GDPR Considerations for Home-Agile Working

Key considerations for data protection outside the office environment

With homeworking/agile working now becoming a regular occurrence the ICO have issued warnings to companies to be mindful of how they are protecting data – this is what companies need to be aware of:

Policies and procedures 

Detailed agile working policies should be implemented to demonstrate compliance considerations and ensure employees are fully aware of what is expected of them when working outside the office. These policies should themselves be agile; they should be regularly reviewed and updated as things develop to ensure they remain fit for purpose. If employees are allowed to use their own devices when working from home (mobile phones or laptops for example) then a standalone Bring Your Own Device policy may also be appropriate if one is not already in place.

Computer security measures

Setting up the IT infrastructure for your company involved careful considerations relating to security and continuity.

However, the same detailed thought process is unlikely to have been undertaken by your employees when setting up their home systems. Where staff are working remotely, access to servers via a secure virtual private network (VPN) and ensuring that appropriate anti-virus and security software is installed on all devices will mitigate some security risks. Further considerations will be needed depending on the level of risk that home working poses in the context of your business to ensure that your approach is appropriate to the nature, scope, context, and purposes of your data processing activities.

Keeping hard copy and other information at home

Any personal data processed by an employee at home, or anywhere else, will constitute a processing activity undertaken by the company (the storing of personal data is in itself a processing activity). The same data protection principles therefore apply, and any personal data must be kept as securely as it would be in the office. Data stored at home will also be subject to the ordinary principle of storage limitation and must be securely destroyed or deleted in line with your retention policy. Secure destruction will involve more than just throwing the documents into the bin – where employees don’t have the capability to securely destroy documents, then such documents should be kept safe until they can be taken back to the office for shredding.

Transporting data

Care must also be taken when transporting personal data to or from remote working locations. We have heard the horror stories of people leaving sensitive documents on trains and buses and although this may not be an immediate problem with people travelling less frequently on public transport, risks will increase now lockdown has ceased. Where personal data is being transported using removable storage devices such as USB sticks then these devices must be suitably encrypted to ensure the security of the data they hold. Organisations should also be careful when making data accessible online and due diligence should be undertaken on any file sharing sites used, as well as prohibiting staff from forwarding work emails to personal email addresses.

Collaborative working software

With the sudden increase in people working from home, the popularity of collaborative working software has increased. However, care must always be taken whenever new software is rolled out across the company. Ordinary due diligence processes should be followed to ensure that the proposed software affords adequate levels of protection to any personal data involved and a Data Protection Impact Assessment must be completed in advance. Where cloud-based collaborative working software is involved, the software provider is likely to be acting as a processor on behalf of your company. The terms and conditions will therefore need to contain the mandatory provisions in article 28 GDPR and transfers outside of the EEA (to servers in the USA for example) will need to be reviewed to ensure adequate protection is in place.

Privacy

Employees must ensure that their agile working environment allows for a sufficient level of privacy to avoid any unauthorised disclosures or data breaches. Confidentiality must be maintained when discussing personal data over the phone or on video calls, and laptop screens should be locked when not in use to avoid any inadvertent third-party access. Privacy screens should also be used when working with personal data in shared areas or in close proximity to others (even family members). Regardless of where employees are working, any data breaches will need to be reported in the ordinary way.

Maintaining reporting lines

As part of your company’s data protection compliance framework, clear reporting lines should be in place for the escalation of any data protection matters (such as data breaches or requests by data subjects to exercise their rights in respect of the processing of their personal data). These escalation processes must be maintained wherever staff are located. Where a breach is reportable, the ICO must be informed within 72 hours. For this strict timeframe to be met, breaches must be promptly escalated internally for assessment. Similarly, to avoid any failures to comply with requests by data subjects, employees need to be able to independently recognise these and forward them on as appropriate, even when working away from the office.

 

During the coronavirus pandemic, the ICO has confirmed it will take an empathetic and proportionate approach to regulation and consider the impact the pandemic may have on organisations’ compliance resources when considering what action to take. As we start to move back towards a semblance of normality, the potential for any leniency is removed and expectations will return to their usual high standards. As agile working is normalised, care must be taken to ensure that data protection obligations continue to be met.


