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.

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.

Keep it civil

Rudeness at work seems to be on the rise. In a survey by Professors Porath and Pearson, 40% of respondents said they had ‘no time to be nice’ and 25% said they were rude because their bosses behaved that way. We live in a busy world and people have many demands on their time. That’s not news, but in the words of Harry Hart (quoting William Horman) in Kingsman: The Secret Service, “manners maketh man”. Something has obviously gone wrong. Is politeness a thing of the past?

What’s the impact of rudeness?

There’s a great opportunity for business leaders and senior managers to have a positive impact on this issue, and ensure everyone in their business is treated respectfully as a result. 48% of employees on the receiving end of rudeness intentionally decreased their work effort and 47% intentionally decreased the quality of their work. Rudeness at work causes commitment to decline, turnover to increase, productivity to plummet and recruitment costs to increase. By creating a polite and respectful workplace, commitment and productivity will increase and your turnover and recruitment costs will decrease, because you’ll be able to attract and retain the best talent.

What can you do?

Small changes can make a big difference, so here are our top tips for creating a respectful workplace.

  • Be friendly, greet people warmly, say ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’.
  • Give 100% of your attention in meetings. Put your phone down and engage in the matter at hand. The meeting will probably be shorter and more focussed as a result.
  • Listen to your team members’ thoughts and ideas – they may be on to something.
  • Make it clear that rudeness won’t be tolerated and there are no excuses for it. If you make politeness part of day to day interactions, it will be contagious, so the impact could be huge.
  • If you see rudeness, address it directly, and encourage employees to report any incidents to their line manager.
  • Establish a staff forum where employees can share concerns with a nominated senior team member and discuss how the concerns could be addressed.
  • Hire and retain employees who exhibit the ‘right’ behaviours.
  • Lead by example, regardless of who you’re talking to and your own stress levels.
  • Carry out exit interviews to find out what employees really think.
  • Train and coach line managers in respectful people management practices.

If you’re concerned about behaviours in your company and want to discuss ideas on how to address it, get in touch.

Celebration season

I’ve lost count of the number of advertisements I’ve seen for Christmas parties recently, aimed at both families and companies. It’s time to get that work Christmas party venue booked and make plans for the entertainment and catering!

Health Warning!

It’s easy to forget about the potential pitfalls of a work Christmas party. If you provide employees with an unending supply of alcoholic beverages the party can take a turn for the worse.

The case involving Northampton Recruitment Limited from 2011 is still going through the Court of Appeal almost 7 years later. It serves as a stark reminder that sometimes alcohol combined with a work social event can result in problems for employers. It can result in minor indiscretions and over exuberance which is not entirely unexpected. But in a (hopefully) small number of cases, it can result in behaviour which is career-limiting, or worse.

Tips for success

Each year a large number of articles are written about the perils of office parties. They offer advice to employers on how to make sure the celebrations go smoothly.

Our 5 top tips are:

  • Make sure employees know that office parties are an extension of work.  Even if the party is off-site and after normal working hours everyone should behave professionally. It IS possible to have fun AND remain professional at the same time.
  • Consider how people will get home late at night.  Ensure you communicate the parameters before the event, for example if and when it’s acceptable to take a taxi home.
  • Try to limit the amount of free alcohol available, and include non-alcoholic drinks. With the best will in the world, some people just don’t have the self-control to turn down free drinks.  Don’t make it too easy for employees to over-indulge.
  • When planning the party, include an activity for employees to engage in. It could provide a team-building opportunity, as well as a distraction from continuous drinking and ensures the event caters for those who don’t drink alcohol.
  • Ensure the senior team lead by example, take responsibility and monitor employee behaviour. That way they can address any issues before they get out of hand.

Following these top tips should ensure a good-time is had by all. If you’re lucky, no-one will be dreading returning to work the morning after – although I make no promises on that front!

If you’re worried about your Company’s Christmas party, or need any advice in dealing with the aftermath of a Company social event of any kind, please do get in touch.

Managing Sickness Absence

Current statistics tell us that on average each year businesses lose a working week per employee to sickness absence. If your company has 10 employees, you could be losing 10 working weeks each year. A lot of business owners don’t measure the real cost of absence, but it’s definitely something they worry about.

Whilst we know everyone gets sick from time to time, effective absence management and a clear policy ensures you stay on the front foot. It will prevent a sickness absence issue from becoming a problem, financially or in terms of productivity and quality.

