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Boring-but-important: Changes to Tier 2 Visas Which Could Affect Your Future Hiring

Earlier this year the government announced its response to two reviews of its Tier 2 policy by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and now it’s finally been announced that some of these changes will be introduced on 24th November 2016.

Tier 2 is the main immigration route for non-EEA nationals to apply to work in the UK and the proposed changes are designed to ensure that employers are incentivised to up-skill and train resident workers, whilst ensuring they can continue to access migrant workers when needed.

So what’s actually changed? Below we take a look at the key changes and what you need to be aware of not only regarding the imminent changes but beyond……..

The headlines
For Tier 2 (General) the minimum salary will increase from GBP £20,800 to £25,000. However, the Home Office has agreed to waive these new salary thresholds for foreign nationals applying to renew their Tier 2 (General) status if they obtained their status before the 24 November implementation date. You should note however, that this transitional exemption measure will end when the next planned minimum salary increase to GBP £30,000 takes place in April 2017.

For Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer [ICT] – Short Term Staff) the minimum salary will increase from GBP £24,800 to £30,000. It is important to note that this immigration route is scheduled to close to new applicants in April 2017.

The 28-day grace period for over stayers is to be abolished and any application for further leave to remain by an over stayer will be refused unless ‘good cause’ is given and it is made within 14 days of the applicant’s leave expiring.

Recent graduates and trainees will be given greater flexibility

In an effort to attract more young, well-educated foreign talent to the UK, the Home Office will also make the following changes to provide sponsoring companies with reduced requirements and greater flexibility in hiring recent graduates and trainees:

  • Applications from non-EU/EEA/Swiss national overseas graduates will receive greater weight in the Tier 2 (General) quota system, giving them a higher likelihood of approval.
  • Tier 2 Graduate Trainees will be permitted to change roles to a permanent position within their sponsoring company upon completion of their training period, without the sponsoring company having to perform a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).
  • The number of Tier 2 Graduate Trainees that a sponsoring company can sponsor will be increased from 5 to 20 individuals per year.
  • The salary threshold for Tier 2 Graduate Trainees will decrease to £23,000

Streamlining of the Tier 2 (ICT) Route
Currently, the Home Office offers three primary subcategories within their Tier 2 (ICT) route: Skills Transfer, Short Term Staff, and Long Term Staff. To simplify this highly-utilised immigration stream, the UK authorities plan to consolidate the current three subcategories into a single ICT category based on the following schedule:

  • From 24th November 2016 the Tier 2 (ICT – Skills Transfer) subcategory will close to new applications
  • April 2017 (exact date to be confirmed) – the Tier 2 (ICT – Short Term Staff) subcategory will close to new applications.
  • This will leave a single, long-term Tier 2 (ICT) route from April 2017 going forward.

There’s still more too come…..

Although the majority of changes are about to be enforced you should be aware that there are still more changes ahead and these are:

The Home Office has yet to confirm when Tier 2 (ICT) holders will become subject to the Immigration Health Surcharge. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

Some non-EU/EEA/Swiss dependent parents and partners of work permit holders will now be subject to new English language requirements after 2.5 years of residence in the UK. This new requirement, which comes into force on May 1, 2017, is applicable only to individuals on the five-year route to settlement under the Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.

Now is the time that you should begin preparing for the scheduled April 2017 changes which will serve as the final phase of the expected immigration changes adopted from the MAC’s recommendations.

You can find full details on the changes here and of course please do contact us at TheHRHub, 0203 627 7048 for help and support through the process. For a fixed fee (reduced for existing members) we can take all the hassle away from you for the process.

Key Employment Law Changes For SMEs To Watch Out For This Autumn

It’s that time of year…. As a business owner, it can often feel like there’s constantly a new piece of legislation on the horizon that you need to make sure that you’re compliant with. There’s no denying that it can sometimes be tricky and confusing, but the first step is to ensure that you know exactly what’s coming. This means that you can plan your next steps, and make any necessary changes so everything in your business is above board.

