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.

Employment legislation changes – April 2022

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 2022.

Gender pay gap reporting

For businesses in the private sector with a headcount of 250 or more, your ‘snapshot’  gender pay gap reporting is due to be published on or before 4th April 2022.  The information about what you need to report can be found here.

There is currently speculation about the introduction of new ethnicity pay gap reporting, but there are no clear plans to introduce that requirement.

Payroll costs – National Minimum Wage rates

The cost of living increase is likely to be a key issue for many employers who will face increasing pressure from employees to increase wages.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to increase pay to address issues with increases in inflation rates, National Minimum Wage/living rates are going up on 1 April 2022 so if your pay is based on minimum wage rates, you will need to implement these changes:

Age group​ Up to 31/3/2022 From 1/4/2022 % Increase​
23 and over​ £8.91​ £9.50​ 6.62​
21 or 22​ £8.36​ £9.18​ 9.81​
18 – 20​ £6.56​ £6.83​ 4.12​
Under 18 (but above compulsory school age​) £4.62​ £4.81​ 4.11​
Apprentices under 19 (or over 19 but in year 1 of apprenticeship​) £4.30​ £4.81​ 11.86​
Health and Social Care Levy – 6 April 2022

The UK is introducing a new social care levy  from 6 April 2022 to help fund health and social care. This will be collected via a 1.25% increase in National Insurance rates for employers and employees in 2022.

People above State Pension age will not be affected by the temporary increase to National Insurance contributions for the 2022 to 2023 tax year, but will be liable to pay the levy from April 2023.

Statutory pay rates
Family friendly leave

From 3 April 2022 Statutory Maternity, Adoption,  Paternity, Shared Parental and parental bereavement pay will increase to £156.66 per week.

Statutory Sick pay

On 6 April 2022 Statutory Sick Pay will increase to £99.35 per week.

Statutory redundancy payments

For anyone made redundant on or after 6th April 2022, the statutory redundancy pay weekly pay rate increases to £571, therefore for anyone who leaves due to redundancy on or after 6th April 2022 you will need to base their redundancy pay on this new weekly cap.  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.

Right to work checks

Although the concept of right to work checks is not new, there are changes to be aware of which come in to effect from 6th April 2022.  Full guidance is here

Key changes include:

  • implementation of a new Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) process,
  • changes for those that hold a Biometric Residence Card, Biometric Residence Permit or Frontier Worker Permit.
Bank holidays – The Queen’s Jubilee

In 2022 there will be an additional Bank Holiday to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on Friday 3rd June. The usual late May bank holiday has moved to Thursday 2 June to give workers a four-day weekend.

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

As the Jubilee week is to all intents and purposes a 3-day week and is at school half-term in most places, employers should prepare for a large number of annual leave requests.

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.

 

 

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.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Support

Over the last 6 months mental health and wellbeing support has become a hot topic, as data emerges about anxiety and stress levels in the context of returning to work and to the workplace.

What do we know?

Some key statistics regarding mental health and wellbeing are coming to light:

  • 72% or employers are planning to bring teams back to the office by mid-October 1
  • 33% of UK workers don’t have faith in their colleagues when it comes to hygiene protocols 1
  • 44% of workers are worried about sharing equipment 1
  • By end May 2020 calls to the UK’s national domestic abuse helpline had increased by 66% 2
  • The number of adults experiencing depression has doubled during the pandemic 3
  • 37% of people in the UK are suffering from high anxiety 3
  • 22% of those with no pre-existing mental health issues now report having ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ mental health 4
  • 65% of those with pre-existing mental health issues report that those issues are now worse 4

In the context of these statistics, fears of a mental health crisis seem well founded.

What does this mean for employers?

There are potentially many ways in which the mental health crisis will affect employees, as people will have had very different experiences of the pandemic. Here are some of the issues your employees may be having:

  • Job security – as more and more businesses announce job losses, anxiety about impending unemployment will be high
  • Isolation – for some remote working has left them feeling isolated and de-motivated
  • Mental and physical exhaustion – for many who had to balance work and childcare and/or home-schooling it has been extremely stressful and tiring, creating what could manifest itself as ‘burn-out’
  • Personal relationship stress – spending such a long time in close proximity with partners may have put a strain on relationships
  • PTSD and bereavement – for anyone who contracted the virus, there are reports of potential longer term mental and physical issues; and those who have lost loved ones may still be dealing with grief and feelings of guilt

Employees may find it difficult to focus, concentrate and  stay motivated and engaged. For those who are working from home for the foreseeable future, the feeling of being disconnected from their colleagues may continue. Without interventions, these issues could result in both a downturn in productivity and difficult and sensitive employee relations issues to manage.

Pro-active employers will definitely be on the front-foot if they can support employees through the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Why should employers focus on mental health and wellbeing?

As well as the ethical and moral arguments for supporting employees who are struggling, there is evidence to suggest that wellbeing could increase productivity by 12% and that unhappy staff could be 10% less effective. 5

If employers do provide support for their employees, they would undoubtedly become more resilient. If issues arise at any point in the future those employees will be able to manage more successfully, leading to less employee absence.

Employers will also find that how they treat people during this time will define them and their brand. Being supportive will drive both loyalty and make them a more attractive employer for the best talent in the longer term.

From a practical perspective, if employers ‘catch people’ before they fall, they will avoid difficult employee absence issues which can be time-consuming and expensive to manage.

There is also the issue of the duty of care employers have for employees. Employers have a duty to minimise risk of health and safety issues, and this includes the risk of mental health issues. Risk assessments should be done, steps taken to minimise risk and these should both be communicated to employees to ensure employers don’t breach of health and safety regulations.

