Find your local office
OR

Newsletter

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter January 2018

When Cupid’s arrow strikes the workplace

February is just around the corner and this means that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Whilst this is generally considered to be a day of love and happiness, it can have a negative effect on your business. Only 12% of company managers have been provided with training on managing workplace romances, so let’s look at some of the issues.

Employees falling for each other isn’t rare – a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 43% of HR staff have encountered workplace romances. SHRM also found that 99% of employers with policies on workplace romances state that romantic relationships between supervisors and their staff are not allowed. After all, the superior’s impartiality and authority will be compromised, and this can affect a team’s morale.  You certainly don’t want employees accusing a manager of weakness or favouritism – and this is if the relationship doesn’t turn sour with the problems that could bring!

As written about in so many classic novels, unrequited love is difficult to handle. If an employee ‘has the hots’ for a co-worker who does not feel the same, any pestering must be dealt with the moment the issue is raised. The last thing you want is a sexual harassment tribunal case on your hands.

Some of us enjoy a gossip from time to time, but unfortunately the relationships between co-workers can be prime subject matter. Ensure this doesn’t go too far and reduce productivity. Malicious gossip is very corrosive to team morale. It can also start cliques and bring other problematic issues. Therefore it is worth making sure this doesn’t get out of control.

Even if you don’t have an official policy in place and are seeing an office romance blossom, it may become necessary to remind the happy couple to remain professional whilst they are in work. And if you think it’s required and fits the culture of your business, you could draw up an office policy on romances.


Managing staff throughout the Six Nations 

The Six Nations is one of the most highly anticipated tournaments in the rugby world. And whilst many rugby fans will want to support their country this February and March, it’s important to ensure your business isn’t impacted by the matches.

If you think it will be an issue, remind employees in advance what standards are expected. Most matches will be played on weekends, so if you employ weekend staff, remind them not to come into work under the influence or hungover.

Some businesses choose to show matches in the workplace. This stops employees surreptitiously checking the score on their phone every few minutes. Another option would be to encourage flexible working – perhaps even a day’s holiday would be appropriate for avid fans.

If you want to make sure your absence planning and staff policies are up to scratch, or you want to sin bin someone for bad behaviour, contact The HR Dept.


Fit for Work service declared unfit for work

The UK government has announced that referrals and assessments under its Fit for Work scheme will come to an end in England and Wales in March 2018, and in Scotland in May 2018 due to a low take-up.

The scheme was designed to provide free occupational health, and support to employers on sickness absence. Provisions will be in place before the referral service ends and its helpline, website and online chat service will still be accessible.


Employment tribunals soar after abolition of fees

There has been a 66% rise in the overall number of employment tribunal claims in England and Wales in the three months after the mandatory claimant fees were abolished. The claims increased from 549 in July 2017 to 2,926 in August and 2,027 in September. The figures were published by the Courts Service.

Between the years 2013 and 2017, employees had to pay £1,200 to take their claims to an employment tribunal. But now that staff can take their employers to court for free, the number of cases of small businesses ending up in court are expected to continue to skyrocket – particularly for small claims relating to holiday pay and the deduction of wages.

Matthew Taylor author of the Taylor Review, a review of modern working practices, spoke at our recent HR Dept conference, stating “Small businesses don’t end up at tribunal because they’re evil people. They end up there because they don’t have any HR to guide them through complex employment law”.

Considering this trend and the reasons behind it, you’ll want to take proactive steps to ensure you don’t find yourself on the wrong end of an employment tribunal award. Our retained advice line is an invaluable service for SMEs to help ensure they keep on the right side of employment law. Better still, it is backed by our market-leading tribunal insurance which covers all legal costs and any award providing our advice is followed, giving you peace of mind.

For more information on our tribunal insurance and our advice line, pick up the phone and call The HR Dept today.


Pensions regulator stepping up prosecutions in store for HR?

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has made their first successful prosecution for flouting auto-enrolment pension rules. The company, a bus services operator called Stotts Tours Oldham, had failed to provide a workplace pension for 36 of its employees.

Automatically enrolling staff into a pension scheme is now compulsory by law. If you fail to do so you can face an unlimited fine alongside two years in jail – not to mention also having to pay the pension contributions you should have been making previously.