Let’s take a look at what you need to be aware of as we make our way into the final quarter…

  • Increased National Minimum Wage for certain age groups

From 1st October 2016, the National Minimum Wage for those under 25 but at least 21 will rise to £6.95 per hour. For workers who are at least 18 but under 21, the new rate will be £5.55. If you employ staff who are under 18 but no longer of compulsory school age, then you’ll have to pay a minimum of £4 per hour. Similarly, the apprenticeship rate will be increased to £3.40 per hour.

Staff aged 25 and above are unaffected by these changes, and the National Living Wage remains at £7.20 per hour.

The bottom line here is that if you employ younger members of staff, you need to make sure that you’re paying them what they’re legally entitled to.

  • Workplaces employing illegal foreign workers could be closed down

Employers who have neglected their duty to stamp out illegal working here in the UK could find that access to their premises is prevented for up to 48 hours. This could potentially be extended to 12 months, if a further order is made.

Though there’s no confirmed date for when this will come into force, it’s thought that it will be sooner rather than later.

If you’re concerned that you may have missed out important checks during your recruitment processes, now’s the time to take action and ensure that you have everything in order.

  • Sunday shop workers will have extended employment rights

Plans to allow local authorities to extend trading hours on Sundays were recently halted, but through the Enterprise Act 2016, the government will be giving shop workers greater rights when working on the Sabbath. These will include the right to object to working more than their usual hours on Sundays, and for those working in larger shops, a reduction in the notice period for opting out of Sunday working.

Again, the commencement date of this is is yet to be announced, though it makes sense for those in the retail industry to start making plans as soon as possible.

  • And one for the radar…. Gender pay gap reporting

Although it won’t impact small businesses, you should be aware of the knock on efect htat gender pay gap reportng is liekly to have as pay gaps become more visible. Employers with 250 or more employees will be required top ublish details of their gender pay gap and gender bonus gap on a yearly basis. It’s thought that the first reports will need to be published by April 2018, so we’ll be on the edge of our seats for that one…..

Navigating changes to employment law can be tricky, though it’s vitally important that you take the time to ensure that you’re fulfilling your responsibilities. Would you like to speak to an experienced professional about making sure that your policies and practices are compliant?

If so, get in touch today at or by calling 0203 627 7048 to arrange an initial, no-obligation consultation. We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: The ultimate HR support for startups and SMEs.

Photocredit: Flickr Meia Weinstock

How SME Leaders Should Be Communicating With Staff (no loudspeaker required…)

We’ve all been there – pulling our hair out because of our peers and colleagues and their apparent inability to communicate properly. Nowadays we have fewer opportunities and second chances to get our point across (there’s less time, people are increasingly distracted and on top of all that our words and actions can live in the digital world for an eternity) so it’s vital that as a business leader you get your communication right first time.

Don’t be the leader that everybody is moaning about because of your lack tangible instruction. There are some fast and easy wins when it comes to communication….

Here are our top 5 tips on how to communicate more effectively when you’re an SME leader:

Be Trustworthy: In a small business it’s imperative that you are or your employees won’t open up to you if they don’t feel that they can trust you. When people have a sense a leader is worthy of their trust they will invest time and take risks in ways they never would if their leader had a reputation built upon poor character or lack of integrity. Sounds simple? Yes, it can be.  While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works (and even if it does you won’t earn much respect). Trust is best created by earning it with the right acting, thinking, and decision making. Keep in mind people will forgive many things where trust exists, but will rarely forgive anything where trust is absent.

Get Personal: Stop using corporate communications as your only channel of speaking to your employees. Start to have conversations with them instead. If you are stuck in an office all day with your head buried in your laptop you are going to miss the opportunity to connect with your employees and here’s the thing – the more personal and engaging your conversation is the more effective it will be.

The majority of papers and guidance on this subject will advise you to stay at arm’s length when it comes to your employees but totally isolating yourself from your employees will leave you in the dark receiving a watered-down (or worse, exaggerated) version of the truth. If you don’t develop meaningful relationships with employees, you’ll never know what’s really on their minds until it’s too late to do anything about.

It’s a cliché but, having an “Open Door” policy where your employees feel comfortable bringing anything to your attention, at any time, can be immensely beneficial to you and your business, not to mention make you more approachable.  One of the biggest obstacles that employees face is how they can communicate with managers, Directors and CEO’s and as a result of this apprehension, many employees may choose to avoid bringing up important points and this could be blocking the flow of communication in your business.

