Health & Safety Update 2018

The HSE have published a 2018 reprint of the Health & Safety Law Poster which all employers are required to display. The poster outlines British Laws in terms of Health & Safety and tells workers what they and their employers need to do to ensure their own Health & Safety in the workplace. It also outlines what to do if there are workplace Health & Safety concerns.

HSE Poster 2018 Update

As an employer you have a legal duty under the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations (HSIER) to display the poster in a prominent position in each workplace or provide each worker with a copy. On this poster you can also add details of any employee safety representatives or health and safety contacts for employees to access at ease and for employer peace of mind.

The HSE have several different resources available for you to purchase including the Health and Safety Law Poster or Health & Safety Pocket Cards. If you need a copy for free they also supply a free Leaflet to download.


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World Cup Fever in the Workplace & How to Handle it

Can I support England at work and watch the World cup?

There is nothing in employment law that allows an employee to watch any major sporting event while they are working.

What are the options for an employee, if the employer or the nature of work does not allow for viewing?

  • Take annual leave or holidays
  • File a flexible working request (but this kind of request can only be made once a year, and anyway is not really designed for one-off events like a World Cup or Olympics
  • Does your employer operate TOIL or Banked Hours?

Many employers are uneasy that major sporting events will lead to more absences from work. The failure to turn up for shifts or “the morning after the night before” syndrome comes to mind.

Planning to allow staff to watch an occasion like the World Cup would greatly reduce this risk and give you more certainty about getting work done.

Employers could gain a great amount of goodwill by accommodating requests to allow staff to watch or listen sport in the workplace. Showing flexibility about this can improve and maintain morale which can feed through to better productivity and the Company’s bottom line.


How do we go about it?

In all these cases, stress how this can be managed without disrupting the work that needs to be done? Simply making modest changes to working time could mean that it’s still easy to hit any important deadlines or targets.

Tackle the issue early. If you are going to make accommodation for staff in some way, it would be easiest, not to mention fairest, if this is discussed long enough in advance for them to make any changes or announcements when the time comes.

Negotiation and discussion is easiest on all sides when there are several people with the same interest. Do you have a forum or channel to the discuss the matter with staff? Larger employers may have a union or staff council to do this, but it may be as simple as putting up a notice asking for people to stand as a rep for their department or just to give their view individually.

Put forward proposals and see what’s acceptable or if anyone has a better idea? There are several ways to allow staff to watch sport with minimal impact on the business:

  • allowing changes to starting or finishing times or breaks during the working day. Managers could also look favourably on requests for leave and flexitime;
  • encouraging managers to think about work-scheduling to avoid important deadlines clashing with key events where possible;
  • providing a television viewing room for sporting events. This would help to reduce disruption and absenteeism;
  • allowing staff to listen to some events on radios while working. This request should be easy to meet, providing it doesn’t disrupt other staff or public facing parts of the business; or
  • allowing staff with internet access to follow events over online video or audio, in the background, or in their own time at their desks. Whether or not this is allowed, the policy on personal web use should be clarified in advance, as many people trying to access online video simultaneously could put a strain on the organisation’s connectivity if not managed properly.

Remember that the World Cup has 32 teams and staff from other countries may wish to support their own national team as well.


What about those staff who are not interested in sport?

Your need to make sure that those who aren’t interested in watching a sporting event don’t get left with a larger share of the work. This should be easy where working time is simply being shifted around a bit.

However, if they cover for their colleagues, the Company should see if they can be recognised or recompensed in any way. This could be a simple thank you to an adjustment in duties to recognise that their efforts allowed others to enjoy the football. Being acknowledged or thanked often means a lot to staff.

It should also ensure that televisions and radios do not disrupt quiet working environments. Also, consider whether doing this presents a concern from a health and safety point of view.

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An employer does not have to allow staff to view sport or have time off for sport while they are at work.

However, making an accommodation can be good for all in terms of goodwill and morale.

Consider whether the Company ought to propose something or wait until staff approach the Company?

If the Company says no, give reasons and allow staff to see if they can resolve the issues to make it work. If the Company says yes, then consider the practicalities and remember that there will always need to be some compromise.

In practice not, all staff will be interested in watching and as long as wherever practical, all views and needs are taken into account and provided service levels are met, it should be seen as a “win-win situation.”

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The Most Common Causes Of Fire In The Workplace

Fire hazards can be found in every workplace, with some industry sectors being more prone to the risks than others. In a high risk industry it is even more important to keep on top of possible hazards and ensure house keeping is maintained.


