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People Matter May 2017

General election: What the parties are promising

Election campaigning is in full swing and the main political parties have provided details of workplace policy proposals.

The blue side are the incumbents and also appear to be leading the polls (although that doesn’t mean much if recent experience has been anything to go by!). Theresa May has made announcements heralded as a big expansion of workers’ rights.

These include extending the right to maternity, paternity and holiday pay to more categories of worker. This should be tackling the ‘Gig Economy’ so that the so called self-employed staff get workers rights such as maternity, paternity, holiday and sick pay. The announcement retains the current EU-based employment laws; increasing the National Living Wage in line with average earnings until 2022; widening the remit of the Equality Act to cover shorter term mental health conditions; giving workers more rights to take time off to care for dependants and receive training; also to beef up the powers of The Pensions Regulator;  and charging businesses more for hiring migrant workers… And breathe!

The red side have been busy making announcements too. If Jeremy Corbyn wins the keys to Downing Street he has promised: four new bank holidays; an increase in the National Living Wage to £10 per hour; unilaterally guaranteeing the rights of 3 million EU nationals living in the UK; a hefty rise in corporation tax; and a banning of zero-hour contracts… And more!

The SNP are pushing against a hard Brexit and government cuts in Scotland, as well as a second independence referendum. UKIP are focusing their campaign on socio-cultural issues following their success in the EU referendum. This includes a banning of the headscarf worn for religious reasons.

It’s a fast-moving world, so keep an eye on our blog and Twitter feed for the latest updates.

How to accommodate Ramadan

26th May to 24th June is Ramadan, a religious period observed by Muslims. Those participating in Ramadan will be fasting – from dawn until sunset every day. Employers should acknowledge this and make reasonable adjustments so they do not fall foul of the Equality Act 2010.

You may want to consider a few issues that could arise. These could include fatigue caused by disrupted sleep patterns. Fasting can also reduce blood sugar levels, causing lethargy and irritability. And participants may be required to pray more often than usual throughout the working day.

One way to be accommodating could be to schedule demanding work for the morning. It is a good idea to inform other employees that Ramadan is taking place, and if you are arranging any social events, don’t be offended if people participating decline an invite!

Spotting an unhappy employee

In any organisation, however well run, sooner or later employees may want to leave for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it might be for the best – which is not an issue. But other times you may be at risk of losing a talented team member.

Holding regular appraisal/feedback chats can help you spot signs of unhappiness but an appraisal that discusses their career ambitions can identify risks. Even then, make clear that the door is always open to discuss issues.

If you know there is a problem you can see if you can fix it but encouraging openness can give you more notice time to plan their replacement. But ultimately, if they do resign you have to respect their decision.

Health and safety gone mad? Are you sure?

Health and safety (H&S) often finds itself on the receiving end of jokes and gags. To many it’s viewed as just another form of red tape.

But despite “’elf and safety’s” jobsworth reputation, it’s crucial to keep your employees safe and prevent work-related injuries from occurring.

The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) is fighting to reclaim the term – they have even taken to Twitter to debunk some of the myths. Here, they make it clear that many of the ludicrous decisions that are blamed on health and safety are, in fact, nothing to do with them.

A prime example from the Twitter feed was when the Daily Mail reported that, due to H&S, a young girl had been put into isolation at school for having beads in her hair. The HSE tweeted, “’H&S regulations’ for beaded hair? @DailyMailUK are you sure? #bustedmyth”.

The HSE also had their say when the Nuneaton Tribune claimed that council workers who operate in dusty conditions are required to be clean shaven to comply with health and safety regulations. HSE sent a tweet saying “These ‘new’ rules have existed for years to prevent inhalation when working with dust and asbestos etc. #bustedmyth

Taking health and safety seriously has major benefits for businesses, such as reduced costs, lower employee absenteeism, less likelihood of legal action, improved reputation of employee care and corporate responsibility, and (through all that) higher levels of productivity.

In 2015/16, over 30 million working days were lost as a direct result of workplace-related injuries. So not only will your employees benefit from health and safety rules, so will your business. Win-win.

And if you get it wrong?

There is the risk of fines, compensation and even jail. In 2016 alone, £61m of fines were paid out, and penalties for businesses with a turnover of more than £50 million can receive fines as high as £10 million for health and safety offences.

We have a dedicated health and safety team at The HR Dept, so if you need help with this important area, get in touch.

How to remunerate sleeping shifts

On first thoughts, sleeping whilst working might sound cushy. But a recent BBC news article revealed that council-employed care staff working sleep-shifts might not be getting paid the statutory minimum wage.

Despite many of these shifts lasting up to 10 hours, some workers were paid just £34 for the whole shift. This meant it was likely some carers would only reach the equivalent of the National Minimum Wage each month if they worked additional hours on top of their normal rate.

In accordance with minimum wage legislation, employers must pay workers for the entire ‘sleep-in’ shift, if they are liable to be woken to deal with incidents.

We recently wrote a blog on working time and pay. Although it does vary case by case, if you get it wrong it will cost you!

If you are uncertain about pay legislation and working hours, get in touch and speak to one of our HR specialists.

References. How reliable are they?  

Last year, Aussie radio hosts Hamish & Andy uncovered “the best bloke in the world” who was perfectly happy to give a job reference for a stranger. And (not knowing he was live on air) what a reference he gave!

Funny though it was, it drew attention to the validity of CV references and how much you can rely on them. As recruiting the right staff is crucial to the success of SMEs, it is certainly a concern.

Whilst we always recommend taking up written references, previous employers are often far more forthcoming about an individual on the telephone than they are on paper.

The HR Dept can help with all aspects of the recruitment process. If you need any help, get in touch.

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