Tag Archives: Employers

Zero hours workers must be able to work elsewhere

The Government is pushing ahead with its proposal to ban exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

Exclusivity clauses state that although the employer is under no obligation to offer work, the worker is prohibited from accepting work from any other employer.

This has long been seen as unfair and the Government has now published a draft set of regulations to bring this ban into force. The regulations will also include penalties for employers who try to avoid this prohibition, generally by offering a very low number of guaranteed hours or no work or fewer opportunities to workers who also undertake work elsewhere.

The bottom line is, if you offer zero hours contracts you must allow workers to accept work elsewhere if offered and you must not subject them to any detriment if they do so.

Posted by: Clare Nicolaou Employment lawyer,  Novalex Solicitors

Suspending employees – when and why?

The Times reported yesterday that Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending investigation after reportedly aiming a punch at a male producer.

Allegations of physical or attempted physical violence will generally lead to an employee being suspended but sometimes employers will suspend as a knee jerk reaction in other circumstances where it may not be necessary.

Suspension should only be used where there is no viable alternative and, because it is not in itself a disciplinary sanction, it should be with full pay. So, when should employers consider suspending an employee? Some general pointers are as follows:

  1. Where the allegations are serious and may (if proven) amount to gross misconduct;
  2. Where there is a danger that if left at work the employee may tamper with evidence or pressurize witnesses;
  3. Where leaving the employee at work may threaten the safety of other individuals.

Often, however, there may be other temporary solutions whilst the investigation is under-way.  For example, employees under investigation may be moved to alternative locations or onto different shifts if they need to be kept away from certain people.

If there is no option but to suspend, any periods of suspension should be as short as possible and the individual should be given regular updates as to the ongoing investigation.

Posted by: Clare Nicolaou Employment lawyer,  Novalex Solicitors 

Contractual staff handbooks – change them at your peril!

Posted by: Clare Nicolaou Employment lawyer,  Novalex Solicitors

A sober consideration for employers if your handbooks are contractual…..

An interesting recent High Court case has confirmed that an employer cannot unilaterally change the terms of a staff handbook in relation to its procedures for managing absence.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for a number of different agencies, each of which has a departmental handbook, broadly similar to that of the others. In this case the issue was to do with trigger points for attendance management. The handbooks allowed employees to have between 8 and 21 days off sick (depending on the agency) before a formal attendance process was triggered, and the policy was stated to be contractual.

The DfT wanted to bring in changes to its attendance policy and following unsuccessful negotiations with its trade unions it decided to unilaterally impose a change such that the trigger point would now be 5 days or 3 occasions of absence within a rolling 12 month period.

In a group legal action 7 claimants working across different agencies took the matter to court. They sought a declaration that the changes were not binding and that their original contracts of employment subsisted.

The High Court agreed and granted the declaration. They decided that the change was detrimental to the claimants and that the DfT was not entitled to make these changes unilaterally. The original position remained.  Whilst this case was “fact specific” and is more complex than a brief blog allows, there is a moral to this story:

– employers may be better off stating their policies to be non-contractual if they want to make unilateral changes.