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Staff Handbook Rules and Policies December 2010


HouseMark Staff Handbook

Contents Welcome

Section 1: Company rules 1.

Your Responsibilities

6

2.

Attendance and Timekeeping

7

3.

Flexi-time System

8

4.

Time off in Lieu

11

5.

Sickness, Injury and Sick Pay

13

6.

Dentist, Doctors, Opticians and Other Appointments

16

7.

Accidents

17

8.

Holidays

18

9.

Unauthorised Absence

20

10.

Jury Duty

21

11.

Time Off for Public Duties

22

12.

Inclement Weather

24

13.

Telephones (Landline and Mobile)

25

14.

Dress Code

26

15.

Smoking

27

16.

Fire

28

17.

Career Development Courses

29

18.

Company Property

30

19.

Gifts to staff

31

Section 2: Policies 1.

Disciplinary Policy

33

2.

Protocol for Dealing with Complaints about Work Colleagues

36

3.

Grievance Policy

37

4.

Whistleblowing Policy

40

5.

Equality and Diversity Policy

42

6.

Anti-Harassment and Bullying Policy

48

7.

Dignity at Work Policy

54

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 8.

Relationships at Work Policy

55

9.

Maternity Policy

57

10.

Paternity Leave Policy

61

11.

Adoption Leave Policy

64

12.

Parental Leave Policy

67

13.

Time off for Dependants Policy

69

14.

Flexible Working Policy

71

15.

Health and Safety

74

16.

Display Screen Equipment and Eye Testing Policy

84

17.

Stress Management Policy

86

18.

Substance Misuse Policy

98

19.

Bereavement Policy

102

20.

Business Travel and Expenses Policy

103

21.

Vehicle Policy and Use of Mobile Phone Policy

108

22.

Data Protection Policy

112

23.

Electronic Information and Communications Systems Policy

114

24.

Environmental Policy

121

25.

Homeworkers Policy

123

26.

Retirement Policy

127

27.

Redundancy Policy

132

28.

Equal Pay Policy

133

29.

Remuneration and Reward Policy

?

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Welcome to HouseMark Ltd

Your relationship with HouseMark is governed by the policies and procedures in this Handbook and by the terms and conditions in your contract of employment. Please take time to read both documents. If there is a conflict between the two, your contract of employment prevails. This Handbook is in two parts: Section 1 – Company Rules Section 1 sets out the Company rules, procedures and general information. To ensure that the Company is a safe, efficient and happy place to work it is very important that you obey the rules and always follow the set procedures. Section 2 – Policies Section 2 sets out the Company policies for dealing with things like discipline, grievances, maternity and stress etc. These policies are in place to help and protect you. Please familiarise yourself with them. The Company’s policies are not contractual. If you are unsure about anything mentioned in either this Handbook or your contract of employment, please contact the Director of Corporate Services for advice.

December 2010

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HouseMark Staff Handbook

Section 1: Company Rules

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HouseMark Staff Handbook

1.

Your Responsibilities

1.1

Whilst working for the Company your overriding responsibilities are: 1.1.1

To observe all safety rules and to act in a manner that ensures your own health and safety and the health and safety of others; and

1.1.2

To act wholeheartedly in the best interests of the Company.

1.2

Any conduct that puts your own health and safety at risk or the health and safety of others at risk will normally be treated as gross misconduct.

1.3

Any conduct that is detrimental to the best interests of the Company or its relations with customers/clients, suppliers or the general public will normally be treated as gross misconduct.

1.4

Your general duties include the following: 1.4.1

To work hard, conscientiously, safely and loyally on behalf of the Company.

1.4.2

Not to be involved in any work or activity which is in competition with the Company or which might adversely affect the Company’s best interests.

1.4.3

To obey the reasonable and lawful instructions of the Company and to be flexible in helping the Company achieve its objectives.

1.4.4

To produce work of the best possible quality.

1.4.5

To respect and care for the Company’s property.

1.4.6

To strictly obey all Rules and Regulations relating to health and safety and report to your line manager any hazards to safe working arrangements.

1.4.7

To comply with the Company’s equal opportunities policy and to co-operate with it to ensure a working environment that is free from discrimination and prejudice and the fear of harassment or violence.

1.4.8

Whilst working for the Company to devote all of your time and attention to your duties. You must not engage in any other business, activity or employment (either inside or outside your normal working hours) that interferes with this duty.

1.4.9

To notify the Company at the earliest opportunity about any change in your personal circumstances such as your name, address or telephone number.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook

2.

Attendance and Timekeeping

2.1

The Company expects excellent attendance and timekeeping.

2.2

Persistent lateness or repeated unauthorised absence will normally be treated as gross misconduct.

2.3

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are at work and ready to start work at your scheduled starting time.

2.4

If you are sick or injured and cannot attend work then you must comply with the Company’s sickness/injury rules. The sickness/injury rules are set out in section 5 of this Handbook.

2.5

If you are late for work, you must immediately report to your manager so that he or she knows you have arrived.

2.6

If you need to leave work before your scheduled finish time you must obtain the prior authority of your manager.

2.7

You must comply with any absence /signing in and time recording procedures, which may be introduced from time to time including any provisions required to ensure compliance with the Working Time Regulations 1998.

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3.

Flexi-Time System

3.1

It is a primary principle of the flexi-time system that ‘work comes first’, and that customer service and the needs of the business must not suffer as a result of the scheme. Thus the operation of the scheme may be restricted in certain circumstances.

3.2

The aim of the flexi-time system is, where appropriate and within reason, to allow employees flexibility in determining their start and finish times and to vary the total number of hours worked in a week. The scheme is optional. If you do not wish to take part, please inform the Director of Corporate Services.

3.3

Who is eligible? The flexi-time system is available to full-time staff and those staff who work full days, but not a 5 day week. The scheme is not available to staff who work for part of a day, eg mornings only.

3.4

Standard day The standard day for full-time employees is 7 hours, Monday to Friday. 9.00am to 5.00pm with one hour for lunch – 35 hours a week. Flexi-time start and finish times  earliest starting time: 8.30am  latest finishing time: Home workers: 6:00pm  latest finishing time: Office staff 5:30pm

3.5

The earlier finishing time for office staff is to ensure that there is adequate office cover during business hours, maintain office security and protect the health and safety of staff. The later finishing time for home workers takes account of the fact that they often have to travel on business after 5.00pm.

3.6

Office staff must obtain the prior consent of their line manager to vary their hours outside of 9.00am – 5.00pm, so that the line manager can ensure that office cover is maintained.

3.7

Core time The periods during which all staff must be at work, except for authorised absences, are 10.00am to 12.00pm and 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

3.8

Lunch  Must be taken between 12.00pm and 2.00 pm  Minimum lunch break: 30 minutes  Maximum lunch break: 2 hours  Working lunch: record 30 minutes

3.9

Flexi-time period The settlement period is of 4 weeks duration. These dates appear on the flexi-time recording sheet. Staff must work their full contracted hours within each period.

3.10

Time carried over Time in credit or debit at the end of each day is carried forward to the next day. By the end of each flexi-time period, you must ensure that you have worked your full contractual hours. You may carry up to 7 hours credit to the next flexi-period. Any hours in debit may be treated as unauthorised absence and will result in loss of pay

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HouseMark Staff Handbook unless there are exceptional circumstances that you have previously notified to your line manager or the Director of Corporate Services. 3.11

Flexi-leave Within each flexi-time period, provided you have sufficient hours in credit, you may take a maximum of 1 full day or 2 half days flexi-leave.

3.12

There is no automatic right to take flexi-leave. You must make a prior request to your line manager and it is granted at his or her discretion. Wherever possible you must give at least 3 days’ notice of your flexi-leave request. Your line manager will take into account whether there is adequate team/office cover and whether your absence would cause business difficulties – see note on page 1.

3.13 Definition of adequate cover in the HouseMark office between 9.00am and 5.00pm The minimum cover usually required is set out below. Directors may set a higher level of cover at peak periods, eg benchmarking report peaks, or a lower level, eg at lunchtimes when some staff may be in meetings. 

Benchmarking admin team 2 @ staff

Business Support team 2 @ BSOs

Knowledge management team Any 1 person not including the BSO (Research & Development)

3.14

Flexi-time records If you take part in the flexi-time scheme, you are required to complete an electronic daily flexi timesheet. This must be signed by your line manager at the end of each week. In the case of home-workers this can be digitally signed. It is your responsibility to ensure that flexi records are accurate. Falsifying flexi-time records may lead to disciplinary action and/or dismissal.

3.15

Absences 

Holidays and time off in lieu must be recorded on the timesheet using the appropriate codes

If you take sick leave, your line manager will record your absence as sickness on receipt of a completed Self Certificated Sickness form or doctor’s certificate. Sick leave will be recorded for flexi-time purposes as either a 7 hour credit (for a full day’s sickness) or 3.5 hour credit (for a half day’s sickness)

Personal, medical and dental appointments must be taken in your own time, unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case you must show your line manager evidence of your appointment and gain their prior authorisation for absence

Antenatal appointments – if you are pregnant, time will be credited for ante-natal appointments

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HouseMark Staff Handbook

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4.

Time off in Lieu Can I claim time off in lieu?

4.1

In some circumstances you may be permitted to take time off in lieu (TOIL). There is no automatic entitlement to TOIL, but it may be granted at the discretion of your Director. He or she has discretion to decide how much time off should be given and when you can take it, bearing in mind the need to ensure adequate cover for your team. TOIL earned and taken will be recorded on the online HR system.

4.2

You are entitled to take TOIL only with the prior permission of your Director. The dates for which TOIL is earned and the dates when TOIL is taken must be recorded on the online HR system by your line manager. You must also record the dates when TOIL is taken on your Notes calendar. TOIL must be taken as a full day or half day. If you are an Assistant Director, your TOIL must have the prior authorisation of the Chief Executive. Directors are not expected to take TOIL, but the Chief Executive may permit TOIL in exceptional cases.

4.3

TOIL may be granted if you are required to give up your personal time to meet the needs of the business. For instance you may have had to attend a meeting at the weekend or you may have had an excessive number of overnight stays in a short period. Examples for guidance – not rules     

4.4

You arrive home from a site visit after 8.00pm on a Friday (thus cutting into your weekend) You have to attend an evening business meeting You have to attend a weekend business meeting or conference You have to travel to a hotel for an overnight stay on Sunday evening You have been away from home for two days and nights or more in any week

When considering whether TOIL should be granted, your Director (or Assistant Director in the case of the benchmarking and knowledge management teams) will take into account the following factors:    

degree and frequency of inconvenience that you have experienced the number of personal hours that you have given up seniority of your post (directors and managers staff should expect to work some unsocial hours) nature of your role, (ie whether travel and overnight stays is the norm and reflected in the reward package

4.5

TOIL will not be granted just because you chose to work extra hours of your own accord.

4.6

How much TOIL will I get? 

Weekend attendance at meetings and events – accrue a like for like TOIL allowance, ie a 1 day conference equates to 1 day TOIL

Two days and nights away equates to half a day (three and a half hours) compensatory leave

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 

One day and night away equates to a quarter day (circa two hours) compensatory leave



A maximum of 6 days TOIL may be taken per year

4.7

As an exception to these rules, the Assistant Directors (Consultancy) is permitted to take TOIL as a week, rather than an as hours or odd days. This arrangement reflects the particular nature of their work and the business needs of the company.

4.8

TOIL should be taken within one month of being accrued, unless there are exceptional reasons why this is not possible, such as business commitments.

4.9

TOIL cannot usually be carried forward from one leave year to the next.

4.10

The Chief Executive and directors have discretion to decide on the circumstances in which TOIL is appropriate outside of these guidelines.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook

5.

Sickness, Injury and Sick Pay

5.1

You are expected to be available to work during your normal working hours. You must make every effort to attend work.

5.2

If you cannot attend work you must comply with the following rules:5.2.1

You must telephone the Director or Corporate Services by 10.00am on your first day of absence. You should not leave a voicemail, a message at reception or with a colleague. If you cannot make contact with the Director of Corporate Services you should try to speak to your Line Manager or Director. You must state the reason for your absence and the date on which you expect to return to work. On the fourth day of incapacity you must notify the Director of Corporate Services of your continuing absence providing some details as to your progress and possible return to work date.

5.2.2

If you are unable to return to work on the date expected you must call your line manager again as outlined above.

5.2.3

If your absence lasts for less than 8 calendar days, on your return to work you must complete an Absence Self-Certification (which is available from your manager) explaining the reason for your absence.

5.2.4

If your absence lasts for 8 or more consecutive calendar days then you must:5.2.4.1 Get a medical certificate (MED3) from your GP confirming your inability to attend work. This form must be sent to the Director of Corporate Services immediately. 5.2.4.2 If you cannot return to work when your medical certificate expires, you must obtain another medical certificate from your GP and send it to the Director of Corporate Services immediately. Certificates are required to cover the total period of your absence. 5.2.4.3 You must telephone your line manager at least one working day before you return to work so that arrangements can be made for your return. 5.2.4.4 If your last medical certificate does not specify a date on which you can resume your duties before you return you must supply the Company with a medical clearance certificate confirming that you are fit to return to work.

5.3

On your return to work, the sickness self-certification form must be completed with your line manager or the Director of Corporate Services.

5.4

The Company may ask you to submit a medical certificate at any time in the case of repeated short-term absence or to require you to submit to a medical examination by a practitioner selected by HouseMark.

5.5

Failure to comply with these rules or submission of false self-certification statements or submission of any false information or if there are reasons to doubt that your absence is due to sickness, may be treated as disciplinary matters in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedures.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 5.6

Should your GP issue a “may be fit to work note� the Company will take into account any advice / recommendations given by your GP in that note.

5.7

The company will usually request that you attend a meeting to consider the following – 5.7.1

the advice that has been given by your GP and whether further advice is required;

5.7.2

your ability to return to/remain in your job in view both of your capabilities and the Company's business needs and any adjustments that can reasonably be made to your job;.

5.7.3

possible redeployment opportunities and whether any adjustments can reasonably be made to assist you to redeploy;

5.7.4 where you are able to return to your job or a redeployed job, lighter duties; agreeing a return to work programme. 5.8

You should at all stages seek to inform the Company as to any duties/roles that you feel that you might be able to still safely undertake despite your ill health.

5.9

Where you disagree with the advice given by your GP the Company may at its discretion obtain a further opinion from an alternative medical expert / occupational health advisor or may write to your GP requesting clarification.

5.10

The Company cannot guarantee that it will be able to implement any adaptations / adjustments recommended by your GP or any other medical expert / occupational health advisor.

5.11

If it is not possible for the Company to implement such adaptations / adjustments it will explain the reasons for this to you. If this is the case, the Company will agree a timescale for review and/or a further meeting. Interviewing employees after a period of sickness absence

5.12

Your line manager, your director or the Director of Corporate Services may interview you after a period of sickness absence to ascertain the nature of the illness and to be satisfied that the reason given for the absence is valid.

5.13

You should note that to simply say that you have been sick is not adequate justification for absence from work.

5.14

Where the nature of the illness is personal, particularly where the employee is of the opposite sex, the Director of Corporate Services will arrange for a member of the same sex as the employee to carry out the return to work interview. HouseMark will question medical reports that are unclear, or ask for further and better information when these reports are unhelpful in understanding the true circumstances surrounding any absence.

5.15

If returning to work after a long period of sickness, you are encouraged to produce a medical report confirming your health status and fitness to resume normal duties. If your absence or absence record is causing concern, the Director of Corporate Services and your line manager will discuss this with you.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Medical examination 5.16

You are required to undergo any reasonable medical examination, which may be deemed appropriate by HouseMark from time to time. HouseMark will bear all reasonable costs arising in such cases. Frequent sickness absence

5.17

If you are frequently absent on the grounds of sickness, you may be asked to obtain a medical report as evidence of your suitability for continuing in employment with HouseMark, particularly in your current job occupation. Occupational sick pay

5.18

You are entitled to occupational sick pay in accordance with the following scale or as defined in your employment contract:    

during probationary period - up to 2 weeks’ full pay at discretion of House Mark up to 2 years of service - 1 months full pay ¾ pay thereafter for a maximum of 26 weeks after 2 years of service - 3 months full pay and ¾ pay thereafter for a maximum of 26 weeks after 5 years of service - 6 months’ full pay ¾ pay thereafter for a maximum of 26 weeks

5.19

Sick leave is based on a rolling year. Any paid sickness in the 12 months preceding the first day of any sickness period will be included when calculating the above period of paid leave. Thus any sick leave already taken during the 12 months immediately preceding the first day of a period sickness will be deducted from your entitlement for any new period of sickness absence.

5.20

You are entitled to occupational sick pay in accordance with the above scale if you are sick on holiday, assuming a doctor’s certificate is provided covering the full period of sickness.

5.21

The benefit outlined above is discretionary and may be suspended where HouseMark’s SMT has justified belief that the absence does not fall under the heading of sickness.

5.22

To qualify for any payment the correct absence from work procedures must be followed.

5.23

If you have any doubts at all about your rights or duties under the Sick Pay Scheme, please contact the Director of Corporate Services for advice.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook

6.

Dentists, Doctors, Opticians and other Appointments

6.1

Whenever possible such appointments should be made outside of working hours using the flexi-time system. There is no right to time off for non-emergency check-ups.

6.2

Where it is absolutely essential that such appointments are arranged during your working day, disruption must be kept to a minimum by arranging the appointment at the very start of the day, at the end of the day or at lunchtime. You must obtain prior approval from your line manager and you will be asked for evidence of your appointment time and this must be shown to your line manager or to the Director of Corporate Services.

6.3

You have the right not to be unreasonably refused paid time off during working hours to receive ante-natal care. You may be asked to provide written evidence of appointments.

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7.

Accidents

7.1

Absences resulting from accidents at work are treated as sickness absence and the Company's normal rules will apply to such absences (Section 5).

7.2

All accidents and incidents (including near-miss incidents) must be reported to the appropriate line manager/supervisor so that the cause can be ascertained, the control measures re-evaluated and action taken to prevent recurrence.

7.3

All accidents and incidents, no matter how minor, must be recorded in the Accident Book.

7.4

It is your responsibility to provide complete and accurate information about the accident to enable management to find out what went wrong, learn lessons and take action to prevent or reduce such accidents/incidents in the future.

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8.

Holidays

8.1

Your annual holiday entitlement is set out in your contract of employment. A week for the purposes of holiday calculation is your normal working week excluding overtime.

8.2

Employees who have been permanently employed by HouseMark for three years or more will be entitled to an additional two days’ annual leave a year (pro rata for parttime staff).

8.3

You are not entitled to carry forward any holidays from one holiday year to the next except in exceptional circumstances and only with the express prior written authority of your director. You may be granted permission to carry forward up to five days (pro rata for part-time staff) into the next holiday year. If you believe there is a genuine reason why you should carry over some leave, you must make a written request to your director with reasons, preferably by 31 January, requesting permission to do so. Any carried forward holiday must be taken as soon as possible and no later than 31 May.

8.4

Examples of circumstances when permission may be granted are: 

your team has been short-staffed for the previous six months and so you have not been able to take leave

you have been on long term sick leave

8.5

No payments will be made in lieu of holiday not taken except in respect of your last year of employment as set out below.

8.6

Holidays must be arranged at the mutual convenience of both you and the Company. You must give the Company reasonable notice of your intention to take your holiday. All applications for holiday must be made using the Company’s online Holiday Request system. Once your line manager has authorised your request, you should record your leave dates on the Notes calendar. You are only allowed to take holidays if the Company has approved them in advance.

8.7

You are not allowed to take more than 10 consecutive working days holiday unless you have obtained the express prior written permission of your line manager to do so.

8.8

The Company may object to you taking holiday on dates requested by you and/or on bank/public holidays if it is inconvenient to the business. Holiday requests will be granted on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

8.9

If you start or leave your employment during the holiday year you are entitled to pro rata annual entitlement for each week of service in that holiday year. If you join HouseMark during the holiday year, you will be entitled to 2.08 days’ holiday for each completed month of service during the year. If you leave HouseMark’s employment at any time during the year, you will receive payment for any unused holiday entitlement less 2.08 days for each month of the holiday year remaining

8.10

Upon termination of your employment you will be entitled to pay in lieu of any holiday accrued in your last holiday year but not taken. If you have taken holidays in excess of entitlement the Company shall be entitled to deduct the excess pay from your final salary payment.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 8.11

Unused accrued holiday pay in excess of the statutory minimum holiday entitlement will not be paid at the end of employment where termination is on grounds of gross misconduct or where the full contractual notice period is not served and worked by you.

8.12

The Company may require you to take (or not to take) any outstanding accrued holiday entitlement during your notice period.

8.13

Staff on maternity leave will be required to take any accrued annual leave entitlement before returning to work unless approval is granted by their Director.

8.14

If you become sick on leave and produce a medical certificate you will be regarded as being on sick leave on the date of signing of the medical certificate. This will be a private medical certificate for which a charge may be made and HouseMark will reimburse you for the cost.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook

9.

Unauthorised Absence

9.1

Any absence which does not comply with the provisions of your contract of employment relating to holidays or sickness or which has not been expressly authorised by the Company in advance will be regarded as an unauthorised absence and will result in disciplinary action being taken.

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10.

Jury Duty

10.1

Leave of absence will normally be granted if you are called for jury duty. If you receive a notice of jury duty, you must notify your line manager as soon as possible in order that arrangements may be made to cover your position.

10.2

When on jury duty, you will be expected to work as much of your regularly scheduled work week as the jury duty schedule permits, to the extent that combined time on jury duty and at work does not exceed the number of hours you are normally scheduled to work during a normal working week (unless additional time is absolutely necessary and mutually agreed upon by you and the Company).

10.3

If you hold a position crucial to the operation of the Company, or in the event that your absence from work over a long period of time could cause hardship to the Company, the Company may petition the jury selection committee to excuse you from jury duty. Also, you may personally petition to be excused from jury duty if jury duty would cause hardship to your family.

10.4

An employee serving on jury duty must present the official court cheque or other documentation of remuneration to the Director of Corporate Services so that arrangements for the payment of any difference between regular pay and jury duty compensation can be made. In no event will make-up pay exceed compensation for the number of hours you are normally scheduled to work during a given work week, and in any case payment will only be made to cover the period that the jury is expected to attend the court.

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11.

Time Off for Public Duties

11.1

HouseMark is required to permit employees who hold certain public positions reasonable time off to perform duties associated with their role. Who is covered by the provisions?

