IT problems hinder UK workers’ productivity

New research has revealed that the average worker spends over one working day a month fixing their own IT issues, with almost a third reporting that their workplace IT systems are hindering their productivity.  click here to read more…

Ruling indicates that voluntary overtime should be factored into holiday pay under certain circumstances

A recent Court of Appeal ruling in Flowers and others v East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust could set a precedent around overtime and the calculation of holiday pay for both public and private sector workers. click here to read more…

‘Burn-out’ recognized as a medical condition

The term ‘burn-out’ has become increasingly prevalent as organisations struggle to manage the impact of increasing workplace demands on employees’ mental health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) define burn-out as ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’ and has recently revised its International Classification of Diseases, to include it as a specific medical condition. click here to read more…

‘Living Hours’ programme launched to tackle insecure, low-paid work

The Living Wage Foundation (LWF) has called for greater action to address insecure, low-paid work that affects more than 5 million UK workers. The campaign group have launched their own ‘Living Hours’ programme which they hope will “tackle widespread insecurity over hours and provide workers with real control over their lives”. click here to read more…

Research finds almost half of UK employees are struggling to afford fuel costs

New research by employee benefits provider GettaSub has found that almost half of UK employees (44%) are struggling to afford fuel prices in order to get to work and that  rising fuel costs are having a detrimental effect on employee financial wellbeing. click here to read more…

Disabled employee was not unlawfully discriminated against when his re-posting was blocked after medical assessment deemed him to be ‘unfit’

In this recent tribunal case, a severely disabled employee, who worked as a Chemical Engineer, brought a claim for direct and indirect discrimination, as well as failure to make reasonable adjustments, when his temporary re-posting was blocked after a medical assessment concluded he was ‘temporarily unfit’ for the offshore assignment. click here to read more…

Research shows dogs can improve employee productivity and wellbeing

Friday 21st June is ‘Bring Your Dog to Work’ Day and research conducted by flexible office specialist, Workthere, reveals that having a canine companion in the workplace can bring benefits to both employees and their employers. click here to read more…

Calls for more support for those affected by menstruation in the workplace

A new survey by CIPD training specialist DPG has found that almost half of workers who experience periods (48%) say there is a noticeable stigma around the issue at the company they work for. This stigma was found to affect how people act at work. click here to read more…

The importance of environmentally friendly policies in attracting and retaining employees

Research carried out by video production firm TopLine Film, which polled 1,000 office workers, marked the United Nation’s 46th World Environment Day, highlighting the importance of sustainable business practices – not only as a way of protecting the environment but also as a tool to attract and retain employees. click here to read more…



IT problems hinder UK workers’ productivity

New research has revealed that the average worker spends over one working day a month fixing their own IT issues, with almost a third reporting that their workplace IT systems are hindering their productivity.

The survey carried out by technology services provider  Probrand.co.uk found that companies are losing £3.4 billion every year due to IT issues and that workers are wasting an average of 5% of their working day due to connection or technology related issues.

The five most significant workplace IT issues reported by UK workers were:

-Slow running equipment (34%),
-Internet connectivity issues (27%),
-Cyber breaches (19%),
-Equipment such as printers and scanners not working (11%),
-Outdated hardware (9%).

Matt Royle, marketing director at Probrand comments: “A productive workforce is integral to the success of a business, as is ICT in enabling that. It’s clear from our findings that businesses are not helping themselves when it comes to resolving IT related issues.

“Naturally, issues arise from the IT itself as well as end user error.  Employee training can help here on basic use of IT systems, processes and company policies – particularly when it comes to cyber and data security.   

“As the data shows, in-house IT departments are stretched more than ever and this is resulting in 6 percent less end user productivity than those without an internal IT team.  IT departments are expected to fix end user issues fast, maintain everyday systems and drive business growth by creating and delivering cutting edge technology strategies. 

Those surveyed who had an in-house IT department, said that they often appear to be under resourced, with problems taking an average of 6.2 hours to be resolved once reported. Knowing that they will have to wait for assistance, many workers will attempt to resolve the issue themselves, but by doing so, they are taking themselves away from their own work and will often make the problem worse!

