Employment law now is mostly implemented either on 1st April or 1st October. This time around, we only have the National Minimum Wage increase coming into force tomorrow. Make the most of it – things are likely to get pretty busy with changes in a couple of years, depending on the EU negotiations!

New rates are:

Apprentice Rate: increase from £3.30 to £3.40 per hour
Age 16-17: increase from £3.87 to £4.00 per hour
Age 18-20: remains at £5.30 per hour
Age 21-24: increase from £6.70 to £6.95 per hour
Age 25 : remains at £7.20 per hour

For budgeting purposes, you should note that:
– in future, with effect from next year National Minimum Wage reviews for all age groups will be effective from 1st April rather than October
– the review panel are trying to balance the perceived lack of fairness in the difference between the age 21-24 age group and the age 25 age group with a commitment not to impact jobs for the under 25 age group… so expect continued increases to make sure the gap doesn’t widen

Please keep in mind that whilst it is perfectly legal to make legitimate redundancies due to cost increases, what you can’t do is dismiss someone at age 25 to replace them with a younger, cheaper employee in essentially the same job. That’s not a tribunal claim I’d be likely to successfully defend!! Please do give me a shout if you need to look at making changes as a result of increasing wage costs.

On Friday, we all woke up to the news that the UK has voted to leave the European Union. Some people were happy, others far from it, others not sure what to think. But what does it now mean in practical terms for employers?

1. Keep it Calm

For now, the keyword is “emotion”. The campaigns themselves brought out strong emotions on both sides of the argument. The result is no different, with social media displaying greatly polarised views mixed amongst the pleas for peace and acceptance.

For those who are unhappy with the result, there is a grieving process to go through. Some of those who are happy with the result (or just sick of hearing about the EU) may be less than sympathetic. But sensitivity and acceptance are needed from everyone, however they voted.

As an employer, you may find this spilling into the workplace, with political arguments and fall-outs between people who are usually friends. It may be sensible to set the tone yourself, with a request for acceptance of others’ views, a reminder that there is still a job to be done and an “escape route” for people to retreat to if they’re feeling wound up by others’ attitudes. It would be best all round to be able to avoid a scenario of never-ending disciplinaries over heated arguments!

2. Be Proactive on Anti-Racism

Aside from the reaction to the result, it may be worth reiterating your Equal Opportunities policy – for those on both sides of the argument. The tone of the campaigns has made immigration – and therefore race – an emotive point. Even jokey, off-the-cuff remarks towards immigrants can of course breach the Equality Act and “I didn’t mean it offensively” is no defence. Sensitivities are running high currently, so a clear reminder of the rules and swift, consistent action when they are breached would be highly advisable.

You might just feel like the UN in your own workplace until the dust settles.

Sensitivity is needed on both sides and hopefully a reminder of that will be enough

to keep things calm in the meantime.

3. Reassure Employees from the EU on their Status

Aside from the emotive arguments, it really is business as usual for now. If you have employees from the EU, they can be reassured that there has been no suggestion of any impact on them. It seems highly likely that those in the country lawfully at this point (and probably right up to any EU exit) will be able to have some kind of protected status. There is no point in panicking and worrying about something that is very unlikely to happen. With so much uncertainty around, EU immigrants may be concerned about their jobs, so reassure them that their job is not affected by the result. (Remember that any attempt to remove, harass or disadvantage an EU immigrant from their job on the basis of their nationality would be a very clear breach of the Equality Act and likely to land you in tribunal).

4. Remember that nothing will happen immediately!

It will take up to two years to negotiate the terms of exit from the EU. We have no way of knowing at this point how those terms will end up looking. It may be that the UK retains EEA membership – which would retain free movement of EU residents. Or that might be a modified agreement, or something completely different. We just don’t know – but we do know it’ll take a good while to get confirmation. Until then, everything remains as it was.

5. The law is still the law!

There is much discussion about what will happen to the employment laws that have been derived from EU Directives. Again, we don’t know what will or won’t change and it’ll take a good while to get through. There has been an estimate that the legal changes required across the board are enough for ten years of Queen’s Speeches! So it seems extremely unlikely that there will be significant change to existing employment laws at least during that period. There are likely to be some tweaks and some technical changes but it seems unlikely that anything too dramatic will happen in the short-medium term.

6. Even after EU exit, there will still be immigration

Immigration to the UK cannot halt altogether. Employers will still be able to recruit from inside and outside the EU after exit – the details of “how” may well change, and there may be different processes introduced, but it won’t halt altogether. We will have to wait to see what the detail looks like.

 

In summary

It’s impossible at this point to predict exactly what will happen in terms of employment law, immigration processes or the economy, so until there is clarity it is pointless to try. So for now, it’s business as usual, with an emphasis on keeping the peace in the workplace and ensuring that those whose opinions differ respect the right of others to disagree courteously – and equally importantly respect the right of any EU immigrants to continue to live and work peacefully in the UK.

Clients are of course encouraged to call or email HR on Tap for advice from their Consultant on any of these issues if they have any concerns.

You’ve done great in your career! You’ve been promoted, climbed the career ladder and reached the heady heights of management… Is it what you dreamed of? If it is, congratulations! But for many people it really isn’t.

