Employers are obliged to protect staff from bullying and harassment. Generally, this is in terms of discrimination, but may include anything from their favourite football team, what a person wears, their hobbies or their mannerisms.
Employers are obliged to ensure that the work environment is mentally safe for everyone and therefore free from bullying and harassment.
Prevention is better than cure and employers can be held vicariously liable if they don’t take adequate steps to prevent bullying and/or harassment taking place.
How to manage staff when the English weather turns is always a topic for discussion among employers. In this video (one from our #AskDOHR series) we give employers different elements which they need to consider when making decisions about their business and whether or not to pay staff who fail to come to work due to bad weather, school closures or transport shut down.
The way in which you treat snow days will very much depend on your business. Certainly if you’re providing a service such as fire brigade, police, hospitals, district nurse, GP, or anything that’s critical, you will have to have a business continuity plan for ‘snow days’.
However, there are lots of work environments such as offices, gardens, building sites, leisure centres, delivery drivers and factories and as such, circumstances are going to be different for each one and for each type of business.
There are lots of elements you need to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to stay open:
Health & Safety – is the work environment safe – do you have heating and running water?
Health & Safety – can people reach work safely? If not, can you do anything to improve access such as gritting or sweeping paths?
Transport and Infrastructure – are buses and trains running? Not just to get people to work, but to get them home again as well.
Duration – How long is the bad weather due to last and can you put different plans in for different days? Perhaps the business could shut down for a day, but perhaps not for 2?
School Closures – It’s also very difficult to force people to come to work if they’ve got no childcare. While some children are old enough to be left at home, others will not be. Friends and family may all have their own snow issues and not be able to help out on a ‘snow day’ as they might otherwise be able to do.
There is no right and wrong way about how you deal with this. However, the first thing to do is to look at your contracts of employment. What options are available to you?
pay them regardless of whether they make it into work
unpaid leave for anyone unable to come to work
allow them to use holiday (if they have any left) to be paid for their time off
allow people to work from home (where business appropriate for them to do so)
put people up in a hotel to enable them to reach work easily – again this will depend on their personal circumstances
Be sensible. Think about the value of your relationship with your staff. Think about the expectations of your clients. It’s a business decision and it doesn’t just come down to money. It also comes down to good will and relationships not only with your staff, but with your clients, suppliers and perhaps the community at large.
People are going to understand when everything else around you comes to a grinding halt. We’re on red and amber alerts across the country. Everybody is going to be aware of that. It’s about making an effort, it’s about doing the right thing. It’s about staff showing willing, offering to work at home, offering to come in. Would you allow them to bring a child into the workplace? Would that be appropriate if the school is closed but they can still get to work? It’s about getting a balance, it’s about give and take and it’s about relationships.
Look after your staff, they’ll be more motivated to support you. But there are times where you need your staff to turn up to work and failure to do so could cause massive implications for your clients or the community.
The decision ultimately is yours, you are the business owner, the buck does stop with you, but do what feels right and don’t put yourself in breach of your own contracts, policies and procedures.
With temperatures soaring and no sign of an end to these wonderful hot days of summer, employees and employers are both feeling the strain. For absolute clarification …… there is no legal maximum working temperature and to this point, a group of MPs now want to introduce a maximum working temperature of 30 degrees (lowered to 27 degrees for strenuous jobs).
So how practical is such a proposal and what would its impact be on businesses?
There are some employees who are constantly working in high temperatures regardless of the weather outside. Chefs, metal workers and miners all work in hot environments and although there are health and safety precautions in place, the work still needs to be done.
So what about an office worker or a retailer assistant, could they be sent home when it reaches 30 degrees? What would happen to businesses? With a law that sent people home when the temperature rose, businesses would not be able to operate and would face closure. Is that practical for ice cream shops, beach side cafes and outdoor entertainment facilities such as theme parks and zoos who would all do there best business on hot sunny days? It certainly isn’t practical to have a law for some businesses and not for others perhaps based on location or products.
