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Feb

23

The end of the liquid lunch

 

Employees at Lloyd’s of London have been banned from consuming alcohol during the working day following a rise in drink related disciplinary issues.

The historic insurance market, founded in the 17th century, is one of the world’s oldest and most popular insurance markets specialising in complex and unique risks. Since its inception, Lloyd’s of London has become synonymous with the liquid lunch; although in recent years drinking has been the cause of more than half of all disciplinary matters.

A new dawn

The new policy ruling, which only relates to 800 of their direct employees, has caused a backlash amongst the staff with many taking to the company’s (internal) intranet to vent their frustration.

Comments from disgruntled staff, included:

“Lloyd’s used to be a fun place to work. Now it is the PC capital of the world where you can’t even go out for a lunchtime pint anymore.”

“Will we be asked to go to bed earlier soon?”

"Did I just wake up from my drunken induced slumber to find we are now living in Orwell's 1984?"

The liquid lunch had often been the staple for a completed deal or well-made contact in the city, something Lloyd’s recognised in its memo to staff:

“The London market historically had a reputation for daytime drinking, but that has been changing and Lloyd’s has a duty to be a responsible employer, and provide a healthy working environment. The policy we’ve introduced aligns us with many firms in the market.

“Drinking alcohol affects individuals differently. A zero limit is therefore simpler, more consistent and in line with the modern, global and high-performance culture that we want to embrace.”

Lloyd’s added that failure to comply with the new policy could see employees facing charges of gross misconduct and possible dismissal.

But are Lloyd’s in the right? Can they get away with enforcing a 9-5 drinking ban? We take a closer look…

Policy wording

Before you enforce any new policy, you need to have watertight wording to back it up. Explain clearly your reasons for enforcing a ban and the consequences for someone who breaches the rule. If you plan on doing any kind of testing to ensure the policy is being adhered to, then make it clear how and why this will be undertaken.

If you are testing for alcohol consumption you need to ensure this is done fairly and consistently. If you are seen to be lax with senior members of staff, then you may find yourself liable for a claim of discrimination.

In the case of Dyson v Asda Stores, a warehouse manager refused to test out of pride and was dismissed. He brought an appeal to an employment tribunal who upheld the dismissal. They argued that as Asda Stores had been fair and consistent in their approach to testing and that the manager should have set an example for the other staff.

Rights to privacy

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives each employee a right to respect for their private and family life.

An employee who has been asked to test for alcohol or drugs consumption can argue that it interferes with their rights, especially if the testing it intrusive (involves them removing an article of clothing or providing a urine, spit or hair sample).

It is therefore imperative that you provide clear reasons for testing and how it meets a legitimate business aim.

If you need help implementing a new policy or rewording an existing one, contact us for more information.


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Feb

20

Top 10 worst excuses given for not paying the minimum wage

 

With the National Minimum Wage set to rise again in April 2017 from £7.20 to £7.50 for over 25s, companies all over the UK are looking for ways to cut costs and save their bottom line, but are businesses aware of the change?

The more you know

The Government has launched a £1.7m campaign to ensure that businesses are aware of the changes and prepared for when they come into effect. It also encourages employees to make sure they are receiving at least the national minimum.

Despite the investment that continues to go into ensuring workers are paid fairly there are several businesses that fail to adhere to the law and luckily for us, the Government has released their top 10 worst excuses businesses have given for failing to pay their staff the national minimum wage…

  1. The employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage.
  2. It’s part of the culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.
  3. I thought it was okay to pay foreign workers below the National Minimum Wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it.
  4. She doesn’t deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.
  5. I’ve got an agreement with my workers that I won’t pay them the National Minimum Wage; they understand and they even signed a contract to this effect.
  6. My accountant and I speak a different language – he doesn’t understand me and that’s why he doesn’t pay my workers the correct wages.
  7. My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the National Minimum Wage doesn’t apply to people who work for themselves.
  8. My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they’re actually serving someone.
  9. My employee is still learning so they aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
  10. The National Minimum Wage doesn’t apply to my business.

Rate increase

From April, the National Minimum Wage will increase to £7.50 for employees over 25, £7.05 for 21-24 year olds, £5.60 for 18-20 year olds, £4.05 for 16-17 year olds and £3.50 for apprentices.

If you need help to prepare for the National Minimum Wage increase, contact Opsium Employer Support for the latest advice and guidance.


