Presenteeism

The Covid-19 pandemic had an undeniable impact on everyone’s lives.  During that time, the requirement to work flexibly created a new landscape, which employers are still having to navigate.

For some employees, that switch to remote, flexible working appears to have resulted in the ‘always-on’ phenomenon. There’s no real boundary between work time and personal time. This means that employees can work around other personal commitments or activities, if they wish. However some people find it difficult to switch off, in some cases leading to a culture of presenteeism.

What is Presenteeism?

The CIPD states that presenteeism occurs when people work when in suboptimal health.  Your employees are attending work when they are unwell, and are therefore unable to be productive.  Absenteeism has a huge cost implication for employers.  But interestingly, the CIPD also reports that presenteeism has a much bigger cost (according to research by Deloitte).

Why is it a problem?

Unless addressed, presenteeism can lead to a culture where presence indicates commitment and success. I.e., if you turn up early and leave late you’re doing a great job, you will be more valued, and potentially rewarded accordingly.  What it doesn’t do is lead to an increase in productivity and it can cause a toxic culture. These things will drive away talent, further decreasing productivity.

There are also other effects, for example:

  • Employees come to the workplace with contagious illnesses, which spread through the workforce, increasing absence and / or presenteeism.
  • Employees won’t take the rest from work they need to recover, therefore stay unwell for longer, or their health deteriorates further.
  • Employees working while unwell will understandably demonstrate less enthusiasm and motivation, leading to low morale. This low morale may be contagious within the workforce, even in your healthy employees.
  • Depending on the sector, employees who are unwell are more likely to have workplace accidents, putting themselves and others at risk.
  • Presenteeism means that employees aren’t giving their full commitment to their work, and therefore will not progress and develop, which may lead to further demotivation and disengagement.
  • The quality of work produced is less likely to be as high as it might otherwise be, if the employee was healthy. This may have a knock-on effect on colleagues, for example causing frustration, or blockages and delays in systems and processes.
What can you do about it in your business?

Leaders need to be proactive in changing the narrative about the behaviours that are valued in their business. They need to move away from a ‘bums on seats’ approach (i.e. presenteeism), and instead focus on outputs and achievements. One of the first things they can do is lead by example. Create those work and home time boundaries. For example, only respond to emails during working hours, or as close as you can get (unless it’s business critical). Encourage employees to leave work, or if remote, switch off at the end of their contracted hours.

Tips to reduce presenteeism
  • Find out why people are behaving this way, either through focus groups or an anonymous survey, and find out about their concerns around taking time off ill, and blurred work / home boundaries.
  • Look at your sickness absence policy. Will employees suffer significantly financially every time they take a day off sick?  Do you have a fair sickness absence review policy which is consistent, reasonable and supportive?  And if you make changes to your policy, ensure these changes are communicated. Create clear messaging that supports taking time off if it’s needed, so people can fully recover and then return to work.
  • Consider what you could do to promote a healthy working environment that supports mental and physical wellbeing.  For example discounted gym membership, walking meetings, cycle to work schemes, wellbeing apps, mental health first aiders and training for all employees.
  • If you use zero hours contracts, consider if this is a factor. Review your resourcing model to establish if you could reduce these and create more stability for your workforce.
  • Improve manager / staff communication, so that managers are familiar with their employees and have positive working relationships. Employees may then feel the can share any health concerns with confidence, and managers will spot warning signs of any health or wellness issues.

If you’ve noticed your employees seem to be working when they are clearly unwell, and you want to find out why, or need support to change those habits, get in touch.

Employment legislation changes – April 2023 and beyond

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 2023.

Payroll costs – National Minimum Wage rates

The cost of living increase continues to be a key issue for many employers who are facing pressure to increase wages.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to increase pay to address issues with high inflation rates, the National Minimum Wage/living rates are going up on 1 April 2023, therefore if your pay is based on minimum wage rates, you will need to implement these changes:

Age group​ Up to 31/3/2023 From 1/4/2023 % Increase​
23 and over​ £9.50 £10.42 9.7%
21 or 22​ £9.18 £​10.18 10.9%
18 – 20​ £6.83 £7.49 9.7%
16-17 £4.81 £5.28 9.7%
Apprentices under 19 (or over 19 but in year 1 of apprenticeship​) £4.381 £5.28 9.7%
Statutory pay rates
Family friendly leave

From 3 April 2023 Statutory Maternity, Adoption, Paternity, Shared Parental and Parental Bereavement pay will increase to £172.48 per week.

