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4
Dec 17

Posted by
Marzena Ignar

Does my employee need a written statement of employment?

The main purpose of the written statement of employment, often referred to as the contract of employment, is to clarify the terms of a person’s employment and avoid uncertainty or misunderstandings, where employee expectations might not be the same as employer intentions.

All employers must provide an employee with a written statement of their terms of employment within 2 months of commencement of employment, including full-time staff, part-time staff, fixed-term and casual workers.

The written statement must include the following information:

  • The full name of employer and employee
  • The address of the employer
  • Place of work
  • Job title or nature of work
  • The date the employment started
  • Type of contract
  • Rate of pay
  • Pay intervals
  • Hours of work
  • Paid leave
  • Incapacity for work, sick pay 
  • Any terms relating to a pension scheme
  • Period of notice to be given by employer or employee
  • Details of any collective agreements
  • Pay reference period

Additional clauses can be recommended to further clarify the relationship. These might include:

  • Probation clause
  • Pay in lieu of notice clause
  • Confidentiality clause
  • Right to search 
  • The calculation of holiday pay

Failure to to provide contracts of employment could leave you wide open to a claim from their employees. Employers found not to have written terms of employment in place will be fined a maximum of 4 weeks’ remuneration per employee. Clearly worded contracts of employment are key to the success of any business. They will ensure your business is on the right side of employment law as well as help prevent disputes with employees.

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Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employee Records, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC

22
Nov 17

Posted by
Ann Tighe

Trivial Benefit In Kind

Christmas is a time for giving so why not give your employees a seasonal gift like a turkey or a nice bottle of wine?

In order to provide these gifts – it must be ensured that the gift falls under trivial benefits in kind.

Trivial benefits apply where the benefit:

  • Is not cash or a cash voucher
  • Costs £50 or less
  • Is not provided as part of a salary sacrifice or other contractual arrangement
  • Is not provided in recognition of services performed by the employee as part of the employment, or in anticipation of such services

Accordingly, gifts that cost under the £50 limit would qualify. It is also possible to provide employees with a gift voucher (not a cash voucher) where the limit is £50 or less. They can only be provided as a gesture of goodwill be it at Christmas or other such seasonal occasions.

Employers no longer need to report such trivial benefits on P11ds or PAYE Settlement Agreements (PSA). However, if the gifts have a value in excess of £50 or cannot be counted as trivial benefit, then the gift must be reported on the form P11d and Class 1A NICS may be payable on the value of the gift.

£300 Annual Cap

There is an annual trivial benefits cap of £300 that is applied to directors or other office-holders of “close companies” (close company is a limited company that’s run by 5 or fewer shareholders) and to members of their families or households. The £300 annual cap does not apply to other employees.

 

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Posted in Employee Handbook, Staff Handbook

6
Nov 17

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

How to Avoid Harassment in the Workplace

The recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein in the US have created somewhat of a snowball effect worldwide with thousands of women and men speaking out about their accounts of sexual harassment and assault, many of them being work related. Allegations involving high profile individuals and people in authority have demonstrated just how widespread a problem this has become across all industries and professions and has exposed a sinister culture of silence, fear and acceptance which we must now turn on its head.

In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits sexual harassment, defined as conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating the victim’s dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Examples might include unwelcome sexual advances, displaying pornographic images, or sending emails containing material of a sexual nature.

Employers in the UK are responsible for their employees’ actions in the course of their employment, even if such actions are taken without the employer’s knowledge or approval. Employers should be able to demonstrate that all reasonable steps to prevent the employee from taking discriminatory action were taken, in order to build a successful defense.

Employers are therefore compelled to take steps to ensure a harassment-free work environment. Effectively organisations must set down clearly defined procedures to deal with all forms of harassment including sexual harassment.

