract of employment.

In a recent dispute about a change to an absence management process the Court of Appeal confirmed that the employer could not unilaterally implement a change to that process even though it was contained in the handbook. The relevant process was contained in the part of the handbook which was stated to have contractual effect and therefore the employees’ consent was necessary.

The following are some simple do’s and don’ts to avoid this problem happening:

DO check whether your existing staff handbook is contractual or non-contractual.  Sometimes a handbook will state that part of it is contractual and part of it is non-contractual.  It is easier to amend a handbook (or parts of it) that are non-contractual than those that are contractual. If the contractual status of the handbook is unclear, consider seeking legal advice.

DON’T amend your handbook if it is (or parts of it are) contractual without consulting with staff to reach agreement. There may be an obligation to enter into a more formal consultation process if more than 20 employees are affected and/or there is a recognised trade union. If you are unsure about your consultation obligations, consider seeking legal advice.

DO consider putting in place a completely non-contractual handbook if you do not already have one.  This would avoid the worry of having to consult with staff every time a change is made; notification to staff would suffice.  Staff would still be bound by the policies in a non-contractual handbook because they have a duty to obey lawful orders.

DON’T forget to review contracts of employment at the same time as a contractual staff handbook, especially if you are looking to remove the contractual parts of the handbook; if some elements need to remain contractual relocate them to the contract.

Get your staff handbook right and it will definitely be handy rather than a hindrance.

Case

Department for Transport v Sparks and others [2016] EWCA Civ 360

Contact Details

For more details about amending handbooks or contracts of employment or consulting with your workforce please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

VouchedFor – Floyd Graham

160418 VouchedFor

On Sunday 10th April the Sunday Times published their first supplement listing the Top 175 Solicitors in the UK based on reviews on the independent consumer ratings website VouchedFor.co.uk. We are proud, but not at all surprised, to say that Floyd Graham was featured.

To be included Floyd was highly recommended by 11 of his clients. All had rated his services over 4 stars out of 5, which is a fantastic achievement. We’d like to thank all of the clients who took the time to share their positive feedback on VouchedFor.co.uk.

Comments – Adam Price, Founder of VouchedFor.co.uk: “At VouchedFor we’re passionate about helping people find great financial and legal advice. At certain points in life the majority of us would benefit from expert help with complex issues such as pension planning, securing a mortgage or for advice on a legal issue. Listing professionals alongside verified reviews from their existing clients makes it easy to find a respected and trusted expert like Floyd to help. We would like to congratulate Floyd on being one of the Top 175 – it’s a great endorsement of the service Floyd provides.

You can see his reviews by going to:
https://www.vouchedfor.co.uk/solicitor/northampton/11486-floyd-graham

Contract Essentials

Contract sorter - FG Solicitors

SUMMARY: With unemployment rates at an all-time low we are frequently asked by clients whether they can use the same contracts for each type of employee or worker they engage. The short answer to that question is “no”. As there are a number of contracts and agreements widely available to organisations, we have produced a quick guide to the key contracts.

Type of contract/agreement

Who does it apply to?

Who should it not be used for?

When should your organisation use this contract/agreement and what are the key considerations?

Directors’ Service Agreement

Any Executive Director

Employees generally

Apprentices

Temporary Workers

Zero Hours Casuals

Consultants

Non-executive Directors

  • It is a legal requirement to provide specific terms and conditions within 2 months of an employee commencing employment. Although a standard employment contract can be used, businesses often prefer using Directors’ service agreements due to the additional obligations owed by directors.
  • For owner managed businesses these agreements are favoured to provide protection of the directors’ rights on the sale/transfer/takeover of a business.

Employment Contract

Employees (including directors where a Directors’ Service Agreement is not in place)

Apprentices

Temporary Workers

Zero Hours Casuals

Consultants

  • It is a legal requirement to provide specific terms and conditions within 2 months of an employee commencing employment.
  • Contracts can be standardised for differing categories of employee within the business such as managers, shift workers or home based employees.
  • The contract can include additional protections for the employer such as post-termination restrictions, confidentiality and intellectual property rights – particularly relevant for a number of industries including IT, Professional/Financial Services and Pharmaceuticals. These need to be tailored to the organisation’s needs.
  • Employment contracts for part-time employees need to include specific provisions to ensure entitlements are accrued on a pro-rata basis.
  • Employment contracts for fixed-term employees need to include specific provisions relating to the termination of the employment.

Apprenticeship Agreement

Apprentices (on a work-based training programme).

Employees (including directors)

Temporary Workers

Zero Hours Casuals

Consultants

  • Apprentices are employees and the legal requirement to provide specific terms and conditions within 2 months of the employment commencing applies.
  • Failure to ensure the appropriate apprenticeship agreement is in place, can result in apprentices having rights which can make it difficult and costly to terminate their employment before the end of the apprenticeship.
  • The agreement will include specific provisions relating to the termination of the employment.
  • The agreement can include additional protections for the organisation such as post-termination restrictions, confidentiality and intellectual property rights – particularly relevant for some industries typically associated with apprenticeships such as the IT industry. These need to be tailored to the organisation’s needs.

