Right way to manage unauthorised absence

An issue that arises from time to time is whether an odd day’s unplanned or unauthorised absence can be counted as a day’s holiday.

As with many things, the answer is – possibly.

If an employee does take the odd day or two off unplanned and it does not qualify for sick pay or another paid leave entitlement, the first thing to do is establish why they were off, particularly if they have not contacted you in line with your policy.    

You can ask the employee if he/she wants to take the day as a paid day’s holiday and if they do, make a note confirming that conversation.

If the employee does not want to take the day as a paid holiday or has no holiday entitlement left, then the day should be recorded as unpaid absence.  If you have paid the employee in advance because it was done in a pay roll already sent off, then you can make a deduction of that day’s pay from future wages until the amount is repaid.

The legal bit is in Section 14 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 which sets out when you can deduct money from wages and it gives you the right to do so:

“where the purpose of the deduction is the reimbursement of the employer in respect of an overpayment of wages”.

Of course, you should let the employee know that it is going to happen and check if it is going to cause any financial difficulty in which case you could look to arrange an instalment that you are happy with.

Use this ability to deduct wages with caution – the ability to make a lawful deduction only applies to a genuine overpayment of wages.

The key is to sort it out quickly, ideally on the day of the absence, and agree with the employee how the day is to be treated.  Hopefully then there will be no overpayment and no need to correct it.  Ensure a note is kept of the conversation.  Difficulties arise when it is not dealt with at the time and is left to either the end of the holiday year when the employee suddenly finds out they have no holiday according to the employer; or the employment has terminated and the employee asks for their holiday pay only to be told that it had been allocated to various absences.   You may well then find yourself with a grievance from the employee.

Of course, if you have an employee who repeatedly does not contact you in line with your policy or is taking a lot of odd days off without acceptable explanations, then you should investigate it with them and decide on the appropriate way forward to manage the employee. 

Message from the industry’s Brexit Steering Group

Following the necessary legislation passing through Parliament and receiving Royal Assent on 23 January, the United Kingdom will be leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, with a transition period – during which the status quo will operate in terms of our key requirements – running through to 31 December 2020.

The efforts of industry’s Brexit steering group will now shift to the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, and ensuring the best possible outcome for the sector. There is complete alignment within our sector in respect of maintaining and enhancing British racing and breeding’s international standing and competitiveness as a result of Brexit.

The transition period

In the short term, the UK will officially leave the EU at 11pm GMT on 31 January, upon which it will enter a transition period to 31 December 2020. In immediate practical terms for the thoroughbred sector, this means:

  1. The existing arrangements for the movement of thoroughbreds between the UK, Ireland and France under the Tripartite Agreement (TPA) will remain in place for the rest of the year 
  2. Any citizens from EU or European Economic Area (EEA) countries who arrive in the UK to work in British racing or breeding during this period can apply for settled status for them and their families beyond the end of the Implementation Period, with the application process concluding in June 2021.

The Steering Group strongly encourages all EU and EEA staff working in British racing and breeding to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, which is free of charge. Support is available to those who have any concerns or queries regarding the process through the National Trainers Federation (NTF), TBA and National Association of Racing Staff (NARS)

Our objectives for the future relationship

The European thoroughbred industry has a high level of integration and numerous essential interdependencies – including standardised Stud Book conditions, a common Stud Book between Ireland and Great Britain, and broadly harmonised Rules of Racing. Our industries are collectively worth some €12 billion and account for hundreds of millions of Euros of trade annually.

Throughout the Brexit process to date, our priority has been to avoid the creation of unnecessary tariff and non-tariff barriers, and ensure recognition of the significant integration across thoroughbred racing and breeding. It is also to ensure that the highest levels of welfare for the thoroughbred are maintained and enhanced.

