The Insider - February

ISSUE THIRTEEN

Top 10 worse excuses for absence in 2016

“The FSA is committed to ensuring the amount of acrylamide in food is as low as possible, and today launched a consumer information campaign aimed at helping people reduce the levels in their home. The campaign doesn’t advise to stop eating particular foods but rather follow some basic guidelines i.e. cook chips to a golden colour, toast bread to the lightest colour acceptable and follow manufacturer’s instructions for oven heating or frying foods. “This guidance on acrylamide also applies to a wide variety of food businesses which also need to minimise levels in the food they produce and serve. Acrylamide should be considered as a chemical hazard in food businesses Food Safety Management Systems.

STS Director Fiona Sinclair takes a look at acrylamide and what it means for food businesses: “The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK’s Committee on Toxicity have identified acrylamide as a health concern saying high levels of consumption may contribute to the risk of serious health issues, including cancer. “Acrylamide forms via a process called the Maillard reaction where naturally present water, sugar and amino acids combine to create colours, aromas and flavours. When food is browned acrylamide is also produced.

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Industry guides/codes of practice are being developed for the hospitality industry, and examples of simple practical controls include: Purchase Choose potato varieties with lower starch levels and cooking oils which fry at lower temperatures. Storage Store potatoes above 6°C as sugar increases with lower temperatures, avoid bruising potatoes as this increases the starch content . Preparation Wash potatoes to reduce starch, parboil as this can reduce starch by as much as 50%, reduce surface area of product e.g. roast potatoes have less surface area than thin cut chips. Cooking Avoid frying until dark in colour, bake bread/biscuits to a light colour, consider lower temperature and longer cooking times, regularly change oil.

Avoid frying until dark in colour and consider cooking at lower temprature

“The best way to monitor levels is colour charts, which correlate acceptable values and levels of acrylamide. “It would be burdensome and costly to require analysis and measurement of specific levels of acrylamide in food service, however local authorities will be embarking on sampling programmes. An EU regulation on reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food has been drafted and industry guides are currently under development.”

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MP’S ENQUIRY INTO DRESS CODES

Step 3 - Dress code should be balanced with other considerations such as health and safety, not just in the workplace but also for the personwearing the itemof clothing. You wouldn’t expect someone to wear a tie around fast moving dangerous machines. Equally, forcing someone with a disability to wear high heels might exasperate conditions surrounding their disability. Danny Clarke is Group Operations Director for ELAS. He agrees that health and safety guidelines regarding high heels and the potential long term damage that comes with wearing them on a regular basis might need looking at; particularly when it comes to strain on the upper part of the legs and pressure that is placed on the toes when wearing high heels. Danny says: “Ultimately footwear needs to be sensible and suitable for work activities and the working environment. Certain environments such as factories, warehouses or transportation typically require the wearing of closed toe or steel capped shoes. High heels are normally deemed necessary as part of a corporate dress policy but with research highlighting the risks of long-term musculoskeletal damage as a result of wearing them, it may be time for employers to review these strict dress codes. Taking into account employers’ duty of care to protect their employees’ health in the workplace, I would suggest that they consider reviewing these dress codes and determining whether the requirement to wear high heels is necessary. If employees spend the majority of the day on their feet, are required to carry heavy or awkward loads or walk any kind of distance then we would recommend this be taken into account.”

Emma O’Leary , employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says there are three steps a company needs to consider when looking at a dress code policy: Step 1 - What are you trying to achieve? Are you askingwomen to wear high heels because it makes them look better/sexier in your mind or is it to enhance a professional image in a client facing role? Emma says: “First impressions are important. In a sophisticated smart environment then it can be argued high heels add to a professional appearance, however the same could be achieved with formal flat shoes. A company needs to look at why they want women to wear heels. If it’s because they feel women are better to look at then stop, however, if it’s for professional/smarter appearance then yes this can be fine if the person is working in a client facing role. The important thing is that the policy is reasonable and needs to be applied equally to men doing a similar role. While you would never ask a man to wear high heels you could require them to wear a tie or have a neatly trimmed beard rather than stubble yet it would be inappropriate to ask a woman in the role if she had shaved her legs.” Step 2 - Is what you are doing proportionate to what you are trying to achieve or are you going over the top? A Parliamentary committee has recommended a change in the law regarding dress code discrimination in the workplace as well as clearer guidance regarding footwear when it comes to health and safety legislation.

