Top 5 strategies and tips for City executives suffering bullying and harassment in the workplace

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Introduction

Are you a City executive? Are you experiencing  bullying and harassment in the workplace?

Guest contributor George Duncan writes:

‘The City is a highly pressurised environment in which to work at the best of times. As an employee you are entitled to work in an environment free of unwarranted and unwelcome behaviour and benefit from precisely the same employment protections as other employees under UK law.  Many employers have anti harassment and bullying policies in place. Even where your business has such policies, it is impossible safeguard completely against such behaviour occurring.  If you feel you are suffering from bullying or harassment in the workplace, it is important you take action without delay to bring such unwanted behaviour to an end. The tools at your disposal for doing so include raising an internal grievance and, if this does not resolve the issue to your satisfaction bringing proceedings in the Employment Tribunal.

Following a decision of Supreme Court, the financial barrier to pursuing a complaint arising out of bullying and harassment e.g. discrimination and/or constructive dismissal through an employment tribunal no longer exists.  This provides greater accessibility to justice and provides a forum for redress if you are unable to resolve your complaint internally with your employer.

Here at iLaw we have over 20 years’ of experience assisting employees with internal grievances and employment tribunal claims.

Here are our top five tips for City executives faced with what we understand and appreciate can be a stressful situation:

1. Identify the bullying or harassing behaviour

Bullying or harassment can take many forms.  It may be direct or indirect; it may be obvious or insidious.  You should identify the behaviour before deciding what your next step should be.  Examples of unacceptable behaviour include:

  • Spreading malicious rumours;
  • Unfair treatment;
  • Threats or comments about job security;
  • Preventing career progression;
  • Offensive emails;
  • Jokes, teasing and pranks.

Bullying or harassment does not necessarily have to occur face to face.  It can also take the form of email, phone or supervision methods (i.e. recording of time).

The offending behaviour does not even have to take place in the work environment.  For example, an employee was fairly dismissed for posting obscene and lewd comments about the promiscuity of a female colleague on his Facebook page while at home.  The tribunal found that the comments created a degrading and humiliating work place environment for his victim which in their view amounted to harassment.

It should also be noted that unwanted and unacceptable behaviour received from a customer or client of the business can constitute harassment or bullying if you have told your employer and they do not take reasonable steps to prevent it happening again.

2. Keep a record

Keeping a diary of the offending incidents may not be your first thought when being subjected to bullying or harassment, but it will help to demonstrate the frequency and nature of the incidents.  You should record dates, times, witnesses and keep copies of emails, minutes of meetings letters.

3. Talk to someone

Even if the business has effective procedures in place to handle bullying or harassment, you may feel unsure whether to make a formal complaint.  You may want to talk to colleagues to find out if anyone else is suffering similar treatment.  Someone might have witnessed the unacceptable behaviour and be willing to support you if you make a formal complaint.  Alternatively, you should talk to a trade union representative or approach your manager.

Talking to the person who is behaving unacceptably should also be considered.  They may be unaware of the effect that their behaviour is having on you.  If you do not feel comfortable approaching the individual of whom you are complaining yourself, your union representative or colleague may be willing to act on your behalf. You may also want to involve HR in the meeting so as to guard against being subjected to further bullying and harassment by the individual.

4. Follow procedures

Employers should have appropriate safeguards in place to protect against unacceptable behaviour at work.  They should provide clear, transparent employment policies dealing with bullying and harassment which are to be followed in the event you receive unwelcome and unwarranted behaviour from another individual.  The policies should state both the employers and employees responsibilities as well as set the expected standards for workplace behaviour.

If your employer does not have policies in place, you should talk to your manager or HR regarding what your next steps should be.

5. Legal action

If the matter is not resolved, despite talking to someone and following formal procedures, you should consider seeking legal advice.

If you are suffering from harassment and it is because of or is related to a protected characteristic, a claim can be brought under the Equality Act 2010.  Protected characteristics include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation.

You may feel that resigning is the only option you have left.  If you feel that this is the route you would like to exercise, make sure that you have pursued all other formal procedures.  It is important to note that to make a claim of constructive unfair dismissal; you have to have been working at the business for at least 24 months before you resign.

