INSIGHTS

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HR Surgery: What’s The Ideal Notice Period?

A client asked me recently what the ideal notice period is. In truth, that is a question to which there is no one ‘right’ answer. Most businesses have varying notice periods based on the job role, industry type and level within the organisation.

Finding the right notice period for your business needs to be a considered choice which you should review as your business grows:

Your Legal Requirement

If an employee has been with you continuously from one month up to 2 years – the minimum statutory notice period is one week. This goes up to two weeks’ notice if the employee has been employed continuously for two years. After that, with every additional year of continuous employment they are entitled to an additional week’s notice up to a maximum of 12 weeks. In return, employees must give you a minimum of one week’s notice once they have worked for one month and this minimum notice is unaffected by length of service.

However You Can Enhance The Statutory Minimum In Your Contracts Of Employment

When you have a specific notice in place, above the statutory minimum, it’s typical to expect employees who have resigned to work their full notice period, otherwise why would you enhance it?! But getting the balance right when it comes to notice periods is not always straight forward.

My advice? Start at the top – and go from there: 

Consider Your More Senior/‘Specialist’ Roles First

In these cases you need to balance what is right for the employee and what is reasonable for your business when considering how long it will take you to find somebody else, for them to join the business and complete a thorough handover. In these situations, you would typically have an enhanced notice period of 1-3 months.  Potential employees looking for a senior role may expect to see a lengthier notice period as part of their terms and conditions but don’t be tempted to negotiate.  Putting a longer notice period in place when you know you will need an individual to leave swiftly if things go awry (for example if they have a client facing role) could see you having to continue to pay an employee who is on Garden Leave and potentially delivering you nothing. That said, more senior individuals or those where there is a limited number of roles in their given area of expertise may look for longer notice periods as part of their job security.

For other roles that are ‘easier’ to source or where there isn’t a skills shortage you are likely to still want to enhance notice period from the statutory minimum to 1 month (or 4 weeks) to allow you enough time to source a replacement.

But What Happens If You Are Faced With The Dreaded Scenario Of Parting Company With An Employee On Less Than Good Terms?

There are definitely steps you can take in situations when there is animosity and/or you need an employee to exit the business sooner rather than later. 

1. Payment In Lieu

As an alternative to an employee working their notice you can pay them in lieu of notice but, you should include a clause in your employment contracts to state that you retain the right to do this.  It’s important to remember that payment in lieu of notice (or PILON as it’s more typically known) is different to putting an employee on garden leave, in this situation you continue to pay the employee up until the end of their notice period but you don’t require them to be on site, with PILON you pay them their notice in advance and cease their employment prior to the end of their contractual notice period. 

2. Including Holiday Entitlement In Their Notice Period

Another way to reduce an employee’s notice period if you would like them to exit early (they will have to be in agreement) is to offset it against any outstanding leave. For example, if they have 2 weeks’ holiday outstanding and they have a 4 week notice period they can work for 2 weeks and then be holiday of the remaining 2 days.

You will of course always come across those individuals who resign, agree to work their notice and then go AWOL – yes it does happen and I have seen it countless times – unfortunately in these circumstances there isn’t a lot that you can do (unless you want to endure a lengthy and costly legal fight)

Whatever you decide to do make sure you put it in writing (especially if you reach a mutual agreement with an employee where they want to leave before the end of their contractual notice period, for example to start a new job, and you agree to this) whatever the situation.

Lastly, Can You Ever Reject A Resignation?!

Just to clarify to those managers who really don’t want to lose an employee……. no – you can’t refuse to accept a resignation if its given! An employee can choose to resign at any time and you should have a process in place which allows you to have open dialogue to allow you to understand what has brought them to this point. Knowledge is power after all and if there are any underlying reasons why an employee is exiting they are normally only too happy to voice this to you before they exit the business. That said, don’t take everything to heart, employees tend to leave businesses either feeling nostalgic about their time and taking a glass half full approach or taking a glass half empty approach…..take feedback seriously but be pragmatic about what you can change and what you can’t.

