The truth about Tribunal Indemnity Insurance

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

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

What is it Tribunal Indemnity Insurance?

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

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

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

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

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

Three things you should know about Tribunal Indemnity Insurance

No 1 – You may not even need it

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

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

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

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

No 2 – Not all of your costs will be covered

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

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

No 3 – Insurance companies don’t like paying out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

GDPR and HR practices – IN A NUTSHELL

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

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

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

Why will GDPR affect HR practices?

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

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

Privacy Notices

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

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

Protecting the data of your staff

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

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

New breach notification requirement

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

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

Right to request, review and be removed

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

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

Consequences for staff of non GDPR compliance

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

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

Data Protection Officers 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from April 2019?

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

In practice

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

Where there is currently no contractual PILON clause:

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

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

More about Protected Conversations

An employment relationship can sometimes run its course necessitating a frank conversation with an employee. It may be in the best interests of both parties to bring the employment to an end by way of a settlement agreement.

Often, the best way to start that process is by having a protected conversation.

What is a protected conversation?

The law allows an employer and an employee to have an ‘off-the-record’ conversation in certain circumstances.

If you or your employee are proposing to end your employment on agreed terms, the conversation can be kept confidential. This means that what you say can’t be used as evidence in an unfair dismissal claim. Although there are some exceptions, generally the conversation is protected.

What are the exceptions?

Protected conversations cannot be held in situations where dismissals are automatically unfair, such as those involving health and safety matters or where the protection of the Public Interest Disclosure Act is invoked. Neither is protection afforded to breach of contract or discrimination claims. This can be a problem. An employer may not know what issues are going to be raised by an employee during a protected conversation so always take advice from an HR professional and research as much of the history about the employee beforehand as you can. Recognise that in some situations having a protected conversation many not be the best route to take.

What should you do if you want to have a protected conversation with an employee?

If you’re planning to have a protected conversation with your employee, make sure you prepare in advance. You need as much information as possible. You may find it helpful to ask/research questions like:

  • Why are you proposing to terminate the employment?
  • Has the employee got a history of anything that might be relevant – grievances, disputes, sickness absence etc
  • How much are you offering and how has that been calculated? (Any notice pay would be taxable)
  • Will you expect your employee to work their notice period?
  • Will you be offering a reference?
  • What is the alternative if you don’t agree to a settlement agreement? I.e. manage their performance under an internal procedure which may result in termination for poor performance and notice pay only OR investigate an alternative role in the company?

Your employee is not under any obligation to accept any proposed settlement agreement. In fact, the law doesn’t allow anyone to accept it until they have taken independent legal advice on it (paid for by the employer usually capped at £350 plus VAT)

Ask your employee to confirm (once they have thought about it) whether they would like you to confirm the proposal in writing. This could be a draft settlement agreement or simply a letter or email. This will help you to clarify what is being offered but always ensure that any subsequent correspondence has ‘without prejudice’ in the title or heading.

Can an employee initiate a protected conversation?

Although a protected conversation is usually initiated by the employer, an employee can also request one, provided that it is with a view to agreeing a settlement agreement.

If your employee states that they’re willing to have an off the record conversation, you can go ahead with a protected conversation if you are minded to agree a settlement with them to leave. Let them know that the details of the conversation should be kept confidential because it’s with a view to reaching a settlement agreement.  Make written notes of the conversation you have had.

At the meeting, you could propose a settlement agreement yourself or you could ask your employee to make a suggestion for you to consider.

Although the most important aspect of a settlement agreement is usually the financial amount, you should consider non-monetary aspects such as:

  • a detailed reference
  • career coach support (professional help with finding another job)
  • release from anything in your employment contract that restricts you after the end of your employment
  • paying for a training course

What happens next?

You should give a reasonable period of time for your employee to consider any proposed settlement agreement. ACAS recommends 10 days, although employers rarely give this long in practice.

GDPR countdown – are you ready?

The new  General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into place in May 2018, you need to start preparing now as time is fast running out.

Changes to the governance of data will have far-reaching consequences for businesses, GDPR will determine how your business does business, and particularly how it manages, protects and administers data in the future.

Europe has a plethora of different data protection regimes in each EU country. Organisations have to deal with many different sets of rules depending on where they setup their business and sell their products or services. The GDPR will harmonise data protection laws across the EU and will also apply to organisations across the world. Any company that processes personal data about EU citizens whether they reside in the EU or elsewhere in the world will need to abide by the GDPR.

