Category Archives: 12 Days Of Christmas

On the 8th Day of Christmas…

8th Day of ChristmasOn the 8th day of Christmas my employee said to me…. “I didn’t enjoy the Christmas party as one of my colleagues kept harassing me.”

With the ever increasing demands of work the Christmas party is a great way to say thank you to staff. Most employees, when entering into the party spirit, will remember that there is a need to convey some semblance of good behaviour; sometimes, however a small number of staff are forgetful of this and lose all sense of propriety. In most instances their behaviour will be mildly amusing or annoying but in some cases it can become offensive and distressing.

Regardless of whether the party is away from the workplace and/or not in work time, employment law will still apply. This means employees who behave inappropriately towards their colleagues can be held accountable for their behaviour. Additionally, employers can be held responsible for the conduct of an employee towards a colleague where bullying, harassment and discrimination is involved.

It is therefore important to take seriously complaints of this type and not treat them any differently because the behaviour complained of occurred at a social event. Ignoring such a complaint could lead to a costly employment tribunal claim and reputational damage. Key considerations for an employer wishing to minimise these risks include:

  • Ensuring the complaint is dealt with quickly and impartially under the grievance procedure – the procedure should include the usual stages such as an investigation, meetings and an appeal.
  • Taking disciplinary action if the complaint is upheld.

However, proactive employers can also take preventative steps to minimise the risk of complaints in the first place, such steps can include:

  • Implementing and communicating an equality and harassment policy.
  • Providing equal opportunities training.
  • Dealing with complaints fairly and effectively.

Implementation of these simple steps should enable everyone to focus on the true purpose of the event and have fun at this time of year.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this article 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.

On the 7th Day of Christmas…

7th Day of ChristmasOn the 7th day of Christmas my employee said to me… “I’ve had too much to drink at the Christmas party.”

Many employers celebrate the festive season by providing alcohol for employees at the Christmas party. It is easy to forget that in this season of good cheer employment law still applies and if alcohol is to be served at a work event, employers should consider the following to manage any potential legal risks:

  • Having a policy in place setting out the standards of conduct expected at work social events and the consequences of breaching the policy. The policy should be brought to the attention of all employees prior to any Christmas party.
  • Ensuring that the event is as inclusive as possible to avoid complaints of discrimination. Non-alcoholic drinks should be available for employees who do not drink alcohol for religious or other reasons.
  • Keeping an eye out for younger members of staff as employers cannot serve alcohol to under 18s. This is becoming a more relevant consideration as the number of apprentices increase in the workplace.
  • Having the party at a licensed venue. Whilst this will not entirely absolve the employer from its duty of care to its staff, the venue owner will be responsible for serving the alcohol.
  • Ensuring that the health and safety obligations towards staff are satisfied. Employers need to consider how those who are worse for wear from excessive drinking will be managed and who will deal with this, particularly if there is a free bar. It may be preferable to limit the amount of alcohol that can be consumed and make non-alcoholic refreshments readily available.
  • Making clear what the arrangements are in relation to lunchtime events if alcohol is to be served where employees may be returning to work in the afternoon. Does this provide a health and safety risk for example in a factory setting, or a reputational risk in a customer facing environment?
  • Providing food and entertainment, which can be a distraction to those who may otherwise spend the evening propping up the bar.
  • Reviewing the arrangements for staff to get home safely. There should importantly be a zero tolerance message about drink driving.
  • Taking prompt action if there are conduct issues to be dealt with after the event. This applies equally if complaints are made by employees about harassment… more about this on the 8th Day of Christmas.

This guidance equally applies to other corporate social events at other times of the year.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this article 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.

On the 6th Day of Christmas…

6th Day of ChristmasOn the 6th day of Christmas my employee said to me ….. “I have to leave on time to get to my evening job; I’m trying to earn some extra money for Christmas.”

Whilst the worker’s keenness to fill up the Christmas stockings of their loved ones is admirable, the fact the worker has another job should trigger warning bells.

One such warning bell is the 48 hour working week limit imposed by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTRs”) – employers are responsible for ensuring workers do not work more than an average 48 hours per week, unless they have signed an agreement opting-out of this limit. In calculating the 48 hour week, any time spent working for other employers must be taken into account.

Therefore, employers presented with the information about another job, should consider asking the following questions:

  • Could the worker be working more than 48 hours per week?

First review the contract of employment to identify the contracted hours; the overtime records should also be reviewed.

The worker should also be asked to provide details of all other hours worked for other employers. The total hours worked by the worker can be identified using this information.

  • Has the worker signed an opt-out?

If it appears that the worker will work more than 48 hours per week it is necessary to have an opt-out in place. Records should be kept of opt-out agreements that are in place. It should therefore be easy to clarify whether the worker in question has signed an opt-out.

  • What if there needs to be an opt-out?

If the worker is likely to work more than 48 hours per week they should be given the choice of either:

    • Entering into an opt-out agreement. The agreement must be in writing and entered into voluntarily.  An opted out worker can cancel the opt-out on seven days’ notice unless the agreement expressly provides for a longer notice period, which cannot be longer than three months.  The worker cannot be forced to sign an opt-out and it is unlawful to dismiss or victimise a worker for refusing to sign an opt-out.
    • Reducing their combined working time to less than 48 hours per week.

It is crucial for employers to get this right otherwise they are committing an offence under the WTRs if they fail to take reasonable steps to ensure their workers do not work more than 48 hours a week unless they have opted-out. An effective way of discharging this obligation is the inclusion of secondary employment clauses in contracts of employment and/or policies which should be clearly communicated, monitored and enforced.

In addition to the 48 hour week obligations, employers must not forget that worker are still entitled to daily, and weekly rest breaks as well as annual leave.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this article 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.

On the 5th Day of Christmas…

5th Day of ChristmasOn the 5th day of Christmas my employee said to me… “My childcare arrangements for the Christmas holiday period have just fallen through.”

An acceptable solution to help the employee, particularly if time needs to be taken off at short notice, may be readily identifiable.  If this is not possible, the employee may have to rely on the statutory dependent care leave regime to take time off.  The right would be triggered where the breakdown in child care arrangements was unforeseen and is an emergency.

Unless the contract of employment provides otherwise, the right to such leave is unpaid.

The employee is unlikely to be able to use dependent care leave to cover the entire school holiday period.  The right is to a reasonable amount of time off – normally a day or two is anticipated to allow the employee to sort out the emergency and make alternative arrangements.  Each case is likely to be different and needs to be considered on its own set of facts. In considering what is reasonable and necessary the following is relevant:

  • the nature of the emergency;
  • the relationship between the dependent and the employee;
  • the extent to which the employee can call upon someone else for help or make alternative arrangements; and
  • the length of time the employee had to explore alternative arrangements -  the longer the time the employee had to explore alternative arrangements, the less likely it would be necessary to have time off.

The operational needs of the business and any disruption caused are irrelevant considerations for an employer when determining if leave should be permitted.

To request this type of leave the employee is required to:

  • tell the employer as soon as possible the reason for the absence;
  • indicate how long they expect to be absent; and
  • provide sufficient information to establish the right to take dependent care leave.

To enable employees to understand the parameters of this statutory right, and to ensure that any request for this type of leave is dealt with fairly and consistently, employers are advised to have a clearly communicated policy. As a minimum this policy should address the following:

  • when an employee may take unpaid time off to care for their dependants, who may not always be children;
  • the process for requesting the leave;
  • details of the evidence required to support the request;
  • any sanctions for abusing the policy; and
  • details of the other rights available including  unpaid parental leave, annual leave or flexible working arrangements.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this article 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.