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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter January 2016

New Year’s resolutions

With over half of New Year’s Resolutions gone out of the window by January 31st, many people (and businesses) need some serious help to fulfil them. Could HR be your magic wand? We say emphatically “YES”. Whatever your business objectives for 2016, your people will be key in achieving them. So how could HR help? Recruitment could be one answer: whether you are looking for a superstar who will make the difference, or just good quality people you can rely upon.

Make sure you are adopting best practices to get the best people. And what about motivating the staff you already have? Reviewing your remuneration package might have the desired effect. It’s not just about money (although that helps of course). Flexible benefits can be a cost effective and imaginative way to get the most from your staff.

The HR Dept can help you get more value from your people as well as helping sort out the problems along the way, so give us a call and get 2016 off to a flying start.

Sounds like a bout of Blue Monday

If you see your employees crying into their coffee this month, or sobbing at their spreadsheets, then check your calendar because your office may just be suffering from a case of Blue Monday. Monday 18 January is forecast to be the most depressing day of 2016.

Counter this by recognising that your employees may be feeling broke, under the weather, that their summer holiday is too far away – or all of the above. So give them something to be cheerful about. A talk focused on what have they got to look forward to at your organisation this year? How about setting a charity fund raiser for Blue Monday to work up that feel good factor? Or even a team lunch to put smiles on faces – after all, they say an army marches on its stomach! Coming up with some ideas will be extra useful as the following week features Have fun at work day (see below).

Have fun at work day 

Hot on the heels of Blue Monday comes another unofficial day: Have fun at work day. While it may seem a bit frivolous, marking such days reminds us just how much time we spend at work and the importance of enjoying it as we go along.

A happy workplace is more pleasant to be in as well as creating conditions for better creativity and productivity. Experts stress that any attempts at fun must not be perceived as forced. Shoehorning staff into activities they don’t buy in to will be counter-productive.

If you don’t already tune into the mood of your workforce, don’t make sudden dramatic efforts to engage. It will likely come across as weird. Better to build up rapport over a longer period, listening to employees and coming up with ideas for team-building based upon what they say. Employee engagement done right is rewarding for everyone. For more help, call The HR Dept.

When is it OK to deduct from wages?

Did you experience unauthorised absences over the festive period? Perhaps you wondered what you could deduct from the miscreant’s wages.

The law offers employees a good degree of protection in this area, so it is important to get this right lest you find a tribunal making punitive deductions from you! We take a closer look at what you can do. There are some fairly broad triggers that will permit you to make deductions: for instance, if it is specified in the contract of employment. So if an employee had overindulged on, say, mince pies at the Christmas party and didn’t show up the next day without following your absence process, as long as your contract specified that you could, you may deduct that day’s pay from their wages.

Other reasons for lawful deductions include the obvious, such as it being required by law (e.g. income tax), the employee taking part in strike action, or following a court order.

One thing to look out for is that the deduction does not effectively reduce the employee’s pay below the minimum wage.

This is not permitted bar a few exceptions like for the deduction of taxes. If you manage a retail business it is a little more complicated. You cannot deduct more than 10% of a worker’s gross pay in each pay period. This restriction might come into play, for example, if the till is short and it had been agreed in the contract that the employee would have the missing amount deducted from earnings.

In this case you would have to allocate the deductions over consecutive pay periods within the 10% limit. If an employee leaves your service, the final deductions can normally be taken in full from the final pay cheque. If your employee disputes the deduction, it’s always best to try to sort it out internally first. But be aware that if a resolution is not reached they may take the matter to an employment tribunal for unlawful deduction from wages, they do not need to have been employed for two years to do this. Well-drafted contracts can protect your freedom to act.

To have your contracts reviewed or for advice dealing with a specific case, get in touch with The HR Dept.

Cheeky hugger

Are you a hug or handshake person at work? Whatever you do, don’t get caught in two minds. That could lead to one embarrassing collision! Knowing when to hug and when not to can be a real dilemma for some. Maybe National Hugging Day will help by bringing it all out into the open.

