He’s Making a List…..He’s Checking it Twice…..but at this year’s Office Christmas party will YOUR staff be naughty or will they be nice?
It might only be the beginning of November, but many employers are already planning this year’s Christmas party and they are no doubt hopeful that this festive season will be an enjoyable time for bosses and employees alike but be warned – without careful planning, employers could easily end up with a costly HR Hangover!
Free flowing alcohol at the annual office Christmas party often acts as a trigger for some less than jolly employee behaviour leaving business owners/managers with a less than festive HR hangover to cope with.
Common issues Employers often have to deal with after the office Christmas party include gross misconduct (usually the result of a festive punch up), claims of bullying, harassment or even discrimination (sex, age, race, religious).
So here are Employment Law Services (ELS)’ “’Top Tips” to help Employers avoid an HR hangover by steering their company sleigh around the traditional Christmas HR landmines:
- Ensure all employees are aware of the company’s standard disciplinary and grievance procedures.
- If staff are expected to come in the day after the office party, make sure this has been clearly communicated to them beforehand
- At the office party, ensure all employees are catered for regardless of their age, sex, sexual orientation, religion or disability.
- Lastly, consider providing transportation from the party venue to ensure staff arrive home safely.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to review your Company’s existing discipline & grievance policy to make sure it is up to date with current legislation and the ACAS Code of Conduct and if you have any specific queries regarding employment issues Contact Us and our multi-award winning Employment Law and HR Team will provide you with commercially focused advice and support.
In the last two decades, increasing attention has been drawn to issues of sexual harassment both in and beyond the workplace. This has culminated in The Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Act 2023, which received royal assent on the 18th of September. Alongside established harassment and bullying laws, this bill promises harsh sentences for those found guilty of sex-based harassment in public spaces.
In this blog, you’ll find all the information you need to know about The Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Act 2023, both as an employer and an employee.
Workplace harassment laws
Under the Equality Act 2010, workplace harassment and bullying is considered unlawful. However, there is a distinction between the two as only harassment itself can be grounds for legal action as it’s against the law. This applies when unwanted behaviour relates to an employee’s:
- Religion or belief
- Marriage or civil partnership
- Pregnancy or maternity status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment or identification
The law outlines that employers are responsible for taking steps to prevent workplace bullying and harassment. They are also liable for any harassment suffered by employees. It’s recommended that victims first seek counsel from managers or HR before submitting a formal complaint or initiating legal action. As such, it can be beneficial to obtain guidance from employment law specialists for employers.
The Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Act 2023 explained
This bill is designed to provide more comprehensive regulations to protect individuals against sex-based harassment. The official documentation states it is ‘An Act to make provision about causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress to a person in public where the behaviour is done because of that person’s sex; and for connected purposes‘. It has consequently made additions to the Public Order Act 1986.
Most workplaces are considered public places, as it is available for public access. As a result, employees and employers should be aware of this legislation. The provisions of the bill state that criminal charges can be brought against anyone found guilty on a sex-based harassment offence.
A government supported amendment to the bill will see the maximum sentence increased from six months to two years. It should be noted that in cases of sex-based harassment in the workplace, liability lies with employees too.
It has been agreed by MPs that statutory guidance on what legal defence is available to defendants should be added to the bill. This includes a detailed definition of what constitutes reasonable and unreasonable conduct. The intention is to make it easier for the police to enforce the new regulations. It is unclear when these inclusions will become part of the bill.
Expertise on employment law for employers UK
As an employer, harassment claims of any kind should be taken very seriously. Issues of harassment in workplace, especially those based around sex, can be difficult to navigate. Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd provides professional HR advice for employers that is tailored to your circumstances. This includes actionable advice in areas of contract law, discrimination, workplace health and safety, harassment, and much more. Contact us to speak to one of our experts today.
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 recently received royal assent, meaning it’s expected to come into effect around September 2024. It follows a series of developments intended to give workers in uncertain job roles more agency. This includes increases to National Minimum Wage and protections for unpaid carers and parents. The bill similarly provides support to workers who have traditionally been open to exploitation, such as those on zero hours contracts.
This blog provides relevant information and advice employers need to prepare for the changes that will be brought by The Workers Act 2023.
