Equality Act Changes – were you ready? Have you acted to protect your business?

The Equality Act 2010 Regulations 2023 came into force on 1 January 2024. We are now almost halfway through the year and the legal challenges are starting to hit the Employment Tribunals. Just to remind you what this is and how it affects you:

It reinforces existing discrimination protections but also introduces some changes that all employers NEED to know and NEED to ensure they are protecting themselves. The penalty in the Tribunal for Discrimination is uncapped and six figure sums are not unusual.

Most employers have heard the phrase, ‘protected characteristics’ but many are blind to the other areas of this Act that have now been bolstered and broadened.

Indirect Discrimination by Association – this allows claims from employees who do not directly (or themselves) possess a protected characteristic but can claim if they suffer similar disadvantages from an employer’s policies and practices.

What does that mean? – If you have a rule, policy or practice which applies to all employees but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic.  This is opposed to direct discrimination where someone is treated less favourably because they have or are thought to have a protected characteristic.

This includes age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity, race (which includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins ‘caste’), sexual orientation, religion, or belief, or because someone is married or in a civil partnership.

Equal Pay Comparator – Single Source Test – There is now an introduction of a single source example to prove and establish an equal pay comparator.

What does that mean? It means that this test (or example comparator) can potentially operate in a different business as long as the entity setting the terms remains the same.

Definition of Disability – this will explicitly include consideration of an individual’s ability to participate fully and effectively in working life when considering whether they can undertake day-to-day activities.

What does that mean? This puts the onus on the employer to make sure that they are acting appropriately and obtaining the correct advice and evidence to support an employees stance as well as understanding just what does the law mean by ‘ability to participate fully and effectively in working life’

Extension of Direct Discrimination Protection – this will include statements indicating a reluctance to recruit individuals with specific protected characteristics – this applies even when there is no active recruitment process or even an identifiable victim.

Breastfeeding Discrimination – this is an area that is bolstered and protected under the characteristic of sex with more considerations that employers have to make.

It is important that you have a robust policy, that you train your managers, that your other policies such as grievances and sickness are also in line and robust.

DO NOT leave it to chance, the ‘no win no fee’ legal profession issue more claims for discrimination than any other and legally often it is ‘low hanging fruit’

Defending such a claim is costly and if you lose then it can take down a small business.

CONTACT us today for a no obligation quote.


Changes To National Minimum wage

Changes to National Minimum Wage & National Living Wage April 2024

The increase to the National Minimum Wage & the National Living Wage comes into effect on April 1, 2024.

Below is the minimum hourly rate that almost all workers are entitled to by law.

New National Minimum Wage Rates 2024:

National Minimum Wage
Age Group Amount
National Living Wage 21+ £11.44 per hour
18- 20 £8.60 per hour
Over-school age (16/17) but not yet 18 £6.40 per hour
Apprentice Rate £6.40 per hour 

 

Other Statutory Payments from 4 April 4, 2024
Statutory Pay for: Maternity, Paternity, Adoption, Shared Parental Leave and Parental Bereavement £184.03 per week or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate.
Statutory Sick Pay £116.75 per week

 

Expected Changes to Employment Laws 2024:

Flexible Working Rights 

This gives employees the right to request flexible working from day one of employment. All requests will have to be responded to within 2 months. They can make 2 requests a year.

 

Carer’s Leave

Employees with specific caring responsibilities will be able to take 5 days unpaid leave. This will be day one, right.

 

Neonatal Care (Leave & Pay) 

Parents of new-borns will be able to take up to 12 weeks of additional time off on top of maternity/paternity leave if the baby requires neonatal care for more than 1 week before turning 28 days old. Day one, right? Pay will be statutory.

 

Redundancy Protection 

This will provide pregnant employees with additional protection; this will also apply to parents for 18 months after the child is born—this included adoption and shared parental leave.

 

Right to Predictable Working Patterns

Grants workers and agency worker the right to formally request more predictable work patterns.

 

Workers Protection Act

It places a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment of their employees.

 

Retainer Clients 

Your statutory handbook will be updated and sent to you early May once the above-expected laws are implemented.

 

How can Lamont Jones help you?

