Pay rises plateau as road to recovery continues
Pay rises have stabilised at 1.5% after falling to zero in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures from a recent survey found the median pay rise in the public sector sat at 2% compared to just 1.5% in the private sector.
There was a notable improvement in the services sector between May and July, with 63% of pay awards worth 2% or more. This was the highest median pay rise recorded since last November.
2020 marked the worst year for pay awards since 2010, so it is welcoming to have seen pay deals rising and now stabilising. It is likely that awards will remain at this level as employers are still regrouping and looking to strike the balance between recruitment and wide reward package costs.
Data collected covered more than 687,000 employees, also highlighted more than half of all awards per employee group have risen (54%), while a quarter have reduced.
While freezes accounted for a relatively small number of pay deals between May and July 2021, they represented half of pay settlements in the same period last year. Pay awards showed rapid growth during the first half of 2021, but it’s possible we have now seen them peak. Ongoing uncertainty around economic recovery means that organisations are being cautious when approaching annual pay reviews. This means that we’re unlikely to see a continuation of the rapid growth in pay awards we saw in the early months of 2021.
Asda porter dismissal demonstrates need to support disabled workforce
An Asda supermarket porter with 30 years’ service, who was dismissed following his breach of the retailer’s staff smoking policy, is bringing a claim to the Employment Tribunal.
The employee, Mark Misell, who has learning difficulties and is illiterate, was found smoking in a trolley bay of the supermarket car park as opposed to one of the designated smoking areas for workers.
Backed by the GMB union, Misell is now bringing a claim to the Employment Tribunal for disability discrimination.
The GMB has informed Asda that the case is being dealt with by their legal team and that they intend to bring a claim against the supermarket giant.
Under the Equalities Act 2010, Misell is deemed disabled as a result of his learning difficulties. It is likely that Misell will bring a claim for discrimination “arising out of” his disability, on the basis that he is being dismissed for being unable to read the smoking policy.
In doing so, his legal team will argue that Asda treated him unfavourably because he is illiterate, an element connected to his disability.
Misell’s lawyers will have to prove that Asda knew, or could have been reasonably expected to have known, that Misell had a disability.
121 HR Solutions always recommend that the risk involved in termination of employment is managed effectively and mitigated at an early stage. Contact us on 0800 9995 121 to discuss.
Two in five employers will embrace hybrid working by 2023
Experts have warned that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and businesses must ensure home and office workers receive the same opportunities.
More than two in five employers (41 per cent) will have adopted hybrid working in two years’ time, a survey has found, with only three in 10 (30 per cent) businesses expecting to have their workforce fully back on site before 2023.
The poll of senior employee benefits professionals at 121 UK organisations by Willis Towers Watson found that hybrid was the working model of choice. The vast majority (85 per cent) of businesses predicted a return to the workplace for most employees who wanted to by the end of 2021, but did not anticipate a return to pre-pandemic, full-time working practices.
Businesses also predicted that around a quarter of the workforce (23 per cent) would be working remotely on a full-time basis in two years’ time, and more than two in five (41 per cent) will embrace hybrid working.
Meanwhile, a separate study of 3,000 UK adults by LifeSearch found a similar split between workers who would like to work on a hybrid basis (44 per cent), compared to those who would rather be exclusively home or work-based (51 per cent).
Of those who said they’d prefer a hybrid setup, the most popular option was a 50/50 split between home and work (44 per cent); followed by three-quarters of their time in the workplace and a quarter at home (29 per cent); and three-quarters of time at home and a quarter in the workplace (27 per cent).
However, more than a third (36 per cent) of those polled would prefer to be in the workplace on a full-time basis, while just 15 per cent said they would like to be working full time from home.
Employers need to be encouraged to balance individual needs and preferences against those of the team and organisation when deciding on a suitable arrangement. Hybrid workers should get “the same opportunities as those that are attending the workplace on a regular basis, and process and practices should be reviewed through a fairness and inclusion lens.
Additionally, the LifeSearch survey revealed only 15 per cent of workers said they had been consulted on their working preferences by their employer, and more than half (58 per cent) said they were not happy with their current working setup.
Almost one in 10 (9 per cent) claimed their employer wanted them back in the workplace more but they do not want to go, and just one in five (19 per cent) reported having received clear expectations on how they need to work. By allowing employees a choice to work either from home or from the office was a benefit and should be treated as such.
