In October 2017, “Thriving at work: the Stephenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers” was published.

Following this, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care have published a framework to support employers to voluntarily report disability, mental health and wellbeing in their workforce.

The framework is entirely voluntary in nature and aimed at larger employers with over 250 employees. However, smaller employers are also encouraged to engage with the framework as well.

The purpose of the framework is to drive transparency in organisations. Employers are encouraged to provide a narrative explaining the action taken to recruit and retain disabled employees and provide support in relation to mental health and wellbeing in the workforce.

The Stephenson/Farmer review suggested that poor mental health was costing employers between £33 billion and £42 billion per year (namely in relation to sick leave, staff turnover and impact on productivity).

It appears that the issues of disability and mental health and wellbeing is increasingly under the spotlight and it is possible that reporting will become mandatory in the future (although this is not suggested at present). Employers may decide to voluntarily report as a point of best practice and to demonstrate transparency and a commitment to addressing issues arising out of disability and mental health in their workplace. Further guidance regarding reporting is to be published shortly.

For more information, please contact Sarah Martin on 0117 314 5363 or Caitlin Anniss on 0117 314 5264 at Narrow Quay HR

Three recent cases highlight why you should encourage your employees to use their holiday entitlement.

The purpose of Article 7 of the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) (the WTD) is to ensure that EU Member States implement domestic legislation that grants workers entitlement to paid annual leave of at least four weeks per year. Article 7 also states that paid annual leave cannot be replaced by payment in lieu – except where the employment relationship is terminated.

The Cases

Kreuziger v Land Berlin and Max Planck v Shimizu: In these separate cases, the claimants were seeking to be paid in lieu of untaken annual leave on the termination of their employment. In Mr Shimizu’s case, he was claiming payment in lieu for untaken holiday entitlement for the current year as well as the preceding year.

Stadt Wuppertal v Maria Bauer and Volker Willmeroth v Martina Brobonn: In both cases, the claimants were the sole heirs to the estates of their late husbands who had died while in employment. They were claiming payment in lieu for annual leave entitlement that their husbands had not taken before their deaths.


In all three instances, the ECJ have emphasised the importance of paid annual leave as a principle of EU social law from which there may be no derogations. The ECJ also reiterated the aims of the WTD and Article 31(2) Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter) being to ensure that workers have sufficient rest from the work they do in their jobs and to have a period of relaxation and leisure.

On termination of employment, including when terminated by the death of the employee, domestic legislation should not provide for automatic loss of annual leave entitlement. The employee, or the heir to their estate, should be entitled to payment in lieu for any such untaken annual leave.

Annual leave entitlement from an earlier leave year is not automatically lost just because the employee failed to request to use it. To be able to show that payment in lieu for such leave is not owed to the employee, the employer must be able to demonstrate that they provided the employee with the opportunity to take the leave and made them aware of the circumstances under which the entitlement would be lost.

Although these findings relate to German cases, the effects are relevant to the UK as the ECJ confirmed in all three instances that the rights to paid annual leave under the WTD and the Charter are directly enforceable between private persons and National courts must interpret domestic legislation in accordance with both the WTD and the Charter. Where domestic legislation is entirely incompatible, the WTD and the Charter take precedence.

Best Practice

The findings suggest that untaken annual leave may not automatically lapse at the end of the holiday year, raising the possibility that on the termination of employment, an employee might be entitled to be paid in lieu of their total accrued entitlement (whether accrued in the current or previous leave years).

For the entitlement from earlier leave years to lapse, employers need to be able to show that they have provided their staff with the opportunity to take their paid annual leave. What exactly would qualify as sufficient ‘opportunity’ is not totally clear, however the ECJ noted that employers are required in particular ‘to ensure, specifically and transparently that the worker is actually given the opportunity to take the paid annual leave… by encouraging him, formally if need be to do so while informing him accurately and in good time…and that if he does not take it, it will be lost.’

