HMRC are taking a tough stance on minimum wage breaches

HM Revenue and Customs are currently very active in investigating businesses who they feel are breaching the national minimum wage and national living wage legislation. The number of HMRC investigations opened up into Employers, over potential breaches, increased by 43% from 2775 in 2016/17 to 3975 in 2017/18 and this is set to continue.

The increase in these rates is a worrying trend and so it is important that Employers review their systems to ensure they are not underpaying their Employees. In addition to enforcing back payments to affected Employees, HMRC also have the ability to impose substantial fines (double the amount of any underpayment) where breaches are discovered and more importantly, they name and shame offending businesses.

There are some instances where Employers can be caught out and be found to be eroding minimum wage; for example, making deductions which are not either statutory or contractual may be unlawful. Travel between assignments during the working day counts as working time and should therefore be paid.

Iceland Foods have recently fallen foul of the regulations as a result of a voluntary Christmas Saving Scheme which was deemed to be a violation – even though savings set aside were kept in a ring-fenced account and could be withdrawn by the Employee at any time. Branded as ‘just madness’ by Iceland’s Chief Exec!

Also, enforcing ‘uniform’ stipulations, even where not branded, has seen companies like Wagamama rethink and pay staff a ‘supplement’ to cover black jeans.

If you are unsure about this please feel free to contact our HR Consultancy Team on 01302 341 344.

By Angela Stancer ACIIHR Manager

How do you protect your drivers?

The road to crime is increasing with cargo thefts almost doubling last year. 2017 saw cargo thefts of 1,500, which increased to over 2,700 in 2018 (reported by The National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service – NAVCIS).

With an increase of cargo theft, there is concern over the welfare of our drivers and the risk of assault against them.

How do you protect your drivers?

Here are some tips on safeguarding your people:

  • Plan your route – specialists advise that by changing your route as much as possible you may be able to avoid recognisable patterns that can be monitored by thieves
  • Remove Keys – sounds a bit obvious but you would be surprised how many people leave their keys in their trucks when fuelling up or popping to a café in a layby
  • Lock cab doors while drivingthieves may try to gain access to the cab when you stop for traffic lights or at junctions
  • Drivers matewhere you may be delivering expensive items, opportunists are less likely to attempt a theft when drivers come in pairs
  • Approved overnight parkingavoid isolated and unlit parking bays. Where possible look to park in an approved HGC parking facility
  • Camera systems – can help to deter thieves and it allows the drivers to keep an eye on what is going on outside the cab
  • Avoid regular stops – drivers that regularly stop at local shops for newspapers and snacks are more likely to be targeted by opportunists. If you need to stop, try to do so at service stations and when returning to your cab, check for signs of tampering – doors, seals, straps and curtains
  • Stay Safe – in the unfortunate event that you are subject to a theft or criminal activity, remain in your cab with doors locked until help arrives. Switch on the headlights and sound your horn repeatedly – thieves don’t want the attention so this may be enough to scare them away

Fact – Every HGV driver spends around 32 hours a year stuck in traffic – lock your cab doors!

For a health and safety review of your current driver safety precautions, please get in touch.

Please keep a look out for your invitation to our HR for Hauliers workshop (free event) on 3rd July.

A ProAktive Helping Hand for Hauliers

 

 

 

 

Holiday Entitlement: Use it or lose it

In the UK, there is no automatic right to carry over holiday leave from one year to another and often UK employment contracts state that annual leave that is not taken will be lost.

However, in a recent European ruling, a German employee has won a claim for unpaid holiday pay arising from holiday he failed to take some 6 years ago.

In this case the European CJEU court ruled that the employee was entitled to compensation for his lost holiday because the employer did not take adequate steps to ensure that the employee was aware that he would lose his holiday if he did not request it.

With European legal decisions continuing to apply to the UK until Brexit and during any transition period, this case carries significance for UK employers.  Whilst companies can continue to adopt the ‘use it or lose it’ approach, they may have to consider how they implement this.

Whilst there is no definition of what would be considered as adequate notice, it is good practice for employers to provide employees with plenty of notice that they have unused holiday entitlement which they will lose should they not request it.  Providing this information in writing and keeping a record of this can also help to stop any later dispute that the employee was not aware of the consequences of not using their annual holiday entitlement.

It is important for employers to remember that the ‘use it or lose’ it approach does not apply to maternity leave (during which holiday continues to accrue) or for employees on long terms sick (where additional time should be allowed for them to take the annual leave).

If you would like futher advice relating to holiday entitlement or any other area of HR management, please contact us on 01302 341 344.

By Louise Turner – Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPDHR Business Partner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workplace Transport

Fork lift trucks are a popular commodity for a lot of businesses, and it is often the case that they are driven in areas where people are working. In recent months we have seen several prosecutions relating to workplace transport and this simply reiterates the importance of ensuring you manage the workplace transport on your site.

