Frequently Asked Questions

They say that 'Knowledge is Power'. Our aim is to Empower you and your business with answers to your questions.

I have been told that there are new standards for ladders and stepladders. Does this mean that I have to replace all of my ladders?

No. The replacement standard BS EN131 applies from 1st Jan 2018, with the objective of simplifying the standards and improving the safety of ladders and stepladders.

Under the new standard there are two categories: Professional for industry and trade and Non-professional for domestic use.

Significant changes include: 

  • A minimum weight capacity of 150Kg (23.6 stone)
  • Improved stability features for ladders over 3m
  • New manufacturing durability tests

From January 2018 all new ladders manufactured must be to the new standards.

Ladders and stepladders to the old standards may still be sold while stocks last.

Ladders and stepladders to the old standards which are already in use may continue to be used as long as they are serviceable and continue to be checked at regular intervals.

 

My Fire Extinguisher maintenance company has replaced a large water extinguisher with a smaller foam extinguisher. Is this OK?

Yes. Modern foam extinguishers, identified by a cream panel on them, have a special nozzle which breaks the foam and water mixture into droplets, which cool the fire and exclude the oxygen. The smaller 6L foam extinguisher has the same extinguishing power as a larger 9L water extinguisher due to its greater efficiency in putting out fires. It is therefore approved for combustible material as well as for flammable liquids. The bonus is that a 6L foam is much easier to handle than the heavier 9L water.

 

What should a COSHH Assessment look like?

COSHH assessments are a tool which is used to ensure that when using substances that are hazardous to health, they are used in such a way as to prevent any harm. 

To do this the assessor needs to know: 

  1. What substances are used. 
  2. What are their risks.
  3. How do YOU use them.
  4. How often do YOU use them. 
  5. How much do YOU use each time. 
  6. Where do YOU use them
  7. WHO will be exposed to them
  8. What are YOUR existing Control Measures.

Information from the MSDS (Material Safety Date Sheet), supplied by the manufacturer or supplier, will answer question 2, and will provide the key for your assessment of the safety of your work processes and the working environment where they are carried out.

For further information see www.hse.gov/coshh 

 

We pay enhanced maternity pay, do we need to enhance pay for employees taking shared parental leave?

It is employers to decide whether to enhance the pay for employees on shared parental leave, there is no statutory provision currently to do.

Can I hold a protected conversation with my employee rather than go down the disciplinary route?

You can do this where there is an existing dispute in place but the employee is not obliged to accept any offer and if they do, they will need to take their own legal advice on the matter.

Am I able to dismiss a zero hours employee?

If it is a true zero hours agreement, there is no obligation to offer the employee hours so the need to dismiss should not arise.

I have an employee on a zero hours contract but they have been working regular hours every week.

It is likely that if this has been going on for a period of time, this person would be considered a regular employee.

My employee has not yet returned from a period of maternity leave and has advised us that they are pregnant again. How do I handle this?

This can be handled in the same way as the initial period of maternity leave but may require some discussion around annual leave that has been accrued and when this will be taken before the next period of maternity leave.

When should Fire Risk Assessments be reviewed and can they be carried out by someone in-house?

Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) must be reviewed on a regular basis, The frequency of review will depend upon certain factors such as the nature of hazards, work activities and employees present. The important thing is that progress is made towards complying with recommendations made on the significant findings and that the progress is evidenced on a regular basis in an action plan provided along with the assessment. FRAs must be carried out by competent persons. Competency is a combination of knowledge (in the principles of fire risk assessment) , skill (being able to apply knowledge practically), experience and other qualities. The advantages of designating an in-house competent person to carry out an FRA is that they may have a good understanding of fire hazards and local control measures in place for controlling risk. They may however, require additional training in the principles of FRAs in order to ensure that any assessment is suitable & sufficient

How often should senior leaders & Directors attend the IOSH Leading Safely course?

The short duration of the course of around 5 hours is designed in such a way that senior leaders can fit it into busy schedules. There is no recommended frequency for refreshing the IOSH Leading Safely course; however, it is good practice to attend the course every 3 - 5 years in order to refresh knowledge and to keep up to date with any relevant changes in legislation.

What is a toolbox talk?

Tool-box talks are short safety presentations on a single topic usually delivered to small groups of employees at the start of a day or before a particular work activity commences. The content of toolbox talks may include highlighting hazards and how people can get hurt, Pre-use checks of equipment, the Do's and Don’ts, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), welfare arrangements, reporting accidents & near misses. You may also wish to include the use of equipment as props and brief demonstrations as an interactive element. It is also important to consult with employees and ask for their feedback on the effectiveness of toolbox talks so they can be improved in the future.

