Supreme Team Scrap Tribunal Fee Dream

In what is being called a dramatic ruling, The Supreme Court have ruled in favour of Unison, against the Government, agreeing that tribunal fees are unlawful and must be scrapped. On the back of this those that have paid to bring a case to tribunal since July 2013 will be refunded.

The Supreme Court judges decided that the fees were preventing access to Justice and indirectly discriminatory towards women, who were more likely to bring serious and costly cases to court and therefore this contravened EU Law. 

Although originally the fees were implemented to deter false claims, reduce costs to taxpayers and prevent a backlog in the system, many groups have fought against the fees claiming it would allow employers to mistreat their employees with less fear of repercussions. This was especially a concern for employers who employed minimum wage and/or part-time employees.

Looking Forward:

Going forward it is likely that the amount of claims brought to tribunal will increase, however some experts believe that employers may now be more inclined to settle these matters during ACAS conciliation or before tribunal.

Estimates place the refunds to be in the region of £27 million and many people believe that the government will look to try and get a parliamentary act through to change the system again rather than use the secondary legislation route which they used originally. BUT based on the current political environment, and with the labour and liberal democratic parties being against the fees, it is unlikely that this would pass through parliament.

As there are fewer barriers for employees to bring a claim against an employer once again, it is vital that employers act fairly and follow the ACAS code of conduct when it comes to the treatment of their employees and the procedures they follow.

To contact us regarding any HR concerns you may have please get in touch on 01302 341344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII– Risk Services Adviser

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Will your plant still be on site in the morning?

Theft and arson on construction sites are two significant reasons why insurance costs are rising. These sites are an easy target for thieves as the lure of high value plant & equipment makes it easy for them to make a quick profit. Plant security is a difficult area to get right as thieves are well versed in both stealing and disposing of plant and equipment with over £ 1,000,000 worth being stolen every week in the UK and with less than 10 % being recovered. 

It is not uncommon to find items of plant and equipment, without any form of security, being left vulnerable to theft overnight on open contract sites just waiting to be stolen. 

Our suggestions on how to protect such items are:

  • Use physical security and on-site security measures to help prevent the loss from occurring in the first place
  • Fit security devices to the plant and equipment to improve the chance of the item being recovered
  • To remove the keys when not in use and for these to be locked away out of hours. Keys for the plant and equipment tend to be on the basis that a common key fits all, so it is important to do this.
  • To have effective marking on the plant and  machinery to confirm ownership

In view of the inherent losses, Insurers are now looking for ‘minimum security’ to be implemented on construction and contract sites with warranties/conditions to this effect. These warranties/conditions will still apply if a Sub Contractors plant and equipment is stolen, even if he has no control over the site security.

At ProAktive we are advising policyholders of their responsibilities for security of their plant and machinery to ensure that if a claim occurs they have complied with their Insurers requirements and the claim will be paid. If you would like any further information, please feel free to contact us on either 01302 341 344 or 0114 2439914.

By Martin Singleton Dip CII – Account Executive

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The Taylor Review: A Quick Summary

Last week the Government released the findings of the ‘Taylor Review’, which looked at working practices of the modern economy in the UK.

The review was instigated to review all the various aspects of the current modern working world and review how employment legislation and practices are coping with this evolution.

The review was tasked with putting in place a Strategy to provide ‘good work’ for all. Their definition of good work encompasses the following:

  • Fair wages
  • Education and Training
  • Working Conditions
  • Flexibility
  • Work Life Balance
  • Collective representation

The review also suggested that everyone should enjoy basic protections and be allowed to progress.

A large part of the review surrounds the recent controversies and ambiguities arising from what has become known as ‘the gig economy’. Recent cases have seen companies such as Deliveroo and Uber defending themselves in respect of cases which have been brought by their workforce, with the key questions relating to the status of that ‘workforce’ and the protections and entitlements they should be afforded.

The review concludes that those workers operating within platform-based companies such as those described above, should be classed as ‘dependent contractors’, rather than ‘workers’ or ‘self-employed’.  The review recommends that there should be a new test for what defines a ‘dependent contractor’ hinging on the level of control that the contractor has on the services they are providing.

