Flexible working causing company culture concerns
According to LinkedIn research, 83% of companies are shifting to enable flexible working in the future, however 50% are concerned that this may impact company culture.
Thirty-seven per cent of business leaders said they are worried about employee mental health, while 35% reported fearing that employees may be bored or demotivated due to the continued time away from workplaces.
Leaders and HR professionals are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact the extended period of remote working is having on organisational culture and employee morale.
It is believed that relationships and trust that employees have formed over months or years of working together in-person can be harder to build virtually, particularly for new employees or people moving internally to different roles or functions where they will have entirely new teams.
This can ultimately have an impact on business performance. The ways companies have had to adapt during the pandemic may feel new or disorienting to some employees. Clear and regular communication is key to keeping workforces updated during times of change or upheaval.
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents believed that the move to remote working will help companies improve access to diverse talent pools and candidates from under-represented groups, and 70% said their organisation is committed to improving diverse hiring.
More than two-thirds (68%) believe virtual interviews will become standard, and nearly a third (32%) are implementing virtual onboarding programmes for new employees.
Performance feedback needs improvement, say employees
Employees think there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to the performance feedback they are receiving from employers, according to new research from performance management specialist, Appraisd.
The 2,000 employees surveyed rated the quality of their feedback as only 6.32 out of 10.
Thirty three per cent rated their feedback at five out of 10 or less.
While 10% of those surveyed said they never receive any feedback at all, and only 9% gave their feedback full marks, rating it 10 out of 10.
Employees value feedback and in the survey only 9% said they would not like to work in a culture that embraces it. The process of providing feedback needs to feel as easy and natural as possible. It needs to become part of a manager’s routine and not seem like a chore. The tone needs to be set from the top. Senior managers need to take the lead, encouraging all employees to offer feedback and importantly, be open to receiving feedback on their own performance.
Only around a quarter of employees had received training on how to give and receive feedback. Around four in 10 employees indicated that they had not had training on this but would appreciate it, revealing there is a significant skills gap in this area.
If employers address this, their employees will feel more confident and comfortable giving and receiving feedback.
Training is vital in solving the issue with performance feedback. Contact 121 HR Solutions for details of training on 0800 9995 121.
Would you hire someone working remotely?
More than half of businesses that experienced remote working during lockdown would consider hiring an employee who worked fully or mostly from home, a survey has found.
The poll of 280 business leaders, conducted by Management Today (MT) and Hays, found 55 per cent would now be more likely to consider hiring an employee who was not within commuting distance to the office and so would work completely or predominantly remotely. This compared to the 45 per cent who said they would not now be more likely to make such a hire.
The poll found most employers were not currently advertising jobs as predominantly remote roles, however. Just a third (33 per cent) of respondents said they were advertising jobs as either partly or fully based at home, compared to 67 per cent who were not.
However, almost two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) said they expected to advertise jobs as partly or fully remote in future, compared to 35 per cent who said they did not.
Organisations are being more open to new ways of working in the future, particularly as this would encourage employers to recruit and retain more diverse workforces, which would be good for the economy and society as a whole.
Greater use of remote working can make work more accessible and sustainable, particularly for working parents and people with caring responsibilities and those with mobility or health concerns.
Is Mental Health Hampering Career Prospects?
One in four employees with a mental health condition are seeing their careers suffer as a result of not getting the same opportunities to progress as colleagues, according to research.
A poll of 10,000 UK employees and employers, conducted by Hays, found 24 per cent of staff with mental health problems claimed they were being blocked from progressing in their careers, while 12 per cent said this lowered their chances of being selected for a job.
The research highlighted the need for employers to “demonstrate compassion towards those who were struggling with their mental health and provide them with meaningful support.
Employers must treat everyone equally – regardless of their psychological condition – and have an open dialogue, actively encouraging employees to share their feelings and reassuring them that they will always be supported.
