Health & Safety
Dealing with drinking at work at this festive time
The effects of drinking alcohol can encroach into our working
hours, especially at this time of the year. Even if you
just have one drink at lunchtime, it is easy to consume
three units of alcohol in one glass, particularly with wine
where one large glass is 3 units, which could take the average
person over the drink drive limit.
Employees have an individual responsibility to take reasonable
care of themselves and others who could be affected by their
actions in the workplace. On average it takes about one
hour to process one unit of alcohol. So if a worker drank
a large glass of wine, it would take three hours for their
bloodstream to be free of alcohol.
Employers need to take greater responsibility for raising
employee awareness of the risks and concerns related to
excessive alcohol consumption particularly in the workplace.
Awareness charity Alcohol Concern revealed earlier this
year that staff took around 17 million sick days last year
as a result of drinking.
The benefits of prevention include raising performance,
improving health and increasing safety. Check that your
employer has a written alcohol policy. The information needs
to be defined in simple terms, clearly stating what the
repercussions would be if not adhered to and what provisions
exist for supporting employees who have a problem with alcohol.
Reducing the impact of domestic violence at work
Domestic violence has a financial and emotional impact
on the workplace. Domestic violence is any incident of threatening
behavior, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual,
financial or emotional) between adults who are, or have
been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of
gender or sexuality.
Recent research, shows that sickness caused by domestic
violence costs employers round £1.3 billion each year. Low
productivity, errors and increased labour turn-over may
also add to increased costs. Domestic violence affects co-workers
too; they may have to fill in for absent or non-productive
workers, try to protect them from unwanted phone calls or
visits, or fear for their own safety.
In addition, employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace
for their staff, so they may need to take steps to protect
victims when those abusing them enter the workplace to harass
Branches should ensure that support for employees should
include taking chronic absenteeism or lower productivity
resulting from domestic violence into account when addressing
performance issues, and discussing absence options with
them if they need to be absent from work because of domestic
Branches should also start to talk to employers about negotiating
a workplace policy; there are a number of measures which
branches can do to support members suffering domestic abuse.
Measures should also include:
· Provide support through UNISON Welfare
· Training for UNISON activists on how to deal with this
· Campaigning for better services for victims of domestic
violence, including training for public service workers
· Lobbying for government action to improve services
· Working with local agencies, i.e. Scottish Women's Aid,
Rape Crisis to raise public awareness
· Publicise UNISON's policy to all members. (http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/women/women3.html)
New Tribunal Award Limits Announced 2006
On 1st February 2007, the limit on the amount of the compensatory
award for unfair dismissal increases from £58,400 to £60,600.
Other changes coming into force on the same date through
the Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2006 include:
· an increase in the maximum amount of 'a week's pay' for
the purpose of calculating basic or additional award of
compensation for unfair dismissal or redundancy payment
from £290 to £310; and
· an increase in the maximum amount of guarantee payment
payable to an employee in respect of any day from £18.90
· The new limits are applicable where the event that gives
rise to the award or payment occurs on or after 1 February
Changing the times with call centre pay.
Research released by IRS Employment Review shows that just
under one in three call centres (pay and benefits) had made
changes to pay rates outside the annual pay review process
in the year to August 2006.
The most common reason for making such changes was to respond
to market pressures by bringing starting salaries into line
with market rates at local or industry level, but recruitment
and retention considerations also figure strongly.
EQUALITY AT WORK
Pensions Provisions in Age Legislation Come into Force
The provisions of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations
2006 that prohibit age discrimination in relation to pension
schemes came into force on 1st December 2006.
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 were introduced
on 1 October 2006, but the provisions relating to pensions
were put back in response to employers' concerns that, following
significant activity in the pensions sector earlier in 2006,
they had insufficient time to adjust to the new rules.
On 1 December 2006, the Employment Equality (Age) (Amendment
No.2) Regulations 2006 bring into force the Employment Equality
(Age) Regulations 2006, Schedule 2, which sets out the age-related
aspects of the operation of occupational pension schemes
that continue to be permissible without having to be objectively
justified by the schemes themselves.
If a pension scheme wishes to continue with an age-related
practice not covered by Schedule 2, it can do so provided
that the scheme itself can objectively justify the activity.
Code of Practice on Public Sector Gender Equality Duty
The Equal Opportunities Commission has published the final
version of the Code of Practice on the new duty requiring
public sector bodies to promote gender equality, which takes
effect from 6 April 2007.
The general duty requires all public authorities to have
due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination
and harassment and promote equality of opportunity between
women and men from this date.
There is also a specific duty on listed public sector bodies
to prepare and publish a Gender Equality Scheme showing
how they intends to fulfil the general and specific duties
and setting out their gender equality objectives. All listed
public authorities must publish their schemes no later than
30 April 2007.
Workers rate union presence
Having a union voice in the workplace results in a
more positive experience, according to a survey by Amicus
of 533 workers, 87% of whom were union members. Respondents
rated their jobs in terms of five criteria:
· A safe and healthy workplace
· Control over the working environment
· Secure and interesting work
· Fairness and dignity at work and
· A trade union voice
The survey also found that on every indicator "those
who have a trade union voice in the workplace report
a more positive experience than those who do not".