In a statement, the company confirmed that it had been considering the ban for some time - to bring into line the industry norms, and also in response to uncovering that half of grievance and disciplinary cases over the last two years were related to alcohol.
Other firms such as QBE have previously advised staff not to drink as opposed to an outright ban, leaving it to their managers to decide the most appropriate course of action.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers have a duty to ensure a safe place for work and safe systems of work for their staff. However, it also looks upon substance misuse which includes both alcohol and drugs (whether prescribed over the counter or controlled substances). Managing substance misuse at a workplace is also likely to engage the Data Protection Act 1998, for example in screening test results for drugs and/or alcohol and HR Records of how the employer have dealt with the worker. Any results of any alcohol or drug test would amount to sensitive personal data concerning the individuals physical or mental health or condition.
It is important that an employer has a clear policy in respect of drugs and/or alcohol. The purpose of any such policy is to increase awareness of the effects of alcohol and drugs misuse and to ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities regarding alcohol or drugs misuse and related problems. Staff who have an alcohol or drug related problem should be encouraged to seek help at an early stage and staff who have an alcohol or drug related problem affecting the work, are dealt with sympathetically, fairly and consistently.
It is up to an employer as to whether they take a zero alcohol tolerance approach to the workplace and work-related events, or to limit that to normal working day i.e. the approach taken by Lloyd’s of London.
Sexism in the workplace has been rife in recent news, with MPs demanding that the government look to enforce the law to ban sexist dress rules at work that are discriminatory against women.
The article, published by BBC News touched briefly upon the Equality Act 2010 and the legal standing that women have regarding discriminatory dress rules at work. We look more closely at this legislation to understand what is currently protected under its rule.
The Equality Act 2010 is concerned with discrimination and harassment in respect of the following protected characteristics:
Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful for an employer to:
Discrimination in employment is generally prohibited, however, there are certain circumstances where an employer may have a defence in respect of an act of discrimination. For example, there may be an occupational requirement; however, being sexy at work is not a job requirement.
If you have bought or been given something for Christmas that does not work it is important to know what rights you have.
Most people will have heard of the Sale of Goods Act, which for years has given consumers a right of redress against businesses who sell faulty goods, but few will have heard about a new law introduced in 2015 which strengthens consumer rights.
Nadia Fabri is a litigation solicitor at Pinney Talfourd. Below she explains the increased protection now available to consumers in the UK who purchase goods, services or digital content following the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
The Consumer Rights Act is designed to ensure that if something you purchase is faulty, not as described, or not suitable for the purpose for which it was intended, you have the right to insist that the business you bought it from does something about it.
Knowing your rights can help you challenge a retailer or supplier who fails to deliver on their promises. This is something that you might need to do at any time of the year but which tends to happen more frequently after Christmas.
When a business sells you goods you have the right to be provided with goods that are of satisfactory quality, fit for the purpose for which they are intended to be used and as described in any literature or promotional material. If the goods are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described, you have the right to do a number of things depending on the circumstances.
You have a short-term right to reject the goods within 30 days of purchasing them if you wish to do so. This is unless the goods you have bought are perishable, such as food, in which case rejection must happen sooner.
Once 30 days have passed you have the right to request that faulty goods, or goods which are not fit for purpose, or do not match their description, are repaired or replaced. If an attempt at repair or a replacement still falls below the expected standard you then have a further right to reject the goods or to ask for a price reduction.
When a business provides you with a service you have the right to receive a service that is provided with reasonable skill and care, which is charged at the rate agreed and which is performed within the time agreed. Where rates of pay or the timeframe for performance have not been agreed you have the right to be charged a reasonable rate and for the service to be provided within a reasonable time.
Where a business has told you certain things about a service or the person who will be providing it, and those things influenced you in your decision to buy the service, you also have the right to hold the business to account if the things you have been told are not delivered on or turn out to be untrue. This is a new right created by the Consumer Rights Act which makes it easier for consumers to seek redress when promises made by businesses are not honoured.
If services are not provided with reasonable skill and care, or fail to deliver on promises made by the business, you have the right to request that the business performs the service again so that it is performed correctly. Depending on the circumstances you may also have the right to claim a price reduction of up to 100 per cent.
When a business sells you digital content, such as computer software and computer games or music downloads and films, you have the right to content which is of satisfactory quality, fit for its purpose and as described. If this does not happen you have the right to request repair or replacement unless this would be impossible or too expensive, in which case you have the right to a price reduction. If the digital content supplied has caused damage, either to other digital content or a device that you own, you may also have the right to claim compensation if you can show that the supplier of the digital content failed to exercise reasonable skill and care.
The rights in respect of digital content are new; previously digital content was treated as a general sale of goods contract and consumers did not have such extensive rights of redress when things went wrong.
The average British worker takes 4.4 days’ sickness absence every year and minor illnesses such as coughs and colds are often cited as the reason. However, more days are lost on average to more serious complaints such as back, neck and muscle pain.
