Can you keep a secret? How about your staff?

It’s not just American presidents who can be indiscrete and share potentially sensitive information with people they shouldn’t. While recollections of exactly what was said at that meeting by Donald Trump vary, there was definitely the potential for inappropriate information sharing, even if it was dressed up as politics or diplomacy.

Now unless you work in the Security Services, the Military or are a senior Civil servant, it’s unlikely that you and your staff will be in possession of such top secret information. However that doesn’t mean that the information your staff know and / or have access to is safe and risk free.  While they might not be the next Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, information is a valuable commodity.

There are companies and people out there who will pay money for information and aren’t always too​ scrupulous about where it comes from. While some things such as bank details or credit card information have an obvious financial value (when misused), other personal details can be useful and valuable to “scammers”, criminals​ or even marketing and advertising companies too.  This personal information could be about your customers but not always; it could be about your staff too.

As well as personal data, there will be other information that could be useful and valuable to others. It could be information from your customer database, it could be product information or technical data, your business strategy or your research programme – the list goes on.

So why would others getting this information be a problem you might ask? If you work in a competitive, commercial industry it could potentially give your competitors a helping hand to outperform you or compete more effectively against you. You’ve worked hard to build up your customer base and you wouldn’t want them suddenly buying from your competitors instead. It might help them undercut you on price or to negotiate better deals with your suppliers than you have. All is fair in love, war and business?

As for personal data, especially the type that is “sensitive”, you and your organisation have a legal obligation to store, manage and use it in line with current legislation. (The Data Protection Act 1998) If you are found to have breached the legislation, either accidentally or deliberately, the Information Commissioner can issue a penalty notice or a fine of up to £500,000.  You also need to be mindful that the Data Protection Act is about to be updated and there will be new obligations and regulations that come into effect in 2018. While you might be compliant now, you might not be by next year.

So what can you do about this potential information minefield? While it’s great to hear that you trust your staff that isn’t enough, or certainly isn’t as far as the Information Commissioner is concerned. Here are some suggestions of what you might wish to put in place:

  • A data protection policy and guidance and a contractual clause about the employee’s duties and obligations.
  • The relevant processes and procedures that support your data protection policy are vital too.
  • An appropriately worded confidentiality clause – either as part of staff contracts of employment or as a stand alone document.
  • An appropriately worded intellectual property clause would be useful for your staff working in research and development, or any other product development area.
  • IT guidance about file sharing, downloads and uploads, emails and social media can remind staff to think about what they share and send, and how they do it.

(This isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully gives some food for thought.)

Depending how much of a risk you potentially face, you need to put the appropriate measures in place now before a problem arises. Once the problem or data breach occurs it’s too late…. You can’t undo what’s been said / saved / sent however much you want to and however much you try to rewrite history. (Politicians take note!)

Keeping your staff healthy – mind as well as body

Depending when you read this post, it is / was Mental Health Awareness week. This is a week focussed on improving mental health both in the workplace and at home.  You’ll no doubt be already aware of the statistic that 1 in 4 people will have some sort of mental health issue or condition during their lifetime – but the question for you as an employer and a line manager is what you can do to help?

People will often avoid talking openly about mental health because perhaps they worry about the reaction they might get when they talk about their illness or in the case of being a line manager are scared of causing upset or offence.  But talking honestly and openly is one of many ways managers and employers can help their staff.  You don’t have to be a trained counsellor to do this – listening and empathy is key and there are lots of resources out there to help you. (the MIND website is particularly helpful.)

You may also want to promote mental wellbeing to your staff to help them realise that there are some simple things that they can do to keep themselves well.  One of the mental health awareness campaigns that is currently being promoted is called the 5 ways to wellbeing.  These key ways or things are:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice / be mindful
  • Keep learning
  • Give

And you can read more details of them at 5 ways to wellbeing

When you look at these in more detail, all of them are easily achievable in any workplace be it big or small.  It is a matter of how you engage and encourage staff to take steps to keep themselves as mentally fit and well as they can.  It could be by promoting activities such as a skills swap, holding a “bake off” or volunteering in your local community.

There are some excellent resources out there to help you too.  You may want to visit the MIND website or that of the Business Disability Forum?

Or if you truly want to put wellbeing – both physical and mental – at the heart of your business why not talk to us about developing a wider health and wellbeing strategy that is tailor made for your business.

 

 

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.

