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!)

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?

Performance Management in 2017

Companies Must Become Active and Responsive – interacting with everyone working in their company.

Today’s workers expect change. Constantly. And feedback. Specifically, they expect to have the ability to change their goals as business and their own needs change. They also expect to make changes using technology. And any technology solution should mirror the experience they have in their personal lives – it should be intuitive, responsive, relevant, and immediate.

Not only should any technology be up-to-date, it needs to provide immediate feedback.

For example, when you deposit a cheque using your banking app, it tells you immediately whether that transaction was successful. Same when you purchase something using your tablet.

The modern workforce wants that type of feedback about their performance because they have choices to make about their careers and they know it.

Regular performance feedback isn’t a Millennial thing. Every employee wants to know where they stand; what their future is; if you rate them and what for; what the niggles and opportunities and challenges are. Don’t wait until they have resigned to tell them you saw them as a future Director. It will ring hollow no matter how sincere.

Likewise any feedback does not and should not exclude contractors, consultants and other individuals working with the company.  Today’s workforce is flexible moving very between employment and self employment to suit them. Don’t miss out on interacting with everyone that is working for you.

Active Performance Management enhances the Modern Workplace

Any Active Performance Management solution should take the best of the traditional performance management process and combine it with the needs of today’s workforce. It provides a structure that managers and employees want so the process remains fair. It can also include the documentation aspect necessary to support job changes and promotions.

By making the process technology driven, it can take the traditional performance management one step further and facilitate real-time feedback conversations that employees want to move to the forefront. It can also utilise downtime.

Real-time feedback piece is so important to everyone that wants and values it. Waiting once a year (for a performance review) doesn’t work. It’s time to move to real-time system for performance, with frequent touch points between the manager/client and employee or worker.

5 Key Elements of Active Performance Management (APM)

2017 is the right time to introduce active performance management. There are four key elements to changing current performance management processes.

  • Regular performance conversations. Most organisations have some mechanism in place requiring managers and employees to meet once or twice a year. With active performance management, employees and managers meet more often. The timeliness of performance feedback helps the employee perform at a higher level.
  • Peer-based feedback. In addition to increased manager feedback, employees learn how to provide each other with performance feedback. This can be just as valuable – if not more so – than manager feedback. Employees collaborate with different colleagues every day and need positive working relationships with their peers.
  • Focus on current and future projects. More frequent performance conversations mean less time is spent rehashing old behaviour. Workers and managers already know what happened in the past. The conversations are spent on future performance, talking about how to accomplish goals.
  • Development at every level. Every worker becomes skilled in delivering performance-related feedback. This helps them take ownership of their career development.
  • Looking to the future – The elephant in the room is often that both sides know that to truly realise ambitions the individual may not stay in the same place until retirement. Working in a new way means such ambitions can be captured and companies can stay in touch with their future talent even if they aren’t currently working for them.

When you implement active performance management into an organisation you may wish to phase-in different key elements.

Phased implementations can be very successful and embed ways of working firmly. Performance Management facilitated by technology will allow the flexibility to introduce the entire process or each piece separately.

Active Performance Management Leads to Talent Activation

Organisations must create processes that result in having the best talent in the right positions. Those processes need to include creating an environment where all their workers (current, future and past) feel empowered to ask for and give feedback and that any training/development they need to be available in a timely manner.

When employees are engaged with their work, their performance improves and organisations begin to set the pace rather than react to the pace of the market.

We all understand the opportunity cost of not being agile in business. Think of companies like Uber, Airbnb, and the new Amazon app-based grocery stores. These companies shouldn’t have been able to disrupt the way that they did had “legacy” brands kept up with or innovated within their respective spaces. Increased agility enables organizations to increase the speed at which they conduct business and innovate, which improves the bottom-line.

 

Employment law changes anticipated for 2017

A round up of the employment law changes anticipated for 2017, amid the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the Brexit referendum. 

Large compliance projects for data protection and gender pay gap reporting will dominate the HR agenda in 2017.

Employers are likely to see costs increase as the apprenticeship levy and additional fees for sponsoring foreign workers are introduced, and tax savings for employee benefits are significantly reduced.

Now more than ever it is important to ensure you are have good up-to-date HR practices and are employing the right people on the right terms and conditions.

  1. Data Protection Regulation compliance efforts underway

Although the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not come into force until May 2018, the scope of the changes under the new Regulation means that preparing for the GDPR will be high priority for employers in 2017.