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Ruling indicates that voluntary overtime should be factored into holiday pay under certain circumstances

A recent Court of Appeal ruling in Flowers and others v East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust could set a precedent around overtime and the calculation of holiday pay for both public and private sector workers.

In this case, the ambulance workers’ contracts included two types of overtime: mandatory and non-guaranteed overtime, when emergency shifts overran, and voluntary overtime, which is agreed in advance by staff.  An initial 2017 ruling upheld part of the employees’ complaint and agreed that mandatory and non-guaranteed overtime should form part of their remuneration and holiday pay calculations. However, it was found that as ambulance crews were not obliged to undertake voluntary overtime, this should not form part of existing remuneration agreements. 

Following an appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that voluntary overtime should also be taken into account when calculating holiday pay, alongside mandatory and non-guaranteed overtime. The EAT recommended that future tribunals should assess similar cases on their own merit to ascertain whether or not voluntary overtime was paid on a regular and/or recurring basis.  

The Court of Appeal upheld the EAT’s ruling, confirming that the question to be considered in calculating holiday pay is whether the voluntary overtime is ‘sufficiently regular and settled’ and there is no requirement for these hours to be compulsory within the contract of employment. However there was no further guidance on how to determine whether voluntary overtime is ‘sufficiently regular’ or ‘settled’ and this will depend upon the facts of each case.  It is important to note that this decision only relates to the four weeks of annual leave provided by the EU Working Time Directive. This does not apply to the additional 1.6 weeks of leave added to this statutory minimum under UK law.

In light of this ruling, employers should look carefully at whether voluntary overtime payments should be included in holiday pay calculations. Otherwise, a successful claim for unlawful deductions from wages can result in back pay for a maximum of two years where there is a gap of less than three months between each underpayment.

This case also highlights that employers should be mindful that under the Working Time Regulations, employees should not be disincentivized from taking their holiday.  So, where the overtime, voluntary or otherwise, is sufficiently regular, there is an implication that the employee relies on those payments as part of their regular remuneration, and the loss of such payments would result in a disincentive to take their annual leave, which would be in breach of the Working Time Regulations.

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‘Burn-out’ recognized as a medical condition

The term ‘burn-out’ has become increasingly prevalent as organisations struggle to manage the impact of increasing workplace demands on employees’ mental health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) define burn-out as ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’ and has recently revised its International Classification of Diseases, to include it as a specific medical condition, which will be recognised globally, with effect from 2020.

This development highlights the importance of providing appropriate support to employees who claim to be suffering with work related stress. A key aspect of the WHO’s definition is that burn-out only relates to work related stress, which should encourage employers to be alert to any early warning signs. According to the WHO, common symptoms of burn-out include:

  • feelings of energy depletion or mental exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job
  • feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Failing to properly prevent and address burn-out could ultimately lead to claims of disability discrimination if an individual is able to show that their condition has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out their normal day-to-day activities. However, it is still the case within many workplaces that burn-out and work-related stress are viewed as ‘part of the job’, and employers are urged to lead from the top to change such workplace cultures.  Instead, organisations should ensure that they have appropriate frameworks in place to support staff and to avoid creating situations where they feel pressurized into working long hours. Rest breaks and annual leave are important in preventing mental ill health at work and presenteeism should be discouraged. The use of wellness action plans and employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can also be helpful in addressing workplace stress and there are growing calls for employers to introduce mental health first aiders into their workplaces.

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‘Living Hours’ programme launched to tackle insecure, low-paid work

The Living Wage Foundation (LWF) has called for greater action to address insecure, low-paid work that affects more than 5 million UK workers. The campaign group have launched their own ‘Living Hours’ programme which they hope will “tackle widespread insecurity over hours and provide workers with real control over their lives”.

The programme asks organisations to pay workers in line with the Real Living Wage, of £10.55 per hour in London and £9.00 per hour for the rest of the UK. Organisations will also need to provide staff with a minimum of 16 hours of work a week, a contract that accurately reflects working time and 4 weeks’ notice of any shifts they are required to complete.

