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NEWS

Joe has left the building!

disconnect from work

The debate about the right for workers to disconnect from work is back on the agenda.

Portugal increases workers’ rights

Following in the footsteps of France, Italy and Spain, Portugal has introduced legislation to protect workers’ rights to have a work life balance and in particular disconnect from work.

Portuguese employers will only be able to contact staff outside working hours in exceptional circumstances. Workers will also benefit from a significant level of additional protection. Any extra costs associated with homeworking such as insurance and internet bills will be borne by the employer. Parents with young children will be able to work from home without prior agreement from their employer.

Is there a basis for us following in Portugal’s footsteps?

Autonomy the independent thinktank that looks at today’s changing workplace published a paper “The Right to Disconnect” earlier this year to consider this issue, which predominately arises from homeworking during the pandemic. Its study concluded that the pandemic has given rise to a significant amount of hidden overtime, negatively affecting workers’ mental health and a disproportionate number of working women. These findings led to a proposal that the bedrock of our employment law, the Employment Rights Act 1996, be amended.

Under any new law, Autonomy proposes that employers would be unable to require workers to work, monitor or respond to work-related communications outside working hours. Any sanction imposed on a worker for refusing to work, would allow them to bring a claim in the employment tribunal. Industry sectors that could demonstrate this arrangement would not be feasible in light of the nature of their operations would be exempt.

Do we need to do better?

The Portuguese model and Autonomy’s report would suggest that we need to do better when it comes to protecting workers’ rights as there is currently no specific legislation in place to address the issues Autonomy identified. However, the laws already in place to protect workers cannot be ignored.

Our legislation restricts the number of hours a worker can work to 48 hours per week in the absence of an opt out, and there is provision for rest breaks during the course of the working day and week. Likewise, employers are under a duty to ensure that the system of working is safe, which includes protecting workers’ mental and physical wellbeing; any risk assessments used to demonstrate the system is safe must include consideration of the hours culture and how this would impact on workers’ health. Working parents also have the right to request flexible working, use the dependent care leave provisions in emergencies and request parental leave if time away from the business is required. From day one,  employers must be transparent about working hours by confirming the hours and days to be worked, whether the working time will vary and if so, how. Workers may also be able to claim tax relief for expenses

The current raft of legislation although not specifically focused on the right to disconnect and homeworking, does go some way to protect the rights and wellbeing of workers.

Is further legislation the solution?

Any legislation will only be successful if it balances the rights of the workers with the need of an organisation to run an effective and financially viable operation. A ridged one size fits all approach is unlikely to achieve the right balance. Certain industry sectors and roles will never be able to operate in a right to disconnect culture. Legislation is also likely to prevent workers having the freedom to choose when and how they work. Research recently undertaken by Suffolk University has highlighted that taking away a worker’s choice may cause more stress and anxiety; something the right to disconnect laws in other countries has sought to alleviate.

Organisational culture may be a better place to start!

One school of thought is that legislation is not the answer in the UK given there are so many variable when it comes to running a business; instead, employers should be looking at their own working hours culture to identify if there is an issue and if so, how this can be addressed. Such a review may identify that the business is not as well run as it could be. Multinational companies such Lidl, Volkswagen and Siemens in Belgium and Germany appear to have already taken the lead in this regard by introducing their own rules to suit their operations but providing protection for their workers.

What does the future hold?

There appears to be no legislation on the horizon making the right to disconnect a legal right. While the momentum that has been gathering appears to be in Europe, the right appears to be achieving some consideration in the US and Canada. So to some degree, it is possible that your business if it is part of an international operation or does business overseas may well find that it will need to adjust its operations to reflect the fact in some circumstances personnel will have disconnected.

It is still important to remember that the right to disconnect is in part about  managing wellbeing and having a good work life balance. While there is currently no law mandating the right to disconnect, workers can still challenge a long-working hours culture under our current legislation. Employers are still at risk of a variety of different legal claims such as discrimination complaints, constructive unfair dismissal, breach of the working-time legislation or personal injury claims.

To minimise the risk of any legal challenge, employers as a minimum should identify if there is a long-working hours culture and if so, look at ways where possible to reduce the impact this may have on its workers. A good place to start is the health and safety risk assessment, which should address the issue of mental wellbeing and not just the risk of physical injury; measures should be introduced if any risks are identified.