Employers will need to carry out audits of employee personal data that they collect and process to ensure that it meets GDPR for employee consent. New governance and record-keeping requirements mean that employers will also have to create or amend policies and processes on privacy notices, data breach responses and subject access requests.

As the GDPR will come into effect before the UK exits the EU, organisations that are not compliant by May 2018 will risk fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is higher.

  1. Gender pay gap reporting begins

Private-sector, voluntary sector and public-sector organisations with 250 employees or more will be required to publish gender pay gap information for the first time.

Employers will be obliged to release information relating to employee pay and bonus pay, as well as information on the number of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay distribution.

Gender pay gap regulations for private and voluntary sector employers are still in draft form but the deadline for the first report is expected to be 4 April 2018, based on pay and bonus data from 2016/17.

Reporting requirements for public-sector employees are expected to mirror private-sector timelines and requirements.

  1. Apprenticeship levy on large employers introduced

Employers with an annual payroll of more than £3 million will be required to pay a 0.5% levy on their total pay bill starting on 6 April 2017.

Large employers will be able to access levied amounts, plus a government top-up of 10%, to fund apprenticeships from accredited training providers.

Smaller organisations that are not required to pay the levy will also be able to receive funding for accredited apprenticeships by contributing 10% towards the cost of an apprenticeship, with the Government paying the remaining cost.

This is potentially great news for employers and young people entering the workforce.

  1. Salary-sacrifice schemes significantly restricted

Employers may need to reconsider their benefit offerings as tax savings through many salary-sacrifice schemes will be abolished from 6 April 2017.

Schemes related to pension savings (including pensions advice), childcare, cycle-to-work and ultra-low emission cars will not be affected.

Schemes in place prior to April 2017 will be protected until April 2018, while arrangements related to cars, accommodation and school fees will be protected until April 2021.

  1. Changes to rules for employing foreign workers 

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) beginning in 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 also 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.

  1. Restraints on public-sector exit payments are still expected

Restrictions on public-sector exit payments, which had been expected to come into force in 2016, are still anticipated, although their implementation dates have not yet been confirmed.

Exit payments will be capped at £95,000 when public-sector employees leave their roles, including as a result of redundancy or voluntary exit.

Employees earning over £80,000 will also be required to repay exit pay if they return to any public-sector role within 12 months.

This will be a key area for the National Audit Office to look at closely and ensure that further loopholes aren’t being created.  Poor practices that included raising salaries exceptionally to benefit from Defined Benefit pension schemes, offering VR to expensive senior staff who merely wished to retire as well as agreeing terms to re-hire have been costly to the public purse.

  1. National minimum wage changes 

Cycles for national minimum wage increases – including the national living wage – will be aligned, with the next round of changes taking effect on 1 April 2017.

The next increase will see the living wage for staff aged 25 or over rising to £7.50.

Use this link to check you are paying the correct rate. Also look at current and future statutory rates for maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay, shared parental pay and sick pay.

https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

  1. Trade union balloting changes to be implemented 

Employers await the implementation date for new balloting requirements under the Trade Union Act 2016.

Under the rules, a successful vote for strike action will require a 50% minimum turnout and a majority vote in favour of industrial action.

Industrial action in important public services will require a strike vote of 40% of all eligible voters.

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………….

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

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.

Company mergers – creating one big, happy family?

 

mergeIn my HR “life” back in the UK, I often found myself providing advice on managing change, whether it be restructuring, TUPE transfers or subtler cultural change.  I now find myself on the other side of things, as Happy Holidays and one of their former competitors, Smiley Holidays, have both been acquired by a large French company.  While these purchases took place a while ago now, it is interesting to see how the changes have now started to trickle down to the staff (me!).

So, can these changes create one new, contented holiday company / family?  At the moment, the views of myself and colleagues are mixed – we’re not entirely convinced that things will be better, or even as good.  What could be done to change our minds and to keep us engaged and motivated?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

With any changes or takeovers there are always rumours about what will and won’t happen.  Clear, regular communication is key if you are to stop the rumour mill and keep staff feeling engaged, rather than worried for their jobs.  A monthly newsletter is better than nothing but it doesn’t really do all it needs to.  How about using social media and other forms of communication too?  – Especially if staff are based in multiple locations or work different shift patterns.  Certainly face-to-face updates and briefings tend to be the most popular method with staff themselves, so can this be done in any shape or form? (Skype, Facetime, podcasts etc)

  • It’s not all about structures…..

