This Week's News 20.07.18

How to deal with staff who are late for work

Even on a good day, few would ever describe commuting as a joy and staff absences can have expensive consequences for a business. What steps can you take if staff show up to work late, or even fail to turn up at all, due to travel disruption? When managing any type of lateness or unauthorised absence, employers should have appropriate policies and procedures in place. Under normal circumstances, persistent lateness or failure to turn up for work could warrant disciplinary action for misconduct or poor performance. But where staff work prescribed shifts, make client visits or transport goods, lateness can be extremely harmful for the business. It is likely that these types of businesses will put stricter policies in place than those who are able to support more flexible working patterns. However, where staff are penalised for not getting to work on time due to circumstances genuinely beyond their control, taking a "no exceptions" approach is unlikely to foster loyalty and positive morale. Employers are encouraged to set out the circumstances they would accept as beyond staff members' control, such as scenarios where it would be impossible or dangerous for staff to travel into work. This allows them to differentiate between what they view as acceptable reasons for lateness versus what they would categorise as poor planning on the part of the staff member. It will also provide a clear reference point for line managers when determining whether circumstances warrant a particular course of action.

Events that employers may wish to include as circumstances where it is impossible or dangerous for staff to travel into work could be:

  • industrial action affecting transport networks
  • major incidents that affect travel or public safety
  • extreme adverse weather, such as heavy snow

Where these events occur, employers should set out the steps they will take to minimise disruption. As with dealing with most unexpected events, ensuring that contingency measures are in place can help to dramatically reduce their impact on the business as a whole

Recommended follow-up steps:

  • develop a strategy to improve business resilience to both minor and major disruptions
  • review company policies and procedures on major travel disruption and consider taking preventative measures for the services which will be most acutely impacted, for example assessing whether alternative means of working could be adopted
  • ensure staff are familiar with the circumstances in which these policies apply
  • ensure the appropriate people in the business are aware of planned disruptions and provide staff with information as early as possible.

Alcohol and drugs misuse at work

Unfortunately, heavy drinking and regular drug use amongst young people is common. In the short term, some apprentices arrive at work unable to function because they have had "a heavy night" the day before. How is this misuse affecting their long-term health and can your business cope with under-performing staff? Employers do have a duty to protect the safety of their workplace under the Health and Safety at Work Act. That includes ensuring that employees are not working under the influence of drink of drugs. No person can be forced to provide a sample of urine, hair, saliva or blood for any purpose. However, if a person has a contractual obligation to provide a sample, and refuses to do it, courts have ruled that, in certain circumstances that can be grounds for dismissal. The 2004 Independent Inquiry into Drug Testing at Work concluded that the legal situation in relation to employment law and drug testing was unclear and called on the Government to introduce regulations to protect workers. It also concluded that attempts by employers to force employees to take drugs tests could potentially be challenged as a violation of privacy under the Human Rights Act, although this would not apply where drug-testing is for genuine safety or security reasons. If a person were taking a prescribed medicine, including an opiate, which they required for a condition that meant they were disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act and an employer did not employ them, or dismissed them, as a result of a drug test, they may well have a strong case for action against the employer under the Act. However, where an employee is sacked as a result of a positive drugs test, the employer would still have to show that drugs had a detrimental effect on the employee's ability to do the job. So, if there is no evidence that there has been any drug use at work, or that performance was influenced by illegal drugs then tribunals may consider the dismissal unfair, however, it will also depend on the kind of job the person does. As the law is unclear, in any situation where a person is facing disciplinary action, or dismissal following a positive drugs result, or if they are threatened with action for refusing to take a drugs test, individuals are advised to seek legal advice. Please see HSE leaflet about drug misuse at work to deal with drug-related problems at work. It provides a basic understanding of the signs, effects and risks of drug misuse. It also sets out a best practice approach to dealing with drug-related problems at work.

