Musician claims hearing loss damages against Royal Opera House

A musician has won a landmark case against the Royal Opera House (ROH) for irreversible damage to his hearing.

Chris Goldscheider, a viola player at the ROH in London, experienced severe hearing loss after he had spent an entire performance sitting in front of an 18-musician brass section. He suffered from ‘acoustic shock’ – which has never been recognised by the courts until now.

The sound levels were reportedly above 135 decibels, meaning it exceeded the human pain threshold significantly. Mr Goldscheider suffered symptoms such as tinnitus, hearing loss and dizziness as a result of the experience.

The ROH insisted it had provided all musicians with ear plugs, but musicians have the choice whether or not to wear them. They also claimed they provided regular noise risk training and biannual hearing tests.

However, Mr Goldscheider was successful in his case under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. There has also been a call for workplaces, including theatres and opera houses, to make ear plugs mandatory rather than optional. Employers have been made aware of the risks of the involvement of Health & Safety officers and possible prosecution in any future cases of a similar nature.

For more information on how to ensure your company’s health and safety procedures are up to date, you can contact Alison here.

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Equalities Office urges businesses to avoid discrimination in new dress code guidelines

It’s not uncommon for employers to request that their employees follow a certain dress code, be it for health and safety reasons (such as healthcare workers not being allowed to wear jewellery) or because they wish to convey an image of corporate professionalism. Things have been getting increasingly tricky, however, and there’s still a lot of confusion as to what employers are allowed to ask of their employees. Employers must tread carefully when it comes to dress codes, as they could find themselves facing accusations of discrimination more easily than they may think.

What does The Government Equalities Office (GEO) have to say?

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has published new guidelines on dress codes and the workplace. The guide, entitled ‘Dress codes and sex discrimination – what you need to know,’ attempts to address the issues of inequality in the workplace. Whilst the law already prohibits dress codes that require women to wear make-up, high heels and skirts, it seems that many employers are yet to keep up.

The guidance follows a 2017 report produced by The Women and Equalities Committee, entitled ‘High heels and workplace dress codes’, which concluded that the law surrounding sex discrimination at work was largely misunderstood or not enforced by employers.

What requests are employers allowed to make?

Many employers do not give detailed dress codes, and simply ask their staff to ‘dress smartly’. Whilst its reasonable for any employers to want their employees to look presentable or project a certain image of their company, they must make sure that their definition of ‘smart’ is not unknowingly discriminatory.

Some of the new guidelines suggest that employers:

  • Avoid gender-specific requirements such as ‘make-up, manicured nails, wear hair in certain styles or to wear specific types of hosiery or skirts, assuming there is no equivalent requirement for men’,
  • Give transgender employees the choice to dress in a way that matches their gender identity,
  • Don’t impose gender-specific dress codes, such as high heels, on disabled employees who may find it difficult to walk, and
  • Make clear employee’s options if they face victimisation from their employer for not complying with the dress code.

What’s next?

It’s likely that, due to a lack of clear guidance, there will be cases of sex discrimination brought against employers. We’ll keep you updated on any developments, but in the meantime we suggest taking a look at any dress codes you currently have in place and talking about them with employees. This can be a good way of gauging if they make anyone uncomfortable or if there’s any possibility that it could be discriminatory.

That being said, dress codes are becoming far more relaxed in the UK, with only half of all companies enforcing one. If you do have a dress code, however, it’s best to keep things under review.

In the meantime, you can contact Alison for expert advice on any of the above.

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Do you know how many holidays you have coming up?

We all deserve a break from our hard work now and again. Luckily, under The Working Time Regulations (2004), employees and workers are entitled to a minimum number of paid holidays per year. In England and Wales, this is set as 5.6 weeks per year and includes Bank/Public Holidays. This means that anyone working five days per week must receive 20 days of paid leave, plus the eight Bank/Public Holidays observed each calendar year. Part-time employees and workers receive a pro-rata allowance based on how many days they work per week.

But… wait… do we have a problem on the horizon?

Employers set the dates of the holiday year. For most this is 1st January to 31st December (although it’s up to you, as the employer).

However, if you decide to run your holiday year over more than one calendar year, the number of Bank/Public holidays might be higher or lower than eight and that can cause problems. Let’s look at an example.