Lamont Jones are here to provide you with the latest and most important news regarding HR and Employment law. It is vital you keep up to date on governmental changes; otherwise, penalties may be incurred. We are only a phone call away if you have any questions! Contact us here

Do you want to know more?

Download our useful free HR guides here

Return to News and Insights here

 


Perfomance meeting

Performance – can’t do or won’t do?

You will, on occasion, have an employee who is underperforming. What can you do about this?

6 steps to take when an employee is underperforming:

  • Step 1: Find out if this is a case of can’t do as opposed to won’t do. 

In a nutshell, a ‘can’t do’ is capability, but a ‘won’t do’ is conduct. 

If it is a ‘can’t do’ then address the situation with training; however, if you encounter a ‘won’t do’ then a more focused approach with possible disciplinary action may be needed.
Whatever the situation, you need to do something, so please get in touch for further guidance.

  • Step 2: Are there any health or disability concerns? If so, then you definitely need professional guidance to navigate yourself through this. HR is very adept at dealing with these issues, so again, please do get in touch so you do not fall foul of the law by your actions.
  • Step 3: Are there any personal or work-related factors? Do you need to consider varying or adjusting things in the workplace? Do you need to consider flexible working or a different approach?
  • Step 4: Managers should keep a note of all the times they have ‘had a word’ whether formal or informal, as evidence is needed when you are tacking non-performance and may be needed to support any actions that you take.
  • Step 5: A fair process has to be employed, especially with employees with over 2 years’ service, and a formal performance improvement plan may need to be implemented.
  • Step 6: Know when you can dismiss and make sure you are following the law and your own policies to avoid a claim. Seek professional HR support before taking action.

HR support is invaluable in performance management

Performance management always involves difficult conversations, and your managers may not feel comfortable having these at all or having them on their own. This is where leaning on HR support is invaluable.

Please give us a ring, as underperformance by even a single person will hit the bottom line, cascade onto customer service, and be a moral issue for the people in the team who are performing and may well be carrying the underperformer.

Contact us here

 


Amy Hirschi

Boomerang Employees

According to a recent survey conducted by top recruitment agencies, 40% of managers are reluctant to rehire employees who have left. However, what are the benefits of incorporating a boomerang strategy into your overall recruitment strategy?

Boomerang employees are those who leave your employment, usually to go and work for another employer, but then subsequently want to return to work for you, often after only a short period of time. These former employees have no special rights to be interviewed for or offered an available role within your business. So, you’re entitled to treat them in the same way as any other job applicants during the recruitment process. However, consider the following benefits of recruiting boomerang employees:

  • they may already have extensive knowledge of your business and how it operates, enabling them to “hit the ground running.”
  • they may require no, or minimal, training in the job role
  • you already trust them (to an extent) and know their strengths and weaknesses
  • they could be bringing useful new skills and experience gained whilst working for another employer, particularly where they left your employment, to further their career progression
  • you don’t have to recruit those whom you were glad to see the back of; you can simply focus on the ones that you valued and didn’t want to lose.
  • AND they could be a big advocate of ‘the grass is not always greener’ support, letting exiting employees know that they are better off staying with you, hence why they wanted to come back!

If you do offer a job role to a returning/boomerang employee, it doesn’t have to be the same role as they were previously performing, and you are not under any obligation to offer them the same, or better, employment terms as those on which they were previously employed. If they do come back on better terms, be aware of the risks of the friction this may cause amongst existing long-serving staff, particularly if they’re coming back to the same role AND their employment clock starts off again. It is not continuous employment if they have already left.


Pregnancy

Additional Redundancy Rights for Pregnant Staff

Additional Redundancy Rights for Pregnant Staff

The Protection from Redundancy (pregnancy & family leave) Act 2023 extends redundancy protection rights that apply during maternity leave to pregnant employees. 

What as the employer do you need to know?

As the law currently stands, if an employee is selected for redundancy at any point during maternity leave, they must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy that exists before colleagues who have been selected for redundancy. The employee who is on maternity leave does not have to apply to be interviewed for a suitable alternative vacancy, nor do they have to be the best fit for the job role; in other words, the employer is obliged to give them preferential treatment. The same applies where the employee has returned to work early at any point during their maternity leave.

What are the Changes to the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy & Family Leave) Act 2023?

