Social Media

Otherwise known as “it’s a free country and I have the right to say what I want wherever I want”. Well that’s mostly true but there are limits

English law has long established the rules about what we can say about each other and what redress might be sought by a person who has been “wronged” by another individual. This is generally known as Defamation.

You can defame a person in one of two ways:

  • Slander – where the defaming comment is made verbally and by gestures; and
  • Libel – where the defaming comment is published in a permanent form, e.g. a newspaper, broadcast or stage production.

A person who has been defamed has a right of remedy through the courts but the process is time consuming and costly.

Where does social media fit into this and what can a company do if an employee decides to make derogatory comments about their colleagues at work, their employer and its customers, suppliers and clients?

The employer may be able to pursue the remedy above but is that suitable? How can a company have a swifter more practical remedy? Have a social media policy.

A social media policy allows you to establish clear rules on the extent to which employees may use social media at work and on what employees can and cannot say online.

A policy can prevent employees from posting inappropriate material out of thoughtlessness. Many employees when faced with disciplinary action for what they have posted online, often react with surprise and indignation. They may not have realised that the content could be seen by a potentially unlimited audience and have not appreciated that it might be inappropriate to post certain content on social networks.

Drawing up a social media policy is a good way to raise awareness of the issue and inform all staff of what is acceptable and what is not.

The lack of a clear social media policy will be a big challenge for an employer who wants to take disciplinary action over pictures or posts which they consider inappropriate or irresponsible as the law has not yet settled on a clear set of rules on what is and is not acceptable for employees to upload on social media sites.

This presents an employer with the opportunity to step in and set the boundaries by adopting a policy approach. This will avoid having to rely on the law and trying to infer from existing rules that an employee is in breach of their terms of employment.

You can develop your own boundaries and communicate them to employees. you can create a set of rules which are bespoke to your organisation and you will be in a stronger position to enforce your policy and control what employees are saying about your business online.

A social media policy can also be a place where you set controls and standards on business usage of social media and give guidance on the usage of social media in the recruitment process.

In conclusion, why would you not have a social media policy?

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Employment Tribunals – Whether to Contest it or Conclude

In other words, should the head rule the heart not the other way around?

The cost to employers of defending an employment tribunal claim was highlighted when Times Higher Education reported that a university had spent more than £200,000 defending an unfair dismissal claim that could, it said, have been settled for much less. Although this case was over a decade ago it shows that a pragmatic approach might have resulted in the matter being settled for less than a tenth of the costs incurred. Estimates range from less than £10,000 to £15,000 at most as opposed to the £200,000 spent.

The university was proven to be right but at what cost?

Points to consider:

  1. What will it cost to defend it? Costs are recovered in less than 5% of cases.
  2. What are the chances of success in defending the claim? Have we done the right things in the right manner?
  3. What is the claimant likely to get in compensation? Can we settle for less and save on costs and resources?
  4. Think of the wider implications (e.g. negative publicity, a judgement on a public register and effects on employee and business morale). Will a judgement harm our business and attract other litigious people?
  5. DO NOT LET the principle sway you away from deciding the matter on simple economics. Being right may cost a lot more than settling and moving on.
  6. Remember that a Tribunal will often find both parties wanting and one party being wholly vindicated and the other being found to be entirely at fault is rare. Employment judges can investigate both claimant and respondent and ask questions of both. Do you want this?

 

Always try to make an informed decision based on the facts not feelings.

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Sexual Harassment

Over the past 12 months the dialogue around sexual harassment in the workplace has been prominent in the news and on social media, and it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

When defining harassment, the UK looks to the Equality Act 2010 for a definition. The Act describes it as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose and effect of violating the victim’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Around 52% of women in report by the TUC and Everyday Sexism stated that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Although research suggests it is mostly women who experience sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important not to forget that male colleagues can also be victims.

Unless it can be demonstrated that an employer took steps to stop an employee taking discriminatory action, an employer is responsible for the actions of employee’s during their employment, whether they had knowledge of the actions or not.

I’m getting the feeling that you’re thinking ‘That’s great but what do I actually do if one of my members of staff raises a sexual harassment matter?’.

First of all, don’t panic! It can be dauting if you have never dealt with sexual harassment complaint but keep calm and keep reading and we will guide you through.