Homeworking: What do businesses need to know?

What do businesses need to bear in mind as working from home becomes more commonplace, especially in light of the increase in energy costs?

In the past, the phrase ‘working from home’ may have been met with scepticism by some with an image of employees lazily checking emails while binge-watching boxsets. 

However, the world has changed beyond recognition in the past few years as working from home has become the ‘new norm’ for many. 

People were forced during lockdown to set up home offices and employers were kitting them out with IT. Now that these investments have been made, and more importantly, it has been proven that in a lot of cases the workforce can work from home for prolonged periods efficiently and productively thanks to reliable technology, it is difficult to imagine working life as it was will ever be the same again.

If there is one thing that can be certain in these ‘uncertain times’ it’s that working from home has demonstrated in some cases its value in the landscape of modern working. Not just for the individual, saving on commuting costs and a better work-life balance but for employers too as many are shedding office space or downsizing considerably and saving on rent, rates, and utility bills.

In some businesses, working from home (or ‘agile’ working, as it is now known) has long been the norm and the practice has been fully embraced from the boardroom down. For these early adopters, the necessary compliance infrastructure is now tried and tested. For others, agile working is a more recent development, forcibly launched en masse due to the swiftness of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now that the dust has settled, some businesses are seeing the value of agile/home working and thinking about where it might slot into the working practices of the future. There are a lot of considerations for employers to be aware of, health and safety risk assessments, mental health issues from working alone, are employees taking their breaks and how can you ensure that data protection compliance standards are maintained irrespective of location. When considering how to develop future agile working practices to maximise efficiency and employee satisfaction, there are some key issues that must be borne in mind and now, we have the cost-of-living crisis.

With people working from home, they will most likely have to have their heating on when they would normally be out at work – are we about to see demands from home workers asking their employers to pay or contribute to this additional cost? after all, if companies are saving on renting office space is this an unreasonable request? It may be something that employers should be thinking about and factoring into their budgets. We will have to see but as we move towards winter this will be a very interesting topic indeed!


Mental Health at Work

Mental Health Awareness is focusing on kindness as this year’s theme.

What will you be doing for your employees?

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the spotlight on mental health.  In the home-working environment there may be a lack of distinction between work and home life, while some may be struggling to feel motivated. For those who are unable to work remotely, particularly in roles where social distancing is not possible, anxiety and stress may well be high.  In addition, it’s important to include staff who were temporarily not working, having been placed on furlough leave, and consider the negative impact this might have on their perception of their value.

With this in mind, we have outlined some top-tips and recommendations for businesses:

Time management

With the new “WFH” lifestyle, many of us will be blurring the lines between work and home life – there’s a temptation to work non-stop. Managers need to engage with staff and ensure they are taking regular rest breaks and holidays. 

The focus needs to change – managers should be setting an example between balancing home and work life, and this can be achieved by encouraging colleagues to be more open, more personal – sharing hobbies, weekend plans – encouraging life beyond the screen/the workplace. Especially if there is no social escape in the same way as before when we were all in the same place – we can’t switch off by heading out for a drink with colleagues and friends after work and we no longer have our commute to allow us to mentally prepare ourselves or put on the breaks at the start and the end of the day. 

Managers therefore face a new challenge, to help motivate and encourage staff in their new working environments – this could be done by setting up team challenges, encouraging effective use of internal platforms (see social engagement below) and holding regular catchups.

Communication

Communication with colleagues has changed – not only for those in home-working environments, but also in workplaces, where social distancing and new rules such as one-way systems and staggered shift-patterns may still be needed in your environment. This brings further challenges: it is far easier to pick up on employees’ moods from their body language than it is by email or even on a call, and new processes in the workplace may feel awkward and un-natural.  

Every employee is different and needs/wants different levels of interaction – it’s up to management to gauge that – and deal with people as individuals.  Mental health first aiders can be trained to spot the first signs of mental health issues, and know how to reduce and manage the stress levels of the workers in their team – why not allocate this role to one (or a few) colleague(s) per team?  Such individuals should check-in with all employees across the business, including those who are on furlough leave.

