Droughts, drains and talent

The post-Covid ‘Great Resignation’ has received a lot of coverage, as employees re-evaluate their priorities decide to make life-changes.   Employers are definitely experiencing challenges in hiring, due to low unemployment rates and high inflationary pressures. Undoubtedly the impact of Brexit is in the mix, adding to the difficulties in certain sectors.

Earlier this year, the FT reported that in Q1 2022 UK unemployment rates fell to their lowest in nearly half a century.  In August 2022 People Management reported that the number of job vacancies rose to a new high of 1.85m in the last week of July 2022.  We are now experiencing much higher rates of inflation, with the Consumer Price Index exceeding 10% in July 2022. This increased inflation is putting pressure on employers to increase wages.

With inflationary pressures affecting employees and employers alike, many employers are undoubtedly feeling the ‘squeeze’. Their challenge is to balance the organisation’s need to retain and recruit talent in a competitive market, with the increasing demand for high salaries.

People Management also reported in July 2022 that 80% of employers are hiring for ‘potential’ skills and capabilities, with a view to developing their own talent.  In order to address the skills shortage, maintain low attrition rates and ensure the organisation’s capability is developed, 60% of employers are providing employees with learning resources to support organisational capability. Employers are having to take a more creative approach to retaining and attracting talent. It’s no longer feasible to rely on the draw of a high basic salary, to ensure the organisation’s costs don’t escalate.

What are the practical steps employers can take to aid retention and resourcing?

There’s no one panacea, as organisations in different markets will experience the current climate in different ways. But a good place to start is for leaders to ask themselves 10 challenging questions:

  1. Do you have leaders who motivate and inspire their teams and lead with compassion?
  2. How capable and effective are your people managers at managing in the Post-Covid era of hybrid working?
  3. How healthy is your organisation’s culture?
  4. Are benefits aligned with employee priorities, and do you know what your people value?
  5. Can you offer career progression and development opportunities?
  6. Does the organisation have a sense of community, where employees are truly invested and engaged in the organisation?
  7. Is good performance rewarded with valued benefits?
  8. Do you have a long-term talent strategy, for example a pipeline through relationships with education establishments, or apprenticeships?
  9. Are your recruitment processes efficient and effective, and do good candidates ‘disappear’ during the process?
  10. How successful are your new hires and what are the retention rates during the first six-12 months?

Once you have answered these questions, you may be able to identify areas of focus. These areas can then help you to develop a retention and attraction action plan for the short and long-term.

If you’re finding the current labour market challenging, or if you’re experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’ first hand in your business, get in touch with Helpful HR.

5 tips for managing long-term sickness absence

Absence of more than 4 weeks is often defined as long-term sickness absence. In some cases an employee’s absence can continue month after month.  But how do employers manage this absence in a positive and pro-active way that benefits the business and the employee?

Here are 5 tips for managing long-term sickness absence:
  1. Make sure you have a sickness absence policy.  Any policy you have should include: absence notification requirements; sick pay applicable and what the qualifying criteria is; expectations regarding contact with the employee during sickness; an absence review process and how long-term absence will be dealt with.
  2. Introduce an Ill Health Capability procedure. This will enable you to manage an employee’s long-term absence through a fair and transparent process.
  3. Maintain regular communication with the employee.  Contrary to popular belief it is rarely appropriate to cease contact with an employee while they are off sick.  Limit this contact to business updates and enquiries regarding the employee’s health.  You should put no pressure on the employee to return or deal with work during their absence.  A supportive and empathetic approach should be taken, focussed on their wellbeing and what you can do to support them. This will support their ongoing engagement with the business and hopefully a productive return to work.
  4. Consider the steps you need to take to support the remainder of the team during the employee’s absence.  This will reduce any potential resentment about additional workload. The danger is that resentment builds and is directed at the absent employee, making their return to work difficult. Carry out regular check-ins with the team to enable you to address any issues they share.
  5.  Ensure you follow the policies you have in place correctly.  Put milestone dates in the diary to prompt actions under the policies and procedures to ensure you stay on track. For example: the date the current fit note expires; next planned contact date and why; when Company and Statutory sick pay expires, and the stages of the Ill Health Capability procedure.

Although every situation is different, you will be best placed for success if you have these basics in place.   The worst-case scenario is that you get it wrong and receive an employment tribunal claim against you alleging disability discrimination.  In addition to this, the employee may be disengaged even if they do return, therefore they are unlikely to be productive.  The alternative is that they ‘disappear into the ether’, making it difficult to resolve the situation one way or another.

Helpful HR can support you if you have an employee absent from work due to long-term sickness, so get in touch and we can get you on track and limit the risk of a costly employment tribunal claim.

Employment law changes in April 2020

As an employer it’s important to know of any forthcoming employment law changes. Being aware of the changes ensures you can prepare for them and protect your business from any legal claims. Here’s a rundown of the changes taking effect from April 2020.

Introducing parental bereavement leave

An Act passed in 2018 has resulted in the introduction of parental bereavement leave to provide support for bereaved parents. The leave will be available to parents who lose a child under 18, or suffer a still-birth in the later stages of pregnancy.

What is it?

Employees will be entitled to 2 weeks leave, and employees with 26-weeks continuous service will also be entitled to pay at the statutory rate. This leave is separate from the statutory right to unpaid time-off in an emergency, and compassionate leave which is discretionary.

Action to take

Employers should take the following steps, prior to April 2020:

  • review your current leave policies and decide if you will follow or exceed the minimum requirements of this legislation;
  • review and update policies and handbook to include this entitlement, as well as any other policies which may benefit from this information (for example, any family friendly policies);
  • consider if you need to review and update other content in your handbook, and
  • review and update your contracts of employment, so they are fit for purpose.

