Supporting through Furlough #1 – 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.

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.

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.

The Season of Goodwill

As the festive season approaches, business leaders have probably been thinking about goodwill gestures they could make, to show their employees they recognise the value they bring to the success of the business. This might be an additional day off, or an end of year bonus and both or either of those options would obviously be very welcome, I have no doubt.

Is it reciprocal?

But how many business leaders approach the end of the year and consider goodwill from a different perspective; that of the employee? How many business leaders will question the goodwill their employees feel towards them as an employer? And how many employers have been pro-actively creating goodwill throughout the year, through their everyday working practices?

Why does it matter?

As Linda Ray commented here, employees who feel appreciated will have a positive attitude towards their employer. As a result they will be much more engaged and loyal, which will help to keep employee turnover rates low. This will lead to reduced recruitment and on-boarding costs, both in terms of money and time. Ultimately this employee engagement, when coupled with structured performance management processes will increase employee productivity and performance, making a direct contribution to the success of the company.

We can help

If you would like to find out more about how to gain or grow the goodwill of your employees, and discover how engaged your employees are, we can help, so get in touch with Helpful HR.

The Employment Status Conundrum

The ‘gig’ economy has been centre stage recently in the news and has caused confusion around individual’s employment and tax status.

Recent cases

Uber is adamant its drivers are NOT employees. However, an employment tribunal  concluded they are, ‘workers’.  Addison Lee  also had a recent employment tribunal judgement, which came to the same conclusion.

The consequences

These cases demonstrate the pitfalls of getting it wrong, on a large scale. The judgements of the tribunals have definitely provided Uber and Addison Lee with bucketloads of negative PR.  They also have the administrative headache of changing their status, backdated rights to holiday pay and the National Living Wage. There’s also a strong chance that HMRC will collect backdated employer’s tax contributions for all of their newly defined workers.

How to establish status

In order to avoid the same problems as Uber and Addison Lee, employers are well advised to make a proactive and honest assessment of people they hire and ask the following:

  • Does the individual work off-site?
  • Are they using their own equipment?
  • Is there a mutual obligation about you offering work and the individual having to accept work when offered?
  • Does the individual regularly work for other companies?
  • Can the individual send someone else of their choosing by way of a substitute, to carry out the work?
  • Does the individual control how or when the work is completed?

If the answer to one or more of the above questions is ‘no’, the individual you’re hiring is probably not self-employed. If you treat them as self-employed, in the long-term you may very well come up against some difficult and costly issues.

We can help

If you need any advice or support on determining the employment status of individuals working for your company and what it means, get in touch with Helpful HR.

What does being a ‘Manager’ mean?

I’ve come across several situations where a team, or individual members of a team, are suffering with low morale and poor performance. They’re on a downward spiral as not enough care and attention has been paid to the management of that team and the individuals within it.

Some managers genuinely think their Human Resources department are there to line manage each employee in the business. They don’t feel HR is part of their role and concentrate on providing functional business leadership.

Managing people as well as a function is not easy. As a manager you have several things to think about and probably several people, all with different needs and abilities. The role of HR is to help and guide managers through this aspect of their role and it’s a constant learning curve.

Top tips for successful management

I’ve come up with some ‘top tips’ for managers to help them flourish as a truly good manager:

GET TO KNOW YOUR TEAM.   You may think you know them, but have you spent any quality 1-1 time with them?Do you really know who they are, what they do, what they want to do and what they think of what they do? Regular 1-1s are invaluable and should be in the diary at least monthly.

ADAPT YOUR STYLE.   Remember that as the manager it’s your responsibility to adapt your management style to get the best out of your team. It’s not their job to adapt to you.

MANAGE PERFORMANCE.   Make sure you ask people in your team what they think of their performance. Ensure  you discuss and agree with them what their specific objectives are, and when they are expected to achieve them.

COMMUNICATE.   Ensure you communicate any non-confidential management and financial information to your team. This can include any information you think is relevant, useful and of interest. No-one really complains about being given too much information.

CELEBRATE DIVERSITY.   Accept and ENJOY the fact that you have people in your team with different goals, skills, experience and beliefs. Provided you’re all working to the same departmental goals, it’s a benefit to have such diversity within the team, so draw on it.

PROVIDE CLARITY.   Ensure that everyone in your team knows what their role is, what the boundaries are, where they have authority and what you expect of them.

This isn’t a definitive list, but it should set you up for success as a manager. If this doesn’t work, or you have a more specific need then that’s what your manager is for, to provide you with guidance.

If you advice and support to grow and develop to become the best manager you can be, get in touch. We can’t do the job for you, but we can definitely help!