What is a Written Statement of Employment Particulars?

In April 2020, it became a requirement for all employees to receive a ‘Written Statement of Employment Particulars’. This is a document which needs to be provided on or before their start date with their employer.  In addition, employees who joined their employer before 6th April 2020 can ask for a Written Statement at any time. On receipt of a request, employers must provide it to the employee within one month of their request.

The legal requirement

With this change it became a requirement that the Written Statement included certain terms and conditions. It is no longer sufficient to rely on a basic offer letter confirming job title, salary and start date.  The terms and conditions that must be included in a written statement are as follows:

  • the employer’s name
  • the employee or worker’s name
  • the start date
  • the date that ‘continuous employment’ started
  • job title, or a brief description of the job
  • the employer’s address
  • the normal places or addresses of work
  • pay, including how often and when
  • working hours and days, or if it’s variable
  • holiday entitlement, including an explanation of how its calculated if the employee or worker leaves the employer
  • the amount of sick leave and pay applicable
  • any other paid leave
  • any contractual benefits
  • any non-contractual benefits
  • the notice period either side must give when employment ends
  • how long a temporary job will last
  • any probation period, including its conditions and how long it is
  • if the employee will work abroad, and any terms that apply
  • what training that must be completed by the employee or worker, including training the employer does not pay for

As an employer, you need to have all these terms detailed in Written Statements you issue to new joiners. You need to quickly define your current practices and policies.  That way you will be ready for requests for a written statement from existing employees who started prior to 6th April 2020, as well as new hires.

In addition, the law allows for other terms to be provided at a later date, within 2 months of the employee starting. These other terms relate to pension arrangements, collective agreements, non-compulsory training (if provided), and disciplinary rules.

Benefits of providing a Written Statement

As well as the legal requirement to provide details of these specific terms of employment, there are benefits for both parties in having these points clearly written down.  Both parties will know and understand what to expect from the other, and what their obligations are.  This avoids ambiguity and inconsistency, which helps to prevent unnecessary problems or employment issues.  Doing this may also prevent potential allegations of discrimination if employees are treated differently (whether inadvertently or not).  Employees will feel secure in their relationship with their employer, which is more likely to develop trust and loyalty.

If you fail to provide the relevant documentation to your employees within the timelines specified by law, the potential penalty would be between two and four weeks’ pay.

Benefits of a Contract of Employment

The requirement under law is for a Written Statement of Employment Particulars, as detailed above, however many employers opt for a full contract of employment for their employees.  This is because in a full employment contract you can include terms which protect the business interests, for example clauses around confidentiality, post-termination restrictions, intellectual property and conflict of interests.  Having everything included in one comprehensive document also reduces administration time for the business, and provides clarity for the employee.

It’s important that employers are on the front foot when it comes to providing employees with details of their terms and conditions of employment as there are clear timelines to meet and clear advantages to providing this information.

If you would like to ensure that you’re protecting your business interests, and are meeting your legal requirements to provide employees with details of their terms of their employment, get in touch.

Why do I need HR?

As a small business you might ask ‘why do I need HR?’ if you have a small headcount and everything seems to be going well.  An HR Consultant is often engaged to support and advise when there are employee related issues or problems. That might be a situation involving redundancy, a disciplinary, grievance or dismissal.  Of course, ensuring that these situations are dealt with correctly is very important.  We do our job, help you to resolve the issue and that’s that.  All good.  But there IS more to HR than troubleshooting of this kind, and it’s important even (or I would argue especially) for small businesses. The way your people are managed will have a direct impact on their success, and by implication the the success of your business.  In a small business where the headcount is under 50, each employee has a greater proportional impact on the working environment, the team, the success of the business and how well it functions.

What do I need to know about HR?

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), states that Human Resources Management (HRM) is:

“…the function within an organisation that focuses on the recruitment, management, and direction of the people who work in the organisation. HRM can also be performed by line managers.”

There are multiple stages in an employment relationship, some of which are included in the definition above.  If we look at this in more detail, the stages are:

Employees experience these activities during their journey with you, their employer. But you won’t positively impact the success of your people and your business without considering the ‘how’ in each of these areas. Let’s look at each stage in more detail:

Attraction

What skills, knowledge and experience do you need, and how will you attract these people in a competitive recruitment market?