11.2

The provisions apply to employees who are: 

justices of the peace

members of any statutory tribunal

in England and Wales, members of a health authority or special health authority or a primary care trust

in Scotland, members of a health board

in England and Wales, members of the managing or governing body of an educational establishment maintained by a local education authority or a further or higher education corporation

in Scotland, members of a school council or board or the board of management of a self governing school or a collage of further education or the governing body of a central institution or a designated institution

members of the General Teaching Councils for England and Wales

members of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency

in England and Wales, members of the boards of prison visitors, and in Scotland, prison visiting committees

members of the service authority for the National Criminal Intelligence Service of the service authority for the National Crime Squad

members of the Scottish water and sewerage authorities and water industry consultative committees

Who is not covered by the provisions? 11.3

The provisions do not cover: 

anyone who is not an employee, for example an independent contractor or freelance agent

members of the police service and armed forces

Crown servants where the public duties are connected with certain political or other activities restricted under the terms of their employment

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 11.4

The duties for which an employer is required to permit reasonable time off are any of the duties of a justice of the peace, or as regards membership of any one of the bodies listed above: 

attendance at meetings of the body or any of its committees or sub-committees

performance of duties approved by the body which need to be done in discharging its functions or those of any of its committees or sub-committees.

What is reasonable time off? 11.5

The amount of time which you are permitted to take off to perform these public duties, and the occasions on which, and any conditions subject to which, time off may be taken, are those that are reasonable in all the circumstances, having regard in particular to the following: 

how much time off is required overall to perform the duties and how much time off is required to perform the particular duty in question

how much time off the employee has already been permitted for this purpose or for trade union duties and/or activities; and

the circumstances of HouseMark’s business and the effect of the employee’s absence upon it.

Payment for time off 11.6

There is no legal obligation on HouseMark to pay staff for time off for public duties.

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12.

Inclement Weather

12.1

The Company will endeavour to open for business every normal working day regardless of weather conditions.

12.2

If it is impossible for you to come into work due to inclement weather conditions, you must telephone within 30 minutes of your scheduled starting time to inform your line manager.

12.3

If inclement weather conditions cause a substantial delay in your arrival at work, you should notify your line manager as soon as possible.

12.4

If the Company decides that in the interests of health and safety, employees should be permitted to leave for home before the end of their normal working day due to weather conditions then employees will be paid at their basic rate as if they had stayed at work and hours will be credited on the flexi-time system up to the end of their normal working day.

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13.

Telephones (Landline and Mobile

13.1

During working hours, telephone calls of a personal nature should be accepted or made only in cases of emergency.

13.2

Your personal mobile telephone must be on ‘silent’ mode during working hours. You should normally restrict personal mobile telephone calls and text messages to their rest breaks.

13.3

On an occasional basis you agree to be contacted outside working hours by the Company and/or clients and customers to assist with operational matters.

13.4

You may be provided with a mobile telephone or blackberry in order to assist with the proper performance of your duties. The device remains the property of the Company and the Company may withdraw its use and it must be returned to the Company on the termination of your employment. The device is your responsibility and if it is lost you will be responsible for the replacement cost.

13.5

Employees with a HouseMark mobile phone, blackberry or PDA of any kind, are permitted to use it to make personal calls and send texts on condition that they reimburse the Company in full for their usage. You will be provided with an itemised monthly statement and you are required to identify your personal usage each month. You will then be recharged direct or the costs will be deducted from your monthly business expenses claim. Use of mobile phones in vehicles

13.6

It is unlawful to use a hand-held mobile telephone when driving in the UK. Time spent waiting at traffic lights or in a traffic jam constitutes driving.

13.7

If you drive a vehicle (whether company cars, own car or hire car) whilst carrying out your work, you are required to comply with this law. If you do not comply, you will be subjected to disciplinary proceedings. Repeated breach of this policy will result in dismissal. If you are convicted of using a mobile phone whilst driving a HouseMark vehicle, you will be personally liable for the fine.

13.8

You must ensure that hand-held phones are only used when the car is stationary, in a safe position, the engine is switched off and the key is out of the ignition.

13.9

The AA advises that hands-free phones are not automatically safer than hand-held phones, and their use should be avoided whenever practical. Employees are advised to heed this advice and should the use of a hands-free phone be necessary, you should slow down and keep conversations short and simple.

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14.

Dress Code

14.1

Proper attire is necessary to maintain an image which reflects the Company's professionalism and high standards. It is important that dress is appropriate for the Company’s environment.

14.2

Trainers, jeans, shorts or other casual clothing are not considered to be appropriate attire for the HouseMark office as it is visited by customers, partners and suppliers. You must wear business clothes when representing HouseMark such as at meetings with customers and attending exhibitions, events and seminars. If you are uncertain about what is suitable clothing, please discuss with your line manager or the Director of Corporate Services.

14.3

If you arrive for work inappropriately dressed, we reserve the right to require you to go home and get changed and not to pay you in respect of any time lost.

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15.

Smoking

15.1

Purpose This policy has been developed to protect all employees, service users, customers and visitors from exposure to second-hand smoke and to ensure compliance with laws that ban smoking in public places (including workplaces). Exposure to second-hand smoke, also known as passive smoking, increases the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. Ventilation or separating smokers and non-smokers within the same airspace does not stop potentially dangerous exposure.

15.2

The office It is the Company’s policy that all of its workplaces are smoke-free and all employees have a right to work in a smoke-free environment. Smoking is prohibited throughout the HouseMark office and the Riley Court building with no exceptions. This policy applies to all employees, consultants, customers and visitors. Smoking is only permitted outside the rear entrance of the Riley Court building.

15.3

Homeworkers There is no restriction on staff smoking in their home office, provided that the office is not occupied by another HouseMark employee or by anyone conducting HouseMark business, such as a customer or consultant.

15.4

Company cars Smoking is prohibited in all company vehicles.

15.5

Implementation Overall responsibility for policy implementation and review rests with the Director of Corporate Services. All staff are obliged to adhere to and to facilitate the implementation of the policy. The person named above shall ensure that all existing employees, consultants and contractors are aware of the policy and of their role in the implementation and monitoring of the policy. They will also ensure that all new personnel are given a copy of the policy on recruitment or induction. Appropriate 'No smoking' signs will be clearly displayed at or near the entrances to the premises and elsewhere around Company premises. Signs will also be displayed in Company vehicles that are covered by the new law.

15.6

Non-compliance Non compliance with this policy and relevant law will be treated as a disciplinary offence. Help to Stop Smoking The NHS offers a range of free services to help smokers give up. Visit www.smokefree.nhs.uk or call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4332 for details. Alternatively you can text ‘GIVE UP’ and your full postcode to 88088 to find your local NHS Stop Smoking Service.

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16.

Fire

16.1

In general, you should seek to ensure good standards of housekeeping at all times. A clean and tidy workplace is less likely to be a source of fire. Any act or omission, which you believe may constitute a fire risk, should be immediately notified to the Office Manager or your line manager, who will take appropriate action.

16.2

All potential fire hazards will be identified and the risks assessed and reduced to an acceptable level.

16.3

Fire fighting equipment will be provided and emergency lighting and fire alarm points fitted as appropriate, following a fire risk assessment. The fire alarm is tested at weekly intervals by our landlord.

16.4

Fire marshalling areas have been identified and are located in areas beyond any danger from fire. Employees will be made aware of where they have to report in case of fire. Fire alarms will be activated periodically, without prior notice to employees.

16.5

Details of the Company’s fire/emergency procedures, exit and assembly points, are displayed around the Company’s premises. You must familiarise yourself with the Company’s emergency procedures to minimise the dangers caused by fire.

16.6

You must ensure that you are aware of the nearest fire exit and its alternative for emergency use.

16.7

Regular fire drills will be held to ensure the Company’s fire procedures are effective and to ensure you are familiar with them. These drills are important and must be taken seriously.

16.8

Remember: On discovering a fire:  operate the nearest fire alarm  alert other people within your immediate vicinity  do not attempt to tackle the fire unless you have been trained or you feel competent to do so On hearing the fire alarm:  do not delay - evacuate the premises immediately and proceed to the fire assembly point  do not stop to collect coats and personal possessions  remain calm and proceed in an orderly manner  do not re-enter the premises or site until the Fire Brigade is satisfied that the premises and site are safe to re-enter

16.9

Under no circumstances must you employees put yourself or others at risk in a fire situation.

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17.

Career Development Courses

17.1

HouseMark values its employees and is committed to their development. HouseMark therefore offers career development opportunities (usually long term courses leading to qualifications). Please complete the appropriate application form, which is available from the Director of Corporate Services.

17.2

The number of places available will depend upon the budget that has been agreed for the year, the relative cost of courses and the ability to release staff where time off is required. Staff will not normally be eligible to apply for funding in their first year of employment.

17.3

Once an application has been approved by the SMT, the following terms and conditions will apply:

17.4

Applicants will be expected to participate in regular review meetings with their line manager to discuss progress on the course.

17.5

Time off for day release will be restricted to the minimum time necessary to attend the course.

17.6

HouseMark expects applicants to remain within its employment for at least one year after completing the course. Applicants leaving earlier will, upon termination of their employment, be required to pay a sum proportionate to the remaining period. The sum reclaimed will be calculated on a monthly basis, proportionate to the overall financial contribution made by the HouseMark.

17.7

In the event that the applicant fails to complete the course or fails to satisfy the assessment requirements of the course, their line manager will discuss this matter with them. If the reasons submitted are unsatisfactory, or unacceptable, the applicant will be required to repay the full amount paid by HouseMark. Exam/study leave

17.8

If you are undertaking a course financially sponsored by HouseMark, you are entitled to paid time off to attend the course and any workshops and examinations.

17.9

If your course is not sponsored by HouseMark, you are not entitled to paid time off to pursue the course unless you have the prior written authorisation of the Chief Executive.

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18.

Company Property

18.1

On request and in any event on termination of your employment for any reason, you are required to return to HouseMark all company property including any company car, company credit or charge cards, your security pass, all keys, computer hardware and software including discs, USB sticks and all documents in whatever form (including notes and minutes of meetings, customer lists, diaries and address books, computer printouts, plans, projections) together with all copies (irrespective of by whom and in what circumstances such copies were made) which are in your possession or under your control.

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19.

Gifts to Staff

19.1

Staff may, in certain circumstances and subject to strict rules, accept offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality. However, staff must at all times, be and be seen to be, fair, impartial and unbiased. The receipt of gifts, benefits and hospitality can create conflicts of interest and may give rise to an adverse inference as to the integrity of either the donor or the staff member. At the same time HouseMark recognises that a refusal may cause embarrassment or offence.

19.2

Staff receiving offers of gifts or hospitality should at all times be aware of the wider situation in which the offer is made. For example, you should consider whether the donor is in, or may be seeking to enter into, a business relationship with HouseMark.

19.3

You must use their common sense to differentiate between a thank you gift, such as a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine at Christmas, and a gift that may influence a decision or situation. It is permissible to accept a thank you gift provided the value is under ÂŁ100.

19.4

You must not accept gifts, benefits or hospitality that might in any circumstances be thought to influence their judgement or where to do so could bring discredit upon the company.

19.4

Before accepting any thank you offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality of ÂŁ100 or over in value, or any such offers that may influence a decision, you should seek the approval of their Director. If approval is given, the receipt of the gift, benefit or hospitality must be reported to and registered by the Director of Corporate Services.

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Section 2: Policies

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1.

Disciplinary Policy Purpose and scope

1.1

This policy is designed to help and encourage all employees to achieve and maintain standards of conduct, attendance and job performance. The company rules this procedure apply to all employees/workers. The aim is to ensure consistent and fair treatment for all in the organisation. Principles

1.2

Informal action will be considered, where appropriate, to resolve problems.

1.3

No disciplinary action will be taken against an employee until a reasonable investigation of the allegations has been undertaken.

1.4

The employee will be advised of the nature of the complaint against him or her and will be given the opportunity to state his or her case before any decision is made at a disciplinary meeting.

1.5

Employees will be provided, where appropriate, with written copies of evidence and relevant witness statements in advance of a disciplinary meeting. Witness statements may be, in appropriate circumstances be anonymised.

1.6

At all stages of the procedure the employee will have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative, or work colleague.

1.7

No employee will be dismissed for a first breach of discipline except in the case of gross misconduct, when the penalty will be dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice.

1.8

An employee will have the right to appeal against any disciplinary action.

1.9

The procedure may be implemented at any stage if the employee's alleged misconduct warrants this. The Procedure First stage of formal procedure

1.10

This will normally be either: 

an improvement note for unsatisfactory performance if performance does not meet acceptable standards. This will set out the performance problem, the improvement that is required, the timescale, any help that may be given and



the right of appeal. The individual will be advised that it constitutes the first stage of the formal procedure. A record of the improvement note will be kept for six months, but will then be considered spent – subject to achieving and sustaining satisfactory performance.

or

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a first warning for misconduct if conduct does not meet acceptable standards. This will be in writing and set out the nature of the misconduct and the change in behaviour required and the right of appeal. The warning will also inform the employee that a final written warning may be considered if there is no sustained satisfactory improvement or change.

Final written warning 1.11

If the offence is sufficiently serious, or if there is further misconduct or a failure to improve performance during the currency of a prior warning, a final written warning may be given to the employee. This will give details of the complaint, the improvement required and the timescale. It will also warn that failure to improve may lead to dismissal (or some other action short of dismissal) and will refer to the right of appeal. A copy of this written warning will be kept by the supervisor but will be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after 12 months subject to achieving and sustaining satisfactory conduct or performance. Dismissal or other sanction

1.12

If there is still further misconduct or failure to improve performance the final step in the procedure may be dismissal or in appropriate cases, some other action short of dismissal such as demotion, disciplinary suspension with no pay or transfer. Dismissal decisions can only be taken by the appropriate manager, and the employee will be provided in writing an outline of the reasons for dismissal, the date on which the employment will terminate, and the right of appeal.

1.13

If some sanction short of dismissal is imposed, the employee will receive details of the complaint, will be warned that dismissal could result if there is no satisfactory improvement in the future, and will be advised of the right of appeal. Gross misconduct

1.14

The following list provides some examples of offences which are normally regarded as gross misconduct:              

1.15

theft, dishonesty, falsification of documents or fraud physical violence/intimidation/aggressive behaviour or bullying deliberate/wilful negligent damage to property serious misuse of an organisation’s property or name deliberately accessing internet sites containing pornographic, inappropriate, offensive or obscene material serious insubordination unauthorised absence failing to follow a reasonable management instruction unlawful discrimination or harassment bringing the organisation into serious disrepute serious incapability at work brought on by alcohol or illegal drugs causing loss, damage or injury through serious negligence a serious breach of health and safety rules a breach of trust and confidence.

If you are accused of an act of gross misconduct, you may be suspended from work on full pay, whilst the alleged offence is investigated. If, on completion of the investigation and the full disciplinary procedure, the organisation is reasonably satisfied that gross

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HouseMark Staff Handbook misconduct has occurred, the result will normally be summary dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice. Appeals 1.16

An employee who wishes to appeal against a disciplinary decision must do so within five working days. A nominated senior manager will hear the appeal and his/her decision is final.

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2.

Protocol for Dealing with Complaints about Work Colleagues This protocol should be read together with HouseMark’s Grievance Policy and Harassment Policy Introduction

2.1

This protocol applies to situations where an employee has a problem with the behaviour or actions of another member of HouseMark’s staff and where this problem is not serious enough to warrant taking out a grievance or action under the harassment policy.

2.2

There may be occasions when you feel unhappy or dissatisfied with the behaviour or actions of another employee. In these situations there can be a temptation to talk to other colleagues about it rather than take the matter up with the person concerned. Purpose of the protocol

2.3

The aim of this protocol is to resolve problems fairly, effectively and speedily, to improve communications between staff, and to prevent rumours and a blame culture developing. If problems cannot be resolved through the protocol then they should be dealt with under the grievance or harassment procedure as appropriate. Protocol If I experience difficulties with the behaviour or actions of another member of staff, I will ask for a one-to-one private meeting with the person to raise my concerns and I will actively listen to feedback from that person and seek to reach an amicable resolution If a member of staff expresses concerns to me about my behaviour or actions, I will actively listen to what they have to say and consider whether the concern is justified and if so, agree with them what action I will take to achieve an amicable resolution If a member of staff tells me that they are dissatisfied with another employee, I will ask them to raise the matter with the person concerned. If they feel unable to do so, I will tell them to raise the issue with the person’s line manager.

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3.

Grievance Policy Dealing with grievances informally

3.1

If you have a grievance or complaint to do with your work or the people you work with you should, wherever possible, start by talking it over with your line manager. You may be able to agree a solution informally between you. Formal Grievance Procedure for all staff - except the Chief Executive and Directors Step 1: Statement of grievance

3.2

First set out your grievance in writing (with full details and reasons) to your Director or to the Director of Corporate Services. Step 2: Meeting

3.3

Once the Director has received the written details of the grievance and has had ‘reasonable opportunity’ to consider his or her response, you will be invited to attend a discussion meeting about it.

3.4

The timing and location of the meeting must be ‘reasonable’. The meeting will normally be held at HouseMark’s Coventry office.

3.5

The meeting will be attended by the line Director and the Director of Corporate Services. If the grievance is against the Director of Corporate Services, then another Director will take his or her place.

3.6

You must take all ‘reasonable steps’ to attend and you may be accompanied to the meeting by a fellow colleague or trade union representative.

3.7

Both parties will have the opportunity to put forward their case at the meeting.

3.8

Within 7 working days of the meeting, the line Director will inform you in writing of HouseMark’s decision. Step 3: Appeal

3.9

Should you still remain dissatisfied and wish to appeal, you must inform the Chief Executive.

3.10

You will be invited to an appeal meeting with the Chief Executive and another Director, who did not attend the initial meeting.

3.11

You must take all reasonable steps to attend the appeal meeting.

3.12

Within 7 working days of the meeting, the Chief Executive will inform you in writing you of the company’s decision.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Formal Grievance Procedure for Directors Step 1: Statement of grievance 3.13

First set out your grievance in writing (with full details and reasons) to the Chief Executive. Step 2: Meeting

3.14

Once the Chief Executive has received the written details of the grievance and has had ‘reasonable opportunity’ to consider his or her response, you will be invited to attend a discussion meeting about it.

3.15

The timing and location of the meeting must be ‘reasonable’. The meeting will normally be held at HouseMark’s Coventry office.

3.16

You must take all ‘reasonable steps’ to attend and you may be accompanied to the meeting by a fellow employee.

3.17

Both parties will have the opportunity to put forward their case at the meeting.

3.18

Within 7 working days of the meeting, the Chief Executive will inform you in writing of HouseMark’s decision. Step 3: Appeal

3.19

Should you still remain dissatisfied and wish to appeal, you may request an appeal to the HouseMark Board.

3.20

You will be invited to an appeal meeting presided over by two Board members representing each of the shareholders.

3.21

You must take all reasonable steps to attend the appeal meeting. Formal Grievance Procedure for Chief Executive Step 1: Statement of grievance

3.22

First set out your grievance in writing (with full details and reasons) to the Chair of the Board. Step 2: Meeting

3.23

Once the Chair has received the written details of the grievance and has had ‘reasonable opportunity’ to consider his or her response, you will be invited to attend a discussion meeting about it.

3.24

The timing and location of the meeting must be ‘reasonable’. The meeting will normally be held at HouseMark’s Coventry office.

3.25

You must take all ‘reasonable steps’ to attend and you may be accompanied to the meeting by a colleague, adviser or trade union representative.

3.26

Both parties will have the opportunity to put forward their case at the meeting.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 3.27

Within 7 working days of the meeting, the Chair will inform you in writing of HouseMark’s decision. Step 3: Appeal

3.28

Should you still remain dissatisfied and wish to appeal, you may request an appeal to the HouseMark Board.

3.29

You will be invited to an appeal meeting presided over by two Board members representing each of the shareholders.

3.30

You must take all reasonable steps to attend the appeal meeting.

3.31

Within 7 working days of the meeting, the Chair of the Board will inform you in writing of the company’s decision.

3.32

The Board’s decision will be final.

Right to be accompanied 3.33

You may be accompanied by a fellow employee or trade union representative to meetings at any stage in the grievance procedure. Mediation

3.34

In addition, where appropriate and at any stage of the process, either party can request that the matter is subject to mediation, including the use of external third party mediators in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable outcome.

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4.

Whistleblowing Policy

4.1

What is whistleblowing? A whistleblower is someone who discovers something that is wrong and alerts his employer or the relevant authorities to what is going on. The law recognises that whistleblowing occurs and protects employees who are whistleblowers from detrimental treatment such as dismissal. To be protected by the law, a whistleblower must fall within the stringent legal rules. Anyone who does not act in good faith or is motivated by personal gain will not be protected.

4.2

Our policy Our business is run in accordance with the law. It is our policy as an employer to ensure that at every level of management our business is conducted in such a way as to comply with all legal requirements that govern our activities. This policy applies to the way that we employ and manage our staff. We operate as a team and we expect our employees to all play their part as members of the team for the good of the business as a whole. We do not believe that any of our employees will ever feel the need to become a whistleblower. There is no reason for any employee to believe that he or she will suffer detriment for speaking up if they believe that something is wrong or that if we are alerted to it we will conceal or destroy evidence. However we are fully aware of our responsibility under the law and we will respect the legal protection afforded to a whistleblower.

4.3

Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 The Act protects whistleblowers from suffering detriment in employment and makes dismissal for certain disclosure automatically unfair. There is no qualifying period of employment for this protection..

4.4

Who is protected? A worker who makes a qualifying disclosure that is made to one of a category of persons set out in the Act and which is therefore a protected disclosure. ‘Worker’ is widely defined and includes employees and other workers as normally understood by the expression but also contractors under an employer’s control, persons on training schemes and also doctors, dentists and other professionals providing National Health Service schemes.

4.5

What is protected? A ‘qualifying disclosure’ is one of information that in the reasonable belief of the disclosing worker shows wrongdoing of one or more of the following kinds:      

a criminal offence was committed or is being or is likely to be committed a person has or is or is likely to fail to comply with a legal obligation a miscarriage of justice has occurred or is or is likely to occur the health and safety of any individual has been or is being or is likely to be endangered the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged that information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the above categories has been, is being, or is likely to be deliberately concealed.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 4.6

However if the person making the disclosure commits a criminal offence by making it or makes it in breach of legal professional privilege (eg solicitor’s secretary disclosing client information) it is not a qualifying disclosure.

4.7

To be a ‘Protected Disclosure’ the ‘Qualifying Disclosure’ must only be made to one of the following categories of person:    

The employer or (where the disclosure relates to the conduct of another person or matters for which another person other than the employer has legal responsibility) that other person A legal adviser in the course of getting legal advice A Minister of the Crown (where the worker is employed by someone appointed by a Minister of the Crown or a body whose members are so appointed) To one of the prescribed persons set out in the Public Interest Disclosure (prescribed Persons) Order 1999 (e.g. health and safety problem disclosure is to the Health and Safety Executive; Fraud : Secretary of State for Trade and Industry; consumer protection matters: Local Authority Consumer Protection unit; tax matters: the Inland Revenue) A person other than those set out above where the worker acts in good faith, reasonably believes the information to be substantially true, does not make the disclosure for personal gain, and it is in all the circumstances reasonable to make the disclosure. and i. ii. iii.

4.8

the worker reasonably believes he will be subjected to a detriment if the disclosure is made to his employer or the prescribed person; there is no prescribed person and the worker believes that the wrongdoing will be concealed or destroyed by the employer; the worker has previously disclosed the same information to the employer or the prescribed person;

Any other person where the disclosure is one of an “exceptionally serious failure” made in good faith, not for personal gain, where it was reasonable to make the disclosure.

