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Helping you to grow your resources into the potential they promise 
Modern Slavery Act 
 
With effect from October 2015, large organisations whose annual turnover exceeds £36 million will be required to publish a ‘modern slavery & human trafficking statement’ each financial year. This is in response to Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act and the statement will be expected to outline the steps that are being taken by the Organisation to ensure that no ‘slavery’ exists within the Organisation or within any of its’ supply chains. 
 
Section 54 of the Act states that the statement might include information on: 
Structure of the organisation, it’s business and supply chain(s) 
Policy statements in relation to slavery and human trafficking 
Due diligence processes in relation to these areas 
Any parts of the business which may be at greater risk of slavery and human trafficking and the steps being taken to assess and manage that risk 
It’s effectiveness in ensuring that human trafficking and slavery are not taking place, measured against appropriate performance indicators as determined by the Organisation themselves 
Training on the slavery and human trafficking made available to staff 
 
Organisations responding to the Government consultation requested a clear steer on what they were required to report, where and when it should be reported and on how modern slavery could be identified. As yet, this guidance does not appear to have been made available and we will keep an eye on this and report back… 
 
Extension of Shared Parental Leave 
 
The Chancellor has announced at the Conservative Party conference, that the Government intends to extend shared parental leave to include Grandparents as well as both parents. This extension is likely to come in during 2018 and acknowledges that a significant number of working Grandparents have either given up work or reduced their hours in order to look after their grandchildren when the child’s mother returns to work. 
 
The proposals will allow for shared parental pay of £138.50 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings to be shared between the parents and grandparents of the child. 
 
Shared Parental Leave was only introduced earlier this year and has been a complex area of legislation for Organisations to get to grips with, so it is anticipated that this extension will not be warmly welcomed. That said, Linda Jones, Head of Employment with Pinsent Masons has also stated that the take up will probably not be significant and is likely to be mostly amongst families of single mothers’ or where both parents wish to return to work quickly; both scenarios the exception rather than the rule. 
 
The Government will introduce further guidance on this in due course and we will bring you further details as and when it is known. 
 
Mental Health in the Workplace 
 
With World Mental Health Day taking place on 10th October 2015, there is much coverage of the issue in the news currently. Aside from the headlines around the political argument about the lack of funding available for mental health care provision, there is also the impact that the mental health and wellbeing of employees can have on Organisations to consider. 
 
In their recent Sickness Absence Management Survey, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has reported that 40% of employers have responded an increase in mental health issues affecting their employees at work. The main reasons for this increase were identified as being heavy workloads, management style and difficult relationships with colleagues. Despite similar results over six consecutive years of conducting the survey, the CIPD have also reported that approximately 22% of respondents had stated that they were not taking any action to improve the mental health of employees, such as providing a counselling service or offering flexible working and only 31% reported that they were working towards increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workplace. 
 
There is still an inherent lack of understanding about how people suffering with mental health problems are ‘treated’, in the medical sense of the word. Quite often, GPs and Medical Practitioners when dealing with mental health and wellbeing, will recommend to the patient that they should refrain from ‘sitting around at home’ whilst signed off from work and should engage in various activities that will support their recovery such as walking, visiting places of interest, sporting activity and even holidays. 
 
This has been highlighted this week in another news report found on Walesonline.co.uk; concerning an ambitious Prison Officer who killed herself in 2012 having been unfairly dismissed by the Prison Service. In 2011, Janet Norridge had tested positive for a gene that gave her an 80% chance of developing bowel and other cancers, a test she had taken following the death of a close relative from bowel cancer. Her GP had signed her off work for 3-weeks to allow her to come to terms with that news and to deal with the impact of this on her mental well-being and during that time, she went to watch a live screening of the Wales v. New Zealand world cup semi-final match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. She was spotted there by a colleague, who reported her to the Prison Authorities and they took disciplinary action against her for misconduct and ultimately dismissed her from the Service. 
 
Following a failed appeal against the dismissal, Janet committed suicide and when her parents discovered an unfinished ET1 form amongst her papers, they completed this on her behalf and took the Prison Service to Tribunal, where the Tribunal Judge ruled in their favour. 
 
