Business after Covid-19 – What are your recovery plans?

Everything has changed in the flash of an eye. What was normal and taken for granted two months ago; booking a holiday overseas, meeting friends, going out for a meal is now no longer possible now we are all placed in lockdown.  Whilst this is impacting our personal lives it is commerce that is really feeling the impact.

Clearly some businesses are busier than ever (food production, hand sanitiser producers, PPE and Ventilator manufacturers, social care etc) but many organisations have used the Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff and are anticipating a significant reduction in revenue and profit. The Chancellor recently announced that he has expanded the £330bn coronavirus loan scheme to cover all financially viable UK businesses regardless of their size.

The leap that many businesses had to make from full-time office working to working from home was a test of how modern their working practices and indeed culture were. Some firms still had out-dated working practices that included desktop computers, administrative staff co-located to type things and no central electronic filing system on the cloud. Others that had invested in systems and engaged with new technology adapted easily and quickly got into a routine.  The biggest issue however has been trust. Some firms have struggled with this and put effort into creating systems to check that staff are working which usually creates the opposite effect; others have hit the ground running with laughter.

Speaking to a partner in a Top 10 accountancy firm, he reported how Covid-16 has changed the way they do business forever. Previously they would organise face to face networking events and struggle to get 15 bums on a seat, whereas they have had to rapidly produce high quality digital content and run webinars that have seen thousands attend.

Rentokil, a FTSE 100 company and a well-known British brand globally, has seen a downturn over night as they can’t gain access to client premises which are mostly closed. So, they are anticipating that when businesses can return to their buildings, a full deep clean will be required of offices, shops and even passenger transport. Currently they are re-training their 7000 staff to enable them to be ready when the work is there.

Organisations are also looking at how they can cut the fat but not the muscle, so they emerge leaner and better able to compete.  This unfortunately means redundancies, and in some cases outsourcing services like HR, Payroll, Training, general administration, IT and marketing.

During the 2008 recession Apple, Cisco Systems and IBM all downsized by outsourcing non-core services including manufacturing and IT and survived the economic downturn and it is anticipated that a similar pattern will follow this time.

YOUR COVID-19 RECOVERY PLAN

Now is the time to think about your recovery plan. Does your business model still work? Do you need premises and/or a presence on the high street? Can you cut costs by working remotely more? Do you need the same staff or different skills? How will you find those skills?  Can you retrain your workforce? What will your package look like. Will you use flexible labour like contractors? Will you outsource any services?

If you would like to discuss your recovery plans further please contact us for a no obligation chat.  01453 548070 or email ruthcornish@amelore.com

#workforceplanning

Brexit – What next?

The United Kingdom has formally ceased its membership of the European Union. Since 1st February 2020 a transitional period is in place until the end of 2020 as longer-term trade and immigration arrangements are worked out.

Although the transition will keep existing provisions around free movement of people and goods as they are before Brexit, this period is finite. Businesses should therefore take appropriate steps to plan for and support their workforce now.

What are the key Brexit milestones?

31 January 2020: UK formally left the EU and the beginning of an ‘implementation’ or transitional period.   EU/EEA/Swiss nationals retain existing free movement rights in the UK and vice versa

Spring 2020: UK Government to announce final post-Brexit immigration policy

31 December 2020: End of the transitional period

1 January 2021: New immigration system introduced

30 June 2021: Extended deadline for settled status applications for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens in the  UK before 1 January 2021

What do I do if I have EU citizens working in my organisation?

Support  EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and their families to  apply  for settled or pre-settled status under the European Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by 30 June 2021. If unsure,  first find out who are and how many affected workers you have in this category. Ensure they receive the support and information they need.

Can I ask my EU staff members what their intentions are?

Yes. Have this conversation with your employee’s welfare in mind. Brief your managers to have a simple one-to-one conversation with their team member to find out how they are feeling currently about the UK leaving the EU. Ask if settlement status has been applied for, for them and their family and provide the offer of help to navigate the process and complete the online application.

What do ‘settled status’ and ‘pre-settled status’ mean?

EU/EEA/Swiss citizens will have to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by June 2021, where they will be granted settled or pre-settled status. Settled status will be given to those who have lived continuously in the UK for five years and enable the holder to remain in the UK indefinitely. Pre-settled status will be given to those who do not yet have five years’ continuous residence. Individuals with pre-settled status can apply for settled status once they have accrued five years’ continuous residence. The application process can be done via any mobile device or computer.

