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17
May 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Changes to Flexible Working Rights

In September 2021, the UK Government published a consultation document to reform the right to request flexible working under a new Employment Bill- which is yet to be put before Parliament.

What will the new legislation mean for hybrid work?

The document will put forward five proposals;

  • Making the right to request flexible working a day one right
  • Consider whether the currently permitted business reasons for refusing a request all remain valid
  • Consider the administrative process underpinning the right to request flexible working
  • Requiring the employer to suggest alternatives to what has been requested by the employee
  • Requesting a temporary arrangement

These proposals will broaden employees’ rights to request flexible work. However, employers will retain the right to reject such requests for one or more broadly defined reasons.

What does this mean for employees?

The main change for employees would be the right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment, rather than first having to accrue 26 weeks’ service under the current legislative framework. It’s important to note that employees only have the right to make a request for flexible working, rather than a right to flexible working, and employers will still be able to refuse the request on certain broad business grounds.

Unless there is a discussion between the employer and the employee about flexible working before their employment starts, employees who want to work flexibly will have to start working on the basis of their original terms of employment while trying to change them, as there is no right to make a request before starting the job.

What does this mean for employers?

Rejecting a request might become more difficult for employers. Employers could be required to suggest, or at least consider, alternative arrangements to those requested by the employee.

As it stands, employees can only make one request every 12 months, and employers have 3 months to consider the request and make a decision. Potentially increasing how often an employee can make a request will somewhat reduce existing barriers to flexible working and would recognise that employees’ personal circumstances can quickly change. The Government suggests where these changes are temporary to encourage employees to request temporary arrangements.

Striking the right balance

Many employers already have hybrid working policies in place, meaning that any reform is likely to have a limited impact in practice. Whilst employers will clearly benefit from embracing flexible working in terms of recruitment and retention of employees, whether requests can be accommodated will very much depend on the requirements of the business and the nature of the employee’s role, and employers will have a broad range of reasons on which to reject any request if necessary.

In Bright Contracts, we have a flexible working policy which you can add to your handbook where you can edit to suit your company's needs.

Further guidance on flexible working can be found here.

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Posted in Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Law, Hybrid Working

5
May 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Menopause Policies in the Workplace

The conversation around menopause in the workplace has been amplified recently, with weekly press reports stating that an increasing number of companies are taking steps to support employees who are going through menopause.

A major high street retailer announced in March that they would be paying for employees’ hormone replacement therapy (a common treatment for severe menopause symptoms). Additionally, a large media company is offering access to menopause resources and desk fans for women suffering from hot flushes.

Creating an environment supportive of women going through menopause is particularly important in the context of retaining senior women in the workplace. Recent research reported that almost a fifth of women with menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms took more than eight weeks’ leave, and half of these women resigned or took early retirement.

A recent poll conducted in March 2022 revealed that 72% of companies do not currently have a menopause policy in place and only 16% of businesses train line managers on how to address the menopause at work. Given the increasing number of queries we are responding to on this topic, we expect these statistics to change significantly this year, as employers are to place greater emphasis on supporting those going through menopause at work.

Bright Contracts has a Menopause Policy available in the 'Terms & Conditions' section of the company handbook.

Related Articles:

Supporting Female Employees: Implementing a Menopause Policy

Don't Be Afraid to Talk About Menopause in the Workplace

 

Posted in Company Handbook, Employee Handbook, Employment Law

8
Apr 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

April 2022 Employment Law Changes

There are several changes in employment law taking place in April. Read our blog for a summary of the key changes.

Minimum Wage

From 1 April 2022, the national minimum wage increased. The new rates are:

  • National living wage (23+): £9.50 per hour
  • Adult rate (21-22): £9.18 per hour
  • Development rate (18-20): £6.83 per hour
  • Youth rate (16-17): £4.81 per hour
  • Apprentice rate (under 19 or in the first year): £4.81 per hour
  • Accommodation offset: £8.70 per day

Employers will need to ensure they are paying in line with these new rates from April 1st going forward.

Statutory Payments

Statutory payments also rose in April. Statutory sick pay increased to £99.35 per week from April 6th, 2022, and statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental, and parental bereavement pay all went up to £156.66 per week with effect from the 3rd of April 2022.

Covid-19

From the 1st of April 2022, new public health guidance was provided. Anyone with a positive Covid-19 test result is advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day they took the test. Anyone with symptoms is advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with others until they stop displaying symptoms.

Free tests were withdrawn from April 1st and instead, lateral flow tests can be bought from retailers for around £2 per test.