Here’s the problem…

Whatever industry you’re in, with very few exceptions, people are likely to be your greatest cost, as well as the centre, the brain, the engine of the business. Collectively, people are the thing that makes the BIGGEST difference to whether the business succeeds or fails. If your people stop, the whole business stops. If your people perform badly, your business performs badly.

People are the engine that drives the business. And you, you lucky thing, you get the job of starting the engine, keeping it running smoothly, then tuning it to maximum performance!

You get to spend your days managing people. For many managers, this is not what they had in mind when they embarked on their career as a vet, a pharmacist, a journalist, a teacher, an event rider, a chef… and so on.

The better people get at their jobs, the more likely to be promoted OUT of what they love doing! What usually happens in many businesses is that promotion = managing a team and doing less of your “thing”. It’s a weird concept isn’t it? “Hey you’ve worked really hard, you’re great at what you do – we’re going to reward you by giving you LESS of that to do and instead giving you people to manage!” But people management is a whole different profession all of its own. And not everyone likes it. Not even HR managers. Well… probably in some cases, especially not HR managers!

What makes it harder is that quite often there is little or no training in “people management” along the way. It’s not an easy thing to train well to be fair. Aside from the legal aspects (where there is always a “yes, but in this scenario it’s different because…”), it’s not easy to simulate the huge variation in responses you’ll get from employees, the diverse range of problems, the sensitivities, the talents. Or lack of talents that you really wish they possessed. Or – maybe most importantly – your own reactions, motivations and blips in confidence. It’s easy to think “yeah I can fire someone if I need to”… until you actually have to. And it’s someone you really like.

The simple fact is that many managers “fall” into managing people, they don’t set out choosing it. It just comes with the territory and then often comes as a shock when the complexities become reality.

So next time you have an awkward people-problem to deal with and feel your heart racing, wondering how you can get out of it, don’t beat yourself up! People management is a skill that needs to be learned and developed with time, experience and ideally another pair of eyes and ears supporting you through the steps until you’re confident and competent to do it on your own.

After all, that engine we talked about – would you give a rookie a manual and say “here, here’s how to get the engine going, off you go – oh by the way, ultimately you’re going to have to tune it to Formula 1 performance, ok?”? Of course not! At the very least you’d buddy them up with an expert to coach them through what to do and how, right?

People management is no different. It’s a profession in its own right, so give yourself a break! Find an HR Consultant who understands your business issues and can either do the difficult stuff for you or support you right through it. You’ll make your career path much less stressful – and who knows, with the right support structure in place, you might even enjoy people management!

Casual Contracts, otherwise known as “Zero Hours Contracts” have had a lot of bad press over recent years. Which is a shame because they’re a great business tool and offer flexible employment to people who – for whatever reason – don’t want a regular job. So what’s the problem?

It’s a misunderstanding really. That same old problem… managers don’t go into management to be employment law experts and the law gets complicated! Things change, they roll with it, before they know it Things. Get. Messy.

Why would I want to use Casual Contracts anyway?
Sometimes you just need people to work for you on an ad-hoc basis because your business – or at least that job – is based on a need that changes week to week. You want to be able to call people up as and when you need them, which might not be all that often. The drawback is that, while you have no obligation to offer them any work, they also have no obligation to take it when it is offered. So there’s no guarantee that they’ll be available when you need them.

“Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what the contract says, the law will look at the reality of the job. If you’re giving casual workers regular hours but with a zero-hours contract, you could hit trouble.”

When SHOULD I use Casual Contracts?
Casual Contracts / Zero-Hours Contracts are for use when you don’t want to commit to giving someone hours regularly. So for example, let’s say you run a shop . You employ as many staff as you need to run that shop. All great until the summer holidays when people are away and things get tight. This is an ideal scenario to take someone on to cover as and when they’re needed on a casual contract. You don’t have regular weekly hours to provide – it’s no good offering someone a contract to work 20 hours per week if you don’t have 20 hours to give them every week and in reality the hours are going to vary wildly.

When SHOULDN’T I use Casual Contracts?
In a nutshell, if you’re going to offer someone hours regularly, you should do it on a regular employment contract. Even if those hours might vary, let’s say you’re going to need that person definitely for 20 hours per week, but you might actually be able to give them extra hours. In this case, you should give them an employment contract for 20 hours per week and treat anything extra as overtime.

The other consideration is whether you really need continuity. If you want to guarantee that someone is going to come in to work (ignoring sick leave or other leave entitlements), you need an employee. But if you have say 10 people on a casual register and you don’t mind which one of them does the work, then casual could be the way to go.

Why is it a big deal?
Well, it’s a big deal for the person doing the work. If they’re a casual, then in law they have “WORKER” status. That means that they still get accrued holiday pay (but paid in a different way) but they may not qualify for other employment rights, such as sick pay, parental leave, notice pay, the right to transfer under TUPE if the business is sold or their function is outsourced… and so on. They have no guarantee of being offered any work at all.

And of course, it’s a big deal for the employer if they suddenly find they’ve got it horribly wrong and end up with a tribunal or a claim for a cost they hadn’t considered.