From what date do I need to ask new or existing staff for evidence of UK settlement status?

EU citizen staff who are already in the UK or arrive before 1 January 2021 can continue to work without needing to show settlement status until 1 July 2021.

EU citizens who enter the UK for work from 1 January 2021 will need to meet the UK’s post-Brexit migration requirements.

Should I change any policies after 31 January?

Policies are likely to require changing from 1 January 2021. The UK Government is planning to introduce a new immigration system for those who want to work in the UK for a period of time. The new system has undergone consultation which CIPD has responded to. A draft scheme is as yet to be announced.

If you have any questions or concerns please get in contact with us.

The Truth About Unpaid Internships

Employers could be breaking the law if they continue to offer unpaid internships, experts have warned.

The warning came after a survey from the Sutton Trust found that of employers offering internships, almost half said they were unpaid positions.

Just over a quarter offered expenses only internships and 12% no pay or expenses whatsoever.

The Pay As You Go survey found that both graduates and employers are confused about the current law on unpaid internships. Under national minimum wage legislation, interns must be paid if they are expected to work set hours or on set tasks. Up to 50% of employers and 37% of graduates surveyed were not aware that most of such unpaid internships are likely to be illegal.

Retail had the highest proportion of unpaid internships at 89%, followed by the arts, 86% and the media, 83%.

Only 26% of IT & telecoms and 32% of manufacturing internships were unpaid.

The research found that graduate internships appear to be on the rise, with 46% of 21-23-year olds have been employed this way, compared to 37% of 27-29-year olds. Younger graduates are also more likely to have taken on more than one internship. According to the report, there are around 100,000 interns working in Britain every year, with around 58,000 unpaid.

The survey comes as a bill to ban unpaid internships over four weeks in length is brought to the House of Commons. It would like to see all internships longer than one month to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage of £7.05 for 21-24-year olds, and ideally the Living Wage of £9 per hour.

In addition, the report recommends that internship positions should be advertised publicly, rather than filled informally and recruitment processes should be fair, transparent and based on merit.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Unpaid internships prevent young people from low and moderate-income backgrounds from accessing careers in some of the most desirable sectors such as journalism, fashion, the arts and law.

“This is a huge social mobility issue.  It prevents these young people from getting a foot on the ladder. The legal grey area around internships allows employers to offer unpaid internships with impunity. That is why the law should be changed.”

5 things every manager (of people) should know

Being a manager can be both a tough and a highly rewarding job. Often the result of a promotion coming after hard work. Or a brand new role in a new organisation.  But rarely does the status of manager come with a tight brief and any training. Most managers learn the hard way about what is expected of them and for many their main source of development is how they have been managed; well or badly.

If every manager understood the following 5 things clearly their chances of being successful and effective would significantly improve which in turn would have a powerful knock on effect across the company.

What their purpose is

When we audit companies we often ask the CEO and other senior people, what the purpose of different roles are. We also ask the individual doing that role. Often the definitions don’t match. Sometimes it sounds like two different jobs to us. If you do nothing else, make sure you can articulate the purpose of the manager’s role.

Often explanations talk about production, technical expertise, sales targets, quality but rarely do they talk about responsibilities for the people being managed. It can be seen as Business as Usual – ie in addition to other expectations on the manager meaning it will be a low priority. Which will impact on the whole culture of the organisation and not in a positive way.

What they can and can’t do

This might seem obvious but it rarely is.  We are talking about whether they can hire and fire, what their budget is, whether they can arrange training and promote people. Are they free to discipline their staff or must this be culturally approved? What isn’t written on the job description or needs to be explained?

What vicarious liability is and how it might impact on them

Vicarious liability refers to a situation where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. In a workplace context, an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.

Many employers are unaware that they can be liable for a range of actions committed by their employees in the course of their employment – these can include bullying and harassment, violent or discriminatory acts or even libel and breach of copyright. It’s also possible to take action against an employer for the behaviour of third parties, such as clients and customers, provided these parties are deemed to be under the control of the employer.

The key question of any case of vicarious liability is whether the employee was acting in a personal capacity, or in the course of their employment. This can often be difficult to determine. Nor does an employer’s liability end once the employee leaves the organisation – as the law stands, action can still be taken against an employer even though the person in question no longer works for them.

What their H&S responsibilities are

Under the law employers are responsible for health and safety management. For every employee this responsibility lies with their manager. Even if there is a H&S Advisor. It is the managers that have the responsibility on a day to day basis because it is the employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business.

