Dealing with Long-Covid & Care Issues – a guide to employers

Scenario: Employee becomes carer for relative with long COVID
Jen’s husband has contracted coronavirus and has been seriously ill with Long-Covid since then. Jen works full time, but has been struggling to balance her work activities with her caring responsibilities.

What should the employer do?
Under the ‘Absence Management Policy’ there are a number of procedures for time off work that can be explored.
Employees do not currently have a statutory right to time off to provide care for a sick or disabled family member. There is a right to a reasonable amount of time off to arrange for the care of a dependant when the care arrangements already in place are unexpectedly disrupted. However, this leave is unpaid and appears to not be applicable in Jen’s case.
It may be that Jen would consider making a flexible working request to help her balance her commitments. This obviously depends on Jen’s role. However, it could provide flexibility for Jen to work from home and aid her husband – or even a move to part-time working. The employer should certainly try to accommodate any such request if possible.
Under the statutory right to request flexible working the employer can turn down a request if it has a valid business reason for doing so, but a more important issue for the employer is the potential for an indirect sex discrimination claim.
It is likely that women are far more likely than men to have to strike a balance between their work commitments and caring responsibilities – even when those responsibilities are for dependant adults rather than children. A failure to make any allowance for employees making such a request could therefore amount to indirect discrimination if the employer was unable to show that the refusal was a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim – a much higher threshold of reasonableness than is provided for in the statutory right to request flexible working.

Compassionate leave
Another option is to consider a period of compassionate leave to allow Jen to concentrate on caring for her partner for a period of time. There is no legal entitlement to such leave, although some employers do provide for it in their contracts of employment. The employer could also agree to accept a certain level of absence from Jen for the period that her husband is ill. Such flexibility may help the employer retain Jen’s service by allowing her to remain in her role rather than choose to leave work altogether.

Article by Shakira Joyner, Personology
www.personology.co.uk

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Guide to how to recycle, reuse
and refill

There is no escaping the shocking impact that global warming is having on our planet and the devastation that wildfires and rising temperatures are creating across the world. Unless you are a complete non-believer, the time is NOW to act in the fight against climate change.

Reuse, Recycle, Repeat = Save the Planet
It may feel like an obvious question but so many things in life can be reused. For example, if you have your groceries delivered, you could reuse the plastic liner for household use.
Alternatively, why not wash out old jam jars for creative projects or donate as wedding supplies for jam-jar flowers?
Many AF products can also be reused; for instance, most cloths including the traditional microfibre cloths, are ideal for washing and reusing. The versatility means that you can use in the office, in the lounge, car or even bathroom cleaning requirements. What are you waiting for?

Recycle me
What springs to mind when someone asks you if you recycle? An obvious choice is probably your weekly waste disposal. Tins, bottles, and plastic packaging are easily washed and popped in the bin but there are a lot of other ways that you can recycle. Did you know that it is estimated that up to 50% of food thrown away can be used? For example, vegetable peelings and much more can be put into compost bins.
Why not donate to local food banks to make a real difference to charities and the environment thus avoiding wastage.
When we think of cleaning products, there are several recyclable products available on the market, usually differentiated with a green element but we recommended looking a little closer, reading the small print, but better still, checking out their branded website to find out their eco story. As a sustainable manufacturer, AF are clear on their eco message and offer a wide variety of fully recyclable paper wipes, including the firm favourites such as Screen, Phone and PC Clene. These wipes are also now available in refill packs with packaging made from HDPE2 plastic which can be recycled up to 10 times. All AF branded tubs are also made from this, the second most recyclable plastic material. The refill option uses a whopping 70% less plastic by weight when compared to the tub packaging. What’s not to love?

Refill coffee anyone?
How many of you reading this, use your own refillable cup at the popular coffee shops to get some money off the bill? I thought so; refilling with AF is just as easy. Just like daily coffee habits, the hand gel habit is here to stay. Save money and time by choosing a 500ml eco refill bottle to fill your 50ml smaller bottles for hand sanitisation on the go. Remember, our pumps are built to last and to date, we have not received one broken pump returned to us or complained about in terms of malfunction, or any other reason for that matter!

