Should Pokemon Go or Stay in the Workplace?

Unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island you’ll have at least heard of the reality game Pokemon Go,  all the kids (and adults or maybe even you) are playing on their smartphones. Players walk around the real world catching virtual monsters in places near their phone location and training them to fight each other. The main display for the game is a map based on the player’s surroundings and created using their GPS.

Its success has been phenomenal with Nintendo’s stock prices soaring. It has been credited with encouraging people to exercise more, helping sufferers of depression, anxiety and agoraphobia and  bringing players together at common areas to capture monsters and interact with each other. But do the potential benefits of increased physical activity, office camaraderie and productivity as some have claimed justify allowing employees to play Pokemon Go in the workplace?

At the risk of being called a killjoy there are very few workplaces where the use of personal devices is not restricted and for very good reasons. For example, if employees were not restricted to using their smartphones to, say, break times then, in all likelihood, there would be a frighteningly high number of employees using them when they want for anything they want – including hunting for Pokemon. It’s no secret that games such as these can become addictive; can you trust your employees to put away their smartphones when their lunch break has finished if they are presented with an opportunity to catch one of the rarest monsters?

Not only is there the potential to distract employees from their work, it can distract them from the dangers of the real world. Slips and trips in a warehouse or dangerous contact with machinery on a production line are only two examples of accidents that could become an HSE investigation.

Some players take screen shots of monsters and post them on social media. This could cause embarrassment and affect business not to mention disclose confidential information or trade secrets for all to see? There is also the security risk the app presents to your business when it accesses a range of personally sensitive date from the smartphone.

These are but a few of the reasons why it’s not a good idea to allow game play in the workplace  and, in fact, certain jobs should demand a total ban because they pose a safety hazard for example, those that involve operating heavy machinery or driving. However, if you are not against a complete ban it’s important to set rules and make sure your employees know and understand these rules. For example, game play is not permitted during specific times of the day or in specific areas of the workplace and posting pictures on social media is not permitted.

Try as we might it’s perhaps impossible to unplug  in today’s mobile, digital world but it’s not impossible to play safe.

Donna Reynolds is an experienced Employment Lawyer and HR Adviser helping SMEs throughout Fife, Edinburgh and Scotland

international law

Brexit – the German view

From the German media’s reaction, the vote to leave came as a real surprise. It’s a surprise because David Cameron had successfully pushed through even more preferential treatment for the UK – more so than the “the UK rebate” negotiated by Margaret Thatcher.  A particularly strange decision was that of Cornwall: distinctly pro-Brexit; but receiving plenty EU subsidies for agriculture and infrastructure; and (critically) having achieved EU protection of Geographical Indication for Cornish Pasties!

Soon after the result of the referendum, German hopes grew that Frankfurt could attract financial business from the City of London. However, one month later, those hopes are fading a little, due to the fact that only a small part of the business that makes London a global financial centre is connected to EU-related transactions. Against that, the reaction of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry was that the expected growth in German exports to the UK of 5% before the vote turned into a decrease by 1% afterwards and by a further 5% decrease the following year.  Additionally, a quarter to a third of 5600 German companies questioned said they would consider cutting investment and jobs in UK subsidiaries.

On 28 June 2016, Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German parliament (Bundestag) that:

  • She recognized that this is a unique situation in the 60 years of the EU – and it may result in discussions about giving more sovereign rights from Member States to the EU or conversely the EU giving more power back to Member States.
  • A further division of the EU would have to be prevented from happening by all means. To achieve this, 6 points were stressed:
    • Decisions would have to be made by all 27 member states together.
    • It is solely the UK’s task to explain what the future relationship with the EU should look like. No negotiations (formal or informal), though, will take place before article 50 is triggered. Until the end of the 2-year period, the UK remains an EU member with full rights and obligations.
    • To Angela Merkel, the UK’s own interest seems to be to aim for a close partnership which would also benefit Germany. During the negotiations, the German government will take care of the interests of German citizens living in the UK.
    • Germany will assure that negotiations won’t turn into cherry picking. There has to be and will be a noticeable difference between being a member of the EU and not being a member. The UK will not get to keep the privileges without the obligations that go with them. Free access to the single market requires the acceptance of the Four Freedoms (which includes the movement of workers), for the UK as for anyone else.
    • A successful EU has to noticeably improve the lives of its citizens, and bridge the gap between winners and losers of globalization.
    • The EU is a project to create and maintain peace. Crises in its neighbourhood, refugee movements, climate change, hunger and terrorism can’t be addressed nationally but have to be treated on an EU level.
  • The EU is strong enough to cope with the UK leaving while still promoting its interests throughout the world.