  • A poultry producer has been fined £866,650 after a forklift truck driver reversed into a yardman. The yardman sustained serious injuries and his left leg had to be amputated above the knee.
  • A company was fined £150,000 after a delivery driver was hit by a reversing vehicle as he carried out a pre-use check on his lorry.
  • A courier company was fined £120,000 after an agency worker was hit and run over by a forklift truck. The worker sustained injuries to both legs.
  • A cast iron bar manufacturer was fined £100,000 after an employee was struck by a forklift truck and sustained a fractured leg.

In all these cases the court has commented on the inadequacy of the risk assessments and safe systems of work in place relating to workplace transport. They could all have been avoided if basic precautions had been put in place.

There are three key areas to consider when assessing the risk on your site:

  • safe site (design and activity)
  • safe vehicle
  • safe driver

Safe site

The best way to keep people safe is to segregate vehicles and pedestrians. The most effective way to do this is to provide separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes. It might be that complete segregation is not possible, so clearly marked pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes using measures such as barriers and signs, would be a suitable alternative.

Reducing vehicle speed is an important part of workplace transport safety. Fixed traffic control measures can reduce vehicle speed and speed limits can also be used, but they need to be appropriate and properly enforced.

Every workplace should have suitable and sufficient lighting.

Around a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur as a result of reversing so reducing the need for reversing on site is important. Where it is necessary, trained banksmen should be used.

To minimise the risks to those involved in loading and unloading, the loading area should be clear of traffic and people not involved in the activity and segregated from other work areas.

Safe vehicle

Vehicles used in the workplace should be suitable for the purpose for which they are used. Warning devices should be fitted, so they stand out to pedestrians.

Vehicles should be maintained in good working order, so they remain mechanically sound. Regular inspections play a vital role in this. Drivers should carry out daily checks.

Safe driver

Drivers should be trained, competent and fit to operate a vehicle safely and receive appropriate information, instruction and training for the vehicle they use. Drivers must use all safety features, in particularly seat belts, at all times regardless of the duration of the task. We have seen a number of fatalities involving fork lift trucks due to the driver not wearing a seat belt. If a belt is fitted and not worn the HSE will prosecute on the basis of a failure to manage your employees.

If you would like any further information or advice, please give me a call on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

Certainty in an uncertain world

So here we are; Spring 2019 and it seems that the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. The world feels unstable, although in truth it’s probably no more unstable than it has ever been, yet through the prisms of social media, 24 hour news and the never ending background noise that accompanies modern life, it can often feel that the end is nigh! I don’t think it is.

What is certain is that to be successful, a business needs to understand and manage its risks. Insurance is a great ‘enabler’ as it gives business the confidence to make decisions with an element of certainty. Typically, business risks have revolved around supply chains, customer credit, capital investment and the delivery of specialist services amongst other things, however, business risk is changing.

The internet of things (IOT), artificial intelligence, digitalisation, including digital manufacturing, and our increasing reliance on digital transactions, robotics, autonomous vehicles and the changing demands of our people and culture means that our insurance and risk management programmes must reflect our present and also be able to cope with our imminent future.

A further development in this area will be the way in which insurance is arranged. The role of the Insurance Broker is changing from a transaction based service to a business consultancy. At ProAktive we have already embarked on this journey and we are seeking to help identify the new risks and provide innovative solutions whilst minimising cost. Hopefully, we can help provide some certainty and stability in our uncertain world.

By Andy Morley – Group Managing Director

How do you manage your fleet?

Whether your company has two vans or 100 HGV’s, the way you manage your fleet can and will have a massive impact on the cost of your insurance. Fleet insurance costs can be detrimental to a business and with costs slowly increasing, are you thinking about ways to improve?

Over the last few years there have been a number of tools becoming popular for fleet users.

Dash cameras have become increasingly popular over the last 10 years, but are they really beneficial to you?

Before you go out and purchase a hundred cameras, the key is actually looking at your current claims record and marrying that up with the type of locations, times and frequency of where your vehicles are heading.

It is important that if you are choosing to invest financially in a product to reduce claims that you choose a tool that will be most beneficial to you. Cameras can be extremely helpful when it comes to defending a claim in court but is it relevant to your business? If your vehicles are regularly driving along motorways and in and out of cities and towns, cameras may be a great option. However, if you are a haulier or courier that is making quick, short trips in and out of public car parks, your claims experience may show that the majority of claims are clipping and scraping unattended parked vehicles. In this case, it is unlikely that a dash cam could help with this. What you should be thinking about are parking sensors.

