It IS a word!!!

Words are important. Any serious Scrabble player reaching for the dictionary will tell you that.

And when it comes to employment law, your choice of words couldn’t be more important.

I experienced this recently when a golf club committee member got in touch.

A member of staff at the club had submitted a grievance against the manager, and we’d worked on the response, which was a robust rejection of the grievance claims.

He’d agreed that we should (and must) reject the grievance, but he didn’t like the way the response was worded – too formal, too unemotional.

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Easter bank holidays 2024 – action required

Some of you need to start thinking about the Easter bank holidays! Keep reading if your holiday year runs from 1 April to 31 March AND you only give the statutory minimum annual leave entitlement (20 days + bank holidays). In 2024, the Easter bank holidays fall on 29 March and 1 April 2024. So, … Read more

The greenkeeper shot the apprentice…

The greenkeeper shot the apprentice

If one of your greenkeepers decided to shoot an apprentice with an air rifle, you’d assume it’d be okay to give them their marching orders, right?

Not so fast…

One of our clients decided to sign up with us having lost a big tribunal case based on exactly this transgression.

At first glance, it was difficult to see why they’d lost, but when we delved a little deeper, it all became clear.

The greenkeeper in question was out in the woods, with two colleagues and an apprentice, when they stumbled upon an air rifle.

Instead of leaving it where it was and calling the police, they decided to pick it up and use the age old, failsafe method to work out if it was loaded.

Yes, that’s right, by pulling the trigger.

While aiming at the apprentice’s buttocks.

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This ad changed my life

This ad changed my life

We’ve all tried them – the fad diets.

5:2, 2:2, Atkins, Keto, the list goes on and on – if you’re anything like me, you get bombarded with ads and content promising to help you drop a dress size, lose a stone or climb a mountain on a daily basis.

I’m as sceptical as they come, but one of those ads has changed my life.

Granted, it wasn’t one from a snake oil salesman but the well-known Zoe nutrition, partly invented by Professor Tim Spector.

And rather than just trying to sell you some shakes or supplements, Zoe actually tests your body to understand how it responds to food, using a blood glucose monitor to see what happens as each food or drink is consumed.

As well as that, you send them a couple of samples (one being a stool, so don’t say you weren’t warned!) and eat a couple of their standardised muffins to help them understand your metabolism.

A week later, the results were in:

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Blown away by Travelodge

Blown away by Travelodge

I was at Eddie Izzard’s “Great Expectations” show last week (absolutely brilliant, highly recommended).

In days gone by, I’d likely have rushed out of the theatre to catch the last train home, but I’ve got to the age where that feels much more like trial than adventure, so I booked a hotel room close by and decided to make a “mini break” of it.

Having had some pretty lacklustre hotel experiences recently, I decided to go back to basics and plump for a Travelodge.

They’re not glitzy, they’re not glamorous, but you know what you’re getting, the beds are comfortable, and – obviously – they’re at the more affordable end of the spectrum.

Anyway, I got to the reception, gave them my name, and they tapped one key on the computer, pulled up my booking, and handed over the key.

Job done – the process probably took 20 seconds.

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Holiday – wise old soul

Holiday wise old soul

With the beautiful weather and the school holidays hurtling towards us, I was reminded of a saying I read a while ago:

“Take time for quietness, and you will free yourself from being influenced by the wrong things”.

They had a point.  Especially when it comes to the workplace.

You see, it’s that time of year again when the employees pour out, slap on their suntan lotion and head off on holiday, leaving a skeleton staff to run the office.

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Your self-employed shop assistant

Last week I was giving a talk to trainee golf club managers.

And being the fun trainer I am, I decided to put together a quiz to see how employment law proficient they are.

Don’t worry – they’re not meant to be experts; that’s why we exist, after all!

Usually, they manage to get a few questions right, but this time, EVERY single person got one particular question wrong:

Can the shop assistant in the pro shop be self-employed?

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They’re going to die anyway!

They’re going to die anyway!

