One of the benefits of DDU membership is the Peninsula Employment Law Advice Service. This gives practice principals access to expert guidance on a range of employment related issues to help run your practice.

Here we'll look at the five most common types of questions received from members and summarise some take-away points for each.

It's not just in these frequently occurring areas that Peninsula can provide assistance. Their employment law consultants can assist with any employment related query - no matter how minor it may seem - to get the best outcome for you.

The Advice Service can be reached by calling 0844 892 3926.

Absence

The best absence policies and procedures in the world will not, unfortunately, secure you from having to deal with employee absence on occasion. Everyone gets ill at some point and needs to take some time to recuperate.

However, what your policies and procedures can do is let your workforce know that you take absence seriously, addressing all instances and therefore deter any opportunists who may be inclined to take more time off than they really need to.

Taking time off for family problems, as well as in relation to health issues such as heart attacks and depression, have all been the focus of calls to the Advice Service. Peninsula's advice is consistent regardless of reason; record, monitor, follow up. No absence should go unaddressed.

Discipline

Consistent treatment is also important when dealing with disciplinary processes. Certain procedural steps are expected from an Employment Tribunal in all cases of alleged misconduct.

Breaches of confidentiality, complaints of a dentist bullying a member of support staff and failure to maintain comprehensive patient records are some of the serious allegations which have been the focus of calls to the Advice Service.

Employees must always be given as detailed an explanation as possible of the allegations against them including dates, times and people involved. It may seem a minor point but if employees are not made fully aware of the case against them, a tribunal is likely to find that they were not given the opportunity to fully defend themselves. Ultimately this can result in higher compensation to the employee if, in all of the circumstances, they are found to have been unfairly dismissed.

Grievance

Employee complaints can be dealt with in different ways depending on the nature of the complaint. In some cases, the complaint will be a straightforward grievance about a decision taken by management against the individual - for example, a decision to reject an annual leave request, or removal of a car parking space. A short investigation should be relatively simple to undertake and the response provided to the employee.

Employees must always be given as detailed an explanation as possible of the allegations against them.

However, where a complaint centres around the behaviour of another person in terms of their demeanour and treatment of others - often referred to as bullying by the individual involved - a different approach may be required. Mediation may be a better method of dealing with the complaint because this allows the individuals involved to talk through their issues, rather than have a third party rule on it themselves.

Flexible working

In 2014, the rules on requesting flexible working were extended, with the effect that there is now no need for an employee to be a parent or a carer in order to make a statutory request to change their hours of work.

However, the requirement for the employee to have 26 weeks' service remains. Applications for flexible working have failed in some instances for this reason, which is completely lawful.

Despite this, DDU members may feel they would like to open up the procedure to all employees regardless of service. Where this happens, it should be made clear to the employee that their request does not fall under the statutory procedure and therefore the rules around limited specified reasons for refusal will not apply.

Terms and conditions

An employee's contractual terms and conditions are fixed, including their hours of work, times of work and benefits provided. They cannot be changed without agreement from both parties, and this applies whether the desire for change comes from either the employer or the employee.

One example seen recently involved a long serving employee whose annual leave entitlement was much higher than the rest of the workforce. Because this is a contractual entitlement, an attempt to reduce it without the employee's agreement would constitute a breach of contract, entitling the employee to make a claim.

An employee is unlikely to give up their advantageous amount of annual leave for nothing, so it may be that a compromise needs to be sought. Offering an incentive to give up contractual entitlements may make the process easier.


This article was correct at publication on 26/09/2016. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Nicola Mullineux

Peninsula Business Services

Nicola is the employment law research consultant at Peninsula Business Services Ltd, the UK’s leading employment law and health & safety consultancy providing business assistance to over 30,000 employers.

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