DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE DRUGS POLICY

Ashlie Turner provides opinion on the contentious matter of drug testing in the workplace.

RBS Business Online Magazine, ContentLive. 

Drug testing

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Employees are allowed to refuse to take a drugs test, though it is also acceptable in that case for them to face disciplinary action
  • Recent legislation banning the sale of ‘legal highs’, as well as drugs tests to recognise their use, can make it easier for employers to enact policies against them
  • The British Medical Association advises that those who have overcome substance abuse problems can prove valuable employees

Issuing drugs tests for staff can be uncomfortable and may seem unwarranted, but knowing how to deal with such cases is imperative for both employers and employees.

AN UNWANTED LEGACY

As a number of Olympian contenders fail to pass drugs tests, their reputations and the countries they represent have come under scrutiny. The desire to perform, the pressure, the likely fear of being found out, potential feelings of guilt and the prospect of missed opportunities and an uncertain future are all aspects of drug abuse that impact lesser athletes, too.

Drugs policies can be controversial areas for companies, and those that fall victim to substance abuse are often demonised. Setting in place a fair policy on testing and treatment expectations is progressively seen as more productive than simply opting for dismissal.

WHAT ARE COMPANIES ALLOWED TO DO?

Companies are entitled to recommend drugs tests for employees, including a test when someone joins a company. This is not a common procedure in the UK, though its use is reportedly rising, particularly as it may help reduce insurance premiums – especially for those in industrial industries. An employee is allowed to refuse to take a test, although the implications of this may include disciplinary action so long as the employer has reasonable grounds for requesting a test.

“In a tribunal, random testing could be seen as intrusive and heavy handed for an office role”

Ashlie Turner, founder and MD, Magenta HR

Ashlie Turner, founder and MD of Magenta HR, says that a company’s drug policies will depend on which sector it’s in. “We do have [policies for] random testing. You have an [external] organisation who says: ‘We’re going to test 10 people.’ However, it’s not that common to have companies that do that; it depends on the type of role. There’s a fine balance between that and what’s seen as appropriate for the role.”

She’s keen to point out: “In a tribunal, [random testing] would be seen as heavy handed for an office role and may be seen as intrusive.”

She says it is more common to use testing when there’s a suspected problem or for sectors where health and safety is paramount. “We do a lot of work with manufacturing and chemical companies – some firms that operate very dangerous machinery.”

Different policies may be required for different staff members, depending on their role. If an accident is caused by someone under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the company can be held responsible. The same is true if drugs are found on the premises.

Click here to read the full article.... 

 

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Extreme Weather - Who Covers the Cost when Employees can't get to Work?

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We are used to extreme weather conditions affecting us every now and then, but when severe weather continues indefinitely it can have a major impact on many aspects of business. There's the obvious logistical problems that can create lost business andadditional transport costs but many businesses also have the problem of staff not being able to get to work in the first place. In such instances who covers the cost? 

Unless an employeris contractually obliged to provide transport to and from work for their employees, the onus is on employees to get to work. If employees fail to turn up for work because of severe weather or transport difficulties, the employer is under no obligation to pay them. If an employee's normal mode of transport cannot be used because of disruption due to severe weather conditions the employer should first encourage the employee to explore alternative means of transport or if possible, arrange for them to work from home for a period.  If this is not a viable option then employers may want to provide some time off that can be made up by working extra hours over the following weeks once the situation has improved, provide unpaid leave or allow staff to take holidays.  

Frustrating as it is, it’s important to remember that these situations are out of our control and a pragmatic approach is best. It’s far better to keep safe than brave the elements.

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Striking the Balance During the Party Season

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We all want to enjoy the festivities in the run up to Christmas but office parties are notorious for staff letting down a little too much hair. As an employer, where do you stand if Billy from Accounts has one too many and decides to make an advance while dancing with a colleague?  You, as an employer, can be held vicariously liable for discriminatory acts by employees - even if the event is held off site and out of normal working hours. The claim most likely to arise is probably sexual harassment, but employers should not forget that the law now extends to unwanted conduct on the grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation. Employers should ensure that their policy on harassment is up to date, and has been brought to the attention of all employees - a key first step to providing a defence, should the worst happen.

