No more evening emails – a dream or reality?

French working life has been in the headlines again recently with the government passing legislation about the sending and use of work emails outside of “normal” working hours.  Much of the focus was on the belief that the French government was “banning” emails in the evening or at weekends, which isn’t actually true.

What the legislation is actually making French employers do is to come up with a jointly agreed (with the trade unions) policy about the use of work emails outside of “normal” business hours (whatever they may be).  That’s hardly the same thing as “no emails after 17.00”, but it is up to individual organisations to decide if they want to go that far or not.

It’s not just the French that have made such a bold statement about trying to clarify the boundaries between work and non-work time. A number of large multi-national organisations, many in the technology / IT sector, have decided to develop similar style policies in the hope that it will reduce employee burnout.  Which leads to two main questions – is it a good idea to have such a policy? – is it possible to implement it?

Is it a good idea?

I’m not a fan of having a policy for policy’s sake, however, it is always important to be very clear on what an organisation expects from its employees.  If employees don’t know and understand what is expected of them, how can they reasonably be expected to do or not do something?  Yes, there may be some obvious or implied things that employees shouldn’t do – for example, punching a colleague – but depending on what sort of culture your organisation has, certain behaviours might happen because no-one actively challenges or stops them.  This is where the clarity of written guidance is helpful – it is harder to say you didn’t know that you shouldn’t XXX if there is clear, written guidance saying that you shouldn’t.

There is a potential argument “for” and “against” having such a policy – such as……

FOR:  I worked for one organisation where it was common for the senior team to email each other at 3.00am with the expectation that people would reply.  These people weren’t in different time zones but were forced to be “always on” because their “boss” was and he expected it of them.  To my mind, this isn’t a healthy or sustainable way of doing business and it was certainly backed up by seeing the toll on some of the individuals. Allowing people some down time is vital if you expect them to stay healthy and effective – a policy or guidance could help to create some space for them to do this.

AGAINST:  Some people will say that they find they are most productive on an evening, perhaps when the kids are in bed, and use this time to good effect.  In fact they use this time to perhaps “make up” their working hours, as they have to fit in school runs, caring responsibilities etc. To stop them sending emails and working this way could well be counter-productive. Should you force “normal” 9.00 to 5.00 working on people who don’t want or can’t work that way?

One thing is for sure, I’m not suggesting that anyone “bans” sending evening or weekend emails – that is down to individual choice – but reducing or stopping the expectation that colleagues will respond is a different matter.  Expectations and clarity are key.

How could or should I implement an out of hours email policy?

As with many policies there is no one size fits all.  Yes, there should be some basic points in here (eg. what is and isn’t expected) but the actual detail of how your organisation wants its employees to work is down to you and them.

Some key questions to consider might include:

  • What does the organisation want this policy to achieve / deliver? (eg. better work / life balance) Are there other ways you could achieve this rather than writing a policy?
  • Why do you want to introduce this policy now?
  • What do your employees feel about this issue? Do they believe that action is needed?
  • What are the key things you will and won’t want employees to do? (be clear and concise)
  • Will this be a contractual or non-contractual policy? (this will affect how you implement it)

Drafting the policy and / or guidance will be key, as will be the communication and consultation with staff about it. You definitely need to engage staff early and make sure they are onside with this, or launching such a policy could end up being more trouble than it’s worth!

So will I be recommending that the organisations I work with adopt an out of hours email policy?  The short answer is “it depends”.  Some organisations are mature and flexible enough in how they work that such a policy would be extraneous and unwelcome.  For others though, the clarity would be helpful and important to support employee wellbeing so a policy could be very useful and well needed.

Happy 2017? Predictions for employers……

2016 was an eventful year and most people are now looking forward to a (hopefully) better 2017.  So, a few days into the year, what can employers look forward to over the next 12 months?

  • Brexit

After dominating the headlines in 2016, 2017 is also likely to be a year where Brexit is in the news.  Assuming that the government does what it has promised, then article 50 will be triggered in March 2017.  What Brexit will actually mean for employers and employees remains to be seen, but hopefully things will get clearer.  Updates to come, watch this space…….

  • Changes to work permits and the Immigration Act

This is hardly surprising given the current Brexit situation.  Some of the changes have already been announced and there will be doubtlessly more to come.

What we do know already is that employers sponsoring foreign workers with a tier 2 visa will be required to pay an “immigration skills charge” of £1,000 per worker (£364 for small employers and charities) from April 2017. The immigration skills charge will be in addition to current fees for visa applications.

In April 2017, the minimum salary threshold for “experienced workers” applying for a tier 2 visa will increase to £30,000.  New entrants to the job market, and some health and education staff will be exempted from the salary threshold until 2019.