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Feb

14

The pitfalls of an office romance

 

According to John Paul Young, love is in the air. In fact, it’s everywhere you look around, now I don’t know if I’m being foolish, I don’t think I’m being wise, but it’s something that I must believe in, and it’s there when I look in your eyes.

Although, try not to look in someone’s eyes too long and hard or you could be facing disciplinary action.

Relationships in the workplace can be a glorious thing, and often the reason you arrive at work so cheery. There are many examples of couples who have made working together look easy. Brad and Angelina, Sonny and Cher, and Donald and Melania Trump… wait…

But what happens when the bubble bursts and the former lovebirds are left crying into their cup a soup at lunch?

We’ve put together a handy guide to avoid the pitfalls of cupid’s arrow during your 9-5 day.

Put it in writing  

Perhaps the simplest tip we can suggest is to create a policy around relationships in the workplace. Simply ignoring it and thinking you’ll cross the bridge when you get to it can leave you in the middle of an emotional battlefield. No one wants to be Danny DeVito in between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses.

The idea here is to create a nice balance between protecting the interests of the business but also the employee’s personal life. Typically, the policy will allow relationships in the workplace provided it does not interfere with their work or conduct.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and the work run smoother

In the event that a workplace romance does impact on workload it is important to put in place a contingency where an employee can be moved to another department. This reduces the risk of misconduct and refocuses employees.

Sweet talk

Ban it outright. No exceptions.

50 shades of ‘stop it’

Public displays of affection have their place, but the workplace probably isn’t one of them. While lust is an important aspect of any relationship, no one wants to see a love scene while eating their lunch. Make clear your expectations of conduct within the office and act accordingly if the rules are broken.

Asking couples in work to refrain from kissing can be awkward, but by nipping it in the bud early you’re saving the rest of the staff from feeling awkward in the future.

Think before you flirt

One of the biggest issues for relationships in the workplace is when a senior member of staff begins a courtship with a junior member of the team. For example, a team leader in a call centre in a relationship with a call handler over whom they hold a certain amount of sway. This may cause distress for other members of the team and could lead to accusations of favouritism.

The same rule for all

It goes without saying, but all relationships must be treated equally; i.e. same sex couples should be entitled to the same freedoms within the workplace that heterosexual couples enjoy.

Going underground

Banning relationships in the workplace outright could force employees to take their romance underground. While this doesn’t seem like a bad idea overall, it can create an air of deceit that could sully other areas of the business.

The inevitable break-up

More awkward than Christmas with Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, the office break-up can be a nightmare for anyone in the wake of destruction. One possible way to mitigate any potential fallout is to include a section within the relationship policy that requires HR to be notified if a workplace relationship has broken down.

This gives HR the ability to get ahead of the situation and make any possible adjustments to help alleviate any potential issues. It also provides an opportunity for HR to remind the employees about what is expected of their behaviour and to act accordingly.

If you need help to prepare a relationship policy, contact us today on 0161 603 2156 or email info@opsium.co.uk


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Feb

13

New mums are off limits

 

Ministers have proposed protecting new mothers who return to work from dismissal within six months.

Following a report from the women and equalities committee, 11% of new mothers reported being dismissed, made redundant or being treated so poorly that they have wanted to leave their job.

German ingenuity

Ministers have suggested we should follow the German system, where women can’t be made redundant within four months of returning to their role, although under special circumstances a business could appeal this to a higher authority.

Business minister, Margot James, said:

‘We are determined to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination and a key part of that is making sure new and expectant mothers are supported and treated fairly by their employers.

While most businesses abide by the law, some do not. There should be zero tolerance of discrimination against pregnant women or women who have just given birth, that’s why today we are committing to making sure new and expectant mothers have sufficient protections from redundancy.’ 

Criticism

The Government’s stance was criticised by the women and equalities committee chairman, Maria Miller, who said:

‘New protections are needed, particularly for women who have casual or zero hours employment arrangements, for ensuring that risks in the workplace for pregnant women are addressed, and for guarding against discriminatory redundancies.’

Going forward

Just how the Government aims to enforce their zero tolerance stance against businesses who do discriminate against new and expectant mothers remains to be seen. Do you think protecting mothers for a minimum of six months is enough or do you think it should be longer/ shorter?

You can join the debate on Facebook or Twitter using #MothersRights


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Feb

07

Dress code discrimination

 

Commons’ committee call for review following damning evidence of sexist dress code instructions placed on women.

