Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Expert opinion: The work Christmas party - employers beware!

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Rebecca Peterson of WansbroughsThe festive season is upon us and employers need to be aware that they could be held accountable for the acts of their employees at the work Christmas party.

Work Christmas parties are great for boosting staff morale, but the inappropriate behaviour of employees at the work Christmas party could result in potential headaches for the employer.

Work Christmas parties are for the purposes of the law regarded as an extension of work, even if they take place outside of normal office hours and not held at the workplace.

All employers should consider the following checklist:

Company Policies Review your policies and make sure that they are up-to-date. For example, Anti-harassment and Bullying policy; Equal Opportunities policy; and Alcohol and Drug Misuse policy.

Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures Your policies should set out the standards of behaviours expected of your staff at work any unacceptable behaviour at the work Christmas party, for example, over consumption of alcohol, use of illegal drugs, violence, inappropriate language or physical contact should be dealt with as a misconduct issue under your disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Warning to your managers Be careful about the conversations that you have with staff or the promises that you make at the work Christmas party. For example, any discussions about promotion, salary increase, bonuses etc could be relied upon.

Be careful not to discriminate Consideration and sensitivity should be given to:-

  • different beliefs and religions. For example, catering for different religious dietary requirements such as non-alcoholic drinks and vegetarian options.
  • the venue - so that the party is accessible to everyone. For example, the venue should have access for disabled staff and be suitable for staff of all ages.
  • the time of day that the party is held. For example, staff may have primary childcare responsibilities and so are potentially restricted on the time of day that they can attend.
  • whether staff partners are invited. For example, treat staff who are in same-sex relationships the same as staff who are in heterosexual relationships.

Absenteeism the day after Any lateness and unauthorised absence from work the day after the work Christmas party should be treated as misconduct under your disciplinary procedure.

Rebecca Peterson is an employment law specialist at Wansbroughs in Devizes. Contact her on 01380 733300 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Christmas lights could add £20 to homeowners’ winter electricity bill

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Christmas lights image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netA simple switch to energy saving fairy lights for tree and outdoor decorations could knock a staggering £20 off the electricity bill of the average homeowner during the festive period.

That is according to research carried out by Chippenham-based electricity company Good Energy.

The renewable energy company has calculated that replacing old, incandescent fairy lights with energy efficient LEDs could save householders up to £20 on their electricity bills.

Juliet Davenport OBE, founder and CEO of Good Energy, said: “It’s surprising how much electricity Christmas lights use up. Switching to LED lights will save you money, and is good for the environment.”

Good Energy has joined forces with the National Trust to produce some top tips that will help people have a greener Christmas this year.

A National Trust spokesperson said: “Small changes like swapping to low energy lights can make a big difference to our carbon footprint and also our energy bills.

“At the Trust, we’ve installed around 74,000 LED light bulbs so far across the places we look after to help us to achieve our energy reduction targets.”

The renewable energy company and conservation charity’s top tips are available at www.goodenergy.co.uk/blog/go-green-for-christmas-2014


Nutricia announces Baa-rilliant sponsorshop for Shaun in the City trail

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Shaun in the City ©&TM Aardman/Shaun the Sheep Ltd. 2014 ® Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Charity. Charity No. 1043603Trowbridge-based medical nutrition company Nutricia has announced it’s a ‘leader of the flock’ in the 2015 Shaun in the City project to raise money for sick children in the UK.

Shaun in the City promises to be the most iconic fundraising project run by the Wallace & Gromit Children’s Charity after the phenomenal success of Gromit Unleashed two years ago.

This time, Aardman’s internationally-acclaimed character Shaun the Sheep will appear in two major arts trails in London and Bristol where each city will separately play host to a flock of unique Shauns. The giant Shauns will be placed in key locations and green spaces all around the two cities.

With over four million fans on social media, his own TV series, and his big screen debut with Shaun the Sheep The Movie in February, the much anticipated Shaun in the City trail is expected to engage millions of fans, tourists and communities

The Shaun In The City project is already generating excitement. Both city arts trails will culminate in a VIP auction of the 120 Shauns which is expected to raise millions. A staggering £2.35 million was raised at the Gromit Unleashed auction, with Pixar’s ‘Gromit Lightyear’ sculpture fetching £65,000.

Each arts trail has ten main sponsors known as ‘Leaders of the Flock’ – and Nutricia is one of those sponsors for London.

Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition is the UK’s largest provider of medical nutrition products and services. Working with healthcare professionals and organisations across the country and internationally, it’s dedicated to pioneering nutritional solutions helping people live healthier and longer lives.

In hospitals throughout the UK, the company provides specialist nutrition for children who need additional nutrition support.

Kate Hall, external affairs manager, said: “It’s so exciting for Nutricia and its staff to be involved in such a worthwhile, colourful and imaginative project.

“At Nutricia we already work with the charity helping children’s hospitals nationwide so our staff know how important it is to support families through the most difficult times.

“Currently we are organising our plans for fundraising and volunteering and we hope, at the end of this iconic project, our ‘Shaun’ will raise many thousands of pounds to help families who need help from the Wallace and Gromit Children’s Charity.”

Businesses urged to check fire risk assessments

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Wiltshire Fire and RescueBusinesses in Swindon and Wiltshire are being reminded to keep their premises safe from fire in the run-up to Christmas.