Top-tips for your sickness absence policy:
  • Make sure employees know when and who to call when they are unable to attend work due to sickness. Insist on a telephone call where possible.
  • Include the requirement to provide a ‘Fit Note’ covering continuous periods of absence longer than a week
  • Have a policy of carrying out return to work interviews with employees consistently for any sickness absence
  • Introduce a Sickness Absence Review process with clear trigger points, to flag high levels of absence and discuss constructively with employees
  • Ensure the Sickness Absence Review process covers short and long-term absence
  • Manage expectations around sick pay by stating the policy clearly. Ie if you have company sick pay or Statutory Sick Pay, and when they apply
  • State that the company can require employees to attend a medical examination with a doctor should it deem necessary
  • Include information and links about any support available through company benefits, or public bodies/charities
  • Ensure the policy covers support the company provides on mental health issues

By following these top tips for putting together your policy, you can address any sickness absence issues arising before they reach unacceptable levels.

If you’re worried about sickness absence in your business and would like help to introduce a policy so you can manage sickness absence, get in touch.

 

Difficult conversations

Anyone who has ever line managed will undoubtedly have had that sinking feeling at some point, knowing that they need to address some kind of problem with the performance or conduct of one of their team. All line managers should feel reassured that they are not alone in feeling this way.

The good times

When everything is going well, and your team are performing and behaving as you want them to, being a people manager is fantastic. You see great results through your people, and that reflects positively on you. Your bosses think you’re doing a great job and all is right with the world.

The harder times

Unfortunately this perfect world is very unusual, certainly in the long term, and there will be times when you have to address a problem directly with one of your team members. Whether it’s an issue with their performance or their behaviour, no-one looks forward to having a conversation about these issues and addressing it head-on. But it really is the best way to make a change for the better.

Top tips

Here are some top tips for preparing for, and having those dreaded conversations:

  • Don’t wait.  If something has gone wrong, address it privately at the first opportunity you have. Don’t wait for the next 1-1 in a month’s time and don’t address it publicly in the open office.
  • Prepare.  Make notes and identify the problem. Be specific and note exactly what went wrong and what you expected. Be prepared to share this information with the individual.
  • Have a conversation.  Everyone has a different perspective on any situation, so allow the individual the opportunity to give their view of the situation.
  • Keep it objective.  Keep it factual, balanced, constructive and objective and try to make sure that it doesn’t get personal, or heated.
  • Check for understanding.  Seek confirmation that they understand why it was a problem, by asking questions such as ‘Can you understand why this wasn’t appropriate?’ and ‘What do you think you could have done differently?’ Probe them if you feel they don’t fully accept that there was an issue, or take responsibility.
  • Follow-up.  Tell the individual that you will forward them a summary of what you’ve discussed, so that they can have a record of your expectations. It’s not a formal warning, just provided to support their learning and development.
The benefits

As managers and business leaders, if you address problems in your teams directly, you can ensure that all your team are contributing to the success of your business. One underperforming team member can do damage to your business success and potentially your brand. By ‘nipping it in the bud’ in a constructive way, you will avoid situations developing and taking a downward spiral. The longer performance or conduct issues go unchecked, the harder it is to address successfully. There’s also more chance of the wider team becoming unhappy.

If you or your management team need support in addressing difficult situations, HelpfulHR can definitely help – whatever the issue. Get in touch, and let’s get them back on track.

Recruiting the best

Having the best talent in your business is key to its success. Whatever your business, if you don’t have the right people in the right roles, you may find achieving success difficult.

If you do hire the wrong person, the cost can be great. Of course there’s the financial cost of replacing people through the usual channels i.e. recruiter fees or advertising costs. It could also result in decreased productivity, decreased employee morale, not to mention the cost of management time and potentially, damage to your employer brand.

By introducing a sound recruitment process you stand a much better chance of hiring the people your business needs.

Our top tips for recruiting the right people
  • Make sure you have an up to date job description outlining the responsibilities of the role you need to fill, and what skills and experience needed.
  • Use the job description to shortlist applicants for interview by identifying relevant experience and skills.
  • Use the job description to create themes you would like explore at interview.
  • Prepare some welcoming questions, to put the candidate at ease, and smile!
  • Use the candidate’s CV to create questions in the themes you have identified.
  • Consider and prepare some probing questions to follow up.
  • Keep the questions on point, and avoid asking any personal questions. ‘Getting personal’ can potentially get you in to a world of trouble, so just avoid those questions altogether.
  • Interview in pairs, so you can really listen to the candidate and develop a rapport without worrying about taking notes, and agree with your interview partner who will ask which question in advance.
  • Allow time for the candidate to ask you questions, and think about how best you can ensure you’re presenting an attractive and authentic impression of the company.
  • Make sure you take notes of the actual answers given, rather than your thoughts or feelings about the candidate’s answer.