Get in touch via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 for more support and advice on contractual notice periods.

TheHRhub: on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs

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Look To The Future: Key Employment Law Changes Coming Up In 2017

There are a few things that you can guarantee in life. Death, taxes, and employment law changes. As we make our way further into the new year, it’s essential that as a business owner, you know exactly what’s coming, and how to prepare for it.

Do you think that you can just hope for the best and plead ignorance if you’re caught out? Well let’s be honest, you don’t really believe that’s an option!

You need to be compliant, and we’re here to help you. Let’s take a look at the changes that you need to pencil in your diary for 2017…

Gender pay gap reporting

For the first time, private sector, public sector, and voluntary sector employers with 250+ members of staff will be required to publish information relating to the gender pay gap, and how they are performing in terms of driving forward equality.

At the moment, the exact requirements are still being drafted, though it’s expected that the deadline for the first report will be 4th April 2018, based on data from 2016/2017. We’ll release more guidance on this once it’s available.

Changes to regulations surrounding employment of foreign workers

From April 2017, employers sponsoring foreign workers with a tier 2 visa will have to pay an immigration skills charge of £1,000 per worker. This will be reduced to £364 for small employers and charities.

In addition to this, the minimum annual salary threshold for ‘experienced workers’ applying for a tier 2 visa will be increased to £30,000. If you employ foreign workers, or plan to open up your recruitment channels in the near future you need to make sure you’re compliant.

National minimum wage and living wage changes to be aligned

The dates for changes to national minimum wage and national minimum wage will be brought into alignment, so the good news here is that there are less dates to keep track of!

From April 2017, the national living wage for staff aged 25 or over will increase to £7.50 per hour.

Changes to salary sacrifice schemes

If you are offering employees any salary sacrifice schemes you will need to review these as many salary-sacrifice schemes will be abolished from 6 April 2017.

Schemes related to pension savings (including pensions advice), childcare, cycle-to-work and ultra-low emission cars will not be affected.  Schemes in place prior to April 2017 will be protected until April 2018, while arrangements related to cars, accommodation and school fees will be protected until April 2021.

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

Although GDPR does not come into force until May 2018, the scope of the changes under the new Regulation means that preparing for the GDPR will be high priority for employers in 2017, even for those in small businesses.

Even organisations that have robust processes in place need to assess their systems, policies and procedures, as GDPR draws closer. This Regulation applies to all processing of personal data, from collection, through to storage, distribution, retention and protection of data, security and cross-border data transfer.

As the GDPR will come into effect before the UK exits the EU, organisations that are not compliant by May 2018 risk fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is higher.

Apprenticeship levy introduced

The apprenticeship levy is being introduced on 6th April 2017 but employers with a paybill of £3 million or less will not be liable to pay it.  Those not liable to pay the levy will be able to receive government funding towards the costs of apprenticeship training and assessment.

All things considered, there’s plenty to think about in 2017, and plenty that you need to plan for. And of course, there’s the tricky issue of Brexit…

There’s still a grey area over what we should really expect, though things are likely to become clearer in the coming months. As always, make sure that you keep an eye on our updates for practical, no-nonsense guidance on what you really need to know.

If you need help ensuring that you’re compliant with the upcoming and changes and legislation we can help.

Get in touch via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to chat about your HR needs.

TheHRhub: on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs

I Quit! Different Ways Your Employees Will Say Goodbye (And What They Each Mean)

You simply can’t avoid it, employees often quit their job, it’s simply the circle of life. Resignations can range from euphoric to being full of anguish and there’s no real way to prepare for how an employee – or you – will feel when they take that first step of handing in their resignation.

Evidently, however, there is an underlying classification system to the way employees resign from their jobs and it’s a system that has remained in the fog until relatively recently.

Researchers, Anthony Klotz and Mark Bolino, set out to map the way in which employees resign from their jobs by interviewing several hundred individuals. In their report the authors found that employees typically use 1 of 7 different styles when resigning and it found that the 2 most common resignation styles were what they refer to as ‘by the book’ and ‘perfunctory’ resignations.

