February Update

February 20, 2014

It’s been so long since we updated our website and blog, that I had to search for the passwords that allow me to unlock them to add new text!

It’s been a very busy time since our last update, with IT Training projects for, EDF energy, Ryder and Reckitt Benckiser, ongoing HR work with Advance Housing as well as the HR support we provide to more local companies across Dorset Somerset and Wiltshire. Now though we have a short period of time to catch up on all things we’ve been putting off. It also gives us some time to reflect on how business has been and where we see it going in the future.

It’s 14 years since Claire set the business up and 9 since Sandy joined in and we changed the name from Claire Mould Consultants to Resource First Ltd. After a period of finding the right way run and promote the company we settled into doing the things we do best, Claire providing HR advice and support from TUPE Transfers to company investigations and contract development and Sandy managing, developing and delivering training for large IT system installations such as Oracle, Microsoft dynamics and People soft as well as bespoke applications, supporting Claire on HR matters and company promotion between the different contracts he gets.

This is a way of doing business that works well for us and we can’t see any reason at this stage to change our approach. We are still keen to work with and for new customers and are always happy to come and visit them in their workplace to discuss what help if any is needed from us to overcome or prevent any staffing issues. It is always good to meet new customers especially as they all now come from recommendations from other customers. We do very little advertising and other than this blog and our website, do not use social media to push our business. I’m just not sure how well #new employment contract or #training lead for large IT installation would trend.

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The much heralded/maligned new act which came into force on the 1st October sets out to bring together all existing discrimination law into one pot with some additional legislation added in for good measure. It aims to provide a simpler, more consistent and more effective legal framework for preventing discrimination.

All existing discrimination legislation will be replaced by act, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and, while many principles will remain the same, there are important changes to a number of key areas. This means that employers will need to look at their current policies and procedures to make sure they comply with the new legislation.

Much of the media attention has focused on controversial areas such as gender pay reporting. However, the Act’s disability discrimination provisions are likely to have much more impact on day-to-day working life.

1/ Discrimination by association

The new definition of direct discrimination is wide enough to cover discrimination by association. So, for example, if an employee was refused a job because he or she had a disabled child, this would be direct discrimination. The employer’s treatment of the claimant would be “because of” the protected characteristic of disability, albeit the child’s rather than the claimant’s.

2/ Discrimination arising from a disability

The Act introduces a new form of disability discrimination – discrimination arising from a disability. This simply requires that the claimant has been treated “unfavourably because of something arising in consequence” of his or her disability. For this type of discrimination to occur, the employer has to know, or reasonably be expected to know, that the employee has the disability in question.

The Government Equalities Office guidance gives the example of a disabled employee who, because of his or her disability, has to take more time off than other employees. If the employer treats the employee less favourably because of this, this will be unfavourable treatment because of something – the absence – arising in consequence of the employee’s disability.

3/ Tribunals allowed to use common Sense

At present, to receive protection from disability discrimination, individuals must show that they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. An impairment is taken as having such an effect only if it affects one of eight capacities:

  1. mobility;
  2. manual dexterity;
  3. physical coordination;
  4. continence;
  5. ability to lift, carry or otherwise move everyday objects;
  6. speech, hearing or eyesight;
  7. memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand;
  8. and perception of the risk of physical danger.

This list of capacities is removed under the Equality Act, leaving tribunals to make a common-sense decision about whether or not a particular impairment has a substantial effect on day-to-day activities.

4/ Recruitment

The Act makes it unlawful for an employer (or any recruitment agency or consultant) to “ask about the health” of a job applicant before offering work to, or shortlisting, the applicant. If the employer asks an unlawful question about health during the recruitment process, and the applicant does not get the job, in any subsequent disability discrimination claim the burden of proof will be on the employer to show that there was no discrimination.

Both written and oral questions are outlawed by the provision, so those conducting job interviews will have to be careful to avoid the subject of health or fitness. And the provision is not limited to questions directed at the job applicant. A request for a reference sent before a job offer is made must also avoid asking questions that contravene the provision.