At the same time you should be mindful that there are time limits for bringing complaints of discrimination in the employment tribunal. Generally speaking, the time limit expires three months after the act(s) complained of occurs.  It may be possible to argue that a pattern of behaviour amounts to a continuing act, in which case the time limit would apply from the last act committed.

It is also open to the employment tribunal to extend time where it considers it just and equitable to do so. However, it would be reckless to assume the tribunal will extend time. Their willingness to do so will depend on the circumstances of your case. Our strong advice therefore is to seek appropriate guidance at the earliest possible stage and certainly well before any time limit is due to expire.

Final Thoughts

By following the strategies and tips in this article, together with obtaining legal advice and support on your particular circumstances, tackling any bullying and harassment you may be facing in the workplace need not be such a daunting prospect.’

Are you facing harassment or bullying in your workplace?  Why not talk to our dedicated team of employment lawyers here at iLaw?  We can help guide you through the process of making a bullying or harassment complaint so that it runs smoothly and does not cause further unnecessary anxiety or stress.

Please call Julian Cox who heads iLaw’s employment team on 0207 489 2059 or email him at julian.cox@ilaw.co.uk.

This information does not give a full statement of the law. It is intended for guidance only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice.

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Learning lessons from Ryanair’s cancellation turbulence: Our Top 5 Tips for effective holiday planning

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Ryanair have recently hit the headlines for having to cancel flights over the next six weeks due to pilot shortages. Chief executive Michael O’Leary has admitted this has been caused, in his words, “because we’re giving pilots lots of holidays over the next four months. He went on to explain candidly ”What we have messed up is the allocation of holidays and trying to over allocate holidays during September and October, while we’re still running most of the summer schedule, and taking flight delays because of principally air traffic control and weather disruptions”   A spokeswoman for the budget airline said Ryanair is preparing for up to €20m in compensation claims, according to Reuters.

Here are our top tips for effectively managing holiday so as to avoid unanticipated problems and liabilities for your business.

1. Assess the needs of your business

At the start of your business year, assess your organisation’s staffing needs. How many employees do you need in place to cover your likely workload on a month on month basis?  Before agreeing individual holiday dates make sure you have enough staff in place as cover in order to avoid interruption to your business.  Consider whether you have any especially busy week when no one can have a holiday, such as summer holidays and Christmas? Consider overtime and organising extra staff to cover for these peak holiday periods if necessary.

2. Plan for peak holidays periods

For the majority of businesses, summer and Christmas represent the peak holiday periods.  Taking a summer holiday is traditionally popular. For employees with families and child care responsibilities, the school summer holidays represents the most likely period they want to take holiday.  How are you going to cover for this likely two week period? Many employees also tend to save up their holidays till the end of the year either insurance policy just in case something comes up at short notice requiring them to take time off work or because they want to take the Christmas period off. So what will happen at Christmas? Can everyone be off? Can no one be off?   Depending on the business sector you work in  the holiday peak period may be different. For example for Ryan Air, it appears to be just after the summer when pilots who have had to work over the busy summer period want to take holiday.

3. Consider shut downs

Consider shut downs. These are a useful tool for ensuring your workforce uses up its holiday entitlement during the current holiday year. Many companies shutdown for at Christmas for example as it is traditionally a quiet period. Other companies shut for a week or two during the summer for much the same reason to coincide with the bank holiday periods.

4. Monitor and Record Holiday Bookings

Your business needs to have in place a mechanism recording all staff holiday requests so that you can readily and properly assess if you can allow or decline a holiday request against the staffing needs of the business.  A holiday year planner, represents a simple and relatively inexpensive solution allowing you to record an individual employee’s holiday requests and allowing you  to see at a glance how much holiday who else is off that day in terms of assessing the needs of the business and how much holiday entitlement the applicant has left before agreeing it.  For larger organisations there is specialist HR software that can greatly assist with effective holiday planning.

5. Have an Annual Leave Policy

We recommend your business ought to have fair and comprehensive policy in place to ensure that staff understands the rules and procedures when it comes to taking annual leave entitlement and what is expected of them in applying for holiday.  This can be in the form of either a standalone policy or included as part of a raft of employment policies in the organisation’s staff handbook. Either the policy can be made available on request or included on the organisation’s intranet for easy access.

