Bringing you the latest HR news and employment law updates

 

 

A fifth of over-45s expect to have to give up work for caring responsibilities

Research has found that a fifth of employees over the age of 45 believe they will need to quit their job to care for a partner or relative due to financial constraints. This highlights the struggle that those reaching this particular stage in life face, trying to balance work demands with caring responsibilities and costs. Despite this, however, just 6% of organisations viewed caring commitments as a major issue for their workforce. Read more…

Tribunal decisions provide a warning to employers over how to conduct disciplinary procedures

Two recent employment tribunal rulings have highlighted the need for employers to give careful consideration to decisions regarding how disciplinary proceedings are conducted. In Talon Engineering Ltd v. Smith, the claimant did not attend the disciplinary hearing because her representative, a trade union official, was unable to attend. They had requested a delay of two weeks, which is more than the statutory requirement of 5 days but the employer refused this request. The tribunal and the EAT accepted that the dismissal was unfair as a result. Read more…

Bringing mindfulness into the workplace

Mindfulness is essentially about being focused in the moment and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by what happened at yesterday’s meeting, or by tomorrow’s deadlines. Whilst it has recently grown in popularity, mindfulness has its origins in Buddhist teachings, where it is practiced to encourage self-knowledge and wisdom. Practicing mindfulness enables us to really concentrate on the task at hand which, in a workplace full of distractions, is a useful skill that can help us to cope better, particularly at busy times. Read more…

Doctor, who refused to use transgender pronouns, loses tribunal claim

Dr Mackereth, had been told he could not continue in his role if he refused to identify patients by their chosen sex. As a practicing Christian, he said he believed ‘gender is defined by biology’ and that ‘if upsetting someone can lead to doctors being sacked then, as a society, we have to examine where we are going’. Following his dismissal, he brought an employment tribunal claim stating that his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion had been breached, contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Read more…

Shocking statistics prompt call for employers to purchase workplace defibrillators

Statistics published by First Aid for Life (FAFL) show that each year, around 30,000 people are struck by SCA (Sudden Cardiac Arrest) outside of a hospital environment. For each minute a victim doesn’t receive CPR or defibrillation, this reduces their survival rate by 7-10% and when a defibrillator is used within 3-5 minutes of the cardiac arrest, survival rates increase significantly from 6% to 74%.  These statistics, therefore, make a strong case for defibrillators to be installed at workplaces. Read more…

Guidance for businesses employing EU Nationals

In light of yet another Brexit extension, organisations who employ EU nationals might be tempted to sit back, do nothing, and see what happens. However, given the fluidity of the situation and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit still looming, employers are advised to make all efforts to ensure that any EU nationals currently working for them are taking the necessary steps to apply for ‘settled status’, so that their employment can continue without any problems. Read more…

Working fathers face struggle to obtain flexible hours

A new survey of parents has found that working fathers are facing many of the same issues around flexibility that women have been experiencing for years. The survey of nearly 3,000 people found that fathers in the workplace struggled to secure the flexible hours they needed to balance work and home life and faced stigma from line managers and colleagues when they worked flexibly. Read more…

 ‘Evidence’ that happy workers are more productive

Whilst, anecdotally, it has long been believed to be the case, new research from the University of Oxford has found ‘causal evidence’ that happy workers are more productive. In fact, the study, found that, on average, happy employees are 13% more productive that their gloomier colleagues! Read more…

 

This newsletter has been 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.

 


A fifth of over-45s expect to have to give up work for caring responsibilities

Research undertaken by Aviva found that a fifth of employees over the age of 45 believe they will need to quit their job to care for a partner or relative due to financial constraints. This statistic highlights the struggle that workers who reach this particular stage in life face, trying to balance work demands with caring responsibilities and costs. Despite this, however, just 6% of organisations viewed caring commitments as a major issue for their workforce.

Lindsey Rix, managing director of Aviva, outlines that ‘the practical, financial and emotional costs of caring for relatives both young and old are forcing many people in mid-life to make increasingly difficult decisions about balancing their commitments.’ She adds that ‘mid-life is the fastest growing age demographic’ and that it is ‘concerning to see that only a small percentage of employers are prioritising the issue of care’.

Currently, there is no specific legal entitlement for carers to take additional time off for their responsibilities, so it is down to the discretion of the employer. There are, however, are certain options that may be open to employees in this situation that the organisation should be aware of. For example, permitting employees to work flexible hours can help them to better plan their caring responsibilities around their job and avoid them taking long periods of time off. Likewise, all employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off to care for a ‘dependant’, although this must only be for an unforeseen emergency. The law defines a dependant as a child, parent, spouse or someone who depends upon the employee for care.

