Monday, 26 October 2020

Q&A: Redundancy

Q: I have been made redundant but my employer is advertising my old job, was my redundancy fair?

A: Redundancy is when a job no longer exists; this may be for a number of reasons, for example if the employer needs to restructure and the job is abolished, new methods mean that the position is no longer required, or the employer changes the work they do. Employers must do what they can to avoid making staff redundant; this includes offering employees at risk of redundancy an alternative role within the business.

If a role is the same as, or similar to, one which you were performing you may be able to claim unfair dismissal because it may be the case that the employer failed to find you alternative work rather than make you redundant. 

It is possible that the circumstances within the company have changed since the redundancy took place, which meant that the redundancy was genuine at the time but the company are now able to take on additional staff. 

Regardless of how long you were employed for you should always ensure that you were not made redundant because of discrimination (based on race, age, sexuality, disability or other protected characteristics), if you are concerned that you were you should challenge the redundancy and consider a discrimination claim.

Before beginning an employment tribunal claim you need to speak to Acas ( to start the early conciliation process. 

Want to ask us a question? Follow this link to our Q&A form!

Friday, 23 October 2020

Black History Month - Helping Ugandan Asian refugees in 1972

For Black History Month, we are highlighting the great work done at a national level by Citizens Advice in the past.  The following article was originally published in 2018 by Sue Edwards of Citizens Advice national office.

In August 1972, General Idi Amin, the then president of Uganda, ordered the expulsion of the Asian minority population of Uganda. As many were British citizens, Idi Amin insisted that the UK Government help him with the expulsion. In the end about 30,000 came to the UK.

We were asked to help meet planeloads of refugees at Stansted Airport to help them with documentation and ensure that they had a roof over their head. The first flight, which arrived on 17 September 1972, was full of people who had been subjected to harassment, maltreatment and theft on the way to Entebbe airport. They were in a state of shock when they landed.

During the first days over half of the refugees arrived with the intention of proceeding to private destinations and the CAB teams had to find out whether families could be collected, if they had enough money for fares and enough English to enable them to travel independently. Most of the planes arrived in the early hours of the morning and many of them were full of people who were in a state of shock, so it was hard and stressful work.

For example,CAB workers had to meet people from a plane which had been loaded with passengers and luggage at Entebbe when the Ugandan authorities objected to something concerning the last family who should have joined the flight. All the passengers and luggage were taken off the plane and searched again with consequent delay. On another occasion the women and children were all put on one plane and the men were held and then put on a second plane, with the result that the women were completely hysterical with fear on their arrival.

One of the CAB workers who helped at Stansted said, "These were people who had been frightened and intimidated, lost their homes and possessions, often their businesses and livelihoods, many even told of being stripped of their personal jewelry. We tried to make the bureaucratic process as human and as friendly as possible - just CAB on a large and concentrated scale.”

Many refugees ended up in resettlement camps where other CAB workers were involved when they arrived. CAB workers in camps in Lincolnshire found most urgent need was for maps. “These people had been snatched from their homes, transported across continents, bundled into coaches and trains, and now they wanted to know where they were!” British Rail supplied rail maps - useful for workers to point out relative position of camps and where their relatives might be living.

Black History Month: My Story by Maisie, aged 17

 As a person of mixed race ethnicity (my dad is black and my mum is white) I have experienced racism throughout my life; probably not what you’d expect however. Through my personal dealings with prejudice and general negativity towards the colour of my skin I’ve learned that racism isn’t straight cut, it comes in many forms and effects more than just the person with the darker skin it’s being thrown at.

The most noticeable and frequent situation I have found myself in is the negative opinion many people carry towards my mum when they see us together. I can see people staring at us with disgruntled eyes and disappointed frowns as if the fact a white woman had a child with a black man is an issue of her lack of self-respect. This is not the case, if you believe this awful preconceived idea please try your best to let it go and understand that mixed race children are not a result of a ‘tacky’ women and ‘lesser’ man letting go of morals and respect. It may sound dramatic but it’s true, because of me simply existing people hold my mum in a lower regard. Sometimes people can’t even bring themselves to believe I’m her biological daughter; assuming she adopted a disadvantaged child from a life destined for nothing very impressive.

The assumption I am not my mum’s biological child has always hurt me. At times I’ve felt as if I’m not good enough to be wanted, mostly though it just leaves me confused- no one doubts the legitimacy of my biological relation to my dad so why is it a difficulty to accept and understand when it comes to my mum?

If a person was to ask me how racially motivated negativity affects me personally I would have to say guilt. People’s stereotypes that influence the respect they have for my mum ultimately makes me feel guilty because in their eyes it’s my fault that they can’t respect her. You see racism isn’t just shouting abuse or throwing punches it can be more.

In school whenever topics of race are discussed all eyes are on me. It’s never enjoyable to be stared down for any reason and trust me this equally as horrible. I understand there is no malicious intent but it makes me feel as if my personality traits, interests and opinions are not the things that define me- my skin tone is, because no eyes are on me when my favourite film is brought up. It’s as if what makes me who I am is stripped away and gone unrecognised because the only important fact is my ethnicity. It makes me feel like just another one of many, I’m not an individual. I want to be more than the person who’s ‘allowed’ to answer the questions.

