The truth about Tribunal Indemnity Insurance

Many busy SME owners choose outsourced HR providers based on the fact that Tribunal Indemnity Insurance is offered and so they feel they have mitigated against a potential financial risk and made a good choice.

However many don’t fully understand what this insurance is and the impact on their business of signing up to such a service. They also have little idea of what risks if any they actually have in their business of someone making a successful claim against them. This blog explains it further.

What is it Tribunal Indemnity Insurance?

Because employment law can appear complex and full of tricky loopholes, the scaremongers selling tribunal indemnity insurance often have a field day by playing on people’s fears of something that can in many circumstances be prevented.

Tribunal indemnity insurance takes various forms which range from insurance against all legal and compensation costs arising from a tribunal claim, to just simply covering legal costs or nothing at all because you didn’t follow their rules.

As with any insurance policy, the first step is to think about the risk you are insuring against. It’s an easy decision for an electrical firm with a warehouse near a river to insure against flood damage. If there’s a flood, all of the stock could be wiped out and the business could go bust. The risk is high, and so is the potential cost of the insured event.

For business owners, it’s not so easy to quantify the risk and potential costs of a tribunal claim, so they go for peace of mind, and take the insurance. The reality is that there are many steps in the journey to an employment tribunal, and an employer who has sensible HR policies and procedures in place, and follows them, is at a very low risk of losing an employment tribunal claim. Even if the employer loses the claim and has to make a compensation payment, the costs are often nowhere near as high as expected.

The claim with the highest sum awarded was in a sex discrimination claim. These are technically uncapped, and can also include awards for injury to feelings.  But the median award in 2016/17 for Sex Discrimination claims was £8,381and for Disability Discrimination it was £10,235. Although there will always be media stories about huge successful claims, they are rare, and the median award is a more realistic indicator of your potential financial risk. The median compensation payment for Unfair Dismissal claims in the same period was £ 7,521.

Three things you should know about Tribunal Indemnity Insurance

No 1 – You may not even need it

The electrical services company will not sit and watch the river rising or not worry about their stock, just because they have insurance. They will use sandbags, move the stock to higher shelves, and stand by with buckets to bale out the water as it flows in. Nobody wants to have to deal with the aftermath of a flood. It’s better to prevent the damage in the first place. If business owners took the same approach to people issues, and took notice and practical action early on, there would be little risk of a tribunal claim, and therefore little need for an insurance policy.

There are HR experts, like us, who can explain all the rules, and help managers to take each step carefully, ensuring that employees are treated fairly and that the needs of the business are also met. This is equivalent to using sandbags.

If managers are not capable of handling an issue with performance, or there is a persistent problem, such as bullying and harassment, then HR experts, can provide training, coaching and even hand holding to support them. This is effectively like moving the stock to higher shelves. But the effect is longer lasting as they are learning how to manage such situations and won’t be fearful of them.

If matters are so serious that the employee is likely to be able to make a claim at an employment tribunal, there are HR experts like Amelore, who can help the business to evaluate the risk of a successful claim, and mediate between the employer and employee.  If that doesn’t work/or it’s to late for that then they can negotiate the terms of a settlement agreement, making a financial payment to the employee to leave the business and waive all their rights to making a claim against you. This is not desirable, and does cost money, but still salvages the situation, a bit like baling water with a bucket. However often this will be much less than you think.

No 2 – Not all of your costs will be covered

If the tribunal claim goes ahead, there will be legal costs, but much more significantly, there will be huge management time lost in the preparation and aftermath of a tribunal – these costs will not be covered by the insurance. The impact on employee motivation, and even on management morale, which ultimately hits the bottom line of the business, doesn’t have a price, and therefore isn’t covered by the insurance.

Using a pragmatic, knowledgeable HR professional to avoid the problem will always be cheaper than paying a lawyer to fix it.

No 3 – Insurance companies don’t like paying out

The real nub of the issue is this – there are so many ‘get out’ clauses in the tribunal indemnity insurance, that an employer runs a real risk of thinking they are covered, only to find that the insurance company then gives lots of reasons why they won’t pay out.

If the insurance is offered as part of an HR service, there will be a big caveat stating that if the employer doesn’t consult the service provider and follow the employment law advice to the letter, the insurance will be invalidated.

This also means that the HR service provider is likely to sit on the fence, or tell their client what the law is, without committing to a recommendation, for fear of invalidating the insurance. So the whole process will go on and on whereas most SME’s need a quick resolution so they can focus on their business.