 

FG Solicitors are experts in all areas of Employment Law and HR. Please feel free to call us on 0808 172 9322 for a no obligation discussion.

For further details about the commercial legal service and assistance we provide to businesses, please click here. 👇

www.fgsolicitors.co.uk/services/

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

Data security, hybrid working and the ICO

In our recent article about hybrid working we identified some of the issues that employers needed to consider when their workforce is working sometimes on site and on other occasions elsewhere, usually home.

Many employers have used the pandemic to revaluate how their employees work, including where the work is done from because of the perceived benefits arising from employees working remotely, including higher levels of engagement because they feel that they have a better work life balance.

While there are many benefits, employers need to be reminded that there are some issues that will present more of a challenge than others.

“Data security risks are likely to be greater where there is hybrid working”

Good technology may be capable of saving the day in many cases. However, there is much room for human error, and it is therefore necessary that employees are aware of the need to work responsibly.

Employers may think that that they have managed well without much risk if there have been clear policies and procedures in place when employees were working solely from home. Hybrid working is different as employees will be moving around more, which means there is a greater risk of data and information being lost or getting into the wrong hands. Those practices that have kept the business safe may need to be adjusted to address additional risks.

“The ICO has been sympathetic to homeworking arrangements during the pandemic but has stressed organisations need to ensure that the systems in place are safe”

During the pandemic, the ICO accepted that employers had to adopt homeworking and new IT solutions very quickly. While the expectation was that organisations ensured that their systems and way of working were safe and any security threats addressed, there was some acknowledgement that we were not operating in an ideal world.

The ICO is now picking up where it left off at the start of the pandemic by reviewing past complaints. The expectation is that there will be less sympathy for organisations who are faced with data breaches. Any hybrid working arrangements that lead to a data breach will be scrutinised by the ICO and action will be taken.

” Organisations need to understand and implement good practices when it comes to data security”

If hybrid working is to become a permanent fixture, you need to keep in mind that the ICO is unlikely to show much sympathy for a data breach.

Given the level of scrutiny that can arise when there is a data breach and the reputational and financial risks it makes sense to test current technological systems and employee practices to identify any weakness.

The aim will be to ensure employees are working securely. A good place to start is to ensure that the ICO’s guidance generally and on working from home is followed. Further details are on its website. Contracts of employment and policies covering IT, social media and data protection may need updating to emphasise the importance of confidentiality and complying with the data protection laws. Your employees’ approach to data retention and disposal may also need to be reviewed.

Given the level of scrutiny by the ICO if there is a data breach a data impact assessment is advisable. A data impact assessment will help you manage any risks upfront and is essential if the business is handling sensitive personal data.

In the case of a data breach, the ICO may well ask about the decisions that have been made about data management and security with reference to a relevant data impact assessment. The absence of one will be unsatisfactory in the eyes of the ICO. A comprehensive data impact assessment that has been implemented shows that you are working with the data privacy laws.

“Understand risk and taking responsibility”

Your policies will only protect your business if your employees understand the risks and the need to act responsibly. Clear communications and preventative training are therefore important. It may have to be spelt out that a failure to comply with the policies could lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

“It can never happen to us!”

While we often see household names being shamed by the ICO for data breaches, any organisation is vulnerable to a data beach and will be treated in exactly the same way. The ICO’s focus will be on the breach, the damage that has been done and what measure had been in place to avoid the breach. The current maximum fine is £17.5 million or 4% of the total annual worldwide turnover. The ICO publishes a list of the organisations that have been fined.

In many cases, a data breach can be avoided if the correct technological and operational measures are put in place. It is however important that those measures are regularly assessed to ensure that they are fit to manage the ever-present risk of a data breach. By assessing the risk and implementing appropriate measures you are however likely to keep your business off the ICO’s list.

FGS’ legal team includes specialists in data protection and privacy law, which enables us to advise on GDPR compliance including commercial contracts, policies and procedures, data breaches, subject access requests and privacy issues.

If you require further advice about data protection, please feel free to call us on 0808 172 9322 for a no obligation discussion.

For further details about the commercial legal service and assistance we provide to businesses, please click here. 👇

www.fgsolicitors.co.uk/services/

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

What is it like to be a newly qualified solicitor? Here is an insight of what it is like for Ramona our FGS newly qualified solicitor…

Hi, it’s Ramona here from FG Solicitors.

