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Older and wiser?

After a call from Andy Briggs, the government’s champion for older workers to increase the number of mature workers by 12% by 2022, a group of businesses: Aviva, Atos, Barclays, the Co-operative Group, Home Instead Senior Care, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, Mercer and Walgreens Boots Alliance, have publically committed to tackling a potential skills gap by recruiting more individuals over 50 years old. Both transparency and target setting are quite fashionable at present following gender pay reporting. However, whether there will be any real development in this area remains to be seen. With Brexit on the horizon, and uncertainty about any restrictions on free movement, the pool of home-grown talent in their 50’s and older should sensibly be considered. Notwithstanding this, there is some tension between this drive and the March 2017 Advocate General’s opinion in the European case of Fries v. Lufthansa CityLine GmbH C-190/16 that an age limit of 65 imposed on EU commercial pilots is not discriminatory. In that case the Advocate General felt that the age limit was both appropriate and necessary to achieve the aim of air traffic safety. He said that there could hardly be any question that capability declined with age. For many working in non safety critical areas employers should be able to manage capability issues by pro-actively applying their capability processes at an early stage.

Older and wiser?

Can you dismiss an employee if they have allegedly committed a criminal offence?

An American football team, the San Francisco 49ers, has dismissed its player Bruce Miller following his arrest on suspicion of assault after an altercation about a hotel room. Although both an American and sports related story, it poses an interesting question to employers in the UK … can you dismiss an employee who faces a criminal conviction?

You would first need to consider whether this behaviour was misconduct. There is no outright rule that an employer should dismiss an employee who it is alleged has committed or is found to have committed a criminal offence. The Acas Code of Practice states at paragraph 31 that “if an employee is charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence this is not normally in itself reason for disciplinary action. Consideration needs to be given to what effect the charge or conviction has on the employee’s suitability to do the job and their relationship with their employer, work colleagues and customers.”

Some points an employer may want to consider include:
• the seriousness of the offence;
• whether it can leave the job open while the employee cannot work;
• whether the conviction affects the employee’s job (e.g. loss of driving licence); and
• the employee’s refusal to cooperate with the employer’s disciplinary investigations.

Employers should also consider what its employee handbook says on this topic. For example, a typical clause in the handbook may state “a criminal investigation, charge or conviction relating to conduct outside work may be treated as a disciplinary matter if we consider that it is relevant to your employment.” Therefore, the employer will need to review and consider whether an investigation or suspension would be necessary. Responding to an employee’s criminal conviction remains a grey area on which advice should be sought.

Can you dismiss an employee if they have allegedly committed a criminal offence?

We’re all still going on a summer holiday with British Airways

91 per cent of the 8,800 members of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association have voted to take industrial action against their employer British Airways. Holidaymakers will be relieved to know that there are no current plans for the workforce to strike. However, there is a real dispute about the introduction of a new performance management system for employees, which aims to give instant feedback on performance from passengers and colleagues. The union alleges that crews are receiving negative feedback for situations that are not their fault such as glitches in the entertainment system or air-conditioning. The union also believes that British Airways is conspiring to make future job losses on the back of this new scheme. British Airways does not accept these claims and believes this type of management system is common in many industries. The union has decided that the industrial action will involve cabin crews refusing to engage with the new performance management system and refusing to sign off on feedback forms. Regardless of whether this performance management system is appropriate or not, it is clear that effective performance management tools are critical to successful businesses. Evidence of performance management actions such as appraisal forms and performance improvement plans are essential if an employer wishes to justify taking disciplinary action such as capability warnings and potentially even dismissal against an employee for poor performance.

We’re all still going on a summer holiday with British Airways

Tailoring social media policies to catch Pokémon Go

In our article published today in HR-inform we consider the key steps employers can take to make their social media and information technology policies more robust and mitigate the risks associated with staff playing Pokémon Go.

Click here to read the full article.

Tailoring social media policies to catch Pokémon Go

…gotta catch ’em all!

Last week’s launch of the smartphone game “Pokémon GO” has swept the UK faster than you can say “gotta catch ’em all”. The aim of the game is to explore surrounding areas and catch characters that are hiding in real-life locations. Players use GPS signalling and augmented reality to discover the Pokémon. While many herald this app for its benefits to those who may not do much exercise, employers may need to watch staff productivity to ensure that they are not playing the game while they should be working.

Clearly, if an individual is playing Pokémon GO during work time, they will not be performing their duties. Soon after its release, Boeing discovered staff had downloaded the app on more than 100 work phones. As a result, it has issued a ban on its workforce from playing the game during working hours.

Some employers may allow their staff to continue their search for these illusive characters during lunch breaks. However, having staff wander round the office in their breaks looking for a “Squirtle” or “Rattata” is likely to disturb those who are still working. This could also pose a health and safety risk if workers are staring at, and being guided by, their screens and not looking at where they are walking. It is perfectly acceptable for employers to limit workers’ use of the app to areas outside the building to minimise the disruption it could cause.

If staff are wasting time interacting with this app instead of working, employers are also within their rights to approach this as a misconduct issue and engage the disciplinary policy. So what should employers do to manage this?

  1. Ensure that social media policies are up to date – while these may not specifically refer to use of the Pokémon GO app, it will set out the employer’s expectations.
  2. Ensure the IT and communications policy comprehensively addresses the use of company resources and how employers will deal with misuse.
  3. Where employees are using personal devices at work, consider including or updating the “bring your own device to work” terms in the IT and communications policy to clarify what will amount to acceptable use.
  4. Should there be any loss of productivity or misuse of company resources, follow the employer’s disciplinary policy, using a consistent approach with all staff.
  5. If employers consider it is a risk to work momentum, send a company-wide email reminding staff that they should not be playing the game instead of working and remind them of the relevant company policies.
  6. Avoid a “knee-jerk” reaction as this is likely to be a passing trend that will decline and be replaced by a new craze.
…gotta catch ’em all!