Started on 21 January 1986 this will be the thirtieth year it’s been marked. As with Blue Monday, National Hugging Day recognises that late January is a bit of a miserable time of year and is intended to raise spirits. But we have only just had to navigate the mistletoe at the Christmas Party. Is there no end to the reasons for forced intimacy? Caution is certainly advised. Even the man credited with founding the day suggests asking first if you are unsure of the response.

An embrace may be well received, though. According to one survey, a third of us Brits approve of hugging in the workplace. But that still means that up to two thirds don’t! The problem is that the appropriateness of a hug is subjective. What one person deems friendly, another may perceive as crossing a line. And that is just the two people involved in the hug. Beyond that it’s worth considering the message your body language gives to others: warm, friendly, generous and open? Or unprofessional, casual, overfamiliar… in the worst cases even sleazy?

Whether you want to embrace National Hugging Day or not, such personal contact can help define the culture of your organisation – for good or bad. The HR Dept can help you get your culture right, and if someone ‘hugged too tight’ we can take care of disciplinaries too!

Happy new leap year! 

It’s come round again – 2016 is a leap year. And a common question that crops up for managers is: “Do employees get paid more for working the extra day over the course of the year?” The answer depends upon the employee’s circumstances.

If they are salaried, then the annual salary is divided evenly by 12 months so: no, no extra money for them. If the employee is paid by the hour however, then yes. If they work hours on 29th February, they should be paid for them. Find payroll a hassle? Why not outsource to The HR Dept’s cost-effective service?

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter December 2015

New year, new rules…

With 2016 stretching before us, what does the year have in store for HR? Surely the biggest event on the horizon is the introduction of the National Living Wage in April. Starting at £7.20 it will progressively rise to £9 by 2020. This has been coming for months and hopefully that will make it easier for you to manage. If you have not prepared, we would suggest starting as soon as possible. There are various things to consider, including your age profile – under 25s are exempt from Living Wage rules, the impact up the pay bands and the knock-on effects on other parts of remuneration packages. There could be complexities at every turn.

The Living Wage aside there is the small matter of auto-enrolment which is still sweeping across the country. Do you know when your staging date is?

For help with the Living Wage or auto-enrolment call The HR Dept as soon as possible.

Out of the frying pan into the fire? 

Did your team survive the Christmas party with nothing worse than a few hangovers? We hope so, but the celebrations are pretty relentless at this time of year and still to come is New Year’s Eve. If your business is a Monday to Friday organisation you can breathe a sigh of relief, because the New Year’s Day Bank holiday falls on a Friday this time round. So three days to recover. Yay!

Spare a thought though for your ‘weekend worker’ counterparts and their employers. If this is you and you expect to have to manage an unwilling weekend workforce, make sure you remind them in advance that unauthorised absence will not be tolerated. The HR Dept can provide powerful absence management software to help you stay in control. Get in touch for more information.

Employee engagement is for life…

…not just for Christmas. It’s easy to foster team spirit before Christmas: the office party, Secret Santa and general good will. But what about the rest of the year? Good morale is good for business. Poor morale leads to employee churn. And according to a study by Oxford Economics, this costs a business on average as much as £30K per position – principally in lost productivity. That would certainly make it seem worth allocating funds for employee engagement.

Consider employee benefits as a focus: another survey suggested 61% of people would change jobs for more holiday entitlement, so something in that area may prove popular. Flexible benefits are gaining traction too, where employees get to pick and mix benefits like gym membership and childcare through an online portal.

To find out more call The HR Dept.

Latest from Westminster 

While most of the reported news from Westminster is on the current national security situation and the scale of cuts to benefits, you can rely on us at The HR Dept to scour the small print and keep you up to date with the latest stories that affect employers. There are two items to report this month.

The first concerns the apprenticeship levy. In the Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that large employers will have to devote 0.5% of the cost of their wages on funding apprenticeships from April 2017.