On a positive note for business and the economy, the review recognised the benefit of the gig economy for most workers, which allows greater flexibility than other forms of employment. However, it did determine that that clearer distinctions should be made between dependent contractors (such as those working for platform companies) and legitimately self-employed persons.

The report also calls for the Government to put strategies in place that allow those who currently earn the National Living Wage, to progress in the workplace, earn more and not be stuck on this base level of pay for the long term.

IMPORTANT AREA TO NOTE: At the moment failure to issue a written statement of terms; which could be a contract, can only lead to an award of compensation when included as part of another tribunal claim i.e. unfair dismissal or discrimination. Going forward the report recommends that there should be a stand alone right for individuals to make a claim in the employment tribunal for failure to issue a written statement.

Since the report is only there to make recommendations, there is likely to be a debate at a Government level as to what changes it will be implemented……. so we will continue to keep an eye on developments and keep you updated.

To read the Taylor Report in full: Click here

To speak to us about any potential impact in your business or any other employment matters please contact on our HR Consultancy Team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII – Risk Services Adviser

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HSE following through on strategy

At the beginning of the year we wrote a blog outlining the HSE’s strategy for 2017. The majority of that article focused on how the HSE were focusing on the health of employees, including Occupational Stress and Health, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Occupational Lung Disease.

We are now starting to see some serious fines being delivered to companies who fail to adhere to the HSE standards specifically when it comes to the above priorities. 

In May, Barroerock Construction Limited were fined £750,000 and ordered to pay additional costs of £14,874.68 after pleading guilty to two offences of breaching regulations when it came to the management of Asbestos substances during construction.

More recently on the 11th July an engineering firm was fined for failing to control the risk to employees using hand held power tools from Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Regulations 6(1) and 8(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

This company was found responsible for injuries to an experienced worker and a 20 year old apprentice by failing to control the risks associated with vibration. The HSE inspector said “The Company also failed to ensure workers were looked after when symptoms did arise leading to further exposure. This was wholly inadequate, and led to two employees suffering significant health effects”. The fines for these breaches came to £120,000 and ordered to pay £7,241.

It’s also important to remember there will be additional costs on top of this due to damaged reputation, replacing injured workers and liability claims, leading to increased insurance premiums.

If you would like any more information on managing these risks or any other Health & Safety topics please contact our team on 01302 341 344.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH – Health & Safety Manager

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Business Interruption – It’s not just your own premises you need to worry about!

As you may know, the intention of Business Interruption cover is to put your business back into the trading position it enjoyed before a loss (fire, flood , storm etc.) once the damage has been repaired & the business is back up & running. This can take many months, if not years, & it is important therefore to have an indemnity period (the length of time over which your cover will operate) that will allow the business to fully recover its trading position to its pre-loss level.

However, losses that directly affect your premises are not the whole story. Your business can be affected by losses that occur elsewhere, which you can also insure. Here are just a few to think about:

  • Losses at customers’ or suppliers’ premises

If you are dependent on a particular customer or supplier, whether in the UK or overseas, a loss at their premises could have a significant impact on your ability to trade. Cover is available on a specified or non-specified basis for customers & suppliers.

  • Failure of supply – e.g. gas, electricity, telecommunications

A failure of power to your business will significantly affect your ability to produce goods or otherwise continue to trade. Cover is available for losses that arise from losses at the supply undertaking’s premises or on a wider basis for anything that affects supply to the terminal ends at the point of entry to your premises.

  • Denial of access

If property is damaged in the vicinity of your premises it could have a significant impact in preventing or hindering the use of or access to your premises.

  • Loss of attraction

If property within the vicinity of your premises suffers a loss it may result in a diminished attraction to customers that would have otherwise visited the area & your business. This is particularly applicable to retailers who may benefit from footfall due to a big name store being nearby.

