Items filtered by date: December 2016
Monday, 18 April 2016 10:05

Pulling a sickie? (case law March 2016)

Pulling a sickie? (case law March 2016)

 

We all know it goes on and sometimes it’s all too obvious.  But what can employers do about it? 

Employees have the legal right to be absent from work due to sickness and to receive Statutory Sick Pay.  But if the sickness isn’t genuine, do these rights still apply?  In a recent case between Metroline West and Ajaj 2015, a dismissal for non-genuine absence was tested through the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). 

  

The case:

Mr Ajaj was employed by Metroline West as a bus driver.  He claimed to have had an accident at work in February 2014 where he slipped on a wet floor.  He was subsequently signed off by his GP due to the injury caused by the fall. 

 

Following a prolonged period of absence, his employers became suspicious about the alleged injuries and arrange for covert surveillance of Mr Ajaj while he attended an absence management meeting at work.  This was followed by further covert surveillance in April 2014 which showed him carrying out tasks which he claimed were beyond his physical capabilities. 

 

Mr Ajaj was disciplined and dismissed for his conduct in misrepresenting his ability to work. 

 

 

The Employment Tribunal:

Mr Ajaj made a claim of unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal and surprisingly won his case.

 

 

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT):

Metroline West made an appeal to the EAT.  The EAT concluded that Mr Ajaj’s actions had amounted to dishonesty which can be taken as a fundamental breach of contract due to it being the heart of the employer/employee relationship and therefore deemed the dismissal to be fair. 

 

 

Advice:

While you may suspect employees of pulling a sickie from time to time, you must be able to demonstrate that beyond reasonable doubt, the employee is making a dishonest representation of their condition and inability to work.  While covert surveillance may seem a bit extreme, you can use it in some circumstances.  Social media sites are also a good way to check up on absent employees but it’s important to have a social media policy in place too.  Medical advice may be obtained from the employees GP, with their written consent, or from an occupational health advisor.  As with any dismissal, it is vital to follow a full and fair investigation and dismissal process.  Use your company disciplinary policy and make sure it complies with current statutory guidance. 

 

 

How we can help:

Our dedicated team of HR professionals and employment law experts can quickly review your current policies and update them where required to give you sound peace of mind.  If you don’t have disciplinary and social media policies, we can easily create them to suit the needs of your business.  We can also assist with investigations, disciplinary hearings and tribunal representations.  Contact us on 01382 250333 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to see how we can help to protect you from future tribunal claims. 

 

Published in HR Blog...
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 10:55

Discrimination during recruitment

Discrimination during recruitment

 

Recruiting the right staff can be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.  You want to find that one person that ticks all the right boxes – skills, experience, personality, etc.  And so these are the things that most recruiters tend to focus on during the full recruitment process, and rightly so!

 

However, the legalities of recruitment are often overlooked or ignored completely.  More often than not, recruiters don’t consider the direct or indirect results of discrimination.  One reason may be that there are so many different forms of discrimination that recruiters just aren’t aware of.  These include the following protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Gender reassignment
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race
  • Religious believes
  • Marital status/Civil partnership
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability

 

There are some key processes that can be put in place to help you avoid potential discrimination claims during the recruitment process.  It’s also important to bear in mind that someone does not have to be employed by you to raise a tribunal against you for discrimination during recruitment.  It may be a rejected candidate that has a claim. 

 

So here are our top tips for avoiding discrimination during recruitment:

  1. Don’t ask for any potentially discriminatory details on the application form;Stick to the information required to assess their suitability for the post based on experience, skills and qualifications.
  2. Don’t ask for any personal details during the interview; Please do not ask about any of the potential discrimination areas as listed above.  Don’t ask about family plans or children, partners, place of birth, travel arrangements, age or anything that may be related to the above list.
  3. Only check ID documents after you have made the offer of employment; There is massive potential for a discrimination claim if you ask to check personal documentation (birth certificate, passport, etc) before the offer of employment is made.  Legally, you have to check for the right to work in the UK and this should be done before the employment starts, but after the offer of employment has been made.
  4. If you require a medical questionnaire to be completed, ask for it after the offer of employment has been made; Most candidates will assess their own suitability to do the job that they have applied for.  If you have offered employment to a person who you later discover has a disability, you may need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them.  You cannot base a recruitment decision based on a candidates medical condition, obesity is also a disability.
  5. Ask consistent questions during the interview; Have a list of main questions prepared that relate only to the post and the candidates ability to carry out the role based on experience, skills, qualifications, etc.  This will help you to have the same structure for each person you interview and reduce the potential for a discrimination claim.
  6. Use an interview scoring system to help assess candidates suitability; By applying a score of 1 to 5 for each answer given by the candidates, you will have a clear record to show who the best candidate is.  Avoid personal scores or comments about appearance or characteristics. 

