Election 2017
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What HR Professionals Need to Know about the General Election

From political discussions in the office to what the election result could mean to you, here’s what you need to know…

One of the first issues when a general election is called is the matter of politics within the workplace.

Of course, you can’t ban any talk of politics or the general election – it will be uppermost in many people’s minds and on the news constantly. But you are entitled to stop political campaigning at work, which might cause disruption or upset to your staff or customers – and of course if they try to use work equipment for their campaigning, for instance, using the photocopier to produces masses of leaflets.

You are also entitled to stop any political symbols being worn at work. Do you have a dress code or a policy on political activities in the workplace? Use these to let your staff know about your expectations. And with Brexit being at the fore of all parties campaigning in the run-up to the election, any comments that could be construed as harassment, particularly towards other nationalities, is a strict no-go area. HR departments may need to be prepared for conflict on this matter.

So, onto the election and the policies that could affect those of us working in HR.

Conservative Plans

It is expected that Theresa May is planning to protect workers’ rights, as she is said to want to create a fairer, equal society and to aid social mobility. The Conservatives said they would ‘protect and enhance’ workers’ rights in the Brexit White Paper – which would include the three million EU nationals living in the UK, as well as UK citizens in the EU.

Most parties want to keep the employment rights we already enjoy under the EU, so hopefully most of these won’t be changed much, whoever wins the election.

Hopefully May will also stay firm to her promise to help to end the stigma of mental health in the workplace, and the Tories have already promised to back legislation on the gender pay gap – so let’s hope that won’t change either.

Labour Plans

If Labour come to power, Jeremy Corbyn has promised that they would raise the minimum wage for all to a minimum of £10 an hour by 2020. Good news for employees, although there may be some companies questioning if they could afford it. Labour also want to add another four bank holidays to the calendar – these could be especially significant for companies that work with counterparts overseas who don’t have the same days off.

At the moment, the Taylor Review is looking into modern employment practices, including the gig economy and zero hour contracts – so it is hoped that this does not get forgotten amongst all the political campaigning – and its findings overlooked. Read more on the review here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send an email to: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Budget
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The Budget and what it means for HR

This is the last time that we will see a Spring Budget – the main budget will be seen in the Autumn from now on – so the way businesses plan their year may also change in response to this.

These are the main points that concern HR and human resources departments:

Self-employment

The announced plan to increase NI rates of the self-employed was met by uproar, especially as the present government has made a pledge to support the small business. As a result, Chancellor Philip Hammond had to make a U-turn on this in the days that followed the announcement. Good news for the moment for the ever-increasing gig economy.  Read our previous blogs on the Gig Economy here.

The initial decision was intended to help even up the tax benefits between employed and self-employed people, with Hammond stating that there was around a £4,000 disparity between the tax paid by an employed and self-employed person each earning £32,000. However, as critics have stated, the self-employed don’t benefit from the likes of sick pay, holiday pay and maternity pay to name just a few.

But as more people diversify in their working lives, experts say that this has only served to highlight that issues with taxation will become ever more complex – and could be a threat to the gig economy if people can no longer afford to freelance.

Back to work

An interesting development for those of us in HR is the promise to support those returning to work after a career break. A total of £5 million has been set aside to help these people, which will of course include many women coming back into the workforce after having children.

Business rate

Business rates are set to be capped, so that they will not rise by more than £50 a month. A £300m discretionary fund will go to local authorities to enable them to help businesses with their rates where they see fit.

National Living Wage

As we know from the Autumn Statement, the National Living Wage is set to increase to £7.50 this month. The personal tax allowance rises to £11,500 and the higher tax rate now starts at £45,000.

Educations, skills and training

Technical skills come into focus, with the launch of T-Levels, for those training in the sector from age 16-19, while the number of technical courses available will be cut in order to raise the quality of the remaining ones. £40 million will be ploughed into the Department of Education to test and pilot a number of lifelong learning projects. Increasing STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and maths) in schools is also going to be a priority.

 

And finally, you should have heard from the Pensions Adviser or someone in your organisation who may have information about your staging date. Most payroll companies use the auto-enrolment software and can set up the scheme, but if you have any queries please contact us at admin@embracehr.co.uk.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send an email to: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk.

 

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Statutory Sick Pay
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Getting Back to Work

Employees who have been off work with a long-term illness could still be paid Statutory Sick Pay when they return to employment, if proposals from a recent government Green Paper go ahead.

