July, 2018

Recruitment still based on “gut feel”

More than a quarter of employers say gut feeling is their main reason for hiring someone, a survey has found and only 23% out of more than 1,000 managers who have accountability for recruitment said that relevant experience was their main reason for taking somebody on board, while another 23% felt that strong interview performance was the deciding factor. Only 8% said that good qualifications was their main driver for hiring somebody.

Unconscious bias can lead to the wrong candidate being taken on and the loss of the “perfect” candidate.

Having a clear and consistent recruitment process in place is crucial when recruiting, and is something that ensures all candidates are treated equally, even when they are interviewed by different managers.

84% of job applicants have had a negative experience during interviewing, with the main reasons being that interviewers were unprepared and that there was a lack of structure to the interview. Apparently many employers develop their gut feeling about a candidate before they even got through the door of the interview room, with almost three-quarters using social media to research a candidate in advance.

  • Posted on July 27th, 2018

Beware unauthorised data access – are you protected?

In a widely reported data breach, it has been revealed that the data of 5.9million cards was compromised in processing systems for Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores.

The company believes the hacking attempts began last July but fortunately, there is no current evidence of any fraudulent use of information so far. 1.2million personal data records were also hacked.

The company’s shares lost five per cent of their value when trading began following the disclosure but the firm could be losing far more, with a fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) potentially reaching £500,000 – which was the value of the fine issued to TalkTalk following a major cyber-attack in 2015.

The case highlights the importance of assessing the risks of a cyber-attack and developing a plan to mitigate the impact of such an attack but there also needs to be a cultural change in businesses in general to keep up with the new privacy regulations,  the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).  If employees have not been trained to manage data and protect the privacy of business data, employers are likely to be subject to heavier consequences in the event of a breach or attack.  Ignoring the risk is dangerous and any suspected breach must be reported to the ICO promptly to minimise damage. Small businesses in particular are not thought to have taken the GDPR regulations seriously and have ignored their obligations to train and inform staff of their data obligations.

  • Posted on July 27th, 2018

Sluggish productivity growth sparks calls to introduce better HR support for businesses

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development is calling on the Government to introduce better HR support for local businesses after official figures revealed productivity growth remained sluggish in the first quarter of 2018.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, showed UK labour productivity grew by just 0.9% in the first three months of the year, significantly lower than pre-2008 levels.

The CIPD have suggested that policymakers should be focusing on providing better local business support to small firms on people management, as this is key to achieving the marginal gains in capability that over time can boost workplace productivity levels.

Research has previously found 70% of companies are failing to tap into the full potential of top performing employees.

  • Posted on July 27th, 2018

What to do with outstanding holiday at the end of the holiday year?

Often employers find that at the end of the holiday year, some employees have a proportion of holiday entitlement. This means there can be a rush on holiday requests at the end of the holiday year, leaving employers short of staff or unable to fulfil the request.  As an alternative, can employees be paid this entitlement? Not according to the working time regulations which specifically state that an employee should not be paid in lieu of taking their minimum holiday entitlement of 5.6 weeks (28 days for an employee working 5 days per week). Holiday entitlement is there to allow for employees to take time away from work and paying in lieu defeats this object.

There is one exception and this is that accrued holiday entitlement may be paid upon on the termination of employment. Otherwise, employees must be allowed to take their full holiday entitlement during the annual leave year.  This means that employers are expected to put in place mechanisms to ensure that their employees take regular holidays throughout the leave year to avoid any claim from an employee that they were prevented from taking their full holiday entitlement.

  • Posted on July 27th, 2018

New digital tax requirements are leaving businesses confused

Many businesses are not aware of new tax requirements, a new survey suggests, despite a promotional initiative launched by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The survey of 1073 businesses found widespread ignorance of the “Making Tax Digital” (MTD) programme, with 24% of firms claiming never to have heard of it and 66% having only a superficial awareness of what was required.

Just 10% of survey respondents said that they know “a lot of details” about the switch to the digitised tax system. The new rules will require VAT registered firms to have MTD-compatible software in place that can create a VAT return and connect to HMRC systems via an Application Programming Interface (API).