A large company is defined as one with a wage bill in excess of £3 million. So we don’t expect this will directly be a burden on many readers of People Matter. In fact, the government themselves say that nationwide it is expected to affect fewer than 2% of employers.

But it has broader significance because it demonstrates the government’s shift in focus towards widening apprenticeship opportunities. George Osborne went on to say that by 2020 the government would have doubled their 2010 expenditure on training apprentices. And that the apprenticeship levy will generate £3 billion annually. It is certainly a growing trend and one which you may find it useful to be aware of.

The second piece of news for us to report is that statutory maternity and sick pay will not rise in 2016. It is common practice for these statutory rates to increase according to inflation – as recorded by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). For the relevant period CPI actually fell and so the rates remain fixed at £139.58 (or 90% of average weekly earnings – whichever is lower) for maternity pay and £88.45 for sick pay. It is worth reminding you that employers can normally claim back 92% of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay.

If you need advice on how to implement any of the statutory pay rates, or are interested in finding out more about apprenticeships get in touch with The HR Dept and they will be happy to help.

Ways to banish Blue Monday

Apologies if you are getting tired of colour coded weekdays following the mayhem of Black Friday, but the next one in our diaries is Blue Monday – the third Monday of every January. In case you don’t know, there is some pseudo-science that highlights this day as being the most depressing of the year.

The time when post-Christmas debt, ‘back to work/school’ glumness, short hours of daylight, miserable weather, and anything else you would care to chuck into the mixing pot, converge in a witches’ brew of down-in-the-dumpsness. Regardless of the scientific rigour behind it, it’s plain to see that the day denoted as Blue Monday doesn’t have too much going for it. Why not, therefore, earmark it as a good day for you as an employer to step in and motivate the troops?

A movement that is developing around Blue Monday is to encourage acts of good will on the day. Nothing too grand, just small gestures to let those around each other know that they care. Or how about pulling out the soapbox and giving a good old fashioned pep talk? flag up some of the milestones that the team have to look forward to in the coming year, highlight achievements of the previous year, or just let staff know how much they are appreciated?

If you like to get the team involved in charity events why not mark Blue Monday in the calendar as an annual day for getting involved and let the associated feel-good factor wash those blues away? If employee engagement and motivation is an issue for you at any time of the year give The HR Dept a call for advice.

Guidance for employing transgender staff

The government has recently published guidance on employing transgender staff. As well as serving as a reminder of the danger of conscious or sub-conscious discrimination against this minority, it also highlights the positives of running an inclusive workplace.

These include being in the market for the widest possible talent-pool when recruiting, encouraging staff loyalty, and creating an environment where employees will go the extra mile for you.

There are obviously things you have to do by law, but the guide also shows how simply being an understanding employer can go a long way.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter November 2015

The ‘nightmare’ before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Once idyllic, but the reality behind this poem nowadays could well be a household silent in drunken slumber after – shall we say – ‘overdoing it’ at the Christmas party.

Christmas parties should be fun! Everyone can let their hair down, raise their glasses up and mildly embarrass themselves on the dance floor. But could you just be one sexual harassment claim or health and safety disaster away from a fun night turning into the nightmare before Christmas? Here are some practical tips to ward off those potential disasters:

The ‘inappropriate behaviour at the party’ nightmare: Remind staff that while a good time should be had – the party is an extension of the workplace; that giving someone unwanted attention under the mistletoe, talking rudely to a boss or doing a ‘Full Monty’ could lead to disciplinary action.

The ‘accident’ nightmare: If hosting a party don’t forget health and safety. For instance, don’t obstruct fire exits and ensure sparkly lights are not a fire risk or trip hazard.

The ‘being ill at work’ nightmare: There’s often one employee (you know who he/she is!) who parties so hard they are physically sick at work the following day. Gross!! Others may show up late, or not at all. Try holding the party on a Friday or Saturday night. If this is not possible, remind staff of their professional obligations to the business. Well-managed holiday bookings may help too.

If you have concerns – before or after the party – give The HR Dept a call.

