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Returning to Work during COVID-19 – Things to Consider

As the government encourages construction and manufacturing businesses to get staff back to work unless they can work at home, we take a look at what SMEs need to consider to ensure their staff are kept safe…

The current message from the government is now for businesses to start getting back to work if they possibly can. And with a clearer idea of how long the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is to go on for, and a plan for getting people gradually back to work in place, now’s the time to look at how to manage staff back.

For now, anyone who can work from home should do so, but the government is suggesting that other employees get back to work by June where appropriate. The CIPD has said that employers should meet the requirement of a three-point checklist before bringing staff back to work. These are as follows:

  • Firstly, that it is essential for employees to be present in the workplace
  • Secondly, that it is safe for them to be there
  • And thirdly, that both employers and workers agree that they should come back into the workplace.

The workspace

The key questions to pose before your office staff return to work are:

  • Can they still work from home?
  • When they do come back to work how will that be achieved to maintain social distancing and minimise the risk and spread of infection?

You must consider how staff can safely distance from each other, not just when sat at a desk, but when walking around the office, using the toilet and drinks areas. You need to work out safe walking routes around the workspace and, if space is tight, consider splitting shifts or alternating days so that you don’t have all of the staff in at all times. Screens should only be used if you have no more space to distance employees, and meetings should be avoided. If they must take place, keep everyone distanced or take it outside if possible. Hot desking is also to be avoided. If someone has to use another desk, computers and phone, or other equipment, these should be thoroughly cleaned between users.

Changing the way you work

Perhaps this whole situation has made you realise that your staff can work from home. Maybe you don’t need an office or can utilise a smaller space. Now is a good time to consider how your business might look in the future. Start looking at the implications of people working full time from home – what do you need to do to make this happen – for instance:

  • Do you need a more robust IT provision in place?
  • What extra insurance cover will you need?
  • Have you been using Microsoft Teams or other collaborative software? Can this work in the future? If not, consider what sort of software and systems you need to make the shift in order to work more effectively and efficiently.

Getting to work

The message is that the youngest school children and those in Year 6 (age 10-11) will go back to school first. For some of your staff this will mean that they have children who cannot be left at home alone. Remember that even if your staff have slightly older children, they may have needs that mean they cannot be left at home all day either. Also, staff who need to use public transport may be unwilling to do so. In both cases, you need to have an open discussion with them about what the alternatives are:

  • Can they continue to work from home?
  • Can they work different hours to avoid going on busy transport systems, or work around a partner’s work hours to enable childcare?

Keeping safe

Government guidance says that all employers should be carrying out risk assessments on returning to work, consulting both with their workers and trade unions where applicable. If you employ more than 50 people you will be expected to publish the risk assessment on your company website.

To keep any contact to a minimum, staggered shifts and keeping staff in the same teams are good ways to minimise the number of people with whom they come into contact.

On construction sites, staggered arrival times and multiple entrances are suggested, along with screens to separate workers. Where social distancing is not possible, workers should work back to back or side by side. Swapping of tools should be avoided to lessen the risk of contamination.

In addition, in factories, plants and warehouses, employers should look at how people can work away from each other, in order to maintain the required social distancing, and to stagger the times and locations of breaks.

Working in other people’s homes

If your staff work in people’s homes, such as carers and support workers, or even nurses, they should discuss how social distancing will be achieved. However, working with people means often being close to them. They may require personal care which means that social distancing is not possible. There are other areas to consider. Recommendations can be to leave all internal doors open to minimise touching door handles; restricting the number of people working in normal busy areas such as kitchens and bathrooms; and the mantra of ‘wash hands on arrival and regularly throughout’ cannot be repeated enough. And, of course, it should go without saying that everyone – whether in the home or workplace – should try and minimise the spread of infection.

Restaurants

Keep kitchen access limited to essential staff to minimise any contact. If the kitchen is large enough, install screens to separate workers and only allow one person to enter walk-in freezers and pantries at one time.

Shops

Shops should limit customers in the premises to maintain social distance, use contactless payment where possible and reduce customer service to enable the safety for staff.

