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Women V Cancer - Cycling Vietnam to Cambodia

You may know that over the past 18 months I have been fundraising for Women V Cancer who collectively support Breast Cancer Care, Ovarian Cancer Action and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Three charities that play a big part in supporting those battling cancer and their families. To raise awareness of these charities and also raise as much money as possible I embarked on a Charity Cycle of 450km, organised by Action for Charity through Vietnam and Cambodia in February of this year. This was to be the biggest challenge of my life!
I arrived at Gatwick airport for my initial flight to Singapore alone, nervous of who I would meet and what I would encounter, who would be my roommate? Was I prepared for this? Luckily I found that after arriving in Ho Chi Min City for the first leg of the tour, there was no better way to calm the nerves and get to know people than all being packed together for 25 hours of travelling. We were all tense but all in it together.
Day Three. We arrived in Ben Tre and after no sleep for 36 hours I was beginning a brand new day in the manic early morning rush hour of Vietnam! We arrived at our hotel after a 2 hour transfer and I was introduced to my roommate and sent straight to my bike fitting.  I got an early night ready for a 4.30am start and the first 50km through Ben Tre heading to TraVinh. We had two ferry crossings today, one across the Mekong River and cycled through some beautiful rural scenery and coconut groves with children running out of their homes to wave and shout hello!
Day Four. Today was to be quite a challenge for me, ending with a doctor sitting by my bedside monitoring my sodium levels and me wondering how on earth I was going to complete the challenge. First we started our 100km journey through some heavily populated towns with mopeds coming from all directions encountering dogs and cows by the roadside, but once again amazed by how happy and delighted to see us the children of Vietnam were. By lunch time however I was starting to feel sick and unwell and so decided I was probably dehydrated and continued to drink plenty of water. At around 90kms I was unable to walk in a straight line or focus, had a terrible headache and body tremors, the doctor had to stop me cycling and sent me back to the hotel to rest. It transpired that I had drunk approx. 7 litres of water and had depleted my sodium levels significantly enough to cause those symptoms. Who knew that drinking so much water could be so dangerous! Luckily after a good night’s sleep I felt ready to get back on the bike for our last day in Vietnam.
Day Five. Cycling 70kms through some amazing countryside we were headed towards Chau Doc situated in the mountains so there were many hills involved! Luckily the tour was so well organised that we had rolling water stops every 10kms and snack stops to keep us going every 20kms. The biggest challenge was the heat, by 9am every morning the temperature was approx. 33 degrees and humid, keeping hydrated (whilst obviously not a problem for me!) was proving difficult for some but we were able to keep each other motived. With a group of 100 women there were always words of encouragement from someone. We arrived at a beautiful hotel in the mountains in time to watch the sun set.
Days Six. A day of travelling. We were saying goodbye to Vietnam and heading into Cambodia by boat, another 4.30am start but the benefit of being up early is seeing the sunrise. We spent 5 hours travelling along the Mekong river able to take in the scenery of the floating villages passing through the floating passport control between the two countries. Coming to grips with the currencies in both locations was not easy, unable to obtain Dong or Riel in England we were using American Dollars, accepted in most places however with approx. 40,000 Dong and 4,000 Riel to 1 American Dollar it was all a little confusing! We arrived in Phnom Penh and were treated to lunch in a beautiful quayside restaurant with traditional dancing and music. However by the afternoon it was back to the task with our new bike fitting and an early night in preparation for the first leg of Cambodia.
Day Seven. The landscape in Cambodia is different from Vietnam for many reasons, the traffic being the most obvious. Cambodia has more tarmac and cars, longer roads, it is more built up and there seemed a greater sense of urgency, but we were still greeted by numerous happy faces along the trail. We cycled 50kms practically in a straight line heading for Kampong Cham, making for a tough day when all you can see ahead of you is more tarmac!
Day Eight. 110km through roads lined with rubber trees, we passed through many different villages and towns all showing their trade by the roadside. Stone masons, bamboo carvings and miles of palm fruit. Plenty of rolling water and snack stops along the way ensured that we all finished the day without incident, I had buddied up with a couple of other women of a similar ability by this time, making the cycling almost enjoyable! We were able to pass the distance by chatting and encouraging each other to keep going, throwing ice water over our heads to cool ourselves down. We arrived in Kampong Thom having completed the longest ride, excited for last day of the tour.
Day Nine. Today we were destined for Siem Reap and Ankor Wat Temple was to be our finish line, it was also to be a relatively short distance of 40kms. We decorated ourselves and our bikes in balloons and banners and got dressed in our Action for Charity t-shirts. The excitement of being so close to the end of the challenge spurred us all on. We arrived at Ankor Wat just after lunch, exhausted but exhilarated by what we had achieved, we had cycled 450kms through tiredness and 33 degree temperatures to arrive at Ankor Wat, considered by some as the 8th wonder of the world. Perfect!
We were treated to a celebration dinner that evening and I was to listen to many of the personal stories that other women on the tour chose to share, all of which I felt privileged to hear as many of these women had battled cancer themselves, women of all ages all with the strength and determination it takes to beat cancer and furthermore prepare themselves for such a physically and emotionally draining challenge such as this. I have nothing but respect for each and every one of them.
Day Ten. A free day in Siem Reap many of us chose to get up at 4.00am (again!) to see the sunrise at Ankor Wat and visit some of the 20 temples, the terrace of stone elephants and my personal favourite the Ta Prohn Temple, overgrown with trees and left to ruin.
I returned on 17 February, feeling incredibly tired however immensely proud of the fact that I had completed the challenge. I have met some inspirational women whilst cycling and as a group we were able to raise £360,000 for Women V Cancer whilst creating memories that will stay with me forever.