  • Imagine an employer, which allows only the statutory minimum holiday allowance of 5.6 weeks, runs their holiday year between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019.
  • In that period, there will only be seven Bank/Public Holidays instead of eight, because Good Friday falls on 30th March.
  • In effect, there will be nine Bank/Public Holidays in the 2017/18 year, rather than eight.
  • This means that the employer might have to grant an additional day’s holiday during the 2018/19 year, so that they do not fall below the statutory minimum.
  • If the employer’s contract states the specific number of Bank/Public holidays that the employee is entitled to, e.g. ‘20 days holiday plus eight Bank/Public Holidays,’ then the employer might be able to deduct the additional 2017/18 one and add the 2018/19 one.
  • However, if the contract simply states ‘20 days holiday plus Bank/Public Holidays,’ as most do, the employer will have to add the 2018/19 one but won’t be able to deduct the 2017/18 one.
  • If the contract states 5.6 week including Bank/Public Holidays, then the employee would take eight Bank/Public Holidays plus 19 days paid holiday, meaning the employer would not fall below the statutory minimum.

Phew. That’s a lot of Bank/Public Holidays to keep track of!

So, what do you need to do?

You might not have realised the potential discrepancies caused by Bank/Public holidays.

  1. Check the exact wording of any contracts.
  2. Make any necessary plans concerning annual leave, now.
  3. It is up to you, as the employer, to ensure you are fulfilling your duties and to manage this through your holiday booking system.

For plain-English, expert advice on the matter, you can contact Alison here.

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Government publishes parental bereavement leave bill

On 13th October 2017, the government published the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill. The bill allows two weeks’ paid leave for employed parents that have lost a child under 18, and is irrespective of the parents’ length of service.

As well as this, if the parent has had at least 26 weeks’ continuous service, they will be entitled to receive statutory parental bereavement pay. Employers can claim some, or all, of this cost from the government.

Currently, there is no legal requirement of employers to offer grieving parents time off work, although it is expected that many employers should be understanding to the parent’s difficult situation. The bill will go significantly further than most other countries in that it extends parental leave to not only the birth, but also the death, of a child.

The second reading of the bill in Parliament will take place on 20 October 2017, with a view to becoming law in 2020.

If you’re affected by issues raised above, or for expert employment advice, you can contact Alison here.

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Foster carer to bring tribunal claim over workers’ rights

The Independent Worker’s Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has lodged a tribunal claim on behalf of a foster carer, Sarah Anderson, against Hampshire County Council. IWGB argued that Anderson is a worker and therefore entitled to rights such as holiday pay. The case has the potential to open the floodgates on thousands of similar claims by foster carers.

In the UK foster carers are not currently classified as either workers or employees, despite being paid by local councils, agencies or charities to look after children. General secretary of the IWGB Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said “this case is not about whether or not foster care is a form of work – that ship has sailed – this case is whether those workers should be entitled to the employment rights the rest of us take for granted.”

Anderson, who also chairs the IWGB’s foster care workers’ branch, added: “As foster care workers we are exploited, have no rights whatsoever and are treated as a disposable workforce, when society needs carers more than ever. We can’t advocate or look after our children properly if our rights aren’t recognised and protected.”

This isn’t the first case of its kind, and the IWGB has previously brought and won a case on behalf of two foster carers. In August, Glasgow Employment Tribunal ruled that James and Christine Johnstone were employees, with the judgement focusing on the level of control the council had over them.

In a previous case, however, there was a different outcome. The Court of Appeal ruled that, because the relationship between carers and their organisation is not based on a legal contract, foster carers could not be classified as workers. But in Anderson’s case, the IWGB are arguing that, under European law, such a contract is not required to establish an employment relationship.

The case comes amid intense scrutiny on new working relationships derived from the gig economy, and it’s perhaps not surprising that the light is being shone on a very fundamental relationship. The ruling is sure to be an important one in determining how foster carers are classified what rights they are entitled to, and could affect a large number of people –  according to The Fostering Network, there are almost 55,000 foster families across the UK caring for nearly 64,000 children. Hampshire County Council, however, told the BBC that the law is clear and foster carers are not workers.

We’ll keep you updated on how the case unfolds and what decision is made. In the meantime, you can contact Alison for HR advice here.

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Lecturer made redundant amid role confusion wins £55,000

A former college lecturer has won £55,000 after being told by her employer that it no longer needed somebody to fill the role she was originally hired for. Miss Anderson worked for Shillington College from August 2011 until her dismissal in November 2016, the Central London Employment Tribunal heard.

