The Mental Health Conundrum

Mental health remains a big issue in the UK. It continues to rise year-on-year as a reason people are absent from work. But who ultimately has the responsibility for management of mental health within the workplace.  Is it the employee themselves? The NHS? The employer? Many organisations still shy away from tracking mental health face on, but due to the NHS receiving insufficient funding the employer will need to adopt a more positive role.

It has been forecast that workplace absence will reach an all-time high in 2017. It has been claimed that over December 2016 more than 10 million working days were lost through absence this significant raise was due to the increase in mental health conditions. If this trend continues then mental health in on course to surpass coughs and colds as the most common workplace absence in 2017.

Working in Europe, maybe just a holiday.

Currently workers in the EU have a huge amount of freedom to move and find work in other EU countries. This however looks set to change as the UK Government begins exploring restrictions as part of its EU negotiations following Brexit. In a similar vein, the Government has investigated amending the current work permit rules for tier 2 workers, those seeking to enter the UK job market from outside the EU. The tier 2 rules apply to skilled worker who are hired to fill shortages in the UK labour market.

The proposed amendments which could cause hiring such workers more costly and difficult includes-

·         Only allowing jobs to remain on the skills shortage list for limited time.

·         Restricting dependents right to work.

·         Bringing in a financial levy on tier 2 VISAs to fund apprenticeships.

·         Raising the minimum salary levels for posts eligible for tier 2.

If these are implemented it may cause employers to look at other ways of filling shortage occupations.

It’s getting a touch warm!!

Did you know that it is you who is responsible for fire safety within your company? If you are the owner or occupier of a non-domestic building you have a legal obligation to protect your staff, visitors and also the building.

These legal obligations across the UK require the appointed responsible person for non-domestic premises to have adequate fire protection. It is their responsibility to ensure there is sufficient, up to date fire risk assessment and that all areas mentioned in this are carried out competently. If there is no appointed person to this role it will become the employer or the person who is responsible for the building. The person who is responsible must ensure that they carry out their fire safety duties.

Where do I begin.

The responsible person must make suitable and sufficient assessments listing the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the reason of identifying the general fire precautions they need to comply with. This risk assessment will recognise precautions already in place and also actions needed to comply. These findings must be kept and recorded also reviewed on a regular basis.

How do I carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment?  

Anybody can provide a fire risk assessment and if you are confident in your ability you can carry this out yourself. However, this means you can only identify risks you are aware of and as a result how can you be sure it is appropriate according to law. If the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the responsible person can face a fine or prison.

Fire extinguisher, fire detections and alarms

The RRO (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order) states in article 13 that the premises are to the extent that is appropriate equipped with firefighting equipment and with detection devises and also alarms.

Fire Escapes

Emergency routes and exits require illumination and must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in case of failure in the regular lights.


Just as important as getting these areas up and running is to ensure they are subjected to suitable maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.  

Old or young, tall or short we may need some new nicknames

A man who carried the nickname ‘Gramps’ lovingly given to him by his younger colleagues has been awarded more than £63,000 after winning an age discrimination case. He was a successful and experienced salesman working at a jewellers. For years he had been subjected to the nickname from more junior staff. He reported how even some customers referred to him as being ‘long in the tooth’ as well as him being to traditional.


After he had some key accounts transferred to younger members of staff he was dismissed. The tribunal ruled his employer adopted the same discriminatory and stereotypical attitudes as its staff and customers. This led to them suggesting that ageist attitudes were tolerated in the work place. So be careful with those nicknames it’s only a matter of time until the shorter or taller claim discrimination as well due to being called ‘Big Mike’ or ‘Small Kevin’. 

I want to watch the sport, aargh.

Today in Portugal they may be experiencing a very high percentage of employees calling in sick, so what can be done when celebrations go over the top or an employee really wants to watch the pole vault at the Olympics. Employers should be careful to assume that sickness absence during the Euros, Wimbledon and the Olympics is not in fact genuine. However, employers may be suspicious about certain employees, especially when they have a history of short-term sickness.


Where doubts about an employee’s absence but there is no clear evidence to incriminate them the employee should investigate further maybe through specific questions carried out during a return to work interview. The employer should note absence patterns and potentially ask for an explanation. If after the return to work interview the employer has reasonable belief that the absence was not genuine maybe through vague or inconsistent answers it may take the matter further.


If there is evidence that the employee was not sick and seen watching the game in the pub maybe this will become a disciplinary matter. Unauthorised absence and reporting absence as sickness when it wasn’t is a serious disciplinary offence that normally would lead to disciplinary action. To limit liability for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal claims a detailed investigation should be carried out following a fair procedure and avoid jumping to conclusions.

Is that because of my name?

Most people choose not to put sensitive and private information such as religion, marital status and sexual orientation on a CV. This would also include the addition of your photo. During normal candidate selection decisions based on this private information and not their professional credentials would be based on discriminatory bias. This is a temptation or assumption that needs to be removed to ensure a fair selection.

It's also been stated that recruiters can inadvertently discriminate against a candidate with foreign sounding names or even still against women in this day and age. However at the moment there is nothing stopping a recruiter discriminating against an individual during the interview or even earlier in the process if they have confirmed details with the candidate.

In April 2012 Nick Clegg introduced the social mobility business compact which is designed to make the process of getting a job easier. Under the compact some of the UK’s biggest companies such as Tesco, BP and Barclays have agreed to recruit openly and fairly ensuring non-discrimination, this has been helped by increased use of name-blank, school-blank applications.

