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Supreme Court puts an end to employment tribunal fees


In a shock decision, the Supreme Court have ruled that fees for bringing employment tribunal claims are unlawful and will be removed with immediate effect.

In 2013, the Government introduced fees claiming it would cut the number of weak and malicious cases, although statistics provided by the Government suggest it may have also helped to prevent legitimate cases with 79% fewer cases being brought to tribunal since the fees were introduced.

The decision, following a judicial review application by Unison, holds that the statutory order which introduced the fee system was not a lawful exercise of the Lord Chancellor’s statutory powers, because the requirement to pay tribunal fees unjustifiably interferes with access to justice, frustrates the enforcement of employment rights, and discriminates unlawfully.

While the Supreme Court held that the Lord Chancellor did have legitimate aims in introducing tribunal fees, the fee regime was not a proportionate means of achieving those aims. In fact, the Supreme Court held that for any fees to be lawful they must be reasonably affordable for low or middle income families. The current level of fees meant that claimants would need to restrict their ordinary and reasonable living expenses to afford bringing a claim.

What does this mean for employers?

Until further notice, employment tribunal fees will be null, meaning that the number of employees bringing a claim against their employers is expected to rise dramatically. No longer will they need to balance financial obligations with perceived access to justice, so as an employer you will need to ensure due diligence is undertaken whenever a decision is made which could bring about a case.

On a lighter note, for those employers who have paid fees within the last three years, the Lord Chancellor has given a legally binding promise to refund any tribunal fees, a process which is expected to begin immediately.  

Out of time applications

Employment tribunal claims for unfair dismissal or discrimination are subject to strict time limits of three months in most cases, but this judgment could potentially open the floodgates for any employee dismissed in the last three years to bring about a claim.

As the Supreme Court has already held that fees have deterred claimants from seeking access to justice, it is arguable that the tribunal will take this into account when assessing any out of time applications.  All employers need to be aware of this risk and seek advice if they hear from the tribunal in these circumstances.

What next?

If you are unsure what this judgment means for your business please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. We will be holding a webinar on Tuesday 1st August at 12pm to discuss this decision, please click here to book your place.

We will also be releasing a free podcast where will be discussing the decision in more detail, stay tuned for more information. 

Posted by: Grahame Davies
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Sick days are falling but at what cost?


May 16th saw the release of the fourth edition of the Aviva Working Lives Report, which examines the attitudes and experiences of employers and employees on issues affecting the present and future of the UK workplace.


According to the report, seven in ten UK employees admit to attending work while unwell when they should have taken the day off. In contrast, 23% of those surveyed admitted to feigning illness to take the day off, indicating that UK employees are three times as likely to attend work as ‘pull a sickie’.

One symptom of ‘presenteeism’ is most prevalent in the private sector, with 41% of employees fearful of taking time off due to the heavy workload upon their return. By continuing to work throughout their ill health, employees are actually more likely to be less productive as a consequence, and could end up infecting other employees in the business.

Sick days taken in the UK fell to their lowest on record to 4.3 days in 2016, compared to 7.2 days in 1993. But is this really a benefit for employers?

Grahame Davies, head of business at Opsium Employer Support, said:

“Businesses will feel encouraged that the number of sick days have fallen, but by encouraging employees to remain home and resting when they are genuinely ill, there is a better chance of them recovering in a shorter time frame. As the Aviva report suggests, employees that force themselves into work while ill are less productive, take longer to recover and could infect the rest of the team.

“Tackling absenteeism is about discovering the root cause of an absence and finding ways you can work with your employees to find a solution. One area for businesses to concentrate on is wellbeing initiatives as these can boost morale, productivity and reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace.”

Health and wellbeing

Grahame’s advice is echoed in Aviva’s findings, with employees who receive health and wellbeing benefits found to be 41% happier, with 32% feeling an improved morale and 30% made to feel more productive.

Flexible working was also a key factor in the health and wellbeing of employees, with 68% saying they felt happier in a role as a result of flexible hours.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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I predict a riot


Don’t you just love a good argument. The coming together of two differing opinions, expertly dissected by passionate individuals… Okay, more like petty name calling escalating from an inane action.

A poll of 2,000 British workers conducted by E.ON found the top 10 causes of arguments in the office to be:

1. Temperature

2. Eating smelly food around co-workers

3. Loudness of phone calls, music and/or TV

4. Untidiness when using other people's desks

5. Rounds for tea making 

6. Bad time keeping

7. Stealing food from the fridge

8. Holding meetings/group conversations when others are trying to work

9. The blinds/lighting

10. Booking out shared spaces

While these reasons all seem relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, leaving them to fester could result in increased tension in the office that could spill out into the rest of the team. That’s why we’ve put together a few suggestions on how to reduce the tension and get the office working in perfect harmony.

Remain calm

Sounds simple enough but when faced with employees arguing and disrupting the office it’s easy to lose your patience. Sometimes it’s best to remove one or both individuals from the situation and allow them to cool down. Arguments are highly emotive and things are often said in anger that are instantly regrettable. Manage the situation first and then get to the root of the problem.

Give both sides your ear

The evidence seems crystal clear. Worker A started the argument and Worker B retaliated, open and shut case. Or is it?

It’s easy to think you have all the answers, but have you asked the right questions? Take the time to listen to both sides of the story and then take appropriate action. Failure to do so could result in lingering animosity.