5/ Third Party Harassment

Employers may now be liable if an employee suffers harassment from a third-party, such as a customer or client, that is related to a protected characteristic such as their sex, race, sexuality etc.

Future Changes.

There are a number of additional clauses to the act which do not come into force straight away but may come into effect over the coming months. These include:

Dual Discrimination claims – . where an individual who believes that he or she has been treated less favourably because of a combination of two protected characteristics can bring a combined claim. This is expected to come into force next year

Gender Pay Reporting – The Equality Act contains a number of provisions designed to address the stubborn gender pay gap such as gender pay audits. This is likely to affect companies with 250 employees or more. It is also unclear whether the new government will implement it as the conservatives fought against it while the act was progressing through parliament

Get in touch if you would like us to check your policies are up to date for the new legislation or to discuss how it may affect your business.

Christmas party time again

December 2, 2009

It’s that time of the year when people like me do our best to dampen the fun of the festive season by reminding business owners and managers of all the damage to employee relations you can cause by inviting your team to let their hair down for just one night.

We’ll hit you with scary statistics about the number of people who get disciplined or sacked as a result of the christmas party and real off lists of different offences it is possible for your staff to commit while at the yuletide shindig. And guess what. They are the same offences that can be carried out any night of the year (though mainly at weekends) when people drink to much.

However there is a difference. It isn’t a normal night out and, unless you’re a very friendly bunch, it’ll be a night out with people your staff are unused to going out with, and that includes you.  It’s also something you’ve forked out for as part of your staff motivation budget – whether you see it as such or not, it’s what you want it to do – and as such it’ll need to be managed if it is to be a success.

Here are the tickguy’s top tips to a good knees up.

1/Make sure there’s food available

2/ Make sure staff know that if they go too far they can be disiplined

3/ Keep an eye, or get someone you trust to keep on eye on anyone who’s showing signs of drinking too much and have a plan in place for dealing with them.

4/ If you are holding the party in your office, lock the photocopier away and move desks out of the way to prevent them being danced on or damaged

5/ Likewise if partying in the office ban the mistletoe! While 80% of workers would laugh off being approached for a snog, 13% will lodge a complaint

6/ Ensure that neither you nor any of your managers find them selves unwittingly conducting a performance review at the party. A promise made after a few drinks is still a promise made.

7/ Make sure that staff can get home after the party without using their own car whether it’s a night time party or at lunch time

8/ If you’ve plied your staff with drink all evening, do you really expect them to drive in to work the next morning? Can other arrangements be made in advance.

9/ Plan for all eventualities. If you know two  staff members hate each other, filling them with booze and keeping them in the same room might be asking for trouble. Do you know how you will prevent things kicking off?

10/ While you can’t please all the people all the time, be sensitive to peoples views, dietry requirements and preferences.

When the CEO of a top property firm left his blackberry behind after a trip, he simply ordered one of his staff to get on a plane. pick it up and return it to him. For his Head of Sustainability it proved a trip to far. The fall out lead to him being sacked and he made a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds that his environmental beliefs were so deeply held that they should have the same proection in law as religious beliefs.

Earlier this month a judge agreed and ruled that an industrial tribunal should hear his claim that he was sacked because of those beliefs.

What will the effect of this be for employers?

Well for a start a little more care and sensitivity will need to be taken where people have strong philosophical beliefs. If for example you employ someone with strong animal rights convictions and, in what is considered a shop floor prank, an animal pelt is left in their locker, this should be treated and investigated in just the same way as you would were the ‘prank’ racist or sexist.

Also some organisations may have to start doing more than paying lip service to the proud environmentalist banners they have been promoting themselves under. Do they need to fly staff around the country to attend hour long meetings in an age when conference calls are as easy via video links as they are over the phone?

Will there be a mighty swell of employees taking their bosses to court after this?

Some legal experts are predicting so (well they would wouldn’t they!) saying that it will “open the floodgates for others who believe their employers have victimised them simply because of their views”  (Peter Mooney – Head of Employment Law Advisory Service). They also believe it can open the door for a wider category such as feminism, vegetarianism and humanism.

