Fit for business? How about an audit?

People often ask what differences I see between working in the UK and France, particularly as a manager.  If there is one thing that is likely to strike terror in to the heart of a French manager or business owner what do you think it would be? Trade unions? Staff demanding their 2 hour lunch break? The actual answer is an “inspecteur du travail”, who is literally a government “workplace inspector”.  Under French law, people in these roles have the right to inspect any business, big or small, at any time to ensure that the employer is upholding their legal, employment obligations towards their workers and staff.

Surprisingly most French people actually think this role is a good and important thing, rather than being “government interference”.  It helps to ensure staff safety, means that French businesses always have their paperwork in order and apparently contributes to France’s high productivity levels. But it could never happen in the UK could it, especially not after Brexit?!

No – not exactly.  However, if you work in a “regulated industry” or supply services to one, you may actually find your employment practises (including your employee related “paperwork”) come under scrutiny. So what do I mean by a “regulated industry” and could it include you?  The typical kinds of organisations or activities that would put you in this definition would be some of the following examples (though not an exhaustive list by any means):

  • Financial services – particularly product selling and advising.
  • Social care – providing any sort of social care, to people young, vulnerable or old.
  • Health Care.
  • Education – be in for children or adults.
  • Housing providers – private sector, public sector or not-for-profit.
  • Utilities providers – including telecoms, as well as water, power etc.
  • Local government – who may well also provide some of the services outlined above.

When you include organisations and businesses who supply services or goods to the types of organisation listed above, you start to realise what a potentially large number this is.

The people who do the scrutinising or inspecting are likely to come from a regulatory body such Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or OFWAT, but there are times when other individuals may need or demand to scrutinise your business.  For example, should you be unfortunate enough to have a serious workplace accident, then the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will come in and investigate.  This will include scrutinising your policies, training records, employee files and more. It can be incredibly scary, especially as you won’t have had time to “get your house in order” beforehand so any gaps in your “paper trail”, that you have been meaning to fill in, won’t have been sorted out. Oops.

As you are probably aware, the penalties that the HSE or other inspection bodies can levy can be punitive, substantial and costly.  They can even stop you trading / operating.  All potentially because you haven’t been able to produce a particular bit of information or paperwork, or because you haven’t got a policy or process in place.

Sometimes businesses also voluntarily invite people to come and inspect them too. If your business wishes to gain accreditation from Investors in People or to gain an ISO standard then their assessors will need to scrutinise and check that you say you are doing exactly what you claim and what their standards require.  Again, this will be a detailed look at your processes, procedures, policies and employee files.  If you don’t have the things in place that the standard requires, then no accreditation – and potentially a long wait (and associated cost) until you can attempt to get accredited again.  It may even mean that you can’t tender / provide your services to key customers until you get that accreditation.

So, how confident are you that your current HR policies, processes and employee files would stand up to such close scrutiny – be it on a voluntary or regulatory basis?  If you aren’t sure, then we strongly recommend that you take action now.  Who knows what tomorrow may bring?


What does an HR Audit or HR Operational Review involve?

Bringing in external auditors is not anyones favourite pastime however it is accepted as a normal part of business life.  Important for shareholders and investors to get reassurance that everything is going well and often Directors get well deserved credit for good governance and Internal controls.

However, what a more in depth internal audit can bring is a sensor check of how compliant and fit for purpose your business is.

Depending on your needs, we can just do a paper review and look at key documentation such as employment contracts, employee data and staff handbooks. Or we can also meet key staff and check understanding and needs spotting early problems emerging and flagging them.  We can also assess the fit of key staff in key roles if you would like us to.

We then produce a report with recommendations for you to set and implement your own priorities.  Our work with you may include further reviews to check on progress.

HR Audits give you the heads up on what you could and should be thinking about in your business.


At Amelore we offer a tailored service to help you to get your business in shape and to make sure you are ready for whatever tomorrow may throw at you.  Why not contact us to find out more about our HR audit service or our HR bootcamp?

www.amelore.com

The impact of the Uber case and other recent employment law changes.

 

You may not normally pay a lot of attention to the world of employment law – after all that’s what HR professionals are for – but you may well have noticed the recent case about Uber in the media. So what does the recent case ruling mean for you and your business?

Put simply the Uber case was about whether the taxi drivers working via the Uber app are self-employed or actually work for Uber, so are classed as “workers”. Why does it matter?  Being a “worker” gives you a number of rights and protections under current UK employment law that you don’t get if you are self-employed.  Being a worker is a big advantage for the people driving for Uber as it now means that they are entitled to earn at least the National Living Wage (if they are aged 25 years +) or National Minimum Wage (if they are under 25), as well as being entitled to paid holiday and other benefits.  Up until now many Uber drivers had complained that they weren’t earning even the National Minimum Wage and were being treated as “slave labour”.  This is now set to change, pending an Appeal of the case by Uber.

A lot of businesses use self-employed people, be they consultants, skilled tradesman or technical experts.  This is particularly true of small businesses and new “start-ups” who don’t necessarily have the budget or need for staff all of the time.  However, neither you as a business owner, nor an individual, can just decide that you want someone to be self-employed – they have to meet certain criteria or conditions, which can be complex to interpret.    If you get it wrong, both the business and the individual are liable for some hefty penalties from HMRC. You can find more information about this here  but we also recommend that you get some appropriate professional advice on this if you are in any doubt – we can assist with this.