Sad SAD situation

It’s that time of year when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) rears its ugly head. If you’re in the dark on this (forgive the pun), it’s when the lack of sunshine from short winter days gets people down and can lead to a form of depression. It’s a serious condition that could have knock-on effects on productivity. With one in three of us getting up while it’s still dark and working until after sunset, it could strike anywhere.

Encouraging staff to get out at lunchtime may help, whilst keeping blinds open during daylight hours could also be beneficial. For added support we recommend exploring Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) – these are an employee benefit that provides cost effect access to a whole range of support services including counselling. To find out more call The HR Dept.

From zero to hero

With Sports Direct rightly being demonised for their improper use of zero hour contracts, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking these arrangements have no place in a modern workplace. But this would be wrong – used correctly they benefit the worker and the company. And with Christmas coming, they may be essential for some firms. The catering and retail sectors in particular need extra bodies to cope with demand.

Zero hour contracts allow companies to manage demand flexibly and are popular with students and people with other responsibilities. After banning exclusivity clauses, the government have issued guidance for employers (link) which explains when these are appropriate and when other contracts may be better.

Make sure safety does not slip this winter

The beautiful colours of Autumn bring with them a host of health and safety issues for which businesses like yours may need to prepare. Those tawny leaves may look stunning when on a crisp November walk, but add the inevitable downpour or two and they soon become wet and slippery.

Moreover, they can conceal other trip hazards like small steps or potholes. If external paths on your premises are prone to fallen leaves, it’s sensible to put a procedure in place to remove them regularly. That way it will just be the leaves that are falling and not your staff or customers.

Another hallmark of Autumn is the end of daylight saving hours, aka ‘the clocks going back.’ This year was no exception and the evenings are rapidly drawing in. The responsibility to employers here is to ensure there is adequate lighting in and around the workplace. The principal risk is again trip hazards being concealed – this time in the shadows. Inspect your workplace as the natural light fades to identify any black spots. Shadowing employees is a useful technique to get a clear idea of where they move. Depending on your office location, good quality outside lighting may boost security too.

As the sunshine of the summer becomes a distant memory, replaced by wet and then freezing conditions, your attention too must rest upon weather conditions. Use signage to encourage employees to stick to paths and not take shortcuts across grass which may be more prone to flooding. Better still over the long term, you could look at redirecting paths if employees have been cutting those corners.

Other sensible precautions to take are to ensure you have good entrance matting in place at all external doors, keep a stockpile of gritting salt onsite for when it turns icy and keep an eye on the weather forecast so you are not caught unawares.

For further guidance, call the Health and Safety Department who can ensure your safety doesn’t slip this autumn and winter!

Guess who

It’s sad, but job applicants with ‘white’ sounding names are almost twice as likely to get a call back than those with ethnic sounding names – a problem highlighted by the Prime Minister recently. Some organisations – including the BBC, Deloitte and HSBC– are now using name-blind CVs as a counter-measure.

Not only is it illegal to discriminate on grounds of ethnicity or gender – two factors a name may reveal – it also diminishes the talent pool. Employers may miss out on superior candidates because of a conscious or sub-conscious bias for or against certain name types.

Will name-blind CVs end discrimination? It should certainly help, although it is of course just one stage in the recruitment process and there are other tell-tale pointers on a CV that may unfairly sway a recruiter: schools attended for instance.

If you want help with best recruitment practice, then call The HR Dept today.

Christmas: Turkeys, tinsel…and temps!

Do you rely on temps over Christmas? If so, you are certainly not alone. Sainsbury’s estimates it will need 15,000 of them, Game 4,000 and Royal Mail a whopping 21,000! So, it’s not just Santa who needs helpers right now. With such demand, you may be wise to recruit early to avoid missing out on the best people.