Personally I believe a good employer already is aware of and respect their employees sets of beliefs and to ensure good working relations and environment acts to make sure they are taken account of. Yes companies will be taken to tribunals over this and the law will be further shaped by the outcome, but getting good advise and managing people effectively will help to reduce the risks that you could be among those cases.

On a positive note, the judge did outline five tests to determine whether a philosophical belief could come under employment regulations and where Humanism was given as an example of meeting the criteria, the Supreme Nature of the Jedi Knights didn’t.

Employees rights surveys

October 28, 2009

If you’ve come to this through our website you may have read the news item about 1 in 5 employees not knowing their rights. As often occurs I got the information from another source and decided in this instance to follow the same line that they had taken, ie highlighting those who don’t know what their rights are at work.

However what the report seemed to miss out on was the fact that if 22% don’t know their rights that leaves 78% who are very aware of what they have coming to them by right. There certainly is a lot of information out there to help them. While researching for a series of talks I had been asked to give about redundancy, I typed  “>redundnacy into google. It came back with over 1 million hits, the first four pages were almost exclusively about employee rights when being made redundant.

 I wonder if a similar survey was carried out amongst owners and managers, such a high proportion would be able to confidently assert that they know what their rights as employers were?

Many business people we talk to are aware in general terms of the rights of their employees. Their understanding of the responsibilities of their staff and their own rights as an employer can be more of a gray area. 

If they generously allow, for example, a few weeks of paid sick leave per year, they know they must pay this to employees. However if an employee takes the full amount year after year, treating it almost as part of their holiday allowance, and this an a negative effect on the business, many managers and owners do not know how to manage the situation and reduce sickness.

This is not a negative comment on the skills and experience of these business people. Their knowledge, experience and specialisms are in other areas. They may never have had to deal with such an incident in the past.

There are two ways to resolve this situation, either through training or by talking to HR specialists who have a lot of experience in overcoming issues like these

Hollywood blocks twitter

October 21, 2009

Hollywood studios are inserting clauses into actors’ contracts to stop them leaking film information on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

A recent talent contract from Disney includes a new clause forbidding confidentiality breaches via “interactive media such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other interactive social network or personal blog.”

A growing number of businesses have internet and e-mail policies in place to prevent inappropriate or illegal use. However most of these won’t include social networking sites, especially ones with the immediacy of twitter which do not even require a computer to post messages. It may be a good time to look at what policy you have in place to see if it will prevent staff inadvertently or purposefully passing on confidential information.

If you are worried at what staff members might be posting about your company, it would probably be best not to follow the example of Waterstones, where, after some problems with a new distribution system for books, staff were stopped from accessing and leaving messages on the site thebookseller.com. Their response was to wait till they got home, where they fired up their own PC’s and left over 200 comments on an article criticising the Waterstones new system!

Interestingly one comment was “If they were being straight with staff and keeping us informed then maybe we would have no need to go onto this site”.  Having a well thought out and worded policy is important, but managing and communicating effectively is so much more so.

Thanks to the peerless Private Eye from where the waterstone story was swiped!

Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General – one of the highest legal positions in the country has hit the news recently when she was fined £5,000 for not following the correct procedures when employing a housekeeper. Why and if she, as someone who helped frame the legislation, falls fowl of employment law what hope is there for the rest of us.

Under legislation bought in a couple of years ago, employees must now actively ensure that their employees are eligible for work in this country. This is done by seeing and taking a copy of the required documentation, this in turn must be kept on file. This is where the attorney general went wrong, when asked to provide proof that her houeskeeper was eligible to work in the UK, Baroness Scotland couldn’t as she hadn’t copied what ever documentation the housekeeper had given as proof.

Ensure nerw employees show you their proof of eligibility to work in the UK and KEEP a copy.

If you are unsure whether you are following the rules when taking a new member of staff on contacting us  could save you quite a lot of money