The background

Shillington College, a graphic design college, has campuses in Australia, the UK and the US. The college employed Anderson initially as a lecturer at its Sydney campus before moving her to Melbourne in 2012. A year later Mr Shillington, the college’s founder and chief executive, approached Anderson and offered her the position of head of teaching in London. Anderson accepted, and was granted a Tier 2 visa. She agreed a salary of £50,000, along with a relocation package, with her new line manager Ms McHugh.

But towards the end of 2013, Shillington and McHugh informed Anderson that she would not be working as head of teaching, and would take the positon of senior lecturer. Anderson was disappointed with this decision, but agreed to the change.

In July 2015, Shillington emailed Anderson about her failure to meet deadlines and alleged decisions to discuss confidential matters with her colleagues, as well as her “poor decision-making.” Shillington also alleged that this was not the first time he had had to reprimand Anderson, and that he was “considering the college’s position” with regards to her role and placing her “on notice” following three warnings.

Later that month Shillington warned Anderson that he believed she had now reached the first stage of the college’s disciplinary procedure. He told Anderson that she could appeal this decision, but she did not.

In early September 2016, after being told that her role would be changing to focus on part-time teaching, Anderson became unhappy with the lack of progress she felt she was making in her career. In October 2016 Anderson raised grievance with McHugh, but this was rejected. Anderson received a letter ten days later notifying her that, because the college no longer required a head of teaching, she was at risk of redundancy.

On 10 November, Anderson raised a complaint about her possible redundancy. On 15 November she was informed that McHugh would hear her grievance outcome appeal, but this was rejected. Anderson was dismissed later that month.

The case

 The Central London Employment Tribunal allowed the claim for unfair dismissal, and the judge claimed that college could not “hide behind its own lack of paperwork or inconsistency” to blur events. Additionally, the tribunal agreed that Anderson had not in fact been fulfilling the role of head of teaching, and was instead working as a senior lecturer.

The tribunal also found that the college had failed Anderson’s inability to meet deadlines, which the tribunal determined was because of a combination of a heady workload and a large amount of students arriving at the college at once. It also stated that this had been exacerbated by both of Anderson’s being hospitalised at the time.

Judge Norris criticised the college particularly for it’s failure to follow disciplinary procedures, which did not make for a “professional or compliant way to go about HR administration”.

What’s next?

 The tribunal’s decision reinforces the need for employers to be able to clearly explain, by reference to contemporaneous documents, how and why an alleged redundancy situation arose, and to follow a full and proper procedure that demonstrates genuine efforts to avoid dismissal.

The ruling emphasises that tribunals do not take an employer’s assertion of a redundancy situation at face value, and will examine the relevant circumstances leading to the dismissal in detail if necessary.

For more HR expertise and advice you can contact Alison here.


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Was the suspension of a teacher a neutral act and, if not, did it amount to a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence?

The High Court case of Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth, available here, is clear on this matter.  In August 2017 they set out that suspension is not a neutral act and an improper suspension can amount to a breach of the above implied term. They also said that a breach could amount to a ‘repudiatory breach’, i.e. be sufficient in itself to destroy the employment relationship and entitle the employee to bring a claim.

The background

Mrs Agoreyo (who was the employee) worked as a primary school teacher for the London Borough of Lambeth.  A number of her pupils had significant behavioural issues and she had made numerous requests to the school for additional support.  However, before all the measures could be put in place Mrs Agoreyo was suspended. This followed three incidents where she had to use a degree of force to get two of these pupils to behave. The allegations suggested that the degree of force used went beyond those considered reasonable under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

The suspension letter said:

  • the employee was suspended on normal pay;
  • suspension was a precautionary act pending a full investigation into allegations, during which the employee would be given full opportunity to provide her account of events; and
  • the suspension was a “neutral action and not a disciplinary action” and was to “allow the investigation to be conducted fairly”.

However, what sets this case apart, was that, before the decision to suspend, the employee was not asked for her comments on the allegations. Similarly, her employer failed to suggest that it had considered other alternatives to suspension.

Mrs Agoreyo resigned and brought a claim against the employer in the County Court for breach of contract. She argued that suspension was not reasonable or necessary.