Whilst it is unlikely that there will be a change to the law any time soon, the research does highlight the growing importance of this issue to employees. One of the best ways for employers to tackle it is to create a carer’s policy, which can outline all the legal rights open to carers in the organisation, alongside any additional options on offer.

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Tribunal decisions provide a warning to employers over how to conduct disciplinary procedures

Two recent employment tribunal rulings have highlighted the need for employers to give careful consideration to decisions regarding how disciplinary proceedings are conducted.

The first case, Talon Engineering Ltd v. Smith UKEAT/0236/17 relates to the frequent issue of delay in disciplinary proceedings. The claimant was suspended in July and dismissed two months later. She did not attend the disciplinary hearing because her representative, a trade union official who had been advising her throughout, was unable to attend the revised date. There is a statutory right to delay the disciplinary hearing for five days. However, her representative wanted it delayed for two weeks, which the employer refused. The tribunal and the EAT accepted that the dismissal was unfair as a result.

This decision is likely to be concerning for employers, because after a suspension for two months there is a danger that a tribunal could take the view that the suspension has been too long and the process unfair as a result. It is, therefore, important that employers choose very carefully whether to agree to lengthy adjournments in the disciplinary process, or face claims for unfair dismissal.

In the other case, Afzal v. East London Pizza Ltd t/a Dominos Pizza UKEAT/0265/17/DA, the employee was dismissed for failing to provide the necessary paperwork to prove he had the right to work in the United Kingdom. He then produced the paperwork after the dismissal, but the employer refused to hold an appeal against the original decision. The tribunal decided this made the dismissal unfair, which was upheld by the EAT. This decision emphasises that an appeal process is almost always required in the disciplinary process. Overall, employers cannot ignore a fair process, even when dismissing staff they believe to be working unlawfully.

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Bringing mindfulness into the workplace

Mindfulness is essentially about being focused in the moment and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by what happened at yesterday’s meeting, or by tomorrow’s deadlines. Whilst it has recently grown in popularity, mindfulness has its origins in Buddhist teachings, where it is practiced to encourage self-knowledge and wisdom. Practicing mindfulness enables us to really concentrate on the task at hand which, in a workplace full of distractions, is a useful skill that can help us to cope better, particularly at busy times. It’s, therefore, not surprising that more and more employers are introducing mindful practices into their workplaces.

After a long commute, or a restless night with sick children, starting the day off with a mindful exercise can reinvigorate and reenergize employees to face the challenges ahead. One way to do this is, for example, with a 10-minute breathing exercise, which can bring calmness and help staff members to start off the day with the right mental attitude. Meditation is also an important part of mindfulness and some companies have gone as far as bringing in a meditation expert to teach staff how to meditate. In the context of mindfulness at work, it can, therefore, be helpful for organisations to provide those employees that want to with a quiet space where they can meditate.

The Harvard Business Review examined the scientific research into the benefits and effectiveness of mindfulness and found:

-Mindfulness helps build resilience. Practicing mindfulness techniques and more specifically meditation can decrease the effects of anxiety and stress. It has the potential to enhance our sense of resilience and ability to perform under stress.

-Mindfulness can strengthen emotional intelligence. Being mindful helps to improve our levels of patience and ability to regulate our emotions. Having an inner sense of calm makes it easier for us to cope when things don’t go our way. It also means that we’re better equipped to deal with workplace conflict and are less emotional in our reaction to events.

-Mindfulness promotes creativity. Being relaxed as a result of practicing mindfulness means that we are also giving ourselves the opportunity to be more creative. Empirical research suggests that mindfulness enables greater insights and more out-of-the-box innovatory thinking.

-Mindfulness enhances personal relationships. All that stress, anxiety, anger and distraction apparent in the non-mindful workplace cause strained interpersonal relationships. Practicing mindful techniques can help us be more tolerant and compassionate towards others and, therefore, has a positive impact on the personal connections between colleagues at work.

-Mindfulness helps us focus. We’re all guilty of operating on autopilot from time to time. Multiply this natural tendency with all the distractions evident in the modern workplace, it hardly surprising that we can find it hard to stay on task. However, studies have shown that mindfulness with its emphasis on the present helps us stay more focused and improves concentration.

