Each month we'll bring you a selection of real-life questions and answers posed to our team of HR experts. Q: One of my employees’ has submitted a formal statutory request to commence a training course.
My HR advisor has informed me that I should invite the employee to attend a meeting to discuss the request, does this include the right to be accompanied? A: Yes, the employee does have the right to be accompanied if they make a reasonable request for it. The person who accompanies them must be a worker of their choice who is employed by you.
Q: I have been contacted by ACAS regarding early conciliation in relation to a dismissal of an ex-employee. I do not want to partake in this as I feel I had a good reason to dismiss her. However, if I do not engage in this early conciliation will it go against me if she later brings an Employment Tribunal claim?
A: In order for this employee to bring a claim at an employment tribunal she must have contacted ACAS and received an early conciliation certificate number from them. However, apart from this employee making the initial contact with ACAS, neither the employee nor you are required to participate and can refuse if you wish. The refusal will not be taken into account by an Employment Tribunal if the case subsequently goes to a hearing.
Q: One of my employees is working his notice period and has asked to take some annual leave. It is not a good time as other people are off already, can I refuse his request?
A: During an employee’s notice period you are able to refuse their request to take annual leave. At all other times, the employer should consider whether the employee’s request for annual leave is compatible with the needs of the business and if it isn’t, the employer can refuse, provided that it does so accordance with any annual leave policy.
Q: We have recently taken on a worker who is 17 years old. What are the rules regarding rest breaks for them?
A: If a worker is under 18, then you must provide them with a minimum of 30 minutes rest during a working day which lasts more than four and half hours. You must also provide a minimum daily rest period of a least 12 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period that they work for their employer. There is also a minimum weekly rest period of 48 hours, however this can be interrupted where activities involving periods of work are split over the day or of short duration and may be reduced if it can be justified by technical or organisational reasons.
Q: I want to make a change to a term in all my employees’ contract of employment – do they all need to consent to the change before I make it?
A: You do not need the consent from all employees before a change in the contractual terms is made, although before any change is made, you will be expected to undergo a reasonable period of consultation with the employees in order to obtain their agreement and to make sure there is a genuine business need for the contractual change.
Q: One of my employee’s had an accident at work and is now on sick leave because of it. We do not have any contractual provision to be paid in full while off sick, however as it is due to an accident at work will I need to pay this employee full pay?
A: Where there is no provision for employees to be paid full sick pay, then there is no legal obligation to pay this employee full sick pay if the accident is because of a workplace accident. It is possible for the employee to claim the difference in salary as part of the compensation in the event they bring a personal injury claim against you, if the accident arose as a result of you or your employees’ negligence or if you breached a statutory duty. A caveat to this is when the employee’s condition fulfils the criteria of disability under the Equality Act 2010, in this circumstance it may be a reasonable adjustment to pay the employee in full. However this will only be in exceptional circumstances, for example when the loss of pay was because of the employer’s discriminatory decision making – for example, failing to make other reasonable adjustments, which had they been made, would have resulted in the employee returning to work earlier.
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