Our overriding objectives from the outset, and as such for the UK’s future relationship with the EU are as follows:

  1. Maintaining the free movement of the Thoroughbred horse across Europe

Thoroughbred horseracing and breeding’s continued growth and success is predicated on the ability to move racehorses as freely as possible for competition, breeding and sales while, crucially, maintaining the highest levels of animal health and welfare.

Central to this movement is the Tripartite Agreement (TPA), in place since the 1960s and predating the UK’s entry to the EU, which facilitates the movement of horses with high health status – including “thoroughbreds used for racing, breeding, in training or moving to a sale” – between the United Kingdom, France and Ireland.

We believe that there are clear and damaging equine welfare, logistical and financial implications if the free movement of thoroughbreds, specifically between the UK and Ireland, is compromised under future arrangements, or if the standards of animal welfare and health underpinning the movement of horses is lowered.

Regardless of whether the UK was leaving the EU, in April 2021 the new EU Animal Health Law is scheduled to take effect. It will govern the rules for movement of thoroughbreds within, imports into and exports from the EU (both temporary and permanent).

The Steering Group, alongside colleagues in the wider European thoroughbred and horse sport sector, has been engaging constructively with the EU on an ambitious High Health Horse status proposal – recognising the high animal health levels, strict vaccination protocols, and strict welfare standards within the thoroughbred horse population – enabling movement of thoroughbreds between EU and non-EU countries with sufficient health standards. This proposal has the support of Defra and the UK Government.

As currently drafted, we are concerned that the Animal Health Law does not provide appropriate recognition of these standards, or reflects that the existing system has evolved over 50 years and serves us well.

  1. Ensure there are common movement, transport, health, welfare, Zootechnical and equine ID policies across Europe to the highest standards

 There are numerous regulations which will need to be replicated and/or enhanced across a range of UK legislation beyond Brexit, underpinned by the future trading relationship with the EU – including on transport and equine ID. We will continue to engage proactively with the UK Government and EU as appropriate on these matters.

  1. As far as possible, ensure the free movement of people working within the Thoroughbred industry

When the transition period has concluded, there will be new arrangements in place for EU citizens living and working in the UK, which will also apply to non-EU international citizens. The Government are currently consulting on the design of the future immigration system with work being led by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

It is critically important for British racing and breeding to have appropriate access to the best talent from the international racing industry. Approximately 1 in 5 people that work in British racing yards are from an EEA or non-EEA background and play a vital role in our industry and caring for our horses.

It is the Steering Group’s view that the future immigration system needs to recognise the skilled nature of work required to care for racehorses and breeding stock, and allow us access to the best international talent, while the industry continues to invest in recruitment and retention of staff from the UK (with separate industry-wide plans in place).

Our industry has been engaging fully in the MAC consultation processes with the support of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). We are calling for recognition of the skilled nature of caring for racehorses and breeding stock, and the unique cultural and economic contribution which the industry brings to the UK, as part of the design of the future immigration system. We will continue to do so in 2020 as the new system is developed.

Further information for the industry

The Thoroughbred Industries Brexit Steering Group will communicate regularly with participants on developments throughout 2020.

In the interim, the britishhorseracing.com webpage on Brexit will be updated with the latest information as it becomes available, while industry participants with any queries are encouraged to contact brexit@weatherbys.co.uk for further information.

Trainers to be given means to “retire” horses

The BHA is about to notify trainers about changes to the administrative process for registering a Non Racing Agreement when horses retire from racing.

Previously, only an owner has been able to provide the BHA of this notification. The rules have been reworded to allow a trainer to provide this notification, effectively acting as agent for the owner. The new process will allow notification to be provided within the existing Racing Administration system. The process will allow owners to cancel within 14 days if the retirement notification has been made in error.

Both the owner and trainer can use the system to apply a digital non-racing agreementif applicable, indicating that the horse should not be reinstated to race in the future.

The new keeper of the horse will be recorded and will receive an email to advise them about their legal obligation to ensure the current owner is recorded in the horse’s passport by Weatherbys within 30 days, securing first step traceability for the retired horse.

