How to deal with a Subject Access Request
A subject access request (SAR) is a request by an individual for their own personal data. This could include information about any grievances or disciplinary action, or any information derived through monitoring processes. SARs are also often used as a bargaining chip when employers and employees are in dispute.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires employers to respond to requests within one month. They must be processed without charge, unless the request is “manifestly unfounded or excessive.”
SARs can be a substantial administrative burden, particularly as they must all be treated individually. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a Code of Practice for employers, which deals in detail with the required processes.
In summary employers are required to do the following.
- Identify the requester. Where requests are made on behalf of others, such as through a solicitor, it is necessary to ensure the third party making the request is authorised to act on behalf of the individual.
- Clarify with the individual what personal data they wish to receive.
- Identify the personal data to be disclosed.
- Consider any personal data exemptions — if, for example, it would adversely affect the rights of other individuals.
- Assemble and disclose the personal data securely.
- Keep a record of the request and the process followed.
Employers should act swiftly; the response must be made within one month. There is a threat of a hefty fine if failing to respond to the request or providing the information requested.
Apprenticeship consultation may result in increased opportunities
Apprenticeships are a method of training, usually within a skilled profession, while working at the same time. Although they are often perceived as a way into employment for younger people, apprenticeships are open to all who are aged over 16. The Government encourages employers to use apprentices as a method of creating a skilled workforce.
In Scotland, apprenticeships are run under a contract of apprenticeship, which is similar to a contract of employment, including the rights afforded by one, but is specialised for an apprentice. It will state how long the apprenticeship is expected to last and the training that will be provided. In England and Wales, apprenticeships are run under an apprentice agreement.
Apprentices who are working towards both apprenticeship frameworks or apprenticeship standards, or under a contract of apprenticeship in Scotland, must receive off-the-job training. The duration of off-the-job training must be a minimum of 20% of the duration of the apprenticeship. This training can be provided at their place of work and does not need to be done off-site.
The Apprenticeship Levy has been set up by the Government to encourage more companies to take on apprentices. Organisations with an annual payroll bill of at least £3 million pay 0.5% of their payroll cost to HMRC per month, who place these funds into a digital account. These companies can then apply for access to their digital account and can start using that account to pay for apprenticeships. Funds in this account expire and are paid to the Government if not used within two years of being paid into the account.
The Department for Education (DfE) is consulting on a new operating framework for flexi-job apprenticeship schemes as a means to increase the use of apprenticeships in certain sectors and professions. The consultation document and accompanying survey are open for comments until 1 June 2021.
The aim is to develop portable apprenticeships, enabling them to move between employers in industries where short-term contracts are the norm during their apprenticeship. The Government sees flexi-job apprenticeships as a means to overcome the barriers that have hindered the use of apprenticeships in certain sectors and professions.
However, prior to launching a £7 million fund in July 2021, it wants to explore the different ways such models could operate. It also wants to seek views on how flexi-job apprenticeship schemes can achieve its ambition for long-term financial sustainability, and identify the improvements needed to the previous Apprenticeship Training Agency model.
Apprenticeships remain a key method of training up people who are entering a sector for the first time and remain popular.
Dealing with eating disorders in the workplace
Eating disorders are psychological conditions that can last for 12 months or longer. As such they can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, and therefore should be treated in the same way as any other disability in terms of employer responsibility.
Eating disorders don’t always have an impact on their work or attendance. However, the condition can lead to a number of physical health issues that can have a detrimental impact on their working life. Early signs and symptoms are usually:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Lack of focus and attention
- Lack of self-esteem and confidence
- Lack of energy
- Shaking, trembling hands (a sign of low blood sugar levels)
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Depression and anxiety
- Mood swings
- Increased sickness absence (due to their low immune system)
- Hospitalisation (in extreme cases)
Managers are not there to be a counsellor or to encourage the employee to simply eat more but they are there to signpost them to appropriate support, for example occupational health referrals, employee assistance programmes and any other assistance the organisation can offer (e.g. mental health first aiders).
It will help managers to understand in which group the employee sits. Those who deny they have a problem will perceive any help from the manager, HR or occupational health professional as people who are out to sabotage their efforts.
As such, pushing the label of ‘anorexia’ or ‘bulimia’ etc. should be discouraged. Instead allow the medical professionals to approach the symptoms rather than the label, and how these directly affect the individual to carry out their work.
Recovery for those from either group will most likely be in the form of psychological help in the form of habitual reprogramming like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or cognitive analytic therapy (CAT).
