McDonalds CEO sacked after affair with employee

Relationships at work can be a murky area and one of the biggest employment law updates of the past few weeks has been the news that McDonalds has fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, for having an affair with a junior employee. McDonalds found that the relationship had been consensual but that Mr Easterbrook had “violated company policy” and “shown poor judgement” for engaging in a relationship with a junior member of staff.

Mr Easterbrook started working for the fast food colossus in 1993 and worked his way up the company. He left McDonalds in 2011 to become boss of Pizza Express and then Asian food chain Wagamama. He returned to McDonalds in 2013.

Mr Easterbrook was paid $16m last year and the details of the termination package were not revealed to the public.

This high profile dismissal follows Intel boss Brian Krzanich stepping down last year after having a consensual relationship with an Intel employee.

The difficulties of policing relationships at work

Relationships at work are a fact of life. However, they can cause a headache for HR departments.

It is understood that McDonalds’ company policy bans dating and sexual relationships between employees who have a “direct or indirect reporting relationship”.

Many large US companies have introduced policies banning relationships between staff or requiring  employees who enter into relationships with other colleagues to disclose the relationship to HR.

Such policies are much less common in the UK. The Human Rights Act 1998 gives employees a right to private life, and that includes personal and sexual relationships. A policy that impacted upon the right to a private life would be difficult to enforce and would likely be unlawful.

Can an employee be sacked for engaging in a relationship with a fellow employee?

For a dismissal to be fair, employers must be able to show that the dismissal was for one of the following five potentially fair reasons:

  • a reason related to an employee’s conduct
  • a reason related to an employee’s capability or qualifications for the job
  • because of a redundancy
  • because a statutory duty or restriction prohibited the employment being continued
  • some other substantial reason of a kind which justifies the dismissal.

The employer must be able to show that they followed a fair process and that the dismissal was within the “band of reasonable responses”.

It is difficult to see how an employer could fairly justify terminating an employee’s contract for breach of a policy banning them from having a consensual relationship with a colleague. The employer would likely have to be able to show that the relationship was in fact a conflict of interest and was prejudicial to the employer. In most cases, it will be very difficult for the employer to evidence this.

The reality is that in most cases that do not involve such an influential and high profile individual as Mr Easterbrook, it would be difficult to justify terminating employment for conducting a relationship with a colleague.

This article was written by Employment Lawyers Edinburgh.

Prioritising vehicle safety on the roads

Cars are getting increasingly safe. We are continuing to see declines in the level of car accidents on our roads. The majority of European and North American countries saw significant drops in the number of road deaths reported between 2008 and 2018.

However, the UK is still seeing roughly 1,500 whiplash claims made every day, according to the Association of British Insurers. This shows that there is still a fair way to go before our vehicles are able to completely protect us.

Newer cars prove safer

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed the notion of newer cars offering higher levels of safety to motorists. In a 2018 study, it found that “the proportion of vehicle occupants who were fatally injured increases with the age of the vehicle”.

This is unsurprising given that newer cars have the benefit of more safety features. From parking assist to blind spot monitoring and even driver alertness monitoring, vehicles produced in the last couple of years have almost countless ways of improving safety.

Features like these make driving easier. But technology is also helping after a road traffic accident has actually happened. Automatic crash alerts can be sent from on-board systems to emergency services, helping them get to the site of the accident as quickly as possible.

Evaluate the safest cars

In 2018, the UK saw 25,511 seriously injured casualties in reported road traffic accidents. With this in mind, when considering a new car, it is a wise idea to consult the rankings of the safest vehicles on the roads to reduce the risk of injury.

The Euro NCAP ratings give a clear list of the safest vehicles available. If your priority is keeping your children safe, for example, you can find the best cars for doing exactly that. The organisation responsible for the ratings tests these vehicles comprehensively, giving you the assurance that these vehicles offer as much protection as possible.

Whether you’re looking for a large off-road vehicle for work or a small family car, safety should always be at the top of the list of factors you take into account.

Keeping yourself safe

The advantage of these safety features is clear. But not all vehicles have them installed. So keeping yourself safe on the roads will often come down to you. There are a number of actions you can take inside your vehicle to help keep you secure. For example, not using your phone or connecting it to a Bluetooth speaker will avoid distractions.

Meanwhile, you can adjust your car seat head restraint to minimise the risk of whiplash. It is advisable to ensure your head restraint is no more than 5cm away from your head as the further your head has to travel before hitting it means the risk of whiplash is greater.

