Legal lowdown: Unpaid internships and the National Trust

Third sector employers may be able to lawfully engage unpaid interns, but could nevertheless face controversy

Tackling exploitation in employment is high on the government’s agenda, and non-payment of the national minimum wage is a hot moral, political and legal topic. The latest issue to hit the headlines is criticism of the National Trust’s rolling six-month unpaid internship schemes, which drew criticism despite a statutory exemption that specifically entitles charities not to pay ‘voluntary workers’ the national minimum wage.

So it seems a timely reminder of who interns are, and what their rights are, is in order.

‘Interning’ is popularly understood to mean a kind of work experience, generally undertaken for free with the implied quid pro quo that the intern can build up their CV and ‘get a foot in the door’. However, ‘intern’ is not a legal term and interns have no specific legal status.

Interns and the minimum wage

So from a legal perspective, should interns be paid?

The starting point is that a person will be entitled to the national minimum wage if he or she is a worker, ordinarily works in the UK under a contract and is above the compulsory school age. ‘Worker’ means someone who works under a contract of employment, or any other contract under which they undertake to perform the work personally for a company that is not their client or customer.

Whether or not an intern is a ‘worker’ for national minimum wages purposes, depends on the usual tests for employment status – looking at matters such as mutual obligations, the need to perform work personally and control over the work. Interns who are only work shadowing will find it harder to show they are workers who should be paid compared with those interns doing real work and being treated much like employees.

Exemptions

If an intern is a worker, they will be entitled to be paid the national minimum wage unless one of a few limited exemptions applies.

One exemption is specifically for people known as ‘voluntary workers’ working for ‘a charity, voluntary organisation, or associated fundraising or statutory body’. For the exemption to apply, the voluntary worker must receive no monetary payment (other than reimbursement of expenses). Generally, they must also not receive any benefits in kind, other than reasonable subsistence or accommodation. Assuming the National Trust’s internship arrangements meet these stipulations, as a charity it is legally entitled to engage interns without paying them.

Legal sanctions

Failure to pay the national minimum wage to any entitled worker (including interns) can be costly.

The worker themselves can bring a variety of claims in the Employment Tribunal, including for unlawful deduction from wages, breach of contract, and unfair dismissal or detriment related to their eligibility to receive the national minimum wage. To date there are two known cases of unpaid interns, supported by trade unions, successfully bringing tribunal claims, both for non-payment of wages and pay in lieu of holiday (Vetta v London Dreams Motion Pictures Ltd ET/2703377/08 and Hudson v TPG Web Publishing Ltd, 2011, unreported).

Separately, HMRC can issue a notice of underpayment requiring the company to pay minimum wage arrears from the last six years (calculated at the current rates) plus a fine of 200% of the underpayment, up to a maximum of £20,000 per underpaid worker. BIS will also ‘name and shame’ the employer in a press notice, unless the employer successfully makes representations as to why it should not be named.

Obstinate employers who persistently refuse to pay the national minimum wage or to co-operate with HMRC may even face criminal charges.

Beware the publicity…

As the National Trust story shows, the downsides of not paying interns can be as much about bad publicity as about the law. Charity employers may be able to rely on specific exemptions to lawfully engage unpaid interns, but nevertheless may face controversy. This makes it important for employers to weigh up all the implications – legal, social and PR – before advertising lengthy unpaid internship opportunities.

This article is published courtesy of  HR magazine and was written by Richard Miskella is a partner and Rachel Rooksby a senior associate in the employment team at Lewis Silkin

The Eva Carneiro tribunal: lessons on avoiding high-profile disputes

Employers would be well-advised to consider settlement early and often to avoid legal disputes

While the vast majority of employment disputes settle, the Eva Carneiro case (a high-profile spat between a doctor and her ex-employer Chelsea Football Club) is a good example of how not to publicly settle such a case.

While Carneiro and Chelsea FC mostly avoided the full details and very public gaze of a tribunal (Carneiro settled with a generous figure of up to £5 million, according to media reports), the case highlights the risks of fighting employment disputes all the way to court, which can do more harm than good to an employer.

Contesting a dispute with an employee in a tribunal is often described as a lottery. The outcome can be so hard to predict and be swung by any number of factors. For example, even the strongest of cases can quickly disintegrate because of the poor performance of a witness on the day of testimony. Likewise, the tribunal panel of adjudicators consists of only one legally-qualified member – the chairman – and two wing members. So the panel may be easily influenced by non-legal issues or be swayed by their own sympathies and perspectives.

