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Definition of Cancer


The Equality Act 2010 ensures employers make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability and protects them from suffering detriment due to their condition. Cancer is included expressly as a disability but what exactly does this include?

In the case of Lofty v Hamis the Employment Appeal Tribunal confirmed that the ‘pre-cancerous’ skin condition Lentigo Maligna did amount to cancer within the definition of the Act and therefore awarded protection from detriment.

This condition is understood to have the existence of cancer cells sat in the surface of the skin, but isn’t typically deemed cancer as the cells cannot spread to other parts of the body. The EAT have assessed the specific terminology by the Equality Act and have found that cancer was not specifically defined and so it was possible to consider the claimant’s condition to fall within the definition.

This case serves as warning to employers to consider the full facts of an employee’s condition before concluding hastily whether they have a disability or not. There are many pre-cancerous conditions that could result in employees needing treatment, time away from work, adjustments in the workplace and recovery periods; it may not always be obvious whether the condition results in the benefits offered by legislation.

Initial preventative or investigatory medical appointments are not generally considered to be included in the protections of the Act as there is no diagnosis. Appointments for prostate checks, smear tests and breast examinations are examples of appointments that may be necessary to prevent and/or detect cancer cells, however they generally pre-date a diagnosis. Where the employer will have to be more cautious is when there is a discovery of a condition that could result in cancer in the long term; in these cases it is advisable to make allowances for the employee.

Our consultants are ready to advise you on a range of employee management options in light of medical conditions which require reasonable adjustments in the workplace or may result in higher frequency sickness absence.

It is sensible to ensure you have a sound absence/ill health management policy in place and always ensure that an employee feels welcome to share sensitive information with you. The more comfortable your employees feel with you the more trust and confidence you will generate and the better your business can function whilst honouring your responsibilities to employees.

Posted by: Rachel Harkin
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April 2018 changes in employer rates, limits and payments


April brings a raft of changes in the HR arena and although we've previously detailed 2017 and 2018 rates for the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage, below we have information on the other increases you should be aware of:

Item  2017  2018 
Statutory maternity pay £140.98 £145.18
Statutory paternity pay £140.98 £145.18
Statutory sick pay (standard rate) £89.33 £92.05
Redundancy - cap on a week's pay  £489 £508
Guarantee Pay (per day) £27   £28  
Tribunal award - max. basic award £14,670 £15,240
Tribunal award - max. compensatory award £80,541 £83,682


If you have any queries about any of the above changes and how it will affect your business, please get in touch.

Posted by: Rachel Harkin
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Gender Equality: 2017 recap


2017 was a pivotal year for gender equality within the UK workplace. There have been positive changes, but there are still areas that have been highlighted as ‘requires improvement’.

This article aims to recap progress made in gender equality during 2017, and encourage small businesses to empower everyone within the workplace, be they male, female or gender fluid to promote gender equality.

Update in the Law

In April 2017 the UK Government made it a legal obligation for large companies (with 250 employees or more) to report pay differences between male and female employees. The legislation dictates that the organisation must publish their median gender pay gap figures and their mean gender pay gap figures, including data on bonuses.

ACAS list the areas an employer has to report as:

  • Average gender pay gap as a mean average
  • Average gender pay gap as a median average
  • Average bonus gender pay gap as a mean average
  • Average bonus gender pay gap as a median average
  • Proportion of males receiving a bonus payment and proportion of females receiving a bonus payment
  • Proportion of males and females when divided into four groups ordered from lowest to highest pay

This legislation saw the BBC being very publicly criticised for the pay differences between their male and female presenters doing the same jobs.


Following the heavily reported Weinstein scandal, many women have come forward to share their experiences of sexual harassment. According to the Everyday Sexism Project’s study of 1500 women, over 50% of women have experienced sexual harassment at work. 

Employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees while at work and are responsible to ensure employees are protected from harassment. Through no fault of their own employers can end up being liable for rogue employee actions. Having a dedicated policy to deal with sexual harassment can help protect employees and employers alike. If you’d like further information on how to create a Sexual Harassment Policy, you can read a previous article here.

Gender Fluidity

2017 saw more attention being given to gender fluidity. While there have been no updates in the law since the Equality Act 2010, there has been a lot of press attention around gender, including John Lewis creating own-brand gender neutral childrenswear.  

Under the Equality Act 2010 an employee cannot be discriminated against because of their gender, or an employee’s right for that gender to be fluid.

Don’t Forget the Men!