Statutory Sick pay

On 3 April 2023 Statutory Sick Pay will increase to £109.40 per week.

Statutory redundancy payments

With effect from 6th April 2023, the statutory redundancy pay cap increases to £643 per week, therefore for anyone who leaves due to redundancy on or after this date, you will need to calculate their redundancy pay on this new rate.  If the redundant employee’s normal weekly rate is under this figure, you should calculate their redundancy compensation based on their actual weekly pay rate.

Bank holidays – The King’s Coronation

In 2023 there will be an additional Bank Holiday to celebrate the King’s Coronation, on Monday 8th May 2023. This is in addition to the usual May Day Bank Holiday on 1st May, and the Spring Bank Holiday on Monday 29th May 2023.

An employee’s individual contract of employment will dictate whether they are entitled to take this additional day off and how this day’s leave will be treated.  Employers should check the wording in their employees’ contracts, and communicate clearly to employees if they are expected to work on the additional bank holiday, and / or if they need to take it from their annual leave entitlement.

Upcoming changes to be confirmed

2023 is potentially going to be a busy year for changes in employment law, with lots of Bills under consideration.  This is a summary of what may be in the pipeline.  There are no firm dates for implementation, but in the meantime it pays to be ahead of the changes and consider how they may affect you and your business in advance of the bills being passed in to law.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

During her brief time as Conservative Prime Minister, Liz Truss expressed the Party’s commitment to change Working Time Regulations’ rules on taking breaks, limiting the 48-hour working week and calculating holiday pay. In addition, the government introduced the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill which, if passed unamended, will remove all UK laws containing EU law by the end of 2023. In addition it will give the government powers to repeal or replace those laws without Parliamentary scrutiny. As well as the working time rules, the TUPE and the agency workers regulations may be at the top of a possible list for reform, due the fact that these laws derive directly from EU regulations.

Anti-strike policies

Conservative proposals for restricting the effect of industrial action were outlined by the the previous Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps in July 2022. Consequently, some anti-strike measures are already passing or have passed into law, such as the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill and Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 which allow organisations to use agency workers to cover striking workers.

However, the Regulatory Policy Committee have stated the Strikes Bill is ‘not fit for purpose’ and subsequently have suggested another impact assessment is needed. In addition, the TUC has mounted a legal challenge to the agency worker rule change, which is due to be heard in March 2023.

The Carer’s Leave Bill

The Carer’s Leave Bill will give carers one week’s unpaid leave a year to care for a dependant with a long-term care need that is:

  • likely to last more than three months;
  • is a disability under the Equality Act 2010; and/or
  • connected to old age.

This will be a day one right for employees.

Many organisations already support carers and have policies in place, however this will involve changes to flexible working policies and practices, therefore communicating any changes relating to flexible working requests and requests for carer leave to managers will be very important, to ensure any speculative enquiries are dealt with appropriately.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill 

This bill extends the right to be redeployed during pregnancy (including miscarriage), maternity and family leave for 18 months after the start of that leave. These are important considerations that will have to be managed during an employee’s family/maternity leave and in restructuring or redundancy exercises.

Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill will allow parents whose babies need hospital neonatal care to take 12 weeks’ paid leave in addition to their statutory maternity or paternity leave. The right will:

  • be available from day one of employment;
  • apply to parents with babies who are admitted to hospital before they are 28 days old;
  • apply to babies who need to stay in hospital for 7 days continuously or more.
Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill

This bill will make it unlawful for employers to withhold tips from staff.  A new statutory Code of Practice on how tips should be distributed will be developed, and in addition workers will gain a new right to request information on an employer’s tipping record to help them to bring a tribunal claim under the new rules.

Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill

This new legislation would:

  • make flexible working requests a day one right for employees (thereby removing the current 26 weeks’ service requirement)
  • allow employees to make two requests a year (currently only one request is possible)
  • require employers to consult with the employee, before rejecting a request
  • shorten the time employers have to reply to a request from three to two months
  • remove the requirement for employees to set out the likely effects on the business of the change.
Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill

This bill will give all employees and workers (including agency and zero hours workers) the right to formally request a more stable working pattern and will be available to those who:

  • have worked for the employer for 26 weeks (not necessarily continuously)
  • are on work patterns that lack certainty in the hours and time they work
  • are on fixed term contracts under 12 months’ in duration.

Workers will be able to make two requests a year, however employers will be able to refuse requests on specific grounds, e.g. due to the additional costs involved or a lack of work at the times requested.  This reform is intended to rectify one-sided flexibility favouring employers to the detriment of workers.

Office of the Whistleblower

A Bill on whistleblowing could, if passed, repeal the current framework in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and introduce broader protection with a bigger range of penalties. The bill involves the creation of a new body, potentially called the Office of the Whistleblower, which would be given investigation powers and have the authority to order redress.

Auto-Enrolment Pension Changes 

There is an Automatic Enrolment Private Members Bill moving through Parliament which looks set to bring in changes to the Automatic Enrolment populations and employers who use Qualifying Earnings to calculate contributions:

  • Lowering the age criteria for auto-enrolment from 22 to 18 years of age
  • Removing the Lower Earnings Limit of £6,240 if you’re using qualifying earnings

Predictions are that this particular change will come in to effect either in April 2024, or at the earliest in October 2023.

And….

The government is also backing the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill currently passing through Parliament, which would cover the following:

  • reintroducing employers’ liability for the harassment of their staff by third-parties (whether they are customers, clients, or suppliers). This liability was previously removed in 2013;
  • requiring employers to proactively prevent the sexual harassment of their staff;
  • allowing for a 25% uplift in any award in a successful sexual harassment tribunal claim where the employer failed to prevent the harassment occurring.
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.

 

 

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.

 

 

How flexible are you?

Parents and carers were given the legal right to make a flexible working request in 2002. From 2014 any employee with over 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer has the right to request flexible working. However according to a recent CIPD report, Megatrends: Flexible Working, the number of employees working flexibly has flat-lined since 2010.

Why not be flexible?

Apprehension and at times downright negativity about flexible working is not unusual. Requests to work fewer hours, compressed hours and/or working from home often provoke this response. This is particularly the case if the employee making the request manages other employees. Employee visibility is the issue and managers think if they can’t see their staff, they don’t know they’re working. Managers question their employee’s honesty, convinced they will be ‘out shopping, or walking the dog when they should be working’.

Where does this lack of trust come from? Employers need consider if they expect employees to deal with work outside of their contractual working hours. If they expect flexibility but don’t reciprocate due to a lack of trust, employee goodwill will wane.

Reciprocal flexibility works

Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but trusted flexibility can work both ways to the benefit of everyone. It just requires a bit of extra thought about how it can work. If employees want flexibility and their employer gives it to them, their engagement, loyalty and commitment will increase. If employers refuse requests, employees will ask why they should go the extra mile when the company isn’t prepared to do the same for them. They will be less motivated and may begin to ‘work to rule’ or look for a job elsewhere. I don’t think any employer would want that outcome, especially at a time when the ‘war for talent’ seems tougher than ever.

Managing flexible employees

It’s a reality that some jobs really can’t be done flexibly, but every requests need to be considered properly, to see if it can be accommodated. Managers are often concerned about managing less visible employees. But if outcome-based objectives are set, it should be easy to identify and address a dip in performance levels. It’s entirely possible that managers feel overstretched and feel they don’t have the time or energy to consider how it might work. But companies that provide flexibility will benefit from increased talent retention, engagement and productivity. At a time when there are reported skills shortages, surely it’s worth the effort?

If you would like help managing flexible working in your company, or support in dealing with a request, please do get in touch.