Flexibility can work both ways, so why do Casual Contracts have such a bad name?
The problem comes when an employer tells someone they’re a Casual Worker, gives them a Zero-Hours casual contract and then treats them as an employee – in all but their employment rights. So they start giving them regular hours, they expect them to come into work each week, they accrue holiday pay in the wrong way… but then when it comes to time off sick, there’s no SSP because that’s what the contract says. Or they outsource the department and don’t include the Casual Workers on the transfer to the new employer, because they’re not employees. Or they decide they don’t need them anymore after a few years and don’t consult or pay any redundancy pay… because that’s what the contract says.

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what the contract says, the law will look at the reality of the job. If you’re giving casual workers regular hours but with a zero-hours contract, you could hit trouble.

If you’re now looking at your business’s situation thinking “ok now I’m really not sure whether I’m doing this right”, you might benefit from signing up to HR on Tap’s service. Drop us an email to see how we can help!

Are you just like everyone else? So many businesses, particularly small to medium sized businesses, view employee benefits purely as an extra cost.

Do you know what makes that ironic? When you treat employee benefits just as a cost, that’s exactly what they become! The RIGHT benefits package works FOR your business, helping to engage and motivate employees to perform at their best and remain loyal. The WRONG benefits package however is just an overhead that nobody really appreciates and that delivers little return to the business.

So here are our top tips on key points to consider when you’re working out the right set of benefits to provide to your employees.

1. Start with the big picture – what are your business’s culture, values and goals? The goals of your benefits package should be aligned with these

2. Design a package that both attracts talented candidates AND retains and motivates employees to perform at their best

3. Recognise that not everyone is motivated by money. Everyone will have different triggers, so providing a range of options will make it easier to keep a diverse workforce happy. The better you understand your employees’ motivations, the better results you’ll get.

4. Take advice to make sure you take advantage of tax-efficient benefits to help both your business and your employees

5. Make sure you keep the balance between ensuring equality but not treating everyone as clones

6. Sell your benefits package in your recruitment adverts and materials as well as making sure your employees know what’s available – otherwise it can only do half a job!

7. Make sure you regularly review your benefits package to make sure it still works, supports your business and is competitive

Need support with designing or implementing a new employee reward program or employee benefits package? Contact HR on Tap to discuss how we can help.

Reducing staff numbers is one of the hardest jobs a manager has to do. When you’ve got to know your team, having to single some of them out to tell them they no longer have a job can be really tough. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Follow these tips and you should come through the other side with your employees’ respect intact.

  1. Have a sound business reason for making reductions – the more logical your argument, the easier it will be for your team to understand and accept.
  2. Communicate fully and regularly with your team, as a group, individually and in writing, even with individuals you know are not likely to lose their job. From the employee’s perspective, no news is NOT good news.
  3. Involve your employees. They may well think of alternatives that you didn’t. Don’t assume that they don’t understand your big picture, you may be surprised at some of the great suggestions you receive to avoid job losses.
  4. Listen. Even to daft ideas that you know will never work. Even to angry rants. Even to questions you think you’ve already answered several times (you probably need to re-phrase the answer)
  5. Never use redundancy as an excuse to weed out poor performers. If people aren’t performing well, you should be managing them through an entirely different process. Redundancy is an easy cop-out that’s likely to land you in a tribunal with an employee who doesn’t believe there is a fair answer to “why me?”
  6. Never make promises you’re not 100% certain you can keep. This is the quickest way to lose respect and trust and will jeopardise the whole process.
  7. Focus on the future. Securing a new job quickly – and it being the RIGHT new job is a key priority for most people going through redundancy. Businesses can be really proactive in helping redundant employees to find work. It’s much more than helping put a cv together – it’s inviting recruitment agents in to talk to staff, contacting businesses who might have jobs for them, helping individuals to get through the psychological process of losing their job and moving on. This is the critical part that most businesses forget, yet from the employee’s perspective is the most important.
  8. Don’t forget the people who are staying. You’ve just completely changed the dynamic of their team and their work environment. Your remaining team also have a psychological process to go through. They may “grieve” the loss of their colleagues and question their own security. This is a vulnerable time for employees to start looking for work elsewhere. If you want to retain their loyalty to you, they must see that you have treated their
    colleagues fairly and that you recognise that it’s been hard on them too.
  9. Seek professional guidance if you’re not confident with doing this yourself. The damage that poorly handled redundancy processes cause can cost your business far more in the long run.

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Even some of the most experienced managers don’t think about number 5…!

When an employee misbehaves in some way, you might sometimes need to bring them back onto the right track, or in extreme cases remove them from your employment. The disciplinary process is the correct way to deal with these issues. But however justified you are in taking action, getting it wrong can land you in some very messy – and expensive – trouble.

The worst part is that even when you KNOW you’re right, defending yourself in Tribunal can be seriously expensive, even if you win! So your job is not just to make a fair decision, but to make the employee feel the decision was fair. Not quite the same thing.

So here’s the top 5 things you absolutely must stick to, as part of a fair process that also keeps you out of tribunal.

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