It is a much more complex process for businesses than the current online system of manual completion of VAT returns. Businesses are reporting low levels of satisfaction and support from HMRC.

  • Posted on July 27th, 2018

Increase in employment tribunal cases

Recent tribunal data has shown that the number of cases brought by individuals in the UK increased by 118% in the three months to the end of March 2018, compared to the same period last year.

While tribunal fees were in place, there were around 4,300 individual cases each quarter. This has risen to more than 9,000 in the most recent quarter.

This increase can have a big impact on a business’s bottom line, with the most expensive tribunals ending up costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

  • Use your employee data to make sure employees are meeting expectations. If an employee is underperforming or is regularly absent, this could be a sign of a bigger underlying issue they may need help with. Reviewing employee data on a regular basis makes it easier to spot trends and have early, informal conversations before it gets to tribunal stage.
  • Make sure managers are trained and able to discuss HR issues, before they escalate.
  • One of the most common causes of tribunals is not following a proper process. Make sure all staff are aware of where to find HR policies and who to ask for guidance if they’re unsure. This provides managers with a clear evidence trail of how they addressed an issue with an employee; this is useful if it ends up in a tribunal.

A rise in tribunals was perhaps inevitable given the legacy of cases that employees were reluctant to bring during the period of tribunal fees but with well-trained managers and sound processes in place it need not be your business that finds itself defending a case!

  • Posted on July 22nd, 2018

When banter becomes bullying

Workplace “banter” can have a positive effect on the workplace, promoting a relaxed environment, increasing morale, leading to improved productivity.

But a new study has shown that banter needs to be addressed by employers. The report surveyed more than 1,000 people and found evidence that employees have left a job because of what they perceive as negative banter.

The report also found that women are twice as likely as men to have been negatively affected by workplace banter, with one in 10 women citing it as a cause of mental health issues. And despite the recent heightened media awareness over inappropriate behaviour at work, women are still less likely to challenge inappropriate behaviour than their male colleagues, with 55% of women compared to 73% of men saying they would directly challenge banter.

Dos and don’ts guide for handling banter

It is important that employers recognise the serious impact that negative banter can have and that measures are put in place to set boundaries:

  • Examine policies – be proactive appreciate that negative banter leads to a loss of confidence and potentially resignations. Make sure that the policies set out the definition and sanctions for bullying and harassment and that they promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • Be mindful that any unwelcome comments at work aren’t ‘just a bit of banter’ – they can sometimes form the basis of a legal claim. If an employee has not experienced something as a joke, then the environment can soon feel hostile for that person.
  • Create a culture where people feel they can raise concerns.
  • Publicise policies and training. Almost three-quarters of people said they didn’t know if policies to protect employees from negative banter existed!
  • Posted on July 22nd, 2018

Are you aware of the rights of your part-time employees?

The law is very clear that employers must offer equal opportunities for full and part-time staff – including training and career development, selection for promotion and career breaks. However, many employers resist the opportunity to split a full time vacancy into part time roles, or to consider part time working when it is requested via  Flexible Working request.

Benefits and salaries must be applied on a pro rata basis – ie part time staff must not be paid a lower hourly rate or receive fewer benefits than full time staff – they should be calculated on a “pro rata” basis with the exception that employers are not obliged to pay overtime rates until staff have worked over the normal hours of a full-time employee.

In order to avoid any claims of unfair treatment of part time staff, employers are advised to:

  • Train managers to be prepared to discuss part time options with staff when they are requested – having a statutory flexible working policy in place will assist with this.  Do not assume that a job can only be fulfilled on a full time basis!
  • Consider the benefits part-time employees can bring such as higher morale, promoting diversity, staff retention, more loyalty, better performance
  • Don’t assume a request for part-time working means the employee is less dedicated or work-orientated. Often part time staff will be more flexible and put in more than their contracted hours, simply because they are available to do so.
  • Posted on July 22nd, 2018

Employer obligations following suspension? Find out here:

Suspension is where an employee continues to be employed but does not have to attend work or do any work and usually occurs when:

  • a serious allegation of misconduct has arisen
  • there are medical grounds to suspend
  • there is a workplace risk to an employee who is a new or expectant mother

Suspension should not be used as a disciplinary sanction and should not be automatic when dealing with a potential disciplinary matter as normally an employee will be able to continue doing their normal role while the matter is investigated.

