Working From Home – The New Norm

scrabble-4958234_640For many businesses the Coronavirus pandemic has forced a home working scenario and has allowed them the chance to see just how it works.  Many have discovered that actually, it’s OK and there is no imminent hurry to get people back into the workplace. In fact, some businesses will now change their way of working entirely, for others, working from home may not be the first choice but they have now seen first hand that it can be done, and may be far more open the idea of a flexible workforce.

When the Prime Minister announced that employees should work from home, many businesses were unprepared. Employees adapted to make-shift work spaces, employers quickly learned the art of Zoom calls and the country found a new working norm, balanced around child care and home schooling for some, and isolation for others.  Now the dust has settled, employers can evaluate properly and start to put planning and measures in place to make working from home a safe and viable option.

What Should Employers Consider?

  • Health & Safety

An employer has the same health and safety obligations to home workers as they do to those in the workplace. An employer will need to ensure that an employee’s home is suitable for homeworking, free of hazards and has enough space. They should arrange for a health and safety inspection at the employee’s home (with their consent) to assess the work environment, activities and equipment.

  • Workspace

The creation of a viable work station which is likely to include the following

  • PC or laptop at a proper height
  • Decent chair with adjustable height and support for the lower back
  • Good lighting
  • Internet service with a good speed
  • Insurance

Both an employer’s insurance and an employee’s individual home insurance should be checked to see that they cover home working. An employee must inform their insurer otherwise it could invalidate a claim. The mortgage company should also be contacted to check for any restrictions or conditions.

  • Data Protection

This is a key consideration and staff working from home should refer closely to the company’s data protection policy. Here is some further guidance https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/working-from-home/how-do-i-work-from-home-securely/

  • Working from home policy

It is a good idea to have a formal policy on home working. This agreement between employer and employee clearly defines the expectations and responsibilities for employees who work from home. It may also define who is eligible to work from home, the process for requesting to work from home, as well as the approval process.

Managing People Effectively

Things can feel very different when managing those working from home as our current/recent experiences during the pandemic have shown. There are many areas to think about to ensure that working from home works well for the employee and business alike.

  • Communication

Regular communication is key and should take different forms. Team meetings serve to enhance the team relationship as well as practically enabling the business to measure the team’s performance. Managers should have “one to ones” with employees too which give an opportunity to check in on their mental well-being. Remember to give home workers opportunity to express their opinions, input suggestions and be kept up to date with relevant information on the company.

  • Clear, Achievable, Measurable Objectives

Those working from home may take a while to adjust to a new way of working. It is important when managing people that there is an element of trust given to the employee who may feel a need to “prove” what they are doing as they are not visible in the same way as if they were in the workplace. The focus should be on output and employees should clearly understand what is expected of them. Defining targets with clear timescales and explaining quality and standards expected should help an employee stay on track.

  • Flexibility

It is easier for employers to show flexibility when the measures and output have been clearly defined and understood. Clear and honest conversations around expectations on both sides will really enhance the home working arrangement and increase its success.

  • Employee Health and Well-Being

Encourage employees to take regular breaks and move away from their work station, including  a lunch break and maybe a short walk. Provide opportunities for non-work related interaction with colleagues as it can be isolating working from home. This could be lunchtime quizzes or Friday virtual drinks. Opportunities for social events should include home workers.

Menopause and the Workplace

chilli-pepper-449_640 Did you know that 45% of women say their menopausal symptoms have had an impact on their work? Something for employers to think about.

Menopause is a fact of life.  It’s an unavoidable stage that all women go through. Put simply, the menopause is the process through which a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. However, this time in a woman’s life can be troublesome and approximately 2 million women aged over 50 have difficulties at work due to their menopause symptoms. It is also estimated that one in 20 women could go through an early menopause.

Typical Symptoms of the Menopause

·         Difficulty sleeping and night sweats ·         Feeling tired and lacking energy
·         Mood swings, Feeling anxious and panic attacks ·         Hot flushes
·         Struggling to remember things, concentrate and focus ·         Taking longer to recover from illness
·         Irregular periods which can become heavier ·         Aches and pains including muscle and joint stiffness
·         Urinary problems ·         Headaches including migraines
·         Putting on weight ·         Noticeable heartbeats
·         Skin irritation ·         Dry eyes

Support for Women Workers

It is important that employers understand the effects experienced by employees going through the menopause. Employees should be supported in the same way as they would with any other health condition. The subject should certainly not be taboo, as is often the case, and instead organisations should create a culture of openness and inclusion.

Awareness training for managers can provide the knowledge and tools needed to provide support to employees and give them the confidence to have conversations with their team in an informed and skilled manner.