There is also no loser-pays-costs rule for employment disputes so even if an employer is found not to have acted unlawfully they will usually still be stuck with a large legal bill. Given the cap on potential awards for certain claims, legal fees may dwarf any award of damages or a settlement.

It is not just financial expense. The greater cost is frequently to public image. Tribunal hearings are (save for exceptional cases) conducted in public so the reputational winner may not be the same party as the victor. The press and the public do not wait for the legal verdict. The pictures, headlines and allegations make much better copy. Accusations such as discrimination, even if eventually proved untrue, are not always quickly dismissed in the court of public opinion.

Lengthy employment disputes also waste management time. It is crucial not to underestimate the impact on the business of the loss of senior management spending days in tribunal, not to mention the preparation time.

The good news is that, Carneiro aside, settlement offers usually do not get played out in the tribunal or the press. They are made on a without prejudice basis and confidential between the parties and possibly ACAS; the tribunal panel is unaware of the details.

If settlement does occur there is a time and a way of doing it. Frequently it is done before the barrister’s brief fee (often five figures) is incurred, and for a high-profile claimant or defendant certainly before the press gets hold of the tribunal listing. If mandatory conciliation has failed, arguably the best time to try to re-open a settlement dialogue is before the real meat of the legal expenses is incurred; pre-discovery or pre-witness statements being prepared.

Sometimes an employer has to fight. If a business needs to take a stand on a point of principle then settlement offers should never be made on commercial grounds. Alternatively, sometimes employers need to disrupt the culture of an organisation that has fallen into the norm of ‘lazy settlement’ – employees all ‘take a pop’ on the way out and a culture develops of employers frequently paying out relatively small nuisance sums. If staff know employers will always roll over and pay cases have to be fought even if they are sometimes lost.

Employers would be well-advised to consider settlement early and often. The risk profile of employers differs widely and settlement needs to work for both parties.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Jules Quinn (pictured), a partner at law firm King & Spalding

Employers deal with Brexit shockwaves

 

The leave result of the EU referendum thrusts the role of HR into the spotlight

 

Employers across the UK are dealing with the aftermath of last week’s referendum, in which the country voted to leave the European Union, and the subsequent political and economic turmoil.

The result of the EU referendum led to David Cameron resigning as prime minister, the pound falling to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, and £120 billion wiped off the FTSE 100 in the worst day of losses since the recession.

The referendum result has also led to a Labour party revolt, with 11 members of the shadow cabinet (so far) resigning in protest against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The uncertainty over the next steps for Britain – given the government has yet to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal – is leading to much nervousness among UK-based businesses.

The BBC reported that HSBC would move up to 1,000 staff to Paris from London if the UK was to leave the single market.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, business secretary Sajid Javid urged businesses to remain calm. “There’s no need to panic. We have to take a calm approach,” he said. “Nothing is going to change for at least two years so businesses can plan around that. Let’s look at what opportunities this throws up.”

However, research conducted before the referendum by Jelf Employee Benefits shows UK plc were not prepared for the result, with 83% of businesses surveyed saying they had no formal plan in place should the UK vote to leave the EU.

And post-referendum research from the Institute of Directors has found 64% of firms think Brexit will be bad for business. The research also revealed 24% will put a freeze on recruitment, and 5% will make redundancies. However, 32% said hiring would continue at the same pace as before the result.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty the role of HR becomes critical, University of Sheffield chief HR and corporate officer Andy Dodman told HR magazine.

“Leaving the EU will have a profound effect on the workplace, and HR will play a key role in advising and informing staff on the Brexit process and its impact on individuals,” he said.

“However, the HR function needs to address an additional challenge. The referendum outcome hasn’t only created a sense of uncertainty from staff but also genuine dismay [among some]. HR therefore needs to communicate with authenticity, empathy and confidence to reinforce and safeguard corporate principles and strategic direction.”

Dodman added that the moment the result was announced the University of Sheffield focused heavily oncommunication. Actions taken include setting up a dedicated website with pertinent information and a specific email account for staff to send questions to. The university will also be sending personal emails to all European staff members.

“All of the communications have sought to acknowledge the deep and profound concerns that staff and students may have and offer assurance that there will be no immediate material change; referencing the two-year negotiation process set out in the Lisbon Treaty,” said Dodman.