As a crucial reminder, managers should avoid direct encouragement to the employee’s progress. This may sound heartless and contradictory to manager best practice, but any words of encouragement (‘you’re looking healthier’ or ‘you’re looking great’) will be heard by the sufferer as ‘you’ve gained weight’ or ‘you’re not a slim as you were before’.
Instead, managers should always ask the employee how they feel they have progressed; if they feel they are getting better and healthier, the manager can voice their encouragement by working with their feeling better.
It is HR’s responsibility to coach managers in managing employees who are experiencing mental ill-health, including eating disorders. Applying discretion with attendance and performance policies should be adopted, as with any long-term health condition.
HR should also work closely with managers when making reasonable adjustments where appropriate. Adjustments can include allowing reasonable time off to attend therapy or adjusting attendance trigger points proportionately.
Decrease in work-related visas for foreign workers
The number of work-related visas issued to foreign workers has dramatically decreased over the last year, according to recent data from the Government, with the skilled worker visa route seeing the largest fall.
The latest Home Office figures – which include the first quarterly statistics since freedom of movement with the EU ended on 31 December 2020 – found the overall number of work-related visas granted was down by more than a third between the years ending March 2020 and March 2021. Skilled worker visas accounted for nearly two-thirds of those granted but ever the issue of those had dropped by a third on the previous year.
According to the data, most of this fall was because of a decrease in grants of intra-company transfer (ICT) visas, which fell by almost three-quarters during the year ending March 2021.
In contrast, the number of visas granted to seasonal workers almost quadrupled to 10,659, up from 2,861 the previous year. The Home Office attributed this to the quota increase for this route, which was increased from 2,500 in 2019 to 30,000 this year. It is believed that these statistics are the result of a combination of the pandemic – which reduced demand for visas – and the end of free movement.
Businesses that rely on overseas talent, especially from the EU, should apply for a sponsor licence if they don’t currently have one as this is the most cost-effective and efficient route for hiring individuals from overseas.
Employers must consider flexible working as we move out of the pandemic
A third of workers could leave their job if employers do not continue to provide for flexible working beyond the pandemic, according to a new report.
A survey of 2,000 UK workers found that employees stating that they would change their jobs if their organisation did not allow them to work in the environment they chose – either remotely or in the office.
The poll also found a preference among employees for hybrid working. Just one in 10 wished to return to the office full time, while a similar proportion (said they wanted to work only at home. However a quarter expressed a preference for working mostly from home and sometimes in the office, while one in five (said they were keen to work mainly in the office and sometimes at home.
Full-time employees who had been working at home throughout the pandemic were by far the keenest to continue working mainly from home, with almost half saying this was their preference.
Businesses are advised not to adopt a blanket approach to returning to the office or working from home – instead they should take time to seek a flexible policy. The pandemic may result in a sea change in the way businesses look to attract and retain staff with the addition of many forms of flexible working to improve wellbeing and productivity.
Tribunal finds Carer called ‘slut’ by colleagues who saw her modelling photos was harassed
Experts say case highlights the importance of perception and banter to one person could easily be harassment to someone else.
A carer whose colleagues called her a “slut” and suggested she visit a road “notorious for prostitutes” after they found her modelling photos on Facebook was the victim of harassment, a tribunal has ruled.
The tribunal said Ms C L Wallace, who was “proudly” a model, was “bound to be hurt by any implications she was a ‘slut’ or a prostitute” from colleagues.
It added that even if she herself had shown the pictures – in which she was wearing a black leather basque and fishnet stocking – it did not give her colleagues licence to imply she was “promiscuous.”
Further claims of direct sex discrimination, victimisation and unlawful deduction of wages were dismissed.
Wallace started working as a care assistant for HC One at Acomb Court Care Home in Hexham in October 2019 until her unrelated dismissal in January 2020.
In December, senior carer Helen Hewison added Wallace as a friend on Facebook. Wallace told the tribunal she had posted modelling photos of her wearing a “black leather basque and fishnet stockings” for a rock magazine on the social media site. On 21 December, a few days after adding Hewison as a friend, Wallace found Hewison at the nurses’ station showing the photos to colleagues.
Wallace said Hewison commented that she looked like a “slut”. Hewison also allegedly asked a colleague “doesn’t she look like a slut?”, to which the colleague agreed, adding that she “looked like she belonged on a porn site”. A third colleague said she “looked like a go-go dancer”.
