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May 24

Posted by
Gemma Pontson

The Most Expensive Sandwich in HR History?

Potentially the most expensive sandwich in HR history… was it filled with foie gras? Were there layers of lobster? Absolutely covered in caviar?

Well, no. It was a plain, ordinary sandwich by all accounts, coming well under the expenses limit. Yet this sandwich was integral to a Senior Banker’s dismissal (Szabolcs Fekete v Citibank NA 2023).

Fekete, a Senior Banker, put two sandwiches, two pasta dishes, and two drinks, on his lunch expenses during a work trip.

The quantity was suspicious, so he was questioned about this rather substantial lunch. Fekete responded to say the items were all for him and they were well within his expenses limit. He was hungry after skipping breakfast, the drinks were small, and the second sandwich was for his dinner. He asked why he was being put under scrutiny. However, the investigation continued, and Fekete later admitted some items were consumed by his partner, in breach of his employer’s Expenses policy. The Disciplinary procedure concluded with his dismissal.

Fekete then raised an Unfair Dismissal claim. He argued the sanction was unfairly harsh and had not sufficiently considered that he had been going through personal difficulties at the time. However, he lost the case as the Judge decided the dismissal was a reasonable response. The Judge’s conclusions emphasised that as a global financial institution, it was reasonable for Citibank to have high standards for honesty and ethical conduct.

If the Disciplinary Policy had been unreasonable, the case could have ended differently of course!

Bright Contracts clients have access to a comprehensive Employee Handbook, including a template Disciplinary Policy. Please contact us if you would like more information.

Posted in Company Handbook, Dismissals, Employee Handbook, Employment Law, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook

Mar 24

Posted by
Gemma Pontson

No More Excuses! Consequences of Not Providing Employment Documents

Excuses, excuses, excuses… there are many reasons why employers fail to provide legally required documents to employees. Unfortunately for employers who have failed in these responsibilities, excuses will not protect them from consequences including financial penalties and reputational damage.

In Cartmill v Always Transport and Others, the claimant Ian Cartmill explained he had not been issued with a written statement of his employment terms and conditions despite working as a Lorry Driver at Always Transport for over three years. On behalf of the respondent, Jean Murray admitted she had not completed this document as his ‘four days on and four days off’ shift pattern made it more difficult.

The Tribunal Judge stated that Ms Murray’s belief in the difficulty of completing the statement was ‘no real excuse’ and confirmed that Cartmill’s claim succeeded. Given the importance of drivers to the business, and ‘the absence of a credible reason’ for not providing the written statement, the Judge ordered an award of four weeks’ pay.

Likewise, in Mrs A Yeates v GT Plumbing & Heating Ltd, the respondent admitted there was ‘a lack of comprehension’ around HR practice. When the claimant Mrs Yeates joined the small business as a Showroom Manager/Designer, there was no employee handbook, and she did not sign an employment contract. Due to the failure to provide the written terms of employment, the Tribunal Judge ordered the respondent to pay the claimant the sum of £480.

Takeaways for Employers

It is essential to comply with the legal requirement to provide employees with written terms and conditions of employment within the required time limits. Excuses about difficulty or lack of understanding were not accepted in these tribunal cases.

Bright Contracts clients can quickly and easily create legally compliant terms and conditions of employment using the step-by-step instructions in our software.

Bright Contracts also provides a ready to go Employee Handbook which clients can tailor to their requirements. Policies and procedures are reviewed and updated in line with employment law changes and recommended practices.

Posted in Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Law, Employment Tribunals

Apr 23

Posted by
Charlotte McArdle

Managing Annual Leave Requests

With summer coming along soon, annual leave requests may be more frequent however when does an employee’s time-off become an issue? How should managers handle the discussion? Here’s what you need to know and do.

Firstly there are 3 things to consider.

  • Communication: Establish well-defined policies about annual leave and make sure everyone in your organisation knows them. Clear policies lead to easier decisions when unusual requests arise.
  • Respect: If annual leave policies don’t cover a particular issue, respect your employees by striving to be fair and compassionate in making a decision and presenting it to them.
  • Clarity: Do your employees take it for granted that their annual leave requests will be approved? Make sure their expectations are based on actual policies, not informal beliefs based on past behaviour. Again, communication is essential.