A recent parliamentary report has highlighted that women are still being forced to wear high heels, makeup or revealing outfits to satisfy archaic dress codes that are in desperate need of review.

The findings of the report contradict reassurances made by the prime minister, Theresa May, back in 2011 when she dismissed concerns over dress codes saying:

“Traditional gender-based workplace dress codes […] encourage a sense of professionalism in the workplace.”

Nicola Thorp

The need for a report was confirmed following the treatment of Nicola Thorp a receptionist who reported for work at PwC only to be sent home again following her refusal to purchase a pair of high heels.

The case was widely reported, with reception services provider Portico, who had sent Thorp to PwC, criticised for their strict dress code.  Portico has since seen their dress code leaked and people were shocked by the level of detail they go into. Below is an example of the dress code:

Hair – want to see:

  • Regularly maintained hair colour (if individual colours hair) with no visible roots

Hair – don’t want to see:

  • Greasy, wet, or highly gelled
  • Flowers worn as accessories
  • Visible root growth

Makeup – want to see:

  • Light blusher
  • Lipstick or tinted gloss
  • Mascara
  • Eye shadow
  • Light foundation/powder

Makeup – don’t want to see:

  • No make-up at all
  • Shiny faces
  • Sparkle/glitter

Shoes – want to see:

  • Heel height normally a minimum of two inches and maximum of four inches, unless otherwise agreed by the company.

Shoes – don’t want to see:

  • Slingback or open-toe shoes
  • Shoes with ankle straps
  • Suede or patent shoes
  • Loafer or ballet pump style shoes
  • Shoes with gold/silver buckles, straps or bows
  • Wedges
  • Sandals

Shortly afterwards, Thorp launched a petition calling for law firms to stop requiring women to wear high heels at work. The petition attracted over 150,000 signatures and consequently resulted in the women and equalities committee and the petitions committee to invite other examples of dress code discrimination.

The parliamentary report has since ruled that hundreds of women have faced discrimination by being forced to comply with archaic dress codes which the report described as troubling and evidence that the Equalities Act 2010 is not adequately protecting workers. The report said:

“We heard from hundreds of women who told us about the pain and long-term damage caused by wearing high heels for long periods in the workplace, as well as from women who had been required to dye their hair blonde, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly re-apply makeup.

“The Government has said that the existing law is clear, and that the dress code that prompted this petition is already unlawful. Nevertheless, discriminatory dress codes remain widespread.

“It is therefore clear that the existing law is not yet fully effective in protecting employees from discrimination at work. We call on the Government to review this area of law.”

The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights, said:

“There have been statements from women expressing that being asked to look ‘sexy’ in the workplace leads to the uncomfortable realisation that the business they work for is profiting from their bodies.”

This sends out a clear message that appearance is valued more than a person’s experience or skillset.

Uncertainty

There is a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding the Equality Act when it pertains to makeup, with no clear outline for what is and is not considered discrimination. One example given to the committees was a casino worker who was asked to carry a makeup bag with her during the day to ensure she can reapply at regular intervals.

Another area of uncertainty is the LGBT community, with certain dress codes reinforcing stereotypes that could make them feel uncomfortable.

Is this an overreaction?

Perhaps the concern that a segment of people could feel uncomfortable by a dress code is political correctness gone mad, although it’s more likely that certain opinions have yet to catch up with the rest of the world.

For years, women have been made to be the object of lust in the workplace. Whether you’re watching Maggie Gyllenhaal play an overly sexualised PA in The Secretary or Christina Hendricks playing a busty office manager in the hit TV series Mad Men, the focus is clearly on their bodies and the effect it has on the men around them. While you could forgive Mad Men for their misogynistic take on the office manager, it was based in the ‘60s after all; it does depict a time and attitude that has clearly moved on.

While certain roles within an organisation require employees to ‘dress to impress’, it Is indefensible the level of control a company like Portico hold over their female employees. Whether there is a similar dress code for men that requires a tie, polished shoes, manicured nails and a strategically placed handkerchief, remains to be seen.

Regardless, it is frustrating to still be discussing sexist dress codes that discriminate and force a level of discomfort on employees. The reality is that a well thought out dress code protects a business’ reputation and brand, ensuring that employees are comfortable, yet able to accurately represent their employer in a well maintained and professional manner.

If you would like to speak us to review your dress code or provide guidance on the correct way to enforce one, contact Opsium Employer Support today.


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