As your business advisers and specialists in the motor industry, it is crucial that we work with our clients to analyse your claims to establish a positive way to move forward. Whether that be dash cameras or parking sensors or even additional driver training.

We regularly work with our clients to put together a tailored risk management plan to move forward in a positive way.

  • How often do you shadow your drivers?
  • When did your drivers last do an online driving assessment?
  • How do you keep up to date with checking driving licences?
  • Do you run a driver performance scheme?
  • Do your drivers understand the importance of how claims can affect your business?
  • How do you report claims?
  • Are drivers aware of the information that they need to collect following a claim?

To review your current procedures and for a full claims analysis please get in touch to discuss where we can add value. We are here to act as your business advisers, not just for insurance but risk management, health and safety and HR with the ultimate aim of reducing your insurance costs and improving performance.

If you claim less, you pay less.

By Leah KendallAccount Executive 

 

Bridging the Gap

What is GAP insurance?

Guaranteed Asset Protection is designed to protect you when you buy a new car to cover the difference between the amount your car insurer would pay out if your car was stolen, or written off, and the price you paid for your vehicle.

In the event of damage to, or total loss of your vehicle, your car insurer will pay to put you back in the same position as you were at the time of the loss or damage, and will typically pay market value of the vehicle on the date of the loss. This can leave a financial shortfall if you have outstanding finance for the vehicle or if you are looking to replace your vehicle with a new one of the same specification.

Do I need this cover?

If you either used a large loan to buy your vehicle, or your car is on a long term lease, or you are worried about the depreciation of your vehicle, then you may want to consider a GAP cover.

There are several types of cover available to meet your specific needs;

  • Vehicle replacement gap insurance: This covers the difference between the lump sum you get from your car insurer, and the amount your car would cost to buy new. This means you may get more than you paid to allow for the rising cost of cars.
  • Return to invoice gap insurance: This covers the shortfall between what your car insurance policy pays out, and the exact amount you paid for your car, and can be used for both new and second hand vehicles.
  • Return to value: This covers the difference between the insurance pay out and the market value of your car when you bought it. This could pay out more than return to invoice cover if you got a discount when you bought your car.
  • Finance gap insurance: This covers any money you owe a finance company if the insurance pay out does not repay your debt. This means you will have no car or cash after you claim, but what you owe will be paid off.

Where can I buy GAP cover?

Most car dealerships will offer the cover, however it is worth shopping around as policies can be bought at competitive prices with other providers.

ProAktive are able to offer a competitively priced ‘Return to Invoice’ policy to fill the gap between the claim payment and the exact price paid for the vehicle. To speak to us about this please call us on either 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Sandy Lockwood Cert CII Commercial Account Handler

Respiratory Protective Equipment and Facial Hair

With the recent news that welding fume has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) there has been much talk in the workplace about respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and facial hair.

Before we discuss respiratory protection it’s important to remember that any form of personal protective equipment, including RPE, should be a last resort and controls that work collectively should be preferred. For instance, efficient extraction at source will protect all personnel in the workplace while RPE only protects the individual. Assuming adequate control can be achieved with extraction we do not need to provide RPE.

There are various types of RPE but one of the most common types are filtered face masks. These can be reusable or disposable and are relatively inexpensive. Filtered face masks are perfectly adequate for protecting employees from harm due to the inhalation of airborne contaminates, however they rely on forming a good seal between the mask and the users face.

Face fit testing can be carried out to confirm that the RPE is effective in protecting the user.  Unfortunately, employees with facial hair growth may find that it is impossible to form a seal between their face and the face mask. In these cases, the RPE will not protect the individual from exposure to the harmful substance as intended.

What are the options if an employee has a beard but also needs to wear RPE to protect their health?

  1. Explain the issue and ask the employee to attend work clean-shaven. This may be emotive, and employees may refuse. As an employer you have no option other than to protect your employees from harm so you may have to insist that they shave or make alternative arrangements.

Enforcing employees to shave using your company disciplinary procedure may be possible but you should consult your human resources adviser to ensure that you follow the correct procedures.

Be aware that “religion or belief” is one of nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and that employees who have facial hair due to religious reasons may be able to claim that they were discriminated against!

Also consider employees who may have medical reasons why they should not shave. They should be able to provide medical evidence to back this up.

  1. Another option is to remove the employee from exposure by making reasonable adjustments to their work or providing alternative work. This option may not be possible and needs careful consideration. Again, you may need to consult your human resources advisor for guidance on the correct procedures.
  2. Provide air-fed respiratory protection. Air-fed RPE does not rely on a seal between the face and mask and will protect employees with beards from exposure to hazardous substances. This may be an ideal solution, but the main disadvantage is that it can be expensive.

This may be a difficult situation, but it is important to protect your employees. There may be other options open to you. If you need any advice, please contact us and we can discuss in more detail.