Although this ruling of unfair dismissal was not known to Janet at the time of her death, the Coroner acknowledged that she had felt that she had been unfairly dismissed at the time and as a consequence, has stated that he will be writing to the Prison Service with recommendations about how they treat employees going through the disciplinary process. 
 
Sadly, the issue of mental health is still somewhat of a taboo subject and one of the difficulties for employers face in addressing mental health issues remains the inability of many people to talk about their circumstances with their line manager or with HR. For this reason, it is recommended that Organisations provide better training for managers when dealing with mental health issues and that they promote a corporate culture that supports good mental health and wellbeing, to encourage employees to seek assistance at the earliest opportunity. 
 
Mobile Workers ~ Working Time Regulations 
 
A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has confirmed that journeys made by mobile and peripatetic workers must count as working time under the Working Time Regulations. The specific case heard by the ECJ involved a Spanish Company, Tyco Integrated Security SL, whose technicians use company vehicles to travel across Spain to get to appointments. The Company argued that the time taken to travel between home and their first appointment and from their last appointment back to their homes, was ‘rest time’ under the Working Time Directive and did not count as ‘working time’. 
 
A claim was brought against them by the technicians and the Court ruled: “Where workers, such as those in the situation at issue, do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers travelling each day between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes working time within the meaning of the directive”. 
 
The impact of this ruling will affect employers in the UK who have mobile workforces and who do not currently count the time travelling to and from home as working time. Suggested approaches that Employers could take to minimise the impact of this ruling on them would be to; manage the employees schedule through making their first and last appointments close to their home address, adjust their working hours and/or if they haven’t already done so, ask employees to opt out of the 48-hour working week. 
 
Employers should take also take account of relevant Health & Safety Legislation/Regulations to ensure that measures they implement to counter this ruling under the Working Time Regulations, does not adversely impact on the health and safety of employees or encourage unsafe working practices. 
 
It should be noted that this case does not impact on the pay of mobile workers; but this may be a secondary outcome that will need to be considered and monitored. We will bring you an update on this in due course... 
 
Cases of Interest ~ Caste Discrimination 
 
This week, it has been reported that an individual has successfully sued their employer under ‘Caste Discrimination’; although linked to both religion and ethnic minority, a person’s caste has not – until now, been defined as a ‘protective characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010. Caste is defined in the dictionary as being: ‘1) any of the four major heredity classes into which Hindu society is divided. 2) Social rank’. 
 
The Case had previously been heard within the Employment Appeal Tribunal; who had determined that although there had been some discussion in Government of revising the Equality Act to include Caste as a protective characteristic, that this had not yet happened did not preclude Ms Tirkey from bringing a case for Caste Discrimination, as the broad definition of ‘race’ to include colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, was not a comprehensive and exhaustive list and therefore ethnic origin could include caste. The EAT also relied upon the interpretation of the Equality Act within the Human Rights Act 1998 and also on the intention of the EU Race Directive which was intended to give effect to the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination 1965, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of descent. 
 
In this case Tirkey v. Chandhok and Another; Ms Tirkey had been employed by her employers in a domestic capacity both in India and in the United Kingdom. Ms Tirkey was of Adivasi Caste and it was alleged that her employers considered her to be of lower status as belonging to a caste comparable to the ‘untouchables’ and that this view was tainted by caste discrimination. 
 
The case was referred back to the Employment Tribunal to be heard and her claim alleged that her employers had: 
Failed to pay her the national minimum wage 
Breached the working time regulations 
Indirectly discriminated against her on grounds of religion 
Unlawfully harassed her on the grounds of race and; 
Unfairly dismissed her. 
 
The Tribunal found in favour of Ms Tirkey and awarded her an amount of £183,744 in respect of unlawful deductions from wages and it is likely that she will receive a further amount in respect of compensation for Race Discrimination. 
 
What is perhaps a little more shocking about this case, is that one of the respondents is understood to have been qualified through the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and should therefore have had a sound working knowledge of all of these issues. 
 
It is not yet clear as to whether the Government will pursue their earlier intention to legislate on Caste Discrimination or whether they will now rely on this Case to state that the existing protection is adequate. Either way, employers should review relevant policies to ensure that Caste is both covered and understood by those responsible for enforcing the policies within their Organisation. 
 
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