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In 2023, Ian Clifford, a former employee of IBM, won a disability discrimination case against the company. The case centered on IBM’s decision to terminate Clifford’s employment after he was diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Clifford had been employed by IBM for over 20 years when he was diagnosed with depression in 2017. He took a leave of absence from work to seek treatment, and he returned to work in 2018. However, IBM placed him on a performance improvement plan, and he was eventually terminated from his job in 2019.

Clifford filed a complaint with the Employment Tribunal, alleging that IBM had discriminated against him on the basis of his disability. The Tribunal found in Clifford’s favor, ruling that IBM had failed to make reasonable adjustments for his disability and that it had dismissed him because of his mental health condition.

The Clifford case is a significant victory for people with disabilities. It sends a clear message that employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of their disability. The case also highlights the importance of employers making reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.

What are Reasonable Adjustments?

Reasonable adjustments are changes that employers can make to their workplaces or policies to accommodate employees with disabilities. These adjustments can include things like providing accessible facilities, modifying job duties, or offering flexible working arrangements.

Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities under the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers must make changes to their workplaces or policies if they are necessary to allow employees with disabilities to do their jobs.

What are the Benefits of Making Reasonable Adjustments?

There are many benefits to making reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. These benefits include:

  • Increased productivity: Employees with disabilities are often just as productive as employees without disabilities. In fact, a study by the Institute for Employment Studies found that employees with disabilities are 12% more productive than their non-disabled counterparts.
  • Reduced absenteeism: Employees with disabilities are less likely to take sick leave than employees without disabilities. In fact, a study by the University of Manchester found that employees with disabilities are 25% less likely to take sick leave than their non-disabled counterparts.
  • Improved morale: Employees with disabilities often have higher morale than employees without disabilities. This is because they feel valued and respected by their employers.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Customers are more likely to do business with companies that are inclusive of people with disabilities. This is because they see these companies as being more progressive and caring.

How Can Employers Make Reasonable Adjustments?

There are many ways that employers can make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. Some of the most common adjustments include:

  • Providing accessible facilities: This can include things like making sure that buildings are wheelchair accessible, providing accessible parking, and installing accessible toilets.
  • Modifying job duties: This can include things like changing the way that tasks are performed, providing additional training, or reducing the number of hours that an employee works.
  • Offering flexible working arrangements: This can include things like allowing employees to work from home, flex their hours, or take breaks during the day.

Employers should work with employees with disabilities to identify the adjustments that are necessary to allow them to do their jobs. By making reasonable adjustments, employers can create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s something that can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or occupation. In the workplace, mental health issues can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and even presenteeism (working while sick).

That’s why it’s so important for employers to create a culture of mental health awareness in the workplace. By raising awareness of mental health issues, employers can help employees to understand the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, and they can also provide support and resources to employees who are struggling.

There are a number of things that employers can do to raise mental health awareness in the workplace. These include:

  • Providing training to managers and employees on mental health awareness. This training should cover topics such as the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, how to talk to someone about mental health, and where to get help.
  • Creating a supportive work environment. This means fostering a culture of respect, understanding, and compassion. It also means providing employees with the resources they need to manage their mental health, such as flexible work arrangements, on-site counseling, and employee assistance programs.
  • Celebrating mental health. This can be done by hosting mental health awareness events, promoting mental health resources, and encouraging employees to take care of their mental health.

By taking these steps, employers can help to create a workplace that is supportive of mental health. This can lead to a number of benefits for both employees and employers, including increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, and improved employee morale.

Here are some additional tips for employers on how to create a mentally healthy workplace:

  • Normalise conversations about mental health. Encourage employees to talk about their mental health openly and honestly. This will help to break down the stigma associated with mental health problems and make it easier for employees to seek help if they need it.
  • Be flexible with work arrangements. If an employee is struggling with their mental health, be flexible with their work arrangements. This could mean allowing them to work from home, take a leave of absence, or adjust their hours.
  • Provide access to resources. Make sure that employees have access to resources that can help them to manage their mental health. This could include on-site counseling, employee assistance programs, or referrals to mental health professionals.
  • Create a supportive culture. A supportive culture is one where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health and where they know that they will be treated with respect and compassion. Encourage employees to reach out for help if they need it, and make sure that they know that they are not alone.

By taking these steps, employers can help to create a mentally healthy workplace that is beneficial for both employees and employers.

The Easter holidays are next week, 7th-10th of April, with this in mind, we explore what UK employers need to know about allowance and pay…

There is no automatic right to time off on a bank holiday. This may be a surprise to some, however, similarly there is also no statutory entitlement for workers to not work on bank holidays, instead, this is determined by the wording in contracts of employment. An employer can dictate this depending on the operational needs and type of business.