Vehicles

If your staff use the company’s vehicles, they should be provided with hand sanitiser and cleaning products. Keep staff in teams so that contact is minimised and supply screens to keep them separate if possible. Contact for deliveries should be kept to a minimum, using online payment and pre-arranging for goods to be dropped off in a safe and secure area.

 

You can read the full government guidance on working safely here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you with work from home contracts, risk assessments, staff safety, the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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.

Woman sitting on luggage flexible furlough Embrace HR
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Being Flexible About Furlough

With so many companies furloughing their staff so quickly, there is now some essential work that needs doing – some flexibility would help companies, especially SMEs, to keep afloat…

With two-thirds of British companies using the furlough scheme during the COVID-19 crisis, it is no surprise that important tasks that should have been done before everyone left the office have been missed. It all happened so quickly that, especially for SMEs, who do not have a lot of manpower, many important back-ups were not put into place.

The problem is that once an employee has been furloughed, they are not supposed to do ANY work whatsoever. However, in real life, business cannot just come to a full stop like that, and there is work still to be done. For example, out-of-office replies need to be set up on emails, calls and emails need to be redirected, websites and social media need updating, and clients need to be contacted. Loyal and conscientious staff may want to ‘volunteer’ to undertake these roles so that things don’t fall through the cracks, and in the hope that there will be a business for them to go back to when this is all over. However, under the current rules, this is not possible.

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) is calling for increased flexibility within the scheme, so furloughed employees can work reduced hours for their existing employer where possible.

Flexible furlough

It is in these situations where we at Embrace HR would support a scheme that allowed for a more flexible furlough scheme – one where employees were 50 per cent furloughed and 50 per cent employed, for example. We appreciate that there would be some additional administration required for this to work, but as the situation continues we believe it would be more realistic and give smaller businesses more opportunity to help keep their companies afloat until we can all get back to work. It would also help employees to keep abreast of the business and client requirements and would enable them to ease back into the workplace. Many people have had to adjust to working remotely, and those with children have had the added responsibility of having to find time to school them. This has caused changes to working in a ‘traditional’ office, and daily commuting.

“Flexible Furlough will, in my opinion, go some way to supporting both businesses as well as employees”, said Embrace HR Director Cecily Lalloo.

Holiday allowance

Something that has been updated within the scheme is the Government’s guidance about annual leave during the furlough period. The new guidance will make it easier for employers to plan ahead. It states says that employees will still accrue their holiday allowance while on furlough. The government has relaxed the regulations and now permit 4.6 weeks’ holiday to be carried over to the next two years.

Something else that has been made clear is that staff can take holiday during the furlough period. This would mean that they would be paid 100 per cent of their usual renumeration salary. The employer can still claim 80 per cent of the holiday pay from the Government but would have to top up the other 20 per cent.

We have been lucky that the weather in the UK has been glorious since lockdown began, and many people may feel like they are on holiday anyway. But the real concern is that once people go back to work, they may still want to take their holiday time. Many staff will not have claimed any holiday during the first part of the year. If a small company has five employees, with the statutory paid holiday entitlement of 5.6 weeks (in normal circumstances), they will be expecting to take a total of 140 days’ holiday between the end of lockdown and the end of the year. This is quite a lot of time out of a small business.

For smaller companies, especially those struggling to recover, this may be difficult to manage and is going to be unsustainable, particularly if they have to pay for temporary or freelance cover when staff take holidays. It is a good idea for business owners and managers to consider how they will manage holidays, and to talk to their people.

Rolling over holiday allowance

At the end of March, the Government announced that staff who did not take all of their annual leave – because it was not practical for them to do so – because of the virus, would be allowed to carry it over into the next two years. This applies to most businesses with a few exceptions.

You may like to read our previous article on furloughing staff – good news as furlough deadline is extended.

To apply for the furlough scheme for your company, visit the gov.uk website.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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.

Woman Wearing Face Mask Coronavirus Embrace HR
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Good News as Furlough Deadline Extended

Your newest employees may now be eligible for furlough, after the deadline was extended to 19 March 2020…

If you have new employees who were not initially eligible under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), now’s the time to take another look, as the rules have just been revised. The eligibility date for furlough has now been extended to 19 March 2020, which means tens of thousands of people who thought they had missed out will now be eligible.