I saw the other day that Royal Dornoch Golf Club has installed defibrillators and first aid kits on six of its buggies.

Five of them are hired out to golfers with pre-existing conditions; the other is for their “roving ranger”, who can help if someone has a problem.

It seems highly sensible to me, and I was delighted to learn they want to go further and get them into all buggies going forward.

But it did remind me of a regional GCMA meeting a few years back when the British Red Cross came in to demo some defibrillators, offer some training and provide advice on where to station the defibrillators.

Buggies weren’t suggested, which maybe reflects how tech has moved forward in the last few years, but what I found remarkable was the number of managers poo-pooing having them at all.

The Red Cross team were suggesting one in the clubhouse and perhaps one in the halfway hut, but according to plenty of the room, there would be no point:
“If they have a heart attack, they’ll be so far from the clubhouse that we wouldn’t be able to get there in time”.

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No harm, no foul?

No harm, no foul?

We’ve experienced a significant increase in sexual assault and harassment cases recently:

• The member of a golf club committee that asked a waitress who was offering him a lift home if she was offering to give him a “little sex

• The bar manager that complained about female bra straps always falling down employees’ arms and then pushed them up an 18-year-old’s arm and under her t-shirt for her.

• The 18-year-old trainee who was being shown the beer barrels down in the cellar when the bar manager said, “You know, no one would hear you if you screamed in here”.

• The bar manager, who, when asked what time he finished his shift by the new trainee, said, “Are you asking how I get off?

The defence of all of these?

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Zero hours = zero rights?

Zero hours = zero rights?

One of my friends got a new job the other day.

She’s been unemployed since being made redundant last summer and jumped at the chance to do some casual work that used her admin skills.

As you’d expect, I had my HR hat on, asking about her contract, sick pay and holiday and all that jazz.

Her response?

“Oh no, I don’t get any of that stuff because I’m a zero hours worker”.

I pointed out that however wonderful her new employer was, they were also operating illegally and not paying her what she was owed.

I offered to read the contract to check what else they had got wrong.

The employer had correctly worded the contact to make it a “zero hours” one: they did not have to offer work and the worker did not have to accept it.

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Zero hours = zero rights?

Zero hours zero rights

One of my friends got a new job the other day.

She’s been unemployed since being made redundant last summer and jumped at the chance to do some casual work that used her admin skills.

As you’d expect, I had my HR hat on, asking about her contract, sick pay and holiday and all that jazz.

Her response?

“Oh no, I don’t get any of that stuff because I’m a zero-hours worker”.

I pointed out that however wonderful her new employer was, they were also operating illegally and not paying her what she was owed.

I offered to read the contract to check what else they had got wrong.

The employer had correctly worded the contract to make it a “zero-hours” one: they did not have to offer work, and the worker did not have to accept it.

But pretty much everything else was rubbish:

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Rounds are up, but people are down

Rounds are up, but people are down

Last week’s BRS Golf figures made interesting reading.

The number of rounds of golf so far this year is up 100% from the number played in the same period in 2019.

But the number of members of golf clubs? Down 6,000

If you’re still a member somewhere, this is all good news – more space, more tee times and so on and so forth.

For the golf clubs dependent on the subscriptions every year for your budget? Not so good.

It wasn’t all bad news – visitors were up by 21%, which goes some way towards plugging the gap, but the point is that not all revenue is created equal.

Whether you’re a private business or a golf club, recurring income makes life so much easier.

You can’t rely on “one-offs” to pay the increased electricity bill, but you can try to convert them to members so that you can rely on their payments.

 

Anyway, all this talk of the decreasing members reminded me of an article I wrote a while back, which is pretty pertinent to this subject – here it is below:

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Honesty is not the best policy…

Honesty is not the best policy…

A client of ours had decided to terminate the employment of one their greenkeepers last week, but very nearly bungled the whole thing at the 11th hour.

The greenkeeper in question had been there less than two years, had performed poorly for a long time, and had been called in for numerous performance meetings, and had continually failed to improve.