Forgetting or wilfully refusing to auto enrol your employees is a criminal offence and, as this case highlights, will ultimately cost you. Our payroll, pensions and auto enrolment services help to make sure you are in line with the law and your employees are enrolled in their pension. Contact The HR Dept for more information.


Quirks of the 2018 holiday rota

The annual leave section in many employment contracts states ‘20 days plus statutory holidays’. This normally equates to 28 days – the legal minimum for full time employees.

However, if your company’s holiday year runs from April to April, they’ll only get 27 days due to where Easter falls in 2018. To remain legally compliant, you’ll need to give another day of leave.

Fancy another 2018 holiday rota curveball? Due to how the bank holidays align this May, some of your staff may try to use 14 days of leave to book 24 days off. Whilst you shouldn’t obstruct employees taking leave, do ensure you’re not understaffed if employees choose this.

Our electronic holiday and absence management system, MyHRToolkit, can help you keep on top of holiday – including the curveballs!

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter December 2017

Are self-employed workers entitled to paid leave?

So often we hear companies say, “I have made them self-employed so I won’t have any problems”. But the outcome of a recent court case might make them eat their words. If you are in this boat, you may want to pick up the phone to us sharpish.

Mr King, a so-called self-employed commission-only salesperson, worked for The Sash Window Workshop for 13 years until he retired at the age of 65 in 2012. Over the years he had requested and taken holiday – but it was unpaid.

However, Mr King was unhappy at the way he had been treated by his ‘employer’. He went to a tribunal claiming that he was a worker and should be entitled to paid holiday. He further claimed that he would have taken more time off had he been aware of his entitlement to paid holiday. He also said that he was the victim of age discrimination, as there is no set retirement age for employed staff.

The tribunal agreed he was an worker of the company, as did the Employment Appeal Tribunal, but the employer appealed again to the Court of Appeal. This is where it gets really scary – the Court of Appeal ruled that a worker who is unable or unwilling to take holiday due to reasons beyond their control should be allowed to carry over the holiday and be paid in lieu on termination. As a result, Mr King was awarded 13 years holiday pay – quite the retirement present.

So, what can we learn from this? First, the employment status, be it employee, worker or self-employed, is not a matter of choice, but of law – and the ‘use it or lose it’ rule for holiday has become less clear. Second, before writing off unused holiday, employers should consider whether members of staff have been prevented from taking such holiday due to sickness or because of reasons beyond their control.

If you need advice about the employment status of your workforce, contact your local HR Dept for help.


Workers rate money and time off as their biggest motivator

A survey conducted by Purely Digital found that increases in money and annual leave are the biggest motivators amongst employees.

The results revealed that 39.1% of workers were driven most by a financial reward, whilst 36.9% preferred more annual leave, 16% favoured activity days and 15% were incentivised by free products.

Although it’s not a big surprise that money is a major motivator amongst employees, it often ends up only being a short-term incentive after the feel-good factor fades.

There is good value for business owners in considering longer term initiatives such as a flexi-time policy that suits employees’ ongoing lifestyles. Thinking creatively about how you can reward staff can generate real value for you and them, and also differentiate you as an employer.

The HR Dept can advise you on a suitable and desirable employee benefits package that will really engage your workforce. Contact us for more information.


How Blue Monday can affect your workforce

The term ‘Blue Monday’ might immediately make you think of the New Order song, but it’s also a date in the calendar. Often referred to as the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday generally falls on the third Monday of January, placing 2018’s on 15 January.

Staff will be back from the Christmas break and the post-festive blues may well have set in. Throw cold evenings, short days and empty bank accounts into the mix, and you could find yourself with a rather demotivated workforce.

A study conducted by the Social Market Foundation found that money is a big concern amongst British workers, with 13% saying that financial concerns hinder concentration. Alongside this, 24% are just about managing financially and 25% have lost sleep over money worries.

A distracted workforce is bad for any business. But whilst it’s not an employer’s responsibility to manage the mood of employees, there are some practical things to consider to ensure productivity doesn’t suffer.

It won’t be for everyone, but some employers are known to offer employees loans in this period to help them get by. Other employers provide an EAP (employee assistance programme) to their staff throughout the year. Typically, this would consist of a confidential helpline and counselling services. It provides support and advice on a range of issues which might include money and mental health problems. They are a cost-effective way of helping your workforce and consequently your business.

If your team has the January blues, we can help. We can advise on how to manage a productive, happy workforce – including setting up an EAP.