What changes does the bill bring?
The Workers Act 2023 will give workers a new statutory right to request predictable working patterns from their employer. This will apply to workers with a fixed term contract of 12 month or less and those on zero-hour contracts. The regulations also make considerations for anyone whose working patterns, times, or hours are uncertain.
The key points of the bill include:
- Employers are required to deal requests in a reasonable manner.
- Decisions on requests must be given within one month of submission.
- No more than two applications can be submitted during a 12-month period.
- When a request is granted, terms must then be offered to the worker within two weeks.
- The qualifying period for submitting a request is expected (not confirmed) to be 26 weeks. However, the worker will not have to work continuously during this time.
- Requests can be denied on grounds similar to those relevant for denying flexible working requests. Examples include additional cost burdens, difficulty recruiting staff, planned restructuring, and a lack of work during the period specified.
- The above rights will also be applied to agency workers who can apply to the agency to request a predictable working pattern.
Employment law advice for employers
As an experienced employment law advisor for businesses UK, the first thing we suggest is to examine your HR policies and procedures. The foremost effect of the bill for employers is that it encourages workers to begin conversations over working patterns. As such, you should be prepared to offer flexibility and transparency when it comes to working arrangements.
Another important area to consider is your employment contracts. Many businesses utilise unorthodox contracts due to the nature of the work conducted, or for other unique industry aspects. It’s therefore recommended for employers in these sectors to review new and existing contracts of employment to reduce friction between workers and HR staff.
Employers should also look out for the Acas draft Code of Practice, which is expected to be published for public consultation before the end of the year.
Professional employment law advice for businesses
As an employer, mandatory worker consultations enforced by laws such as The Workers Act 2023 can be a massive drain on resources. Fortunately, Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd offer a wide range of legal services for employers designed to simplify the adoption of new regulations. Outsourcing employment law to our experienced professionals gives your team the support they need to tackle stressful issues such as working patterns. Contact us today to begin our partnership.
Employment law is vast, with regulations applying to a huge range of legal aspects. This is partly because there are differences in employment law for employers and employees. However, UK employment law has more complications due to constant updates and new requirements.
In this blog, we’ll be shedding light on the ways employment law is enforced in the UK.
What type of law is employment law?
A majority of employment law is classed as private or civil law. These proceedings are characterised by a dispute between two parties, often referred to as the claimant and the respondent. These titles are assigned as the former bringing legal action against the latter.
In employment law, the claimant will typically be an employee/worker, a former employee/worker, or an unsuccessful applicant. Employers can be sued whenever one of these parties believes they are in breach of the law. As such, it is vital that employers are aware of how employment law should dictate their HR and operational policies.
Areas of employment law
There are many different statutes and individual laws that fall under the umbrella of employment law. These can be broken down into four main areas, which are:
- Pay – employers are responsible for paying the amount promised, which should be fair, above the minimum wage and paid on time.
- Recruitment – rules dictating what employers can and can’t do in relation to who they employ, as well as their practices after someone has been successfully employed.
- Discrimination – probably the most changeable area of employment law. It contains regulations designed to ensure no one is discriminated against in the workplace.
- Health and safety – laws that hold businesses accountable for establishing a safe working conditions.
As you can see from this rough breakdown, there are certain parts of employment law that apply exclusively to either employers or employees. For example, recruitment laws will almost exclusively place obligations on employers. Nevertheless, employees must still be aware of the rules to recognise when grievances should be raised.
Enforcing employment law
Employment law first came about to enforce workplace principles and ensure that the rights of employers and employees are being upheld. This is still the case today. Some of the most significant employment laws are The Equality Act 2010, National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and Employment Rights Act 1996. Amendments are always being proposed and passed. For example, next year the Employment Relations Act 2023 will come into effect and bestow additional powers on workers to request flexible working arrangements.
While parliament is the official body responsible for making employment laws and overseeing their transition into public use, it is not responsible for enforcing them. Instead, it typically falls on employees and trade union representatives to enforce the regulations. A variety of government organisations are then responsible for enforcing certain areas of regulation. These include:
- HMRC – tax and pay issues.
- Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS).
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – working times.
- Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority – modern slavery.
- Equality and Human Rights Commission – discrimination in the workplace.
- Rural Payments Agency.
- Local authorities.
- Pension Regulator.
The nature of these organisations could change in the future however, as the UK government has signalled an intention to consolidating some of these into the Single Labour Market Enforcement Body. At the time of writing, it isn’t clear which bodies will be put under this entity and what grievances it will be concerned with.
Many legal disputes over employment law are settled with an independent tribunal hearing. Here, judgements are made on issues that produce statutory and contractual claims such as unfair dismissal, redundancy, and discrimination. Enforcement responsibilities therefore lie with the judge as an unbiased party, along with representatives of the employee and employer.
Employment law outsourcing for businesses
The Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd team have been providing legal advice for employers for years. We consider the facts in relation to our client’s position to deliver realistic options that are likely to lead to favourable outcomes. Contact us today for professional support to help get you through difficult situations.
With the Employment Relations Flexible Working Bill receiving royal assent in July, workers will soon have greater autonomy over how they work. As a result, there are certain considerations employers must account for when the bill is passed into law. In the interim, employers can also put measures into place to account for these changes.
In this blog, we’ll aim to answer any questions you may have about the Flexible Working Bill and what effects it will have for employers.
What has Employment Relations Bill changed?
The bill will make amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996, namely the right for employees to request flexible working arrangements. These are as follows:
- Employees will be allowed to make two flexible working requests every 12 months instead of one.
- Where employees are currently only entitled to request flexible working arrangements after 26 weeks, they will be able to do so from day one.
- Employers will be required to consult with employees before they deny a request for flexible working.
- Employees will be no longer be required to explain in their application what effect they think their flexible working will have on the employer.
- The deadline for employers to make a decision regarding a flexible working request will be reduced from three to two months.
Many cite the Covid-19 pandemic as the main driving force behind the bill, as a massive proportion of the workforce was forced to work remotely. This helped bring flexible working arrangements into the mainstream, thereby warranting an examination of employee rights in this area. Before the bill was introduced, its sponsor Yasmin Qureshi said, “This bill will ensure more people can access flexible working and act as a catalyst to address the barriers faced by women, the disabled, carers, and older people”.
What does the bill mean for employers?
Flexible working can refer to any pattern, location or hours in which someone is expected to work. For example, in a company where employees typically work from the office 9am-5pm, an employee might request to work 8am-4pm with 2 days a week spent working from home. The bill states that employers must take a more open approach to flexible working arrangements such as this. It reflects the fact that employees have come to expect flexible working as an option for most workplaces, so employers should be prepared to respond to requests in a certain way.
The bill does not require employers to approve every flexible working request they receive. However, it does mean that all requests must be discussed with the individual before it’s accepted or denied. Here, an explanation should be given as to why you have reached the decision. Possibly the most significant change for employers is that you have one less month to respond flexible working requests. When the bill transitions into law, it’s advisable to make a note of this to avoid getting caught out. Employers found to be in breach of new or existing flexible working regulations will face a penalty.
Responding to a flexible working request
It’s likely that employers will need to process more requests for flexible working as a direct result of the bill. When this time comes, it’s important that any HR policies are updated accordingly. Systems should also be put in place to allow employees to make requests and receive feedback easily. This could mean new responsibilities for HR staff. Mainly, that a consultation has to be completed following every flexible working request.
Employers can still refuse flexible working requests on the current grounds. This includes:
- The changes will impact performance and work quality.
- It will incur costs that damage the business’s position.
- The work cannot be done either through reorganisation or recruitment.
- The business won’t be able to meet customer demand as a result.
- Planned workforce changes.
- Work isn’t required during the proposed hours.
Expert employment law advice for employers
At Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd, our finger is always on the pulse of employment law updates. We are experts in employment law for employers UK with years of experience. As a result, our services take all the most recent legal developments into account. This removes a weight from your shoulders, as you don’t have to keep track of what these laws mean. It is our job after all. We’ll also take the time to consider your business objectives. For instance, you might already have an idea of what your business would and wouldn’t offer as a flexible working arrangement. We can review this to identify the best course of action for you. Contact us today for personalised and actionable employment law advice.