However, in May 2023, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy & Family Leave) Act 2023 received Royal Assent, which made several changes and granted certain employees additional employment rights. 

Firstly, it extended existing redundancy protection rights so that they apply from the point the employee informs the employer—verbally or in writing—that they are pregnant. The redundancy protection ends 18 months after the child’s birth.

The Act also extends the same rights to employees who take adoption leave or shared parental leave.

Failure to follow this law is likely to result in the redundancy being treated as an automatically unfair dismissal.

The Act comes into effect in 2024, most likely not before April but it is prudent to keep this in mind. As soon as the Act becomes law, we will let our clients know.

If you need any further information on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01924 441032

Contact us here

 

Learn more on Parental Leave:

Read our blog: 'Working Parents – School Holiday Juggling & Accrued untaken Holiday leave – what a dilemma'

Read other relevant news and articles


woman on her tablet looking stressed

How to Deal with a Disgruntled Ex-Employee

As a business owner, you want all employees to leave your company on good terms. However, this isn't always the case, and negative emotions can take over when workers lose their jobs if they are made redundant or dismissed for misconduct.

These emotions can manifest as anger, causing ex-employees to lash out at their former employer through unacceptable behaviour such as online reviews or threats. 

Angry ex-employees can negatively impact your workplace productivity and business reputation, but what can you do?

Employers may encounter disgruntled ex-employees at some point in their careers, typically after dismissing a staff member due to poor performance or an incident.

There are various reasons why an employer may need to dismiss an employee, which include:

  • Gross Misconduct
  • Low Productivity
  • Capability
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Statutory Restrictions,
  • There is some other substantial reason.

It is important to ensure that the reason does not constitute unfair dismissal to avoid facing an employment tribunal. 

Though an employee leaving may seem like the best step for a business, it can lead to problems if not handled correctly Disgruntled employees, both current and former, can cause disruptions that negatively impact business productivity and, in severe cases, may require legal action.

When an employee is terminated, they may feel upset or resentful, leading them to lash out and harm a company's reputation. In some cases, this may even result in false claims of misconduct, which can be legally classified as defamation. 

What Is Defamation?

Defamation falls into two areas:

  • Libel: This refers to written or recorded statements that have a sense of permanence, such as blog posts, articles, social media posts, videos, or audio recordings.
  • Slander: This refers to spoken forms of defamation. 

For a business to file a defamation lawsuit, they must follow the guidelines outlined in the Defamation Act of 2013. This requires the business to prove that the defamatory statement has caused serious harm to the reputation of the business and may result in a significant financial loss. 

You may not want to take this route but still want them to stop, so what can you do now?

Dealing With Disgruntled Ex-Employees: 

Tips to Protect Your Business: Be aware of the potential harm that ex-employees may cause to your business. They could: Post negative reviews or comments online. Harass current employees or management. Contact clients or customers. Make accusations or spread rumours. Discourage future employees from joining your team. To mitigate the risk of damage to your business, it's crucial to handle the situation with care. 

Plan Your Offboarding Process for a ‘good leaver’

A well-planned offboarding process is key to ensuring that employees leave on a positive note. Having a clear plan in place ensures consistency and ensures that all necessary procedures are followed. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and hard feelings, leaving the ex-employee with a good impression of your business

Conduct Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are an excellent opportunity for employees to voice their concerns before leaving the company. As an employer, it's a chance to identify areas of improvement and address any issues that could have led to the employee's departure. By listening to feedback and making changes where necessary, you can help prevent future issues

Consider Preventative Legal Action

Consider taking preventative Action by adding privacy agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and non-compete agreements to employment contracts. This can help safeguard your business's confidential information

These agreements can prevent former employees from contacting clients, sharing confidential information, discussing finances, taking a job with a competitor, or making defamatory comments about your business. 

