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Fun police – Can I ask my employees not to travel abroad this year?

Fun police – Can I ask my employees not to travel abroad this year?

We’ve all been desperately looking forward to our long awaited summer holidays: jumping on a plane, feeling the instant heat when you land, seeing the bluest of skies, seas and pools that are yours for a week or two… Ah… bliss!

However with the sudden turnaround on Portugal’s ‘green’ list status many of us are still wondering if we should play it safe in the UK or risk going abroad.

The UK’s vaccination programme seems to be on track but the government are still being very cautious in committing to any guarantees as the global pandemic continues. So what are your obligations as an employer? Can you stop employees from travelling? and would you even want to?

From an employment law perspective, each employee is entitled to a minimum of 28 days holiday a year including any public holidays, which will be pro-rated for those that work part-time. This annual leave should be taken every year, although some employers allow an element of this to roll over if necessary. There is no upwards limit on holiday that you can add to your employee package.

The law states that people must give reasonable notice to take holiday which is normally twice the length of the time requested, eg: 2 weeks notice for a weeks holiday. However you do have the right to refuse this if it is a busy period or others in the team are away, or you have allocated holiday times to work with the seasonality of your business.

Traveling abroad for holiday

Q: Can I stop employees from going abroad on holiday this year?

While an employer can normally dictate when people take holiday, lawfully you have no right to dictate where they can go on holiday. If you are worried about the consequences of planned quarantine or last minute changes to government policy that enforce last minute quarantine for those travelling abroad you may wish to implement a specific policy to discourage employees from going. For example, to make it clear that any quarantine advice must be followed but they would not be paid during this time, or home working provisions are to be agreed and put in place before leaving so they can be accessed if necessary on their return.

Q: Do my employees have to tell me whether they are going abroad on holiday this year?

During these uncertain times it would be worth encouraging communication between staff and line managers or HR to ensure that the return process is as smooth as possible in the event of a return to quarantine. If an employee has been allowed to work from home throughout the pandemic, and could continue to do so on their return then it may be an easy conversation to have. However, if your staff cannot work remotely this may cause a problem. So having a clear policy on whether you require employees to use additional holiday or unpaid leave in the event of quarantine then even those that don’t speak to you should be aware of the consequences should the situation arise. There is no legal requirement to pay employers during quarantine (and they are not entitled to sick pay), but for staff retention and goodwill you may decide to have a discretionary case by case approach to this.

Needing employees to travel again for work

You may be in a position where International business travel is essential to your company. With this you are subject to the same red, amber and green lists as travel. Although you would have to factor in paid quarantine, possible additional hotel costs and pay for any tests due to local restrictions at the destination.

Certain very specific professions have modified or relaxed requirements when travelling back into the UK, but they are quite limited and vary across the UK countries; most people will need to comply with the default rules around green, amber and red list countries, even if travelling for work.

As an employer you have a right to request reasonable instructions be followed by your team, but in the current circumstances that is likely to depend on the destination and what the employee is being asked to do there. There is also the matter of how COVID-safe it is. Asking someone to travel to a red list country is unlikely to be considered a reasonable request unless there is a very compelling reason. So your employee may have the right to refuse to travel if they feel you are being unreasonable. As always good communication between all parties is the best policy here, you want your staff to feel safe and valued especially after such trying times.

If you want to discuss any situations you may have, then drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048

Legal Eagles: Up and Coming Employment Law Changes

Legal Eagles: Up and Coming Employment Law Changes

It’s that time of year again folks…. This April new employment legislation comes into effect.