What else should you do? Ensure your payroll systems can cope. You may be relying on them, but temps too will almost certainly be relying on you. They are unlikely to put in a good shift if they are not paid promptly. Another idea is to keep an eye out for talent you could use permanently. If you are lucky you may find your next star employee among a batch of Christmas temps – a good Christmas present for you. For help with temporary recruitment and payroll, speak to The HR Dept today.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter October 2015

2015 National Minimum Wage changes

As this year’s ghoulish pumpkins are lit up for Halloween, is the real scare for employers in October the revamped National Minimum Wage (NMW)? It’s the start of a journey that will lead to the so called Living Wage of £9 per hour by 2020. On 1 October the headline rate jumped 20p to £6.70 – a 3 % rise, which is the biggest in real-terms since 2008. You can see the other rates in The Indicator below.

As the rate rises accelerate over the next few years, they are likely to put pressure on your business – particularly if you have to manage a knock-on effect up the pay chain. But get the presentation right, and you could also benefit from happier, more motivated staff. The sooner you plan and budget for this the better.

And if you need help preventing NMW spooks lasting long after Halloween, who ya gonna call? The HR Dept!

Supermarkets wage war

Supermarket price wars: you expect them to concern baked beans or a pint of milk – not a race to see who pays the most. Morrisons announced that it’s giving its 90,000 shop floor staff a 20% pay rise. The new rate will be £1 more than George Osborne’s £7.20 National Living Wage. Lidl pay the same, and others are reviewing.

What is the thinking behind this generosity? In Morrisons case they wanted to simplify pay structure whilst being competitive. Analysts suggest it will be an excellent ploy to boost morale and retain the best staff as they try to turn around their business. They also note that like shoppers, employees are getting savvier and can quickly compare employee benefit packages online. Could (or does) adopting a similar higher-pay strategy add value to your business?

Top tip 

A Christmas list normally consists of the presents you would like to receive. But for the owner/manager of an SME it can be more like a ‘To Do’ list to keep the business running over the festive period.

Why not get a head start by encouraging employees to book leave well in advance? It may help avoid disappointment for them whilst letting you sidestep staff shortages or awkward conversations! And what could be the perfect present to help: HR Dept Toolkit of course – it streamlines your holiday bookings process among many other things.

Call for more information.

Getting healthy at work 

Let’s face it. Human beings weren’t designed to work in offices. The sedentary lifestyle can lead to stress, anxiety and depression, as well as heart, back and weight problems. But hold on! Before we all run off to live in the woods, what about solutions within the office?

There are, of course, oodles of things you can do to promote health and well-being in your office. They range from the simple (and free), like simply encouraging employees to take all their annual leave, all the way up to offering full private medical insurance.

Let’s take a look at some of the more unusual ideas out there, which not only boost health and well-being, but also inject some quirkiness into your workplace.

First off: Yoga. It’s been popular as evening classes for years, it was Ryan Giggs secret to playing Premier League football into his 40s. Now you can order it into your office as a lunchtime drop-in class. It’s great for combating stress, improving fitness and can be pitched at any level of difficulty.

If that’s a bit much, then how about a fruit or healthy snack budget? A fruit bowl encourages healthy eating. Plus it looks and smells great (as long as fruit is not left there too long!). Alternatively, you could sign up to a healthy snack subscription service the perfect support for people looking to wean themselves off biscuits.

Sitting down for long periods is not good for you. An answer to this, popular in Scandinavia, is the sit-stand desk. It pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s a height adjustable workstation that allows users to alternate between standing and sitting positions. It helps users to burn calories and improve posture.

Finally, something no-one could object to: a drop in masseuse! Unknot those back muscles, de-stress and relax. Need we say more!

Good employee health and well-being can increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, attract and retain the best staff and create a pleasant environment. So call the HR Dept today to see how we can help.

Commission holiday pay takes off before appeal 

EasyJet have not waited to see the result of the appeal on the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) decision that holiday pay should reflect commission payments.

This followed the threat of strike action from Unite. Applying to 2,500 staff it apparently almost doubles their current holiday pay award and payments have been backdated for two years too.

As soon as news of the original ECJ ruling broke it was clear it could be expensive to businesses, and this appears to confirm that.

To small business owners who are affected we would generally counsel planning and budgeting for the worst and hoping for the best, as the appeal is still to take place – it is due to be heard in December.