How can your business be greener?
As a Valpak certified zero waste to landfill site, AF is committed to protecting our planet. From general office waste recycling to chemical waste there is a responsible trail of disposal. Another way to reduce your company carbon footprint comes in the form of electric vehicles. For example, the AF head office site currently operates 6 hybrid and 4 full electric fleet cars. The running cost savings are quite considerable, not to mention the positive impact on the environment. In over a year, 1 electric car on the road saves enough CO2 equivalent to 4 return flights from London to Barcelona!
Utility costs can be reduced by making different choices, such as energy efficient lighting. AF use LED lighting which has saved 5% energy consumption in just 1 year.

Why you should make changes now
One small change, by lots of people equates to a big difference. Day to day living can have a substantial positive impact on the future environment. By choosing to recycle, this will reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, save energy, and prevent the requirement for new raw materials.

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and refill

The Secret Diary of A Stationery Lover

Recently I have taken on an unofficial new role in the office. I am now, in my mind, the Stationery Master, overlooking all stationery orders made from all departments. Some of my colleagues call me a “Jobsworth” – I don’t think they realise that I take that as a compliment! One person even told me that I should get myself a hi-viz vest, “Good idea” I replied, “I’ll order a Beeswift Saturn yellow 100% polyester vest with hook and loop fastening, and retro-reflective tape…” Putty in my hands.

It all started the other week when I spotted Sarah in Marketing looking on the Amazon website. At first, I was going to report her to the boss for shopping in work time, but then I discovered that she was ordering for the workplace. She said she needed a new mouse for her computer and thought she “might as well” order it from Amazon. If I was allowed, I would have rapped her knuckles with a ruler (Helix 30cm, shatter resistant, of course), but had to restrain myself.

“No” I said, “we don’t do that here, we Keep It Local in this company, supporting local businesses that pay their fair share of taxes and have excellent local knowledge and customer service.” I then pointed her to the latest Highlights magazine that features more information about the Keep It Local campaign. I did leave it open on the page that featured my article hoping she might realise that I was the Secret Stationery Lover and she might ask for my autograph. I was there, Sharpie ready in hand (is there any other
pen for autographs?), but it seems my secret is still safe.

Although I made up the role of Stationery Master, there is some truth in the fact that I have been made responsible for making sure that everyone that has returned from furlough has everything they need and feels safe. Those that wanted it have Perspex screens between them and the person next to them and every desk has sanitiser and surface wipes to hand, you can never be too safe.
We have also stopped sharing stationery equipment, so everyone has their own stapler, punch and set of pens. I have had tremendous fun helping people to choose a stapler. You would not believe how many people just ask me to order “any old one” – Have they no idea about the differences? How am I supposed to know if they want a half strip or full strip, vertical for ease of storage and use, a long arm version, electric, heavy duty or even mini. You cannot just say “any old one.” That does not help me in the slightest. The last person who did that to me complained for weeks about the 12 sheet Rexel Wizard designed to staple up to 12 sheets with its clear case that lets you view all the colourful working mechanisms inside. “What is that they asked?” “That” I replied, “Is a piece of architectural genius. A stationery lovers dream.”

Before I go I must confess to you one thing. I love this time of year. Everyone in the office suddenly seems to need extra Sellotape for their desk. Well I know that they are actually taking it home to wrap up their gifts and even more of a give-away is that they all seem to order the 6 pack of 24mm x 66m that just so happens to come with a cute cuddly toy.

Well, I really caught them out this year and instead ordered them the new sustainable Sellotape made with cellulose film and naturally based glue, this plant-based tape is kinder to the planet. “What is this?” they asked.

“It is part of our new CSR strategy” I declared, “it is the new Sellotape, with zero plastic”
“Yeah, and zero cuddly toy either!” You really cannot please some people!