We have decided to Brexit

Well Britain has spoken, not a crushing victory for the leave campaign but a victory none the less. As such it is important to know how this will affect your business from staffing and legislation to the economic implications this will have.


It has been said that the leave vote will be much bigger than simply just changing the political landscape, it will also have a huge impact on work and future planning within organisations. The CIPD believe that EU citizens currently working will retain the right to remain potentially through a worker registration scheme. However it is unclear how this would work, and also if any rights would be extended to those who enter after. It’s been suggested that HR professionals should begin assessing the impact the leave vote had on their workforce right away. Companies should potentially carry out an employment audit on current staff in the UK and EU to plan for potential new legislation to reduce potential risk. In reality it may be some time before the true implications become clear. If we adopt a similar points based scheme that applies to those workers outside the EU to those within the EU thousands of EU workers potentially would have to leave those roles.


It would be a major surprise if anything changed for the EU workers who have been working in the UK for many years, a few options could be allowing them to apply for British citizenship or granted an indefinite leave of stay allowing them to continue to live and work in the UK. It will be likely that restrictions will be placed on lesser skilled people. In a similar points system to Australia where age as well as skilled profession are looked at favourably as such a few areas that maybe badly hit would be leisure, retail and services industries.


In truth as of now nobody can tell what the future holds. We would be naive to imagine we will continue as we are but with the process to leave taking at least 2 years we should begin to look at all potential outcomes as to prepare ourselves for the final Brexit.

Summer is upon us

With the potential for hot weather, friends and colleagues away on holiday work can sometimes feel like the worst place on earth. A couple of things can help to try and help are:-

1). Dress appropriately, many offices will relax the dress code during warmer months. It may be a good idea to ditch the suit jacket, but I’d leave the flip-flops at home try to maintain a professional environment.

2). Adjusting the environment may also help. Working outside having a walking meeting or just scheduling a business lunch outdoors could help the team remain productive. If you need to remain indoors open windows and try to ensure all colleagues can feel the fresh breeze.

3). Enjoy your time off don’t dwell on being back in the office and counting down the days. Holidays and days off are key during this time to keep people refreshed. Ensure good communication happens, make sure that you have enough staff in to cover holidays and that they are well staggered.

4). Summer is no time to slack off. People think as half the workforce is away work can’t get done. Try to get a jump start on any project planning or by finding new projects to get started.

Social media yay or nay!

It almost seems like everyone is online. Be it through Facebook or twitter or the more business orientated such as LinkedIn we are all connected with friends, family and potential clients or employers. As such it’s becoming more important to try and maintain a professional appearance in private as to avoid negative consequences. So what can we do to avoid being discriminated against because of our private life? Maybe keep the nights out selfies to a minimum.

It’s been said up to 68% of employers use social media to vet potential candidates even before the interview process. On LinkedIn for example there is a space to upload your photograph. LinkedIn even go as far as advising you to attach a picture as it “significantly increased your profile hits”, however in the same manner has stated that employers do not want to see photographs on CV’s in the UK.

So let’s just remember that once it’s online it stays online and will only stay hidden for so long. As such a level of discretion should be employed when on social media. One famous case was at Pizza Hut when a new employee wasn’t very enthusiastic to be joining the team, her new manager found this and she didn’t start work at all. It has now become common place to see social media sections in welcome and legal starter documents to protect both the employee and potentially the company.

Well as a grandparent I want some time off

Just as businesses were getting used to the whole shared parental leave legislation it has been mentioned that the government may look to allow grandparents to share 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Many people will welcome this news. It’s no secret our workforce is getting older so is inevitable that grandparent’s will want to balance their working day with a desire to play a key role in family life.

Current flexible working practices do act as a starting point so providing that your compliant in this area you’re on the right path. From June 2014 all staff who have worked continuously for 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working.  As such it is likely that grandparents may have already opted to use this to allow them to support their families by maybe considering them to work from home or the introduction of flexi-time.

With the positive always come negative though and as such it is likely some grandparents will be left disappointed. Employers are not obligated to fulfil requests for flexible working and can refuse it for various reasons for example costs may be too high or difficult to manage. It is worth noting that a one size fits all approach rarely delivers the best outcome. There are currently no concrete plans for this to happen, however is something worth keeping an eye on.

Modern day slavery

People all think that when they are working they are treated like slaves. However on the 29th October 2015 the government launched The Modern Slavery Act 2015. The main point of this legislation is that it will require employers to produce a modern slavery statement for each financial year ending on or after March 31st 2016. Under section 54 of this act it suggests it should include:

  • its structure, business and supply chains;
  • its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking;
  • its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains;
  • the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps that it has taken to assess and manage that risk;
  • its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate; and
  • the training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.

How can we improve loyalty?

This starts from the top. Being a good manager is in part being aware of your own behaviour and setting an example. You want your team to respect you and be proud of the team that they work in, this means earning their trust by demonstrating high levels of knowledge, skills, honesty, ability and reliability. An often overlooked characteristic of a great manager is sharing and openness.  This may be sharing information some see as not being essential for the team but could in fact improve performance and give the team a greater understanding.


One very important reason why people stay in a specific job is their relationship between an employee and their manager. Don’t become best buddies with all your team but encourage an environment that values people relationships. Get your team to know each other; this could be through team building days, annual events or group coaching. Ensuring there is a culture of understanding and appreciation could lead to employees staying as nobody wants to feel invisible.


Finally; it is inevitable that someone will make mistakes. Avoid the blame game, never embarrass or reprimand an employee in public. This could lead to not only them loosing respect for you but could influence the whole team. If you discover a mistake take steps to correct this in a way that doesn’t demean anyone.