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March 2017 Newsletter – Manufacturing & Engineering sector

It’s March and in keeping with the spirit of Spring, we’re leaping forward into April to see what changes are in store for employers. We also step backwards to 2016 to recap on what is happening with Tribunal claims and statistics before reviewing the latest developments in respect of workplace dress codes following the news story of Nicola Thorp who was sent home for not wearing high heels.

Our case update this month focuses on flexible working arrangements and reorganisations, data protection and restrictions on non-compliance with subject access requests and discrimination on the basis of a perceived disability.

What we’ve been doing in the Manufacturing & Engineering sector recently…

I am helping a number of manufacturing companies with a very similar issue, the problem of the “light duties department”. Over the years I have seen many of my clients move employees into light work roles when those employees become physically unable to fulfil the role for which they were originally employed. One of my clients described his foundry as like “the gates of hell”; the work made a number of his long serving employees weep and eventually beyond their physical capabilities.

Moving employees to light duties may well be sensible and appropriate at the time, particularly where an employer is mindful of its duties to make reasonable adjustments if the employee may be disabled under the Equality Act. The problem arises where the move is originally intended to be a temporary change but the employer then essentially forgets about the employee. This means that the temporary change starts to morph into something more fixed and permanent. Furthermore, some of my client companies find that the “light duties department” that they have inadvertently created, becomes full so that they can’t accommodate anyone else. The other problem is that when the need to make redundancies arises it may be unclear what the light duties employee’s role is and with whom they should be placed in a selection pool?

It may not be possible to avoid this problem entirely but you can reduce your risk by a) keeping matters under regular review with your employee; and b) obtaining our help, together with that of a sensible and robust occupational health specialist at regular intervals. We are happy to share our experience on dealing with this situation – please contact me to discuss.

Simon Martin
Partner, Solicitor
email Simon or call 0117 325 0929


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