Last reviewed 20 May 2019

A summary of the top five issues that customers have been calling the Business Support helpline about in April 2019.

Contractual Terms

Recently, BBC radio presenter Danny Baker posted a tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son, Archie. His tweet came from his personal social media account. He posted it in his own time and it had nothing to do with the BBC. However many people, including his bosses, found it offensive. Soon after, he was fired.

Posting inappropriate messages on personal platforms can be tricky for employers to handle correctly, but to safely challenge online comments, it’s essential to implement a robust social media policy.

Your policy can state the terms of use for social media at work and at home. You can use it to define the types of online activities that count as gross misconduct. This can include any comments that:

  • Compromise or disclose confidential or sensitive data.

  • Damage your business’s reputation or brand.

  • Breach copyright or data protection.

  • Contain libel, defamatory or illegal content.

  • Engage in bullying or harassment.

  • Interfere with your work commitments.

  • Use your business name to promote products or political opinions.

Redundancy

As we approach summer, you may be considering hiring seasonal workers. It’s important to note that these workers can be classed as ‘fixed-term’ employees due to the fact they have a contract with your organisation and their contract ends on a particular date, or after a specific job is completed.

This means they enjoy the same rights as your company's permanent employees and they must not be treated less-favourably than those employees doing the same job, unless you can show good reason for doing so. This includes:

  • The same pay and conditions.

  • The same, or equivalent, benefits.

  • Information about permanent vacancies in the organisation.

  • Protection against redundancy or dismissal.

Agency workers are slightly different as they don’t work directly for your company and it’s the responsibility of the agency to make sure workers get their rights under working time regulations. After 12 weeks’ continuous employment in the same role, agency workers get the same terms and conditions as permanent employees, including pay, working time, rest periods, night work, breaks and annual leave.

Absence and sickness

This month, employers should be aware of the potential impact on health that fasting can have on employees observing the traditions of Ramadan.

With a Muslim community of some 3 million in the UK, many workers will be affected, with fasting potentially lasting up to 19 hours on warm days.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises employers to review risk assessments if they are no longer valid or if there has been any “significant change”.

There are many work-related scenarios where fasting could be seen as a significant challenge. In situations where workers are engaged in manual labour, for example. Operating safety-critical machinery or working at height, also pose risks. Dehydration (and the possibility of dizziness and fatigue) could have health & safety implications.

It's important for employers to acknowledge and action how to best support fasting employees.

Medical and Statutory Sick Pay

When your employees are off sick, they may be able to get some form of sick pay.

They may be eligible for either (or both) of the two types of pay available:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

  • Occupational Sick Pay (OSP)

OSP payment (or company sick pay) is for sickness absences paid for by the organisation. It’s a payment you may choose to provide your employees. If you do, payment should be equal to or greater than the SSP they would receive.

It’s important to have a policy in place that clarifies your employees’ entitlements in relation to sick pay.

The policy should highlight the conditions under which your staff are entitled to occupational sick pay and SSP. It should also include the process for requesting it.

For employers that choose to provide their staff with occupational sick pay, it is strongly advised to have a company sick pay policy in place. A consistent sick pay policy reduces the potential for discrimination claims and puts everyone on an equal footing.

Discipline

Sometimes, if an employee breaks your rules, you have no choice but to conduct a disciplinary. To communicate disciplinary action, you can write a disciplinary letter to inform staff of a breach or potential break of company policy or code of practice.

To avoid discrimination claims, the letter must include details of the employee's entitlements during the procedure such as their right to have a trade union representative or a colleague present — as well as the expected process.

It’s important this process is fair and consistent amongst all staff members to prevent allegations of inequality.

These documents may later serve as proof when sending out a disciplinary action letter for insubordination, misconduct, lateness, performance, etc.

The letter should include:

  • Details and procedure of a disciplinary hearing.

  • Documents and other supporting evidence.

  • A list of people who will attend the hearing.

  • The employee’s right to having someone present.

To speak with a HR advisor for advice on any of the above topics, or any other employment law guidance, call 0800 231 5199.