Most people tend to think of “change” as being about restructuring, but that isn’t always the case.  Yes, it can make sense to join up some teams and to make some efficiencies and savings while doing so, however, this shouldn’t be the knee jerk reaction.  If you are keen to keep current brand identities then you need to keep some differences in place, which means not merging and restructuring everything.  Be clear on what structures will change, why and when, so allowing other, not directly affected teams / departments to stop worrying about what might happen to them. (at least for now)  At least they can focus on their roles properly again and not be distracted or worried about what may lie ahead.

  • Timing is everything

Make sure you understand what the businesses do when and why.  Are there any critical or very busy times when it would be unwise to change things?  For example for Happy Holidays, changing all of the company mobile phones over to a new network provider with new phone numbers perhaps should have been done outside of the holiday season!  There would have been no customers in resort trying to call old numbers or not knowing about new numbers, and would have avoided a number of problems, upsets and complaints.

  • Who are we again?  What do we do?

Staff do identify with the organisation they work for and can often be surprisingly loyal to it.  Staff will feel that they have their “psychological contract” in place with their employer, as well as their actual employment contract.  Any change can potentially challenge the trust between employer and employee, and potentially sever the “psychological contract”.

It’s really important that staff can see and understand what the future holds and what will be changing. They can then choose whether they want to be part of this or not, and act accordingly.  This can include seemingly obvious things such as – are we still planning to deliver the same product(s) or service(s) to the same customer(s)?  Will we keep the same company values (eg. “green” or “ethical” commitments)?  Will I still wear the same uniform?  Will I still work in the same place?  Will I be working the same hours?  Things like this can really make a difference to someone deciding whether they will stay and go through the changes, or leave now to avoid them.

Even though this is about the two holiday companies I hope that the suggestions will be helpful for your business too.  If anyone from Happy Holidays is reading this, you know where I am and I’m more than willing to make this change a positive one!

www.amelore.com

It’s holiday time – So, how does your holiday policy shape up?

Whilst most employers run the usual January to December holiday year, some companies operate a holiday year which mirrors their financial year. Those very brave employers have a holiday year which follows each employee’s employment start date (administratively this must be a nightmare!)

Employers with an April to March holiday year will find themselves in a peculiar situation for 2016 through to 2018. Remember that all workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday, which means 28 days for a full-timer. Bank holidays count towards this entitlement.

Due to the moving Easter holidays, rather than the typical eight bank holidays in a year, April 2016 – March 2017 will have only six bank holidays, while April 2017 – March 2018 will have ten.

So what can you do about this?

Your first port of call is to check your contractual wording around holiday entitlement. This could throw up a number of different scenarios.

Here are a few (using full-time workers as an example):

  1. When the contract states: “you are entitled to 20 days holiday plus all bank holidays”. For April 2016 – March 2017 this would mean that your employees would only receive 26 days holiday, which is obviously below the statutory minimum entitlement. You would therefore need to give them an additional two days paid holiday. For April 2017 – March 2018 they would receive 30 days holiday, but without specific wording which has anticipated this exact scenario it is unlikely you will be able to deduct the extra two days, as the entitlement is to “all” bank holidays.
  1. When the contract states: “you are entitled to 20 days holiday plus 8 bank holidays”. Again your employees would only receive 26 days holiday for April 2016-March 2017 as there are only six bank holidays. You would therefore need to give your employees an additional two days paid holiday to ensure they receive their statutory minimum entitlement.

However, for April 2017 – March 2018 you could choose not to give employees two of the ten bank holidays (there is no automatic right to time off on a bank holiday). However, unless they agree otherwise, you would not be able to deduct these from the 20 day holiday entitlement as the contract says that they are entitled to 20 days holiday. You would instead have to get them to work two bank holidays, which may not be practical if the office is closed and certainly will not be popular.

  1. When the contract states: “you are entitled to 28 days holiday inclusive of bank holidays”. The result of this is the same as point 2 above. You will have to give two extra days for 2016-2017 and you could choose to require employees to work two bank holidays for 2017-2018.

This situation is bound to arise again in the future so the next time you undertake a review of your employment contracts it would be worth considering whether you want to include wording in the holiday clause so that holiday entitlement can be adjusted each year if necessary to allow for this scenario.

This may be even more desirable where you already offer holiday in excess of the minimum statutory entitlement and don’t want to be in a position of having to afford additional days to employees in a particular year.