Most employers will no longer have to consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments from April 1st.

PPE to be provided to workers

From the 6th of April 2022, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 came into force and amended the 1992 Regulations. Under the new rules, employers will be required to provide suitable free personal protective equipment to workers as well as employees where there is a health and safety risk. If PPE is required, employers must ensure their workers have sufficient information, instruction, and training on the use of PPE.

April looks like to be a busy month with plenty of changes and things to be aware of for employers.

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Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Employee Contracts, Employment Law, Health & Safety, Pay/Wage, Wages

23
Mar 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

D Topping v Steppingstones Nursery (Hoddlesden) Limited

Darci Topping was employed by Stepping-Stones Nursery in Hoddlesden when she found out she was expecting her first child in March 2020. Her employers were informed a week after starting her new job.

The 23-year-old who was on minimum wage at the time was questioned about her pregnancy by her managers and was quizzed about the baby’s father and her intention to go through with the birth. The employment tribunal heard that she was pressured into reducing her hours as the Covid-19 pandemic hit and then made redundant unexpectedly.

The tribunal judge found the nursery liable on all counts of detriment on grounds of pregnancy; unfavourable treatment on grounds of pregnancy; and unfair dismissal on the ground of pregnancy.

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Posted in Discrimination, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employment Law

21
Feb 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Employee Engagement Part Two: Seven Dimensions of Good Work

As outlined in part one of this blog, Employment Engagement Part One: How to Attract and Retain Employees, the seven dimensions of good work outline the factors in which employees perform better in the workplace. The CIPD Good Work Index is an annual benchmark of good work or job quality in the UK. It provides a key indicator of the current state of work in the UK.

Here is an in-depth description of the seven dimensions of good work.

1. Pay and Benefits

There is no doubt that the amount of pay an employee earns contributes to their work ethic. Similarly, the employee's benefits from the employer, including pension contributions and other employee benefits such as additional annual leave or wellness programmes, can also contribute to the employees’ work ethic.

2. Work-life balance

Work-life balance concerns how employees manage and prioritise work and their time spent with families and other relationships and leisure activities. A fifth of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their job affects their personal life

3. Contracts

The type of contract an employee receives is a key indicator of why an employee performs better in the workplace. Non-standard contracts, temporary, zero-hours and short hours can be associated with insecurity and unstable working patterns and perhaps an indicator of how an employee performs in the workplace.

4. Job design and the nature of work

Job design can be understood as the content and organisation of one’s work tasks, activities, relationships, and responsibilities. It is evident that job design and the nature of work can be crucial to how people experience job quality. There may be benefits for workers in terms of engagement and wellbeing. There are various factors that may be seen as components of job design, these include:

  • Workload (whether one has the right amount of work)
  • Job autonomy (level of control over the content, speed, method, and time of work)
  • Resources (time, equipment, and suitable space to work effectively)
  • Purpose (feeling of doing useful work for the organisation and the wider community)
  • Job complexity (whether the job is interesting, requires learning new things)
  • Skills (the level of a person-job match in skills and qualifications)
  • Career development (whether the job provides opportunities for skill development and career progression)

 

5. Workplace relationships

There is a strong belief that good relationships at work can impact positively workplace performance. The context of workplace relationships can be influenced by the size of the workplace. The smaller the workplace the more they may benefit from direct and personal interactions in the workplace. In larger organisations, the number of staff may limit workplace relationships outside of an employee’s immediate team. It is evident that good relationships at work can impact positively an organisations performance.

6. Employee Voice

Employee voice and communication between employers and management are widely recognised as important elements of job quality. Having the confidence to speak, be listened to and have an influence are crucial to shaping and delivering other elements of job quality. The most common voice channels in UK workplaces are one-to-one meetings with line managers, team meetings and surveys.

7. Health and Wellbeing

Possibly one of the most important components of good work given the COVID-19 crisis related to employee’s health and wellbeing. During the pandemic, employers have adopted various measures to promote workers mental and physical health and safety during the pandemic.

 

Related Articles:

Employment Engagement Part one: How to Attract and Retain Employees.

Good Work Plan

 

Posted in Employee Contracts, Employment Contract, Employment Law

1
Feb 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Covid-19: The Most Recent Tribunal Cases

There is no doubt that there is a rise in tribunal cases, recent cases include the refusal of returning to the office in fear of catching the virus. It is important as an employer to understand what employees are entitled to and understanding that there is still a fear surrounding Covid-19

Two of the most recent tribunal cases, Moore v Ecoscape UK Ltd and Lewis v The Benriach Distillery Company Limited discuss the claims and outline the decision that the employment tribunal (ET) came to.

