World Cup – An Employers Angle

With the kick off fast approaching, employers need to start to put into place policies to avoid confusion during the World Cup Period.

It is a well known fact that sickness rates increase at the time of major sporting events and that there could be some members of staff who use sickness as an excuse to watch the match.

Whilst many nations will be supported in the UK, the main issue for many employers will probably be on England, and in particular their third and maybe crucial game against Slovenia which kicks off at 15:00 UK time on Wednesday 23rd June.

If teams progress, so could the issue and it would be wise for employers to set out expectations to employees to avoid possible disputes.

There are various options, but whatever you choose, the key is to make your policy clear at an early stage so there can be no ambiguity. Some possible alternatives include:

Flexible working – allowing staff to take time off providing cover is in place and the time is made up at some other time.

Taking leave – asking employees to take annual leave if they wish to watch the match/es. If you follow this route you will need to set out rules about who gets the first option – ‘first come first served’ etc. You may also need to remind staff about minimum cover levels and the notice they need to give.

Home working – an option for some, but very difficult to monitor.

Facilities at work – why not consider having or using the facilities at work to make the matches a ‘social’ occasion – giving staff the option to watch or listen to the matches whilst working? A word of warning however that it is probably best to keep such gatherings alcohol free to ensure staff safety and avoid accidents when operating machinery etc.

Internet use – something many employers will forget to think about – with live radio coverage available, you may need to re-state your internet usage policy.

The World Cup is a once every four year occasion and staff cannot be blamed for wanting to experience the excitement. However, as employers you must set clear guidelines as to what is expected and apply them fairly – remember not everyone is a football fan and any policies must be fair to all employees.

The AP Partnership Ltd are experts in UK employment law and offer our employment law consultants offer concise, jargon free, employment law advice. If your organisation requires an employment law specialists or employment law training, please contact us.

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Plans to scrap the default retirement age (DRA) ‘in phases’ has angered equality groups

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition confirmed the DRA would be “phased out”. The new Government also confirmed it has set a date to review raising the state pension age to 66, although this rise would not happen before 2016 for men and 2020 for women.
The announcement has been met with mixed feelings; with some equality campaign groups wanting the DRA to be scrapped completely. The campaigners are working in the wake of the Heyday Decision.
The Heyday Case was a challenge to the DRA by an arm of the charity Age Concern who argued it discriminated against older workers. After a lengthy legal process in the UK, the case was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2007.
In March 2009, the ECJ referred a decision back to the High Court after clarifying that social policy objectives “such as those related to employment and the labour market” may be considered legitimate under EU law. The High Court hearing took place in July 2009, with a decision announced on 25 September. Justice Blake ruled that the DRA was not unlawful when introduced in 2006, but there was now a compelling case for it to be scrapped.
According to Heyday, 80% of people in their 50s and 60s believe there should be no mandatory retirement age. However, if the DRA act were to be scrapped, The AP Partnership Ltd believes that another problem would be created.
How would these employees eventually leave work? Ideally, they would work beyond 65 years of age and then take voluntary retirement. However, it is likely that many employees would continue and, for some, their performance and health would decline. Such employees would be dismissed on grounds of capability. Is this a dignified way for an individual to end his/her career?
The AP Partnership Ltd believes that the phased approach taken by the Government is the correct one, as it allows employment legislation to parallel the health of the nation.

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Landmark Case Widens Scope of Disability

Elizabeth Boyle has agreed settlement with her former employer, SCA Packaging Limited, for the sum of £125,000. The settlement was reached without admission of liability by the company, in respect of claims Ms Boyle had brought alleging discrimination on grounds of disability, sex, victimisation and unfair selection for redundancy.

The case has clarified the law, increasing protection from discrimination to people with a range of health conditions where symptoms can be managed or may fluctuate. This could include conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

Elizabeth Boyle suffered from hoarseness and loss of voice caused by vocal nodules. She was employed by SCA Packaging Limited as a stock controller and had experienced difficulties with her vocal chords since 1974. Her condition required surgery, speech therapy and a strict management regime to ensure the problems did not recur. This involved limiting the use of her voice, staggering telephone calls, avoiding smokey, dry or dusty atmospheres, speaking quietly, reducing background noise, and maintaining high hydration levels.

At a time when Ms. Boyle was following her health management regime rigorously and was symptom free, her employer sought to remove a partition separating her office from a stock control room.

Ms Boyle believed that the increased noise levels would have a substantial adverse effect on her health and in October 2001 she began proceedings under the Disability Discrimination Act alleging discrimination on grounds of her employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments for her disability.

Implications for Disability Discrimination law.

If a person is accepted as being a “disabled person” under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act, their employer must in certain circumstances make “reasonable adjustments” for them.

