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Archive for the ‘Employment law’ Category

Dealing with DSARs

In business principles, discipline and grievance, Employment law, Uncategorized on March 30, 2021 at 10:45 am

Data Subject Access Requests (DSARs)

Employers sometimes have to deal with DSARs from employees trying to bolster grievances or from former employees. It can be very onerous to comply with DSARs, which are one of the core data subject rights under GDPR. The following guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office provides some clarity on the subject.

Employers often hold large amounts of data on employees and if the employee has been vague or deliberately wide in the DSAR, it may be wise to ask for clarification as to the information sought. The ICO has now confirmed that the clock can be stopped while organisations wait for a requester to clarify their request.

Any DSAR must be dealt with effectively, within one month of receipt. This can be extended by two months if the DSAR is complex. Such complexity arises if it involves information from many different email accounts or requires a significant amount of redaction of others’ personal data.

As an employee making a DSAR does not have rights above other employees, redaction will need to occur if an employer must provide emails that contain personal data relating to others. Therefore, it’s possible that large sections of emails may be blacked out.

Following case law under the Data Protection Act, the ICO’s guidance makes it clear that data controllers should make reasonable efforts to retrieve data but should not conduct searches that would be unreasonable or disproportionate to the importance of providing access to the information. It is not necessary to ‘leave no stone unturned’ – reasonable efforts should be good enough.

Employers need to be able to demonstrate they have looked in any email back-up systems and data saved on individual managers’ PCs. As a result, it is likely that managers may need to be asked to check and confirm they have not saved such information outside of their email account.

Organisations may also wish to closely consider retention periods for employee data. Keeping all data and emails relating to an employee during their 20-year career is likely to make an employer wish it had brought in a retention policy to delete data after six years, if a detailed DSAR is raised.

Data controllers need not comply with manifestly unfounded and excessive requests and the ICO has now provided additional guidance and broadened its definition of these terms. To determine whether a request is manifestly excessive employers should consider whether it is clearly or obviously unreasonable, considering all the circumstances. They should be prepared to justify their position to the ICO in the event of a complaint.

The ICO confirms what can be included in the “reasonable fee” that can be charged for dealing with excessive, unfounded or repeat requests. The fee should be reasonably calculated and can include the costs of making the information available, including photocopying or using an online platform, equipment and staff time. Data controllers may wish to give some thought to their hourly rates and whether they can provide information about these in their privacy notice.

Complaints about how an employer responds to DSARs are sent to the Information Commissioner, although employees often attempt to complain about it to employment tribunals as well. In extreme cases the Information Commissioner can serve enforcement notices and impose financial penalties.

Despite what employees often think, the Information Commissioner cannot award them compensation, although they could bring a court case seeking compensation for harm and distress arising out of failure.  

Sleep-in Payments Ruling

In contracts, Employment law, pay, Uncategorized on March 23, 2021 at 9:32 am

The Supreme Court has ruled that care workers are not entitled to national minimum wage for ‘sleep-in’ shifts. This follows appeals in the cases Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake and Shannon v Rampersad and another (T/A Clifton House Residential Home).

The court referred to a recommendation first made in 1998 by the Low Pay Commission, and accepted by the government as part of the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999, that sleep-in workers should receive an allowance and not the NMW unless they are awake for the purposes of working. The same recommendation was also included in the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015.

It was however made clear that this ruling only applies to shifts where an employee is expected to sleep during their shift, which the claimants in this case were.

Covid-19 vaccination: What can an employer do if an employee refuses to have a vaccine?

In covid-19, Employment law, Equality on March 10, 2021 at 11:00 am

Most people will welcome the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but there will be a minority who will be reluctant or refuse to have the vaccine. The reasons could be many and varied, including individuals who cannot have the vaccine (for example, on medical grounds), those who can have the vaccine but refuse (for example, on religious or spiritual grounds) and those who can have it but have concerns and are uncertain (for example, due to a fear of vaccinations generally).
 
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 obliges employers to take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks; this duty gives employers justification for encouraging their employees to be vaccinated to protect themselves and everyone else at the workplace. COVID-19 is also a reportable disease under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (known as RIDDOR) which strengthens employers’ encouragement that employees should agree to vaccination.
 
It may be prudent now for employers to begin planning for the wider rollout of the vaccine. Perhaps encourage concern staff with impartial, factual information or at least guide them towards it. Staff will need to be informed about the workplace controls measures and the impact and risks of COVID-19. Experience has shown that this needs to be repeated.
 
The press has reported that some employers want to make vaccination mandatory. One example Pimlico Plumbers (no strangers to the employment courts) stated that all new workers would have to receive or have received the vaccine. The phrase ‘no jab – no job’ was coined. Interviewed on Radio 5 the owner actually confirmed that he had no intention of firing anyone, or indeed enforcing the policy.
 