It needs to be made clear to all employees that this benefit is overruled by certain things such as poor performance or work priorities, managers should sit down with individuals and agree their working location, set it out formally and add it to company policies to “ensure you stay in control.
Majority of retail staff experienced abuse at work last year, study finds
Trade union calls on government to do more to protect workers as experts highlight HR’s role in ensuring appropriate training and embedding standards of behaviour.
Most staff working in the retail sector have been assaulted, abused or threatened at work during the last year, a new study has found.
Usdaw, the retail trade union, surveyed nearly 2,000 people working in retail over the past 12 months and found that 92 per cent had experienced verbal abuse. A further 70 per cent had been threatened by a customer, and 14 per cent had been physically assaulted.
Despite this, one in five victims said they have never reported an incident to their employer, including five per cent who had been assaulted.
Speaking about their experience, one retail worker said: “We get daily verbal abuse from people attempting to shoplift, people not following social distancing measures, intoxicated people and people who have been asked to provide proof of age or refused service for intoxication.”
Another reported a shoplifter tried to “head-butt” them, while another said they had a van driven at them.
Usdaw said it was “appalling” and a “disgrace” that people are abusing shop workers “at a time when we should all be working together to get through this national crisis”.
In response to the figures, Usdaw has launched its Freedom from Fear campaign, calling on the government to offer more protection to workers. The campaign coincides with a new protection of workers law which came into force in Scotland recently.
Government action to protect shopworkers is needed. The new law was welcomed in Scotland but deeply disappointing that the UK government has continued to resist a similar measure in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.
In June this year, ministers rejected calls for a new legislation to protect retail workers and other frontline staff, saying that the current legislation was enough.
Adjusted right to work checks to continue
In response to the positive feedback the Home Office says it has received about being able to conduct right to work checks remotely, the end date for the temporary adjusted checks has now been deferred to 5 April 2022. This means that employers can continue to carry out checks over video calls and job applicants and workers can send scanned documents rather than originals for checks. The Home Office Employer Checking Service continues to function as usual where the individual can’t provide any of the accepted documents.
Reminder of how to check an individual’s right to work using the temporary COVID-19 adjusted check measures:
Up to and including 5 April 2022, if you are carrying out a temporary adjusted check, you must:
- ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
- arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19
- if the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or has been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or the points-based immigration system you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call – the applicant must give you permission to view their details.
It remains an offence to knowingly employ anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK with a penalty of £20,000 per individual.
Click here to read the updated guidance.
Apprenticeships set to be key for businesses going forward
Young talent within the workplace brings many advantages namely new and exciting ideas, and many companies already compete for candidates who come straight from University.
However, what if you could employ someone straight from school, offer them training to develop specific key skills, all whilst embedding them into your workplace culture to mould them into your ideal candidate? Currently, this is what many employers aim to achieve through offering apprenticeships to school leavers.
Not only are apprenticeships beneficial for employers, but young people also benefit as they are able to work whilst earning and gain real workplace experience which will be advantageous for their career progression. Nowadays, apprenticeships are more accessible than ever before and are also being offered in a wider range of sectors, making them increasingly more attractive than other further education routes such as University.
In a move to encourage apprenticeships, the UK Government introduced an apprenticeship levy in 2017 meaning that organisations who pay combined yearly salaries of more than £3 million must pay 0.5% of wage costs for training in the workplace. It was expected that this would create 3 million more apprenticeships in the UK by 2020. So far, this appears to be a success with many more apprenticeships available in the market and more applicants applying for these positions.
In the future, it is expected that many businesses will not only offer but depend on apprenticeships, to keep up with expanding essential key skills in the workplace. With the clear benefit of apprenticeships to both employer and employee, there has never been a better time to consider recruiting apprentices within your organisation!
Failure to take a complaint seriously was discrimination
A supermarket assistant who was ignored by managers when he complained that his boss falsely imprisoned him was discriminated against, a tribunal has ruled.
The employment tribunal found that Mr King, who worked as a customer assistant at Tesco, suffered discrimination after managers failed to comprehend that he, as a 6ft tall man, could be intimidated by his manager, a 5ft 4in pregnant woman.