Whilst the research highlights the many potential benefits of promoting mindfulness at work, there are some pitfalls, which employers should be careful to avoid. For example, employees shouldn’t feel pressured into practicing mindfulness if it’s not right for them and so it’s important to respect the individual’s right to opt out. Also, if an employer introduces a mindfulness program purely as a means of increasing productivity, this is likely to be picked up by employees who will become cynical of their motivations. Mindfulness is about promoting different ways of thinking and acting in the workplace and a useful by-product may well be that all-round productivity receives a boost, but this should not be the main motivation.

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Doctor, who refused to use transgender pronouns, loses tribunal claim

In this case, Dr Mackereth, who had previously worked as a Disability Assessor for 26 years, had been told that he could not continue in his role if he refused to identify patients by their chosen sex. Although he stated that he was ‘not attacking the transgender movement’, he felt that being ‘compelled to use a specific pronoun’ was an attack on his ‘freedom of speech and freedom of belief’. As a practicing Christian, he said he believed ‘gender is defined by biology’ and that ‘if upsetting someone can lead to doctors being sacked then, as a society, we have to examine where we are going’.

Dr Mackereth brought an employment tribunal claim against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stating that it’s actions in terminating his contract had breached his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, contrary to the Equality Act 2010.

Under the Equality Act 2010, individuals can claim they were subjected to discrimination because of their philosophical belief. However, this ‘belief’ needs to fit certain criteria: it must affect how a person lives their life, be genuinely held, be about a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour, attain a certain level of logic, seriousness, structure and importance, be worthy of respect in a democratic society and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

The tribunal ultimately dismissed Dr Mackereth’s claim, concluding that by terminating his contract the DPW had not breached the Equality Act, as a ‘lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection… are incompatible with human dignity and conflict the fundamental rights of others’.

Whilst this case demonstrates that establishing a philosophical belief can be difficult for claimants, organisations should still be mindful of this area of the law. Recently, an employment tribunal suggested that veganism, for example, could amount to such a belief, and therefore receive protections under the Equality Act, as there was a ‘clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief’. In reality, however, it remains to be seen how a tribunal would respond to a direct claim of this kind.

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Shocking statistics prompt call for employers to purchase workplace defibrillators

 Statistics ecently published by First Aid for Life (FAFL) show that:

  • Each year, around 30,000 people are struck by SCA (Sudden Cardiac Arrest) outside of a hospital environment. This can occur anywhere – at school, home, work or public places.
  • For each minute a victim doesn’t receive CPR or defibrillation, this reduces their survival rate by 7-10%.
  • When a defibrillator is used within 3-5 minutes of the cardiac arrest, survival rates increase significantly from 6% to 74%.

It is, therefore, clear that the use of a defibrillator and/or effective CPR can make a huge impact on survival rates of cardiac arrests.

Defibrillators are device that can re-establish a person’s normal heartbeat during cardiac arrest. A high energy electric shock to their heart is delivered and this is called ‘defibrillation’. AEDs (automated external defibrillators) are external units that automatically diagnose and treat cardiac arrhythmias through this electric shock and restore a normal rhythm. AEDs can be used by everyone – lay responders, or members of the public are all able to use them with little or no training.

Given that 30,000 people are struck by SCA outside of hospital environments, and hat away from this vital medical care, unfortunately, less than 10% survive, if a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs in the workplace, defibrillators are key life-saving devices. Employers have a duty of care over their staff, and their safety at work should be of paramount importance. Whilst the UK law does not oblige anyone to have an AED on their premises, companies can be liable in negligence for not taking appropriate safety measures. It’s, therefore, important to consider the risks to your staff and visitors when making a decision as to whether to install a defibrillator on your premises.

SCA can hit anyone, so it’s important that staff and colleagues have sufficient equipment to help in such a medical emergency. . No training is required as defibrillators are built so that anyone, anywhere, anytime can operate them. They have audio and visual prompts to effectively guide the user through administering defibrillation shock. They’re safe and easy to use and won’t give a shock if one isn’t needed.  Defibrillators come in a range of prices, but many are less than £800.

Many companies hesitate to purchase a workplace defibrillator due to their cost. However, with these shocking statistics, can you really put a price tag on saving a life?

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Guidance for businesses employing EU Nationals

In light of yet another Brexit extension, organisations who employ EU nationals might be tempted to sit back, do nothing, and see what happens. However, given the fluidity of the situation and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit still looming, employers are advised to make all efforts to ensure that any EU nationals currently working for them are taking the necessary steps to apply for ‘settled status’, so that their employment can continue without any problems.

