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News 18 - 25 Jan 2019

Published 25 January 2019

This week we will take a look at a handful of issues the government is addressing to try to improve the working lives of people with stress and mental health problems along with those who identify themselves as disabled.  We will also look at the Health & Safety Executive’s efforts to address ‘vibration white finger’.

But first, a 43 page decision has finally been issued in the landmark case of Jess Varnish v British Cycling and UK Sport.  The Employment Tribunal hearing the case found in favour of her employer and in so doing has quashed her claim for unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and ‘whistleblowing’.  The wider implications of this decision which sought to recognise aspiring young ‘future Olympians’ as ‘workers’ with all of the employment rights that affords (holidays, sick pay, pensions the right to sue at Employment Tribunal) are yet to be felt but will affect thousands. Given the detail in this case the decision is likely to be considered political by many.  Jess Varnish has yet to comment on whether she intends to appeal against the decision.(1)

In the week before Christmas, the government introduced a voluntary reporting framework to assess  disability and mental health in the workplace.  The framework follows the report by Stephenson & Farmer - ‘Thriving in Work’ which identified the enormous cost to the economy of disability and mental health issues and their lack support in the workplace.  The target group are employers with more than 250 employee’s and the aim is to both identify numbers of people with mental health problems and also promote inclusive work practices.(2)  The framework aims to try to curb the increasing incidence of stress and mental health related incidents in the workplace which in 2017/18 recorded 541,000 new cases.(4)

This week has also seen attempts by the Health & Safety Executive to highlight what is largely a virtually unreported health condition.  They estimate that it affects around 2m people in the UK - and is more commonly known as ‘vibration white finger’.  The medical term is Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and it is a reportable disease (to RIDDOR) which is covered by the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.  The introduction of sentencing guidelines for Health & Safety offences inevitably means more prosecutions are likely, but the H&SE hopes that by applying the same approach of trying to increase awareness, they will help to combat the problem within the workplace.(3)

Finally, with all those awareness raising initiatives in place the government hopes to see an upturn in productivity.  As if to celebrate we all have to contend with the use of a new word which sums up that greatest of British traits, ‘soldering on in the face of insurmountable odds’ or presenteeism as the more succinct explanation has been termed.  Only with the reality of environmental degradation and almost certain Brexit ‘cliff jumping’ could such a word come into being in the British workplace.  It has even acquired a definition in the Oxford Dictionary which explains it in the following terms:

'the practice of being present at one's place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one's job’

Certainly, there is plenty of job insecurity at the moment, but at least we’ve managed to make a new word of it all.  Although it might just be that this new found need to be ‘present’ is merely financially motivated by more employers’ increased reliance on statutory rather than contractual sick pay?(5)

“A reputation built on success”

For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611


A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 


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