Discrimination

Although the menopause isn’t specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010 it is important to remember that it is an equalities issue. As the menopause is a strictly female condition, any detrimental treatment of a woman related to the menopause could represent direct or indirect sex discrimination. Symptoms of the menopause may also qualify as a disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments or remove or reduce any disadvantage can risk a discrimination claim.

Possible Adjustments

  • Offering a fan
  • Relaxed dress code if worker is too hot
  • Reasonable breaks when needed
  • Easy access to toilets
  • Flexible start and end times
  • Home working if practical
  • Adjust duties or move worker to a more suitable role
  • Allow a part time or job share

Some organisations may decide to have Menopause policy. If not a separate stand-alone policy, it is certainly an idea to include this within another wellbeing or health policy.

Further information can be found by clicking on the following links:

https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause/people-manager-guidance

https://archive.acas.org.uk/menopause

An Employee Has Been Asked to Complete Jury Service – Do I Have to Agree?

hammer-620011_640 (1)Put simply, yes. An employer must allow the time off unless there is a really strong business reason not to. In this case the employee can apply for a delay and if agreed jury service may be deferred but only once in a 12 month period.

Who Can Be Called for Jury Service?

Jury service is a public duty, and anyone on the electoral register aged between 18 and 70 can be selected.

How Long Does Jury Service Last?

On average jury service will last 10 days but can be longer or shorter depending on the case.

Do I Need to Pay an Employee on Jury Service?

No, an employee can claim back certain costs through the court, such as loss of earnings, travel costs and a subsistence rate during jury service. Many employers decide to pay their employees on Jury Service or top up their loss of earnings allowance. Employees will still accrue holiday whilst they are on Jury Service.

Can I Contact an Employee Whilst They Are on Jury Service?

You can make arrangements with employees to either contact them or for them to come into work if feasible when they are not required in court.

The Rights of An Employee on Jury Service

An employee cannot be discriminated against for going on jury service. They also have the right not to be selected for redundancy, where the reason is connected to their jury service.

 

Written Statement of Employment

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An important change comes into place on 6th April 2020. Employers must provide a “Statement of Employment” on the first day of employment (or before this) and the information must be captured in a single principal statement/document.

The statement must include:
  • The days of the week a person is required to work and whether working hours or days may be variable, with details of how they may vary.
  • Any entitlement to paid leave (including maternity and paternity)
  • Any other remuneration or benefits provided by the employer
  • Probationary period (conditions and duration)
  • Training provided by the employer which a worker is required to complete plus any other required training not paid for by the employer
  • Notice period on either side
  • Terms regarding absence and sick pay
  • Duration of temporary of fixed term work and terms around this
  • Terms related to work outside the UK for a period of more than a month

Important to note – this change applies to both employees and workers, therefore the first consideration for employers is to identify who is a “worker” and then make sure the organisation is capturing everyone falling under the “worker” definition.

For more info on worker status https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/worker

Current Employees
There is no requirement for existing employees to be given the statement, however an “existing employee” can request a statement on or after 6 April 2020 at any time up to three months after the end of their employment

 Time Off at Christmas

santa-claus-1819933_640It’s that time of year – people are thinking of presents and parties and time off. As an employer, how do you handle annual leave and bank holidays around the Christmas Period?

First some facts…

  • For both full time and part time workers, if Bank Holidays or days off over the Christmas period are not included in their entitlement then they don’t have to be allowed time off.
  • If a workplace shuts down at Christmas, employees can be asked to take their annual leave on these dates. An employer should tell employees this at least twice as many days before the amount of days they need to take, however we would strongly advise that you give as much notice as possible.
  • Employees on Sick, Maternity, Paternity, Adoption or Shared Parental Leave will still build up paid days off for bank holidays.

Now the Practical Bit – Managing a Fair Process.

There are some steps you can take to make booking annual leave at Christmas as painless as possible. Planning ahead will help, so consider some of the following:

  • Work out minimum staffing requirement over Christmas and New Year period so that if you get lots of requests you may be able to accommodate most of them.
  • Ask for all annual leave requests to be in by a certain date and then look at the requirement as a whole, rather than working on a “first come first served basis.” This is likely to be fairer and employees will see that you are trying to take a measured approach.
  • Ask for volunteers! Christmas isn’t everyone’s favourite time of year and you may find there are people who are more than happy to work over the Christmas period.
  • Where there is a clash of requirement think about some compromise, maybe people can request either Christmas or New Year, or those who get priority this year won’t get it next year, or those who didn’t get to choose Christmas get the first choice of summer holiday dates.
  • Consider whether the business could shut down at Christmas and either ask employees to use their annual leave for this or give extra days that do not come out of the employee allowance.

Hopefully with a bit of planning there won’t be any hiccups and everyone will know where they stand.
snowman-1882635_640

IR35 – Is Your Business Ready for the Changes?

Untitled designWhat is IR35?