The resignations of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and, more, the appointment of BoJo as Foreign Secretary were received by some with amazement (“I wouldn’t be surprised at the UK appointing Dracula as Health Secretary next” – speaker on foreign affairs of the smaller coalition partner SPD) and by others with understanding for the political need to integrate Leave-campaigners into the government.

A poll in Germany in early July then showed that recent events seemed to have acted as a wake-up call for Germans: 52% (up from 39%) had a favourable view of EU membership, while only 11% (down from 21%) saw disadvantages. And, significantly, support for the anti-EU, anti-migration party AfD, dropped to 12% from 15%. So, the UK decision seems to have made Germans value the EU more, not less.

Before Theresa May’s meeting with Angela Merkel, German President Joachim Gauck had called on European politicians to avoid being too harsh toward the UK; and to take a breath and negotiate calmly, to produce better results. More, he is less in favour of referenda. But, in relation to the Merkel/May meeting the consensus seems to be that it promised a matter-of-fact approach in future negotiations – a relief after a public dialogue dominated so far by prejudice and emotion.

The fact that Teresa May’s first foreign visit was to Germany is less seen as sign of German hegemony in Europe (which hardly any German would see as a goal of German politics) but more as meeting with one of the important partners in negotiations due to the size of the German population. However, German commentators do realise that Brexit means more (though generally undesired) power for Germany within the EU: a thought already exploited by Polish national-conservative party leader Kaczynski to argue against further integration.

Scotland’s position on Brexit has also received significant media coverage and generated overall sympathies.

One month after the result, news about Brexit features prominently in German newspapers, e.g. reports on Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI survey decreasing significantly, representing a negative effect on British economy even after positive effects of a weaker pound on exports have been taken into account, or reports on decreasing demand in the housing market. This is being illustrated by reports on EU migrants that had wanted to buy a house but are now hesitating due to their uncertain status in post-Brexit UK. In addition to that, the increase in reported hate crime following the referendum has not gone unnoticed.

It has also been said that Brexit would make TTIP less attractive for the USA, the UK receiving 25% of US exports to the EU. With significant opposition to TTIP amongst Germans (but not their government) problems with TTIP ratification might be seen positively.

Looking at Switzerland, by February 2017, the Swiss will have to pass a law based on a binding referendum to cut immigration (including from the EU). That must mean that the EU will not allow special treatment for the Swiss because of the repercussions on Brexit negotiations. Switzerland has already accepted the free movement of people in a bilateral agreement with the EU: failure to comply in the future (which their referendum seems to require) would also endanger other bilateral agreements determining the Swiss-EU relations.

A Year in the Life of an Employment Lawyer

Wednesday 28 September 2016 12 – 2 pm

Back by popular demand, we are pleased to invite you to our next Employment Forum on Wednesday 24 September at 12 pm.

Find out what has been keeping me busy over the last 12 months including Tribunal Hearings, gripes and grievances, disciplinary and dismissals, discrimination claims and redundancies and learn a few ‘tricks of the trade’ that you can put into practice in your workplace.

As business owner, HR professional or manager you fulfil a very important role in the business; you are responsible for managing employee relations. You are expected to keep up-to-date with all developments in Employment Law and HR practices and the recent decisions of the employment tribunals. You are required to be the authoritative, voice of reason with the final word on all employment related matters in your workplace.