Some providers may even boast that they help their clients to make sure their paperwork is correct, so that if a claim goes to tribunal, they will have a ‘bundle’ already prepared, saving lots of time. It doesn’t save lots of time for the business owner or manager trying to do their day job and providing them with that paperwork.

In our experience the vast majority of employees are reasonable people, who in turn want to be treated reasonably by their employer. The vast majority of managers and business owners want to have happy, engaged employees.

Surely everyone’s time and effort would be better spent building good relationships, ironing out misunderstandings, and dealing in a reasonable way with problems, than filling in forms, following scripts and ticking boxes to make sure that the tribunal insurance is not invalidated?

Summary

So in summary our advice is if you are looking at HR outsourcing providers don’t base your decision on fear.  Fear of something you don’t fully understand. If anyone is selling you their services and using fear as their main incentive ask yourself why?

A good HR outsourcing provider will audit your business and then make clear practical proportionate recommendations to ensure you are legally compliant and have good HR practices embedded. This may involve training your managers. This significantly reduces the risk of a successful claim against your business.

Also take care that the outsourced HR provider you select doesn’t tie you into a long notice period as that will tell you something important about them. Long notice periods are designed to cover poor service. Most SME’s don’t have the time or the energy to battle their way out of a contract they have signed in a rush without understanding the potentially negative consequences.

If you do have an employee dispute and are supported by an outsourced HR provider that doesn’t offer Tribunal Indemnity Insurance, this will be dealt with swiftly and you will benefit from pragmatic commercial advice about your options and any risks.

At Amelore we don’t offer Tribunal Indemnity Insurance. We work with businesses and individuals and firm but fair. We have also never been successfully taken to an Employment Tribunal.  We are not complacent about that fact but we are extremely proud of it.

GDPR and HR practices – IN A NUTSHELL

The acronym GDPR has been on the lips of many business owners in recent months and with the wide variety of effects on different organisational functions to consider, one may be forgiven for believing it should stand for Good Day to Panic & Run!

But, there’s no need to worry as long as you take steps to put manageable adjustments in place that will ensure your business is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation by 25th May 2018.

This blog has been put together to specifically help you understand what GDPR means for the HR practices in your business, with the aim of helping ensure you’re anxiety free and ready to go when the deadline arrives.

Why will GDPR affect HR practices?

With increasingly globalised networks and a shift to online communications, GDPR has been put in place to protect the personal data of EU citizens and will apply even though the UK will be leaving the EU, due to the fact that at the time of GDPR coming in to force we will still be part of the EU and are therefore bound by the requirements.

It’s the biggest change to hit how data is regulated in 20 years during which time much has changed.  As a data protection regulation, the changes will mean that all organisations will need to review how they handle the data of employees as well as job candidates, ensuring processes are put into place to guarantee compliance.   If businesses fail to comply and are found to be in breach of the regulations, they could end up penalised as a result.

Privacy Notices

A privacy notice is used to inform people how their personal data will be used by an organisation in as transparent and accessible way as possible. In preparation for GDPR, privacy notices must now clearly outline the intended use of data, including detail such as how long the data will be stored, and whether this data is shared with other countries within and outside of the EU. Individuals should also be clearly directed to the organizational process for making a subject access request to view information about them held by the organisation if they wish to do so.

What should you do? Job applicants and interview candidates should be directed to a privacy notice when sending personal information as part of the recruitment process. Privacy notices should also be shared with new and existing employees with regards to their personal employment records.

Protecting the data of your staff

In addition to GDPR rules, it should be considered ethical that companies take full responsibility and ownership when it comes to protecting employee data, how it is kept and ensuring it is not shared. Personal data you may hold about employees and job candidates would more than likely include sensitive information such as home address, date of birth, contact details, and after recruitment, national insurance numbers and bank account details.

What should you do?  First and foremost you should review your organisational processes for obtaining, handling and storing CV’s, job applications and employee information. There are many ways you can protect this data including the implementation of encrypted passwords on secure servers and deleting securely any data relating of unsuccessful candidates after a given period of time. If you use outsourced services like payroll or candidate verification, check their compliance with GDPR too. You may also want to consider outsourcing a cyber security procedure and taking out cyber insurance. If you don’t use an HR database yet, this may be worth implementing along with reviewing the need for hard copy HR files.

New breach notification requirement

If there is a breach of data protection, GDPR provides clear guidelines on the action that must be taken after receiving a breach notification. Businesses must inform the Data Protection Agency within 72 hours of a breach, or provide justification in the event of a delay. Businesses must also notify individuals affected by a data breach promptly and directly, particularly if the breach presents a high risk to the data subject’s rights and freedoms.