What protection does the worker have? The worker is protected from detriment or dismissal as a result of making a protected disclosure. Dismissal is automatically unfair, and there is no limit on compensation for such a dismissal. Complaint of detriment or dismissal is made to an Employment Tribunal.

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5.

Equality and Diversity Policy Introduction

5.1

HouseMark is committed to equality of opportunity in its employment practices and in the delivery of its services. We aim to ensure that our workplaces and services are free from unlawful or unfair discrimination, because of ‘protected characteristics’ as defined by the Equality Act 2010. The protected characteristics are:         

age disability gender reassignment race religion or belief sex sexual orientation marriage and civil partnership pregnancy and maternity

5.2

Diversity recognises that within our staff and customers there are differences in needs, culture, background, preferences and values. HouseMark values such differences and is committed to flexibility in its practices.

5.3

We are committed to promoting equality throughout the organisation and require all employees, agency staff, HouseMark Board members, associates, contractors, partners and stakeholders to participate fully in achieving its aims. HouseMark will provide appropriate training, guidance and advice to meet these aims and commitments. Purpose

5.4

The purpose of this policy is to: 

provide HouseMark’s employees, agency staff, Board members, associates, contractors and stakeholders with a clear understanding of the company’s commitment to promoting equality and diversity in its role as an employer and service provider

provide guidance on the various forms of discrimination and harassment (see Appendix 1)

outline how HouseMark will achieve, maintain and measure compliance with its statutory and regulatory obligations

provide a framework for monitoring performance and achieving best practice across all business areas including employment and service provision.

Scope 5.5

Although as a private sector company some of the equality legislation does not apply to HouseMark, we will endeavour to abide by best practice in the field of equality and diversity.

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Responsibilities 5.6

All Board members, employees, agency staff, associates and contractors of HouseMark are responsible for upholding this policy. Managers have additional responsibilities in ensuring that those they supervise are following HouseMark’s equality objectives. All employees have a right to equality of opportunity and a duty to implement this policy. Discrimination is a serious disciplinary matter which will normally be treated as gross misconduct.

5.7

Overall responsibility for the implementation of the policy rests with the Chief Executive and the senior management team, who are responsible for developing a culture in which the policy can be implemented and operated, for implementing this policy, and for bringing it to the attention of their employees, agency staff, contractors and partners.

5.8

The Board is responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of the policy objectives and ensuring that HouseMark’s equality objectives underpin business activities where appropriate. Policy Statement

5.9

HouseMark aims to treat all people with whom it has contact fairly and with respect. HouseMark is fully committed to the promotion of equality of opportunity and the elimination of unfair and unlawful discrimination.

5.10 HouseMark aims to provide accessible services in ways that are fair and accountable. It also aims to meet customers’ needs and aspirations as far as possible and in doing so welcomes and values the diversity of the customers that it serves. 5.11 HouseMark recognises that some groups and individuals may experience disadvantage and believes that, as an employer and a service provider, it has a role to play in tackling disadvantage. Employment 5.12 HouseMark will ensure equality and welcome diversity in all aspects of employment policy and practice including:      

recruitment and selection training and development consultation and participation pay and reward/pensions and benefits grievance and employee welfare appraisal and promotion

5.13 HouseMark aspires to have a diverse workforce which broadly reflects the composition of the people to whom it delivers services. It aims to develop appropriate and effective policies and procedures to eliminate discrimination and to create a working environment where harassment of any kind is known to be unacceptable. 5.14 To achieve our commitments we will: 

ensure that all of our employees and applicants for employment are protected from unlawful discrimination in employment

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limit person and job specifications to those requirements, which are necessary for the effective performance of the job

conduct interviews on an objective basis and personal or home commitments will not form the basis of employment decisions except where necessary and relevant

 require employees responsible for selection decisions to undergo relevant training before taking part in recruitment and selection activities  maintain records in recruitment, training and personnel and report and use this information as a means of identifying areas of inequality  regularly review our recruitment, selection, training and promotion procedures to ensure they are meeting our commitments  provide quality training and support to meet our employees’ needs in recognising and discharging their work responsibilities  provide compulsory diversity awareness training and briefing seminars for all staff  assist all our employees to realise their full potential by ensuring that they receive guidance and support for their training and career development needs and promotion opportunities  wherever possible, modify employment practices and procedures to reduce barriers experienced by members of disadvantaged social groups in their, employment  regularly review our pay and benefits systems to ensure they are free from bias  ensure that our induction process includes clear explanations of the company’s stance on equality and diversity  ensure that our Staff Handbook and all HR procedures and guides include an express commitment to equality and diversity as set out in this policy 5.15 Further details of HouseMark’s equality objectives in employment are set out in its employment policies, procedures, terms and conditions. Harassment and discrimination in the workplace 5.16 HouseMark operates a zero tolerance approach to harassment and discrimination in the workplace and working environment. Harassment pollutes the working environment and can have a devastating effect on the health, confidence, morale and performance on those affected. It may also have a damaging effect on other employees not themselves the object of unwanted behaviour who are witness to it or who have knowledge of the behaviour. All employees are entitled to a working environment which respects their personal dignity and which is free from such objectionable conduct. Harassment is a disciplinary offence and it will normally be treated as gross misconduct. 5.17 Harassment is either:  unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which affects the dignity of men or women at work, or 

bullying of colleagues by intimidatory behaviour; or

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unfavourable conduct at work, whether verbal or non-verbal, towards someone based on a protected characteristic which could affect his/her dignity at work

5.18 Some types of harassment will be criminal offences. A single incident can amount to harassment if sufficiently grave. Examples of harassment include: 

physical assault against a person or group

verbal abuse and threats

damage to property or personal belongings

incitement – stirring up racial hatred by a variety of means such as leaflets and stickers

ridicule for cultural differences (eg language, dress, food, music etc.)

insensitive jokes and pranks

lewd comments about appearance

unnecessary body contact

displays of sexually offensive material, eg pin-ups

repeated instances of minor harassment acts

requests for sexual favours

speculation about a person's private life and or sexual activities

threatened or actual violence

threat of dismissal, loss of promotion, etc. for refusal of sexual favours

offensive jokes or comments such as jokes about a person being either too old or too young to do a job properly

age related jokes

5.19 Bullying is defined as: 

any form of physical or verbal attack, or

threat of such, or the abuse of position, in order to attack or undermine the confidence or ability of another, or

to place another employee under unreasonable pressure, or

subjecting another to detrimental treatment, by either act or omission

5.20 In making judgements about harassment it is the behaviour and its impact on the recipient, and not the intention of the perpetrator that is important. Employees may complain of behaviour that they find offensive even if it is not directed at them personally HouseMark 2010

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HouseMark Staff Handbook and they do not personally possess the relevant protected characteristic. 5.21 Employees are also protected from harassment related to Discrimination by Perception and Associative Discrimination. 5.22 Where harassment arises from people not directly employed by the company eg. customers or clients, such complaints will be taken seriously and will be pursued with the third party concerned, exercising whatever sanctions are available. 5.23 In adopting a victim-centred approach to reports of discrimination and harassment, HouseMark will ensure that any alleged incident of discrimination or harassment is investigated urgently, independently and thoroughly, and that objective, recorded evidence is available on file to support every employment decision. We will also ensure that support is offered to any individual who is genuinely under threat, and that anyone reporting discrimination or harassment will be protected against victimisation for making such an allegation, providing it is made in good faith. Reporting discrimination or harassment in the workplace 5.24 Advice and assistance on discrimination and harassment in the workplace can be sought at any time from the Director of Corporate Services. 5.25 If an individual employee feels they are being subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace, they should report this in the first instance to their line manager (unless the allegation is directed at the line manager, in which case a report should be made to any director). Depending on the nature of the allegation, the line manager may feel it is appropriate to resolve the matter informally, through a discussion with both employees (together or separately). However, if this is not felt to be appropriate, or where informal resolution has failed, a formal investigation will be carried out by the line manager, supported by the Director of Corporate Services (who has responsibility for HR matters), all of which will be clearly documented and evidenced. The procedure for dealing with reports of incidents is set out in HouseMark’s Anti-harassment and Bullying Policy. Provision of services 5.26 HouseMark will promote equality of opportunity and welcome diversity in all aspects of its service delivery. Our Customer Service Standards clearly set out the levels of service we aspire to provide, and these standards apply to all customers regardless of race, colour, ethnic and national origin, nationality, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marital status, HIV/AIDS status, responsibility for dependants and age (this list of groups is not exhaustive). 5.27 HouseMark will endeavour to ensure that its offices and venues used for events are accessible to people with disabilities. 5.28 HouseMark will endeavour to make its information accessible, and will comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. 5.29 In working with partners, HouseMark will retain overall responsibility for all services provided and will ensure that all partners uphold its equality and diversity objectives. HouseMark will require contractors and associates to demonstrate that they share HouseMark’s commitments to equality and diversity.

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Appendix 1 What is discrimination? 

Direct discrimination – when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic.

Associative discrimination or discrimination by association – direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.

Discrimination by perception – direct discrimination against someone because it is thought that they possess a particular protected characteristic even if they do not actually possess it.

Indirect discrimination - occurs where an individual’s employment is subject to an unjustified provision criterion or practice which for example, one sex or race or nationality or age group finds more difficult to meet, although on the face of it the provision, criterion or practice is ‘neutral’.

Harassment – unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual. Employees may complain of such offensive behaviour even if it is not directed towards them personally.

Harassment by a third party – harassment of employees by third parties such as customers or clients.

Victimisation – when an employee is treated less favourably because they have made or supported a complaint or raised a grievance under the Equality Act 2010 or are suspected of doing so.

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6.

Anti-Harassment and Bullying Policy

6.1

HouseMark operates a zero tolerance approach to harassment and bullying in the workplace and the working environment. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that all HouseMark’s employees are treated with dignity and respect and remain free from harassment or other forms of bullying at work. This policy covers incidents in the workplace and in settings outside the workplace, such as business trips, events or social functions organised for or on behalf of HouseMark and on or off its premises.

6.2

Harassment and bullying can have a devastating effect on the victim (illness, stress, loss of self-esteem), poor work performance) and the company (low morale, divisions amongst staff, lack of focus on customers and work priorities).

6.3

This policy is for guidance only and does not form part of your contract of employment. Please also refer to the company’s Equality and Diversity policy. Breach of this policy will be dealt with under HouseMark’s disciplinary procedure and, in serious cases, may be treated as gross misconduct leading to summary dismissal. Legislative framework

6.4

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, HouseMark has a duty to provide its workers with a safe place and system of work. This includes a workplace free from harassment and bullying which may, in certain circumstances, also amount to unlawful discrimination.

6.5

HouseMark is also responsible for ensuring that workers are not harassed, or discriminated against, because of their protected characteristics, ie  age  disability  gender reassignment  race  religion or belief  sex  sexual orientation  marriage and civil partnership  pregnancy and maternity

6.6

In some situations HouseMark itself may, in addition to a worker, be responsible for the actions of that worker towards their colleagues and towards third parties.

6.7

This policy confirms HouseMark’s commitment to identifying and eliminating all forms of harassment, intimidation and bullying Personnel responsible for policy implementation

6.8

HouseMark’s senior management team has overall responsibility for this policy, but has delegated day-to-day responsibility for overseeing and implementing action required under it to the Director of Corporate Services.

6.9

Line managers have a specific responsibility to operate within the boundaries of this policy and to facilitate its operation by ensuring that workers understand the standards of behaviour expected of them and by identifying and acting upon behaviour that falls below these standards. Line managers will be given training on the relevant legal and operational framework and best practice.

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6.10

All workers are responsible for treating their colleagues with dignity and respect. For the success of this policy everyone should ensure that they take the time to read and understand it. Every worker at HouseMark should consider whether their words or conduct could be offensive to others. Harassment and bullying behaviour may not always be intentional, but are never acceptable.

6.11

Workers should disclose any instances of harassment or bullying of which they become aware to the Director of Corporate Services. Who is covered by the policy?

6.12

This policy covers every individual working for HouseMark irrespective of their status, level or grade. It therefore includes senior managers, officers, directors, employees, consultants, contractors, trainees, home-workers, part-time or fixed-term employees, casual and agency staff (collectively referred to as workers in this policy). What is harassment?

6.13

Harassment is either:  unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which affects the dignity of men or women at work, or 

bullying of colleagues by intimidatory behaviour; or



unfavourable conduct at work, whether verbal or non-verbal, towards someone based on a protected characteristic which could affect his/her dignity at work

6.14

In making judgements about harassment, it is the behaviour and its impact on the recipient, and not the intention of the perpetrator, that is important. Employees may complain of behaviour that they find offensive even if it is not directed at them personally and they do not personally possess the relevant protected characteristic.

6.15

Employees are also protected from harassment related to Discrimination by Perception and Associative Discrimination.

6.16

Where harassment arises from people not directly employed by the company eg. customers or clients, such complaints will be taken seriously and will be pursued with the third party concerned, exercising whatever sanctions are available.

6.17

Physical conduct ranges from touching, pinching, pushing or brushing past someone to grabbing, shoving, punching and other forms of physical assault. In addition to the manner in which workers speak to and about one another, written material and pictures (including that disseminated by interactive and digital technologies) can be used to harass. This includes emails, text messages, film clips and photographs taken using cameras in mobile phones as well as content uploaded onto websites.

6.18

Harassment commonly, but not exclusively, targets the sex, sexual orientation, marital status, gender reassignment, race, religion, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, disability, HIV positive/AIDS status or age of the victim.

6.19

A single incident of unwanted or offensive behaviour to one individual can amount to harassment.

6.20

Non exhaustive examples of harassment include:

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6.21

unnecessary or unwanted physical contact, which the offender might perceive to be "horseplay", and which can include the invasion of personal space, touching or brushing against another worker's body as well as assault or coercing sexual relations

unwelcome sexual behaviour, which might be perceived by the offender to be harmless flirting, and which may involve suggestions, advances, propositions or pressure for sexual activity

suggestions that sexual favours may further an employee's career or that refusal of sexual favours may hinder it

continued suggestions for social activity within or outside the workplace after it has been made clear that such suggestions are unwelcome

inappropriate behaviour whether in the form of offensive or intimidating comments, or verbal banter, or gestures or insensitive jokes or pranks, or ridicule for cultural differences

the display or circulation of offensive pictures, objects or written materials which, for example, may be considered pornographic or offensive to particular ethnic or religious groups, this include emails, text messages, film clips and photographs taken using cameras in mobile phones as well as content uploaded onto websites

unwanted conduct or conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment on the grounds of their sex, race, sexual orientation, disability, religion or age including abuse or insults about cultures, customs, appearance or dress

ignoring or shunning a worker, for example, by deliberately excluding them from a conversation or a workplace social activity

damage to property or belongings

incitement – stirring up racial hatred

Sexual harassment – is harassment of a sexual nature directed at an individual which is not sexual in nature, but which is connected to the individual’s sex or that of another person. Thus if you are not personally subjected to sex related harassment, but are affected by the harassment of others, eg an environment where verbal banter of a sexist nature is common – this is defined as sex related harassment. (Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Amendment) Regulations 2008. What is bullying?

6.22

Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour which, through the abuse or misuse of power, makes the recipient feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated and threatened. Power includes both personal strength and the power to coerce others through fear or intimidation. Bullying is often a form of harassment and can undermine an individual’s self-confidence, competence and self-esteem.

6.23

Bullying is defined as:

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any form of physical or verbal attack, or

threat of such, or the abuse of position, in order to attack or undermine the confidence or ability of another, or

to place another employee under unreasonable pressure, or

subjecting another to detrimental treatment, by either act or omission

6.24

Bullying does not include legitimate and constructive criticism of a worker's performance or behaviour or reasonable requests made of workers.

6.25

Non-exhaustive examples of bullying include:     

6.26

shouting at, being sarcastic towards, ridiculing or demeaning others making physical or psychological threats overbearing supervision and making inappropriate and/or derogatory remarks about a worker's performance abuse of authority or power by those in positions of seniority unjustifiably excluding colleagues from meetings/communications

Workers who believe they are being subjected to harassment or that they are being bullied should not hesitate to use the procedures set out below. What to do if you are being bullied or harassed: informal procedure

6.27

If you consider that you are being bullied or harassed and you feel able to, you should initially attempt to resolve the problem informally, explaining clearly to the person responsible that their behaviour is not welcome and that it offends you or makes you uncomfortable. If this is too difficult or embarrassing for you to do on your own, you should seek support from your line manager or the Director of Corporate Services. They will provide confidential advice and assistance to workers who believe they have been bullied or harassed and will offer to assist in the resolution of any problems, whether through informal or formal means.

6.28

If you are in any doubt as to whether an incident or series of incidents which have occurred constitute bullying or harassment, then in the first instance you should approach your line manager or the Director of Corporate Services confidentially, on an informal basis. They will be able to advise you how your concerns should be dealt with.

6.29

If it is not appropriate or possible to resolve matters informally or, if after informal steps have been taken, the conduct continues, you should follow the formal procedure set out below. What to do if you are being bullied or harassed: formal procedure

6.30

The informal procedure may not be appropriate due to the nature of the harassment or bullying or because you do not feel able to talk directly to the person creating the problem. In these cases or where the informal procedure has been unsuccessful, you should make your complaint in writing to the Director of Corporate Services, whose role is to achieve a solution wherever possible and to respect the confidentiality of all concerned. See paragraph 6.32 for details of the information required to be included in your written complaint. (If the matter concerns the Director of Corporate Services, you should refer it to the Deputy Chief Executive).

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6.31

As a general principle, the decision to progress a complaint rests with you. However, HouseMark has a duty to protect all its workers and may be obliged to pursue a complaint independently if, in all the circumstances, it is considered appropriate to do so.

6.32

If you wish to make a formal complaint, you should write to the Director of Corporate Services setting out full details of the unwanted conduct. These details should include:     

the name of the harasser or bully the nature of the harassment or bullying the date(s) and time(s) when the harassment or bullying occurred the names of any witnesses any action taken so far to attempt to stop the harassment or bullying

Formal procedure: investigation 6.33

Complaints will be managed in a timely and confidential manner to establish full details of what happened. Your name and the name of the alleged harasser or bully will not be divulged other than on a "need to know" basis to those individuals involved in the investigation. The Director of Corporate Services will set out a timetable and communicate this to all parties. The investigation will be thorough, impartial and objective, and will be carried out with sensitivity and with due respect for the rights of all parties concerned.

6.34

Consideration will be given to whether the alleged harasser or bully should be redeployed temporarily, or suspended on full pay or whether reporting lines or other managerial arrangements should be altered pending the outcome of the investigation.

6.35

As part of the investigation, the Director of Corporate Services will meet with you to hear your account of the events leading to your complaint. You have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union official of your choice. The Director of Corporate Services will also meet with the alleged harasser or bully who may also be accompanied by a colleague or trade union official of their choice. It may also be necessary to interview witnesses to any of the incidents mentioned in your complaint. Where it is necessary to interview witnesses, the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised to them.

6.36

At the conclusion of the investigation, the Director of Corporate Services will submit a report to the Deputy Chief Executive. The Deputy Chief Executive will usually report his or her finding back to you within two weeks of your complaint first being reported. A copy of the Director of Corporate Services’ report together with the Deputy Chief Executive’s findings will be provided to you and to the alleged harasser.

6.37

If the Deputy Chief Executive finds that harassment or bullying has occurred, prompt action will be taken to stop the harassment or bullying immediately and prevent its recurrence. The findings will be dealt with under our disciplinary procedure. Consideration will be given to whether the harasser or bully should be dismissed and, if not, whether they should remain in their current post or be transferred. Even where a complaint is not upheld, (for example, where evidence is inconclusive), consideration will be given to how the ongoing working relationship between you and the alleged harasser or bully should be managed. This may involve, for example, arranging some form of mediation or counselling or a change in the duties or reporting lines of either party.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Formal procedure: appeal 6.38

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, you have the right to appeal the decision within 14 days of being notified of the outcome. You should submit your full written grounds of appeal to the Director of Corporate Services. The Director of Corporate Services may nominate another Director to hear your appeal. The person hearing your appeal will meet with you to discuss your appeal. You may be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union official of your choice. You will be notified of the outcome of the appeal within seven days of this meeting. This is the final stage of the formal procedure. Protection for those making complaints or assisting with an investigation

6.39

Workers who make complaints or who participate in any investigation conducted under this policy in good faith will be protected from any form of intimidation or victimisation as a result of their involvement.

6.40

Any worker who considers that they have been subjected to any such intimidation or victimisation should seek support from their line manager or the Director of Corporate Services. They may alternatively or additionally raise a complaint in writing under this procedure or HouseMark’s grievance procedure.

6.41

Any worker who is, after investigation, found to have provided false information or to have acted in bad faith will be subject to action under HouseMark’s disciplinary procedure. Harassment by third parties

6.42

The perpetrator of sexual or sex related harassment could be a third party such as a customer, client or contact. In these circumstances, you should follow the formal procedures for reporting harassment set out above. HouseMark has a duty to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to prevent harassment by third party, provided that it has been informed about the problem. Confidentiality

6.43

Confidentiality is an important part of the procedures provided under this policy. Every worker involved in the operation of the policy, whether making a complaint or involved in any investigation, is responsible for observing the high level of confidentiality that is required.

6.44

Breach of confidentiality may give rise to disciplinary action under HouseMark’s disciplinary procedure.

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7.

Dignity at Work Policy

7.1

HouseMark aims to ensure that all its employees have dignity at work. That means that there are some types of behaviour that are unacceptable which will include the following:  being offensive, abusive, malicious, insulting or intimidating to a fellow employee; or  engaging in unjustifiable criticism towards a fellow employee; or  imposing a punishment upon a fellow employee without reasonable justification; or  changing an employee’s duties or responsibilities to his or her detriment without reasonable justification

7.2

This policy applies to all employees, regardless of their rank or seniority. Breach of this policy will be treated as misconduct.

7.3

If you feel that your dignity at work has been compromised you should raise the matter through the Company’s grievance procedure.

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8.

Relationships at Work

8.1

This policy covers all HouseMark employees. It is intended to provide guidance in areas where personal relationships overlap with working relationships and is intended to ensure that individual members of staff are not open to allegations of impropriety, bias, abuse of authority or conflict of interest. It is also intended to set out employees’ rights and responsibilities to one another.

8.2

The Company values the integrity of professional relationships between its employees and in order that the Company’s business is conducted in a professional manner and perceived to be conducted in a professional manner it is necessary to distinguish between, and take account of, personal relationships which overlap with professional ones.

8.3

In the context of this policy, a personal relationship is defined as a: 

family relationship; or

sexual/romantic relationship

8.4

Both the Company and any employees who are in personal relationships with any other employee or Board member shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that personal relationships neither advantage nor unfairly disadvantage those involved.

8.5

If you become involved in a personal relationship with a fellow employee or Board member, it is the responsibility of both individuals to deal appropriately with any potential conflicts of interest. Ideally, such relationships should be reported, in confidence, to the Chief Executive or Director of Corporate Services, particularly where the relationship is between a manager and his/her subordinate.