October is one of the two months when changes to employment law currently happen. This October (2016) has seen a few changes that, depending on the nature and size of your business, you may need to take action on. The main changes are:

  • Increase in the National Minimum Wage rates – effects all businesses and sectors

Effective from 1 October 2016 there has been an increase in all levels of the National Minimum Wage that you must pay to any workers or employees.  The new rates are:

Age 21 up to 25                      £6.95 per hour  (+ 25p)
Age 18 up to 21                      £5.55 per hour (+ 25p)
Under 18s                               £4.00 per hour (+17p)
Apprentices                            £3.40 per hour (+10p)

Workers / employees aged 25 years + are entitled to the National Living Wage which is currently £7.20 per hour and has not changed.

  • Modern Slavery statements – effects any business supplying goods and / or services with a turnover of £36m + per annum

The Modern Slavery Act was implemented earlier this year, and it’s first deadline for businesses to take action has just passed.  If you are a business  whose turnover is £35m + and whose financial year ended between 31 March and 30 April 2016, then your business should have published a “modern slavery statement”, signed by a Director, on your company website or have one prepared that you can issue on request.

Hereon in every organisation whose turnover (relating to goods and / or services) exceeds £35m per annum needs to publish their annual “modern slavery statement” within 6 months of the end of their financial year.  If your business hasn’t yet prepared your statement yet and are now or soon required to do so, please contact us for help and advice.

There are other changes on the horizon too, that we recommend that your business starts preparing for:

  • Mandatory gender pay gap reporting – reporting to start from April 2017, for publication in 2018 onwards

This will apply to any organisation that employs 250+ people.  The guidance on what is required in the reports is still being developed and is complex.  Large fines are likely to be issued for non-compliance. If you are a larger business and don’t already analyse and report on your gender pay differences / gap now is the time to start preparing to do so.  We have expertise in this area and are happy to help you prepare – please contact us.

  • Pension auto-enrolment updates – now scheduled for April 2018

This will apply to all businesses who employ at least one worker / employee.  This will see an increase to the minimum employer contribution rate, taking it to at least 2%, as well as an increase to the minimum employee contribution rate.  Given the amount that these increases will be an added employment cost to your business, we would recommend that you start your financial modelling now so you can see how this will affect your future workforce costs.

Looking to recruit high quality staff but not succeeding?

Despite the looming shadow of Brexit, many UK organisations are still recruiting – albeit on a temporary rather than permanent basis.  Many industry sectors are reporting that it is still difficult to find the right candidates with the right skills and experience, despite the fact that many people are out there searching for new roles right now; myself included.

Is it a matter of the right skills not being out there in the job hunting population or is something else at play?  Here are a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean….

A friend, J, is looking for a new role and career change.  Knowing this he is prepared to take entry level role with the right organisation as long as it gives him what he’s looking for.  J likes being outside, getting up early and working autonomously – he thinks that being a Postman is just the new career for him.  Then he tries to apply for a role with Royal Mail….. To cut a long and painful story short, J’s “candidate experience” is a very negative one.

Why, you may ask?  This should give you a flavour and is not unique to the Royal Mail:

Applications have to be made via an online recruitment portal, which requires you to register, fill in your personal details and to complete an online assessment.  Easier said than done…. J is fairly computer literate and his brother is an “expert” – they try and fail several times to register a basic application.  There is no phone number, email address or help option for him or other applicants to help them with this labyrinthine application process.

If J wasn’t so keen he would give up now. Other suitable applicants may not have the “IT savvy” or the perseverance, so Royal Mail is losing out on a potentially large candidate pool. (how IT savvy do you need to be a Postman anyway?)

  • Where there are multiple vacancies, perhaps with a minor change such as working hours / days or work base, J has to apply separately for each. Each time he applies for a role he has to do the exactly same online assessment again and again.  Frustrating, a waste of his and the Royal Mail’s time (and money?) and it undermines the validity of the assessment. (practise makes perfect – so repeating the test and getting the feedback means you can easily boost your scores).
  • J finally manages to get an application registered and waits to hear. And waits…. And waits. The closing date has been and gone, and despite being told to check his “portal” for progress / an update, there is none.  There is no phone number or email address for him to chase this up so he has to decide whether he waits any longer.  He’s been invited to attend another interview for a different role – so perhaps he’ll just go with that one instead.

I can echo similar experiences to J’s and can add to the what not to do list further:

  • I have a non-standard address and post code – the computer says “no” to allowing me to progress my application. Now what – make one up? (easier said than done)
  • The salary and the exact work location are a mystery. How do I know if the role is paying enough for my needs and am I able / willing to work in that location? (client confidentiality is not an excuse!)  Should I bother to apply?
  • Do I really want to spend hours filling in a very detailed online application form when the majority of this information is on my CV? Can’t I just upload my CV and add in the missing bits?  Also – I can’t save my application part way through – it’s all in one go or nothing.  I don’t have 2 uninterrupted hours available so perhaps I won’t bother….
  • The recruitment portal promises to save my details for next time, should I apply for other roles with the organisation. It doesn’t….  I have to start again if I want to make another application  – do I want to go through that pain again?

So in summary, many of the issues that are putting people off seem to be due to overly automated process with no “human touch”.  Theoretically going for an automated, standardised recruitment portal should make recruitment slicker, cheaper and easier for your organisation – but what about for the candidates?  The initial impression they get from your recruitment system can be extremely negative and it means you have lost them before you even know about them. Employee branding, good PR, your employer reputation and your brand recognition / values aren’t going to change that.

Is it time for a rethink and change to your recruitment approach? We can help……..

www.amelore.com