Ahead of the long weekend next week, specific contractual wording should be checked carefully to determine your position on time off for bank holidays. For example, if your holiday allowance is statutory minimum (5.6 weeks annual leave, including bank holidays) then you will need to give your employees time off in lieu (TOIL) if they work on a bank holiday.

You do not have to pay an enhanced rate for any hours worked on a bank holiday, although offering this will keep employees motivated. You must ensure employees are receiving at least national minimum wage if they work a bank holiday, or if their usual contractual pay is higher, then they must receive at least this rate. Bear in mind, national minimum wage goes up on 1st April to £10.42 an hour (for those aged 23+).

Any holiday requests received for next Friday or the following Monday are to be considered in line with your annual leave policy. If there is a business need for an employee to work, remember that refusing a request is allowed if it is reasonable. You could also offer unpaid leave or banked time off in lieu, or a shift swap if employees need the day off.

Part-time workers are entitled to time off on bank holidays on a pro rata basis subject to the terms of the contract.

It’s important to communicate to your employees what the arrangements are for Friday 7th April and Monday 10th April in good time to help your workforce feel prepared and motivated. Aspects such as availability of IT support and line manager availability is important to communicate ahead of time also, to ensure service delivery and productivity are unaffected by the bank holidays.

Offering incentives such a sweet treats or relaxing a dress code can help to motivate staff that are working over bank holiday.

If your annual leave your matches the financial year, 2023/24 poses a problem. Next year, Good Friday falls on 29th March. Therefore there will be 9 bank holidays in the leave year 2023/24, but only 7 in 2024/25.

Your contractual wording will determine whether or not an additional day needs to be given in 2024/25 or not given in 2023/24. If you only give statutory minimum holiday allowance, this will need to be managed carefully to ensure you’re meeting your obligations under the working time regulations.

If you need any further advice or support on anything discussed in this article, or anything else, HR–related, our friendly team are available to discuss your needs on 0161 603 2156.

Holiday Pay: What’s Changing?

Holiday pay is a notoriously difficult subject, meaning it’s also a popular subject that our clients often understandably need help with. The government have (finally!) addressed this, and a consultation has been opened – we don’t want to speak too soon, but will hopefully mean simplification of the process is coming!

Back in July 2022, it was confirmed by the Supreme Court that workers who only work part of the year should receive 5.6 weeks’ statutory holiday pay (Harpur Trust v Brazel), meaning that if any worker has a continuing contract throughout the year, despite only working certain periods (e.g. term-time workers) still have to have their holiday pay calculated the same as full-time employees.

The consultation:

  • runs from 12th January-9th March 2023 and has come to fruition to ensure holiday pay and entitlement is directly proportionate to the time an individual spends working
  • proposes introducing a 52-week holiday entitlement reference period, which would bring calculations in line with entitlements received by part-time workers who work the same number of hours across the year (This would include weeks in which workers did not work, such as teaching assistants who only work during term time)
  • including unworked weeks would create an incentive for employers to give employees only a small number of hours a week, rather than none at all
  • plans to simplify how entitlement is calculated, legalising the method whereby employers work out 12.07% of total hours worked across working and non-working weeks
  • asks Employers how they currently calculate entitlement and whether implementing the suggested methods would work.

The debate around changing holiday pay calculation has sparked from the aforementioned case of a visiting music teacher at Harpur Trust, Ms Brazel, who worked during term-time on a zero-hours contract. Her hours were variable from week to week and she was only paid for the hours she taught.

The amount of holiday she accrued was determined by the number of hours she worked, and the Trust pro-rata’d the 5.6 weeks’ entitlement to calculate her holiday entitlement. Ms Brazel took the Trust to Tribunal, claiming that their approach when calculating her holiday meant that she received under her entitlement.

Both The Court of Appeal and Supreme Court decided in favour of Ms Brazel, and ruled that because her contract spanned the whole year (even though she only worked part of it), she was in fact entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday.

This means that Employers should now follow this ruling, however, caused further confusion regarding how casual staff working part of the year should be approached in terms of holiday accrual and pay, and of course whether this would mean that employees would be entitled to historic pay if holiday hadn’t been calculated this way prior to the case.

We think it’s positive that the current consultation period is short, suggesting that the government are treating the issue as high priority. It may well result in part-year workers being treated comparably to part-time workers where holiday entitlement is concerned.

This would certainly be more equitable than under current law, whereby part-year workers can end up with more leave and pay than a part-time worker despite sometimes working less hours annually.

Any upcoming changes will particularly affect the education sector, where term-time contracts are often more popular than any other kind. Those who engage zero-hours workers, variable hours workers and agency staff will also be affected.