The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper revealed that sickness absence costs employers £9 billion a year, while the additional cost to the NHS of treating long-term health conditions that keep people out of work is estimated at around £7 billion per year.

Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

The Paper proposes a number of measures to help those with long-term health conditions get back to work.

Included in the Green Paper are recommendations for a review of Statutory Sick Pay and GP Fit Notes in order to help people get back into their jobs more quickly, and to stay there for longer. The aim is that these changes will help to encourage more supportive conversations between staff and employers and enable phased returns to work which, in the long term, should improved retention, employee engagement and productivity.

The proposals look at encouraging GPs to talk to people about what work they might be capable of doing, and for attitudes to change among employers, with the intention of encouraging more contact between employers and their sick employees.

This could see HR departments conduct a vital role in liaising with employees who are off work with long-term health problems, with a view to helping them to get back to work – perhaps on a part-time or remote basis.

In some cases where the return to work is phased, employees will still be able to claim sick pay once they are back at work.

At the moment, staff who may be entitled, can claim £88.45 a week in statutory sick pay if they are too sick to work for up to 28 weeks (see the gov.uk website). But that does mean that should they return to work part time – because it is all they can manage – they lose that sick pay, even though they are not earning a full-time wage.

This change could encourage people to go back to work earlier – doing what they can manage – even if that is a part-time role.

Health and Wellbeing

The move comes as part of a realisation that getting back to work can actually help people’s health and wellbeing. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “With all the evidence showing that work is a major driver of health, this is a big opportunity – to make sure that people get the support they need, improve their health, and benefit the NHS all at the same time. I hope that health professionals will contribute their expertise so that we can ensure the best possible outcomes.” 

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, commented: “Our health, wellbeing and happiness are inextricably linked to work. People in work generally have better health. So it makes perfect sense for the government to do all it can to support employers to close the gap around employment, disability and illness and to enable people to work when they can.”  

If you would like to discuss how the new Green Paper may affect your organisation and employees or to have a chat about your general HR requirements, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send an email to: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

 

The Future of Work – Part 2

As we mentioned in our previous blog in this series, the world of work is ever changing – and never more so than now.

Fundamental Changes

One of the most fundamental changes is the boom of the gig economy. This is where people work on a freelance basis, for different employers, and possibly in different roles.

A new report from McKinsey, entitled ‘Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy’ is proving to be quite groundbreaking – for two reasons.

Not only is it the first time that any real study has been made of freelancer workers in the 21st century, it has made a – to some – surprising discovery about those workers.

It has been assumed generally that people who work in the ‘gig economy’ do so because they are desperate and unable to find a ‘real’ job. But this report reveals that 74% of independent workers in the UK do so because they want to – and it’s not limited to young people by any means – only of a quarter of those in this category were under 25.

Not only that, but these people seem to be happier than traditional employees, with more job satisfaction. This gig economy stretches across many professions, from less well-paid ones to sectors such as construction, transport, doctors, therapists, accountants and writers.

And PwC’s My life connected report says that while technology is helping to drive the trend, the main catalyst is workers who are keen to take control over their own careers.

The gig economy is set to grow according to McKinsey’s report – which found 14 per cent of traditional workers expressed a desire to become an ‘independent worker’. Forecasts say that by 2020, the gig economy will be worth around £2 billion in the UK and $63 billion globally.

Are HR departments ready to tackle this change in direction? Not according to PwC’s The future of work, which discovered that fewer than one-third of organisations are basing their strategies for future recruitment on this change – even though nearly half of HR professionals expect that 20% of their staff will comprise temporary and contract workers by 2020.

Around half of organisations don’t offer training or appraisals for casual staff – and the figures are even higher for freelance and agency workers.

Embrace Change

HR departments will need to embrace the idea of the gig economy, and form networks with former employees who leave – in case they want to use their new skills in the future. The flexibility that freelance staff can provide can enable companies to be productive for longer hours – maybe making sales or opportunities available with companies in different time zones, to cover staff absence more effectively and to bring in specific skillsets as and when they are needed.

PwC, for example, has an online platform that connects independent professionals with its own teams. Freelancers can register at Talent Exchange and upload their CVs and then apply to work on various projects within PwC. It means the company can access the talent it needs at short notice – what is there not to like?

Talk to your department leaders, find out what resources they are short of. Discover what requirements they need and you could set up a similar system to make a more effective system in your own organisation.