8.6

You should take care that financial, familial or personal relationships entered into on a consensual basis do not advantage or unfairly disadvantage any member of staff or other individuals.

8.7

Employees involved in personal relationships should exercise due regard for the professional nature of the workplace and behave in a professional manner at all times paying due consideration to colleagues, customers and clients.

8.8

Wherever feasible, an employee will not be directly line managed by any employee with whom they are in a personal relationship. Where a personal relationship exists between employees who are in a line management or supervisory relationship at work, they must not be involved in recruitment, selection, appraisal, promotion or in any other management activity or process involving the other party whereby there may be a conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest as a result of the personal relationship. In such circumstances the relevant manager, senior manager or director should be informed and will, where appropriate, make alternative arrangements and confirm them in writing. The relevant manager, senior manager or director will treat these matters in confidence.

8.9

If there is any inequality or perceived inequality in the relationship, extra care should be taken and employees’ attention is drawn to the sexual harassment policy. Sexual harassment is defined as “any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”. Employees involved in personal relationships at work should

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HouseMark Staff Handbook ensure that any such relationships are fully consensual and are not and cannot be perceived as an exploitation of one party’s position in relation to another. 8.10

Any employee who is, or who has been, involved in a sexual/romantic relationship with another member of staff, and who does not consider their involvement to be truly consensual, will have the right to complain under the Company’s harassment policy / grievance procedure.

8.11

Applicants for employment within the Company will be asked to declare whether they are in a personal relationship with any existing employee of the Company. The existence of a relationship between an applicant and an employee will not bar anyone from applying to the Company for employment, but relationships must be declared at the outset.

8.12

External and internal applicants for posts will be asked to declare relevant personal relationships when applying for the post to ensure that the member of staff they are related to / in a relationship with, has no involvement in the application process.

8.13

Managers and staff who are uncertain about whether they should take action regarding a personal relationship (whether their own or someone else’s relationship that is affecting them) are invited to seek guidance in confidence from the Chief Executive or Director of Corporate Services.

8.14

Employees should be aware that a breach of this policy could lead to disciplinary action being taken.

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9.

Maternity Policy Ante-natal care

9.1

If you are pregnant, you have the right not to be unreasonably refused paid time off during working hours to receive ante-natal care.

9.2

The appointment must be made on the advice of a registered doctor, midwife or health visitor. After the first appointment, you must be prepared to produce a certificate confirming your pregnancy and your appointment card. Time off for ante-natal classes will be paid at the appropriate hourly rate, the calculation of which depends on whether or not you have regular hours. Maternity Leave

9.3

You are entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks maternity leave comprising of Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave. You are entitled to Maternity Leave provided you notify the Company on or before the 15th week before the baby is due of: 9.3.1

your pregnancy; and

9.3.2

your Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC); and

9.3.3

the date on which you intend your Ordinary Maternity Leave to start. This date cannot be earlier than the 11th week before the EWC; and

9.3.4

you must also provide the Company with the original Maternity Certificate (MAT B1) issued by your doctor.

9.4

Ordinary Maternity Leave is a maximum of 26 weeks.

9.5

You can choose to work right up to childbirth unless there are health and safety reasons which prohibit this.

9.6

Ordinary Maternity Leave commences on the date chosen by you except: 9.6.1

where Ordinary Maternity Leave commences early due to pregnancy related sickness absence.

9.6.2

Ordinary Maternity Leave will commence on the day of childbirth if this is earlier than your chosen start date.

Additional Maternity Leave 9.7

You will be entitled to Additional Maternity Leave. This is an additional period of 26 weeks’ maternity leave following immediately after the end of the Ordinary Maternity Leave. You therefore receive a total maximum period of maternity leave of 1 year.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Information from you - intended start of Maternity Leave 9.8

At the same time as giving the Company the Maternity Certificate and informing us of your pregnancy, you should also give notice of the date on which you intend to start maternity leave. If you cannot provide this information on or before the 15th week before the EWC you should do so as soon as is reasonably practicable.

9.9

If you change your mind about your intended start date of leave, you must give the Company at least 28 days notice either before the original or new start date of leave, whichever is the earliest.

9.10

If you give less than 28 days notice of the date on which you intend to start maternity leave, you must also give an explanation for the delay. Depending on circumstances, the Company may refuse to allow you to start your maternity leave until the 29th day after receipt of notice. Information from the company - expected date of return

9.11

Within 28 days of receiving your notice of intended start of Maternity Leave, the Company will send you a letter stating the expected date of your return from maternity leave.

9.12

The Company will assume unless otherwise advised by you that you wish to take your full maternity leave entitlement. Maternity payment period

9.13

Most employees are entitled to maternity benefit for the first 39 weeks of Maternity Leave. Maternity benefit is either Statutory Maternity Pay paid by the Company or Maternity Allowance paid by the Department of Work and Pensions. Statutory Maternity Pay

9.14

You will qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if: 9.14.1 you have been employed by the Company for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before EWC; and 9.14.2 you pay sufficient National Insurance Contributions; and 9.14.3 you notify the Company at least 28 days before the date you want payments of SMP to commence, or if not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable. If giving late notice, you should give the Company an explanation of the delay.

9.15

SMP will not be paid before the 11th week before the EWC.

9.16

There are two rates of SMP, an earnings related rate and a prescribed rate. The earnings related rate is paid during the first 6 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and the prescribed rate is paid during the following 33 weeks of Maternity Leave giving a total of 39 weeks maximum entitlement of SMP.

9.17

The earnings related rate of SMP is 90% of your average weekly earnings. Your average weekly earnings are calculated on the basis of average earnings during the 8 weeks immediately preceding the 14th week before the EWC.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Maternity Allowance 9.18

If you do not qualify for SMP, the Company will give you a form SMP1 to explain why you do not qualify. Employees who do not qualify for SMP will normally qualify for Maternity Allowance.

9.19

Maternity Allowance is paid at either 90% of average weekly earnings or the prescribed rate whichever is less.

9.20

Maternity Allowance is claimed by you from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). You would receive Maternity Allowance from the DWP not the Company. It is your responsibility to claim Maternity Allowance from the DWP at a Benefits Office. Working during the Maternity Payment Period (MPP)

9.21

If you work for the Company during the 26 weeks of your MPP you will receive normal remuneration for the periods you work.

9.22

If you: 9.22.1 are taken into legal custody, or 9.22.2 work for another Company during the Maternity Pay Period you must notify the Company (and the DWP if you are claiming Maternity Allowance) as soon as possible, as your entitlement to SMP or Maternity Allowance may be affected. Notice of actual date of birth

9.23

You should inform your line manager as soon as reasonably practical of your baby’s actual date of birth. Returning to work

9.24

As set out above, you will have received a letter from the Company stating the expected date of return to work. The expected date of return will be the first working day after the end of the full period of maternity leave to which you are entitled. Returning to work earlier than the expected date of return

9.25

If you wish to return before the expected date of return, you must give notice to the Company at least 8 weeks before your new intended return date, or if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as reasonably practicable. If the notice is given late, it must be accompanied by an explanation for the delay.

9.26

The Company will write to you within 28 days of receipt of your notice to confirm the new intended start date.

9.27

If less than 8 weeks notice is given by you, the Company may be entitled to refuse to allow you to return to work until the 8 week period has been given.

9.28 In any event you are not permitted to return to work within 2 weeks’ of the actual date of birth.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Returning to work later than the expected date of return 9.29

If you wish to postpone your return to work until after the end of your full entitlement to maternity leave, you must contact your line manager and submit a medical certificate confirming that you are suffering from a medical condition which prevents you from working, or provide another authorised reason (such as holiday or parental leave), for your returning late. The job

9.30

If you return at the end of Ordinary Maternity Leave, you are entitled to return to the same job.

9.31

It may not be practicable for the Company to offer you the same job after taking Additional Maternity Leave. If this is the case, the Company will offer you suitable alternative employment (unless a redundancy situation arises). Keeping in touch days

9.32

By agreement you may be entitled to work for up to 10 days during your maternity leave period.

9.33

If you wish to consider working during this period please contact the Director of Corporate Services who will notify you and agree terms and remuneration. Health and safety

9.34

Some circumstances exist where the Company may have to suspend you on full pay because of your condition. These circumstances might include: 9.34.1

where your pregnancy makes you unable to do your job adequately

9.34.2

where it is unlawful for a pregnant woman to do a particular job

9.34.3

where you are engaged on night work and produce a medical certificate that states that for health and safety reasons you should not continue working at night

9.34.4

where a health and safety risk to yourself and/or the baby has been identified but cannot be eliminated.

9.35

Before such action is taken, every possible effort will be made by the Company to change your hours of work or working conditions if there is a health and safety risk, or to find suitable alternative work for you.

9.36

The Company is required to assess the risks to health and safety to which pregnant employees and others could be exposed. Please refer to the Company’s Health and Safety Policy for details.

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10.

Paternity Leave Policy

10.1

Who is eligible to take paternity leave? Fathers and partners have had a statutory right to take two weeks’ paid paternity leave on the birth or placement for adoption of a child. You may take paid paternity leave provided the following conditions are satisfied: Birth  you will have or expect to have responsibility for the baby’s upbringing 

you are the biological father of the child or the mother’s husband or partner (including same sex couples) or one member of a couple who have jointly adopted a child

you have worked continuously for HouseMark for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is due

Adoption  you will have or expect to have responsibility for the adopted child’s upbringing 

10.2

you have worked continuously for HouseMark for 26 weeks ending by the end of the week in which the child’s adopter is notified of matching

What is the purpose of the leave? The leave must be used to provide care and support to the mother and/or the child and not for any other purpose.

10.3

Will I get paid when I am on paternity leave? Paternity leave is fully paid.

10.4

How much paternity leave do I get? Statutory paternity leave can be taken in one block of two consecutive weeks or as one week. You are not permitted to take two separate non-consecutive weeks or odd days here and there. Only one period of paternity leave may be taken regardless of how many babies are born.

10.5

When can paternity leave start? Paternity leave can start only from or after the actual onset of labour. Childbirth is unpredictable, and therefore a false start to labour does not trigger paternity leave. You might be able to use their statutory right to take (unpaid) family emergency leave to be with the mother during labour and then commence their paternity leave immediately after the birth.

10.6

The paternity leave has to be taken within 56 days of actual childbirth or the adoption placement. However, if the baby is born prematurely then the father or partner may elect to take paternity leave immediately or be allowed the additional concession to take leave within 56 days of the expected date of childbirth, as opposed to the actual date of the delivery.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 10.7

You may choose to follow the paternity leave immediately with a period of unpaid parental leave. This means that a period of up to six weeks’ leave may be taken at the time of the birth or placement. Employers should note that although 15 weeks’ notice is required for paternity leave, the employee need give only 21 days’ notice to take parental leave, and employers cannot postpone parental leave following a birth or placement.

10.8

You can change your mind about the date on which you would like to start your leave provided you have advised the Director of Corporate Services in writing, at least 28 days in advance, unless this is not reasonably practicable.

10.9

Application process - Birth You should discuss your intentions with your Director so that he or she can consider what arrangements to make to cover your absence. You must give written notice to the Director of Corporate Services by the end of the fifteenth week before the baby is expected outlining:   

the week the baby is due whether you wish to take one or two weeks’ leave when you want the leave to start

If you fail to meet this deadline, you lose the statutory right to take leave and to receive paternity pay. 10.10 You must also supply a copy of the mother’s maternity MATB1 certificate. 10.11 You must also complete and sign the Inland Revenue’s standard form of declaration to confirm that you fulfill the eligibility requirements for taking paternity leave and that the purpose of your absence from work is to care for the child or support the mother. This declaration is mandatory for claiming statutory paternity pay. 10.12 Once the baby is born, you must notify the Director of Corporate Services in writing of the date of birth, as soon as is reasonably practicable. You can change your mind about the date on which you would like to start your leave provided you have advised the Director of Corporate Services in writing, at least 28 days in advance, unless this is not reasonably practicable, such as in the event of a premature delivery. Application process - Adoption 10.13 You should discuss your intentions with your Director so that he or she can consider what arrangements to make to cover your absence. 10.14 You must give written notice to the Director of Corporate Services no more than seven days after the date on which the adopter is notified of having been matched with the child, or if it is not reasonably practicable to do so as soon practicable. The notice must state:    

the date on which the adopter was notified of having been matched with the child the date on which the child is expected to be placed with you whether you wish to take one or two weeks’ leave when you want the leave to start

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10.16 Provided certain conditions are met, you can change your mind about the date on which you would like to start your leave provided. Please contact the Director of Corporate Services for advice. Is my job affected? 10.17 On return to work you have the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions that existed prior to the leave.

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11.

Adoption Leave Policy Qualification

11.1

Adoption leave and pay is available to individuals who adopt, or one member of a couple where a couple adopt jointly.

11.2

Both paid adoption leave and paid paternity leave will be available to employees who qualify where an approved adoption agency notified the adopter of a match with a child on or after 6 April 2003.

11.3

To qualify for adoption leave, you must: 

have been notified that you have been matched by an adoption agency with a child for the purposes of adoption; and

have been continuously employed by the Company for a period of not less than 26 weeks ending with the week on which the notification was given; and

give the Company appropriate notice; and

give the Company a Matching Certificate as evidence of entitlement to adoption leave

Notification 11.4

You are required to inform the Director of Corporate Services in writing of your intention to take adoption leave within 7 days of being notified that you have been matched with a child for adoption, unless this is not reasonably practicable. If not reasonably practicable, you should notify the Company as soon as reasonably practicable with a written explanation for the delay.

11.5

The notice must include the following information: 

when the child is expected to be placed with you;

when you want to start the adoption leave;

11.6

You can change your mind about the date you want your leave to start provided you give at least 28 days notice in advance (again unless this is not reasonably practicable). If 28 days notice is not reasonably practicable, you should give notice as soon as reasonably practicable with a written explanation of the delay.

11.7

The Company will respond within 28 days of receipt of your notification. The Company will write to you setting out the date on which we expect you to return to work if the full entitlement to adoption leave is taken. This date is the Expected Return Date. Matching certificate

11.8

You must provide a completed matching certificate (available from the Agency that is placing the child with you).

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Duration of leave 11.9

You will be entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks Adoption Leave; 26 weeks Ordinary Adoption leave and 26 weeks Additional Adoption Leave. When leave can be taken

11.10 You can choose to start your leave either: 

from the date of placement (whether this is earlier or later than expected); or

from a fixed date which can be up to 14 days before the expected date of placement

11.11 Only one period of leave is available regardless of whether more than one child is placed for adoption as part of the same arrangement. 11.12 Sometimes the placement ends during the adoption leave period, for instance when the adoption agency that matched the employee with the child notifies the employee that the child will not in fact be placed with him or her or if the child dies or the match is considered unsuitable. If this happens, you are entitled to continue the adoption leave for up to 8 weeks after the end of the placement. 11.13 It should be noted that adoption leave is in addition to parental leave (currently 13 weeks or 18 weeks for parents of disabled children). Right to return to work 11.14 Where you take Ordinary Adoption Leave only (ie: up to 26 weeks) you have the right to return to the same job as you left and to be treated as if you had never been absent. 11.15 Where you take Additional Adoption Leave (ie: more than 26 weeks and up to 52 weeks’ leave) you have the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, to another job which is both suitable and appropriate in the circumstances. Notice of return to work 11.16 Where you intend to return to work on the Expected Return Date no notice is required to be given to the Company. 11.17 Where you wish to return to work before the Expected Return Date, you must give the Director of Corporate Services at least 8 weeks notice of the date you intend to return. This notice may be verbal. 11.18 If you fail to give at least 8 weeks notice then the Company is entitled to postpone your return and is not obliged to pay you your normal remuneration until the agreed return date. Adoption pay 11.19 Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) is available if you:  have 26 weeks continuous service by the week in which you are notified by an approved adoption agency that match has been made with a child; and

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HouseMark Staff Handbook  give appropriate notification to the Company; and  gives the Company a completed Self Certificate; and  have average weekly earnings of not less than the lower earnings limit apply to National Insurance Contributions. Notification 11.20 You must give the Company at least 28 days’ notice of the date upon which you expect any payment of Statutory Adoption Pay to begin, unless this is not reasonably practicable. 11.21 You can change your mind about the date you want your SAP to start provided you give at least 28 days notice in advance (again unless this is not reasonably practicable). 11.22 If 28 days notice is not reasonably practicable, you should give notice as soon as reasonably practicable with a written explanation for the delay. Amount paid 11.23 SAP will be the lesser of the prescribed rate per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings. This rate is the same for Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Paternity Pay. Alternative / additional financial help for adopters 11.24 If you have average weekly earnings below the lower earnings limit for National Insurance Contributions purposes and do not qualify for SAP you may be eligible for income support whilst on adoption leave.

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12.

Parental Leave Policy

12.1

HouseMark recognises the importance of balancing working lives with home and family commitments.

12.2

In line with HouseMark’s policy to adapt to developments in employment law and follow best practice in employment relations, we set out below the scheme adopted by the Company and the key facts about parental leave. Eligibility

12.3

To be eligible to take parental leave you must be a parent (including adoptive parents) of a child born (or adopted) after 15 December 1999; or anyone who has obtained formal parental responsibility for a child under the Children Act or its Scottish equivalent after 15 December 1999. We may need to request evidence of this, for example in the form of a birth certificate.

12.4

In addition you must have completed one year’s service with the Company. Entitlements

12.5

If you meet the conditions set out above you are entitled to a total of 13 weeks (unpaid) parental leave in respect of each child (18 weeks if you are the parent of a child entitled to a disability living allowance). Time limit

12.6

Parental leave can be taken up until the child’s fifth birthday. In the case of adopted children, leave can be taken up until five years have elapsed following placement (or until the child’s 18th birthday if that comes sooner);

12.7

If you have a child with disabilities, leave can be taken until the child’s 18th birthday. For the purposes of parental leave, a child with disabilities is one for whom disability living allowance has been awarded. Parental leave scheme

12.8

You must take parental leave in blocks or multiples of 1 week (blocks of one day for parents of disabled children).

12.9

You are required to give 21 days notice before you intend to take this leave.

12.10 If you intend to take leave immediately after the birth or placement for adoption you should give notice 21 days before the beginning of the expected week of childbirth, or placement. In rare cases where it is not possible to give 21 days notice of the date of placement for adoption, you should give the notice as soon as reasonably practicable. 12.11 You can take up to a maximum of four weeks leave in any calendar year. 12.12 The leave can be postponed by the Company for up to 6 months where the business cannot cope; but leave cannot be postponed if you give notice to take this leave immediately after the time your child is born or is placed with your family for adoption.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Your rights whilst on leave 12.13 At the present time there is no entitlement to remuneration, ie the leave is unpaid. However, you are guaranteed the right to return to the same job as before you went on leave. 12.14 In the case of mothers taking parental leave immediately following maternity leave there are special provisions depending on whether the mother has taken ordinary or additional maternity leave; 12.15 Ordinary maternity leave period (26 weeks) - return to the same job; 12.16 Additional maternity leave period - return to the same job unless this would not have been reasonably practicable at the end of the additional leave period and is still not reasonably practicable, in which case a similar job, which has the same or better status, terms and conditions as the old job. 12.17 During the period of parental leave you are entitled to the benefits of your terms and conditions of employment relating to notice of termination, compensation in the event of redundancy and disciplinary and grievance procedures. Postponement of leave 12.18 If we consider that your absence will unduly disrupt the business, the Company can postpone the leave for no longer than 6 months from the beginning of the period that you requested to start your parental leave; 12.19 Examples of the reasons which might justify the Company postponing parental leave include work being at a seasonal peak, a significant proportion of the workforce applying for parental leave at the same time or if your role is such that your absence at a particular time would unduly harm the business. 12.20 If this is the case and we need to postpone your leave we will discuss the matter with you and confirm the postponement arrangements in writing no more than 7 days after your notice to take leave. The notice will set out the reason for the postponement and the new dates of parental leave. If leave is postponed, the length of the leave will still be the equivalent of your original request.

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13.

Time Off for Dependants Policy

13.1

You have a legal right to take a reasonable period of unpaid time off work to deal with certain unexpected and sudden emergencies involving people who depend on you. The purpose of the time off is to give you time to make longer-term care arrangements, if required. The purpose is not to give you time to provide prolonged care yourself.

13.2

There is no length-of-service or minimum-contractual-hours requirement for family emergency leave. All employees who have a contract of employment are eligible if the leave is to care for a dependant and is in response to an emergency. Who counts as depending on me?

13.3

A spouse, partner, child or parent living at the same address as you qualifies as a dependant. So would any person who reasonably relies on you to assist or make arrangements for their care if he or she falls ill, is injured or is assaulted, such as a parent living in a care home. Tenants or lodgers living in the family home are excluded. What counts as an emergency?

13.4

You should have in place back-up arrangements for the care of your child(ren) or relative(s) consistent with your normal agreed working hours and pattern. Family emergency leave is to cater for unanticipated events.

13.5

Only leave taken to care for a dependant will qualify. Leave to handle domestic emergencies such as the washing machine breaking down do not count.

13.6

An emergency arises when someone who depends on you: 

is ill and needs your help

is involved in an accident or is assaulted

needs you to arrange their care

needs you to deal with an unexpected disruption or breakdown in care, such as a child-minder or nurse falling ill or failing to turn up

gives birth

is your child and has an unexpected incident at school, which you must attend to

What if I know in advance that the problem is going to arise? 13.7

This legal right only covers genuine unforeseen emergencies. If you know in advance that you will need to take time off, you should take another form of leave. For example, if it’s your child that’s involved, you may be entitled to a period of parental leave (please refer to HouseMark’s Parental Leave Policy). How much notice must I give?

13.8

You must inform (in person or by telephone) the Director of Corporate Services as soon as practicably possible of the reason for your absence, or of your need to leave

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HouseMark Staff Handbook the workplace (if you are already at work), and indicate how long you expect to be away from work. The Director of Corporate Services will then inform your team and other relevant staff of your absence and record the leave on your personnel record. 13.9

If you are unable to return to work the day after your first absence, you must inform the Director of Corporate Services and give an update on when you expect to return. On the day that you return to work, you must inform the Director of Corporate Services that you are back at work.

13.10 If you have an emergency and arrive for work late, before you have had the chance to notify HouseMark, you must still tell the Director of Corporate Services of the reasons why you were absent. How much time may I take off? 13.11 The amount of time you can take off will depend on the particular circumstances of the emergency. It is important to remember that time off is granted only to deal with the immediate emergency. For example, if your child or spouse falls ill you can take time off to deal with their initial needs, such as taking them to the doctor and arranging for alternative childcare. However, if you want to care for them yourself, you will need to make other arrangements for leave. Will I be paid? 13.12 There is no legal obligation for HouseMark to pay you for any emergency leave. 13.13 However, HouseMark permits staff to take 5 days per rolling year with pay (pro rata for part time staff) provided that they fully comply with this procedure. Any leave taken over and above this will be unpaid. A ‘rolling year’ means within the 12 months previous to the date of the emergency – ie it is not the same as a calendar year or the annual leave year. Disputes 13.14 In the event of any dispute arising relating to the interpretation or implementation of this procedure, such as what is reasonable time off, the usual grievance and disciplinary arrangements will apply. Applicable law 13.15 Schedule 4 Employment Relations Act 1999; Section 57A ERA

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14.