But sometimes you don’t have the answers and you don’t have the time to find them or have similar experiences to call upon. To make matters worse, you may work alone and the confidential nature of your job means you can’t talk to any of your colleagues. It can be a difficult and lonely job.

Join others just like you on Wednesday 24 September who do a great job in their chosen industry or sector but, from time to time, benefit from meeting with, and learning from, others who have experience of the very problem they need help with. Chapham House Rule applies making for a relaxed and free discussion.

This event is taking place at our Dunfermline office, it’s free to attend and lunch will be provided. Book early to secure your place.

Contact Donna Reynolds.

EU trade secrets directive

The EU trade secrets directive slipped into force on 5 July 2016 with very little fanfare. Although Brexit puts a new slant on EU legislation in the UK, there is still a programme of new EU legislation coming into force in the years to come which will apply in the UK at least until Brexit is finalised and, for much of it, quite likely beyond.

The trade secrets directive is there to harmonise the definition of a trade secret across EU member states and to clarify the status and levels of protection trade secrets will attract EU-wide. Action was especially required in this area, as changing technology means that trade secrets are exposed in many ways they previously weren’t. The scale of international trade means that trade secrets will much less often be stored physically in a company’s safe or in the minds of a few select individuals, and theft and disclosure of large packages of confidential information is becoming a more and more common form of cyber attack.

The new provisions provide a new definition of what is protected, which is probably broader than the UK law has previously considered to be a trade secret and edging into the realm of confidential information. They provide protection from unlawful acquisition, disclosure and use of trade secrets.

During its journey through the EU legislative process, there was much debate on the potential of the new directive to criminalise whistle blowers and restrict the freedom of the press. However, some small changes were made to help reduce the perceived negative impacts and member states will have some degree of flexibility in how it is implemented in national law to minimise these problems. Inevitably, a balance between encouraging innovation and investment on one side, and control over negative impacts on various freedoms will have to be found.

As the UK law in this area is already fairly well developed, the changes to practices within the UK are not likely to be significant (although we may see some codification of current common law rules). However, as the deadline for implementation by member states is 9 June 2018, it is not clear at present what steps the UK will take in relation to this new directive, if any.

The real benefit to UK businesses, regardless of Brexit, is that this new directive should clarify the law in this area in the rest of the EU, where previously it was inconsistent and completely absent in some cases.

Save the date: 10k and counting

For the third year running (forgive the pun) CCW are the headline sponsors for the fantastic CCW Linlithgow 10k and Junior Fun Run which is held annually in and around the historic town of Linlithgow.  This year the event takes place on SUNDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER.  We raise money for our chosen charity – MS Scotland – and also relish working with and supporting the local community.  Our team of running lawyers is assembled, and training (more fun than it sounds) has begun; other members of CCW will be marshalling and generally mucking in, and even our families get involved, because that’s the kind of law firm we are!

This year we enjoyed teaming up with Linlithgow Academy CDT department, and devised a competition to design the T shirt that every 10k runner receives on the day. The response from pupils and staff was brilliant – we had 250 entries from S1 all the way up to S6.  Winners and runners up received Amazon vouchers and the winning designers will have their names printed on the T shirts. Dolce and Gabbana watch out! This was a great project and we’d like to extend many thanks to Linlithgow Academy for all their hard work.

The ultimate winners of the T shirt design competition were Katie Graham & Eilidh McFadden (3rd year) and the runners up were Harry Moore & Pierre Lardet (2nd year) and Ellie Hutcheon & Zoe Brand (3rd year).

We’ll send you another reminder in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, why not dust off those trainers and enter here – the CCW 10k organised by Linlithgow AC is for a very worthwhile cause and is an excellent excuse to get fit or set yourself a challenge.  The course is interesting enough for seasoned runners and suitably scenic if you just want to jog round at your own pace. Anything goes!

If you’d rather show your support in another way, we would be very grateful indeed for any sponsorship donations via our Just Giving page.  Click here to donate, and put the date in your diary if you’d like to come and enjoy a fun day out watching the race.