There are also some times when you may need to speak with your employees regarding their requests. Consider talking directly with them under any of these circumstances:

  1. When the request contradicts company policy: You may need to make occasional exceptions to your annual leave policies, but strive to be consistent in how you enforce the rules. Document the reasons behind your decision when exceptions do arise so you can easily resolve similar situations in the future.
  2. When you believe the employee’s absence will have a negative impact: What if a worker wants to go on holiday during a crucial time for your organisation? Instead of simply denying the request, explain the difficulties their absence might cause. Together, you may be able to find a better time for their request.
  3. When an employee wants to much time off at once: How long is too long? That depends on your needs and the nature of the employee’s request. It’s one thing if they want to sail around the world, and another if they’re requesting time to care for a sick relative. As you discuss their request, remember that a lengthy absence can burden co-workers who have to pick up the work.
  4. When an annual leave request comes with too little notice: Sick days and emergencies can happen to anyone, but an employee who takes frequent last-minute personal days and trips can cripple productivity and impact team morale. A discussion about the effects their behaviour is having on the team can help the employee understand why they need to plan further in advance.
  5. When annual leave requests aren’t happening enough: Problematic annual leave requests are easy to spot, but there’s an annual leave issue that’s often over looked - many employees don’t take as much time off as they should. Overworking can take a toll on an employees health and happiness, as well as their job performance. Make a habit of looking at annual leave allowances, and talk to your team about the benefits of taking leave to help foster a culture where time off is encouraged and over-working and burnout is discouraged.

You should ask yourself some questions as well to establish annual leave rules that meet both your business needs and the needs of your employees.

  1. How far in advance must employees request time off?
  2. Do you have a formal system for requesting time off?
  3. Are there times when employees can’t take time off?
  4. How do you handle overlapping requests from different employees?
  5. How do you keep track of who has taken time off and how much?

You can find more information on annual leave requests here.

Posted in Annual Leave, Employee Handbook

Mar 23

Posted by
Charlotte McArdle

The Importance of Social Media Policies in the Workplace

Incase you missed it, a recent headline in the news revolved around Gary Lineker where his politicised tweet criticised the UK Government's new immigration policy. The tweet saw the BBC Match of the Day presenter removed from his presenting duties pending an investigation as to whether he had broken the BBC's *'Guidelines on Impartiality'* and *'Guidance on Individual Use of Social Media'*. The BBC subsequently reinstated Mr Lineker following the investigation. The difficult position the BBC found itself in is a timely reminder that employers should have effective social media policies in place to deal with such incidents.


What can we learn from BBC’s approach?

Reputational risk & disproportionate response

The BBC could not ignore the public backlash which followed Mr Lineker's removal and its impact on the organisation's wider reputation. It was widely felt that the decision to remove him was disproportionate to the purported breach of the BBC's policies.

Social media provides a place where public backlash can gain momentum and damage an organisation's reputation. This reputational damage could come from the employee or contractor's comments or, as we have seen in this instance, from the organisation's handling of subsequent disciplinary action.

Employers must have comprehensive policies to mitigate the risk that public remarks could adversely affect their reputation. Objective and fair investigation and disciplinary procedures must be in place where an employer feels an employee or contractor has breached these policies, and should a sanction be applied, it must be proportionate to the breach committed.


Solidarity boycott

Mr Lineker's colleagues announced a boycott of their duties in solidarity with Mr Lineker. This boycott forced the BBC to rethink its decision as it heavily impacted scheduled programming.

The BBC has since announced an independent review of its guidelines.


Key takeaways

The Gary Lineker story focuses on the difficulties that can arise for organisations in the social media age and shows us that the line between professional and private life is not always clear. It is a wake-up call for individuals to be wary of what they post online and for organisations to have clear social media policies in place so appropriate action can be taken where an individual does cross that line.

In summary, a social media policy should:

- Establish clear guidelines and standards on the accepted use of social media in the workplace.
- Contain clear information about disciplinary procedures for breaches and the potential consequences for such breaches.
- Warn individuals that employers may take disciplinary action with posts on their personal social media accounts where a connection can be drawn to their workplace.


Other blogs:

Social Media Policy

Posted in Company Handbook, Employee Handbook, Social Media

Jan 23

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

The Benefits of Hiring Seasonal Workers

Seasonal workers are usually encountered in the tourism, hospitality, construction and agricultural industries, mostly in the summer months but they can also be hired in the lead-up to Christmas too to assist with the busy period.

Some may think that seasonal workers are unskilled and a lower-paid alternative to permanent employees, however, that is not the case. There are many benefits to seasonal workers such as:

  • Meet business demand and customer expectations: seasonal employees provide you with the flexibility to increase the size of your team during peak trading periods so that you can continue to provide customers with the service they expect even during busy times.
  • Improve morale for the permanent team: you can’t expect your permanent employees to start working double shifts or deferring their annual leave. It’s best practice to ensure that there is sufficient cover for this annual leave.
  • Meets skills shortage: temporary workers can help fill the gap with a particular skill shortage during busy periods.
  • Return year on year: many seasonal workers are happy to return to work for the same company each year- which is a win for both the employer and the employee.