For assistance in managing all aspects of holiday pay speak to your local HR Dept.

How to defend against social media mishaps

Most of us have posted something we regretted on Facebook at some point. But what about when an employee posts ill-advisedly on a company social media account. As soon as that button is pressed it’s in the public domain. And the more excruciating the mistake, the more viral it is likely to go.

That’s what Transport for London (TfL) discovered when a ‘smart Alec’ employee responded to an irate tweet regarding their repeatedly delayed service by suggesting the complainant should try leaving earlier themselves to avoid being late. Unsurprisingly that did not go down well and the recipient found ample support on Twitter. Eventually TfL was forced to apologise.

An ‘incident’ doesn’t need to originate on social media for it to end up as a problem there. When a Sainsbury’s store inadvertently displayed a poster aimed at staff in a shop window (which challenged employees to get customers to spend 50p more per visit), one helpful member of the public let them know by tweeting them a photo. Twitter didn’t take to the tone of the poster leading to widespread embarrassing publicity.

And what about when social media behaviour causes internal problems? A tribunal in Australia recently judged that unfriending a colleague on Facebook constituted workplace bullying, citing that it showed “a lack of emotional maturity” and was “indicative of unreasonable behaviour”.

Having a clear social media policy means you can reduce the chances of these misfortunes happening to you AND make them easier to deal with if they do occur. For help drafting a policy, why not tweet The HR Dept today?

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter September 2015

Back to school bugs that hit business

As the new school year begins, and working parents have the relief of not having to worry about summer holiday childcare, another problem can rear its ugly head. Yes, a new school year plus a turn in the weather means that children get exposed to a new round of germs and bugs.

As well as the upset of seeing children unwell, this can present an added dilemma to working parents: how to balance care of a sick child unable to go to school or nursery, with their professional responsibilities.

There are no winners in such a situation. Loyal staff are bound to feel bad about missing work or perform below par due to worry, so your business could suffer one way or another.

Strong, sympathetic and non-discriminatory policies are likely to help business in the long run. As well as compassion there are some statutory allowances that should be incorporated into your plans – parents are now entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for all children under the age of 18, as well as the usual holiday and sickness allowances. Giving the opportunity to work from home could be sensible. You balance removing some of the worry and hassle from the parent whilst still allowing for work to be done.

Whatever you do, make sure policies do not discriminate against non-parents. For professional help getting all the subtleties right, contact your local HR Dept.

Ashley Madison embarrassment

The well-documented Ashley Madison data dump has caused excruciating embarrassment to millions of people. But will it damage the reputation of employers too?

Of the 33 million leaked records, large numbers featured work email addresses –15,000 alone are alleged to have contained .mil or .gov, indicating military/government addresses. What could you do if you discovered some of your proprietary email addresses have been caught up in this mess?

It comes down to your electronic communication, I.T. and social media policies. With well-constructed policies, you may well be able to classify the activity as misconduct/gross misconduct for bringing the company into disrepute, and instigate disciplinary procedures. Without them, you will have to rely on case law.

A clear example of the merits of having such policies. Call us for assistance in appropriate drafting.

Fit for Work 

The Government has now extended the ‘Fit for Work’ programme across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales.

GPs and employers are henceforth able to refer employees, who’ve been absent for four weeks plus for an occupational assessment, with the consent of the employee and in line with ‘Access to Medical Records” regulations. The overarching aim of this programme is to help people get back into work, reducing your sick pay!

How does it work, and how will it affect you and your business?  We’ve put together all the information that you need and condensed it here into one handy article, please take a look.

If you’d like some further guidance on Fit for Work please do get in touch.

The Rugby World Cup   

The Rugby World Cup kicks off soon and excitement is mounting around the country. But with games scheduled during office hours, what does it mean for business? Some of Rugby’s brightest stars have behaved terribly in the last 12 months and have been shown no leniency by management in squad selections. How are you planning to tackle skivers? Will you take a hard line or try to reach an accommodation?