Remote working leading to ‘hidden fractures’ in the workforce
A survey of 1,000 UK employees found that while the shift to home working during the coronavirus pandemic has been a positive experience for many, there have been issues emerging around a lack of interaction, collaboration, recognition and support that could cause lasting damage to workplace trust, culture and engagement.
64% of employees feel that working from home has had a positive impact on workplace culture, with 61% saying they are able to complete their work effectively while working from home.
But despite these benefits, it was also found that while working from home, 55% of employees feel it has been harder to work as a team, 54% feel less motivated, and 51% feel it is harder to reach out for help from teammates.
The research summarised that unless employers address these issues, surviving and maintaining growth as the economy recovers after the pandemic will be a much bigger challenge, particularly as remote working is likely to remain the norm for most in the short and medium term.
The research also found there is a strong desire from many employees for remote working to continue.
While the majority of respondents worked from an office before COVID-19 hit, many people said they would now feel anxious or unhappy if their employer made it mandatory to return to the office full-time. 25% said they would work from an office full-time while 44% would choose hybrid working and the remaining 31% would choose to work from home full-time.
Voluntary repayment of furlough
Thousands of UK businesses have repaid more than £215m in furlough scheme payments to the Government because they either did not need the money or claimed it in error.
As of 15 September, £215,756,121 in job retention scheme cash had been voluntarily repaid to HMRC. The figures revealed 80,433 employers across the UK had returned the funds they were given to subsidise workers’ salaries during the pandemic. Ikea, housebuilder Redrow, Games Workshop, the Spectator magazine and distribution giant Bunzl all returned the furlough payments they had claimed.
Other employers, including Primark and John Lewis, have said they will not claim money under the Government’s job retention bonus scheme, which promises firms £1,000 for every worker brought back from furlough and kept in employment until the end of January 2021.
HMRC said it welcomed those employers that had voluntarily returned furlough money “because they no longer need the grant or have realised they’ve made errors and followed our guidance on putting things right”.
Earlier this month, HMRC estimated that as much as 10% of the funds paid through the scheme – equivalent to £3.5bn – could have been wrongly awarded or fraudulently claimed.
Landmark Equality Act employment tribunal rules on gender fluid individual
A gender-fluid Jaguar Land Rover engineer who faced insults and jokes from their colleagues has won a claim for harassment, discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal.
The landmark tribunal confirmed for the first time that protection under the Equality Act for employees undergoing gender reassignment extends to non-binary and gender-fluid individuals. This is a milestone in recognising the rights of non-binary and gender-fluid people to be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Until now, it has not been clear whether non-binary people were protected by anti-discrimination legislation, which makes this employment tribunal judgment key in supporting future judicial decisions.
The employee had worked for the company for almost 20 years as an engineer, previously presenting as male. The employee began to identify as gender fluid in 2017 and started dressing in women’s clothing, which provoked insults and abusive jokes from colleagues. The engineer also suffered difficulties using toilet facilities.
The Claimant told the employment tribunal they had little support from the firm’s management, which did not allow the retraction of their resignation from the company in 2018.
The employer argued that the Claimant did not fall within the definition of gender reassignment under section 7 of the Equality Act because they were gender fluid/non-binary.
But the Claimant’s lawyer argued the Government itself referred to a gender “spectrum” during parliamentary debates about the Act. And the tribunal found in the Claimant’s favour and that they had the “protected characteristic of gender reassignment”.
The judge felt it appropriate to award aggravated damages “because of the egregious way the claimant was treated and because of the insensitive stance taken by the respondent in defending these proceedings”. The Claimant’s compensation was uplifted by 20% because of respondent’s failure to comply with the Acas Code of Practice in relation to the claimant’s grievance about short-term measures to assist in the process of transitioning.
Employers facing this issue should consider physical adjustments including gender-neutral toilet facilities and uniforms, and should be careful to discuss with employees any changes to personnel records, with a reminder that disclosure of their history will be controlled by them.
