What Labour means for employment law

The predictions were right, and the polls were fairly accurate – we’ve woken up to a Labour government.

Understandably, you might be wondering what this means for your organisation—whether there will be any big changes in the world of employment law and whether you’ll need to do anything differently.

First thing to say here is don’t panic about any changes you read or hear about – they will not happen overnight.  Laws take time to be changed, and you’ll have enough notice to change your staff strategy if that’s required.

(And as we all know, just because something was in a manifesto, it does not mean that it will be implemented in the form promised, or at all.)

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See you on the other side.

This time next week, we’re going to be waking up on the other side of the General Election – the prime minister for the next few years will be confirmed. There’s been plenty of media hype about what the various different parties might change when it comes to employees and employment law; from the sublime … Read more

Redundancy Consultation Period For 1 Person

Whilst sometimes necessary to secure the future of your business, making employees redundant can be a minefield for employers. If you fail to properly consult with employees during a redundancy process, any subsequent redundancies will likely be unfair and expose you to unfair dismissal claims. There are strict minimum timescales for consultations when the redundancy … Read more

Hide and Seek

“Hide and seek the general manager” – can’t see it usurping the traditional form of the game, but nevertheless, we have plenty of fun playing it in the Gap HR office.

Here’s how it works:

  1. We hear from a client that they are moving. So far, so straightforward.
  2. Obviously, we hope to continue the relationship with that client, but it also presents an opportunity – who has just left, and where are they going?
  3. The search begins. We look on the new website. LinkedIn. The out-of-office messages from our weekly emails.

Sounds easy, and it should be.

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Cowardy custard?

We’ve had two new clients sign up on retainer this week, both with really meaty staff issues; the kind we really like to get our teeth into.

There’s something else they have in common – both were already paying retainers to other HR companies when they approached us and asked us to help them with their HR.

And as it turned out, it would have been just as effective for them to set the money on fire as it was to send it to the HR companies in question.

Because when tricky staff issues come along, the pretenders get found out.

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The most failed question

We’re recruiting at the moment – a steady stream of new clients over the last few months means we need to grow our team.

Our recruitment process is pretty hardcore: after all, the person we hire will be giving advice to our clients, which means it’s got to be spot on.

As part of the process, we ask a lot of HR questions, and there’s one question that candidates keep failing – when they do, it’s a pretty big red flag.

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Do I have to ask before I pat a woman’s bottom?

I’ll be blunt: we have seen a large increase in sexual harassment in golf clubs in recent months.

Not between employees.  For the most part, they abide by the rules, and when there is an incident, it’s dealt with quickly, effectively and by the book.

So, what’s the problem?

In a word: the members.

I won’t teach you to suck eggs, but we both know that – for the most part – golf club membership is dominated by white males, from a previous generation.

Chances are you’ve had to deal with your fair share of challenges from this demographic – I’ve had plenty of managers tell me about members who felt they owned the club and had the right to be involved in all decisions, despite not stepping up to take any responsibility.

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Talk to your staff!

How about this one.

The scammers targeted a new employee, let’s call her Sarah, less than two weeks in the company.

They sent them an email, allegedly from the managing director, asking Sarah to buy some John Lewis and Apple gift cards to be used as gifts for valued employees. The email asked her to keep it confidential so as not to spoil the surprise for those employees.

As the employee was so new, she somehow did not question why the MD was speaking to her, rather than literally ANYONE else in the office to do this important task. Despite the email address and language of the emails not being at all what the MD would use, because Sarah was so new, she didn’t realise.

They asked her to buy £2000 of gift cards at £500 each. She, and this is so sad, said that she only had £200 in her account, and apologised to the MD/scammers that she could only buy this much.

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Fag packet step-up.

A client emailed this week, wanting to issue a final written warning for the chef at his club.

He’d been drunk at work twice now, and they’d had enough.

On the face of it, that all seems sensible – it’s clearly a disciplinary offence; potentially a dismissal.

There was one teeny little snag, though: this was the first time we’d heard about any sort of disciplinary process for this member of staff.

And generally, this means one thing: it hasn’t been carried out correctly.

So it proved, when I started asking general questions – how long had the chef been there for, could they send over the investigation notes, what did the previous warnings say, and so on.

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My osmosis failure

We learnt plenty about osmosis during “O” level biology; trouble was that by the time it came to the exams, I’d forgotten it all.

Perhaps I thought the process of osmosis would bail me out – just sleep with the textbook under the pillow, and my brain would be magically instilled with everything I needed to know.

Fanciful and bizarre, maybe, but I’ve noticed a similar approach being adopted by plenty of employers, with one recent story springing to mind.

A client got in touch about an employee being off sick.

They’d not followed the absence reporting procedure, so there was a chance they could be dismissed, which was the employer’s preferred outcome.

I just needed to check one tiny little thing – that the handbook containing the absence reporting procedure HAD been given out to all staff.

The answer wasn’t reassuring:

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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

With better weather and the 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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