Over the past few months, Acas has published four new pieces of guidance which will be of interest to employment lawyers and HR professionals. In addition, we understand that Acas is currently preparing guidance on the forthcoming gender pay gap reporting regime.

Guidance on managing potentially life-threatening conditions at work

This guidance is designed to help employers manage staff who have a potentially life-threatening or long term illnesses such as cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis. The guidance is particularly pertinent as recent research has shown that by 2020 almost one in two people (47%) will get cancer at some point in their lives. The guidance makes the following recommendations:

  • Have a conversation with staff members who have progressive illnesses very early on and establish whether or not they wish to share their news with team members.
  • Get an understanding of the illness and the effects it will have on their staff and what kind of reasonable adjustments that can help them.
  • Hold regular chats which can help to reveal if any additional adjustments will be needed and extra support that's available at work.
  • Make sure employees are aware of their workplace rights including sick pay and other benefits they could be entitled to.

Updated guidance on dress code and appearance at work to reflect research on tattoos

The guidance on dress codes and appearance at work has been updated in light of new research which revealed that employers risked losing talented young employees due to concerns about visible tattoos. The new independent study found that young people were especially affected as almost one third of young people have tattoos. Other findings revealed that:

  • Negative attitudes towards tattoos and piercing from managers and employees can influence the outcome of recruitment exercises within some workplaces.
  • Some public sector workers felt that people would not have confidence in the professionalism of a person with a visible tattoo.
  • Some private sector employers, from law firms to removal companies, all raised concerns about visible tattoos in relation to perceived negative attitudes of potential clients or customers.

The revised guidance provides that employers may wish to promote a certain image through their workers which they believe reflects the ethos of their organisations, which may mean that they ask workers to remove piercings or cover tattoos while at work. The guidance states that if an employer adopts a dress / appearance code it should clearly communicated to all staff so they understand is expected from them.

Guidance for young people joining the labour force after leaving full-time education

This guidance is designed to assist those who wish to join the labour force straight after leaving full time education. It aims to provide essential advice on the particular legal issues that young people may face at work, including special employment rights for 16 and 17 year olds, information on apprenticeships and the national minimum wage. Zero hours contracts are also covered in the guidance, which is a top issue for young workers as the proportion of 16-24 year olds on zero hours contracts is three times higher than for other age groups. The guidance is also intended to help managers welcome their new staff at this challenging time and understand their obligations.

Guidance on marriage and civil partnership discrimination

This guidance is designed for employers, managers, HR, employees, trade union representatives and job applicants. It summarises the legal protections under the Equality 2010 and aims to explain how marriage and civil partnership discrimination can occur in the workplace, how it should be dealt with and how to reduce the chance of future discrimination. This guide also encourages employers to make sure their workplaces are inclusive, and that workers are not excluded because of their marital or civil partner status.