‘It was just one email and it wasn’t anything that bad.’ It is important to treat each complaint seriously. Sexual harassment can come in lots of different forms such as sexual comments or jokes, displaying pictures of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances or emails which contain sexual content. An act can still be considered sexual harassment even if the harasser did not intend it to be and it does not have to be intentionally directed at a specific person.

Follow your company grievance and disciplinary procedure to address the complaint, and if your company doesn’t have one check out guides by ACAS online. Ensure that you deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.

Get prepared now. Make sure that your organisation is equipped and prepared to handle sexual harassment claim by ensuring there are clear policies in place, training is provided in the workplace on the matter and that action is taken if an allegation of sexual harassment is raised. Sexual harassment cases which are not dealt with properly can have costly consequences.

If you need any advice or assistance on the topic of sexual harassment or any other HR matters, contact the HR Team at Agility Risk & Compliance on 01527 571617.

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BREXIT – Where Are We Now?

With 4 months to go until Brexit how will the UK leaving Europe affect your business? what should you be planning for?

The legal framework of laws and regulations under which a British company employs people will remain unchanged as upon leaving the EU, the UK will move into a transitional period where the rules will remain the same. This period will end on 31st DECEMBER 2020 currently.

However, what practically should businesses be thinking about?

  1. Have you identified which of your staff are EU nationals? And have they acquired the right to remain in the UK and have they exercised this right?
  2. Are they in key roles or if they decide to leave the UK will this affect your ability to run your business in terms of numbers?
  3. What have you done or what will you need to do to meet a skills or numbers deficit in your business?
  4. What if there is no Brexit agreement and we leave the EU in a “disorderly fashion” which may interrupt manufacturing and services. What contingencies do you have in place?

With regard to point 4, while all parties say this is unlikely there are a few things that employers can be looking at should their businesses be interrupted by a “disorderly” leaving of the EU.

  1. Do you have a reserve of raw materials, parts or other essentials of the manufacturing process?
  2. Has your business planned for the contingency of an interruption to normal service or supply?
  3. Have you the flexibility with regard to your staff to work shorter hours or to lay people off? Lay-off does not mean make people redundant on this context.

With regard to point 3 an employer may seek to use lay-off and short-time working as a way of coping with a sudden downturn in business, or unexpected interruption to production. They can provide significant temporary reductions in costs, whilst keeping the workforce intact and hopefully avoiding redundancies and its cost implications.

Short-time working involves a temporary reduction in the working hours of employees with a corresponding reduction in pay. Upon a return to normal conditions, then hours and pay return to normal.

Lay-off involves the employer not providing any work or pay to the employees for a period of time but the employer retains the employees during this period.

These may sound tempting to an employer who might be looking at a temporary interruption in business but there are some catches or limitations on their use. These provisions cannot be used unilaterally, they must either be agreed with the staff affected or an employer must show that there is a right for them to utilise them by way of the employee’s contract or the employee handbook.

For a general overview click on the following link – https://www.gov.uk/lay-offs-short-timeworking

As you can see, this is a tricky area and advice should always be taken from your HR practitioner before proceeding.  Have you checked the employee handbook and your staffs’ terms and conditions?

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How To Survive TUPE…

What is TUPE?

It is an acronym that stands for the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 as amended by the Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations 2014.

You can see why people just use TUPE instead.

What Does it Do?

The TUPE rules apply to organisations of all sizes and protect employees’ rights when the organisation or service they work for transfers to a new employer. A person’s terms and conditions of employment are preserved upon transfer to the new owner or employer. No business is exempt from TUPE whatever their size.

When Does this Happen?

There are two situations when TUPE will usually apply.

  1. A business transfer – put simply when the whole or part of a business changes hands; and
  2. Service provision change – where there is a change of employer providing a service e.g. cleaning services or rubbish collection.

There are special rules where the business concerned is insolvent (administration or liquidation).

Therefore, as an employer, whenever you decide to buy or sell all or part of a business or a service you should be asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does TUPE apply to this transaction?
  • And if it does what do I need to do?

Big Question why should I be bothered about this???

Answer – get it wrong or ignore it at your peril as both the buyer and seller can be sued by employees affected by TUPE.

If an employee feels that the transfer of the service or part of the business they work for has treated them unlawfully/unfairly they can apply to an Employment Tribunal citing both the new and old employer as being in breach of TUPE and let the Tribunal decide if one or other is at fault or both are.

