Employers encouraged to seek legal advice to avoid problems

Back
by popular demand, Joan Lewis, employment law consultant at ACTA, was invited
to give two presentations.

In
her first presentation, ‘Essential employment law update for OH practitioners’,
Lewis reminded delegates to use a legal expert where possible. “I couldn’t do
your job, and you couldn’t do mine, so if you have a legal query, always seek
professional advice,” she said.

She
outlined some of the most pressing new developments in employment law to impact
on OH, whether from legislative changes or new case law.

Lewis
said there is much confusion about the family-friendly initiatives and how the
new flexibility rules would work in practice. She explained that although you
are not automatically entitled to flexible working by law, you now have the
right to request flexible working, or put simply, “if you don’t ask, you don’t
get,” said Lewis.

She
also explained that time off for emergencies means genuine emergencies, citing
the example of a woman who took time off to take her child to hospital
appointments, which, as they were at pre-set times, did not constitute an
emergency. She also warned that those in OH who work for companies that post
people abroad, or employ people to work in overseas offices, could be liable
for any injuries or illnesses sustained through work – citing a recent case
where someone employed by a British company abroad successfully sued for
damages.

The
age discrimination draft regulations, which are expected in 2004, have huge
implications for OH, said Lewis. They will outlaw both indirect and direct
discrimination against people because of their age, and the changes they bring
are just as important as the ones a few years ago regarding race and sex.

The
long lead time will give employers and workers time to familiarise themselves
with the changes, which will outlaw phrases such as ‘senior moments’ and
perhaps even joking about people’s ages on birthday cards.

Other
areas covered included case law on disability and alcohol, SARS risk and
information (she warned that OHPs must be careful to give general not
individual advice to employees on these issues), random drug testing, employee
compensation cases and the latest on stress tests.

Further
information


www.agency.osha.eu.int, European agency for Occupational Safety & Health


www.rsi.org.uk, RSI Association


www.who.int/csr/Sars/en, World Health Organisation


www.dti.gov.uk


www.hsebooks.co.uk, Health & Safety Executive Publications


www.acas.org.uk

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