Here’s a quick summary of the new legislative changes coming into place this Spring:

  • Extensions of IR35 to the Private sector: this one is key if you employ a number of people through PSC (Personal Services Companies – also known as ‘umbrella’ organisations) as IR35 rules prevent contractors who are performing similar roles to employees, and working through PSC, from paying less tax and NICs than if they were permanently employed by these companies. From 6 April 2021, deciding whether IR35 applies becomes the responsibility of all private sector employers that in a tax year have: more than 50 employee; an annual turnover over £10.2 million; a balance sheet worth over £5.1 million.
  • Wage rises: Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on November 2020 that from April 2021, the National Living Wage would rise to £8.91 an hour (an increase of 2.2%) and be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time (previously the NLW applied only to 25 year olds and older). All other NMW rates will increase at the same time in line with Low Pay Commission recommendations.. Other rates also increase.
  • Statutory pay rises for maternity, paternity and other parental leave payments: to £151.70 per week
  • Gender Pay Gap reporting: Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees are required to publish information about the differences in pay and bonuses between men and women in their workforce, based on a ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April each year. Due to COVID, 2019/20 reports are suspended however companies now have to September 2021 to report 20/21.

For further help and advice on how legislation might affect your business, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call on 0203 6277048.

Image: Photo by Flickr – Maia Weinstock. LEGO legal justice team.

It Takes All Sorts – Encouraging Diversity & Inclusivity in your Team

It Takes All Sorts – Encouraging Diversity & Inclusivity in your Team

Stepping out of the North Sea on New Year’s Day after my short ‘dip’, I was grappling with changing back out of my wetsuit into dry clothes under an enormous (yet not quite big enough…) towel, when my family were greeted by some passers by on the beach shaking their heads and muttering “It takes all sorts” to each other. We smiled and nodded at them through chattering teeth with what I hoped conveyed a sense of more cheery New Year’s Day vigour than I felt at that particular moment (given both the temperature around us and the fact that due to misjudging the car parking vs beach entry point we were in for a ‘bit of a walk’ back to anything which resembled heating). And ignored the slight judginess that came with the phrase they’d just shared.

True, it might be slightly at odds to submerge yourself in near freezing water when you could have joined the masses on ‘a perfectly good walk’ to get you out in the fresh air and keep healthy, without the risk of pneumonia or (worse still) ‘hat hair’ for the rest of the day. And there was nothing particularly accomplished about our trip to the beach: no fitness records broken, no significant calories burnt (I did mention it was a ‘dip’ didn’t I??). But who’s to say with the many health benefits cold water swimming gives, that my version isn’t better for you? I just have a different view of what’s fun…

And it’s the same in any business to a degree. You need to have different points of view to see the options available to you: diverse perspectives and experiences which don’t mirror your own.

Over the past few years, it’s become clear that a key way to accelerate your business performance is to become more diverse and inclusive. Gartner found that the difference in performance between diverse teams was 12% more positive than non-diverse teams and Fast Company reported that those companies with higher gender diversity and engagement experience up to 48 – 56% stronger financial performance than others.

Yet ‘Diversity’ as a word in my experience has tended to anaesthetise or polarise many in SMEs. Either they zone out on the basis that it’s not something they need to concern themselves about (I’m not sexist/ racist/ ageist/ ableist so we’re doing good, right?),  they associate it with something that only ‘big’ companies’ need to get their head around or that it’s just too hard.

And I understand that to a degree. Because taking action on diversity and inclusivity isn’t passive and takes energy. Energy to sit and listen to other’s experiences who do not mirror your own view of the world, a growth mindset that is open to the fact that there is more you can learn on a regular basis and then take action to change what needs to. And who has any energy left after such a bumper year?!

But with increased data on the impact of diversity (from the positive it brings to the negative when it’s not present) and key world events such as the killing of George Floyd sparking candid conversations in the workplace, it’s not something anyone can ignore.

And there are many things you can do whether your team is made up of 5 or 500 people.

  • Re-think your strategy and be as intentional with planning diversity & inclusion as you are with planning out your sales.
  • It all starts at the beginning… So get real in your advertising and think about the words you are using to describe the candidates you are looking for. Make sure any job adverts are inclusive by checking for the sentiment they convey and don’t include a wish list which doesn’t actually describe what you are looking for. Is it really essential that this person has over ten years experience in a specific type of environment at a senior level? Because if it is, then you might have unwittingly just ruled out anyone who’s ever had a career break. Surely you want someone who’s delivered the best results and in which case, change your criteria (and your questions later).