Research on the subject indicated that 41% of professionals are planning to watch a match during work hours (rising to 49% among managers!). Meanwhile only 6% of employees have booked time off. A bit of a discrepancy there! Sheer weight of numbers suggests it might be prudent to accommodate staff where possible, rather than sending them to the sin bin. Of course, your planning will have to take your circumstances into account. It won’t do to have frontline staff disappearing en masse, but for others, where there is room for flexibility, you could devise some creative tactics: e.g. offering late lunch breaks and/or screening games on your premises. If the latter, though, it is important to be sensitive to those who may not want to hear endless National Rugby chants echoing round the walls.

The Rugby World Cup could also present a useful opportunity to do some team building of your own. The same research suggested that 82% of staff believe sporting events are a good way to bond with other staff – regardless of how much they are into the sport. So how about a sweepstake or rugby themed day to bring colleagues together? A lot of games happen to fall on weekends so another idea is to organise a social event to watch some of the big ones.

Whatever you decide, just like your on-field counterparts, it makes sense to have a game plan. And if you end up having to dish out some yellow or red cards, don’t forget The HR Dept is just a phone call away to help you deal with foul play.

Gone to lunch

Do you or your employees have a lunch break to speak of? If the answer is “No” you are not alone. Apparently, the average lunch hour now only lasts about 26 minutes, and almost half of workers take less than 20 minutes (at their desks). Making such sacrifice equates to losing 19 days’ pay a year. The motivation is obviously to get more done – not enough hours in the day and all that – but is it a false economy? Do the costs outweigh the extra time gained?

There are undoubted benefits to taking the time to have a decent lunch break. Experts say that eating the right foods like oily fish, whole grains and avocado can boost afternoon brainpower, while some downtime away from a desk helps to sustain concentration. Worth reflecting on next time you consider your office culture.

Prioritising payroll

A recent survey suggested it would not just be HMRC you have on your back if you get payroll wrong. The study found that 51% of workers would lose faith in their employers after just one payroll error. And more than one third of respondents went as far as to say they would look for another job! Wow! It’s a touchy subject. And with more regulation coming in – such as the new Living Wage requirements – it’s one that is becoming harder to get right.

In fact, the Living Wage (and its knock-on effects up the pay chain) is set to put costing pressures on many sectors like care homes before they even get round to the mechanics of payroll. With so much at stake, The HR Dept has put together a cost-effective payroll solution specifically for SMEs. So, if your payroll is putting you between a rock and a hard place, call us today.

And don’t forget to prepare for updates to the National Minimum Wage coming next month. See The Indicator article for more information.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter August 2015

Wave goodbye to holiday request slips… forever

Is your desk getting packed out with holiday request slips while your staff are packing their bags to go away? Spending time cross-referencing a calendar to manage holiday conflicts, instead of checking when you can go away yourself?

You need to get tooled up!We are sure you’ve already noticed, but the whole world is going digital. And HR is no exception. With HR Toolkit, all the trappings of manual holiday management become a thing of the past, because it handles and manages all the requests automatically.

And it is not just holiday requests that it looks after for you. It also takes care of absence management, HR document management, HR reports, employee hours and task management.

In the Summer Budget the government prioritised improving the nation’s productivity as key to a strong economy. Just think how much more you could get done if you had HR Toolkit at your fingertips.

In the new digital world we look back on somethings with nostalgia. Some have passion for vinyl records. Vintage fashion is popular in certain circles. It was reported recently that when The Times newspaper moved into its new offices in the Baby Shard at London Bridge, they set up large speakers to play background noise of chattering typewriters. The idea was to recreate the sense of urgency that existed in newsrooms of a bygone era.

Something tells us that if you switch to HR Toolkit, you will not be longing for a return to the old ways so much! Call us today to find out more or watch the demonstration video.

SMEs animated!

We were delighted to see such a buoyant and lively SME sector when the results of our 2015 survey arrived: recruitment on the up and pay rising, whilst companies planning to make redundancies almost halved on last year’s figures!