Final thoughts

Here at iiLaw we have over 20 years of experience advising employers in relation to holiday issues, including drafting holiday policies and procedures.  Please call the author of this article, Julian Cox who heads iLaw’s employment team to discuss on 0207 489 2059 or e-mail him at julian.cox@ilaw.co.uk to discuss.

 

Top 10 strategies for employers handling redundancies

settle_your_differencesIntroduction

In order to remain commercially competitive it is important businesses review their staffing needs on a regular basis. Even where a business is successful, it is inevitable, that redeployment of labour and redundancies will sometimes be necessary based on prevailing market conditions. This is particularly true in the uncertain times in which we live as a result of Brexit. It is vital if you are considering reducing staff head count due to the prevailing economic circumstances that such redundancies are handled carefully to avoid unanticipated liabilities for your organisation.

Here at iLaw we have over 20 years’ of experience guiding employers through redundancy processes. Here are our top ten tips for employers faced with having to make what we understand and appreciate are difficult decisions:

1. Avoid having to make redundancies in the first place

Developing an effective strategy for human resource planning can help manage current and long term staff needs and avoid the need to make redundancies.

2. Make sure there are good grounds for making redundancies

Even if an organisation has an effective HR strategy in place, sometimes having to make redundancies is inevitable. It is important when considering making redundancies that you are able to justify the grounds as a matter to law to avoid claims for unfair dismissal.

According to the Employment Rights Act 1996 a redundancy situation arises when:

  • the employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was so employed; or
  • the employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business in the place where the employee was so employed; or
  • the requirements of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind has ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish; or
  • the requirements of the business for the employees to carry out work of a particular kind, in the place where they were so employed, has ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish.

3. Adopt a fair selection criterion

The selection criteria for making an individual employee redundant should be fair, objective and consistent. By ensuring this,  this avoids any suggestion the employee has been unfairly selected for redundancy.

As far as possible, objective criteria, precisely defined and capable of being applied in an independent way, should be used. The purpose of having objective criteria is to ensure that employees are not unfairly selected for redundancy. Examples of such a compulsory criteria are:

  • Skills or experience;
  • Standard of work performance or aptitude for work;
  • Attendance or disciplinary record.

4. Make sure in applying the selection criteria it is not tainted by discrimination

The chosen criteria must be consistently applied by all employers irrespective of size. The employer should also ensure that in applying the criteria their decision making is not tainted by discrimination in any way e.g. disability in the context of work attendance and age in the context of experience (the argument being younger employees may have less experience by virtue of their age but that does not mean they do not have the skills and capabilities to do the job in question).

5. Consider voluntary redundancies

One acceptable method in terms of a non-compulsory selection criteria is for employees to volunteer to be considered for redundancy and for the employer to select from the list of volunteers those employees who are to be dismissed.

This has the advantage of avoiding the need for compulsory redundancies, with a less demoralising and disruptive effect on the workforce. It is not uncommon to offer enhanced redundancy payments as an incentive to attract people to leave. In situations where the number of volunteers exceeds requirements, employers should be alert to the potential reaction of some employees not selected and consider in advance how best to deal with this.

The disadvantage of going down the voluntary redundancy route is that sometimes those volunteering for redundancy may be the employees with the superior skills and capabilities (as a result of which they are more confident of obtaining alternative employment) and therefore the ones the employer would prefer to retain.

6. Follow a fair redundancy procedure

Put into place an effective redundancy policy that sets out the redundancy process step by step. This will help employees understand the procedure that will be followed before it takes place. It also provides employers with the structure and framework to be followed. Fair and appropriate procedures need to be followed to avoid unanticipated liabilities for unfair dismissal even where there are good grounds for making a redundancy.

The essence of a fair redundancy procedure established by UK employment case law is:

  • Warning;
  • Consultation; and
  • Notice

Dealing with each of these three limbs in turn:

7. Warning

The employer should meet with the employee and give them warning that their role has been POTENTALLY identified for redundancy explaining the underlying grounds. It is just that, that the role is potentially redundant. It is important at this stage not to say anything that would suggest the employer has made the decision to make the position redundant terminate the employee’s employment. To do so would risk prejudicing the entire consultation process rendering the dismissal potentially unfair and opening the employer to a claim.

