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The food and drink sector must adapt to employment legislation and comply with obligations in equality and diversity legislation. It is important to know what employment rights and obligations are necessary to follow in the food and drinks sector. We have used our experience to answer some commonly asked questions from our food and drink sector clients:

  1. Do I need to offer my staff Contracts of Employment?

It’s a legal requirement to provide your staff with a statement of terms and conditions of employment within two months of them starting work. Usually this is contained in the Contract of Employment or Service Agreement.

  1. What are the working time and Sunday working regulations I should be aware of?

Employers should be aware that they should not require an employee to work more than 48 hours per week on a regular basis and should ensure that employees have at least one day off for every 7 day working period. The Working Time Directive states that employees are entitled to at least a 20 minute break if they work 6 hours or more and 11 hours rest between working days. These requirements are also applicable to staff who regularly work on Sundays.

  1. What are the National Minimum Wage requirements I must be aware of?

You are required to pay your employees a fair wage. In practical terms, receiving a fair wage means, being paid at least the national minimum wage (if under 24) or the national living wage (if over 25), being paid in full and on time, receiving payslips that are clear and understandable and entitlements to both sick pay and holiday pay.

It is also a requirement to provide employees with equal pay. Equal pay means that there is no differentiation in salary between male and female employees. Employers must also not discriminate employees based on age.

  1. What are the Special Employment Laws in relation to warehousing and distribution staff?

Some businesses operating warehouses have come under fire for mistreating their staff. If you offer flexible working times, overtime or night working hours you must ensure you comply with the guidelines for these matters.

Furthermore, warehousing staff must work in a suitably ventilated workplace with sufficient quantities of fresh or purified air. The Approved Code of Practice states that ventilation should replace cold, hot or humid air at a reasonable rate. Also, the temperature should be kept at a reasonable level. The Approved Code of Practice on temperature states that the temperature should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing.

It is also required that you offer warehouse and distribution staff training on heavy lifting and carry out the relevant risk assessments under the Manual Handling Operations Regulation.

  1. In what situations can I dismiss or make staff redundant?

Staff must only be dismissed with sufficient notice. It is for this reason that notice periods are inserted into the Contract of Employment. Where an employee has been employed for a continuous period of 2 years they are protected from unfair dismissal. For a dismissal to be fair, it must be for a potentially fair reason such as reasons related to conduct or redundancy.

If you are considering making redundancies, you must identify employees at risk of redundancy and advise them of this. A fair redundancy procedure must then be followed which involves consulting on ways in which redundancies can be avoided and how to mitigate their impact. Employees should be selected for redundancy on fair and objective grounds such as their disciplinary record or standard of performance. An employee confirmed as redundant must be given the right to appeal. If you are making 20 or more employees redundant over a period of 90 days or less, this is a collective redundancy and the Secretary of State must be informed and rules relating to collective redundancy must be followed.

  1. How many holidays are employees entitled to and am I required to pay holiday pay?

All full time employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of holiday per annum (commonly known as statutory leave entitlement or annual leave). An employer is entitled to include bank holidays as part of statutory annual leave. The holiday entitlement of part time staff is calculated on a pro rata basis. Holiday pay entitlements continue to operate even where an employee is not attending work due to long term sick leave or maternity leave. Employees are entitled to a usual week’s pay for each week of leave they take and this must include amounts employees would usually receive from for example, regular overtime. This can be a complicated legal area of the law and requires specialist advice.

Employers can however refuse an employee’s request for a holiday if it does not suit the business needs for the employer to be off at that time, so long as employees are able to take their full holiday entitlement at other times. Any other rules relating to holidays should be contained in the Contract of Employment.

The information above is for guidance only and is not intended to replace specialist legal advice. 

Our unlimited, fixed fee HR advice service Holistic HR includes a Portal of employment documents that you can access online including Contracts of Employment, Service Agreements as well as workplace policies and procedures, “How To” Guides and Manager’s Briefings. It also gives you access to unlimited HR and employment law Advice from our specialist employment lawyers. To find out more about Holistic HR click here. 

Contact our Food & Drink Sector Employment Lawyers & HR Support Team in Edinburgh & London

If you have an HR or employment issue, or would like to find out more about our HR retainer service, please contact us today on 0131 2268200.

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