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With Christmas festivities in full swing, the annual office party booked and an abundance of mince pies to eat at home, it may be time to consider how employers could avoid unwanted disaster with tribunals this Christmas!

On top of organising the festivities for all the office to enjoy, employers must ensure that workplace polices are consistent, even outside of the office environment. Under health and safety laws, employers must take responsibility for employees’ actions.

Employees may think that the office party is the prime time to let their hair down and enjoy free drinks and food, however, confessing their undying love for Sally from Sales or picking a fight with Dave from Accounts might not be the most appropriate behaviour and will reflect badly on the company.

Follow these tips to avoid disaster and to have a very merry office party this winter!

Rewarding your employees

The annual Christmas party is a great opportunity for employers to show their appreciation for all their employees’ hard work throughout the year. Whilst it can be an expensive event with businesses spending over £955million (£40-70 being spent per person), some companies do not know if it’s worth splashing the cash as their employees may not truly appreciate the celebration. In a recent survey by Perkbox almost a third of employees admitted that they did not like the yearly party and that 23% would have preferred their employer organising a Christmas team meal instead.

However, research argues that companies that rewarded their employees over the festive period, found that almost 50% saw an improvement in employee motivation and productivity levels on returning to work in the New Year. Other surveys found that 1/3 of employees believed that a Christmas party is the least their employer can do to show gratitude for their efforts and the same amount of employees would feel as though they are less valued if the company does not offer one. So, not only is the Christmas party appreciated, but it is also important for morale, engagement and retention.

Understandably, employers worry that the Christmas party could be a tricky HR situation as they are vicariously liable for co-workers and employee behaviours. Therefore, if an employer chooses to undertake the yearly celebration, they must remember to invite all employees to avoid discrimination – even if employees are off on annual leave, maternity leave or long term illness. An employer may also want to reaffirm the conduct they expect at work events as well as informing their employees of unacceptable behaviour that won’t be tolerated.

Unacceptable behaviour and how best to prevent it

Employers must consider where the celebration will take place, the day, the time & what will be available to employees. Stating a timeframe will make clear how long the event will be. It’s also worth considering that if the event was held during the day there could be less risk for inappropriate behaviour compared to if it were taking place at night into the early morning. Most unacceptable behaviour springs from having one too many to drink, therefore, giving out limited free drink tokens as well as offering an abundance of free food and soft drinks can help to combat excessive drunkenness.

Examples of gross misconduct offences which will lead to disciplinary procedures

  • Excessive drunkenness
  • Illegal drug abuse
  • Harassment & violence
  • Serious verbal abuse
  • Assault

Communication and Risk Assessments

Transparency is key when organising events for employees. Communication with senior managers about assessing the risk that a Christmas party may bring is crucial in order to proactively plan for any mishaps at the event and ensure employers know what procedures are in place in case of an emergency.

The relevant policies and procedures that should be in place will cover conduct at work related events including:

  • Equal opportunity
  • Disciplinary policies
  • Anti-bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
  • Disability policies
  • Health & Safety

However, with policies in place and employees understanding their obligations at the Christmas party it is not uncommon for employers to be found accountable for their behaviours.

Tribunal Case examples

The Bellman vs Northampton Recruitment Ltd

This high-profile case was consistently in the news last Christmas and involved Mr Bellman (a sales manager) punching another colleague (Mr Major) after the work Christmas party. Mr Major thus retaliated punching Mr Bellman twice, which made him fall to the ground leading him to suffer traumatic brain damage and permanent impairment.

In the court hearing it found Northampton Recruitment vicariously liable for the employee’s actions against Mr Bellman. Mr Bellman is requesting a pay out of over £1million in damages for the harm caused to him. Therefore, even if an employee has taken the Christmas party festivities elsewhere, they are still responsible for the employee’s actions as it is considered an extension of the workplace.