Zero-hours Casual Worker Agreement

Zero Hours Casuals

Employees (including directors)

Apprentices

Consultants

Directors

  • The agreement will make it clear that it is intended the individual is a worker, rather than an employee, so does not have employment rights.
  • The agreement will set out how work will be offered and accepted.

Consultancy Agreement

Consultants (individuals who are self-employed or whose services are provided through a service company)

Employees (including directors)

Temporary Workers

Zero Hours Casuals

Apprentices

Directors

  • The agreement should specify that the individual is not a worker or employee, but is self-employed or engaged by a service company*.
  • The agreement will detail the basis on which work is offered, payment (including the submission of invoices) and where tax liability sits.
  • It is prudent to set out whether the consultant will have the benefit of various employment rights, or the more limited rights available to workers.
  • The agreement should clarify whether the individual is owed health and safety duties or whether the individual (as an independent contractor) is responsible for their own safety.
  • The agreement can also include additional protections for the organisation such as appropriate restrictions, confidentiality and ownership of intellectual property rights – particularly relevant for a number of industries including IT, Professional/Financial Services and Pharmaceuticals. These need to be tailored to the organisation’s needs.
  • The agreement should also contain appropriate termination provisions and/or substitution rights.

*Organisations are advised to take advice on the practical workplace arrangements and obligations when engaging consultants as these considerations will factor when determining if the “consultant” is, in fact, an employee.

Secondment Agreement

Secondees

Consultants

Zero Hours Casuals

  • Specific agreements should be put into place where the employer intends to temporarily transfer an employee from one organisation to another.
  • The agreement will set out details of the relationship between the two organisations and the employee.
  • The agreement will deal with the employee’s employment status, payment arrangements, day to day management arrangements and the corresponding liabilities.

 

 

Contact Details

For more details about any of the above contracts, or if you just want someone to check that your current contracts are up to date, please contact a member of our Employment Law team:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

Resolving Employment Disputes

10032845_mSUMMARY: What do you do when a tribunal claim is brewing…. Fight or Flight?

Whilst the number of tribunal claims are down, claims are still happening; unfair dismissal claims still prevail but often more complex issues such as discrimination and whistleblowing are involved.

Being on the receiving end of a tribunal claim can feel acutely painful from both a time and costs perspective. The following are a few simple do’s and don’ts to help manage a dispute which is brewing.

DO consider all the options for dealing with a dispute or a tribunal claim.

For example:

  • Acas Early Conciliation

Before a claim can be started an employee must contact Acas; Acas will then establish if the employee and employer can resolve the dispute without the tribunal’s intervention. Neither party has to participate in the process and if settlement cannot be reached, the employee is then free to claim.

Even if there is no interest in settlement, this process may serve as a reconnaissance exercise to understand more about the employee’s complaint in preparation for defending any subsequent claim.

  • Defend the case

Some employers may prefer not to shy away from the gaze of the tribunal because the complaint requires a robust response.  For example:

  • there is no case to answer;
  • the employee’s settlement expectations are unrealistic; or
  • there may be important financial and commercial considerations. Disabusing staff of a settlement culture may be one reason. Broader issues may also be at stake, which relate to pay, hours and holidays.
  • Judicial Mediation

Mediation has the advantage of taking place in a less formal setting in comparison with a full tribunal hearing. The mediator, an employment judge, will work with the parties on a confidential and without prejudice basis to explore if there is a way of resolving the dispute.  The parties are free to discuss their differences and consider the options for resolving the dispute, without the fear of their discussions being repeated if the mediation fails.

Agreement can be reached on matters which a tribunal would not be able to address. For example, the employee leaving, an apology or a reference being issued, or the employee being provided with assistance to find another job.

From an employer’s perspective a satisfactory commercial outcome, without having to concede its position can often be achieved.

  • Settle the case before the hearing

Once a tribunal claim has been issued, the Acas conciliation service will still be available to consider with the parties whether there is a solution. Settlement agreements can also be used.

DON’T ignore a tribunal claim once received.

Employers only have 28 days from the date when the claim is sent to respond to the tribunal setting out why the claim is disputed.  A response will usually be rejected if received after the expiry of the 28-day time limit.  Possible consequences are that a judgment could be issued without the employer being able to defend its position. This could be costly as compensation for discrimination claims is uncapped, and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal from 6 April 2016 is the lower of £78,962, or one year’s pay.

Until and unless settlement is properly concluded, a response must always be filed.

DO consider ways to limit an employee’s opportunity to bring a claim in the first place.

Effective ways to reduce the risk include:

  • having legally compliant contracts of employment and policies and procedures;
  • introducing a robust appraisal system and ensuring current job descriptions exist;
  • communicating to staff the expected workplace standard of behaviour to reduce the risk of harassment and discrimination claims; and
  • dealing promptly and fairly with grievances and whistleblowing complaints.

DON’T forget …..

…. if a dispute arises, a sound strategy, which acknowledges the needs of your organisation and the merits of the complaint, will go a long way towards finding the right solution, whether that be a hard fight in the tribunal or a quick exit via the settlement route.

Contact Details

If you would like to identify the right strategy for your employment disputes, please contact a member of our Employment Law team:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.