The furlough scheme is designed to help companies struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. If you furlough staff, they remain employed by you but mustn’t actually work. The government will repay employers 80% of an employee’s salary (up to £2,500 a month) and it is up to the employer if they top up the pay to 100%.

However, it is not enough for a member of staff to have been employed by your company by that date. In order for your employee to be eligible you must have made a payroll notification to HMRC on or before 19 March.

If any staff were employed on 28 February, but were made redundant before 19 March, they can also qualify for the scheme if you choose to re-employ them and then put them on furlough. It is expected that a quarter of UK workers – that’s more than 9 million people – will be furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to a  survey published by the British Chamber of Commerce, (BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker dated 15 April 2020) two-thirds of British companies have used the scheme, and a third of companies have 75% of their staff on furlough.

Do’s and don’ts of furloughing

Here is a quick reminder of the things to consider if you are furloughing staff:

  • You must instruct your employee in writing that they are to cease all work in order to be eligible under the scheme.
  • We asked Embrace HR’s employment law solicitor IBB about the rules for rotating furloughed employees. They told us that it is allowed ‘provided that the employees are furloughed for a minimum of three weeks at a time’.
  • Anyone working in a full time, PAYE job – even if on a zero hours contract – is eligible.
  • The grants to businesses are due to be paid out some time in April and will be backdated to 1 March.
  • If staff are self-isolating, they must receive Statutory Sick Pay. They can then be furloughed when they return to work. However, those who are shielding due to health conditions can be furloughed.
  • If you have staff who earn variable pay due to zero hours or flexible working contracts, the 80% will be calculated one of three ways: using figures from the same month in 2019, average monthly earnings for the 2019/2020 tax year, or an average of monthly salary since they started work. The highest figure will be used.

You might like to read our other blogs on the matter of Coronavirus:

Please contact us for more advice on the furlough scheme. To help businesses during the pandemic, we are pleased to be able to provide, free of charge, a template document for notifying your staff about the furlough scheme.

If you would like to request a copy of the free template or to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you comply with new laws, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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.

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Coronavirus FAQs and Statutory Pay Increases

How are you doing today?

Another weekend over. Is Nature / the Good Lord balancing things for us? In spite of the Coronavirus pandemic, hasn’t it been a wonderful weekend – weatherwise – for us in SW England?

I do hope this week will not present too many challenges to you and that you find support in everything you do.

Remote working 

Embrace HR blog picture

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

 

Following government guidelines, we are all working from our homes; but are carrying on with business as usual.

A VERY BIG THANK YOU to Maria, Deana and Bridgette, who are terrific in keeping the wheels turning.

Our office telephone has been placed on voicemail but we will pick up messages. Communication, however, is best by email, especially if it is urgent. Please email us at admin@embracehr.co.uk. 

ID Cards  

We have been issuing our client’s staff with the necessary ID required for them to be identified as Key Workers.

Please contact us if you would like more information.

Furlough Leave 

In these unprecedented and difficult times, the government has introduced a new scheme to help prevent redundancies called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). I have mentioned it in earlier blogs. But there has been a lot to take in so I don’t apologies for mentioning it again here.

The scheme is for businesses who do not have any work for their employees due to the Coronavirus situation. The scheme pays for 80% of the employees wages while they are not working. The scheme is currently running from 1 March to 31st May 2020. It is unknown at this time if the scheme will be extended. 

Legally, the employee will be placed on Furlough Leave which must be for a minimum of 3 weeks. Whilst on Furlough Leave the employee will remain employed by the company but must not work for their employer. They will accrue annual leave as usual.    

FAQs

These are some of the frequently asked questions we have received over the last few weeks:  

Can I Furlough my pregnant employee?  

If you have an employee who is pregnant and is due to go on maternity leave soon, it is possible to place them on Furlough Leave before they go. However, once they start maternity leave they will no longer be on Furlough Leave. 

Can I Furlough an employee returning from maternity leave?  

