With the group stages over and limited home nation interest in the knockouts, employers continue to face potential issues with employees during Euro 2016. Although upcoming matches are being played outside normal office hours which reduces the impact on employers, they should plan early to avoid any business disruptions.
Typically employers are faced with staff asking for the same time off before the match, either to travel home in time for kick off, enjoy pre-match celebrations or indeed take the next day to recover! This can be an issue if you have a small business and have lots of football fans in one specific department.
Making provisions for this at work seems a sensible thing to do. For example, if it’s possible, provide a TV in the canteen so staff can watch during working hours or at the end of the working day – at least they will then be available should there be something urgent to deal with. When doing this, employers need to ensure that they advise their staff of the requirements and they understand that it should not compromise their work. Clear arrangements need to be communicated; for example, asking employees to give advance warning if they wish to watch matches, ensuring they have permission to do so beforehand and if they are not taking holidays, to ensure they are clear they have to make up the time accordingly.
If an employer is not allowing employees to watch the match then apart from the likelihood that an employee may take a sick day, employers need to ensure they remind staff that they should not use the company internet to do so and that the usual usage monitoring still applies. They will also need reminding that if they do, possible disciplinary action may be taken.
Employees have to remember that like any other annual leave request, they do not have to be granted if the business/department cannot accommodate this. They don’t have an automatic right to go to such an event just because they have a ticket or are simply a football fan. Employers will need to think of a good system when such requests are made so everyone gets a fair chance of time off and there is a consistent approach. In doing so, they should hopefully avoid any absence and sickness cases!
So now that you have let your staff have time off to watch matches, you need to remember that some employees like a drink or three while watching. Therefore, staff will need to be reminded that they should not consume alcohol or be on work premises under the influence of alcohol as this could lead to disciplinary action – it’s worth prompting them to read your Alcohol and Drugs policy to ensure everyone knows where they stand.
I recently visited a business and was having a discussion regarding interview questions. It prompted me to consider the challenges that employers face when trying to assess the suitability of candidates, whilst ensuring they stay within the law. It can be difficult when you’re trying to make a candidate feel comfortable and engage in small talk and although your intentions may be good you need to be careful what questions you ask them.
During the interview process it’s essential that the employer avoids asking any questions that could be viewed as discriminatory. It’s important that employers assess candidates fairly and it must be done solely on their ability to do the job. Candidates should feel that the selection process is fair; if they don’t then unsuccessful candidates could view certain questions asked during the interview as discriminatory, resulting in a possible claim. It makes sense therefore to avoid certain questions during interviews – we’ve put some examples together below:
1. What is your sickness record like?
Employers must tread carefully around questions relating to sickness as it can be viewed as being discriminative. Employers can ask candidates to explain gaps in their CV; however they must avoid asking direct questions relating to medical conditions and discussions regarding absence records. Unsuccessful candidates who were asked questions of this nature could make a claim against the prospective employer for discrimination.
2. Do you have any disabilities?
Employers sometimes ask prior to an interview if the candidate has a disability, which I would recommend avoiding, unless the role requires someone to have a disability or you are recruiting a disabled person using ‘positive action’.
There’s a danger that if an unsuccessful candidate who discloses they’re disabled when it’s not relevant to the position, could assume that their application was rejected due to revealing their disability, which of course is discriminatory. Candidates should only be asked if reasonable adjustments are required prior to attending an interview.
During the interview you must ensure you fill the position with the right candidate. To do this I would recommend you ask questions regarding the tasks the prospective employee will be required to complete and whether they have the capability to do so. For example if a role requires the candidate to perform heavy lifting it’s reasonable to ask the candidate about their ability to perform the task.
3. How old are you?
Unless the job has a specific age requirement, age should not be relevant in the decision making process. There are however exceptions, for example it’s a legal requirement when employing someone to sell alcohol that they must be over 18 years of age. Questions should focus on the candidate’s ability to perform the required duties, but avoid asking a direct age related questions.
4. What is your religion?
It is essential that any questions regarding a candidate’s religion or birth place are avoided altogether.
5. Do you have children?
Discussing children is an easy trap to fall into particularly during the early stage of the interview when you’re trying to break the ice. However, any questions around the subject of kids should be avoided. This extends to questions concerning child care arrangement, future plans to have a family or pregnancy.
6. What does your partner do?
The marital status or sexual orientation of the candidate is not relevant and asking questions of this nature could be viewed as discriminatory. It’s easy to stray into an informal discussion on this subject; however I would strongly recommend you avoid discussing this during an interview process no matter how good your intentions are.
7. Do you have a criminal record?
This question should be avoided at interview stage. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 allows candidates to not disclose spent convictions in any event. However for certain roles you may seek a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, but this should be outside the interview process. Employers may ask questions regarding a conviction if it relates to their fitness to perform the job.
How not to fall into the trap
I would advise you to prepare your questions for an interview; the same should be used for each candidate for fairness. Focus your questions on qualification, competencies, skills and experience that the person will require in the role. Don’t make assumptions with candidates or have impromptu off the cuff conversations. If a candidate volunteers information during the interview don’t pursue it, take notes or include it in your decision when selecting.
Recent reports in the media concerning an employee who alleged she was sent home for refusing to wear high heels has brought the sometimes tricky subject of dress codes into focus.
In this case the employer apparently had a requirement that female receptionists should wear high heels.
The employee who was on her first day indicated she would not be able to do this and was sent home. The employee concerned has now started a petition entitled ‘Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work’, which has already generated over 138,000 signatures, so the government must consider whether to debate the issue.
Whilst it’s open to speculation, presumably an employer’s motivation for requiring female receptionists to wear high heels is a perceived need to present a smart professional image to clients when they arrive. However upon closer examination it seems difficult to justify why shoes must have high heels in order to achieve this, when flat shoes can be perfectly presentable. If a requirement can’t be justified and applies to female employees only then inevitably it could be viewed as discriminatory.
It’s completely acceptable for a business to have a dress code which establishes standards to ensure that employees are dressed appropriately for work. Often these standards may be specific to the nature of the role for example; if an employee’s role was in a kitchen, they may have to wear an item that makes certain they’re maintaining hygiene levels, thus making it a requirement. If a dress code is to be fair and reasonable, standards set need to be necessary for that role and not employer preference, which can be deemed as discriminatory.
It is essential that employees treat men and women equally when establishing a dress code. It is crucial that any specified requirements are justifiable and reasonable. Insisting women wear high heels as a requirement to their role does not seem reasonable; it’s also difficult not to jump to the obvious conclusion of discrimination.
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