I started with the firm in May 2018 as a member of the Business Support Team. After 8 months, I transferred into the Legal Team as a Legal Assistant, providing support to the firm’s solicitors. By August 2019, I had started my training contract and qualified as a solicitor in February 2021.

The day in the life of a newly qualified solicitor is ever changing, take a look at a day from last week…

6:30am My day starts off with a bit of yoga and a fresh coffee in the garden. After catching up with the news, I get ready and head into work.

8:30am By the time I reach the office, I am ready to attack the day. It starts off with checking my emails, calendar and the daily tasks list to forecast what my day will look like. However, a day in the life of a lawyer does not always stick to the plan as clients may call with an urgent piece of work that needs to be turned around on the same day. Prioritisation and flexibility are key.

9:00am It’s time for the legal team meeting. An opportunity for my colleagues and I to discuss ongoing work, bounce ideas and strategies across to one another and set out our priorities and goals for the day. Part of FGS’ values is to create a collegiate culture where team members can support and learn from one another in an open space. The morning meeting is the perfect example of the team coming together and practicing this value.

9.30am One of our UK based retainer client’s is expanding into Ireland and requires an Irish consultancy agreement for a number of independent contractors. I spend the next hour and a half preparing the first draft of the precedent to ensure it is compliant and tailored to meet our client’s needs. I liaise with Helen Taylor, a Principal and senior employment lawyer, who has had previous experience working with a number of Irish based companies discussing the general principles and laws surrounding employment status in Ireland.

11.00am Floyd Graham, the Managing Principal and I attend our recurring weekly meeting with our client. Acting as General Legal Counsel for our international client, this meeting is an integral part of its 14-year relationship with the client. The meeting is an opportunity for our client to seek advice on any legal matters and updates on current projects.

12:00pm I attend a mediation meeting on behalf of our client who is currently dealing with a contract dispute. During the mediation, we set out our client’s legal position and undertake negotiations with a view to settling. Having worked on the case from the beginning and being heavily involved in preparing the statements of case, I am responsible for taking notes and assisting Floyd during the advocacy with identifying relevant documents and legislation. The mediation is successful and the matter has settled. I will draft the consent order and issue it to the other side tomorrow.

13:00pm It’s lunch time. I take out my packed lunch and sit around the table with my colleagues either chatting away or watching an episode of The Office. We have always been encouraged to take a break and switch off at lunch so it’s a great time to just sit back and relax and get involved with the lunchtime discussions.

14:00pm Floyd and I attend a client site for a strategic planning session and to get a deeper understanding of the operations of the company. Our client is contemplating a management restructure and wishes to also utilise our services for an audit of its existing HR and contractual documentation. As part of our audit framework, we will attend client sites for the purposes of undertaking individual consultations, training sessions and planning with the senior management team.

16:00pm Our client requires a master service agreement for a tender they have recently won. I review the existing documentation between our client and the customer. With the assistance of Pippa, our trainee solicitor, we begin drafting the schedules to the agreement dealing with our client’s services, KPIs, service levels and service credits, charges & data protection.

17:00pm I attend a Teams call with one of our client’s other professional services providers in New York to deal with an employment matter relating to a separation and release of claims agreement I had drafted the day before.

18:00pm My day is complete, and I attend to any outstanding admin tasks which I had not completed during the day, this will include time recording, file referrals, archiving and updating the daily tasks list. As I have completed the targets I set out for myself for the day and there is no additional incoming work, I gather my stuff and head home. I usually spend my evenings with my family or partner and take the dogs for an evening walk.

A hybrid working era… is your Business ready?

 

The buzz word has become  “hybrid working,” where individuals split their time between home and their employers’ premises. For many employers it is a compromise to full-time remote or homeworking. Despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions, it appears to be a working model that is here to stay.

“The trend for working from home will continue to be commonplace.”

The statistics are clear; there has been a shift in the way many of us will work in the future. The Institute of Directors’ 2021 survey of business leaders showed that 63% of them intended to move towards one to four days of remote working per week. The British Chamber of Commerce’s research identified a similar trend with more than two-thirds of businesses continuing to offer some remote working. The professional body CIPD topped this off by finding that some 66% of employers planned to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working.

“Hybrid working creates employment law and HR challenges if employers do not assess whether their current employment documentation is fit for purpose.”