The Act specifically includes protection for people suffering from conditions where the disabling impact is concealed from operation or public view so long as they are controlled by management regimes or medication. In addition, the legislation includes in its definition of disability circumstances where, even though an impairment has ceased to have a substantial adverse effect on a person, it is “likely to recur”.

The decision by the Court of Appeal, upheld by the House of Lords, centred on the meaning in this context of the phrase “likely”. Where it had previously been held to mean that the substantial adverse effect was “more probable than not”, this new interpretation now establishes that it should be read in the sense of “could well happen”.

Under the previous interpretation, an employer could possibly decide to take no steps to accommodate special measures being followed by the employee, unless the risk of recurrence of her condition could be shown to be more probable than not. This ruling means that it is sufficient to establish that, where a person’s treatment regime is disrupted, disabling effects could well recur. This would then carry with it a requirement of reasonable adjustment on the part of the employer.

The AP Partnership Ltd are experts in UK employment law and offer our employment law consultants offer concise, jargon free, employment law advice. If your organisation requires an employment law specialists or employment law training, please contact us.

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Employees Struggle to Reclaim Expenses Post Volcanic Eruption

After many employees were stranded abroad after the Icelandic volcano eruption, the arguments are set to explode as to what, if any, expenses can be reclaimed.
In the wake of the recent volcano eruption in Iceland and the subsequent grounding of the majority of the European flights, many employees were left stranded outside the UK. It would not seem unreasonable for the employees to assume that the costs of additional accommadation, subsistence and travel would be covered by their employer, would it?
Well, in this age of austerity, many employers are contesting the employees’ rights to pay let alone reclaim the additional expense. The AP Partnership Ltd believes that unless the employer has ‘expressly agreed’ they will cover the repatriation costs, the employer is under no obligation to reimburse the employee.
The situation has left many employees with a serious defecit, which was exacerbated by the lack of space in the cheaper hotels and hotes hiking up prices.
Moreover, many employees were faced with having to take the additional “time off work” as either holiday or unpaid leave.

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Illegal Woker Fines Show Massive Increase

Employers need to carry out more thorough checks on job candidates as the number of fines for employing illegal workers doubled in 2009 according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by office solutions provider Giant Precision.

The Government introduced a new system in March 2008 to reduce the number of illegal workers in the UK. This gave the UK Border Agency the power to issue civil penalties of £10,000 to employers for every illegal worker.

In 2009, the UK Border Agency imposed 2,210 civil penalties on employers of illegal workers totalling £22.1 million. This is almost double the number of civil penalties issued in 2008 when 1,164 civil penalties were issued, worth £11.2 million in fines.

The year before the new civil penalty system was brought in, there were only 38 prosecutions for employing illegal workers. This means that there was a 2,963% increase in prosecutions in the first year of the new system alone.

Matthew Brown, Managing Director of Giant Precision, said: “These figures show that identity checking is fast becoming one of the biggest compliance risks for employers and recruitment suppliers.”

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MoD Lose Discrimination Case

A tribunal is considering how much compensation the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should pay a female soldier.

Tilern DeBique won a sexual and racial discrimination case after being told that the army was “unsuitable for a single mother who couldn’t sort out her childcare arrangements”.

DeBique, a Foreign and Commonwealth soldier from St Vincent, was disciplined for not appearing on parade because she had to look after her ill daughter.

DeBique left the army after refusing an alternative role. The tribunal criticised the army for failing to help her make childcare arrangements.
The compensation hearing continues.

The AP Partnership Ltd are experts in UK employment law and offer our employment law consultants offer concise, jargon free, employment law advice. If your organisation requires an employment law specialists or employment law training, please contact us.

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Nurse Loses Battle to Wear Crucifix

A Christian nurse, who was moved to a desk job by her employers because she refused to remove a crucifix, has lost her discrimination case.
Shirley Chaplin, who worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospitals NHS Trust, claimed her employer was preventing her from expressing her religious beliefs, but the tribunal ruled her employer had behaved in a reasonable manner.

The tribunal stated that wearing a crucifix is not mandatory for Christians, and therefore does not have to be accommadated by the employer. The tribunal then moved on to say that the hospital had acted reasonably by moving Mrs Chaplin from ward duty to a desk job.

The hospital cited Health and Safety concerns to justify moving Mrs Chaplin to a new role. This followed a risk assessment showing that the crucifix could be pulled by a patient. She has worn the crucifix on the ward for over 30 years with no problems. The hospital had offered her compromises such as pinning the crucifix to her uniform.

The tribunal also noted that the hospital had dealt with other situations relating to faith in a similar fashion. For example, ordering Sikhs to remove bangles and Muslim doctors to switch to tight-fitting sports hijabs.

Mrs Chaplin said it was “a very bad day for Christianity” and she still intends to wear the crucifix to work.

The AP Partnership Ltd are experts in UK employment law and offer our employment law consultants offer concise, jargon free, employment law advice. If your organisation requires an employment law specialists or employment law training, please contact us.

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