High levels of sickness absence can lead to reduced production, low staff morale, increased costs and poor customer service. For small employers in particular, this can be very disruptive.
You should have a sickness absence policy in place so that employees understand what is expected of them. It should set out your arrangements for sick pay and for reporting and managing sickness absence. It will help managers to deal with sickness absence fairly and consistently.
From April 2017 employees participating in salary sacrifice schemes, in which an employee gives up part of their salary for a non-cash benefit with both the company and worker paying less tax, will be abolished. Most medium and large organisation offer salary sacrifice schemes, which may include gym memberships and mobile phone deals. This is likely to affect lower paid workers the most. Child care, ultra-low emission cars and cycling to work will not be affected. There is some limited comfort with any arrangement in place before April 2017 being protected until April 2018.
Mr Hammond also announced changes to the income tax threshold, which will increase to £11,500 in April 2017. The government will increase the higher rate income tax threshold to £50,000 by the end of the Parliament.
The National Living Wage to rise will increase from £7.20 an hour to £7.50 from April 2017.
Employer and employer NI thresholds will be equalised at £157 per week from April 2017.
Employers are advised to contact their accountant to discuss how these changes will affect their business in advance of the changes. You are also advised to speak to your employment lawyer regarding updates to employment contracts to reflect any changes to salary sacrifice schemes.
The much publicised case of Ashleigh Harris who has been awarded in excess of £3 million pounds following paralysis after being thrown from her boyfriends family horse ‘Polly Perks’, has caused debate and concern from riders, horse owners and yard owners alike over the possible flood gate effect following this litigation.
An estimated £4billion pounds per year is spent on horses in Great Britain, with over four million people riding each year, as such, there will inevitably be some accidents.
There is, however, a great deal of confusion over the difference between a genuine accident, occurring through no fault of anyone and an accident arising from exposure by another person to an obvious risk of harm.
Ultimately, for any case (equine or not) to be successful, it is for the Claimant to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that;
Each case turns on its own facts and it is therefore important to seek advice from a solicitor, whether you wish to bring a claim or defend a claim being made against you.
How far does The Equality Act protect against discrimination? In the recent ‘gay cake’ dispute in Northern Ireland, an Appeal Court upheld the decision that religious belief does not override the law against discrimination.
The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has handed down its decision deciding on the question of whether religious beliefs overrides the law against discrimination in the supply of goods and services on grounds of sexual orientation.
The appeal was issued following the Court’s decision that Ashers Bakery, owned by Mr & Mrs McArthur cancelled an order to decorate a cake with a picture of Bert & Ernie and the caption 'Support Gay Marriage'. The McArthurs are devout Christians who believe that gay marriage is sinful. They had accepted they cancelled the order because of that belief.
The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal upheld the county court's decision. It held that the benefit from the slogan could only accrue to gay or bisexual people, and that the McArthurs would not have objected to decorating a cake saying 'Support Heterosexual Marriage'. The 'reason why' they cancelled the order was that the message related to gay marriage, and there was an exact correspondence between those of the particular sexual orientation and those whom the message supported the right to marry. This was a case of 'associative discrimination' with the gay and bisexual community, and amounted to direct discrimination.
The Court of Appeal held that the McArthurs' own right to free speech (i.e. objecting to gay marriage) was not being infringed.
It pays to be aware of your responsibilities to disabled persons under the Equality Act 2010.
From determining whether it is discriminatory to ask a job applicant about their health and abilities, through to justifying a refusal to allow a disabled worker to opt out of shift working, to dismissing a disabled employee for high rates of disability related absence – consideration of the law relating to disability discrimination is needed at all stages of the employee life-cycle.
Alex Pearce, our employment law specialist outlines the key principles and ways to reduce the risk of disability claims.
For the purposes of the Equality Act, a disability is a mental or physical impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse impact on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. When assessing the adverse impact of any impairment, the effects of medication or physical aids should be disregarded.
There is no need for a person to be registered as disabled in order for them to be classed as having a disability. This is clear from case law, in which severe eczema, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and even obesity have all been found capable of amounting to a disability.
This is a round-up of the main employment law changes that have recently come into effect, including those taking place from Autumn 2016.
The national minimum wage is reviewed every year and traditionally any increases come into force in the autumn. The new hourly rates from 1 October 2016 are:
It is understood that these rate changes will only apply for six months because the government has decided to align all further changes with the national living wage changes, which will take effect on 1 April each year.
This also means that the national living wage, payable to workers aged 25 and over, will not go up on 1 October 2016 as expected but will change on 1 April 2017. The national living wage is currently £7.20. The Low Pay Commission is set to recommend to the government later in the month the level of rates to apply from April 2017.
The accommodation offset limit has risen to £6.00 per day.