If hybrid working is to become the norm for your business, you need to ask whether your business is actually ready for this change. The following top-level questions need to be considered when assessing your level of readiness:

  • What do your existing HR policies say and do they support hybrid working?
  • Have you considered how your employees will be managed and supervised?
  • Do contracts of employment need updating to reflect the change?
  • Is the business insured for staff working from home?
  • How will confidential information and personal data be protected?
  • How will employees’ health and safety be protected?
  • Are there any hidden costs?

In most cases, HR practices, policies and procedures are unlikely to be able to accommodate this new way of working and will need updating. If hybrid working is to be adopted, now is the time to take stock by reviewing and auditing your business’ practices and procedures to ensure that the behaviours to support an effective hybrid working model are clearly defined.  Where there is certainty and clarity, there is less legal risk.

“Hybrid working is going to be a welcome benefit for most employees but there are still legal risks that need to be managed.”

Happy employees usually means employers do not have to worry about grievances and tribunal claims. There are however some key risk areas that need to be managed.

If terms and conditions are to be changed, employees will need to agree. While most employees are likely to be happy, if agreement cannot be reached, the change cannot be imposed unilaterally. To do so could be a breach of contract and also lead to constructive unfair dismissal claims. Consultation is therefore essential.

All employees need to be treated consistently whether they work from the employer’s premise or from home. Discrimination complaints can arise where a difference in treatment results in those with protected characteristic being worse off.

Just because employees are off site does not mean the duty to protect their health and safety stops. Employers still have a duty of care to ensure employees’ welfare is protected. A failure to ensure there is appropriate protection could give rise to negligence claims.

With the focus being on employee rights and particularly on employee wellbeing, business owners need to step back and ask themselves what they are doing to protect their businesses.”

Adopting a hybrid working model is not just about changing the place of work or carrying out a health and safety risk assessment.  While  any HR  audit referred to above needs to address these issues and employment law risks, consideration must be given to the broader financial and commercial risks that arise from homeworking, which could affect the business’ reputation or cause financial loss.

Where employees are working from home, employers have less control; the risks of a  data breach, the loss of confidential information or the misuse of social media are increased. If the aim is to protect the business, consideration should also be given as to whether post-termination restrictions remain reasonable and relevant where there has been a change to the workplace. Likewise, to protect intellectual property rights further clarity is required to ensure that there is certainty over ownership when work has been created from home.

A risk assessment to identify how high the risks are and how to manage them is sensible. In the case of data security, a move to a hybrid working model would justify a data protection impact assessment.

Embracing hybrid working has many benefits for businesses and their workforces. However, if this model is to be effective and sustainable, employers need to be aware of all the risks and introduce measures to minimise those risks.

FG Solicitors offer a proactive and practical approach, providing Businesses with the confidence to tackle the legal issues and risks that arise from the introduction of hybrid working.

Why not give us a no obligation call on 0808 172 9322?

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

End of lockdown restrictions – How will your Business deal with these questions?

  • “Can we get all staff back to the workplace?”
  • “Who should we still let work from home?”
  • “Can I still have a policy on social distancing in the workplace now that it’s no longer compulsory?”
  • “Are there any specific health and safety requirements that need to be implemented?”
  • “Can employees still ask to wear face masks?”
  • “Is it true that there is a focus on good workspace ventilation?”
  • “Should the cleaning and sanitisation policy continue?”
  • “Should I update our COVID-19 health and safety risk assessment?”
  • Do I need to consult with employees about the end of the lockdown restrictions?
  • “Can I insist employees take regular COVID tests and ask for the results?”
  • “Do I have the right to ask about vaccinations?”
  • “Do I have to permit employees to work from home?”
  • “Can employees be asked to use the track and trace app?”
  • “What do I have to pay employees who have been contacted by track and trace and asked to self-isolate?”
  • “Do I need to take particular care for those employees who are pregnant,, clinically vulnerable or who have disabilities?”

The end of lockdown has arrived but not in a COVID free landscape.  The Government’s aim is that all employers take steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading by making their workplaces safer.

Are you prepared for what this means for your business and you can achieve this?

FG Solicitors offer a proactive and practical approach, providing Businesses with the confidence to tackle employment issues.

Why not give us a no obligation call on 0808 172 9322.