Employees in hot countries such as Spain and Italy work in the heat on a regular basis and although concepts such as siestas and long lazy lunches are a familiar tradition, these are increasingly being phased out in multinational companies where they need to work with the rest of the world.
Air-Conditioning as standard also makes the heat more bearable in some countries, but there are many workers who would not be able to benefit from such facilities and they would be expensive to install and run for small companies in the UK.
What can employers do to reduce the impact of the heat?
There are several cost effect steps employers can take to tackle short term heat problems (and being the UK, this will be short term):
Where possible, relax the dress code. Clearly communicate what is acceptable and what is not.
Ensure that blinds are drawn to keep out the sun as much as possible (also make sure there is no glare on monitors)
Once the sun has moved to another side of the building, open windows and keep interior office doors open to help the flow of air around the building
Ensure there is cold water available for staff, either in a fridge or in a water cooler if the tap water is not cold enough. Staff should also be encouraged to bring in their own supplies.
Encourage regular breaks and perhaps increase the number of breaks or the length of breaks
Enable staff to move arounda little more if they are usually sat in one place
Consider earlier starts or later evenings with longer breaks so that people aren’t travelling in the rush hour and working in the heat of mid day (how very Mediterranean)
Purchase some fans to increase air flow
Employees must take practical steps to ensure their safety.
As with all things health and safety, employees do have a duty to look after themselves at work and discuss any concerns with managers in a practical way. Not turning up for work due to the weather or its effects (dehydration, lack of sleep, too much sun) is not acceptable, and an organisation has the right to discipline staff it believes have not taken reasonable steps to be at work. Staff must:
Ensure that they take on sufficient water during the day
Dress appropriately for business and the temperature
Pre-book any time off during the summer, phoning in on the day is not acceptable
Ensure that any food they eat at BBQs is properly cooked!!!
Ensure that alcohol consumed out of work does not impact time at work in any way. As well as alcohol consumption increasing in the summer, the heat intensifies the impact it has on people.
Our strapline is “Making the workplace a better place to be” – but what does that mean?
Over the years, the management of people within a business has had many different names; the most familiar used today are “personnel” and “Human Resources (HR)”. Whatever you choose to call it, staff have always been managed to a greater or lesser extent and whoever you talk to will always have stories about good and bad managers.
So, why our strapline?
Whether you are the employer or the employee, working in a ‘good’ place makes life far more bearable. We all spend too much of our time at work not to be happy. Doing a job which satisfies and challenges us, working alongside people who’s company we enjoy are both essential elements of a good workplace, but so is the working environment, including business culture and management ethos.
When we work with business owners, we ensure that we fully understand not only the business issues within the company, but the working environment as well:
If a company wants to remain informal, then we help them to develop and/or reinforce an approach which is a ‘soft-touch’, but compliant with employment legislation. This is often the request of small or family owned businesses.
If a company wants to build a base for rapid expansion, then we will ensure all of the HR policies and procedures form a foundation which is solid and easily scalable.
If a company doesn’t know what they want, but has an increasing number of employee relations issues, then we will review what is currently happening, understand the cause of the issues and work with the business owners and / or managers to put into place robust, transparent and well-communicated HR policies, procedures, processes and practices.
This approach to HR Management provides line managers with a mandate to manage, making the workplace better for them. At the same time, employees understand what is expected of them for example: hours of work, dress code, health and safety and sickness notification; and what commitments the company has made with respect to terms and conditions of employment and HR policies such as disciplinaries, grievances, sick pay and leave, annual leave, health and safety, discrimination etc.
‘Making the workplace a better place to be’ may take on many different guises and change over time. At DOHR we ensure we know what the workplace looks like now and how it needs to look in the future. Implementing good HR practices, we work very closely with business owners and managers to realise the vision, to reduce risk to the business and make their workplace a better place to be.
Around 75 per cent of regular computer users still aren’t aware of the principles of good workstation posture, according to research carried out by Clearworld Health & Safety. The consequences of poor posture include neck, back and shoulder pain, as well as joint problems and even increased stress.
