Rogers & Norton News

Employment Law Bulletin July 2016 Part 4

Friday, July 15, 2016

Victory for victims in modern slavery case

A chicken-catching company has become the first British business to be found liable to compensate victims of human trafficking.

Six men from Lithuania had claimed that they were severely exploited. That included being denied sleep and toilet breaks, and living and working in inhumane and degrading conditions. The company has been ordered to compensate for, among other things, unlawfully withholding wages and depriving the men of facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink. The level of that compensation is yet to be decided.

The men were reported to have worked on farms, eggs from which were supplied to businesses that sell to supermarkets. It’s a warning to employers that modern slavery in supply chains is a very real possibility.

If you haven’t yet got to grips with your obligations to eradicate modern slavery – which includes servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking – from your business and supply chain, do it now. Even if you are not one of the £36m+ turnover businesses that has to publish an annual statement on this, your place in their supply chain could be in jeopardy if you don’t also ensure that your own suppliers, and even your suppliers’ suppliers, aren’t engaged in some form of modern slavery.
Crackdown on legal highs

The fate of so-called legal highs has taken a new turn. The Psychoactive Substances Act is now in force, making it an offence to make, supply, offer to supply, import or export any of these substances where they’re intended for human consumption.

The sorts of things we’re talking about are stimulants, ‘downers’, or hallucinogens. They’re dangerous. And while the use of some may be less easy to spot than others, employers are advised to keep a close eye on workers’ changing behavioural patterns. Acas has some useful information on this that’s well worth reading.

One key point: build psychoactive substances into your drugs and alcohol policy.
And Finally…

Everything’s a bit uncertain at the moment, isn’t it?

For many workers, that’s been a theme for some time. Four and a half million people in England and Wales are in some form of insecure work. That’s according to the Citizens Advice analysis of figures produced by the Office of National Statistics.  Variable shift patterns, temporary contracts, and zero hour and agency contracts are at the heart of this. 

Citizens Advice has found that when it comes to job searches, a steady, reliable income is as important to people as the amount of take-home pay on offer. A stable job and regular pay is believed to lead to greater productivity and loyalty towards employers.

What will Brexit mean in all this? We don’t know, of course. Time will tell what the effects, good or bad, will be on workers’ feelings of security and on their ability to manage their finances and plan for the future. But until then, the speculation, the analysis – and the uncertainty – will roll on.

Was that a Yawn?

Let’s face it, every job has its less interesting parts, whether that’s form-filling, filing, or faffing with spreadsheets.
But spare a thought for one French worker who is reported to have brought a claim against his employers because his job was too boring. He says that he felt forced to resign after spending years having very little to do. Of course there will be all sorts of evidential points for the French court to consider and it will be interesting to see what comes of this.
While having too little work is often seen as preferable to having too much, that’s not to say that there aren’t pressures and strains associated with a role that under-challenges a worker. Monotony, for one.  And feelings of being undervalued  or underutilised do little for job security, motivation, and state of mind. In some cases, there could be serious health consequences. There could also be powerful legal arguments including those around demotion, sidelining, and discrimination.
Good reasons, then, to keep a close eye on what your employees are, aren’t, and could be, doing.