Once permanently retired, a horse will be ineligible to race and cannot be reinstated without the approval of the BHA. If no non-racing agreement has been applied, the process to reinstate carries anti-doping requirements that include testing and a stand down period. If the BHA is not appropriately notified of retirement, the horse is still bound by the rules of racing and may therefore be the subject of whereabouts failures.

Bookmaker Sponsorship – Reminder to Members re Cheltenham Previews

In the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival a number of previews will be held to discuss and analyse the week’s racing. The BHA would like to remind Trainers that where a bookmaker sponsors the event and offers any remuneration and/or benefits to the Trainer for their participation this may constitute a commercial arrangement with a Betting Organisation under the Rules of Racing. In such instances, the Trainer must notify the BHA of this arrangement by completing the online form found at the following link: https://britishhorseracing.wufoo.com/forms/commercial-arrangements-trainers/

If any Trainer has any queries regarding this requirement or wishes to discuss the acceptability of such an arrangement please do not hesitate to contact the BHA (gcoombs@britishhorseracing.com or 020 7152 0167) for further information.

Pool money – avoiding discrimination

The last round of pool money payments have raised a number of queries and we thought it timely to remind trainers that whilst you do not allocate the pool money, it is important for you to ensure the criteria your staff have agreed is not discriminatory. If it is, an employee with a grievance will look to you, not their colleagues, for any remedy as you have allowed your employees to act in a discriminatory way. 

To avoid facing a claim you should ensure that employees who are on maternity leave receive their usual pool money and that part timers are not unfairly treated in the allocation – they should be treated proportionately to equivalent full time workers.   

We are happy to look over pool money criteria to advise you whether it should be referred back to your pool money committee for re-consideration to comply with equality legislation.   There is also guidance in the NTF Employment Manual chapter 21 Pool Money and chapter 12 Discrimination and Equality (go to the Employment section in the Members Area.)  

Make sure employees from EU register for settled status

If you have employees who are EU citizens (or you are an EU citizen), they will need to register for the Settlement Scheme to get either settled or pre-settled status. Now that the UK is set to leave the EU at the end of this month, the deadline for applying for settled status is 30th June 2021. Irish citizens do not need to apply. Ensure that they feel supported and can discuss any concerns they may have. If they have any queries then contact us or the employee could speak direct to NARS.

The scheme is free and simple to use via an online application process. It enables EU citizens to protect the rights they currently have in the UK. Applicants will only need to prove their identity, demonstrate their UK residence, and declare any criminal convictions. Employees will need to have a valid passport and valid ID. 

We understand that some EU national passport renewals have very lengthy waiting times so it would be sensible to suggest to your EU employees that if they are considering a Settlement application they should check the status of their passport and the turnaround times for passport renewal for their country to avoid any last minute rush or delay.

You can find full guidance for them at: www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families. There are Android and Apple apps for proving their identity. Or they can visit an identity scanner location to help them complete this part of the application process or post document for verification.

Additional information or support about the EU Settlement Scheme is available from the EU Settlement Resolution Centre. The centre is open from Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm, excluding public holidays, and on Saturday and Sunday between 9.30am and 4.30pm.

Telephone number from inside the UK: 0300 123 7379

Flat handicap qualification – races from 1st February

For races from 1st February 2020 there will be changes to the qualification criteria for a flat handicap mark.  Horses that have won first time out and then go on to finish in the first four placing on their second start will now be eligible for handicaps subject to the existing additional requirements concerning taking part in a race worth £45,000 or more (to take part in these races 3 runs are always required). 

Around 40 horses will qualify for a mark on 25th January under the new rules that would not have previously. The handicapping team will allocate a mark overnight on 24th January.

This change is the result of discussions between trainers and the BHA Racing Department in relation to the effect of converting 3-year-old maidens to novices and the requirement for all horses to run at least three times to be eligible for a rating. The proposal was supported by members at regional meetings last autumn.