By Ainslie Johnson GradIOSHRisk Consultant

Settled Status and Right to Work

It seems like collectively the country has been talking non stop about Brexit since June 2016 and with the 29th March approaching it’s worth highlighting the future requirement for EU citizens to apply for settled status.

If you employ people who are not British but are EU citizens they will need to apply to the EU settlement scheme to continue living in the UK after June 30th 2021. If their application is successful they will either obtain a status of ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’, both of which allows them to remain and work in the UK. Pre-settled status is usually given to those without five continuous years of residence in the UK.

The UK has also agreed that Irish citizens can remain permanently and have already agreed deals with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland that allow their nationals (as they are currently not part of the EU) to apply to the settlement scheme from 30th March 2019 onwards.

There are some exceptions to the above.  Anyone who has Dual citizenship (with one part being British or Irish) or ‘indefinite leave to enter’ and remain in the UK does not need to apply to the settlement scheme.

It is also worth noting that the following scenarios DO NOT exempt a person from having to apply:

  • being born in the UK
  • having moved to the UK before it joined the EU
  • being a family member of someone who does not need to apply
  • being married to a British citizen

If an employee has previously had a criminal conviction they may not receive settled status, however this will be judged on a case-by-case basis and relates to major convictions. If they have been to prison it’s likely that they will need 5 years continuous residence following their release to be granted settled status.

The ability to apply online will go fully live on 30th March 2019 however people can currently apply now during the test phase. Applying during the test phase will come at a cost; £32.50 for under 16’s and £65 to anyone over the age of 16, however this will be refunded once the system opens fully. Application in the test phase can also only be completed using an android phone.

Anyone who is given settled status will usually be eligible to apply for citizenship 12 months after their status is approved.

If you are an employer who relies on EU citizens to make up a part of your work force, it would be useful to remind employees of the need to apply for settled status before the deadline in 2021. Until that point the usual Right to work checks should still be conducted for all employees.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt)Risk Services Adviser

Welding Fume

You may have noticed the furore that has been stoked by the recent re-classification of welding fume gases as a known carcinogen and so we thought it might be worth giving you some advice and background information.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a monograph in July 2018 in which they discussed recent research into the carcinogenic effect of welding fumes on humans. The paper covered all types of welding and the conclusion, at this point, was that there was now sufficient evidence to confirm that exposure to welding fumes could cause carcinogenic effects. The IARC now classifies welding fumes as a substance “carcinogenic to humans (Group 1)”.

So, it’s all new news then? Well, not really. Welding fumes have been classified by the IARC as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)” since 1989. There has always been a requirement to protect workers as far as is reasonably practicable, however until now the HSE has viewed general ventilation as an acceptable form of control until this point. This is the main turning point that you need to get a grip on immediately

The HSE now expect that any welding done indoors will require suitable engineering controls, such as local exhaust extraction (LEV). This extraction will also be required to control exposure to Manganese, typically through some form of filtration. Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, maybe because the welding process places the worker between the welding point and the extraction hood, then further respiratory protection will be required. This could be in the form of air-fed or disposable masks. If you decide on disposable masks, then the employees must have been subject to Face Fit Testing to ensure that the mask supplied is suitable for their use.

For outdoor welding, respiratory protection should be worn, again due to the proximity of the employee to the welding fume. This could be simple disposable masks or more complex air-fed solutions depending on duration, the amount of fume generated etc. This is much simpler than indoor welding, however you cannot do nothing.

The HSE has made it clear that “regardless of duration, the HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure controls in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure”.

So, after all of that, what do you need to do? Indoor welding is going to be the more problematic to control and so I would suggest that you consider the following as a starter for ten for indoor welding:

 

  • Undertake monitoring of your work environment for indoor welding. This will tell you whether your existing controls are actually doing anything, or whether there is a more significant problem that you need to manage.
  • Review your existing controls. If you haven’t got any LEV installed at the moment, take steps to start the process of evaluating what sort of engineered solution might be suitable for you. Don’t guess at this! Make contact with a competent supplier and ask them to come and visit your premises to fully understand what you need.
  • Ensure that RPE is provided and supplied to employees. Make sure that any disposable RPE used is suitable for the user. Be wary of ‘dust masks’ as they typically won’t work for persons with facial hair.

Be warned, though, there is no excuse for simply carrying on as normal “because this is how we’ve always done it”. There is an argument that as of now, employees may be on much firmer ground to make a successful claim that their health has been affected by their work activities as you now know that there’s a problem that you need to manage. Prior to today, such a claim might, arguably, be more difficult to succeed as there wasn’t previously the same level of knowledge about the dangers of the effects of welding fume.

For further information or advice, contact me on 01302 341 344.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSHHealth & Safety Manager