European companies are still wrestling with how they are going to be compliant with the law in less than a year. Companies from other parts of the world may not have even heard of the GDPR, and therefore might not be aware of the possible impact upon them. As citizens from EU countries do business and exchange data with companies across the globe, the GDPR is something that international companies outside the EU need to be aware of and should be planning for. Failing to do this could seriously hinder their ability to market and sell their products and services in the EU.

Who needs to be GDPR compliant?

It is imperative that organisations that offer goods and services to EU citizens, and that subsequently process their personal data, are compliant with the GDPR. 

A global study by Veritas showed that businesses are worried that they will not be compliant by the May 2018 deadline. Research showed that 56 per cent of respondents in Singapore, 37 per cent in the US and more than 60 per cent in Japan and South Korea, are worried they will be unable to meet the May 2018 deadline for compliance.

More than 90 per cent of organisations in Singapore showed concern by the potential business disruption from GDPR. Around 20 per cent fear that their company may go out of business as a result.

These are alarming figures for foreign companies that do business in the EU.

The GDPR represents a shift across the world towards a culture of safeguarding personal data, especially considering the global reach of the legislation.

What you should already be considering

As the clock is ticking companies should be working towards compliance in a structured manner including:

  • rolling out GDPR awareness programmes across the business;
  • ensuring representation and input from all key business functions;
  • data mapping all personal data flows in and out of the organisation;
  • creating an information asset register; and
  • undertaking a gap analysis against the GDPR compliance requirements, including consent notices, privacy impact assessments and contractual arrangements with 3rd parties with whom personal data is shared.

These will form part of the building blocks to determining how much further work is required for the business to be compliant by Spring 2018. Many businesses will require significant changes to policies, procedures and working practices. Smaller businesses which collect process and store limited personal data may be less affected but may still need to make some changes to comply with the new legislation.

Clearly organisations that started to work towards GDPR compliance early on are ahead of the game and have a better appreciation of the level of effort that’s required to make some of the changes required to comply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero hours contracts – not always a bad thing?

You may have heard a lot about ”zero hours contracts” in the last few months, be that in the mainstream media, the business press or even professional publications and Parliamentary questions. They have generally been portrayed as a “bad” thing, but is that really the case?

Certainly the TUC have raised concerns about how these contracts are being used by some businesses, where they believe that workers are being unfairly exploited and the employer is avoiding its obligations.  Typically this has tended to be in the retail and hospitality sectors where senior managers argue that tight cost margins and peaks and troughs in customer demand leave them with few other options.  Critics have said that the flexibility that this type of contract offers the employer, doesn’t necessarily give the same flexibility to the worker. Examples being cited include workers having to be available at short notice, even for anti-social working hours, and being deliberately penalised (by not being offered more work) if they turn down a shift.

For some workers these types of arrangements do cause them huge problems. Be it having an unreliable and unguaranteed income, or having little control when they work and trying to balance this with family commitments.  Certainly trying to combine several zero hours contracts to try and generate a reasonable income can be impossible.

However for others this causes less of a problem. This could be because they already have some other form of paid work that guarantees them an income and this helps to “top up” their earnings to a better level. It could be be that they are a student or are semi-retired and don’t want to actually work too many hours, aren’t solely dependent on this money to live and are happy to work “as and when”.

Perhaps it comes down to what type and level of income and what degree of certainty people need?  If you know that, as a student, for one week a year you will earn money by working as part of the Graduation Week team, then you can plan your life and finances accordingly. For the university or college they know that they have a cohort of people who are willing to work flexibly during Graduation Week and can ask them to work as and when needed. If both sides are clear on this and it’s a mutually satisfactory arrangement, where is the problem?

Interestingly the recently published Taylor Review makes some similar distinctions between the “bad” and “acceptable” types of Zero Hours contracts. Certainly the recommendation about allowing people the right to request defined, regular hours (albeit it after 12 months) has to be a good thing. Equally the recommendation that those on  Zero Hours contracts should receive at least a higher rate of the National Minimum Wage to compensate for the uncertainty of their work, has merit too. Whether companies choose to do anything about this is another matter….

At the moment the recommendations from the review are just that – recommendations. We wait to see if the government decides to do anything about them and “encourage” employers to adopt them. Watch this space.

 

 

 

Can you keep a secret? How about your staff?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping your staff healthy – mind as well as body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for a lunchtime walk anyone?

Happy New Financial Year 2017

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

  • National Minimum Wage increases – from 1 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

  • Increase in statutory sick pay – from 6 April 2017

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

  • Increase in statutory redundancy pay – from 6 April 2017

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

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

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

  • Apprentice levy – from 6 April 2017

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

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

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

  • Immigration Skills Charge – from 6 April 2017

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

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