Health, Safety and Wellbeing – is it possible on a tight budget?

Small and growing businesses need to keep a tight hold on their budgets if they are to get through those first critical months and years.  One cost that is sometimes forgotten or overlooked is for ensuring that your employees and workers are kept safe, healthy and well at work.  If you have more than five people working for you, you need to ensure that you comply with all of the current Health and Safety regulations.

That sounds daunting and potentially expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Now I’d never advocate cutting corners on health and safety to help with the cash flow, but there are ways and means to help your finances.  You could spend a considerable sum, and there may be some unscrupulous people out there who will scare you in to thinking that you have to; but that really doesn’t have to be the case.

Often the Health and Safety essentials needed by law aren’t as complicated as they sound, so you don’t need to be an absolute expert to put them in place and monitor them.   The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have a lot of free, helpful guidance available online and your own industry association / federation may also provide free or reasonably priced guidance too.  Essentially it will boil down to how complex and dangerous your workplace is – after all, there is a big difference between working in a small office and a nuclear power station.

Some aspects of health and safety might not cost you anything apart from staff time, as long as you already have the basic skills and knowledge in place. Examples can include ensuring that you have the required welfare facilities (eg. a toilet, wash hand basin and drinking water – hopefully things you already have?), that risk assessments and safe working procedures are in place, that staff take rest breaks and staff know what to do in the event of fire / accident / incident.  If you don’t have someone with the necessary knowledge in place already (known as a “responsible person”) you may need to get someone trained or you could buy in the expertise to get you set up.

Other aspects of health and safety will cost you some money, but these could be modest amounts and will certainly be a lot cheaper than doing nothing, only for an accident to occur later.  Examples here could include providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – such as warning or hazard signs, “high viz” wear, steel toe capped boots, gloves or safety goggles / glasses – having a basic workplace first aid kit and fire extinguishers.  As with most things in life, shopping around and comparing quality and prices is key, as it would be very easy to spend a lot of money when you really don’t always have to.

Health and Wellbeing is a growing area and has the potential to cost you nothing or an awful lot.  Keeping your employees healthy and well doesn’t have to involve expensive gym facilities or memberships.  Sometimes the most simple things can reap the biggest benefits.  Recent research has shown that employees who take even just a 15 minute lunchbreak and spend it having a short walk outside are happier, healthier and more productive than those who don’t.  That doesn’t cost you, the employer, a thing – especially bearing in mind that staff typically aren’t paid for their lunchbreaks.

The most successful and effective health and wellbeing initiatives are often simple yet still manage to catch the interest of staff.  I’ve worked in organisations where groups and activities, such as a running group or a meditation session, are run by passionate volunteers who are keen to involve their colleagues. Group activities and interaction can really help staff morale and wellbeing even if they aren’t necessarily “active”. A popular workplace choir in one of my former workplaces springs to mind…..

So even if you are feeling the pinch financially, I hope that you do recognise there is still a need to keep your staff safe, healthy and well.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot and I can guarantee that even by doing a little, it will help save you a lot more money in the long term.

Time for a lunchtime walk anyone?

Happy New Financial Year 2017

Are you prepared for the new financial year which starts next week?  I’m sure that you’ve been busy planning your budgets and other financial plans too, so here are a few reminders of what you will need to include if you employ people.

  • National Minimum Wage increases – from 1 April 2017

This applies to employees and workers aged from 16 to 24 years of age. The new rates are:

Apprentices £3.50 per hour (+10p)
Under 18 years £4.05 per hour (+5p)
18 up to 21 years £5.60 per hour (+5p)
21 up to 25 years £7.05 per hour (+10p)
  • National Living Wage increased – from 1 April 2017

This applies to employees and workers aged from 25 years and above.  The new is £7.50 per hour, an increase of 30p.

  • Increases in pay for shared parental leave and other related payments – from 2 April 2017

This includes shared parental leave, statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory paternity pay (SPP) and adoption leave.  The new rate is £140.98 per week, an increase of £1.40 per week.

  • Increase in statutory sick pay – from 6 April 2017

The new rate for statutory sick pay is £89.35 per week, an increase of 90p per week.

  • Increase in statutory redundancy pay – from 6 April 2017

A week’s statutory pay for redundancy purposes increases to £489, an increase of £10 per week.  This means that the maximum amount that can be paid for statutory redundancy will increase to £14,670. (an increase of £300)

  • Increase in the maximum award for Unfair Dismissal – from 6 April 2017

This will be used for claims with a termination date after 6 April 2017.  Claims may well be raised in April, May or even June 2017 but if employment ended before 6 April 2017 the old maximum award will apply (£78,962).  The new maximum award will be capped at £80,541.

  • Apprentice levy – from 6 April 2017

This should come as no surprise, but if your payroll exceeds £3 million then you will have 0.5% of the total payroll cost to go towards the new Apprentice Levy.

  • Gender pay reporting reference period begins – from 5 April 2017

Again this shouldn’t be a surprise and you have already planned to report on your pay data if you employ more than 250 staff.  Your first report must be published in April 2018 and include all of your pay data dating back to 5 April 2017.

  • Immigration Skills Charge – from 6 April 2017

If you employ staff on Tier 2 Skilled Worker visas you will be subject to a new “Skills Charge” of £1,000 for each new visa issued or for each visa renewal.  If you are a small business (SME) or charity this charge will be reduced to £364 per new visa / renewal.

Hopefully none of these have come as a surprise for you and your budgets cover these.  Also be aware that there are more changes planned to employment legislation over the coming year, so watch this space for more information and updates.