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Acas Publishes new guidance on two (different) but important topics

Acas have been busy this summer and issued various guidance about 2 areas which can pose problems to employers:

1. Working in hot temperature:

The guidance includes a lot of common sense advice such as providing drinking water in the workplace, relaxing dress code requirements and switching air conditioning on.  It however also includes recommendations on health and safety and adjustments that may be considered in relation to, for example, Muslim staff who may be fasting for Ramadan or pregnant employees or employees on medications who may need more frequent breaks during hot periods.  These adjustments should be considered carefully to avoid complaints of discrimination or failure to make reasonable adjustments.

2. Investigating complaints of discrimination:

The new guidance suggests a move toward attempting informal resolution of discrimination complaints before moving to a more formal process.

This is a change from the process-driven guidance issued in the past. Whilst this may be a welcome change, it may cause some issues in practice.  Indeed, seeking an informal resolution of a discrimination complaint can be a difficult area in which to strike the right balance. The risk of being accused of not taking the matter seriously or of ignoring misconduct remains alive, but the recognition that informal resolution may be an appropriate way to resolve such a complaint may enable employers to resolve a matter at an earlier stage.

We therefore would suggest that whilst the ACAS guidance is useful, it should be considered with care.  We recommend that you ask the complainant(s) how they want the matter resolved, i.e. are they happy to try an informal resolution in the first instance, before making a decision on how the complaint should be handled.

Before making a decision on this point, we recommend that you carefully review your own policies and seek advice from HR or your legal representative.

Please feel free to contact us on 0191 282 2880 for a no obligation chat or email us if you require further advice.

 

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