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Protect Your Mobile
Devices

Our laptops and tablets are valuable not just because they represent significant investments, but also because of the sensitive business data and crucial personal information that lives on our devices. In today’s world of mobile workforces and BYOD (Buy Your Own Device) trends, guarding against device theft is the first line of defence to save data from falling into the wrong hands.
Mobile devices enable workplace flexibility, but that inherent portability also makes them more likely to be stolen. To protect mobile devices and the sensitive information they contain, Kensington’s comprehensive portfolio of physical security products—including keyed and combination locks, portable locks, and locking stations—provide a range of tough, reliable, and easy to use security solutions.
Types of Locks and Lock Slots
The Kensington Security Slot™ has been the industry standard for more than 25 years, and Kensington has developed slimmer slots for thin and light mobile devices as well. Found in ultra-thin devices, the Kensington Nano Security Slot™ is 70% smaller than the traditional slot, which gives engineers more space for other components as they design the devices of the future. Additionally, the Kensington ClickSafe® Security Anchor mounts into the Kensington Security Slot™ to provide simple, one-click security for ease of use.
The two most commonly-used locking options are the traditional keyed locks and combination locks, which are compatible with more than 90% of laptops, desktops, projectors, monitors, and printers from all major manufacturers. Every lock is engineered to rigorous specifications, made of aircraft-grade carbon steel, and built to last. Kensington’s Register and Retrieve program ensures that a lost key can be easily replaced and a forgotten combination is simple to recover.
The next-generation hardware protection offers more advanced security options. For light and thin laptops and tablets that are too slim for a standard lock slot, Kensington has designed a range of locks built to our tough standards that fit perfectly to secure these ultralight and mobile devices. Biometric security locks provide two factor authentication (2FA) to protect against unauthorized access while offering a seamless and secure login experience. To reduce the risk of data theft or malicious uploads, Kensington’s USB Port Locks physically block USB ports from unauthorized access. Whatever your physical security needs might be, Kensington has a locking solution to meet them.

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Devices

Party Like It’s 2021!

It’s late October and the monthly management meeting is just coming to an end. Ninety minutes on a Monday morning in the boardroom, the one day that everyone is in the office; apart from Sue and Thomas who are on the big screen dialling in from home via Zoom.
“Thank you everyone, now, any other business?” asked the MD, shuffling his papers hoping for no response.
“What about the Christmas Party this year?”
And so began another 45 minutes of debate. It is a question being asked by hundreds of companies up and down the country that are just getting used to adapting to what is being called the new normal; and then along comes the curve ball about whether to encourage a social gathering and, bluntly, what can be afforded after 18 months in survival mode.
Back on the big screen Sue is looking horrified. Ever since the first lockdown she has flatly refused to return to the office. When Boris Johnson said work from home, she worked from home. And with a bedroom converted into an office and all the tools she needs to hit her target she sees no reason to change that and has had many a run in with HR on the subject. The thought of mixing with everyone in a social environment at a Christmas party is not one that appeals.
“I think it will be great to get everyone together again and let our hair down to celebrate the fact that we have made it through, and start bonding again.” It was Helen that had now perked up, pushing hard for a big party. “We missed out completely last year and those that only joined the company in February or March 2020 have no idea how great our parties are!”
Helen is the office party animal. At only 25 she was one of the last to be vaccinated but was also the one going out the most throughout the pandemic often ignoring the advice to wear a mask and socially distance. At the last Christmas party there was an unsavoury incident when Sue walked past the stationery cupboard and saw Helen in an awkward position with Paul from Accounts, a pack of Post-it Notes and some Sellotape. Sue never did reveal exactly what she saw, but the relationship between Sue and Helen had been strained ever since.
“I have to say, I don’t mind coming into the office on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday as agreed, knowing that we have the screens up between desks still and it is easy to keep our distance, but I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of a full-on party at the moment.” Now it was the turn of Paul, the Senior Consultant. At 58 years of age Paul had been in the “vulnerable” category throughout the pandemic following a minor heart attack two years ago. A real shock to the system and one that brought an end to his heavy drinking and partying days.
“Couldn’t we just do the same as last year” he continued “let everyone have Christmas Eve off and send them a choice of a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates.” His suggestion was met by a series of jeers from the end of the boardroom table.
“Bah-humbug to you!” shouted Jane.
The MD immediately knew that he had a difficult decision on his hands and wished he had been more prepared for the question going into the meeting. Two years ago, the office party was the highlight of the year. The majority of the 100 strong staff would attend, mostly with their partners, at a hired hotel suite or at the function room of the local football club and everyone would have a fantastic evening before heading home and coming in the following morning, some with more sore heads than others, to laugh and joke about the stories that came out the previous night.
Things have changed now though. Over the past 18 months there had only been 30 members of staff working the whole time, another 30 had just returned from furlough at the end of September and were just getting back into the routine of working; 15 had left and found other jobs and another 25 were going through the “at risk of redundancy” process. The MD himself was in no mood for a party, he knew that a maximum of 8 would come through the process with a job. Yet, on the other hand, he owed it to his staff to give them a Christmas Party, to thank them for their loyalty and re-build the company morale that had been decimated by the pandemic.
After 45 minutes of differing opinions the MD finally banged his pad on the table, declared the meeting closed and concluded, “Let’s all go away and think about our options, and we can discuss it at the next meeting.”
The Christmas Party can had been well and truly kicked down the road; but it will be back, just like it will in management meetings throughout the globe in the next chapter of The New Normal Way of Working in 2021.