A tenth of workers embarrass themselves at the Christmas party

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What is Considered Working TIme?

FOLLOWING A RECENT DECISION OF THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE, THE GOVERNMENT PROVIDES GUIDANCE ON WHAT CONSTITUTES WORKING TIME.

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Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 working time is defined as any period during which a worker is working, at his or her employer's disposal and carrying out his or her activities or duties, or receiving relevant training. The Government provides guidance on what this includes.

What Counts as Work

What Does Not Count as Work

Time spent travelling for workers who have to travel as part of their job, eg travelling sales representatives or 24-hour plumbers Normal travel to and from work ie commuting
Where a worker has no usual place of work, time spent travelling from and to home for the first and last customer visits of the day Travelling outside normal working hours
Working lunches, eg business lunches Breaks when no work is done, eg lunch breaks
Time spent on call at the workplace Time on call away from the workplace
Paid and some unpaid overtime Unpaid overtime for which a worker has volunteered, eg staying late to finish something off**
Any other time that is treated as "working time" under a contract Paid or unpaid holiday
Job-related training Evening and day-release classes not related to work
Time spent working abroad, in some cases  

Maximum weekly working hours (UK Government website).

Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL, Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicios SA Case C 266/14 ECJ.


**While the Government guidance explains that this type of voluntary overtime is not included in working time, it is likely that, where an employee volunteers for overtime at the employer's request, this would count as working time.

 

 

 

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New National Living Wage to be Introduced in April 2016

In the budget last month, the Government announced that, from April 2016, a new national living wage of £7.20 an hour for the over 25s will be introduced. This will rise to over £9 an hour by 2020.

For the time being, every employee must be paid at least:

  Current rate (effective from 1 October 2014) Future rate (effective from 1 October 2015)
Main (adult) rate (workers aged 21 and over) £6.50 per hour £6.70 per hour
Development rate (workers aged 18-20 inclusive) £5.13 per hour £5.30 per hour
Rate for workers aged 16-17 inclusive £3.79 per hour £3.87 per hour
Apprentice rate £2.73 per hour £3.30 per hour
Accommodation offset £5.08 per day £5.35 per day

The Government is proposing to streamline the number of minimum wage rates and have a single minimum wage rate for apprentices and 16-17 year-olds. This would see an apprentices' wage rise from £2.73 to £3.79 an hour and potentially make apprenticeships a more financially attractive route for young people.

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Obsessive Email Checking Damaging Productivity Family Life

CARY COOPER CALLS ON HR TO SEND ‘URGENT MESSAGE’ TO WORKAHOLICS

Employees’ obsessive need to check emails out of working hours is having a detrimental effect on both productivity and family relationships, Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University told delegates at the British Psychological Society conference this week.

Britons work the longest hours Monday to Friday in the developed world, and “we’re most substantial user of technology than almost any other country,” he said, which was contributing to an already over-worked nation.

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New Statutory Rates

Redundancy
  • The maximum week's pay that can be taken into account rises from £464 to £475 from 6 April 2015
Maternity Pay
  • The rate of maternity, paternity pay and adoption pay increases from £138.18 per week to £139.58 per week.
Shared Parental Pay
  • Statutory shared parental pay is also set at £139.58 per week.
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Fathers Now Have Almost the Same Leave Rights As Mothers

What Is Shared Parental Leave?

For expectant parents with babies due on or after 5 April 2015 couples will be able to divide almost all of the traditional maternity leave entitlement between them. The right also applies to those adopting a child.

How much time can parents take off?

They effectively have a year – apart from a compulsory two-week recovery period after childbirth which the mother must take – and can divide the time between them in any combination.