Be Specific: I have never come across an individual who likes ambiguity and it’s unlikely that you have either.  Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing and your employees will thank you for the direct approach (even if sometimes they don’t like the message!). Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is today and it is critical that leaders learn how to cut to the – it’s also important to expect the same from others. Weed out the inconsequential information and relay the important parts of your message.

Shut-up And Listen To Your Employees!: As a leader you should know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off.  Simply broadcasting your message or making announcements in the middle of the office will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversations. Remember that the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue, knowledge is gained by listening and engaging in meaningful conversation and not simply speaking at your employees. When speaking to your employees keep an open mind, good leaders takes their game to a whole new level when conversing with employees with opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their mind. Don’t be fearful of opposing views, try to have open dialogs with those who confront and challenge you. This in turn this will stretch you, and develop you and your business.

The best communicators are not only skilled at learning and gathering information while communicating, they are also adept at transferring ideas, inspiring action, and spreading their vision. The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal.

Take Advantage of Social Media: It’s 2016 and time for all of us to realise there are some messages you can send on Twitter, others that should be sent via email, and then those that need a face to face conversation. The secret in any business is getting this right.

Using the right medium to send a message can make all the difference when it comes to how your message will be received. Social media is likely to have proven to be a powerful tool for you to communicate with your customers yet it may be overlooked when looking at your internal communications. Employees can like, comment, and share with one another interesting posts that may relate to you and your business and this provides them with a constant stream of updates and communication with little effort on your part.

Today, more and more people are using smartphones and tablets for everything. Mobile technologies aren’t going away, and since many modern employees find themselves outside of the office on a regular basis, embracing them when communicating with your employees is of the utmost importance.

If, after all of this, the communication gets messed up, don’t let it fester. Fix it. Of course there will times when no matter how hard you try, the communication with your employees will not go as planned but instead of ignoring the situation and potentially having it get worse try to do something about it. 

Always try to take a moment to put yourself in your employees shoes as it can positively impact your communications with them. Communication skills are the foundation of almost everything you do in your business and your ability to master effective communication will largely contribute to your success, not only at work but in life.

Step Away From Being Ordinary: How To Invest In Your Talent As An SME

As an SME you should have a high concentration of talent and it’s vital to your business’ success that you retain that talent. And that means investing in it. Don’t make the mistake of putting the onus on the individual to provide their own path to personal and professional development, although your immediate focus is to grow the company, the fact is that if you’re not investing in your people then you’re not investing in the future of your business.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that if you spend too much time and energy developing your employees that they will become more valuable in the marketplace and jump ship. With this approach, your talent management strategy is one that could do more harm than good and virtually guarantee you the very outcome that you are trying to avoid!

Remember that investment in your talent can mean a lot of different things, ranging from personal development to financial incentives to activities – it’s not just about the traditional training opportunities. The point is that you want to show genuine care for your employees, and in return, they will take care of your business. It really can be that simple.

So, how can you invest in your team’s personal and professional development and ensure they stay the course?

Invest in employees personal and professional development:  Help them set and reach both short and long-term goals, both personal and professional (as the 2 are closely linked). This doesn’t need to be over engineered and can be as simple as getting your employees to ask themselves “Where am I now, where do I want to be, and how will I get there?” Follow up with regular check-ins – if you aren’t helping your employees consistently track against their goals, then they won’t make any real progress leaving them feeling disengaged.

Offer the perks and benefits that matter to them:  Be seen to invest in what matters to employees.  In order for your perks to be effective in keeping your employees happy, they need to be tailored to their specific needs and desires. Consider running a short internal survey to understand what types of rewards your employees would like to see offered and, where possible, launch these across your business.

Feeling valued is one of the greatest strengths that small businesses have over larger corporations, so you should take the time to find out what your staff want for their futures, and individualise incentives and career plans to suit each member of the team.

Give them an opportunity to earn something extra: Offer a commission or bonus based on the achievement of a specific goal. As Dan Pink (author of Drive) argues, autonomy is 1 of 3 major human motivators. Offering commissions gives employee a sense of ownership in their outcomes, and is an excellent way to help them grow and take responsibility for their own and the company’s success.