This a piece of UK tax legislation which originally came into effect in 2000. It was designed to tackle the problem of organisations engaging workers on a self-employed basis i.e. as a contractor or freelancer (usually through an intermediary) instead of on an employment contract. Engaging a worker in this way effectively saves the organisation money as they do no pay National Insurance Contributions, nor do they employment rights or benefits. The benefit to the workers engaged in this way is tax efficiency.

How Does IR35 Work Currently?

In the public sector, the organisation a contractor works for must determine whether IR35 applies to a contractor and, if it does they must add the contractor onto their payroll and deduct income tax and National Insurance before paying the contractor.

Currently in the private sector however, it is the contractors responsibility to ensure they make an extra payment to compensate for the additional tax and insurance that HMRC would have received on an equivalent employees wages. The contractor is required by IR35 to do this.

What Will Change?

In April 2020 the rules around IR35 will be reformed within the private sector and will require medium and large-sized business to determine whether a contractor falls inside or outside of IR35.

Determining IR35

HRMC will look at the whole picture when determining whether a contractor falls within IR35 but key considerations will be whether:

  • a contractor needs to carry out the work personally, rather than being able to send substitute
  • an organisation has to provide the contractor with work, and/or does the contractor have to carry out any work that the organisation requests?
  • Does the organisation have control over how, when and where the contractor carries out the work?
  • How is the contractor paid – fixed price, or by the time period?
  • Does the contractor receive any ’employee’ type benefits from the organisation?

Here is some further guidance on determining IR35 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-employment-status-for-tax

How Can My Organisation Prepare for the Changes?

  • Firstly, identify who within your workforce supplies their services through a personal services company. They could also be a partnership, a managed service company, or an individual.
  • Review your terms of engagement with these suppliers ensuring they are clear and accurately reflect the true status.
  • Consider the services delivered and decide whether to offer contractors an appropriate form of employment contract instead

What About Small Businesses?

Small businesses are excluded from the new rules. To qualify as a small company a business must meet at least two of these three qualifying conditions:

  • turnover of £10.2m or less;
  • £5.1m or less on its balance sheet; or
  • 50 employees or less.

Have You Considered Offering an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship Post It

There are many great reasons to employ an apprentice – increased business productivity, building skills capacity within the business, saving on recruitment costs to name but a few. Apprentices are normally very motivated and have a loyalty to the business that has invested in them.

Apprentices are aged 16 or over and combine working within your organisation with studying to gain skills and knowledge in a specific job.

Things to Consider

Apprentices can be new or current employees. They must be paid at least the minimum wage (currently £3.70 per hour.) Apprentices must work with experienced staff, learn job-specific skills and study during their working week i.e. at college or a training organisation.

Apprenticeships must last for at least a year but can last up to 5 years depending on the level the apprentice is studying.

So, what about funding?

An employer is able to get help from the government to pay for some of the apprenticeship training. How much you get will depend on whether or not you pay the apprenticeship levy. Employers with a pay bill of over £3 million each year will need to pay the levy.

Where can I find out more?

Visit https://www.gov.uk/take-on-an-apprentice to get further information.

Employee Leave

Employee AbsenceThe Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act  is expected to come into force in 2020. Under the act, employed parents who lose a child under aged 18 will receive 2 weeks’ paid leave.

Below, we take a look at a number of other Employee Leave types, and how they work.

Annual Leave

Otherwise known as statutory leave, all full-time employees are entitled to 20 days paid holiday. In addition, all employees are entitled to the 8 public holidays (see below.)

Shared Parental Leave

Employees who are having a baby or adopting a child are entitled to shared parental leave. Any maternity leave the mother is entitled to must have ended first. Employees can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.

Maternity Leave

All pregnant women are entitled to unto 52 weeks maternity leave, although they do not need to take all of this. The first two weeks are compulsory, and an employee must give 15 weeks notice before the due date. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is 39 weeks.

Paternity Leave

Men expecting to become fathers or whose partner is adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement are eligible for paternity leave which can be one or two weeks. The weeks can be taken together or separately and must be taken within 56 days of the birth.

Adoption Leave

Consists of 26 weeks of ordinary paid leave entitlement and 26 weeks of additional leave. The leave can only be taken by one person. Paid time off can also be given to the employee for up to five appointments to meet with the child after being matched. Paid leave entitlement for adoption can start up to 14 days before the child starts living with the employee (for UK adoptions), on the day of arrival in the UK (for overseas adoption) or within 28 days of the arrival.

Sick Leave

An employee is entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) after 4 or more days sick, up to 28 days.  There is no entitlement to sick pay for the first 3 days.  An employer can choose to pay contractual sick pay, it can’t be less than SSP and the details must be in the contract. Employees need a fit note from a GP after 7 days off sick. The note should let the employer know if the employee is either ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’. Being ill just before or during annual leave means that the paid holiday can be replaced with sick leave.

