Monday, 22 May 2006

Don't fear age rules

Shropshire employers who treat their staff fairly need not fear new rules on age discrimination.

The new legislation takes effect on October 1, and bans most forms of age discrimination in the workplace, as well as setting the national retirement age at 65.

But John Mehtam, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said in reality, the new guidelines should cause few problems for companies where people were already treated fairly and with consideration.

“Many companies are concerned about the new rules, and the penalties are certainly severe if firms fail to stick to the criteria.

“But if employers act now and ensure they get the right advice on just how the rules must be implemented, most right-thinking companies should find they have very few changes to make.”

John said ACAS, the conciliation service had issued new guidance on the legislation, to try to reassure employers.

“It takes companies through every possible situation where age discrimination could crop up, from first recruiting staff, to promoting them, training, discipline, and rewards, through to retirement.

“The guidance includes suggestions such as removing age or date of birth requests from application forms, and avoiding words such as energetic, young or mature when advertising for new staff.

“And employers will also have to ensure ageist jokes are banned from the workplace to avoid any possible harassment claims.

“But in companies where employees are already treated with respect, many of these new rules are probably already being followed - the new legislation is merely formalising the situation.

“Employers should not be facing the start of October with dread, but taking every opportunity to find out all they can before the deadline comes round, and so make sure they are well prepared in advance.”

Thursday, 18 May 2006

More rights for temporary staff

Shropshire companies must take care when it comes to employing temporary staff, a local solicitor has warned.

John Mehtam, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said recent court judgements had strengthened the rights of such employees, which could cause real problems.

“This new position may make it very difficult for employers who want to go through agencies and take on temporary workers.

“There is always the risk, particularly where someone has worked for your company for a considerable length of time on a temporary basis, that the court may decide you have an implied contract of employment with them.

“This means they could be entitled to employment rights where previously these were limited.

“So you will no longer be free to take people on as temporary workers and be fully confident that you won’t be found liable for unfair dismissal if the relationship comes to an end.

“This is despite the fact that the law actually says unfair dismissal claims can only be brought by employees with a contract.”

John said employers would need to be extremely careful and define the relationship with the temporary or contract worker as soon as possible.

“You will need to agree at the outset that there will be no possibility of a contract between your company and the temporary worker, no matter how the situation develops or how long they work for you.

“In this way, you should be able to protect your company and still reap the benefits of employing temporary staff when you need them.”

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Get your game plan ready

Shropshire employers are being urged to draw up a game plan well in advance of the forthcoming football World Cup.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said many companies were likely to face staffing issues during the tournament.

“It’s clear that companies should be prepared for unauthorised absences, particularly on the days of the biggest matches.

“After all, there are 64 matches altogether, all of which will be covered on television and in other media, which could prove too much of a temptation for your staff.”

John said employees should of course use their annual leave to watch football, but this would be impractical as not everyone could be away from the workplace at the same time.

“There are ways you can tackle the issue though, and if you can prove they took unauthorised time off just to watch a match, you could issue disciplinary warnings.

“But a more sensible approach may be to take the initiative, and be flexible, which will lead to more harmony in the workplace.

“Why not give your staff the opportunity to watch the England games on the television in the office rest area?

“Make it clear that this is open to everyone, and stress that if they take unauthorised leave rather than sticking to the agreed arrangement, they will face tough disciplinary action.

“You could then either ask staff to make up the time they spent watching the match, or let them take it at your expense - think of the benefits of that in motivational terms, and after all, it’s only 90 minutes.

“The World Cup is set to be an inevitable distraction for a large number of employees in all kinds of workplaces this summer, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult problem.

“Be pro-active and draw up your game plan well in advance so that everyone knows where they stand - and you may even find the tournament brings out a team spirit you’ve never seen before, particularly if England do well.”