  • Shortlist a blend of candidates: The next time you go to hire, ask the person helping you with your hiring to provide a representative group of candidates in the mix. It’ll be tough in some industries, but challenge yourself (and them) to do so.

  • Highlight the unconscious bias that sits in all of us: Make everyone who is interviewing candidates watch at least 3 of the videos in Facebook’s series of unconscious bias training. They take about 15 minutes each, can be watched over lunch and I guarantee will have people thinking more about their own unconscious biases and the impact of them. This isn’t a male or female ‘thing’. We’re all in this one together.

  • Promote those people who are underrepresented in your business. And I don’t mean promote them to a new role all the time. But promote and recognise their accomplishments, encourage them to showcase their work internally and externally and act as a champion for them.

  • Find role models to mentor these team members: if you can’t find any internal mentors then provide external help or encourage them to join networking groups in your industry where they can find support.

  • Offer greater flexibility. More so than ever people have opened up to the idea of flexible working, historically something which has helped women progress their careers.

It really does take all sorts to build a business. Well, a successful one at least.

If you want to chat about how you can encourage diversity & inclusivity in your team, then drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048

Image: Canva

What To Do When A Team Member Won’t Go Quietly

What To Do When A Team Member Won’t Go Quietly

Rejection is tricky. Whatever the circumstances.

We tend to think of rejection when it comes to matters of the heart, but there are many situations at work – promotions, restructures, redundancies, probations not working out – where it all boils down to the same emotions. And whilst most people don’t go ‘nuclear’ when told that they are not going to get what they want at work, sometimes people surprise you and they find all manner of ways of making their disagreement with your decision known….

Fortunately ransacking the office isn’t something I’ve ever seen after communicating that someone’s role has changed or ended and most tend to understand that situations change and ultimately accept a decision has been made (even if they disagree). But in some extreme cases – an employee refusing to accept the notice being given, threatening the people in the room, being physically aggressive and even contacting clients and other employees after the event with the intent to cause mayhem are all situations I’ve witnessed – there are always those outliers who just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

You can’t predict how someone is going to react to the news that you either don’t want them in the position or feel they are not right to be taking on certain things. However there are things you can to prevent or stop the situation escalating:

  1. Avoid emailing the ‘news’: If someone is up for a promotion or put a tremendous amount of effort into preparing for a presentation they want to give to a client, reflect that in the way you let them know it’s not going to happen & make sure you share this in a human way & not via text/ email. Ideally this would be face to face, but well, you know……
  2. Be clear on the reasons for any changes: always explain the rationale for your decision and how you came to it. Even if someone doesn’t seem like they’re listening to it, they may well recall it after when they’ve calmed down and are more capable of rationale thought.
  3. Prepare yourself for emotion: Someone’s ability to process any news at the time will depend on their own situation, wellbeing and resilience at that moment in time and so it helps to be prepared for all sorts. Sometimes this means having an actual ‘script’ that you can lean on to help out with key questions they might have or just being prepared to say to someone: “I understand that you don’t agree with our decision and I’m happy to speak to you about this in a couple of days, but for now, I suggest you take some time out to process what I’ve just shared”.
  4. Be respectful: just because the person doesn’t agree with your decision, you can respectfully listen to their views on this. Sometimes it helps them to process the ‘result’ and it is enough for them that you’ve acknowledged this.
  5. If all else fails… If someone really won’t take any transition well and you’ve spoken to them already, then the good news is that – unlike the US situation – you don’t need Twitter to suspend them for you. You can cut them off from all company systems straight away and remind them of the terms and conditions they signed which they are potentially breaching. Be specific about the terms they are breaching and what your next legal steps may be. They may threaten legal action themselves – it is their right to explore whatever options they see fit – but they don’t have to be on your company’s systems to do so.

If you want to chat through any potentially challenging situations, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or by calling 0203 627 7048 to have a chat.