What does 2018 have in store for HR?

As another year ends, we’re gearing up for 2018 so we can hit the ground running. So, what is on the HR horizon? Here are some highlights.

The national living wage will rise by 4.4%. This rise will be above inflation, which is running at 3%. If this will hit you hard, you’ll want to explore ways to offset or mitigate this extra cost as soon as possible.

It may be a defining year for the gig economy and workers’ rights. The appeal cases of Pimlico Plumbers and Uber, both of whom use self-employed workers, will be determined early in 2018.

And GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will come into effect in May 2018. This will have a huge impact on many aspects of business including HR. For help making sure your HR data is GDPR-compliant, get in touch.


The importance of communicating policies

Earlier this year an employee was dismissed for wearing headphones in a supermarket’s delivery yard.

Whilst agreeing with the employer that it was a serious health and safety issue, a tribunal deemed it unfair dismissal.

This was because the supermarket failed to make it clear that not wearing headphones was part of the health and safety policy and amounted to gross misconduct under the disciplinary policy.

It’s vital to conduct risk assessments and have clear policies in place. But it’s just as important to make sure they’re communicated and understood by staff.

As this case shows, you can’t dismiss someone for breaking a rule they were not aware of.

If you need help writing company employment policies, speak to us.

We can also advise on communicating them effectively to your workforce.


Plan now for 2018 recruitment

Many businesses will start the recruiting process in January – but one of the tricks to ensure this runs smoothly is to start planning your hiring strategy before Christmas.

Planning early will ensure your recruitment strategy is in line with your business plan, for instance having the right team to meet your goals and the budgets to make the process run smoothly.

If you want to take on employees and kick off the new year in the best way possible, your local HR Dept adviser can help with recruiting and onboarding staff.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter November 2017

New for 2020? Bereavement leave for parents

A new law has been proposed in Westminster to provide paid leave for parents who suffer the devastation of a child under the age of 18 dying. The UK Government is backing the proposal.

The Parental Bereavement Bill, which would be likely to become law in 2020, gives parents who lose a child under the age of 18 the right to two weeks of paid leave. Statutory parental bereavement pay would be available to employees who have at least 26 weeks of continuous service. Small employers would be able to reclaim the statutory bereavement pay and larger organisations could claim most of it back.

A recent study found that a quarter of workers who suffered bereavement of a loved one took no time off. And although some may prefer to keep busy and feel that remaining at work would be best for them, others may require this period to grieve.

There is currently no legal requirement for employers to give employees paid time off when they lose a child. However, we expect most employers would naturally act compassionately and flexibly throughout such a difficult time, allowing a bereaved employee to take some paid time off if they feel they need to.

It is important for grieving parents to feel supported by their employer if they experience the ordeal of losing a child. Returning to work before they are ready is unlikely to be productive for either the employee or the employer.

If you find yourself having to manage an employee who loses a child, ensure that your communication arrangements enable you to find out what they need to help them cope. For now, it is still down to you to decide what kind of paid leave, if any, you offer.

These awful events strike occasionally and sometimes they are unforeseen. If you need support in managing an employee who suffers such bereavement, then The HR Dept are only a phone call away. We can provide advice and, if necessary, a structured plan to help your employee find their feet at work again.


Should default retirement ages be reintroduced?

Who says you have to slow down when you get older? After all, President Trump is 71 and Theresa May is 60 years old. Some jobs require experience to be done effectively.

Since 2011, with limited defined exceptions, the default retirement age has gone. Retirement dismissals must be justified under equality law.

Older workers have much to contribute to the workplace. They can bring skillsets and experience that are hard to find elsewhere. Recent studies show that being active and working later in life brings many benefits, such as remaining healthier for longer.

But the downsides of this policy include limiting the promotion opportunities for the next generation and making succession planning more difficult (without set timeframes). It has led to some questioning whether a set retirement age should be re-introduced.


Maternity mix up ends in unfair dismissal tribunal

Despite regular headlines showing that women returning to work after being on maternity leave are being discriminated against it is sadly not getting any better.

A recent case from an employment tribunal in Liverpool highlights that the risk to employers does not solely come from an intentional act of discrimination. Sometimes, mistaken assumptions can lead to a tribunal case.

The case involved an employee who had requested to go from full-time work to a job share and three-day week following her first pregnancy. Around the time of her second pregnancy, a restructuring took place, with most roles at her workplace put at risk.