Social engagement

Another way employers can turn to nurturing employees’ mental health whilst many employees remain working at home, is to create a virtual “safe space” for staff to enjoy a shared break and catch up. TED, an American media organisation, has set up a virtual space where staff can work alongside each other — separately, but not alone — in an effort to replicate working in a coffee shop or a shared office space (the usual chats by the coffee machine).

Employers should encourage employees to talk and share positive experiences as well as their hardships.  Similarly, many businesses are encouraging employees to tap into their inner creativity such as encouraging creative ‘clubs’  which inspires individuals to use art, nature, cooking, and creative film to keep connected.

Recognition and praise

Let’s not forget about the vital work of those still making the daily commute – these are roles that cannot be done remotely or at home. The public support for these workers who were known during the pandemic as ‘key workers’ has been enormous over the lockdown period, and long may the general attitude towards their hard work and dedication continue.

However, the pressure and long hours can lead to mental and physical exhaustion. Checking in with employees is essential to their mental health and it is important to encourage employees to identify how they are feeling mentally and physically in order to take steps to alleviate the pressure from work and switch off.  Many organisations have been sharing positive stories, it’s great to share positive stories to recognise the value and achievements of employees – both across social media and also internally in your business.

Effective monitoring, using technology 

There are some Employee Wellbeing App’s on the market. This App captures employee’s feelings with a simple mood recording and wellbeing form. By allowing staff to record their mental and physical health, the App offers suggestions to help alleviate low mood and tracks when these have been used, providing access to guidance documents.

Managers can then use the information captured to see the live working status of their team and report on wellbeing data.  This is an excellent idea that could be adopted across the board, for both workers at home and in the workplace.  It’s likely that we will continue to see the increased use of technology to assist employers to effectively monitor employees in the new world of work.

Training and resilience sessions

There’s also the potential long-term impact on mental health to consider as lockdown has ceased, and workers adjust to the ‘new normal’ in their environment where some peoples roles mean they can work some or all of the time at home and other have to be in the workplace – this can cause divisions between different cohorts.

Businesses should be putting in place vital support such as a comprehensive employee assistance programmes (or “wellness action plans” maybe an App (similar to that mentioned above) and training courses. Resilience training courses are an ideal way of encouraging employees to focus on their “inner game” – their decision making, self-awareness, emotional intelligence and their beliefs and assumptions.  By identifying limiting beliefs and behaviours and learning how to gain a new perspective, individuals are able to achieve a more positive mind set (both in the workplace and in their personal lives) which leads to greater motivation, more fulfilment, and an increase in job satisfaction.   If businesses were to invest in such courses, the impact on the workforce could be huge – greater productivity and an increase in profits.

It should be recognised that people were coping with work in different ways during the Coronavirus pandemic –the pandemic has exposed the missing pieces in employee engagement and productivity: resilience and mind set.  Employees who are thriving during the coronavirus crisis are the ones with the highest levels of resilience, optimism, and perseverance.  Focus therefore needs to turn to these three areas, now and in the long-term.

Mental health in the workplace

With the theme of kindness at the forefront this year businesses should be taking those vital steps both in the immediate future and when implementing longer-term business strategy planning: encourage conversation; share positive stories; get to know your workforce; appreciate their individuality; and offer support to the most important asset to your business – your people.


Productivity v Home Working

Is working from home as productive as it seems?

Some employers are now thinking that homeworking has boosted productivity, yet remote work still proves controversial to some.

In June 2020, 28% of employers surveyed said they felt remote working improved worker productivity levels. In the latest update, from data collected between 14 December 2020 and 4 January 2021, a third (33%) said that they think productivity has improved.

Employers are also now less likely to say productivity has decreased as a result of homeworking, 23% said it had in 2021 compared with 28% in June last year.

Those who said it has not made a difference stayed at 38% year on year.

Many employers have already begun considering their hybrid working options for when staff can return to the workplace if they want to.

Some larger employers are allowing employees to decide their own working hours and decide themselves how many days they wish to spend in the office with the rest working remotely.

However, the downside to this is a decline in team working.

Nothing replaces physical presence and virtual meetings do not help you bond with your colleagues in quite the same way.