We would therefore recommend that employers ensure through their policies and HR systems that employees are aware of the need to take annual leave in the leave year it arises, any policy on carry over and  the procedure for booking and taking that leave. We would also recommend including a reminder of the consequences of not taking their annual leave entitlement in these communications.

Employers may choose to have a policy that requires employees to use up accrued holiday after notice of termination has been served. Whether such leave is actually taken will still need to be monitored. These decisions will only apply in respect of the four weeks annual leave granted under the WTD and implemented into domestic law by the Working Time Regulations 1998 and will therefore not apply to the extra 1.6 weeks granted under the Regulations and any contractual holiday entitlement over and above this.

For more information, please contact Sarah Martin on 0117 314 5363 or Caitlin Anniss on 0117 314 5264 at Narrow Quay HR

Free Barrister HR Surgery Events - Narrow Quay HR

Do you have an HR issue you need to tackle?

We understand that dealing with HR issues can be time consuming and that it can be costly when things go wrong.

Taking place each month at a convenient London location, our HR surgery is an opportunity for you (or someone suitable from your Chambers) to sit down with one of our HR experts and discuss a specific HR concern. It might be anything HR related from a tricky performance management issue, a breakdown in a working relationship, employee development or rewards and benefits.

Free Barrister’s Chambers HR Surgery

You are invited to attend our first HR Surgery.

When: Thursday 24 January 2019

Time: 10am – 1pm (book a 30 minute slot)

You will receive 30 minutes free HR support to help you find a solution. This service is exclusive to Barristers and the Chambers within which they operate and builds upon Narrow Quay HR’s partnership with The Bar Council

Who is it suitable for?

  • Barristers
  • Barrister’s Clerks
  • HR & Office Managers
  • Those responsible for managing employed staff within Chambers

To book your free 30 minute slot, please contact the events team:

Hargreaves v Manchester Grammar

Mr Hargreaves had been employed by Manchester Grammar (School) as a teacher since 1 September 2005. In March 2016 a pupil (Pupil A) alleged that Mr Hargreaves had grabbed him, pushed him against a wall and put his fingers to his throat. Prior to the allegation from Pupil A, Mr Hargreaves had not been subject to any formal disciplinary action.

As part of an investigation into the allegations, various pupils and teachers were interviewed. Two pupils corroborated Pupil A’s account and one teacher noted that Pupil A had appeared upset when reporting the incident. However, two other pupils who were interviewed had no recollection of anything unusual.  When the investigating officer interviewed the two teachers named by Mr Hargreaves as potential witnesses, one said she had not been in the area at the relevant time and the other said she had not seen anything unusual. The evidence of the pupils and teachers who had seen nothing were not presented to the disciplinary panel or Mr Hargreaves.

Following the hearing, Mr Hargreaves was dismissed for gross misconduct on 17 June 2016.

Mr Hargreaves brought a claim of unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal (ET) and the ET found his dismissal to be fair. Mr Hargreaves appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on the basis that, taking into account the career-changing impact of the allegation, the ET had erred in respect of the significance of the evidence gathered from those who had reported seeing nothing unusual.

Mr Hargreaves argued that if Pupil A’s allegation was true it would be highly likely that someone in the vicinity would have noticed whereas, if his account of events was true, those close by would not recall seeing anything untoward.

The Decision

The EAT dismissed the appeal, holding that it was within the band of reasonable responses for the School to decide not to put forward the evidence of the witness who had seen nothing and to dismiss Mr Hargreaves.

The EAT commented that in investigating the incident it wasn’t that the School had not pursued lines of inquiry, it was that they had found that those lines did not have anything to add. The statements given by the witnesses had been considered and the School had reasonably concluded that the evidence  was immaterial and could not assist either the Claimant or the disciplinary panel.

Best Practice

While this decision provides some comfort to employers who have properly assessed the evidence gathered during investigations and decided that some is not relevant, we would still advise that it is in an employer’s interest to present all evidence. Choosing not to do so creates an unnecessary risk of litigation and a finding of unfairness.

