Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bad Santas – Highlighting the Rehabilitation of Offenders

The recently screened Channel 4 programme “Bad Santas” has highlighted the issue of employing ex-offenders with a tongue in cheek seasonal focus.  The four ex-offenders  were trained in Santa School to  become Santas so that they could become employed and begin to earn a wage.   They had all been CRB checked and deemed fit to work with children, having records for bank robbing, burglary and grievous bodily harm.

Some employers see giving a job to an ex-offender carries some risk because they consider they lack essential skills of honesty, reliability and personal behaviour.  They are worried about safety for their staff and customers and damage to their reputation.  However, this stereo-typing and prejudice marginalises a significant portion of the working population who have a great deal to offer to the workplace.  However, according to the CIPD these fears are often unfounded.  By giving an ex-offender a job, an employer, may be giving someone their life back.  They can have pride for a job well done and earn enough to live their life  independently.  Furthermore they are less likely to re-offend.  For employers there is a talent pool to tap into, skills shortages can be reduced and effective performance achieved.   
CIPD research shows that many employers do not ask for details of unspent convictions.    The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 enables criminal convictions to be ignored after a rehabilitation period.  It ensures that people do not have a lifelong blemish on their working life for a minor offence in the past.  The rehabilitation period is determined by the sentence and starts with the date of the conviction.  After the period if there has been no further conviction, the conviction  is spent albeit with certain exceptions.  It need not be disclosed by the ex-offender when applying for a job.  Furthermore employees have protection against dismissal or exclusion from employment.  Employers can not show prejudice against a person because of a spent conviction.   However, if an employee fails to disclose an unspent conviction that an employer finds out about subsequently they may dismiss albeit following a fair procedure. 
For adults, the rehabilitation period is five years for most non-custodial sentences, seven years for prison sentences of up to 6 months, and ten years for prison sentences of between six months and 2½ years. For a young offender (under 18) the rehabilitation period is generally half that for adults. Currently other sentences have variable rehabilitation periods. There are some exceptions to the Act, broadly relating to work with children, the sick, disabled people and the administration of justice.
A prison sentence of more than 2½ years can never be spent, however, the government is currently looking at this time frame for unspent convictions.  The Government’s proposals are that instead of the time period for determining when a conviction is spent commencing from the conviction date, it will start from when the offender completes his sentence. Furthermore, rehabilitation periods will be shorter. Thus the conviction of an offender who is imprisoned for between 6- 30 months will be spent four years after the sentence itself is completed. It is also proposed that the only conviction never to be spent will be one resulting in a custodial sentence of four years or more. Where an offender receives a custodial sentence of between 30 months and four years, that conviction will be spent seven years from the end of the sentence.
According to CIPD research most employers recruit offenders who have been released from prison for two years and who no longer have a supervision order with the Probation Service.  Most employers would only take on an ex-offender whose conviction is fully spent. 
There is therefore work to be done to encourage employers to take on ex-offenders earlier to ensure the risk of re-offending is reduced as research shows that an offender without a job to go to on leaving prison is twice as likely to re-offend.   60,000 offenders leave prison every year with two thirds re-offending within two years.  In 2005 the Ministry of Justice set up the Corporate Alliance in order to engage employers with the issue of employing ex-offenders.  100 employers participate with a view to providing training and employment of ex-offenders. However, the government needs to do more to ensure employers have more guidance on this very important issue.

Redundancy Consultation Changes on the Way

The Government has confirmed its intention to change the way employers consult workforce representatives during large-scale redundancies, including by reducing the 90 day consultation period to 45 days. The changes will come into force in April 2013.
Some employers will welcome this as usually consultation is completed well within the 90 days with the current law preventing the business from re-structuring sooner. The TUC however had said the government is making it easier to sack people.
Currently, an employer is required to inform and consult with trade union or other elected employee representatives where it is proposing to make 20 or more employees at one establishment redundant within a period of 90 days or less. Consultation must begin no later than 30 days, where between 20 and 99 redundancies are proposed, or 90 days, where 100 or more redundancies are proposed, before the first dismissal takes effect.
Fixed-term contracts will be excluded from collective redundancy consultation.  Fixed term contracts and their expiry cause particular problems for the education sector, and mean that many education institutions engage in rolling consultation processes in order to comply with the current consultation obligations. This step is intended to alleviate those problems.
ACAS will produce non-statutory guidance to address key contentious issues in the consultation process.
Employers have the legal obligation to begin consultation “in good time” and to ensure it is meaningful. 