The Most Common Causes Of Fire In The Workplace are:

Fire Blog image 2017

The responsibility of ensuring workplace fires are a minimal risk lies with all employees. However, having your own Fire Marshals on site to manage the risks will reduce the likelihood of them occurring and help maintain the health and safety of employees in your workplace.

Have you appointed a Fire Marshal/Warden? Who should attend a Fire Marshal Course?

Fire Wardens are usually nominated to take on extra fire related responsibilities in the workplace. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that “A sufficient number of competent persons must be available to implement procedures for the safe evacuation or relevant persons from the premises”.

Agility’s half day Fire Marshal/Warden training is aimed at individuals appointed as fire marshals/warden’s within an organisation. The course will enable them to fulfil their duties effectively, while protecting other employees and company assets.

To Find out more about our Fire Marshal Course Click Here


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4 Weeks to Becoming Compliant in Health & Safety | Week 1 Appoint a Competent Person

Under Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999:

Every employer shall, appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements imposed upon him under UK Health & Safety legislation.

When seeking competent assistance employers should look to appoint one or more of their employees, with the necessary means, to provide the Health & Safety assistance required.

If there is no relevant competent worker within the organisation or the level of competence is insufficient to assist the employer in complying with Health & Safety Law, then the employer should enlist an external service or person.

We can support here with our Consultancy Support Services

The Health and Safety Executive define a competent person as someone who has sufficient training, experience and knowledge and other personnel qualities that will allow them to assist you effectively in your health and safety responsibilities. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need.

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The 12 Myths of Christmas

myths-banner-long1. Workers banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office

  • Provide staff with suitable step ladders to put up their decorations and everyone can celebrate Christmas without a fuss.

2. Indoor Christmas lights need a PAT test every year

  • Following precautions and checking for signs of damage will mean a bright Christmas for all to enjoy.

3. You can’t throw sweets out at a panto

  • Oh yes you can!!!

4. Santa needs a seatbelt in his sleigh

  • No No No! He doesn’t.

5. Second hand toys can’t be donated for ‘Health and Safety’ reasons

  • As long as items are clean and in good condition, yes they can.

6. Shopping centre Christmas trees scaled back or replaced by artificial trees because of       Health and Safety

  • Health and Safety law exists to prevent injury at work not to ‘cut down’ the festive spirit.

7. Seats removed from shops – to stop shoppers resting their feet

  • As long as crowd management is controlled and seats are located in sensible places, seats can stay in the shops.

8. Carol singers are a Health and Safety risk

  • The guides provided to carol singers are not Health and Safety requirements and more common sense.

9. Children banned from throwing snowballs

  • As long a sensible approach to risk management is followed and practical action taken, all is well in the snow world.

10. Clearing snow from outside your business or home means you are likely to be sued

  • HSE encourage a common sense approach and think people shouldn’t feel prevented from helping others and their community.

11. Health and Safety prevents the tradition of putting coins in a Christmas pudding

  • The only concern is what goes on in your workplace not what you put in your puddings!

12. Health and Safety ruins Christmas!

  • Health and Safety laws exist to prevent people being seriously injured or made unwell at work. Not to put a stop to the Christmas vibes.

Source: HSE

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Employee Life Cycle: Step 8 Grievance & Disciplinary


  1. How to recognise a grievance?

Although the Acas code says that a grievance should be in writing the prudent employer should take up a grievance if its communicated to them by;

  • Email
  • Told verbally
  • Raised on their behalf by trade union representative, legal adviser or even family member
  • In writing.

If in doubt, ask the employee themselves what they meant.

  1. When do they arise?

Normally they arise when an employee directs a complaint to their line manager, a manager who is there or HR. However, they can arise out of;

  • A resignation letter
  • An exit interview
  • In a return to work interview
  • At an appraisal
  • In giving a witness statement for another matter

The list above is not exhaustive and one does not have to look at every statement critically but if you read or hear something that strikes you as a grievance – make enquiries.

If in doubt, ask the employee themselves what they meant.

  1. How to handle – formally or informally?

Responding informally to a grievance may be appropriate and may in fact be part of your grievance process.

It may just be the employee and manager discussing privately the concerns or issues of the employee. Before going down this path, the manager needs to be able to answer the following in the affirmative;

  • Is it a suitable matter to dealt with informally?
  • Is the employee happy to deal with the matter in this way?
  • Have we re-assured the employee that should the informal path fail, they still have the right to use the formal grievance procedure

Certain issues will require that we deal with the issue formally, e.g. bullying and harassment, derogatory comments by colleagues toward each other.