Managing sickness absence more difficult in a pandemic
Reports indicate that employers find it more difficult than ever when it comes to employee sickness absence and it is thought that there may be greater challenges in terms of absence, particularly with regard to work-related stress and burnout. As remote working is becoming a permanent feature for many, and business recovery depends on balancing cost savings with employee engagement and productivity, there’s an urgent need to have absence management under control.
Employers may be facing a higher incidence of mental health (MH) and musculoskeletal (MSK) claims but lack of reporting of short-term remote absences is making the scale of underlying problems difficult to measure.
Just 16% of employers believe their sickness absence costs data is accurate, according to recent research. And more than four in 10 said they didn’t know if their absence costs data was accurate or not. These costs stood at a median of £568, and an average of £544 per employee in 2019 but it is not known if this is an accurate measurement of the overall cost of sickness absence.
Whilst most employers count the cost of the salaries of individuals on sick leave, few include overtime, reduced performance, service or missed business opportunities.
The statistics for 2020 will be impacted by the fact that one in five adults are likely to have been experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020. In order to correctly count the cost of absence, employers have to encourage their employees to be open about reporting short term absence and to train line managers to follow up every absence with a return to work meeting to record the absence and offer support.
Whistleblowing among key workers increases
Just under half of key workers have blown the whistle on their employer for engaging in dangerous workplace practices during the coronavirus pandemic, a study has found.
The research surveyed 1,000 key workers in August, including nurses, doctors, teachers, service workers and transport staff. It found many had been forced to highlight issues that could put colleagues, customers and patients at risk from Covid-19.
The most common concern among those surveyed was an inability to social distance, cited by more than half. More than two-fifths cited a lack of or limited PPE, and a quarter said they were most concerned about employers forcing vulnerable people back to the workplace.
Additionally, 15% said their workplace had not upheld the Government’s required health and safety standards during the pandemic.
This report points to a worrying number of key workers perceiving malpractice in their organisations and suggests that organisations must be held to account. The research indicated a lack of trust among workers that their employer would act fairly and ethically. One in five said they suspected their employer of using the pandemic as a cover to pursue unethical workplace practices. One in eight said they had seen Covid being used as an excuse to unfairly dismiss people, and 14% reported staff being refused furlough despite being vulnerable or living with shielding family members.
The onus is always on employers to ensure a safe work environment, but history shows us that some won’t take steps without prompting from staff. One of the aims of having statutory whistle blower protection is for staff to raise these concerns with protection from any unfair they may face from employers as a result of having raised the concern.
Gender Inequality: are you guilty?
It is commonly recognised that public, private, and social sectors need to act to close gender gaps in work and society but are employers working against progress through ‘unintentional bias’?
A recent report has suggested that if women—who account for half the world’s working-age population—do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer. It claims that if women were to play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as £21.8 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. In 2019 the gender pay gap was 17.3% in the UK, which means that on average, women were paid approximately 83p for every £1 that men were paid.
Gender bias often impedes the recruitment selection process for female candidates, regardless of their track records and skillsets. If employers are unintentionally biased, they could be losing out on getting the best candidate. Employers, if they haven’t already, should adopt unbiased candidate practices.
When an employer asks ‘what’s your current or last salary,’ this may inadvertently disadvantage female candidates who have historically been paid less than male candidates. The lower pay cycle for women therefore continues.
Employers should try to ensure they are addressing the gender pay gap. If an employer hires a female candidate and that candidate finds out that she is paid substantially lower than colleagues in a similar role, with similar skills and experience, then by not addressing the pay gap, an employer could potentially face having to deal with a grievance or end up in an employment tribunal.
If business’ really want to be part of the solution to eliminate gender pay inequality, then they must also look at the true cost of gender inequality’s effect on their business and reputation. They must take a public stance, backed up with proof and testimonials, that they are ensuring that they are looking out for female candidates in the salary negotiation process. This will ensure that those employers are not guilty of gender inequality or unintentional bias.