This means making sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace which includes managing and monitoring stress. Also managing sickness absence and understanding when an employee may need to be offered reasonable adjustments if they have a special need or a disability, and it might help them remain at work.

Employers also have duties under health and safety law to assess risks in the workplace. Risk assessments should be carried out that address all risks that might cause harm in your workplace.

What the unwritten rules are

Often the unwritten rules or internal ways of working are the biggest keys to success or failure. Knowing them is a start. Often politics is a key part of this. Who to know, be connected with. Who to avoid upsetting. How the organisation deals with conflict and disagreements. How the culture dictates the ways of working for the organisation.

We get involved in situations where managers haven’t worked out and often failing to understand and comply with unwritten rules (obvious to everyone apart from the manager) is sited. Imagine being told it was all over for failing to comply with rules that no-one told them about.

Often a solution to tackling any of these issues that you recognise can be signing up to an HR audit and a bespoke management training programme. So that you know your managers are being supported but also that what they are being taught and guided on is appropriate and on brand for your company.  This can be in conjunction with senior leaders and any internal HR function.

The good news is Amelore offer this service so do get in touch if we can help and advise you further.

GDPR AND IMMIGRATION PROCESSES

Most employers will be aware of the upcoming introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. But how can they be sure the way they collect and store information for immigration purposes will be compliant? Amelore look at the key risk areas.

GDPR

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) presents a huge challenge for employers in many data processing scenarios.

Not surprisingly, immigration processes necessitate the collection and processing of considerable personal data by an employer and, in many situations, one or more third parties such as legal advisers.

And with the deadline (25 May 2018) fast approaching, there is a chance that certain types of personal data processing will not be captured in your thinking, and will therefore create a risk of a breach.

For many employers, immigration is a niche activity that changes constantly and is therefore difficult to fully understand and account for with internal policies and processes.

However, given the sensitive nature of data collected and processed, and the multiple parties often involved in this, now is the time to look at key immigration activities and ensure that they are GDPR compliant.

Here are a few scenarios that illustrate the wide range of immigration data points to be accounted for in preparing for GDPR.

Right to work checks

Employers must conduct right to work checks on any new employee, ideally before they start working for you so you only employ people with the ‘right to work in the UK’.  Employers should take copies of any original documentation they see and copy, sign and date the document copy which should then be securely stored.

While it is easy to assume that this is covered by a “legal obligation” that is not actually the case.

A right to work check is done to establish a statutory excuse against a civil penalty – that is, to avoid a fine should an employee be found to be working illegally. It is not strictly speaking a legal requirement to perform a right to work check and there are no penalties for failing to perform a right to work check where the employee is working legally. However, employers that do not carry out right to work checks will not have a statutory excuse.

Therefore, the retention and processing of data relating to immigration status would be categorised under “legitimate interests” and this processing should be covered in a privacy notice.

Resident labour market test

The resident labour market test (RLMT) is conducted as part of a Tier 2 General (new hire work permit) application to justify the recruitment of a non-UK/EU individual, ahead of a UK/EU individual.

The employer generally needs to place two adverts on two websites for 28 days each, and then assess applications against the skills, education and experience described in the advert.

If there are no suitably qualified candidates from the UK/EU, then a non-UK/EU individual can be offered the role and be sponsored under Tier 2 General.

Documentation, including job applications, CVs and interview notes need to be retained for up to seven years in the event that the Home Office conducts a compliance audit.

Now imagine you were one of the candidates who applied for that role. You were interviewed for the job but ultimately were unsuccessful. It would be reasonable to expect that your details would be retained for a reasonable period, for example six months, to allow the employer to defend any challenges arising from the appointment.

However, most candidates would be surprised to learn that their personal information would be stored for up to seven years and shared with legal advisers and the Home Office as part of the immigration process for the successful candidate.

While employers may be able to argue that retaining the information is a legal obligation, the Home Office document that describes document retention is not technically part of the immigration rules. Rather, it is a policy document and therefore it may be open to interpretation whether it is a legal obligation or not.

As such, employers may instead have to rely upon “legitimate interests” as the appropriate legal basis to retain such information. This of course requires a proper assessment to ensure those interests are not outweighed by risk of prejudice to individuals.

What steps do employers need to take to ensure that their RLMT processes are GDPR-compliant?

