If you’re running a small business, you wear many hats – chief accountant, managing director, marketing executive, HR manager and more. As well as your many other responsibilities, you have to ensure a safe working environment for your employees — one that complies with all the regulations and legislation that apply to your type of business. Compliance can be daunting and time-consuming, but it’s essential to keep your business running smoothly. Understanding and complying with legislation doesn’t just protect your employees, it can help you build a productive, harmonious workplace and give your company a reputation as a great place to work. To help you navigate the maze of employment legislation, here’s a very simple summary of the key points that affect employers in a business environment.
You must make risk assessments to identify any risk to employees’ health and safety and take preventative action to reduce the risk. Put together a written policy or company handbook and appoint a member of your team to take responsibility for health and safety.
If you need help with crafting a comprehensive company handbook or staff manual to document the policies and procedures that you have in place, our employment law solicitors can help. Get an instant quote here.
This is all about facilities. Ensure your workplace has adequate heating, lighting, ventilation and workspace with toilets and safe facilities for washing facilities and refreshment. Make sure passageways and stairs are clear to prevent slipping and tripping.
To protect employees using computers, you must ensure they take adequate breaks, typically 5-10 minutes every hour and provide regular eye tests and health and safety information. Chairs and desks must be adjustable to suit different users and you must demonstrate that procedures are in place to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury through excessive use.
These regulations apply equally to employees in the office or in warehouse-type operations.
You must carry out risk assessments and avoid situations where employees have to carry out manual handling activities that involve the risk of injury. Where employees have to carry items, give them information on the weight of the load and ensure they have the strength to lift, as well as understanding how to lift safely.
You must ensure that any work equipment that you provide is suitable and safe for its intended purpose. You must provide information, training and instruction on using the equipment safely and ensure it is properly maintained.
These regulations apply to normal working conditions, but government guidelines and legislation may change following the COVID-19 pandemic and with more employees working remotely. Where it’s relevant you must provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety helmets, protective goggles, facemasks, gloves, ear defenders, air filters, protective footwear and overalls. You must also provide information, instruction and training on the use of PPE.
As the name suggests, you must report any work-related incidents, diseases and injuries to the Health and Safety Executive and the Environmental Health Department of your local authority. You must keep an accident book with full details of any accident. You also have to report any of the following incidents:
The death of anyone working or visiting your premises.
Injuries that require a person be taken to hospital or immediate medical attention.
Any accident to work that means an employee misses work for more than seven working days.
Work-related diseases such as asthma, repetitive strain injury, tendonitis or dermatitis.
Near misses, that may have resulted in an injury, together with details of your remedial actions.
This act covers most aspects of the employment relationship, including employees’ entitlements to:
Contracts of employment
Dismissal and grievance
Study and training
Maternity, paternity and flexible working
Termination of employment.
This directive guarantees all employees a maximum 48 hour working week and a four week holiday. Employees can choose to opt out of the directive and agree to work longer hours if they wish.
These European Union directives (which may change following Brexit) provide protection for adult and younger employees under 18. You cannot require employees to work more than 48 hours unless they have voluntarily opted out in writing. Employees must have daily rest periods of 11 hours minimum, but you can offer shift working arrangements if they comply with the regulations. Employees must have a daily rest break of at least 20 minutes after six hours’ work. For workers under 18, the working week is 40 hours maximum and must include longer daily rest periods and daily breaks.
You must offer women and men the same pay for doing the same type of work or work considered to be of the same value.
This act sets out nine protected characteristics that you must not discriminate against:
Religion or belief
Pregnancy and maternity
Marriage and civil partnership
This act is about membership of trades unions. You must recognise a trades union if a majority of your employees vote for membership following a ballot.
You must not discriminate against employees or job candidates on the grounds of gender when posting job advertisements, selecting recruits, promoting individuals or offering different employees training and career development opportunities. However, there are certain exceptions known as Genuine Occupational Qualifications, such as actors for a specific gender role or attendants in toilets or changing areas.
Like the Sex Discrimination Act, you must not discriminate against employees or job candidates on the grounds of race. The act has the same scope and similar exceptions, such as a Chinese chef or waiter for a Chinese restaurant.
This act only applies if you employ more than 20 people. You must accommodate the needs and provide a right of access for the disabled.
used fairly, lawfully and transparently
used for specified, explicit purposes
used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited to only what is necessary
accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
kept for no longer than is necessary
handled in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unlawful or unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction or damage.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on working practices and employment legislation. With business re-openings planned for different periods and different industries, Government guidelines and legislation continues to evolve.
These are complex issues and if you need professional advice we can help. Our friendly small business accountants and employment law solicitors can assist with any queries. You can get in contact with our team on 0207 043 4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also bring you any updates following the Covid-19 pandemic, so keep an eye on our blog.