Whilst the initial County Court hearing felt that London Borough of Lambeth was bound to suspend Mrs Agoreyo, after receiving reports of the allegations against her, and had “reasonable and proper cause” (to protect the children), Mrs Agoreyo appealed to the High Court.

The High Court disagreed. They felt that the employer was not bound to suspend Mrs Agoreyo and did not feel that it was obvious that there were no other alternatives. Furthermore, the employer had clearly stated in its suspension letter that its purpose was not to protect children but to ensure a fair investigation.

The High Court found that:

  • there was no evidence of any attempt to understand the employee’s version of events prior to the decision to suspend;
  • there was no evidence of any consideration of alternatives to suspension; and
  • the letter of suspension did not explain why an investigation could not be conducted fairly without the need for suspension

As a result they concluded that, given the potential stigma associated with suspension and the potential impact on future career prospects, suspension was not a neutral act, at least in the context of a qualified professional in a vocation, such as a teacher.

The suspension amounted to a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence.

Employers must remember that even (in cases where the conduct is extremely serious, suspension must never be a knee-jerk reaction and the employer must carefully and pro-actively consider what the true purpose of a suspension would be and whether there might be any alternative.

Our advice is always to contact a qualified professional to help support and guide through disciplinary investigations and matters. You can contact Alison here.





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Employment issues and the Election – who stands where?

With the imminent election a hot topic in the news and the official manifestos published for all to view, where do each of the political parties stand on employment issues? We’ve made a note of which policies are going to have the biggest effect on employment law.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • Labour
    Would introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure gender pay gap reporting is compliant.
  • Conservatives
    Plan to extend current pay gap reporting requirements and larger employers would be obliged to publish a ‘race pay gap’ alongside a gender pay gap. Also plan to look into ways to make civil service recruitment more diverse.
  • Liberal Democrats
    Have vowed to bring an extra one million women into the workforce by 2025. Have also planned to extend the current pay gap reporting requirements.

Employee wellbeing

  • Labour
    Pledged to extend paid paternity leave to a month and increase the rate from its current level of £140.98 a week. Would consult on the introduction of statutory bereavement leave.
  • Conservatives
    The Party has claimed to improve the take-up of shared parental leave and help employers offer more flexible working environments. Plans to remove the requirement for employees to have suffered from a mental health condition for at least 12 months before gaining protection under the Equality Act.
  • Liberal Democrats
    Have pledged to make flexible working and shared parental leave ‘day one’ rights and extend paid paternity leave to a month.

Workers’ rights

  • Labour
    Have put forward a 20-point plan to end the ‘rigged economy’ in the workplace. This pledges to scrap employment tribunal fees, give all workers equal rights from day one and ban zero hours contracts and unpaid internships.
  • Conservatives
    May has claimed they will deliver the biggest expansion of workers’ rights by any Conservative government including a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative, pension protections and a guarantee that workers’ current rights will not change throughout Brexit.
  • Liberal Democrats
    Plan to scrap tribunal fees and stop the abuse of zero hour contracts. They also suggest they will advocate a German-style, two-tier system on company boards to encourage greater representation of workers.


  • Labour
    Has promised to increase the national living wage to ‘at least’ £10 per hour by 2020. Its manifesto confirms that this will would apply to all workers aged 18 and over, unlike the current national living wage that only applies to those aged 25 and over. Pledge to end the 1% pay cap on public-sector pay and introduce an ‘excessive pay levy’ on salaries above £330,000. There would also be a maximum pay ratio in public sector organisations of 20:1.
  • Conservatives
    Confirmed that the national living wage will rise ‘in line with average earnings by 2022’.
  • Green Party
    Will also ‘make the minimum wage a living wage for all’. They aim to make it £10 an hour by 2020.


  • Labour
    Plan to introduce four new public holidays with the aim to bring England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together to mark all four national patron saints’ days.

For more information, visit or contact Alison Benney:


Tel: 01803 469466

Mobile: 07967221595

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Procedures mean prizes when it comes to avoiding increased tribunal awards

The Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) statistics tables are out and they make for interesting reading… So what do they have to tell us about the financial year 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016?

