Monday, November 30, 2015

Apprentices and Other Young Workers

Working Time for Young People - Are you Complying?
 
It is relatively common knowledge that the Working Time Regulations state that workers cannot be compelled to work more than 48 hours per week, calculated as an average over 17 weeks.  Most people also know that workers are able to opt out of this restriction, so that they are able to work long hours on a regular basis and thereby benefit from a higher income.
 
But many employers are unaware that this does not apply to young workers, including some apprentices.  Young people are defined as those who are over school-leaving age* and are under 18.
 
Young workers are not allowed to work more than 8 hours in any day, and no more than 40 hours in any week.  This is not worked out on an average basis, it applies to each individual day and week.  They are also entitled to at least a 30 minute break in any day when they work longer than 4.5 hours.  Young workers are also not permitted normally to work between 10pm and 6am.
 
There are some exceptions to these restrictions, but they are few and far between. There are also health and safety measures that apply to young workers, to take into account their relative youth and lack of experience, compared with adult workers.
 
Please get in contact if you would like any more information about employing young workers.
 
(* in England young people can leave school on the last Friday in June if they will turn 16 by the end of the summer holidays)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Government Proposal for Extended Family Leave

Shared Parental Leave to be Extended to Working Grandparents
 
Last month George Osborne announced plans to extend the still relatively new right to Shared Parental Leave to take into account the extended family.  It is intended that this right will be extended beyond just mothers and fathers, to include working grandparents.
 
Shared Parental Leave is still currently "bedding in" and, anecdotally at least, there does not seem to be much take up of it at the moment.  Women are still tending to take their full maternity leave entitlement, without sharing some of it with the father, as is provided for under the Shared Parental Leave arrangements.  So it is unclear how much take-up there will be from working grandparents.  However, it is possible that take-up may be higher for grandparents, as many of them may be in lower paid jobs, as they head towards the end of their working life, and may be in a better position to take time off unpaid or at the statutory level.  Many fathers are still the main wage earners, or are on a par with the mother, so it is not always so attractive for them to take this time off.
 
The Government will consult over this proposal next year, with a view to introducing it in 2018.  So watch this space!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Fit For Work Scheme Fully Rolled Out

Will Employers Find the New Scheme Beneficial?
 
The Government's Fit For Work Scheme is now available across the UK.  GPs and Employers are able to refer employees to the Scheme when they have been off work sick for 4 weeks.  Employers will need to seek the employee's written consent before any referral and Fit for Work needs consent from employees before they share any information with employers.
 
The aim of the Scheme is to encourage employees to get back to work sooner rather than later. For small to medium sized employers it may serve as an alternative to more costly occupational health services.  Fit for Work is free (it is funded by the Government from the savings made when it stopped refunding SSP to employers).
 
Fit for Work will carry out an assessment of the employee and will seek to draw up and agree with the employee a personalised return to work plan.  This will be provided to the employer who will then need to consider whether it is able to accommodate the return to work plan.  This may consist of a phased return, reduced or altered duties, a period of working from home, changes to the workplace or work station for the employee, extra support or supervision, etc.  The employer is not obliged to follow the return to work plan, and in some cases it may not be feasible due to a lack of resources, cost, the difficulty with restructuring work, etc. 
 
It will be interesting to see how effective the Scheme is.  This will depend very much on individual circumstances, but one benefit that we can see immediately is that intervention will happen at a relatively early stage - after just 4 weeks' absence.  Previously an employer would be reluctant to seek medical information at such as an early stage because of the cost of a medical report or of a referral to an occupational health specialist.  After just 4 weeks it is often unclear if the employee is heading for a prolonged period of absence or is likely to return in the near future, so this Scheme should help speed things up a little.