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People Matter July 2016

HR Dept customer satisfaction survey nears all time high

We are delighted to report that our customer satisfaction level for 2016 is 9.3 out of 10. This is up from last year, and just short of our 2014 peak. Thank you to everyone who responded. It’s such a pleasure to work with so many great SMEs. Surveys are also about seeing where improvements can be made, and we appreciate your comments, which will help us to get even better.

As well as measuring our own performance, we use the survey as a barometer for SME sentiment. The results here were a mixed bag.

Positive was that a majority of businesses felt confident enough to give employees a pay rise over the next six months. More than one third said they would do so by up to 2%, a quarter were planning 2-5% increases, while lucky employees at 5% of businesses could look forward to a pay rise of more than 5%.

Not so good was recruitment, where redundancy is on the rise. In 2015, just 2.7% of businesses were planning to lose staff. This year that figure has risen to 5%. Although these figures paint a picture before Brexit, it’ll be interesting to see how they compare to next year’s!

Back to good news and we saw significant increases in proactive businesses using our added value services like Health and Safety training, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) and psychometric testing. These are terrific ways for your HR function to add value to your overall business, so we would recommend all SMEs explore the benefits of such services.

Suffer from poor attendance?

If yes, look on the bright side as it’s unlikely your case is as extreme as this! A (now retired) civil servant in Spain is in hot water after he was exposed for not turning up for work for six years, whilst still pocketing his €37,000 salary. It gets worse…

The misdemeanour was only discovered after he was lined up for a length of service award! And worse…

He then tried to sue his boss for not noticing the absence!!

Despite the sheer cheek of the counter-lawsuit, there was clearly some shocking institutional incompetence happening. For the record, it occurred because the employee was posted from the council to a water company. Each assumed that he was carrying out his duties on the other’s premises. Unauthorised absences can hit SMEs hard, so make sure you’re managing them appropiately.

The apprenticeship levy and small business

The Apprenticeship Levy is a toll of 0.5% placed upon businesses with an annual wage bill of £3 million plus. It will be used to provide time-limited funds back to these businesses via digital accounts, along with other resources to encourage apprenticeship schemes.

While smaller businesses are not subject to the levy, they could find themselves in a sweet spot where they will still get some benefit, including frameworks for implementing apprenticeship schemes and some government funding.

For more information about this regime which comes into effect in April 2017, call The HR Dept.

Handling workplace conflict after Brexit vote

Ugly racial aggression has amplified since June’s shock referendum result. Not a day seems to pass without an awful news story of random verbal abuse or even targeted arson and violent threats. Employers should be particularly mindful of post-Brexit aggression occurring in the workplace.

Anecdotal reports already include people being asked if they are worried about deportation, desks of EU nationals being ‘jokingly’ cleared by colleagues, and Nazi salutes being given. Even if it is dressed up as banter or political discourse, there is absolutely no excuse.

Such incidents could make employees feel uncomfortable, isolated and victimised. A staff member could raise a complaint of harassment or bullying if comments they receive are unwanted, or create an intimidating or hostile working environment. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees. So if you notice anything untoward, or a complaint is made, you should deal with it according to your policies. Not taking action could lead to a constructive dismissal case.

What practical actions could you take to minimise the risk of post-Brexit conflict?

First, review your policies on workplace conflict and ensure they are up to scratch, clearly identifying unacceptable behaviour and laying out what the procedure for dealing with it is.

Then, assuming the policies are fit for purpose, in the current context it may be wise to highlight the policies to all staff members, and emphasise that the company will take any wrongdoing seriously. This will serve to reassure potential victims and check the actions of any staff members who were at risk of breaching the policy.

If you need help creating or reshaping your workplace culture, or want a free review of your policies, get in touch with The HR Dept. If it is too late for this and you have had an incident already, we can also help with the disciplinary process. Not being on top of this could lead to a great deal of individual upset, a talent drain or even see you in a tribunal, so make sure you are proactive.

Brexit and employment law

As the Pandora’s Box of Brexit continues, one thing we know is on many SME owners’ minds is employment law. There is a perception that much of our employment law comes from Europe. While some certainly does, other important parts, like Unfair Dismissal, came into place prior to our EU membership. Some elements actually go further in Britain than the EU requires.

Don’t panic is our message!

Nothing will happen immediately, or for the sake of it. Our courts are already bound by EU court rulings and will not depart from them unless they have good reason. Some laws may change because they are unpopular or unduly complicated: think Agency Workers Regulations and TUPE regulation. But many others will stay the same. Whatever happens, The HR Dept will keep you updated in People Matter and other bulletins.

Changes to immigration law

Immigration is a hot topic at the moment. It was a key issue debated by both Brexiteers and Bremainers, and it will continue to be a key issue shaping post-Brexit Britain. What you may have missed from the headlines though were some recent changes to immigration law, notably the introduction of The Immigration Act 2016 enacted from the 12th July. It’s one piece of legislation that employers really need to know about.

The legislation imposes stricter sanctions on both illegal workers and those that employ them. It’s now a criminal offence to employ an illegal worker where you have ‘reasonable cause’ to believe they are so. This offence carries a jail sentence of up to five years!

This puts business’s failing to properly check their employees’ right to work at risk. As the government works to stop illegal employment in the UK, it’s now more important than ever to conduct the proper checks, checking that all copies of proof of ID are signed and dated.

The HR Dept will keep you updated of any future changes, and can support you through the proper checks.

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