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Aug

16

Tattoos in the workplace

 

The history of tattoos can be traced back across many cultures. From Southern India where tattoos are used as cultural symbols across tribes, to Egypt where women used them as a way of indicating status, tattoos have been around for centuries.

In the 17th century, the Japanese used tattoos as a way of marking criminals, fast forward to the 21st century and teens are getting fictional Japanese creatures tattooed on them for fun. Times have certainly changed.

Tattoos mean many things to many people, some use them to celebrate a moment, others to honour a loved one, and then there those who adorn themselves with tattoos as a way of looking cool, usually taking the form of tribal designs, barbwire or the ever popular Chinese symbol.

The benefits of ink

Besides giving people something to read and an easy way to describe someone, tattoos don’t provide much in the way of use in the workplace. Companies will have internal policies when it comes to showcasing tattoos in the workplace.

Employees in customer facing roles may be asked to cover their inking, while other companies may not have an opinion one way or the other. Often this will depend on the type of industry and the clientele they serve.

The tale of Holland, Barrett and the compass

Holland and Barrett recently chose not to hire a student due to tattoos featured on his hands and fingers which he was unable to cover. The student then did the sensible thing and ran straight to the press, complaining of discrimination…

The student in question is 18 with a tattoo of a compass on one hand and ‘STAY TRUE’ across his knuckles. Instead of pointing the finger of ‘discrimination’ at Holland and Barrett, time may be better spent asking why the 18 year old thought it appropriate to have ‘STAY TRUE’ tattooed on his hands.

Just to clarify, I’m not sure who the lad needs to stay true to, but at least he’s in no danger of forgetting to do it.

Holland and Barrett issued a statement advising they do not have an issue with tattoos they just ask them to be covered on the shop floor. Something the student would not be able to do.

On the other hand

This isn’t the only time someone who couldn’t get their way has gone to the press. In September 2015, a woman saw her job offer rescinded when the business discovered she had intricate artwork covering her fingers, hand and forearm.

Dee Set, a shopping logistics company, had offered a job role following a telephone interview, but revoked the offer when they were told about the tattoo. The woman did the only thing she could and took to social media, lambasting the company for discrimination…

Following a public backlash, Dee Set offered the woman the job but she declined.

Do either of the examples above have a case to answer for discrimination?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that companies are able to ask employees to cover tattoos, keeping in line with company values, if they are consistent, i.e. all employees must adhere to the same rules.

Is it discrimination? 

While people with tattoos may feel ostracised it is important to remember that tattoos are a choice. They are not being discriminated against due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, colour, creed, or religious beliefs.

It is common sense that certain industries would prefer a clean cut image for their employees; while very few promote a strict ban, there are many that tolerate tattoos but prefer them to be covered. If you have tattoos on your hands, neck or face you are opening yourself up to judgement that may see you miss out on certain opportunities. Reputable tattoo studios will refuse to tattoo certain areas of the body; others will talk the decision through with the client, detailing the risks of such a public piece.

What are my rights as a business?

You are well within your rights to request tattoos are covered, so long as there is a business reason behind it. If you choose to implement a dress policy that incorporates tattoos and piercings then you need to be consistent across the business.

As tattoos become more popular you are bound to meet candidates with them. Before you make a recruitment decision ask yourself whether your reason for having tattoos covered is a business reason or a personal one. Tattoos do not diminish the skill set of the individual, but it may be an issue for customer facing businesses.

Too little, too late?

As for those individuals who choose to have tattoos that aren’t easily covered, manage your expectations and don’t lash out on social media if you’re refused a position. With many companies checking social media profiles of respective candidates, you don’t want to give the wrong impression.

If you do have a tattoo that isn’t easy to cover, be honest with your prospective employer. By being open and honest you are giving a good account of yourself that could result in the business taking a chance on you.

For more information about your rights as a business when it comes to dress code please contact Opsium Employer Support on 0161 603 2156


Posted by: Grahame Davies
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Aug

04

World breastfeeding week

 

If an employee is nearing the end of their maternity leave and preparing to return to work, it’s likely they will need to think about a number of things including childcare and flexible working hours. If the returning mother is breastfeeding they may need to discuss special dispensation within the business to accommodate this.

Returning to work

An employee returning from maternity leave, still breastfeeding, will need to put this in writing to their employer who then needs to speak to the employee to determine any individual needs they may have. If an employee plans to express milk, then efforts should be made to provide a safe, clean and private environment – i.e. not the toilet and nowhere with CCTV.

