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The Legal Column - December 2012

27 December 2012

The experts at Workplace Law address your legislative and compliance issues.

 Christmas cheer…or not
Q: My firm awards a company half day and closes the office on Christmas Eve as a goodwill gesture. However, staff who do not usually work on a Monday (unpaid) are claiming that closing early on Monday 24 December discriminates against them and puts them at an immediate unfair financial advantage. They feel they should be offered a half day to be perhaps taken on the Friday to keep all things equal. They accept the company gesture is not an 'automatic right' but feel it should be fairly offered to all employees. I see their point on fairness but legally where do we stand on this?
A: As this is not an extra annual leave day but just something that happens at Christmas, people not normally working that day won't benefit, but sometimes Christmas Eve will fall on the day they do work and then they will. You need to consistently say that whatever happens each year at Christmas is discretionary and is decided each year. Clearly the practice may have a demotivating effect on those who do not work on particular days and the company just needs to decide how important that is for the future.

 DSE and home working
Q: As part of a pilot scheme for scheduled home working, a number of staff have been provided with lightweight laptops, keyboard, mouse, laptop stand/monitor for home use and will work one agreed day per week from home. We are NOT providing furniture. Staff in the pilot completed an existing home-based worker DSE form and this has highlighted the fact that few have adjustable chairs but most are content to work without one for one day a week. In the office all the furniture is fully DSE regulations compliant. Please can you advise where we, as an employer, stand on this?

A: Employers are not obliged to supply employees with a workstation for home working but should provide suitable advice on the safe use of the laptop or other equipment provided. If your employer supplies homeworkers with workstation equipment through local arrangements (e.g. providing a chair or desk or help with financial help towards purchase), they are required to ensure that the equipment meets the DSE Regulations, e.g. the chair or desk is stable and adjustable, and a footrest is provided if required. Also a DSE assessment must be carried out for homeworkers as well as office workers.

You can download useful guidance that homeworkers can read to ensure that they sit correctly at their workstations fromhttp://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg36.pdf

 Opening office abroad
Q: We are opening small subsidiary offices in Dubai and Malaya. As we are a UK organisation would UK health and safety legislation apply to these locations, i.e. Fire Regs etc.?
A: You will be required to comply with the law subject to the country you’re in. The question is if you would expose your employees to a lesser standard just because they work in another country. Your Health and Safety Management System should apply to all offices, regardless of geographical location.



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