As well as being personal success stories of you our clients, it is also great news for the UK. It is widely recognised that SMEs are the engine of GDP growth. So to see such a positive scene is good all round.

This year, we have produced an animation of all the results so they can be easily understood and shared. Check it out here, and if you know of any companies that could do with some help with their HR, please do share it with them so they can see what we do.

Social media sackings

Social media has provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with customers. But true to the principles of Yin and Yang it also has a darker side: From viral complaint horror-stories to the staggering amount of time wasted by staff – in America it has been suggested that it costs their economy $300 Billion annually. And then there are the inappropriate employee tweets that lead to bad publicity and P45s. Let’s take a look at this rogues’ gallery. Hashtag: selfdestruct.

  1. Welsh Councils sacked three employees after inappropriate use of social media last year. The sackings concerned offences such as posting a confidential memo, and tweeting inappropriate comments about customers.
  2. This one may well take the world record for the fastest ever sacking – before the employee had even started her first shift! In a tweet too laden with profanity to repeat, Cella expressed her lack of enthusiasm for starting work in a Pizzeria. Her new boss saw the tweet and even took to Twitter himself to sack her!
  3. Third up and we have the ex Major League Baseball player turned radio presenter Mike Bacsik. He was fired from his radio station after venting his frustration at a ball game with a horribly racist tweet aimed at the Hispanic community in San Antonio.
  4. What is it about pizza, Twitter, bad language and sackings? Because another American pizzeria worker was dismissed after using colourful language to describe his new uniform on Twitter. He thought he was tweeting incognito but they found him out and showed no mercy.
  5. Finally, something a little bit different concerning the demise of HMV: with the company in administration and mass redundancies taking place, it was overlooked that some of the unfortunate and peeved staff members still had access to the company Twitter account. The subsequent hijacking and live tweeting of events should be a warning to all business managers.

The first line of defence against social media misbehaviour is to have robust policies in place. For help with this speak to The HR Dept.

Just give her a glass of water! 

Too often, people hide behind ‘health and safety’ to avoid making a decision: sometimes, even, when it seems easier to just get on with it. This really happened: A lady fainted in a shop. Staff rushed to her rescue, getting her into a comfy chair to recover. Good!

However, when she requested a glass of water, she was told “No! Sorry we can’t because of health and safety.” Really? Of course not! The HSE were as baffled as the onlookers when informed. Call The HR Dept for common sense health and safety advice.

The summer budget and your business

The Chancellor pulled one or two rabbits from the hat when he delivered his Summer Budget. But how soft and fluffy will they prove to be for SMEs like yours?

The biggest headline was the introduction of the Living Wage: predicted to hit £9 an hour in 2020 – equivalent to a cumulative annual pay-rise of 6% from the current Minimum Wage. Some businesses, particularly in retail, have expressed concern. Meanwhile IKEA, admittedly a big beast, has committed to paying above the new Living Wage.

The CIPD emphasises that improved productivity will be key to avoiding job losses. To this end, their wish list includes enhancing SME management skills, protecting the adult skills budget and championing sector-based industrial partnerships. News better received by SMEs was that Corporation Tax would be reduced from 20% to 18% by 2020.

Striking changes

You can’t have missed the news about the consultation on a reform of strike balloting laws. It caused quite a storm. The government has published the draft Trade Union Bill, along with three separate consultation documents on ballot thresholds in important public serviceshiring agency staff during industrial action and tackling intimidation of non-striking workers.

The main proposals are:

  • Industrial action will require a 50% turnout
  • 40% of all eligible voters must vote in favour of industrial action which affects important public services
  • The ban on using agency staff to cover striking workers will be lifted
  • There’ll be a four month limit on strike mandates, after which another ballot is required (excludes ballots prior to the Act)
  • More specific requirements for ballot paper wording
  • Banning automatic opt-ins to political donations from trade union subscription fees
  • Strike notice periods for employers will be increased from 7 to 14 days

The consultations are open until 9 September 2015.