Recruitment

What are your recruitment methods, and do they successfully identify if the candidates have the skills, knowledge and experience you need?  How many of your new starters leave before they finish their probationary period with you?

Onboarding

How can you ensure effective onboarding of someone into their job and the company, enabling them to become productive quickly and begin making a positive impact on your business?

Development

How do you develop your onboarded employees? What development and progression can you provide so that your people become better and better at their jobs and become the experts, managers or leaders of the future?  Or do people leave to get that development and progression?

Retention

How do you treat your employees while they’re with you? What can you offer them that will keep them loyal and engaged?  Or might they always be on the lookout for the next opportunity elsewhere?  How do you make sure you keep all the knowledge, skill and experience you have supported and developed from walking out of the door, reducing your ROI, and increasing your costs?

Separation

How do you treat leavers? Does that change depending on whether they’re a voluntary or involuntary leaver? What do your current employee population observe when others leave, and does that process feel dignified, respectful and make them feel glad they still work there?  Could your leavers be employees of the future, once they’ve gained other experiences, and would they want to return to you?

And the cycle continues…..

What should I do?

In short, the first stage would be to look at what you currently do.  Ask yourself and selected others 5(ish!) key questions:

  1. Are your people processes efficient and effective for the business and your people?
  2. What kinds of experiences do your employees have at the various stages of the employee lifecycle?
  3. What kinds of behaviours do you value? Do you see these demonstrated by your managers and employees consistently in their interactions with each other?
  4. What kind of employer do you want to be?  How does that link in with your brand marketing and PR?
  5. How high is your employee turnover? How successful are your attempts to recruit new talent?

This is just the start of the process, and it will lead to further conversations and questions, no doubt.  Maybe this next year is the year you start to take a strategic approach to your people management practices?

If you’re asking yourself “Why do I need HR?” and you’d like more information, or if you would like support to look at any or all of these areas to make your business even more successful, get in touch.

Successful hiring

Obviously, employers are always keen to make successful hiring decisions. However it is common for a new hire to be unsuccessful in probation. This is often because it transpires that they don’t actually have the skills and experience needed for the job.

Why does this happen?

There are two potential answers to this question:

  • The criteria for the job was not correctly defined at the start, and / or
  • The questions during the selection process did not successfully establish the skills and experience of the candidate.

A great deal of management time and effort (and often direct cost) goes in to recruiting and onboarding a new employee, so when it doesn’t work out, more management time goes in to dealing with the problem. There are often direct costs in paying notice in lieu and untaken holiday when the leaver is processed.  You then end up doubling the recruitment costs and time for filling that role, when you repeat the process to recruit a better replacement.  So, getting the selection process right, makes business sense.

Tips for making successful hiring decisions:
  • REALLY think about the job you need to fill. Consider the skills and experience that person needs to have.
  • Create a job ad and job description which clearly articulates the qualifications, skills and experience you’re looking for. This will enable potential applicants without the skills you need to self-select out of the process.
  • Involve more than one person in the shortlisting and interviewing process and spend time preparing together.
  • Devise interview questions which are open and based on the candidates’ experiences. Plan to have a two-way conversation with them about it, so you can assess them against what’s required.
  • Probe the candidate on their experience to ‘drill down’ in to the detail.  This will eliminate any potential embellishments, assumptions or misunderstandings about the experiences they have actually had.
  • Ensure all candidates are interviewed in the same robust way, regardless of whether they are recommended by a contact, or you have worked with them before.
  • Ensure one of the interviewers is taking notes of the candidate’s responses (the content, not their opinion about it). This will serve as an accurate reminder about the candidates, so you can discuss your thoughts about them effectively afterwards.
  • If you’re in doubt about a candidate, ask them back, or meet them for coffee so you can ask them more about the areas where you feel less convinced. Or involve a third interviewer to do this – prepping with them about the areas of focus/concern.
  • Do not appoint someone just because they are the best in an unsatisfactory group of candidates. If they do not have the essential skills and experience, and these areas cannot easily be developed or trained upon joining, do not appoint them.

Not everyone has a natural ability to interview well, but training or coaching can help your managers run an effective selection process, so they can find the right person for the job.

If you or your team need support in making more successful hiring decisions, get in touch.

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.

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