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Data protection for the home office with Dahle Shredders

How to make your home office GDPR-compliant
Since the arrival of covid-19, companies have begun to embrace the home office concept. More and more businesses are choosing to allow their staff to work from home even after the crisis. This goes hand in hand with an increased awareness regarding GDPR-compliant working: as soon as the work involves personal data, certain regulations must be observed. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can change how you handle personal data. So, data protection is also relevant in your home office, and that brings responsibilities.

Personal data – what are they?
Personal data is all data that is or can be assigned to a living natural person. Anyone who stores and/or processes such data is obligated to protect them.

Spatial design is crucial to data protection in your home office
GDPR requires that third parties have no access to personal data or technical equipment. If you live in a shared flat, with a partner or your family, you must take measures to ensure that other members of your household have no access to your work data:
• Use a separate, lockable room for work.
• In addition, you should store any documents or data carriers in a lockable cabinet.
• Do not leave documents with personal data on the kitchen table.
• Do not make work-related phone calls on the patio in the presence of family members or friends if it is evident from the conversation who you are talking to about whom.
• Agree “do not disturb” times so that no one can accidentally peek at your screen.
• Visualise your daily schedule, e.g. on a white- or cork board.
• Use Dahle MEGA magnets and self-adhesive magnetic tape to indicate your availability to family members on the door frame (e.g. a cross for “Do not disturb”, a circle for “Available”).

Compliant thanks to technical equipment
Alongside company-owned devices, you can also use personal end devices for work. That can be handy (you know how the devices work and don’t have to get used to or learn to use new ones), but it’s not without its problems: using your personal devices for work creates security risks and data protection issues in your home office.
Aside from the blurring line between professional and personal life, you should prevent risks as follows:
• Encrypt your end device in a GDPR-compliant manner using software your employer provides, or only access corporate data via a web interface. Additionally install up-to-date protection software from your company on your end device, or store the data in a separate, specifically encrypted area; this will prevent them from being stolen from your end device.
• To avoid vulnerabilities, only use current operating systems approved by your company. One possible alternative are virtual operating systems provided by your employer.
• Only use end devices your employer has approved and ensure that the end device recognises that it is you who is using the corporate operating system – for example through a fingerprint scan or a secure password. Important: Family members must not have access to the corporate operating system. So, sticking the password to your desk or the family pinboard is not a good idea.
• Create a secure start-up password and do not store corporate data on external data carriers that have not been approved and encrypted by your employer.
• Follow the rules and procedures specified by your company’s IT department. These may be data backup mechanisms, a request for remote data deletion if your device is lost or stolen, rules for logging a device in and out of a BYOD environment, required actions if your personal device has to be repaired or replaced, or information on installing new (security) software.
• Only use secure connections for internet access – ideally via the company’s own VPN (Virtual Private Network). Other data transfer options are less secure.
If you cannot set up your end devices accordingly, you should only use devices for work that your employer has made available specifically for this purpose.

Destruction concept
As much as we wish they were, work processes usually aren’t entirely digital. Printed documents, which may also contain personal data, can be kept under lock and key, but at some point, they must be destroyed. This requires a concept: data protection compliant destruction differs from simply throwing the documents away. Before they end up in the paper recycling bin, they should be shredded.

Easy to use – secure document shredding
The PaperSAFE® document shredder, the compact document shredder for small and home offices, is a convenient solution. Its handy automatic start and stop function ensures fast and secure use; it’s easy to empty thanks to a detachable top part; and it’s safe to handle because the motor automatically shuts off when the device is opened. Its particle size of 4 x 30 mm corresponds to security level P-4 and is perfect for meeting normal protection requirements for confidential and personal data in a company.

Any questions on the GDPR?
Here’s a quick summary of our tips for observing the GDPR in your home office:
• Work in a separate, lockable room.
• Set up your personal end devices for work use, or use end devices provided by your employer.
• Ensure secure access to employer systems e.g. via VPN.
• Have a concept for storing and destroying printed documents.
These tips do not replace proper legal advice. They are based on online research on websites about data protection measures.

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