In brief, the new right enables mothers/adopters to:
  • commit to ending their maternity/adoption leave and pay at a future date; and 
  • to share the untaken balance of leave and pay as shared parental leave and pay with their partner; or
  • to return to work early from maternity/adoption leave and opt in to shared parental leave and pay at a later date. 
Shared parental leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week. Individuals can request to take shared parental leave in one continuous block (in which case the Company is required to accept the request as long as the employee meets the eligibility and notice requirements), or as a number of discontinuous blocks of leave (in which case the employee needs the Company’s agreement). A maximum of three requests for leave per pregnancy/adoption can normally be made by each parent.

In addition to this new right, there will also be a number of other amendments to maternity, adoption, paternity and parental rights effective from the 5th April.  

Should you require any support relating to how this may affect your staff, please call us on 0131 27272769. 

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Time off work to attend spouse antenatal appointments

From 1 October 2014, a prospective father, or the spouse, civil partner or partner of a pregnant woman, can take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments.

The employee has a statutory right to take up to six and a half hours off for each appointment, but employers can decide to allow more time than this.

The employer cannot ask for evidence of the appointment but can ask the employee for a signed declaration (which could be in electronic form) confirming:

  • that he or she:
    • is the expectant mother's spouse, civil partner or partner, or
    • the child's father;
  • that the purpose of the time off is to accompany the expectant mother to an antenatal appointment;
  • that the appointment in question is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse; and
  • the date and time of the appointment.

There is no right for the spouse or partner of a pregnant woman to take time off to attend an antenatal appointment before 1 October 2014.

 

 

Source: Reed2014

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Shared Parental Leave - What Does It Mean?

The Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 have now been laid before Parliament. They come into force on 1 December 2014 and apply in respect of babies expected to be born on or after 5 April 2015. This means that the first babies in relation to which employees can take shared parental leave have already been conceived. However, not everyone qualifies for shared parental leave; both parents need to have at least 26 weeks' service with their current employer and earn at least the minimum threshold needed to qualify for maternity allowance.

The basic idea is that the parents of a child (including adoptive parents) can decide how to divide a total of 52 weeks of leave between them. So, for example, the mother could decide to take just a few weeks' leave to recover from the birth (there is still a compulsory two-week maternity leave period immediately following childbirth), with the rest of the leave being taken by her partner.

An important feature of the new scheme is that the periods of shared parental leave do not have to be consecutive. The two parents can take leave at the same time, provided that the total amount of leave taken does not exceed 52 weeks.

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Right to Request Flexible Working Now Extended to All Staff

News from CIPD Announcing the Change to Legislation

More than 20 million workers will have the right to request flexible working arrangements from today, but according to some business groups, the changes mean extra red tape and will bring what the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) calls ‘negative dynamics’ into the workplace.

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New Statutory Rates from 6 April 2014

  • The weekly rate of payment for statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increases to £138.18
  • The weekly lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions increases to £111.00
  • The weekly standard rate of statutory sick pay increases to £87.55.
  • The maximum amount of a week's pay for the purpose of calculating a redundancy payment is £464.00
  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases to £76,574.00
  • The Immigration (Employment of Adults Subject to Immigration Control) (Maximum Penalty) (Amendment) Order 2014 comes into force, which increases the maximum civil penalty for employers to £20,000 for each illegal worker.
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Early Conciliation – Changes to Employment tribunal Claim Process

"Early conciliation" is introduced from 6 April 2014 on a voluntary basis, and will be mandatory from 6 May 2014 for most employment tribunal claims. From 6 May 2014 onwards, an employee will not be able to submit an employment tribunal claim without an "early conciliation certificate" showing that the claim has been submitted to the early conciliation process.

The Government has said that it hopes that early conciliation will encourage employees and employers to resolve disputes outside the employment tribunal system, saving them time and money (and reducing demand on employment tribunals).