Ms. Phillips vs Cameo Club

Bar manager Ms. Phillips suffered facial paralysis after one of her colleagues strangled her in a headlock. The tribunal found that she was unfairly dismissed after the employer failed to investigate or take her accusations seriously. Even with her colleague’s arrest for the incident, which was caught on CCTV, the employer shockingly still allowed him to work for the club and he did not face any disciplinary action. Consequently Ms. Phillips was forced to resign by her employer as they did not want to investigate the assault any further. Unfortunately, due to the negligence and bad management by the employer, Ms. Phillips suffered from PTSD and other health conditions and was rewarded £6,659 compensation.

And if the worst happens?

It almost goes without saying that the best way to minimise the risk of tribunals and vicariously liable situations is by reaffirming company policies and expectations prior to the annual party.

However should there be any issues following your company’s festivities, our dedicated and skilled team offer unlimited support and advice on how to manage employees who may be taking action against you.

For more information about the legal obligations associated with work events, for help in creating plans or for further advice on HR strategies, just book a free consultation or contact one of our Employment Law advisors on 0161 603 2156.

Spreading kindness ultimately leads to higher self-worth, health benefits and happiness. So, as we approach National Kindness Day on 13th November, why not add some kindness into employees’ lives?

A recent study found that performing acts of kindness boosts wellbeing and positive social emotions. The experiment involved 691 participants from 39 countries who performed acts of kindness every day for seven days to family, friends, peers, strangers and themselves. The results showed that kindness to all groups had a positive effect on the participants happiness, life satisfaction, compassion, trust and social connection. Most importantly the research discovered that these benefits increased as the kind acts increased.

But what does kindness mean to you? By definition it refers to the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Whilst this meaning may appear woolly, kindness obviously means different things to different people, however the Random Acts of Kindness organisation suggests there are three main types:

  • Interpersonal Kindness
  • Environmental Kindness
  • Personal Kindness

So is kindness relevant in an office environment?

Yes. As well as making for a better place to work, a culture of kindness can also benefit the bottom line.

  • Deepening positive emotional connections with others

Kindness is contagious. If a leader, colleague or employee is spreading kindness in the office, this then cultivates positive emotions, creating a more welcoming office environment.

  • Creating a better workplace culture

The culture of a business is extremely important to boosting employee engagement, retaining talent and setting the expectations of how employees should act in the workplace. In a recent report by Gallup’s “State of the Global Workforce” researchers found that on average just 15% of employees were actively engaged in their jobs.

The Zenger & Folkman study for the Harvard Business Review tracked 51,836 leaders and noted that the most likable leaders who expressed warmth were also the most effective. They suggest that

“If you’re seen as low-warmth, you have something a 1-in-2,000 chance to make the top quartile of effectiveness as a leader”.

Having kind leaders, colleagues and employees overall helps to improve positive business culture, creating a safe office environment where creativity and ideas are encouraged.

  • Increasing sales

Deepening positive emotional connections in the office environment could lead to greater self-esteem and an increase in confidence will impact positively on sales. If employees truly back your business philosophy and are driven for success, this will lead to higher sales and better customer service.

A Case study by Happy or Not of more than 25,000 of its feedback terminals found that dissatisfied employees will drive customers away. Only 11% of consumers would consider buying from a company again after a bad experience with an employee and almost half would actively warn others against the organisation. This startling figure demonstrates how important employee satisfaction, wellbeing and engagement is for business.

  • Environmental kindness

Environmental awareness is now headline news and the public is increasingly making decisions on whether to engage with a brand based upon it’s environmental ethos, whether that’s through purchasing a product or being interested in working for a particular business.

Having a clear vision about your company’s environmental impact and embedding a policy into your business will not only help the environment but will aid recruitment and retention.

Acts of Kindness everyone can perform in the workplace

  • Greeting everyone in the office when walking in, a simple hello goes a long way
  • Offering to make colleagues a drink
  • Making time for colleagues who may need help or checking that they are ok
  • Showing appreciation and recognition when colleagues have done a good job
  • Being kind to yourself, whether that’s through giving yourself breaks or treating yourself
  • Bringing in treats for employees, just because
  • Celebrating key life events company wide
  • Taking part in charitable & fundraising events

Implementing a training plan based around a well thought out and holistic colleague handbook will encourage a culture of kindness within the business.

