A female employee in the Republic of Ireland has been awarded over £6,000 compensation after claiming that she was told that a job was only for men. The employee was on a short-term contract when she enquired about a vacancy within the company. She claimed she was told that the role was only open to male candidates because it involved heavy lifting and carrying boxes. Having previously driven an HGV for the company and having manual handling experience, the criteria did not discourage her, and she applied for the job but was not offered an interview.

The available roles reportedly went to two men who had both been trained by the female applicant.

The employee complained to the Irish Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), claiming the company had discriminated by restricting the role to male staff and was told that a risk assessment had concluded that the job needed to be done by two people who were able bodied and that the decision had been made in the interests of health and safety.

It was found that the employer did not ask the claimant if she was physically capable of lifting the boxes and did not consider given her a trial; simply deciding that she was not suitable.

The employee was awarded €7,500 compensation (£6,431).

It is important that recruiting managers are trained in discrimination and understand their obligations to consider candidates without bias.  If you would like support in this area contact us at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

April is Stress Awareness Month and the theme for 20204, #LittleByLittle highlights the transformative impact of consistent, small positive actions on over-all wellbeing.

The Stress Management Society, want to emphasise how even the smallest steps taken each day towards self-care and stress reduction can yield significant improvements in mental health over time. Encouraging you to focus on making manageable adjustments to your daily routine. While the impact of small actions on their own may seem little, the cumulative effects of these habits can be profound!

Stress Awareness Month 2024 – The Stress Management Society

Nearly all (98%) companies have continued to encourage employees to return to the office, research by Towergate Health & Protection found.

The survey of 500 HR professionals revealed that just 9% of companies had no hybrid workers, despite 37% of employers having reported that they made some office days mandatory.

It also found that on average, 39% of the workforce were hybrid workers and 27% of employers had more than half their workforce hybrid working. Employers noted that people aged 31 to 40 were most likely to want to work from home, while over 60s and under 25s were least likely to want to work from home.

Encouraging employees to return to the office can be approached from several angles, primarily focusing on creating a positive and supportive environment that addresses employees’ concerns and provides benefits for being in the office.

Here are some strategies to consider if your business wishes to reintegrate employees back to the office:

Communication: Clearly communicate the reasons for returning to the office, emphasising the benefits for both the company and employees. Address any concerns or questions they may have openly and transparently.

Flexibility: Offer flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid models where employees can work part-time in the office and part-time remotely. This allows employees to ease back into office life while still accommodating their needs.

Workspace Improvements: Make improvements to the office environment to make it more appealing and conducive to productivity. This might involve redesigning office layouts to allow for more space between workstations, adding comfortable furniture, providing access to amenities like gyms or recreational areas, and investing in technology that enhances collaboration and communication.

Employee Engagement: Organise events, activities, and team-building exercises to foster a sense of community and belonging among employees. This can help alleviate any feelings of isolation or disconnection that employees may have after working remotely for an extended period.

Recognition and Rewards: Recognise and reward employees for their efforts and contributions to the company, both in the office and while working remotely. This can help boost morale and motivate employees to return to the office.

Career Development Opportunities:Provide opportunities for career development and advancement within the company. This can include training programs, mentoring initiatives, and opportunities for employees to take on new responsibilities and challenges.

Employee Well-being Support: Offer support services for employees’ mental and emotional well-being, such as counselling services, wellness programs, and flexible scheduling options. This demonstrates that the company cares about employees’ overall health and happiness. 

Lead by Example: Encourage company leadership and managers to lead by example by being present and engaged in the office. When employees see their leaders actively participating in office life, they may be more inclined to follow suit.

Feedback and Adaptation: Continuously gather feedback from employees about their experiences and preferences regarding returning to the office. Use this feedback to make adjustments and improvements to the return-to-office plan as needed.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a supportive and welcoming environment that encourages employees to return to the office while also accommodating their needs and concerns.

If you wish to discuss anything in relation to encouraging employees returning to the office environment please contact us on 0800 9995 121.

A personal assistant (PA) who cared for her disabled friend during the Covid pandemic alleged that she had her pay reduced and was dismissed as punishment for raising concerns around her friend and employer’s treatment regime.

The PA made a number of health and safety-related disclosures relating to the use of a bowel irrigation system but did so without having first sought medical advice. Around the same time, she contacted her employer to advise that she was unwell and felt that it was unsafe for her to attend work as she had been in contact with someone who had Covid.