If you have an employee who is due to return from maternity leave during a period that other employees are on Furlough Leave, and you intend to designate the returner as a Furlough Worker, it is possible to place them on Furlough Leave when they were due to return to work.  

How do I decide who to Furlough?  

If you have a pool of staff who are all doing the same role, it may be difficult to decide who to Furlough and who to leave working. When making the decision, iis important to be aware of not discriminating against someone because, for example, they are disabled or pregnant. One option would be to offer the Furlough scheme on a voluntary basis. Another option would be to draw up a list of objective criteria to aid your decision.  

Changes to Statutory Benefits  

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW)

From 1 April 2020 the changes are detailed below.   

National Minimum Wage 

 

2019  2020 
Employees over 25 years   £8.21  £8.72 
Employees aged 21-24 years  £7.70  £8.20 
Employees aged 18-20 years  £6.15  £6.45 
Employees aged under 18 years  £4.35  £4.55 
Apprentices  £3.90  £4.15 

Other Statutory Pay Increases 

  • Pay for Maternity, Adoption, Paternity, Shared Parental Leave increased to £151.20 on 5th April 2020.
  • Statutory  Sick Pay increased to £9.85 from today, 6th April 2020. 

Do you have any HR questions you need answered?

If so, do contact our Team at Embrace HR by using the contact form here or contact me on LinkedIn.

You can also find us at our Facebook Page EmbraceHR Support.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports SMEs and care packages 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 London.

Pictures are from Pexels.com

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Embrace HR Update March 2020

As April draws closer, we are preparing for several changes that will come into effect during the 1st week of the month…

Employment Law Actions

Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment

There are several changes taking place to the Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment which is given to new employees or workers to form their contract with their employer. In addition to the existing criteria the statement will also need to contain information on the following:

  • Details regarding the days of the weeks the person will be working and whether or not these will be variable
  • Details of any paid leave in addition to annual leave and sick leave
  • Details of any other benefits not included elsewhere in the statement
  • Details of any probationary period and the conditions associated with it
  • Details of any training entitlement which will be provided by the employer
  • Details of any part of that entitlement which will be compulsory
  • Particulars of any other compulsory training which the employer will not pay for

In addition, employees will have the right to receive their Statement of Terms and Conditions on the first day of employment; previously this entitlement was within two months of their start date.

Lastly casual workers (also known by some as bank workers) will now be entitled to receive a Statement of Terms of Conditions.

Calculating Holiday Pay

At the moment the average holiday pay for atypical contracts (variable hours and variable pay), is based on a 12-week reference period which includes overtime and variable hours. This is going to be extended to a 52-week reference period which means the average holiday pay for a employees and workers will be based on the number of hours worked over a rolling year.

Break in Continuous Service

The amount of continuous employment an employee has accrued is important for working out their employee rights, for example the right to claim unfair dismissal after two years’ service. Previously if an employee left their employer and didn’t return until after one week, they would be deemed to have had a break in their continuous service. However, the qualifying period for a break in service is going to be extended from 1 week to 4 weeks. This means that if employees do not have a break of 4 weeks, their continuous service will count from the start of their previous contract. This will make it easier for temporary workers to have continuous employment and mean that they are more likely to qualify for various employee rights. This will particularly impact staff moving from bank (casual) to permanent positions or vice versa.

Parental Bereavement Leave

Parents and primary carers will be entitled to two weeks’ leave following the death of their child under the age of 18; or a still birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Employees with 26 weeks’ service or more will be entitled to two weeks statutory pay and other staff will be entitled to unpaid leave.

VE Day 2020

The early May bank holiday has been moved from Monday 4th May 2020 to Friday 8th May 2020 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

Statutory Pay Rates

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) will increase from 1st April 2020:

National Minimum Wage

 

2019 2020
Employees over 25 years £8.21 £8.72
Employees aged 21-24 years £7.70 £8.20
Employees aged 18-20 years £6.15 £6.45
Employees aged under 18 years £4.35 £4.55
Apprentices £3.90 £4.15

Other Statutory Pay Increases:

  • Maternity, Adoption, Paternity, Shared Parental Leave pay is increasing to £151.20 on 5th April 2020.
  • Statutory Sick Pay is increasing to £95.85 on 6th April 2020.