Open goal, right?

They spoke to us, and we explained exactly what they need to do: explain that they were letting him go, have a witness present just in case (they chose the Chair of Greens) and pay him a month’s notice.  Job done.

It all went well at first.

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AWOL

Awol

One of our clients called us at 10:30am on Monday – an employee was 90 minutes late and counting.

There’d heard nothing from him, no excuses or explanations, despite trying to call him.

What they wanted to know was whether they could just fire him on the spot.

The employee in question was a rather troublesome character, and they were already speaking to us about how they could part company with him.

So when he didn’t turn up, it seemed like all their Christmases had come at once.

Except they hadn’t – you can’t just “fire” someone if they don’t turn up for work.

Instead, here’s what you need to do:

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10 outrageous excuses for not paying National Minimum Wage

10 outrageous excuses for not paying National Minimum Wage

WH Smith, Marks & Spencer and Argos are among more than 200 firms that have failed to pay workers legal national minimum wage (NMW). The employers were found to have failed to pay their workers almost £5 million in a clear breach of NMW law, leaving around 63,000 workers out of pocket.

The employers named previously underpaid workers in the following ways:

  • 39% of employers deducted pay from workers’ wages.
  • 39% of employers failed to pay workers correctly for their working time.
  • 21% of employers paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.

Whilst not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, there is no excuse for underpaying workers. However, some employers have tried the most outrageous excuses to justify their failure to pay their workers NMW.

And before you read these, I want to clarify that these are genuine excuses that employers have given to HMRC enforcement officers – not a single one is made up:

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Bad news for this employer!

Bad news for this employer! Usually I spend my time helping employers to stay the right side of employment law. But this week I found myself helping an employee. Her employer had given her a contract last year, which is impressive in itself – many employers don’t even bother with that! Sadly, the contract was … Read more

Dull as dishwater

I’m afraid it’s a slightly less whimsical note from me today, as I need to share something with you on whether employees should work their notice period. Yes, I agree, it’s dull as dishwater, but failure to do the right thing around notice periods can spell serious trouble. There are three options when notice has … Read more

Written warning from ChatGPT

Chances are you might have heard of ChatGPT. It’s been the talk of the town recently, with thousands of words written about how it’s going to take all the white-collar jobs away. I’m a big fan of tech (anything that’ll do the same job better or faster is worth exploring), so I thought I’d have … Read more

Terrible holiday pictures

I’m in Miami this week. Yes, it is amazing, thanks for asking. Florida is my kind of holiday to a tee – sun, sea, sand and a good book. But everyone’s different – some are sun worshippers like me, some prefer snow and apres ski, others like a safari or a city break. There is … Read more

The question on everyone’s lips

Now that everyone has stopped talking about the snow (it was lovely, but then, I didn’t need to go anywhere!), the next talking point at work is whether people are going to get paid for their “snow day”. The first place to look is your handbook, in your severe weather policy (you do have one, … Read more

10 minutes with the house manager was all it took

We recently took on a client who’d been accused of discrimination in the past, long before our involvement. They’d gone through a redundancy process in which everyone in the F&B department was put “at risk”. They went through the consultation period, did it by the book, and made one person redundant. So far, so good, … Read more

Settlement agreements and redundancy

Settlement agreements and redundancy

A settlement agreement is where an employee gives up their right to bring legal action against their employer at the end of their employment, usually in exchange for payment.

Once an agreement has been reached, the employee has officially given up their right to bring a case against you in an employment tribunal.

It’s a useful option for many employers who are considering redundancy, for two reasons:

1. It protects the business
2. It also settles the end of the employee’s time in your employment, while still giving them something.

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Bob punched me

One of our clients told me that their house manager was a confirmed liar the other day.

It seemed a trifle strange that they were saying it in such a matter-of-fact way, without having taking action on it, so I delved a little deeper.

Their most recent lie went a little like this…

There’d been a party at work, and then the team had decamped to the pub, leaving two staff members to follow behind:

The house manager and an apprentice.

