May, 2017

How do you measure your business’ culture?

The culture of any business drives employees towards their goals and can determine the success or otherwise of that business. A strong company culture will help employees understand how they ought to behave and what they are expected to do to be successful at work. Here are some tips on building a strong and effective culture:

1. Have a clear purpose and know your company values
Aligning behaviour with values and standards will help determine a cohesive culture. Be clear about the aspirations and ethics of your business. This is key to engaging employees. Communicate the values at every opportunity. Make sure people understand what they mean and how their behaviour reflects those values.

2. Lead by Example
Leaders in the workplace should reflect these core values and the company culture in a way that drives and engages their teams. Management should be approachable and work alongside employees when necessary.

3. Listen to your employees
Encourage employees to share ideas and input. If you ask for opinion, act on it. Employee engagement surveys are a useful tool for this.

4. Look after your employees
In order for employees to fully embrace company culture, they need to feel engaged, valued and respected. Looking after the wellbeing of your staff is an important element of creating a strong company culture.

Developing a strong culture, while ensuring people engage and feel a part of the company is not easy. Company cultures reflect the attitudes and influences of company leaders and this must not be forgotten!

  • Posted on May 30th, 2017

Shared Parental Leave

Fewer than one in 1,000 employees have taken up shared parental leave (SPL) its inception two years ago, new research has found. The study discovered that just 54 of more than 56,000 people surveyed had taken up SPL.

SPL was launched as a family-friendly policy, designed to help working dads improve their work-life balance, spend more time in a ‘hands on’ role raising their family and lift the load from their partners, but the survey suggests that there is either little appetite for it, little knowledge about it – or both. SPL was designed to enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to share statutory leave and pay after their child is born or adopted. Eligible workers can choose how they allocate SPL between them, and whether they wish to take the leave separately or simultaneously.

This is not the first time that the lack of appetite for SPL has been brought to the fore. Past research revealed that just 5% of the new fathers surveyed opted to use SPL.

The December 2016 study also found that just one-fifth of the 1,050 senior HR professionals surveyed had received requests from male employees to take up SPL.

  • Posted on May 30th, 2017

How often should businesses look at their employment contracts? With the changing landscape surrounding workers’ rights and the so-called “gig” economy, a timely review is in order.

The current headlines around the gig economy, where people are engaged on a variety of contracts ranging from freelance, to self-employed, to zero hours, all boil down to one thing – grey areas can lead to litigation. The Conservative manifesto promises more rights to workers and employment contracts at companies like Uber and Deliveroo are being criticised for their lack of clarity, businesses that fail to keep abreast could be in dangerous territory.

Best practice considerations are below:

1. Ensure contractual terms are updated as the employment relationship develops. Minor changes can be made by letter but more substantial amends may require an update of the contract itself.

2. Regularly review contracts to keep them in line with current legislation and changing work practices.

3. Keep copies of contracts and letters changing terms. You may need to rely upon them as evidence.

4. Always include a right to vary terms and conditions unilaterally, if necessary, clearly stating the circumstances in which changes can be made. You may not be able to rely on such a clause; but it’ll give you a better starting point.

5. Always ensure there is a business justification ahead of making any changes. Consult directly with employees, or employee representatives, informing them of need for change and, wherever possible, obtain employee consent to the change – preferably in writing.

6. Consider including restrictive covenants to protect your business from employees. Ensure covenants are specific, focused and reasonable to protect business interests.

  • Posted on May 30th, 2017

Employment Appeal Tribunal Decision: Reasonable Adjustments

A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case demonstrates that it’s up to the company – not the employee – to identify adjustments for staff with disabilities.

This case involved a senior employee with dyspraxia and dyslexia. In 2013, the employee expressed concern that a lack of adjustments to accommodate her disability meant she was having to work long hours to complete her work. The employer agreed to her request for compressed hours (36 hours worked over four days rather than five) so that she would have greater opportunity to complete her work and could schedule hospital appointments on her non-working day. It also agreed to provide assistive software.

The employee put no further adjustments forward at the time, but her tribunal claim for disability discrimination proceeded on the basis that the employer should have reduced her workload so she would not be required to work longer hours than her colleagues to complete her tasks. This had not been mentioned when the original meeting to confirm adjustments occurred but was identified during the tribunal proceedings as a solution to remove the disadvantage. The tribunal found that the employer had breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments.

The employer appealed against that finding, arguing that the tribunal had arrived at a solution that had not been suggested by the employee herself but this was rejected as the “critical question is whether the respondent had taken such steps as is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage”. The tribunal had identified reduced workload as a reasonable adjustment. The fact that this solution had not been suggested by the employee was irrelevant when the adjustment had a real prospect of removing the disadvantage.

This decision shows that employers must apply a broad approach to the duty to make reasonable adjustments, taking account the primary objective of the legislation, which is to facilitate the employment of disabled employees on equal terms to non-disabled employees.

The employer must not rely on suggestions made by an employee. The duty to make reasonable adjustments rests with the employer and they must consider carefully what steps might be taken to remove the relevant disadvantage.

  • Posted on May 30th, 2017

Managing the Remote Worker

Office workers take for granted that solutions to queries may only require a quick look up from the desk to chat to a colleague. However, remote workers often have to engage in long email chains to get responses to questions that could be answered quickly if they were around office colleagues and this is something that businesses need to consider if they have remote staff.

Employees that struggle with this approach to working may feel isolated if they work remotely. Good communication is therefore key to supporting remote workers. Here are some tips to managing remote workers effectively:

1. Remember that remote workers may not want to travel to meetings too often. The whole point of being a remote worker is that travel is reduced so do not make assumptions about their availability for meetings in the office, or with clients. Work out in advance what availability remote workers have to travel and remember that they were engaged not to attend work, so bear this in mind if asking them to do so.