The employee wished to be considered for one of six new roles being created. She was persuaded to consider this as a job share (with another pregnant employee) but wished to be considered on a full-time basis should the job share not work out.

The employee’s application was unsuccessful and she was eventually made redundant.

Although a structured selection process was followed involving scoring candidates on a selection matrix, the court found that her treatment was unfair and discriminatory. During the process, it was assumed that the job share would suit both pregnant employees. Neither was properly scored as an individual candidate. One of the managers involved was also found to have treated the employee unfairly.

Maternity and paternity leave can be complex and if you end up in a tribunal, the cost of getting it wrong will be high as discrimination has an unlimited award so please take advice first.


Is presenteeism the bug in your office?

With winter drawing in, you might worry that sick days taken by your employees will soar. In fact, only four days or so were lost to sickness per UK worker last year according to the Office for National Statistics.

This is the lowest since records began. Are we getting healthier? Or is ‘presenteeism’ endemic in the workplace?

Presenteeism is when employees come into work despite being sick enough to justify staying at home.

While it’s important to keep a handle on absence, it can be counterproductive to have people working when they are unwell – through both being ineffective and spreading illness. A third of workers believe they’ve picked up a cold from a ‘mucus trooper’ colleague.

Getting the balance between absenteeism and presenteeism is a fine art – but worth getting right.


The cost of mental health

According to a government-commissioned report, mental health problems cost UK businesses £42 billion each year.

300,000 people lose their jobs annually due to long-term mental health problems.

Employers who take mental health seriously see significant benefits. Mental health charity Mind reports that every pound a business invests into supporting mental health generates a return of up to £9.

Ways to counter mental health issues can be as simple as developing an inclusive, supportive culture and encouraging regular communication between management and staff.

Doing this should help you spot signs of work-related stress and other conditions which may otherwise fly under the radar.

You could also offer an employee assistance programme (EAP) – a cost-effective outsourced service which provides staff with independent and confidential advice if they need it.

To find out more about EAPs, get in touch.


Sick as a dog

With news that an Italian woman has won a legal battle granting her sick pay for taking two days off to look after her unwell dog, we look again at ‘peternity leave’ in the UK.

It can be a controversial issue. Should emotional attachment to a goldfish be deemed as strong as to a dog?

How many employees have pulled a sickie to look after their poorly pal?

A survey by Petplan showed that many employers are kind hearted and allow time off for pet care, although this is usually unpaid.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter October 2017

Too sick to take leave?

A European Court ruling recently found that Francisco Pereda, a Madrid council worker, was entitled to rearrange a holiday because he suffered an injury just before leaving for it.

Francisco took legal action against his employer after being refused permission to alter his holiday arrangements on account of his injury. The European Court of Justice ruled in his favour, stating he should have been allowed to change his holiday arrangements and given the option to postpone his leave.

The ruling is being interpreted to mean that employees who fall ill, or are injured, just before their holiday should be entitled to swap their current holiday with sick leave. They should be permitted to take their holiday at a later date.

In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) are warning this could be open to abuse and have far-reaching consequences – particularly for SMEs with limited resources. This, of course, comes hot on the heels of other judgements concerning holiday rights, such as commissions and overtime being reflected in holiday pay. Although a couple recently caught claiming to have a sickness bug whilst on holiday and trying to sue Thomas Cook have just been jailed so hopefully that is a deterrent.

The fundamental principle behind such cases is that all workers are entitled to sufficient holiday breaks from work, and should not be prevented from taking them in anyway. In this most recent example it’s deemed unreasonable that ill health or injury should prevent much-needed recreational breaks.

Our advice is that if an employee is sick before, or whilst on, their annual leave, to let them reschedule it providing they follow your sickness absence rules. As an employer, you are unable to force an employee to take annual leave when they are eligible for sick leave. If they are on sick leave then they are paid in accordance with the company’s sick pay policy which may only be statutory sick pay. Any holiday may then be rescheduled in accordance with your holiday rules.

If you need help with managing annual leave or would like a review of your policy to ensure it is robust, give us a call.


The cost of employee fraud

A freedom of information request from accountancy firm RSM showed that businesses reported losses of £40m due to employee fraud last year.

Employee fraud is a costly and upsetting crime. Be aware that the most damaging cases tend to be perpetrated by senior staff of long-standing.

