Advice for employers in dispute

It can be an awful shock. One minute everything is ticking over quite nicely and the next minute you get an employee going off sick with work related stress and/or a grievance or a letter of resignation. You had not seen it coming and feel both worried and upset. Then the employee lets it be known that they have taken advice and have made lots of notes. This makes it all feel much worse.

BUT HOLD TIGHT!

The important things to remember are as follows:

  1. Stay calm and stay in contact with your employee. Most issues can be resolved by speaking face to face. But listening is the most important thing here – even if you don’t agree. Do make a note of the meeting.
  2. If an employee is off sick with stress agree how you can communicate with them whilst they are off. Directly or via someone else. Obtain their permission for you to do this. Find out if anything is worrying them that you can investigate further. Understand that they may need extra support and understanding and can’t control how they are feeling.
  3. If you have a grievance or a letter of resignation try and meet them face to face. As soon as possible but not when you feel angry or upset. Be mindful that both documents are official records and if there is any claim or allegation in there you need to take it seriously and respond. Even if they verbally retract it. Get anything in writing as that is what will be relevant in a Tribunal situation.

The types of issues we have seen include:

  • A link with health problems or experiencing work-related stress
  • Allegations of bullying or harassment
  • Allegations of unfair treatment or discrimination
  • A feeling that they aren’t valued
  • A feeling that they have no future
  • A suggestion that things are not as they seem internally
  1. Take care to keep the matter as confidential as possible. No matter how outraged you are don’t share this unnecessarily as that can cause more issues. You can’t control what others say. You also have an obligation legally to keep the matter confidential. This includes sharing it with ex employees and anyone that does not have a clear managerial or professional interest.
  2. Be wary of venting your frustrations on email as your employee could make a Subject Access Request (SAR’s) and see everything you have written. If you want to vent do so verbally and to someone that is in the loop formally.
  3. It’s important not to take your employees action as a personal betrayal. Yes they may have worked with you for a long time but no matter how close you are, you are still their employer and that brings legal and statutory obligations to your door.
  4. Make notes of all conversations and acknowledge the resignation and/or the grievance. Follow your sickness policy if someone is off with stress and consider involving Occupational Health.
  5. Seek professional advice as necessary. This could include an HR Consultant, Employment lawyer, Occupational or Wellbeing practitioner.
  6. Do not ignore how you are feeling. Is this too much on top of everything else you are dealing with? Or can you cope with some self care and support.

For more information and advice please contact ruthcornish@amelore.com

Employment Law Updates for 2020

What important UK employment law changes come into effect on 6th April 2020?

Here is a quick overview of the changes that are heading your way. If you have any questions please get in touch with us.

New right to a written statement of terms from Day 1 of employment

  • Currently any employees who have been continuously employed for more than one month must be provided with a written ‘statement of terms and conditions’ within two months of their employment commencing.
  • From 6 April 2020, all new employees and workers will have the right to a written statement of particulars from their first day of employment. Additional information that must be included as part of the extended right will include, benefits, paid leave, details of the probation period and training requirements.

Agency workers rules – amendment

  • Currently The Agency Worker Regulations 2010(AWR 2010) entitles agency workers to receive the same pay and basic working conditions as direct recruits once they have completed 12 weeks’ continuous service working in the same role. The ‘Swedish derogation’ currently provides an exemption to the right to equal pay, if agency workers are employed under a permanent contract of employment with a temp agency and are paid by the agency for periods between assignments.

 

  • From 6 April 2020, the Swedish derogation is removed. Once agency workers have satisfied the 12-week qualifying period, they will be entitled to equal pay to workers who are engaged directly by the employer.

On or prior to 30 April 2020, agency workers whose existing contracts contain a Swedish derogation provision must be provided with a written notification by the agency that it will no longer have any effect.

In addition, from 6 April 2020 all agency work-seekers must be provided with a statement setting out the terms under which they will undertake the work.

Changes to IR35 rules for the private sector

  • At present, the IR35 rules apply where an individual (worker) personally performs services for another person (client), through an intermediary (usually a personal service company, or PSC), and if the services were provided under a direct contract, the worker would be regarded for tax purposes as being employed by the client.
  • Currently, it is the intermediary’s responsibility to determine whether IR35 applies.
  • From 6 April 2020, changes to IR35 ruleswill be implemented for medium and large businesses in the private sector and will largely mirror changes that took effect in the public sector in 2017.
  • Under the new regime, for all contracts entered into, or payments made on or after 6 April 2020, the onus will shift from the PSC to the end user client to make a status determination.
  • Responsibility for accounting for tax and national insurance will shift to the party who pays for the individual’s services, known as the ‘fee-payer’.

Small businesses will not be caught by the changes.

 

New parental bereavement law

Effective 6 April 2020

  • Currently when an employee loses a child their employer may allow the employee to take compassionate leave or holiday or a leave of absence. In some circumstances the employee may be signed off sick.
  • The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018is expected to come into force in April 2020. If it does come into force, bereaved parents will have the right to two weeks of leave following the loss of child under the age of 18, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Bereaved parents will be entitled to take their leave in one two-week block or in two separate blocks of one week. The leave must be taken before the end of a period of at least 56 days beginning with the date of the child’s death.
  • Bereaved parents employed with a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous service will also be entitled to receive statutory parental bereavement pay. Those with less than 26 weeks’ continuous service will be entitled to take two weeks of unpaid leave.