Duncan Brown, head of HR consultancy at the Institute for Employment Studies, told HR magazine employers should seek to reassure workers. “[The message should be:] Don’t panic, nothing will change for a while, [we are] reviewing our options and we will involve you,” he said.

Simpson Millar employment law partner Aneil Balgobin said employers need to be wary of losing talent unnecessarily, in case their European employees currently in the UK panic and decide to look for work outside the country.

“Employers need to be swift in reassuring staff who could feel destabilised and may be looking outside Britain for a more secure role – triggering a talent drain at a time when many companies need their core capacity the most,” he said. “But this is a time for calm while everyone takes stock. The worst thing employees can do is make rushed decisions that they may later regret.”

Supporting working families in the property sector

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that will work for all new families

A good business must evolve with its employees. This might sound obvious, but it’s surprising how often the most basic processes are overlooked. There may be a promising employee who began as a young graduate and is now looking to start a family but wants to see that their career can continue to develop. Or a new starter bursting with fresh ideas and experience who needs to leave at 4pm on some days to make the school run.

When it comes to parental leave government policy has already progressed. Shared Parental Leave (SPL) legislation allows parents to divide childcare, and while widespread take-up from fathers is yet to take off it is a promising step forwards and enables mothers to return to work earlier should they wish.

For either parent returning to work after an extended period of time – whether this is six months, the full 12 months or a longer career break to start a family – it’s vital they are supported in slotting back into the work environment. Different projects, different clients, different teams and, in some cases, even a vastly different economic background will be an additional challenge alongside reacclimatising to the work routine. Recognise this is not about making allowances; it’s simply offering enough support and looking at the most effective way to help them back. This will pay dividends when it comes to their overall performance, and retention in the long run.

For a lot of new parents a key concern is how they will juggle commuting with the nursery pick-up, or doctor’s appointments with meetings. A lot of it is about trust – both for the employer and the clients involved. If there is transparency, and upfront negotiation as to when someone will be contactable and when they won’t, it will be a far more productive relationship. If we judge people on their outputs rather than hours spent in the office it will enable us to retain our talent and attract those seeking a good work/life balance.

These issues are part of the reason we recently launched CBRE’s inaugural Diversity Week, which addressed everything from mental wellbeing in the workplace to balancing employment with duties in the Armed Forces. We started the week with a panel debate involving both men and women on ‘The Modern Working Family’, hosted by the Women’s Network and the Family Friendly Group.

During the panel some important points were raised – one of which is the fact that agile working doesn’t necessarily come down to men or women, but individual children and families and their routines. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to when new parents should leave the office every day or how many days a week they should work. Communication is key: regular appraisals allow concerns to be raised as well as for line managers to establish the best route forwards if there are any issues. While it will help to have a framework for line managers to refer back to when addressing these points this has to be equally flexible and evolve over time.

We have upgraded our maternity benefits and revised our flexible working practices to ensure that we retain as many women as possible at every stage of their careers. Today more than a third of CBRE’s UK professional ‘fee-earning’ staff are women, which is two-and-a-half times the property industry average. There have been great strides forward, but there is always more to be done when it comes to ensuring all employees – both men and women – are able to thrive at work regardless of changes in their personal lives.

This article is published coutesy of HR magazine and was written by Sue Clayton (pictured), executive director and chair of the UK Women’s Network at commercial property services provider CBRE

Anti-discrimination laws and the European Court of Human Rights

If the UK leaves the EU, will the ECJ and the ECHR have the final say on employment and discrimination legislation?

When the UK joined the European Union in 1973 it gave up the right to have the final say on employment and discrimination law. UK courts must accommodate European treaties, laws and decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) when bringing in legislation and making decisions. All discrimination law (except for equal pay) is contained within three EU Directives and the UK government is expected to bring in and enforce laws that reflect these.

While we remain in the EU UK court decisions can be challenged in the ECJ because they do not comply with EU law. They can also be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) because we have a Human Rights Act and have signed up to the 47 nation Council of Europe (not the EU) but this will be unaffected by the UK leaving the EU.