You should also take care to adjust your speed according to the environment you’re driving in. Specified speed limits can be judged to be too high in certain cases – such as when it’s dark or raining or there are children present. This means you need to evaluate how fast you should really be going depending on the conditions on the road.

Image copyright: akz

Lawmakers push for new online gaming regulations to protect children

One non-department public body in the UK is pushing for stricter rules surrounding video games and their relation to gambling. According to the Children’s Commissioner for England, tighter laws will protect children from spending too much money through online games, with an emphasis on loot boxes.

In a report titled Gaming the System, researchers delved into how games can affect young people. Importantly, the report directly highlighted the benefits of online gaming, whether that’s services like NetBet best casino online or actual video games. Specifically, the report points to the social benefits of online gaming.

However, there are also some concerns about how people, especially children, are spending money when gaming online. Other potential issues raised by the report include how much time kids spend gaming and potential for peer-pressure to play a role in decision making.

For the study, researchers interviewed children aged between 10 and 16, with many admitting to understanding some negative aspects of gaming. One 16-year-old gamer who mostly plays FIFA recognised so-called loot boxes are similar to gambling.

A loot box is a gaming term for a consumable virtual item that can be redeemed with in-game currency for items. Typically, these items are unavailable through any other means and loot boxes require real money to access. According to the gamer, loot boxes resemble gambling because “you could lose your money and not get anyone good or get someone really good.”

Fortnite is a game that relies heavily on a mechanism similar to loot boxes to monetize itself. The game is completely free to use for the popular battlegrounds mode and developer Epic Games makes money through selling items. These items include skins, which have become a status symbol within the game.

One 10-year-old in the study said she was concerned other gamers would see her as “trash” for only having the default skin. Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, said this way of monetising a game is dangerous for children. She likened the system to direct “exploitation” by pressuring children into feeling obliged to spend money.

“With 93 per cent of children in the UK playing video games, it is vital that the enjoyment they get comes with tighter rules that protect them from straying into gambling,” she said.

“Children have told us they worry they are gambling when they buy loot boxes, and it’s clear some children are spending hundreds of pounds chasing their losses. I want the Government to classify loot boxes in games like FIFA as a form of gambling. A maximum daily spend limit for children would also be reassuring for parents and children themselves.”

One proposal for changes to the laws would be for every game to come with a report feature that would detail and track what players have spent.

Furthermore, the commissioner suggests online games should fall under “a legally enforceable age-rating system, just as physical games are,” and have explicit warnings that in-game spending is involved in the package.

Another suggestion is the creation of “digital citizenship” programs in school to educate children on the pitfalls of online gaming. UKIE, the country’s industry trade body said it recognises the need for education around online gaming, which is why it already runs in-school workshops.

“The report shows how important online play is to [children’s] lives and how games bring children together, spark creativity and equip them with vital skills for a digital age,” said Dr. Jo Twist OBE, CEO of UKIE. “We recognise the need to educate players, parents and carers about safe and sensible play habits and for the industry to take an appropriate role in doing so.”

Image credit: pixabay.com

 

What impact will Brexit have on employment rights?

The UK is due to leave the European Union (EU) at 23:00 GMT on 31 October 2019. As this momentous date approaches, employment law is just one of the many areas of uncertainty.

There is a misconception that most of UK employment law stems from EU law and therefore, the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will cause a seismic change in employment rights. However, the truth is that much of UK employment law was brought into force via UK legislation and case law and, therefore, many aspects of employment will stay the same when the UK exits the EU.

The current position is that nothing has changed and the existing legislation and case law continues to apply to UK employment law.

What will stay the same?

The law on unfair dismissal, minimum wage, unauthorised deduction from wages, statutory redundancy pay, paternity leave, shared parental leave and flexible working all stem from UK legislation and case law. Brexit will have no direct impact on these areas of employment law.

Discrimination law

Discrimination law is one area whether there could be some reform. Under the Equality Act 2010, individuals are protected from unfavourable treatment on the ground of protected characteristics. The protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sex. The UK had protection against sex, race and disability discrimination pre-EU, but these rights have been extended by the EU, and additional protections have been added.

One possible change to discrimination laws may be the introduction of a cap on discrimination compensation (which is not currently allowed under EU law), similar to the cap for unfair dismissal.

However, wholesale changes to discrimination law seems unlikely.

