Fine for tyre manufacturer
In September, tyre maker Pirelli was fined over £500,000 after two workers were seriously injured at its Carlisle factory. The men suffered serious injuries to their arms in separate incidents where they were pulled into inadequately-guarded machinery in 2013 and 2015. The firm admitted health and safety breaches at a court hearing. Pirelli was fined £512,000 and ordered to pay a further £5,820 in costs.
Our advice: Seek early legal advice from a specialist regulatory team. Expert involvement at an early stage can greatly reduce the length of an investigation and assist to achieve the best outcome for those facing charges.
Scheduling disciplinary proceedings
In Talon Engineering Ltd v Smith, an employment appeal tribunal has held that the employer acted unreasonably by refusing to postpone a rescheduled disciplinary hearing by 10 days, to allow a trade union representative to attend.
Even though doing so did not breach provisions in section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 – which requires an employer to agree to postpone a hearing by up to five working days – the decision to refuse the postponement and then dismiss the employee in her absence was seen as unfair.
As a result, employers should consider all requests for a postponement of a disciplinary hearing, even if it is for more than five days. This does not mean that an employer should always agree to a postponement, but it is important to act reasonably for reputational as well as financial reasons.
In 2017, the government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to report on the current and future patterns of migration from the EEA to the UK, and impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union. The MAC report, published in September 2018 (https://is.gd/cosami), draws a series of conclusions about how the immigration system ‘could be designed to better benefit’ UK-born workers. Key recommendations include:
● Focus on attracting higher-skilled workers
● No preferential treatment for EEA workers
● Expand Tier 2 to cover ‘medium-skilled’ jobs
● No reduction in Tier 2 salary thresholds
● Abolish the Tier 2 immigration cap
● Reduce the ‘bureaucratic burden’ of the immigration system
● Retain the Immigration Skills Charge
● Abolish the Resident Labour Market Test
● No separate immigration scheme for ‘low-skilled’ workers
● No variation for UK regions or the public sector
Our advice: If the government puts some or all of these recommendations into practice, there is much more work to be done to amend and refine the details of any new immigration scheme. We know that many businesses are worried that both cost and complexity will increase post-Brexit, so any steps the government might take to streamline or simplify the immigration regime are welcome.
Fostering good mental health
The focus of workplace health and safety has always been on safeguarding employees against risk of physical harm. However, health and safety regulations also place a duty on the employer to safeguard their employees’ welfare at work. Some organisations are now starting to consider ways of doing just that.
The Health and Safety Executive confirms that employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work and they are therefore required to undertake a risk assessment and act upon it.
Our advice: Below are a few examples that some businesses have tried in order to improve their employees’ wellbeing:
● Have a flexible working policy that allows employees to exercise before work or during lunch break
● Provide healthy eating options in canteens and vending machines
● Arrange staff discounts at local leisure centres and health clubs
● Provide information on walks near work
● Provide support to employees who want to quit smoking
● Ensuring robust policies and procedures are in place to combat bullying and harassment
● Educating employees on self-management tools and techniques such as mindfulness or peer support.