Solutions For HR https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk Protecting you and your business Sat, 14 Dec 2019 10:17:49 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/cropped-Solutions-for-HR-Favicon-new-1-32x32.jpg Solutions For HR https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk 32 32 Work Christmas Party Rules https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/12/13/work-christmas-party-rules/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/12/13/work-christmas-party-rules/#respond Fri, 13 Dec 2019 16:23:10 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=3036 The post Work Christmas Party Rules appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Five Christmas Workplace Woes!

Whilst we are all gearing up for the big day, Christmas can sometimes bring unplanned pitfalls and challenges to our business.

So what are they and how should we react?

1. Unauthorised absence/party “sickies”

It’s fair to say that with a fuller social calendar than normal, there is greater temptation to pull a Party “sickie”, especially for those of us whose holiday year is ending, limiting the opportunity for authorised time off.

Your approach to this issue will depend on your business, your flexibility and your attitude towards the party season.

Perhaps you may make it easier for your staff to balance their personal and professional lives by agreeing to occasional home or flexible working.

Where your industry doesn’t allow for this, try incentivizing staff to keep engaged and in attendance through fun work activities, free lunches and Christmas bonuses.

And then, for those Scrooges amongst us, you could just remind staff that nothing changes and you expect them in on time and as normal throughout the part season, applying your usual lateness and absence management policies if anyone doesn’t toe the line!

2. Weather problems

A white Christmas may seem unlikely but January and February often come in with a bang and there is every chance that at some point your employees will experience traffic, transport or weather issues affecting their commute.

If you’ve not already done so, communicate your policy and expectations when it comes to adverse weather so staff are clear on what their options are.

This could include whether home working would be authorised, whether holidays can be taken at short notice or whether unpaid leave will be granted.

3. Secret Santa

Secret Santa seems to have become a bit of a tradition within many UK workplaces but what happens when things go a bit too far and that joke or banter gift causes real offence?

It’s been known for employees to raise formal grievances following receipt of an offensive or upsetting gift or even resigning and claiming constructive dismissal.

Employers can be held liable if an employee receives an inappropriate Secret Santa present so it’s strongly recommended to set some parameters for the gift giving scheme so everyone understands where the line is drawn.

Whilst not wanting to dampen the party spirit, communicate to your teams to avoid gifts that:

  • could be discriminatory to race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.
  • are of a sexual or rude nature.
  • relate to personal hygiene or physical appearance.

Basically gifts must be appropriate for the workplace so if you have to question whether it is, then it probably isn’t!

4. Christmas gifts

Many suppliers and customers gift sundries at Christmas such as wine and chocolates as a thank you for support during the year.

It’s best to have a policy or “norm” in how you are going to manage this to ensure fairness amongst your team.

Many businesses collect gifts and hold a raffle to ensure that all staff benefit from the generosity, not just those staff in customer or supplier facing roles.

Make sure you take into account any religious implications in the allocation of gifts.

It is also worth reminding staff of the implications of your bribery policy so they understand what an acceptable gift is and that all gifts should be declared and shared to celebrate your team effort.

5. The Christmas party

Whilst fun and festive, as the alcohol flows, inhibitions fall and the risk of someone doing or saying something inappropriate increases.

From embarrassing photos posted on social media to drunken fights and allegations of sexual harassment, the office Christmas party presents a myriad of HR challenges.

To make sure everything goes smoothly, you should be clear about your behaviour expectations.

Send out an email or memo pre event to set out your expectations on professional behaviour and remind staff that whilst this is a social “do” it is a company event and your usual standards of workplace behaviour apply.

A reminder of your bullying and harassment and social media policies is essential and to prevent other issues make sure that you consider all your responsibilities to your staff.

It’s important to ensure the event is inclusive to all so should your event centre entirely on alcohol?

Whilst many of us like a festive tipple, be sure to provide non-alcoholic drinks, plenty of water and menu options that cater to all dietary requirements.

You might want to consider designating a senior person to limit their alcohol intake on the event to have someone fairly compos mentis throughout the occasion and to help with any overindulgence, behaviour issues and even transport home.

But remember, HR is about striking a balance.

We don’t want to be fully “Baa humbug!”

We want our teams to enjoy the festive spirit during December whilst maintaining that professionalism.

We can only do that with clear communication of standards and expectations (and a small sherry and a mince pie!)

