Monthly Archives: May 2013

Health and safety law – the lowdown on your employer’s legal requirements

Anyone that’s ever been involved in an accident at work will know how important it is for employers to implement proper health and safety measures in the workplace. If they don’t, they’re not only endangering your safety, they’re leaving themselves open to legal action.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must (insofar as it is legal and practical) provide:

  • The lowdown on your employer's legal requirements for health and safety at workEquipment (including personal protective equipment/clothing), systems and works practices that are safe;
  • Arrangements to ensure the safety and absence of dangers to health in connection with the use, handling and transport of articles and substances;
  • Sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to enable all your employees to avoid threats to health and safety and contribute positively, both as to their own health and safety at work and the safety of others who might be affected by working activities.
  • A place of work (including means of access and exit) that is safe and without risk to health;
  • Adequate welfare facilities

Employers should also ensure that they do the following, in order to fully comply with the points above:

  • Carry out regular risk assessments in order to identify measures that need to be implemented to comply with all health and safety obligations;
  • Provide a safe place of work by ensuring that all equipment, machinery, safety devices and means of entrance and exit to the workplace are safe;
  • Provide any necessary safety equipment and clothing and appropriate instruction and training to ensure standards are complied with;
  • Set up clear emergency procedures;
  • Consult regularly with your employees to ensure that they are fully aware of safety matters and are in a position to communicate any concerns that they have so that there is full co-operation between you and them;
  • If necessary, set up appropriate committees for you to consult with;

However, the onus here is never fully on an employer. After an employee has been trained and briefed on health and safety measures, they need to take a certain amount of responsibility for their own actions. It’s an employee’s own responsibility to co-operate on all health and safety measures, and bring to the attention of a line manager any situations that they feel could become hazardous.

It’s also an employee’s responsibility to use all safety clothing and equipment that has been provided in accordance with safety instructions (and to report any malfunctioning equipment as well as any accidents that occur).

It’s always an upsetting situation when there is an accident at work, but you need to ensure that the responsibility lies with an employer rather than yourself before you can raise a grievance.

If you’d like further clarification, then visit our full health and safety in the workplace page or simply contact us. We’d love to be of assistance.

What are the legal implications of Work Wise Week?

For those that aren’t aware, we’re currently in the middle of the eighth annual Work Wise Week. Running until the 18th of May, the week aims to encourage smarter working practices to the benefit of businesses, employees and the UK as a whole.

Find out what the legal implications of working from home are with Ashby Cohen.In particular, it aims to raise awareness of smarter travel, mobile working, virtual meetings, remote working and working from home, with the week culminating in the annual Work from Home Day on Friday (17th).

So from a business perspective, what are the legal implications of the week?

Well, it exists simply to encourage businesses to implement the practices, so there’s no legal precedent for businesses to embrace it.

However, the usual legal factors based around the likes of flexible working still apply.

From that perspective, if a worker meets a certain criteria then you have a duty as an employer to give their request to work flexibly serious thought, and you should only reject it if there are good business reasons for doing so.

To meet the criteria for flexible working, a worker needs to be a full employee (agency workers do not qualify), have worked for you for 26 consecutive weeks and not made another statutory request within the last 12 months.

Normally an employee can only apply for flexible working to care for a child under 16, a disabled child under 18 who is in receipt of disability living allowance or certain adults that require care.

With regards to Working from Home Day, you’ll need to take this into consideration. Because of the nature of the day, if an employee meets all of the above criteria and asks to work from home for the day, you really should take it into consideration.

If they don’t meet the criteria, then the decision is completely up to you. The week as a whole exists to raise awareness of the positives associated with smarter and modern working practices though, so if an employee working from home isn’t going to impact on your day-to-day operations experimenting with it might not be the end of the world.

The same applies to the other practices the week aims to raise awareness of – there’s no legal precedent for you to allow employees to try them, but if it’s not going to impact on business performance then there won’t be any harm in doing so, and probably won’t do your reputation any harm either.

You never know – you might be quietly pleased with how well the initiative impacts on the performance of both employees and the business as a whole.

Pregnancy and Maternity– the lowdown on your employment rights

Discovering that you are pregnant can be one of the most joyous experiences in any woman’s life.

However, many women will have spent time and effort building up a career and developing their work situation.  As such, they are understandably concerned whether it will be affected by the announcement of the pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave.

The first thing to bear in mind is that pregnant women and those on maternity leave have a lot of protection against discriminatory treatment.  Any unfair or unreasonable behaviour on the part of your employer or a work colleague may be unlawful if the behaviour is caused by your pregnancy or   because you have exercised the right to take maternity leave.

If you feel that your employer has treated or is treating you unfairly because of your pregnancy or because you took or intend to take maternity leave, then  you may be being discriminated against.

For example, your employer may have breached your rights if they’ve done any of the following because of your pregnancy or your maternity leave:

  • Overlooked you for a pay rise or bonus;
  • Dismissed, demoted or disciplined you;
  • Selected you for redundancy or announced a redundancy programme during your maternity leave without consulting you properly;
  • Failed to allow you to take time off to attend ante-natal appointments;
  • Treated you unfairly if you cannot do your job during pregnancy due to health and safety reasons;
  • Suspended you for health and safety reasons without full pay;
  • Dismissed you because they can’t afford to pay you statutory maternity pay;
  • Refused to re-arrange a disciplinary meeting that you can’t attend because of an illness relating to your pregnancy;
  • Disciplined you for performance issues relating to your pregnancy;
  • Failed to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, forcing you to resign;
  • Prevented you from receiving training or promotion opportunities because of your pregnancy.

The lowdown on your employment rights when pregnant or on maternity leaveOne thing that you need to bear in mind though, is that you aren’t necessarily entitled to the same level of pay while on maternity leave. Although your maternity leave rights state that you’re entitled to the same terms and conditions as before, unless it’s written into your contract there’s no obligation for your employer to pay you more than Statutory Maternity Pay.

Similarly, if you’re off sick because of your pregnancy you’re only entitled to the same rate of sick pay as you would normally – there’s no obligation for you to get any extra.

Lastly, you can still be fairly dismissed even though you are pregnant or on maternity leave, if the employer can demonstrate that your dismissal was not connected.

If you feel like you’re in a position where you’ve been discriminated against because of the fact you’re pregnant, or would just like further clarification, then simply contact us.