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People Matter May 2018


It’s almost here. Not the fabled English summer, but the equally fabled GDPR. As you probably know, that’s the new General Data Protection Regulation. It comes into force on 25 May.

It’s something to take seriously as has been demonstrated by the flurry of opt-in emails that we have all been receiving in our inboxes. They relate to marketing, but GDPR is far broader. It includes the employee data you handle.

Think about it from recruitment to termination of employment; you’ll have contact details, bank info, NI numbers, possibly medical information, performance records and if applicable a disciplinary and grievance history. That is all highly sensitive stuff.

You’ll need to inform individuals how you intend to use and store this information. And for some things this will require explicit consent. You’ll also need to train all employees in GDPR compliance – as they say, any system is only as strong as its weakest link. The penalties for non-compliance are ferocious.

Retained HR Dept clients needn’t worry about gaining GDPR-compliant consent from employees. We’ve made the necessary changes to your HR documentation. So you’ll have what you need to implement that.

There’ll be further actions you need to take as part of your wider GDPR compliance though.

You should audit all the data that you currently hold. Be thorough and honest with yourself… that box of old files in the warehouse still counts! GDPR covers all electronic and paper records where an individual can be identified.

Now you can create an audit trail of personal data and identify more sensitive information. If you do not use it already, My HR Toolkit is a fantastic software solution for handling employee data.

Once your data is audited and you have new systems in place, don’t forget to train up your staff. We can help with staff training too. To find out more about this, or My HR Toolkit, give us a call.

So now you’re well on your way to compliance, you can sit back and watch out for the next instalment of GDPR… which will probably be “Who’s the first test case?”. You know it won’t be you!

Asthma and hay fever in the workplace

A worker at the Department of Work and Pensions was recently awarded £26,000 following unfair treatment from his bosses after suffering an asthma attack.

He’d been forced into an unsuitable role, given a written warning for taking sick leave and pressurised into moving offices.

Asthma is a serious, occasionally fatal, condition; sometimes classified as a disability. An employee doesn’t have to inform you that they suffer from it. But it would be hoped they’d want to, and that you could work together to ensure they have the right environment in which to work. This may include identifying triggers such as dust and mitigating them, ensuring first aiders are aware and handling sickness absence correctly.

It would also be good to have hay fever on your radar at this time of year. It’s less serious, but still no fun. Sufferers are sure to appreciate a boss who’s sympathetic to the condition.

Too scared to use the loo!

They say all publicity is good publicity, but that most definitely doesn’t extend to press accounts of banning your staff from taking loo breaks. You couldn’t do this directly, but by creating a culture of fear with strict policies regarding breaks and other informal downtime, it may happen indirectly. It was reported in the national press that the like occurred at an Amazon warehouse in Staffordshire, with a “toilet bottle” being implemented (Amazon don’t recognise the accusation).

They’re not the only high-profile employers accused of regressing to Victorian-era HR. Firms which have been caught up in such practices have been panned. If your policies aren’t fit for purpose and risk making headlines for the wrong reasons, talk to us about getting them right. We can help you with a PR crisis communications service too!

Work and weddings

The wedding season is now upon us, with the Royal wedding just around the corner! For at least the last year the Bride to be has been busily planning venues, searching for the perfect florist, band and wedding dress. But how much of their time is spent browsing online or discussing details with their colleagues during work hours? A clear policy for online activities should be seen, understood and agreed by employees. Banning wedding discussions all together may dampen the office atmosphere, so why not add an extra ten minutes on to your weekly team meeting dedicated to a wedding catch up.

Then the Best Man, Maid of Honour and Chief Bridesmaid are organising the stag and hen weekend to which an email lands in your employee’s inbox and half the team are invited.

They all leave on a Friday and with a bit of luck stagger in on Monday rather the worse for wear and that’s before the wedding. How does the business manage multiple requests for this time off? What about the one employee that got left in Dublin last seen singing ‘The Final Countdown’? Then you may be thrown with the bride and/or groom requesting two weeks or more off for their beloved honeymoon.

Managing these holiday requests whilst ensuring your business has adequate staff cover is enough to make you want to take a holiday yourself! The running of your business is your priority, so if an employee wedding may be on the horizon, a discussion of your requirements before all the party planning gets started could save you from a HR headache.

Don’t get a shock from PILON

Payment in lieu of notice (PILON) rules have changed. Once payable free from income tax and National Insurance where it was not specified in the contract, PILON will now attract these charges.

Since 6 April if an employee leaves without working their full notice period, you’ll have to process the termination payment under these new rules. We would advise you check that your payroll software has been updated.

In fact, this is just one of a series of hidden traps within changes to termination payments. You should also be aware that injury to feelings payments are now subject to income tax (subject to the £30,000 threshold) unless they relate to a disability.

The government also signalled an intent to make employer National Insurance payments payable on the excess of termination payments above £30,000. This has been postponed until April 2019.

Snooping bosses!

The judgement from a recent employment tribunal serves as a reminder that it’s best to leave covert surveillance to the cops in Hollywood movies.

A credit controller was awarded £4,414 for being unfairly dismissed following leave taken while her father battled terminal cancer. Colleagues had accused her of partying during this time, and a director’s response was to scour the employee’s social media posts and even keep watch on her home.

It’s rare that such an approach will be justified, so if you have a situation where this crosses your mind, speak to us for professional advice.

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