In Eweida v British Airways Eweida went to the ECHR saying that the UK courts had been wrong to conclude that BA could justify its corporate dress code that banned jewellery on the grounds of maintaining a corporate image. This policy meant Eweida was unable to wear her Christian crucifix and this had breached Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which says that employees have the right to visibly display signs of their faith, and Article 14, which says they should be free from discrimination in the exercise of this freedom.

The ECHR agreed with Eweida; saying that the ban was not proportionate and the UK courts had given too much weight to the need for BA to maintain its corporate image, especially given the lack of evidence to support that a discreet cross had any effect on corporate image.

It is not just the UK whose decisions are challenged at the ECHR and ECJ. In Achbita v G4S Achbita was a Muslim receptionist in Belgium who wanted to wear an Islamic headscarf but G4S had rules banning employees wearing any religious, political or philosophical symbols while on duty. Achbita lost her claims of direct/indirect discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs in the Belgian courts.

Achbita went to the Belgian Court of Appeal, which asked the ECJ to rule on whether a ban on female Muslim employees wearing a headscarf at work constituted direct discrimination contrary to EU law. The opinion of the ECJ’s advocate general was that it was not direct discrimination and even if it had been, the ban could be justified given G4S’s policy of neutrality and under the ‘genuine and determining occupational requirement’ exemption. However, it is for the courts in Belgium to consider whether the clothing neutrality policy causes undue prejudice to employees. The ECJ can either agree with or ignore this opinion.

Any HR division implementing a dress code that might adversely affect employees, especially on the grounds of religion, needs to ask itself what the purpose of the policy is. Because this will be carefully examined by the courts. Is there a better way of doing it that does not negatively affect those who want to exercise their right to visibly display signs of their faith?

Currently any UK decision is open to challenge at the ECJ on the basis that it is contrary to EU law. If the UK left the EU then the practical effect would be that the UK’s Supreme will have the final word in cases. It is however highly unlikely that current employment and discrimination legislation, which has worked well for years, will be abolished or replaced. However, leaving the EU is unlikely to have any effect on challenges through the ECHR.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Beverley Sunderland (pictured), managing director of Crossland Employment Solicitors

One in five wellness schemes will never include financial advice

Almost half (49%) of firms offer financial advice and education, but 18% have no plans to ever offer this

One in five (18%) firms with wellness schemes have no plans to include financial education and advice in their programmes, according to research from the Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA).

Almost half (49%) of firms do offer financial advice and education, according to the Employee Wellness Research 2016 report, and 17% hope to add it to their current wellness strategy in 2016. A further 15% plan to add it at some point further in the future.

Ant Donaldson, global product expert, benefits at E.On, said offering these services could help reduce unnecessary stresses on workers. “Financial issues can be a significant cause of distraction and stress for employees,” he said. “Providing education around financial matters can help support them to make sound financial decisions and hopefully prevent money worries.

“These days staff are faced with far-reaching choices around pensions and other financial products and we feel we should help equip them to deal with those decisions effectively,” he added.

The report also found that 20% of firms with a wellness programme plan to include an alcohol or tobacco use plan in the future, while 69% currently do. Meanwhile 24% hope to introduce a healthy eating scheme (currently already offered by 73%), and 19% are aiming to broaden their strategy to include mental health, something already implemented by 79%.

While more than two-thirds (70%) of those polled have no wellness strategy in place yet, most (98%) were open to the idea. A third (31%) of the group with no strategy plan to implement one within the next year, and a further 35% are looking to expand their programmes in the near but not immediate future. A third (32%) see it as an item on their ‘wish list’, and only 2% had no interest in implementing one.

Beate O’Neil, head of wellness consulting for Punter Southall Health and Protection Consulting, said that wellness is good for both staff and business: “The way employers support and educate employees with health and wellness will, we believe, have a direct impact on productivity and their ability to attract and retain high-quality staff in the future.”

The robots are coming: legalities in the workplace

The use of robotics in the workplace raises new legal questions on leadership, safety and discrimination

Robots will begin displacing many workers in the near future. This raises multiple questions, starting with whether jobs will be lost in the process and what skills employees will need to keep their jobs in that environment. Employers also face legal questions. Robotics introduce many risks and unknowns into labour law, and create working conditions that were unthinkable when much labour legislation was enacted.

The robots are coming. Which robots?

So far humanoid robots have not achieved technological and economic significance in global workplaces. The roughly 300,000 industrial robots placed into operation each year, however, have.