How do we do that?

The Acas Code states that you should:

  • “arrange for a formal meeting to be held without reasonable delay after a grievance is received, and
  • carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case.”

It is considered appropriate to arrange a hearing within 5 working days (or what your own rules require).  If the matter is complex or requires greater time to investigate properly then take the time in order to conduct a proper investigation.

If there is going to be a lengthy investigation, make the complainant aware of this and keep them abreast of the conduct of the matter.

  1. Conducting a formal grievance

If the grievance is going to be dealt with formally, we will need to;

  • Acknowledge receipt of the grievance
  • Invite the complainant to a grievance hearing
  • Appoint an investigating officer
  • Reschedule if the original date is not satisfactory
  • Accommodating employees with certain needs e.g. a disability

At the hearing itself, the investigating officer will need to;

  • Open the meeting
  • State its purpose and the process
  • Outline the complaint
  • Ask the complainant to add anything they think is relevant to the conduct of the investigation
  • Sum up the meeting and outline next steps
  • Adjourn the hearing
  • If possible, give a date when an outcome is likely to be given.

The investigating officer will then need to make their enquiries, review the evidence and give their outcome.

If the decision is not in favour of the complainant, then they need to be told of this plus the reasoning for the decision and have this confirmed in writing with a right of appeal.

If the decision is in favour of the complainant, then they need to be told of this and the reasoning. If through upholding the grievance it requires further action against a member of staff, then we can state that the member of staff will be subject to further action but not the detail of such action.

If upholding the grievance requires further action in regard to the complainant, then the complainant should be given a plan of action as to the changes, e.g. a revision of salary grading.

  1. Other matters

What if the employee wants no action taken other than getting it “off their chest?”

It may be possible to do this but where the matter raised relates to a legal duty of care that obliges the employer to act, bullying and harassment, breaches of health and safety for example, then, the organisation will have to tackle the matter despite the complainant’s reluctance. One will need to explain this to the employee and do what one can to take their concerns on-board.

Lastly, may mediation whether internal or externally conducted assist in remedying the situation and therefore can the matter be dealt with outside the grievance procedure?


Disciplinary procedure

  1. A proper investigation

In relation to investigations, the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (‘the Acas Code’) states:

“It is important to carry out necessary investigations of potential disciplinary matters without unreasonable delay to establish the facts of the case. In some cases, this will require the holding of an investigatory meeting with the employee before proceeding to any disciplinary hearing.

In others, the investigatory stage will be the collation of evidence by the employer for use at any disciplinary hearing.

  1. A formal or an informal response

The Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (the Acas Code) says: “Many potential disciplinary or grievance issues can be resolved informally. A quiet word is often all that is required to resolve an issue. However, where an issue cannot be resolved informally then it may be pursued formally.”

It may not always be necessary to take formal action to get the required improvement.  A quiet word or guidance from a manger may do the trick.

That said, it may be the case that formal action is required. It is important to set out guidelines and train your managers on how to make that choice. This will a void inconsistency and the perception that the organisation is fickle and an employee’s treatment may be down to the discretion of a manager.

  1. Do we need to suspend an employee?

If we are conducting an investigation, we may need to consider if the employee should be suspended?

Often in cases of possible serious or gross misconduct the reaction will be to suspend pending investigation of the matter. But should we?  We should consider the following in weighing up whether to suspend or not;

  • Concerns that the investigation may be undermined by the employee’s continued presence
  • There is a serious breakdown in relationships with the employer. Fellow employees or customers and normal activities cannot be maintained
  • That the presence of the employee poses a significant risk to other employees or that other employees might pose a risk to the employee under investigation.

Suspension should not be an automatic response, but if an employee is suspended, it should be on full pay and for as short a time as is required to conduct a proper process.

  1. Can an employee be accompanied to an investigation meeting?

There is no legal right for an employee under investigation to be accompanied to an investigation hearing. However, it is possible to allow the employee a companion either under the disciplinary procedure. Often it is more straightforward to say that a companion is allowed at all stages of the procedure.

  1. People chairing the stages of the process

When conducting a disciplinary process, make sure that wherever possible that the people who conduct the investigatory stage, disciplinary hearing and appeal stage are different and have had no prior involvement in the matter.

Do not for example appoint a witness to chair the disciplinary hearing as the person having witnessed the alleged misconduct will be viewed as not impartial and it will create a major flaw in the process.