When dealing with situations involving former employees who harbour discontent, believing their termination was unjust or their compensation upon dismissal was inadequate, there are proactive measures that can be employed to mitigate potential legal and reputational risks. Here are effective strategies to enhance the handling of such situations

Respect Confidentiality

It's important to acknowledge that ex-employees might experience emotions like anger or embarrassment after their termination. To address this, adopt a tactful approach that maintains the privacy of the details surrounding their departure. This not only prevents unnecessary discomfort but also helps uphold their favourable perception of your company, thereby minimising the possibility of negative online reviews emerging

Open Direct Communication 

Rather than dismissing negative feedback or reviews outright, consider initiating direct communication with the former employee. This showcases your company's dedication to its workforce and offers a platform for them to express their concerns. Engaging in a constructive dialogue can foster improved relations and potentially provide practical assistance, such as guiding them towards resources for emotional support or job opportunities.

Thorough Documentation 

Keeping comprehensive records throughout the termination process is crucial. These records can serve as vital evidence if the situation escalates into a legal dispute. Ensure that your HR team diligently documents factors related to performance, attendance, grievances, and conflicts. If necessary, involve the employee's immediate supervisor in this documentation process.

Monitoring Online Reputation 

Given the impact of online reviews on a business's reputation, it's vital to stay vigilant. Regularly monitor online review platforms for any negative feedback originating from former employees. Respond promptly and professionally to address their concerns, potentially defusing the situation before it gains momentum. Responding calmly helps prevent the escalation of emotions that might lead to more significant issues

Should employers deal with grievances raised by ex-employees?

There are no hard and fast rules on this, but it is often assumed that employers do not have legal duty to investigate grievances raised by ex-employees. However, what employers should bear in mind is that a grievance is a dispute, and a dispute has the potential to turn into a tribunal claim. If an ex-employee raises a grievance after they have left or an employee resigns with immediate effect, citing various grievances as their reason for leaving, it is good practice to try and get to the bottom of the dispute with a view to trying to resolve it. Otherwise, this may be a missed opportunity to avoid a claim, or it may affect your ability to defend a claim at a later stage.

If this happens, seek expert advice and guidance.

Contact us here


AI brand image

Do you need an AI policy?

Should you consider implementing a policy on the use of generative AI?

Samsung has temporarily restricted the use of generative AI tools on company computers after it discovered that some employees had misused the technology by uploading sensitive code to ChatGPT. Should you consider implementing a policy on the use of generative AI?

Generative AI, such as ChatGPT, has great potential for business use in terms of enhancing employee productivity and efficiency, but it’s also not without its legal risks, particularly relating to data protection, the protection of confidential information, and copyright infringement

How far can you go with AI?

Samsung has banned the use of generative AI on company computers. It has also warned staff to take precautions when using the technology outside of work and advised them not to input any personal or company-related information into the services.

All workplaces are different, and some will have no use for the AI technology being developed, but some will.  Your employees may already be experimenting with using generative AI tools without your knowledge or permission, particularly if they’re in creative, software development, or other content creation roles. 

If this is the case, you might want to consider controlling the extent to which staff can use generative AI for work-related purposes. While the simplest policy would be a total ban on the use of generative AI (even if that’s only until you can better understand the risks and therefore formulate a better-informed policy), you might alternatively want to allow staff to use the technology to create content in a controlled way. In this situation, you should ask yourself the below questions: 

Questions to ask yourself when implementing an AI policy:

  • Which technology are you going to allow?
  • Will the generative AI outputs be used only within your business or externally too?
  • What will be the technology’s permitted/acceptable use cases, and what will be its prohibited use cases?
  • Are employees going to be warned not to share any confidential business information or personal data with the technology?
  • Will employees be required to carefully check the outputs for truthfulness, accuracy, and bias?
  • Will employees be required to amend the outputs to both suit the specific context and minimise the risk of copyright infringement?

You know whether this technology is something your company has or may wish to use; if you would like us to draft you a policy and guide you on how to implement and monitor such activities, please give us a ring.


Redundancies

When might an employer consider redundancies?

When might an employer consider redundancies? Redundancies most often arise in response to a need to reduce costs or as a result of a downturn in work (such as loss of a key customer contract). However, neither of these are a requirement for there to be a redundancy situation under the legal definition.

A redundancy situation can also include:

  • The whole business or a particular site closing down

Or

  • A scenario where the employer has a reduced requirement for people to do a particular type of work

This is a wide definition and incorporates situations where an employer believes that the existing work can be done by fewer people or proposes that the organisation can be restructured by replacing existing roles with new ones so that things work more efficiently.