Catch22, Surrey Young People's Substance Misuse Service

Catch 22 provide one to one treatment support for young people aged 11-21 who need advice or support for problematic drug or alcohol misuse. Please use the information and leaflets to support young people and their families to access the support they need:

Getting in touch with Catch22

24/7 helpline for young people and their families 08006 226 662
Tel 01372 832905
Text 07595088388
Email ku/gro/22-hctac//mspy"
Website www.catch-22.org.uk/surrey-substance-misuse
Facebook and Twitter Catch22 YPSM

What's going wrong with the apprenticeship levy?

When the government introduced the apprenticeship levy in 2017, the stated aim was to increase the uptake of this historically popular form of vocational training, to fill skills gaps which could worsen after Brexit. The reality has been somewhat different. Recent figures from the Department for Education indicate a 28 per cent decrease in the number of apprenticeships taken up in the 2017/2018 academic year. The apprenticeship levy is clearly not functioning to encourage employers to invest in apprentices in their respective businesses. It is also being widely perceived as a further tax on business who complain the funds raised do not cover the training costs they incur. When we see companies stating the maximum allowance (£15,000 per head) is insufficient to cover complex apprenticeship costs and that they are contributing more than they receive, we need to think again.

Why focus on apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes, leading to nationally recognised qualifications, which can attract staff in to the workforce. They are available to anyone who has reached the school leaving age and are often viewed as an alternative to obtaining a university degree to obtain relevant qualifications. In return, businesses get the benefit of stable staff for several years who are growing in skill.

What is the apprenticeship levy?

In 2015, the government set a target to have 3 million new apprentices by 2020. The levy was introduced in April last year, to raise £3bn a year to fund better training. It applies only to employers which have an annual wage bill of over £3 million per annum, as well as employers who are enrolled on the statutory apprentice scheme. These employers must contribute 0.5% of their payroll towards the levy and they receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. So, if you were an employer paying the levy, you'd want to make good use of it, right? Management apprenticeships have grown by 1,000 per cent in just over a year because levy payers are using their allowances to fund management apprenticeships for their staff. Although micro and small business do not pay the levy, the pot of apprenticeship money for them is reliant on levy-payers not spending all of their apprenticeship funding allocation, with the idea that it would be redirected to fund employees in SMEs. It is looking increasing likely that levy payers will spend all their allowance.

The failings of the apprenticeship levy

Sir John Timpson, chairman of shoe repair chain Timpson, has publicly decried the levy as "nothing but a tax" and other retail employers have been similarly vocal. The reality is that the maximum allowances for apprenticeships do not cover the full cost of training. The government recently released figures for funding bands revealing that the cost of certain advanced apprenticeships is beyond the allowance available. There is also concern that employers are often net contributors, paying more into the scheme, than they receive for funding apprenticeships in their organisation. The bottom line for them is that they would have been better off before when they "controlled their own destiny". Another challenge relates to the type of training programmes available under the scheme. Businesses paying the levy do not control the nature of training offered to their apprentices and are unable to tailor them to their specific industrial needs. We've seen Christopher Nieper, managing director of luxury fashion brand David Nieper identify there aren't any training courses in his local area for sewing or garment technology and his business is unable to use the levy money towards its own in-house training. This concern is echoed by many employers who are waiting on a number of training programmes which are yet to be certified by the government. This delay is affecting employers financially as they are sometimes paying out for the course as well as making their levy contributions. The result is many employers are calling for the government to allow them to offer their own bespoke training to their apprentices.

What is the future of the apprenticeship levy?

The benefits apprenticeships offer businesses are being overshadowed by the difficulties still surrounding their implementation. The levy has exacerbated the existing concerns and failed to address the decline in their use. The government is aware of and had sought to tackle the decline in talent and matching skills to business need.

Team ITS warmly welcomes this learner who started his/her Apprenticeship this week

Kate Lamb - Level 2 Hair Professional Apprenticeship

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