There are a number of steps an employer can take to help prevent this type of behavior from occurring in the workplace:

A Bullying and Harassment policy

  •  to protect the dignity of employees and to encourage respect in the workplace

An Equal Opportunities policy

  • to create a workplace which provides for Equal Opportunities for all staff

A Whistleblowing policy

  • to enable staff to voice concerns in a responsible and effective manner.

Transparent and fair procedures throughout

Disciplinary action

  • A sanction that is appropriate for the level of alleged harassment – to help try and change the culture of silence that has allowed harassment to become normal and protected.

Provision of on-going training

  • At all levels within organisation

Bright Contracts has a fully customisable Staff Handbook, which includes a Bullying and Harassment Policy and also an Equality Policy and Whistleblowing Policy.

To book a free online demo of Bright Contracts click here
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Posted in Bullying and Harassment, Company handbook, Dismissals, Employee Handbook, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook

3
Oct 17

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

£25,000 awarded for unfair dismissal due to pregnancy

Leeds Employment Tribunal recently awarded just over £25,000 in compensation after it ruled a woman was unfairly dismissed from her training job at Bradford District Training Agency after she became pregnant.

The woman told the tribunal that her contract had been verbally extended at the same time as she received a promotion and pay increase. She spent a number of weeks chasing the company for her written terms of the extended contract, which would have kept her in her role until March 2017. She was later dismissed, shortly after announcing her pregnancy.

The company stated that the woman lost her job due to redundancy and that her fixed-term contract had expired, it was nothing to do with her pregnancy. However, the tribunal found that the company had offered unreliable evidence and the company’s behavior was ‘substantially and procedurally unfair’ and stated that firing an employee because of being pregnant was a ‘serious act of discrimination’.

The woman was awarded £9,130 for loss of earnings and £15,600 for injury to feelings and £435 for loss of statutory rights.

Naeema Choudry, a partner at law firm Eversheds Sutherland, stated that; “Tribunals will undertake a thorough evaluation of the facts and evidence whether there is an inference of discrimination. While it is not unlawful to make redundant a pregnant employee if the decision is linked in any way to the pregnancy it will amount to unlawful discrimination and unfair dismissal. Similarly, if the contract of employment of a pregnant worker is not renewed because of her pregnancy or future maternity leave, this would also amount to unlawful discrimination.”

This case shows us that tribunals take discrimination very seriously and that they will not simply accept at face value the reason for dismissal put forward by an employer. Employers should also be aware that as there is no cap on the amount of compensation that a tribunal can award in a claim for discrimination.

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Posted in Awards, Company handbook, Contract of employment, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook

25
Sep 17

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

National Minimum Wage (NMW) in the news again

A junior minister has revealed that shortfalls in national minimum wage (NMW) payments hit a record £10.9m in 2016, affecting up to 100,000 employees.

Some of the country’s well-known retailers were caught out by failing to pay staff correct wage rates, including John Lewis & Tesco. Tesco stated that it had paid their staff less than the NMW when a new payroll system was introduced, leaving 140,000 of its employee’s being short-changed nearly £10m between them. John Lewis also blamed a payroll error when it was discovered they had breached the NMW laws to the tune of £36m.

Charles Cotton, performance and reward advisor at the CIPD said there were various reasons for shortfalls in payments from employers – “…employers may be ignoring the law and exploiting their workers…another is that the employer doesn’t fully understand the legal requirements…so it is important that employers are aware of the rules.”

This is not the first time NMW underpayments have been brought to light this year, we recently posted a blog on the government's name and shame scheme where 233 employers had to pay back £2m to underpaid workers. And also the release of a recent survey by the Dept. for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) indicated that 1 in 5 apprentices have not been receiving the mandatory minimum wage. The survey discovered that the number of apprentices receiving less than the NMW they are entitled to rose sharply from 13% for those aged 16-18 to 32% for those aged 19-20.

Underpayments occurring since April 2016 have been subject to a penalty of 200% of the value of the underpaid amount – capped at £20,000 but this does not seem to have had the desired effect of discouraging employers from breaching the rules.