Mitigating the risk of fraud is a complex task encompassing many areas of your business. These include robust financial control; culture (where colleagues can raise concerns in confidence) and strong HR policies. In the finance industry there are strict rules that insist staff take their holidays and take long enough that potential problems to come to light.

If you discover employee fraud you should report it as a crime. It’s then a good disciplinary policy that will give you the proper framework to handle it from an HR perspective. Outside, expert help is strongly advised.

It’s complicated. For a longer consultation, or a review of your disciplinary procedures to ensure they allow you to deal with employee fraud correctly, contact us.


How far can you go when monitoring employee emails?

A recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights declared that a business was wrong to fire an employee for using a Yahoo Messenger work account for personal use.

The Romanian engineer used the account to message his brother and fiancée, despite company policy saying that professional accounts may not be used for personal reasons.

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees respect for private and family life and correspondence.

The court ruled in the employee’s favour because the employer had breached this right to privacy.

This suggests that employers must give explicit warnings to staff if they want to monitor their internet use. This is potentially troublesome for employers in an age when boundaries between private and professional life are becoming ever more blurred due to social media and other digital innovation.

If you do feel it necessary to check the communications of your staff, ensure you strike a balance between prohibiting your employees from taking advantage of company assets, whilst not excessively monitoring private messages.

You must also make sure your employment contracts explicitly state that you are permitted to monitor their online activity in the workplace. If you don’t have this in writing, you could find your options restricted if you suspect improper behaviour.

We can help you get the balance right and ensure that your contracts and handbooks are written correctly to give you the powers your business needs, whilst staying on the right side of the courts. Get in touch with your local HR Dept to see how we can help you.


The impact of poor holiday planning

Ryanair has recently encountered staff scheduling problems, resulting in cancelled and delayed flights and as this has left the airline nearly £22m out of pocket it has been an all-round PR disaster. Ryanair claimed this was due to poor management of pilots’ holidays and if that were the case their HR team want to be taken to task.

With Christmas on the horizon, this is a timely reminder to make sure that the spacing of staff holidays is aligned with the needs of the business. It will ensure you do not experience staff shortages during busy periods and avoid subsequent gaps in your service.

If you need help managing annual leave, contact The HR Dept. Our web-based HR Toolkit is a digital platform that makes holiday bookings easy for you and your staff. It’s specifically designed for small businesses and removes the hassle of managing employee holiday bookings.


Mediation in the workplace

As they say, “it’s nice to be nice”. But in stressful situations sometimes people just don’t see eye to eye and arguments ensue, resulting sometimes in a poisonous atmosphere and even drops in productivity. If this occurs and a quick handshake won’t do the trick, mediation may be the best way forward.

Mediation can be a cost-effective and emotionally intelligent solution: bringing people back from the brink before you have to consider replacing staff who can’t work together. We all know what an expensive and time-consuming process recruitment can be.

As you’re probably aware, mediation involves a trained independent third party that helps the antagonists to come to an agreement.

In small organisations it is unlikely you have qualified mediators within the company who can find impartial resolution to disputes and for a long term solution this is what is required.

If you need to explore mediation, contact your local HR Dept. We can provide advice and even act as an independent mediator if required.


Menopause leave

The menopause is something that affects all women to some degree and even though Jenni Murray became famous for saying on radio ”Is it me or is it hot in here?” it is still a taboo subject.

We would suggest a sensible pragmatic approach and making reasonable adjustments for staff going through this potentially difficult time such as providing fans to even reviewing uniforms to ensure they are comfortable.

Employee wellbeing should be a high priority for any business – from stand-out life events like the menopause to more day-to-day happenings.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter September 2017 (Scotland)

New guidance on suspending employees for gross misconduct

In years gone by it has been normal practice to automatically suspend an employee accused of a serious offence, pending an investigation. Usually, the offence would be serious enough to be considered gross misconduct: for example, theft, harassment or violence towards a colleague or customer.

A letter confirming suspension and the reasons why would be issued. It would state, among other things, that it carried no implication of guilt, but was a means by which the company could carry out the investigation impartially. It would tell them that they would be interviewed as part of the process.

Of course, all their colleagues would be aware of the suspension and reach their own conclusions. And herein lies the problem. In recent cases, the courts have made it clear that suspension is not a neutral act and have forcibly advised employers against a “knee-jerk” reaction.

