The body of law which surrounds the oil and gas industries. This includes legislation on exploration, extraction, transport and ownership.
The body of law concerning purchasing or investing in property in another country, including the relevant foreign laws.
There are times in the life of a business when staff are going to be required to work extra hours - if you have a rush of demand for your goods or services or during a staff shortage situation, for example.
In some industries it is common for employment contracts to stipulate that staff are expected to work a reasonable amount of extra time for no additional pay (this is commonly 15 minutes a day for manual workers; around an hour for supervisors or managers). If there are no special provisions in an employee's contract, you must get their agreement to work overtime and generally pay them for the work they do.
Contractual provisions for overtime
If you expect employees to work regular overtime, this should be stated clearly in their employment contracts. Other provisions which should be stipulated include:
- when overtime becomes payable and at what rate
- whether overtime is compulsory or voluntary
- what notice needs to be given to require a worker to do overtime
- how overtime needs to be authorised
Overtime payment rates
There are no minimum statutory levels of overtime pay and rates vary from business to business. Some rates may be fixed by an industry-wide agreement and some sectors expect employees to work overtime at their usual rate. Generally, it is up to you to agree overtime rates with your staff. Typical rates are:
- weekdays and Saturday mornings - time-and-a-half
- Saturday afternoons, Sundays and public holidays - double-time (Sunday shop workers may be an exception)
- Christmas Day and New Year's Eve night - double-time or more
Some organisations vary rates depending on how much overtime is done e.g. time-and-a-half for the first two hours and double time after that.
Some companies pay for travelling time if it's for company business, as well as actual hours worked. Standby payments are often made too where employees are on standby to respond to any call outs. You may decide to pay at different rates for time on standby or pay a separate fixed allowance.
Health and safety considerations
There are various issues connected with health and safety which you need to bear in mind when authorising overtime. These include:
- Ensuring workers aren't doing so much overtime that their inevitable tiredness poses a risk to themselves or those around them. Conduct risk assessments to ensure any potential perils are highlighted and minimised.
- Not giving excessive overtime to shift workers, especially those who work at night as extreme fatigue can cause health problems or exacerbate existing one. Restrict night-work shifts to eight hours, including overtime, and offer health assessments to night workers.
- Trying to avoid situations where employees have to work alone - particularly in potentially dangerous places like factories. If lone working can't be avoided, ensure employees do not have any medical condition making it unsuitable for them to work alone, e.g. epilepsy.
- Providing extra security for staff working at night such as better car park lighting or a taxi home.
Alternatives to overtime
Time off in lieu
Allowing employees to take time off in lieu (TOIL) is an increasingly common alternative to overtime pay, particularly among better paid or more senior staff. To make it work efficiently you should:
- Get workers to agree to TOIL.
- Arrange for it be taken only at a time that is convenient for you.
- Avoid excessive accumulation of owed time by limiting the number of hours that can be accumulated in any one month, and stipulating that the time off must be taken within a certain time, with any entitlement not taken to be lost.
- Set out the minimum amount of time that can be recorded.
You can demand that part-time workers work the normal full-time hours at basic rates before being entitled to an overtime premium (though as soon as they have worked more than the normal full-time hours, you must pay them the same hourly rate of overtime as a comparable full-time worker).
There are a variety of flexible working practices which can provide cost-effective alternatives to overtime, such as shift-work, flexitime, seasonal and term-time working, and job sharing. Temporary or agency workers can be used to fill in where necessary or you may decide to contract some work out.
Definition of fraud
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the fraud laws were overhauled by the Fraud Act 2006 which came into force in 2007. It introduced a statutory definition of fraud, separating it into three classes. These are:
- Fraud by false representation - where a person makes "any representation as to fact or law...express or implied" which they know to be untrue or misleading.
- Fraud by failing to disclose information - where someone fails to disclose any information to a third party when they are under a legal duty to do so.
- Fraud by abuse of position - where a person who should have been safeguarding the financial interests of another, abuses that position.
For each offence to be proven, the fraudster must have been acting dishonestly with the intent of making a gain for themselves or anyone else, or inflicting a loss (or a risk of loss) on another.