If you’ve been employing people for a while now, you may recognise some of these types below. But if you’ve yet to be on the receiving end, then here are the 7 ways found by Kiotz and Bolino, to help prepare you you for what you might be on the receiving end of….. 

  1. By the book
    By the book resignations involve a face-to-face meeting with one’s manager to announce the resignation, a standard notice period, and an explanation of the reason for quitting. Other names
  2. Grateful
    A discussion which focuses on the employee’s gratitude towards you, their employer (imagine a euphoric resignation where an employee is happily reflective of their employment with you). Sometimes you have to leave a job that you like to progress- or at least a team or boss that you’ve enjoyed working with – and in these cases, people want to make the process as painless as possible. This is what the researchers are calling the “Grateful Goodbyes” method, which 9% of job quitters use when leaving their position. It’s a positive and grateful way of bowing out, helping your old team deal with the loss and maintaining good relations in the future.
  3. In the loop
    The employee has already told you that they were thinking of leaving. Similar to Grateful Goodbyes, those “In the Loop,” are where you are aware that an employee will soon be leaving as they’ve shared the information first hand out of respect to you. Perhaps the employee is looking to switch career tracks, or is going on to further training — either way, you know that the individual isn’t going to stick around, and are therefore are prepared for the resignation. This occurs in 8% of cases.
  4. Perfunctory
    Similar to ‘by the book’, but the discussion is shorter and no explanation is given. You know the ones: you walk in and find a letter on your desk and despite asking, as an employer you never get a true sense of why the person is resigning. This means employees follow the basic framework of the “By the Book” method, but do so very carefully with an almost surgical precision, and do not elaborate as to why they made the decision to quit. I also call it the “It’s-not-you, it’s-me” way of quitting a job. And we all know what that really means….
  5. Avoidant
    The employee resigns in writing, tells your HR Manager and allows the words to filter back to you. The “Avoidant” method is the most passive-aggressive way of resigning and is essentially like breaking up with your partner over text message. Employees send in their notice or resignation through HR or a third party, maybe even over the weekend, and then avoid seeing you and/or the wider team. Nobody likes an awkward breakup, and avoiding the other party can make it easier — though it’s a bit of a cop out.
  6. Impulsive
    In this situation, the employee walks out without notice, forethought or explanation. Have you ever been pushed too far and just snapped? In 4% of cases surveyed, the researchers found people have simply had enough, blow their fuse and walk out. Typically, it’s the result of some long-simmering frustrations or underlying tension that finally reached a boiling point. There’s no notice, simply a few choice words from the employee (normally at a high volume), shortly followed by them storming out of the office! Having seen several people ‘quit’ in this fashion, only to them return sheepishly (or in some cases, still indignantly!) the following morning – be cautious about accepting whether this is genuinely a ‘resignation’, which normally needs to be in writing ( emails are fine).
  7. Bridge burning
    This is the worst-case scenario. In these situations, the employee attempts to harm your, the staff or the company’s reputation as they exit the business. Though similar to impulsive quitting, “Bridge Burning” is less explosive, but every bit as dangerous. Be very cautious when you have an employee who exits the business in this manner, with tools such as Glassdoor at the tip of their fingertips your reputation can be tainted within a matter of minutes of an employee leaving.

In my experience, a 8th one could also be added, which could be summarised as ‘Ghosting’: one day they’re there and the next they don’t turn up, don’t answer calls and you don’t see hide nor hair of them until you spot a Facebook post of them looking happy with their new team many months later….

If you’re need some help with ensuring that your business is fighting fit for the year ahead, then get in touch via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to chat about your HR needs.

TheHRhub: on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs

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Check Over Your HR Policies To Protect You & Your Employees This Christmas

The lead up to Christmas can be a bit of an HR minefield. Absence, sickness, expenses and office socialising are all potentially at their highest over the next few weeks. And you’d be wise to check over and circulate your HR policies now so everyone knows what is and is not acceptable in your organisation. Remember that in specifying the boundaries in your workplace you are protecting your employees as well as telling them where the line is….