Robots play a big part in the logistics and transport industries. In the service sector robots can now be found in hotels, restaurants and retail. Personal care robots help, entertain, supervise and cater to elderly people. Robot exoskeletons are becoming more popular, allowing people to lift heavy objects, move in a more sustained way, or even walk despite spinal injuries. Exoskeletons in industry can prevent work-related musculoskeletal ailments and absences due to illness and disability.

When a robot is the boss

Hitachi has developed a robot that assigns work tasks to human employees and issues instructions. However, instructions have to stay within the scope of what a human boss is allowed to give, and a human senior manager must take responsibility for the robot’s commands. It is also conceivable that the time will come when an algorithm decides whether to fire employees. A manager robot can make the decision for a dismissal and suggest it, but is not allowed to give somebody notice. Only a human being can legally give notice under most national employment laws.

The occupational safety challenge

Robotics create new prevention challenges regarding occupational safety. Personal care robots challenge the concept of occupational safety because they are used for a variety of tasks in environments that are not precisely defined, because they come into contact with non-specialised users, and because they share the workspace with humans. Therefore safety standards must be defined formally on an international level, as the 2014 ISO standard on personal care robots does.

Collaborative robots – cobots – are a new generation of industrial robots that overcome safety barriers and emerge from behind protective bars. The combined use of cobots and human employees will revolutionise production in factories around the globe. ISO technical specification 15066 spells out safety requirements for collaborative robots, including specific rules for analysing and controlling risks.

Assessing legal risk regarding industrial safety is difficult in a workplace that includes a personal care robot or a cobot. New approaches will be necessary and both humans and robots must be trained to ensure safe contact.

Protection against discrimination

Robotic systems must be programmed so they do not discriminate directly or indirectly. ‘Hiring-by-algorithm’ programs must meet requirements for admissible interview questions and comply with laws against discrimination and disparate impact. Robots that are programmed to ask questions of applicants, answer questions, and measure an applicant’s physiological reactions must adhere to all requirements of privacy protection in employment relationships and the relevant data protection laws.

Exoskeletons can also raise equality and discrimination issues. First, there is the question of whether they should legally be treated as body parts. Second, exoskeletons could become reasonable accommodations. For example, in certain cases an employee may be entitled to such an accommodation from their employer.

Do we need new laws?

Lawmakers must decide whether legal foundations need to be modified or whether entirely new ones are necessary. I think we have to exercise restraint until the necessity for new laws becomes clear. The consequences of robotics in the workplace must be considered in relation to other phenomena such as migration, superannuation and globalisation. It is not primarily robotics that will define what our future will look like.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Isabelle Wildhaber (pictured), a professor of private and commercial law at the University of St. Gallen, and director of the Institute for Work and Employment Research

Employers opposed to apprenticeship levy

A lack of available information was a concern among employers, according to a CIPD report

Two-thirds (65%) of employers are either opposed to or undecided about the apprenticeship levy, according to a report from the CIPD.

The research found that while 35% of employers support the principle of the levy, more than a quarter oppose it and 38% say they don’t know where they stand. Opposition to the levy increases among employers that expect to pay it and have calculated the approximate cost, with 47% of such employers opposed to the principle behind the levy and 39% in support.

A lack of available information was also a concern, with more than a quarter (26%) of employers stating that they do not know whether they are expected to pay the levy when it comes in. Only a third of those who expect to pay it (31%) have calculated how much it will cost them each year.

Nearly two-fifths of employers (36%) who have calculated the cost say it will force them to reduce investment in other areas of workforce development, and almost a third (29%) will look to offset the extra costs by adapting training programmes for existing staff so they can be accredited as apprenticeships.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, expressed concerns over the implementation of the levy. “We share the government’s ambition to increase the number and quality of apprenticeships in the UK,” he explained. “However, our research suggests while the levy will boost apprenticeship numbers among some employers, the majority of organisations – particularly SMEs – are unlikely to use levy funding to improve apprenticeship provision.

“Our research also finds that the levy could have damaging unintended consequences. For example, taking investment away from other equally valuable forms of training and development and causing organisations to re-badge existing training schemes as apprenticeships simply to reclaim levy funding. Many large employers, particularly in low margin sectors and the public sector, will have to make significant cuts to their training budgets as a result of the levy, or will simply write it off as a tax.

