The Insider Issue Eleven




4. A new Finance Director handed out achievement awards to various members of different departments at the Christmas party but completely ignored one department. In the New Year all the members of that department handed in their resignations. The Finance Director was dismissed. 5. A senior sales manager thought he was under the legal limit but was caught drink driving on his way home from the Christmas party. He was banned from driving for 6 months and dismissed under frustration of contract as there was no alternative position for him. 6. In his quest for a joke photo opportunity for social media, an employee placed drawing pins on a colleague’s chair at the company Christmas party. They were spotted by the colleague before his daughter, also an employee, sat down on them. The employee insisted that it was an innocent prank and did not appear to recognise the disciplinary, health and safety and data protection issues, despite having them all in his contractual documentation. He was dismissed.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but what happens when your employees get a little TOO jolly at the work Christmas party?

Over the years we have heard of some outrageous behaviour including employees being sick on the boss’s lap and stripping off on the dance floor. David Southall, employment law consultant for ELAS, says that it’s important to remember that, while a Christmas party is a social occasion and everyone wants to have fun, it is also an extension of the workplace and people should behave accordingly. David says: “Nobody wants to be a humbug this time of year but employees should know that what seems like a harmless bit of fun at the time can turn into an HR nightmare on Monday morning. When the alcohol is flowing it’s easy for banter to cross the line into offensive behaviour or sexual harassment. This can in turn lead to constructive dismissal or discrimination claims with the potential to tarnish a company’s reputation or result in large compensation pay-outs.” ELAS has compiled the top 6 disciplinary calls they received following last years’ festivities: 1. A company held its Christmas party in a local hotel which was also a client of the company. As soon as the company senior management team left, around 11pm, an employee was seen taking illegal drugs. They were dismissed. 2. An employee did not receive promotion because she had not attended the work Christmas party. She won her case against the company for discrimination. 3. A company held a Christmas party for employees’ children. Two employees got into an unnecessarily heated and threatening exchange over their respective children’s prizes from pass the parcel. Both were given written warnings.


DO have fun! DO dress appropriately DO keep your hands to yourself

DON’T do your party trick, you know the one..... DON’T post embarrassing photos or anecdotes on social media DON’T call in sick the next day

For more information please contact our employment law team on 0161 785 2000

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HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS FROM NOROVIRUS? Winter is traditionally the time of year when norovirus hits the headlines. In the last few weeks Wahaca restaurant chain and several hospitals have been hit by the bug including Royal Stoke University Hospital, Grimsby’s Diana Princess of Wales Hospital and Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Mike Williams, Director of food safety consultancy STS, takes a look at why norovirus can be so hard to prevent. Norovirus is also known as the winter vomiting bug and, therefore, it’s sometimes thought that you can only catch it during the winter. In fact, according to the Health Protection Agency, norovirus accounts for around 90% of non-bacterial gut infections around the world. The symptoms generated by the virus can change as the illness progresses; the first symptom is often a sudden onset of vomiting which can change to abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Immunity to norovirus does not necessarily occur though it is possible to experience short-term immunity after suffering illness. There is a proportion of the population whose genetic makeup means they do not contract illness after being exposed to norovirus. Norovirus is notoriously difficult to control and can spread incredibly quickly through an establishment. There have been a number of high profile incidents including Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant and the Oriana cruise ship which go to show that high quality doesn’t necessarily protect you from infection. People often think that norovirus only spreads from person to person but that’s not the case. It can spread unbelievably easily and is transmitted via food, water, air or contact with contaminated surfaces, objects or people. Norovirus can live on surfaces for up to five days therefore strict cleaning and hand washing procedures should be in place to prevent infection or spread.

