Tis the season to be light-fingered: Workplace thefts set rise in December

Pressure on pay packets leaves workers open to Yuletide crime

Theft and fraud in the workplace rises in December as workers turn to crime to help fund their seasonal celebrations.

While workplace theft is a year-round phenomenon, a national health safety consultancy says that the pressure to “enjoy” the festive season result in a spike in incidents around Christmas that lead to disciplinary action, dismissal and police involvement.

The Protecting.co.uk consultancy says that this is a time for employers and colleagues to be extra vigilant, to ensure that Christmas time really is a season of goodwill.

“It’s a sad fact that people feel under pressure to spend more to feel like they’re having a ‘proper’ Christmas,” says Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “And living outside your means sometimes makes people turn to desperate measures.”

While the huge majority of employees are trustworthy and honest, just one person taking advantage of their employer’s generosity can spoil Christmas for many people, Protecting says.

After speaking to a number (650) of employers and employees about workplace theft around Christmas, Protecting.co.uk found cases of:

• Theft of stock
• Theft of work property
• Cash thefts
• Misuse of company credit card
• Misuse of employee benefit schemes

“While some of these were minor cases that resulted in a rebuke or official warning, others resulted in losses of hundreds of pounds and the involvement of police,” Hall said.

Among the cases told to Protecting.co.uk – and reported here with full permission are:

• An employee abusing the free soft drinks in the staff kitchen to build up a stock at home for the kids. This was resolved with a warning and the embarrassed employee refunding the company.

• Saleable items being marked as damaged goods, then being taken home to give as presents. This is a story Protecting heard several times from employers in the retail sector.

• The person in charge of buying drinks for the Christmas party purchasing extra spirits and beer for their own use on the company credit card. They were found out when they drunkenly boasted about it during the office Christmas party.

• A senior staff member who over-ordered laptop computers as part of company procurement to give three away as presents to family. Police called, employee dismissed.

• A member of a company’s sales team adding alcohol purchases when filling the car with fuel on a company card. Discovered when the accounts department questioned why it took £120 to fill up a Ford Focus. The money was repaid, and the employee handed a final warning.

“In our experience, the most commonly excuse for this kind of activity is the guilty party saying they felt under pressure to overspend in the run-up to Christmas,” says Hall.

“With in-your-face advertising starting before we’ve even had Guy Fawke’s Night, the temptation to live beyond your means during the festive season is greater than ever,” he continues.

However, the Protecting.co.uk spokesperson says workplace fraud and theft is not the solution for those tempted to fund their Christmas by other means, and it’s down to both managers and colleagues to watch out for crime.

Protecting.co.uk said that honesty and vigilance are best for all parties at this time of year: “No boss wants a legal case hanging over the company at Christmas,” says Hall, “And no worker wants to be looking for a job in the New Year.”

The Bear necessities: Yorkshire law firm teams up with world’s greatest adventurer

Staff set off for Amazonian jungle with Bear Grylls, armed with health & safety law, fresh urine

A Yorkshire-based company has won the contract to provide health and safety services for TV danger man Bear Grylls, and will set off with him to Brazil this Saturday (1st April) on his latest death-defying adventure.

Business law experts Protecting.co.uk will be by the world-famous adventurer’s side 24/7 for the next three months as he attempts to discover a lost city of gold or – in his own words – “die trying”. Protecting.co.uk staff will be doing their level best to make sure that this does not happen on their watch, by mitigating risk and employing “best practice” in the field of health and safety.

This means that the company, firm believers in practising what it preaches, will follow Bear on his adventures to the world’s most dangerous wilderness, dispensing practical advice, and where necessary, drinking their own urine.

“This is a big opportunity for us,” said Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “And Mr Grylls was doubly impressed by our willingness to follow him to the ends of the Earth, with only a handful of insects and a bottle of wee for sustenance.”

Amongst the advice already handed to Bear by Protecting.co.uk’s experts for his expedition – already named Operation Fool’s Gold – is:

• Waterproof directions on the handling of Bear’s famous “drinking urine”, which he has been sampling even before setting off
• Binding employment contracts of local staff, so that they don’t drop their loads and flee screaming for their mothers as soon as the team crosses into The Cursed Plateau Of Certain Death (with added dinosaurs)
• Further instructions on drinking other people’s urine
• Risk assessments when handling any cursed religious icons found on The Cursed Plateau of Certain Death (with added dinosaurs)
• Book-keeping and VAT calculations for the buying, selling and bartering of Bear Grylls Brand Drinking Urine
• Conflict-solving brainstorming when coming up against a rival expedition sent by a ruthless government to find an ancient relic that doubles up as a civilisation-ending super-weapon
• Devising a fair system of deciding who gets eaten first should the worst come to the worst (Protecting.co.uk prefers a rock-paper-scissors tournament, best out of three)

“As you can see, we’ve already been busy making sure that this trip will be a success,” says Hall. “And I’d like to go myself, but – you know – doctor’s orders. Gammy leg.”