Perhaps the most significant finding of all is the massive impact of employment tribunal fees on claims made in the last two years. Since the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees on 29 July 2013 there has been an overall reduction of 57% in claims brought, with sole claimants dropping by a whopping 70%. Here’s a run-down of the facts:

  • In 2012/13 (the last complete year before the introduction of employment tribunal fees) there were 191,451 claims accepted
  • In 2014/15 there were 61,308 claims accepted
  • In 2015/16 there were 83,031 accepted tribunal claims, comprising 16,935 single claims and 66,096 multiple claims (multiple claims are charged as a single case fee provided they are all brought within the same case)

Whilst the number does seem to be rising, the number of claims made in the last financial year is clearly way below what it was in 2012/13.

So, does this mean that people are scared off making a claim because of the fees?  The jury is still out – Acas could also have something to do with this drop in numbers. Claimants must now go through Acas before they are able to lodge a tribunal claim, which means a large number of disputes are dealt with before reaching the employment tribunal.

Even if a claim does make it past this stage, however, only a tiny percentage of claims go on to be successful at a tribunal hearing. The statistics for the last year show that:

  • 55% of all cases were withdrawn or settled before reaching a tribunal hearing.
  • 14% were struck out by the tribunal without a hearing
  • 14% were dismissed by the tribunal upon withdrawal
  • 4% were disposed of through a default judgement or dismissed at a preliminary hearing
  • 6% were unsuccessful at a tribunal hearing
  • Only 6% were successful at a tribunal hearing


Therefore it seems fair to conclude that introduction of fees does seem to be a major factor in the large drop in single claimants.

So… what sorts of fees are paid out if a claimant is successful? According to last year’s statistics:

  • the maximum unfair dismissal award was £470,865 and the average (mean) award was £13,851
  • the maximum race discrimination award was £43,735 and the average award was £14,185
  • the maximum sex discrimination award was a massive £1,762,130 and the average award was £85,622
  • the maximum disability discrimination award was £257,127 and the average award was £21,729
  • the maximum religious discrimination award was £45,490 and the average award was £19,647
  • the maximum sexual orientation discrimination award was £20,192 and the average award was £20,192 (there was only one award)
  • the maximum age discrimination award was £16,263 and the average award was £9,025


  • awards of compensation were made in 603 unfair dismissal cases but only in 144 discrimination cases
  • costs were awarded to the claimant in 393 cases and to the respondent in 265 cases
  • the average costs award was £3,386
  • the EAT received 970 appeals. However, a large proportion of these (428) were rejected at the sift stage as having no reasonable prospect of success or as being out of time.

Worrying reading for any employer out there facing a possible claim.  Although there is only a 6% chance of claimant success, nobody wants to find themselves embroiled in a tribunal claim.  It’s time consuming, expensive (even if you win) and presents significant reputational damage in the majority of cases.

As ever the solution lies in preparation before things become a problem.  You know what we’re going to say, here. There’s no excuse for not taking the time to make sure all of your policies and procedures are up to date.  One of the biggest causes of tribunal pay outs is because companies haven’t taken the time to make sure their procedures are up to date and followed.  Don’t be one of them, you’d be surprised how many companies, even where they have procedures in place, then fail to follow them.

Talk to us today.  We’ll conduct a full review and highlight areas you might be opening yourself up to risk.  We can even revise your documents and provide training for your key staff on how to run everything from disciplinary and grievance procedures through to performance management and redundancy.  For more information please contact Alison on 01803 469466 or email.

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Leading & Learning 2017 – a Leadership Development Programme

‘From the first day this course excited my curiosity.  The style of learning is completely different from any other course I have been on. The content is interesting and at times challenging and I have experienced changes both professionally and privately’ (previous participant)

‘– they are not simple and straight forward learning experiences; they challenge you as an individual, they challenge your thinking and they move you outside of your comfort zones’ (previous participant and current sponsor)

What is it and what are the benefits?

The Leading & Learning Programme is a leadership development programme, that helps those new to or transitioning into senior management roles to become more grounded, solid and self confident as leaders, enabling them to step into that role more fully, taking responsibility and bringing people with them.

What’s different about it?

This is an Action Inquiry programme, which begins with the premise that there are some things that cannot be taught but which can be learnt when people follow their own interest, energy and curiosity.  Participants therefore embark on their own personal journeys to connect with and explore what ‘leading well’ means to them.

Each participant will hold a question or ‘inquiry’ into their own leadership, through the duration of the programme, during the sessions and between, in their work and other aspects of their life, experimenting and testing learning out as they go. The theme for an individual’s inquiry-based learning emerges from aspects of commercial performance, conversations with line managers, 360 feedback or from a felt sense of the need to work in new ways.