Organisations will need to make changes in their culture and their leadership, as well as marketing and recruitment – and this is a great opportunity for HR to lead the way…

If you would like to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time. Please get in touch if you have any questions or require more information on this article by email: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or phone: 07767 308 717.

The Future Of Work

In the first of this series, we look at how the way we work and the type of work on offer is changing the face of employment in the UK. In the following two blogs we will look more closely at the gig economy and at how HR professionals will need to adapt to keep up with the rapidly changing world of employment.

Changing face of employment

The world of work is changing at an amazing rate. Unless you had your finger on the pulse of technological developments, you were unlikely to have known 10 years ago that ‘social media expert’ would be a job title – or that it would be possible to take a qualification in Games Design at your local college!

And who could have forecast that the founder of Games Workshop would help to revamp the computing curriculum, and be planning to open two new free schools that will specialise in computer science, technology and the arts? In a few years, these new-look schools will be sending candidates through the doors for interviews – and they will have quite a different skill set from this generation.

Not only are the jobs changing but the way we are actually employed is altering too – the ‘gig economy’ sees many people taking up temporary positions as a matter of course and companies using independent or freelance staff for short-term contracts. It’s predicted that by 2030, millennials will be managing teams of people aged from 17 to 70 – all working in different ways. Many will work remotely and most will be on highly individualised contracts. An interesting proposition for the HR department!

Gig economy

Many people will start to question if their job will actually exist in another 15 years, as the gig economy is fast-growing – with a study by Intuit predicting that by 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors. The World Economic Forum, meanwhile, notes that by that time more than 7m jobs – mostly in white-collar and admin roles – could be lost to ‘disruptive labour market changes’. It’s a sobering thought.

Both of these developments are going to change the face of HR, as more and more employees are likely to be on short-term contracts. Many will have to face the fact that their chosen career path is likely to disappear and will need to adapt and retrain to continue to have a function in their organisation.

It also means that when recruiting, companies will have to look for employees who are flexible and willing to adapt and evolve as the world of work changes around them.

It is going to be a challenging and yet exciting time in the HR arena. Are you up for the challenge?

Next month: we focus on learning and development in this ever-changing environment.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time. Please get in touch if you have any questions or require more information on this article by email: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or phone: 07767 308 717.

Workplace Stress and How to Avoid it

In the last of our series on wellbeing, we are looking at stress, how HR can help managers and staff to avoid it, and what effect it can have on companies.

The number of working days lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 9.9 million, according to a Labour Force Survey.

That means that the condition affected 1,380 workers in every 100,000, with each person losing 23 days a year – that’s nearly a month of working days! Public services such as health, education, and public administration are particularly hard hit by these conditions. It is also more prevalent in larger organisations.

So what is causing this phenomenon?

According to the survey, the predominant cause was workload, including tight deadlines, too much work, pressure and responsibility.

Other factors included a lack of managerial support, organisational changes at work, lack of control, violence and role uncertainty, ie, the lack of clarity about the job and uncertainty over what an individual is meant to do.

What’s more, a study by the British Heart Foundation found that those affected by workplace stress also put their health at risk by smoking more, drinking more, eating the wrong foods and failing to exercise.

Most of the issues can be tackled within the workplace.

What you can do

When it comes to workload, deadlines and pressure, ensuring that staff are taking the holidays they are entitled to, and that staff absences are not putting pressure on those workers who are left to cover is vital. Proper holiday planning, detailed handovers, and monitoring of the number of days taken off are all vital. Monitoring may highlight patterns for instance of sickness absence, that a manager can then address.

It also means that if staff leave, or are absent for some time, proper cover should be provided, rather than relying on other members of staff to cover their own work as well as that of a missing colleague.

You also need to make sure that hours are in line with the Working Time Regulations – working no more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks.  And those under 18 cannot work for more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. There are exceptions of course, in professions such as the armed forces, police and emergency services, security and surveillance.  Staff may opt out of the Working Time Regulations and you can find details on this at the Gov.uk website here.

The Working Time Regulations govern the hours most workers can work and set:

  •  limits on an average working week
  • statutory entitlement to paid leave for most workers
  • limits on the normal hours of night work and regular health assessments
  • special regulations for young workers.

As with so many things, prevention is most definitely better than cure. The company needs to have procedures in place so that issues are reported with confidence, and regular reviews between managers and staff can ensure that any problems are picked up early, so that measures can be put in place to prevent situations worsening.