Chosen to represent Protecting for Operation Fool’s Gold will be intrepid duo Sid Bremner, aged 57 and a veteran of employment law; and Julia “Mad Jools” Stevens, who was once in the Army Cadets.

Sid Bremner: “It’s always been a dream of mine to go on a trip like this. I’ve worked up through office work, accountancy, banking and business law. Now I’m ready to make the not-so-big leap to Amazon adventurer. I’ve bought a new cagoule and a waterproof cover for my clipboard, and my birthday experience as a zoo keeper might come in handy!”

Julia Stevens: “Bring it on. I’ve seen Jurassic Park, where’s my electric cattle prod?”
Mark Hall: “We have two office vacancies. Apply today.”

Bear Grylls: “This is good stuff. Anyone want a sip?”

Protecting.co.uk waves off its intrepid duo this Saturday (1st April) from Heathrow Airport as they begin their one-way trip into certain death, but Mark Hall says their sacrifice won’t be in vain.

“They’ll be taking the important issue of workplace health and safety to virgin territory in South America, and that’s very important to us.

“Virgin territory, where people fall off ladders, plug themselves into mains electricity, or get eaten by as-yet undiscovered species of dinosaur, simply because they haven’t carried out sufficient risk assessments. Sid and Julia are doing God’s work.”

Not only that, it’s a total privilege to be working alongside Bear Grylls as he takes 500 gallons of freshly-bottled wee up the Amazon and into legend.

“Whatever happens, we hope they have a WEE-ly great time!!”

Employment tribunal win for teacher with bipolar disorder who was forced to resign

The teacher was unfairly dismissed by the school, so took her former employers before an employment tribunal

A teacher diagnosed with bipolar disorder, who took her former employers to an employment tribunal over unfair dismissal, has won her case.

Nicola Sinclair, aged 50, was unfairly dismissed from her role at the Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School, where she had worked for 23 years.

Employment tribunal win for teacher with bipolar disorder who was forced to resign

Employment tribunal win for teacher with bipolar disorder who was forced to resign © Copyright Mike Kirby and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Ms Sinclair spoke about how the loss of her job at the school led to her losing her home and now lives in a caravan on benefits. Her 20 year long marriage also suffered, as well as her health.

The employment tribunal was held in Cardiff only two weeks ago, where Ms Sinclair was awarded £346,175 as a result of her win.

A ruling was made by the tribunal in April last year, that Ms Sinclair was forced to resign by the school, which was tantamount to constructive dismissal. The tribunal also found that some of the practice’s carried out by her former employers caused Ms Sinclair to suffer from discrimination as a result of her disability and no reasonable help or adjustments were provided.

Ms Sinclair had suffered from stress after her role at the school was altered slightly, after returning to work following a few months off over mental health issues.

Some complaints were made about the English teacher by a number of pupils and parents and was told she would be observed whilst teaching and would have to meet with the new head teacher, Marc Belli, to discuss a few issues.

Ms Sinclair had to take time off work on two occasions because of mental health problems and was later diagnosed with suffering from bipolar disorder. After having returned to work, she was told by Mr Belli to either accept a settlement, or go through capability proceedings.

“It is Mr Belli and his actions that put her in the position she is in now,” said Ms Sinclair’s barrister, Christopher Howells.

The amount Ms Sinclair was awarded covered loss of earnings, future loss of earnings, notice pay, personal injury, injury to feelings, pension loss and a basic award.

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Streetlight fixing neighbours told off over health and safety breach

Swansea residents ‘told off’ by Council chiefs over health and safety risks

A group of residents in Swansea, who clubbed together to fix broken streetlights on their estate, have been ticked off by council chiefs for breaching health and safety.

The neighbours decided to act after being left in the dark for months, as seven of their street lamps on the estate had gone out but.

As a community, they decided to group together and each pay in £100 for scaffolding, new bulbs and a electrician, so that the estate could be lit again.