It is extremely important that organisations pay the wage rates that they are legally obliged to. Employers that are found to be deliberately flouting the law should also be prosecuted, so that good companies aren’t undermined by bad ones.

 

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Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employee Records, Employment Contract, Pay/Wage, Staff Handbook, Wages

30
Aug 17

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

The importance of having an Absence/Sick Leave Policy

As an employer, it can be quite a daunting prospect having to deal with sick leave and long-term sick leave can throw up other issues making it seem more complicated and even more daunting for the employer to deal with effectively. So how can an employer ensure compliance during these periods of absence?

First and foremost an Absence/Sick Leave Policy needs to be put in place. It must contain clear and concise guidelines for the employee and employer to follow in cases of absence

Your Absence Policy should include:

1. Details of any company Sick Pay Policy:

  • If an employer will/will not pay employee while on certified/uncertified sick leave.
  • If payments are to be made, length of term for payments.

2. Notification and certification requirements if employees are absent due to illness:

  • How much notice an employee needs to give an employer if they will be absent from work.
  • After how many days of absence a medical certificate is required.
  • For long-term absences, how often a medical certificate is required to be presented to the employer.

3. A statement that in the case of long-term absence due to illness, the employee may be required to attend a company GP or other nominated medical persons/facilities at the request of the employer.

It would also be advisable to include details on what is classed as being short-term, long-term and unauthorised absences - Unauthorised leave is absence by the employee without consent or approval from management or without proof of illness by means of a doctors certificate and should be dealt with as a matter of misconduct via the company disciplinary procedures.

As with most company policies and procedures, once in place, the employees will be aware of what is expected of them during times of absence or sick leave; this, in turn, should eliminate any further issues from arising.

Bright Contracts has a comprehensive Absence and Sick Leave Policy built into the Company Handbook which can be customised to suit your own company specifications and requirements.

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Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employee Records, Employment Contract, Pay/Wage, Sick Leave/Absence Management, Staff Handbook

23
Aug 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

233 employers to pay back £2 million to underpaid workers

233 employers have been ordered to pay back almost £2 million to 13,000 of the UK’s lowest paid workers, as part of the Government’s scheme to name and shame employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage.

A list that identifies these employers has been published by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. As well as paying back the money owed, employers on the list have also been fined £1.9 million by the Government.

The sectors that featured frequently on the list included:

Hair and Beauty: approximately 60 employers, in arrears of £121,000 for circa 200 workers
Hospitality: approximately 50 employers, in arrears of £77,000 for circa 220 workers
Retail: approximately 20 employers, in arrears of £1.5m for circa 12,200 workers

Employers in this round fell short by failing to pay workers overtime hours, deducting money from wages to pay for uniforms and wrongfully paying apprentice rates to workers.

Business Minister Margot James said:

“It is against the law to pay workers less than legal minimum wage rates, short-changing ordinary working people and undercutting honest employers. Today’s naming round identifies a record £2 million of back pay for workers and sends the clear message to employers that the government will come down hard on those who break the law.”

This is the 12th round of Government naming and shaming with so far £6 million recovered for 40,000 workers with 1,200 employers being fined £4 million. Employers need to be aware of the National Minimum and National Wage and Apprentice rates. Employers who fail to comply with these rates could face substantial fines and risk their business being named and shamed. To view the current rates click here.

To view the full list click here.

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Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Update, Pay/Wage, Staff Handbook, Wages

9
Aug 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

Employers must now include voluntary overtime when calculating holiday pay

A landmark legal victory for Unite union means that employers must now include normal voluntary overtime when they are calculating holiday pay. The ruling is of major significance to workers who receive payments for working voluntary overtime but these payments are not reflected in their holiday pay. The union says that the ruling has set a legally binding precedent which employment tribunals across the UK are obliged to follow.