Moore v Ecoscape UK Ltd

Ecoscape required Moore to return to working from the office. Moore sought to rely on section one hundred of the Employment Rights Act 1996, to which a dismissal is automatically unfair where an employee believes that they are in ‘serious and imminent danger’ if they leave or refuse to attend the workplace while the danger persists.

Ecoscape conducted various Covid risk assessments and adjusted the office and sanitisation procedures. They also provided Moore with a separate working space with her own equipment to address the concerns that she had. She was still reluctant to return and asked if she could work from home. Based on the nature of her work, the employer refused this request as she deals with deliveries and customers. She raised a grievance and a grievance appeal, but both were unsuccessful. She resigned and brought a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.

The ET found that the claimant’s Covid concerns related to a general fear about leaving the home and not about the employer’s workplace. She failed to involve herself with the discussions with Ecoscape about the measures they implemented and refused to visit the workplace to review those measures.

The ET concluded that Ecoscape had taken appropriate steps to accommodate the concerns of the claimant and that they failed to explore any compromises proposed by Ecoscape. In a result the claimant’s claim failed.

 

Lewis v The Benriach Distillery Company Limited

Mr Lewis was a forklift driver for a whisky distillery. He served 23 years of good service and was dismissed without notice for attending work when his son informed him of having symptoms of Covid-19 and had booked a Covid test. Lewis did not believe his son’s symptoms (a cough and loss of smell) were genuine. He thought his son was faking his symptoms so he could get off work.

At the time the Scottish government’s guidance required anyone who lived with someone displaying symptoms to isolate. His sons test came back positive the next day and Lewis was dismissed for gross misconduct.

An ET found that Lewis’ dismissal was unfair. There was nothing in the government’s guidance that would require someone to self-isolate if Lewis genuinely believed that his son was not in fact displaying Covid symptoms.

While assessing the case, the employer should have taken into consideration:

his 23 years of good service

his record of compliance with Covid guidance; and

that there was no advantage to him in attending work or disadvantage in not attending work – he would be paid in either case.

The ET found that there was some contributory fault from Lewis so reduced his financial awards by 25%.

 

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Posted in Coronavirus, Dismissals, Employment Law, Employment Tribunals, Health & Safety

31
Jan 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

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

It is evident that remote working, whether it be fully remote or part of a hybrid working model, is a preferred choice for many employees. For employers, remote working comes with multiple risks that must be managed carefully.

What are these risks?

Employee Isolation- When working from home, it is easy to sit at the desk for the entire day and not take a break. This can lead to potential burnout. In the office it is easy to take a five-minute break for a cup of tea or just a stretch. Furthermore, employees may feel that they are less capable of having access to the appropriate support from colleagues or management. It is important the employees are aware that the same support is available to them whether they are working in the office or at home.

Data protection breaches- There is no doubt that protecting employees, contacts and customers personal data and confidentiality when they are all working from a central location is a lot easier to manage. Employees who work remotely and live in shared accommodation or use public Wi-Fi networks for work can risk data being seen and obtained by third parties.

Overlooking health and safety responsibilities- It is important that employers do not forget that they are obliged to protect the health and safety of their employees at work, whether they work remotely or at the office.

How to Manage the Risks

Promote collaboration - Try have regular Zoom/Team meetings to stay connected with colleagues. Here, employees can share their ideas with one another and an easy way to stay in contact with each other.

Raise awareness of employees’ data protection obligations - Employers should amend their data protection policy to suit the different employee circumstances. E.g., how to deal with storing documents safely, how they should be destroyed, and who has access to them. Furthermore, employers should provide training sessions on data compliance to ensure that they are made aware of their responsibilities whether they are working from home or the office.

Carry out health and safety assessments- Employers should update their health and safety policies so that they risk assess every employee’s remote working place. They should consider how safe the employee’s work set up is and how they can help them.

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Posted in Coronavirus, Employee Contracts, Employment Law, Health & Safety, Hybrid Working

17
Jan 22

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Case Law: Discriminatory Dismissal

In the recent case of Stott v Ralli Ltd the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the dismissal of an employee was not an act of discrimination arising from disability. In this case the Claimant was employed as a paralegal by Ralli Ltd for approximately three months. Ms Stott was dismissed by her employer due to poor performance and was paid lieu in notice. Following the dismissal meeting, the Claimant raised a grievance against Ralli Ltd and stated that Ralli had been informed of her mental health issues in several communications. At the grievance meeting, she stated that her disabilities were mental health issues, anxiety, depression and a heart condition which she claimed had affected her performance.