The role of the facilitator(s) is to guide, challenge and support participants using coaching and mentoring skills. Themes for theoretical and practical input come directly from the interests and energy of the participants.

Who is it for?

The programme is aimed at people from all types of organisations and sectors, who are new to or transitioning into senior management roles and who have a genuine interest in and energy for inquiring into and challenging their own leadership.

How long is it?

There are 8 days, split into 4 individual days and 2 x 2-day residentials, over a period of around 9 months, beginning in January 2017.

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Leading Change Your Way – Action Inquiry Programme

Leading Change Your Way is an Action Inquiry programme for experienced leaders with a real interest in developing their capability and capacity to work with on-going, complex and unpredictable change.

Why might this programme be for you?

Whatever the size or sector of your organisation, change is likely to be continuous and relentless. Perhaps you are leading your organisation, function or team in the context of a merger, acquisition or joint venture; a significant organisational restructure or strategic re-positioning; the creation of a new vision, values and re-branding. Whatever the challenge there is little respite and whilst leading in this context can be exciting, it can also be exhausting and frustrating.

Change theories have their place and can be hugely helpful but they are not the be all and end all and increasingly our world is too fast moving, too complex and unpredictable for leaders to rely on plans and models.  This programme brings together the realities of leading day-to-day and the possibility of learning in an on-going, continuous way from that experience. It balances real life pragmatism and action, with intensive individual inquiry into what it means to you personally to lead change ‘well’.

What will you take away?

Outcomes from this type of programme are very individual as each person sets their own questions and challenges for themselves and works with them in their organisation. However, some shared outcomes are:

  • A deeper and broader understanding of the complexity and emergent quality of change and therefore a more assured, confident and agile way of working with it and taking your people with you;
  • A greater ability to articulate the above and to help your immediate team to know what might be needed from them in times of change and uncertainty;
  • A new network of peers outside the organisation, to challenge and support your thinking and actions.

What’s different about the programme?

Action Inquiry is a highly individual, self-directed way of ‘learning’, rather than ‘being taught’.  Each participant will hold a question or ‘inquiry’ into leading change through the duration of the programme, during the sessions and between, experimenting and testing learning as they go.  This means that each participant can work with what is real and meaningful to them in their context, can follow their own interest and work towards having a very direct impact in their organisation.

This is not classroom learning, where you can lose yourself in theory and hand responsibility to the facilitator.  It requires a high level of personal motivation to learn, to challenge yourself and be challenged and to do things differently.

As peers faced with both similar and different challenges around change in a variety of contexts, you will also be engaged in a collective inquiry into how to lead change well, learning from each other’s experiences, reflections and insights and building a network that challenges your thinking.

The role of the facilitator is to guide, challenge and support participants. Much of this will be through facilitating group discussion and dialogue and introducing theory and experiential exercises that may enable new insight and encourage the development of reflexive, as well as reflective, skills.

Who is it for?

The programme is aimed at experienced leaders, who find themselves in constant cycles of complex change, needing to take their people through this with them. 

How long is it?

The programme runs for 1 year, beginning in November 2016. As a group, we will meet 6 times (bi-monthly) for 1 day.  There is the possibility of turning one of these meetings into a 2-day retreat, should the group feel this would be of benefit.

Where will it be held?

There are 2 potential venues – both in the countryside, close to Cirencester and offering the chance to spend time outside.

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Integrating the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Employment Tribunal into civil court

The integration of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and the employment tribunal into the civil court has recently been suggested. But how would this work?

First, let’s take a look back the tribunal system before today. The system we have now has evolved over the years, but it dates back to the 1960s. What’s stayed the same is the fact that the EAT and the employment tribunal are totally separate from the civil court system. But since the devolution of the tribunal system in Scotland has taken a step forward (with draft legislation having been published), the future of the tribunal system in England and Wales has been called into question.

It has been noted in an in-depth review that the EAT and the employment tribunal are ‘uncomfortably stranded’ between the main tribunals and the civil courts. Both the judiciary and the government have acknowledged that, because of mostly financial reasons, the situation can’t go on as it is now. To solve the problem, it’s been suggested that the EAT and the employment tribunal need to be absorbed into the civil courts. This option has support from both presidents of the current tribunal system and the judges.