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Wellbeing focus for UK businesses https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/wellbeing-focus-for-uk-businesses/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/wellbeing-focus-for-uk-businesses/#respond Fri, 15 Nov 2019 12:48:49 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=3019 The post Wellbeing focus for UK businesses appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Prioritising flexible working

A recent survey of employers conducted by Willis Towers Watson has found that 75 per cent of the 437 employers surveyed are focusing on employee wellbeing and prioritising flexible working, mentoring and training to enhance their benefits packages.

The wellbeing focus isn’t just on personal wellbeing although a third reported that they were prioritising stress and resilience management in order to tackle mental health concerns.

More than a third of interviewees were addressing financial wellbeing and a similar number concentrating on social wellbeing, promoting social action.

Two-thirds of the employers surveyed said they were looking to develop flexible working initiatives and training and career development opportunities.

It is widely recognised that positive wellbeing has an impact on productivity, efficiency and motivation but wellbeing has often been thought of as health related.

The focus on wider aspects that contribute to wellbeing is a useful consideration when addressing staff engagement.

Supporting this recognition, the results of the Office of National Statistics “Personal Wellbeing in the UK Report 2019” show there was a slight improvement in individual happiness in the last year and an improvement in average long-term anxiety ratings.

It could be that the message is starting to sink in. It is widely recognised that positive wellbeing has an impact on productivity, efficiency and motivation but wellbeing has often been thought of as health related.

The focus on wider aspects that contribute to wellbeing is a useful consideration when addressing staff engagement.

Supporting this recognition, the results of the Office of National Statistics “Personal Wellbeing in the UK Report 2019” show there was a slight improvement in individual happiness in the last year and an improvement in average long-term anxiety ratings.

It could be that the message in starting to sink in.

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What are the issues if I want to withdraw a job offer? https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/what-are-the-issues-if-i-want-to-withdraw-a-job-offer/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/what-are-the-issues-if-i-want-to-withdraw-a-job-offer/#respond Fri, 15 Nov 2019 12:37:54 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=3016 The post What are the issues if I want to withdraw a job offer? appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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A claim for disability discrimination

This is a question we are often asked and the answer is to understand the reasons why in case there is anything discriminatory that could cause an issue.

This is what happened in the recent tribunal case of Oldfield versus Birtenshaw.

Ms Oldfield was employed by Birtenshaw on a temporary basis in November 2016 as a carer for vulnerable adults and children with special needs.

Before she started in this temporary role she told the company that she suffered from a mental health condition.

This was discussed at interview and no concerns were ever raised about her work, hence being interviewed for a permanent position in December 2016.

At the interview for the permanent position, Ms Oldfield again disclosed her mental health issues and also that she had cancer.

She was offered the permanent role, “subject to satisfactory medical clearance” and following completion of a medical questionnaire she was referred for an occupational health physician assessment.

The medical report referred to a long history of mental illness but that she was medically fit for the role.

On reading the report, however, management felt that Ms Oldfield was not suitable and they withdrew the offer stating that “all employees must be mentally and physically fit for their work” and that she was not.

Ms Oldfield submitted a claim for disability discrimination and won her claim, also winning on appeal.

The medical report had confirmed that Ms Oldfield was fit to carry out the role and as such the company had no legal basis to argue that the withdrawal was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The job offer just shouldn’t have been withdrawn.

Where new or longer term employees disclose health issues, medical advice must be sought and adjustments made to support wherever possible, especially where the employee is disabled.

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Disciplinary process – employee is being investigated for criminal charges https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/disciplinary-process-employee-is-being-investigated-for-criminal-charges/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/disciplinary-process-employee-is-being-investigated-for-criminal-charges/#respond Fri, 15 Nov 2019 11:59:35 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=3013 The post Disciplinary process – employee is being investigated for criminal charges appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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What do I do about a disciplinary process when the employee is being investigated for criminal charges?

On occasion, an employee is arrested and charged with criminal proceedings that have an impact on them or others at work.

When this happens the dilemma is whether to wait for the outcome of that criminal process or move forward with internal disciplinary proceedings.

A recent tribunal case provides some clarity on this question.

Mr Bosher was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of possession of “category A” indecent images, the most severe type.

Despite him later being acquitted, his employer, EUI dismissed Bosher before the outcome of the criminal case on the grounds of gross misconduct, claiming it had “reasonable belief that the allegations may be true”.

Following his arrest in July 2017, Bosher was told that because of the charges against him, EUI would need to investigate.

He wasn’t suspended or placed under any restrictions at work.

On 11 August 2017, Bosher attended court, entering a “no plea” rather than guilty or not guilty.