The employer should follow up the meeting with a letter to the employee confirming the following:

  • The reasons for having to make redundancies; and
  • Stating the employee’s role has been identified as a result as being potentially redundant; and
  • Explaining the consultation process that will follow with dates for the next meeting to take place as part of that process.

8. Consultation

Consultation should take place as soon as possible following the initial meeting at which warning of potential redundancy is given. The purpose of consultation is for both sides to explore the available options. It presents an opportunity for the employee to pitch ideas as to how the redundancy can be avoided. For the employer it presents an opportunity to listen to such ideas as well as to identify whether there is a suitable alternative role for the affected employee(s), so as to avoid having to give notice of termination of employment at the end of the consultation period.

NB employers who propose to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment over a period of 90 days or less have a statutory duty to consult representatives of any recognised independent trade union, or if no trade union is recognised, other elected employees. This is in addition to the employer’s obligations to consult individually with the employees.

9. Notice

At the end of the consultation period (and not before), if employer and employee have not been able to identify a way of avoiding the redundancy crystallising or suitable alternative employment for the employee then the employer should meet with the employee again to confirm the redundancy is confirmed and give notice of termination of employment. The employer should follow up the meeting with a letter confirming in writing the following:

  • Confirmation of the redundancy; and
  • The planned date for termination of employment; and
  • The employee’s entitlement to a redundancy payment whether under statute (assuming the employee meets the 2 year qualifying criteria for such a payment) or under the employer’s redundancy policy if it includes provision for an enhanced redundancy payment; and
  • The employee’s contractual entitlements on termination of employment including (but not limited to) the following elements:
  • Notice or payment in lieu of notice if the employer does not want the employee to work their notice period; and
  • Accrued but untaken holiday entitlement due up to the date of termination of employment; and
  • Any commission earnt or bonus due on termination in accordance with the employer’s scheme rules

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.  You should refer to the employee’s contract of employment to check the full extent of the financial entitlements due on termination of employment.

10. Consider offering a settlement agreement

Settlement agreements offer employers a clean and effective means of dealing an employee being made redundant providing protection against the employee seeking to claim they have been unfairly dismissed following termination of employment. Typically the employee is offered an enhanced redundancy payment in return for waiving any legal claims they may have against their employer arising out of their employment and its termination. For more about settlement agreements take a look at our article Settlement agreements: 5 top strategies and tips for employers.

Final thoughts

Handled properly, following the tips contained in this article, a redundancy process need not be so daunting for an employer. Are you facing a redundancy situation with your workforce? Why not talk to our dedicated team of employment lawyers here at iLaw?  We can help guide you through the exercise so that it runs smoothly and does not leave you open to the exposure of litigation from affected employees.

Please call the author of this article, Julian Cox who heads iLaw’s employment team to discuss on 0207 489 2059 or e mail him at julian.cox@ilaw.co.uk.

 

 

Forthcoming changes to UK employment law: what employers need to know

2016

UK employment law continues to develop at a rapid pace. It is important that employers continue to keep up to date so as to avoid unanticipated liabilities for their organisation. There are several key changes due to come into effect in April 2016.

These include:

From 1st April

Introduction of National Living Wage

The new National Living Wage comes into force. It will apply to workers aged 25 and over at a rate of £7.20 an hour.

From 6th April

Increase in Tribunal compensation limits 

The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will rise from £78,335 to £78,962.

The maximum amount of a week’s pay, used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and various awards including the basic and additional awards for unfair dismissal, also rises from £475 to £479.

Introduction of financial penalties for unpaid tribunal awards and settlements.

A new scheme is introduced penalising employers who fail to pay tribunal awards or settlement sums under a COT3.

Introduction of Tribunal postponement rules

Legislation comes into force limiting the number of postponements to two for each party in each case, introducing a deadline for postponements of seven days before the hearing and requiring a costs or preparation order to be considered where a successful application for a postponement is made less than seven days before the hearing.

For more information about these forthcoming changes contact Julian Cox, Head of Employment at iLaw either by e mail (julian.cox@ilaw.co.uk) or phone on 0207 117 4737.