This approach is in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, which provides that in conducting a disciplinary hearing it would normally be appropriate to enclose copies of any written evidence, which may include any witness statements, with the hearing invitation.

For more information, please contact Sarah Martin on 0117 314 5363 or Caitlin Anniss on 0117 314 5264 at Narrow Quay HR

Many healthcare practices are facing challenges around recruitment and retention. In particular, we are seeing an increase in the number of experienced GPs retiring early leading to an increase in recruiting less experienced salaried GPs.

Getting the recruitment process right is crucial and will undoubtedly be an important part of any Practice Manager’s role. However, how best to undertake this exercise still remains something of a challenge. In this article, we provide our five top tips for getting it right:

1. Define the Role

Having a clearly defined role is an essential starting point for a good recruitment process. The first step is to analyse the job. Consider what tasks the jobholder will be required to do and think about how the role fits into the overall healthcare practice. Once you have done this, you can draft the job description and person specification documents. Try to remain focussed on the requirements of the role and the specific competencies you want from the individual. And remember your job description and person specification should be realistic and not a wish list.

2. Attracting Applications

Review the techniques you use to you attract applicants and think creatively to maximise your chances of getting the best applicants. The local Facebook groups for example could be a good source of advertising for some roles. Consider whether an employee referral scheme which incentives staff to refer candidates might be worth considering. Research has shown that the wording of some adverts appeals more to men than women. Perhaps think about testing differently worded adverts to see what gets the best response.

3. Managing Applications

We all have unconscious biases which we are unaware of and may not want to admit to. These can reveal themselves in any number of ways, from unconsciously favouring someone who went to the same University as you or being put off  someone because of their accent. The recruitment process can be a fertile ground for these biases to come to the fore and can mean your healthcare practice misses out on the best candidates. Worse still, it could expose your practice to risks of discrimination claims.

Think carefully about how your practice deals with applications. There are a number of easy changes that a practice can make. For example, try, as far as possible, to remove any information that might illicit a bias, such as name, address and age and have more than one person undertake the shortlisting and potentially use a third as a final check.

4. Effective Interviews

Most recruitment processes involve an interview. Structured interviews where the interviewer or panel agree the questions in advance will help to keep the questions on track and avoid the risk of going off track into areas that could cause difficulties, such as discussions around health or childcare. Try to reframe the interview as a fact finding process rather than a decision making one to take some of the pressure off and think about the time of day you hold interviews – research has shown that those interviewed later in the day after a string of earlier interviews are at a disadvantage.

5. The Offer Letter and Contract

Think carefully about the wording of your offer letters. Take specialist legal advice to ensure that your offer letter and any contractual documentation are up to scratch and fit for purpose. These documents are designed to set out clearly the basis of the employment relationship but also to protect the practice, so it is important that you have well drafted and user friendly documents in place that are regularly reviewed.

Our Narrow Quay HR consultants work together with you and your practice, providing you with a flexible range of HR advice and solutions to assist your day to day business which includes recruitment and retention challenges.

For more information, please contact Sarah Martin on 0117 314 5363 or Caitlin Anniss on 0117 314 5264 at Narrow Quay HR

The consultants at Narrow Quay HR are regularly instructed to carry out investigations for clients. Clients may want to engage external HR consultants because the issue is particularly sensitive, because they don’t have sufficient HR capacity in the business or because they recognise that investigations can be time consuming and may therefore pull key staff away from their day to day duties.

The investigations may form part of grievance, disciplinary or complaints processes. The case study below sets out some of the issues we regularly deal with when carrying out investigations, but is not based on the specific facts of one of our cases.

Case Study

A client of Narrow Quay HR, has an administration team made up of approximately 10 members of staff. One of the staff working in the team, Jessica, joined the team less than a year ago. She offered her resignation, writing a letter which referred to bullying, harassment and victimisation by her line manager. Following this, the HR Manager met with her and persuaded her not to resign, and asked her if she would be happy to have her concerns treated as a grievance. She agreed to this and Narrow Quay HR were asked to undertake an investigation into the line manager’s conduct.

