Wednesday, 11 October 2017

ACAS Publishes New Mental Health Guidance

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ACAS have just published a new guide called ‘Promoting positive mental health in the workplace – October 2017’.    ACAS say the guide is primarily written for employers and senior managers and it aims to explain how to change the workplace to promote positive mental health.  The guide also sets out markers as to where to get other useful information (such as from Mind, Access to Work, the NHS etc….).   The guide is broken down into five steps, each of which I have summarised below.

Step 1 - Understanding mental health

The first step of the guide provides useful information to help employers recognise what mental health is.  For example, it sets out a depiction of the spectrum of mental health covering positive mental health, poor mental health and diagnosed mental health conditions.  It also explains some of the causes of mental health issues, and deals with the obligations employers have towards employees when dealing with staff who are suffering with a mental health condition. 

Step 2 - Making a commitment to improve mental health at work

The second step of the guide encourages employers to develop action plans to change people’s attitudes, to create a mental health policy setting out their values, and to ensure that senior managers are aware of mental health and fight to remove the stigma surrounding mental health within the work place.  

To assist employers, ACAS provide guidance in terms of what should be included in a mental health policy.  This is no doubt positive, but what stands out to me as being important is really encouraging staff to be open about their condition without fear of discrimination.  Once staff feel confident enough to speak to their employer, they will be able to access the support they need.

Step 3 - Identifying ways to improve the work place

The third step of the guide stipulates that employers should identify how they can change the workplace to improve the mental health of their staff.   This includes tackling the work-related causes of mental ill health, providing additional resources of support, and working with Trade Unions and other employee representatives. 

This section starts off by giving examples of how to identify the causes of mental health conditions such as reviewing sickness data, staff surveys, 121s, etc…..  It then lists some common problems such as unmanageable workloads, lack of control, poor relationships with colleagues, job insecurity etc…. and gives suggested ways of dealing with them.  This section of the guidance is highly adaptable and so would work for either a large or small employer and is a great troubleshooting guide.

Step 4 - Educate the work force about mental health

The fourth step of the guide sets out the importance of all staff understanding what mental health actually means and what support is available should they need it. Therefore, under step four, ACAS stipulate that the employer should train all managers to deal with mental health, train all staff on mental health awareness to help them understand their own mental health and support the health of others, and continue to regularly talk about mental health.  The suggested channels for regular discussion include team meetings, 121s, informal chats, awareness days, noticeboards, newsletters etc…..

Step 5 Where to go for further support

The fifth step of the guide is about ensuring that management know where they can go for help and advice and where they can encourage staff to go for additional help and advice. Links to a variety of websites are provided including www.mindfulemployer.net, www.time-to-change.org.uk, www.fitforwork.org, mind.org.uk etc……

ASSISTANCE FROM LINCSLAW

From my experience over the last 10 years, there does appear to be a misunderstanding of mental health and a perception by employees that employers won’t understand them and will not support them.  If this ACAS publication raises the profile of mental health within the workplace and encourages employers to offer more support, it is a genuinely positive and welcome step.

However, it may take some time for the guidance to filter through.  Therefore, in the meantime, if you or anyone you know is suffering with mental health issues and requires specialist employment law advice please do not hesitate to get in touch.  You can call for a free no-obligation consultation on 01522 568410, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.

Sophie Goodwill, LincsLaw Solicitors, DDI: 01522 568410 / Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Information source - http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/o/7/Promoting-positive-mental-health-in-the-workplace.pdf

 

 

I recently assisted a client with a Settlement Agreement. He had been in dispute with his employer and raised grievances and complaints with the assistance of a legal helpline. Matters had come to a head and he was advised by the helpline to accept a Settlement Agreement with an offer from his employers of immediate dismissal and compensation of £7,000.

He booked in with me to, in his words, “sign off” on the agreement. When we met, I went through the background of the situation with him. I explained the purpose of the Settlement Agreement and that if he were to sign, his employment would end and he would not be able to bring any claims at the Employment Tribunal against his employer. He was a little taken aback as despite getting advice from the helpline, this hadn’t been explained to him.

I then went through the claims I believed he had and how much I thought they were worth. I was more than a little concerned that he was ending his employment, giving away all his claims and giving his employers the security of knowing he could not take action against him for much less than he would receive were he to go to the Employment Tribunal. He was very distressed by this as he explained no-one had taken the time to go through everything with him before. He even showed me an email from the helpline saying he should accept £7,000.

In the event, he instructed me to renegotiate his Settlement Agreement for him. After a few phone calls and a couple of letters, he agreed to accept three months’ notice pay, two weeks accrued but outstanding holiday and a compensation payment of £14,000. We calculated that his new Settlement Agreement represented an increase of £15,000 over the offer he had originally asked me to “sign off”.