Suspension should be considered if there is a serious allegation of misconduct and:

  • the working relationships have severely broken down
  • there is a risk that the employee might tamper with evidence, influence witnesses and/or sway the investigation into the allegation
  • there is a risk to other employees, property or customers
  • the employee is the subject of criminal proceedings which may affect whether they can do their job.

In certain circumstances, a health professional may recommend that an individual worker is unfit to work with a particular hazard. If the hazard cannot be immediately removed, the employer should consider:

  • temporarily adjusting working conditions
  • offering suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay and on terms no less favourable than the original role).

If it is not feasible to make such adjustments, the employer may have to suspend until it is safe to return to work.

Following notification of an employee’s pregnancy, the employer must undertake a risk assessment taking into account any advice the employee has received from their doctor or midwife. If the risk cannot be removed, the employer must:

  • temporarily adjust working conditions and/or working hours, and if that is not possible
  • offer suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay and on terms no less favourable than the original role) and if that is not feasible
  • suspend the employee from work on paid leave until their maternity leave begins or it is safe for them to return to work.
  • If suspension is necessary, an employee should be provided with a suspension letter that includes:
  • the reasons for the suspension and how long it is expected to last
  • their rights and obligations during the suspension. For example, that they should be contactable during normal working hours
  • a point of contact (such as a manager or HR) and their contact details for the employee during their suspension
  • that the purpose of suspension is to investigate and is not an assumption of guilt (if applicable)

Employees should usually receive their full pay and benefits during a period of suspension.

  • Posted on July 22nd, 2018

Constructive dismissal – classic case of “final straw”

An IT support manager who resigned from his job after being refused access to a company van has been awarded £10,000 at the Employment Tribunal for constructive unfair dismissal.

The employee worked in IT support between 2009 and 2017. His job involved transporting IT equipment between various sites, for which he used his personal car. When his request for a company van to help carry out his duties was declined, he resigned.

He was the sole IT support worker for five locations, after losing his assistant and office following a series of mergers. By February 2017, he felt his role had changed significantly from the one he was originally hired to do and he was now being underpaid. He was on a 40-week per year pro rata contract but contended that he was now effectively working full time.

On 27 February 2017, he requested to be added to the senior leadership team and to have his salary raised, after providing details of a comparator who was earning £41,000, compared with his annual salary of £21,400. He raised this issue on two separate occasions, but his managers neither replied to nor acknowledged his requests.

In May 2017, he renewed his car insurance for his personal vehicle. In doing so, he discovered he was not covered for the trips between sites to ferry equipment because he was not running his own business. The employee approached the transport manager and agreed with a vehicle supplier that he could be provided with a van at a cost to the organisation of £1,000. He sent this request to his line manager for approval, but it was dismissed out of hand in an email which the employee described as a“hammer blow” and was later signed off work with stress.

He gave his employers a week to consider his position before resigning. He raised a grievance, but no issues were upheld in the outcome and it was maintained that as he had resigned there was no case to answer.

However, the tribunal found in favour of the employee, describing the behaviour of the schools as a “classic ‘last straw”. The parties agreed on a compensatory overall award of £10,000.

Constructive dismissal is usually viewed as a difficult case for an employee to win at tribunal as they need to point to an act by the employer that so fundamentally undermines the employment relationship that the relationship cannot continue.

In this case, there was a pattern of behaviour which the employee objected to. None of these actions or omissions were ‘classic’ breaches of contract but the judge was still satisfied that, when taken as a whole, they demonstrated a fundamental breach of contract.

  • Posted on July 22nd, 2018

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