The tribunal held that these incidents influenced the employer’s decision to cut the PA’s salary. The ultimate effect was that the friendship between the two broke down. Whilst the relationship was set out as employer and employee, the two had been friends before they entered an employment relationship and the nature of the care being provided by the PA made it difficult to continue in an acrimonious atmosphere.

According to the claimant, the respondent told her to “get her arse into work because she needed her” despite the claimant’s concerns about being in contact with someone who had Covid.  When the claimant was able to return the next day, having had a negative Covid test, she was told that cover had been arranged. 

The claimant then found that her pay had been reduced and after complaining, was sent a letter dismissing her for inconsistent time keeping, questioning the judgment of the employer and attending work with a chest infection. She appealed but her appeal was unsuccessful.  The employer was satisfied that the dismissal was fair as the PA had less than two years’ qualifying service.

The employment tribunal held that the protected disclosure relating to the medical system had a “material influence” on the employer’s decision to reduce the claimant’s pay and subsequently dismiss her.

Legal protection applies when an employee raises concerns regarding health and safety and there is no qualifying length of service needed.  The compensation that can be awarded is not subject to any cap. The main issue in cases where a protected disclosure has been made is whether the detrimental treatment or dismissal was connected to, or because of the disclosure. On this basis, all employee concerns should be treated seriously, and employees should be respected for raising them.

Employers should have a whistleblowing policy for employees who wish to raise protected disclosures. If there is any doubt, treat a concern as a protected disclosure and follow the steps set out in the whistleblowing policy. Wherever possible, advise the employee what steps are being taken to address concerns raised or, if no steps are being taken, explain why not. 121 HR Solutions has experience of developing whistleblowing policies. Should you require assistance, please contact us on enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

A recent study has found that 136,000 more workers were given zero-hours contracts in 2023 than in 2022, and 65% of these applied to 16 to 24-year-olds. Almost three-quarters of all workers on zero-hours contracts are in what is described as “severely insecure work”, meaning they face contractual and financial insecurity and cannot access workers’ rights and protections.

Only 6.1% of the 1.1 million on zero-hours contracts are in secure work, meaning they have access to rights and a regular income.

Zero-hours contracts have previously been regarded as the answer to flexible work, but over recent years it has been established that employers do use them at times to fill for roles that they cannot recruit for on a permanent basis. Change is coming later in 2024 in terms of the legal stance of such contracts, when zero hours’ employees will be able to ask their employer for a more stable working pattern. 121 HR Solutions will keep readers abreast of this change in legislation.

Should you have any questions on the use of Zero-hours contracts, please contact us at  enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

Employers that don’t follow the correct redundancy procedure may have difficulty in defending their actions at the employment tribunal, as has been found recently.

Redundancy is a fair reason for dismissal but the process followed can lead to a finding of unfair dismissal. A key step in a fair process is early consultation with employees about the proposals. This must be done when the proposals are still at a formative stage; there must be adequate information provided, adequate time must be allowed for responses and conscientious consideration must be given to the response.

Where there is more than one person in the same role a scoring exercise to assess individuals against agreed criteria must take place. In a recent employment tribunal appeal case, an employee was part of a team of six who were at risk of redundancy but despite attending three consultation meetings the question of scoring was not discussed, nor the criteria to be assessed. An employee appealed against their dismissal and before the hearing took place was given his scores but not those of his colleagues. The appeal was unsuccessful, and he brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

The tribunal dismissed the claim. It accepted that the employee was unaware of the scores until dismissal but concluded that the appeal process had remedied any fault and he had not in any event demonstrated that his score should have been different. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed the appeal and substituted a finding of unfair dismissal on the grounds that there had been a clear absence of meaningful consultation at the formative stage of the redundancy process. 

The outcome of this case highlights the importance of early consultation and shows that a failure to give employees the opportunity to influence the employer’s decision at a formative stage of the process may lead to a finding of unfair dismissal.

121 HR Solutions consultants have experience in managing redundancy situations. Should you wish to discuss this, contact us today for a no obligation quotation on 0800 9995 121.

The Home Office has published more detail about changes to immigration rules that will raise the salary threshold for skilled workers to enter the UK from April 2024.

The salary threshold is due to rise from £26,200 to £38,000, bringing salary requirements for individual occupations in line with median pay for resident workers in those occupations.  New entrants to the skilled worker market will be entitled to a discount of 30% to the threshold.