EU employment law reforms on the horizon

In April 2019, the European Parliament approved new minimum rights for gig economy workers. When the new laws are put into place, gig economy workers in Europe will have a right to compensation from their employer for last-minute cancellation of shifts. The new rules will also require employers to give workers a formal start date and details of what their pay will be. Employers will also have to give workers a formal description of their duties from the day they start working.

It remains to be seen whether these changes would be implemented post-Brexit, but, in truth it appears unlikely.

Will employment law change post-Brexit?

Whilst no one can foresee what impact Brexit will have upon UK employment law, it seems unlikely that there will be any wholesale changes to this area of the law. Much of UK employment law stems from UK legislation and case law and, unless amended, these laws will remain in place once the UK leaves the EU.  Moreover, it is unlikely to be politically desirable for the government of the day to pursue policies that would lessen the protections that workers and employees currently enjoy.

This article was written by Employment Law Glasgow. You can visit their website here.

Making a medical claim: what to consider

Medical problems are stressful and often utterly exhausting. But when you seek help for a condition and then find that you’re left in an even worse position, it can result in a real sense of betrayal.

This is why medical negligence is one of the worst breaches of trust. But more than that, it can cause significant health problems, as well as real emotional and financial troubles. And these can take a long time to get over.

After an experience of medical negligence, you may find yourself wondering what to do.

Do you want to take action?

Making a medical claim is one way of holding those responsible to account. This makes it a good option if your priority is obtaining justice for what happened to you. It allows you the opportunity to tell people what happened to you.

A medical negligence claim can also encourage the organisations responsible for your health problems to address what went wrong. This can then help those in charge to prevent this negligence taking place again, therefore stopping it happening to anyone else in the future.

There are also other aspects to think about when considering a claim. For example, will this course of action help you get the peace of mind you may be searching for? And will it help you get back on your feet – physically or financially?

What are the financial implications?

After suffering from medical negligence, there is a real possibility that you’ll find yourself affected financially. This is because you may find that you have to pay for further medical treatments or you may have to take time off work to recover. And in many cases, if you’re not working, you’re not earning.

That could leave you in a precarious financial position. And there is often no simple way of getting out of that. After all, you can’t simply go back to work if you’re not feeling physically well enough.

If you’re worried about the cost of pursuing a claim, however, you have options. You could take on the services of a specialist no win no fee medical negligence solicitor, for example. This means you won’t have to pay out for the claim upfront. And you’ll only have to pay your lawyer’s fees if your claim is successful, taking the financial burden off you.

How to prepare for a claim

Making a medical claim is often more straightforward than you may think. One act that will help make the process even simpler is to have all of your evidence together in one place. This makes it easier to recall the facts when discussing your case with your solicitor.

This means you should keep all records of your case, starting from the first visit for the initial condition you were seeking help for. If you’ve had additional medical examinations, you should ensure you have the records of these. This is important when it comes to proving how the negligence you suffered negatively affected you.

It is also advisable to be completely honest and open with your solicitor. This will help avoid any surprises further down the line, giving you the best chance of securing the compensation that could help you get back to your former self.

Image: copyright seoterra.

Organic vs paid content

Content marketing comes in different forms, with the main difference being between organic and paid content. But which is best for law firms to use?

Traditional marketing methods have not worked well for small and medium law firms in recent years, which has prompted the search for better alternatives. The use of content marketing is something the legal sector has increasingly embraced as a modern and more effective marketing strategy.

However, this has raised a question: is organic or paid content the better tool for legal content marketing?

What are the pros and cons of organic content?

Organic content involves producing written content to be published on your website, on social media, or external sites. The single most important element is search engine optimisation (SEO). This consists of different elements:

  • Short tail keywords (single words of brief phrases used in search)
  • Long tail keywords (longer phrases used in more detailed searches)
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Video and good images

The problem, of course, is that as your keywords will be similar to those of many other similar service providers, there will be plenty of matches. This is an issue not only because of the sheer number of similar results; research has shown that most web searches do not go beyond the first page. Once those results have appeared, the individual searching will usually click on one of them, with very few looking on page two and beyond.

For this reason, reaching page one is critical if your organic content is to make an impact.

Given the widespread matching of keywords, a range of other factors will also apply to determine a ranking. Search engine logarithms have hundreds of these, not all of which are known, although some are evident.

