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National Work Life Week (7-11 October 2019): our employment lawyer looks at some common issues around wellbeing and work life balance.

This week (7-11 October) is National Work Life Week. It’s a chance for employers and employees to focus on wellbeing at work and work life balance. Employees often find themselves in a range of situations at work where they need to balance their own personal wellbeing against that of their employer.

In this article we look at 10 common issues around wellbeing and work life balance.

  1. If I can’t attend an interview is the person/ business recruiting obliged to offer me an     alternative date or time? 

No. There is no legal obligation to offer an alternative unless you can demonstrate that their lack of flexibility is due to a protected characteristic such as age, race, disability or sex which could amount to unlawful discrimination.

  1. Can I be dismissed or not recruited due to my appearance such as having tattoos or body piercings?

If you attend an interview but don’t get the job it is very difficult to know if it was your piercings or tattoos that meant you didn’t get the job. It’s worth checking in the job description before attending an interview in case there are any restrictions. For example, if you join the police you will asked for a photo of your tattoo and you’ll be unable to join if you have a tattoo on your face.

When it comes to being dismissed, an employer must always have a fair reason to dismiss you and is obliged to follow a fair procedure. Dismissing an employee on the basis of their appearance could be considered unfair. It’s worth bearing in mind that you can only bring a claim for unfair dismissal if you have been continuously employed by this employer for at least two years. Employees are however protected against unlawful discrimination, regardless of their length of service. This also applies to the recruitment process itself. Protection against unlawful discrimination only applies if the discrimination relates to specific protected characteristics which includes disability, sex, religion, age and sexual orientation. Physical appearance, i.e. tattoos and piercings, are not protected characteristics.

  1. I am returning from maternity leave and would like to reduce my working hours to a three-day working week. What are my rights?  

You are entitled to request flexible working if you have at least 26 weeks’ employment. Your employer has a duty to consider your request but can reject it for specific business reasons which they must give in writing to you. In some circumstances a rejection of a flexible working request may amount to indirect sex discrimination. If you don’t agree with your employers reasons for declining the request, we’d be happy to review your grievance procedures and advise you what to do next.

  1. I’m off sick. Can my employer contact me? 

Your employer has a duty of care towards you, and making contact with you may be considered fair and appropriate management. However, if the contact is not necessary or causes you more distress, your employer’s behaviour could be unreasonable and in more extreme cases could amount to a breach of contract giving rise to a potential constructive dismissal claim. 

  1. What’s the minimum notice my employer has to give me to dismiss me?

It depends how long you have worked for them but the minimum notice period for anyone with more than one month’s continuous employment is one week. If you have had more than two years continuous employment then it is one week’s notice per full year of employment up to a maximum of 12 weeks, although your contract of employment can provide for more.

  1. I’ve used all my holiday entitlement but need to take time off to look after my sick child. What are my rights?

As an employee, you are allowed time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. You are allowed a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the emergency, but there’s no set amount of time as it depends on the situation.

If you need to take time off for a longer period, parental leave may be an option. However, you would need to ensure that you are eligible and that you give sufficient notice to your employer (21 days minimum). Parental leave is unpaid leave.

  1. I’ve been invited to attend a disciplinary meeting but should I take someone with me? If so who? 

You are entitled to take someone with you (they are sometimes called ‘companions’). This may be  another colleague, a union representative or an official employed by a trade union. Although you can ask your employer if someone else can accompany you, they do not have to agree to this. If you are disabled, your employer has to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your disability which may include allowing someone else to accompany you.

A companion can be helpful to take some notes or help you present your case, although you should choose someone calm who will not antagonise the situation.

  1. Do I have the right to have Bank Holidays off and Christmas Day? 

There is no legal obligation on the part of your employer to give you Christmas Day and Bank Holidays off, however many employers as a matter of course close their business on these national holidays. Equally, many organisations may contractually oblige you to work on these days, particularly if you work for the NHS, Fire Service and Police Service. This information should be contained in your employment contract.

  1. I misbehaved at a works social event am I in trouble? 

Your employer’s disciplinary procedure may apply to events outside of work but it depends upon the individual circumstances as to what has happened and what implications this may have for you. The disciplinary procedure should be set out in your contract of employment or employee handbook.

  1. I think my employer is trying to change the terms of my employment. What should I do? 

Contact SHU Law. We would be happy to lend a hand as another pair of eyes to your employment contract and any anticipated changes to the terms of employment so that we can guide you through the process and you can have clarity as to what is expected of you.


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