EUI ultimately decided that as Bosher had never categorically denied the allegations and then pled as “no plea”, rather than pleading not guilty, it was likely he had committed the crime.

They dismissed him on the grounds of reputational harm and fitness to continue in his role.

His internal appeal failed and on the 10th April 2019, Bosher was acquitted of the alleged offences after the CPS offered no evidence against him.

Mr Bosher claimed unfair and wrongful dismissal in the Cardiff Tribunal.

During the tribunal, there was conflicting evidence presented including what Bosher had allegedly said to his employer about access to “distasteful” material and also what he had said and been advised about his plea – whether to plead guilty or not.

The tribunal ruled that the dismissal of the claimant was both unfair and wrongful and that it was not reasonable for EUI to have taken the decision to dismiss before the criminal trial had been concluded.

This is because it was difficult for the employer to substantiate their “reasonable belief” that he had committed the act, plus be able to demonstrate what the actual impact of the alleged act had on his role.

The message is that employers should wait for the outcome of criminal proceedings before commencing any internal processes.

This is difficult – they can be long and complex, often seeing employees suspended on full pay for months at a time whilst awaiting court dates and outcomes.

The alternative though is a loss at a tribunal.

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Warning – one remark IS harassment https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/warning-one-remark-is-harassment/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/11/15/warning-one-remark-is-harassment/#respond Fri, 15 Nov 2019 11:45:11 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=3010 The post Warning – one remark IS harassment appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Ordered a manager to pay over £2,600

We often deal with grievances whereby banter or “off the cuff” remarks are made, often without the intention to offend.

In this case, the Leeds tribunal ordered a manager to pay over £2,600 to two staff members after he was found to have made an allegedly racist comment in the workplace.

On the 16th January 2019, Mr Woodhouse walked past the claimants’ desks, where a white colleague was sitting in a seat usually occupied by a black member of staff called Mattar.

He allegedly said to the white colleague: “Has Mattar been dipped and had his head shaved?”.

The two employees who raised the claim, both of Asian ethnicity, were “shocked” by what Mr Woodhouse said, especially as he seemed to find it funny.

They considered this to be a racist remark.

Mr Woodhouse denied having made the comment and in mitigation proposed that he could have been misheard when speaking about a football “strip” or “kit”.

The tribunal heard that before the incident, Mr Woodhouse’s working relationship with one claimant had completely broken down – she was under performance management and she felt unfairly treated by him causing her to request a shift change.

Following the alleged comment, the claimant raised a grievance against Mr Woodhouse citing bullying and harassment in addition to this alleged comment.

The grievance investigation didn’t uphold the allegations of bullying and harassment but did conclude that on the balance of probabilities, Mr Woodhouse was likely to have made the comment.

The tribunal made a judgement that the incident did happen and that this comment, despite being a “one off”, was “unwanted conduct related to race”.

The tribunal did believe that Mr Woodhouse had no intention to offend but this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t taken as such.

The claim was brought twofold – against Capita and Mr Woodhouse.

Luckily for Capita they were found to have taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment including having robust policies and training.

This meant that there was no employer liability in respect racial harassment however Mr Woodhouse was ordered to pay just over £1,300 to each claimant personally.

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“Stay in Lane” and know your role https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/10/23/stay-in-lane-and-know-your-role/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/10/23/stay-in-lane-and-know-your-role/#respond Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:43:35 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=2980 The post “Stay in Lane” and know your role appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Only the disciplinary hearing manager should be reaching a decision

A professor at the University of Reading, Dr Dronsfield, was found to be having a sexual relationship with one of his students.

Under the university’s rules, he could only be dismissed if his conduct was found to be ‘immoral, scandalous or of a disgraceful nature incompatible with the duties of office or employment’.

The concern was investigated by a senior academic and a senior member of the HR team.

They produced an investigation report for the purpose of the disciplinary hearing.

Draft one, however, contained an expression of their opinion – that there was no evidence that Dr Dronsfield’s conduct had been “immoral, scandalous or disgraceful”.

The issue was that this opinion wasn’t theirs to make at the investigation stage.

Prior to any disciplinary hearing, the university’s in-house lawyer amended the draft investigation report but not before Dr Dronsfield had seen this and was aware of their expression of opinion.

Nevertheless, following a disciplinary hearing, Dr Dronsfield was dismissed by an independent decision-maker.

He appealed but this was rejected.

Dr Dronsfield brought a claim of unfair dismissal, and after his claim was unsuccessful he then appealed to the EAT.