While breastfeeding is a natural process and is proven to help mother and baby bond, it is still a highly personal activity and many mothers do not feel comfortable breastfeeding outside of their home. As a business, try to make allowances for returning mothers, many will already feel apprehensive about returning to work having been out of the loop for six plus months. It takes time to acclimatise and the added intolerance and impatience of a business unwilling to assist in their return will only make things more difficult.

Support is the key

While there is no law for employers to provide a private area to express or offer flexible working hours and breaks, it is a legal requirement to provide pregnant and breastfeeding mothers an area to rest and, where necessary, lie down.

While laws are vague when it comes to breastfeeding at work, it is important to remember that support is a commodity that should be afforded to all employees. By providing employees with a good standard of care and support in the workplace you are effectively promoting an environment that values strong relationships built on trust.

World breastfeeding week

World breastfeeding week started on 1st August and this year’s theme is about how breastfeeding is a key element in getting people to value their wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share. If you would like more information about world breastfeeding week please visit their website.


Posted by: Grahame Davies
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Jul

28

Employee rights in the heat

 

Summer has finally arrived, although who knows how long it will last for….make the most of it whilst it is here! While most of us enjoy the heat, for some this means dealing with hot sticky temperatures whilst at work.

 

So do employees have any rights when it comes to working in the heat? Are companies obliged to offer anything to ensure that the working environment is safe?

 

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that an employer must maintain a reasonable temperature but it does not specify a maximum temperature.

 

What can an employer do?

An employer needs to provide reasonable temperatures in the workplace. Therefore you must ensure that air conditioning facilities are switched on (if you have one) or if not that windows are opened, blinds drawn and if working outside that sun screen is provided. Employers must also provide suitable drinking water facilities for their workers.

There may be times when public transport could be affected by the warm temperatures. It would be a good idea for employers to have a policy in place for adverse weather conditions in order to inform their workers of what is expected in these circumstances.

Workers may feel tired and less energetic. Those who are vulnerable (young people, older people, pregnant woman or those on medication) could be given more frequent rest breaks.

What to do if you employ staff who work outside

An employer must consider the risks of hot weather and properly manage them. Not only can the heat have an effect on a worker’s health, it can also affect their concentration and productivity.

Some advice would be to consider:

  • Reschedule work to cooler times of the day
  • Provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
  • Provide free access to cool drinking water
  • Introduce shading in areas where individuals are working
  • Encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss
  • Educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

If workers are undertaking work in the sun then consideration has to be taken regarding potential skin damage and an increased risk of skin cancer.

What about dress codes?

Employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code during the hot weather spell but can allow workers to wear more casual clothes. This does not mean that flip flops and hotpants are acceptable!

Whilst under no obligation, employers should really consider being sensible about what is required in terms of work clothing and what their workers have to endure when carrying out their duties in high temperatures. A lorry driver was sent home yesterday from work without pay after turning up in shorts. To some, this may seem a reasonable item of clothing to wear in the soaring temperatures, however the company were less than impressed. The problem is that they relied on health and safety reasons for sending him home and did not have a dress policy to rely on http://dailym.ai/2a83de1

Employers should consider what would be acceptable and inform their workers of what is expected.

General employment

Air temperature, work rate, humidity and clothing worn all contribute to heat stress, which occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. Therefore employers need to ensure that they carry out regular risk assessments because at first glance, a workplace may not seem likely to cause heat stress. In certain circumstances, the employer may need to provide specialised PPE, training, identify who is at risk and monitor the health of their workers. 

Symptoms of heat stress include:

  • An inability to concentrate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heat rash
  • Severe thirst - a late symptom of heat stress
  • Fainting
  • Heat exhaustion - fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin
  • Heat stroke - hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness. This is the most severe disorder and can result in death if not detected at an early stage

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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Jul

18

Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Working Lunch

 

Lunchtime, the most overlooked time of the day, with many employees choosing to work through lunch in an effort to make headway on a looming deadline, save money or take advantage of an early finish.  But what if the secret to a happy workplace involved taking a lunch break, would you still be as dismissive?

A recent report published in the Telegraph found that only 29 percent of workers took the full allotted time for their break, with 28 percent of people taking no break at all. 43 percent of people believed they had too much work to be able to take a lunch, while a third of all employees eat at their desk.