If you’re growing your business with plans to eventually sell (although you may not have thought this far ahead yet), consider some form of share option scheme. This is another great investment that will give your employees a real sense of ownership in the business and can act as a motivator as well as retention tool with your top talent.

Make employees feel loved:  Still, the most common reason why employees leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated at work.

Remember that being recognised for hard work goes a long way and to really succeed in creating an environment where employees consistently feel appreciated and invested in you need to remember to say well done and give employees a pat on the back.  Something as simple as a weekly team meeting to recognise achievements can work wonders.  You should also consider celebrating work anniversaries with something personal or a meal out with a Director.

Working conditions trump pay and reward:  Businesses with good working conditions are, in most circumstances, not only more successful in attracting talent but retaining it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this type of investment relates just to employees’ office space and who has the most modern technology – it doesn’t. It includes flexible working opportunities, opportunities for personal development, a grasp of what appeals to a multi-generational workforce and a strong sense of values and purpose.

Create a healthier work environment: You would be surprised how many employees consider health and wellness offerings as important at work. Research show that employees with high wellbeing are more attached to their organisations.

UK productivity and engagement figures remain low. Compared with other Western economies, the UK has not fared well with regard to employee engagement and productivity. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), during 2015 UK workforces were 31% less productive than those of the US and 17% less productive than the rest of the G7 countries. This is despite employees in the UK working similar hours to these regions.

Invest some time creating a healthier work environment to help boost productivity and think outside the typical fruit basket approach. Throw down a challenge like the mile a day challenge (who can collect the most 1+ miles run in 30 days). Challenges and contests are a great way to get people involved in wellness programs, especially if there’s an extra incentive for winning (like a gift card or prize).

Give time to volunteer during work hours: Today’s workers (especially Millennials) want to work for companies that benefit the greater good, so invest in ensuring your company has some sort of social tie. Even if your product doesn’t directly give back, there are ways you can help your employees feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves such as allowing them a few hours a month to volunteer for a project in the community.

Investing in employee’s social interests is a quick win which will cost you nothing and it’s also something you can shout about when recruiting.

Invest in team building activities:  Having friendships at work helps to boost employee satisfaction and while you obviously can’t force friendships in the workplace, there are ways you can foster it.

Team building events don’t have to cost the earth and are a worthwhile investment. Things like the spaghetti/marshmallow challenge or a company rounders competition are simple and cheap but effective. Events like this require people to work together to achieve a common goal (just like in your business).

Consider holding an annual offsite event which includes some office awards. Off sites give your team a chance to step away from the day-to-day work and build camaraderie. Plus, it gives employees something to look forward to each year.

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to investing in your talent.  Whilst some employees will want formal training and promotion prospects, others will see it differently.

In a previous blog, Richard Branson said that “business is all about people, people, people” – a view, no doubt that you will agree with. Having a belief that your organisation’s success depends on your people is the first step in effective talent management. As an SME, you may not have resources at your disposal to invest in detailed talent management strategies but this shouldn’t be viewed as a hindrance, rather an opportunity to think more creatively.

Investing in your talent really is beneficial for you and your business and you’ll increase staff confidence in your organisation. If employees are positive about talent management practices of the organisation, they are more likely to believe the vision of the organisation. The result is a workforce that is engaged, committed and determined to do what is best for your company.

For more details on this or any other HR challenges you might have, drop us a line at or call 0203 627 7048.

For more reading on giving your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart , then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

Photo by Kris Krug

Beyond The Milk round: How Graduate Hiring for SMEs has grown up

After 15 years in HR I have learnt that the Graduate recruitment cycle is one that can leave you pulling your hair out.  From graduate fairs and job board advertising in the past to using Twitter and Facebook today, the graduate recruitment market has seen some dramatic changes.

