News & Updates

Broadcast June 2019

This month our Senior H&S Advisor, Chris Bartley, looks at the impact of the new sentencing guidelines which were introduced in 2016. Then, to recognise next month’s London Pride, Ben Crawford, our Senior HR Advisor, offers some advice on supporting LGBT employees in the workplace.

As ever, should you need any support or advice about these or any other health and safety or employment law issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

H&S UPDATE: Large fine increases for organisations of all sizes 

Chris Bartley, Senior H&S Advisor

In February 2016, the Sentencing Council’s Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety & Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline came into force. 

The guideline followed a new model based on the culpability of the offender, the risk of harm created by the offence, the likelihood of harm and any actual harm caused. The aim was to ensure that the levels of fines imposed for these offences were proportionate to the means of the offender and reflected the seriousness of the offence committed.

On April the 6th, the Sentencing Council published the results of an analysis undertaken to assess the impact of the guideline on sentence outcomes and fine amounts, and whether there were any implementation issues…

What has been the impact on organisations for health and safety offences?
The findings show that for health and safety offences there has been a considerable increase in fine amounts for larger organisations since the guideline came into force, which was anticipated by the Council. Fines also appear to have increased (to a lesser degree) for smaller organisations, which was not anticipated. 

For individuals sentenced for health and safety offences, there has been an unanticipated increase in higher fines, and an unanticipated change in the use of some disposal types, however the shift in disposals appears to be a short-term change which only affected a relatively small number of offenders.

In the ten months prior to the introduction of the guidelines, companies that were convicted for health and safety offences were fined an average of £40,500. In the 10 months after the guidelines were introduced the financial penalties have risen dramatically to an average of £221,700, which is a 447% increase.

What has been the impact on organisations for other offences covered by the guideline?
Although, relatively small compared to health and safety offences, there has been an increase in fines handed out to organisations for food safety and hygiene offences. 

There was a small increase in fines imposed on individuals for food safety and hygiene offences which was not anticipated by the Safety Council. 

Fine amounts imposed on organisations sentenced for corporate manslaughter may have increased since the guideline came into force (as anticipated), however this finding should be treated with caution due to low volumes. 

Other impacts 
A comparison of a sample of judgments for health and safety cases heard by the Court of Appeal (both before and after the guideline came into force) suggests that fewer appeals have been successful following the guideline’s introduction (although this finding is indicative only, due to the small sample analysed).

Between 2011 and 2015, more than half of organisations were sentenced in magistrates’ courts. This trend reversed in 2016, with 55% being sentenced in the crown court in 2017.

Is the guideline being used as intended?
Analysis of Crown Court judges’ sentencing remarks for a sample of health and safety cases (for both organisations and individuals) suggests that the guideline is generally being applied in the manner intended. 

The Council has considered this analysis, particularly the findings in relation to the fines imposed on smaller organisations and individuals. The Council intends to investigate further the operation of the guideline in due course and will consider at that stage whether any revision of the guideline is necessary.

(Adapted from an article in IOSH Magazine)

HR UPDATE: Supporting LGBT in the workplace

Ben Crawford, Senior HR Advisor

Saturday 6thJuly will see the annual London Pride parade. The first official London Pride was held in 1972, with around 2,000 people thought to have been in attendance, compared to last year’s event, which is thought to have attracted over a million.

Over the last few decades huge steps have been made by society as a whole in supporting equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. This has also been reflected in the workplace with organisations in all sectors having taking action and stepping up to create a more inclusive work environment. Nevertheless, there is still more that can be done to support LGBT workers in the workplace.

Following the recent #MeToo campaign, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) conducted a survey focusing on the problem of sexual harassment that LGBT face in the workplace. Their survey found that almost seven out of ten LGBT workers had experienced some type of sexual harassment at work, with two thirds of these people not reporting it. One in four of those did not report the harassment out of fear of ‘outing’ themselves at work. These figures are supported by research undertaken by Stonewall, Britain’s leading charity for LGBT equality, which suggests that more than a third (35 per cent) of LGBT staff have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. 

This article looks to consider what more can be done by employers to support LGBT employees and make them feel comfortable in being themselves at work and eliminate workplace discrimination?

Promote inclusion
Employers should start by ensuring that they have clear inclusion policies and strategies for supporting LGBT employees and creating a culture that encourages diversity and differences to be celebrated. Individuals should be embraced for who they are, not who they love. HR should ensure that all employees have adequate training and education on these policies and the company’s culture. 

To be most effective, the message of inclusion should come from the very top of your business and therefore senior members of staff should be appointed staff champions, to help promote diversity and inclusion initiatives. One such initiative that has been implemented by some businesses is a LGBT staff network. This allows a LGBT staff group to meet on a regular basis to support each other in their working lives, raise awareness of issues affecting the LTGBT community and help to keep the workplace free from discrimination. 

Such support groups could also help promote the local LGBT community by providing information to all employees on local events and groups as well as celebrate National Coming out Day and the local Pride Party as well as inviting guest speakers to share their experiences at network meetings. 

Further initiative’s that could be adopted, include promoting straight allies for LGBT staff, who can offer support to the LGBT staff network and help push the company’s message on diversity and inclusion. 

Zero-tolerance on discrimination
As well as introducing and supporting initiatives as set out above, employers should take a strong stance on any form of discrimination throughout the business, including in recruitment, training,  promotion and its dealing of complaints. A zero-tolerance stance on discrimination against LGBT employees will send out a clear message of the company’s desire to embrace and promote diversity. 

Businesses can take even bolder steps to show they are an inclusive workplace and promote a gender-neutral environment by establishing gender-neutral toilets or using gender-neutral language such as partner rather than husband or wife.  

Consider equal benefits
A more straightforward change that can be taken by businesses is to offer equal benefits to all employees, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, including parental leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave and taking emergency time off for dependents. 

Monitor your progress
Finally, by tracking the results of your inclusion initiatives and policies and celebrating your successes will show all employees, including LGBT people that you are serious in promoting diversity and may help create an environment and culture where more employees feel comfortable in being themselves. 

Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall said: “creating a workplace that accepts everyone isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. When staff feel comfortable and happy, they will perform much better than if they are having to hide who they are.”

Should you need any further assistance in reviewing your current equality and diversity policies or to arrange inclusion training, please do not hesitate to contact your advisor who will be happy to assist.