His appeal focused on that fact that it wasn’t reasonable for the draft report to have been amended, and that the intervention of the in-house lawyer was unfair.

The EAT dismissed his claim.

It determined that it was fair and reasonable to have the in-house lawyer advise the investigators of their error in that the decision on the strength of the allegations should have left for the decision-maker.

Whilst a successful case for the University, this is an important reminder of the different roles of investigating officer or disciplinary hearing manager.

Investigators gather the evidence and form an opinion on the facts and whether there is a disciplinary case to answer.

Only the disciplinary hearing manager should be reaching a decision on the strength of the evidence and the outcome of the disciplinary process.

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Suspension and Disciplinary Processes – Mental Health Considerations https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/10/23/suspension-and-disciplinary-processes-mental-health-considerations/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/10/23/suspension-and-disciplinary-processes-mental-health-considerations/#respond Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:58:06 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=2970 The post Suspension and Disciplinary Processes – Mental Health Considerations appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Disciplinary process should be used only as a last resort

As many of us now know, suspension during a disciplinary process should be used only as a last resort and only if there is a significant risk to the business if the individual remains at work.

Employees committing suicide following suspension and disciplinary has increased over recent years, with suicide now being the biggest killer of men under 50 years old.

It is, therefore, becoming increasingly important to handle these difficult scenarios as empathetically as possible.

In conduct situations, it can be difficult not to jump to conclusions and become angry and frustrated.

Even though you might feel this way, we need to act sensitively and consider how the employee will also feel.

This is for every employee, whether or not we are aware that they suffer with a mental health condition.

A few tips on how to handle these situations in an attempt to prevent suicide and damaging mental health impacts include:


  • Swift timings & keeping in touch – investigations must be as thorough as possible however avoid any unnecessary delays and aim to conclude the process in a timely manner to avoid prolonged stewing and anxiety. Keep in touch regularly and assign a welfare contact at work to check in and update them.

  • Don’t dodge the conversation – if you are noticing signs of mental health concerns with any employee, discuss this. Approach this in a supportive manner, air your concerns and offer support even if this is just to listen.

  • Emergency welfare contacts – you will already ask employees for next of kin or emergency contacts if there are any physical emergencies however, it is now encouraged to request details of a person who can be contacted if you have any other welfare or mental health concerns. This is another step to safeguard your employees and show that you take their mental health into consideration as well as just physical.

  • Promote good mental health activities everyday – this can be done through activities such as:
  • Training a mental health first aider
  • Mental health awareness training
  • Employee Assistance Programmes
  • Flexible working opportunities
  • Wellbeing policies and workplace schemes
  • Promoting schemes such as Samaritans, Zero Suicide Alliance and Able Futures*

  • Educate yourself and colleagues on common signs of poor mental health to look out for. Useful information on this can be found at:

*Able futures is a government funded scheme which provides support to the people working and living with mental health difficulties, employers and providers of apprenticeships.

For more information visit the sites above or ask a member of the Solutions for HR Team.

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Managing long term sickness absence https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/10/23/managing-long-term-sickness-absence/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/10/23/managing-long-term-sickness-absence/#respond Wed, 23 Oct 2019 09:38:56 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=2962 The post Managing long term sickness absence appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Dealing with long term ill health at work

The Government has recently consulted on how employers can better support employees experiencing long-term ill-health at work.

The Government’s plan is to encourage early intervention through a strengthening and expansion of statutory guidance but with so many failed schemes in the past, we explore what options are out there for employers to comply with their legal duties whilst balancing the cost to the business.

Through the Equality Act, employers are under a duty to proactively consider making reasonable adjustments in the workplace for disabled employees.

The test for disability can often have a fairly low threshold which places costly duties on employers but there are ways to save money whilst ensuring your employees are supported.

Occupational health provisions

Occupational health doesn’t always have to be expensive.

Often GP advice can provide an element of occupational health guidance which in simple cases is all that is required.

Many occupational health providers are successfully utilising phone appointments that provide the required guidance, often at a third of the price.

Free services – Able Futures

Able futures is a government funded service providing mental health support services.

They provide support to employed individuals with concerns and mental health difficulties.

It works in a similar way to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

The service can assist with depression, anxiety, stress, bereavement, eating disorders and many more concerns.

The employee does not need to be medically diagnosed with a condition to be treated by Able Futures.

They also deal with many non-medial related concerns such as finance management and general wellbeing advice where these are contributing to poor mental health.

The support provides individual support plans created through trained and qualified Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants.