More information

Changes to written statements of particulars of employment

The current law states that written statements must be issued by employers to their employees within 2 months of their start date.  The new law will require employers to give all workers (not just employees) a written statement on or before their start date. In addition the written statements must include:

  • the hours and days of the week the worker /employee is required to work, if they are varied and how;
  • any details of a probationary period;
  • their entitlements to paid leave;
  • any details of training provided by the employer and
  • other benefits not covered elsewhere in the written statement.
Action to take

Employers should take the following steps, prior to April 2020:

  • be aware of exactly what needs to be included in the written statement;
  • know about any other information which needs to be provided to employees in writing;
  • ensure you have a template statement / contract of employment which is ready to use, should you need to make a new hire and
  • review your current written statement / contract of employment to ensure it complies with the new requirements.

More information

Increase in the holiday pay reference period from 12 weeks to 52 weeks

The reference period for calculating holiday pay for workers with irregular hours will change. Employers will need to look back over the past 52 weeks for the purposes of calculating holiday pay.

IR35 changes for the private and public sector

The public sector IR35 reforms will be extended to cover medium and large private-sector employers. This means that responsibility for determining if IR35 applies to independent contractors will shift to the organisation, not the individual. Employers should review whether they fall in to the category ‘medium’ or ‘large’ employer and then review their contractors and pay arrangements to determine how the new rules will affect them.

More information

If you’re concerned about what these employment law changes mean for your business and need help in preparing for them, please get in touch with Helpful HR.

 

 

Getting redundancies right

In a tough economic environment employers may conclude they need to reduce headcount and make some redundancies.

If that’s the case, there’s a statutory process to follow before making people redundant. It’s important to get the process right to avoid unnecessary disputes or Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal.

Here are some key points to remember if you think you need to make redundancies.

Make sure it’s a genuine redundancy

Redundancy is about the role, not the person. The redundancy process should never be used to dismiss a specific employee in place of performance management and a disciplinary process. A redundancy is only genuine if it fits within one of the following descriptions:

    • the employer ceases to carry on the business in which the employee was employed,
    • the employer ceases to carry on that business in the place where the employee was employed,
    • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind cease or diminish, or
    • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where the employee was employed cease or diminish.
Preparation is key

Once you have established the reason for the redundancy of a role, prepare some notes for the consultation process. These notes should include key information you need to communicate:

    • why you need to make redundancies,
    • which jobs are at risk,
    • how employees will be selected for redundancy,
    • the number of people who could be involved,
    • how you plan to carry out redundancies,
    • how redundancy pay will be calculated and
    • details of any agency workers at the company
Fulfil your obligations

Establish the timeframes within which you need to consult and whether you need to consult a trade union, or elected representatives. If you plan to make more than 20 people redundant within 90 days you will need to do collective consultation, so it’s important to know your obligations.

Plan for the process

Prepare your notes and make sure you know the timeframes and consultation requirements. It can then be helpful to create a communication plan for the consultation process. The plan should include details of the consultation with potentially redundant employees as well as other team members who may be affected by the changes.

Make proposals

When the consultation is complete, a redundancy can be confirmed. True consultation involves listening to alternative ideas to avoid redundancies, considering any contractor or agency worker roles instead and redeployment opportunities within the company. It’s also important to ensure the affected employees fully understand the reasons for the consultation and what it means for them specifically. Prior to consultation being completed any redundancy plans should be presented as proposals, subject to consultation.

 

If you’re making large-scale redundancies, it can result in a long and complex process, but whether it affects one employee or 50, it’s still important to get it right and consider their rights and how the news will affect them. Good planning and communication is key.

We work with businesses during difficult times and help to take away the worries about getting it wrong, so if you’re business needs to make these difficult decisions, get in touch with Helpful HR.

Leadership tips

Congratulations! You have achieved that long yearned for appointment or promotion in to a leadership role. The joy of your success may be palpable, and rightly so. However, an element of apprehension may make an appearance at some point.

Here are some top tips for any newly appointed leaders out there, to make sure you’re set for success.

Identify some quick wins

The first 100 days is a typical gauge of success, so speak to key people to identify some quick wins and find the right people to deliver them. Motivate, monitor and measure their progress, provide support and celebrate the successes. Make sure that the delivery of the quick wins sets the tone of your leadership style and be consistent.

Meet people and listen

Your success is dependent on other people, both in and outside of the business.  Make a commitment to meet:

  • your direct reports and key people in their teams
  • other leaders in the business (if you’re part of a senior leadership team)
  • key partners in other business areas, with whom you can share knowledge
  • key customers and suppliers

When you meet with them, ask questions about how things are going and what could be better. Listen to their thoughts and opinions and make notes.

Create a long-term plan

Whilst the quick wins serve a purpose, you also need to think long-term. Use the information from your initial meetings to identify the long-term priorities. Ensure you communicate to your team about these priorities and your reasoning. Ask for feedback, listen, then make a final decisive plan, identifying the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘when’ for each of your priorities.

Overcommunicate

Be visible and accessible. Arrange and stick to regular meetings with peers and direct reports, as well as key project leaders. Share information with them and ensure they share their progress with you.  Involve your direct reports in defining the ‘how’ in your plan. Your success is dependent on how it is delivered, as well as the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘when’.

There are many other things you could do, and there are many articles about successful leadership if you look for them. But these tips should help to send you off in the right direction. If you need support in a new leadership role, get in touch with Helpful HR.