An employee in a customer facing role has arrived at work looking like they have been in a fight over the weekend. Can I send them home or restrict their duties and insist they do not see customers or clients?

Refer to your standards of appearance policy in relation to professional image, and discuss with the employee.

My employee has resigned. Can I ask them to go now and not pay notice?

Not without the employees agreement. If you did make them leave, and failed to pay them then you would be breaching their contract of employment and risk a claim for unlawful deduction.

If an employee clocks in 10 minutes late, can I make a deduction from their pay?

You can only deduct for time lost if staff have been made aware of this practice. If there has not been an agreement then there is a risk of an unlawful deduction from pay claim.

Can I give a written warning without holding a meeting?

No, the situation should be fully investigated and if applicable a disciplinary meeting should be convened. This should be in writing and with the required notice.

When can you instantly dismiss?

You can only summarily dismiss for gross misconduct allegation, following a formal investigation and an invitation to a formal disciplinary hearing in writing, with the required notice.

Can I pay an employee who is on long term sick leave their accrued annual leave pay?

Yes the employee can request a period of annual leave to be paid, otherwise this would continue to accrue and be able to be taken on their return from sickness or be payable if they leave the business.

Will right to work checks remain the same after Brexit?

Until 1 January 2021 the Home Office has confirmed that right to work checks on EU an EEA nationals will continue as normal, however there is some uncertainty should there be a no-deal Brexit.

What is the role of a Trade Union rep during a formal meeting?

The companion should be allowed to address the hearing to put and sum up the workers case, respond on behalf of the worker to any views expressed at the meeting and confer with the worker during the meeting. A companion does not have the right to answer questions on the employees behalf, address the hearing if the worker does not wish it or prevent the worker from explaining their case.

 

How do you pro rata bank holidays for Part Time employees?

Statutory entitlement is 5.6 weeks including bank holidays, if for example your employee works 3 days a week their entitlement is 5.6 x 3 = 16.8 days leave including bank holidays. If the employees normal working day falls on a bank holiday then one of the holiday days would need to be allocated. If they don’t fall on a bank holiday then these can be used at another time of year.

How do I determine the maximum capacity of a room for an event?

As a general rule for a temporary event in a workplace it is acceptable to base the maximum un-seated capacity of a measured area on a value of 0.3 - 0.5m2 per person. However, there are other variables that must also be considered. For instance, the number of available fire exits, the width of escape routes and the travel distance associated with escape routes must also be considered before determining an acceptable final number. 

Can I make an employee retire now they have reached state pension age?

No, there is no longer a default retirement age, you are able to have discussions with employees regarding retirement plans however you are no longer able to force an employee to retire.

How often should warden call systems be tested & maintained in sheltered housing?

Ensure that all alarms are tested regularly by the user sending a test signal to a monitoring facility (ideally on a weekly basis). A regular maintenance schedule should also be implemented with a servicing company to change batteries and check for any obvious signs of damage. Portable pendants should be included as part of the testing and maintenance schedule. A record of any reported faults and repairs should also be maintained as part of the regime.

How old does an employee have to be to drive a Fork Lift Truck?

Operators of Fork Lift Trucks must be over the minimum school leaving age (MSLA), except in ports where they must be at least 18 years old. In England, the MSLA is defined as any person leaving school following the last Friday in June as long as they are 16 by the end of the summer holidays of the same year.

What precautions should be taken following a suspected case of Shingles in the workplace?

Employees diagnosed with Shingles should be able to continue to work in the majority of adult only, non-care workplaces if they feel well and the affected area can be adequately covered by clothing. Employees may need to take time off to recover if they are feeling unwell. Other employees who may come into contact with infected employees should be made aware if there is a suspected case. Pregnant employees who have an uncertain or unknown history of chickenpox and have not been vaccinated must inform their midwife or doctor for further advice.

Are part-time employees who use display screen equipment entitled to free eye tests?

If a part-time employee has been identified as a ‘User’ (e.g. an employee who uses display screen equipment for a significant part of their working day) then they will be entitled to the same control measures to reduce risk as other ‘Users’ who may work full-time. This includes entitlement to free eye tests.

How often should Electrical Installations be inspected?