  • Gender pay gap reporting

Or the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 to give them their full name, which will come in to force on 6 April 2017.  The government published updated guidance on these regulations a couple of days ago and has confirmed that all organisations with over 250 employees need to provide and report on gender pay gap information based on the date of 5 April 2017.  If you haven’t started planning for this, make it top of your new year “to do” list.

  • Apprenticeship levy

There has been much talk about the forthcoming apprenticeship levy and the potential opportunities it brings.  If you are an organisation with a payroll of more than £3m then from 6 April 2017 the levy will apply to you.  The Government has recently published updated guidance for employers on how the apprenticeship levy and the new funding system will work.

  • Salary sacrifice schemes – RIP

As stated in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, there will be significant changes to what type of salary sacrifice schemes employers will be able to offer.  Some of the current items offered, such as gym membership, will be abolished from 6 April 2017.  If you haven’t already reviewed your employee benefits scheme, then now is the time.

  • Rises in the national living wage and national minimum wage

This was another announcement in the Autumn Statement.  Rather than having different dates when there are changes in the hourly rates for the national living wage and the national minimum wage, these have now been aligned.  So the next changes will be due on 1 April 2017 and the rates are set to rise.

  • Trade Union Act 2016

We are waiting to hear exactly when this legislation will come in to force but it will happen at some stage during 2017.

Under the rules, a successful vote for strike action will require a 50% minimum turnout and a majority vote in favour of industrial action.  Strike action in “important public services” will require a strike vote of 40% of all eligible voters.

  • Pensions……

There has been a lot in the news about pensions in 2016 – whether it be related to the demise of BHS or the rise in the “gig” economy.  There are already some known changes planned for 2017, such as the final phase of pension auto-enrolment to encompass all employers and the rise in the minimum employer contribution rate.  It is likely there well may be others….

We’re sure that there will be other developments during the year ahead, so keep your eye on this blog for more updates.  Happy New Year!

www.amelore.com

Data, data everywhere – but what data should I do something about?

Data, particularly “big data”, seems to be constantly in the headlines – whether it be because data has been lost (the TalkTalk hacking incident) or because it’s being used for something that’s perceived to be intrusive (adjusting insurance premiums or the monitoring of emails by the NSA).  For some people and organisations data is a fundamental part of what they do, but for the rest of us – should we be taking more notice of our data?  Are we missing a trick?

Depending on what type of organisation you currently work for, then you may find that you are already required to report on and publish some key data.  If you work in an organisation that is classed as a “public body” under the Equalities Act 2010   definition (for example the BBC, a local Council or the Police) then you already need to publish data about your workforce.  Specifically data that relates to how your workforce is made up relating to “protected characteristics” and other equality data – for example the percentage of your workforce who are disabled, the age profile of your workforce and the gender split. If you work in local or central government then you already have to publish data about the remuneration of your senior / executive managers.

Even if there is no statutory requirement for you to report and publish the sort of employee data highlighted above, could you find this information useful?  Certainly if you do any form of workforce planning for your business then you probably already look at and use key employee data such as salaries, length of service, duration that people have been in role, employment status (temporary or permanent) and key skills / competencies.  If you don’t currently do any workforce planning, should you think about doing some to help your business to be ready for the future? (hint – we recommend you do!)

If you are struggling to recruit to a certain role then looking at the data could help you come up with a solution. Filling some roles takes more than an advert on your website and Totaljobs etc…..  Looking at your recruitment and candidate data may help you to tap in to a new pool of potential candidates who you’ve previously overlooked or help to identify a different, more effective recruitment channel.

Even if you don’t want to go on a data journey yet, you will find that going forward more and more businesses are going to have to start reporting on and publishing key employee data.  Hopefully you are aware of the gender pay reporting requirements (The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017) that are due to come in to force some time in 2017?  If you employ more than 250 staff, then these regulations will apply to you so you need to start preparing now.

There are also discussions about whether businesses need to do more to be transparent about what they pay their senior staff (eg. Directors and Chief Executives).  After all, the public sector already has to report on what they pay their senior staff.  The government has just issued a “Green Paper” to consult on whether businesses must report on the pay of their most senior staff compared to the pay of their average employee. The consultation is open until 17 February 2017 if you want to contribute.  Should the consultation end up being translated in to new legislation, then you’ll need to get to grips on your data again – so watch this space.

If you’re struggling to get to grips on your employee data then we can help…Consider having an audit of your organisation’s HR systems and procedures which can examine what data you hold and why and provide you with an overview of your obligations and how compliant you are.

Equally commissioning a gender pay audit to enable you to address any issues before the data becomes public could be helpful.

www.amelore.com