For all those HR stalwarts stuck in the office while their charges are off on holiday, here are some brief bits of news from Acas to help pass the time:
Acas’ Holiday Pay guidance has been updated, though not in any way which really helps employers still trying to work out what recent decisions mean for the detailed calculation. There are lots of references to overtime and commission being “included”, “considered” and “factored in” but no attempts to explain exactly how http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4109.
So far as non-guaranteed overtime is concerned (“we don’t have to offer it but you have to do it if we do”) a distinction is drawn between such overtime carried out on a “regular and consistent basis” (to be included within holiday pay, somehow) and that where overtime is “only used on genuine one-off occasions”), meaning what, exactly? Just once? In how long? Can you even have more than one genuinely one-off occasion? More importantly, what do you do about all the circumstances in the middle where overtime is more than a one-off but not regular or consistent enough to be described as, well, regular or consistent?
So at this stage, no change, no help and consequently no effective attack yet on the basic principle that if your employee cannot show that he has lost out on overtime or commission earnings through going on holiday, you should not have to pay him for them anyway.
No doubt written with Michael Gove uppermost in mind, a big hand please for the new Acas guidance on Career Breaks http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5754. This confirms the absence of any specific law on the point and the importance from the ER perspective of granting such breaks in a non-discriminatory manner, of being clear about rights to return and pay and statutory continuity, and in particular about writing down whatever is agreed in as much details as possible.
And last, as if keen to show that there is no niche in English employment practice too small for Acas assistance, a page (for it is only that) of new guidance on Working Temperatures http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5791.
This again confirms the absence of any specific law on the point – the temperature in the workplace must be that which a risk assessment indicates is “reasonable” in the circumstances. The Health & Safety Executive suggests a normal office minimum of 16oc, or 13oc where the work is mostly physical. However, what is reasonable will be colder if you work with frozen food and warmer if you work in a bakery or iron foundry. Alternatively, you may encounter either extreme without notice on any Thameslink commuter train.
Related to Working Temperatures is the little-aired issued of “thermal comfort”, not how warm or cold the office is but how warm or cold you feel. This is actually a much better measure of compliance with the health and safety obligation to provide a reasonable physical working environment than air temperature alone, as comfort is also a function of humidity, air velocity, metabolic heat and clothing, whether personal or protective kit or uniforms provided by the employer.
According to Acas, thermal comfort is apparently the very embodiment of the saying that you cannot please all the people all the time. You will therefore have achieved the optimal level here when the number of your staff complaining about being too hot in any given workplace is more or less the same as those griping about being too cold.