The Electricity at Work Regulations require that electrical installations must be maintained, so far as is reasonably practicable to prevent danger. Installations should be tested often enough that there is little chance of deterioration leading to danger. As a guide, best practice states that a suitable timescale for the inspection of the majority of electrical installations in normal risk environments such as offices, shops and schools would be once every five years. However in places of public entertainment such as leisure complexes and theatres, inspections should occur every three years. In harsher environments such as in swimming pools or workplaces with higher electrical risks such as petrol stations and laundrettes then it is recommended that inspections occur annually.

 

Who should be completing our Fire Risk Assessment?

Fire Risk Assessments must be completed by Competent Persons. This means someone who has the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to be able to understand the building, identify hazards and assess the suitability of preventative and protective fire safety measures adopted. Competencies of fire risk assessors are likely to come under closer scrutiny in the future. One method of proving sufficient competency is by achieving a recognised qualification in fire risk assessment that is recognised by an accredited body such as the IFE (Institute of Fire Engineers) or IFSM (Institute of Fire Safety Managers).

There should be particular focus on adequacy of fire compartmentation and both horizontal and vertical escape routes when assessing fire risk. Common mistakes can be made when fire risk assessors assume that fire protection in buildings is adequate without taking reasonable evasive observations to confirm this.

How do I supervise a contractors work activities upon issuing a hot work permit?

Suitable control measures must be implemented to reduce the risk of fire whenever a Permit to Work has been issued for hot work (i.e. welding activities). For example, removing combustible materials from the work area or dampening down surfaces prior to carrying out the work. The person authorising the permit must monitor these controls to ensure that they are implemented and that the work is adequately supervised to ensure that it meets all requirements documented on the permit form. This includes ‘fire-watch’ arrangements after the work has been completed and a declaration from the contractor that any equipment put out of service is ready for normal use.

It should be remembered that major fires are often the result of contractors working on the premises. Therefore, there should be a strict focus on well-controlled and supervised permit to work procedures

Is it acceptable to just use manufacturers information to calculate vibration magnitudes for vibrating work equipment?

It is acceptable to use the information on vibration magnitudes from manufacturers as a starting point to assist with the calculation of vibration exposure. Guidance is also available from the HSE on vibration magnitudes for common machines in real work situations. However, there are variables that can affect this data such as the age and condition of vibrating tools and equipment, the task being carried out, the type of material that they are being used on and how efficiently they are used by the operator.

On-tool vibration monitors can provide a more thorough approach to identifying vibration magnitudes. These vary from simple attachments that record the actual trigger time spent performing tasks, enabling an accurate assessment using the manufacturer’s vibration date. More complex monitoring equipment that calculates actual vibration magnitudes can be hired.

If on appeal, the decision to dismiss is overturned, what should we do?

In this situation, an offer of reinstatement should be made.

Do I have to pay an employee while they are suspended?

Yes, the suspension should be on full pay.

 

In which circumstances should I suspend an employee?

Where the allegation is one that puts the business at risk or is potential gross misconduct, you should consider suspension.

 

Am I required to give an employee a written letter for an investigation meeting?

Legally, you are not required to formally invite to an investigation meeting, this meeting is a fact-finding exercise to determine whether there is a need for a disciplinary.

 

If someone has stormed out and I haven’t heard from them, can I assume they have resigned?

You should avoid assuming an employee’s resignation and instead write to them asking them to confirm their intentions giving them a date and time to make contact by.

What information should I take with me when I hold a meeting to discuss absence with an employee?

Ensure that you have an accurate record of the employees absence (you can use your

What happens if my employee wants to have their salary paid into someone else’s bank account? Can I do this?

Care should be taken if an employee requests this as it could be an indicator that they are being used as a modern day slave, forced human exploitation for labour, as defined by the modern slavery act. The

An employee has raised some concerns what should I do?

Meet with the employee to discuss the concerns and make aware of the

An employee has requested annual leave which was declined but they have taken it anyway, what should I do?

Call the employee if they do not arrive for work. Meet with them on their return to discuss reason for the absence, remind them of the policy and not making holiday arrangements until leave is approved. Potentially, this is unauthorised absence and they could face

Can I take disciplinary action for an issue with an employee which I have not previously dealt with?

It would depend on circumstances and the severity of the misconduct but usually, you would need to have tried to resolve the issue informally before taking formal action.

Is there a maximum and minimum workplace temperature required by law?

There are no maximum and minimum workplace temperatures required by law. However, workplace temperatures should provide reasonable comfort and employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that this can be achieved. The minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be 16℃ (13℃ if work activities require rigorous physical effort). Some workplaces are exempt such as those where food is kept chilled.

If temperatures are uncomfortably high then all reasonable steps must be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature. This may include providing air-cooling plant, shading windows and re-siting workstations. Local cooling, fans and increased ventilation may also be necessary in order to achieve a comfortable temperature throughout the workplace.