The government has said that an EU national’s eligibility for ‘settled status’ will be dependent on their length of residency in the UK. Those who have accrued five years’ continuous residence in the UK by 31 December 2020 can apply for settled status. This creates an indefinite leave to remain within the UK. EU nationals who arrive in the UK by 31 December 2020 but do not have five years’ residency can apply for “pre-settled” status. They will be entitled to remain in the UK and build their residency up to the required five years, where they can then apply for settled status.

For new EU employees, right to work checks will remain the same after Brexit. Until 1 January 2021, the Home Office has confirmed that right to work checks on EU and EEA nationals will continue as normal. There will be no requirement on organisations to differentiate between those citizens who were resident in the UK before, or after, the date of the exit. Instead, the normal documentary or online right to work checks can be carried out.

Under the transition arrangements, which will apply if the UK leaves the EU with a ‘deal’, applications for settled or pre-settled status must be made by 30 June 2021 and it will be mandatory to hold either settled or pre-settled status, or have made an application, from that date. Any EU workers arriving in the UK after the cut-off date will only be entitled to remain in the UK for a temporary period, dependent on future immigration rules put in place by the government. However, it is important to bear in mind that a further delayed departure from the EU, or a ‘no-deal Brexit’ will affect the guidance currently available from the Home Office and the government on Brexit matters. 

In a no-deal Brexit’ situation, the UK Settlement Scheme will continue to apply for EU nationals who are resident in the UK by the date the UK leaves the EU (which would not be 31 December 2020 as would be the case under the transition period in a Brexit deal). The application scheme will remain the same, but with EU nationals having until 31 December 2020, rather than June 2021 to make their settled status application. The new immigration system within the UK will then be applied from 1 January 2021, and there will be no further grace period afforded for applications to be made.

Further information on the scheme is provided by the Home Office. The EU Settlement Resolution Centre can be contacted on 0300 123 7379 (from inside the UK) or 0203 080 0010 (from outside the UK).

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Working fathers face struggle to obtain flexible hours

A new survey of parents has found that working fathers are facing many of the same issues around flexibility that women have been experiencing for years. The survey of nearly 3,000 people found that fathers in the workplace struggled to secure the flexible hours they needed to balance work and home life and faced stigma from line managers and colleagues for working  flexibly.

It was found that two in five working fathers who applied for flexible working had their requests turned down. One in five working dads with flexible arrangements felt discriminated against by their managers and co-workers. And a quarter reported that their line manager did not understand the pressures of juggling work with family life.

In the survey one in 10 working dads said they had quit a job after having a flexible working request turned down, compared to 45% of working mums. Nearly seven in 10 working dads felt stuck in their current role because of concerns they would not find another job with the right flexibility, compared to 80% of working mums.

Commenting on these statistics, Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said flexibility needed to be available to everyone in the workplace. “We know that flexible working is as much a priority for working dads as it is for mums and carers,” she said. “We want to see all jobs flexible unless there is a good business reason for them not to be.”

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‘Evidence’ that happy workers are more productive

Whilst, anecdotally, it has long been believed  to be the case, new research from the University of Oxford has found ‘causal evidence’ that happy workers are more productive. In fact, the study, Does employee happiness have an impact on productivity? found that, on average, happy employees are 13% more productive that their gloomier colleagues!

The researchers from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford in collaboration with BT found happy workers do not work more hours but are more productive in their work time. 

“We found that when workers are happier, they work faster by making more calls per hour worked and, importantly, convert more calls to sales,” said Prof De Neve, one of the researchers.

The authors contend that while the link between happiness and productivity has often been discussed, their study provides the first causal field evidence for this relationship.

The researchers asked 1,793 BT workers across 11 UK call centres to rate their happiness on a weekly basis for six months. They also tracked data on attendance, call-to-sale conversions and customer satisfaction, along with each worker’s scheduled hours and breaks. This information was collated alongside administrative data obtained from the firm on worker characteristics, work schedules and productivity.

Recent research into the mood of the UK found that paid work is ranked near the bottom of activities that make the population happy. “There seems to be considerable room for improvement in the happiness of employees while they are at work,” said Prof De Neve. “While this clearly in the interest of workers themselves, our analysis suggests it is also in the interests of their employers.”

In their report the authors admit that causal evidence on what determines happiness in the workplace is scarce, but correlational studies suggest a number of options – at varying levels of expense – that employers can utilise to improve wellbeing.

“Higher paid workers and those in secure jobs are generally happier,” they write, “for example, while those who find their job more interesting and meaningful also report higher wellbeing. Equally, workers who enjoy better work-life balance as well as better relationships with colleagues and managers also have higher levels of happiness.”

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