Public Holidays 

Full time employees are entitled to 8 paid public holidays.  An employer can require an employee to work on a public holiday entirely at their discretion.  There is no automatic right for an employee to be given leave on a public holiday. However, if the employee is required to work on a public holiday, they must be entitled to take an alternative day as paid leave in accordance with the normal arrangements for booking annual leave.

Time Off for Dependents 

Employees should be able to take reasonable time off to deal with an emergency that involves a dependent of theirs. A dependent can be a member of the employee’s family (spouse, children, parent or grandchild) who requires full-time care. There are no limits on how many times you can take time off for organising care for dependents. You may want to talk to your employee if you think time off is affecting their work. There is no entitlement to paid time off for dependents.

Presenteeism

Presenteeism 

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the average number of sick days taken by UK workers fell to 4.1 days in 2017. This is a significant reduction from the average of 7.2 days in 1993 when the data was first collected.  At first glance this could be viewed as positive news for businesses, ACAS suggests that sickness absence costs the UK economy £17 billion a year.  

However, how much of this decrease is explained by employees coming into work when they are unwell?  

A recent Work Foundation report has found that “presenteeism”, or sickness presence, could account for as much if not more of a loss in productivity than sickness absence. Increased presenteeism can be linked to stress, anxiety and depression. A 2018 CIPD/Simplyhealth survey showed that Presenteeism has almost trebled since 2010. A thousand participants responded to the survey which revealed that 86% had observed employees in their organisation coming into work unwell over the past 12 months. 

Rachel Suff, Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the CIPD, said
 “In order to encourage a healthy workplace, organisations need to look beyond sickness absence rates alone and develop a solid, evidence-based understanding of the underlying causes of work-related stress and unhealthy behaviour like presenteeism. Without this evidence base, efforts to support employees and improve their health and well-being will be short-lived.” 

What Can My Organisation Do To keep Control of Presenteeism? 

1) Encourage a culture that encourages good attendance when people are well but expects unwell employees to stay at home and recover. Those in leadership roles can help this by setting a good example. 

2) Be supportive to employees returning to work after a period of sickness absence.

3) Develop a policy on both absenteeism and presenteeism and make sure everyone in the organisation is aware of it.

4) Be aware of the signs of stress and mental health in particular and ensure managers are trained and supported in this regard. Colleagues can also be encouraged to look out for each other and spot any warning signs.

5) Introduce a technology such as absence management software that can help organisations spot trends,and uncover underlying health issues such as stress. 

 

Staff Appraisals

Appraisal

Most organisations have an employee appraisal system of some kind. Appraisals are a great way of getting a dialogue going between employee and manager. A diarised time gives an employee opportunity to be able to talk about their achievements, identify training needs, make suggestions and listen to feedback from their manager. Previous goals and targets can be reviewed and new objectives set.  It is important that employees are given some time to prepare and that if an appraisal meeting is cancelled for some reason, it gets rescheduled promptly and goes ahead. 

How often should appraisals happen? 

Appraisals are often undertaken annually and this is reasonable timeframe. Whilst the annual appraisal provides a formal time to have a discussion, this shouldn’t be the only opportunity for an employee and manager to get together and regular catch ups are a good way of aiding communication and offering a manager important insight into how the organisation is functioning. 

Don’t wait for an appraisal to share positive feedback – it is motivating for employees to hear when things are going well and shorter weekly catch ups for example are a good time to give brief positive feedback. The same applies for negative feedback –  performance issues these should be addressed promptly as they arise.  

Who should carry out an appraisal? 

Line managers most commonly carry out staff appraisals. It is important that any staff conducting appraisals are confident to do so and have received adequate advice, support and, where necessary, training. 

Some organisations use other forms of appraisal such as “bottom up” where employees colleagues give feedback, or 360-degree appraisals where feedback comes from a variety of individuals such as customers, colleagues, managers and suppliers. This gives a comprehensive view of performance but is obviously a more time-consuming process.  

Preparing for an Appraisal Meeting 

  • Set aside proper uninterrupted time and ensure an employee has been given adequate time to prepare and think about what they want to say.   
  • To help you both, it is useful to have an appraisal form or template for an employee to complete prior to the meeting   
  • Put an employee at ease and use some positive comments to open the discussion 
  • Listen carefully to what employees have to say – this is their time.  
  • Highlight achievements and set goals based on these strengths. 
  • Where goals are set, ensure they can be monitored and measured and that your employee is clear about goals are to be achieved. 
  • Use an appraisal form or template and ensure that employee gets a completed copy following the appraisal and an opportunity to add their own comments 

Are appraisals necessary in a small organisation? 

The benefits of an appraisal system apply to any sized organisation. Small businesses should not be overly burdened by the appraisal process, and a simple procedure put in place will be effective and add value. 

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