Having prepared risk assessments for over 10,000 regular computer users, I consistently find that a tiny minority of computer users experience no problems at all.
Computers are as integral to our lives as phones and TVs, yet the majority of people still don’t seem to be aware of how to use them safely. A few simple changes in the way you sit at your desk can easily prevent the onset of long-term health problems.
Following these five simple tips will help you remain safely seated at work:
Make sure the height of your chair is adjusted so your elbows are level with the desk and the backrest is at a comfortable angle.
There’s an art to sitting properly! Perching on the edge of the chair or leaning forward provides no support for your back. Sit as far back in the chair as possible, so you can feel the backrest support where your back curves inwards.
Prevent twisting and stretching by ensuring the PC screen is directly in front of you, with the keyboard and mouse close enough to have your arms in a comfortable L-shape.
Accessorise if necessary. If your feet aren’t resting flat on the floor, get a footrest. If your wrists are titled upwards when using the keyboard or mouse, get a wrist rest.
Screen breaks should be taken for about five minutes an hour – this can simply mean letting your eyes focus on a different part of the room.
Many owners of small companies aren’t aware that they are legally obliged to have up-to-date health and safety documentation (including workstation risk assessments) if they employ five people or more. For a competent risk assessor to carry out these risk assessments, please visit clearworld.co.uk. For a 10% discount, please mention DOHR at the time of booking.
Haydn Glick (Tech IOSH), Clearworld Health & Safety Ltd.
With the best will in the world, I do sometimes sense that some of my clients find the requirements of health & safety signage a bit unnecessary at times. Is it really necessary to display a “fire exit” sign above the only way out of the building? Is it really necessary to display “fire route” signage pointing people down stairs (rather than up)?… and is it really necessary to display a “no smoking” sign, stating “it is against the law to smoke in these premises” at every entrance to the building?
Well, the good news is that in line with the government’s desire to reduce the burden on small business of excessive health & safety demands, some of the signage requirements have now been relaxed, and a more common-sense approach will now satisfy legal requirements.
A new set of Regulations have been published called The Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2012, which have replaced the Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2007. The major change in the new Regulations is that it is now no longer necessary to display a no-smoking sign of a specific size, shape and content at each entrance to the smoke-free premises. It is now only necessary to display at least one legible no-smoking sign within smoke-free premises, of any size, shape or content.
As far as fire exit and fire route signage is concerned, this has to comply with the requirements of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. These Regulations are specific in requiring pictogram signage of certain shape, size and colour. The location of these signs should be determined within the fire risk assessment for your premises, which should be carried out by a competent person.
If a building is very small with a very simple layout, then a reasonable fire risk assessor should take this into account, apply common sense and not require fire exit or fire route signage to be displayed. If however, there could potentially be any uncertainty as to the best way out of a building during a fire evacuation, then conforming signage should be displayed.
If your premises is in need of a fire risk assessment to be carried out by a competent risk assessor, applying common sense, please visit clearworld.co.uk. For a 10% discount, please mention DOHR at the time of booking.
Haydn Glick (Tech IOSH), Clearworld Health & Safety Ltd.
I am updating an employee handbook for a client at the moment and have written a section called ‘your body at work’. This is a health and safety policy and covers items such as RSI, eyecare, the importance of breaks and manual handling.
As an employer of any size, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that your employees are working in a physically and mentally safe and healthy environment.
Many employees use a computer and monitor (VDU / DSE). If you employ people who spend a significant amount of time using a monitor each day, you are obliged to ensure that they receive regular eyesight tests and if a prescription is required specifically for VDU use, you are obliged to pay for this.
The provision of eyecare to employees should be a documented HR policy and an efficient business process should exist to either reimburse employees through expenses or provide eyecare vouchers.
For assistance in understanding your legal obligations and ensuring your are operating within the law, contact us on 01923 504100 or visit us at www.dohr.co.uk