Brexit

Embrace HR can offer specific advice to businesses in relation to how their employees will be affected by Brexit. Please contact us for more information.

Current Coronavirus news

Embrace HR can offer specific advice to businesses in relation to managing employees affected by Coronavirus. Please contact us for more information.

This link takes you to the ACAS website that sets out general advice to employers: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Our Services

Embrace HR offers a range of services to help you manage and support the people working with you. We will not only ensure that you are legally compliant but also ensure that you have the best processes in place for the motivation and performance of the people working for you. Some of the services we provide are: recruitment, onboarding, disciplinary and grievance, family leave, performance management, engagement, management development. We work with BreatheHR to provide Cloud based HR Software.

If you would like to discuss these matters further and how it could help your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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.

Embrace HR regulation changes April 2020

New Year, New Changes for HR

Get ahead of the game and ensure you are aware of legislation changes coming in April 2020…

When it comes to keeping up with changes in HR law, we always look to April for new requirements – usually it’s things such as adjustments to the Living Wage and Minimum Wages, but in April 2020, keep an eye out for some slightly different amendments. Get on top of them once you are back at work after the Christmas break and you’ll be ahead of the game this spring!

Recording employees’ hours

First is a ruling by The European Court of Justice. This states that all employers must have established a system to record every hour that their employees are working.

The good news is that there is no ambiguity on this – whenever Brexit goes ahead, this ruling will still apply to UK organisations.

SMEs will be held accountable, just as much as larger organisations, so if you don’t have a suitable system in place, now is the time to look at it. You may need to implement some form of HR computing system to help – it can also enable you to keep up with holiday requests, performance reviews, communication and other HR requirements. Do contact us to find out more about our HR cloud software.

It’s something you don’t want to ignore – if your organisation doesn’t keep track of working hours and staff breaks, they could find themselves with a hefty fine or even facing a criminal conviction.

The new legislation was prompted by a case brought against Deutsche Bank by Spanish trade unions. The bank only recorded overtime hours, while the unions argued that the bank had a duty to record all hours worked.

The case went to the European Court of Justice, which supported the trade union’s claims. The legislation was passed while the UK was still a part of the EU, so the ruling will apply to UK companies.

Section 1 Statement

The other big change will apply to you if you are taking on new staff. It maintains that workers must have a written statement of main terms and conditions from the first day of their employment. What is required is a section 1 statement [legislation.gov.uk: Employment Rights Act 1996] (but with additional information), and this applies to both employees and workers.

The good news for those working in HR is that it still offers the chance to provide some information in instalments the following two months.

What has changed is that the law used to allow employers up to two months to provide all of this information, and that the law only applied to employees not workers.

However now, the section 1 statement will also need to include the following:

  • The working pattern and whether hours or days may be variable
  • What the employee is entitled to in terms of paid leave (to include maternity and paternity leave)
  • Details about the probationary period and its length
  • Whether there is any mandatory training offered by the employer

While this new law applies to new workers, do bear in mind that existing employees are also entitled to make a request for a section 1 statement that includes the new information. You must provide this within one month.

The new requirements stem from the government’s 2018 Good Work Plan, with the aim of increasing transparency between workers and employers and helping to enforce employment rights.

Should a company fail to comply, this could result in an employment tribunal claim from any staff affected.

What now?

Make sure that you conduct a review of your existing section 1 statement and ensure that by 6 April 2020 it includes the extra information listed above.

Also bear in mind that this could be the first in a long line of requirements requiring employers to make available information to workers, so that may be worth investigating sooner rather than later.

You might also like to read our blog entitled: The benefits of HR software.

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

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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.

Embrace HR changes April 2019

All change! Employment law alterations in April 2019

It’s vital that HR professionals keep up to date with changes in the law – here’s a rundown of the most recent updates…

Itemised pay statements

The right to receive an itemised pay statement has been extended to workers, rather than just employees from 6 April 2019.