Employment Tribunals are not usually keen to scrutinise business decisions and judge whether they appear to be commercially reasonable. It is generally accepted that employers are entitled to decide how best to run their business, even where an employee disagrees. Employment Tribunals may, however, be willing to start questioning a business case where there appear to be inconsistencies or irrationalities; these may give weight to a claim from an employee that they are being personally targeted.

Where an employer is proposing to make 20 or more redundancies at an establishment within any 90-day period, special ‘collective consultation’ rules apply. These impose prescriptive requirements on the employer as to the process and timescales for any redundancies, and failure to comply carries significant penalties, including a protective award of up to 90 days’ uncapped pay for each affected 

Advice should always be taken on any potential collective redundancies.

So, what are common steps taken when an employer considers redundancies?

The redundancy ‘pool’

Once you have identified the area where staffing reductions can be made, the next step is to decide the redundancy ‘pool’.

In broad terms, the ‘pool’ is the group of employees who do the work for which there is a diminished requirement. In many cases, the pool will be obvious—there may be a group of employees with the same job title who work interchangeably, carrying out the same duties.

In other cases, it will be much trickier.

  • There may be various employees who perform similar duties but with different job titles
  • A team of employees who carry out the same role but are focused on specific clients/customers (the redundancy situation may arise from one of those clients having taken their business elsewhere)

Can the employer limit the pool to a narrow group of employees or even just a single employee?

There are no hard-and-fast rules about how you must define the redundancy pool. The test to which the Tribunal is required to apply is whether the pool falls within the ‘range of reasonable responses’ i.e., might a reasonable employer have chosen this pool, or is it the pool that the Tribunal thinks best.

However, in practice, tribunals can be strict when scrutinising whether the employer has taken a reasonable approach to the redundancy pool. Employers often favour narrow pools, as they may think that this will ensure that the most appropriate person is selected from a business perspective.

Important to note: It can be an easy decision for a Tribunal to find that a reasonable approach would have been to use a wider redundancy pool. 

The Employment Tribunal will often point out that a robust and reasonable selection matrix would ensure that the ‘right’ person was chosen in a fair manner.

It is possible to have a "pool of one"—most commonly where there is a "stand-alone" role (i.e., only carried out by one person)—but again, tribunals are particularly keen to scrutinise whether it is reasonable to define the pool so narrowly.

So, it is important to consider these matters when selecting your ‘pool’ of at-risk employees.

The selection process

Once the pool has been identified, the employer will often only need to select some of the employees in the pool for redundancy. This will not always be the case, for example, if it is a ‘pool of one’, or if all of the roles within the pool are proposed to be deleted. In those cases, everybody in the redundancy pool is automatically at risk of redundancy.

However, in many cases, an employer will only be seeking a reduction in headcount. For example, if an employer is only seeking one redundancy from a pool of 5 employees, it will need a fair method of identifying which employee is chosen.

Employers’ hands are tied fairly tightly when it comes to how they go about making this selection. Case law makes it fairly clear that employers are expected to use a selection matrix against which each employee in the pool is scored, as opposed to making everybody in the pool re-interview for their job.

Tribunals expect to see a matrix based on largely objective criteria, meaning those that can be verified against known data, such as:

  • Disciplinary record
  • Attendance record
  • Length of service

While there is no blanket ban on subjective criteria (which rely on individual judgement), employers are on much safer ground where they can provide clear guidance on how employees are scored and can provide evidence. For example, a performance criterion which can be supported by annual performance ratings and regular one-to-one appraisals is unlikely to be criticised.

Important to note: A seemingly arbitrary rating out of 5 for ‘attitude’ or ‘enthusiasm’ is unlikely to sit well with a Tribunal.

Making the announcement

The reality is that there isn’t ever a good time to tell employees that they may be facing redundancy. Some employers favour group announcements, where multiple roles are affected; others would rather take a more personal approach and speak to people individually; however, this can create something of a ‘race against the clock’ to speak to everybody before they hear whispers elsewhere.

Either way, employers will want to time the announcement to minimise disruption to the business while being as compassionate as possible towards those who are impacted. Businesses will also need to identify colleagues who aren’t personally impacted but will need to be aware of what is happening and think about how they can assure staff who are not ‘at risk’ that they won’t be affected.