Flexible Working Policy Introduction

14.1

Parents of children aged 16 years or under or of disabled children aged under 18 have the right to ask their employer to permit them to work flexibly providing they have the qualifying length of service. This right also applies to carers of adults. HouseMark has a statutory duty to seriously consider such applications.

14.2

There is not an automatic right to work flexibly. The right is designed to meet the needs of both parents and the employer, and aims to facilitate discussion and encourage the employee and the employer to consider the option of flexible working patterns and to find a practicable solution. The employer can only refuse an application on grounds specified in the legislation, see page 3 below.

14.3

When making an application you have a responsibility to think carefully about your desired working pattern and HouseMark is required to follow a specific procedure to ensure that requests are considered seriously.

14.4

You are only able to make one application a year under the right, and accepted applications will mean a permanent change to your terms and conditions of employment unless otherwise agreed between both parties. It is important that, before making an application, you have given careful consideration to which working pattern will help you best care for your child; any financial implications it might have if the desired working pattern will mean a drop in salary; and any effects it will have on HouseMark’s business and how these might be accommodated. Carers of children

14.5

You have a right to make a request if you:   

are an employee (not an agency worker) have a child aged 16 or under, or under 18 in the case of a disabled child are either - the child’s mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent, or - married to, or the partner of the child’s mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent

have worked for HouseMark continuously for at least 26 weeks at the date the application is made make the application no later than two weeks before the child’s 16th birthday or 18th birthday in the case of a disabled child have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing are making the application to enable you to care for the child have not made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past twelve months

   

Carers of adults 14.6

You have a right to make a request if you: 

are an employee (not an agency worker)

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HouseMark Staff Handbook  

have worked for HouseMark continuously for at least 26 weeks at the date the application is made are or expect to be caring for an adult who is your spouse, partner or civil partner, or your near relative or who is an adult falling into none of these categories but who lives with you at your address

14.7

A near relative includes parents, parents-in-law, adult child, adopted adult child, siblings (including those who are in-laws), uncles, aunts, grandparents and steprelatives.

14.8

A ‘partner’ is defined as the other member of a couple consisting of a man and woman who are not married to each other, but are living together as husband and wife or two people of the same sex who are not civil partners but are living together as if they are. What kind of changes can I apply for?

14.9

You can request:   

a change to the hours you work a change to the times when you are required to work to work from home

14.10 The change can cover working patterns such as annualised hours, compressed hours, home-working, job-sharing, staggered hours and term-time working. The procedure 14.11 You should ask the Director of Corporate Services for a copy of the relevant DTI application form. This requests information such as: 

how you meet the eligibility criteria of service and parenthood

the requested change and the date you would like this to be effective

any impact this change may have on your employment and suggestions as to how any problems may be overcome.

14.12 Within 28 days of receiving the request, a meeting will be arranged with you, your line manager and/or your departmental Director and the Director of Corporate Services. If you are yourself a Director, the Chief Executive will be present at the meeting. You have a right to bring a work colleague with you to the meeting to support you, but they are not entitled to act as your representative. The purpose of this meeting is to explore the proposed work pattern in depth, and to discuss how best it might be accommodated. It also provides an opportunity to consider other possible working patterns should there be problems in accommodating your desired work pattern. 14.13 Within 14 days after the date of the meeting, the Director of Corporate Services will write to you to either agree to a new work pattern and a start date; or to provide clear business grounds as to why the application cannot be accepted and the reason why the grounds apply in the circumstances, and will set out the appeal procedure. In most cases this will be the end of the matter. 14.14 All time periods can be extended with the mutual agreement of you and HouseMark.. Any extensions will be confirmed to you in writing. Adjustments to the timescales are HouseMark 2010

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HouseMark Staff Handbook also allowed where anyone who would normally consider the request is absent from work, for example, your Director may be sick or on holiday. What are grounds for refusal? 14.15 The Employment Act 2002 provides that an employer can only refuse an application on one or more of the following grounds:  the burden of additional costs  the detrimental impact on meeting customer or service demands  an inability to reorganise or redistribute work among other existing staff  an inability to recruit additional staff (this may particularly be the case where the employer is left with ‘odd’ hours to fill)  a detrimental impact on quality or performance  insufficient work being available during the hours the employee is requesting to work  the fact that other structural changes are planned Can I appeal against the decision? 14.16 You have the right to appeal in writing to the Director of Corporate Services against the decision within 14 days of being notified of it. 14.17 The letter of appeal must clearly state the grounds for appeal. A further meeting must then be arranged in the same manner as the original hearing, giving you the right to be accompanied. Following the appeal hearing HouseMark must confirm the outcome in writing within a further 14 days, detailing any agreement that has been made or an explanation of the grounds for dismissing the appeal. 14.18 If you are still dissatisfied with the decision, you may be able to complain to an employment tribunal or refer the matter to the ACAS Arbitration Scheme. Withdrawing the application 14.19 HouseMark can consider your application as withdrawn if: 

you notify the company as such either verbally or in writing

you fail to attend an arranged meeting or appeal hearing on more than one occasion

you refuse to provide the company with information needed to assess whether the employment terms and conditions should be varied

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15.

Health and Safety at Work Policy Statement General statement of policy

15.1

This policy covers all HouseMark staff and is compliant with Section 2(3) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

15.2

HouseMark is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace and working environment for all our employees, and to meeting the specific requirements of the law. It is HouseMark’s policy that health and safety should be a prime consideration in the organisation of work, and equipment selection and installation. Knowledge of safe procedures and observation of recommended practice should be a priority for all employees to minimise the risk of health and safety problems developing. HouseMark’s specific aims

15.3

15.4

HouseMark aims to:  keep staff informed on health and safety matters relating to their jobs and to make them aware of their responsibilities to HouseMark, their colleagues and themselves 

provide regular opportunities for management and employees to discuss arrangements for the appropriate development of health and safety measures

ensure that adequate training and education is available to all staff to enable work to be carried out in a safe and healthy manner

ensure that all operational activity, especially where equipment is involved, is carried out in a way that minimises risk to personal health and safety

All Directors and managers must give full support to this policy for health and safety. Every employee must also actively co-operate with those responsible for the effective planning, organisation and monitoring of our health and safety. HouseMark’s responsibilities General

15.5

HouseMark accepts responsibility for ensuring that its obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Fire Precautions Act 1971 are discharged properly in respect of staff employed in the office or employed to work from home, by providing or maintaining: 

a safe and healthy working environment

safe plant and equipment, in particular VDUs

safe arrangements for the use, handling and storage of articles, materials and substances in the office, particularly in respect of the Control of Substances, Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988 (COHSS), including supervision of external contractors to this effect where appropriate

systems of working which do not endanger the health and safety of employees

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15.6

sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to enable all employees to contribute positively to their own health and safety at work and to avoid hazards

ensuring that workplaces are kept in a safe condition

fire prevention procedures

a smoke free working environment

Chief Executive The Chief Executive of HouseMark has ultimate responsibility for health and safety matters relating to the organisation. This includes the monitoring and review of safety management systems

15.7

Directors and Office Manager Responsibility for ensuring this policy is put into practice is delegated to the Director of Corporate Services. However, all Directors and the Office Manager reporting to the Chief Executive, are responsible for the day to day health and safety of their staff team and any temporary staff they engage. Directors and the Office Manager are required to: 

be aware of all legal requirements and procedures relevant to their activities and apply them accordingly

ensure that regular safety inspections and audits are carried out in their departments

participate in any review of the company policy on health and safety

have reasonable knowledge of the hazards arising from processes and equipment in their area of responsibility, and to ensure that their members of staff are made aware of these hazards

develop, implement and maintain safe systems of work, processes and equipment

ensure that audits on safety arrangements are carried out and where hazards are identified, that appropriate action is taken

be aware of the first aid provision and location of facilities near to their area

complete the appropriate report for accidents and ‘near misses’ and to assist in their investigation

review all incidents, ‘near misses’ and accident reports within their department and take appropriate action to ensure preventative measures are carried out

maintain a high standard of housekeeping and hygiene

ensure their staff attend health and safety training courses, where required

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provide their staff with this policy statement on health and safety and ensure they are familiar with its contents

report to the Director of Corporate Services any assistance they may require in carrying out their health and safety obligations

take account of health and safety factors when assessing the performance of their staff

provide personal leadership in safety matters and consult with their staff to promote progressive improvement in the safety of their departmental activities

Responsibilities of employees 15.8

The Company aims to have a healthy workforce in a healthy working environment. The success of the organisation depends on the effectiveness of our staff and this in part depends on their physical and mental wellbeing. While Directors are responsible for creating a healthy and safe working environment, every individual has a responsibility for his/her personal health and safety.

15.9

All employees have a duty in law to co-operate in achieving a safe and healthy work environment. Therefore employees should: 

make themselves familiar with, and conform to, the health and safety policy and advice and instructions on health and safety matters issued by the company

take reasonable care, to the best of their individual knowledge and ability, to avoid injury to themselves and to others by act or omission in their work activity

not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided to safeguard their health and safety

maintain a high standard of housekeeping and hygiene at all times

ensure the safety of their visitors to the office

ensure that the Director of Corporate Services has their up to date mobile phone number, home telephone number and contact details for their next of kin

co-operate with line managers and other staff on health and safety matters

comply with all instructions given by the fire officer, ie the Director of Corporate Services

immediately report all health and safety accidents, incidents, near misses, concerns, and actual or potential hazards etc to the Director of Corporate Services and to assist in their investigation

15.10 In particular you should: 

take care when manually lifting articles and follow the guidance in the Health and Safety executive booklet Getting to Grips with Manual Handling

not over reach or balance precariously for items at high level

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

not place drinks and other liquids on or near electrical equipment



unplug electrical appliances where the user is the last person to use the equipment during that working day, with the exception of fax machines and any computer equipment which must be kept online



ensure that trailing electrical cables are tidied away

Consultation with employees 15.11 HouseMark will consult all staff on health and safety matters HouseMark will encourage employees to elect a staff health and safety representative to represent their interests. 15.12 The company will consult any safety representative elected by staff on any matters relating to health and safety.

Health and safety risks arising from work activities Risk assessments 15.13 Risk assessments will be regularly carried out based on a five step approach: Step 1 Look for hazards Step 2 Decide who might be harmed and how (in the case of home workers including risks to other people in the home, such as small children) Step 3 Evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide where existing precautions are adequate or more should be done Step 4 Record findings Step 5 Review assessment from time to time and revise it if necessary 15.14 Risk assessments will be undertaken by the Director of Corporate Services in liaison with other Directors and with the staff health and safety representative. 15.15 The findings of the risk assessments will be reported to the Chief Executive and, where appropriate, the HouseMark Board 15.16 Action required to remove/control risks will be approved by the Chief Executive. 15.17 The person responsible for ensuring the required actions are implemented is the Director of Corporate Services. 15.18 The person who will check that the implemented actions have removed or reduced the risk is the Chief Executive. 15.19 Assessments will be reviewed every twelve months or when the work activity changes, whichever is soonest. HouseMark 2010

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Safe equipment 15.20 The Director of Corporate Services is responsible for:    

identifying all equipment/plant needing maintenance. ensuring effective maintenance procedures are drawn up. ensuring that all identified maintenance is implemented checking that new equipment meets health and safety standards before it is purchased

15.21 It is the duty of all employees to inform the Director of Corporate Services of any hazard, malfunctioning equipment, or any other potential danger to health and safety of which they become aware. Display screen equipment (VDUs) 15.22 All display screen work stations must satisfy legal requirements regarding the display screen, keyboard, desk, chair and working environment. Instruction and training is given to all VDU users and managers to increase their awareness of the potential hazards of using display screens, and to enable them to apply good ergonomics to their work practices. 15.23 A formal assessment of the VDU and work station will be carried out for all new employees, for existing staff when their workstation or equipment is changed in any way, and otherwise every two years. 15.24 All employees have a responsibility to regularly clean their VDU screen and associated computer equipment, using suitable anti-static cleaning materials. 15.25 All employees should refrain from eating and drinking whilst using their computer to minimise the risk of food and liquids damaging the equipment. 15.26 All regular users of VDUs are entitled to a free eye test on joining HouseMark and every two years thereafter. Employees should contact the Director of Corporate Services for advice before making an appointment with an optician. Please see the Company’s policy on eye tests set out at Section 23 below. Housekeeping 15.27 Good housekeeping is considered an important part of our safety programme. The Office Manager will ensure that in the HouseMark office in particular: 

the office layout is designed with safety in mind, eg filing cabinets should not open into passages or across doorways

office furniture is arranged so that employees do not collide with sharp corners of desks, cabinets etc.

rooms have clear, unobstructed passages

floors, steps, stairs, passages and fire exits are kept clear of obstructions at all times

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there are no unavoidable trip hazards such as frayed carpets, wall and floor coverings or trailing cables

the contents of cabinet drawers are evenly spread

offices are kept tidy and papers and equipment are stored appropriately and not left on the floor, on heaters, on window ledges, or stored on cupboards above 2 metres high

desks are cleared each evening, where possible, or at least once a month, so that surfaces can be cleaned

Homeworkers should also take appropriate precautions in their home office. Safe handling and use of substances 15.28 It is company policy that non-hazardous substances are used wherever possible, such as cleaning materials. 15.29 The Director of Corporate Services is responsible for: 

identifying all substances, which need a COSHH assessment

undertaking such assessments

ensuring that actions identified in the assessments are implemented

ensuring that employees are informed about assessments

checking that new substances can be used safely before they are purchased

reviewing assessments every 12 months, or when work activity changes, whichever is soonest

Information, instruction and supervision 15.30 The Heath and Safety law poster is displayed in the staff rest room. 15.31 Health and safety advice and leaflets are available from: the Health and Safety Executive, Tel 0845 345 0055, www.hse.gov.uk 15.32 Supervision of young workers and trainees will be arranged by the individual’s Director. 15.33 Directors are responsible for ensuring that HouseMark staff working at locations under the control of other employers, are given relevant heath and safety information. Competency for tasks and training 15.34 Induction training on health and safety for all new employees will be provided by the Office Manager. 15.35 Job specific training will be provided by line managers. 15.36 Training needs will be identified, arranged and monitored by line managers. HouseMark 2010

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15.37 Training records are kept on the employee’s personnel file. Accident and ‘near miss’ reporting 15.38 It is essential that all accidents, which happen at work, no matter how small, are properly reported. This should be done even if no apparent injury is received. It is equally important to report ‘near misses’ or potential hazards, so that HouseMark can deal with them, and so prevent an accident. 15.39 The procedure for reporting an accident is as follows: 15.40 As soon as possible after the incident, the victim or witness should report what happened to the Director of Corporate Services, or in their absence to the First Aid Appointed Person. 15.41 The incident should be recorded in the accident record book, including details on:   

where it occurred, giving the time and place what happened how it happened, if known

15.42 Any elected health and safety representative must be informed of any accident. 15.43 The Director responsible for the department where the accident occurred must set up an investigation and recommend to the Director of Corporate Services and the health and safety representative any preventative measures they consider necessary. First aid 15.44 The first aid box is affixed to the wall in the Reception area. 15.45 The appointed persons to take charge of the first aid box are the Director of Corporate Services and the Emergency First Aid Appointed Person. They will ensure that first aid equipment supplies are kept at statutory stock levels 15.46 It is the duty of all employees to report accidents and cases of work-related ill health to the Director of Corporate Services, who will record details in the accident book, which book is stored with the first aid box. 15.47 Where an ambulance has been summoned in the event of accident or illness for a member of staff or visitor, the Director of Corporate Services must be informed. 15.48 The Director of Corporate Services is responsible for reporting all R.I.D.D.O.R. (Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations) incidents to senior management, to the Board, and to the enforcing authority. General security 15.49 The Director of Corporate Services is responsible for ensuring that there are adequate systems for maintaining the security and safety of the HouseMark office during the day and after normal working hours. 15.50 All employees must keep the door entry code and security alarm code confidential.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook 15.51 All employees must ensure that their office keys and swipe card are kept secure. Visitors by appointment 15.52 When visitors are expected to the office, the person they are coming to meet should ensure that reception staff are aware of the visit. On arrival they should report to reception and sign the Visitor’s Book and wear a visitor’s badge. 15.53 It is the responsibility of employees to look after the safety of their visitors to the office and to make sure they are aware of any hazards in the areas they visit. Employees must ensure that their visitors take the same protective measures as would company employees. 15.54 In the event of an emergency evacuation, members of staff must escort their visitors out of the building and to the assembly point. Unexpected visitors 15.55 Employees are requested to remain vigilant at all times with respect to any unauthorised visitors to HouseMark premises. Any suspicious behaviour should be reported to the Director of Corporate Services, or directed to the police as appropriate. 15.56 All employees must take precautions before letting strangers into the building. Never open the front door to anyone unless you know who they are and that they have a legitimate reason to be in the office. First, speak to the person on the entryphone to find out who they are, what their business is and who they have come to see. Then check whether the person they want to see does in fact want to see them. 15.57 If the person is making a delivery, open the door and follow them out of the office to make sure that they leave the building after the delivery. 15.58 If the person is a cold calling salesperson, they should be told that we are not interested. They may request a compliment slip or the name of the Chief Executive or personnel manager – these should not be given. Working alone in the HouseMark office 15.59 Wherever possible, staff should not work alone in the HouseMark office. Where this cannot be avoided, it is important to make sure that: 

the entrance door is securely closed

someone knows where you are, knows what time you expect to leave the office and what time you expect to arrive home, and has your mobile phone number

you keep your mobile phone on your person, so you can telephone for help if needed

Emergency procedures – fire and evacuation 15.60 The fire officer is the Director of Corporate Services. 15.61 The fire officer is responsible for ensuring that equipment and measures to prevent fire are adequately maintained and enacted. HouseMark 2010

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15.62 The fire marshall is Manveer Hundal. 15.63 Fire extinguishers are to be maintained and checked annually. 15.64 Emergency evacuation drills will be tested every six months. 15.65 Employees are requested to observe the fire drill procedures displayed in the entrance hall. In the event of the fire alarm sounding, employees should leave the building immediately using the nearest exit route and assemble at the fire assembly point at the front of Riley Court. Staff safety when travelling or working out of the office 15.66 Whenever employees work off site, (such as visiting a customer or exhibition), they should take the following basic safety precautions:        

ensure that contact details for their visit are recorded in their diary, including: name and telephone number of the person they are visiting organisation name location of meeting name and telephone number of hotel expected arrival time expected departure time ensure that they make adequate preparation for their journey, eg: o plan the route in advance o take a map and travel directions o allow sufficient time for the journey

15.67 If travelling by car, employees should:        

ensure the car is roadworthy ensure the car has sufficient fuel for the journey know what to do in the event of a breakdown know how to call the emergency or breakdown services take sufficient cash including change to phone from a call box take hourly rest breaks, if driving late at night keep bags and valuables locked in the boot park in a well lit place

15.68 Staff who are required to work late at night or in remote locations, who do not have a car, will be reimbursed for the cost of a taxi, should they feel unsafe walking or using public transport 15.69 A mobile phone will be provided for employees, who are likely to do a significant amount of travelling on HouseMark business. Employees should ensure that the phone battery is adequately charged. 15.70 It is a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving or in charge of a vehicle and HouseMark expects staff to abide by the law in all circumstances. If your phone rings while you are driving, you should not check for messages unless you have parked safely and removed the key from the ignition. If you are convicted of using a phone whilst driving a vehicle on HouseMark business, you will be personally liable for the fine. HouseMark 2010

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Pregnancy and breastfeeding 15.71 Employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding, are advised to notify the Director of Corporate Services so that a risk assessment can be carried out to identify and eliminate any potential risks or health and safety concerns that might be associated with carrying out their duties. Monitoring 15.72 To check that our working conditions are safe and to ensure that safe working practices are followed, we will:    

make safety audits of the office at least once a year carry out spot checks monitor accidents monitor sickness absences

15.73 The monitoring reports will:   

highlight any hazards, defects and remedial actions required indicate the appropriate timescales for action identify the person(s) responsible for taking action

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16.

Display Screen Equipment and Eye Testing Policy Display Screen Equipment

16.1

HouseMark will take all reasonable steps to secure the health and safety of employees who work with display screen equipment (DSE).

16.2

HouseMark acknowledges that health and safety hazards may arise from the use of this equipment. It is therefore HouseMark’s intention to ensure that any risks are reduced to a minimum. Whilst it is generally recognised that DSE can be used without undue risk to health, it is appreciated that some employees may have genuine reservations and concerns. Consequently, information and training will be provided to ensure employees are aware of these issues but you must also raise any concerns with your manager or the Director of Corporate Services if:  

any medical or other problems arises from the use of DSE you believe your workload or working practice does not afford sufficient changes of activity from DSE operation

Work breaks 16.3

Generally natural breaks or pauses occur during the course of normal working practice, for example meetings, answering the telephone, photocopying, faxing, etc. However, where DSE users are inputting large amounts of data or text without natural breaks they are expected to use opportunities for a change of activity to prevent the onset of visual or muscular fatigue. Eye problems and testing

16.4

The guidelines to the Regulations relating to the use of DSE state that medical evidence shows that using a DSE is not associated with damaged eyes or eyesight. Prolonged unbroken use of DSE can lead to temporary problems caused by tired eyes, including red or sore eyes and headaches.

16.5

All regular DSE users are entitled to request an eye test which will be paid for by the company. These will be offered thereafter on a two yearly basis, unless additional medical problems relating to the use of DSE arise within that time period. These tests are limited to an assessment of the visual capability to see the screen and must be undertaken by an optician in conjunction with the Dollond and Aitchison Eyecare Discount Voucher scheme. Eye test procedure

16.6

If you wish to request an eye test you should contact the Director of Corporate Services for an Eyecare Discount Voucher. This must be given to the optician on the day of the test. If any payment contribution is required (eg if the discount only covers 50% of the eye test fee), then you should pay the bill and claim this on your expenses (a valid receipt is required).