The changes are the government’s efforts to encourage businesses to invest in the resident workforce, rather than over-relying on migration. This could result in some employers having to make significant changes to their hiring strategy and could impact sectors facing a skills shortages. Employers that are paying lower salaries, such as the care sector, may face difficulties having previously relied on recruiting from abroad.

Should you have any questions on eligibility to work in the UK and the potential sponsorship required, please contact enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

A tribunal has recently heard how an employee was unfairly dismissed after her flexible working request was denied when she returned from adoption leave.  Towards the end of the adoption leave the employee submitted a flexible working request but the HR Manager managing the request failed to follow correct procedures. 

The employee had been employed for 15 years until she felt forced to resign. Her health deteriorated and she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome on her right wrist and Kienböck’s disease on her left wrist. She had surgery for this and her orthopaedic specialist told her to reduce her workload which she did by moving into a supervisory role.

The flexible working request was to reduce her working days to two days per week and then to increase to three days the following year when her childcare arrangements would change. This was declined via a telephone call from the HR Manager. The employee appointed a solicitor who requested a financial settlement for the mishandling of the request at which point the employer stated that a decision was still being considered (despite the days requested not suiting the business needs).  The employee resigned stating that the company had failed in its obligations towards her in dealing with her flexible working request, and that there were no valid reasons for refusing it.

The employment judge found that the employer had failed to properly consult with the employee before reaching its decision, “and pretended that a decision had not been made when it had”, resulting in the employee being unfairly, constructively dismissed. 

The tribunal found that the HR Manager was inexperienced in dealing with flexible working requests. The manager failed to understand the need to obtain full information and discuss the request with the employee before reaching a decision.  The tribunal awarded the employee £15,048.18 in compensation for unfair dismissal. 

Should you have any questions on how to handle a flexible working request, particularly in light of recent legislation changes, contact one of our CIPD qualified consultants to guide you on 0800 9995 121.

There have been employment tribunal cases recently where it has been found that managers have not conducted sufficient investigation.  Investigations require an understanding of how to conduct such conversations and which questioning skills to adopt. Without training, how can mangers be expected to conduct these?

121 HR Solutions is running a training workshop on Conducting Workplace Investigations on 9th April 2024 in Montrose and 24th April 2024 in Glasgow.

The goal of any internal investigation is to obtain an unvarnished view of the facts, that is, what happened, when did it happen, who was responsible, who may have been harmed and what further actions may be necessary to prevent the alleged wrongdoing from recurring. It is important to focus on conducting a fair internal investigation, gathering, and assessing evidence through to presenting findings.

This workshop allows delegates to develop valuable understanding of what the law requires and will learn key skills in the investigation processes, such as analysis and report writing. It covers key techniques, procedures and checklists to help ensure that investigators are considering critical factors and that the process is fair and un-biased.

• The legal background and burden of proof
• The responsibilities of the employer
• The rights of the employee
• The stages of an investigation
• Listening and questioning techniques
• The role of suspension
• Writing the report and presenting findings

Book now: https://rb.gy/8czvwv to book your place.

One in 10 employees have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment at work but half of these do not report it, according to a survey of 2000 employees.  It also found that almost a third of employees have seen or experienced bullying at work, but more than two in five failed to report it for fear of retribution. Just under half of those surveyed stated that they did not trust their senior managers to deal appropriately with such complaints.

Employee organisations have campaigned for better whistleblowing measures to be put in place in every business, to allow employees to feel that they have an avenue for anonymous reporting of workplace misconduct.  Having a healthy workplace culture where employees feel safe to speak out is likely to lead to better workplace relationships and ultimately, better employee retention.  If an employer prioritises trust and transparency and has clear reporting processes, with well-trained managers, employees will feel safe and confident in disclosing inappropriate conduct. 

Whistleblowing still carries stigma, and this survey suggests that employees may be reluctant to report inappropriate behaviour, despite whistleblowing being about protecting people and businesses. It is important to ensure that policy and guidance is accessible to all employees and that they believe that managers will address inappropriate behaviour and take action, promoting a healthy culture of respect.

Employers should ensure that there is a means of whistleblowing that provides appropriate protection for the whistleblower and removes any barriers to making a disclosure. If you feel that your whistleblowing process should be strengthened, contact 121 HR Solutions on 0800 9995 121.

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