Holiday pay calculation adjustment

  • From 6 April 2020, the holiday pay reference periodwill increase from 12 weeks to 52 weeks. Employers will be required to look back at the previous 52 weeks where a worker has worked and received pay, discarding any weeks not worked or where no pay was received, to calculate the average weekly pay.

This change has been made to help even out the variation in pay for workers, particularly those in seasonal or atypical roles.

For more help and preparation please contact ruthcornish@amelore.com

 

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.

Let’s all relax…

The Mitchell Method of Relaxation

Relaxation is a skill and, like any other skill, benefits from practice.

The relaxation procedure we detail below is one that has been practised for 10-15 years. It is called the ‘Mitchell Method’. Studies have shown that it is extremely effective. The method is commonly used by the NHS in the UK.

Advise your team that you are going to talk them through the Mitchell Method of relaxation and that you would like them to follow what you say in order to practice the technique.

Ask them to get in a comfortable position; this could be lying on the floor, leaning forward onto a desk, or sitting back in their chair. It really is not important as long as they feel comfortable.

When all are in a comfortable position, you will talk them through the following script. Do not alter the words as they are designed specifically to aid relaxation.

The Script:

  1. Arms

Shoulders Pull your shoulders down towards your feet. STOP pulling your shoulders down. Feel that your shoulders are now lower and your neck feels longer.

Elbows Push your elbows slightly away from your side. STOP pushing your elbows out. Be aware that your elbows are open and slightly away from your side.

Hands Stretch out your hands, fingers and thumbs. STOP stretching them out.

Observe your hands, fingers and thumbs fully supported. Feel the surface they are resting on.

  1. Legs

Hips Roll your hips and knees outwards. STOP rolling outwards. Be aware that your legs are slightly apart and turned outwards.

Knees Adjust until comfortable. STOP adjusting. Reflect on the resulting position.

Feet Gently push your feet down, away from your face. STOP pushing them down. Feel your feet hanging loosely from the ankle joints.

  1. Body Press your body into the support. STOP pressing. Consider the sensation of your body resting against the support.
  1. Head Press your head into the pillow. STOP pressing. Feel your heavy head nestling comfortably in the hollow you have made in the pillow.
  1. Face

Jaw Keeping your lips closed, pull down your lower jaw. STOP pulling down.

Feel that your teeth are no longer touching and that the jaw-line is easy.

Tongue Move your tongue low in your mouth. STOP moving. Register that your tongue is lying in the middle of your mouth.

Eyes Close your eyes, if you wish to, or state instead.

Forehead Imagine someone smoothing away from your frown lines from the eyebrows up over the top and the back of your head. STOP doing this. Feel the smoothing of the skin.

  1. Breathing Sigh out. Breathe low down in your chest at your own natural resting breathing rate, with slight emphasis on the out breath

Ending the relaxation

To bring this relaxation session to an end – gradually become aware of the room – feel the floor/chair underneath you – open your eyes – give your limbs a few gentle stretches – have the feeling that you are alert and ready to carry on with your life.

If you would like some training on stress management or to discuss how you can incorporate wellbeing into your People Strategy do get in contact with us.

Bereavement: beyond the legislation

As many of you will be aware, it has recently been reported that parents will become entitled to two weeks of paid bereavement leave if they lose a child. This new law will be effective from April 2020. It will be called ‘Jack’s Law’ in memory of Jack Herd whose mother has been campaigning for reform since her 23-month-old son drowned in 2010. Lucy Herd, Jack’s mother, has commented that she is proud to have achieved this in Jack’s memory and hopes this will help future families.

Whilst this new law on bereavement is a welcome step in the right direction, many employers will want to consider their approach more holistically. The death of a child is one of the most tragic life experiences and therefore an employee is likely to need significant support in order to return to work successfully after such a life changing event.

In our experience, many employers are very sympathetic towards employees losing loved ones – offering them the time and financial support they need to return to work successfully. We encounter many firms that are already going beyond the statutory minimum offering. Two approaches organisations can take is firstly provide time off and secondly support the individual at work itself through, for example, an employee assistance programme which provides access to counselling.

It is becoming increasingly common for organisations to adopt well-being frameworks and approaches which provide employees with channels of support. This support can include provisions for those suffering from poor mental health at different points in their life to help prevent feelings of isolation. Companies without a defined well-being approach should make this a priority of any people strategy.

Earlier this year the Mayor of London and Peter Cheese, Head of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, launched ‘London’s Good Work Standard’ which provides a framework of good work guiding principles. One of those is dedicated to workplace well-being and outlines that employers need to go beyond the legislation and create a channel for workforce dialogue as well as fostering a positive culture around work-life balance; offering flexible working for all and encouraging senior managers to model that behaviour.

People strategy is no longer the playing ground of just big companies and corporates, smaller organisations are also now concerned in understanding and supporting their workforces more fully in order to attract and retain talented employees. If your business is small, growing, and concerned about the well-being of its employees a conversation around your people strategy should be on your agenda as well.

If you would like to discuss how well-being becomes or remains a priority for your business, please contact ruthcornish@amelore.com for a discussion on how this could be incorporated into your business’ people strategy.