  1. Ensure your privacy notice for recruitment purposes makes clear the possibility of personal data being processed and retained for the purpose of immigration requirements, specifically the RLMT for Tier 2 General, including the sharing of that data with legal advisers and the Home Office, and the length of time data may be stored.
  2. Minimise personal data where possible. The personal data that must be retained on file, as per the relevant Home Office policy document, relates only to applications shortlisted for final interview – rather than all candidates who responded to the advert. Likewise, do not ask for personal data that is not strictly required at this stage of the process, for example, copies of passports, immigration documents and evidence of qualifications and experience.
  3. Redact and anonymise personal data. A further way to minimise the personal data you hold is to redact information that is not relevant to the information you need to retain, such as contact details, interests and hobbies.

Immigration enquiries and opinions

Throughout the course of employment an employee can expect that their employer may need to consult with legal advisers and other professional advisors on a range of matters, including immigration, and in doing so may need to share personal data.

This should of course be covered in the section within the privacy notice dealing with disclosures to third parties.

However, what if as part of these enquiries it is necessary to transfer data outside the European Economic Area (EEA)? For example, where the organisation is looking to transfer an employee to the US and would like a US-based immigration lawyer to assess eligibility.

Transfers of personal data outside the EEA need to be addressed within privacy notices. Also, any such transfers of personal data should only take place where steps are taken to ensure adequate protection for that personal data in the recipient country (this is also the existing position under the Data Protection Act 1998).

With just over a month to go until GDPR goes live, now is the time to understand the data points in your immigration processes and ensure they are GDPR compliant.

What every manager wants to avoid

In our work, we audit any new company we work with and have observed that a common theme in many is that managers don’t appear to want to manage.

By that we mean managing people. Setting standards on performance and monitoring them, holding employees to account, identifying what behaviours are needed to create the right culture to grow the business and being confrontational if and when it is necessary. Or they are only embracing the nicer side of management. Giving out pay rises and promotions etc

Managers and leaders seldom avoid this type of work for any other reason than they don’t know how to do it and are worried about getting it wrong. Often employees pick up on a fear and become experts on how to make the most of this which is rarely beneficial for the manager or the company. Equally managers aren’t set any targets or held to account about whether they do it (well) or not. So they will naturally focus on what is valued.

As we are all aware, being good at a technical or specialist role can often lead to promotion into a completely different type of role. Leading and managing a team is so much more than being the most senior member of it with the biggest say. The person that earns the most does so because they also have significant people management responsibilities and are accountable for their team as well as business area. Rarely is this properly explained. During recruitment or promotion discussions. Usually the elephant in the room and therefore often misunderstood.

No training or guidance for managers

Here are some of the things that managers have often had no training or guidance on whatsoever:

  • A core understanding of management theory and what is relevant to their company and industry
  • How to delegate and communicate effectively
  • An understanding of their obligations and duty of care under employment and health and safety legislation
  • How to turn key organisational KPI’s into objectives or targets for staff
  • The difference between technical and behavioural competence
  • How to understand and harness the power of personality
  • How to select staff – interview competentantly, understand and recognise unconscious bias and discrimination. Understand the equality act.
  • Motivational techniques and team building

It stands to reason that if you don’t know how to do something you may avoid it or try and get someone else to do it. Particularly if you fear negative consequences for yourself. Or if you observe that no-one else is tackling similar issues.

Revolving door culture

But as many will be aware, not doing something often has a bigger impact on your culture than doing something, even if it’s not perfect. Not tackling people management issues will build up over time until you start to observe that your good people are leaving. You will replace them of course. At considerable time and expense. And then your fanastic new hire might leave before their probabtion period is up and you start to wonder if it’s something in the business.

The truth is that it’s your culture. How you do things. What you avoid or ignore.

Targetted development

But you can address the fear and reluctance of maangers with some targeted management development training. A core part of that should be an assessment of whether you have the right poepe in lead roles.  Often you will have and they just need devellping. But some people don’t make or want to manage people. No matter how much you spend on core Leadership programmes. However they may be suited to a different specialist role? Or have a No 2 that is interested?

What provider to pick?

There are plenty of companies around who specialise in leadership and management development training. Many long established and many newer ones coming through.

Talking to CEO’s about their previous experiences of such engagement they often report that many staff enjoy attending such initiaitves but they rarely had a long lasting effect as they often didn’t address the following issues:

  • Who held managerial posts
  • What their remit was v what they did
  • Whether the corporate structure was correct
  • What the culture was (desirable v actual)
  • How they would be managed post the intervention

It was hard therefore to quantify any return on the investment made often because the desired outcome hadn’t been pinned down or properly understood.