2. Find a way of ensuring that remote workers can build relationships. Just because employees don’t work in the office doesn’t mean they don’t want to have friends at work. Camaraderie at work is crucial for the employee’s happiness at work, thus affecting their productivity too.

3. Remote workers do not have constant eyes on them so managers need to find ways of measuring productivity and of “checking in” to ensure that the right work is being done at the right time by remote workers. Consider how this will be measured and agree communication methods in advance.

Applying careful consideration to managing remote workers will help ensure that they remain engaged and productive and that they can be valuable assets to the business.

  • Posted on May 30th, 2017

Right to work checks

UK businesses lost almost £50million in civil penalties for illegal working in the year to July 2016, according to figures sourced from a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office.

2,943 initial civil penalties costing £49,472,500 were issued between July 2015 and July 2016. This number does not include second or further penalties. This suggests that UK businesses are struggling to remain compliant with complex and time-consuming pre-employment screening.

Right to Work checks are often performed by inexpert hiring managers, if they are performed at all, meaning that sophisticated document fraud is overlooked and records lost or damaged. Employers need to ensure that right to work checks are conducted consistently and that records are maintained appropriately so that they can demonstrate that they checked all staff at the point of recruitment. These statistics show that the cost of failing to follow the correct procedure is expensive!

  • Posted on May 22nd, 2017

Self-employed or not?

Being self-employed was once seen as a sign of pursuing that dream job. However, the arrival of the so-called “gig economy” (in which people are paid by the job, rather than a salary or by time spent) has meant that many of those people who are now classified as self-employed are not living the dream, particularly since they do not enjoy many of the basic rights of normal employees.

For those employed in the gig economy, it is thought that they are not necessarily classed as self-employed through choice. They will often be less well-educated, younger and/or immigrants. For this group, self-employment usually offers few advantages and has been described by Frank Field MP, chairman of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, as “a life of low pay, chronic insecurity and exploitation, in which all of the risks in the employment relationship are unloaded on to them by the company with whom they are working and the gains go almost exclusively to the company”.

A Commons review is expected to propose significant changes to working practices in the UK and to affect the balance of power between hiring companies and their workforces. Among the proposals being considered are that:

• the hiring company takes responsibility to prove that a worker is genuinely self-employed
• it is a mandatory requirement for temporary workers to receive written terms and conditions within a week of starting jobs

Most importantly, employers must accept that, if they want their workforce to be truly self-employed, they must allow the flexibility that goes with self-employment. In other words, they cannot control workers if they do not want also to have the responsibilities that go with that control.

  • Posted on May 22nd, 2017

Stress at work

Six million employees in Britain suffer from sleepless nights due to workplace stress, a recent study has found. Apparently, the stress is caused by high workloads or burn out. The survey of 2,000 people also found that men experienced fewer stress-related issues at work than women – as over two-fifths of women battled heavy workloads or stress, compared to just 38% of men.

Those most affected by work anxieties were 25-to-34-year-olds, with over a quarter saying work issues affected their sleep every week. In contrast, only one in 10 employees over 55 say work affects their sleep, despite over a fifth facing heavy workloads at some point over the past year.

However, 35-to-44-year-olds suffered most from work related anxieties, with over half experiencing high-levels of stress and overwhelming workloads in the past 12 months.
However, when employees aren’t as productive as they could be, it’s usually the organisation, not the individual, who is at fault. Improving communication and encouraging team working can assist in reducing the feeling of burn out. Employers who have high levels of absence through stress should consider undertaking an employee engagement survey to get to the root of the problem.

Anonymous surveys often reveal telling results! 121 has experience of conducting employee engagement surveys and supporting businesses in following up on post survey recommendations. Contact us at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk

  • Posted on May 22nd, 2017

The danger of forcing retirement

A recent tribunal reminds us that forcing employees to retire against their will could lead to difficulties after a former company accountant won £182,000 for age discrimination. He was found to have been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against after his employer tried to force the 69-year-old to retire.

The pay-out covered loss of earnings and benefits, injury to feelings from age discrimination, and an extra payment for the employer’s to follow the Acas Code of Practice.

The accountant had worked for the company for 16 years and claimed his former employer pushed him out because they wanted him to retire at 65 and had even gone as far as to recruit his replacement in anticipation of this.

After a lengthy period of sick leave for work-related stress following a particularly hostile meeting with the company’s management, the tribunal was told the business then failed to follow the recommendations of two medical reports designed to help the accountant return to work.

The case demonstrates what happens when a dismissal is disguised as something else. Having open dialogue about retirement plans is a healthier way to deal with employees in this age demographic and agreeing medium term strategies such as part time working, reducing hours and cutting workload helps with succession planning and avoids costly litigation.

  • Posted on May 22nd, 2017

Employer Survey – Employment Law Post Brexit

Perhaps surprisingly, a new survey shows support from employers for keeping the UK’s existing employment rights once the Brexit deal has completed.

Examples include laws on unfair dismissal which were supported by 93% of the 500 businesses surveyed. 82% of those surveyed supported parental rights at work and 74% backed the Working Time Regulations which is largely expected to be repealed following Brexit.

The survey covered 28 areas of employment law and found that all 28 were rated as necessary by a majority of employers.

The research also found that more than two-thirds (68%) agree that the rules have a positive impact on employees, increasing their sense of fairness and trust in the employer.

  • Posted on May 19th, 2017

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