What should you do? If a breach originates from HR related activity, whoever is responsible in your organisation for HR must liaise with legal or compliance teams immediately. The same person with the organizational HR lead is also likely to play a key role in the management of data breaches affecting employee data that require data subject notification. Businesses must also take action to review internal HR and business policies and procedures.

Right to request, review and be removed

If you currently take a ‘one size fits all’ approach with regard to obtaining consent to hold staff data and to communicate to previous candidates or job applicants, you will probably need to think again.  Moving forward “specific, informed and unambiguous” consent must be obtained. Current methods of gaining consent (often via a contract of employment) must be reviewed to eliminate any uncertainty about what data is being collected, its purpose, the length of time consent will remain valid, and the process for withdrawing consent at any time. Individuals will also be able to request at any time, to know what data you hold about them, where it is kept, and how it is used.

What should you do?  You must respond to requests and act upon them, so you may want to put in place a procedure that is shared with your senior management team on what to do in the event they get approached by an individual for this information. The likelihood is also, that all current staff members will need new contracts containing updated consent requests.

Consequences for staff of non GDPR compliance

It’s really important that all your staff are aware of this significant change to how data is managed and protected as it will impact on many aspects of your business.  In particular they need to understand that data can’t be shared without explicit consent (no matter how good the intention for doing so is) and that there may be serious personal consequences of something like a data breach if it was due to poor data security practices.

What you should do? Identify who needs to be trained, what they need to know and who will do this. Check existing policies to see if they need updating to reflect GDPR. Eg Disciplinary policy to capture Serious data security and/or data breach as gross misconduct.  Review all internal communications and current data storage systems. Don’t forget email which can harbor all sorts of highly confidential personal data.

Data Protection Officers 

Businesses that handle special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offences (sometimes included on recruitment applications) must have a designated Data Protection Officer (DPO). A DPO is someone who takes on additional responsibilities for implementing processes and monitoring compliance with GDPR and advising individuals and teams on GDPR compliant approaches to data management.

What should you do? It may be worth considering appointing a nominated ‘senior’ member of staff either from within your organisation, or someone external to the company, to act as a DPO for your organisation.

 IF YOU WANT ANY HELP OR ADVICE please get in touch with us at Amelore by calling 01453 548070 or emailing ruthcornish@amelore.com.

GDPR – Managing HR & Payroll records

As preparations for GDPR continue, All employers must be aware of which employee data is covered by the Data Protection Act and have a specific policy on the retention times for particular types of employee data.

As a general rule, information should only be retained as long as there is a clear business need for it and it should be securely destroyed (e.g. by shredding) after that period has passed.

Minimum retention times for employee data are as follows:

  1. Salary Records and Deductions

Records to be retained: Employers must collect and keep records of what they pay their employees and the deductions made, including a record of employee leave and sickness absence (see below).

Retention period: Three years after the end of the tax year to which the records relate. If full records are not kept, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may estimate what the employer has to pay and charge a penalty of up to £3,000.

  1. Incapacity for Work

Records to be retained: Employers should keep Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) records (calculations, certificates, self-certificates: all sickness periods lasting at least four days; statutory sick pay (SSP) payments; and weeks for which SSP was not paid and why.

Retention period: Three years after the end of the tax year in which the sickness periods occurred and SSP payments were made.

  1. Working Time

Records to be retained: Records that are adequate to show that the requirements of the Working Time Regulations are being/have been met e.g. the limits on weekly working time, daily and weekly working time for young workers, and night work.

Retention period: Two years from the date on which the records were made.

  1. National Minimum Wage

Records to be retained: Records that are adequate to establish that every worker is being, or has been, paid at a rate at least equal to the National Minimum Wage.

Retention period: Three years from the day the pay reference period immediately following that to which the records relate ends.

  1. Absence during Pregnancy and Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Records to be retained:

  • the date of an employee’s first day of absence from work, wholly or partly because of pregnancy or childbirth and, if different, the date of the first day when such absence commenced;
  • the weeks in that tax year in which Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) was paid to that employee and the amount paid in each week;
  • any week in that tax year within the employee’s maternity pay period for which no payment of SMP was made (and the reasons why); and
  • any medical certificate or other evidence relating to the employee’s expected week of childbirth.

Retention period: Three years after the end of the tax year in which the employee’s maternity pay period ended.

  1. Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay

Records to be retained:

  • the date the paternity pay period, shared parental pay period or adoption pay period began;
  • the evidence provided by the employee in support of his or her entitlement to statutory paternity pay (SPP), statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) or statutory adoption pay (SAP);
  • the weeks in that tax year in which payments of SPP, ShPP or SAP were made and the amount paid in each week; and
  • any week in that tax year which was within the employee’s paternity pay period, shared parental pay period or adoption pay period but for which no payment was made (and the reasons why).