Female and male. Older and younger. Both quite drunk.

A match made in heaven, right?

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Pearly whites

Pearly whites

Watching American TV a lot, as I do (yes I know it’s trash, but entertaining trash!), you can’t help noticing the teeth.

Most people in the UK don’t give teeth much thought.  OK, we brush them in the morning and at night, but do we ever think of them as one of the first things that people see when we meet them?

When we give a big, toothy smile, we are really letting the world know a lot about ourselves.

And this applies to businesses as well as individuals.

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Is football a belief system?

Is football a belief system?

With the World Cup about to start, it’s worth remembering that – for some – football isn’t just a game.

It’s a way of life.

And as an employer that can present a bit of a problem, with staff claiming that it’s discrimination for you not to allow them to take a break during working time to watch the matches.

(Or you might find that a very important, 90-minute Zoom call just happens to coincide with a particularly important fixture.)

So, let’s examine the claim and look at a precedent…

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Seven pints on camera

Seven pints on camera

You might know we run a weekly Zoom call, where you can drop in and get questions answered. (If you haven’t joined us before, here’s the link for next week’s session.

And there was a great question this week:

“Can I install CCTV with sound in my reception area?”

The answer? Well, maybe.

Obviously a black and white answer would be most helpful here, but it’s all a bit grey.

Visual CCTV is straightforward – you can do it as long as:

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You couldn’t make it up

You couldn’t make it up

Make Most employers know, for good or bad, that it is tricky to dismiss a pregnant woman.

But not impossible.

There are ways to part the company if performance or attitude is bad, and they involve documenting meetings, setting deadlines etc so that you can prove that the pregnancy is not the reason you’re dismissing them.

So we were shocked into silence when we received a call from a client saying that he had received an Early Conciliation form from ACAS (the first step in a tribunal case).

He had obviously dismissed someone without talking to us, so we asked for the details.

“Well, she only has 3 months service…”

So far so good, there is no protection for unfair dismissal under 2 years’ service.

“And she is 6 months pregnant…”

Uh oh.

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Advising the advisors

Advisors of Gap HR

In HR, there’s plenty of jostling to be the leader of the pack.

And we’re the leader of ours – true specialists in HR for private member golf clubs.

But that doesn’t mean we ignore what’s going on in the wider HR world – we like to keep an eye on other HR firms, to understand what is and isn’t working for them.

Last week though, it was them keeping an eye on us.

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What is the current retirement age?

What is the current default retirement age?

I ask this during my presentations quite a bit, and get A LOT of different answers, with “65” being the most common

The real answer?  There isn’t one. It was abolished in October 2011, with a short transition period where you were allowed to give your employees six months’ notice of retirement.

That concluded in 2012.

What does that mean for you as an employer?

Quite a bit as it happens.

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If you know, you know

If you know, you know……

When it comes to disability discrimination, there’s a pretty important case – Stott vs Ralli Limited.

The employee in question put in a claim, saying she’d been discriminated against because of her disability; she had mental health issues and dyslexia.

But here’s the thing: her employer didn’t know that. She’d never raised it, and only brought it up in a grievance AFTER she’d been dismissed, a fact that she agreed with, albeit asserting that “somehow they should have known”.

So, no discrimination, no victory for Stott, and no compensation doled out.

A happy ending. But it doesn’t always happen, highlighting the need to do things the right way if you don’t want to lose at tribunal:

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The metaphorical unicorn that this greenkeeper never saw

The metaphorical unicorn that this greenkeeper never saw

I was talking to a head greenkeeper the other day, and he was probing me about human resources-related stuff (occupational hazard!).

One of the things he was keen to know was whether there was a legal requirement for an employer to have a handbook that they gave to their staff.

I asked him why he was so interested, and I was pretty surprised by his answer:

“Because I was given my contract, which refers to the handbook a lot. So I asked the Club Manager for a copy of this handbook. He said I should think of it like a unicorn.”