Speaking on the current state of insecure employment, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady stated, “Everyone should have the right to guaranteed hours. But many workers are kept on a string – not knowing how much work they’ll have from one week to the next,”

Although participation is purely voluntary, a number of organisations including Richer Sounds and SSE have already signed up to the programme and will receive Living Hours accreditation. Many other organisations are expected to follow suit, including those who have previously committed to paying the Real Living Wage, as this is seen as the next logical step to reducing job insecurity.

Whilst zero-hours contracts are not unlawful, it is clear that organisations are facing continued pressure to take more responsibility in ensuring fair working conditions. As a result, employers are encouraged to consider if zero-hours contracts are really necessary, given the impact this can have on staff. Increasing job security and guaranteeing a minimum number of hours is likely to be valued by most workers and can help promote a positive and employee-focused image.  

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Research finds almost half of UK employees are struggling to afford fuel costs

New research by employee benefits provider GettaSub has found that almost half of UK employees (44%) are struggling to afford fuel prices in order to get to work.

The survey of 2,000 UK workers, found that rising fuel costs are having a detrimental effect on employee financial wellbeing. The results reveal that just under a third (30%) would consider walking more than 1km in order to save their fuel and that over two in 10 employees (22%) have altered  the way they drive to save on fuel – such as coasting downhill, not using the radio and turning the engine off at traffic lights. On top of this, 17% stated they had risked driving with their fuel light on to save paying for more fuel.

When asked about what changes employees had made in their lives to factor in higher fuel costs, just under two in 10 (19%) said they have had to cut back on their food expenses in order to afford fuel and two in 10 claimed they work from home to save on travel costs. Most worryingly, one in 10 admitted to skipping work because they could not afford to get there.

Ann Marie Bell, Director at Gettasub comments:“It’s clear that soaring fuel costs are putting huge pressures on workers, leaving those on minimum wages struggling to make ends meet. It’s vital that companies do more to help employees with the cost of living crisis, by offering advance financial support and flexible benefits to reduce these pressures.”

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Disabled employee was not unlawfully discriminated against when his re-posting was blocked after medical assessment deemed him to be ‘unfit’.

In this recent tribunal case, a severely disabled employee, who worked as a Chemical Engineer, brought a claim for direct and indirect discrimination, as well as failure to make reasonable adjustments, when his temporary re-posting was blocked after a medical assessment concluded he was ‘temporarily unfit’ for the offshore assignment.

Following his work on a project, the disabled employee, who had double below knee amputations, as well as other chronic medical conditions, was invited on a temporary reposting that would have involved a 12-month relocation to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The organisation implemented its usual procedure of having pre-assignment health checks carried out on all employees who were to be deployed overseas, including attending a medical assessment with an occupational health (OH) doctor from an independent organisation. The doctor found he was ‘temporarily unfit’ to work offshore and, when questioned further, a consultant from the OH organisation confirmed that they believed the employee would be at ‘high risk to need medical assistance’ whilst on assignment.

As a result of this assessment, the decision was made to refuse permission for the reposting. The employee later brought claims to the employment tribunal (ET) for direct and indirect disability discrimination, and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Direct disability discrimination occurs where a person is treated less favourably ‘because of’ their disability compared with others who do not share the protected characteristic but are otherwise in circumstances that are not materially different’. Indirect disability discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) is applied universally that puts disabled employees at a particular disadvantage, and it cannot be objectively justified as a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.  Organisations are also required to make reasonable adjustments when a PCP puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled.

In considering the claim for direct discrimination, the ET identified that any other member of staff who was not disabled but whose heath still placed them at high risk would have been treated in the same way and, therefore, the claim was rejected. Turning to the claim for indirect discrimination, the tribunal found that the requirement for employees to pass a medical assessment before being assigned overseas was objectively justified as it was intended to ensure that all those who go on a global assignment were fit to do so and would not be subjected to further health risks. As the medical assessment was found to have been necessary, it was found that there were no reasonable adjustments that could have been made to avoid the disadvantage faced by the employee.

This decision was later upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and the Court of Appeal and highlights that, provided an employer has gathered all relevant information, including (but not solely) independent medical advice, and balanced up the risks to the organisation with the effect on the employee, a tribunal is unlikely to find that such a decision is discriminatory if the same decision would have been reached with another employee regardless of whether they have the particular protected characteristic or not.

