The Insider Issue Ten




Wahaca restaurant chain has been hit by an outbreak of norovirus, with more than 300 people reportedly having fallen ill and nine branches being temporarily closed. Four of the branches remain closed while Public Health England and the chain try to establish the cause of the infection. Mike Williams, director of STS, says: “The fact that multiple branches of Wahaca have been closed in a way makes it harder to pinpoint the source of infection. Potential sources could include external contractors such as pest controllers, food delivery staff, auditors etc; food suppliers i.e. products which have been contaminated prior to delivery or even members of staff going between sites. “Norovirus is a notoriously difficult organism 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.

“Norovirus is very easily spread from person to person and this highlights the need for excellent personal hygiene standards. Surprising food sources can also be the reservoir of infection with items such as raspberries and oysters being implicated in previous outbreaks. As such, maintaining and monitoring the food supply chain is just part of an ongoing control process. “Given that person to person spread is often the source of infection, it is essential that restaurants 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. This will allow restaurant management to make informed choices to help keep their establishment illness free.” For more information get in touch with us today on 01252 728 300.

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An employment tribunal today handed down a verdict in the case against cab-hailing app Uber. Drivers won the case they had brought against the firm saying they were acting unlawfully by not offering holiday and sick pay. They claimed that the terms and conditions of the arrangement they had with Uber meant that they should be classified as workers rather than self-employed and, as such, were entitled to national minimum wage, holiday pay, rest breaks and the protection of the whistleblowing legislation. The tribunal agreed. This case was dubbed by many as the UK employment law case of the year, and the verdict has far reaching implications. ELAS consultant Emma O’Leary, specialises in employment law. She says: “The wait is over and it’s not too far from what we expected. The tribunal found that the drivers should in fact be classified as workers, rather than self-employed as Uber had claimed.

They will now be able to claim backdated pay and holiday pay – given that Ubers says it has 40,000 drivers in the UK who now, as a result of this ruling, will be classified as workers their bill will be astronomical. “This ruling will rip through the gig economy companies and open the floodgates for similar claims. “For us as employment lawyers the ruling actually provides clarity on the muddy waters of employment status, which has long been the greyest area of employment law. Is someone self-employed or are they really an employee, or a worker? It’s important to note in this case, they are workers and not employees so they will not have protection from unfair dismissal, redundancy pay etc. “Companies often fall into the trap of considering someone to be self-employed just because the ‘contractor’ is responsible for their own tax and NI – as we’ve seen this on its own is not enough to prove there is no employment relationship. Of course, Uber are highly likely to appeal so it may not be over just yet.” For more information please contact our employment law team on 0161 785 2000

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A new survey has shown that one in four Brits say that work makes them unhappy, with management styles, technology and workplace relationships being identified as main reasons for the unhappiness. 1500 British workers were surveyed from across the private and public sectors. The study also found that those surveyed did not place value on taking a lunch break, or getting fresh air during the day. Dr Martin Strudley is an Occupational Health Physician and Medical Director for the ELAS Group. He says these results are worrying: “People spend the majority of their time in work, and the extent to which a job can affect personal wellbeing cannot be understated. If one in four Brits are unhappy in work then this will probably be spilling over into their personal life as well. We have found that nearly two thirds of employees have experienced negative effects on their personal life including physical and mental health problems, poor relationships and poor home life as a result of their work.”

There are four simple steps which a company can take to help ensure their employees maintain a good work/life balance: • Have defined working hours. Ensure that employee workloads are manageable within these time constraints and employees have proper breaks • Encourage a culture of openness. Employees must feel able to speak up if the demands placed on them are too great • Train managers to recognise the signs of stress and a poor work/life balance in employees. Know the effects that stress can have on a person and put preventative measures in place • Put in place policies that acknowledge the links between work-related stress and mental health. Regularly monitor and evaluate policies against performance indicators i.e. sickness or staff satisfaction Having good supervision, clear goals, appraisals and staff development are key things that some take for granted but which can set the tone for supporting people at work. The things you can do to support someone often cost far less than having someone on sick leave, or having to recruit a replacement for a person who leaves . For more information talk to our Occupational Health team today on 01925 838 350.

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We loaned an employee £1000 with an informal agreement to deduct £250 from their pay for the following four months, however we would like it to be paid back early. As it’s our money can we change the deductions whenever we wish?

Unfortunately you can’t, the law is very strict on lawful deductions. If you wanted to deduct money from an employee’s wages in this way then there would need to be an express agreement in place allowing for early deductions. If you opted to take the loan back earlier than agreed the employee would be able to bring a wages claim against you in a tribunal. If they were successful they would be protected by the Employment Rights Act 1996 which would then stop you from being able to recover that money by any other means i.e. the County Court even though it was yours in the first place.


If you decide to assist employees with loans then best practice is to have an express loan agreement in place detailing the exact amount being loaned and a rigid repayment schedule. You and the employee should sign this to ensure it is legally binding. Any amendments to these terms also need to be made in writing. Contracts of employment can include clauses which say that any outstanding monies owed can be deducted from an employees’ final pay following resignation or dismissal, however this would clearly not be applicable in this case. Be aware that if you try deducting this money without authority and your employee objects then you cannot dismiss them as a result of that objection. Should this happen you are likely to find yourself faced with an automatic unfair dismissal claim based on the employees’ assertion of a statutory right.

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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