Our Investigation

In order to give the investigation structure, the key components of Jessica’s grievance needed to be identified. In this case, it was possible to focus on the nature of the language used by the line manager to Jessica as one broad theme and to also focus on victimisation, in the way that Jessica understood it, in terms of being picked on by her line manager.

Jessica was very nervous about raising a grievance as she feared repercussions. In conjunction with the client we were able to reassure Jessica that she was doing the right thing by raising her concerns, that we were taking her concerns seriously and that the client would act should there be any negative consequences of bringing a grievance.

We then met with Jessica’s line manager. The line manager felt that Jessica’s performance was poor and that she failed to take on board or listen to instructions. She felt that Jessica was overly sensitive and denied her behaviour amounted to bullying, harassment and victimisation.

As part of the investigation we interviewed other employees identified as witnesses by Jessica and her line manager. This enabled us to gather further evidence as part of the investigation in order to consider all of the issues and arrive at our conclusions and recommendations.

The Outcome

Narrow Quay HR prepared a comprehensive investigation report containing an executive summary and  detailed findings, which was provided to the client together with all evidence gathered during the investigation, in an indexed and paginated appendix to the report.

In this situation, where a member of staff has raised a grievance relating to bullying or harassment, we needed to not only to make a recommendation as to whether the grievance should be upheld or not, but also to recommend whether disciplinary action should be commenced in relation to the member of staff accused.

In this case it was found that Jessica had been subjected to bullying and harassment by her line manager and so we made a recommendation that her grievance should be upheld and that the client should commence disciplinary proceedings.

Using our report, the client had a clear route map to follow and was able to progress the matter in the knowledge that a fair and reasonable investigation had been undertaken by an independent third party.

To find out how you can benefit from Narrow Quay HR’s investigation expertise, please contact Sarah Martin on 0117 314 5363 or Caitlin Anniss on 0117 314 5264.

This week we are celebrating Narrow Quay HR’s one year anniversary – thank you to all of our clients and contacts, it’s been great working with you.

It’s been a busy first year at Narrow Quay HR, and we’ve enjoyed working with a range of clients including schools, GP surgeries, businesses and charities. We have been particularly busy with investigations, which have taken us all over the country, and have provided support to panels at a range of hearings. We’ve supported clients with their HR projects, helping with both day-to-day issues and larger, strategic projects. We’ve also delivered training to clients too; on Unconscious Bias, Appraisal skills and Essential HR for Line Managers.

We look forward to a busy year two!

Employee Well-Being and Resilience

Why Investing in Employee Well-Being and Resilience Should Be on Your To-Do List

Employee well-being and resilience are hot topics in HR right now. In this article we explore why investing in employee well-being and resilience is a no-brainer for your business and provide you with tips on how to get started or progress on your organisation’s well-being journey.

Essentially well-being is about creating a state of contentment where individuals can flourish*. Resilience is about an individual’s ‘bouncebackability’ and developing resilient employees is likely to feed into a well-being agenda.

Historically, well-being has focussed on safe working practices or management of ill-health. But more recently, a much more holistic view of employee well-being has developed.

Sitting alongside this, there has been much more of a focus on employee mental health, given the escalating numbers of employees suffering with poor mental health and the evidential links between poor mental health and poor work outcomes. This is highlighted in the Government’s recent review undertaken by Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, which places responsibility on employers (along with other stakeholders) to take greater responsibility for employee mental health. In particular, Stevenson and Farmer recommended that all employers, regardless of size, should implement mental health core standards in their business.

If this isn’t enough to persuade you that employee well-being should be high on your agenda, there is growing evidence to suggest that investing in this area produces a financial return in the shape of increased productivity and lower sickness absence as well as making your organisation a great place to work.