 

The average award given to discrimination tribunal claimants during 2014-2015 was just under £7,500 with the highest awards being issued for sex discrimination.  Bear in mind that on top of the discrimination award, employers may also be fined for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and tribunal fees.  This all adds up to a very expensive recruitment error. 

 

In the recent case of Lucia Pagliarone v Immuno Biotech, Ms Pagliarone was awarded £10,500 for sexism discrimination during her recruitment.  Click here to read the full case. 

 

Recruitment processes don’t just apply to external candidates.  You must also consider the process for internal recruitment to avoid claims such asRonnie Lungu v Wiltshire Police.  You can click here to read the details of this internal discrimination during recruitment case. 

 

So, the questions is…. Are your recruitment processes keeping you safe from discrimination tribunal claims?   If you’re not sure, give us a call on 01382 250333 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Our qualified HR consultants will review your current recruitment processes to ensure you stay safe from expensive tribunals.  

 

Published in HR Blog...
Monday, 14 March 2016 15:57

You can't do that!

You can't do that!

 

If only I had a pound for every time someone has said "you can't do that" to me, I would be a very rich woman today!  

 

It's common that when staff think they can get away with things, they may be a little bit upset when you start to lay down the law.  This is even more common when you have policies and processes in place that just aren't being following by some department managers.  

 

So how can you change that?  Easily!  

 

First of all, send the offending managers on refresher training to remind them of HR policies, why the exist and how to apply them.  Then, simply remind all staff that there are policies in place that need to be applied consistently throughout the company.  You can re-issue key policies or post a summary of them on the notice board with reference on where to access the full policy.  Give it a couple of weeks to make sure that everyone has had enough time to review the policies ask any questions.  Then start following the processes.  

 

For example, if you want to crack down on multiple short-term absences, follow the process above then start having return to work meetings and stage 1 absence meetings with staff as required.  When you tell them that you will be making a record of the meeting that will be kept on file and any further absences may lead to disciplinary action, you may well hear them say "you can't do that".  This is when you politely remind them that you can in fact to that and you will if need be.  Refer them to the policy for review and offer to answer any queries regarding the policy that they may have.  

 

Remember, you have the right to manage your staff and it is important that all department managers follow the same processes and apply them consistently.  

 

Published in HR Blog...
Monday, 08 February 2016 12:43

How can you improve performance at work?

How can you improve performance at work?

 

While I was watching TV last week, a programme about performance and productivity at work caught my attention.  Maybe you saw it too?  Tonight – Shirkers or Workers.

Basically, they sent a performance expert in to a business and he showed them how they could improve productivity and performance at work while cutting working hours at the same time.  Impossible?  No, very possible. 

In fact, SCRSolutions has also helped companies to improve their performance using some of the same techniques that were demonstrated on the programme.  And the results can be doubled if you tackle absence management at the same time. 

The fact is, employees are normally your largest cost and your largest asset.  Now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure you get the best from your staff in terms of productivity and performance.  

To show you how to do this, I’m holding a free seminar in partnership with 'Dundee Business Week 2016' on Friday 26th February. 

 

So the only question is.. do you want to save money and boost productivity in your business?  Yes?  Then this seminar will show you how to do it. Click here for more details and to book your place. 

 

During the seminar I will show you how you can improve performance at work immediately by taking some simple steps and how to manage long-term performance.  We will look at the key areas of HR that your business needs to make sure your staff are motivated and engaged at work and we will give you practical top HR tips to help you manage your staff effectively and get the best from them in return.

 

Places are very limited so please click here to register as soon as possible.

 

Event details:

How to improve performance at work

Friday 26th February 2016

12.00pm – 2.00pm - lunch is provided

Business Gateway

27-28 Camperdown Street

City Quay Business Centre

Dundee

DD1 3JA

Free to attend – places are limited - click here to register

 

Published in HR Blog...

Personal IT privacy at work

 

A recent case regarding privacy at work has been resolved at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

 

The case:

The employee was using Yhaoo Messenger during work hours to send and receive personal and professional emails.  This was a direct breach of the company policy which clearly stated that it was strictly forbidden to use computer and other office equipment for personal purposes.  The company followed full investigation and disciplinary procedures and dismissed the employee for failure to comply with company policies.  The employee argued that the company had breached his human rights to privacy.