An employee is required to wear safety goggles whilst sanding with power tools but they wear glasses for sight, what do I need to do?

Prescription safety glasses that incorporate side shields are widely available for workers who wear corrective lenses for vision but are also required to wear personal protective eyewear in the workplace. Employers must consult with the employees to identify suitable safety glasses. Also, employers cannot charge employees for PPE (personal protective equipment) where it is required to perform the work activity safely.

How do I determine if a workplace injury is reportable under RIDDOR?

Firstly, the injury must have occurred as a result of a ‘work-related activity’ (e.g. the injury occurred as a result of the use of work equipment, the condition of the work environment or the way in which the work is carried out). Secondly, the injury must be one of the specified injuries listed under the Regulations OR resulted in the injured employee being absent from their normal work duties for a period of seven days. (This time period starts on the day following the accident and includes rest-days and weekends). For instance, if an injured worker is absent for five days and returns to work on ‘light’ duties for a further three days then this would be reportable under the Regulations.

Can a Fork Lift Truck driver continue to work without a valid driving licence?

It is acceptable for the driver to continue operating the Fork Lift Truck on a work premises as the driving licence is only relevant when driving on a public road. All Fork Lift Truck drivers must have received certified training (current valid certificate) and be over 18. The driver should continue to be supervised on-site to ensure they follow safe systems of work and site rules. 

An employee has been signed off from work by a GP with a back injury but wishes to return early. Is this allowed?

In certain circumstances it is acceptable (with the employees consent) for an employee to return to work early. In such cases the employer must carry out and document a Risk Assessment and consult with the employee to identify suitable alternative work that will not expose them to risk of further injury (e.g. identify work activities that avoid the need for manual handling). Of course Manual Handling training should be provided to all staff.

Why do I have to carry out COSHH Assessments for cleaning substances that I also use at home?

Many businesses use standard household cleaning chemicals in the workplace. Employers have a legal duty to assess the risks to employees that handle and use these products if they have hazardous properties. This does not need to be an onerous task if only small quantities are used and stored in the workplace. A low-risk COSHH Assessment can be carried out utilising relevant information from the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and also including local procedures (e.g. where is it stored, what PPE should be worn and where to find it, what the emergency arrangements are if there is a spillage or accident). COSHH Assessments must be documented if five or more persons are employed.

How often should I test emergency lighting?

Emergency lighting should be inspected visually on a daily basis to ensure that a battery power light indicator is displayed. This inspection should be complemented with a monthly test which may involve ‘flicking’ the light on and off at the test switch with a special fish tail key to ensure that there is enough power in the battery to illuminate the light sufficiently. It is good practice to keep a record of tests and any failures within the fire log book for the premises. A competent person should carry out a full service of emergency lighting on an annual basis which will include a full discharge of back-up batteries.

How often should Lung Function tests be carried out for employees exposed to hazardous dust?

Lung Function tests performed by an Occupational Health Professional should be carried out on an annual basis or as advised by the professional. For instance, following the monitoring of results for trends, the Occupational Health Professional may recommend an increase in testing for a period of time.

What H&S Training do employees need?

It is a legal requirement for employers to provide training to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health & safety of their employees at work. As a minimum;

  • Employees must receive information on hazards as part of initial induction training.
  • Employees must also receive training on the significant findings from Risk Assessments & Safe Working Procedures to enable them to carry out their job safely.
  • It is recommended that employees also receive Basic H&S Awareness training covering relevant common topics for example Risk Assessment, Fire Safety, Manual Handling, Accidents, Vehicles & Pedestrians, Machinery, Work Equipment, Noise, Vibration, Electricity, Hazardous Substances, Stress, Violence, Display Screen Equipment, Asbestos & Personal Protective Equipment.
  • More specific training will be required for certain employees such as Fire Wardens, First Aiders and those that operate specialist equipment such as Fork Lift Trucks or Mobile Elevated Work Platforms.
  • Training should be refreshed on a regular basis. As a rule it is acceptable to refresh Basic Awareness training every three years but this could be more frequent depending upon the hazards present.

What should be in the contents of a first aid box?

There is no legal standard of what should be in a first aid box. Contents should be decided following the completion of a first aid needs assessment and will be dependent upon a number of factors such as the number of employees, the work activities and hazards present, whether there is shift working or remote working and whether there are other persons to consider such as members of the public. As a general rule, a standard first aid box in a low hazard workplace is likely to contain the following items;

  • A first aid guidance leaflet
  • Sterile plasters and eye pads
  • Triangular bandages
  • Large and medium sized sterile dressings
  • Disposable gloves (should be latex-free)

My employee has not turned up today – what should I do?