The Act also made it an offence to be in possession of articles for use in fraud and to make or supply articles for use in fraud. It also created the offence of obtaining services dishonestly.
The Act provides that if a corporate body is guilty of an offence under the Act and this was carried out with the "consent or connivance" a director, manager, secretary or officer of the body, then they may face prosecution too. A new offence of participating in fraudulent business carried on by a sole trader was also introduced and the maximum penalty for participating in fraudulent business carried on by a company was increased from seven years prison to 10 years.
Penalties for fraud
A person found guilty of fraud faces a fine or up to 12 months jail on summary conviction (six months in Northern Ireland), or a fine or imprisonment for up to 10 years on conviction on indictment.
Apart from some minor exceptions, the Fraud Act 2006 does not apply to Scotland which has common law crime of fraud, committed when someone achieves a practical result by a false pretence. Scotland also has the offence of 'uttering', which is where something such as a document, is passed off as real which has an adverse affect on another person.
Dealing with fraud in business
Businesses are open to fraud in a number of ways, be it from external sources, internally by management and/or employees or a combination of the two. It could amount to an employee fiddling their expenses, managers skimming cash off the bottom line or cyber criminals breaking into your IT systems to steal confidential information. The types of fraud to which businesses can fall prey internally (with or without external collusion) can be divided into three categories:
- Fraudulent financial reporting - 'cooking the books' for personal gain, e.g. improper revenue recognition, intentional overstatement of assets or understatement of liabilities.
- Misappropriation of assets - e.g., theft, payroll fraud, ghost employees, forgery, billing schemes, teeming and lading (lapping) and cross-firing.
- Expenditures incurred for illicit purposes - e.g., money laundering, bribery, conflicts of interest and kickbacks.
Businesses need to be aware of the risks and introduce systems at every level to prevent, detect, and combat fraud. You should have an insurance policy to indemnify you against financial loss resulting from acts of dishonesty by employees and others and you should implement a culture to prevent you becoming a victim. You should have systems and procedures in place to prevent fraud or, if it does happen, detect its presence as early as possible. Such measures could include:
- Designating one person or department with responsibility for managing fraud prevention and detection. They should be on the look out for some of the tell-tale signs of fraud such as accounting anomalies, changes in someone's behaviour or inexplicable improvements in their lifestyle.
- Your recruitment process should be designed to detect and deter fraudsters - this includes a close vetting of all CVs and a thorough checking of references.
- Staff training and awareness programmes.
- All employment contracts should contain guidelines on the use of confidential and personal information; allow for the monitoring of email and calls; and for the retention and recovery of pensions or bonuses where fraud is uncovered. There should also be post-contract obligations restricting the use of company information and providing for the return of all company property.
- Hotlines for whistle-blowers, allowing employees to report an illegal activity they are aware of through their work.
- Systems to protect your IT infrastructure and track who is accessing what and when.
- Restrictions of the type of information - paper or electronic based - that employees can access from home or take out of the workplace.
- Data mining (the process of extracting hidden patterns from large amounts of data).
- Spot audits and random checking of expense receipts.
Dealing with suspected fraudsters
If the fraud was committed by an outsider, calling in the police is probably your best option. If you think an employee was involved you can still call in the police but you may decide it's easier, quicker and less disruptive to investigate yourself and sack the culprit if required. Whatever you decide, don't act rashly in your dealing with the suspect otherwise you may end up before an employment tribunal.
Investigate thoroughly and amass any evidence, by all legal means possible - including bringing in private investigators if need be - before you confront anyone.
If witnesses are available, check that there is no grudge between them and the accused person and make sure you keep a written dated record of what they say and where they say it. Their statement should include details of their opportunity and ability to observe the misdeed clearly and any circumstantial evidence.
It might not be practical for you to investigate properly while the suspected fraudster is still in situ (and they might try and cover their tracks) so you could consider suspending them while you look into the allegations.
Remember: you can't usually dismiss anyone unless you have been through the proper procedures, have investigated thoroughly and have a genuine belief of wrongdoing on the part of the employee and reasonable grounds for holding that belief.