 

The ECtHR view:

The ECtHR found that as the employer had been checking on work related activities and subsequently discovered the personal activities, they had not breached the employees’ rights.  However, they did deem it be a proportionate interference.  They also made it very clear that employers do not have the right to access employees personal emails and that policies should be clear on what personal use is allowed and what monitoring will be conducted. 

 

Advice:

Following this outcome, employers are urged to review their IT and Social Media policies to ensure they are not in breach of privacy rights.  The policies must clearly state how much personal use is acceptable and what monitoring will be carried out. 

 

How we can help:

Our dedicated team of HR professionals and employment law experts can quickly review your current policy and update it where required to give you sound peace of mind.  If you don’t have IT and Social Media policies, we can easily create them for you to suit the needs of your business.  Contact us on 01382 250333 to see how we can protect you from future claims. 

 

The full case can be reviewed here - CASE OF BĂRBULESCU v. ROMANIA

 

Published in HR Blog...
Monday, 11 January 2016 09:56

Back to normal?

Normally after the Christmas break, we want to get back into routine at work.  But this year has been exceptionally difficult due to the widespread flooding during the first week of the working year.  However, things are looking better!

 

So are you back to normal yet?  There are several issues to consider due to the adverse weather in relation to staff attending work. 

 

  1. How do you handle staff absences due to them not being able to get to work because of road closures?   You could give them unpaid time off, or allow them to use holidays at short notice.  January is not a good time for any of us to have a lower wage!  You can also allow them to work the time back at a later date, maybe within the month.
  2. Some staff may require compassionate leave if their homes have been flooded.  This can be very traumatic and they may need extra time to clean up and come to terms with the extent of the damage.
  3. If your staff care for someone who has been adversely affected by the floods, they may be entitled to emergency dependents leave.  For example, if their child’s school has been closed or if they are the main carer for an elderly relative.  Emergency dependents leave is unpaid and the amount of leave granted is normally a couple of days to allow for alternative arrangements to be made.  Again, you could offer some flexibility with relaxing the holiday request process and granting holidays at short notice or allowing flexi-time for a while. 
  4. If your business has been closed due to flooding and you tell your staff not to attend work, you still have to pay them for the hours that they would have normally been working.  However, you may want to look into a ‘short-term lay-off’ period which would mean that you only have to pay them the statutory minimum payment.  There are very strict rules surrounding this process.  Please see the ACAS advice leaflet – Lay-offs and Short-time Working.  Our consultants can also offer advice and support on this process. 
  5. Don’t forget about health & safety!  You should advise your staff to keep an eye on the local travel warnings and only make the journey to work if it is safe to do so.  You don’t want to encourage staff to take unnecessary risks. 

 

The key thing here is that you are understanding of the extenuating circumstances and be as flexible as you can be.  In return, you will gain respect and dedication from your staff. 

 

Should you have any queries regarding any of the points above, our dedicated HR consultants are on hand to help.  Call us on 01382 250333 or click here to contact us.  

Published in HR Blog...
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 12:08

Christmas Party Survival Guide

We are now in full swing of the Christmas party season. Who can forget the Christmas party scenes from Bridget Jones’s Diary; Bridget’s off key karaoke sessions, Daniel Cleaver harassing his female colleagues, Mark Darcy’s infamous reindeer jumper and of course Bridget’s mother serving mini-gherkins. I think we have all witnessed similar occurrences at Christmas parties over the years.


In the knowledge that the countdown to your Christmas party has probably begun, here are my top 5 tips on how best to survive the office Christmas party this year.


1. Never forget that whilst you are attending a party, it is a work related party and actions have consequences. Your behaviour is governed by a disciplinary procedure which, if violated, can threaten not only your job but also your personal record. If you want to go far, try to avoid the bar.

2. Open bar? Remember, everything in moderation. It is nice to have an eggnog or glass of mulled wine during the festive season but try not to drink excessively. When we drink we lose our inhibitions and pose the risk of acting inappropriately. Can you imagine the embarrassment of knowing that you rocked the room with an off key karaoke version of ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ dedicated to your boss. Cringe!

3. In the words of Aretha Franklin have a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for your colleagues by keeping your thoughts to yourself during the party.  Now is not the time to express anger, harsh opinions, malicious gossip or confront your less than favourite co-worker. Instead, count to ten and bite your tongue.