Wallace said she tried to “laugh it off” and went upstairs to get the rota. When she came back down Hewison allegedly asked if she was married and when Wallace said she wasn’t, but had cohabited with a couple of men over the years, Hewison said “one in the front and one in the back”.
Later that day, as she went to clock off, Wallace claimed Hewison shouted “where are you going? Pink Lane”, which the tribunal noted was a road in Newcastle “notorious for prostitutes”.
Wallace told the tribunal that she left work in tears and was so upset that a “member of the public” stopped to ask if she was OK.
On Christmas Day, while working together on the same floor Wallace confronted Hewison about her comments and claimed that Hewison said she was “only joking”, and that she had “stuck up” for her with other staff in the past but was not going to do so again.
Wallace said she then overheard Hewison relay their conversation to another member of staff, adding “if she’s not off my floor I am going to have her”. Later that day Hewison told Wallace that a resident’s relation had made a complaint, which she contested, and was moved to a different floor.
Two days later, on 27 December, an anonymous complaint was received through the whistleblowing hotline about the events on 21 December.
The home manager, Lynne McCarron, allegedly investigated the claim the next day, taking statements from all the staff involved, however she did not speak to Wallace. McCarron concluded the complaint “did not tally” with the statements taken during her investigation, and decided the incident was “banter”.
However, the tribunal found that McCarron made up her mind the complaint was untrue “without even speaking to the claimant”. The tribunal also said it believed that Wallace did not make the complaint herself.
The tribunal heard that after this, Wallace – who was still in her probationary period – was having difficulty performing tasks at work and was, according to the deputy manager Louise Dey, posing a risk of injuring residents.
Wallace had also failed to complete several online training modules, and Dey was unable to pass her as competent in the Safe People Handling course. As a result, Wallace was dismissed on 31 January 2020 – which the tribunal ruled was “wholly non-discriminatory” entirely because her employer felt she lacked competence and the will or ability to learn.
However, with regard to the harassment claim, Judge T M Garnon said even if Wallace had shown photographs of her modelling to others, “that is not licence to say to her things implying she was a promiscuous ‘slut’ or a prostitute”.
The judge added: “The comment about her looking like a “go-go dancer”, and maybe even a “porn star”, could be described as “banter” but those about being a slut and going to Pink Lane could not.”
Wallace was awarded compensation of £3,000 and interest of £320.
this case evidences the importance of properly investigating workplace complaints. The employer in this case is likely to have had to pay considerable costs in defending this case both in legal costs and the management time lost, even if ultimately a low amount of compensation was awarded.
There is a fine line between banter, harassment and the importance of perception. Had the claimant actively participated in these jokes or referred to herself in the same way, then it may have changed the whole outcome of the case. It is important to remember that perception is key and one person’s banter can easily be another’s harassment.
UK workers not learning enough new skills
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has said that many of those who have lost their job due to the pandemic have been left without the necessary skills to secure a new one.
UK employees don’t think they learn enough new skills at work and say learning courses on offer lack engagement.
A new survey conducted by performance analysts Yonder Consulting found that 46% of employees believe their employer isn’t giving them new skills.
Two in five respondents also said the skills that are taught in courses offered to them by their employers do not add value to their daily working lives.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March, 673,000 workers have left company payrolls and nearly 500,000 redundancies have been planned.
The CIPD also believes that the results of Yonder Consulting’s survey show that learning in the workplace is being neglected.
Learning and upskilling at work continues to be neglected. There appears to be an underinvestment in the skills and capabilities of our workforce will only worsen the plight of those left jobless as a result of the pandemic.
Businesses can play a vital role in driving this forward by championing learning in the workplace that brings both the left and right brains together to provide a suite of essential skills like STEM, communication intelligence, understanding bias, mental health and data analytics.
Working excessive hours increases risk of stroke and heart attack
Research suggests nearly 750,000 deaths per year are caused by working 55 hours or more per week, as experts call on employers to introduce limits for remote staff.
Working excessive hours can dramatically increase the risk of dying from a stroke or heart disease, research has found, as experts warn more needs to be done to limit hours for staff working remotely during Covid.
Research published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization found working 55 or more hours per week increased the risk of dying from a stroke by 35 per cent, and increased the risk of death from ischemic heart disease by 17 per cent.
The two organisations estimated that, in 2016, 745,000 people died globally from strokes or heart disease caused by working 55 hours or more a week, a 29 per cent rise on the numbers in 2000.
The WHO warned that, because of the increase in remote working since the start of the pandemic, many people were working longer hours than before. Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work.