The Case

The case against Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council was brought by 56 council employees who worked on maintaining Dudley’s housing stock as electricians, carpenters, and plumbers. The employees worked regular voluntary overtime, beyond their fixed contractual hours, including Saturdays and they also elected to go on a standby rota every four weeks, to deal with emergency call-outs and repairs. The loss of earnings from holiday pay underpayments varied between £350 and £1,500 a year depending on each worker and how much voluntary overtime they carried out.
The decision by the employment appeal tribunal is the first to confirm that payments for entirely voluntary duties, such as voluntary overtime, standby, call-out work and travel-time linked to that work, should be included in the calculation of workers holiday pay.

Learning Points for Employers

The area of whether overtime should be included in employees holiday pay is a hot topic. This ruling echoes that of Fulton & Baxter v Bear Scotland Ltd when the ET found that overtime and other payments should have been included in the calculation of holiday pay.

Employers who do not pay employees normal voluntary overtime as part of their holiday pay are urged to reconsider this and make a change otherwise they might see themselves in hot water if a case were brought against them.

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Posted in Annual Leave, Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, Employment Update, Pay/Wage, Staff Handbook, Wages

28
Jul 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

Are casual dress code policy’s becoming the norm?

It seems that many traditional firms are relaxing their formal corporate dress code policies in favor of casual dress codes in an attempt to attract young engineers, IT and tech workers. Recently Goldman Sachs adopted a new “year-round casual dress code policy”, applying it to their technology and engineering divisions. As the new policy came into place employees were reminded to monitor situations when it is best to adapt to business attire, particularly if they have client meetings.

This summer has seen a growing trend in the UK to move away from strict dress codes. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has urged employers to relax dress codes, if only temporarily, during warmer weather, particularly giving relief to office male workers who often have to wear a suit, tie, and shirt. A growing number of companies are continuing on with this trend as many see strict dress codes as being outdated and are unable to justify not having a more relaxed dress code for certain sectors.

Fast-growing technology companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, have long adapted to the expectation of a more relaxed generation of workers and are now synonymous with casual dress codes.

JP Morgan adopted a “business casual” dress code last year and although London bankers were initially wary of the change, reports now say that most people are embracing it and workers are rarely seen in a suit and tie unless they are at a client meeting.

If you do wish to implement a dress code policy for your business you must include the policy in your staff handbook and ensure all employees are aware of it. Whatever your policy, employees should be reminded to adhere to the highest standards of personal appearance at all times and dress in clothes that are suitable for the work situation.

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Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Staff Handbook

17
Jul 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

What to be aware of when completing a reference check

As an employer, there will undoubtedly come a time that you will be asked to provide a reference check for a previous employee to their potential new employer. If you have a stand out employee with plenty of praise for them, then providing their reference check may seem like a doddle, but if you have an employee that parted on bad terms the reference check can be less than straightforward.

Why you should be careful completing a reference check

You have a duty of care to provide a truthful reference check to potential employers – but this may come at a price. Be aware that you run the risk of being sued for defamation if a negative reference that was given cannot be verified. A new employer can also claim against you if an employee who you gave a great reference for turns out to be less than satisfactory.

What can you do to protect yourself?

• You are under no obligation to provide a reference check for employees. If you wish to refrain from providing reference checks you may include a policy in your staff handbook stating this.

• If you are willing to provide reference checks you may adopt a policy to keep it brief and only divulge factual information, including:

- Dates of employment
- Job title
- Relationship to the candidate
- Final Salary

• If you are happy to provide a full reference check for an employee and answer behavioral questions regarding their work ethic, attitude, time keeping etc. ensure that all the information you provide is factual and true. 

When you adopt a reference check policy that best fits your business, the key then is to be consistent. What you do for one employee you must do for all. Inconsistency could leave you wide open to a discrimination claim from a disgruntled employee. Be sure to include the policy in your staff handbook and make all employees aware of it.

Also, see…Top Tips for Reference Check Questions

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Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Staff Handbook

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