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People Matter July 2019

Do you remember when holiday pay
used to be simple?

The empty spaces in the car park are proof that the holiday season is in full swing. And with it our HR advice phonelines are getting busy answering all the questions about holiday pay.

The first question is always: how much holiday should an employee have? The statutory minimum is 5.6 weeks, made up from about 20 days plus the bank and public holidays. And zero-hour staff accrue holiday for every hour worked, 8.3 hours worked equals one hour’s holiday.

Pay used to be relatively simple, with an employee’s weekly salary or usual weekly working hours being the amount they earned whilst on holiday. But over the last two years all that has changed.

The first challenge was Lock v British Gas. He wanted his results-based commission included in his holiday pay. He won and that started the change. A survey recently found that workers in Britain were owed £1.8bn in unpaid holiday pay and the government is campaigning to ensure employers and employees understand their rights and obligations.

Holiday entitlement is part of the health and safety legislation. It is there to protect staff on the basis that we all need a break from work for our health and well-being. Therefore there must be no disincentive to take that time off. This might be the case if someone’s pay was less during periods of annual leave.

This has resulted in a number of claims. First for compulsory overtime to be included. And now firefighters have won the right to have voluntary overtime included too in the average week’s pay. This is in addition to payments such as on call and commission.

Staff working irregular hours should have the average pay calculated over the previous 12 weeks. And do remember that holiday must be taken. So paying an additional amount each week to cover the holiday pay, which is referred to as rolled-up holiday pay, is not allowed. For all your holiday queries do ring us, so you don’t pay more later with a tribunal claim.

Restrictive covenants offered
protection by Supreme Court

A dark cloud had been hanging over many businesses which rely on restrictive covenants. But it has passed following a Supreme Court ruling.

As you’ll probably know, restrictive covenants are used to stop employees competing against you after they leave, or poaching key staff and clients from you. What you may not know is that a restrictive covenant must be reasonable and not be so restrictive that a person is prevented from earning their living.

A former director at an executive research firm argued that some wording in her restrictive covenant was unreasonable, making the whole clause unenforceable. Her former employer successfully obtained an injunction preventing her from joining a rival, and some expensive toing and froing in the courts has followed.

It centred on two words: “interested in”. She had signed to say she would not “directly or indirectly engage or be concerned or interested in any business carried on in competition [with her former company] for six months after leaving the business”.

As those words prevented her taking even a minor shareholding in a competing business, the Court of Appeal ruled it an unreasonable restraint of trade. And they found that removing the words would change the meaning of the clause.

Now the Supreme Court has found that those two offending words can be removed – but leaving the overall effect of the restrictive covenant intact, without the need for words to be added or amended.

This sets an important precedent and safety net for employers: that a restrictive covenant can be generally enforceable, despite one aspect being deemed unfair. However, having them correctly drafted in the first place is essential and having insurance in place to be able to enforce them through the Courts brings better protection for your business.

Contact The HR Dept for a review.

Is hotdesking still hot?

As flexible working practices become more popular, it makes sense that hotdesking will follow suit. After all, why pay for vacant space?

Adopting hotdesking means you can gain efficiencies by downsizing your square footage. Or make your workplace more attractive and useful by transforming the redundant desk space. How about a break-out area or new meeting room?

But hotdesking is not a one-way street to success. If only! In one survey of 1,001 office workers by a transformational consultancy, 22% of respondents found hotdesking made bonding with colleagues more difficult. And nearly half said they wasted time setting up equipment. The worry of whether a desk is available will affect the well-being of some, too.

Other potential problems include hygiene concerns and the development of cliquey behaviour. However, with a well-managed approach – including desk scheduling and clear guidance on conduct – these obstacles can largely be overcome.

How might the new school week
affect working parents?

A top performing state school in England has announced plans to move to a four-and-a-half-day academic week. Wow! School’s out from lunchtime on Friday for kids and teachers alike. So who is going to look after the children? We can see this will have an unfair additional pressure on parents, particularly women who bear the brunt of child care responsibilities.

Already working parents have to manage their working hours when their children first start school, as the first few weeks are usually half days. But a permanent four-and-a-half-day working week is going to affect businesses. If your employees are affected by this shorter week, you are bound to see an increase in flexible working requests. As much as we actively support flexible working, the number who can finish early on Friday is going to be limited and could create jealousy from colleagues.

The reason schools are looking at this is twofold. Firstly to save money as their budgets are under tremendous pressure. And secondly to minimise teacher stress and burnout, which is sadly a real and ongoing issue. So if this happens at a school near you, contact us to see if we can find innovative ways to help you reach a solution.

How emotionally intelligent
is your team?

In olden days people were expected to switch off their emotions when they went to work. Now it’s far more widely recognised that this isn’t possible. And that, actually, harnessing emotional intelligence can help individuals and organisations be more successful.

It has been established that emotional intelligence is a skill which can be nurtured with practice. The psychologist Daniel Goleman identifies five pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and people skills. And it’s easy to see why these would be desirable traits in your workforce. In fact, a survey back in 2011 found that almost three-quarters of hiring managers rated emotional intelligence over IQ.

When trying to instil an emotionally intelligent culture, you should lead from the front. Staff who know that you genuinely care about them are far more likely to buy in to your plans. For guidance and advice, speak to The HR Dept.

Outrageous expense claims

What’s the most jaw-dropping item your employees have put through expenses? Can you beat lottery tickets, cosmetic surgery, half a cow? They’ve all actually happened. Admittedly in America! And while we can raise an eyebrow and perhaps smile at the nerve, it is a serious issue.

Expenses are to reimburse staff for travel and other costs incurred in the line of duty. While “half a cow” would be easy to spot, there will inevitably be greyer areas. These can be minimised through good line management drawing clear boundaries, rather than being left to the finance manager to notice.

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