So is that the end of it? Not quite. It’s the government who has the final say on the future of the EAT and the employment tribunal. Although it hasn’t confirmed its intensions, it probably isn’t going to ignore senior members of the judiciary who want the change. It seems likely that the government will favour the EAT and employment tribunal’s integration with the civil courts, because this will keep the tribunal fee regime intact, which means it could save costs significantly.

It’s important that you question reports that say the integration of the EAT and the employment tribunal will have no fundamental effect on the current system. The changes could be a good opportunity for the government to overhaul the current tribunal rules and procedure – and this could include changing those used by the civil courts too. We’re expecting an update in late Spring 2016, so we’ll keep you posted on any developments.

For more information, visit contact Alison Benney:


Tel: 01803 469466

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Pregnant workers and risk assessment

An employee has just told you that she’s pregnant. She doesn’t work in a particularly high-risk environment, so do you still need to carry out a risk assessment (RA)? And if you do, what should it involve?

It’s a legal requirement to carry out a risk assessment on a pregnant worker, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. You need to do this in order to discover and assess and potential hazards that could have appeared because of the employee’s pregnancy and, if necessary, take steps to:

  • Eliminate them, or
  • Reduce the risks to an acceptable level.

So what steps do you need to take when doing a RA under these circumstances? The very first step is to get the employee to confirm, in writing, her pregnancy. You don’t have to take any further steps until she does this. While her word should normally be enough, you can take a further step by asking for proof in the form of a letter from her midwife or GP. When you get this confirmation, carry out the RA as soon as possible. The focus of the RA should be on additional risks introduced because of the employee’s pregnancy.

Begin by identifying all the possible hazards inherent for their job role. In low-risk jobs these could include:

  • Sitting or standing for lengthy periods of time
  • Manual handling activities
  • Long working hours
  • Working in areas with restricted space
  • Working alone
  • Risk of violence at work
  • Stress due to deadlines or dealing with customers/members of the public

You should carry out this RA in conjunction with the employee and focus on a realistic view of how their job is now – not simply what they’re job description tells you. If you’ve found any medium or high risk hazards, then take a look at how they can either be eliminated entirely or reduced to an acceptable level. For example, standing for long periods of time could be reduced by frequent breaks, whilst the need for heavy lifting could be eliminated by allocating the task to other employees.

Remember: all pregnancies are different, and this particular employee might be more at risk, e.g. because of age or a history of miscarriages. Your RA should be adapted to your employee’s personal circumstances. If you’ve had other pregnant employees with a similar job then you can use your previous RA as a template, but don’t just copy it – make sure you adapt it to the circumstances of the current employee.

Although only significant findings need to be recorded, always document all parts of the RA that were carried out. You could find yourself facing a personal injury claim if there’s a problem with the pregnancy – if you can’t prove, through documentation, that you complied with your legal duties this could leave you vulnerable. You also need to make sure you review your RA as the employee’s pregnancy progresses, as tasks that were once lower risk could change and be harder to carry out.

For more information, visit or contact Alison Benney:


Tel: 01803 469466

Mobile: 07967221595

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What’s happening with the DBS?

In January 2016 the criminal record check scheme, operated by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is unlawful. But why? And what does this mean for the DBS?

First, let’s take a look at how the DBS came about. Back in 2012, the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority were joined to form the DBS. This is the case in England and Wales, whilst Scotland and Northern Ireland run slightly different schemes. These changes mean that employers are legally required to get a criminal record check through the DBS when it comes to employing people for certain types of work – especially work with children or vulnerable adults.

But in 2013, the government had to amend the DBS by adding a filtering system. This amendment was due to a ruling made by the Court of Appeal in R (on the application of T) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester 2013. But the filtering system doesn’t apply when a person has more than one criminal conviction – and it also doesn’t take into account the nature of the offences (which could be quite minor, like shoplifting).

This factor has been an important one in the new legal challenge R (P and A) v Secretary of State for Justice 2016. It involved two people with historic convictions. P, now trying to work as a teaching assistant, shoplifted a 99p book back in 1999 and later failed to attend court – which meant that she got two convictions. A, currently in a senior position, was charged for two minor lefts in 1981 and 1982 when he was only 17 and 18.