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

Call us on:  0808 172 93 22

NEWS

Joe has left the building!

disconnect from work

The debate about the right for workers to disconnect from work is back on the agenda.

Portugal increases workers’ rights

Following in the footsteps of France, Italy and Spain, Portugal has introduced legislation to protect workers’ rights to have a work life balance and in particular disconnect from work.

Portuguese employers will only be able to contact staff outside working hours in exceptional circumstances. Workers will also benefit from a significant level of additional protection. Any extra costs associated with homeworking such as insurance and internet bills will be borne by the employer. Parents with young children will be able to work from home without prior agreement from their employer.

Is there a basis for us following in Portugal’s footsteps?

Autonomy the independent thinktank that looks at today’s changing workplace published a paper “The Right to Disconnect” earlier this year to consider this issue, which predominately arises from homeworking during the pandemic. Its study concluded that the pandemic has given rise to a significant amount of hidden overtime, negatively affecting workers’ mental health and a disproportionate number of working women. These findings led to a proposal that the bedrock of our employment law, the Employment Rights Act 1996, be amended.

Under any new law, Autonomy proposes that employers would be unable to require workers to work, monitor or respond to work-related communications outside working hours. Any sanction imposed on a worker for refusing to work, would allow them to bring a claim in the employment tribunal. Industry sectors that could demonstrate this arrangement would not be feasible in light of the nature of their operations would be exempt.

Do we need to do better?

The Portuguese model and Autonomy’s report would suggest that we need to do better when it comes to protecting workers’ rights as there is currently no specific legislation in place to address the issues Autonomy identified. However, the laws already in place to protect workers cannot be ignored.

Our legislation restricts the number of hours a worker can work to 48 hours per week in the absence of an opt out, and there is provision for rest breaks during the course of the working day and week. Likewise, employers are under a duty to ensure that the system of working is safe, which includes protecting workers’ mental and physical wellbeing; any risk assessments used to demonstrate the system is safe must include consideration of the hours culture and how this would impact on workers’ health. Working parents also have the right to request flexible working, use the dependent care leave provisions in emergencies and request parental leave if time away from the business is required. From day one,  employers must be transparent about working hours by confirming the hours and days to be worked, whether the working time will vary and if so, how. Workers may also be able to claim tax relief for expenses

The current raft of legislation although not specifically focused on the right to disconnect and homeworking, does go some way to protect the rights and wellbeing of workers.

Is further legislation the solution?

Any legislation will only be successful if it balances the rights of the workers with the need of an organisation to run an effective and financially viable operation. A ridged one size fits all approach is unlikely to achieve the right balance. Certain industry sectors and roles will never be able to operate in a right to disconnect culture. Legislation is also likely to prevent workers having the freedom to choose when and how they work. Research recently undertaken by Suffolk University has highlighted that taking away a worker’s choice may cause more stress and anxiety; something the right to disconnect laws in other countries has sought to alleviate.

Organisational culture may be a better place to start!

One school of thought is that legislation is not the answer in the UK given there are so many variable when it comes to running a business; instead, employers should be looking at their own working hours culture to identify if there is an issue and if so, how this can be addressed. Such a review may identify that the business is not as well run as it could be. Multinational companies such Lidl, Volkswagen and Siemens in Belgium and Germany appear to have already taken the lead in this regard by introducing their own rules to suit their operations but providing protection for their workers.

What does the future hold?

There appears to be no legislation on the horizon making the right to disconnect a legal right. While the momentum that has been gathering appears to be in Europe, the right appears to be achieving some consideration in the US and Canada. So to some degree, it is possible that your business if it is part of an international operation or does business overseas may well find that it will need to adjust its operations to reflect the fact in some circumstances personnel will have disconnected.

It is still important to remember that the right to disconnect is in part about  managing wellbeing and having a good work life balance. While there is currently no law mandating the right to disconnect, workers can still challenge a long-working hours culture under our current legislation. Employers are still at risk of a variety of different legal claims such as discrimination complaints, constructive unfair dismissal, breach of the working-time legislation or personal injury claims.

To minimise the risk of any legal challenge, employers as a minimum should identify if there is a long-working hours culture and if so, look at ways where possible to reduce the impact this may have on its workers. A good place to start is the health and safety risk assessment, which should address the issue of mental wellbeing and not just the risk of physical injury; measures should be introduced if any risks are identified.

