Monthly Archives: November 2013

Article Published in ‘inBusiness’ – Northamptonshire Chamber Magazine



Our latest article published in inBusiness, Northamptonshire Chamber’s bi-monthly magazine is titled ‘Make effective use of probationary periods’ written by Hazel Robbins. It can be viewed on page 13 following the below link:



Sentinel New Features

We are delighted to announce the launch of the new Attendance Management System and Employee Self-Service Dashboard System.

Attendance Management

The new system enables the  streamlining of absence management and the ability to create rotas at the click of few buttons.

o  Leave management  –


o  Rota management –

Employee Self-Service Dashboards –

This provides both Managers and staff real time access to online leave requests/authorisation and to view their published rota schedules.

o  Employees can apply for leave via online secure dashboards

o  Employees can view their own published rotas

For further details please contact


Christmas for employers – naughty or nice?

Xmas for Employees

Employment law dos and don’ts at Christmas-time for parties and presents.

Yes it’s that time of the year again: hyperactive children, unsuitable presents and parties where guests outstay their welcome.  And that’s just the staff!  In fact the Christmas spirit (and I’m not referring to the alcoholic one) can be found in the workplace and with some careful planning it can be a “nice” time of the year.  It is however useful to remember the employment law implications of festive activities.  With this in mind, we have set out below some of the dos and don’ts at Christmas-time in terms of employment law.


When parties are going with alcohol flowing, the risk of injury to employees both physically and mentally increases.  Below are some pointers to help mitigate these risks so that everyone enjoys this time of the year.


Consider sending a memo/email to employees about standards of conduct required at office functions and the disciplinary sanctions which could result from breaches of these standards. Encourage drunkenness, drugs or violence at the party.  A free bar for the whole evening may encourage heavy drinking.
Ensure that all employees are invited to an office party, even if they are off sick or some form of family friendly leave. Deliberately leave out any employee from participating in festive events.
Ensure the company’s policy on harassment is up to date and remind employees of its existence well in advance.  Guidance may be needed on appropriate “secret santa” gifts (for example, nothing lewd which could be perceived as offensive!). Hold the party at a venue which would not be suitable for some employees to attend due to, for example, disability or religious reasons.
Ensure that the venue for the party is accessible by disabled employees. Assume that everyone will eat the same food or refuse to accommodate dietary requests.
Ask employees about dietary requirements  – employees who have certain religious beliefs may be vegetarian or unable to eat beef or pork for example. Leave junior employees to organise a large office party without guidance as to the necessary health and safety requirements.
Ensure there are sufficient security measures in place at the venue. Assume that all partners will be of the opposite sex.
If partners are invited to the party, ensure that the invitation is to any partners, heterosexual or homosexual. Discuss career potential or remuneration with employees at a social event – these conversations can be taken out of context and are open to misinterpretation.
Warn managers not to discuss career potential or remuneration with subordinates at the party – words of encouragement and good intentions can end up being misinterpreted.
Remember that employer-provided annual parties are not taxable as employee benefits so long as the employer spends less than £150 a head.
Consider warning staff that unauthorised absence the day after the party may result in disciplinary action. Use lateness/absence the day after the party as an excuse to instigate disciplinary proceedings against a particular employee, when other employees have been allowed to get away with similar lateness/absence.
Consider how employees will get home from the venue.  Consider booking taxis or sending out train times. Allow employees to drive home after over-indulging.
Follow up any grievances or complaints raised following a party. Ignore complaints or grievances, particularly in relation to sexual harassment.
Investigate any incident as soon and as fully as possible.  If any serious incidents occur (for example violence or sexual harassment), invoke the disciplinary procedure. Encourage gossip after the office Christmas party.
Try to stamp out any gossip after a social event.  It could for example be interpreted as harassment.  



And here are a couple of notes on present giving:

Include all employees if you are intending to give gifts. Discriminate against any individual employees when giving gifts.  For example by giving alcohol to an employee whose religious beliefs require abstinence.
Check the examples given by HMRC of “trivial” gifts which may be given to employees without a tax charge.  For example, a turkey, a bottle of wine, chocolates…  


Contact Details

For more details about Christmas parties or company policies please contact:

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

Right to be Accompanied – ACAS Code to be amended

FG Solicitors - Right to be accompaniedSUMMARY: An Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that the choice of companion is absolute when an employee has the right to be accompanied and, subject to the companion being a fellow worker or trade union official, does not need to be reasonable.  The ACAS Code will be amended accordingly.

Legal Background

Most employers are aware that employees have the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union official at a disciplinary or grievance meeting.

The ACAS Code currently suggests that it would not be reasonable for an employee to be accompanied by a companion whose presence would compromise the hearing or who was based in a remote geographical location.

However, the ACAS Code does not have statutory force.  It is the wording of the legislation that should always take precedence as can be seen by this case.

Facts of this case

The employees requested to be accompanied by Mr L, a union official, at a grievance meeting.  The employer refused the request, so they were accompanied by a different companion at the meeting.

The employees subsequently brought claims that their right to be accompanied had been breached.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s (EAT) decision

The EAT, overturning the Employment Tribunal’s decision, held that the employees could not waive their right to be accompanied and that they had an absolute right to choose their companion, so long as the companion was a trade union official or fellow worker.  By not permitting the employees to be accompanied by their choice of companion, the employer had breached their rights which were set out in legislation.  This was the case even though the employees had agreed to be accompanied by a different companion and despite the ACAS Code indicating that there were circumstances in which an employer could reject an employee’s choice of companion due to unreasonableness.

The EAT however considered that the effect of the breach was minimal and that compensation should reflect this; it suggested that the employees could be awarded a nominal sum of around £2.  The legislation states that a failure to allow a worker to be accompanied attracts an award of compensation of up to 2 weeks’ pay (which is currently capped at £450 per week).  It will be for the Employment Tribunal to decide the exact amount of compensation on the above facts.

Subsequently, ACAS has announced that it intends to amend the ACAS Code to reflect the EAT’s decision.

What does this mean for employers?

Employers should always ensure that they permit employees to be accompanied at grievance or disciplinary meetings by their choice of companion, so long as the companion is a trade union official or fellow worker.  If the companion may prejudice the hearing, employers should not generally insist on the employee having a different companion.

Employees have a free-standing right to bring a claim for a breach of their right to be accompanied.  However, given that the compensation for such claims is likely to be low, and that a tribunal fee will need to be paid before such a claim can be brought, such claims are likely to be an unattractive for most employees.  Employees may take their chances in rolling such a breach into a decision to bring a claim for unfair dismissal or constructive unfair dismissal instead, where the potential compensation awards are significantly higher.

We would therefore always advise taking legal advice if an employer is considering rejecting an employee’s choice of companion.

Case: Toal and another v GB Oils Ltd UKEAT/0569/12, 22 May 2013.

Contact Details

For more details about this case or the right to be accompanied please contact:

+44 (0) 1604 871143

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

Future Seminars

Seminar Medley

FG Solicitors’ seminars are bespoke to your requirements – we are always open to suggestions for future seminar topics.

We are currently planning our next seminars and would like to ask you to get involved with suggestions using the poll below. To get your imagination going please find below some suggested topic areas that you may be interested in but please feel free to recommend alternatives if there is a subject you would particularly like to gain more information and understanding on.

To receive notifications and invitations to our future seminars please register using the form to the right.