June 2017


Hello, we would like to share the latest news within Cluer HR as well as keeping you up to date with developments in the world of HR and employment law as they occur.

It’s all part of the service. We hope you find it useful. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Tribunal Case A Reminder To Employers on Giving References

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Employers are being urged to take extra care with their references, after a tribunal ruled that a man had been discriminated against after his ex-employer made comments linked to his sickness absence in a reference. Mr P Mefful claimed he suffered victimisation and disability discrimination after his former employer, Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth (CAM&L), where he worked from 2004 until he was made redundant in 2012, gave him a reference that lost him a job offer.

During the course of his employment, Mefful had two lengthy periods of absence – one after he and his partner lost a baby, and a further stint for shoulder pain and hearing loss in his right ear. After being made redundant, Mefful brought a separate case, arguing that his dismissal was unfair and he was discriminated against because of his disability. CAM&L has since conceded, but the disability discrimination claim is ongoing. After a three-year period of unemployment, Mefful was offered a job in 2015 and his former employer was approached for a reference. Shortly after receiving the reference, the job offer was withdrawn. In the reference, CAM&L noted it would not re-employ Mefful, with the CEO later explaining at tribunal that this comment was linked to his sickness absence. However, the tribunal found that the employer’s records on Mefful’s absences were overestimated to a “substantial degree”, therefore his potential employer had been provided with inaccurate figures.

Mefful also provided the tribunal with evidence that suggested he had performed well in his role, which was not challenged during cross-examination.

CAM&L contended that, even though the reference did comment on Mefful’s sickness absence, it was “true, accurate and fair” and did not arise from discrimination or the earlier tribunal he had brought. However, the tribunal ruled that the organisation had “failed to provide any favourable information about [Mefful] personally or about his performance… This amounted to a detriment and it created what appeared to be an entirely false and misleading impression of his successful eight-year career.”

Message for Employers: The provision of references has always been a contentious matter. Employers often freeze in fear of possible repercussions from giving a reference for an ex-employee. This case is a stark reminder that employers can still be found liable after employment has ceased and therefore how important it is to take care when completing this task. Our recommendation is that you adopt of a blanket policy of confirming dates of employment and the role held only. If in doubt, contact us at [email protected] or call us on 01386 751 740

Employee Awarded £20k Compensation For ‘Hurt Feelings’

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A worker has been awarded £20,000 after laying claims of disability and race discrimination, harassment and unfair dismissal at his ex-employer. Formerly employed by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) as a car inspector, Paul Hoyte, took to an employment tribunal when he was dismissed by the firm.

He subsequently won claims for disability discrimination and harassment and was awarded £16,000, plus interest, for “injury to feelings.” His claims for unfair dismissal and race discrimination were rejected. Hoyte told the tribunal that a poster, which JLR claimed was created to discourage disruptive workforce behaviour, was deliberately brought to his attention. The poster read: “Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch.” Hoyte alleges that a process leader asked him if he’d seen the poster and that the same leader asked a non-white colleague: “Have you heard about the black apple campaign?”

Jaguar Land Rover said the worker was dismissed on lack of capability after having a long absence with no prospects of returning to work.

Message for Employers: This case highlights how important it is for companies to be perceived not to be discriminating against any members of their incumbent workforce or potential hires. Training your employees on awareness in this area is a very good way of demonstrating your commitment.

Workers On Zero Hour Contracts Could Be Given Right To Request Move To Fixed Hours

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Matthew Taylor’s review into modern employment practices, due to be published this summer, will recommend a new right for workers on zero hours contracts to secure a guaranteed number of hours. The right to request more hours will be similar to regulations such as the right to request flexible working, as employers will have to provide “serious” business reasons to refuse the request.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) backs the idea. Sources have told the BBC that Taylor has been impressed by last month’s move by McDonald’s Restaurants to offer its 115,000 workers on zero hours contracts the option of moving to fixed contracts with a minimum number of guaranteed hours. McDonald’s has been piloting the option for guaranteed hours for staff at 23 restaurants and has reported that 80% chose to remain on zero hours contracts, while 20% opted for a fixed number of hours

Message For Employers: We always associate flexible work requests as being for things such as reductions in hours or to work from home. It looks like the chance to request fixed hours could become common practice, but given the results from McDonald’s Restaurants it might not have an overwhelming take up. Perhaps our new generation of workers aren’t so unhappy with zero-hour working agreements after all….

Do Employers Have To Advertise Jobs Internally?