16.7

If you would prefer to see your current optician, HouseMark will reimburse the cost of the eye test on production of a valid receipt to the Director of Corporate Services. However, before the test is arranged, the Director of Corporate Services must have

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HouseMark Staff Handbook previously approved your choice of optician and the cost of the eye examination in writing. Financial assistance with cost of spectacles 16.8

HouseMark will provide a financial contribution to the costs of spectacles in the following circumstances. Spectacles required solely for DSE use

16.9

This means that you do not need to wear spectacles for general purposes, but you do need them to work at the DSE workstation. The simple rule of thumb is that the employee should be able to leave their DSE spectacles at the workstation at the end of the day and not require them for any other purpose. HouseMark is required to pay for single vision spectacles under the DSE legislation and will contribute ÂŁ75 to cover this requirement. Spectacles required for general use, incorporating a special prescription for DSE use

16.10 This means that you have either been assessed as having a particular requirement for single vision spectacles for the middle distance range necessary for DSE work or you may already wear spectacles, but now requires specific help for this intermediate DSE distance. In either case, HouseMark is only liable to pay the cost of a basic single vision appliance, which covers the DSE requirement. HouseMark will contribute ÂŁ75 to cover this - any additional costs are your responsibility. 16.11 To make a claim, you must submit the prescription to the Director of Corporate Services who will then determine whether the prescription meets the eligibility criteria. The payment will be made to you on production to the Director of Corporate Services of a payment receipt for the spectacles. Please note that: 16.12 You are personally responsible for the safe keeping of the spectacles/lenses. HouseMark will not pay for any replacement lens or frame which is lost or broken. 16.13 No contribution will be made towards contact lenses. 16.14 HouseMark will not make any contribution to eyetests, spectacles/lenses arranged or purchased otherwise in accordance with this policy. 16.15 This policy does not form part of your contract of employment. HouseMark reserves the right to review, amend and withdraw (with or without an equivalent replacement) this policy at any time (with or without notice).

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17.

Stress Management Policy Why stress management is an issue for HouseMark

17.1

Stress is what we experience when we feel we cannot cope with the pressures and demands placed on us. The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.’

17.2

Stress is a normal aspect of every day life. However, the harmful effects of stress, particularly when chronic, can be detrimental to physical and psychological wellbeing. Harmful stress reduces performance, creativity and productivity and is a contributory factor in a wide range of diseases and conditions.

17.3

See Appendix 1 for more information about the causes of stress. Introduction

17.4

HouseMark is committed to protecting the health, safety and welfare of our employees. Staff are our most important asset and their well-being is essential to effective work performance and service delivery. We acknowledge that any staff member, at whatever level, may experience stress at work.

17.5

HouseMark seeks to implement the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Management Standards for Work-related Stress and will follow the HSE’s recommended approach to tackling such stress.

17.6

This policy sets out HouseMark’s approach to the management of health and safety in relation to harmful stress at work. The key objectives are to: 

minimise the incidence of stress related absence

reduce the incidence of poor performance caused by stress

ensure that staff who experience stress receive appropriate help

Policy principles 17.7

HouseMark will: 

work in partnership with staff to address work-related stress

conduct risk assessments to identify workplace stressors and regularly review these assessments

seek to control, and wherever possible, eliminate workplace stressors

improve the organisational environment through effective and sensitive management

develop working practices that reduce the risk factors which may lead to stress in the workplace

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help staff to understand and recognise the nature and causes of stress in themselves and others and be aware of methods to deal with this

help staff to cope successfully with the demands and pressures of work

help staff to manage stress in themselves and others, providing confidential support where appropriate

manage the return to work of staff who have been absent because of stress

monitor procedures and outcomes, and assess the effectiveness of the policy

Risk assessment 17.8

HouseMark will seek to achieve the HSE’s Stress Management Standards (see below). These define the characteristics of an organisation where stress is managed effectively. It will use the standards as a framework for risk assessment and as a benchmark to assess its performance in tackling stress. The risk assessment will be reviewed annually.

17.9

HouseMark will use the HSE’s recommended staff stress audit tool as a means to survey staff opinions, raise staff awareness and to involve staff in tackling stress. The survey findings will be discussed with staff with a view to identifying and implementing practical solutions to deal with workplace stress.

17.10 The risk assessment process follows the HSE’s recommended approach. Step 1: Identify the hazards Step 2: Decide who may be harmed and how Step 3 Evaluate the risk Step 4: Record the findings Step 5: Monitor and review 17.11 The risk assessment process will focus on identifying key risk factors identified in the HSE Stress Standards ie: 

demands - workload, work pattern, work environment

control - how much say a person has in the way they do their work

support - encouragement sponsorship and resources provided

relationships - promoting positive working to avoid conflict and deal with unacceptable behaviour

role - whether people understand their role and whether the organisation ensure that people do not have conflicting roles

change - how change is managed and communicated

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Line manager responsibilities

17.12 Stress prevention and management is an essential aspect of effective staff management. HouseMark’s line managers are expected to: 

lead by example, by effectively managing their own stress and not creating stressors for others, eg through their behaviour or demands

conduct and implement recommendations of risks assessments

ensure there is effective communication with staff, particularly as regards objectives and deadlines and at times of organisational and procedural change

ensure staff are fully trained to perform their duties

ensure staff are provided with meaningful developmental opportunities

observe and evaluate work performance

carry out regular documented one-to-one meetings with staff at least monthly, which include time to discuss how staff are feeling and actively listen to their concerns

ensure that effective project management systems are in place to avoid pressure points

ensure that staff resources are effectively allocated

monitor workloads and schedules to ensure that individuals are not overloaded

monitor working hours, travel time and overnight stays to ensure that staff are not working excessive hours

monitor holidays and time off in lieu to ensure that staff take their full entitlement

ensure that bullying and harassment is identified and dealt with

ensure that staff are treated fairly and consistently in accordance with company policies

be vigilant and offer additional support to individuals who experience stress factors outside work, eg bereavement or separation

Employee responsibilities 17.13 All employees have a duty to take care of their own health and safety at work. This includes taking responsibility for managing your own personal stress. 17.14 Appendix 2 sets out advice on preventing and coping with stress. Staff are also recommended to read the HSE booklet - Working together to reduce stress at work: A guide for employees, which is reproduced at Appendix 3.

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Recruitment and selection practices 17.15 A job may be stressful for one person but not another. The key is to match the right individual to the job. 

the job description will set out the full range of tasks and demands of a post and the person specification will clearly set out the competences required, so that candidates are in no doubt as to what the job entails

the selection process will assess whether the candidate has the potential capacity to fulfil the job requirements

for posts exposed to a higher than usual level of workplace stressors, (eg tight deadlines, business critical customers), the candidate’s stress tolerance and coping strategies will be tested in the selection process

requests for references will seek information about candidates’ sickness and absence records

where appropriate, referees will be asked specific questions about the candidate’s abilities to deal with stressful situations

Induction, training and development 17.16 Starting a new job can be stressful and sometimes staff experience stress, because they are not certain what is expected of them or feel that they are not adequately trained for their job. They are especially at risk when they take on a new project or move to a new or changed role. 

a planned programme of induction and training will be arranged to prepare new staff for their role and help them to adapt to HouseMark’s organisational culture

the Stress Management Policy will be discussed with all new staff

all new staff and newly promoted staff will undergo an induction programme into their posts, and their progress and well-being monitored

identifying and meeting training needs will be a continuing process and reviewed as part of regular one-to-one supervisory meetings and not just the annual PDR

managers will monitor the progress of staff in developing competences and achieving training goals

managers will make use of the supervisory process to raise staff awareness of stressors and of the steps they can take to identify and deal with stress

Absence management 17.17 Stress related sickness is often initially reported as sickness absence for other reasons. Thus all periods of sickness (for whatever cause) must be reported, recorded and managed in accordance with HouseMark’s Sickness Procedure. 17.18 In particular: HouseMark 2010

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managers will be alert to stress warning signs, such as individuals failing to report sickness in accordance with the procedure or frequent absences for minor illnesses such as stomach upsets, headaches, colds

managers will ensure that all absences are properly recorded

a return to work after sickness interview will be carried out by the Director of Corporate Services or the departmental director

the company will maintain regular contact with absent staff

the company will seek a medical report on the individual’s health problem, where appropriate

Return to work after a stress-related illness 

in the event of an employee returning to work after a stress-related illness, the company will seek to plan their return in a way which will ease them back into the job and will consult with the individual and their GP as appropriate

on the individual’s return to work, managers will continue to monitor their progress and recovery and the factors which may have contributed to or caused the stress

Advice and support 17.19 Sometimes employees are reluctant to admit that they are unable to cope with work because of stress, as they fear that the company will regard this as a sign of weakness. HouseMark’s policy is to reassure staff that asking for help is a positive step and will encourage them to seek help and support at an early stage. 17.20 In the first instance, staff should approach their line manager or the Director of Corporate Services for advice and support. He or she will help the individual to identify the cause of the stress and possible remedies. Depending on the circumstances, the company may refer the individual for medical advice or counselling. 17.21 Factors external to work may be a significant factor in causing stress for people. Confidentiality will be maintained when individuals disclose personal matters, which are not work-related and have no bearing on their capacity as employees. Sources of guidance ACAS, Stress at Work leaflet, August 2006 Health and Safety Executive Working together to reduce stress at work: A guide for employees - reproduced at Appendix 3 Health and Safety Executive Tackling stress: the management standards approach Websites ACAS www.acas.org.uk aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Centre for Stress Management www.managingstress.com offers training for HR professionals, stress audits and counselling services Health and Safety Executive (HSE) www.hse.gov.uk/stress/index.htm for what the HSE are doing about stress at work, plus information, resources and further contacts International Stress Management Association www.isma.org.uk exists to promote sound knowledge and best practice in the prevention and reduction of human stress NHS plus www.nhsplus,nhs.uk/your health/stress.asp has advice for individuals about workplace stress Stress Management Society www.stress.org.uk provides training to help manage stress UK National Work Stress Network www.workstress.net campaigns on the issue of stress at work

Appendix 1 How to Recognise Stress and its Causes 1.

What is stress? Stress is what we experience when we feel we cannot cope with the pressures and demands placed on us. The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.’ What constitutes stress for one individual, may not be stress for another. We vary in our capacity to cope with different levels or types of pressure. An individual’s personality and attitudes may also affect the levels of stress they experience. Some pressure, even when high, can be positive and is frequently challenging and motivating. Responding effectively to this kind of pressure can lead to job satisfaction. However, when pressure reaches a level we cannot cope with, we may experience negative stress. This may also occur when there is too little pressure or challenge to motivate us. Stress can be caused by the many different pressures people experience in their home and personal lives. For instance, bereavement, relationship or family problems, financial worries are some of the factors which can make people more vulnerable to stress at work. The harmful effects of stress are often caused by a combination of work and home stress. Stress in one area of life is likely to affect other areas. The effects of stress can give rise to physiological and psychological symptoms.

2.

Recognising signs of stress Some common signs of stress are shown below. Experiencing any of these for short periods does not necessarily indicate that you are stressed. However, stress may be thdicated when one or more of these signs persists and you have difficulty making adjustments to cope.

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Persistent or recurring moods: anger, irritability, frustration, detachment or withdrawal from others, worry or anxiety, depression, guilt, sadness

Physical signs: aches and pains, raised heart rate, increased sweating, dizziness, blurred vision, skin problems, sleep disorders, exhaustion, nausea, lowered resistance to minor illnesses

Behaviour changes: difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, an inability to ‘switch off’, poor judgment, loss of creativity, making more mistakes, checking things repeatedly, eating disorders, loss of interest in sex, increasing use of coffee, alcohol, drugs or tobacco

If you experience stress over long periods, other signs may develop such as high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, chronic anxiety, long-term depression. 3.

Signs of stress in the workplace An increase in overall sickness absence - especially frequent short absences. Poor work performance - less output, lower quality of work, poor decision making, poor time-keeping Relationships at work - poor relationships with customers or people you work for, conflict between colleagues Staff attitude and behaviour - poor time-keeping, loss of motivation or commitment, working long hours but with decreasing effectiveness Some of these signs may also be symptoms of other problems, including psychiatric illness, alcohol or drug misuse (any one of which may also be related to stress).

4.

Possible sources of stress in the workplace These may be some of the sources of stress arising at work: 

poor physical working conditions or job design

uncontrolled or excessive workloads and working hours, conflicting demands, uncertainty about responsibilities

inconsistent or poorly communicating management, lack of support

complaints from service users, colleagues or other sources

unresolved and/or unaddressed issues raised by the staff member

being set tasks which are inappropriate to ability, lack of adequate training, inadequate staffing

harassment and bullying

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Appendix 2 Advice on Managing your own Stress 1

Self help As an employee, you have a duty to take care of your health and safety at work. You also have a responsibility for your own personal stress and should try to manage and prevent the build-up of stress wherever possible. You are advised to read the HSE booklet - Working together to reduce stress at work: A guide for employees. This provides practical advice on steps you can take (See Appendix 4). Here are some ideas which may help you to cope better: At work: 

if you are under stress, acknowledge it and try to identify the sources

be more assertive

manage your time effectively - identi’ what’s important and prioritise work

create and maintain a support network of colleagues and friends

if the problem is work-related, discuss it with others, including your line manager

seek confidential support if you feel the need

accept opportunities for counselling or support when offered

take advantage of training opportunities to extend your knowledge and skills

take a proper break from work at lunchtime

take your holidays

delegate work when this is possible

praise and reward yourself and others - even a brief ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ can make you feel good about youself

Take care of yourself: 

Good health - eat sensibly, get enough rest and avoid the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco or drugs

Exercise - take regular exercise such as walking, swinmilng, cycling etc

Life style - make time for yourself. Enjoy leisure activities and interests outside work

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2.

Talking - talking things through with friends and relatives can help. If problems become too great, consider seeing a counsellor

Time to think - give yourself thinking time each day. This can help you to manage time and priorities

Rest and relaxation - learn to relax. Taking short breaks throughout the day will make it easier to wind down at the end of the day. You could also try relaxation methods or meditation, both of which offer real benefits in stress reduction

Other sources of help Some of us get informal help from our families, friends and colleagues. Sometimes though, we may need to talk to someone who is outside the situation. If you are feeling under stress, do not wait for the problem to build up - talk to someone straight away. If a work or home problem is affecting your work, discuss it with your line manager or the Director of Corporate Services. If they know about the situation, they can advise and support you. Depending on the circumstances, the company may, with your consent, refer you for medical advice or counselling.

Appendix 3 Health and Safety Executive Working together to reduce stress at work: A guide for employees What is work-related stress, and why do we need to tackle it? There is a difference between stress and pressure. We all experience pressure on a daily basis, and need it to motivate us and enable us to perform at our best. It’s when we experience too much pressure without the opportunity to recover that we start to experience stress. The HSE definition of stress is “the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them”. We can all feel stressed at times when we feel as though everything becomes too much, when things get on top of us, or when we feel as though we are unable to cope. It affects us in different ways at different times and is often the result of a combination of factors in our personal and working lives. Work-related stress can be tackled by working with your employer to identify issues at source and agreeing realistic and workable ways to tackle these. To help do this, HSE has produced new Management Standards and guidelines on workrelated stress for employers and employees and their representatives (available at www.hse.gov.uk/stress). This leaflet, produced by the International Stress Management Association, and backed by the HSE and Acas, explains what these are, and what you can do to help your employer to help you. You can also find more information by visiting the websites listed on the back page of this laflet. “Stress is often a symptom of poor employment relations and can seriously affect productivity Organisations who talk regularly with their employees and have sound HouseMark 2010

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HouseMark Staff Handbook systems and procedures in place for dealing with issues like absence and discipline are much more likely to avoid work-related stress and to be able to deal with potentially stressful situations when they arise.” Acas What do the Management Standards mean to me? As a result of HSE’s new Management Standards: 

Your manager will have access to advice to help improve their understanding of stress and take it seriously.

If you are experiencing work-related stress, you should be listened to and help should be available from your manager or employee representative.

In the past, the causes of stress were well known but little if anything was done to fix them. The new Standards mean managers will now have to work with you to find solutions, so your problems should reduce over time.

The processes involved with the Standards mean that employees and their representatives will be given an opportunity to give their views and to help create action plans to help reduce stress at work. How can I support my Employer? As an employer, you too have a duty to take care of your health & Safety at work. You should 

Familiarise yourself with HSE’s Risk factors and Management Standards so you can contribute more fully to Discussions

Speak up if you’re Experiencing a problem, and talk to your manager to find a win-win solution. Remember, it’s part of their role to help you do this.

Help your manager to help you. To put effective plans in place, your manager will need information from you, so take an active part in any discussions of stress risk assessments, and make sure you complete any questionnaires when you are asked to do so.

Volunteer to attend discussion groups, action planning meetings etc. They’re for your benefit, and your managers will need your help in deciding what will work and what will not.

Remember that consultation is a two-way process. Your manager must take your opinions into consideration when deciding what actions to take, and must communicate the reasons for their decisions.

Read all communications. Make sure you understand the reasons for decisions and provide feedback if required.

Attend any stress management training courses arranged by your employer, which will help you understand stress and how to deal with it.

Recognise that you have a responsibility for your own personal stress and try to help yourself where possible.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook What should I do if I’m becoming stressed? Try to identify the causes and what you can do to make things better. Ideally, tell your manager at an early stage. If your stress is work- related, this will give them the chance to help and prevent the situation getting worse, while even if it isn’t work-related, they may be able to do something to reduce some of your pressure. If the source of pressure is your line manager, find out what procedures are in place to deal with this. If there aren’t any, talk to your employee representative, HR department or Employee Assistance Programme/counselling service (if you have one). Alternatively, talk to your trade union safety representative or union representative, who can also provide advice on a range of work-related topics. Many employees are reluctant to talk about stress at work, due to the stigma attached to it. They fear they will be seen as weak. But stress is not a weakness, and can happen to anyone. Remember: no employer should subject their employees to work-related stress, and this is an issue both you and employer should take seriously. “Workplace stress is one of the biggest causes of employee absence — and also one of the more difficult issues to manage. The Management Standards will help employers identify and manage stress at work by providing a framework to pinpoint particular causes of stress, as well as achievable solutions.” CIPD

What are HSE’s New Management Standards and how do they work? Under UK law, employers have a ‘’duty of care’’ to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees while at work. They also have to assess the risks arising from hazards at work including work-related stress. To help employers understand how to do a risk assessment for a work-related stress, HSE has identified six key areas (or ‘’risk factors’’) that can be casuses of work-related stress. These are: 

The demands of the job

Your control over your work

The support you receive from managers and colleagues

Your relationships at work

Your role in the organisation

Change and how it’s managed

Your employer needs to gain a detailed understanding of what these risk factors look like where you work, identify which areas may be presenting problems, and work with employees and their representatives to take action to reduce these problems. To assist with this, HSE has produced it’s new Management Standards, including targets for organisations to aim towards. There is one standard for each risk factor. ‘’Demands’’, for example, covers issues like workload, work patterns and the work environment, and includes HouseMark 2010

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HouseMark Staff Handbook guidance on what should be happening in your organisation if the standard is being achieved. As well as helping your managers understand the causes of stress at work, the Standards process provides a means of assessing how your workplace is performing, and gives ideas on how to make improvements. 

Assess the risk and potential causes of stress within your organisation – for example by looking at sickness absence records or attitude surveys, or conducting specific stress-related surveys or focus groups.

Use these to assess how the organisation is performing in relation to the six risk factors. This includes managers talking to their teams to identify stress ‘’hot spots’’

Decide on improvement targets and action plans, in consultation, with staff or their representatives.

‘’ The TUC welcomes these standards. In the absenceof legislation, they are the most effective tool employers can use to help end the epidemic of stress-related illness. We hope that employers will work with safety reprsentatives and stewards to use them within every workplace.’’ TUC The International Stress Management Associatjon UK The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) is one of the world’s largest, most widespread and fastest growing organisations of Stress Management professionals. The UK branch, ISMAUK, is a registered charity (no. 1088103, and company limited by guarantee no. 4079657) with a multidisciplinary professional membership. It exists to promote sound knowledge and best practice in the prevention, reduction and management of personal and work-related stress; and sets professional standards for the benefit of individuals and organisations using the services of its members. HSE On 3 November 2004, HSE launched new management standards and tools to help employers and employees work together to prevent excessive work-related stress. The new material is available at www.hse.gov.uk/stress and will help organisations meet their existing duty of care and their duty to assess the risk of work-related stress. The standards define the characteristics, or culture, of an organisation where stress is being managed effectively. The toolkit consists of a survey and continuous improvement model which enables organisations to compare themselves with others. This builds on HSE’s guidance “Tackling work-related stress - a managers’ guide to improving and maintaining employee health and well-being” (HSG 218) and “Real Solutions - Real People”. Both are priced publications available via www.hse.gov.uk/publications. For further information, please visit www.isma.org.uk www.hse.gov.uk www.acas.org.uk

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18.

Substance Misuse Policy

18.1

Introduction The Company acknowledges that many alcohol and/or drug misusers are gainfully employed, but that misuse may have repercussions, both direct and indirect, on the workplace. Alcohol and/or drugs may affect concentration, co-ordination and work performance. As a result, it not only interferes with the employee’s health but also the quality of work and safety at work. Alcohol and/or drugs taken even hours before the commencement of duty or during the working day are likely to impair performance. Alcohol and/or drugs misuse can have serious consequences for individuals at work through sickness, absence, reduced efficiency and an increase in accidents with consequences for colleagues, and customers. In the workplace even the suspicion of alcohol and/or drugs misuse or employees smelling of alcohol undermines the confidence of customers and work colleagues.

18.2

Scope This policy applies to HouseMark employees, contract staff and associates working on HouseMark business.

18.3

Definitions The term ‘drugs’ as used in this policy, is defined in two ways:  drugs used as medication for a medical problem. These drugs are usually prescribed by doctors; some can be purchased directly from a chemist 

18.4

drugs taken for all reasons other than for medical purposes, which include the use of illegal drugs

Policy aims The aims of the substance misuse policy are to 

promote the health and well being of employees and to minimise problems at work arising from alcohol and/or drug misuse

ensure employees are aware that the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs, even in small amounts, may adversely affect their safety, performance, conduct or efficiency as well as the safety and well being of other employees

encourage employees with an alcohol and/or drug related problem to come forward to seek help

identify employees whose performance is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs and to resolve any problems that may arise

ensure employees are aware that to use, possess, consume, store or sell illicit drugs on HouseMark premises or to report for work having taken such drugs will result in disciplinary action which may lead to summary dismissal

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18.5

Employee responsibilities Employees have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with all aspects of this policy and must:

18.6

not possess or consume alcohol or any illegal drug whilst on HouseMark premises

ensure that they report to work able to safely perform their duties and are not under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs

take care that their level of alcohol or drugs consumption does not interfere with their duties at work including driving to work

seek help if they have an alcohol and/or drug problem.

avoid covering up or colluding with colleagues whose behaviour and performance is affected by alcohol and/or drugs

if they suspect a colleague is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while on duty, report any suspected incidents to their line manager or the Director of Corporate Services.

urge colleagues to seek help if they have problems arising from the use of alcohol and/or drugs

ascertain whether any medication they take may cause side effects, which may affect work performance and inform their manager accordingly

Manager responsibilities Managers are responsible for ensuring the policy is followed effectively and that it is known and understood by their staff, associates and contract workers. They must

18.7

be aware of and monitor changes in work performance, attendance, sickness and accident patterns which may be due to alcohol and/or drug misuse

effectively intervene where an employee’s performance appears to be affected by alcohol and/or drugs and advise them of their responsibilities under this policy

seek advice where there are identifiable symptoms of alcohol and/or drug related problems. This may include encouraging the employee to seek help voluntarily from their GP or another agency

respect issues of confidentiality when applying this policy and take a nonjudgmental approach when interviewing employees

investigate any aspects of the work situation which could be contributing to alcohol and/or drugs misuse and take appropriate action

Help and support The Company recognises that an employee with an alcohol or drug misuse problem should be supported in the same way as an employee with any other health problem.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Anyone who feels that they have, or are developing, a drink and/or drug problem should approach their line manager or the Director of Corporate Services. The Company may ask an employee to undergo a medical examination to ascertain the cause and extent of the problem and to identify a suitable treatment programme. 18.8

Disciplinary and performance management considerations A breach of this policy may result in disciplinary action and the possibility of dismissal. Employees should be aware that in cases involving the use or possession of illicit drugs on HouseMark premises, the company is required by law to notify the police. Examples of issues that may be subject to disciplinary action (this is not an exclusive or exhaustive list)

18.9

reporting for work in the possession of illicit drugs or consuming, storing or selling illicit drugs on HouseMark premises

presence at work in an unfit state due to alcohol and/or drug misuse

reporting for work under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs

misconduct involving the misuse of alcohol and/or drugs

deliberate disregard for personal safety and/or the safety of others associated with substance misuse

Alcohol and the law Guidance notes, issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, on Medical Standards of Fitness to Drive recommend that where alcohol misuse and/or alcohol dependency affects driving, it may result in a refusal or revocation (of the driving licence) for 3 years, during which no evidence of dependency or continued misuse must have occurred. Employees must be aware of their obligations in respect of fitness to drive. The loss of a licence under this provision, where driving is an essential part of the job, is likely to result in dismissal.