Some jobs just cannot be done from home, and some employers do not have the trust of their workforce or the culture to ensure that what needs doing gets done.

There are as many employers who are calling workers back to the office as there are those who are embracing the ‘new normal’

It is rather telling that only one third are reporting more productivity from home working. Many employers have doubts, thinking there are more distractions at home, looking after the kids and many have also been forced to work in less-than- ideal working environments as their home is just not set up for home and work life.

The value of face-to-face communications cannot be underestimated or undervalued – bonds can break down without it leading to less engagement, lower motivation and then productivity will suffer to.

So ultimately, working from home has brought many benefits and some people will have increased their productivity but this is not across the board.

Many businesses, employees and employers have struggled with the challenges of remote working.

Going forward it will be important for each business to strike the balance that works for them – employers need to consider flexible working but employees need to be realistic to understand that not all roles can be done from home.

 

 


Recruitment, retention, and the skills shortage

I am sure that you will have read articles on the “Great Resignation” with many workers (young and old) saying goodbye to their pre-pandemic roles and seeking a change, resulting in a shortage of workers in the labour market (haulage, care sector and hospitality to name just a few).

While we can clearly point the finger at two likely reasons (Brexit and Covid-19), what can businesses do to tackle the issue?  We suggest a combination of:

Visas and work permits

Large-scale migration may not cause or solve labour shortages, but it can help with temporary shortages in some industries and sponsored migrant workers can fill suitable skilled roles. The granting of visas to international HGV applicants is one temporary measure adopted by the government  Even if you are not impacted by these specific measures, getting on top of what you can and can’t do regarding immigration is sensible, especially whether a sponsor licence could help.

Re-think recruitment and ways of working

Think about remote working, agile and homeworking with a fresh pair of eyes and a different mindset.

Invest in your employees

Offer training and provide for career development, skills, and educational investment.

Consider long-term incentive plans for key people

Reducing the incentive for them to leave. Some schemes have good tax advantages as well.

Consider post-termination restrictions (to make it harder for people to leave but bearing in mind any potential changes under the Employment Bill will restrict you here).

Do an industry benchmarking exercise, are you paying enough, are your benefits in line with other companies?

Ask your workforce what they value

It may not be money it could be more holidays or something similar

What are the ‘stressors’ in the roles you are finding difficult to recruit for – what can you do about it?

  • How valued do you really make your employees feel?
  • When did you last visit your recruitment strategy – is it fit for purpose in today’s world?
  • What can you mechanise/automate – the investment may be worth it

This is a huge topic, and each business will have to take a long hard look at themselves and address their ‘Achilles Heels’ if they want to stop the skills drain. There is no overnight fix but to do nothing is really not an option.


Night Workers – What is all the fuss?

Night work is often in the news. Union bosses are often complaining that there are major risks for night workers including more accidents and health issues for shift and night workers as well as night working wrecking the work-life balance.

A recent Labour Force Survey (produced by the Office for National Statistics (“ONS”)) in relation to night work revealed that the number of workers who routinely work nights has increased by 200,000 since 2007 to just under 3.2 million – a rise of 6.9% over a period when the workforce grew by around 4.6%.

So, what is night work? And what is special about night work as far as employment legislation is concerned?

Given that the definition which most people would offer would vary with the seasons, it is helpful that the Working Time Regulations (“WTR”) define “night time” is the period between 23:00 and 06:00 – though employers and employees can agree their own definition of night time hours, provided the period in question lasts for at least 7 hours and includes the hours between midnight and 05:00.

Having resolved the definition of “night time”, who is a night worker? That question is also answered by WTR.  A night worker as a person who works for at least three hours during “night time”.

