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People Matter July 2018

Proposals to enhance workplace rights for fathers

Could there be drastic changes to UK paternity rights on the horizon?

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has examined the situation of fathers in the workplace and made bold recommendations.

These include: allowing fathers paid time off for ante-natal classes (they currently are allowed two unpaid visits); increasing statutory paternity pay from about £145 a week to 90% of earnings (capped for high earners); and considering replacing shared parental leave with 12 weeks of dedicated paternity leave.

Moreover, they propose immediate legislation to ensure jobs are advertised as flexible unless there’s a strong business reason not to; harmonising the rights of agency, self-employed and employed fathers where possible; and adding the characteristic of “paternity” to the scope of the Equality Act 2010 to encourage cultural change.

The report considered international evidence of better outcomes for children when fathers take paternity leave – particularly if longer than two weeks. These are numerous, but include improved performance on cognitive tests and, over the long term, less chance of social problems.

Counterintuitively, this raft of improvements to fathers’ workplace rights is partly suggested to improve women’s workplace prospects. It could even help to reduce the gender pay gap. This is because with an easier environment in which fathers can share childcare duties, it is also easier for women to return to work and continue their career at closer to their pre-children pace.

At this stage, these are just proposals. And they’re not guaranteed to become law. However, there has been a growing trend towards family-friendly employment law, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see further legislation in this direction.

For a long time we have championed the implementation of family-friendly policies. Long-term benefits of staff loyalty, retention of in-house skills and a wider talent pool from which to recruit can be difficult to appreciate before you have them. And let’s not forget that SME business owners face all kinds of pressures. But you don’t have to wait for law changes to go family-friendly. So to get ahead of the curve, contact us for help drafting your own family-friendly policies.

LOL office gripes

While we’re enjoying a beautiful summer in 2018, it can make people tetchy if they are cooped up in an office. Especially if you don’t have air conditioning. So we thought we’d look at some of the funniest passive-aggressive notes and responses that colleagues have left each other in their workplaces:

“Please remember to date the food cans! Thanks.” Response – “Tried on three occasions to date cans, they only think of me as a friend…”

“To the person who ate my lunch… Pay no attention to the mouth sores you’ll be getting. They’re probably nothing…”

“The printer is here temporarily.” – Response “In the greater scheme of things, aren’t we all?”

“Please do not unplug the coffee maker.” – Response “Please do not use whimsical fonts.”

It may be a bit of fun when it’s happening to someone else, but such notes could indicate an underlying cultural problem, so take heed if they start appearing in your office.

Wellness benefits on the rise

With low unemployment and ever-increasing attention on mental and physical health, health and wellness benefits are appealing ways to recruit and retain talent.

Businesses like them because they’re a cost-effective way to improve remuneration, and they can help to reduce absenteeism. And for employees they are valuable benefits which may not otherwise be attainable.

Looking at the USA where they also have historically low unemployment, 34% of organisations have increased their benefits offerings over the last year. About three quarters of these say this was to aid retention and more than half did it for recruitment purposes. This was from a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Are you struggling to attract or keep talent in your business? Introducing or improving wellness benefits could be the answer. Ask us about the excellent range that we can offer.

Holiday pay headache

We have entered the holiday season for 2018. And whether your staff take time off to enjoy the gorgeous summer we have been experiencing in the UK or are venturing further afield, calculating their holiday pay has got a whole lot more complicated in recent years.

It started off with having to include guaranteed overtime which staff were required to take by their employer. Subsequently, commission for sales staff had to be reflected too. And now voluntary overtime pay must also be calculated and added to holiday pay unless it is genuinely occasional.

Cases like this are regularly being tested in the courts, and the answer is always coming back the same – regular forms of pay must be included in holiday pay. The principle that underpins these judgements is that people should not be discouraged from taking their annual leave. And through the indirect financial penalty for not having overtime included in their holiday pay, it is judged that this would occur.

The laws, which come from Europe, only concern the first four weeks of holiday pay. However, in practice, most businesses will blanket apply the rules, as it would be an even bigger headache to run parallel holiday pay systems.

There is some danger of back pay claims being made, although limits are in place to restrict these.

It is advisable to take extra care when calculating your holiday pay rates this summer. If you want help getting it right, then speak to your local HR Dept advisor, and they will ensure you consider all relevant factors.

Protecting your interns from harassment

Hiring summer interns can be a rewarding experience for company and intern alike. There are challenges, as well as benefits, though. One such challenge is the potential for harassment of these most junior of staff.

The #metoo movement has put perpetrators of harassment in sharp focus. It has also highlighted all-too-common institutional failings in exercising the employer’s duty of care. So what practical steps should you be taking to ensure your interns are protected?

The key activity is training. Make time for this for both permanent staff (including managers) and interns. You should cover respect and the standards of behaviour expected. Some companies ban managers from dating interns. Training should include clear instruction on what harassment is and how to report it. Work parties may be an area of higher risk, particularly if alcohol fuelled. So give extra consideration to interns when planning summer staff socials.

Obesity in the workplace

A government adviser has suggested overweight employees should be allowed to arrive late to work. This is so they can avoid the morning rush hour if they have mental or physical difficulties with it. He even suggests that obesity should be made a protected characteristic so that overweight people can claim discrimination at a tribunal. The ideas, presented at a European Congress, have met with resistance from other quarters. We ran our own Twitter poll, asking whether obese workers should be allowed to start late to miss the rush hour. The results show 79% replying no to 21% in favour.

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