Thursday, 29 November 2018

Christmas workers have rights too

Temporary Christmas workers have the right to be treated just as fairly as your permanent staff according to a Shropshire employment lawyer.

Gemma Workman, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said at such a busy time of year, many employers needed to recruit extra workers, particularly in the retail sector.

“Obviously Christmas brings increased pressure with frantic shoppers trying to find the very best presents for their loved ones, and retail businesses need more staff to meet customer demand.

But even if you’re only employing staff for a short period of time over the holidays, you need to start by issuing these temporary workers with a contract of employment.”

Miss Workman said the contract should clearly set out the end date of the employment, and include a clause to allow either the employer or the worker to terminate the arrangement early.

“You must also ensure that temporary workers who are doing the same or a similar job to any of your permanent staff are included in pension or bonus schemes – unless you can objectively justify their exclusion.”

She said any temporary staff taken on through an agency were also entitled to treatment that was on a level playing field.

“Agency workers are entitled to access all the facilities in the workplace such as the canteen, car parking, and a creche from their very first day. They are also entitled to information on any permanent vacancies in your company from that first shift. But to qualify for extended employment rights and conditions, they would need to complete 12 weeks service and stay in the same role with your company for the entire three months.”

Miss Workman said the qualifying time would need to start from scratch if the agency worker moved to a new company and would be paused if they took time off sick – but during any maternity, paternity or adoption absences, the clock would still be ticking.

“It’s also an employer’s responsibility to check that any potential staff have permission to work here or you could face a civil penalty of up to £20,000. If you’re using an agency to hire your temporary staff though, as long as they remain employed by the agency throughout their contract, it would be the agency’s legal responsibility to check their work status.”

Miss Workman said when it came to salary, temporary Christmas workers must also receive a pro rata amount of pay and benefits compared to a permanent employee, unless it was not reasonable or it was inappropriate, such as a season ticket loan that permanent staff received.

“Temporary Christmas staff may well meet an urgent need, but they must be treated fairly and equally throughout their time in your business.”

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Employers can avoid a festive hangover

Staff Christmas parties can be an employers’ nightmare both during and after the event – but not if your company is well-prepared.

That’s the message from John Mehtam, the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, who said there were ways to avoid the dreaded personnel hangover following festive celebrations.

“Christmas parties are well-known for causing a festive headache, and not just for any staff who have one too many to drink either.

“Statistics show that staff parties at this time of year can be a minefield – with half of all parties ending with work colleagues fighting; one in three parties brings allegations of sexual harassment; and one in five parties ends with an accident involving employees.

"And although traditionally parties take place away from the office and out of hours, as an employer you could well be held liable, particularly if alcohol has been provided. Make sure you have a clear social media policy in place too, as embarrassing photographs of your staff or managers in compromising situations where they can clearly be associated with your company can cause irreparable damage to your company’s reputation.”

Mr Mehtam advised employers to take note of a recent case where the Court of Appeal had ruled that a company should be held liable when an employee launched a violent assault on a colleague at a heavy drinking session straight after the firm’s Christmas party.

“Originally the courts decided this was a separate incident for which the employer was not responsible. The row occurred after the company party when half the guests decided to go on to a hotel where some were staying to continue drinking.

“The attack was triggered by a work-related discussion, when the managing director felt his authority was being challenged. The victim made a claim for damages against the company saying it was vicariously liable for the managing director’s conduct, which was initially unsuccessful as the court decided the drinks were separate from the Christmas party itself and at a separate location.

“Now though, the Court of Appeal has ruled that because the assailant owned the company and because the gathering was a follow-on from an organised work event, with the company paying for taxis and drink, they believe the company should be held vicariously liable.

“So it’s clear that employers need to be sensitive when it comes to handling the fallout from any staff Christmas celebration, otherwise they could face a very awkward atmosphere in the workplace in the cold light of day.”