If you would like to find out more about how Supportis can help you create training plans, policies or handbooks or any other HR and Employment Law issues please call one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156.

With the Financial Conduct Authority reporting that 4.1 million people in the UK are in serious financial difficulty, money management is a growing issue and seems to be getting worse year upon year. According to The Money Charity personal debt rose to £1663 billion in February 2019, an increase of almost £1000 per UK adult since the same time the previous year.

Talk Money Week is an annual celebration of the work of thousands of organisations aiming to improve money management in the UK. Beginning on the 12th November, the aim is to encourage organisations and individuals to talk about money and share ways of changing habits in order to save money and make smarter financial decisions.

Causes of poor money management

Before we look at what poor money management means for businesses and their employees, we need to understand why money management is a problem in the first place.

Payment by plastic is on the rise whilst payment by cash is falling. UK Finance reported that in 2006, 62% of all UK transactions were paid for using cash. A decade later the figure had dropped to 40% and the estimated figure for 2026 is even lower once again at 21%.

Tapping a piece of plastic on a card reader registers less in our subconscious than physically handing over cash, making it easy to overspend using credit and debit cards which can create problems alarmingly quickly. Or is it simply that people aren’t budgeting? Failure to track how much you earn, save and spend makes managing your finances a guessing game. Unless you are 100% sure of how much you can set aside to spend, overspending is worryingly easy to do.

Poor money management effects employee wellbeing and productivity

The University of Southampton’s School of Psychology found that people in debt are three times more likely to suffer from some sort of mental health problem than those who aren’t. If employees have money problems weighing on their mind when they are at work they will be less engaged with the tasks at hand. Increased stress and a lack of focus reduces both productivity and efficiency which can eat into the profit of any business.

Absenteeism is of course damaging to businesses, however presenteeism can be just as bad. Employees with money problems often overwork, whether working through illness or overtime in order to make ends meet. Overworked or unhealthy employees can be just as harmful to productivity as absent ones as the quality of work drops when employees become fatigued from continuous long hours without a good work-life balance.

Supporting employees’ money management

With money management having such a significant impact on employee wellbeing, it is wise for employers to find out how they can support their employees in this area.

Financial wellbeing assistance programmes may not provide the immediate financial relief of a wage increase but they do help employees make smarter financial decisions in the future reducing the risk of continued poor money management. Implementing programmes like this also signals to the outside world that the business is a caring employer, which can improve employee engagement as well as talent attraction.

Reviewing the way your company reimburses employees for business related expenditure may also be beneficial, for example, providing corporate credit cards rather than employees needing to submit expenses forms retrospectively.

If there is the available budget there are plenty of ideas that will have a direct financial cost to the business like providing travel season tickets or free parking, however there are plenty of other schemes which will cost your business nothing but time such as negotiating employee discount schemes with local businesses or partnering with a local Credit Union to offer employee loans.

Of course, positive money management is only a small part of good mental and physical wellbeing, however the effects of poor money management are extensive to both employees and employers.

To find out more about how your business can support employees with their money management or to discuss other HR strategies your business can implement to keep your workplace happy please contact one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156 to see how we can help.

In the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. The Mental Health Foundation study also worryingly found that, of the previous statistic, 32% of adults had experienced suicidal feelings as a result of stress.

Stress affects everybody at some point; a little stress can be a good thing and help to push us out of our comfort zone. However, excessive amounts of stress can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. We’ve put together some ideas below that are easy to implement which along with the ability to spot when an employee is struggling can enable an employer to proactively support and effectively manage stress in the workplace.

Consult your employees

Familiarise yourself with the factors that are making your employees stressed. Common stressors usually have practical solutions and can be fixed, for example,

  • Lack of appropriate equipment
  • Adapting your management style to suit employee personality types
  • Improving supervisor feedback and general communication

A recent survey produced by GloboForce found that 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes. Being open and honest about how you believe your employees are doing allows good two-way communication skills, builds respect and reduces uncertainty about employees’ jobs and futures.

Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions

  • Getting employee input on work affairs will increase engagement

Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform at their best and will aid the wider push for equality and inclusion in the workplace. As an aside, data also suggests that companies with greater gender and ethnic diversity consistently outperform the competition.

Avoid unrealistic deadlines

  • Make sure the workload is suitable to your employees’ abilities and resources
  • Clarify your expectations
  • Clearly define employees’ roles, responsibilities, and goals
  • Make sure management actions are fair and consistent with organisational values

In the annual ‘Investors in people job exodus trends survey’, 42% of the 2000 polled say that they are thinking of leaving due to poor management – making it the second most popular reason for a potential move.

Offer rewards and incentives

  • Praise work accomplishments verbally and company-wide
  • Schedule potentially stressful periods followed by periods of fewer tight deadlines

A recent survey produced by Deloitte which involved 16,000 professionals from 4,000 companies in 101 countries found that cash rewards were not the only important recognition. Across status, generations and genders, the most valued type of recognition is a new growth opportunity. The survey also found that big wins aren’t the only thing people want to be recognised for. It’s also important to recognise the effort they put in, their knowledge and expertise and commitment to living the organisation’s core values.

While many employees enjoy and are motivated by challenges, ensuring that these are achievable and reasonable will help ambitious employees achieve more. When setting targets, assess each employee ensuring you get the right balance between motivating employees and overloading them with a workload they will not be able to manage.

Having a proactive policy in place to deal with stress will avoid employees going into ‘burnout’ and impacting negatively on the performance of the business.

If you’d like to find out more about how to implement strategies for minimising stress in your business or for further advice on managing employee stress contact one of our Employment Law Advisers on 0161 603 2156 to arrange your free initial consultation.

The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 has now been passed by royal assent. It is expected to come into force in 2020 and will give all employed parents the right to 2 weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

Support in the Workplace

The behaviour and attitudes of employers and colleagues is crucial and will affect how well parents and their partners cope with their bereavement and how soon they feel able to return to work.

One policy fits all does not apply to these situations. Parents will be going through immense emotional distress and can often become depressed. Offering a supportive management style as well as complying with maternity and paternity considerations will enable employees to receive the right support and care.

Different Types of Bereavement

Employers should find time to educate themselves on pregnancy complications which an employee may unfortunately experience. Parental bereavement can include:

Over 11,000 ectopic pregnancies leading to the loss of a baby occur per year and about 9 babies every day are lost through still births. If parents experience the loss of their baby, they still can be entitled to maternity and paternity leave if they meet the normal qualifying conditions.

Understanding Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowances enables an employer to ensure employees receive all the financial support they are entitled to. However, if an employee has experienced a miscarriage they can ask for compassionate leave, sick pay, annual pay or unpaid leave.

Legal Considerations

Pregnancy and work obligations are a tricky and complex area and an employer may find themselves faced with tribunals if they have not complied with employee rights. In a recent case Mrs Loubser was considered at high risk with her pregnancy and was signed off work early by her doctors, however, when asking to return to work she was turned away from her employer. She won £17,000 in her tribunal case which was largely due to sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. Negative attitudes towards pregnancy are not uncommon however, as one in five mothers report having experienced harassment or negative comments because of either pregnancy or flexible working; scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 100,000 women a year.

Law states that companies must pay time off for antenatal appointments and consider that those more at risk of miscarriages will have more than usual. However an HMRC survey found that 10% of mothers – 53,000 women – said their employer discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments, putting their health at risk.

Despite recent advances, employer attitudes still need to be changed. 41% of employers agreed that a woman’s pregnancy puts an “unnecessary cost burden” on the workplace whilst 59% believe women should disclose if they are pregnant during the recruitment process. However, the cost to employers of women being forced to leave their job as a result of pregnancy and maternity-related potential discrimination or disadvantage was estimated to be around £278.8 million over the course of 2016 which compared to supporting expectant mothers is a vastly increased cost burden.