The reason these exist is that in the early days keywords alone could gain a high ranking and this meant a lot of low-quality content could be produced. Some were even unscrupulous enough to use irrelevant but popular keywords to boost their ranking and gain web traffic.

Updated algorithms have cut all that out and the web is better for it. Content producers must now provide content that is relevant, readable and authoritative. High quality pictures and videos can also help, although they must be relevant too, while good backlinks will add to the authority.

A consequence of this is that authority and relevance can only be proven over time. When starting from scratch, it can take a few months to get your content ranking where it needs to be.

However, once it is there you will have a lot of content on the web that is permanently visible, strong authority and will raise widespread awareness of your services. When this point is reached, organic SEO for law firms can be very effective.

A further advantage is that organic content incurs no extra cost beyond your standard running costs of having a website and paying the legal content writers.

Why paid content can be a fast-track to success

Paid content offers a fast-track alternative to organic, whether through paying a platform to host your content, or pay-per-click (PPC) ads, which can be displayed on social media or search engine ranking pages.

While organic content can take time to build up its authority and make its way up the ranking pages, paid content can shorten this process. In the case of finding an external platform and writing there for a fee, you will have the advantage of using a site that already has an established readership. In the case of PPC ads you can bid for social media or search engine ranking page space right away, whatever the level of your organic SEO.

PPC ads such as Google Ads or Bing Ads still use keyword search and the very fact that it is designed to encourage clicks makes it one of the most effective ways to get leads. Once someone has clicked, they become an identifiable contact you can work with.

Sometimes you may find a rival bidder has offered a similar amount for the same space, in which case the same SEO quality criteria will apply here as with organic content, so PPC and any other paid content still needs to be of high quality and relevance.

PPC has some unique features worth noting as well, that may be particularly useful:

The downside of paid content is that it will not be visible for as long and in so many places as organic content. In addition, there is, by definition, a higher cost to producing it than organic.

What is the best option for your law firm?

There is no single, simple answer to what the best option is. Ultimately, you have three possibilities

  • Focus just on organic content, such as news and blogs
  • Focus just on paid content, such as PPC and Google Adwords
  • Use a mix of the two

Several factors may decide which your best option is:

  • How old your firm is
  • Your budget
  • Your long and short-term business plans
  • Your overall digital marketing strategy

If, for example, your firm is new (or at least new to digital marketing) and wants to start getting leads very quickly, using paid search and PPC is likely to be the best approach. This might be particularly useful if your wider marketing strategy includes an email marketing campaign, as the leads could be included in that.

However, if your firm is a bit more established and perhaps simply needs to improve its content, organic SEO could be the way forward, getting more clicks and raising the awareness you seek.

While PPC can get a lot of leads, organic SEO should be designed to build up a following for your content that makes the leads you do get of higher quality.

These pros and cons can be weighed together to help decide which is best. But combining the two can be a very powerful option. For instance, if your firm is new you might use paid search and PPC effectively early on, while gradually building up your organic presence. Then, after a few months, you can rely more on your high search ranking and will no longer need to spend money on paid content.

Rather than take a dogmatic approach, it is important to work with the experts to establish the best way forward for your firm’s individual needs, devising the content strategy that works best for you.

Charlie Britten, Beuniqueness.co.uk.

Image from Pixabay.

 

 

 

Knowing whether you have a claim

Making a claim is not as complicated as you may think. If you’re not sure whether you may have a personal injury or medical negligence claim, you may feel overwhelmed about potentially going forward with one.

This guide is intended to help you work out if you would be able to make a claim after suffering an injury or illness.

Type of injury

Personal injuries come in many different forms. However, the general rule is that if you have been injured in an accident that was the fault of another person or organisation, you may have a personal injury claim.

Some of the most common types of personal injury include:

  • Accident at work
  • Road traffic accident
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Faulty product injury
  • Accident abroad

However, if you’ve had an accident that doesn’t appear to fit into one of these categories, you may still have a claim. It is advisable to seek guidance on the issue.

Time limits

In the majority of cases, you will have a certain amount of time in which to bring a claim for compensation. This is generally three years. So if you have been injured in the last three years, you could be able to make a claim.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if the accident happened to a child, they have three years from their 18th birthday in which to make their claim. Meanwhile, if you are claiming on behalf of someone without the mental capacity to claim for themselves, it is unlikely that you will face any time limit.

Injury severity

In order to make a claim, your injury needs to be serious enough to require medical treatment. It is therefore important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If your injury is serious enough to claim for, you will likely require a period of recovery. The sooner you can start getting back on your feet, the better.