Night work obligations on employers within WTR (some of which overlap with obligations relating to all employees) include:

Taking all reasonable steps to protect workers’ health and safety to ensure that each worker’s average working time (including overtime) does not exceed 48 hours per week. Though the topic of the 48 hours working week is too large to be dealt with here, it is worth issuing a reminder that simply because an employee signs a 48 hours waiver does not mean that an employer can wash his hands of health and safety obligations;

  • Taking all reasonable steps to ensure that night workers’ normal hours of work do not exceed 8 hours per day on average;
  • Ensuring that no night worker doing work involving special hazards, or heavy physical or mental strain, works for more than 8 hours in any day;
  • Ensuring that all night workers have the opportunity of a free health assessment when starting night work – and at regular intervals thereafter;
  • Transferring a night worker to day work, where possible, if a doctor advises that night work is causing health problems;
  • Giving workers adequate rest breaks where the pattern of work is such as to put their health and safety at risk (particularly where the work is monotonous);

Allowing workers the following rest periods:

  • 11 hours’ uninterrupted rest per day
  • 24 hours’ uninterrupted rest per week (or 48 hours per fortnight);
  • A break of 20 minutes where the working period is 6 hours or more;
  • Keeping and maintaining records to demonstrate compliance with the above obligations.

That is quite a substantial number of obligations. Employers of day workers need do little more than offer a 20 minutes break, and make sure that they have their workers’ signatures to 48 hour waivers.  Employers of night workers are rather less fortunate.

If you employ night workers and feel you need further help please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice and information on night worker regulations.


How you can get it wrong in a disciplinary and end up in court?

There is nothing more frustrating for employers than discovering that an employee dismissed for blatant misconduct has a claim for unfair dismissal.

So what are the top 10?

  1. HR involvement in decision-making

Managers carrying out disciplinary investigations and hearings will usually rely on guidance from HR as to policy and procedure, as well as previous disciplinary sanctions for the purposes of consistency.

However, HR involvement should not stray into assessments of the employee’s credibility or culpability. Managers need to make the decisions not HR.

HR advisers should restrict their involvement to issues of law, policy, guidance and procedure.

  1. Dismissing for a reason not covered by your disciplinary policy

Employers should ensure that their approach is in line with all relevant policies, not just the disciplinary procedure.

Whistleblowing and grievance procedures, or policies covering activities outside the workplace, may also be relevant. Once an employer has decided what acceptable conduct is for employees and prepared policies accordingly, these need to be followed.

A fair procedure and consideration of any mitigating factors are required and the tribunal will still consider if the decision to dismiss was fair in all the circumstances.

  1. Relying on breach of implied contractual terms

Employees are obliged to disclose their own wrongdoing only if they owe a fiduciary duty to their employer, or if an obligation arises under their contract of employment.

In the absence of clear wording in the employment contract, it is probably unfair to dismiss an employee for failing to report his or her own misdeeds.

  1. Dismissing for a reason not put to the employee at the outset

Employers must not be tempted to add further matters part of the way through the disciplinary process, unless a full procedure is followed for each allegation.

  1. Over-reliance on earlier warnings

Previous warnings can be a minefield for employers. Other than in cases of gross misconduct, dismissal is likely to be unfair unless there is a live final written warning.

Relying on an expired warning is extremely dangerous.

  1. Dismissing without considering other sanctions

Do not assume that a finding of gross misconduct automatically justifies summary dismissal.

A tribunal will expect to see evidence that the decision-maker has considered if this is the appropriate penalty in each case.

It is important to consider all the circumstances, including the penalty that has been applied in similar cases, the employee’s length of service and disciplinary record. Any mitigating circumstances should also be taken into account.

These might include the employee’s remorse for his actions as well as any personal circumstances that may be relevant.

  1. Muddling investigatory and disciplinary meetings

If an employee owns up to misconduct during an investigatory meeting, you may be tempted to move straight to a disciplinary sanction. This should be avoided.

There may still be issues that need to be investigated; for example, if the employee alleges that the conduct in question is widespread or condoned by their manager.

Further, the procedural requirements that apply to a disciplinary meeting will not have been followed, meaning that any dismissal is also likely to breach the ACAS Code

Keep a record of the employee’s admission and, once the investigation is complete, convene a separate disciplinary hearing. As usual, the employee should be given time to prepare for the disciplinary hearing and a chance to make representations.

There may be mitigating factors to take into account, and the tribunal will still expect the employer to have acted reasonably and to have considered these.

  1. Dismissing without any process during the probationary period

Given that employees who are still under probation have short notice periods and are unable to claim ordinary unfair dismissal, some employers may choose to dismiss without following any procedure during this time.