Legal obligations as an employer

A temporary, seasonal worker hired under a fixed-term contract is entitled to the same working conditions and the same legal rights as permanent employees.

Your main obligations are to:

  • Ensure every employee has the right to work
  • Provide a Contract of employment
  • Pay at least the national minimum wage
  • Provide a payslip
  • Ensure that the employees’ working week does not exceed 48 hours

A contract of employment for a seasonal worker will be largely the same as for a permanent employee. However, a fixed-term contract will need to have an end date.

Posted in Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Law

Oct 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Demand for Workplace Benefits

As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, new research has revealed that employees are relying on their employers to offer support in the form of robust workplace benefits to help them navigate ongoing economic uncertainty.

Health insurance, flexible working, and pensions are considered to be the most valuable, followed closely by employee discounts and free lunches, highlighting that the UK’s workforce is looking for ways they can reduce personal expenditure where possible.

The research found that health insurance ranked in the top three most sought-after benefits for 39% of employees. This was behind flexible working (53%) and the company pension scheme (46%). The other core benefits employees prioritized were employee discounts and free lunches. This shows that with the cost-of-living crisis, people are relying on their employers to support them in navigating economic uncertainty.

As the war for talent continues, benefits play a significant role in employee attraction and retention. 42% of employees said they would be more likely to stay in their current role if it offered good health and well-being benefits.

If you are considering improving your employee benefits programme consider having conversations between you and your employees. Give them a choice to have a voice, engage in the conversation and find out what will truly make a difference to their wellbeing. If you can find a way to give it to them, you’ll have a happier workforce.

Related Articles

Cost of Living Crisis: What Should I do Next?


Posted in Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook

Sep 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

The Importance of Having a Social Media Policy

Social media platforms may be fun and can keep us connected, especially in most recent times. They are also used as an effective marketing tool for many businesses. We should be mindful of the dangers of social media. A social media policy is ideal for laying out your expectations for how workers use social media in the workplace.

The pandemic introduced new ways of staying connected with colleagues and customers. You may have introduced additional social technologies to assist employees with team communication and project collaboration. You may have promoted more usage of professional social media platforms like LinkedIn in absence of face-to-face networking possibilities.

Employers without a social media policy face risks. There are many advantages to using social media however, it is understandable why an employer may wish to provide instructions on utilising and handling work-related social media accounts.

Employees must understand that while online they are representing the company. They must act in a way that promotes the brand, whether it is through posting or how they interact with other users.

Like many other aspects of employment law, a well-drafted policy can make the difference. Bright Contracts software has a preformatted social media policy in the “Terms and Conditions” section of the Handbook, which is completely editable to your business needs.


Posted in Employee Handbook, Social Media, Staff Handbook

Jul 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Handling Workplace Complaints

Handling workplace complaints or grievances in the UK can be legally risky and expensive if UK employment laws are not followed. In this blog, we’ll discuss tips for employers on how to handle these complaints.

Tips for employers

Be proactive to prevent complaints

Encourage employees to raise concerns informally first with their line managers, many potential complaint/grievance issues can be resolved this way.

Have a written workplace complaint/grievance policy

This is required by law unless the complaint procedure is already set out on the employment contract. The policy should make it clear in a written procedure that an informal resolution should be considered before making a formal complaint/grievance.

Watch out for whistleblowing

Complaints that have a ‘public interest’ element may amount to ‘protected disclosures’ for the purposes of the whistleblowing legislation, and as such may be subjected to certain protection. Employees who are dismissed or suffer any detriment as a result of having blown the whistle can bring claims against their employer.

Complete an investigation

Failure to complete an investigation before making a decision on a complaint/grievance could make that decision unfair and leave the employer vulnerable to legal action. Once the investigator considers that they have established the facts surrounding the complaint/grievance, they will need to produce an investigation report that explains their findings.

Choose your investigator wisely

Don’t appoint someone who is personally involved in the matter being investigated, or likely to be influenced by the people involved, otherwise you risk arguments of a breach of natural justice.

Investigate a complaint/grievance sensitively

The content of an employee’s grievance should only be disclosed to the subject of the grievance, to the extent that it is absolutely necessary in order to conduct a reasonable investigation of the grievance.

There is no specific obligation requiring the employer to disclose any information or documentation that the employee requests during the grievance process. The employer should co-operate with the employee where possible.