  • Act of competent authority (e.g. bomb threat)

Cover is available for denial of access to your premises even when there is no physical damage to any property – for example if the police close the roads due to a bomb threat or other incident in the area

  • Loss at a location where your property is stored

Cover is available to indemnify you if you suffer a loss of profit following a loss at a third party premises where your property is being stored

  • Loss at a contract site

If a significant proportion of your turnover is derived from a particular site, cover is available to protect your income from a loss at that site

  • Loss in transit

Cover is also available for loss of profit following damage to property in transit

It is important that you consider the impact of any/all of these scenarios when deciding on the right business interruption cover for your business. We at ProAktive can help you review your existing cover & make sure it meets the needs of your business. Please contact a member of the team if you wish to discuss in more detail.

By Beverley Brown FCII MBA – Broking Director & Chartered Insurance Broker

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Credit Insurance: Supporting your cashflow

The majority of businesses insure their physical assets, so why do so many businesses not insure their cash? Unpaid invoices can represent a significant proportion of  businesses assets yet many companies choose not to buy Credit Insurance.

Credit Insurance has been around since the late 19th century and yet so many companies are either not aware that it exists or choose to take the risk. Credit insurance will replace the cash of a bad debt caused by a customer’s insolvency or payment default following the sale of goods or services provided on credit terms.

There are various cover options available although the main types are Whole Turnover and Key Clients. Insurers use a variety of credit rating agencies to monitor company performance and this analysis forms the basis of the credit limits they will allow for your customers. If Insurers don’t offer you the full amount of credit applied for there is usually a good reason for their decision, which may make you question if you would want to be offering your customer a particular level of credit?

The policy covers customer insolvency and protracted non-payment and often insurers will allow you an element of discretion for smaller customers based on your trading experience. Additionally, policies will usually pay up to 95% of the outstanding amount should a claim occur.

The level of credit insurance is usually agreed at the start of the policy. However, insurers are flexible and understand that your business can change substantially over a year. Most insurers have a facility for you to choose your credit limits throughout the year as your customer base changes. Often credit insurance is supported by an online facility which ensures decisions are made quickly.

As well as vital protection against the effects of bad debt, credit insurance can also benefit your company in a number of ways:

  • Fast replacement of working capital
  • Greater access to finance facilities
  • Supports your credit management/control procedures
  • Business Development
  • Supplier Relationships
  • Increased information on your customers
  • No need for bad debt reserves
  • Peace of mind

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has recently revealed that £4 million is paid out per week in credit insurance claims in the UK alone!

If you would like to discuss this area of insurance in more detail with one of our Account Managers, you can reach us on either 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Andy Morley – Group Managing Director

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Grenfell Tower disaster – free cladding checks available

Following the terrible disaster that happened at Grenfell Tower on 14th June, you will have probably noticed that the coverage in the press and television continues to be extensive. Fires are complicated things and the inquest into the exact causes of the fire and its aftermath are likely to take some time to deliver answers.

It is not the purpose of this update to make assumptions, however a lot of the coverage to date has been focussed on the Aluminium Composite Material cladding applied to the outside of the tower during a recent refurbishment. If you, as a landlord or property owner, are worried that your residential building might have similar cladding to that used at Grenfell Tower, the government has announced that free testing is available. Priority is being given, understandably, to buildings over six stories or 18 metres in height.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website can be found here and gives detail of how to access the testing facilities and an email address for queries. If nothing else, the provision of free testing of samples should either give peace of mind that no issue exists with your building or whether remedial action is required.

If you require any further advice on fire safety matters, whether it’s in residential properties or not, please do not hesitate to contact our health and safety consultants at ProAktive on 01302 341344.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH – Health & Safety Manager

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Hair today, gone tomorrow

In a bold move the construction firm Mears has banned construction workers on site from having beards, on the basis of this being a risk to their health and safety.

The health and safety in question involves the wearing of dust masks and whether having a beard impacts their effectiveness on keeping dust and other particles away from the face. 

There are some exceptions to the rule; a letter sent out to workers states that a goatee “may be acceptable so long as it doesn’t hinder the correct fitting of said dust masks’. Also if a worker can’t shave or wear a mask for medical or religious reasons, providing they supply sufficient proof (medical certificates or letter from place of religious worship), they can be excused from this rule.