However, it is important to remember that there is no service requirement for claims of automatically unfair dismissal; for example, dismissal for whistleblowing or for a health and safety reason.

All workers and job applicants are also protected under discrimination law regardless of length of service. Employers should therefore consider if any such issues might arise before moving straight to dismissal.

  1. Increasing sanction to dismissal on appeal

Employers sometimes consider increasing a final written warning to dismissal as part of the appeal process.

This might be because the appeal manager takes a different view as to the severity of the misconduct, or because further information comes to light.

Increasing the penalty in this way can be risky. It is important to ensure that such a step is permissible under the employer’s own disciplinary policy.

Employers should bear in mind that such a step is contrary to the Acas code, which expressly states that appeal should not result in an increased sanction (as this may deter individuals from appealing).

  1. Choosing an inappropriate decision-maker

The ACAS code provides that, where possible, different people should conduct the investigation and the hearing and then a further person for any appeal.

The appeal should ideally be heard by someone senior to the original decision-maker and from a different reporting line. This can be a particular problem for small employers, where finding separate decision-makers for the initial hearing and appeal stage can be tricky.

And finally, don’t forget…

With so many potential pitfalls, employers may wonder how a dismissal is ever fair. There are, however, two things to bear in mind.

First, while procedure is important, tribunals retain a degree of pragmatism. Employers need to demonstrate that they have been reasonable and above all fair.

Second, while a procedural flaw may result in a technical finding of unfair dismissal, it is still open to the employment tribunal to reduce the compensation awarded, either to reflect the employee’s culpability for his or her own dismissal (contributory fault) or because the procedural errors made no difference to the overall outcome

That said, it is better to avoid these pitfalls, if only to prevent the waste of time and cost of an employment tribunal.


Travel Time and Mobile Workers

Late last year the European Court of Justice handed down a decision relating to workers who do not have a fixed place of work involving implications for many businesses.

The case was brought by a group of technicians who did not have a fixed place of work. They were assigned an area to carry out installation or maintenance and would be told where they would be going on each particular day. On some days their first or last appointments may have been up to 100km away from their home.

The employer of these technicians considered that the first journey of the day from home to the first assignment and the last journey of the day from the last assignment to home was not working time. Indeed, this follows the non-statutory guidance issued by the Government on the same issue.

The workers considered that this should be deemed as working time on the basis that they did not have a fixed place of work.

The European Court of Justice reviewed the legislation on working time which, in the United Kingdom, is the Working Time Regulations 1998. This states that: “working time involves any period during which the employee is at work, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out their activity or duties.” The decision of the ECJ was that time spent travelling to a first destination from home and from a last destination to home should be counted as working time. The workers were deemed to be carrying out their duties when travelling to a first client because they had no fixed place or office to go to beforehand. They were at the employer’s disposal because they were legally obliged to obey the instructions given to travel to a particular place at a particular time and the employees could not use their time freely or pursue their own interests during this travel time. Finally, they were deemed to be at work as, having no fixed place of work, the journey itself amounted to work.

So what does this mean to you? this ruling covers any staff who do not work in a fixed locations so anyone that moves around and starts and ends from home. This will cover external sales persons, engineers, carers and such like roles.

It is important to remember that the decision impacts on working time for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998. This means that such travel time for mobile workers must be included when determining whether an employee has been afforded the opportunity of adequate rest breaks and daily rest periods. Within the WTR there is a limit on working time of 48 hours maximum each week unless they have opted out of this.

Employers should review whether such travel time exceeds this limit. If it does, employers should ensure that an adequate opt-out is signed allowing employees to work in excess of 48 hours.

Some people have made comment that the decision may also impact on minimum wage legislation. It is suggested that such travel time should now be counted for the purpose of assessing whether an employee has been paid the minimum wage. At this time, the ruling does not extend this far, as the National Minimum Wage Regulations provides a different definition of working time. Nevertheless, this may be litigated on in the future and employers should be mindful of this going forward.

If in doubt, please give us a call.


Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

This is a subject that small employers often are unsure on how to support their staff.

Ignoring it or hoping it sorts itself out is not the solution.

To help here are some tips and information.