 

FG Solicitors are experts in all areas of Employment Law and HR. Please feel free to call us on 0808 172 9322 for a no obligation discussion.

For further details about the commercial legal service and assistance we provide to businesses, please click here. 👇

www.fgsolicitors.co.uk/services/

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

Data security, hybrid working and the ICO

In our recent article about hybrid working we identified some of the issues that employers needed to consider when their workforce is working sometimes on site and on other occasions elsewhere, usually home.

Many employers have used the pandemic to revaluate how their employees work, including where the work is done from because of the perceived benefits arising from employees working remotely, including higher levels of engagement because they feel that they have a better work life balance.

While there are many benefits, employers need to be reminded that there are some issues that will present more of a challenge than others.

“Data security risks are likely to be greater where there is hybrid working”

Good technology may be capable of saving the day in many cases. However, there is much room for human error, and it is therefore necessary that employees are aware of the need to work responsibly.

Employers may think that that they have managed well without much risk if there have been clear policies and procedures in place when employees were working solely from home. Hybrid working is different as employees will be moving around more, which means there is a greater risk of data and information being lost or getting into the wrong hands. Those practices that have kept the business safe may need to be adjusted to address additional risks.

“The ICO has been sympathetic to homeworking arrangements during the pandemic but has stressed organisations need to ensure that the systems in place are safe”

During the pandemic, the ICO accepted that employers had to adopt homeworking and new IT solutions very quickly. While the expectation was that organisations ensured that their systems and way of working were safe and any security threats addressed, there was some acknowledgement that we were not operating in an ideal world.

The ICO is now picking up where it left off at the start of the pandemic by reviewing past complaints. The expectation is that there will be less sympathy for organisations who are faced with data breaches. Any hybrid working arrangements that lead to a data breach will be scrutinised by the ICO and action will be taken.

” Organisations need to understand and implement good practices when it comes to data security”

If hybrid working is to become a permanent fixture, you need to keep in mind that the ICO is unlikely to show much sympathy for a data breach.

Given the level of scrutiny that can arise when there is a data breach and the reputational and financial risks it makes sense to test current technological systems and employee practices to identify any weakness.

The aim will be to ensure employees are working securely. A good place to start is to ensure that the ICO’s guidance generally and on working from home is followed. Further details are on its website. Contracts of employment and policies covering IT, social media and data protection may need updating to emphasise the importance of confidentiality and complying with the data protection laws. Your employees’ approach to data retention and disposal may also need to be reviewed.

Given the level of scrutiny by the ICO if there is a data breach a data impact assessment is advisable. A data impact assessment will help you manage any risks upfront and is essential if the business is handling sensitive personal data.

In the case of a data breach, the ICO may well ask about the decisions that have been made about data management and security with reference to a relevant data impact assessment. The absence of one will be unsatisfactory in the eyes of the ICO. A comprehensive data impact assessment that has been implemented shows that you are working with the data privacy laws.

“Understand risk and taking responsibility”

Your policies will only protect your business if your employees understand the risks and the need to act responsibly. Clear communications and preventative training are therefore important. It may have to be spelt out that a failure to comply with the policies could lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

“It can never happen to us!”

While we often see household names being shamed by the ICO for data breaches, any organisation is vulnerable to a data beach and will be treated in exactly the same way. The ICO’s focus will be on the breach, the damage that has been done and what measure had been in place to avoid the breach. The current maximum fine is £17.5 million or 4% of the total annual worldwide turnover. The ICO publishes a list of the organisations that have been fined.

In many cases, a data breach can be avoided if the correct technological and operational measures are put in place. It is however important that those measures are regularly assessed to ensure that they are fit to manage the ever-present risk of a data breach. By assessing the risk and implementing appropriate measures you are however likely to keep your business off the ICO’s list.

FGS’ legal team includes specialists in data protection and privacy law, which enables us to advise on GDPR compliance including commercial contracts, policies and procedures, data breaches, subject access requests and privacy issues.

If you require further advice about data protection, please feel free to call us on 0808 172 9322 for a no obligation discussion.

For further details about the commercial legal service and assistance we provide to businesses, please click here. 👇

www.fgsolicitors.co.uk/services/

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

What is it like to be a newly qualified solicitor? Here is an insight of what it is like for Ramona our FGS newly qualified solicitor…

Hi, it’s Ramona here from FG Solicitors.