Our approach

At Amelore, supporting organisations to develop managers has become a growing area for us.  We usually work with companies that are already established and performing well but who want to develop their management team and culture to create space for a senior team to focus on the strategy. Often they don’t have an HR Director in their business.

Our work as external HR professionals can involve us recruiting new managers and coaching key individuals along side regular internal workshops. We can honestly say that every company has different needs and consequently different programmes.

What we bring is our insight into how to make companies work better which we’ve gained over many years. And our HR expertise.  And just like Mary Poppins, we stay as long as we are needed. Ultimately our aim is to leave that company in a good place to grow, compete and innovate. To give it competitive advantage because it works as well on the inside as the outside.

Your Recruitment Options

Hiring the right people is as significant to the success of a company as the business model and health of the balance sheet.

Recruitment is a highly lucrative unregulated and fast growing industry. It is important therefore for companies to understand the different options available to them, the costs as well as the benefits and any downside of the choices they make.

Common recruitment mistakes

Organisations in high growth mode often run very inefficient and costly recruitment processes with little thought for the candidate experience even though it is a seller’s market.  Multiple repetitive interviews, waiting until vacancies have been created to start a process and failing to assess candidates thoroughly are typical.

Some Key Facts

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) in partnership with Hays Recruitment, conducted a Resourcing and Talent Planning survey in 2015.

Resourcing and talent management in current economy “an employee’s market”

  • Half of CEOs have recruitment & talent management as a priority;
  • Three quarters are recruiting key talent/niche areas;
  • Growing demand for labour – more than half expecting headcount to increase;
  • Skills shortages are escalating – four-fifths feel that competition for talent has increased;
  • Lack of specialist or technical skills & lack of sector/industry or general experience were common problems;
  • Organisations are increasingly required to be creative in both their search for candidates and the packages they offer.

What are your recruitment options?

Your network – Many companies use their personal network to find staff and this can be very effective. However it can also lead to skills shortages and complications with personal relationships.

Advertising on line – Companies may advertise via online sites such as Linkedin, Indeed, Monster, Fish4jobs etc  This has the benefit of advertising that your company is busy and hiring but can create a lot of administration.

Recruitment Agencies – You won’t have been in business long before the sales calls start.  When choosing an agency, try and get a recommendation and check their credentials. Anyone can set an agency up with no qualifications or experience. If things like diversity and inclusion are important to your company make sure you ask about this.

Executive Search or Headhunters – This is usually used for senior or specialised roles due to the cost. Finding a firm that understands and challenges you is worth a lot. Meeting a few firms and interviewing them can be helpful.

Independent HR company or freelance individual – Many experienced HR professionals have strong recruitment experience gained from working in-house. A key component of recruitment is identifying the passive candidate.  You pay a day rate for experienced professionals to find and speak to candidates for you.

They will often also manage the entire process for you, even if you work with an external recruiter. Always a cheaper option but requires an investment in developing knowledge and relationships so the right candidates are identified. Key factor here is that there is no placement fee so no pressure to put up salaries or package to enhance the fee.

What is the difference between Executive Search and Recruitment Agencies?

The aim of Recruitment Agencies is to fill a position with the best available person. Recruitment agencies source from a pool of candidates that are actively looking for a new challenge by advertising on various platforms. This leads to a group of candidates that are “self-selected” of which the selection was not pre-determined by the company.

The aim of Executive Search consultants is to locate and recruit the best person, regardless of whether he or she is already employed or seeking a new position.

This approach can broaden and deepen the talent pool available to a search firm’s clients and places the control of who should be part of this talent pool, squarely in the hands of the client company.

There may also be the use of specialised psychometric tools, resources and skills to enhance the selection process.

The costs

Executive Search and Recruitment Agencies tend to charge a percentage fee or a retainer.

The percentage fee is based on the starting salary of the candidate and is normally payable once the candidate starts work with you. This form of charging is most common and if you don’t find a suitable candidate, you don’t have to pay the agency anything.

However, fees can vary from 8-25% depending on the agency and the salary. If you choose a retainer fee, it is agreed at the outset; with a percentage being payable upfront and the remainder due when the candidate starts their employment.

If you are using an independent HR consultancy you won’t pay a placement fee. Just a day rate which almost always works out cheaper.

Looking ahead

It is important for companies to understand and cultivate their ability to read market conditions, trends, movement and fluidity in order to develop and manage effective recruitment strategies. Needs changes as companies grow and it is important to regularly review this.

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.

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?

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………….