Support for staff with dyslexia
According to British Dyslexia Association (BDA), dyslexia is thought to affect around 10% of the population. As a result, around 2.9 million workers are affected by this learning difficulty. The most common symptoms of dyslexia are finding it hard to formulate thoughts rapidly or mixing up letters within words and words within sentences. Sometimes it can manifest in struggling to schedule work or deadlines and having difficulty in recording the contents of meetings.
Here are some tips to support staff with dyslexia:
- Make sure that you use dyslexia-friendly type and content
Using easily readable fonts such as Arial or Comic Sans will help. Avoid italic as this can cause letters to appear more crowded. Use headings to create structure and avoid background patterns or pictures that distract from the text.
- Help managers communicate
Help managers to use visual forms of communication such as mind maps or flow charts. Remind them that everyone works in different ways.
- Training services
The British Dyslexic Association offer a range of services to help employers support anyone experiencing work based learning difficulties.
- Raise awareness
Consider dyslexia awareness for all staff to clarify misconceptions. Use a qualified and experienced dyslexia specialist who has experience training and tutoring in the work environment.
- Alternative workspace
Dyslexic workers can often find it hard to concentrate in a noisy and busy environment. Allow these employees to use an alternative workspace such as a meeting room to help them focus when they really need to.
Employers should create an open and honest environment to allow people to talk more freely about dyslexia and other learning difficulties. Employees are more likely to perform and be more productive when they have the right support.
Are you “data protected” from staff using personal devices at work?
With 62% of businesses and charities reporting a data breach in the last 18 months the question of allowing staff to use their own devices at work has come under scrutiny. Many employers allow their staff to bring their own tablets and phones into work but does this create an IT nightmare for businesses which are not sufficiently tight around data strong security.
With GDPR now in place and very much a business priority the emphasis on employee responsibilities has increased. A study has found that 61% of businesses have experienced data issues with staff devices which has increased the need for a security policy before allowing staff to use their personal devices for work. Businesses need to treat personal devices the same way they treat the desk computers when it comes to security.
Top universities paid out more than £15m in settlement agreements
The UK’s top universities paid out more than £15m for hundreds of settlement agreements in the last academic year.
The freedom of information (FOI) requests showed that the universities paid a total of £15,266,846 to 511 staff under settlement agreements. Universities explained these figures were “in the context of voluntary severance arrangements as a consequence of restructures and staffing reductions”.
Settlement agreements, which were known as compromise agreements until July 2013 can be controversial because they sometimes contain non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), or ‘gagging clauses’, preventing staff from speaking out about bullying and harassment. However, it has been reported that measures are currently being drawn up to ban these clauses.
Even where an employer has a fair reason for dismissal, such as a restructure or redundancy, and has followed a dismissal procedure, a settlement agreement may be used to reduce the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal. With fees being removed and tribunal claims increasing, settlement agreements may be seen as a method of ensuring there is no dispute once the relationship ends, even if both parties were happy with the conclusion of the relationship.
Protection for people “forced” into self-employment
Experts are calling for more protection against organisations ‘pressuring’ people into self-employment models, after it was revealed thousands of BBC staff could face significant backdated tax bills for working through personal service companies (PSCs).
The broadcasting corporation came under fire in March, after MPs were told hundreds of employees had been forced to set themselves up as self-employed rather than be treated as employees.
And last month, the BBC director general confirmed that more than 3,000 BBC radio staff were put through a test to establish whether their employment status was affected by changes to the IR35 rules. These have required public sector organisations engaging with staff working through PSCs, resulting in increased tax bills for many freelancers and contractors.
This February, former BBC presenter Christa Ackroyd was ordered to pay over £400,000 in unpaid tax after the high court ruled she was an employee rather than a contractor.
Meanwhile, reports last week indicated ITV presenter Eamonn Holmes is facing an IR35 investigation that could cost him up to £2 million.
TUPE dismissal unfair
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld a decision that an employee who was dismissed two days before a TUPE transfer was unfairly dismissed – because the main reason for the dismissal was the transfer itself.
The employee was employed by a business that encountered financial difficulties and did a deal with another business to purchase its stock and take on any employees on the basis that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) applied to the transaction.
All the employees except this one employee transferred under TUPE. She was dismissed two days before the transaction occurred. The employee brought proceedings before an employment tribunal (ET) claiming unfair dismissal, redundancy pay and notice. She insisted the principal reason for her dismissal was the transfer. The transferring company tried to argue that the employee had expressed dissatisfaction against the transfer and that they had taken this as her objecting to and her employment was terminated for that reason.
But the judge ruled in favour of the employee, concluding that she would have transferred but for her dismissal. As such, it concluded the reason for the dismissal was the transfer. The EAT dismissed the appeal and upheld the ET’s ruling.
Employers must be aware that the TUPE regulations give an automatic right for employees to transfer. It is not open for the new employer to pick and choose which employees they want to take.
Carrying out effective investigations
Before dismissing an employee there is a requirement to carry out a full investigation. However, employers are often unsure what a ‘full investigation’ might be.
In an employment tribunal judgment against Poundland, a Store Manager was dismissed for allegedly stealing a drink from a store. In investigating the matter CCTV evidence was shown of the employee carrying a drinks bottle, but there was nothing else – no CCTV footage which might have shown her taking the bottle was examined, Witness statements were not checked and till receipts were not accessed. The decision to dismiss was based on one person’s allegations. Unsurprisingly the employee was successful in her claim of unfair dismissal and was awarded just under £21,000 in compensation.