If you have staff whose pay varies depending on the hours worked, the pay statement will have to include the total number of hours worked as well.

There are two ways to show this: it can be included either as an aggregate figure or as separate figures for different types of work.

Increase to National Minimum Wages

Both the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage have risen as of 1 April 2019. Hourly rates are now as follows:

 

Under 18

18-20

21-24

25 and over

National Minimum Wage

£4.35

£6.15

£7.70

National Living Wage

£8.21

Apprentices now receive £3.90 an hour and a daily accommodation offset of £7.55.

Statutory sick and family pay

The rate for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay has also increased. From 7 April 2019, it has upped to £148.68 a week.

Statutory sick pay has increased to £94.25.

Remember to update any of your policies or documents that mention these rates.

Statutory redundancy pay calculations

There are also new limits on statutory redundancy pay. Members of staff who have been employed for two years and are made redundant must be paid based on their weekly pay, length of service and age. The maximum weekly pay is now £525.

Employment tribunal award limits

Likewise, the limits on tribunal awards and other amounts payable under employment legislation has increased. The maximum amount of a week’s pay for calculating the basic award for unfair dismissal is now £525, and the maximum amount for unfair dismissal has upped to £86,444.

Pension contributions

The minimum amount for auto enrolment has increased since 6 April – to 8% of an employee’s qualifying earnings, with at least 3% coming from employers, with employees making up the difference.

It is also important to note that employers must complete re-enrolment every three years. The date for this will depend on your original staging date.

If you would like to discuss any of the above points further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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 with SMEs based in London.

Embrace HR Flexible working

Is flexible working your friend?

As a government initiative looks to increase the uptake of flexible working, we look at the pros and cons and legal requirements for HR departments…

The desire to have flexible working is a big pull for prospective candidates.

According to a survey by web conferencing company powwownow.co.uk, 81 per cent of people say that flexible working would make a job more attractive to them and 35% would prefer flexible working over a pay rise.

What’s more, the Flexible Working Task Force, which sees business groups, government departments, charities and trades unions come together, launched a campaign in January with the aim of increasing the number of people flexible working. At the same time, the CIPD report, Megatrends: Flexible Working, highlighted the reasons why flexible working opportunities are being missed – limited options provided by employers, the attitudes of managers and employees’ negative assumptions about the consequences of flexible working.

So being able to offer flexible/agile working is becoming more and more important – and is likely to help you retain existing staff, as well as attracting the widest and best range of candidates.

So what are the pros and cons of flexible working for employers, and what is the legal stuff you need to know when implementing a flexible working policy?  Read on to find out…

Pros

When it is hard to find good staff, it makes sense to make your company as appealing as possible – and offer benefits that will help retain your best employees. Make sure you promote it within your organisation and externally when recruiting new staff.

Offering flexible working as a benefit helps to boost morale among your workforce and can cut down on absenteeism and lateness. It will also promote loyalty and commitment. You will find that staff turnover decreases too. It also helps to promote your organisation as a family-friendly place to work. One of the less considered benefits is that staff can work when they perform best – larks can start early and night owls can work later into the evening – this is another benefit for you if you have a customer-facing business as you can provider longer customer service hours.

Cons

Like all initiatives, there are bound to be some downsides.

For instance, some staff will not have the self discipline to work from home and are likely to binge-watch Netflix instead! And managers who are used to seeing when and where people are working may find it hard to disconnect and not be able to micro-manage their staff, as they like.

Where people work within a team, you will need to ensure there are guidelines put in place to make sure that every member of the team does what they need to. You may need to adopt a culture change if office-based workers consider that home workers are not pulling their weight. It’s amazing how people who spend hours chatting, smoking and gathering at the water cooler or kettle, can resent someone working at home with none of these distractions!

Likewise, a compressed week can be tricky for customer-facing jobs where clients expect someone to be on call five days a week.

The legal stuff

It is important to note that although employees do not have the right to flexible working on demand, they do have the right to submit a request to their employer.

Employees with 26 weeks of continuous service can make a statutory flexible working request and only one request can be made in any 12 months. The request, which must be made in writing, may include a change of hours or place of work.