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Roxanna works for a shoe company. She posted saying: “My employer requires us to wear high heeled pointy shoes of their choice; we are not allowed to wear alternative flat heeled shoes that are available within the range. We stand all day for 8 hours wearing heels and are not allowed to sit. The stock room is not close to the shop floor and we walk back and forth about 50-60 times a day holding heavy boxes of shoes and boots. We are expected to climb up and down stock room ladders while wearing high heels. None of the male staff within the company are forced to wear heels.” Chloe worked at a luxury department store, she said: “A minimum of a 3” heel was required in the nursery furniture department I worked in. We were expected to wear high heels whilst taking trips to the basement to bring up pushchairs and small items of furniture for customers.” Estate agent Candy said that: “I was told I must wear heels as its professional. I worked 12 hour days and my job involved walking around a lot, which was particularly problematic in winter. I had to show an applicant a property in the snow and looked ridiculous teetering up the hill trying not to fall on my face while my applicant had appropriate snow shoes on.” “Ultimately footwear needs to be sensible and suitable for work activies and the working environment. ” Danny Clarke says: “Comments on the forum clearly showed that employers are not considering the work their employees carry out in their daily duties when requiring them to wear high heels. Is there a reason they are specifying high heels as opposed to flat shoes, particularly in inclement weather? While there is nothing wrong with wanting to maintain a professional image in the workplace, employers should look at whether they are putting employees at risk. A comprehensive risk assessment should look at whether there is an impact on an employee from wearing high heels in a particular job, whether an employee has back pain or issues and how they might be affected in the role. If issues aren’t identified before an employee starts work then it is possible that the employer might contribute to the employee’s back pain. Likewise if an employer requires employees to wear high heels purely for aesthetic reasons then they could be at risk of a discrimination claim.” He continues: “Now that Parliament has recommended changes in guidance or legislation which include requirements for health and safety considerations, we would suggest responsible employers stay one step ahead by updating dress code policies to reflect their commitment to protecting employees’ health.”

Evidence suggests that high heels alter the wearers’ stance, physiology and gait. Podiatrist Kathryn Rutter says: “The foot is designed to deal with gravity and forces in a specific way. If a heel is worn for long periods of time then the position of the foot changes, leading to foot deformity and joint pain in the feet, back and knees. Often corns and calluses occur. Can it therefore be right to force employees to wear high heels for work?” The College of Podiatry submitted evidence to the Parliamentary committee and says they: “...recommend that women should not be forced to wear high heeled shoes in the work place as part of a uniform. We believe that there is a strong body of clinical evidence that significantly indicates the medical and disabling effects of wearing a high heel shoe over a prolonged amount of time. “Despite the fact that there is an abundance of medical and scientific evidence, consideration of the effect the shoe has on the health of the individual as part of a dress code has not previously been addressed. We conducted a survey which revealed that women complain of foot pain on average 1 hour, 6 minutes and 48 seconds after putting on ill-fitting high heel shoes. A fifth of responders said that their feet began to hurt after just 10 minutes’ wear. Given the length of a working day, this would mean working from about 10am until 5pm in pain on a typical 9am-5pm day.” The Parliamentary Petitions Committee set up a web forum ahead of their evidentiary hearings, which generated 730 comments on the issue. The majority of posters who said they had to wear high heels as part of a workplace dress code work in the retail, hospitality, airline or corporate industries. Within the retail industry luxury department stores, shoe chains and jewellers were those most regularly mentioned.

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Top 10 worst excuses for absence in 2016

#8 the dog ate my shoes

ELAS coined the phrase National Sickie Day in 2010 after noticing a pattern of increased absence rates on the first Monday in February .

This year National Sickie Day fell on Monday 6th February and ELAS predicted approximately 350,000 people would call in sick, costing the UK economy around £45 million in wages, lost hours and overtime .

Over the years the absence management specialists have heard some outrageous excuses from people calling in sick, and 2016 was no exception. Here are the top 10 worst excuses for absences in 2016:

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Emma O’Leary , employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says: “These excuses might sound weird and wonderful but they are all genuine ones we have heard from our clients over the last year. As an employer you are perfectly entitled to challenge the authenticity of an absence; if an excuse seems too far-fetched then ask for evidence if appropriate. If you notice a pattern emerging then you should speak to the employee about

their poor attendance and take proactive steps to action it. It is useful to have a formal system in place to monitor absences, such as triggers on a points-based system like the Bradford Factor or ELAS’s Absence Assist which helps identify trends and has been proven to reduce absence rates by up to 62%. The key is not to penalise genuine absences but to tackle the trend of sickies.”

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What is Statutory Sick Pay and do I have to provide it as a small business owner? If so, how much are my employees entitled to? Employers are no longer able to reclaim the costs of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the government and have to absorb these costs themselves. SSP is available for eligible employees who are unable to work; being a small business owner will not exempt you from paying this. Don’t be caught out with other categories of workers - apprentices and some agency workers are entitled to claim SSP. To be eligible for SSP employees MUST: • Be classed as an employee and have done some work for you • Have been ill for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days) • Earn at least £112 (before tax) per week • Tell you they are sick before the deadline - or within 7 days

SSP is not paid for the first 3 days (known as waiting days) unless your employee was on SSP within the last 8 weeks and was eligible -for it again. The current rate set by the government is £88.45 per week and is paid for up to 28 weeks - you can’t pay less than this. You don’t have to pay SSP for any day where the employee has come in to work before going off sick – even if the work is only for a minute. If your employee’s contract is on more favourable terms than that offered by the SSP scheme you may have to pay the amount specified in the contract, which could be full or half pay. This would be paid in the same way as normal wages e.g. weekly or monthly and subject to tax and National Insurance. Your employee won’t qualify for SSP if they have already received the maximum amount (28 weeks) or are getting Statutory Maternity Pay.

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