Image: Flickr

Should They Stay or Should They Go? Dismissing or Extending An Employee During Their Probation Period

Should They Stay or Should They Go? Dismissing or Extending An Employee During Their Probation Period

Do I need to wait until the end of the probation period to dismiss? What if I’m not quite sure about an employee by the time I get to the end of their probation period? Should I extend? All are questions we at the The HR hub are asked quite regularly as people struggle to work out what to do when someone they’ve hired isn’t quite the wunder-hire they’d hoped….. 

First some basics on about being ‘on probation’: probation periods are not guided by employment law per se, but instead are a contractual arrangement between your business and their employees. Typically they will be used to set expectations that during the initial period of employment – normally 3 to 6 months – and sometimes are extended to cover a further period if a relationship has not been cemented or performance standards are not met.

Essentially however, yes, you can dismiss an employee before the end of their probation period if you feel things are not working out. But there are a few things you need to be mindful of and it’s not just a simple as saying ‘bye bye’ one morning. You need to give them the correct notice period and, as with any other dismissal of any other employee, it should be for a fair reason, including conduct, capability, breach of statutory provision,  redundancy or some other substantial reason (nb – we find that most situations fall into performance during this period however, where the employee hasn’t demonstrated to the employer that they’ve met the standards needed). 

BUT. Before you have that conversation, take a minute to think whether that  you have really done all you can to make sure the environment is right for their success in this regard. After all that time and money spent on hiring that person, have you spent at least the same again investing in making sure that the newbie understands what’s expected, held their hands a little (at the very least) and given them the support they need to make a success of their role? Often people think they have but then often this is not the case… So I ask again: Have you really done all you can to make sure they had the chance to succeed? Were you clear about what was expected? Did you give them regular feedback on how they were doing and offer them the chance to address any areas which weren’t sitting well? Was there anyone even around to provide regular support to them? If you can’t answer these as honest ‘Yes’es, then I would suggest that you look at giving them one final chance.

According to past research from Spring Personnel, 20 percent of employees fail to pass their probation period in a new role or have it extended, so if you did go down this route you would be in good company.  

Thinking of extending their probation instead? You should always make sure that this provision is written into their contract in the first instance. If not, then although there is nothing stopping you from extending the period and making that clear to the individual, you could be liable to pay them the full notice period laid out in the contract for post-probation should you subsequently dismiss during the extended probation period. As an aside, we also wouldn’t recommend extending their probation for any further than an additional three months: an extended period will impact on their engagement for one and for another, after 6 months in post, you should be able to make a decision one way or another.

Probation periods can be a challenging time for both employee and employer and if you want to find out more about how you’re getting the best out of your team through this time and beyond, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 for your no-obligation chat.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

#probation #ticktock #lightthespark #employeemagic #development

April 6th 2019: The Employment Law Changes You Need To Know About

April 6th 2019: The Employment Law Changes You Need To Know About

It’s that time of year again folks… On April 6th a raft of new employment legislation comes into effect and its vital for all businesses to up to speed.

Here’s a summary of the new (and potential) legislative changes coming into place this spring:

  • Increase in National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates – Having been announced as part of the 2018 Budget, both the National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates will increase in April 2019. Under the new NLW, the minimum hourly rate that workers aged 25 and over are entitled to will increase from £7.83 to £8.21. At the same time, the NMW rate for workers aged between 21-24 will increase from £7.38 to £7.70 an hour; the rate for 18-20 year olds will increase from £5.90 to £6.15 an hour and those over compulsory school age but not yet 18 will experience an hourly increase from £4.20 to £4.35. The minimum rate for apprentices will also increase from £3.70 an hour to £3.90 an hour, providing the apprentice is under the age of 19, or 19 and over but in the first year of their current apprenticeship.
  • ‘Settled Status’ for EU nationals – European workers currently living in the UK will be able to apply for settled status in 2019, allowing them to remain indefinitely in the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period in 2021. To be granted settled status individuals must be able to prove they have been living in the UK for 5 years by the date of application. Those who do not meet this requirement can apply for temporary status, allowing them to remain until they have accrued enough residency to be granted settled status.
  • An increase to auto-enrolment contributions – From April 2019 the minimum contributions for auto-enrolment pension schemes will increase for both employers and employees. Currently, automatic enrolment requirements mean employers must contribute a minimum of 2% of an eligible workers pre-tax salary to their pension pot, with the individual contributing 3% themselves. However, under the new requirements, employers and employees will now have to contribute a minimum of 3% and 5% respectively. Employers are reminded to allow appropriate time to consult with staff before making any changes to their pension contribution scheme.
  • Payslips for all workers that include all hours worked – Changes to the way employers issue payslips will also come into force on 6th April 2019 as from this date onwards the legal right to a payslip will be extended to include those who are recognised as ‘workers’. Employers will also be obliged to include the total number of hours worked on payslips for employees whose wages vary depending on how much time they have worked. It is important that employers work with their payroll departments to ensure the correct procedure is in place ahead of April’s deadline.
  • A decision on National Minimum Wage for ‘sleep-ins – Following 2018’s Court of Appeal decision on Mencap v Tomlinson Blake, a precedent was set that individuals working on sleep-in shifts, such as nurses and care workers, would not be entitled to national minimum wage (NMW) for time spent asleep in scenarios where they were ‘available for work’ and not ‘actually working’. A request to appeal this decision was lodged with the Supreme Court by Unison and a decision is expected in 2019 as to whether this case will be analysed further. Any ruling in 2019 will be important in defining the rights of thousands of staff currently working sleep-in shifts.
  • Gender pay gap reporting for some medium-sized companies – Private organisations with 250 or more employees will again be required to publish their gender pay gap figures on the 4th April 2019. Although employers will be reporting for the second time, this year will be the true test as figures are expected to be heavily scrutinised in order to determine whether efforts to address any significant pay disparity highlighted in 2018 have been successful.
  • CEO pay gap reporting for some medium-sized companies – New legislation will also come into force in 2019 that requires companies with more than 250 employees to publish their executive pay gap. Although the first reports are not expected until 2020 businesses should be calculating the necessary figures throughout 2019 to show the gap between the total amount paid to their CEO and the average pay for an employee.
  • The legality of micro-chipping employees may be questioned  – If recent news stories are to be believed the act of micro-chipping employees may become more common in the UK workplace during 2019. The UK legal system has not yet been challenged in this regard, however it will be interesting to see how a court decides to rule on microchipping staff given the potential invasion of privacy and GDPR implications.
  • The use of non-disclosure agreements with employees might be limited – The government have brought forward a review into the use of non-disclosure agreements in the workplace, with a response expected in 2019. These agreements, otherwise known as gagging clauses, were originally used to protect intellectual property when employees moved from one company to another. However, recent media coverage has highlighted the fact that they are often used to silence claims of harassment and bullying. Whilst these agreements remain legal, the government’s response may go some way to deciding how they can be used in the future.
  • Statutory family and sick pay rate to increase – The weekly amount for statutory family pay rates is expected to increase to £148.68 for 2019/20. This rate will apply to maternity pay, adoption pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and maternity allowance.  The increase normally occurs on the first Sunday in April, which in 2019 is 7 April. The weekly rate for statutory sick pay is expected to increase to £94.25 from 6 April 2019.
  • Parental bereavement leave and pay on the horizon – The government has confirmed that it intends to introduce a right for bereaved parents to take paid time off work. Under the current proposals, bereaved parents will be able to take leave as a single two-week period, as two separate periods of one week each, or as a single week.  They will have 56 weeks from their child’s death to take leave. The new right is expected to come into force in April 2020, but employers should start preparing for it during 2019, and could decide to introduce their own bereavement leave policy if they don’t already have one.
  • The National Insurance Contributions Bill comes into place –  effective from April, it will introduce some key changes to National Insurance Contributions (NICs). Including:
    • NICs must be paid on termination payments over £30,000
    • Class 2 NICs will be abolished

For further help or advice on how the new legislation might affect your business drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.