Managing Staff…On the Right Side of the Law

Often in the UK we find that when new laws come in there is a flurry of activity that includes training and advice for managers. But as the years fly by, we find that companies just assume that managers now know all that they need to know. The reality of course is that managers come and managers go, so ongoing training is needed if you want to avoid expensive mistakes.

We can’t provide training here, but in this two minute HR Blast we can give you a few reminders on a few of the issues that regularly bite employers in the bottom.

Visas and right to work in the UK

  • Don’t forget to see their original right to work documentation before they start work. 
  • You need to take photocopies of all the relevant pages
  • Sign and date them to confirm that you have seen them
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure they aren’t obvious fakes (e.g. with pages torn/photos obviously not of that person etc.)
  • Make it a requirement that documentation is produced before even the first hour of work is done. Don’t accept ‘oh I forgot it’ or ‘oh, it’s getting renewed’. Fail to get it in on day one and you will probably be amongst the thousands who then forget to chase it up. And that could cost you dearly.
  • If they are on a time limited visa, make sure you keep track of when the visa expires
  • Liaise with them before the expiry of the visa to make sure you get the correct paperwork on file to demonstrate they have the right to stay employed with you (often you get a letter confirming their application is being considered and they can continue to work until told otherwise).
  • Don’t accept any verbal reassurances about letters in the post or applications under consideration. Demand to see the actual paperwork.
  • For those on visas which permit only a certain number of hours to be worked each week, make sure you actually keep a track of the hours they work. Don’t rely on the employee to keep track and then turn down hours offered.
  • If you have any concerns about someone’s right to work including whether it’s a fake or whether their documentation is acceptable take advice from https://www.gov.uk. They have an Employer’s Checking Service which we can recommend using for basic checks – it’s a fairly quick and easy process.
  • Who do we mean by ‘you’? If you are not to be fined, make sure that in your own organisation it is crystal clear who is responsible for checking, record keeping and discussions with staff on work visas. Is it HR, is it the Manager, is it the shift manager who offers overtime? You need a clear process and clear responsibilities if you are not to make errors.
  • Lastly remember that if you make an error with this, the Company could face a fine of up to £10,000 for each worker!

E cigarettes update

For an overview of e cigarettes in the workplace take a look at one of our recent HR Blasts

By way of an update:

  • Wales is currently consulting on whether to ban e-cigarettes in enclosed public places .If they are banned this may well lead the way for many other countries.
  • Wales is concerned that allowing e cigarettes could undermine the ban on tobacco smoking and “re-normalise the use of conventional cigarettes”.
  • If you have staff who travel on business, there are already some countries such as the UAE that do not allow e cigarettes to be brought in.
  • Although take up is currently very low, it seems that many organisations (where they have a stated policy) have chosen to already ban then from enclosed public places. This may be the safest route considering that there is an enormous variation in the look and content of e-cigarettes.
  • As only around 8% of the UK population have ever tried e cigarettes, this is unlikely to be a problem for many organisations, however it only takes one employee to create an employee relations nightmare. Therefore our advice is to consider your stance on e cigarettes and expand your policy on smoking to incorporate e cigarettes.

Bribery

  • This is not a law without teeth and this should be taken seriously.
  • It’s not just the EU that is talking about bribery. Other countries are also cracking down. Giants such as JP Morgan Chase and GlaxoSmithKline are affected. The latter currently has, in China, a number of senior employees in custody on bribery charges which the executives suggest was simply them following company procedure in order to achieve sales in a tough market.
  • Bribery policies are about protecting both your employees and your company.
  • We recommend that if you don’t already have a bribery policy in place, that you create one!
  • If you do have one in place, then this is a good time for an annual review to make sure it’s still up to date and relevant for the type of business you do, where and with whom!.
  • Consider some refresher training for staff likely to be most affected, to make sure they are aware that bribery is not only treated seriously by the Company but is a criminal offence which may result in up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine for both the individual and company.
  • In your policy make sure that you have:
  • Stated your approach towards bribery i.e. zero tolerance and be specific about how expenditure is handled.
  • If you don’t already, we recommend including some clear financial spending limits for your managers – over which expenditure must be authorised.
  • Make sure you are very clear with examples about what will be deemed an acceptable gift and what can be accepted (e.g. calendars, pens, chocolates at Christmas etc.) and what gifts cannot be accepted and must be returned e.g. foot ball tickets, weekends away, cases of champagne.
  • Additionally make sure that you are clear that the timing of the gift is important e.g. if it’s timed to coincide with and potentially influence a key decision.
  • If your Company ever uses, or is likely to use facilitation payments, make sure you mention your stance on these payments and how they will be managed.
  • The policy should also specify the method people should use to raise concerns.
  • Your expenses policy and bribery policy are key documents which should work together – so make sure that they are clearly aligned!

Dismissing for accessing inappropriate web sites

  • Make sure that you have a comprehensive disciplinary AND social media policy in place which clearly state your expectations in this area, and make it clear what is and is not acceptable (particularly covering posts and activity conducted outside of working time – as this is commonly when issues occur).
  • Make sure that your policy states that you will regularly monitor internet/email traffic and usage, without prior notification, and that disciplinary action will be taken should the internet/email policy be breached.
  • Make sure you are clear about your stance on accessing inappropriate sites or making inappropriate postings using personal smart phones and tables as well as using company equipment.
  • Make sure the policy is well publicised, that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and that they are reminded of them on a regular basis e.g. annual refresher training may be helpful.
  • If you do uncover any inappropriate email/internet activity make sure that you collect as much evidence as possible – including taking screenshots and follow your disciplinary process to ensure that you follow a fair procedure prior to dismissal.
  • Monitoring to prevent financial fraud.
  • Financial fraud is rife in businesses of all sizes and ranges from just a few hundred pounds to many hundreds of thousands of pounds. Recouping money is seldom possible even if the employee is arrested and convicted. Therefore the focus should always be on fraud prevention.
  • When monitoring finances to prevent financial fraud consider whether you have the following in place:
  • Clear and comprehensive financial procedures which are checked and audited on a regular basis.
  • Appropriate financial checks on new starters, and DBS (disclosure and barring service) checks if the organisation participates in a regulated activity.
  • Monitoring of email and internet traffic (make sure that you have a policy that allows you to do this). Make this someone’s clear responsibility otherwise it will probably not happen on a regular basis.
  • Covert cameras near safes, tills etc. but only when there is clear indication that a covert camera needs to be used. Otherwise you should not use covert equipment.
  • Avoid a team who all check each other with no external input. Often staff feel uncomfortable checking their colleagues’ work or probing them about transactions, so avoid relying on staff with team loyalties and use someone independent.

If any of these issues have prompted you to want to review any policies or documents or bring in training for staff then please do talk to us.

Jaluch offers training for managers and HR teams on Data Protection, Recruitment and Selection, Managing Discipline and perhaps most important of all Understanding Essential Employment Law. Please call us for details and a quote.

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.

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