The danger for the employer of reacting by immediately suspending – once the allegation comes to light – is that it can destroy the employment relationship. It could lead to the employee resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. And as in the latest case of Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth, the employee can claim damages.

So, faced with this problem, what should you do? The first thing is to pick up the phone to your local HR Dept and discuss whether there is another option available other than suspension.

In some cases, suspension will still be the right way forward. But only after carefully considering the facts and listening to the employee’s explanation. The letter informing the employee they are suspended must also make clear who has taken that decision.

With an increase of tribunal claims expected, it would be unwise to give a knee-jerk reaction resulting in your scoring an own goal!

Suspending an employee due to gross misconduct is never going to be easy. For help and advice to ensure you get it right at every stage, call us as soon as you realise there is a problem.


Flexible working for parents with children starting reception

Due to reception classes staggering their start times to acclimatise the new intake, you might notice an increase in parents with young children requesting flexible working hours.

Provided an employee has been working at your company for at least 26 weeks, they have a legal right to request flexible working hours. And although you are not legally obliged to grant it, as an employer you must consider any proposal for flexible working in a ‘reasonable manner’.

Considering a flexible working request reasonably could involve assessing the pros and cons of the employee’s request, holding a meeting with the employee to discuss it, and offering an appeal process if the request is denied.

It can be difficult to strike an equilibrium between family life and the interests of the business. But in the longer term, it’s in both the employee’s and employer’s best interests to achieve this balance.

For advice on managing employee requests for flexible working hours, contact the HR Dept.


How good is your onboarding?

According to some sources, a total of £28bn is lost annually in the UK and US on unproductive employees who don’t understand their job. After a quick online search of poor on-boarding, it’s easy to see why.

We came across one lady describing how, when she arrived at her desk on her first day, she was immediately told to visit HR to sort out paperwork… in a different building. When she got there, they didn’t even have her name on file!

One employee stated how they were escorted to their desk without being introduced to anyone or shown around. Another described an onboarding session consisting of the owner talking non-stop about themselves – for eight hours.

For a meaningful employer-employee relationship, it’s important to take time to settle new starters. And don’t forget to tell them what their job is!

Need help with onboarding? Give us a call.


Managing May Day mega holiday requests

Providing employees don’t work weekends and bank holidays, during May 2018 they can transform 14 days of annual leave into 24 days.

This is through a combination of the 7th May and 28th May bank holidays and weekends.

As an employer, it’s good to have this on your radar in case one, two or a flurry of holiday requests come in for next May.

But what should you do if this occurs? There are several issues to consider, including whether you can cope with people missing for so long, and how to manage conflicting holiday requests.

You should have a holiday policy, as this will be a useful tool for managing holiday requests effectively.

For help writing holiday policies or guidance on managing annual leave, contact The HR Dept.


Internships: A millennial could be your social media star

Southern Rail made headlines in July by delegating their Twitter account to a 15-year-old work experience student. Although the thought might have some senior managers quivering in their boots, the student’s witty responses and endearing charm worked wonders for Southern Rail’s reputation.

Many companies rely on a strong social media presence to stay relevant these days. This task can lend itself to social media-savvy millennials who have grown up as digital natives. However, it’s important to define goals and strategies to make sure social media activity is aligned to your business, and offer training. A social media policy is also essential to set out what is and isn’t acceptable when representing the company and offer guidelines on tone of voice and messaging.

For a social media policy or advice on managing interns, contact The HR Dept.


Preparing for seasonal workers

Christmas may be some way off, but it’s important to plan ahead – no, we’re not talking about ordering your turkey or planning the Secret Santa! If your sector experiences a Christmas surge of business, it’s wise to consider your seasonal staffing requirements now.

Alongside getting ahead of the game by sourcing staff early, it will give you the chance to do it properly.

This includes deciding the person’s status, will they be an employee, a worker or an agency worker? All these need contracts and have different rights. We can help with the recruitment and ensure you are legally compliant.

Contact us for advice.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter September 2017 (England & Wales)

New guidance on suspending employees for gross misconduct

In years gone by it has been normal practice to automatically suspend an employee accused of a serious offence, pending an investigation. Usually, the offence would be serious enough to be considered gross misconduct: for example, theft, harassment or violence towards a colleague or customer.

A letter confirming suspension and the reasons why would be issued. It would state, among other things, that it carried no implication of guilt, but was a means by which the company could carry out the investigation impartially. It would tell them that they would be interviewed as part of the process.