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Our top 10 tips regarding “Right to Work Checks”

Every employer is aware that it is unlawful to employ someone who does not have the right to carry out the work in question, and employers can be subject to a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per worker for any breach of this.

Avoiding the £20,000 penalty

It is possible to establish a statutory (legal) excuse in respect of such penalties provided that the employer checks the worker’s documents prior to employment commencing, and then repeats the checks for those workers who have time limited permission to work in the UK.

Generally, UK nationals and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals have the automatic right to work in the UK, whereas migrant workers from the rest of the world will need to establish this right to work by showing that they have appropriate permission under one of the tiers of the UK points based system, by way of another form of visa, or under other European Treaty rights.

However, it is important that checks are carried out consistently on all employees and below we detail our top tips on what to do and some potential pitfalls.

  1. Obtain

Obtain an original of one or more documents listed in the Home Office’s Guidance.

The Home Office has produced a helpful right to work checklist which details those documents that can be relied on.

This list is “non negotiable” and no other documents “will do”. You have been warned!!

  1. Check

Check the document in the presence of the holder.

It is surprising the number of employers who arrange for reception staff or managers to take copies of the document but then in fact pass these copies onto the HR function to validate. This is not strictly compliant. Whoever is in the migrant’s presence when the document is presented should be the person doing the check. HR can of course assist, but the ultimate responsibility lies with this individual, so ensure that he or she has had appropriate training.

  1. Make a copy

Take a clear copy of the document(s). If the copy is blurred, illegible or has information missing/cut-off the statutory excuse will not be achieved. This sounds obvious but you’d be surprised.

This copy should then be marked as a true copy of the original, clearly signed and dated, and then stored or scanned and filed securely. Beware Biometric Residence Permits (BRP’s). It is mandatory to copy the front and back if the statutory excuse is to be secured.

  1. Check the documents thoroughly

It is not simply a matter of taking a photocopy. Make sure you check the validity of the documents, for example that the photos are consistent with the actual appearance of the individual and that any stamps/endorsements look genuine.

If you are given a false document, you will only be required to pay a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent that it is false, and that means it has to be properly checked.

  1. Specifically check the terms of the visa:

Make sure the job you provide does not break any conditions or restrictions on the type of work an individual can do, or the hours they can work (see below). The terms of the visa or work permission should clearly say what these are. Again, a proper considered check is vital to securing a statutory excuse.

  1. Beware students:

It is important to be aware that non EEA migrants who come to study in the UK under Tier 4 of the points based system are generally entitled to work for a maximum of either 10 hours or 20 hours per week term time (dependent on the course and the educational establishment), and for any period during vacations and following the end of the course to the expiry of their visas.

Since May 2014 it has been the employer’s responsibility to check the dates of working against the student’s published term time tables. If a student is found to be working over the permitted hours during term time then they will be working unlawfully and you will not have a statutory excuse. That additional extra hour of work could therefore cost the business £20,000 per student, so do be sure to check.

  1. Beware discrimination claims:

In an attempt to avoid a £20,000 penalty do not then risk a claim of discrimination, which could prove even more costly. Presumptions should not be made about a person’s right to work in the UK based simply on the basis of their background, appearance or accent. As stated, apply the checks consistently to all workers regardless.

  1. Be mindful of ANY staff that have come TUPE

Yes, that four letter word again. Any employer who “inherits” employees under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 would be wise to carry out the right to work checks on all transferring employees if it wishes to be certain it has the statutory excuse.

You have a grace period of 60 days to do this and although you may be able to rely on any checks previously carried out by the transferor, there is no guarantee that these will have been done correctly.

  1. Don’t risk it:

£20,000 is the fine for unlawfully employing a worker subject to immigration control, if this is by mistake / oversight / incompetence. If you know the migrant does not have permission to carry out the work in question then the penalty is unlimited and the owners of the business can be sent to prison for up to two years, and this is set to rise to five years.

  1. If you are audited and fail – take urgent advice!

If, for whatever reason, a statutory excuse is not obtained and the employer finds that it has unknowingly employed a worker unlawfully or finds itself the subject of a Home Office audit, or even “raid”, all is not lost. There are still ways in which to seek to avoid or mitigate any civil penalties but in that eventuality it would certainly be sensible to seek urgent professional advice.

If you would like a review of your current employment practices with a particular focus on your starter and leaver processes, contact Amelore for more details.

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