Posted in Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook

Jul 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

How to Conduct a Risk Assessment for Remote Workers

Given the increase of remote and hybrid workers in the workforce, it is important to make sure you know how to conduct a risk assessment for remote workers. The usual health and safety duties extend to those working remotely and include identifying risks, ensuring workstation assessments are carried out and providing appropriate training.

Most people working from home are office workers which means it is a lower risk from a health and safety perspective, however, issues such as stress, fatigue, and poor posture can pose real dangers to homeworkers.

Risk assessments for remote workers

It is your duty as an employer to conduct risk assessments for remote and hybrid workers. The process of carrying out your risk assessment will be different. For example, you may not be able to visit the employees’ homes to carry it out, however, you may ask them to do a risk assessment themselves or send you a picture of their workspace.

Once your employees’ home workplace is passed as safe, it is their responsibility to ensure that it has been kept that way. However, the risk assessment must be reviewed periodically or whenever you have reason to believe that the risks may have changed.

Hazards to look for when conducting a risk assessment for staff who work from home

There are some risks that you should consider for most staff working remotely. Common risks include:

  1. Mental health risks such as stress and anxiety
  2. Risks associated with workstations e.g., the use of display screen equipment
  3. Electrical equipment
  4. Environmental issues such as noise levels, temperature, and ventilation

These are just some common risks homeworkers may experience, additionally you must keep an open mind to any risks specific to the work your employees are doing remotely.

Protecting the mental health of homeworkers

The following steps can help you reduce stress and mental health issues for staff who work remotely:

  1. Ensure that remote workers come into the workplace regularly so they can stay up to date with the business and stay connected with their colleagues
  2. Remember to include them in work socials to tackle feelings of isolation
  3. Have proper communication systems set up to stay connected with off-premises staff during the day. E.g., phone, email, instant messaging, videoconferencing, etc
  4. Provide helplines for IT support or equipment breakdown.

Health and Safety training for homeworkers

You must give enough health and safety training to all your staff to enable them to be safe at work, including those who work from home.

Regardless of where employees are working, all employers still have a responsibility for their health, safety, and wellbeing. Managers should be encouraged to regularly discuss this with team members, as employees should still take the first step in reporting any issues to their employer.


Related Articles: 

Remote Working: What are the risks? How to Manage them.



Posted in Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Health & Safety, Hybrid Working

Jul 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Tips for Dealing with Underperforming Employees

Poor employee performance can affect not only their immediate team but also the wider business. When colleagues see an employee slacking, their own motivation can decrease.

In some cases, an employee may be genuinely trying but is struggling to hit their targets or meet the needs of the business. On the other hand, an employee may be more than capable but not as bothered when it comes to hitting their targets.

These tips may help you deal with underperforming employees.

Know what you want from the employee

To identify if an employee is underperforming you need to be aware of what you want from them. It’s important to know that the employee must be aware of the required standards of the business.


When addressing the performance issue for the first time, you should approach it informally with the employee. A simple conversation with the employee will make sure the issue is not unaddressed.

Let the individual know that there are concerns

The first practical step is to let the employee know that you have concerns regarding their performance in the workplace. This should be done privately with the employee. This isn’t a formal meeting so there is no need to formally invite the employee with notice. It’s best to approach this conversation in a friendly manner.

Identify the problem

There should be inquiries to the reason for the employee’s underperformance. This is necessary to establish what action you need to take. If they have the capacity to perform better but simply choose not to, they need to be told to improve.

If they’re trying hard to do the job but still can’t perform well, that’s the problem and you should identify how you can help them for example providing training or supervision. If it’s a medical reason, it may be necessary to obtain an expert medical opinion.

Make them aware of the consequences

Although you’re dealing with the issue informally, you should inform the employee that if there are no signs of improvement you may need to begin a formal procedure with them.


If the employees’ performance doesn’t improve, the issue should be revisited. You should speak to the employee again, pointing out your previous discussion and any help that you provided and that it doesn’t appear to have any effect.

Formal Procedure

If no sufficient improvement or explanation is provided, you should consider implementing a formal disciplinary or capability procedure with the employee. Formal hearings should be held where the employee is permitted to respond to the concerns you have. Employees should be formally invited to these hearings, allowed the right to be accompanied and formal sanctions, e.g. warnings may be given where appropriate.

Additionally to these tips you need to remember to communicate clearly with each employee. Ensure the employee is clear on the objectives they’ve been set and on the consequences of their underperformance.

Related Articles:

Five Steps to Building a Positive Recognition Culture


Posted in Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook

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