What we know for sure is that employers cannot forcibly vaccinate employees or potential employees. Mandatory vaccination is an intrusion on an employee’s body and would be an assault. More relevant in the workplace is forcing a vaccine may amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of disability or religious or philosophical belief. Some employers would have a justification to act in that way, but this is not the answer in every case. The government has so far shown no intention of introducing legislation to make vaccines mandatory, but we may have to watch this space.
 
So, what if employees refuse vaccination? For the employer to discharge their health and safety duty, they may need to consider other steps. An employer could consider potential disciplinary proceedings for failure to follow a reasonable instruction in certain settings (such as health or care), but this approach is not without risk and any employer considering this should seek specific advice from us before doing so.
 
Can the employer insert a clause into the employment contracts for new employees? Existing employees can be asked to agree to a compulsory vaccination clause as a variation to their existing contracts of employment.  However, even if employees agree to vaccination in their original employment contract or a variation of it, employers still cannot physically enforce this as an individual’s consent is always required for any medical intervention. Employers enforcing a change without employees’ agreement would be in breach of contract and employees could resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
 
Failure to follow an employer’s reasonable instructions can lead to disciplinary processes and dismissal. Whether an instruction to have a COVID-19 vaccine is reasonable has not been tested in the tribunals and courts. As there is at least a risk of unfair dismissal, discrimination and other claims, employers should consider their position very carefully before moving towards disciplinary processes and dismissal. Being a test case as one of the first employers to dismiss on the grounds of vaccine refusal is likely to be time consuming and potentially expensive.
 
Every employment contract contains an implied term that employees must follow their employer’s reasonable instructions. Whether an instruction to be immunised is reasonable depends upon the facts of each case, for example the nature of the role, the numbers of clinically vulnerable colleagues, the size and layout and people contact in the workplace. For example, employers in a nursing home may be able to issue a reasonable instruction to employees to be vaccinated because refusal could put vulnerable people at risk. Employers in another sector such as accountancy, where it has been shown that work can be done effectively from home, may be in a weaker position and an instruction to be vaccinated may not be deemed reasonable.
 
This is clearly not an area without risk and organisations should ensure they have up to date risk assessments and policies in place. As always if you wish to discuss this topic further please contact your consultant. 

Coronavirus – Advice for employers

In absence, Employment law, government, pay, Uncategorized on March 4, 2020 at 1:38 pm

For our most up to date information see our webpage – https://www.robbryanassociates.org.uk/2020/03/12/coronavirus/

With the government preparing for widespread cases of the coronavirus(Covid-19), employers should monitor the official advice to maintain an up to date picture of the situation and best protect the health and safety of their staff.

Where can I find the official advice?
Government list of guidance
Government advice for businesses
NHS advice
Government action plan

What can employers do to minimise the risk in the workplace?
ACAS has produced a useful guide providing practical advice to help employers protect their staff. Good hygiene is key to preventing the spread of infection.
We suggest that you print the NHS guide out and pin to your noticeboard or another prominent place. You should also issue regular memos to circulate the latest official advice.
The government guide has advice for what do if someone in the workplace falls ill with symptoms linked to the virus or is diagnosed.
Employers should prepare an action plan which is ready to be put in place should there be an outbreak of the virus at work.

Sick Pay
If an employee has coronavirus:
Your usual sickness procedure and entitlement apply.

If an employee is advised to self-isolate:
If the employee has been advised by NHS111 or a doctor to self-isolate they should inform their employer immediately. If they are given written notice they are entitled to sick pay. The latest legal advice as of yesterday is that isolation without the illness does not qualify for SSP – although many are saying it would be good practice to pay. The Trade unions and others are seeking specific emergency laws to have a sick pay fund for those who wouldn’t normally be paid – they argue without this people will be motivated to attend the workplace with symptoms.
Some employees will be able to work from home while in isolation.

Latest news update Workers to get SSP from first day off https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51738837 (NB: this is the government’s intention – we await further detail)

Working from home
At present, there is no advice for workers to avoid travel in the UK but employers may want to consider in advance what provision there may be for working at home.

Travel abroad
As and when the virus becomes widespread, in some places travel and movements are likely to be more restricted.
If travel is for business purposes, consider if the meeting could take place via video conferencing instead.
If an employee is travelling for leisure we advise you to discuss with the employee their plans and pose the question regarding returning and self-isolation. You can agree in advance that should they need to self-isolate it would be unpaid authorised absence. It’s then an elective choice to go on holiday taking a risk or to cancel.

New Rights for Bereaved Parents

In Employment law on January 27, 2020 at 1:15 pm

The government has confirmed that parental bereavement leave will become a statutory right from April 2020.