Employers should do more to end trans discrimination

There’s still more to be done to achieve transgender equality in the workplace

Organisations should be doing more to end discrimination against their trans employees, according to Debbie Hayton, a teacher and a member of the TUC LGBT committee.

Speaking at the Westminster Social Policy forum on policy priorities for transgender equality, Hayton shared some of the stories shared with her by transgender employees.

“One school said they would call the police on a trans member of staff if she presented as a woman,” she said. “One person was told that ‘a person like them’ shouldn’t be allowed to work with children. In the public sector, a woman got fired because she didn’t disclose her trans history before she was employed.

“This is despite the fact that 92% of trans people said they could perform just as well, if not better, after their transition.”

Hayton shared statistics from a Totaljobs report into HR provisions available for trans employees (What’s it like to be a trans employee?) , which found that 60% of trans employees had experienced transphobic discrimination, and 36% had left a job because they felt it was unwelcoming.

“We see that things are getting better, but there is still so much to be done,” Hayton added.

Steve Mulcahy, head teacher of Richard Lander School in Cornwall, expressed concern for the lack of guidance for authorities who want to help their transgender stakeholders.

“When transgender student Charlie joined the school, we put him under the pastoral care of an assistant head teacher. However, they felt out of their depth, as when they looked for guidance, there was precious little available,” he said.

As such, the school worked towards creating their own document advising schools on how to help their trans students.

“I think there’s a belief that areas of the periphery of the country are out of the loop when it comes to inclusion, but I can affirm there is a lot of good will and a fighting spirit out there. I believe people are good, and society can change,” Mulcahy added.

Managing a teen workforce

Managing a workforce of teenagers has unique challenges, not least reputational issues

I’m founder and director of a successful, fast growing business providing services to the retail and leisure industries. Our challenges are the same as those facing any SME, but there is one aspect that sets us apart: our unusual workforce.

Serve Legal is an auditor of age-restrictive sales. We conduct 100,000 tests a year and clients range from major blue-chip multiples, to national pub chains and betting franchises to single-site independent retailers. Our army of young-looking 18- and 19-year-old staff visit supermarkets, discount retailers, betting shops, convenience stores, bars, pubs and clubs across the UK and Ireland, buying age-restricted goods such as alcohol, tobacco and knives. They check that retail staff comply with the law by asking for proof of age ID. In December we recruited our 10,000th ‘visitor’.

Managing a large workforce of teenagers brings some unique challenges, not least that our professional reputation relies heavily on the rigour and consistency of their work. Many join us with little or no work experience, but move quickly into a world of compliance and law. This needs a level of induction, supervision, auditing and report writing that goes beyond that required in other jobs typically taken at this age. Our senior management team finds it hugely rewarding to see – and play and active part in – the transformation of many of our employees from inexperienced teenagers into work-ready, diligent, confident professionals.

Our visitors are digital natives so we’ve created short induction and training videos and use instant messaging, social media and text messages for daily task allocation, communication and engagement.

Risks with remote workforces can be a sense of isolation, distance from brand values, and a lack of camaraderie. We’ve developed an employee engagement programme that ensures our visitors feel motivated and part of a team. This includes: #ImpressEd (a Twitter-based initiative to demonstrate evidence of excellent work); financial incentives for accurate reporting, consistent good quality, high visit volumes and going the extra mile; and ‘Visitor of the Month’ awards.

With our workforce operating in sometimes challenging environments (late night drinking and gambling venues for instance), we take our duty of care seriously. We’ve established a network of regional area managers who provide regular support, mentoring and admin help for visitors locally, and recruit new visitors. Many Serve Legal managers are ex-visitors themselves,

Some of our visitors stay for two years and others just a brief time, but at the age of 20 most ‘retire’. At ‘retirement’ some progress to management positions and some are employed to accompany new visitors on training visits.

Those that leave keep in touch and regularly seek to re-join. Serve Legal has recently moved into retail services such as sell-by date checking, which means we can now extend opportunities to talented older visitors.

Our relationship with our young workforce is mutually beneficial. They do an interesting job that fits around their other commitments, and through which they develop transferable skills. Older members of the workforce benefit from the energy, honesty and fresh thinking our young visitors bring, not to mention being forced to adopt new technologies.

During our 10-year history the work of 10,000-plus visitors has contributed to a rise in compliance. Without the programmes we deliver, harmful products would be widely available to children, without barriers.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Ed Heaver (pictured) director of Serve Legal