I started with the firm in May 2018 as a member of the Business Support Team. After 8 months, I transferred into the Legal Team as a Legal Assistant, providing support to the firm’s solicitors. By August 2019, I had started my training contract and qualified as a solicitor in February 2021.

The day in the life of a newly qualified solicitor is ever changing, take a look at a day from last week…

6:30am My day starts off with a bit of yoga and a fresh coffee in the garden. After catching up with the news, I get ready and head into work.

8:30am By the time I reach the office, I am ready to attack the day. It starts off with checking my emails, calendar and the daily tasks list to forecast what my day will look like. However, a day in the life of a lawyer does not always stick to the plan as clients may call with an urgent piece of work that needs to be turned around on the same day. Prioritisation and flexibility are key.

9:00am It’s time for the legal team meeting. An opportunity for my colleagues and I to discuss ongoing work, bounce ideas and strategies across to one another and set out our priorities and goals for the day. Part of FGS’ values is to create a collegiate culture where team members can support and learn from one another in an open space. The morning meeting is the perfect example of the team coming together and practicing this value.

9.30am One of our UK based retainer client’s is expanding into Ireland and requires an Irish consultancy agreement for a number of independent contractors. I spend the next hour and a half preparing the first draft of the precedent to ensure it is compliant and tailored to meet our client’s needs. I liaise with Helen Taylor, a Principal and senior employment lawyer, who has had previous experience working with a number of Irish based companies discussing the general principles and laws surrounding employment status in Ireland.

11.00am Floyd Graham, the Managing Principal and I attend our recurring weekly meeting with our client. Acting as General Legal Counsel for our international client, this meeting is an integral part of its 14-year relationship with the client. The meeting is an opportunity for our client to seek advice on any legal matters and updates on current projects.

12:00pm I attend a mediation meeting on behalf of our client who is currently dealing with a contract dispute. During the mediation, we set out our client’s legal position and undertake negotiations with a view to settling. Having worked on the case from the beginning and being heavily involved in preparing the statements of case, I am responsible for taking notes and assisting Floyd during the advocacy with identifying relevant documents and legislation. The mediation is successful and the matter has settled. I will draft the consent order and issue it to the other side tomorrow.

13:00pm It’s lunch time. I take out my packed lunch and sit around the table with my colleagues either chatting away or watching an episode of The Office. We have always been encouraged to take a break and switch off at lunch so it’s a great time to just sit back and relax and get involved with the lunchtime discussions.

14:00pm Floyd and I attend a client site for a strategic planning session and to get a deeper understanding of the operations of the company. Our client is contemplating a management restructure and wishes to also utilise our services for an audit of its existing HR and contractual documentation. As part of our audit framework, we will attend client sites for the purposes of undertaking individual consultations, training sessions and planning with the senior management team.

16:00pm Our client requires a master service agreement for a tender they have recently won. I review the existing documentation between our client and the customer. With the assistance of Pippa, our trainee solicitor, we begin drafting the schedules to the agreement dealing with our client’s services, KPIs, service levels and service credits, charges & data protection.

17:00pm I attend a Teams call with one of our client’s other professional services providers in New York to deal with an employment matter relating to a separation and release of claims agreement I had drafted the day before.

18:00pm My day is complete, and I attend to any outstanding admin tasks which I had not completed during the day, this will include time recording, file referrals, archiving and updating the daily tasks list. As I have completed the targets I set out for myself for the day and there is no additional incoming work, I gather my stuff and head home. I usually spend my evenings with my family or partner and take the dogs for an evening walk.

A hybrid working era… is your Business ready?

 

The buzz word has become  “hybrid working,” where individuals split their time between home and their employers’ premises. For many employers it is a compromise to full-time remote or homeworking. Despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions, it appears to be a working model that is here to stay.

“The trend for working from home will continue to be commonplace.”

The statistics are clear; there has been a shift in the way many of us will work in the future. The Institute of Directors’ 2021 survey of business leaders showed that 63% of them intended to move towards one to four days of remote working per week. The British Chamber of Commerce’s research identified a similar trend with more than two-thirds of businesses continuing to offer some remote working. The professional body CIPD topped this off by finding that some 66% of employers planned to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working.

“Hybrid working creates employment law and HR challenges if employers do not assess whether their current employment documentation is fit for purpose.”