Perks of a well deserved break

A proper break can help people to gain perspective and stay alert, focused and at peak performance for the remainder of the day. But how do you get people to break their habit of skipping lunch?

Bupa suggests promoting a shared activity during lunch to encourage people to take their break together. Whether that’s a team lunch outside of the office or congregating together in a communal space, research suggests that those who lunch together get on better overall.

Lead by example

If you’re a manager who often works through their lunch, it’s difficult to expect your staff not to either. Employees often follow by example, so maybe it’s time to have a think about the example you’re setting your staff.

The legal bit

By law, employees are entitled to take a 20 minute unpaid break for every six hours of work. The time the break is taken is at the discretion of the employer, although during the middle of the shift is preferred to get the most benefit. 


Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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Jul

04

How Brexit could affect employment law...

 

As the impact of Brexit sweeps the nation, what happens next and how this will influence employment law is far from certain.  Until a formal Brexit, the UK will remain subject to EU law and EU decisions, so in the short term nothing changes.  However it has to be hoped that during the two years leading up to Brexit the position becomes clearer to enable businesses to start planning for the new world.

During the campaign, arguments were put forward that Brexit could lead to a reduction in the red tape restricting business.  Think tank, Open Europe, issued a report in 2011 suggesting the cost to UK business and public sector organisations of complying with EU social policy regulations, such as the Working Time Regulation stands at £8.6 billion per year.  They then went on to suggest a Brexit coupled with a complete deregulation of these social policy requirements ‘would yield an annual £14.8 billion boost to UK GDP’.  Whether these calculations stand up to scrutiny is of course open to debate and it is highly unlikely any government has an appetite for complete deregulation.  However, Brexit does have the potential to deliver some savings for businesses with a reduction of red tape.

It is an over simplification to suggest that all UK employment law is derived from EU law.  The National Living Wage and Minimum Wage are the result of laws made in the UK in isolation.  The recent changes giving the right to share parental leave was the result of UK government legislation supported by both the coalition and opposition.  Equally, many EU Directives are broadly in line with progressive government policy and would be difficult to unwind in any event.

Consideration should also be given to the fact that many employment rights derived from EU law have already been written into the contracts of UK employees; employers will therefore face difficulties in making changes to existing contracts, even if EU regulations were no longer applicable.  This does present the very real risk of employers offering different terms and conditions to new employees post Brexit.

During the Brexit debate the free movement of labour was a key battleground.  The general consensus appears to be that Britain could now move to an Australian based points system.  The detail of how any scheme might operate in practice is some way off.  For many employers in sectors heavily dependent upon workers from the EU, such as catering, the concern must be that any future system does not lead to labour shortages and that it offers sufficient flexibility to allow them to remain competitive.  An alternative view is that during negotiations the UK may face having to accept free movement of labour to some extent, as the price to ensuring a free trade agreement with the EU, similar to the position in Norway and Switzerland.

There can be no doubt that businesses across the UK will quote the Working Time Directive as the EU law that presents them with the biggest headache. From the outset the UK was reluctant to implement the directive and indeed originally opted out in 1992.  It wasn’t until 1998 with a change in government that this decision was reversed.  Employer groups have suggested this directive has significant cost implications for businesses and there will no doubt be calls for its repeal.

The basic requirement of the directive is that an employee cannot work for more than an average of 48 hours a week and must receive 4 weeks paid holiday.  However it is the detail in the regulation itself which presents numerous challenges to all employers.  It should be noted that the UK government opted to expand the paid holiday period beyond the EU minimum requirements to 5.6 weeks.  So again we have a clear example of where the UK has gone above and beyond EU law.

Whether any government will seek to repeal the regulation or simply chip away at the edges is open to question, but they would need to consider the political risk at the ballot box.  For example a proposal to reduce the right to paid holiday does not immediately sound like a vote winner!

Similarly the Temporary Agency Workers Directive is another piece of EU law that was not welcomed with open arms by UK employers.  This regulation provides agency workers with the same rights as permanent employees after 12 weeks.  Again, government will face the issue of balancing the views of conflicting interest groups, before making changes.

Until it is determined who will be leading the negotiations and what the agenda is, all employers face considerable uncertainty.  However, regardless of the promises made during the campaign, in practice whatever government is in power following a Brexit, the likelihood of significant changes in employment law seems low.  Brexit does however open up the possibility of some simplification of the more complex regulations which have the biggest impact on business.


Posted by: Grahame Davies
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