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Feeling too guilty to be sick?

According to a new survey of 2,000 UK employees, up to a quarter of employees have felt or would feel guilty that colleagues would have to pick up extra work if they called in sick. Three in five employees stated that they had not taken time off work (even when they needed to) as a result of worrying that there was no cover for their work, or because they felt that their colleagues needed them.

There is a suggestion that the emerging home and hybrid working culture is creating a culture of “always on” – with no barrier to attending work, resulting in employees struggling at home, rather than calling in sick – known as “presenteeism”. However, this results in unproductive employees and may often lead to absenteeism in the long term. The research found that 16% of those who had worked when unwell stated that this was because they had a deadline to meet, while a further quarter were worried they would not be paid.

A fifth of employees said they would be worried that no one would believe they were ill, and a further 17% worried about the build-up of work that would occur if they took time off. Trade Unions and other employee organisations have called for better sick pay provision in the UK, whilst employers state that they struggle to pay even the current rate of Statutory Sick Pay whilst also paying for replacement labour in many cases. 

Undoubtedly, a clear absence management policy helps to send out a message to employees about what is an acceptable level of absenteeism and return to work meetings help to determine if additional support can be provided by the employer.  Managers need to be trained to have these conversations and if you feel that your managers would benefit from better guidance and support in this area, contact 121 HR Solutions on 0800 9995 121 for further information.

  • Posted on May 23rd, 2024

Using AI at work – do you have a clear policy?

Increasingly, businesses are seeing the advantages of using AI and this has created a need to develop both a strategy for its use, and a policy to accompany the strategy. Not every employee will be a fan, and part of any strategy implementation is the need to ensure that all employees are on board with the aim and objective and that they use the policy consistently.

Therefore, it is important to share the vision and demonstrate the benefits. Reassurance will be required to confirm that AI will be used to enhance roles, not replace them, and that training will be available. As with any engagement approach, asking employees to come up with suggestions as to when and how AI might be used in the workplace is more likely to result in consistent buy-in and will enable conversations about what might be needed in the way of training. 

The policy should also be used to explain the business approach in terms of the acceptable use of AI – many AI tools are freely available, and any policy should set out the tools that are to be used in the business and outline any data protection implications of using free AI tools.

121 HR Solutions has developed AI policies for clients – for support in this area, contact us on enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

  • Posted on May 22nd, 2024

Office for National Statistics reports economic uncertainty affecting the labour market

Unemployment and economic inactivity in the UK are both continuing to rise, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), creating a worry that economic uncertainty is still affecting the labour market. Unemployment increased to 4.3% between January and March 2024 – the highest level for seven months. While the employment rate was estimated at 74.5% in the January to March 2024 quarter, the ONS said this remains below estimates of a year ago and had dropped in the latest quarter.

The estimated number of vacancies in the UK decreased by 26,000 to 898,000 from February to April 2024, with vacancies declining for the 22nd consecutive period but remaining above pre-pandemic levels. This means that there are 900,000 more people out of work than before the pandemic began, and it is suggested that three reasons behind this are fewer older people coming back to work; more young people in education or out of work; and more people off with long-term health conditions.

The ONS also found that annual growth in regular pay excluding bonuses stood at 6% from January to March 2024, while annual growth in total pay including bonuses was 5.7%.

The worrying statistics relating to long term health conditions means that managing absence for those in work becomes more important.  Attracting and retaining skilled staff is reliant on strong and consistent employment policies and well-trained managers. 

If you would like to discuss better retention methods for your staff, contact 121 HR Solutions on enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

  • Posted on May 21st, 2024

Should employers allow employees to vape at work?

A client of 121 HR Solutions recently asked this question, given that ‘vaping’ has increased in popularity over recent years.  Electronic cigarettes or vaping do not fall within the scope of the prohibitions set out under the Health Act 2006, as they do not create smoke or burn tobacco. Therefore, they fall outside the legal definition of ‘smoking’. This means that they are not covered by the legal ban on smoking in enclosed places, including workplaces.

Employers take various approaches to the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace and the question of whether vaping at work is permitted or prohibited is a matter of discretion for the employer.

Some employers treat the use of e-cigarettes much in the same way as smoking, allowing the use of these devices in any designated areas outside their premises, such as a shelter or other outside space. Most employers will not provide breaks for vaping at work and, as with smoking tobacco cigarettes, will permit their staff to vape during their lunch or rest breaks.

Some employers may decide not to permit any onsite use of vaping devices, asking staff not to vape until they are off site.  For any prohibition or restriction on the use of e-cigarettes at work to be deemed fair, an employee must be made aware of the stance taken by the employer and the circumstances in which any use is considered unacceptable.

Ideally, there should be a clear workplace policy setting out the rules relating to both tobacco and e-cigarette smoking onsite, including the potential disciplinary consequences of any breach of these rules.

121 HR Solutions can assist with reviewing your existing employment policies. Contact us at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk and we can discuss.


  • Posted on May 19th, 2024

Is common courtesy starting to look discriminatory?

In a recent employment tribunal case, a judge has ruled that offering a chair to an older colleague at work may be regarded as age discrimination.

The employee who was 66 progressed his claim after he was asked if he needed to sit down during his shift in a recycling plant. He believed the company was trying to force him to retire, and claimed he was being singled out as no one else at the site used chairs.

It was found that he was offered a chair because colleagues were concerned about his health but this was because he was unable to carry out heavy lifting following surgery. As a result, the claim of age discrimination was dismissed. However, the employment judge concluded that the offer amounted to “unwanted conduct” that could have been discriminatory, saying that the employee could “legitimately conclude that he was being treated differently to others and therefore disadvantageously.” 