More information can be found at:

Mental health support for employers from Able Futures

Access to Work funds

The Governments Access to Work fund provides grants to help disabled employees in the workplace.

Access to work provides grants of up to £59,200 per annum to help tackle workplace barriers faced by employees with physical and mental health conditions.

A grant can help pay for specialist equipment or software, adaptations and support services.

A grant can also be used to provide disability awareness training for colleagues.

The employee has to apply for an Access to Work grant so as an employer you can encourage and support them to do so.

Application and eligibility details are on GOV.UK

To read more click here

EAP

An Employee Assistance Programme is an American concept that has made its way over to the UK.

EAPs are outsourced workplace programmes that support employees through personal concerns such as stress, mental health, alcohol and drug issues, legal and debt worries and other personal problems.

They are a support tool by providing counselling, therapy and advice services on an array of topics for your employees aiming to promote their wellbeing.

These services can be carried out over the phone, online or face-to-face depending on which package you choose for your organisation.

Costs vary considerably depending on provider, level of service and how many employees you have.

They are usually charged at a monthly or annual rate, averaging around £15 per employee per annum.

How will these interventions help my business?

  • Providing a duty of care
  • Ensuring compliance with the Equality Act
  • Potentially a reduction in sickness absences
  • Can be incorporated into your company wellbeing policy/actives
  • A support arm for your employees
  • A way to reduce the cost of long term ill health
  • A way to boost your employee relations

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Can I discipline an employee who has fallen for a scam? https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/09/27/can-i-discipline-an-employee-who-has-fallen-for-a-scam/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/09/27/can-i-discipline-an-employee-who-has-fallen-for-a-scam/#respond Fri, 27 Sep 2019 16:16:30 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=2775 The post Can I discipline an employee who has fallen for a scam? appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Your investigation must be objective

Scams are unfortunately a fact of life nowadays but if this happens in work can you hold your employee liable?

To discipline you would need to show that disciplinary action is reasonable and justified in all the circumstances.

This is going to fall back to the training you have provided and the procedures that you have in place for authorising/authenticating transactions.

We get it, this is personal but no matter how you feel about your employee’s actions and their part in you losing money, your investigation must be objective.

You need to know exactly how it happened and only from this investigation can you determine the appropriateness of disciplinary action.

Many scams are complex and undetectable.

The exception is where the scam was so amateurish that a reasonable person would have realised something was amiss.

These are few and far between though.

Scammers are professionals and we are human.

Providing your employee has followed internal company procedures to the letter, there is unlikely to be justification for disciplinary action.

For most employees, just knowing they are responsible for you losing money is likely to be punishment in itself.

Take the opportunity to strengthen internal processes to stop it happening again.

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Holiday accrual case law update https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/09/27/holiday-accrual-case-law-update/ https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/2019/09/27/holiday-accrual-case-law-update/#respond Fri, 27 Sep 2019 16:11:18 +0000 https://www.solutionsforhr.co.uk/?p=2772 The post Holiday accrual case law update appeared first on Solutions For HR.

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Pro-rata principle does not apply

It is well recognised that part-time workers receive a full timer’s entitlement to pay but on a pro-rata basis.

The Court of Appeal has recently considered what to do about holiday accrual for those who work on a “part year” basis, for example term time only, but are on a permanent contract.

They have determined that the pro-rata principle does not apply.

It has always seemed sensible that such a worker’s holiday entitlement and pay should be pro-rated as if they were someone working part-time hours.

ACAS guidance suggests people who work on a ‘casual basis’ should have a holiday entitlement of 12.07% of the hours they work over a year.

This is because the required 5.6 weeks holiday in the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) is calculated at 12.07% of the 46.4 weeks a full-time person works in a year.

The Court of Appeal ruling has now clarified that this pro-rata percentage only applies to part-time workers.

For a part-year worker, the Working Time Regulations does not look at averages over the year but at the actual work completed.

The calculation is a simple formula set out in the Working Time Regulations which requires you to calculate a worker’s weekly pay by looking at their average pay over the last 12 weeks and then multiplying this by 5.6.

When calculating the average pay over the last 12 weeks, it is weeks worked that count, so not weeks with sickness or holiday absence.

This ruling has hit certain industries who rely on flexible term time employment hard, such as education and childcare.

It means that a part-year worker will often be more favourably treated in terms of holiday pay.

The Court of Appeal has held it to be quite reasonable as they don’t have the benefit of a full-year contract.

If you employ part-year workers, look at their ‘week’s pay’ and multiply it by 5.6 to work out the annual holiday entitlement/pay.

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