As part of UK Business Safety Week, which starts on Monday, Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service wants all local businesses to check their fire risk assessments and make changes to their processes if necessary.

Area Manager Ian Jeary explained: “The festive season brings with it additional fire risks – shops have large amounts of extra stock, licensed premises are always a lot busier, and there are often seasonal employees who perhaps don’t know the processes as well as other staff.

"Fire can be devastating, and many small businesses don’t recover from having a fire, so we really want people to take a bit of time to check their businesses are as safe as possible.”

Within Swindon, firefighters are supporting the Community Safety Partnership’s Christmas campaign, working with colleagues from Wiltshire Police and Swindon Borough Council to promote the importance of keeping businesses safe.

AM Jeary said: “Many of the concerns we have overlap with those of colleagues within Trading Standards and Licensing, so we are working together to ensure that local businesses understand their obligations under the law.”

Among the risks that will be highlighted to businesses are:

  • Safe storage of additional stock, not blocking thoroughfares or doors.
  • Safe disposal of additional packaging, such as cardboard.
  • Maintaining safe escape routes and fire exits in busy pubs, clubs and restaurants.
  • Ensuring that temporary staff fully understand what they should do in the event of a fire.
  • Keeping decorations away from alarm sensors and anything that generates heat.

A full range of advice on fire risk assessments, and the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order on commercial premises, can be found at www.wiltsfire.gov.uk/yourbusiness


Workplace pensions seminars over-subscribed by Swindon employers

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Richard Mathews of Banks BHGSeminars focussing on the Government’s sweeping workplace pensions changes have proved a huge hit with Swindon businesses, seeking to find out more about the legislation which affects all employers.

The two free events run by Banks BHG chartered accountants were over-subscribed by town employers, which are about to be engulfed by the new rules on auto enrolment requiring them to enrol their qualifying staff into a workplace pension.

Two further free seminars, with capacity for 25 employers at each, are planned by Banks BHG for next year – in February and May – but director Richard Mathews has promised more will be held if there is demand.

“The new auto enrolment rules came in some time ago, but there are different stages at which companies join,” he said. “Until now, they have affected the larger companies, but it won’t be long until small to medium-sized businesses are drawn in.

“From the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, a huge wave of businesses will start to join, and this wave carries on for the best part of two years, with a big spike at the end of 2016 and into 2017.

“That may seem a long way off, but it takes months to prepare for auto enrolment, so if you’re an employer whose staging post is towards the end of 2015, you should really have started already.”

Companies which fail to meet their auto enrolment obligations face penalties from The Pensions Regulator, starting with a £400 fixed penalty notice and escalating penalties up to £10,000 per day. Already, fixed penalty notices have been issued for non-compliance.

Said Richard: “The Government is very determined that auto enrolment will succeed, and as a result all employers are affected. It means a big change for the way payrolls operate, so our advice is to plan early and avoid being engulfed.”

The auto enrolment seminars will be on February 4 and May 13 at Banks BHG’s Stratton offices, starting at 5.45 for 6pm and followed by a light buffet. To book, visit www.banksbhg.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WRC rally car visits Pebley Beach in Swindon

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Sean Quirk with the WRC Hyundai i20 at Pebley BeachThe growl of a 300bhp, 1600cc engine heralded the arrival of one of Hyundai's prize-winning World Rally Championship cars at Swindon dealership Pebley Beach on Monday.

The specially-produced i20 - which is based on the production model but sports four wheel drive, a new rear wing and front spoiler to aid cooling, and an adapted kinematic suspension system - performed beyond all expectations at this year's FIA World Rally Championships.

The highlight of the competition was a memorable 1-2 win for Hyundai at Rallye Deutschland - an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was Hyundai's maiden season in the WRC.

Hyundai also won podium positions at Mexico and Poland, and recorded a three-car finish in the final six stages of the competition, in slippery and muddy Wales.

The car was welcomed to the showroom by sales executive Sean Quirk, who won a VIP trip to the Welsh stage of the rally after being crowned Brilliant Champion at the Hyundai Global Sales Executive Competition in Korea.

Pebley Beach managing director Dominic Threlfall said: "This is a not-to-be-missed chance for World Rally Championships fans to get up close and personal with this race-winning car."

But, like the car itself, enthusiasts will have to be quick: the in-demand motor will only be at the dealership - at Paddington Drive in Swindon - until Friday.

Public to decide which charities get Hills’ Christmas card cash

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Three Wiltshire charities are in line to benefit from a Wiltshire company’s decision not to send Christmas cards this year – and members of the public are being invited to choose which the lucky charity will be.

Like many companies, recycling and building giant The Hills Group is forgoing Christmas cards in lieu of a donation to charity.

Each of the three nominated local charities will receive £150. But it is Hills’ customers who will decide which charity gets a further £150 bonus.

Customers can vote via Hills’ Facebook page, or by logging on to https://epoll.me/v/ACSU5SBkMrg

The charities from which to choose are:

Threshold, an independent charity that works to positively tackle the issues and problems that arise from homelessness and focus on assisting people who are currently or threatened with becoming homeless.

Children’s unit, Great Western Hospital provides care for children up to the age of 18 years with medical, surgical, complex and chronic illnesses.

Wiltshire Sight exists to help those of all ages affected by sight loss in Wiltshire and Swindon; offering information, advice and guidance, giving people practical and emotional support to help them in their daily lives.

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