In 2015 99% of businesses in the UK were SMEs so, today choosing to work for an SME isn’t considered doesn’t mean that graduates are settling for 2nd best. Big companies can certainly still compete with their salaries (FYI, Aldi are one of the highest graduate payers with a starting salary of £42,000) and development programmes. But there are drawbacks too: the constraints or a larger organisation can sometimes stifle graduates using their initiative and creativity; competition to climb the hierarchy is intense; and graduates can risk their career stalling.  In contrast, a graduate in an SME can progress faster and have the ability to influence at a more senior level.  So be positive – as an SME you have a lot to offer!

Graduate vacancies in 2016 has taken recruitment beyond the pre-recession peak in 2007, to its highest-ever level and unlike in 2007 SME’s are no longer considered ‘poor relations’ when it comes to attracting the best of what the graduate market now has to offer.

  • The ‘milk round’ approach isn’t completely dead and buried and still has its place, however, increasingly companies are becoming more innovative in the way they attract graduates and with the increase in social media and the increased ease of targeting candidates some of the challenges that SME’s have faced in the past have started to disappear.  
  • In the past graduates may not have noticed SME’s on their job hunting radar but with the plethora of technology and social media available today this is no longer the case.  Use technology to promote your brand.  Social media and professional networking sites have gained even more presence in the graduate market; getting on Twitter and LinkedIn has become crucial.   
  • Be cautious though and don’t limit yourself to just looking for candidates online.  There are pitfalls to this approach and although it will allow you reach a large number of candidates the process of manually weeding out those who apply for everything they see can be never-ending.
  • Today you need to generate interest in your company before graduates hit the market.  Blog posts are free to write and can be hosted on your company website, but they can veer quickly into spam territory and the level of SEO required to make them stand out is no small change for an SME so make sure you give it some serious thought before you start spending.
  • It’s not all about the money and company name anymore.  Graduates motivation is no longer only via their base salary, they are looking for more non-traditional benefits too such as a games room/pool table in the office, casual dress, company social events.  If you do this stuff already don’t be shy about telling people and if you don’t it may be time to think about making some changes to help attract the best talent.
  • Having a strong career path and being able to show success against this is another big attraction.  Graduates don’t necessarily want a job for life but they do want a company that can develop and progress their careers and in an SME they are likely to develop faster.  Be clear about what is on offer and the opportunities available.
  • Graduates today do not expect to leave work and shut off for the day, they expect to integrate their jobs into their lives and vice versa. That can mean working remotely when possible, taking time for personal projects and staying connected to friends during office hours.  Make sure that you are communicating these types of benefits when looking for graduates.
  • The relationship between higher education and the SME sector is changing from both sides. SMEs need to raise their levels of skills and knowledge, while the higher education system is producing more graduates than the traditional graduate employers require. Make the time to connect with your local universities and colleges and promote your business throughout the academic year.

Unlike in the past engaging with graduates will depend on “lifting the lid” on your company culture, says David Rudick, VP International Markets at job board platform Indeed. “Heavily influenced by social media and peer reviews, graduate jobseekers also expect a similar level of transparency from their future employers.” If you want to engage with graduates you need to be open about what it’s like to work in your business.

There has been a lot of discussion recently over requirements of candidates and some of the larger graduate recruiters are following the trend of removing the need for a degree level qualification at all, Ernst & Young, one of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters, has announced it will be removing the degree classification from its entry criteria, saying there is “no evidence” success at university correlates with achievement in later life.  Make sure you don’t limit your search by being to prescriptive over university attended or grade achieved.

It’s been estimated that 32% of this year’s entry-level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisations.  You should be thinking about how you can work with local higher education establishments earlier than in the final year of a course by offering work experience placements, running skills training events, drop in sessions and so on to generate interest in your company early on. With more people graduating from university than ever, this has put pressure on students to start thinking about their careers and researching what employers in their field look for much earlier in their studies.

Finally, think about your recruitment process once you’ve attracted a candidate.  After all that hard work you don’t want candidates to have to jump through technological hoops just to get to interview stage.  Traditional recruitment processes such as filing out long forms or having multiple interviews could turn off the graduates from the tech-savvy generation.  Consider more innovative ways for candidates to apply such video CV’s or applications.

So, are you ready to hire your graduate? How will your business gain the upper hand in the graduate market? It’s a competition for the best graduate talent out there – so make sure you make the most of it!

To join in the discussion join us at the TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.