Swansea residents told off by Council chiefs over health and safety risks after fixing streetlamps themselves

Streetlight fixing neighbours ‘told off’ over health and safety breach © Copyright Michael Trolove and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

However, rather than receiving praise for their efforts, the group of residents ended up in the council’s bad books for breaching health and safety, claiming that the neighbourhood was “risking their lives” by carrying out repairs to the street lamps themselves.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes whey they warned there was a significant risk of death – all we did was change the bulbs because they didn’t,” said Mr Tony Paget, a resident and associate professor at Swansea University Medical School.

The 40 strong neighbours of Golwg y Waun, in Birchgrove, Swansea, acted after one of the houses nearby was burgled.

Mr Paget, along with some friends, delivered leaflets in the neighbourhood telling them about a plan for fixing the street lights, saying they could chip in if they wanted to.

The street is an “unadopted” road, which means that the council doesn’t accept responsibility for looking after the lighting, however Swansea Council said they would provide an electrician to change the bulbs but would charge more than £1,000 – the residents managed to do the job for a total of £100, which included the bulbs, scaffolding and a qualified electrician was on standby to help out for free.

Just two days after the streetlights were fixed, Mr Paget got an email from the council, who ticked him off for “endagering life”, even though, as one of the residents pointed out, the streets were in total darkness and extremely dangerous for cars and pedestrians and were left that way for months.

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Hull KR coach to face former club at employment tribunal

Tim Sheens is taking his former club Salford to employment tribunal over alleged unpaid wages

The coach of Hull KR, Tim Sheens must face his old club Salford in front of an employment tribunal, after claiming £50,000 in unpaid wages.

In June 2015, Mr Sheens arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium to provide assistance to the coach of Salford, Ian Watson. However, he was announced as the new coach for Hull KR for 2017 at the beginning of September.

Hull KR coach to face former club at employment tribunal

Hull KR coach to face former club at employment tribunal © Copyright Mike Kirby and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The 66-year-old Australian stepped down from his position at the Red Devils before the game between Rovers and Salford on October 1, to sidestep any conflict of interest.

The hearing is set to be held on Wednesday, February 8 in Manchester, says the League Express.

The owner of Salford, Marwan Koukash, reacted angrily back in June 2015 against speculation that the club was in an unhealthy financial position.

He claimed at the time that players are always paid, either on time or more often than not early, stating that during the last month at the time of speaking, the staff at the club were paid twelve days early.

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Fast food chain KFC fined over health and safety breaches

Two workers suffered burns after handling hot gravy with no gloves – the company admits health and safety breaches

The fast food chain KFC have been fined over health and safety breaches, which left two employees with burns after they handled hot gravy with no gloves.

During one incident in July 2014, a 16-year-old boy suffered serious burns whilst working at the Teesside Park restaurant in Stockton, whilst in a separate incident in December 2015, at the Wellington Square restaurant in Stockton, a woman was also left injured.

KFC was made to pay £950,000 in fines and costs totalling £18,700 after pleading guilty to health and safety failings.

Two workers suffered burns after handling hot gravy with no gloves - the company admits health and safety breaches

Fast food chain KFC fined over health and safety breaches © Copyright Colin Park and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

According to KFC Limited, the company invests £7.5million each year in health and safety measures.

It was heard in court that after the woman was injured at the Wellington Square restaurant, environmental health officers visited the branch two days later and discovered that staff members couldn’t find any protective gloves on the premises.

Health officers also decided that health procedures had not been followed at the restaurant.

According to the fast food chain, such accidents were uncommon but on these occasions, staff members had failed to adhere to health and safety procedures.

Stockton Borough Council was responsible for bringing about the prosecution against the fast food chain.

“This is a huge fine that sends out a very clear message that all food business operators have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees and provide them with suitable training,” said Cllr Steve Nelson, cabinet for community safety.

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Employment tribunal judgments set to be placed online

The decision follows the publishing of a number of high profile cases concerning employment tribunals

Following the highly publicised employment tribunal cases brought against Asda and Uber recently, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service have made a new announcement, stating that all employment tribunal judgments will be placed online in the very near future.

Employment tribunal judgments set to be placed online

© Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The new online judgement publishing is set to come into force sometime at the start of the new year, 2017.

The announcement has been made following a number of high-profile cases, in which the judgement concerning the companies involved had been published. Both Asda and Uber were taken to employment tribunals over issues within the workplace and members of staff.

Claimants and lawyers will have complete online access, with the ability to look up employment tribunal judgments against a specific company and topic, making it much more accessible for all.

The online service will be free to use and searches will be available to read instantaneously. No former knowledge of a particular case will prevent the user from searching for a specific judgement.