Self-employment and other workforce dilemmas….

You may well have seen recent headlines about people whose organisation told them that they were self-employed but actually ended up not being – for example the recent cases linked to Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers. So what are the differences between being self-employed and employed?  Or for that matter being a “worker”?

Admittedly this can be a complex area and if you are in doubt or are being challenged by someone who works for you, you are always best to get expert advice.

However, there are some guiding principles and questions to consider when determining what someone’s employment status is. (ie. are they an employee, a worker or self-employed?)

  • Employees

Being an employee tends to be the “normal” form of employment status for many people.  They are directly employed by an organisation via a contract of employment.  This contract of employment outlines their role, responsibilities and entitlements while working for the organisation.  Legally all employees must be issued with a contract of employment (also known as a “statement of particulars”) within 8 weeks of starting with an organisation.  Failure to do this can lead to a financial penalty for the employing organisation.

Typically an employee works directly for the organisation they are employed by, in one of their workplaces, uses their equipment / facilities and is managed (or “controlled”) by them on a day to day basis.  For example, Fred has a contract of employment issued by XCo.  It outlines that he works in the office of XCo and is line managed and told what work to do by Jo, who is also employed by XCo.  If Fred doesn’t attend work, he doesn’t have to send someone else in his place.  As an employee Fred has certain entitlements or rights, such as being paid, being eligible to take paid annual leave and the entitlement to some form of sick pay if he is too ill to attend work.  These are outlined in his contract of employment – so hence it is an important document to refer to to ensure that Fred is being treated correctly.

  • Workers

In the recent cases with Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers the people who challenged their employment status were deemed to be “workers”.  All employees are “workers” but workers are not employees, even though there is some common ground.

A “worker” is defined as “someone who carries out paid work for an organisation but is not bound by or employed by a contract of employment”.   A simple example could be – Jane comes in to do some work tasks for your organisation during the school holidays but she doesn’t have a contract of employment with you.  She may be working via an employment agency (as a “temp”) or perhaps works directly for you.  If Jane doesn’t attend work, she doesn’t have to send someone else in her place but if she works via an employment agency, they might send a replacement. As a worker Jane has certain statutory rights such as she must be paid the national living or minimum wage (dependent on her age), she has the right to the statutory minimum paid time off and cannot be discriminated against. However, as she is a “worker” and not an “employee” she has no entitlement to unfair dismissal protection, redundancy pay or the right to request flexible working.

Confused?  There is further guidance online on the Gov.uk website that you might find useful.

https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/worker

  • Self-employed / Contractors

There is, or should be, a real difference in how self-employed people or contractors work compared to people who are employees and workers.  The fact there wasn’t a clear difference in the cases of Uber et al is part of the reason that the Employment Tribunal / Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled as they did.

The terms “self-employed” or “contractor” do not particularly make a difference when trying to determine someone’s employment status.  What is important is the arrangements for how they are “engaged” to do a task, how the task is carried and by whom, and how the work is paid for.  If someone is truly self-employed there is no contract of employment but there will be a “contract for services”.  The “contract for services” defines what work is to be done but allows the person or people fulfilling it the freedom to decide how best to carry out the work.  It may also mean that one person is substituted for another in order to fulfil the work, perhaps because they have a certain skill or area of expertise that is needed for a part of the work.

Self-employed people work for themselves and do not have a line manager in the organisation they are working for.  They typically provide their own equipment, such as tools, a vehicle or IT equipment.  A self-employed person invoices the organisation they are carrying out work for and receives the full amount of invoiced.  They have to declare this income and pay the relevant tax and national insurance contributions directly to HMRC via their annual tax return. Again this is not an exhaustive or definitive list and further information can be found at:  https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/selfemployed-contractor

The big advantage for hiring organisations is that self-employed people do not have employment rights – so are not entitled to things such as the national living wage or holiday pay.  The hiring organisation also doesn’t have to pay for any employers’ tax contribution, employers’ national insurance contributions or employers’ pension contributions.  These various contributions total up to a significant financial saving for the hiring organisation, so hence why companies such as Uber used the self-employed model to reduce their costs.

This is an area that remains under scrutiny as the government believes it is missing out on significant tax revenue due to people misusing the current system.  The government has recently announced a number of reviews to look at the issue of self-employment, particularly as part of the “gig economy” and for the public sector, in more detail.  There are bound to be developments so watch this space………….

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

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?

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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.