1. Mental health can affect anyone

Most people have heard that one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year. As with physical health, everyone has the capacity to develop the issue at any time – just like anyone can break their ankle on their way to work or be hit by that nasty bug that seems to go around every winter. Most of us will know how to respond to these situations without confusion or fear of offending – however there is a sizeable gap in our understanding when someone experiences panic attacks or symptoms of depression, or even if they just feel that they’re not handling things as well as they would normally.

2. Mental health conversations benefit everyone

If we consider that everyone has mental health, then a positive and open attitude towards it would be of benefit to all – whether they are the one in four UK people that Mind estimates suffer from mental health problems in a year, or the three out of four that don’t. Even when it is not an employee who is suffering from mental health issues, it may be someone in their family or a close friend, so they could still be bearing a significant burden and would benefit from support, especially in the workplace where the wellbeing, and therefore performance and productivity, of employees are key considerations.
If we carry the notion that mental health is a topic for all, promoting openness around mental wellbeing could theoretically go a long way to ensuring that the whole organisation benefits from a cohesive and joined up strategy, often contributing to the development of the wider cultural agenda for the organisation.

3. Mental health conversations are not just for managers

It has been clearly established that promoting openness around mental health in the workplace can contribute to the wider diversity and cultural objectives of organisations. However, if there is a benefit for individuals to talk about mental health, it shouldn’t just fall to managers to start conversations with their teams. While the wellbeing of staff is obviously key for managers, it’s a task for everyone to ensure that anyone, who finds themselves with a mental health issue, is also supported by their peers and colleagues. The more understanding everyone has, the more opportunities individuals have to open up about their mental health at a more informal level.

4. Having the conversation

Despite attitudes improving over the last few years, mental health is still something that carries a certain stigma fuelled by people’s misunderstanding, fear and the innocent notion that it “may not happen to them”. The more we educate and talk about mental health at all stages, the easier we will find it to encourage openness, start conversations and develop engaged and productive workplaces.

If you want to know more please do not hesitate to contact us on 01924 441032 or info@lamontjones.co.uk


Disciplinary procedures: Six common mistakes made by inexperienced managers

Inexperienced managers can struggle to put disciplinary policies into practice.

Employers often spend a large amount of time drafting a fair disciplinary policy, but fail to give the same attention to training their staff to put it into practice.

Here are six common mistakes made by inexperienced managers:

  1. Not following the Acas code of practice

Managers need to be familiar with the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as their own disciplinary rules and procedures.

Although a failure to follow the code does not in itself make an employer liable to proceedings, employment tribunals will take the code into account when considering relevant cases.

  1. Not warning the employee of the possible consequences

The employee must be made fully aware of the likely disciplinary penalties if the allegations are upheld.

Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, the possible penalty might be a formal verbal warning, a written warning, a final written warning or indeed dismissal. In short, the disciplinary decision should not contain any surprises.

  1. Including new allegations without investigating

It can be tempting to add any new allegations that surface during a disciplinary investigation to the current ones that are subject to the disciplinary process.

This is not advisable, as any fresh allegations must be fully investigated before a disciplinary hearing takes place.

  1. Issuing the penalty without considering all relevant factors

Managers should consider what type of penalty has been imposed in similar cases in the past. They should then bear in mind the particular circumstances. This can include the employee’s disciplinary record, his or her general work record and position within the organisation as well as length of service.

Managers must also take into account any mitigating circumstances. This could cover matters relating to the employee’s health, any domestic problems, or whether or not the behaviour in question arose due to the employee being provoked. If the employee has breached a rule, consideration needs to be given to whether or not the employee was reasonably aware of that rule.

  1. Not checking what penalties are allowed under the disciplinary policy

Only in very serious cases will summary dismissal for a first offence be merited. In cases of minor misconduct, a series of warnings before dismissal will be more fitting.

  1. Getting the reason for the dismissal wrong

Employers sometimes struggle to categorise the type of behaviour that has given rise to the allegation. A dismissal will be considered unfair, even if the employee could have been dismissed fairly on the facts, if the stated reason for the dismissal is incorrect.

So if you are not sure – get some help – call us on 01924 441032.