When we had a final meeting, my client said he was put off using solicitors because he thought they were expensive. He was aware of the irony as even though the helpline was free, it could have cost him over £15,000.

If you have been given a Settlement Agreement, make sure you are being properly compensated for the rights and claims you are agreeing to give away. Please call Lincs Law Solicitors on 01522 539501 to discuss your situation. As specialist employment law solicitors, we can advise you where you stand and help you make an informed decision about your offer.

Sally Hubbard
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Solicitors, Lincoln

 

Friday, 06 October 2017

In The News This Week.....

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Earlier this week, we learned the sad news that Monarch Airlines have been placed into administration.  The knock-on impact for customers was that over 300,000 future flights were cancelled and over 100,000 holiday makers were stranded overseas awaiting repatriation to the UK.

In addition to the chaos suffered by customers, it is believed that around 1,900 Monarch employees have lost their jobs without proper consultation, a situation Unite the Union are looking into on behalf of their members.  

This is no doubt a massively anxious time for employees and so it prompted me to remind readers about the legal requirements surrounding redundancy and redundancy consultation.

Consultation

The number of employees at risk of redundancy will impact on the length of consultation required to be given by the employer.  For more than 20 employees, but less than 100 employees – the employer must consult for a minimum of 30 days. For more than 100 employees – the employer must consult for a minimum of 45 days. 

The consultation should be meaningful. Employees should understand why the employer is proposing redundancies, what the employer is hoping the redundancy will achieve, what will happen to the employee’s duties and responsibilities, what alternatives have the employer has considered to making redundancies, when dismissals are going to take place, how employees are going to be selected and what payments are likely to follow.   Ideally, their answers to all of these issues should be in writing so you have a clear record.

Selection for Redundancy

There are two main things to be aware of in the selection for redundancy process.  Firstly, you need to know how the pool of employees is made up and secondly, how will selection take place.   The pool for selection is the group of employees the employer decides they will select from to make employees redundant.  The pool might be the sales team, the finance team, or the whole company.  Each case will be different.  If your employer has identified a pool of employees from which they intend to select for redundancy, you need to be satisfied this pool is right (by this we mean not too wide and not to narrow).  You can question your employer as to how they selected the employees for the pool. 

Once you know the pool, there will be a selection process.   Selection could be by a marking system based on your qualifications, disciplinary record, sales or production performance etc…. or by other means, such as interview or an assessment.  You must make sure you understand how scores will be allocated and if your scores are fair.   Things to consider are what evidence the employer has obtained to calculate the score, and making sure you are given proper information and time to prepare for any assessments or interviews.  Always ask for detailed feedback following a selection process so you can check the scores are correct.

Suitable alternative positions?

If you’re unfortunate enough to be selected for redundancy, your employer should do all they can to minimise the risk of dismissal by looking at suitable alternative employment.  Make sure you ask your employer about any other roles, speak to HR and check any internal job boards.   A failure to offer or consider suitable alternative positions can give rise to a claim.

Payments to expect?

If you are selected for redundancy and you believe the selection to be fair, you still need to make sure you receive all your entitlements.  Things to look out for here are:

Redundancy pay.  Check your statutory entitlement which you can usually do online.  Also, see if the company are offering anything better – usually referred to as an enhancement.  Enhancements can significantly increase payments so always check. However, remember that in some cases if you are offered an enhancement, you might be expected to sign something called a Settlement Agreement.  The basic position here is that you will receive an enhancement, and in exchange, you agree not to pursue any claims against your employer.

Notice pay.  Check your contract to see the notice the company are required to give you.  This could be anything - one month, three months, six months or even longer.  However, in the absence of having any contract, remember that you are legally entitled to one week of notice for every full year of employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Outstanding holiday pay, bonus, commission and expenses.  Check your holiday records and any performance figures to ensure you get all you are entitled to here.

If you have any employment law queries or concerns please call us on 01522 539501. You are under no obligation and you will not be charged for your enquiry. Alternatively, visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk for more information.

Sophie Goodwill, Specialist Employment Law Solicitor

DDI: 01522 568410 / Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday, 29 September 2017

A Gentle Reminder.......

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Earlier this week I attended a training course during which I and the other delegates had an in-depth conversation about the impact of the recent case of R (on the application of UNISON) – v – Lord Chancellor.  You may recall from my earlier blogs that this was a Supreme Court decision that declared Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal fees unlawful under both domestic and EU Law.

During our discussions, headed up by a number of leading Barristers, I was really pleased to learn that there has already been an increase in the number of claims being received by Employment Tribunals.  However, there was a feeling amongst all course delegates that many members of the public still don’t realise that Employment Tribunal fees have been abolished.   The general consensus is that it may take at least 6 months for this news to properly sink in and for claims to increase to the levels previously seen before 2013.  

