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Employment update - November 2007

1 November 2007

Introduction

Bullying and harassment

According to a recent Government survey, 3.8 of employees have personally experienced bullying or harassment at work. Women are more likely to have been bullied than men with higher rates being found for overseas-born employees (5) compared to those born in the UK (3.6). Yet higher rates were recorded for employees with a disability or long-term illness (10.6). The highest rate is in respect of two forms of discrimination, specifically disabled women (14.4).

Comments or behaviour which you may regard as just a joke or banter, may cause offence because of their content; or (which is just as bad), individuals may claim to have been offended and you will be unable to prove otherwise. Complaints can leave you facing a costly and disruptive unfair dismissal/discrimination claim, lead to you and/or individually named employees being ordered to pay significant amounts of compensation to a successful employee, damage your brand and impact negatively on staff morale.

Official Employment Tribunal statistics for 2006/2007 show that the average awards made in successful sex, race and disability claims were: sex - £10,052; race - £14,049 and disability - £15,059.

Key advice

  • Provide all staff with regular diversity training to minimise risk and to take advantage of the statutory defence
  • Make sure staff understand that what they consider to be banter or horseplay can lead to claims against the employer and against the individuals responsible
  • Show managers how to challenge a member of the public whose harassment or discriminatory behaviour of an employee could leave you being ordered to compensate the employee for their conduct
  • Be certain that your equal opportunities policy takes account of the seven forms of discrimination and the current legal definition of harassment
  • Where a grievance of harassment or discrimination is raised make sure it is investigated without delay, is dealt with in confidence and can reasonably be perceived as being taken seriously
  • Consider setting up a confidential helpline and an employee assistance programme to give employees a route to speak out and confidential support
  • Keep full written records

Changes to paid annual leave entitlement

The Governments two-stage increase of the statutory minimum paid annual leave entitlement came into force on 1 October 2007.

A worker is now entitled to 4.8 weeks paid annual leave (24 days if the worker works a five-day week). The entitlement will be increased to 5.6 (28 days if you work a five-day week) from 1 April 2009. Workers who work less than a five-day week are entitled to a pro-rata increase.

Frequently asked questions

Q. What does 4.8 weeks mean?

A. 4.8 weeks is 4.8 times the workers usual working week. So, if an employee works 5 days a week, then 4.8 weeks is 24 working days (4.8 x 5). If an employee works 4 days a week, then 4.8 weeks is 19.2 days (4.8 x 4).

Q. Does the increased annual leave entitlement include bank holidays?

A. Yes. There is no obligation on an employer to allow their workers to take annual leave on a bank holiday.

Q. How do you calculate annual leave entitlement if an employee is contracted to carry out work 1,800 hours per year?

A. You need to calculate how many hours the employee works in a week. There are 48 working weeks in a year, so the employee would work 37½ hours a week (1,800/48). The employees holiday entitlement is 180 hours for the year (4.8 x 37½ hours a week).

Q. What happens if an employees holiday year begins before 1 October 2007?

A. This is a complicated area, as the implementation date may not coincide with your holiday year. The annual leave entitlement of the worker should be calculated by multiplying the proportion of the holiday year left to run by the additional entitlement due from 1 October 2007.

Q. Can an employer specify when holiday is to be taken and require an employee to work on a bank holiday?

A. Yes. Workers can be required to take their annual leave on bank holidays, and there is no right, unless their contract provides otherwise, for workers to have pay enhanced if they work on a bank holiday. The position should be made clear in the contract of employment.

Q. Can leave be carried over to another leave year?

A. A worker must take four weeks of their annual leave within the normal leave year. However, provided both employer and employee agree, some or all of the additional leave entitlement (the amount of leave granted above the current minimum four weeks) can be carried over to the next leave year.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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