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Employee Life Cycle: Step 7 Absence Management

  1. Have an absence/attendance management policy in place

All employers should have a policy covering the absence of employees and how to deal with such instances in place, for a number of reasons, including:

  • To have a resource that can be applied in an even handed manner to all employees and promote a consistent and reliable approach to dealing with such matters;
  • Employees who are subject to a disciplinary process for sickness absence often feel that the employer distrusts them or is by implication doubting that the illness is genuine. This will foster an atmosphere in which employee relations will suffer and often be poor;
  • While technically it is an example of poor performance, it differs greatly from other aspects of performance and different questions will be under consideration.
  • An employment tribunal regards using the disciplinary procedure as inappropriate for conduct which is not deliberate misconduct.

As well as the reasons above, it is helpful to have a specific policy for absence/attendance management in place.

For example, it provides a good tool for employers to deal with persistent or repetitive short term absence by way of a system of triggers and cautions/warnings.

In other situations, a policy of this nature can be invaluable in setting out the approach that the organisation will take in dealing with sickness absence (and specific types of sickness absence).

It also points out clearly, what is expected of employees.

It is also possible that an absence issue may trigger the disciplinary process. However, this usually only occurs where disciplinary issues have arisen through the absence, i.e. false sickness or dishonesty. Or an unreasonable refusal of the employee to cooperate with the management of their sickness absence through the policy.

  1. What your policy should include to be effective

A competent policy should cover the following aspects of managing sickness absence:

  • The rules for notifying ones’ employer of absence and supplying evidence of that sickness. If an employee is going to be absent due to illness, who do they call? Where do they call? When do they call?;
  • Outline the rules on sick pay and entitlements. For example, whether the organisation operates Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) or contractual sick pay and on what basis;
  • The absence/attendance process, including trigger points and procedures for reviewing patterns of absence;
  • Procedures for managing frequent short term absence where there are underlying medical issues/conditions;
  • Procedures for managing long term absence;
  • Holidays and sickness;
  • Medical report
  1. The absence/attendance management process – triggering a review

There is a need within the policy to set a level or pattern of absence that will trigger a review in relation to an employee’s absence.  There is no ‘yardstick’ or set figure.

A common method of measuring sickness absence is the Bradford Factor. The Bradford Factor is calculated as follows:

 (S x S) X D = B  {\displaystyle B=S^{2}*D}

  • B is the Bradford Factor score
  • S is the total number of spells (instances) of absence of an individual over a set period
  • D is the total number of days of absence of that individual over the same set period

However, an employer can use whatever parameters they wish to do so but your levels or parameters should not be punitive i.e. outside the scope of what ‘a reasonable employer would do’. It should not be so complicated as to cause an excessive amount of time being spent on reviewing cases of absence and practically should be set at a level whereby the people who infringe most are likely to be targeted (the worst 10-15% for example).

Please remember that thresholds or levels can be varied department by department as long as there is a justified reason for doing so, but it is often simpler to have one rule for all.

The procedure should also retain enough resilience and adaptability to guard against those people ‘playing the system’ and should include a term to the effect that an unacceptable pattern of absence will probably trigger a review (e.g. repeated absence around Bank holidays or Mondays and Fridays).

Trigger levels should not be “set in stone”. They should be reviewed and adjusted as the circumstances require.

Do not count unauthorised absence towards your levels. It is a matter of discipline potentially and should be dealt with under the disciplinary procedures.

Do not count pregnancy related absence.

Where there is an underlying medical condition or possible disability it may be that some or all of it may need to be discounted if it is related to the underlying condition.

  1. Return to work interviews

Return to work interviews can be a very effective tool in managing poor attendance and sickness absence. You can use them where there is no policy or even where there is a policy but they are not provided for within the policy.

It should be the aim of the organisation that every episode of absence will merit a conversation with the employee concerned on the day of their return to work or very shortly thereafter.

If done properly and effectively, they can help curb:

  • Absence through a bad attitude (The “I can’t be bothered” person);
  • It gives managers data and a forum to look at and discuss absence and its impact on them, departments and the business as a whole; and
  • It can reveal the reasons for absence and whether there are any underlying health issues that need to be addressed.
  1. Attendance/absence review meetings for repeated absence

With a view to having an effective system whereby an organisation can if the need arises dismiss an employee with unacceptable patterns or levels of absence, you will need to have a series of meetings and issue cautions (if appropriate) which will create record of a lawful nature to show an employment tribunal.

The meetings or hearings often follow this pattern:

  • Informal counselling;
  • Formal attendance hearing;
  • Final attendance hearing; and
  • Dismissal hearing.