Up until now, whether organisations provide time off work as bereavement leave when employees suffered the loss of a child, and any payment for this leave period, was an individual decision made within each business. The new legislation, also known as Jack’s Law following a campaign by bereaved mother Lucy Herd, will give a day one right to two weeks’ leave following the death of a child under the age of 18, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Parents will be able to take the leave as two weeks or two one-week blocks. Those with 26 weeks continuous employment will be able to claim statutory pay which is expected to be in line with other family related pay. As of April, these rates will rise to £151.20.

There are still details to be confirmed including rules on eligibility, but the new regulations are expected to include:

  • birth parents
  • adoptive parents
  • legal guardians
  • those with court orders providing daily care responsibilities
  • foster parents (although it may not include emergency foster care)
  • kinship carers.

Employers should note that the introduction of statutory parental bereavement leave does not replace an employee’s right to time off for dependents.  The difference between these entitlements is that time off for dependants is intended to allow employees leave to deal with an unforeseen emergency only, such as the unexpected death of a child, whereas parental bereavement leave is to provide a length of time off work to allow parents to undergo the grieving process following their child’s death. The employer should also consider ongoing ways in which a bereaved parent can be supported once they return to work.

Action: these changes should be reflected in your next updates and revisions to your employment documents. When was the last time you updated yours? Contact Rob Bryan Associates on 01462 732444 for advice

Carers Rights Day – how can you support your employees who have caring responsibilities?

In contracts, Employment law, Equality on November 21, 2019 at 10:15 am

Thursday 21st November marks ‘Carers Rights Day’ – an opportunity to recognise all that carers do, as well as for employers to find out more about how to support carers in the workplace.

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Research by Carers UK and Age UK shows the importance of employers engaging with employees who are carers. One report found that 10 hours of caring per week can make it a significant challenge to stay in work. Research also tells us that:

  • 600 people a day leave the workforce to provide care for a loved one, whether that’s a spouse, parent, child or other dependant.
  • 5 million people juggle caring responsibilities with paid work.
  • 64% of those caring for parents are in the workforce. And the numbers are increasing as the UK population ages.

Those in their late thirties to fifties, known as the ‘sandwich generation’ may be balancing caring for elderly parents whilst also bringing up children and working. They are also likely to represent a higher proportion of those at the peak of their profession – talent that businesses want to retain.

According Carers UK, leading companies, such as Centrica, have demonstrated strong business benefits to supporting carers and have suggested that, cumulatively, UK companies could save up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.

How carer-friendly is your business? Do you have policies in place to support those who wish to more flexibly?

For short term temporary arrangements an employee may seek time off for dependants. A dependant of an employee is defined in the legislation as one of the following:

  • husband or wife or partner, child, parent, someone else who is regarded as part of the family and lives with an employee (but not tenants, boarders, lodgers or employees)
  • anyone else who is reliant on an employee in emergency situations.

The length of this leave is meant to be short and no longer than two days in most situations. It can be longer in some circumstances. An employer is not permitted to require an employee who has requested or taken time off for dependants to rearrange their working hours or make up the time that has been lost. What is reasonable time of will depend on the specific circumstances. An employment tribunal case considered an employee who had taken a total of seven days spanning six instances of absence within a 12-month period was reasonable.

Trial periods, temporary changes or even career breaks / sabbaticals in support of a retaining a skilled and knowledgeable worker who would otherwise be lost to the business could be a possibility. However, employers should seek advice from a consultant if you intend to amend terms or have a break in the relationship as continuity of employment needs to be specifically addressed as well as arrangements to return back to previous terms and conditions if that is the intention.

For permanent changes to the working relationship an employee can make a request for flexible working.

In June 2014 changes to the flexible working arrangements broaden to all employees. Previously eligibility was restricted for caring for a child or an adult in need of care. The first arrangements for flexible working in 2002 were restricted only to children under 6 years of disabled children up to 18 years of age. There was no provision for adult care. Employees, part time or full time, with 26 weeks of service, have the right to request a flexible working arrangement.

The flexibility is commonly around times of work, or days of work; however, this can also include the type or pattern of work, or even the place or work. The employer has a duty to consider the request in a reasonable manner and respond in writing as soon as practically possible no later than three months after a formal request. An employee making a request has protection from any dismissal or detriment due to their request being made.

If you would like help reviewing your employment policies, please get in touch – 01462 732444  www.robbryanassociates.org.uk 

For further reference: https://www.employersforcarers.org/resources/research/item/1460-juggling-work-and-unpaid-care-a-growing-issue

A Burning Issue

In Employment law, Uncategorized, workers on June 27, 2019 at 9:38 am
Pineapple wearing a hat and sunglasses

So what has a pineapple wearing sunglasses and a hat got to do with your business?

Today (27th June 2019) is ‘International Sunglasses Day’; raising awareness of the damage that can be done to the eyes by the sun’s harmful rays.