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to interviewing and selecting the right person, but by adopting this approach you stand a better chance of recruiting someone who can actually do the job you need filled, and do it well.

If you would like help with your recruitment processes, please do get in touch with Helpful HR

Love is in the Air

Valentine’s Day is less than a month away, so our thoughts are turning to ‘romance at work’ and the questions that subject raises. During a working week we spend up to half of our waking time with our work colleagues, so it’s not surprising that close friendships and romantic relationships form.

We all know people in long-term relationships with partners they met at work. Whilst personal relationships can cause issues, it’s probably unrealistic to ban personal relationships at work. If you introduce a ban, it would inevitably force budding romances and friendships to become covert. This would lead to an environment of mistrust, deception and fear. However it would be unwise to stay silent on how you deal with relationships as an employer. So, what is the best way to approach them?

Developing a policy

Here are 6 top tips for a developing a policy:

  • Be Realistic. Focus on transparency and create a working environment where your employees can be open with you.
  • Be Specific. Define the point employees need to declare a relationship beyond that of a good working relationship – be it a close friendship or a romantic relationship.
  • Be Cautious. Include clients, suppliers and customers in the policy.
  • Be Fair. Ensure you are clear about the possible outcomes of declaring a relationship. For example in a management relationship, allow for a change to reporting lines.
  • Be Professional. Clearly communicate expectations about professional conduct, i.e. public displays of affection and favouritism.
  • Be Prepared. Accept that sometimes relationships don’t work out, and this too will need to be managed appropriately.

Following these top tips will ensure your policy is realistic and practical, and will ensure your business isn’t compromised by relationships at work.

So, while things can go wrong and issues may arise, having a clear policy will make it easier to take a fair and consistent approach, with the least disruption to your business.

If you would like help developing a policy about managing personal relationships at work, please get in touch.

Blue Monday?

Apparently this coming Monday, 15th January 2018, is ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year.  January can be a tough month after the (hopefully) joyous Festive Period and a welcome break from work. But can we really pick one day out of the 31 in January, or the 365 in the year, and say that this coming Monday 15th January 2018 is the most depressing of all?

The science bit

The term Blue Monday was, so we’re told, invented by the marketing team at Sky Travel in 2005 in an attempt to encourage people to buy a holiday at a quiet time of year. There’s even a formula for calculating the date, which includes weather, debt, days ‘til payday, time since Christmas, resolutions broken. It also includes some feeling factors which somewhat compromise the ‘science bit’.

Resistance is not futile

There’s definitely a case for rebellion here. January is tough, but we shouldn’t be told how to feel on a particular day, should we? There are enough challenges to face in this fast-moving world, so let’s all resist this phenomenon! To help us, there’s even a website dedicated to encouraging positive acts on Blue Monday.

Blue at work

The Blue Monday phenomenon does have potential implications for businesses. There may be many people who believe the hype and expect to feel blue on Monday 15th January 2018. And purely for this reason, they may succumb to the negative feelings Blue Monday is designed to exploit.

Be part of the solution

What can employers do to counter these negative feelings? We live in a time when businesses are struggling and ‘austerity’ feels like it has become part of our culture. So how can you motivate a workforce who are feeling the pinch and maintain positivity at work?

There’s no easy, one-size fits all answer. People are motivated in different ways, whether it’s hitting advertising targets and achieving bonus, or receiving accolades for good performance.

Top tips

Here are 5 top tips that should support the rebellion against Blue Monday:

  • Spend time getting to know your team as individuals. Find out hat they enjoy, what motivates them, how they like to be recognised.
  • Make sure you diarise regular 1-1s with your team for the year. Show your commitment to them through the giving of your time.
  • Give thought to what you can do to help them achieve their career aspirations. It may be development, training, work-shadowing, job swapping, coaching and/or action planning. There are many possibilities to consider.
  • Start the year with a team meeting to share ideas and make a plan for the year ahead to which everyone can contribute.
  • Consider a physical activity, to get those endorphins flowing, maybe a team walk at lunchtime, or a sponsored activity which everyone can engage in.

These top tips should help to create a positive working environment where employees can flourish at any time of year. Developing an open, inclusive work place where everyone feels valued will definitely help to build this positivity.

So, while these top tips won’t necessarily stop people from being conned into feeling Blue on this coming Monday, it might help in the longer term.

If you would like to find out more about what you can do to build a positive working environment, we can help, so do get in touch with Helpful HR.