18.10 Drugs and the law If an employee possesses, supplies or produces illicit drugs on HouseMark premises, the Company is required, by law, to notify the police. This is also the case in respect of the supply of tranquillisers and sleeping tablets, except when medically prescribed. It is an offence for HouseMark to knowingly allow a person to continue to consume or be in the possession of illegal drugs on its premises. 19.

Monitoring compliance Managers are responsible for ensuring compliance with this policy by monitoring changes in employees’ work performance, attendance, sickness and accident patterns which may be due to alcohol and/or drug misuse. Any issues identified should be raised with the Director of Corporate Services or a Director as soon as possible.

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20.

Sources of help www.alcoholissues.co.uk www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk www.drinking.nhs.uk www.drugscope.org.uk www.drugs.gov.uk www.talktofrank.com www.wiredin.org.uk www.nta.nhs.uk- National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse

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19.

Bereavement Policy

19.1

Over and above your basic holiday entitlement, you are entitled to additional leave in the event of the death of family members listed below:

19.2

5 days’ leave with pay for immediate family eg (mother, father, step mother/father, child, husband, wife or equivalent partner)

1 day’s leave with pay for other close relations eg (grandparents, brother, sister, mother/father in law etc).

Each case will be considered individually in the light of the particular circumstances. Additional Compassionate leave days may be given, for example where the employee is the executor or is responsible for arranging the funeral, and where there are any extenuating circumstances. Please contact the Director of Corporate Services for advice.

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20.

Business Travel and Expenses Policy

20.1

Wherever possible you should seek to combine the most cost effective method of transport with the most efficient use of your time. HouseMark will directly meet the cost of eligible travel expenses or reimburse you if the expenditure is fully receipted.

20.2

Air travel International air travel must be authorised by the Chief Executive. Air travel within the UK is allowed with the prior authorisation of the Chief Executive when it is the cheapest, most practicable method of travel. HouseMark will not pay first class fares.

20.3

Rail travel Rail travel should be used if you do not have a company car, except if it is more practicable and less expensive to make the journey by car. Seat reservations may be made for both outward and return journeys. You can order tickets online and pay with your company credit card. If practicable, rail tickets may be ordered in advance for you by administrative support staff. First class rail travel is only permitted in exceptional circumstances with the prior permission of your Director or the Chief Executive. An example of when this might be permitted would be if a journey will take several hours and it is essential that you work during the journey.

20.4

Public transport/taxis Wherever possible, appropriate public transport should be used. Taxis may be used where this is essential for speed or where heavy articles have to be carried. Taxis may also be used to travel from the station at the point of arrival to meetings, if no suitable public transport is available.

20.5

Company cars Employees who are required to undertake extensive business travel may be offered the option of a company leased car. If you take up this option you are required to sign an agreement which sets out the terms and conditions of the arrangement.

20.6

Car user allowance Employees who are required to undertake significant business travel may be entitled to an annual car user allowance, at the discretion of the Chief Executive. The allowance is payable monthly with their salary and is not pensionable.

20.7

Casual car user Employees using their own car are responsible for ensuring that they have adequate and valid comprehensive car insurance, which covers business travel.

20.8

Business mileage rates You should keep a log of your business journeys on the relevant mileage form. Expenses claims for business mileage should be made with your monthly expenses claim. The following Inland Revenue approved rates are payable. These are subject to change.

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Company cars and staff with car allowances - effective 1 December 2010 Engine Size 1400cc or less 1401cc to 2000cc Over 2000cc

Petrol

Diesel

13p

12p

9p

15p

12p

10p

21p

15p

15p

LPG

NB: Petrol hybrid cars are treated as petrol cars for this purpose Own vehicle 2010/2011 Engine Size

20.9

First 10,000 Each mile over business 10,000 miles in miles in the the tax year tax year

Cars and vans

40p

25p

Motor cycles

24p

24p

Bicycles

20p

20p

Car parking fees and tolls Car parking fees and tolls incurred by employees when travelling on HouseMark business and which are supported with receipts will be reimbursed.

20.10 Penalty charges HouseMark will not reimburse the cost of penalty charges for parking and motoring offences. In the case of company leased cars, the police and other relevant authorities will notify our car lease company. The lease company will pay any charges and levy an administration charge to HouseMark – usually £20-40. The employee will be required to reimburse HouseMark both the penalty fee and the administration charge. 20.11 London Congestion Charge HouseMark will reimburse the cost of the London Congestion Charge when incurred on business travel and supported by receipts. It is your responsibility to make the payment before the journey. If for any reason, you do not have the time or facility to do so, please ask the Business Support Team to arrange payment. This can be done online at www.cclondon.com. HouseMark will not reimburse the cost of any penalty charges for late payment or failure to pay the London Congestion Charge. In the case of company leased cars, the police and other relevant authorities will notify our car lease company, which will bill HouseMark for the charges and levy an administration charge–

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HouseMark Staff Handbook usually £20-40. The employee will be required to reimburse HouseMark both the penalty fee and the administration charge. 20.12 Hotel accommodation When it is necessary to stay in overnight accommodation in connection with your work, the following guidelines apply. Different arrangements apply to overnight stays by the Chief Executive. 

Hotels should only be booked by administrative support staff. They will seek to negotiate the best deal and request discounts where more than 1 room is booked. Where appropriate, Right Location or other hotel booking agencies will be used.

Overnight accommodation in Coventry will be booked at Arden House, University of Warwick.

Outside of Coventry, employees will generally be booked into 3 star hotels at a maximum rate £95 per night outside London and £120 per night in the London area. Cheaper alternatives such as Travel Inns and Travel Lodges may also be used, for example in the case of staff visits to the HouseMark office. We always endeavour to place staff in hotels which are women-friendly with Internet access and safe parking

If you are attending an event where accommodation is provided, such as a conference, you should stay in that accommodation.

20.13 Subsistence If you travel outside your principal place of employment on HouseMark business, you may claim expenses up to the maximum allowances set out below. 

Breakfast: Up to £10 if you stay overnight in a hotel and the accommodation charge does not include breakfast, or if you have to leave home earlier than 7.00am to undertake a business journey of more than 5 miles from your permanent workplace and the absence will exceed five hours.

Lunch: Snack up to £7 if you are working more than 5 miles from your permanent workplace and the absence will exceed five hours.

Dinner: If you stay overnight in a hotel, you may have the set table d’hote or you may purchase a dinner outside the hotel at a cost of up to £35 (inclusive of beverages) if desired.

Light Evening Meal: Up to £13 may be claimed by staff working beyond 9.00pm.

Incidental Expenses: If you stay in a hotel overnight, you may claim up to £3 per day for reasonable incidental expenses, such as newspapers. If staying outside the UK, the rate should be agreed in advance with your Director or the Chief Executive.

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HouseMark Staff Handbook Annual CIH Conference - Harrogate and NHF Conference - Birmingham 20.14 During these annual conferences, all of the above limits will usually be increased by 50%, except incidental expenditure. Some hospitality at the bar is anticipated, but this must be justifiable and reasonable and adhere to the conditions above. 20.15 Expense claims All claims for subsistence and expenses are subject to the following rules: 

Allowances do not apply if food is provided via other sources, eg meals are provided as part of an event or your host foots the bills or.

Allowances can only be claimed for bon-fide expenditure – the allowance is not payable per se. A breakdown of all expenditure must be given and be substantiated by receipts. Items of expenditure, which contain VAT must be supported by a receipt clearly showing the supplier’s VAT number in order for HouseMark to recover the VAT.

If meals are taken in a group, the individual group members must be specified on the expenses claim form.

Alcoholic drinks are not to be charged to individual room accounts.

Items of a purely personal nature, such as dry cleaning, are at your own expense.

Additional expenditure, such as the entertaining of third parties, is not allowed unless agreed in advance by a Director or the Chief Executive.

The above allowances are inclusive of gratuities at your discretion.

20.16 Expense claims should be submitted online by the last day of each month and will be paid by bank transfer on the 15th of the following month. Expense claims must be approved by your line manager before payment can be made. Please contact the Finance Officer for further information or for help with the online expenses system.. 20.17 Inland Revenue All of the allowances for travel and subsistence have been agreed by the Inland Revenue on HouseMark’s Dispensation Notice and thus do not need to be reported on Self Assessment Tax returns. Any payments made over and above these allowances will revoke the dispensation and HouseMark will have to report them to the Inland Revenue and you will be subject to tax on the payments. 20.18 Petty cash For ad hoc purchases such as milk or sandwiches for meetings, you should first ask the Finance Officer whether you can make the purchase and be reimbursed from petty cash. Receipts must be provided and these should be solely for the item purchased, ie not as an item on your personal shopping bill. NB. Kitchen and catering supplies should be bought in bulk at discounted prices by the Finance Officer, Office Manager or the BSO (Reception). Only in exceptional cases should other staff make such purchases.

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20.19 Company Barclaycard The Barclaycard may only be used for travel tickets, car parking fees and subsistence costs. The limits and conditions outlined above apply. They may be used to pay for hotels on departure, only when the hotel does not agree to invoice HouseMark. On no account must the Barclaycard be used to obtain cash, to pay for personal expenses or for the purchase of goods or office supplies. As an exception, the Finance Officer and the Director of Corporate Services have permission to purchase goods and office supplies on their company credit cards. If you wish to use the card to pay for any other type of purchase, you must first seek the permission of the Director of Corporate Services. Examples of when permission may be given are: to pay for an eye test, (when the company does not have a free eye test voucher to give you). You should retain Barclaycard vouchers and receipts, in particular VAT receipts. The Finance Officer will give you a copy of your monthly Barclaycard statement and a Barclaycard expense claim form. This should then be completed, vouchers and receipts attached and be authorised by your line manager/and or the budget holder prior to return to the finance section within 7 days.

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21.

Vehicle Policy and use of Mobile Phones in Vehicles General

21.1

Employees are notified individually if they are entitled to use a company vehicle for the better performance of their duties. Company vehicles are provided as a tool of your trade and not as a benefit. Such entitlement is subject to the following terms and conditions of this policy and the car leasing agreement. In the event of an Employee failing to comply with the obligations under this policy or the agreement, the Company shall be entitled, at its sole discretion, to withdraw or limit the use of the company vehicle so provided without giving any reason and without compensation. Choice of vehicle

21.2

The Company reserves the right to decide by what means company vehicles will be provided (eg by lease or purchase).

21.3

The Company will determine the make and model of vehicle to be provided and reserves the right to change the make and model of such vehicle at its sole discretion.

21.4

The arrangements for the purchase or lease of vehicles will be for the Company to decide in the circumstances. Running and other costs

21.5

The Company will pay/arrange for company vehicles provided to be comprehensively insured and taxed.

21.6

Employees are responsible for ensuring that their company vehicles are kept clean (both inside and out) and are maintained in a roadworthy condition. The Company will reimburse all reasonable servicing and maintenance costs properly incurred (excluding car valet or car wash charges) on the production of garage receipts.

21.7

Petrol costs incurred on the Company’s business will be reimbursed and should be recovered as expenses in the normal way. Copies of garage receipts must be provided to the Company. Credit card receipts alone will not suffice. Employee obligations

21.8

Employees provided with a company vehicle are required to comply with the following requirements, which are conditions of entitlement to the use or benefit of a company vehicle:

to take reasonable care of the vehicle and to keep it in a clean condition

to keep the vehicle in a roadworthy condition and to take appropriate action to remedy any faults

to report at the earliest opportunity to the Company any damage to the vehicle or any accident arising from its use, regardless of how such damage or accident occurred. Failure to do so may lead to loss of insurance cover for

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such damage or accident, in which event the Employee will be liable to indemnify the Company for such loss; 

to report at the earliest opportunity any incident concerning the police which arises from the use of the company vehicle;

to comply with the provisions and conditions of any policy of insurance relating to the vehicle and the Company’s requirements in respect of assisting with insurance claims or investigations into accidents, damage or police enquiries arising from the use of the company vehicle. The employee is responsible for the above matters, even if not personally driving the company vehicle at the relevant time. No person other than the authorised employee is allowed to drive the vehicle unless they have the written permission of the Company.

Accidents 21.9

The Company is mindful of its rising insurance cost and considers that it is unacceptable for an employee to have two or more at-fault accidents in any rolling 12-month period. In such event, the employee concerned will be liable to pay the Company’s insurance excess for the third and subsequent accidents. If an employee has an accident due to his/her carelessness, negligence or dangerous driving such conduct will be treated as misconduct and might result in dismissal.

21.10 If, for whatever reason, an employee ceases to hold a valid driving licence and should thereby be unable to carry out the employment properly and effectively or attend for work (as the case may be), then in the absence of suitable alternative employment being available the employee may be liable for dismissal. Criminal proceedings 21.11 In the event of either the employee or the Company becoming involved in criminal proceedings in connection with the employee’s use of the company vehicle, the employee will be responsible for all parking fines and charges, costs, fines, criminal compensation and any other similar liability connected with or arising from such criminal proceedings. In the event of the Company initially paying some of the above liabilities, the employee will reimburse such sums within 28 days, in default of which the employee agrees that such sums may be deducted from the employee’s salary. These provisions also apply to an employee where such fines and other liabilities have been incurred by any other person who has used the vehicle. Termination of employment 21.12 Where any employee is summarily dismissed or is not required by the Company to work out the notice period (regardless of who gave notice), the employee will be obliged to return the company vehicle on the last day of work in accordance with the Company’s instructions and shall not be entitled to any further use or benefit of the vehicle or to any monetary value in lieu thereof. 21.13 The Company may, at its sole discretion, agree to the employee’s continued use or benefit of a company vehicle after the last day at work. Such permission will be given in writing specifying the terms and conditions of such continued use or benefit.

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21.14 You shall inform the Company immediately if you are convicted of any offence under road traffic legislation in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. If you are disqualified from driving for any period the Company reserves the right to dismiss you, provided driving is an essential requirement of your job.

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Use of mobile phones in vehicles As part of our overall health and safety policy, the Company is committed to reducing the risks which its staff face and create when driving or riding for work. The Company asks its entire staff to play their part, whether they use a company vehicle, their own or a hire vehicle. Holding and using a mobile phone while driving is an offence under UK law. If you are convicted of using a mobile phone whilst driving a HouseMark vehicle, you will be personally liable for the fine. Employees who drive for work must:     

never use a hand-held phone whilst driving ensure that hand-held phones are set to voicemail whilst driving plan journeys so they include rest stops when messages can be checked and calls returned co-operate with monitoring, reporting and investigation procedures only use hand-held phones in a vehicle when it is stationary, in a safe position, the engine is switched off and the key is out of the ignition

The AA advises that hands-free phones are not automatically safer than hand-held phones, and their use should be avoided whenever practical. Employees are advised to heed this advice and should the use of a hands-free phone be necessary, the employee should slow down and keep conversations short and simple. The Company will not expect staff to answer calls when they are driving unless it is safe to do so and they have a hands-free device. Variations 21.16 The Company reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to amend or vary any of the terms of this vehicle policy from time to time. 21.17 In the event of such variation or amendments being made, the Company will give reasonable notice of any change. 21.18 Where the Company decides to change its arrangements for the supply of company vehicles, it may be necessary to replace existing vehicles in the possession of employees with vehicles provided under the new arrangements.

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22.

Data Protection Policy

22.1

The Data Protection Act relates to the handling of all data including employee information as well as client or customer related data. Data under the Act falls into two categories - ordinary personal data and sensitive personal data. The Act requires the Company to take additional steps to protect sensitive personal data. What Sensitive Personal Data Do We Hold?

22.2

22.3

The Company believe that the vast majority of the information which it holds is not considered (under the terms of the Act) to be sensitive personal data. The Company believe that the only exceptions to this are: 22.2.1

racial or ethnic origin - which we hold for the purposes of equal opportunity monitoring;

22.2.2

pre-employment health questionnaire and other information relating to your health and sickness absence - which the Company holds so it can monitor and control sickness absence and ensure that it can pay you sick pay; and

22.2.3

any disciplinary or other records to the extent that they relate to criminal offences. For example, this would include criminal offences which you disclosed when you applied for a job with the Company (and which are not exempt from disclosure under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act) and data created in the thankfully infrequent event of allegations being made against employees that involve or could involve a criminal offence, such as theft.

Subject to some exceptions, the Data Protection Act requires the Company to obtain your explicit consent to hold and process sensitive personal data. Without this consent the Company will not be able to process this data which would for example potentially produce the result that the Company could not pay you if you were off sick. What other personal data do we hold about you?

22.4

In general terms, the Act entitles you, on making a written request and paying the required fee, to obtain access to the data that the Company holds and processes about you. Precise details of what data the Company holds will vary from person to person. Broadly, however, the types of data that the Company will hold and process about you will include: Personal details 

title, name, address - for contact purposes;



home and mobile phone numbers (if supplied) - for contact purposes;



National Insurance number - for payroll processing and tax purposes;

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date of birth and age - in order to address benefit related queries where age is a relevant factor and for the purpose of applying our retirement policy;

emergency contact (possibly next of kin) details - for emergency contact purposes and for administration of flexible benefits; and

marital status - in order to address benefit related queries where marital status may be a factor and for tax purposes.

Employment record 

start date and length of service - for processing and informational purposes and so as to determine employment rights and eligibility for some benefits

employment history - in order to monitor career development

holiday entitlement - for payroll processing and informational purposes

pension scheme member - in order to respond to enquiries

health and safety roles - if applicable

accidents at work - if applicable for health and safety reasons; and

any current disciplinary warnings

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23.

Electronic Information and Communications Systems Policy

23.1

HouseMark’s electronic communications systems and equipment are intended to promote effective communication and working practices within the organisation, and are critical to the success of our business. This policy outlines the standards HouseMark requires users of these systems to observe, the circumstances in which HouseMark will monitor use of these systems and the action we will take in respect of breaches of these standards. HouseMark’s workers are expected to have regard to this policy at all times to protect its electronic communications systems from unauthorised access and harm.

23.2

This policy is for guidance only and does not form part of your contract of employment. Breach of this policy may be dealt with under our disciplinary procedure and, in serious cases, may be treated as gross misconduct leading to summary dismissal. Legislative framework

23.3

The use by workers and monitoring by the Company of our electronic communications systems is likely to involve the processing of personal data and is thus regulated by the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Employment Practices Data Protection Code, issued by the Information Commissioner. We are also required to comply with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000 and the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights incorporated into United Kingdom law by the Human Rights Act 1998. Personnel responsible for implementation of policy

23.4

HouseMark’s senior management team has overall responsibility for this policy but has delegated day-to-day responsibility for overseeing and implementing action required under it to the Director of Corporate Services. Responsibility for monitoring and reviewing the operation of the policy and any recommendations for change to minimise risks to our operations also lies with the Director of Corporate Services. The Corporate Services department will deal with requests for permission or assistance under any provisions of this policy and may specify certain standards of equipment or procedures to ensure security and compatibility. Who is covered by the policy?

23.5

This policy covers all individuals working for HouseMark at all levels and grades, including senior managers, officers, directors, employees, contractors, trainees, homeworkers, part-time and fixed-term employees, and agency staff (collectively known as workers in this policy), and also third parties who have access to HouseMark’s electronic communication systems. Equipment security and passwords

23.6

Workers are responsible for the security of the equipment allocated to or used by them, and must not allow it to be used by anyone other than in accordance with this policy. If given access to the email system or to the internet, workers are

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responsible for the security of their PC/laptop and, if leaving a PC/laptop unattended for any time and on leaving the office, should ensure that they lock the screen or log off to prevent unauthorised users accessing the system in their absence. Desktop PCs and cabling for telephones or computer equipment should not be moved or tampered with without first consulting IT staff. 23.7

Passwords are unique to each user and must be changed regularly to ensure confidentiality. Passwords must be kept confidential and must not be made available to anyone else unless authorised by a member of the Corporate Services department.

23.8

Workers who have been issued with a laptop must ensure that it is kept secure at all times, especially when travelling. Passwords must be used to secure access to data kept on such equipment to ensure that confidential data is protected in the event that the machine is lost or stolen. Workers should also observe basic safety rules when using such equipment, such as not using or displaying it obviously in isolated or dangerous areas. Workers should be aware that if using equipment on, for example, public transport, documents can be read by other passengers. Systems and data security

23.9

Workers should not delete, destroy or modify existing systems, programs, information or data which could have the effect of harming our business or exposing it to risk.