Surprising food sources can be the reservoir of infection with raspberries and oysters being implicated in previous outbreaks. As such it is vital to monitor and maintain the food supply chain as part of an ongoing control process. Personal hygiene is the key to prevention. It is essential that food businesses have robust personnel policies in place, making sure that staff report illness, not just to themselves but to close family members also, especially where sickness and diarrhoea are the main symptoms. They should stay away from work for a minimum of 48 hours after their last known symptoms. This also relates to contractors and suppliers and you should ensure that there are requisite policies in place for them to adhere to when visiting or attending food outlets. This will allow management to make informed choices to help keep their establishment illness free. You must also provide suitable hand washing facilities including soap and hot water but, more importantly, make sure that staff and all visitors to the premises wash their hands properly and regularly. Once norovirus gets into a food business it can be extremely hard to track down the source of the infection, especially when the illness is spread across several different sites. We are still waiting to hear the source of infection in the Wahaca case but given that multiple branches were affected, potential sources could include external contractors such as pest controllers, food delivery staff, auditors etc; food supplies i.e. products which have been contaminated prior to delivery or even members of staff going between sites. For more information get in touch with us today on 01252 728 300.

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This time of year sees an increase in workplace social events but we’ve found they also show an increase in the number of drink/ drug driving arrests. While many look forward to socialising with colleagues or clients it’s easy to end up drinking more than you intended, potentially putting yourself in an embarrassing or dangerous situation. Statistics show that the morning-after can sometimes cause more problems than the night before. Danny Clarke, Group Operations Director for the ELAS Group said: “Everyone wants to let their hair down during the festive season and most will organise lifts or taxis to take them home afterwards. However, few people consider how long it takes for alcohol to leave their system. If you have to work the day after you’ve been out late drinking, then there is a good chance you might be over the legal limit when driving to work in the morning.” In a 2015 survey commissioned by ELAS, around a quarter of the British workforce admitted to driving to work the morning after drinking while feeling over the limit. A year on, we wanted to see if there was still an issue with people driving to or from work whilst under the influence and submitted a Freedom of Information request to Greater Manchester Police, asking: 1) In December 2015 and January 2016, how many people in Greater Manchester were found to be over the legal alcohol limit or under the influence of illegal drugs while driving a car or motorcycle? 2) Of those, howmany were found to be over the legal alcohol limit or under the influence of illegal drugs specifically between Monday and Friday from 6am to 10pm.

1 in 5 of all drink driving arrests during December happened Mon-Fri between 6am-10pm, falling to just 1 in 8 during January. This is a clear indication that more people might be going to or from work under the influence following social events. 1 in3drugdrivingarrests inGreaterManchesterbetween 1/12/2015 and 31/1/2016 happened from Monday to Friday between 6am and 10pm and employers can’t let their guard down once the festive season is over. Statistics show the number of arrests actually rises in January to 36% - up from 25% in December. Danny Clarke says: “It’s important to note that these numbers are just the arrests of people under the influence of illegal drugs. All drugs carry health risks, including cognitive-enhancing drugs or prescription medication so the actual number of employees who are potentially working under the influence might be considerably higher.” It’s important for employers to have strict policies in place, and a robust drugs and alcohol policy is essential. What amounts to ‘being under the influence’ and whether or not this is acceptable in a work environment can vary from company to company. Some might encourage boozy lunch meetings, others may have employees who operate heavy machinery and therefore apply a zero tolerance policy - which would include anyone testing positive the morning after the night before. Your drugs and alcohol policy needs to be clear on this.

For more information talk to our Occupational Health team today on 01925 838 350.

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One of my employees has just resigned and given 4 weeks notice. They are only required to give one week’s notice in their contract; can I restrict them to this? It is not uncommon for employees to give more notice than they are required to, whether that’s because they want to continue working until they start their new job or perhaps they need more time to find another job. This can often be a pain for employers because, once someone has given notice, they can sometimes be disruptive to other staff or they might use the time when they should be working to use your company resources to further their new career. With that in mind, sometimes it is better to restrict an employee to their contractual notice where you can.


Employers are in a strong legal position here and you have no obligation to accept the additional notice. Once an employee gives their notice you can set their leaving date as being one week from then, or whatever notice period is stipulated in their contract. It is very important though that you write to the employee and clearly set out the fact that you are not accepting the longer notice period. It should also be noted that it is worth considering whether a longer notice period will be beneficial to your business, for example, if you need extra time to find a replacement. If that’s the case then it is advisable to ensure that when you write to the employee to accept their resignation you include a provision to revert to the contractual notice period if required.

Call 0161 785 2000 to speak to one of our experts today and find out how to keep your business one step ahead of any changes.

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