Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Failing to Pay Minimum Wage?

HMRC's Top Ten Most Bizarre Reasons for Underpaying Staff

HMRC has published this list as part of a wider publicity exercise to raise awareness among employers and workers about rights to minimum pay. They make very interesting reading!

HMRC's Top Ten:
  1. The employee wasn't a good worker so I didn't think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage.
  2. It's part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first 3 months as they have to prove their 'worth' first.
  3. I thought it was ok to pay foreign workers below the National Minimum Wage as they aren't British and therefore don't have the right to be paid it.
  4. She doesn't deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.
  5. I've got an agreement with my workers that I won't pay them the National Minimum Wage; they understand and they even signed a contract to this effect.
  6. My accountant and I speak a different language - he doesn't understand me and that's why he doesn't pay my workers the correct wages.
  7. My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the National Minimum Wage doesn't apply to people who work for themselves.
  8. My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they're actually serving someone.
  9. My employee is still learning so they aren't entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
  10. The National Minimum Wage doesn't apply to my business.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Women Still Experiencing Discrimination when Pregnant

Government Proposes Enhanced Protection for Pregnant Workers

The Government has recently responded to a report by the Women and Equalities Committee. It referred to research which has found that 11% of mothers feel forced to leave their jobs, and has stated that it will "bring forward proposals to ensure that the protections in place for those who are pregnant or returning from maternity leave are sufficient".

Of course, women already have legal protection against discrimination due to pregnancy, so it will interesting to see what further measures can be introduced and whether they will be practical for smaller employers to take on board. Currently no timescale has been suggested for any changes, and we are likely to see a consultation exercise take place about proposed measures before any change in the law takes place.

It is worth noting that in the same document the Government has restated that Brexit "will not lead to a diminution of employment rights." 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Time to review staff contracts and handbooks?

When did we last take a look at your HR documents?

The New Year is always a time to consider the future.  To pause and take stock, and to plan for the year ahead.  This New Year it may be a good time for us to look again at your HR documents to check that they are still fit for purpose.  There have been many employment law changes over the last few years, and organisations change and develop all the time, so it is possible that your HR documents are ready for an update or a general refresh.

Do you have a robust social media policy that still makes sense in terms of the rapid changes we have seen in that field?  Do you have enough flexibility built into your contracts to allow you to vary staff's hours of work or location?  Are their job descriptions up to date?

If you need any help or would like to arrange a review please do get in contact.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Stress or Depression?

Stress and Disability Discrimination

Employers tend to get very nervous when an employee goes off sick with stress - particularly if the note from the GP states "work-related stress".  And quite rightly so, as this could indicate that there is a poor culture, maybe even a bullying culture, within the workplace. 

But sometimes employees will suffer stress in reaction to something at work that they are just unhappy about but which most people would consider quite reasonable.  It could be that they face disciplinary proceedings for misconduct or are being tackled over their under-performance.  It is also true to say that some employees will "swing the lead" and get themselves signed off with stress, because its symptoms are well reported and it is easy to persuade some GPs to sign them off on that basis.

It is unlikely, however, that any employee who suffers stress will be considered to be disabled in legal terms.  Unlike depression, which is a clear clinical condition which can be long term and can impact massively on someone's ability to carry out normal day to day activities, stress is normally of short-term duration and is a reaction to a specific event or set of circumstances.  In Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, the Employment Appeal Tribunal considers this question and provides a very clear and in-depth analysis of the difference between the two conditions in the context of disability discrimination.  It also points out that confusion can arise when some doctors talk about employees suffering from "depression", when they actually mean "stress" or "anxiety", and the difficulty in establishing clearly whether a diagnosis of depression has actually been made.

Some employers and employees are reluctant to talk about stress, but it's normally best to treat it as you would any other illness, and try to talk openly to employees who disclose that they are suffering.  With support and the right treatment its effects can be well managed and any impact on work is often short-lived.

If you need any help with this aspect of people management, please contact us.