In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.
There’s a reason why working time regulation in this country falls under health and safety, and there’s a 48-hour limit on the working week for most people. However, the UK did have an opt out for some workers.
Businesses needed to monitor working hours and, where employees were working excessively long hours, “get to grips” with why this was the case. The underlying causes are likely to include unmanageable workloads – by far the greatest cause of stress – as well as unreasonable management expectations and work intensity more generally.
Virtual appraisals: overcoming the common constraints
Appraisals can be daunting for both appraiser and appraisee, but they can be especially challenging in a virtual setting, when non-verbal cues cannot be read so easily.
There is a great deal of rigour attached to the appraisal process, usually with a fair degree of form filling. The danger is that it is reduced to a box ticking exercise, which can feel like a waste of time for everyone concerned.
For the past 12 months, organisations have been grappling with the additional challenges of running appraisals online. When your view of the other person is limited to their head and neck, how do you read their body language for those all-important non-verbal cues? Silence, potentially such a powerful response in a physical meeting demonstrating attentive listening and respect, may feel excruciatingly uncomfortable, insensitive or even rude in a virtual context – or it may be assumed to be the result of a poor connection.
Organisations can frame the appraisal process in advance to acknowledge that, in the face of an extraordinarily challenging year, it may have been impossible to meet the objectives set a year ago. Appraisees should be invited to focus on what they have nonetheless managed to achieve, which aligns with the organisation’s strategy or overall objectives. Many appraisees will have demonstrated desirable qualities during the pandemic, perhaps increased adaptability or resilience, which they can reflect on. Appraisers should encourage appraisees to come to the appraisal with a growth mindset and well-prepared ‘STAR’ stories – articulating their successes by way of a compellingly told story which illustrates the Situation, Task, Action and Result.
Preparation is key, especially in a virtual setting. When collating feedback, appraisers should hold the ‘BOOST’ model in mind (namely that all feedback should be Balanced, Objective, Observed, Specific and Timely). If the feedback is not satisfying Boost, there is a real question over the validity of including that feedback.
Vitally, remember to be specific. Telling someone they have done a “great job” is of limited value, unless you articulate precisely how they have done a great job, so that the praise feels more meaningful and the appraisee knows what behaviour to repeat. Again, invite the appraisee for their thoughts on their areas for development before you offer your thoughts. If the appraisee has come up with an area for development themselves, they are much more likely to action it, and a self-aware appraisee will obviate the need for you to raise an area for development yourself.
For feedback to be useful, appraisees must be able to action the feedback – tell them specifically what they do that gives you the impression that they aren’t sufficiently confident/strategic. Then ask them what support they need to implement a change.
One of the reasons why both appraisers and appraisees can feel apprehensive about appraisals is the possibility that emotions come into play. In those circumstances, slow down your pace and leave more space in the conversation.
Past performance is only one aspect of the appraisal. Almost half the appraisal should focus on future performance. At the wrap up, a key stage in the appraisal that shouldn’t be rushed, appraisers should be asking themselves whether they have conveyed their key message. Does the appraisee seem motivated? Are they clear and confident about next steps? You might also ask your appraisees to reflect back the key messages they are taking away. Many appraisees leave an appraisal consumed with the one piece of developmental feedback and ignoring the overwhelming positive feedback. You want to make sure they are leaving with an appropriately balanced view.
Time away from work hits women’s confidence harder than men’s
Report raises concerns over how women might be disproportionately impacted as lockdown ends and calls on government to provide greater support to those returning to work.
More than one in three workers experience a loss in confidence after spending a significant amount of time away from work, a study has found, with women almost twice as likely to be affected as men.
A poll of more than 1,000 people who had returned to work after an absence of a year, conducted by Survation for Vodafone UK, found 37 per cent of those who return to work after a year or more away experience a loss of confidence in their own ability.
This loss of confidence was nearly twice as prevalent in women (42 per cent) than in men (24 per cent).
The research also showed women returning to work were more likely to face barriers than men.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of women cited caring responsibilities as a challenge when returning to work, compared to 30 per cent of men; and 46 per cent of women cited childcare costs as a hurdle, compared to just 23 per cent of men.
Similarly, just under a third (31 per cent) of women returners said they found it hard to re-acclimatise to working life after a long break, compared to a quarter of men (25 per cent).
The report has raised concerns over how women might be disproportionately impacted as lockdown restrictions end and businesses prepare for the work from home advice to be lifted – potentially from 21 June.