Losing a child is unimaginable for many, however, for some it is the reality. Having policies in place and creating plans of how to support employees who find themselves in this situation will help remove unnecessary stress. Our team can tell you more about the legal obligations associated with pregnancy and loss and create plans or provide advice on HR strategies, just book a free consultation or contact one of our Employment Law advisors on 0161 603 2156.

Fire Door Safety Week may not be one of the most recognised national weeks, however, it is certainly an important one. In support we’ve highlighted some simple checks employers can undertake to help protect employees and businesses, as well as examples of businesses with serious failings around fire safety including some who, despite remaining compliant, still suffered substantial losses as a result of fire.

There were 177,844 fires in the UK in 2018 with 6,902 non-fatal casualties and 261 fatal. Fire doors are one of the first lines of defence for protection from serious harm.

Raising Awareness

Fire doors help to contain fire and prevent harmful smoke from spreading. However, they are often the first thing to be downgraded on a specification and then mismanaged throughout their service life.

Unsurprisingly, in 2018 over 1 billion pounds was paid out for fire-related property insurance claims in the UK alone. Ensuring that you have installed, maintained and checked your fire doors regularly helps protect people, buildings and equipment.

Five Step Fire Door Check

  • Label
    Confirm that each door is certified and that the instructions are correct. Fire doors usually provide 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes’ worth of protection & this will be clearly shown on the label.
  • Gaps & seals
    Check that seals are intact with no signs of damage. Gaps should be less than 4mm around the door frame with the gap under the door no larger than 8mm  – you shouldn’t be able to see light under the door.
  • Hinges & Closers
    Check the closer shuts the door onto the latch from any position. The hinges should be CE marked and firmly fixed with no missing screws.
  • Glass & Glazing
    Check the seal is continuous and attached to the glass and bead. The glazing beads are attached firmly to the frame and shouldn’t be damaged and glass should be intact.
  • Leaf, Frame & Operation
    Check the door closes firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame. Ensure the door closes correctly around all parts of the frame.

The Law states that if you employ five or more people (even if some of them work remotely) a regularly reviewed fire risk assessment is an absolute must. Employers are responsible for carrying out a fire risk assessment of the premises, planning for any risks and notifying employees of any risks found whilst providing employees with training from day one.

Engage & Educate

With over 3 million new fire doors purchased and installed every year in the UK it is clear that businesses are realising the importance of implementing prevention and protection methods in the workplace, possibly galvanised by examples where companies have been fined for a failure to provide adequate fire safety precautions…

  • The Tooting care home, Gold Care Consultancy Ltd, was fined £100,000 for serious fire safety failings. A pensioner sadly died in the incident after a fire broke out in her room after the care home failed to have a fire risk assessment & policies in place.
  • Derby Court Hotel owner was fined £38,000 and given a 6 month suspended jail sentence. He put tenants at risk of serious injury or death after an inspection found numerous fire safety failures. In particular, the fire doors were either found to be jammed, poorly fitted or damaged. As well as this, the fire alarm was faulty and a risk assessment was over a decade outdated.
  • A luxury Cheshire hotel was fined £75,000 for serious fire safety breaches which could have caused serious injury or death to customers. The court heard that on the third floor of the luxury hotel there was not a single working fire alarm, there were faulty smoke detectors and substandard fire exits. Employees had also not been properly trained in fire safety by managers.However, even when companies have fire safety regulations in place, serious damage from fire can culminate in deadly costs:
  • The online delivery firm, Ocado, revealed that a fire which broke out in its Andover warehouse cost the company £110 million. The company had adequate fire precautions in place, however, the extent of loss for the company shows that more can be done to help protect assets from fires. Perhaps if there were more fire safety precautions in place the outcome would have been less severe.
  • The luxury Mandarin Oriental hotel had just undergone a £185 million restoration after a fire broke out just after the completion. 120 firefighters and 20 engines fought the fire for nearly 6 hours, whilst the destruction led to the hotel closing again.

Training is Key

A regularly updated Health and Safety policy coupled with training is the easiest way to enable your employees to fully engage with fire safety practices.
If you would like advice on an employee engagement programme or would like assistance with any aspect of Health & Safety contact one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156.


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