But writing policies and procedures can be tricky in this day and age. You could spend hours writing and tweaking policies for your business – whatever its size. Online you will find a plethora of policy templates. As a small company though, you don’t necessarily need all of these. You should only put policies in place that are going to be used.  Having a policy for the sake of it is pointless!  Write policies which are meaningful and stand by them.

Legal Requirements

Surprisingly there are only 3 policies that are required by law.

These are:

Best Practice

There are also a number of policies that you should provide because they have legal minimum requirements.

These are:

Pay Legally you must pay your employees at least the National Minimum wage and ensure Equal Pay; you must also provide an itemised pay statement and not make any unauthorised deductions from employees pay
Equal Opportunities Legally you must not discriminate against staff or allow harassment and bullying and you must make reasonable adjustments for staff in the work-place if they are disabled
Working Hours and Overtime including rest-breaks and holidays Legally  you must comply with Working Time Regulations provisions for employees and workers
Sickness policy and unauthorised/authorised absence  Legally you must make statutory sick pay payments to employees and allow them time off for dependant emergencies, Jury Service etc.
Maternity, Adoption, Paternity Leave, Parental Leave and Shared Parental leave You must make statutory maternity / adoption / paternity payments to employees and give the appropriate leave
Flexible Working You must consider all employees flexible working requests

There are few other policies that you could consider to ensure consistency within your business. Policies that may well seem all the more relevant with Christmas round the corner: 

For example:

  • Personal e-mail / Internet Usage
  • Alcohol/Drugs In The Workplace
  • Dress Codes
  • Data Protection
  • Expenses
  • Smoking

There are no legal guidelines for these policies and they can be designed around the needs of your business. For example, no smoking (including e-cigarettes) other than during lunch hour.

Where Do I Start?

When it comes to writing policies copious content is not king.  There are millions of pages of policies & procedures rotting away completely unused in filing cabinets and shared network folders that will attest to this fact. Don’t get fooled into thinking that you need a policy for every eventuality – you don’t. And in fact, too many draconian policies can be restrictive to a small business that is growing.   

The types of policies that you need depend on your business type: If your employees operate heavy machinery then you should consider putting in a Drugs & Alcohol Usage Policy but if you are an accountancy firm then this policy is unlikely to be a priority for you.

It is essential to create realistic employment policies – and enforce them. Using a policy to pay lip service to health and safety or treating employees fairly is not enough. If the worst happens and a problem ends up in court or at an employment tribunal, you’ll need to be able to show that you put your company policies into practice.

Communication Is Key

Policies can be part of your employee/company handbook or you can set them out in a separate document. However, for your discipline and grievance policies, you must either set them out in a written statement of main terms and conditions of employment or refer in a written statement to a place where the employee can read them, such as the company intranet.

You should ensure that you make staff aware that your policies exist. The best time to do this is during the induction process (which doesn’t have to be a 3 day off site event but can be something as simple as a checklist to ensure that a new employee to your company has all the relevant information that they need). You should also make sure that employees can easily access policies if necessary, by having them pinned up on a noticeboard for example or, again, on the company intranet.

Contractual Or Not?

Policies generally aren’t contractually binding unless they expressly state otherwise.  However, the terms of some policies could be seen as contractually binding through custom and practice e.g. where employees follow certain working practices or receive certain benefits over a significant period of time. You need to  be conscious of this as ultimately it will be up to an Employment Tribunal to decide on the contractual nature of policies if a claim were ever to be brought against your company.

Never-Ending Updates

Policies are never finished and you must ensure that you regularly review your policies and procedures to ensure that they are up to date, reflect the needs of the business and reflect any legislative changes.

Effective Company Policies

Whatever your policies cover, you should follow 2 essential principles to make a company policy effective.

1 – Make sure any policy is clear

2 – Make sure that any policy is communicated to employees. Unless employees understand a policy it will not work.