Workers were informed of the decision by a letter and tool box talks have been delivered on site and this is now a Mears nationwide policy for the entire company. They are also taking a strong stance on this with anybody not adhering to the new policy being taken down the disciplinary route.

The firm has been criticised for rather than banning beards, or other forms of facial hair, they should recognise the diversity of their workforce and that other forms of respiratory protective equipment could be made available, which would allow the employee to have the protection they need without having to be clean shaven. In response to this Mears have stated that the health & safety of their workers is their priority.

It is unclear whether this stance will be adopted by other large construction companies and if it will start to impact on their subcontractors working on their site. This is something to keep an eye on other the next few months.

For further advice on Face Fit Testing or any other area of safety in the workplace, please contact our team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII – Risk Services Adviser

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Terrorism – are you protected?

Over the past few months there has been no escaping the sad reality of the world we live in today.  Unfortunately stories of terrorist attacks are becoming a regular occurrence – but have you thought about what a terrorist attack could mean to you?

It is our natural instinct to protect our lives however possible but we shouldn’t forget about how terrorism could affect our belongings and investments. You may think that you and your business are protected by your insurance as standard when it comes to this type of risk, but many people are not aware that terrorism cover usually comes as an optional add-on to your insurance policy.

Following the 9/11 attack 16 years ago, whereby insurers are reported to have paid out a record $32 billion in claims, insurers started to restrict terrorism cover by introducing a specific exclusion in their policy wordings. This does vary between insurers but typically excludes ‘any loss, damage, liability, cost or expense of any kind directly or indirectly caused by, resulting from or in connection with, any act of terrorism’.

Whether this relates to your business or personal insurance, it is now your responsibility to cover yourself against the unforeseen risk of terrorism. You may suffer damage to your buildings and/or contents, not forgetting the disturbance it may cause to your business, also known as ‘business interruption’.

If your property has a mortgage it is important to check if you are required to have terrorism cover. Many lenders often make this imperative in the agreement and if not adhered to you would not only be uninsured but also in breach of the contract.

You can protect your property at an economical cost, so please feel free to ask us for a no obligation quotation or for any further advice.

By Molly White – Commercial Account Handler

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Political Activity in the Workplace

It feels like we’ve had a run of elections and votes to consider over the last year and with the result from last month’s snap election there is a chance that we (Theresa) may be called upon again in the not so distant future. This all raises the question of what you consider as acceptable when it comes to employees engaging in political activities in the workplace.

It’s important to realise that political opinions can be one of the most divisive topics, along with religion, and can lead to emotions and tempers running high. Younger and older generations often have differences in the way they vote which can cause conflict in the workplace. It is also likely that you may see differences, depending on how far up the ‘company ladder’ employees are, as to which party will receive their vote or what expectations they have from their government and local leaders. 

Some companies are now putting policies in place which outlines what they expect from their employees when it comes to politics. Examples include:

  • Prohibiting employees from campaigning, attempting to coerce others into holding particular political opinions and wearing political symbols.
  • Reminding employees of the company bullying and harassment policies.
  • Banning employees from putting up notices or leaving promotional political materials, such as leaflets, on company premises.
  • Using company resources (printers, photocopiers etc) to assist with political activity.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s (EAT) stance on the matter of politics within the workplace is slightly grey. Although political opinions are not a protected characteristic under the equality act, religion and beliefs, including philosophical beliefs such as humanism, pacifism and atheism are protected. Therefore in 2009 the EAT stated that ‘support of a political party will not amount to a philosophical belief, but a belief in a political philosophy or doctrine may qualify’.

Whether or not you need to have a written policy in place, to manage the levels of political activity that your employees can engage in on your premises, is up to you. It is worthwhile to note that if anything was to arise where you needed to go down the disciplinary route, it would be a lot easier for you to implement if you could refer to a specific policy in your handbook.

For more information on implementing these types of policies within your business or for more information on how ProAktive can help with any other HR issues please contact our HR Team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII – Risk Services Adviser

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