Growth In Older Worker Employment

Recent statistics have shown that there has been a huge rise in the number of people aged over 50 becoming employed.  The fastest rate of increase is with those people aged 65 (older women in particular) with almost one million people in that age bracket in the working population.  The rise in “oldies” employment accounts for 20% of the increase.  However the growth in employment of the older worker is not the detriment of younger workers.  Currently 30 % of older workers work in managerial and professional jobs with only 14 % in sales, care and leisure jobs; this is in complete contrast to younger people where 34% work in that sector and only 9% in managerial and professional jobs.   Older people provide effective role models to the young who can gain from their valuable knowledge.

There may be several reasons why older people are working longer.  In some cases employers want to retain their valuable skills and experience sometimes offering flexible working patterns.  For some older workers their pension may be inadequate, they fear the rising cost of living or they feel fit and healthy and willing to remain the workplace.  There is also a growing group of self-employed who want to remain connected to the business world.   Being employed means older workers have better standards of living which they would lose if they gave up employment. 

In 2011 the default retirement age was abolished, therefore, people can work longer and not be compulsorily retired.  An employer can only force someone to retire with objective justification. 

At the moment men can take their state pension from the age of 65, for women it may vary between 60 and 65.  However with the rising cost of pensions and life expectancy the government is planning to raise the age of retirement to 66 in 2020 for both men and women and to 67 in 2026. 

Tis the Season To Be Jolly – Employers Beware

Christmas music has been played on the radio and in the shops for a number of weeks now whichcan only mean one thing – the Christmas season is fast approaching along with the anticipation of the associated festivities.  Many companies like to put on a Christmas party for their hard working staff, but with that there comes responsibilities on both sides.christmas_party
Christmas parties generally have a positive impact on moral and team spirit and it an opportunity for an employer to thank employees for all their hard work. However the boundaries need to be set by the employer to avoid any future problems. UK legislation is clear, the office party is an extension of the normal work environment if is held at a separate venue or outside of working hours. Employers can be held responsible for employee actions so need to avoid discrimination and health and safety claims so need to have procedures in place.
Companies need to make sure they make it clear to staff what is and what is not acceptable behaviour at social events and follow up any failure to comply with this order with disciplinary action.
Employers may be liable for the discriminatory behaviour of their employees and ultimately face significant tribunal claims if they are found vicariously liable. Employees can be disciplined for any breaches of disciplinary rules, including dismissal for gross misconduct, following unacceptable behaviour at the Christmas party. Therefore, having clear HR procedures in place that are well communicated with training provided are essential.
Companies need to ensure managers are careful not to let their guard down being sociable or allowing alcohol to loosen their tongue and discussing issues such as promotions or pay rises in the informal setting of the Christmas party.
It is important to carry out a risk assessment of the Christmas party venue, considering any particular risks posed to any disabled employees.
It might be a good idea to limit the free bar, if one is planned and, in any case, encourage responsible drinking.  Companies may be liable for the welfare of employees if they suffer alcohol-induced accidents. Consider organising transport home with designated non-drinkers as drivers or paid for coaches/mini buses.
If there is a ‘Secret Santa’ taking place, make sure staff know the boundaries confirming that racist or adult gifts, which might offend, are not acceptable.
A decision needs to be taken to what extent employers will be lenient with staff on the day after the party, if it is a working day, provide clear information on employee requirements beforehand. Health and safety should be of utmost importance. Employees should not be expected to operate machinery if not fit to do so. Also the safety of employees driving to work after having had transport home the night before should be considered.
Take these reasonable steps to prevent inappropriate behaviour then employees must take their own responsibility for their actions.
In any case it might be a good idea to produce guidelines for employee behaviour at the company party.