You can also encourage managers to lead by example and by creating a far more pleasant workplace culture. They should encourage regular breaks, not expect long working hours, encourage lunch to be taken away from a desk, and also be open to flexible working, if it is viable in your industry.

There is a lot to take in here. You might like to refer back to our two previous blogs in the wellbeing series.

  •  Holidays are vital to a healthy workplace – click here
  • Fit and healthy staff make for a fit and healthy company – click here

But the overriding message is simple, look after your staff and it will pay dividends!

If you have issues with planning and managing holidays and absenteeism, do talk to us about HR software solutions. We recommend Staff Squared.

Equally, we are well placed to assist you in implementing a plan to address managing wellbeing in the workplace, including drawing up clear and relevant job descriptions, objectives setting and appraisals; all of which can help identify learning and development needs giving your teams more confidence to do the job effectively and efficiently.

We look forward to hearing from you. Email us or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.

Legislation and Payment Changes April 2016

As always, April sees a number of changes in financial matters and the big change for 2016 is the introduction of the National Living Wage – rates for many other payments, however, have been frozen. Here’s a snapshot of the current situation:

National Living Wage

The headline-grabbing change for this April is the introduction of the compulsory National Living Wage (NLW). From 6 April 2016, this mandatory payment will apply to all workers aged 25 and over.

Initially set at £7.20 an hour, it will run alongside the current National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates (see table – rates are likely to change again on 1 October 2016) and is expected to rise to more than £9 by 2020.

National Minimum Wage

The Government is also targeting employers who fail to pay the correct rates for NMW. An increase in the penalty for underpayment is also on the cards, under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. The fine of 100% of the underpayment owed to each worker will be doubled to 200% up to £20,000 per worker.

Statutory Rates

Generally, the rates of Statutory Pay increase in April in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), however as this fell by 0.1% in the year to September 2015, the rates for 2016/2017 have been frozen. Employees must earn at least £112 a week to be entitled to these payments – this amount has also been frozen for 2016/17.

Compensation Payments

Laws that will see employer face financial penalties if they fail to pay tribunal awards or Acas settlement sums are expected to come into effect in April 2016. Employers will be forced to pay 50% of the unpaid award – maximum and minimum amounts will apply – and there will be reductions for prompt payment.

For help with your human resources requirements, issues and activities, please contact us for a no obligation discussion. Embrace HR, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.  Email us at cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

The National Minimum Wage 2014

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) increases on the 1st October 2014. Below are the current rates and the new rates that comes into force next week.

What

Prior to October 2014

per hour

From 1 October 2014

per hour

Workers aged 21 +

£6.31

£6.50

Development rate for workers aged 18-20

£5.03

£5.13

Young workers aged16-17

£3.72

£3.79

Apprentices under 19 or who are over 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship

£2.68

£2.73

If you are a London employer – have you considered paying the London Living Wage? It is £8.80 at the present, and if your business is based anywhere in the rest of the country, the Living Wage is set at £7.65.

For help with HR, whether you are take on your first or your fiftieth employee, do contact us for a no obligation discussion. Embrace HR, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.

Time Off for Fathers and Partners for Antenatal Appointments

With effect from 1 October 2014, prospective fathers and partners now have the right to take unpaid leave to attend antenatal appointments. This unpaid time off from work can be taken by employees and qualifying agency workers if they meet one of the following criteria. The individual should be:

  • the baby’s father;
  • the expectant mother’s spouse, her civil partner, or partner (of either sex in an enduring relationship;
  • intended parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to be entitled to and intend to apply for a parental order in respect of that child.

There is no qualifying period for employees. This is a right from the first day that they are employed. However, to qualify, agency workers need to be doing the same kind of job for the same ‘hirer’ for at least 12 weeks. The maximum time per appointment is capped at 6 hours and 30 minutes but an employer may offer more time off.

If an employee or qualified agency worker is refused time off to accompany the expectant mother, they may make a complaint to the Employment Tribunal within 3 months. If the Tribunal upholds the complaint, compensation may be awarded. This would be calculated as twice the hourly rate of pay for each of the hours that the person would have taken off if the right had been respected.

Further information can be found in an employer guide by the Department of Business Innovation & Skills via this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/antenatal-appointments-time-off-to-accompany-a-pregnant-woman