Still wondering?… We’re talking about sun safety. With cases of skin cancer on the rise in the UK (since the early 1990’s incidence rates have more than doubled) consideration needs to be given to the risks of sun damage associated with outdoor working. This could particularly affect workers in construction, agriculture or leisure. Research has shown that 55% of skin cancer incidences are from those employed in the construction industry.

Some groups are particularly at risk:

  • Pale or freckled skin that tends to burn
  • Fair/red hair
  • Skin prone to moles
  • Family history of skin cancer

Although the risk is lower for those with darker skin, sun damage can still occur, along with the same need to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.

According to Cancer Research 86% of Melanoma skin cancer cases are preventable.

What can employers do?

  • Educate – make sure your employees know that sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and what they can do to minimize the risks. Encourage them to check their skin regularly and report any concerns to their doctor. This can be part of your health and safety training.
  • Provide shaded space to take breaks
  • During particularly hot and sunny periods schedule work to avoid the midday sun / have more frequent rest breaks
  • Encourage workers to keep covered up and wear a hat.
  • Encourage workers to wear a high factor suncream and reapply during the day
  • Make sure water is available

For advice on all your employment matters contact Rob Bryan Associates – 01462 732444 / www.robbryanassociates.org.uk

More summer advice:

Heat Wave Hot Tips

Changes to sick pay rules from April 2019

In absence, Employment law, Uncategorized on April 11, 2019 at 12:27 pm

As of 6th April 2019 entitlement to sick pay is changing. The amount employees need to earn in order for Statutory Sick Pay to apply is rising from £116 per week to £118. The rate of pay will also increase by £2.20 to £94.25 per week.

As before employees need to have been off work sick for 4 or more days in a row (including non-working days) to qualify and SSP can be paid for up to 28 weeks.

 

If you would like guidance on managing absence in your workplace, contact us at Rob Bryan Associates Limited Main Office: 01462 732444  www.robbryanassociates.org.uk

New mothers to get extended protection against redundancy

In Employment law, Equality, government, maternity on January 31, 2019 at 1:26 pm

copyof1in9womensaytheywerefired2cmaderedundantorforcedoutofjobOn 25th January 2019 the government launched a 10-week consultation to examine the proposal that legal protection against redundancy should be extended to 6 months for new mothers returning to work.

Under the Equality Act, job applicants or employees must not be treated unfairly or disadvantaged due to pregnancy or maternity. However, research by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that 1 in 9 women (11%) said that they had been fired or made redundant on their return to work; or were treated so badly they felt they had no option but to leave.

Currently, if redundancies are being made, those on maternity or shared parental leave have to be offered a ‘suitable alternative’ where one is available, giving these employees priority over others who are also at risk of redundancy. However, this provision ends when an individual returns to work.

The proposed legislation will extend this protection for new mothers to six months after return to work. The consultation may also consider applying this right to others, for example men on shared parental leave and those on adoption leave.

While these proposals have been welcomed, advocacy groups have said that the underlying issues remain and more can be done to support parents returning to work and prevent working mothers being discriminated against.

 

If you would like guidance on your Pregnancy, Maternity or Family Friendly policies and procedures in your workplace, contact us at Rob Bryan Associates Limited Main Office: 01462 732444  www.robbryanassociates.org.uk

Preventing Illegal Working

In Employment law, government, workers on January 24, 2019 at 11:41 am

Updates to procedures from January 2019

document id uk driving license driving licence

All employers have a responsibility to prevent illegal working and must therefore carry out ‘right to work checks.’ Businesses can be fined up £20,000 if they are found to have employed an illegal worker and hadn’t followed the checking procedure. Knowingly employing someone without right to work can result in a jail term and unlimited fine.

From 28th January 2019 employers will be able to use the Home Office’s online checking system to determine a prospective employee’s right to work in the UK without the need to receive documents from the individual. This applies to non-EEA nationals who hold a biometric residence permit/card or EEA nationals who have been granted immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. EEA nationals without settled status will still need to provide appropriate documentation.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes called it “another step we are taking to simplify and modernise the immigration system,” and said it would make it easier than ever for migrants to view and prove their right to work in the UK.

When using the online system the employer is required to:

  • Check each applicant and only recruit, or continue to employ, if the online check confirms their right to work
  • Carry out a visual identification using the photo supplied with the online check
  • Retain the result of the check during the individual’s employment and for two years following

If an online check cannot be carried out, the Home Office Employer Checking Service should be contacted and applicants will need to supply the required documents.

Changes will also be made to the checking of UK Nationals in order to accommodate those who do not hold a passport. List A documents allow UK individuals to provide full or short-form certificates alongside an official document containing their National Insurance number.

 

Links:

https://www.gov.uk/employee-immigration-employment-status