P argued that, because of her minor convictions, she is prevented from securing work. A, on the other hand, is often subject to criminal record checks due to the nature of his work, and is worried that his family might learn of his past convictions and think negatively of him. They argued that if only one conviction was recorded the filtering system would not pose an issue. But, because there is more than one, of the same nature, the filtering system was a breach of their right to privacy.

When it came to the High Court, they sided with P and A and gave a preliminary ruling that the DBS is both unlawful and arbitrary. They decided that, because it’s not justifiable or necessary for any individual to have minor criminal offences disclosed indefinitely, especially from many years ago, simply because there’s more than one.

So what happens next? The High Court wants the government to decide how it plans to amend the system’s obvious faults before deciding on its final order. But this has to happen urgently, even though the government has indicated an intention to appeal. 

Until then, however, the DBS will operate unchanged, so you need to use it as normal until we advise you further. As soon as any changes are made, we’ll let you know by reporting further.

For more information, visit contact Alison Benney:


Tel: 01803 469466

Mobile: 07967221595

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Leading change your way – training

This is an Action Inquiry programme for experienced leaders with a real interest in developing their capability and capacity to work with on-going, complex and unpredictable change.

“..these programmes are not simple and straight forward learning experiences; they challenge you as an individual, they challenge your thinking and they move you outside of your comfort zones “ (Rhys Thomas, Cablecom)

This is not classroom learning, where you can lose yourself in theory and hand responsibility to the facilitator. It requires a high level of personal motivation to learn, to challenge yourself and be challenged and to do things differently.

How long is it?

The programme runs for around 3 months, beginning in late April 2016 with a 2 day residential. This will be followed by a 2-hour interactive webinar in early June and an overnight and full day in mid July.

Who are the facilitators?

Enlighten HR associates Clare Southall of Entheos Consulting and Sally Bogle of Transcape Leading & Learning.

Where will it be held?

We will use a small, intimate venue, with light spaces, and grounds in the Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire area. What does it cost? £1,400 (+VAT) per person. This includes a pre-programme meeting and all accommodation and meals (excluding drinks on residentials) A non-refundable deposit of £400 (+VAT) will be required to secure a place and the remaining £1,000 (+VAT) will be due 1 month before the start date.

For more information download this flyer Leading Change Your Way – April to July 2016

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Supporting you through your transition – training

Are you considering making changes in your working life, either through your own choice or due to other people’s decisions?

Supporting Your Transition is an opportunity to spend 2 days focusing on what this change means for you and what it might be offering you and increasing your resilience as you move through it.

Where and when will it be held? On the 12th and 13th of April at a venue approximately an hour west of London along the M40

Who are the facilitators? Enlighten HR associates Sally Bogle (Sally@transcapecoaching.co.uk. 07967 221644) and Jackie Westaway (Jackie.westaway@gmail.com 07768 237130)

For more information download this guide Supporting Your Transition – 1 page flyer.

How much does it cost?

The cost of the two day programme will be £475 with a discount to £425 for early bird bookings and payment received by the end of February.

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Employment allowance increases but not for single employee companies

6th April this year marks an increase in employment allowance from £2,000 to £3,000. This means that employers will be able to reduce the amount of their National Insurance Contributions by up to £3,000 or, if they already pay less than £3,000, they will not have to pay anything at all.

This increase, however, comes with a new exclusion. Single employee companies, that is one where there is only a single employee who is also the director of the company, will no longer qualify for any of the allowance.

Employment allowance in more detail.

The National Insurance Contributions allowance was introduced in 2014 to help businesses cut down the costs of employment. It enables employers to deduct the allowance from their secondary Class 1 NICs or not pay them at all if their current contribution is less than the allowance. Once the allowance has been claimed, employers can continue to use it in future tax years without any extra paperwork. It has been a successful scheme that has benefited over a million employers.

Why do single employee companies no longer qualify?

From 6th April, companies with a single director and no other employees will no longer qualify for any of the allowance. This means that approximately 150,000 companies in the UK will lose their right to the National Insurance Contributions allowance. The government argues that this new exclusion helps focus the benefits of the allowance on the right people. They say that companies with just a single employee, who do not recruit any additional members of staff, should not be able to benefit from an allowance that is designed to help employers with the cost of employment.

To find out more about claiming employment allowance, visit the UK Government Eligibility page.

For more information about this or other human resource matters please contact Alison.

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