I know a lot of what I’ve spoken about has been in the past tense but that’s not the case. I experience these few of many acts of prejudice often and I don’t expect it to stop but I hope that with everything happening at the moment for the Black Lives Matter campaign the less known problems can be unsurfaced. At the end of the day everyone in and connected to the black community simply wants to live their lives with equal respect, consideration and opportunities; I included.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Black History month: Citizens Advice's policy work on racism in the benefits system in the 1990's

For Black History Month, we are highlighting the great work done at a national level by Citizens Advice in the past.  The following article was originally published in 2018 by Sue Edwards of Citizens Advice national office.

One of the things that the Black Workers' Group was keen to do was to ensure that our policy work better reflected the  diversity of our clients.  So in 1991 we published "Barriers to benefit - black claimants and social security".  This was a time when the DSS was rolling out the Benefits Agency to administer benefit claims, and they had just published a set of standards that they expected all Benefits Agency offices to meet.  

Our report aimed to establish whether there was any direct or indirect discrimination in service delivery and design of social security. An analysis of our evidence found that black clients might not not be receiving full entitlement and encounters with social security system were often distressing and humiliating. Some DSS offices didn't have any interpreting facilities, making it particularly difficult for claimants who didn't speak English as their first language.  Where there were no interpreting facilities, claimants sought advice from the local CAB.

Our evidence indicated that delays in processing benefit claims also occurred because the DSS sometimes lost black clients' files due to incorrect use and understanding of their names.   We also noted negative attitudes to black people by appeal tribunal chairmen and wing members.

Finally, we highlighted that some parts of the benefits system had specific and identifiable impacts on groups of black claimants eg discretionary nature of the social fund; restrictions to IS for 16-17 year olds, levels of payment of income support to asylum seekers, availability for work rules for income support/unemployment benefit. 

Our influencing work didn't end with publication of the report.  For some years afterwards, we had regular meetings with senior officials at the Benefits Agency where we raised the issues which we highlighted in this report.  For example, in early 1993, we were asked to attend the Benefits Agency’s Ginger group set up to raise equal opportunities issues affecting both BA staff and clients to discuss what progress BA had made in the treatment of BAME claimants in the two years since we published Barriers to benefits.  We felt that there had been some good initiatives at local level, but there was no national strategy to improve services. Amongst issues discussed included the use of translators and interpreters, and Language Line.  On a positive note, Benefits Agency stated that they were intending to organise a conference on the use of interpreters. 

Monday, 12 October 2020

Q&A: Change in Working Hours

Q: My employer has told me that they need to halve my working hours.  Do I have any choice about this?  Will I be entitled to any benefits?

A: The first thing to do is check your employment contract; your employer can’t change your working hours unless there is a condition in your contract which allows them to. If there is nothing in your contract the employer must negotiate with you to come to an agreement. You should also ensure that the change you are being asked to make is fair and reasonable and that you aren’t being singled out. You are not obliged to accept a change but there is a risk that if your employer is struggling to pay wages they could decide to make you redundant.

Any benefit entitlement depends on a number of factors such as your expected income if you accept a reduction in hours (and therefore pay) and any other household income; benefits such as Universal Credit take income of partners into account as well as any pension income and some other benefits. It is therefore important that you get a full benefit check which we can help you with at Citizens Advice North East Derbyshire. We can also tell you how to make any appropriate claims and guide you through the process.

Once you know what your income is likely to be after a reduction in wages you will have a better idea of whether you could accept a change to your work hours. If you’re in a union speak to your rep, they’ll also be able to help you to negotiate with your employer and ensure that any changes are carried out correctly.

Want to ask us a question? Follow this link to our Q&A form!

Friday, 9 October 2020

Black History Month: Citizens Advice's benefits policy work in the 1980's highlights the impact of welfare reform on BAME clients

For Black History Month, we are highlighting the great work done at a national level by Citizens Advice in the past.  The following article was originally published in 2018 by Sue Edwards of Citizens Advice national office.

In the 1980's we started to do a lot of policy work on benefits - it's hard to believe this now, but at the time, we had hardly done any before. This was a time when the Government was considering wide-spread reform of the means-tested benefits system to speed up processing of claims and save money.  In 1983, a new housing benefit scheme was introduced, causing a great number of people to seek advice from us.  London CAB wrote a report in 1987 about long delays experienced by supplementary benefit claimants in getting their claims assessed by London DHSS offices.  And we responded to the consultations on benefit reform, lobbied Parliament during the passage of the 1986 Social Security Bill through Parliament and monitored its implementation in 1988.

The 1980's were also a time when NACAB (the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux) was actively trying to meet the needs of BAME clients and attract BAME volunteers and workers to the service.  In 1986, we adopted and implemented an anti-racism policy for the first time. This seems to have had an impact on the Information Retrieval/Policy Comment Team at NACAB too - because our responses to the various papers on social security reform and evidence reports on benefits start to mention our concerns about the specific impact of the reforms on black people.

For example, our response to the Green Paper in 1985 highlights our concerns about the proposals to tighten up the presence test in the benefits system which would affect BAME clients the most.  Kings Cross CAB pointed out that the local Bangladeshi community would be affected as many go to Bangladesh to visit family every 2 - 3 years.  They often stay out of the UK for at least 3 months. 

In 1990 we published research about the impact of the discretionary social fund one year after implementation.  This was based on a survey of over 1,500 CAB clients who sought advice about the social fund.  The research found that 10% of the sample were from BAME backgrounds - a higher proportion than in the general UK population at the time.  We highlighted our evidence that people whose first language was not  English were particularly disadvantaged when applying to the social fund for a community care grant, as they were less likely to present a good case as to why they needed a grant.  We recommended that the social fund application form should be simplified and both the form and explanatory leaflets should be provided in appropriate community languages.