In addition, as mental health issues can be regarded as a disability, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate and support those with mental health issues.

What can employers do?

There is a plethora of solutions to address the mental health and wellbeing. Here are some ideas:

Communication: Make people feel connected and find out how people are feeling.
  • Conduct regular group and individual check-ins
  • Hold virtual team meetings – peer or manager lead
  • Create virtual ‘pub’ meet ups over video conference
  • Appoint ‘check-in’ champions in each team who can re-create the ‘water cooler’ catch up moments
Line manager proactivity: Create a supportive environment.
  • Be a sympathetic ear – not just focussing on work / outputs
  • Train managers as Mental Health First Aiders
  • Ensure managers are keeping up to date with how individuals in their team are coping
  • If returning to workplaces is causing anxiety, ensure managers are discussing options and solutions to help address those anxieties
  • Communicate with employees to reassure them about what the company is doing to minimise risks
Update or create a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy

Re-visit your existing policy and update it to account for issues created by the coronavirus pandemic and different norms relating to work and workplaces. This will create the framework within which the business will function in this area, and create consistency.

Research, propose and implement a variety of support ideas to tackle the variety of issues people may be experiencing, to cover physical health, diet, financial health as well as mental health and wellbeing. All of these factors play a part in keeping employees healthy in body and mind.

If you would like to discuss support you could put in place for your employees, get in touch with Helpful HR here.

References:

1 – Solopress Survey via HR Review: https://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/workers-fear-returning-to-work-due-to-colleagues-lack-of-hygiene/126356?utm_source=Gatormail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HR+Daily+Friday+-+17-07-2020&utm_term=Government+bury+its+%27head+in+the+sand%27+in+response+to+House+of+Lords+IR35+report&utm_content=108317&gator_td=o3G5kc7rW2VpP8pLbvvPKX8i65b%2blZYHTpgu38q3MGha0tK5Q3sXgBaP1prmh6Uahsujuoe2CuGf6B3yFqphtXubssiphNgkvdH1KnKkAGx3lvuNf7CA%2bu8sK%2bvpNvjxNCLDEd8aOmaV9F4yS%2bf%2f2pCjx64K0MeyKpb1VszBRbl53pQV6Ng3a%2fnLQ8Dir5b9XfQusRxJpXxh1CL8mZhbHg%3d%3d

2 – Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/domestic-abuse-lockdown-reports-school-reopen-coronavirus-a9703926.html

3 – Office of National Statistics via People Management: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/legal/supporting-workers-mental-health-during-covid?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_03092020.Employment+law%3a+Supporting+workers’+mental+health+during+Covid&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/voices/comment/employers-must-act-restore-workforce-mental-health?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_24072020.Opinion%3a+Employers+must+act+to+restore+their+workforce’s+mental+wellbeing&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

4 – Mind via People Management: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/voices/comment/employers-must-act-restore-workforce-mental-health?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_24072020.Opinion%3a+Employers+must+act+to+restore+their+workforce’s+mental+wellbeing&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

5 – University of Warwick study in 2015: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/

 

Supporting through Furlough – Communication

Many companies have furloughed employees due to the significant impact of the coronavirus. We’re not going to attempt to advise on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the purposes of this blog, but if you do need support on this click here, for information provided by the government. Instead this blog post is about supporting through furlough with regular communication.

Why?

While your employees are furloughed you need to consider how you can keep them engaged with the business. There’s a danger of them being out of sight and out of mind. If this is how they feel, it will undermine your relationship with them. Any lack of proactivity in communicating with your furloughed employees could have a detrimental impact when they return to work.  Negative feelings about how they were treated during furlough could translate into a lack of motivation and productivity. Good levels of productivity when your employees return to work will undoubtedly be essential in keeping the business going, so anything you can do now to keep them engaged can only be a good thing.

How?

For small businesses with a handful of furloughed employees it may be easier to stay in touch on a 1-1 basis. A regular individual phone / video call or email may suffice and be manageable. If you’re a larger employer with more than 10 furloughed employees it may be more challenging. It might take a whole day to call or email each employee individually. Employee communication is important and individual contact will be appreciated, but currently that might not be the best use of your time. You will need to ensure you spend time on the operational aspects of the business and adapting to the industry landscape. Employee communication should not be to the detriment of the business. If time is an issue, this individual communication is likely to happen less frequently, and that may leave your furloughed employees feeling forgotten and disengaged.

Top tips for keeping in touch

If you do have a larger number of furloughed employees, here are some ideas for communicating with your furloughed employees:

  • Weekly update emails, outlining what’s happening in the business commercially. In addition you could communicate any further changes that have occurred as a result of coronavirus. You will also want to remind employees that if they have concerns they can contact you directly.
  • Regular Zoom meetings for teams to help them feel connected. No work should be done during these meetings, but there’s no reason why you can’t enable colleagues to catch-up.
  • Create a WhatsApp group which is available for everyone to engage in.  It can be used for chat and also for sharing any business information.
  • Create a Facebook group for employees. It can be a group for all employees, so that furloughed employees can engage with working employees.
  • Set up some online training sessions for furloughed employees which will enable them to keep their skills up-to-date.
  • Create a wellbeing communication channel. This should be separate to the business updates. You could send out emails with useful links, or create a Facebook page so employees can share resources to keep them healthy in body and mind during furlough.

These are just a few examples of what you can do. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to monitor what your employees are saying so if there are any posts or messages of concern, you can address them proactively.

If you need any support in supporting through furlough, please do get in touch

Coming soon: More on managing through COVID-19

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.