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Hello, hello, hello – its Force of Nature here and this week it is my turn to take the reins of the weekly blog, and what a lot I have to update you on.  Of course, I am talking all things Precept craziness….

Over the past few weeks, the team and I have been working at playing movie directors/actors.  For those of you who have seen any of our mock up events (the Tribunal, or the Protected Conversation), you will know that there is nothing that the Precept team loves more than a wee bit of “acting”!!!  And if you haven’t, where have you been living, under a rock?  Join our VIP list to make sure you don’t miss out on our mock disciplinary in October.

Well, boy, have we been able to roll our sleeves up and have a bit of fun this summer.   So far in our video series, you have all been formally introduced to my darling boy (no, not Rob) – Bentley the horse, of course!  I have been dying to get him in on the business development for years (and have been regularly told “No, this is a bad idea” by my previous law firms’ marketing department or Senior Partners)  Well, now there is nobody to say no, and it’s a brilliant idea!  We talk all the time about how friendly we are at Precept and what great personalities we have, well these videos have given you a real insight into them.

Horses for me of course and naturally it was building jobs for Philip!  He was dying to show off the decking he and hubby actually built, with their own actual hands (yes, I was shocked too!) and of course the delightful Benji dog.  Keep your eyes peeled for more fun and frolics, as we see more of Philip talking us through the upcoming changes to employment law and Robyn who will give you her top tips for Tribunal litigation…..and giving you an insight into the world of Captain Questions!  You will only find these on our LinkedIn page or if you are on our VIP list – we do spoil you!

I did say it was busy.  We have also welcomed some work experience students into Precept, so that we can give them a really valuable insight into the world of an employment and HR lawyer .  Providing opportunities for our youngsters is so important, and gives us chance to shape the legal talent of the future.  This is all part of us caring for our community, something that is super important to us!  We have also thoroughly enjoyed meeting the youngsters and (spoiler alert) involving them in the Precept madness!

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But back to business… mercifully this is a short one from me.  Acas has recently updated its guidance on managing sickness and other types of absence.  This includes advice on absence policies, unauthorised absence, sick pay, fit notes, doctor’s reports and return-to-work plans.   You can find it here – https://www.acas.org.uk/holiday-sickness-leave but of course I will give you those “useful nuggets” of information below:

  • There is a new swanky “toolkit” which will be really useful for smaller businesses. It includes the 6 steps to be taken when an employee is off sick and 5 top tips for managing sickness absence – https://acas.frontify.com/d/9XEi1YzDsXxS/n-a#/campaigns/business-essentials-absence
  • Employers should make it clear what’s expected of their staff regarding time off work, and Acas suggests you should have the relevant policies in place. If you don’t, give us a shout and we can help you!
  • Acas provides some useful clarification on when an employer should get a medical report for an employee. In honesty, there is nothing groundbreaking there – but it’s good to know that we are doing the right thing!
  • There is a specific section dealing with Long Covid – which is useful!
  • Acas recommend holding a return to work meeting in all cases where an employee has been off work sick. It acknowledges that it may just be an informal chat, so we don’t need anything over the top, but it is an important step to make sure that any issues that need to be aired and discussed, can be.  The guidance is worth a read in this section, as it contains some useful information on what to cover in return-to-work meetings.
  • It is always tricky keeping in touch with staff whilst absent…well Acas have suggested you agree the frequency of this with the employee – within the boundaries of what is reasonable of course. The guidance also specifically states that where an employee is off due to mental health reasons, the contact may need to be slightly less regular, so as not to overwhelm them.
  • Don’t forget to keep long term absent staff aware of developments in the workplace – otherwise this could give rise to discrimination claims.
  • There is some useful guidance in there about how to record absences, well worth a read!
  • The Guidance deals specifically with automatic triggers to review absence (i.e. the Bradford Factor and other similar systems). These systems can be controversial, as they often link to the commencement of sickness absence processes, and can be quite broad brush.  Acas accepts the usefulness of these trigger points, but encourages their use in a sensitive and flexible way – basically, looking at each individual circumstance, looking out for disabilities and considering adjusting these trigger points as a reasonable adjustment.

All in all, I would give it a solid 9/10 (ah-hem, sorry…this isn’t a book review!)  Seriously though, it is well worth a read to make sure that your method of managing absence is up to date.  We are reviewing our template policies and procedures in line with this new guidance, so we would advise you to do the same.  In fact, why not let us do it…that is what we are here for!

It is an important and often sticky area of employment law due to the very real risk of disability discrimination claims raising their ugly head – so let us help you to get it right!  Oh, and finally – on Friday Rob, the girls and I all pack up for our 2 week road trip around Belgium and Cornwall (!) so we will leave you in the rest of the team’s very capable hands…. Over and out!