This a situation best avoided as an employer or employers can be held liable for the following awards of compensation:

  1. Automatically unfair dismissal claim – up to £83,682 or 52 weeks pay (the lesser applying).
  2. A failure to inform and consult with employees – up to 13 weeks for each employee affected.
  3. Failure to provide employee liability information – £500
  4. The cost of defending a claim in Tribunal – an average of £8,500 (British Chambers of Commerce 2017) with little or no chance of getting this back even if the employer is proven to be right.

Would you Like to Know What to do & How to Avoid TUPE’s Pitfalls?

Then give us a call on 01527 571617, email our HR Team or fill in the form below.

 

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Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health problems in the UK workforce cost employers almost £35 billion last year (2016), according to research published today by Centre for Mental Health. Deloitte’s in another study covering the same period give a range of between £33 – 42 billion.

Mental health at work: The business costs ten years on finds that by far the largest part of the business cost is in the form of reduced productivity among people who are at work but unwell: or ‘presenteeism’. This costs businesses twice as much as sickness absence relating to poor mental health. The remainder of the cost relates to turnover – people leaving their jobs as a result of poor mental health.

The IOD in its own report stated, “If you’re still in any doubt about the impact of mental health at work upon British business, here are 7 stats that will change your mind…”

15.8 million – The number of work hours that are lost each year because of mental health issues including stress, depression, anxiety as well as more serious conditions such as manic depression and schizophrenia. This makes up 11.5% of the total number of sick days for 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

25% – The year on year increase of the number of days taken off work because of mental health issues.

500,000 – Last year, over half a million Brits suffered from stress at work, resulting in an average of 24 days lost per worker at a cost of more than £5billion. Professor Sir Cary L Cooper is a renowned psychologist who lectures at Manchester Business School. He believes that the uncertainties surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU will cause that figure to rise. Cooper recently said, “My fear is that bill will grow substantially during the next two years or longer, both direct costs and indirectly in terms of significantly lower productivity per worker.”

21% – In a recent survey carried out by MIND, more than one in five UK workers called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.

£226bn – Research from the Mental Health Foundation estimates that the output of people with common mental health problems in the workplace is nine times (or £25bn) more than the cost of mental health problems to economic output. That output is equal to 12.1% of Britain’s GDP.

15.9% – The percentage of the UK working population in 2015 that had mental health problems.

4.5% – The economic burden of poor mental health upon the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Increasing awareness of mental health across the business community could therefore play a key role in addressing Britain’s ‘productivity puzzle’.

Mind the mental health charity has published the following figures:

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.

Are Mental Health Problems Increasing?

The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.

It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.

How Common Are Specific Problems?

Every seven years a survey is done in England to measure the number of people who have different types of mental health problems. It was last published in 2016 and reported these figures:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder 9 in 100 people
  • Depression 3 in 100 people
  • Phobias 4 in 100 people
  • OCD 3 in 100 people
  • Panic disorder 6 in 100 people
  • Post traumatic stress disorder 4 in 100 people
  • Mixed anxiety and depression 8 in 100 people

Furthermore, as part of Government austerity measures there has been pressure on mental health services which have been referred to as the Cinderella services of the NHS.

Although estimates vary, roughly between 30 – 40% of sickness in the workplace is due to mental health issues.

What Can an Employer do to Help Themselves, their Businesses and their Employees?

Healthy people are happier, more engaged and more productive. Employers across the UK are acting now to support the wellbeing of their people and create mentally healthy businesses.

Mental Health First Aiders

There are varying levels of training for staff.

A half day course is an introductory four hour session to raise awareness of mental health.

It is designed to give:

  • An understanding of what mental health is and how to challenge stigma
  • A basic knowledge of some common mental health issues
  • An introduction to looking after your own mental health and maintaining wellbeing
  • Confidence to support someone in distress or who may be experiencing a mental health issue

A one day mental health awareness and skills course qualifies you as an MHFA Champion.

MHFA Champions have:

  • An understanding of common mental health issues
  • Knowledge and confidence to advocate for mental health awareness
  • Ability to spot signs of mental ill health
  • Skills to support positive wellbeing

A two day course qualifies a person as a Mental Health First Aider.

Mental Health First Aiders have:

  • An in depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support – whether that’s self-help resources, through their employer, the NHS, or a mix

If you require further information on Mental Health First Aid courses then give us a call 01527 571611. 

 

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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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