If you are interested in taking part in any of Action for Charity's challenges, raising money for very worthy causes, visit their website, watch this space though, Cycle India 2018, for me, is a definite possibility!
Action for Charity
Quick National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage Update

The National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage rates will be rising from 1 April 2017. You need to make sure your employees are receiving this statutory right.
Age Current Rate Rate from 1st April 2017
25 and over £7.20 £7.50
21-24 £6.95 £7.05
18-20 £5.55 £5.60
16-17 £4.00 £4.05
Apprentice £3.40 £3.50
The new rate of pay will only be effective from the first full pay reference period after that date. For example, if the pay reference period starts on 16 March – 16 April, the pay between 1 April – 16 April will be based on the current rates. The pay from 16 April – 16 May will be at the new rate as this is the first full pay reference period after the 1 April 2017.

The above also applies when an employee reaches the next age bracket.

Failure to pay at least the national minimum wage or to falsify payment records is against the law. The new penalty of failing to comply with the National Living Wage will be 200% of the amount owed, unless the arrears are paid within 14 days.
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What Not to Wear

Dress codes at work can often be an emotive subject for employers and employees alike. There has been a lot in the press recently about women being told they are required to wear high heels for work, encouraged to wear more revealing outfits or apply more make up.

The Guardian recently reported about a 27 year old woman who was sent home from a City Accountancy firm in 2015, for refusing to wear high heels unless she went out and bought a pair that were between two and four inches high. Her reasons for objecting were that her Receptionist role involved her being on her feet for most of her day. Her feet could not tolerate the time spent wearing high heels all day. Some have claimed that this requirement is sexist and less favourable treatment towards women. The lady in question has since started a petition.

There has been a lot of interest in this story and there is pressure for laws to be changed so women cannot be forced to wear high heels, dye/straighten their hair, apply make-up or wear revealing clothing. The BBC claims that MPs feel that the Equality Act 2010 is not currently protecting workers.

What does the law say?

Employers can encourage employees to dress according to their reasonable company dress code policy. A reasonable amount of time should be given for the employee to make the changes required.

Dress code requirements can be different for men and women as long as they are similar (i.e. acceptable level of smart or casual wear), but the policy cannot be sexist or unrelated to the needs of the job. Forcing women to wear high heels for work is not a requirement for a job role. The BBC says that MPs have raised concerns over gender stereotyping which is often reinforced by a dress code and is outdated. However in order for employees to make a successful claim for sex discrimination with regards to a dress code policy, they have to prove that they received less favourable treatment as a direct result.

There are also potential health and safety risks for women wearing high heels consistently over periods of time which can cause permanent damage to feet, knee joints and back problems. Recommendations have been made to update the legislation.

What can you do?

Double check your policy. If someone appears for work and you think they are dressed inappropriately for work, you can send them home and ask them to change, without pay or give employees reasonable time to make a necessary purchase.
Do you need help with your Dress Code Policy?
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Should you need any assistance with the issues highlighted in this months Newsletter, or if you would like to discuss any other HR issues you may have, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the PicassoHR team on 01473 784991 or email we will be more than happy to help.
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