The tribunal heard that, out of 80 employees working in the plant the claimant was the oldest and the only person aged over 66, though around half were 50 years of age or over.

The employer’s evidence was that “it is commonplace to offer appropriate support which will help employees be more comfortable at work and that chairs are routinely offered to those on light duties or feeling unwell. Because shifts are 10 hours long it is not uncommon for people to need to sit, and that chairs can also be offered long-term as an adjustment for health reasons.”

Under legislation set out in the Equality Act 2010, age is categorised as a ‘protected characteristic’. This essentially means that an employer cannot make derogatory comments, treat someone less favourably or for that person to be put at a disadvantage, because of their age.

If you would like more information or have any concerns about the subject, contact us at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk and we can discuss.


  • Posted on May 19th, 2024

You’re pretty – so attend the client meeting!

A female employee was sent a WhatsApp message asking her to attend a client meeting by her manager due to the client liking “pretty women”. Unsurprisingly, this amounted to sex discrimination.

The employment tribunal judge found that that the WhatsApp message was “demeaning” and would not have been said to a male employee. There was a friendship between the employee and her manager, and it was suggested that the lines became blurred as to what was deemed acceptable.

The tribunal found that several comments made, referring to the employee, such as “pretty face” would not have been said to a man. Ultimately, the tribunal accepted the impact of the comment, holding that “it was demeaning”. It was also noted that she complained to her manager about it, “which was an unusual step for her to take”.  The manager had responded with “Babes”; and in this context, it was deemed to have been making fun of the employee’s reaction.

This is yet another case that reminds employers that they must recognise that office banter, sexual innuendos and sexist comments should be dealt with seriously and that managers must be trained to manage such issues.   

New mandatory rules requiring employers to actively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace are due to come into force in October 2024. Employers should be looking now at what changes they need to implement in order to comply with the new rules. Should you have any concerns over office banter and how to tackle these difficult situations, contact us to discuss attendance at our training workshops for managers at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

  • Posted on May 17th, 2024

“Back in your day” would be considered to be age discrimination!

A nursing assistant who was in her 60s made a claim for age discrimination against her younger colleague, who she claimed had suggested an operation was free on the NHS “back in your day”.

This particular claim was dismissed by the employment tribunal as there was insufficient evidence as to whether the comment had been made. However, the judge noted that if the comment had been made, then it was undoubtedly related to age, and it would have been regarded as unwanted conduct. 

The judge described the expression as “barbed and unwelcome” and said that it would have highlighted the age gap between two people, which would be accepted as unwelcome conduct.

Whilst the case was unsuccessful, it still evidences the necessity to be mindful of what might be regarded as discrimination. Employers have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are aware of expectations around conduct within the workplace. 121 HR Solutions can assist in developing a code of conduct for employers. Contact us on enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

  • Posted on May 16th, 2024

Request for a statutory right resulted in dismissal!


A gymnastic coach was unfairly dismissed when she requested a written contract and payslip, to which she had a statutory right, a tribunal has ruled,

The employee was new to the role and after reviewing her contract from her employer, she noticed that her start date was not right which resulted in her having been underpaid. When she raised this, the reply was “no need to worry”.  Then, in several other occasions over a nine month period the employee raised questions about her payslip relating to her rate of pay which the employer refuted.

The tribunal heard that the coach was dismissed for misconduct, having allegedly criticised the employer and other instructors, and having encouraged students to leave. However, the employment judge ruled that the employee was not dismissed for misconduct, but for raising repeated concerns over her payslips. The employee was awarded £56,202 which included a compensatory award of £31,200 for unfair dismissal, and four weeks’ gross pay. 

This is a reminder that an employee has a statutory right to be issued with a Contract of Employment on day one of employment, if not before, and an employer is legally required to issue itemised payslips.  Employers should deal with any pay queries swiftly and rectify errors. 121 HR Solutions can assist with contractual documentation – and can be contacted on

  • Posted on May 15th, 2024

Mental Health Awareness Week 13th to 19th May 2024

The Mental Health Foundation organises Mental Health Awareness Week each year and the 2024 theme is “Movement: Moving more for our mental health”.

The awareness week ‘aims to tackle stigma and help people understand and prioritise their and others’ mental health.’ It is encouraged that employers should not just focus on Mental Health during this week but to embed as part of the workplace culture which improves mental health in, and through work.

  • Posted on May 14th, 2024

Comments and a ‘slap’ result in a £24k award for unfair dismissal!

An employee who claimed that she was forced to resign after a company director said her great-grandson needed ‘a good slap’ has been awarded more than £24,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

The tribunal heard that the employee of nearly 20 years’ service was a foster carer for her great-grandson. The employee stated that she experienced emotional distress whilst caring for her great-grandson alongside juggling work.

The employer was supportive initially until she was required to collect her great grandson from school due to behavioural issues.  There were times where the caring duties impacted upon work and the employer was concerned that the employee’s productivity suffered as a result.

The Director’s comments included that the employee “should give X a good slap” or that “X was just a naughty child” plus “it never did any harm to my kids”.  Another instance occurred within a close time period when the employee arrived late for work and was told to “stop chatting and concentrate on your work”.

The tribunal found that the director had made assumptions about the situation and that there had been “aggressive” criticism of the employee and her family, as well as frustration with her care commitments which damaged the trust and confidence she had in her employer. This meant that her resignation amounted to unfair dismissal.

Should you be supporting employees in a similar situation, contact 121 HR Solutions on 0800 995 121 on how best to manage this constructively.

  • Posted on May 14th, 2024

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