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5 year-old schoolgirl told to remove wig over health and safety fears

Mum left furious after 5 year-old daughter was told by teachers to take off her wig over health and safety fears

A five-year-old schoolgirl from St Helens who suffers from a hair loss condition, has been asked by her teachers to remove her wig over health and safety fears.

Whilst taking part in a PE lesson at her primary school, Apryl Corbett was asked to take her wig off during the lesson because it could be dangerous for the other pupils if it fell off.

The 5 year-old’s mum, Lianne, aged 27, was left furious with the school after the incident.

5 year-old schoolgirl told to remove her wig over health and safety fears

A 5 year-old schoolgirl from St Helens who suffers from alopecia made to remove wig by teachers over health and safety fears © Copyright Sue Adair and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Mum and daughter both suffer with alopecia and Lianne said that Apryl was left “humiliated” after she was told by teachers that her wig was “not part of her school uniform”.

5 year-old Apryl has been suffering from alopecia for a year now and has 14 bald patches.

Apryl’s mum Lianne noticed her daughter was suffering from alopecia after seeing a bald patch but kept it to herself for a while but other children saw the patch.

Young Apryl begged her Mum for a wig so that the other children would not “call her names again”.

According to Apryl’s mum, the school said that Apryl was more than happy to take her wig off but when they got home, Apryl said how sad she was because she didn’t want anybody to see her hair.

Apryl wore a hat when she returned to school after the Christmas holidays but was told to take it off, so her Mum bought the wig for her daughter. Only half an hour into the school day, Lianne received a phone call from staff telling her the wig was “not school uniform”.

Lianne told the school she wasn’t happy about it and to stop any bullying she would take Apryl home.

“They were persistent that she could not wear it,” said Lianne, who is now thinking of removing her daughter from the school permanently.

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Mental health charity in Dundee being taken to employment tribunal

Former employee taking her old firm to employment tribunal over unfair dismissal

A former employee of a mental health charity in Dundee, is taking her old employers to an employment tribunal over claims she was unfairly dismissed.

Christine Costello, aged 53, from Invergowrie, Dundee, worked for her former employers for almost eight years as a mental health advocacy worker. She resigned from the charity, Dundee Independent Advocacy Support (DIAS), last January.

Mental health charity in Dundee being taken to employment tribunal

Former mental health charity worker from Invergowrie, Dundee, takes her old employers to employment tribunal over unfair dismissal © Copyright Jim Bain and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

DIAS are based at Meadow Mill, on West Hendersons Wynd, in Dundee.

Ms Costello’s hearing will be held in Dundee later this month.

According to a spokeswoman at the Dundee Employment Tribunal Service, Ms Costello filed four different claims against her old employers for; unfair dismissal, sex discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination and disability discrimination.

Apparently, Ms Costello resigned from her position at the charity in January last year but had numerous periods of time off before leaving, as a result of alleged incidents.

If Ms Costello wins her employment tribunal case against her former employers, she could receive a five-figure sum.

A DIAS spokeswoman said there would be no comments made about the case whilst it was still ongoing.

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Health and safety failings lead to prison term for manager

Manager of UK-based company found guilty of health and safety breaches after death of a worker

A two year jail term has been handed out to the manager of a UK-based access rental company over health and safety breaches, which led to the death of one worker and left another man with serious injuries.

Donald Craig, aged 57, was found guilty of breaching health and safety legislation’s at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Scotland, following a 16 day trial and given the maximum penalty.

The incident in question happened on June 20, 2012. Safety net rigger, Gary Currie and Alexander Nisbet, who was contracted by Craig Services & Access as a self-employed operator, were in the basket of the platform taking netting off the facade on the Buchanan House office block, on Port Dundas Road in the city centre of Glasgow. The third main boom section gave way and caused the basket to fall 92 ft to the ground.

Health and safety failings lead to prison term for manager

Manager of a UK-based company found guilty of health and safety breaches after the death of a worker
© Copyright Steve Fareham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Mr Nisbet was left seriously injured and Mr Currie suffered fatal injuries as a result of the fall.

The company, which is based in Hamilton, was also found guilty on three other charges which related to the collapsing of a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) and for maintenance and useage failings. The firm was fined £61,000.

A £30,000 fine was also handed out to another company, J M Access Solutions, for failing to examine the platform and the critical parts of the system.

An incident involving the same platform occurred back in 2011. Craig Services & Access instructed repairs be made to the platform after the incident to fix a damaged section on the main boom.

Incorrect repairs were made and J M Access Solutions failed to carry out a proper examination of the platform.

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