Set out your stall early

The top 10 list features many causes that could have been easily solved by the companies involved setting out their stalls in a clear and concise manner. For example, ban employees from eating smelly foods in the office, formalise being mindful of others when using the phone, create a centralised booking system for using shared spaces and structured etiquette for temperature, lighting and time keeping. If you leave employees to create their own rules in the office, you’ll soon be managing a sequel to lord of the flies.

Allow people a chance to air their grievances

Don’t bury your head in the ground and assume that everything is rosy. Allow people to express their opinions in a safe environment. Be open to disagreements; if handled correctly, disagreements are a great catalyst for change. Encourage people to have opinions and provide constructive criticism, you never know what could come out of it.

Above all else remember that your average workplace is a melting pot of different cultures, religions, beliefs and personalities. If you manage it right, you could create something truly incredible, get it wrong and you’ll be another stat on a survey.

Image: credit Getty Images

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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The Opsium guide to writing a gender pay gap report


With gender pay gap reporting now officially in place, companies will have to publish their reports on gender pay disparity within their organisation no later than 4 April 2018.

For many businesses, the process of preparing a gender pay gap report will be alien. That’s why we’ve put together some clear steps on how to produce a report that covers all the relevant touch points.

Start with a clear and concise introduction

Begin by explaining your requirements for producing a gender pay gap report. Explain that legislation requires you to produce an annual report of any gender pay gap, specifying the period covered.

For example, the private and voluntary sectors with 250 or more employees in England, Scotland and Wales will need to produce a “snapshot” date report of 5 April 2017, and annually on that date.

The public sector “snapshot” date is the 31st March.


There are six key metrics required by the legislation which must be reported on. These are:

  • the difference in the mean pay of full-pay men and women, expressed as a percentage;
  • the difference in the median pay of full-pay men and women, expressed as a percentage;
  • the difference in mean bonus pay of men and women, expressed as a percentage;
  • the difference in median bonus pay of men and women, expressed as a percentage;
  • the proportion of men and women who received bonus pay; and
  • the proportion of full-pay men and women in each of four quartile pay bands.

You must also confirm that the figures have been reached using the mechanisms set out in the gender pay gap legislation.

Provide relevant narrative

Before we start, there is no legal obligation for you to publish a narrative explanation of a gender pay gap within your company. However, adding some context to the data could prevent any PR nightmares.

It may be that your gender pay gap is wide due to your organisation’s struggle to recruit women, or as a result of some women taking breaks in their career which may have stunted their progression.

These are perfectly reasonable explanations, which help to provide context to figures, without which they could look deceivingly one sided.

Compare, and contrast

It may be that you operate in a sector which is known for struggling to recruit women, such as science and technology. In that case why not compare your business against other organisations in your sector?

Don’t feel like making an example of other companies? You could always compare your results against the national average (using the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings figures), which is currently around 18 per cent.

The benefit of comparing your figures against those of others can greatly affect your narrative. For example, if your gap is only 11 per cent, you are operating 7 per cent over the national average. If your gap is wider than the national average you have the ability to use it is a barometer for growth going forward.

Constantly improving

If the figures aren’t what you expected, say so. Make it clear that you are disappointed by what you’ve learnt and that going forward you are going to address the gap.

The implementation of the legislation isn’t a witch hunt, it’s an opportunity for employers to recognise where they are falling short in their responsibilities to gender pay equality and make a difference.

Committing to a review policy for bonus payments is one example of your organisation beginning to take positive action. Another is to look at gender diversity in your business and implementing initiatives to improve it.

Senior sign off

For private and voluntary sector organisations, the report must conclude with a written statement confirming the information contained within is accurate and it must be signed by a senior figure within the organisation such as a director, or the CEO if you want to add extra weight.

This may seem like added bureaucracy but it shows that a senior figure within your business has been made aware of any gender pay gaps and is motivated to make positive changes toward closing the gap.

For more information about the gender pay gap, or how to create your own report call us today on 0161 603 2156.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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What’s in it for me?


A new survey reveals that 70 per cent of British employees admit that job incentives motivate them.

It’s no surprise that perks are attractive for many job seekers, with Google recently confirming that 92 per cent of its employees would recommend them to a friend, and it’s not surprising when you hear about some of the perks. Free gourmet food, massages, on-site hair stylists, nap pods, childcare and doctors available for check-ups.

While some would accuse Google of promoting the magpie employee, the truth is that employers are finding it more difficult to attract and retain the best calibre of staff. Through the generous benefits and perks provided by Google, they are able to attract, and keep, the highest calibre candidates.

Survey me

Reboot Online marketing conducted a survey of more than 1,200 marketing professionals in regard to the benefits they receive at work, and if they could choose, what their top three benefits would be:

•    Of those surveyed, 66 per cent stated their company offered some form of benefit / incentives.

•    70 per cent of employees believe that benefits / incentives make a difference to their workplace motivation
     and job retention.

•    25 per cent would take one job over another based on the quality of benefits / incentives offered.

The most popular benefit amongst employees was training (60 per cent), followed by flexible hours (58 per cent) and more holiday allowance (55 per cent).

Some of the more unconventional incentives offered included:

•    Allowance of time off for volunteering (3 per cent)

•    On-site healthcare (4 per cent)

•    Staff holidays (15 per cent)

•    Adrenaline fuelled activities (10 per cent)

•    Unlimited alcohol on Fridays (5 per cent)

Speaking about the results, Shai, the managing director of Reboot Online, said:

“I think it’s important to offer incentives and benefits to employees to show them you appreciate their work. I like to keep my staff on their toes; maintaining the thirst to learn and achieve while ensuring there is never a dull moment.”

Are you thinking of offering incentives to your staff but unsure of where to begin? Contact us today to find out how.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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