No, there’s no legal obligation to advertise job vacancies internally or externally. Employers and managers must pay attention to any collective agreements to see if they specify whether roles should be advertised internally before resorting to external methods.

Recruiting from within has its advantages. It can be more cost-effective and quicker than sifting through countless applications, launching a recruitment campaign or going through an agency. Managers will know the individuals in their organisation and will know more quickly whether they’re a good fit with the role. There’s the added bonus that the employee knows the company, systems and practices so the settling in period is much swifter. It also shows your employees that there are opportunities for professional development and promotion. Overall, this helps motivate and retain your organisation’s top talent.

One of the drawbacks is that you’re limiting your pool of candidates to a very select group, which may mean that you don’t find the best person for the job. New candidates can bring fresh ideas to your business, constructively challenging how your organisation works. However, if current employees believe that they’re being consistently overlooked for opportunities that arise – it could affect team morale or dynamics.

Message for Employers: It’s not always necessary, but make sure you check internal policies first.

Women Shiver At Work In ‘Sexist’ Air Conditioning

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Women may have finally smashed through the glass ceiling to join men in the boardroom but when it comes to office temperatures they are yet to come in from the cold. A new study has shown that air conditioning units are designed for the body temperature and metabolism of men and leave most women shivering. Most climate control systems in modern offices are based on the resting metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man, which runs up to 30 per cent faster than a woman’s. So while men are comfortable in the workplace, the majority of women would need conditions to be nearly four degrees warmer, leaving them forced to don jumpers and cardigans in the summer to keep warm. When researchers tested young women performing light office work, while dressed in a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, they discovered that their optimum temperature was 75F (24.5C). Men, in contrast, were happiest at 71F (22C). Current air conditioning standards are derived from research conducted in the 1960s which was based on the resting metabolic rate of one 11 stone, 40-year-old man. Men typically have more heat generating muscle than women and so feel comfortable at cooler temperatures. Metabolic rate also lowers with increasing age which means that an older workforce is likely to need higher office temperatures.

Message for Employers: Something to be aware of if you have an office of a mixture of male and female workers. It sounds like it can be an issue if the mix is a wide variety of ages too, best to advise staff to keep extra layers handy!

Tattoos In The Workplace

As tattoos become less of a taboo, more and more people have them. Often, it’s hard to tell who is tattooed and who isn’t but it’s becoming common to see them more visibly such as on the arms, hands or neck.

So what does this mean for employers?

When you come to hire someone, you need to be ready for what to do if they are tattooed. Should it affect your decision about hiring them? If so, why? Part of it will depend on your business. There is an argument to count tattoos against someone when hiring if the role is highly customer-facing. However, the other side of that coin is that someone with great enthusiasm and personal skills will be a good hire, tattooed or not, so it shouldn’t be the sole factor in your decision. Ultimately, you don’t want to end up missing out on talent. That doesn’t mean begrudgingly hiring someone if you’re not prepared to treat them equally, either; if you’re going to have a tattooed workforce, you need to be committed to being inclusive. Kirsten Davidson, head of employer brand at Glassdoor, “..when we look at companies rated highly for culture and values, we often see employee feedback about feeling comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, or feeling free to be authentic.”

To this end, many businesses are getting rid of any kind of dress code whatsoever. If a job doesn’t involve meeting clients, is there really any need for it? Embracing your workforce whether they’re tattooed or not could lead to a more relaxed atmosphere and employees who feel fulfilled, therefore allowing their productivity levels to get higher as a result.

Before you do go ahead with hiring new employees, think carefully about your tattoo policy and how that might affect the future workforce. Please get in contact if you’d like support on defining this for your business.

New Recruit for Cluer HR

This month, Suzanne Welch has joined our team as an HR Adviser. We’re delighted to have the benefit of Suzanne’s 20+ years of experience in HR. Her previous roles have been both hands-on and strategic in a variety of small and large organisations. Suzanne is renowned for her ability to find workable business-focused HR solutions that have a win-win outcome for both employer and employee. She also has a love for travel and music and is known for her ability to remain serene and calm when everything around her is not! Suzanne’s mantra is: Happiness is not found, happiness is chosen.

Our Blogs Are Helpful Reminders – Straight To Your Inbox

f you missed our blogs this month, we wrote about.. Flexible Working, The Facts Behind They Myths. Often linked to parents or carers, flexible working is now much more, well.. flexible. If you haven’t interviewed in a while and need to brush up on your skills, we picked out 7 Questions You Should Never Ask In A Job Interview. You probably know them, but this will help you avoid any sticky situations.

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