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Research shows dogs can improve employee productivity and wellbeing

Friday 21st June is ‘Bring Your Dog to Work’ Day and research conducted by flexible office specialist, Workthere, reveals that having a canine companion in the workplace can bring benefits to both employees and their employers.

The research looked at UK office workers attitudes towards having a dog at their place of work and found that almost half (43%) think this would be beneficial to their productivity, over a third (34%) believed it would make them happier, and a quarter (25%) felt it would improve their work/life balance.  It also found that younger workers are most in favour of having dogs at work, with nearly half (43%) of 18-24-year old’s admitting they would be more likely to apply for a job that allowed dogs in the office.  When it comes to the gender divide, the research found that a third (32%) of women would be more attracted to a workplace that allowed dogs, compared to just a quarter (24%) of men.

Cal Lee, head of Workthere, comments: “Whilst having a dog in the office may not be for everyone, and you must understand the needs and consensus of your employees, it is clear that a canine colleague can boost overall productivity, mood and happiness, while reducing stress. It could therefore be a great consideration for employers to bear in mind looking forward, and what better time to start doing this than this year’s Bring Your Dog to Work Day?” To find out the UK’s top dog in the office, click here 

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Calls for more support for those affected by menstruation in the workplace

A new survey by CIPD training specialist DPG has found that almost half of workers who experience periods (48%) say there is a noticeable stigma around the issue at the company they work for. This stigma was found to affect how people act at work, as three-quarters of menstruators (74 %) say they feel they have to  hide sanitary products at work. Many also feel the taboo is preventing conversations around the issue, with six in ten survey respondents (60%) saying they’d be uncomfortable discussing the topic with colleagues or managers. Almost one-third felt that colleagues did not take period pain seriously and, as a result, 57% of those who suffer period related illnesses have had to lie about their reasons for taking sick days.

The survey highlights that workplaces are not always providing basic facilities to help employees deal with their periods:

-Over one-quarter (27%) of menstruators don’t have sanitary bins at work
-Almost one-third (31%) don’t have constant access to a toilet
-Almost two-thirds (62%) have no way of accessing sanitary products at work if they run out
-Just 7% percent have access to back supports to alleviate pain

-Only 3% can use heat pads at work

Sarah Aubrey, CEO at DPG, said about the research: “These results show that it’s high time managers and employers make a concerted effort to overcome period stigma in the workplace.

“We need to be making a focused move towards normalising periods and removing misconceptions around them. This can start with small steps, such as introducing the subject in wider conversations around health and wellbeing and making your workplace period positive.”

For more information click here 

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The importance of environmentally friendly policies in attracting and retaining employees

Research carried out by video production firm TopLine Film, which polled 1,000 office workers, marked the United Nation’s 46th World Environment Day, highlighting the importance of sustainable business practices – not only as a way of protecting the environment but also as a tool to attract and retain employees. The poll found that 73% of office workers want their organisation to improve its sustainability policies and 24% would refuse a job offer at an organisation with historically poor sustainability records.

The most popular environmentally-friendly workplace activity was recycling office waste (50%), with others citing policies related to reducing paper usage (29%), using energy efficient fixtures (27%) and hosting virtual meetings to reduce travel time (26%).

Jamie Field, Managing Director at TopLine Film, commented: “Establishing environmentally friendly practices in the workplace is simply good for business. Attracting and retaining employees is as good a motivation as any other to get your company thinking about sustainability.

“Encouraging sustainability in your workplace doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. With over 15 tonnes of plastic dumped in the ocean every minute, banning single use plastic in the office is a logical step towards sustainability. It’s our collective responsibility to make a difference to our planet and it starts with making small changes. These simple policies remind everyone about sustainability and your commitment to it,” Field added.

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This newsletter was curated by Nicole Squires, MA, Chartered MCIPD, an Executive Consultant at People Based Solutions.People Based Solutions is an HR support company that specialises in supporting small and medium sized businesses meet all of their HR commitments. If you want to know how People Based solutions can help you meet your HR and Employment Law obligations click here for your free HR Health Check. Alternatively, you can call us on 01925 425 857, send an e-mail to enquries@peoplebasedsolutions.co.uk or click here to visit our website.