As well as helping you to recover physically from your ordeal, medical attention will provide important evidence for your claim.

Evidence

To present a claim, you may need certain pieces of evidence. This will help to strengthen your case. Among the most important and persuasive pieces of evidence you can submit with your claim are police, workplace accident and medical reports.

These will support your claim that the injury caused you real problems and that the accident was caused by someone else. Your solicitor will also want to know about any witness statements you may have access to. These will help show who was responsible for the incident.

Compensation

The amount of compensation you receive after a successful claim will depend on a number of factors. These are based on the pain and suffering your injury has caused you to experience, as well as any costs you have incurred as a result of your injury.

If you have been forced to take time off work and therefore lost earnings, this will be taken into account when compensation is awarded. You could also be compensated for any damage sustained to your belongings.

Photo credit: Vadim Guzhva

How to stand out as a forward-thinking lawyer (Wilford Smith Insights)

Getting ahead in the legal sector can be challenging. With greater competition than ever before and technology creating a broader range of career paths, how can you ensure you stand out from your competitors? In particular, becoming a forward-thinking lawyer with ideas about how the legal sector can adapt to modern technology and become more efficient is an essential part of having a successful legal career. In this post we look at five key ways you can set yourself apart from the pack in 2019.

1. Understand the importance of your online presence

From guest posts to social media statements, the importance of your online presence cannot be overstated. Whilst we usually associate building a following with the influencers of Instagram, there is just as much opportunity for lawyers to become influencers in their sector. The key is to choose an area of expertise that other lawyers enjoy learning about, and dedicate time to becoming the go-to resource for updates in this area. Whilst it is always a good idea to create and share content about your particular practice area, you may gain more attention from discussing current topics such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, Artificial Intelligence or working culture. These are just examples and you should identify key trending topics to stay ahead.

Sharing content from other experts in the area you have identified is a great way to build a strong network and find opportunities to collaborate. Having a strong presence online not only looks great to potential employers, but can also result in referral work including opportunities to give seminars or guest post about the topic.

2. Embrace technology

Many lawyers shy away from technology, either because they are too busy or because they have failed to recognise the importance of technology in the future of legal services. Becoming the ‘go-to’ person in your firm for advice or assistance with technology will keep you at the forefront of your colleagues’ minds and make you an indispensable asset to your firm. Make a point of learning more about new technologies in your firm than anyone else and become a champion for its use. You can even identify emerging technologies that may make your workplace more efficient or profitable. If so, you should be able to demonstrate the impact of your discovery. For example, if you make improvements to the website, you can use Google Analytics to track the impact of your work.

3. Utilise digital marketing

Many lawyers ensure they excel in business development activities in order to make themselves more attractive to firms. In 2019, digital marketing should be an integral part of business development strategy in every firm, but understanding how this is best executed can set you apart from other lawyers in your firm. There are a great number of elements that contribute to a digital marketing strategy, and understanding the part each of these play can help you to address the specific needs of your firm. Law firms large and small often fall into the trap of believing that their work comes from word of mouth, referrals or networking. However, understanding data and analytics related to digital marketing can provide proof of exactly how much business and even cash your efforts are bringing to the firm.

Learning elements of digital marketing that you can do on behalf of your firm, such as social media, blogging or SEO is an excellent start, but can be time consuming. It may be worthwhile identifying local partners who can carry out this work on behalf of the firm to take your digital presence to the next level.

4. Identify opportunities for efficiencies in your firm

Price competitiveness is a real challenge for firms in modern times. We live in an era where clients will routinely call many firms for a quote for work, and simply go with the cheapest. However, this may be an opportunity for you and your firm for two reasons.

Firstly, becoming more profitable doesn’t necessarily mean charging higher prices or bringing in more money. Becoming more efficient is an excellent means of driving profitability in your firm. Technology offers many opportunities to make your firm more efficient, from automatic client updates to contract automation. Try to identify the most time-consuming or labour intensive elements of your work, and look to find a technology based solution.

Secondly, client demand for more efficient services is increasing. Being able to demonstrate that your firm can get client work done with greater accuracy and efficiency can help win you business and build stronger client relationships. It can also generate more business through word-of-mouth – you want every client to say how swiftly you solved their problem.