4. Refrain from doing a Daniel Cleaver. Don’t harass the object of your desire at the office party unless you know the feeling to be mutual. Harassment is a serious offence which results in disciplinary action; don’t risk losing your job or your dignity.

5. Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. Tis’ the season to be jolly, after all. None of these guidelines are designed to oppress your evening, they are designed to make it even better. Put on your novelty Christmas jumper, dance awkwardly to Band Aid, make new friends, remember to laugh and don’t forget to bring your camera, create memories that will last a lifetime.

On a more serious note, if you are an employer reading these guidelines and perhaps fear that some of the actions mentioned in the post pose an actual risk at this year’s Christmas party, ensure you have some official guidelines in place.


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Thanks to Natalie Cook for her input on today’s HR blog post.   


Merry Christmas!



Published in HR Blog...
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 12:31

Do you really need a health & safety policy?

 

Did you know…..
when you have more than five employees, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, you are required to have a formal health and safety policy?  Does this apply to your business?


What is the policy?
The policy describes how you will manage health and safety within your business. It will let staff and others know about your commitment to health and safety.

There are three parts to the policy, the first is a Statement of general policy, this outlines your commitments to health and safety.

The second is the organisation, which outline specific health and safety responsibilities for post holders in your organisation.

Finally the arrangements section, this will include information on items such as accident reporting and investigation, fire safety, manual handling, risk assessments etc.

Note the policy should be signed and dated by the head of the company, usually the Director who has overall responsibility and personal liability. 


Why do you need a health & safety policy?

Should you ever be visited by an HSE inspector, your health and safety policy is the first thing that they will ask to see.  Good practice is to review the policy regularly to ensure that it is still current and up to date with the most recent legislation.  Failure to have an up to date health and safety policy may result in further investigation and can accrue their fees for intervention which is currently £124 per hour.  More information can be found on the HSE website – click here. 


Where can you get your health & safety policy?

SCRSolutions can assist in the formulation of a tailored Health and Safety Policy and also carry out a review or gap analysis of your health and safety management system.  This can save you time and money.  To discuss your health and safety needs with a member of our dedicated H&S team, simply call us on 01382 520333 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in HR Blog...

 

The Case:

Mr R was employed by the Department of Transport and spent a lot of time out on the road.  He had a company credit card to pay for hire cars and company related expenses.  He was not allowed to use the credit card for personal expenses. 

 

The Investigation:

Mr R was investigated for excessive use of the credit card including high petrol use and a hire car for personal use. 

 

The initial investigation reported that Mr R had been misusing the credit card but stated that it was not deliberate and his reasons were consistent and plausible.  The report recommended an outcome of misconduct and a final written warning. 

 

HR’s Influence:

A member of the HR team reviewed the report and over a significant period of time, comments and amendments were made which included the removal of some favourable comments.  The final report then recommended that Mr R be found guilty of gross misconduct and summarily dismissed.  This action was carried out by the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing. 

 

Employment Tribunal:

Mr R raised an employment tribunal against the company but lost his case. 

 

Employment Appeal Tribunal:

Mr R then appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).  The EAT held that the report of an investigating officer must be the product of their own investigations. Although a dismissing or investigating officer is entitled to seek guidance from HR, such advice should be limited to matters of employment law and procedure (as opposed to matters of culpability). HR is allowed to assist the investigating officer in the presentation of their report, but only for example by ensuring that all necessary matters have been addressed and to achieve clarity.  All decisions must be made by the investigation officer and the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing.  Mr R won his case. 

 

What you should do:

When you seek advice from our HR consultants, we will advise you on the disciplinary procedures that need to be followed, letter writing to ensure all details are correct, suitable outcomes and any potential problem areas.  We will always highlight any employment law concerns and clarification can be sought from our employment lawyer if required.  The final decision on any dismissal will be made by you, the employer. 

 

Published in HR Blog...
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 10:46

Applications

It's a real bug bearer of mine when I receive and poorly written application.  It might be by email or letter but either way, all job applications are formal communications.  So please don't send in an application like this....

As a work shop enginner for a 11 years.which I reline brake shoes clutches.working shortblaster air tools.I live in brechin now so just asking if there is any jobs . house number is XXX  thank u

 

If you are applying for job or even just enqiring about any vacancies, make sure you use proper English and grammar.  This is the first impression that a company will have of you and it has to be a good one.  

Published in HR Blog...
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