For now, Harpur Trust v Brazel rules should be used to calculate annual leave for part-year workers until the consultation concludes… Watch this space!

If you do need any help with annual leave calculations, pay, or anything else HR-related, please give us a call on 0161 603 2156 and our friendly Supportis team will explore how we can help your business flourish.

 

How to make sure the work Christmas Party doesn’t get out of hand…

As life is largely back to pre-pandemic activity levels and work socials have resumed, French courts have recently ruled that ‘Mr T’ (not of A-Team fame!) was wrongfully dismissed for opting out of his workplace’s drinking culture. On termination of his employment, ‘professional incompetence’ was cited as the reason for dismissal. However, the Court was later told that it was actually based around his unwillingness to join social activities with colleagues, such as seminars and weekend trips that had involved bullying, promiscuity and excessive drinking.

It was decided by the court that by virtue of his freedom of expression, Mr T was not obliged to participate in such activities and had every right to sit out of socialising.

Although this case was not an English tribunal case, it does serve as a reminder to all employers that if employees aren’t under any obligation to participate in extra-curricular activities in their own time and they shouldn’t be personally or professionally penalised for this.

Colleagues must be aware that pressuring anyone to join in festivities risks being construed as harassment or bullying and even borders on discriminatory, specifically if the refusal is based around a protected characteristic such as religion or race.

As we enter the festive party season, another point for employers to be aware of is the fact that employers can be held legally liable for any unsavoury actions of their employees committed ‘in the course of their employment’ which includes social events like Christmas parties.

One pertinent such case was Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Limited (NRL) [2018] in which a manager struck another employee following a Christmas party. The victim of the attack suffered serious traumatic brain damage and subsequently successfully sued the company.

Furthermore, potentially dangerous territory can be identified as a result of combining employees having been unable to ‘properly’ socialise in-person for almost 3 years, and sexual harassment knowledge and awareness having significantly increased in the post #MeToo era.

Ironically therefore, it’s not sitting out of social events which should be the concern of UK employers but in fact, joining in (and overstepping the mark!) at the time of the year when merriment is encouraged.

A recent report from CIPD has revealed that 10% of UK employees were disciplined (some even dismissed!) following inappropriate behaviour at the work Christmas party. The most popular reasons cited for disciplinary action were:

  • 29% – fighting
  • 19% threatening behaviour
  • 17% – sexual harassment
  • 12% – bullying
  • 7% other inappropriate conduct – including insulting managers, inappropriate activity on workplace premises and even unsavoury use of the photocopier!

So what can employers do to combat unacceptable behaviour at the Christmas party?

Of course, employers can only do what is reasonably practicable to prevent unacceptable behaviour taking place, some ideas are:

Make it clear before the event that the same behaviour expectations apply to work social events as they do in the workplace in regard to what is appropriate, bullying, harassment etc. We send our clients a template email message and note to send out to their employees within good time from the event date – bear in mind that leaving it too late to send out might mean you’ve missed the boat as many employees will book the day or afternoon of the event off to prepare and travel down

Check your venue is accessible to all, your menu caters for all requirements and any entertainment is not based around alcohol e.g. giving away alcohol as prizes or encouraging drinking games.

Nominate a manager to subtly monitor amounts of alcohol consumed, and ensure non-alcoholic drinks are distributed between the festivities.

Carefully choose any external entertainers (speakers, comedians, magicians etc.) to ensure beforehand that their comments and acts don’t constitute harassment – which covers “words spoken”.

Finally, if any incidents do occur, it’s so important to investigate them thoroughly and promptly. We can advise on disciplinary and grievance procedures – if you do need any help with anything mentioned in this article or anything else HR/Employment Law related, please contact us at [email protected] or on 0161 603 2156, we’ll be happy to assist.

Meet our Supportis Head of Service at Supportis, Alan Mills…

Brief description of your role: Head of the Service Team who deliver HR advice, consultancy work and setting up HR processes from scratch to SME clients 💼

First job: Royal Navy 🚢

My commute listen: Talk sport ⚽

Favourite food & drink: Italian and red wine 🍷

Desert island disc: Dark side of the Moon – Pink Floyd 🌔

Currently reading: Never – Ken Follett 📖

Currently watching: Bull 🐮

Sending to Room 101: The Kardashians 👋

3 Dream dinner guests: Winston Churchill, Marcus Wareing, Freddie Flintoff 🏏

Specialist subject: Accrington Stanley ⚽

Best thing about working at Supportis: Working with a great team and a solid dependable company 🤝

 

If you think your business could benefit from our 24/7 HR, Employment Law and H&S services, please give us a call on 0161 603 2156 to see how we can help your business flourish.

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If you'd like to find out more about how Supportis can help your business flourish then give us a call on 0161 603 2156 or send us an email.

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