The structure and process of these hearings will be akin to a disciplinary or capability procedure with the employee being sent a letter asking them to attend a hearing date, time and place, the nature of the matter to be discussed plus any evidence to be included and giving them the right to be accompanied.

If after the hearing the issuing of a caution is thought to be appropriate, then it should be issued.

  1. Cautions issued for absence

Remember that a caution for absence is not a disciplinary warning as you are not doubting that the absence was not genuine. The caution is to signal to the employee that their level of absence is not in line with company requirements.

Levels of caution:

  • First written caution
  • Final written caution

Remember that if a caution is issued, then there should be a right of appeal included in the written caution and especially where there is a decision to dismiss.

  1. Managing longer term absence and underlying medical conditions

There are several things to remember when dealing with longer term absence. Crucial to this are:

  • Having and obtaining up to date medical evidence;
  • Conversing with the employee about their condition, getting their views and likely prognosis;
  • Establishing what the chances are of the condition clearing up wholly or mainly; and
  • What adjustments will need to be made if the condition falls within the definition of disability.

It should not be a case of “out of sight, out of mind”, and whilst we might consider using a system of cautions for unacceptable levels of absence, it would be generally better to manage the situation in the following manner.

Keep in contact with the employee –  it can be awkward to keep in touch with the long term sick as people often believe that the medical note/GP certificate places the employee beyond the managers reach and that employees might feel harassed. This is not the case. An employer has the right to manage an employee who is off sick and most employees appreciate ongoing contact from the workplace.

Having a clear procedure which the employee is aware of also means that an employee should be less suspicious of ongoing contact. Generally, first contact is by ‘phone but remember that meetings whether at the workplace, the employee’s home or another location agreed by the parties and depending on the employee’s condition. As a rule of thumb you may wish to speak to an employee by phone once a week or more and meet the employee once a month.

Getting the employee back to the workplaceadjustments are important as they can be very useful in getting an employee back to the workplace in some capacity. The sooner an employee can get back in to work, the greater a likelihood of a return to normal duties. Therefore, thinking of what can be done is good for the employee’s health and the employer.

  1. Getting a good medical report
  • First question, do I need to get a report?;
  • How long is the employee likely to be off?; and
  • How long has the employee been off and what’s the prognosis?

The answers to these questions will depend on the facts of each case of sickness absence. As a rough guide if the facts indicate that the employee will be away for 4 to 8 weeks or longer then a medical report may be a consideration.

The next point is if we are going to get a medical report who will provide it?

A report can be provided in a manner of ways;

  • Through the employee’s medical practitioner
  • Through an occupational health provider
  • Through the Government’s Fit for Work scheme
  1. Funding private medical treatment

Think about whether it is worth paying for the employee to receive certain treatment or investigations of their condition or illness. As well as showing support for the employee it can assist in getting a better picture of the condition and its prognosis and assist in a speedier return to work.

Many treatments are less expensive than one thinks and this need to be weighed against the cost of absence and the impact on the workplace. For example, say a scan can be done within 2 weeks privately but is a 6 to10-week wait through the NHS.

  1. Long term absence and dismissing an employee

The main risk in dismissing will be unfair dismissal unless disability is involved.

In order to successfully defend such a claim, you need to show;

  • You have complied with your absence/attendance policy;
  • You have obtained proper medical information which is up to date;
  • You have consulted with the employee and given reasonable warning to the employee that you are considering this course of action;
  • It is necessary to hold a formal hearing before dismissing an employee for sickness absence. This is to ensure that all the relevant facts and information is considered and that a fair and reasonable process has been conducted;
  • Prior to deciding to dismiss, are there any adjustments, redeployment to a different role, ill-health retirement or PHI available as an alternative; and
  • As this is a dismissal, the employee has a right of appeal.

What if the employee is disabled?

If the condition amounts to a disability, then the employee will have protection under the Equality Act 2010.

That definition is;

physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day- to- day activities.’

It can be difficult to assess what is or is not a disability. Therefore, it is important to gather the best evidence we can to help us in our decision. If in doubt you may wish to err on the side of caution.

A tribunal will expect the employer to have considered all reasonable adjustments not only to enable the employee to return to work but also adjustments where appropriate to any process for dealing with the employee and in considering a dismissal.

Reasonable adjustments are an ongoing process. It is not a matter of just having done it once and that is all. They need to be reviewed and re-assessed as the employee and their condition progresses.

Please remember that dealing with sickness absence is not “one size fits all” scenario. Although there may be similarities between cases, each should be looked at on its own merits. If you are dealing with a situation and are unsure on the best way to handle it please get in touch.

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