5. Recruiting digital talent

Careers in technology are broad and varied. From coding to paid advertising, there is no way you can learn all of these skills in addition to being a lawyer. However, you can understand what is required within your firm and find the best digital talent to carry it out. Identifying workers with expertise in technology that can improve the efficiency of your firm, handle your social media and even grow your online presence can demonstrate leadership skills. Your role is project management and strategy, which can set you apart early in your career.

One of the biggest differences from the technology sector to the legal sector is that a great number of workers are in the ‘gig economy’ – preferring to work project to project on a freelance basis. Of course, hiring digital talent to work for your business long term can have a great impact but having the option to have digital or technology workers work on specific problems for a short period of time can save money, and makes the decision to hire them much more straightforward.

As you can see, there are a number of ways to stand out as a modern, innovative lawyer in 2019, and that can make all the difference to your career trajectory. It is up to you how you set yourself apart.

Wilford Smith has celebrated over 30 years in the profession, becoming a most prestigious law firm. Helping clients with wills, probate, conveyancing, entrepreneur visas, investor visas, criminal defence and more, they have a richly deserved reputation for independence hard work and results. You can find and connect with Wilford Smith’s team of solicitors on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Can a workplace accident cause PTSD?

Having an accident at work can have lasting effects on a person. And not just physically.

When you suffer an injury in an accident at work, you may end up suffering the emotional and psychological consequences.

You might think a condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects only those in particularly high-stress roles, like the military. However, it can strike anyone after any significant distressing event.

Witnessing an accident

Accidents at work are most likely to affect those working in agricultural industries – including forestry and fishing. This is according to the Health and Safety Executive’s latest data. In 2018/19, 32 people in these industries were killed on the job.

Construction was the second most dangerous industry, with 30 deaths in this period, while manufacturing was third, with 26 people killed.

According to mental health charity Mind, witnessing a fatal accident can be a cause for PTSD. This means that workers in these industries are not only at greater risk of death in the course of their daily lives, but are also more likely to witness a colleague have a fatal accident.

This could lead to affected workers suffering significant levels of emotional trauma, affecting their work and personal lives.

PTSD after an accident

Suffering an accident yourself can also lead to mental trauma. Agriculture and construction were the two industries that saw the highest number of non-fatal injuries and work-related illness in 2017/18, according to the HSE’s most recent figures. Agriculture saw 3,690 per 100,000 workers hurt, while construction saw 2,620.

These workers could have suffered serious accidents, leaving them with significant injuries. Those who have suffered this kind of injury could find that they then experience further pain and suffering in the form of PTSD.

Some of the most serious types of accidents at work – and those typically more likely to cause a higher level of emotional suffering – involve being struck by a moving object or vehicle. Meanwhile, falls from height can cause serious injuries and affected 8% of employees who reported a workplace accident in 2017/18, according to the HSE.

Potentially the most upsetting type of accident a worker can suffer, however, is an act of violence. This could be caused by a colleague, customer or member of the public. Those in positions of authority can be particularly vulnerable to this kind of injury. For example, a survey commissioned by Channel 4’s Dispatches found that eight in 10 police officers were physically attacked and one-third suffered injuries last year.

Symptoms of PTSD

Mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness has highlighted some of the symptoms of PTSD, including:

  • Flashbacks or dreams about the event or accident
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of what happened
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being unable to feel emotions
  • Poor concentration
  • Not enjoying activities any longer
  • Feeling on edge, being easily startled, as well as alert and anxious

The Royal College of Psychologists suggests that if you have experienced these symptoms for more than six weeks since the event, you should talk it over with your doctor.

There has been a general downward trend in rates of self-reported non-fatal workplace accidents in the last two decades. Since 2000/01, the estimated rate has dropped by around half, says the HSE’s statistics. Meanwhile, there has been an estimated decrease of 58% in employer-reported non-fatal injury since 1986/87.

However, although these accidents are becoming less likely to happen to workers – as health and safety practices become more robust across all industries – those that do happen can have huge impacts.

This is why it’s vital to seek out the right help when an incident like this affects you.

Image credit: Pop Nukoonrat

Leading organisations criticise post-Brexit environmental protection strategy

As the United Kingdom hurtles towards Brexit with a suspended parliament, numerous facets of the countries post-Europe laws are unknown. Among the grey areas are the government’s plans for environmental protection laws once the plug is pulled on participation in the EU. A lack of clarity on the matter has driven 36 leading organisations to push the new Prime Minister to detail his post-Brexit environment plans.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested firmly that the UK will diverge from environmental protection rules laid out by the European Union. Johnson said the country will have the ability to create and introduce its own laws and not be tied to the regulatory framework of the EU.