23.10 Workers should not download or install software from external sources without prior authorisation from the Director of Corporate Services. This includes programs (including shareware and freeware), instant messaging programs, screensavers, photos, video clips and music files. An exception to this rule is that laptop users may intall diagnostic software for their Internet Service Provider. If in doubt, workers should seek advice from the Director of Corporate Services. 23.11 The following must never be accessed via the office network without prior permission of the Director of Corporate Services, because of their potential to overload the system or introduce viruses: online radio, audio and video streaming and instant messaging, other than Sametime. Access to social networking sites (such as Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, MySpace, Friends Reunited) is not permitted. This list may be modified from time to time. If there is a business need to access such a website, a written request with reasons must be made to the IT team. 23.12 Only HouseMark approved devices or equipment should be attached to our systems. This includes any MP3 or similar device, PDA, printer or telephone. It also includes use of the infra-red connection port or any other port. Notwithstanding this, it is acknowledged that when laptop users are at external venues, they may have to connect their laptop to non-HouseMark equipment such as projectors and wi-fi networks. 23.13 We monitor all emails passing through our system for viruses. Workers should exercise caution when opening emails from unknown external sources or where, for any reason, an email appears suspicious (for example, if its name ends in .exe). The Director of Corporate Services should be informed immediately if a suspected virus is received. We reserve the right to block access to attachments to emails for

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the purpose of effective use of the system and for compliance with this policy. We also reserve the right not to transmit any email message. 23.14 Workers should not attempt to gain access to restricted areas of the network, or to any password-protected information, unless specifically authorised. 23.15 Workers using laptops or wi-fi enabled equipment must be particularly vigilant about its use outside the office and take any precautions required by the Director of Corporate Services from time to time against importing viruses or compromising the security of the system. The system contains information which is confidential to HouseMark’s business and/or which is subject to data protection legislation. Such information must be treated with extreme care. Email and Sametime etiquette and content 23.16 Email is a vital business tool, but an informal means of communication, and should be used with great care and discipline. Workers should always consider if email is the appropriate medium for a particular communication. Messages sent on the email system should be written as professionally as a letter or fax. Messages should be concise and directed only to relevant individuals. 23.17 Sametime’s instant meeting and chat facilities are provided to enable office and remote workers to communicate with each other electronically without generating unnecessary email traffic. It is not intended as a means for workers to communicate with each other in the office. 23.18 Workers should not use email or Sametime to send abusive, obscene, discriminatory, racist, harassing, derogatory or defamatory messages. If such messages are received, they should not be forwarded and should be reported to a manager or the Director of Corporate Services. If a recipient asks you to stop sending them personal messages then always stop immediately. Where appropriate, the sender of the email should be referred to this policy and asked to stop sending such material. If you feel that you have been harassed or bullied, or are offended by material sent to you by a colleague via email, you should inform your line manager or your director, who will usually seek to resolve the matter informally. If this informal procedure is unsuccessful, you should refer to HouseMark’s anti-harassment procedure. 23.19 Workers should take care with the content of email messages, as incorrect or improper statements can give rise to personal or company liability in the same way as the contents of letters or faxes, eg in connection with claims of discrimination, harassment, defamation, breach of confidentiality or breach of contract. Workers should assume that email messages may be read by others and not include in them anything which would offend or embarrass any reader, or themselves, if it found its way into the public domain. HouseMark’s standard disclaimer should always be used. 23.20 Email and Sametime messages may be disclosed in legal proceedings in the same way as paper documents. Deletion from a user’s inbox or archives does not mean that an email is obliterated and all email messages should be treated as potentially retrievable, either from the main server or using specialist software. 23.21 In general, workers should not: 116


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 use a HouseMark email account or Sametime to send personal emails or messages to staff or people outside the organisation  use a HouseMark email account to register for Internet services for personal use  send or forward private emails at work which they would not want a third party to read  send or forward chain mail, junk mail, cartoons, jokes or gossip either within or outside HouseMark  contribute to system congestion by sending trivial messages or unnecessarily copying or forwarding emails to those who do not have a real need to receive them, (NB: attachments should always be deleted from reply and forwarded messages where not required by the recipient)  sell or advertise using the systems or broadcast messages about sponsorship or charitable appeals  agree to terms, enter into contractual commitments or make representations by email unless appropriate authority has been obtained. A name typed at the end of an email is a signature in the same way as a name written in ink at the end of a letter  send messages from another worker's email account or under an assumed name unless specifically authorised  send confidential messages via email or the internet, or by other means of external communication which are known not to be secure  download or email text, music and other content on the internet subject to copyright protection, unless it is clear that the owner of such works allows this  download software onto HouseMark’s system without the prior permission of the Director of Corporate Services. This includes software and shareware available for free on the Internet 23.22 Workers who receive an email which has been wrongly delivered should return it to the sender of the message. If the email contains confidential information or inappropriate material (as described above) it should not be disclosed or used in any way. Use of the web 23.23 When a website is visited, devices such as cookies, tags or web beacons may be employed to enable the site owner to identify and monitor visitors. If the website is of a kind described above, such a marker could be a source of embarrassment to HouseMark, especially if a worker has accessed, downloaded, stored or forwarded inappropriate material from the website. Workers may even be committing a criminal offence if, for example, the material is pornographic in nature (see section on Inappropriate use of equipment and systems).

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23.24 Workers should not therefore access from HouseMark’s system any web page or any files (whether documents, images or other) downloaded from the web which, on the widest meaning of those terms, could be regarded as illegal, offensive, in bad taste or immoral. While content may be legal in the UK, it may be in sufficient bad taste to fall within this prohibition. As a general rule, if any person within HouseMark (whether intended to view the page or not) might be offended by the contents of a page, or if the fact that HouseMark’s software has accessed the page or file might be a source of embarrassment if made public, then viewing it will be a breach of this policy. 23.25 Workers should not use our systems for personal use (even in their own time) to participate in any internet chat room, or post messages on any internet message board or set up or log text or information on a blog. 23.26 Remember also that text, music and other content on the internet are copyright works. Workers should not download or email such content to others unless certain that the owner of such works allows this. Personal use of systems 23.27 HouseMark permits the incidental use of its internet system subject to certain conditions set out below. Our policy on personal use is a privilege and not a right. The policy is dependent upon its not being abused or overused and we reserve the right to withdraw our permission or amend the scope of this policy at any time. 23.28 The following conditions must be met for personal usage to continue:  use must be minimal and take place substantially out of normal working hours (that is, during a worker’s usual lunch hour, before 9.00 am or after 5.30 pm)  use must not interfere with business or office commitments  use must not commit HouseMark to any marginal costs  use must comply with HouseMark’s policies including the equal opportunities policy, anti-harassment policy, data protection policy and disciplinary procedure. Email content and, Use of the web) 23.29 Workers should be aware that any personal use of the systems may also be monitored and where breaches of this policy are found, action may be taken under the disciplinary procedure. HouseMark reserves the right to restrict or prevent access to certain telephone numbers or internet sites if it considers that personal use is excessive. Monitoring of use of systems 23.30 HouseMark’s systems provide the capability to monitor telephone, email, voicemail, web and other communications traffic. For business reasons, and in order to perform various legal obligations in connection with our role as an employer, use of our systems including the telephone and computer systems, and any personal use of them, is continually monitored by the use of automated software. Monitoring will

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only be carried out to the extent permitted or required by law and as necessary and justifiable for business purposes. 23.31 The University of Warwick Science Park’s CCTV system monitors the exterior of the Riley Court building and the Science Park 24 hours a day. This data is recorded. 23.32 We reserve the right to retrieve the contents of messages or check searches which have been made on the internet for the following purposes (this list is nonexhaustive): 

monitor whether the use of the email system or the internet is legitimate and in accordance with this policy or

find lost messages or to retrieve messages lost due to computer failure or

assist in the investigation of wrongful acts or

comply with any legal obligation

Inappropriate use of equipment and systems 23.33 Access is granted to the web, telephones and to other electronic systems, for legitimate business purposes only. Incidental personal use is permissible provided it is in full compliance with HouseMark’s rules, policies and procedures (including this policy, the equal opportunities policy, anti-harassment policy, data protection policy and disciplinary procedures). 23.34 Misuse or abuse of our telephone or email system or inappropriate use of the internet in breach of this policy will be dealt with in accordance with our disciplinary procedure. Misuse of the internet can, in certain circumstances, constitute a criminal offence. In particular, misuse of the email system or inappropriate use of the internet by unauthorised viewing, accessing, transmitting or downloading any of the following material, or using any of the following facilities, will amount to gross misconduct (this list is not exhaustive):  pornographic material (that is, writings, pictures, films, video clips of a sexually explicit or arousing nature) or  offensive, obscene, or criminal material or material which is liable to cause embarrassment to HouseMark or to its clients or  a false and defamatory statement about any person or organisation or  material which is discriminatory, offensive, derogatory or may cause embarrassment to others or  confidential information about HouseMark and any of its staff or clients or  any other statement which is likely to create any liability (whether criminal or civil, and whether for you or HouseMark or  material in breach of copyright or  online gambling or  chain letters 23.35 Any such action will be treated very seriously and is likely to result in summary dismissal. Where evidence of misuse is found we may undertake a more detailed

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investigation in accordance with our disciplinary procedure, involving the examination and disclosure of monitoring records to those nominated to undertake the investigation and any witnesses or managers involved in the disciplinary procedure. If necessary such information may be handed to the police in connection with a criminal investigation. Monitoring of policy 23.36 This policy reflects the law and HouseMark’s practice as at April 2010. The Director of Corporate Services with the board shall be responsible for reviewing this policy from a legislative and operational perspective at least annually. 23.37 The Director of Corporate Services has responsibility for ensuring that any personnel who may be involved with administration or investigations carried out under this policy receive regular and appropriate training to assist them with these duties.

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24.

Environmental Policy Introduction

24.1

HouseMark believes that businesses are responsible for achieving good environmental practice and operating in a sustainable manner. We are therefore committed to reducing our environmental impact and continually improving our environmental performance as an integral and fundamental part of our business strategy and operating methods.

24.2

It is our priority to encourage our customers, suppliers and all business associates to do the same. Not only is this sound commercial sense for all; it is also a matter of delivering on our duty of care towards future generations.

24.3

We are also aiming to improve the quality of life both for our employees and for the public who visit our offices Our approach

24.4

In order to achieve this:  we will ensure that we comply with existing and future environmental legislation  we will aim to improve energy efficiency of our premises  we will recycle our waste  we will encourage our suppliers and customers to adopt the best possible environmental saving methods

24.5

We have implemented the following initiatives: Waste management  paper and card waste is recycled  plastic bottles are recycled  provided fewer rubbish bins around the offices  toner cartridges ,IT equipment and mobiles phones are recycled wherever possible Travel  lease car policy promotes vehicles with low co2 emissions  use electronic mail and other methods of electronic communication  use conference calls to minimise amount of travelling  car sharing  encourage and facilitate homeworking where appropriate Consumables  use recycled and sustainable paper  network printing  double sided printing  re-use files, ring binders etc  share equipment Energy

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    

our office is located in a modern building, which has an integral cooling and heating system that allows the building to act as a “heat sink" and it has automated low energy systems switching off machines when not in use use of blinds to shade office only using air conditioning system when necessary switching off lights when not in use

Procurement  purchasing wherever possible via our collective procurement arm, Procurement for Housing, which has a sustainable approach to procurement  contracted with an ethical marketing company, Nonconform, to lead on our design and marketing activities  consider the sustainability credentials of suppliers where appropriate  aim to use suppliers and contractors from the local area where possible and appropriate Review 24.6

This HouseMark policy will be under constant review and the senior management team will work with all staff and clients to achieve continuous improvement in our environmental performance.

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25.

Homeworking Policy Who is eligible to work from home?

245.1 Employees who have a contractual right to work from home have different entitlements from those who are merely permitted to do so. 25.2

HouseMark recognises the following homeworking categories: 

employed as a homeworker – ie the employment contract specifically states that the employee’s home is their workplace

the Chief Executive has given the employee permission to regularly work from home on some days subject to conditions, but their contract of employment states that their workplace is the office. This permission can be withdrawn at any time.

the employee’s Director has given permission for the employee to work from home on a specific day for a specific reason, eg to carry out a task that requires quiet

the employee’s Director has given permission for the employee to work from home on a day when they are due to go on business travel and there is not time to visit the office – this could apply to any member of staff on occasion

Absences 25.3

If an employee falls sick whilst working at home, they must report their sickness absence in accordance with HouseMark sickness procedures, ie telephone the Director of Corporate Services by 10.00am on the first day of absence. Employees must not leave a message on voicemail or send an email.

25.4

If whilst working from home, an employee wishes to take the day as holiday when they have not previously booked it, they must immediately contact their line manager or the Director of Corporate Services to request permission. Working arrangements

25.5

Employees who are not contracted homeworkers must record on their Notes calendar any days when they are working at home. They must also enter on the calendar brief details of what work they are doing at home.

25.6

When working at home, employees must be available by telephone Sametime and email to staff and customers throughout the full working day, just as if they were in the Coventry office.

25.7

Telephones and mobile phones must be switched on and not set to voicemail. Employees must log into the Sywx telephone system. Employees must check their telephone and mobile phone voicemails at least once an hour and acknowledge and deal with them as appropriate. 123


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25.8

Employees must work online and signed into Sametime and the SwyxIt telephone system throughout the day. They must check their email at least once an hour and acknowledge and deal with them as appropriate. Telephone equipment and costs

25.9

Contracted homeworkers and employees who have the express permission of the Chief Executive to work from home on a regular basis, will be provided with a telephone headset to use with the SwyxIt system. In the event of an employee living in an area where he or she cannot access high speed broadband to enable effective use of SwyxIt, HouseMark will cover the costs of the following equipment and services if the employee does not already have them:  

BT Call sign (provides a second number on residential telephone line) or a dedicated home office telephone line installation, rental and call costs handset with combined answerphone

IT matters 25.10 When working from home, all employees are required to use their HouseMark laptop, rather than use any other laptop or PC. The reason for this is that HouseMark laptops have regularly updated virus protection. If an employee uses their own PC or laptop, there is a risk that they may expose HouseMark IT systems to viruses. 25.11 Employees must ensure that their laptop and IT equipment is kept secure at all times and must not allow anyone else to use it. When not in use, the laptop should be kept locked in a secure place inside the home. 25.12 Employees are responsible for ensuring that they take adequate daily back-ups of any work that they do on their laptop. This should be done by saving documents to the office file system via the VPN. 25.13 Employees are responsible for ensuring that they apply adequate version controls on documents created locally, which they then copy onto the office network ie take care not to overwrite documents on the network with a local copy which may not be up-to-date – this applies especially to documents that are shared by several users. Broadband connection 25.14 In order to work effectively from home, employees must have a broadband connection. Any employee who is contractually employed to work from home (or who has the Chief Executive’s express permission to work from home on a regular basis) and who does not already have a broadband connection, is required to have broadband installed. HouseMark will reimburse the connection charge and rental. 25.15 Employees who wish to use a home office wireless local network, must provide and install this at their own expense and are responsible for maintaining it. Employees must inform the Director of Corporate Services if they use a home

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office local wireless network, as this may be a factor when investigating IT problems. IT supplies 25.16 All requests for IT equipment and peripherals must be made to the IT Systems Officer. 25.17 Employees, who are contracted homeworkers or who have the Chief Executive’s express permission to work from home on a regular basis, will be provided with a small desktop laser printer and toner cartridges. 25.18 Used cartridges should be returned to the office for recycling or they can be recycled locally. Office supplies 25.19 Employees are not permitted to buy any office or IT supplies and recharge it to the company. The reasons for this are that HouseMark secures very low prices through PfH and HouseMark seeks to control the quality and safety of office and IT supplies for all staff. Printer toners should be ordered from the IT Systems Officer. 25.20 All office supplies, such as paper, pens, folders etc must be sourced direct from the HouseMark stationery cupboard or via a request to the Business Support Officer (Reception). For staff, who do not come into the office very often, we will arrange for bulky office supplies (eg boxes of printer paper), to be delivered direct to their home by the supplier. Postage 25.21 Homeworkers who need to send documents by post from home, may reclaim the cost of stamps on proof of purchase. Please have regard to Royal Mail postage rates as displayed on its website www.royalmail.com – postage is dependent on the size, weight and thickness of the envelope. When sending expense receipts or important documents, please send to the office by recorded or guaranteed delivery. Health and safety 25.22 Under the terms of their employment contract all staff have a responsibility to take reasonable care to ensure their own health and safety and that of others. All staff who work from home must ensure that their working area is safe not just for themselves, but to any other occupants of the home. For example, they should ensure that their workstation complies with HouseMark’s safety standards (as per the workstation assessment form), that electrical cables are safely secured and that waste paper does not pose a fire risk. 25.3

In the case of contracted homeworkers and staff who have the Chief Executive’s express permission to work from home on a regular basis, HouseMark will carry out an bi-annual heath and safety inspection of their workstation.

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25.4

All staff who work at home must bring all electrical equipment provided by HouseMark into the office for a Portable Appliance Testing inspection when requested to do so. Confidentiality and security

25.25 When working at home, employees must ensure that all HouseMark data and documentation (in whatever format, eg electronic and paper) is kept confidential and secure. Confidential waste must be shredded and disposed of at home or be returned to the office for shredding. 25.26 Employees should not leave their laptop or blackberry unattended when logged in and in particular when connected to the Internet or the office VPN.

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26.

Retirement Policy

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Purpose of policy 26.1

The aim of this policy is to set out the procedure adopted by the Company for compulsory retirement of employees. It does not affect voluntary retirement. The provisions set out in the policy reflect the requirements of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (Age Regulations).

26.2

The Company is committed to adopting a flexible approach to retirement and recognises the benefits that it can have for both employees and the organisation as a whole. Normal retirement age

26.3

The normal retirement age for all employees of the Company is 65 unless a different retirement age is specified in an individual's contract of employment.

26.4

Compulsory retirement of an employee under this policy cannot take place before they have reached their normal retirement age but can take place at any point after the normal retirement age has been reached. This does not affect an employee's ability to take voluntary early retirement. Notification of Intended Retirement Date

26.5

Between 6 and 12 months before your Intended Retirement Date we will give you written notice that your employment will terminate by reason of retirement on the Intended Retirement Date. Such notice will not be less than any notice to which you are entitled under your contract. At the same time as we give you notice, we will give you written notice of your right to make a request to carry on working beyond your Intended Retirement Date (Right to Request). Request to work beyond Intended Retirement Date

26.6

You are entitled to make a request to carry on working beyond your Intended Retirement Date. Your request must be in writing and sent to the Director of Corporate Services specifying whether you would like to continue working indefinitely, for a specific period or until a specific date.

26.7

Where your Intended Retirement Date is on or after 1 April 2007, you must make this request between 3 and 6 months before the Intended Retirement Date.

26.8

Employees should note that only one request may be made with respect to any one Intended Retirement Date. Meeting to deal with the request

26.9

Upon receipt of a request to work beyond the Intended Retirement Date, we will arrange a meeting with you to discuss the request. We will aim to hold the meeting within 14 days of receiving the request although this may not be practicable in every case. If you cannot attend the meeting on the specified date, you should

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contact the Director of Corporate Services and we will endeavour to rearrange the meeting. 26.10 If a meeting cannot be arranged at all within a reasonable time, we may ask you to make representations in writing to enable us to consider your request without a meeting. 26.11 A meeting will not be necessary where we write to inform you that we agree to your request in full. 26.12 You may request to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative, and such requests will be accommodated unless unreasonable. Your companion will be entitled to address the meeting and confer with you but may not answer questions on your behalf. 26.13 If your chosen companion is unable to attend the meeting on the date specified by the Company you should contact the Director of Corporate Services and we will endeavour to rearrange the meeting. If the meeting cannot be rearranged at a time convenient to all parties within 7 days of the original date, we may suggest that you bring a different companion or come alone. Decision 26.14 We will write to you, normally within 14 days of the meeting, to notify you of our decision. If we agree to your request, either in full or with modifications, we will set out the arrangements in writing, including whether your employment will continue indefinitely or for a specific period only, in which case the new retirement date will be confirmed. Any agreed changes to your contract of employment will also be set out as appropriate. If the request is refused, we will confirm the date on which your employment will terminate. We will also include written confirmation of your right of appeal. We are not obliged to give reasons for refusing a request. Appeal 26.15 If we refuse your request or we agree to a shorter period of continued employment than you had requested, you are entitled to appeal against the decision. The appeal must be made in writing, setting out the grounds of appeal, and should sent to the Director of Corporate Services as soon as reasonably practicable, normally within 7 days of receipt by you of notification of the decision. 26.16 Upon receipt of your appeal, we will arrange an appeal meeting with you. We will aim to hold the meeting within 14 days of receiving the appeal although this may not be practicable in every case. If you cannot attend the meeting on the specified date, you should contact the Director of Corporate Services and we will endeavour to rearrange the meeting. 26.17 If a meeting cannot be arranged at all within a reasonable time, we may ask you to make representations in writing to enable us to consider your appeal without a meeting.

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26.18 A meeting will not be necessary where we write to inform you that we agree to your appeal in full. 26.19 You may request to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative, and such requests will be accommodated unless unreasonable. Your companion will be entitled to address the meeting and confer with you but may not answer questions on your behalf. 26.20 If your chosen companion is unable to attend the meeting on the date specified by the Company you should contact the Director of Corporate Services and we will endeavour to rearrange the meeting. If the meeting cannot be rearranged at a time convenient to all parties within 7 days of the original date, we may suggest that you bring a different companion or come alone. Final decision 26.21 We will write to you, normally within 14 days of the meeting, to notify you of our decision. If we agree to your appeal, either in full or with modifications, we will set out the new arrangements in writing, including whether your employment will continue indefinitely or for a specific period only, in which case the new retirement date will be confirmed. Any agreed changes to your contract of employment will also be set out as appropriate. If your appeal is refused, we will confirm the date on which your employment will terminate. We are not obliged to give reasons for refusing an appeal. Retirement after request has been granted 26.22 If we grant your request to work beyond the Intended Retirement Date, the procedure set out above must be followed again before compulsory retirement can take place (subject to the paragraph below). This applies whether a future retirement date has been set or employment has been extended indefinitely. 26.23 However, if your employment has been extended for a fixed period of six months or less beyond the Intended Retirement Date, there is no need to follow the procedure again. Pension benefits 26.24 Working beyond your normal retirement age may have implications for your pension benefits. If you are concerned about this you should contact the SHPS Helpdesk, Tel: 0845 608 5252 for further information. Breaches of the policy 26.25 This policy is not contractual. If you believe that we have not complied with this policy in any way, you should raise the matter informally at first with the person concerned. If this does not resolve the issue it can be raised through the grievance procedure.

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27.

Redundancy Policy

27.1

Should a redundancy situation arise, for whatever reason, the Company will take all reasonable steps to avoid compulsory redundancies, for example: 

reducing hours

lay off

ask for voluntary redundancies

enquire whether anyone has plans to retire early or is considering a career move

27.2

However, if compulsory redundancies become necessary, employees will be involved and consulted at various meetings to discuss selection criteria, any alternative positions, and be given every opportunity to put forward any views of their own.

27.3

Employees will be given the opportunity to discuss the proposed selection criteria.

27.4

The Company reserves the right to reject any applications for voluntary redundancy if it believes that the employee has skills and experience that the Company needs to be retain for the future viability of the business.

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28.

Equal Pay Policy

28.1

The Company is committed to the principle of equal pay for men and women. In this context “pay� includes not only remuneration but also other benefits of employment such as promotion and training opportunities and access to facilities provided within the employment package from time to time.

28.2

We are committed to introducing and maintaining pay systems which are transparent, based on objective criteria and free from sex bias.

28.3

Women and men employed by us are entitled to equal pay if they are undertaking work which is substantially similar or is of equal value to the organisation unless there are specific and clear reasons unconnected with their sex which explain and justify any differential in pay. In some cases individuals carrying out similar work may receive different salaries because of seniority, incremental points, qualifications and other such factors.

28.4

You should raise any grievance concerning your pay in accordance with the Company’s grievance procedure or the job evaluation appeals procedure as appropriate.

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HM Staff Handbook

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