From 1st October 2016 the new minimum wage rate increase comes into effect. The increases now mean that those aged over 21 years will benefit from a 4% pay rise:
21-24 year olds increases from £6.70 to £6.95
18-20 year olds increases from £5.30 to £5.55
16-17 year olds increases from £3.87 to £4.00
Apprentice rate increases from £3.30 to £3.40
(From 25 years you are entitled to the national living wage. This did not change on 1 October)
ACAS has also published new guidance for young people who are starting work for the first time, setting out what their rights and obligations are. The guidance provides essential advice on legal issues that young people may face at work, including special employment rights for 16 and 17 year olds, information on apprenticeships and the national minimum wage.
On 12 July 2016 changes to illegal working offences in the Immigration Act 2016 came into force, introducing tougher penalties for employers found to be flouting the rules.
As the government is keen to crack down on employers who turn a blind eye to employing illegal migrants, with fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker and possible disqualification for directors, it is more vital than ever for employers to make sure employees have the correct right to work documents. The Home Office also names and shames employers found employing an illegal worker, so your business reputation could be on the line too.
Under current law, employers can only legally employ an individual who has permission to live and work in the UK.
To stay on the right side of the law, you will need to ensure that your existing procedures for checking that all new workers have the legal right to work in the UK are being complied with before they start work. Also, you should ask to see the documentation of existing workers and diarise reminders to check the paperwork again when their documents are near to expiry. As long as you make these checks, and take action where necessary, there will be nothing to fear.
The Legal 500 rankings are carefully selected after rigorous assessment and provide a guide to the top legal providers across the UK. We are the only Legal 500 recognised personal injury firm in Havering and in Brentwood.
Stephen Green is a Partner and leads our personal injury team. Stephen is a specialist personal injury solicitor with many years of experience. His particular strengths include industrial disease claims and claims resulting major road traffic accidents. The 2016 edition of Legal 500 specifically notes one of his more complex cases: ‘Acted for a Claimant making a dependency claim arising from the death of her partner from mesothelioma due to occupational asbestos exposure. Claim settled at the top end of a six figure sum”.
Stephen has written a case study on this case (link to ‘when a personal injury settlement is final’) and has worked in association with Mesothelioma UK to set up a support group for sufferers of asbestos related disease in Essex.
Stephen is a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). He is also an APIL Accredited Fellow. He is also a member of Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates.
The Legal 500 rankings are carefully selected after rigorous assessment and provide a guide to the top legal providers across the UK.
Legal 500 noted in the rankings that “Pinney Talfourd’s ‘team of specialists’ includes the efficient and knowledgeable’ Alex Pearce. It is noted for its ‘sound and practical advice.’”
Notable cases include ‘acting for a record label regarding the employment aspects on the sale of the share capital to an international group of music companies and a hive out agreement of the merchandising and live events.’
The issue of how to calculate holiday pay has rarely been out of the news in the last few years with a steady stream of case law on the topic. We turn our attention to an issue on which there has been little guidance: voluntary overtime.
Alex Pearce, employment law specialist at Pinney Talfourd in Essex advises on whether you should include voluntary overtime in your holiday pay calculations.
In Bear Scotland Ltd v Fulton  the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) decided that employers have to take into account compulsory non-guaranteed overtime payments when calculating holiday pay in respect of the four weeks’ annual leave given by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). So, if you do not guarantee overtime but your employee must work it if required, then you will need to include payments for this in their holiday pay.
But the Bear Scotland case did not give us any answers on what to do when it comes to voluntary overtime. Voluntary overtime is work that you do not have to offer and which your employee can turn down if they do not wish to work it.
A new case, albeit only an employment tribunal case, which is not actually binding on other tribunals or the EAT, has given some guidance on whether voluntary overtime should be included when you work out holiday pay. Pending any appeal there may be against this decision, it does give an indication of how tribunals are likely to approach the issue. In White and others v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council , the 56 claimants worked as skilled tradespeople, maintaining the council’s stock of social housing. They were invited to work on a Saturday on a voluntary basis and they also agreed to be on a standby rota, every four weeks, for emergency call-outs and repairs. Many of them gained another £725 every month for the week they were on standby.
On 22 July 2016, the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee published its report on the employment practices at Sports Direct.
Sports Direct has over 400 stores staffed by employees, on zero-hour contracts and is the largest sporting retailer in the UK. The Company’s headquarters and warehouse is situated in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. There it has 200 permanent employees and over 3,000 agency workers.
The Committee heard a series of accounts of worker mistreatment, including staff being penalised for matters such as taking a short break to drink water and for taking time off work when ill – the ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy.
On 22 July 2016, the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee published a highly critical report on its employment practices. In particular, the Committee considered that:
"The way the business model at Sports Direct is operated, in both the warehouse at Shirebrook and in the shops across the country, involves treating workers as commodities rather than as human beings with rights, responsibilities and aspirations. The low-cost products for customers, and the profits generated for the shareholders, come at the cost of maintaining contractual terms and working conditions which fall way below acceptable standards in a modern, civilised economy. There is a risk that this model - which has proved successful for Mr Ashley - will become the norm. We will be considering the full implications of this business model in the context of our broader inquiry into the labour market." (Paragraph 34.)
If an employer has accused you of misconduct, you should get independent legal advice to ensure your employment rights are protected.