Of course, all their colleagues would be aware of the suspension and reach their own conclusions. And herein lies the problem. In recent cases, the courts have made it clear that suspension is not a neutral act and have forcibly advised employers against a “knee-jerk” reaction.

The danger for the employer of reacting by immediately suspending – once the allegation comes to light – is that it can destroy the employment relationship. It could lead to the employee resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. And as in the latest case of Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth, the employee can claim damages.

So, faced with this problem, what should you do? The first thing is to pick up the phone to your local HR Dept and discuss whether there is another option available other than suspension.

In some cases, suspension will still be the right way forward. But only after carefully considering the facts and listening to the employee’s explanation. The letter informing the employee they are suspended must also make clear who has taken that decision.

With an increase of tribunal claims expected, it would be unwise to give a knee-jerk reaction resulting in your scoring an own goal!

Suspending an employee due to gross misconduct is never going to be easy. For help and advice to ensure you get it right at every stage, call us as soon as you realise there is a problem.


Flexible working for parents with children starting in reception

September means that chilly weather and a new school year are here. And for some parents, the start of their child’s first days of reception class.

Due to reception classes staggering their start times to acclimatise the new intake, you might notice an increase in parents with young children requesting flexible working hours.

Provided an employee has been working at your company for at least 26 weeks, they have a legal right to request flexible working hours. And although you are not legally obliged to grant it, as an employer you must consider any proposal for flexible working in a ‘reasonable manner’.

Considering a flexible working request reasonably could involve assessing the pros and cons of the employee’s request, holding a meeting with the employee to discuss it, and offering an appeal process if the request is denied.

It can be difficult to strike an equilibrium between family life and the interests of the business. But in the longer term, it’s in both the employee’s and employer’s best interests to achieve this balance.

For advice on managing employee requests for flexible working hours, contact the HR Dept.


How good is your onboarding?

According to some sources, a total of £28bn is lost annually in the UK and US on unproductive employees who don’t understand their job. After a quick online search of poor on-boarding, it’s easy to see why.

We came across one lady describing how, when she arrived at her desk on her first day, she was immediately told to visit HR to sort out paperwork… in a different building. When she got there, they didn’t even have her name on file!

One employee stated how they were escorted to their desk without being introduced to anyone or shown around. Another described an onboarding session consisting of the owner talking non-stop about themselves – for eight hours.

For a meaningful employer-employee relationship, it’s important to take time to settle new starters. And don’t forget to tell them what their job is!

Need help with onboarding? Give us a call.


Managing May Day mega holiday requests

Providing employees don’t work weekends and bank holidays, during May 2018 they can transform 14 days of annual leave into 24 days.

This is through a combination of the 7th May and 28th May bank holidays and weekends.

As an employer, it’s good to have this on your radar in case one, two or a flurry of holiday requests come in for next May.

But what should you do if this occurs? There are several issues to consider, including whether you can cope with people missing for so long, and how to manage conflicting holiday requests.

You should have a holiday policy, as this will be a useful tool for managing holiday requests effectively.

For help writing holiday policies or guidance on managing annual leave, contact The HR Dept.


Internships: A millennial could be your social media star

Southern Rail made headlines in July by delegating their Twitter account to a 15-year-old work experience student. Although the thought might have some senior managers quivering in their boots, the student’s witty responses and endearing charm worked wonders for Southern Rail’s reputation.

Many companies rely on a strong social media presence to stay relevant these days. This task can lend itself to social media-savvy millennials who have grown up as digital natives. However, it’s important to define goals and strategies to make sure social media activity is aligned to your business, and offer training. A social media policy is also essential to set out what is and isn’t acceptable when representing the company and offer guidelines on tone of voice and messaging.

For a social media policy or advice on managing interns, contact The HR Dept.


Preparing for seasonal workers

Christmas may be some way off, but it’s important to plan ahead – no, we’re not talking about ordering your turkey or planning the Secret Santa! If your sector experiences a Christmas surge of business, it’s wise to consider your seasonal staffing requirements now.

Alongside getting ahead of the game by sourcing staff early, it will give you the chance to do it properly.

This includes deciding the person’s status, will they be an employee, a worker or an agency worker? All these need contracts and have different rights. We can help with the recruitment and ensure you are legally compliant.

Contact us for advice.