The purpose of this blog is therefore to remind readers that if you wish to pursue claims in the Employment Tribunal, such as Unfair Dismissal, Unpaid Wages, Holiday Pay, Breach of Contract, Discrimination etc…… you can now do so without paying any Employment Tribunal Fees.    The knock-on effect is that you could save yourself £1200.00 in the fees that were previously payable and so NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!!!!

If you or anyone you know needs help with an Employment Tribunal claim or any other employment law issue, call Lincs Law Solicitors on 01522 539501 or 01522 568410.  We are happy to give you a free initial telephone consultation. Alternatively, you can contact us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.  We look forward to hearing from you.  We want to help.

Sophie Goodwill

Specialist Employment Law Solicitor

DDI: 01522 568 410 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Monday, 30 November -0001

Redundancy - Keep going until the end!

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Going through a consultation and redundancy process is extremely difficult for any employee. However, even after the decision has been made and the redundancy notices have been sent out, the employer still owes an obligation to try and avoid the termination of their employee’s employment. Unfortunately, employers sometimes forget their ongoing obligation, especially where the redundant employee has a long notice period.

What may have initially been a fair decision to make an employee redundant, can later become an unfair dismissal due to the employer’s failure to meet their ongoing obligations during the employee’s notice period. If vacancies arise with your employer whilst you are serving your notice, you should be considered for those vacancies as a means of avoiding your redundancy.

I recently assisted a client who was made redundant from a school. The school was restructuring and reducing staff numbers. My client was in a selection pool with one other colleague. The school were reducing from two posts to one. Unfortunately, my client was selected for redundancy. Although he was not happy with the decision, he had no real complaint about the fairness of the process. He received his letter confirming the decision to make him redundant and began his twelve week notice period.

Around two weeks before his employment was due to end, my client’s colleague had a personal matter which meant he had to leave his employment with the school urgently and return to his family in another part of the country. My client and his colleague went to the Headteacher to explain the situation. Ideally, they wanted the school to allow the colleague to volunteer for redundancy and for my client to continue his employment.

The school refused my client’s suggestion. The colleague submitted his resignation and despite the fact my client was about to be dismissed due to redundancy, the school advertised a vacant position. My client applied stating that he should be offered the position as it would avoid his redundancy. He also commented that he had been doing the job for seven years without disciplinary or complaint. The school refused his application and allowed his employment to be terminated.

When my client came to see me, I advised he had an excellent claim for unfair dismissal. The decisions by the school were completely illogical and defied all common sense. Whilst the initial redundancy consultations had been undertaken correctly, once my client was serving his notice the school refused to reconsider their decision as a consequence of a change in circumstances. In the event, before we even got to the Employment Tribunal, my client was offered a financial settlement through the ACAS Early Conciliation Procedure which he accepted.

If you are going through a redundancy process at work, please contact Lincslaw Solicitors on 01522 539501 for a free initial telephone consultation. Alternatively, for more information about who we are and what we do, visit our website at http://www.lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/resignation-dismissal-and-redundancy/redundancy.

Sally Hubbard
Specialist Employment Solicitor
LincsLaw Solicitors, Lincoln

Monday, 30 November -0001

Choosing an Employment Lawyer

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Choosing a solicitor to represent you in your employment matter is a difficult decision. The wrong decision can result in a frustrating and costly waste of effort. A recent client brought these problems into clear focus.

This gentleman had been made redundant in circumstances he believed were unfair and discriminated against him as a disabled person. He had instructed the solicitors who had dealt with his house sale to advise him. Having spent more than £5,000 with them over three months, and having still not submitted his Employment Tribunal claim, he had decided to take his business elsewhere. He came to us as he wanted a solicitors’ firm dealing exclusively in Employment Law.

We met for a Fixed Fee Consultation and I went through his circumstances. Our meeting was over two hours but by the end I was able to identify his claims, give an idea of the value of any Employment Tribunal award, set out the next steps and agree funding arrangements to go forward. I then confirmed my advice in writing.

My client sent a lovely email after our meeting stating his Fixed Fee Consultation was the best £240.00 he had ever spent. Despite the money he had paid to his first solicitors, he had been completely in the dark about the strength of his case and been given no idea how much his claim might be worth. In the event, I was able to secure a settlement for him shortly after I issued his claim.

My client explained he gone to his original solicitors because he had used them before. He had not realised how different his experience would be from one department to another. He had found me from my reviews on Vouched For and commented that had he come to LincsLaw in the first place he could have saved himself a considerable amount of time, worry and money.

If you need advice about a problem at work or are considering an Employment Tribunal claim, please call me on 01522 539501 for a free, no obligation consultation. For more information about LincsLaw solicitors including what we do and how we do it, please visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk

Sally Hubbard
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor

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