As the employer you must deal with the request in a ‘reasonable manner’. According to the ACAS code you should discuss the request promptly and allow the employee to be accompanied at meetings. While there are no time limits currently for carrying out any particular step, the entire process (from request to appeal outcome) should be concluded within three months -unless the parties agree to extend this time limit.

An employer can only refuse a statutory request for one of the eight statutory business reasons – these include the inability to reorganise work or the burden of additional costs.

Be aware that if you operate a blanket ban on flexible working, you could leave yourself open for discrimination claims. For instance, should an employee need to work from home occasionally because of childcare problems, or because of as disability, it could lead to a claim of indirect discrimination. Be aware that job applicants can also claim discrimination; so rejecting a candidate who has asked you to consider flexible working can also be an issue.

If an employer agrees to flexible working, that makes a permanent change to the employee’s contract of employment, and your organisation then decides on a blanket ban on flexible working, it has, in effect, changed that contract of employment – and you could be liable for breach of contract or unfair dismissal.

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

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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 with SMEs based in London.

Bank Workers
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To be or not to be employed: bank workers

Bank workers are the mainstay of the care industry, yet HR professionals have struggled for years to define whether they are employees. A recent employment tribunal may have answered the question…

What are bank staff?

The term refers to a pool of people that an employer may call on when they need to cover shifts, holidays or just need extra staff as and when. They are prevalent in the care industry – many nurses and care assistants are on call when they are needed in care homes, hospitals and other health facilities. It is also a form of employment used for industries where work is seasonal.

When workers are classed as bank staff, there is no obligation on the part of the employer to provide regular work, nor is there an obligation for the worker to accept any shift or work if it is offered.

While employees benefit from the ability to get extra staff at short notice, for the bank worker there is none of the security of a permanent position, and none of the protection that is usually offered to employees.

For some bank workers this is perfect – they may only want to work on a very flexible basis, perhaps to work around their partner’s shifts, or around other obligations they have – perhaps caring for their own children or grandchildren, for instance.

However, where a bank worker has been used by one employer on a regular basis, there have been instances where they have taken the employer to a tribunal – arguing that in fact they are actually an ‘employee’ rather than a ‘worker’ and that they should be afforded the same rights.

Little v BMI Chiltern Hospital UKEAT/0021/09

A recent case involved Mr Little, who took the BMI Chiltern Hospital Trust to Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). In Mr Little’s case, he had been working regularly for the BMI for various periods over nearly 16 years, working an average of between 20 and 30 hours a week as a bank theatre porter.

Written agreements were in place that confirmed that the work would be on an ‘as and when’ basis, that no work was guaranteed, and that Mr Little was perfectly entitled to refuse any work offered. However, there was a stipulation that if he refused work on four consecutive occasions, or was unavailable to work on four consecutive weeks, he would be removed from the bank.

The unfair dismissal claim resulted when the BMI terminated the arrangement for Mr Little to work on the bank.

However, because only employees can bring a claim for unfair dismissal, a pre hearing review had to be held to decide if he was an employee or not. Thanks to the fact that there was no obligation on the part of either party to provide or accept work, the tribunal decided he was not an employee and his claim failed.

That was not the end of the story – Mr Little appealed the decision, on the basis that each separate period of work for the BMI equated to a separate contract of employment and that during each period, there was mutual obligation.

However, the tribunal decided that while there were separate contracts, these were for freelance services and not employment contracts, so his appeal failed.

So, what does this mean for employers?

While you may think this means that you will never be at risk of bank staff claiming that they should have the rights of an employee, you would be wrong. Each case will still be judged on its own values.

However, HR teams should ensure that the following are in place to ensure that they are in a strong position should they ever find their company facing a tribunal:

  1. Ensure there is a written contract outlining both parties’ obligations.
  2. Ensure you conduct regular reviews of how and when bank staff are employed – ensuring that they are not regularly used for the same role, or same regular hours for instance.
  3. Written confirmation that the bank worker understands there is no mutual obligation.
  4. Ensure there is provision made for shifts to end partway through with no obligation for you to pay for unworked hours.

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

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited 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.