Ralli rejected her grievance, stating that they had not been informed about her disabilities. Her appeal against the rejection was also unsuccessful. The Claimant then went on to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal for discrimination arising from disability in relation to her dismissal. Ralli accepted that the Claimant had a mental impairment amounting to a disability at the time of her dismissal but argued that it had not been known about at the time and that it had only been raised after her dismissal. 

The Employment Tribunal dismissed Ms Stott's claim, finding that the Claimant had been dismissed for poor performance and that the Claimant had not disclosed her impairment to Ralli prior to her dismissal. Had the Claimant pleaded her claim more widely to include post-dismissal discrimination, relating to the grievance process and subsequent treatment (when the employer had knowledge of her disability) the outcome may have been different.

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Posted in Dismissals, Employment Law

15
Dec 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Proposed Family Leave Changes for 2022

The upcoming new year brings with it many changes/ updates to legislation. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published its proposed Pension and Benefit Rates for the year 2022/2023. The rates show increases to statutory benefits such as sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and adoption pay which will be confirmed by secondary legislation.

From the 11th of April 2022, the following rates are expected to apply:

  • The weekly rate of statutory sick pay (SSP) will increase to £99.35 
  • The weekly rate of statutory maternity pay (SMP) and maternity allowance will increase to £156.66 
  • The weekly rate of statutory paternity pay (SPP) will increase to £156.66 
  • The weekly rate of statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) will increase to £156.66 
  • The weekly rate of statutory adoption pay (SAP) will increase to £156.66 

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Posted in Employment Law, Family Leave

10
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Don't Be Afraid to Talk About Menopause in the Workplace

As it currently stands, under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is largely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex and disability discrimination. If an employee is treated unfairly due to menopause, this may amount to discrimination because, for example, of their sex and/or disability, and/or their age.

Menopause Awareness Month has shone some light on the impact that the menopause can have in the workplace. And shockingly according to a recent survey, fewer than 50% of companies provide any support for perimenopausal or menopausal staff. The menopause affects us all at work. Even if we do not experience menopausal symptoms ourselves, we will inevitably have colleagues who do.

While the menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, the NHS estimates that around one in 100 affected people will experience a premature menopause before the age of 40. Menopause can be also triggered by medical or surgical interventions, such as some cancer treatments or a hysterectomy, and can therefore affect employees of all ages.

It is estimated that three out of four people going through the perimenopause or menopause experience symptoms that can last several years. There are over 30 recognised symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause, with a number of these relating to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings and problems with memory and confidence. It is unsurprising, therefore, that menopause can have a significant impact on an individual’s performance at work.

The ongoing stigma and lack of education around menopause can lead to bullying and harassment in the workplace. Many employees report that they do not talk about their menopause at work because they feel embarrassed, are concerned they will not be supported, will be treated less favourably or viewed as less capable than before. This can create or exacerbate workplace issues and evidence suggests that a number of those experiencing the menopause or perimenopause leave the workplace altogether.

What is clear is that discrimination and harassment at work can worsen menopausal symptoms of stress and anxiety. Similarly, negative or discriminatory attitudes can make it less likely that individuals from these groups will be open about their status, any difficulties they are experiencing, or seek help.

Given that every person’s experience of the menopause is different, there is no exhaustive list of reasonable adjustments that could be made to the workplace environment, and employers will always need to consult with the individual employee and seek occupational health or other medical evidence where appropriate.

Adjustments could include the following:

- increased ventilation
- better access to toilet/washing facilities
- adjusting working time rules/break times
relaxing uniform policies
adjusting inflexible policies which can penalise those experiencing symptoms (eg absence management or performance-related targets).

So how can employers go about improving the workplace for employees who are undergoing the menopause, particularly when many employees are not willing to disclose details of the condition and the symptoms they are experiencing?

Firstly, employers should consider implementing a workplace policy that covers issues such as flexible working, sickness and performance management, and identifying sources of support.

Training is also important to educate, increase awareness and empower managers to feel confident in talking to and supporting employees who are experiencing symptoms of menopause. Management should consider buddying and mentoring schemes and/or established points of contact - perhaps utilising staff who have been through the menopause - to provide encouragement and support.

All of these steps should encourage employees to feel more comfortable about being open about their symptoms, and to continue to reach their potential by discussing what adjustments they may need.

Bright Contracts has a Menopause Policy available in the 'Terms & Conditions' section of the company handbook. To view a sample of the policy you can download a trial version of the software here.

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Posted in Company Handbook, Employment Law

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