It is important to start an investigation by considering what information is needed to get to the crux of the matter. Is there some evidence that would make it clear whether an employee has done what is alleged? Would this evidence include witness statements, CCTV footage, evidence from computerised systems?
Then evaluate the evidence and think about what else this has led to. Is there something else that is now needed to establish further facts?
Check who was witness to the events. Take witness statements from them all. It is also important to take witness statements from people who may have been present but who did not see anything. Why did they see nothing if they were there? Was it because there was nothing to see, and the allegations are false?
When you have gathered your evidence, then determine whether there is an issue to address. When the employee is invited to any disciplinary meeting, ensure that they are given a copy of all the evidence that the employer is going to rely on.
During the disciplinary, if it emerges that the employee has conflicting evidence, decide whether further investigation is needed,
Finally, remember that the requirement is to decide on the balance of probabilities, if the employee did as accused. There is not a requirement to prove that the employee is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.
New law relating to itemised payslip
The Employment Rights Act 1996 (Itemised Pay Statement) (Amendment) Order 2018, which takes effect in April 2019, will require employers to provide additional information about the number of hours that are being paid within the payslip of employees with variable hours of work.
At the same time as this requirement to provide additional information, the Employment Rights Act 1996 will be amended to extend the right to receive a payslip to all workers. This means that all workers will be will be entitled to information about the number of hours they are being paid for in a pay period.
Payslips will need to state the total number of hours being paid for with separate figures for different types of work or different rates of pay.
The aim of this change is to help workers see whether the number of hours they have been paid for corresponds with the number of hours they have worked. It is intended to empower workers to challenge their employers if they think there has been an underpayment.
Does your workplace suffer from “presenteeism”?
So called “presenteeism” which is when people come to work when they feel unwell, rather than remain absent, has more than tripled since 2010, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Nearly 90% of over 1000 employers said they had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the past year, compared to just 26% in 2010.
Of the employers surveyed only a quarter had taken steps to discourage presenteeism. It is important that managers do not simply focus on reducing absenteeism figures through warnings and disciplinary action – if employees are coming into work ill, it is counterproductive and is likely to upset those staff are well and productive.
To drive down absence, it is also important to take positive steps to improve wellbeing and engagement. An open, supportive culture, with effective leadership and people management practices, is crucial so promote this by ensuring that senior managers act as role models, demonstrating healthy behaviours and a work/life balance. Finally, ensure that staff are guided effectively – ensure that they know they are not expected to attend work when ill.
Be clear during disciplinary hearings, that mitigating factors are taken into consideration
A civil servant who was dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after he posted “racist and political” tweets from a personal social media account was unfairly dismissed, according to an employment tribunal.
The DWP’s behavioural policy, confirms that employees must not signal any political affiliation, and must “avoid making any kind of personal attack or tasteless or offensive remarks to individuals or groups” in person or on social media accounts. Employees are obliged to review the behavioural policy on an annual basis, and are warned that failing to comply can have serious consequences, including dismissal.
It was alleged that the employee had breached the standards of the social media policy in tweets from his personal Twitter account which included messages referencing far-right extremist Tommy Robinson; US president Donald Trump; and “white male Christian” gun owners. The employee was investigated, and shown nine tweets from his account that contained “tasteless offensive, racist and political” comments, which allegedly breached the policy. He accepted that some of the comments were offensive, but said that during a previous security presentation a trainer had indicated that if nothing on a personal Twitter account associated the writer with his employer, it did not matter what was tweeted.
He apologised for his actions, and said that he did not know he was breaching company policy. At the subsequent disciplinary meeting, the employee was not entitled to comment on each of the tweets and the disciplinary manager failed to look into what was said during the training sessions referred to. The employee was dismissed for gross misconduct and a subsequent appeal was not upheld.
The tribunal found that during the disciplinary process, there was no investigation into the fact that the employee had been told that tweets would not breach the behavioural policy as long as there was no link with his employer.
What is clear from this case is that allegations must be made clear to employees so they are able to fully defend them. The employer did not take into account that the employee had expressed contrition. The failure of the employer to consider the mitigating circumstances led to the tribunal’s decision that ‘gross’ was not the correct label to attach to the misconduct. Employers must consider any detail which may differentiate the case with another which blatantly would warrant a finding of gross misconduct.
Factors such as a clean disciplinary record and admission of guilt will be taken into consideration by a tribunal and therefore must also influence the employer’s decision on dismissal.
Morrisons appeals group litigation process in GDPR case
Morrisons supermarket is appealing a GDPR court case after a criminal breach made 100,000 people’s payroll details public. Details of salaries, bank details and National Insurance numbers were made public by a disgruntled employee who had legitimate access to the company’s entire payroll. Morrisons became the focus of a group litigation process – meaning 5,000 of the 100,000 workers affected by this data breach were able to sue their employer. The employee responsible has been sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for unlawfully disclosing personal data; and fraud.
Morrisons is fighting the judgement saying that the original ruling was divergent from data laws. Their barrister says the firm is “completely innocent” in the event. They argue that under the Data Protection Act 1998 they are excluded from liability.
However, under GDPR laws, introduced earlier this year, there new provisions were introduced, to cover data security including the need to report a breach within 72 hours, to the Information Commissioner’s Office.