A golden rule is that the initial announcement is not the time for detailed discussion or heated debate about the potential redundancies; be prepared to tell employees that the consultation meeting is the forum to get into the details.

The consultation process

The cornerstone of a fair redundancy process is consultation.

The fundamental purpose of this process is to provide employees with an opportunity to challenge the redundancy proposal and/or their selection. They should also be given the opportunity to make alternative suggestions.

Consultation should cover every aspect of the redundancy process:

  • The business reasons
  • The redundancy pool
  • The selection matrix
  • The individual scores awarded to the employee.

What does a reasonable consultation process look like? There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, and each case will differ.

In some cases, the redundancy situation will seem very difficult to avoid; there may be no need for selection criteria, and the employees may accept the situation without any meaningful challenge. In other situations, an employee may challenge every aspect of the process and several consultation meetings may be required to hear, consider and respond to challenges and counterproposals.

The key factors which an Employment Tribunal will expect to see in a reasonable consultation process are:

  • An ‘open mind’ and a willingness to revisit the proposal and/or the provisional selection of the employee for redundancy
  • The employer is providing reasonable information where requested and allowing adequate time for the employee to put forward questions and proposals
  • Genuine consideration of challenges and alternative proposals, with reasons provided where these are not considered to be feasible,.

Alternative employment

Whilst employers should avoid the trap of treating the redundancy as a ‘done deal’ and jumping straight to this point, exploring whether there are any roles which the employee could do as an alternative to being made redundant is nevertheless an important part of the consultation process. Alternative roles may be pre-existing vacancies or new roles created as part of the same restructuring that has given rise to the redundancy situation.

Employers are generally expected to give employees at risk of redundancy some form of preferential treatment for vacancies within the business and not necessarily make them compete for roles alongside external candidates, unless there is a good justification for this.

The good news for employers is that they have far more flexibility on how to fill vacancies compared to how they should select employees for redundancy. Competitive interview processes are generally fine for this purpose, although an employer should still be careful to be consistent and provide justification for their decision.

Whilst enhanced protection in redundancy scenarios for employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave has been in the pipeline for many years, at present the only specific protection (beyond general pregnancy and maternity discrimination legislation) relates to alternative employment.

Where an employee on maternity leave is to be made redundant and there is a suitable alternative vacancy, that employee must be offered that role without a competitive process, even where there are other ‘at-risk’ employees who may be able to fill that vacancy. This is a rare example of positive discrimination not only being permitted but also required.

Employees who are absent from the business

One of the trickiest issues for an employer to deal with is how to approach the process where an employee has been away from work for some time, for example, due to long-term sickness absence or maternity leave.

A common pitfall for employers is not properly consulting with these employees; this is after all the ‘easy’ or ‘kind’ approach to take in many minds. However, not providing these employees with an equal opportunity to challenge their potential redundancy with other colleagues does not only give rise to the risk of unfair dismissal claims but also of disability or maternity discrimination claims.

Some key tips for employers:

  • Ensure that you consult with these employees in an equally meaningful way.
  • This may require particular thought around practical issues such as delivering the initial announcement and making arrangements for consultation meetings.
  • Be prepared for meaningful consultation to take slightly longer to allow for practical arrangements for meetings, e.g., for alternative childcare arrangements to be made for young mothers.
  • Adjustments to scores will need to be considered where an employee has an absence or other issues that are related to long-term health conditions, which could be a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Pregnancy-related absences must be discounted entirely when scoring.
  • Alterations may be required to the scoring process to allow for a period of maternity leave. If there is a criterion relating to sales made in the last 9 months and the employee has been on maternity leave for that entire period, awarding a score of 0 will almost certainly be unfair and discriminatory. However, automatically awarding a score of full marks may be unfair and even potentially indirectly discriminatory towards other employees. A sensible and balanced approach should be taken, such as using the 9-month period prior to maternity leave or the equivalent 9-month period in the previous calendar year (assuming that this wasn’t impacted by maternity leave).

How can we help?