Whilst a number of organisations have some well-being initiatives already in place, the evidence shows that well-being programmes will be most successful where they are central to the organisation. So where should you start? Below are our top tips:

  • Get buy in at a senior level. Your senior leaders set the tone and lead by example. Demonstrating the business benefits might help you to do this.
  • Identify what will work for your organisation. No two businesses are the same and what is important to one workforce might not be to another. Speak to employees via employee forums or use surveys to drill down into the details of what initiatives might work best. Look into whether there are any recognised well-being initiatives that might be useful.
  • Prioritise. Are there any quick wins you can introduce? Certain initiatives may be cheaper and easier to implement – get moving with these and then move onto the trickier, longer term projects.
  • Keep well-being on the agenda. Don’t just tick it off the list and move on. Keep the conversation alive by continuing to publicise what you are doing and continue to talk about well-being.
  • Monitor and evaluate. Only by doing this will you see what is working and positive outcomes will pave the way for future investment.

Narrow Quay HR can help your organisation on its well-being journey. Get in touch with us today to find out more.




monitor CCTV

In a recent case, it was held that the covert surveillance of employees by their employer, who set up CCTV cameras to monitor suspected thefts, was an infringement of those employee’s rights to privacy.

Employers looking to monitor the conduct of their employees – particularly those using covert recording – should consider their actions carefully, particularly in light of the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which becomes law on 25 May 2018.

Read the full article by Mark Stevens, VWV

Narrow Quay HR are specialists in advising HR Directors, Managers and Business Leaders in all forms of employee rights, engagement and management. Contact us to discuss your needs.

Unconscious Bias

Handling Difficult Conversations

Anyone in a role managing staff within their organisation will need to be handling difficult conversations from time to time. Whether it’s talking to someone in your department about their work not quite being up to standard, managing team dynamics or dealing with a difficult personal matter that someone wants to talk to you about, conversations which may make you feel uncomfortable can’t be entirely avoided. In fact, they are a key part of strong line management and leadership. So, how can you deal with them in a more effective way?

The first step is to ensure that you are the right person to have the conversation with the member of staff. Should it be dealt with by a line manager, referred to HR or perhaps to a more senior manager? Assuming you are the right person, don’t avoid having that difficult conversation or put it off, tempting as that might be.

These are often very important discussions to have and delaying them, or, avoiding them altogether, can cause real problems. Not addressing an issue when it arises, can give the employee the impression that it’s not that important. It can also lead to low staff morale if the issue relates to a team problem. In an appraisal context, appraisers are often keen to focus on the positives and avoid having any conversation about areas which could be improved. This can mean that poor performance can go unaddressed for years, with appraisal records showing only glowing reports. At the point at which the performance needs to be tackled, this can cause real problems for employers.

Difficult conversations can be uncomfortable because they take us out of our comfort zone. They may not go as we plan or people may become upset or confrontational.

Good preparation is key.

Check the facts relating to the issue you want to discuss, and check any relevant policies or procedures. Make sure you have the necessary support from HR or your line manager if you need it. Take control of the discussion, and set the agenda. Communicate the issues and give examples and evidence to support what you are saying. Make sure the member of staff has the opportunity to respond and try to give effective and objective feedback. Try to keep calm, even if the staff member becomes emotional. Be professional; while it can be appealing to approach these discussions as a friendly colleague, and of course you do need to be understanding in your approach, it is best to approach in a professional manner.

Take notes and highlight any actions that will need to be completed after the meeting.

It is important to recognise that emotions are likely to be involved; both the employee’s and yours. It may be difficult to predict how the staff member will react. They may be angry, or they may become upset. Similarly, recognise that your emotions may be involved in this, but stay as calm as possible.

It is critical to try to end the discussion with a plan for the way forward. This will set boundaries around the issue in hand. Discuss the options with the member of staff, make a decision and agree on follow ups or reviews and where appropriate, a date and time for a further meeting.
Narrow Quay HR can help you and your line managers to deal with difficult conversations by offering training sessions on this and other essential HR topics for line managers.

For more details, please get in touch.