While a lot of press speculation has been on unequal treatment of women, it is important to remember that equality is about all members of staff being treated equally. Employers must be careful to not disadvantage male colleagues as they strive for equality.


It has been illegal to discriminate against women since the 1970s, and the updated Equality Act 2010 goes further to protect all genders.

While there has been a decrease in women being paid less for doing the same job as a man, the new data highlights that there are fewer women in positions of authority and that men overall still earn more than women.

Offering increased flexible working to help women juggle childcare and work commitments may enable them to progress within the workplace to help them achieve those higher paid positions.

If you have any concerns about gender equality within the workplace, contact us for advice.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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How to manage cigarette breaks


Cigarette breaks often cause unnecessary disputes within the workplace with many employees trying to capitalise on as many breaks as possible to have a quick cigarette, leaving non-smokers feeling frustrated at not having as many breaks.

ACAS reported that 30% of smokers spent over an hour having a cigarette break every day, with some smoking up to 20 cigarettes in working time.

So how can a business manage this to get the most out of their staff and avoid unnecessary time wasting from both smokers and non-smokers?

Legal Entitlements

When looking at the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees are entitled to rest breaks throughout the course of the working day, these include

  • 20 minutes when an employee has worked over 6 hours
  • 11 consecutive hours off per day (or between shifts)
  • 1 day off every 7 days
  • A maximum working week of 48 hours

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that employees are having adequate rest breaks throughout the course of the day, which is governed not only by the Working Time Regulations 1998 but, at times, the Health and Safety Executive too.

However, an employee has no legal entitlement to a specific cigarette break.

Managing Relationships

Resentment between smokers and non-smokers is often the biggest cause for concern when dealing with cigarette breaks. If employers are allowing smokers to take additional breaks to have cigarettes then this will leave non-smokers feeling like they are doing more work.

Treating all employees consistently will stop the creation of different groups within a work place, helping all employees work as a team.

Be aware of any formal grievances that may be raised by employees who are unhappy with unfair treatment. If a formal grievance is not dealt with sufficiently this could lead to further resentment, and worse, considered breach of contract at an employment tribunal.

Clear Policies

While it is easy to point out smokers who are having additional breaks (due to them having to go outside), many pro smokers argue that non-smokers take more ‘less visible’ breaks within the office that are not managed, putting smokers at a disadvantage.

Having a clear rest breaks policy that everyone must abide by can help any feelings of resentment subside.


Where possible, if an employer can offer flexibility with their rest breaks this may help.

If an employee is entitled to an hours dinner break, the employer could offer the employee to split this into 45 minutes dinner break and an additional 15 minute break. This flexibility could help smokers and non-smokers alike.

Regular breaks have been proven time and time again to help boost productivity within a workforce. Breaks away from the workstation (especially the computer screen) helps boost concentration and even have a positive impact on team morale, giving employees the opportunity to socialise.

However, this would need to be managed very carefully to avoid breaks being stretched out by either smokers or non-smokers.


Overall, there are advantages to having regular breaks away from work in addition to having a clear rest breaks policy. Managing regular breaks should help to reduce conflicts arising between smokers and non-smokers.

If everyone is entitled to the same breaks no one will feel aggrieved by what other staff members are doing, and it is then up to the employees what they do with their time while they are on break.

Maintaining this policy and managing staff who take additional breaks (for whatever reason) will help show any staff considering taking additional breaks that this will not be tolerated.

If you have any concerns with employees taking too many breaks then contact one of our employment law consultants for more advice.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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Legal proceedings on the up


In July 2017 the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling which abolished Employment Tribunal fees. As expected this has resulted in an increase in legal claims being presented.

In a March 2018 report by ACAS it is shown that since the fees were abolished notifications to the early conciliation process have increased by approximately 500 per week (up from 1700), meaning an increase of 25%.

Where ACAS has been unable to assist employers to settle a dispute through the early conciliation phase the Claimant employee is able to proceed to Tribunal. Statistics show an increase in new claims being submitted to the Employment Tribunal by 57%, compared to the same period the previous year.

The abolition of fees has removed the barrier from employees seeking legal redress and the opportunity to do so is clearly being taken up. Under the circumstances it is ever more essential to make sure your employee management is up to date, legally compliant and that you take advice whenever you face a potential problem with an employee.

This is what we do on a day to day basis for all of our clients, get in touch to find out how we can help prevent those little disputes from becoming big ones. 

Posted by: Rachel Harkin
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