As you can imagine, I was a little bit confused by this, so he elaborated…

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Bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral

Bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral

There have been many millions of words already written about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and I can’t hope to add anything meaningful to them – it is a seismic moment in our nation’s history, and I’m sure she will be missed greatly.

Practically speaking, the Queen’s death has resulted in a number of questions from a business perspective, I just thought it’d be helpful to give you as much information as I can.

When is the funeral?

The funeral will be held on Monday 19th September.

Will it be a bank holiday?

Yes!

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Magnum PI

Magnum PI

One of our clients has a greenkeeper problem: he’s off sick far more than they’d like.

So far in this calendar year, he’s had 23 days off sick; all of them odd – a day or two here.

Which is more than everyone else in the club combined.

They haven’t been happy about the situation for a while but became even more incensed when the rumours started spreading that he was working somewhere else on his “sick” days.

The suspicion turned to conviction quite quickly, and they began telling us that they KNEW he was working somewhere else, and that his car had been “seen” outside another company.

It all seemed slightly fishy to us – the company in question isn’t on a main thoroughfare, so how could he have been “seen” enough times to be sure that that’s what he was doing.

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A bit like an intern

One of our clients contacted us recently about a “one-week work trial” for a potential new employee.

Essentially, they wanted the candidate to work for nothing, “a bit like an intern”, and if she was good, then they wanted us to put together a contract that started after the trial.

Our answer?

“No.”

Unfortunately for our client, there is no legal definition of a “work trial”.

And you don’t want to be the one providing us with one by going to tribunal and paying a barrister £5,000 a day to argue your case.

The current default is that you HAVE to pay the national minimum wage to anyone working for longer than a day, and for reasons other than a recruitment assessment.

Which – before you ask – a one-week work trial isn’t.

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I was on fire

I was on fire

I was at a Girl Guiding Day last week, helping out with some activities for Ukrainian and Afghan child refugees.

I was on fire.

Not literally, I just happened to be in charge of the fire activity, which as a casual pyromaniac, suited me down to the ground.

What I WAS nervous about was the language barrier.

Turns out I had no reason for nerves – their English was generally pretty good (much better than the zero words I could speak in either of their languages!).

And once I got into it, I just talked through everything I was doing.

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Half-dead Dave

Half-dead Dave

You know, half-dead Dave, right?  He’s been in accounts FOREVER.

Then there’s Yoda, who’s nearly as old as nearly deceased Dave, and MUST be close to retirement now.

Of course, you’ll know Jimmy Savile – we call him that not because of any crime he’s committed, but because he’s called Jimmy and his surname starts with ‘S’.

And finally, we’ve got Dolly – the Parton variety, who had to restrict his hours, and therefore we simply had to reference that he only works 9-5.

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Birthday party booking

Birthday party booking

Running a business can be tough at the best of times.

But with taxes rising, inflation spiralling and everyone going on about the ‘cost of living crisis’, things are even more challenging.

Which – you might think – would result in companies trying harder than ever to acquire customers.

But it seems there are some people just coasting along and hoping for the best.

And I was reminded of this reality just the other day.

My son turned 18 this year, and back in February we started planning.

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Just mowing the grass

Just mowing the grass

I was talking the Chair of Greens at a golf club recently, and they had a few challenges with getting enough greenkeepers to look after all the greens.

No matter, he told me, they had a Plan B.

The plan?

“I know a chap who mows my lawn – I’ll just ask him to come in and help us out”.

Before you get too outraged, this story is almost 100% fiction, but it raises an important point.

You see, no Chair of Greens would EVER suggest that solution.

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Off to the States

Off to the States

I’m off to America this week.

It’s a holiday I’ve been anticipating for AGES, but the build-up has been fraught with anxiety, mainly thanks to the prospect of the flight being cancelled, or the baggage handlers going on strike.

To try and counteract the latter point, I decided just to take hand luggage.

And as soon as I did, my whole packing regime felt a lot less stressful.

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