Retention period: Three years after the end of the tax year in which payments of SPP, ShPP or SAP were made.

  1. Employee HR files

Records to be retained:  HR files, including employee contracts.

Retention period: Six years after the employment terminates. This takes into account that there is the possibility that any documents relating to an employee could be relevant to a Tribunal, County Court or High Court claim, for up to six years after termination of employment. The Information Commissioner considers this as acceptable on the basis that an employer is keeping information to protect against legal risk.

  1. Job Applications

Records to be retained: CVs/application forms and interview records of unsuccessful candidates.

Retention period: Six months after notifying unsuccessful candidates of the outcome of their application. This takes into account the fact that a job applicant can bring a claim for discrimination in an Employment Tribunal within three months from the date of the rejection for the role, but also that this time limit can be extended where a Tribunal feels it is just and equitable to do so.

  1. Accident Records

Records to be retained: Records of accidents in the workplace.

Retention period: At least three years from the date on which the accident record was made.

Accident records are considered sensitive data and so employers must ensure that the personal information involved is not seen by other members of staff.

How should payments in lieu of notice be taxed from April 2018?

From 6 April 2018 all payments in lieu of notice will be taxable, whether contractual or non-contractual. Income tax and class 1 national insurance contributions will be due on the amount of basic pay that an employee would have received if they had worked their notice in full.

What are the current tax rules on payments in lieu of notice?

Currently, if you have a contractual right to make a payment in lieu of notice (‘PILON’), that payment is subject to income tax and national insurance contributions (‘NICs’).

If you don’t have a contractual right to make a PILON (because there is neither an express term in the employment contract nor an established custom and practice of making a PILON), any payment made in respect of an employee’s notice entitlement is generally regarded as ‘damages for breach of contract’ and the first £30,000 can be paid tax-free and without deduction of NICs.

What tax rules will apply to payments in lieu of notice from April 2018?

From 6 April 2018, all payments in lieu of notice will be taxable. The principle is relatively straightforward but there is a complex statutory formula for calculating the sum that should be taxed, known as ‘post-employment notice pay’ (‘PENP’). PENP is, broadly, the salary the employee would have received during any unworked period of notice minus any contractual PILON. It is calculated by reference to:

  • Basic pay only (before any salary sacrifice), disregarding bonus, overtime, commission, benefits in kind etc.; and
  • How much statutory or contractual notice (whichever is longer) the employer is required to give to terminate the contract.

PENP is subject to income tax and NICs in full. The balance of the termination payment is eligible for the £30,000 tax exemption and full NICs exemption (provided it is an ex gratia payment).

Statutory redundancy payments are exempt from PENP calculations and qualify for the £30,000 tax exemption, provided they are genuinely paid on account of redundancy.

The new rules will apply only where employment terminates on or after 6 April 2018.

There may be significant tax implications for non-contractual PILONs made from April 2018. For example:

  • An employee’s employment is terminated without notice on 30 April 2018. The employee is paid £5,000 monthly (basic pay); has a 3 month notice period; and there is no contractual PILON. They receive £35,000 compensation on termination. This an ex gratia damages payment, not linked to any contractual terms such as bonus entitlement.
  • Under the current rules, the whole compensation payment qualifies for the £30,000 exemption. Income tax is due on the balance of £5,000.
  • Under the new rules, income tax and NICs (both employer and employee) are due on the PENP of £15,000. The balance of £20,000 qualifies for the £30,000 exemption.

And from April 2019?

Currently if a termination payment qualifies for the £30,000 exemption, tax is due on any excess over £30,000 but no NICs are payable. From April 2019, employer NICs will also be due on the balance over £30,000. With employer NICs currently at 13.8% this will significantly increase the cost of some termination payments.

In practice

All employers should be aware of the new rules and think about how they might impact on any termination negotiations. It seems that PENP will need to be calculated for each employee whose employment is terminating including those with contractual PILON clauses (although we are still waiting for guidance from HMRC).

Where there is currently no contractual PILON clause:

  • Making a PILON where the termination date is 6 April or later will potentially result in significantly increased costs for both employer and employee.
  • Consider whether to exit any employees prior to April 2018 to take advantage of the more favourable tax position.
  • Think about including PILONs in contracts going forward. Having a PILON clause allows a payment in lieu of notice to be made without being in breach of contract, thereby preserving any post-termination restrictions. There will no longer be any tax benefit in not including one.

Please get in touch with us if you would like to discuss the impact of the new tax rules on your termination arrangements.