Despite the admittance, Johnson’s government has been vague on details. Leading organisations that focus on environmental issues have joined forces in a joint letter to Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers to press for more details.

Among the co-signers of the letter are Amnesty International, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Campaign for National Parks, CPRE, ClientEarth, Compassion in World Farming, Friends of the Earth, Global Witness, Greenpeace, RSPB, Sustain and Wild Justice.

Previous environment secretary Michael Gove had said the UK’s environment laws would remain in line with Europe but would be “enhanced” after Brexit. Furthermore, Gove also detailed a new environmental watchdog – the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) – to be launched in December under the Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill.

OEP will investigate complaints made against public authorities accused of breaking environmental laws. However, a cross-party committee of MPs reviewing the watchdog said its is not capable of acting autonomously and is not independent from The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

In other words, while investigations would be confirmed, details of them would remain classified. In the joint letter, the 36 organisations said OEP “would impose a degree of secrecy which does not apply to any other UK environmental regulator”. Not disclosing the information “is wholly at odds with the public’s right to information”, the letter reads.

Speaking to The Independent, Rebecca Newsom, head of politics for Greenpeace, said making information regarding environmental investigations available to the public should be a fundamental part of democracy.

“If ministers can dictate what the new environmental watchdog can or cannot disclose, that’ll be the first step towards muzzling it. This new agency will bear the huge responsibility of replacing powerful institutions like the European Commission in enforcing rules and targets on pollution and nature protection after Brexit, so it’s absolutely vital for the public to be able to see it operate effectively.

“Britain prides itself on having some of the strongest transparency laws in the world, and the new nature watchdog should be no exception.”

All signatories of the letter say UK citizens have right of access to environment information through the country’s Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) laws. There are times when information can be withheld, such as when disclosing information would directly affect an investigation. Even in these cases, the information must still be made available if it is in the public interest.

Under the new draft bill, none of these provisions are in place, allowing OEP to retain information.

“If the OEP, public authority or minister (as the case may be) did not wish the information to be released, it would be withheld,” the letter reads. “There would be no need to show that disclosure would be harmful. The public interest in the information would be irrelevant. This would reverse decades of progress in opening up environmental information.”

Environment Protection standards are “under threat”

While the UK prepares to overhaul its environmental laws after departure from the EU, the country’s current infrastructure is already under scrutiny before it leaves the bloc. According to a recent report, environmental protection standards in the UK are eroding and are “under threat” from red tape and budget cuts.

Unchecked.uk analysis published in late August points to a reduction in budget and staff for regulatory and enforcement agencies tasked with managing environmental protection laws. In the report, the campaign suggests an “enforcement gap” has been created that harms the UK’s ability to govern on environmental issues.

Twenty organisations signed a joint letter sent to The Times that warned “steep reduction in inspections and monitoring of regulated business in recent years risks undermining the achievement of public policy objectives.”

Co-authoring organisations suggest the creation of a regulator that is backed by enough funding to underpin environmental protection laws. Furthermore, the group says there must be a clear distinction of reward and punishment between companies that effectively develop compliance frameworks with environmental regulations and those that do not.

Emma Rose of Unchecked.uk said: “The analysis we are publishing today is alarming and is cause for serious national concern. With important regulators operating with on average 50% less funding than ten years ago, there is a need for a closer look at the state of our public protection infrastructure.”

Free from EU Regulation

It is clear Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a long-time and fierce proponent of Brexit, believes the UK will be better off out of the EU, and that extends to environment regulations. However, there are concerns amongst environmental groups that the country will adopt a weaker framework for environmental governance without EU influence.

Johnson and his government may prefer such an outcome. Certainly, there has been a growing air of frustration about European laws directing UK environmental policy, for better or for worse.

For example, the EU has recently criticised the UK government’s failure to fulfil its regulatory obligations regarding the protection of important wildlife. Despite promises of improvement, EU regulators said last month no progress has been made.

Under the European Union’s habitats and birds directive, members of the bloc must commit to improving the protection if individual species and developing breeding and resting sites for endangered animals. As a member of the EU, the UK would have been held to account by the European Commission for its failures. However, with Brexit imminent the commission has stopped hearing complaints against the UK regarding environmental law.

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