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Magenta HR becomes Accredited Advisor for Government's Growth Vouchers Programme for start -ups and SME’s

Magenta HR is set to deliver strategic start-up advice as part of the Government’s £30m Growth Vouchers Programme.

Magenta HR is part of a new scheme that aims to help start-ups and SMEs to take on board advice at an early stage via a purpose-built marketplace. The new Growth Vouchers scheme offers advice and guidance to businesses taking part and subsidies of up to £2,000 towards the cost of that advice to successful applicants. The programme will then monitor SME performance over the coming years in order to assess the impact that advice has had.

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E-cigarettes prompt further transparent policy requirements for employers as "smoking" at work definition becomes blurred....

New policy requirements as employers consider how the use of E-cigarrettes can be managed in the workplace. Click on the link to read full article...

Using E-cigarettes in the workplace

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Government Initiative to reduce Sickness

The Health and Work Service, which will cover England, Wales and Scotland, will offer non-compulsory medical assessments and treatment plans BBC News reports. Click on the link to read the full article. 

New Health and Work Service to be offered

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Night work 'throws body into chaos' claims research.

The BBC has reported today that working night shift throws the body "into chaos" and could cause long-term damage, warn researchers.

Shift work has been linked to higher rates of type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and cancer.Now scientists at the Sleep Research Centre in Surrey have uncovered the disruption shift work causes at the deepest molecular level. Experts said the scale, speed and severity of damage caused by being awake at night was a surprise. The human body has its own natural rhythm or body clock tuned to sleep at night and be active during the day.It has profound effects on the body, altering everything from hormones and body temperature to athletic ability, mood and brain function.

For the full article see link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25812422

What can we do to get shift work right?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, there are many paprameters we can put in place to ensure risk is minimised. A good start is to take a risk assessment approach to managing fatigue and shift work, and the HSE guidance on this approach is simple and accessible (HSE, 2006): avoid over-complicating things.

The social and domestic side of working shifts is a vital part of getting things right (HSE 2006; Miller 2006), and a predictable shift pattern at least allows those working it - along with their families - to make plans to mitigate the loss of normal social and domestic contact caused by working shifts. Patterns that result in ad hoc working to fill gaps, cover overtime and so on are inherently unpredictable.

A good shift system and shift pattern will be one that has less "noise", in the sense that it will work quietly and not create undue management, supervisory or user difficulties. But nothing remains constant, so any pattern will need effective monitoring and auditing, as well as regular review against operating experience, which will help with improving standards and knowledge.

For more information, go to HSE shift work guidance

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How to Handle Drug Abuse in the Workplace

Following the surprising story of former Co-op Bank chairman, Paul Flowers, being ‘filmed buying drugs’, how should employers handle these scenarios to minimise risk to their business, employees and their reputation?

Alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace is an issue for many employers. Not only does it impact on working days being lost, it can also have major consequences on health and safety matters, not to mention the reputation of the business.  There is also the welfare of staff to consider.

Ideally, employers should aim to identify employees with dependency problems and with the support of an occupational health physician and/or GP, appropriate diagnosis can be sought and support offered to help the individual with their rehabilitation.

Where alcohol or drug abuse affects an employee's performance, conduct or attendance record and either he or she has refused the opportunity to seek help or, having accepted counselling and treatment, the same issues remain, it may result in his or her dismissal on the grounds of either conduct or capability.

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Happiness at Work

Ashlie Turner  talks to Frank Galbraith of The Scotsman about what makes us happy at work...Scotsman feature with Magenta HR

 

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Dress to Impress - What to Wear and What Not to Wear at Interviews

Scotsman article featuring Magenta HR advising how to get the dress code right for those important job interviews. Scotsman article 18 October 2013

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Magenta HR Consulting Limited
The Annex, 15 Chamberlain Road, Edinburgh EH10 4DJ 

Tel.  0131 285 4000

Registered in Scotland Company No. 379644
Vat Reg. No. 996685043