You do not want to tie yourself or your managers up with too many rules as this will only prove to be restrictive to day to day operations.  Equally policies and procedures must be realistic, meaningful and be something that you and your management team are prepared to stand by. There is no point in stating that persistent lateness is a disciplinary offence and then not disciplining the one employee who is late every Monday morning. This type of approach will only lead employees to the conclusion that policies are meaningless, making them almost impossible for you to enforce.  

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HR Horrors: Negative Reviews On Glassdoor

For potential employees, Glassdoor seems a golden opportunity to get an insider view of what it’s really like to work at a particular organisation. But often it’s not the empowering ‘invisibility cloak’ it’s cracked to be. It can be a forum for disgruntled ex-employees with axes to grind to sound off about their previous employer, leaving the company’s hard earned reputation in tatters for the world to see. Or worse, it can be hijacked by employers posting false testimonies in order to rubbish the legitimate grievances of poorly-treated former colleagues.

It’s becoming increasingly important to know how to interact with the minefield that is Glassdoor , particularly when considering how or if to respond to negative reviews.

Here’s our advice:

1. Be transparent: If you do get challenged by a candidate about a negative comment that they’ve seen, simply explain why the comments are there. Perhaps there was a new management structure put in place which meant significant changes, for example. Be open and honest, being defensive will only look like you have something to hide.

2. Build on what you can control: Manage your business’ online presence. Asking for recommendations on your LinkedIn Company page is a good example. Determine the sites that are the most influential to your potential candidates and customers and focus on enhancing these sites by building on their content.

3. Respond to all reviews – positive or negative: Review sites give employers the opportunity to respond to reviews (on Glassdoor you can have an employer profile for free). The value of this opportunity shouldn’t be underestimated. If you receive a negative review, respond as quickly as you can. Job seekers will not only be reading the reviews, they’ll be looking to see how businesses respond to these reviews. Responding promptly and politely will show you care about the opinions of your employees; and this can go a long way to minimizing the impact of a negative review.

4. Don’t lash out: If you’re considering working for a company, and you see a negative review, which approach from the business would make you more confident? a) them getting defensive and listing all of the reasons why the ex-employee is wrong or b)  them being human, empathetic and apologetic. The answer might seem obvious when we look at it from that perspective, which is what makes it amazing to see how many companies will lash out as a first reaction.

5. Take the issue offline: As much as possible, try not to engage in discussions of details; the last thing you want is to air your dirty laundry online, or get into a “he said, she said” situation. Respond in a non-defensive way that shows you’re listening, and whenever possible, take the conversation offline as quickly as possible.  For instance, rather than specifically addressing negative remarks, you could say, “Thank you for your valuable feedback. I would love the opportunity to talk with you about your experience in detail. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.

6. DO NOT try to prohibit bad reviews: As the importance of online reviews has risen in recent years, so too have reports of small business owners going to extreme measures to stop customers leaving negative reviews of their company online. Let’s be clear, it is a bad idea to try and influence what your employees post on these sites (other than by being a good employer!) and if there are issues that are leading to negative reviews you would be wiser to spend your time addressing these.  Glassdoor itself has a policy on these types of reviews and states that “you can always encourage employees to post feedback on Glassdoor, however if we suspect you are encouraging or incentivising specifically positive reviews, those reviews are subject to removal”.

7. Please don’t take it personally: Your business isn’t right for everyone.  And that’s a great thing, because you can’t be all things to all people.  And remember, some of the people who leave negative reviews – very, very few – are, quite frankly, just idiots.  These are the ex-employees who make personal attacks and aren’t constructive in their feedback. These are exactly the type of the individuals you don’t want in your business anyway.

The world of online reviews can be a blessing for small business if handled properly.  If not, they can become something of a marketing disaster. This is something many small business owners have discovered the hard way, with poorly judged responses to their company’s negative reviews going viral. So make sure you learn from their mistakes and handle negative reviews in a professional and courteous manner.

For help and advice on this or any other HR issue do please get in touch at hello@thehrhub or call us on 0203 627 7048.

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