Ban on Smoking in the Workplace
The rules banning smoking in the workplace are already in place in Wales and are imminent in Northern Ireland and England.

The ban on smoking will apply to enclosed public areas and workplaces, including all pubs, private members’ clubs and restaurants.


The ban on smoking came into force in Wales on 2 April 2007 and comes into force in Northern Ireland on 30 April 2007 and in England on 1 July 2007.
Increase in Levels of Statutory Pay

#  The standard weekly rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay is due to increase from £108.85 to £112.75 a week (or 90% of the person’s average weekly earnings if it is under £112.75).

#  The weekly rate of statutory sick pay increases to £72.55.

The new rates of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay come into force on 1 April 2007. Statutory sick pay increases with effect from 6 April 2007. Gender Equality Duty

#  On 6 April 2007 the duty of public authorities to promote gender equality is introduced.

#  The new duty will require public authorities to draw up a scheme setting out gender equality goals as well as developing, publishing and regularly reviewing a policy on equal pay arrangements. Public authorities must also assess the impact of new legislation as well as changes to policies, employment and service delivery. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2006/ukpga_20060003_en.pdf

The duty to promote gender equality came into force on 6 April 2007 and the requirement on public sector bodies to prepare a gender equality scheme will come into effect on 30 April 2007.
Information and Consultation of Employees

The regulations on information and consultation of employees give employees minimum rights to be informed and consulted by their employers regarding various issues in the workplace.

#  The first part of the regulations came into effect on 6 April 2005 and applies to concerns with 150 or more employees.

#  The second phase of the regulations came into effect on 6 April 2007 and applies to enterprises with 100 or more employees.

#  The third phase of the regulations is due to be implemented in April 2008 and will apply to enterprises with 50 or more employees.

#  The requirement to inform and consult employees is triggered by a formal request from employees for an information and consultation agreement, or by the employer initiating the process.

#  The agreement will regulate how the employer will inform and consult the employees on issues such as the undertaking’s economic situation, development of employment or decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work, organisation etc. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/SI/si2004/20043426.htm

The Regulations have applied to businesses with more than 100 employees from 6 April 2007. Changes to Work and Families Legislation

Changes to the Work and Families legislation are due to take effect at the beginning of this month. They include:

#  The period of statutory maternity and adoption pay is extended from 26 to 39 weeks for employees whose children are expected to be born (or placed with them for adoption) on or after 1 April 2007.

#  The maternity pay period may start on any day of the week.

#  All employees who qualify for ordinary maternity leave will automatically be entitled to additional maternity leave.

#  The notification period for early return to work is increased from 28 days to 56 days.

#  “Keeping in touch” days are introduced so that an employee on maternity or adoption leave will be able to work for up to ten days without bringing the leave to an end.

#  Employers will be entitled to make reasonable contact with employees on maternity or adoption leave.

#  The right to request flexible working is extended to carers of adults.

Further information can be found at the DTI website: http://www.dti.gov.uk/employment/workandfamilies/index.html

The rules came into effect on 1 April 2007, apart from the extension of flexible working to carers which took effect from 6 April 2007.


Slap on the Wrist for our Incompatible Sex Discrimination Laws

The High Court has ruled that the rights of women are not protected adequately because the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 do not implement the European Equal Treatment Directive properly.

The court decided that it was unclear what protection there is for women on maternity leave who are not consulted about changes to their job and whether additional maternity leave was excluded from length of service in relation to promotion.

The definition of harassment was also criticised in that it did not reflect the broad protection envisaged by the Directive.

The fact that employees are not protected by the regulations from harassment by clients, suppliers and the public (with the employer’s knowledge) was given as a specific example of where there was a lack of protection.

Expired Disciplinary Warnings Not To Be Considered

The EAT has held that expired disciplinary warnings can never be taken into account when an employer is considering whether to dismiss an employee.

In this case, three weeks after a final written warning had expired, an employee committed a similar offence. Four of his colleagues also committed the same offence. He was dismissed, but the others were not.

The EAT found the dismissal was unfair and ruled that “a tribunal is obliged, not merely entitled, to ignore expired warnings.”
Airbus UK v Webb
Exclusion of BNP Members From Trade Unions

The European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that trade unions have the right to exclude BNP members from their membership.

The ECHR decided that there is no obligation on a union to admit those who do not share its values. The right of the union to choose its members outweighed the BNP member’s right to freedom of expression.

Whistleblowing: “Qualifying” Disclosure

As mentioned in last month’s Bite Size, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 provides protection to employees who blow the whistle on their employers by disclosing information including, for example, information relating to crime or misconduct.

According to the Court of Appeal a disclosure is a “qualifying” disclosure if the employee “reasonably believes” that a criminal offence or legal obligation, capable of breach, exists.

It does not actually need to exist.

In this case, the Court decided that the employee’s belief in the truth of the information he was disclosing was a reasonable belief. Accordingly, even though the employee turned out to be factually wrong, he had still made a qualifying disclosure.
Babula v Waltham Forest

Employment News

Fewer Women Than Ever in the Top Management Team

The number of women breaking through into senior management has declined sharply according to new figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

An analysis of FTSE 350 companies shows a 40% decrease in senior managers who are women. In 2002 women occupied 38% of senior management posts, this has now fallen to 22%.

This is despite research conducted by The Training Camp, which revealed that more women were opting for management-based courses whereas men were choosing specialised technology training.

Smoking on the Job

A study by Benenden Healthcare Society found that on average smokers spend 30 minutes every working day taking a cigarette break.

The lost time is the equivalent of 290,000 working days every year. Further, thousands of workers take cigarette breaks of more than half an hour each day and often leave the office seven times each working day to smoke.

The survey of 1,000 adults also found that smokers in the North take the most breaks, with only 13 per cent going through the day without having a cigarette break; this contrasts with almost a third in the Midlands.

A Society spokeswoman said: ‘Cigarette breaks are positive for non-smokers as they minimise the impact of passive smoking but, if smokers are seen to be taking advantage of the breaks they will become unpopular’.

In light of the imminent smoking ban, employers need to plan ahead for the changes. Smoking policies should be properly implemented to ensure cigarette breaks are taken in a fair and ordered manner. The policy should also deal with the new legislation to ensure employees do not breach the smoking ban.

And Finally…

Are Female Workers More Honest?
More than three million Britons have committed crimes in the workplace in the past 12 months. Most of the incidents ranged from adjusting company accounts to falsely claiming expenses. Often this goes undetected.

The report conducted by Protiviti also revealed that a proportion of the fraudsters were guilty of stealing their employer’s intellectual property as well as taking bribes from suppliers. Apparently men are more likely to commit offences, with 15% admitting guilt, compared to 8.8% of women.