HR in 90 Seconds - July 2018

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 18 July 2018
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Even though it’s holiday time here in Northern Ireland, we bring you up to speed with the hottest HR topics from the past month. We’ve selected some articles that appeared on our website, along with some others, and summarised the key learning points to help get you up to speed.

Last month we looked at the effect of the ‘accidental manager’, we provided some reminders on training line managers and ensuring that line managers are supported, valued and resilient. Not long after publication, Dave Ulrich posted on LinkedIn asking the question:

Who has primary accountability and responsibility for the HR work (talent, leadership, and organization) within an organization?

  • Line manager
  • HR manager
  • It is shared between the two
  • Consultant
  • I don’t care: I am going into finance

If you have ever studied HR or carried out much HR reading you will have come across Dave Ulrich’s textbooks and material. He is a speaker, author, professor and thought partner on HR, Leadership, and Organization. He often asks the above question as part of his HR MBA exam questions and challenged his social media followers… ‘will you get it right?’

Ultimately Dave Ulrich believes that it’s HR’s job is to help managers meet their goals through HR solutions. To see Ulrich’s complete answer, follow the link:

Menopause, potential discrimination and simple interventions

Moving back to this month and something that we have seen appear regularly lately is the Menopause in the Workplace. The BBC approached us at Legal-Island a few months ago and asked us about issues surrounding menopause in the workplace. It's often not taken seriously but it has a very big impact on some employees and their employers.

Dr Louise R Newson wrote in the Telegraph in October 2017 explaining why Menopause discrimination is a real thing and bosses need to get involved.  In her article, she talks about the symptoms of menopause, the impact they have on an individual and their work and provides the following recommendations for employers:

  • Carry out Risk Assessments to identify reasonable adjustments
  • Ensure that you have a provision of information and support
  • Provide training for line managers

Lisa Bryson, the head of employment law at Eversheds Sutherland in Belfast, said if employers fail to adequately support a woman or potentially discriminate against her because of menopausal symptoms, they could face a law suit. "It is becoming an issue because there is case law," she said. "Tribunals are already having to determine cases connected to menopausal symptoms.”

In April this year, the PSNI announced that they are considering introducing a health policy on menopause. Over a third of the PSNI workforce are women - around 70% of those thought there should be a policy on menopause. Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray said the PSNI see menopause as a condition that can impact some individuals adversely at work. This follows a move in England which has seen several police forces introducing such a policy. Interventions that West Midlands Police have found beneficial include:

  • Supervisor briefings
  • Menopause forum
  • Website and Occupational Health support
  • Webchat and FAQ
  • Reasonable adjustment passport (RAP)

West Midlands police have taken a positive stand around improving the well-being of all their employees. Whilst their work around menopause has allowed women to feel more confident to talk about their experience and feel more supported, it has also had a positive impact on the rest of their colleagues. Showing understanding and consideration has enabled many women to continue to work instead of taking sick leave.

Lisa will be presenting a session on the topic entitled 'Menopause at Work is No Laughing Matter' at this year's Annual Review of Employment Law in November. It’s not just arguments about office heating levels that could feature as Northern Ireland’s female employees age; several conditions meeting the definition of disability may arise, as might other factors, such as a lack of confidence, that employers have to sensitively manage.

The heatwave and productivity levels

Although the weather has not been as great this week the last few weeks have seen temperatures like we have not seen since the 90s - apparently! Personally we think it’s great but not everyone agrees…in her most recent article Olga Pollock considers the impact of heatwaves on productivity. Olga clarifies the position on the maximum temperature limit in the workplace and makes a few recommendations to avoid heat stress, including:

  • relaxing dress codes (good news for restrictive suit and uniform wearers);
  • moving desks away from windows, and;
  • where possible, air-conditioning being installed.

Additional hours and the risk of NMW breaches

As everyone is very aware currently dominating the headlines is the question of worker status and whether or not a person is a worker or self-employed? Kiera Lee takes a look at the wording used in contracts of employment. Kiera considers the commercial reality that an employer will require an employee to work either additional hours or beyond the hours stated in their employment contracts. Both of these scenarios are significant in relation to the law on the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Kiera looks at a number of things including: to which types of workers the NMW applies; what constitutes pay and she also recommends four steps to combat the risk of NMW breaches. We think one of the most important things you can take away from the article is that your organisation is aware that there are financial penalties for NMW breaches. Even more impactful might be the fact that in addition to the financial penalties, HMRC can also publicly name and shame offenders, and therefore there is a risk of reputational damage. The names of 239 employers found to have underpaid 22,400 UK workers by a total of £1.44m have been published by the government. Employers were fined an additional £1.97m, 11 of these employers were based in Northern Ireland.

The top 5 reasons for National Minimum and Living Wage underpayments in this round were:

  • Taking deductions from wages for costs such as uniforms
  • Underpaying apprentices
  • Failing to pay travel time
  • Misusing the accommodation offset
  • Using the wrong time periods for calculating pay

HMRC are actively pursuing and enforcing NMW breaches at present. If there is any doubt as to your compliance with NMW, now is the time to review this and make any necessary corrections or adjustments. Read Kiera's full Contractual Terms on Working Hours and Unmeasured Workers article for a more detailed update.

And don’t forget to check out In Brief: Important Updates from June 2018 for an update on the last month’s employment law developments.

Finally this month, if you have seen any HR related articles you’d like to share with Legal-Island readers, drop a line to


This article is correct at 18/07/2018

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

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