Call the employee and ask where they are, leave a voicemail asking them to get in contact that day. If there is no response, call employees emergency contact. If you don’t have a response write to them advising that their absence is unauthorised and subject to disciplinary action and to contact the company.

I have received a subject access request, what do I do?

Provide a copy of the relevant information to the employee within 1 month of the request, free of charge.

My employee is having a lot of time off with Mental Health Issues, what should I do?

Meet with the employee to discuss their level of absence, this could potentially be classed as a disability so you should consider an occupational health assessment/medical advice and provide support to the employee as well as reasonable adjustments to the employees role if suggested.

I have received a flexible working request from an employee’ what should I do?

Arrange to meet with the employee to discuss the request and consider whether the change in hours meets the business needs. Either accept the change or decline the request in line with the 8 acceptable business reasons. The employee would have the right to appeal any request that is refused

I have an employee who is over 65 can I make them retire?

No, there is no longer a retirement age so any dismissal would be unfair

Can an employee take holiday while on sick leave?

Yes, the employee and employer can agree to use some of the holiday entitlement to offset some of the sickness absence, this is likely to be when an employee is off long term and may be receiving SSP or on pay and wish to increase their pay for a period.

Can an employee work elsewhere whilst on sick leave?

If an employee has more than one place of work, they may be fit to work one of their jos, but may not be fit to work their other, for example, if they had a labour intensive role they may not be fit to do this but may be able to perform another role that is not labour intensive. A period of voluntary work may also be suggested for an employee if a GP feels this would benefit the employee.

 

 

What should an employer do if they receive a fit note stating the employee may be fit for work taking into account the following advice?

Review the advice from the GP and look at whether th employer can accommodate the advice taken, it may be that the advice has suggested a phased return to work, or reduced duties, the employer would need to look and see whether it would be feasible to accommodate the suggestions. This needs to be done with open discussions with the employee, for example welfare meetings.

What happens if the employer cannot accommodate the recommendations on a doctor's fit note?

The employee would remain absent for work and would continue to receive their sick pay.

What should an employer do if an employee fails to attend work and hasn't notified the employer of their absence?

Phone the employee, if the employee doesn't answer leave them a message with details of how to contact you. If you still cannot reach the employee and you are concerned phone their emergency contact. Depending on the situation this may result in a disciplinary or a dismissal.

Is it acceptable for a line manager to maintain contact with an employee during a period of long term sickness?

Yes, the line manager should agree with the employee a timescale of how often they will keep in touch with them. The purpose would be to establish how they are and whether there are any updates to their current condition, and to keep  them up to date with what has been happening at work while they have been away.

Can an employee be employed indefinitely on a fixed term contract?

Under Regulation 8 of the Fixed Term Employees Regulation, employees who have been employed continuously for 4 years or more are automatically considered to be a permanent employee, unless there is a specific reason why they cannot be considered this.

Do employers need to re-issue contracts to take into account the GDPR Regulations?

No, updating the privacy notice and ensuring the Data Protection Policy is up to date and that employees have seen it is sufficient so that you do not have to re-issue contracts to all employees. New employees going forward should have a different contract that has been updated to reflect the new legislation.

Where the employee has been employed on a fixed term contract, can the contract be terminated early if the employee they are covering chooses to return early i.e. maternity/paternity/shared parental/adoption/sabbatical etc.?

This would depend on the wording in the contract. The employee may be able to claim breach of contract, which if there is a substantial length of time left on the contract may mean the full period of the contract has to be paid as the breach.

Where an individual accepts a job offer but subsequently accepts another offer from a different company, will the first employer be ale to do anything about it?

This would be seen as a breach of contract, however, it is likely to be too costly to try and claim anything from the individual. The contract would have a termination clause whereby the employee is able to give notice to leave if they had already started, this notice period would also apply prior to starting employment.

Where an individual has accepted an offer of employment, but the employer can no longer sustain the offer, can it be withdrawn?

Consideration should be taken into why the offer is being withdrawn, if it is because it is discovered the individual has a protected characteristic then the individual may be able to make a claim for discrimination.  The withdrawal would be a breach of contract, however there would be a notice clause within the contract, so notice should be paid in line with the notice regardless of whether the employee had started or not.

Can an employer change the date that they pay people?

You should consult with all employees to change their pay date and agree with them, changing without their agreement could be breach of contract.

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