If hybrid working is to become the norm for your business, you need to ask whether your business is actually ready for this change. The following top-level questions need to be considered when assessing your level of readiness:

  • What do your existing HR policies say and do they support hybrid working?
  • Have you considered how your employees will be managed and supervised?
  • Do contracts of employment need updating to reflect the change?
  • Is the business insured for staff working from home?
  • How will confidential information and personal data be protected?
  • How will employees’ health and safety be protected?
  • Are there any hidden costs?

In most cases, HR practices, policies and procedures are unlikely to be able to accommodate this new way of working and will need updating. If hybrid working is to be adopted, now is the time to take stock by reviewing and auditing your business’ practices and procedures to ensure that the behaviours to support an effective hybrid working model are clearly defined.  Where there is certainty and clarity, there is less legal risk.

“Hybrid working is going to be a welcome benefit for most employees but there are still legal risks that need to be managed.”

Happy employees usually means employers do not have to worry about grievances and tribunal claims. There are however some key risk areas that need to be managed.

If terms and conditions are to be changed, employees will need to agree. While most employees are likely to be happy, if agreement cannot be reached, the change cannot be imposed unilaterally. To do so could be a breach of contract and also lead to constructive unfair dismissal claims. Consultation is therefore essential.

All employees need to be treated consistently whether they work from the employer’s premise or from home. Discrimination complaints can arise where a difference in treatment results in those with protected characteristic being worse off.

Just because employees are off site does not mean the duty to protect their health and safety stops. Employers still have a duty of care to ensure employees’ welfare is protected. A failure to ensure there is appropriate protection could give rise to negligence claims.

With the focus being on employee rights and particularly on employee wellbeing, business owners need to step back and ask themselves what they are doing to protect their businesses.”

Adopting a hybrid working model is not just about changing the place of work or carrying out a health and safety risk assessment.  While  any HR  audit referred to above needs to address these issues and employment law risks, consideration must be given to the broader financial and commercial risks that arise from homeworking, which could affect the business’ reputation or cause financial loss.

Where employees are working from home, employers have less control; the risks of a  data breach, the loss of confidential information or the misuse of social media are increased. If the aim is to protect the business, consideration should also be given as to whether post-termination restrictions remain reasonable and relevant where there has been a change to the workplace. Likewise, to protect intellectual property rights further clarity is required to ensure that there is certainty over ownership when work has been created from home.

A risk assessment to identify how high the risks are and how to manage them is sensible. In the case of data security, a move to a hybrid working model would justify a data protection impact assessment.

Embracing hybrid working has many benefits for businesses and their workforces. However, if this model is to be effective and sustainable, employers need to be aware of all the risks and introduce measures to minimise those risks.

FG Solicitors offer a proactive and practical approach, providing Businesses with the confidence to tackle the legal issues and risks that arise from the introduction of hybrid working.

Why not give us a no obligation call on 0808 172 9322?

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

End of lockdown restrictions – How will your Business deal with these questions?

  • “Can we get all staff back to the workplace?”
  • “Who should we still let work from home?”
  • “Can I still have a policy on social distancing in the workplace now that it’s no longer compulsory?”
  • “Are there any specific health and safety requirements that need to be implemented?”
  • “Can employees still ask to wear face masks?”
  • “Is it true that there is a focus on good workspace ventilation?”
  • “Should the cleaning and sanitisation policy continue?”
  • “Should I update our COVID-19 health and safety risk assessment?”
  • Do I need to consult with employees about the end of the lockdown restrictions?
  • “Can I insist employees take regular COVID tests and ask for the results?”
  • “Do I have the right to ask about vaccinations?”
  • “Do I have to permit employees to work from home?”
  • “Can employees be asked to use the track and trace app?”
  • “What do I have to pay employees who have been contacted by track and trace and asked to self-isolate?”
  • “Do I need to take particular care for those employees who are pregnant,, clinically vulnerable or who have disabilities?”

The end of lockdown has arrived but not in a COVID free landscape.  The Government’s aim is that all employers take steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading by making their workplaces safer.

Are you prepared for what this means for your business and you can achieve this?

FG Solicitors offer a proactive and practical approach, providing Businesses with the confidence to tackle employment issues.

Why not give us a no obligation call on 0808 172 9322.

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.