  • We can guide you through this minefield and even undertake it from start to finish on your behalf.
  • Do not attempt this process without expert advice.
  • Claims relating to redundancy dismissals can be expensive, and any employer who thinks they may have to make redundancies in the future should consider whether insurance would be worth having. As with most insurance policies, claims arising from pre-existing situations will not be covered, and most policies will need to have been in place for a minimum of 6–12 months prior to any redundancies in order to be covered. If you do not follow the process ‘to the letter', any insurance policy will not support you. This is why, if you are considering redundancies, let us steer you through the minefield safely.

If you have any questions relating to anything discussed in the article or if you would like advice on any other matter, please do get in touch us.


A caregiver in the garden

Carers Leave

The Carer’s Leave Bill has received royal assent to become the Carer’s Leave Act 2023. What will this legislation mean, and when can we expect the new law to be implemented? 

The new Carer’s Leave Act 2023 amends or inserts new provisions into the Employment Rights Act 1996, providing powers to make regulations to create an entitlement for employees to take one week’s unpaid leave from work in any twelve-month period in order to provide or arrange care for a dependent with a long-term care need. This will be day one, right? 

Who is a dependent?

A person is a “dependant” if they are a spouse, civil partner, child, or parent of the employee, or live in the same household as the employee (otherwise than by reason of being their boarder, employee, lodger, or tenant), or reasonably rely on the employee to provide or arrange care. 

A dependent has a “long-term care need” if they have an illness or injury (whether physical or mental) that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than three months, or they have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, or they require care for a reason connected with their old age.

What are the regulations?

The regulations will also set out how carer’s leave may be taken, but the aim is that it can be taken flexibly to suit the employee’s caring responsibilities and will be available to take in increments of half-days or individual days, up to a week. The regulations will additionally set the rules around what notice must be given by an employee to request to take carer’s leave and when the employer has the right to postpone a requested period of carer’s leave. Employees won’t, however, be required to provide evidence in relation to a request for carer’s leave.

Employees taking carer’s leave will have detriment and automatic unfair dismissal protections.

Although a date for implementation hasn’t yet been set, these provisions are unlikely to come into force before April 2024, and the government has said that it will lay out the relevant regulations in due course.

 

As soon as it becomes law, we will let our clients know and update the statutory handbook.

 

As usual, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at 01924 441032.


too hot to work heatwaves

Heatwaves: Common questions employers are asked

Let us start with the facts and some answers to commonly asked questions:

While there are legal restrictions on making people go to work in certain extreme weather conditions, there is no maximum temperature set out by the law to dictate when it is too hot to work. 

This is because every workplace is different. No meaningful upper limit can be imposed because in many indoor workplaces, high temperatures are not seasonal but created by work activity, for example, in bakeries or foundries.

However, while there is no legal maximum or minimum working temperature, all workers are entitled to an environment where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Heat is classified as a ‘hazard’ and comes with legal obligations as any other would.

The government states that, during working hours, the temperature of all indoor working spaces must be "reasonable.". Employers must also stick to health and safety at work, including keeping the temperature at a comfortable level expected for the role and providing clean and fresh air.

Common questions your staff may ask during heatwaves:

Can a worker leave their workplace if it becomes too hot?

Not unless they feel unwell, and then they need to take sick leave. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 place a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” working temperature in the office. As the employer, you do have a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in particular circumstances.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees. The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that needs an assessment.

Do you have to legally provide air conditioning in the office?

No, you do not. Where working temperatures are uncomfortable, employers should consider:

  • Using fans (or air conditioning, if available).
  • Providing cool water in the workplace and encouraging workers to drink it to prevent dehydration. 
  • Modifying the dress code requirements, if appropriate,.

Is it acceptable for workers to wear shorts and flip-flops in the office during warm weather? What can you do if this happens and a worker defies their employer?

  • If appropriate and in line with your PPE requirements, you can make temporary changes to your dress code policy to allow for the warmer weather. However, you can still insist on certain standards of appearance, particularly for customer-facing roles, and for shoes and clothing to be sensible for health and safety reasons. 

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

  • While there are no legal requirements for employers to make additional allowances for those listed above, it is advisable that you be considerate of your employees during times of extreme heat. Some small but helpful changes can go a long way towards building the goodwill of your workforce, and in turn, they are likely to help the business; after all, if people are too hot, they are unlikely to be at their most productive!