Tesco bosses had also failed to take into account the fact that had experienced a relapse in his pre-existing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The court found that managers were swayed by stereotypical “instinct” that a big man would not be concerned by a small woman and ruled they would “not have made that presumption if the claimant had been a woman”.
Because of the nature of his contract, the claimant was expected to work additional hours agreed by his manager, and the terms and conditions of his employment required him to maintain the flexibility specified. He also had another part time job alongside studying to be an electrician.
The tribunal heard that the employee’s line manager had “berated” him for being inflexible about offering additional hours in the run-up to Christmas. He told the tribunal that this accusation was a “smack in the face” because he felt he had been as flexible as he could be.
The tribunal found that while the manager was “within her rights” to ask for additional hours as a flexible worker, she was “not listening” to him when he explained about his other commitments. After the initial exchange, the manager invited the claimant to the staff search room to discuss his attitude to working additional shifts.
King had previously made his managers at Tesco aware of his PTSD, which was triggered by an incident at his former job with the Prison Service where he was held hostage. He told the tribunal that during the discussion, he told the manager that he felt uncomfortable staying in the room with her and that he was leaving. But as he opened the door to leave, she put her shoulder, hands and a foot against the door to prevent him from doing so.
The tribunal reviewed the CCTV images and said the way King “squeezed” out of the door was consistent with him having become “increasingly anxious and borderline desperate to get out of the room”.
Following the incident, the claimant complained of false imprisonment. He also linked the manager’s actions to being held hostage at his previous job.
The managers ignored this and did not view the CCTV, with one telling the tribunal that he “could not see a smaller person who is heavily pregnant making robust contact with King or acting aggressively or in an intimidating manner”, adding that he believed she would have avoided such contact “at all costs” to protect her baby.
The claimant was signed off work because of a relapse in his PTSD and the tribunal found that the employer (and in particular the line manager) was largely “unsympathetic” towards his condition and inability to attend work..
The tribunal said that the manager’s actions were discriminatory because she did not think King would be intimidated by her or take her actions in the room seriously because he was a 6ft man and she was a 5ft 4in woman. It said the manager dismissed the possibility that the claimant was “vulnerable”.
This reminds employers of the need to take complaints seriously. A hearing will decide later, on the financial costs to be awarded.
Lack of consultation regarding returning to the workplace
Two-fifths of employees have not been consulted about returning to the workplace, according to a survey which asked over 1,000 UK workers about their attitudes towards the return to their ‘usual’ (pre-pandemic) workplace. It found that 39% of workers said they had not been consulted about their return to the workplace and two fifths of respondents reported that their employer had not asked for their views about how many days they would like to be in the office.
Generally, the survey respondents were positive about returning to the workplace as 24% said they felt “happy” to return; 22% said they were looking forward to it; and another 22% said they felt “ok” about going back.
Less than a quarter of people who worked at home during the pandemic were anxious or “dreading” going back to the workplace.
Employers are being urged to consult staff about changes and check in with them – particularly about the return to ‘normal working’ and employers shoul be aware that they may risk losing skills and experience if they are inflexible in their approach to remote working where it is possible.
The research also looked at what a transition back to a physical workplace looks like from an employee perspective. When asked what practices have been put in place by employers to manage returning to the workplace, almost three in five said there will hand sanitisers throughout the building; nearly half said there will be enhanced cleaning; and 37% will put one-way systems or walkways in place.
Furlough ending may herald redundancies – what needs to be considered?
As the furlough scheme comes to an end, some employers may find that they have no other choice but to make some roles redundant. Below we cover some of the important elements to consider:
A redundancy situation exists where:
- a business or part of it, or a specific location is closed down
- the requirement for employees to do work of a particular kind has reduced or ended
There are various steps that must be considered in any redundancy situation:
- notification to the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (on form HR1) if there are to be more than 19 employees affected
- collective consultation in cases where more than 19 employees are affected
- the requirement to consult and inform appropriate representatives of affected employees
- the selection process that will be used to decide upon redundant posts
- individual consultation
- notice or payment in lieu of notice
- redundancy payments
- offering a right of appeal
Employers should first consider if there are alternatives to redundancy, including:
- re-training employees into other areas (redeployment)
- temporary lay-offs or short-working
- changing terms and conditions such as a wage freeze, wage cut, reduction in bonus or pension contributions.
The process to follow can be time-consuming and contentious and employers are advised to seek advice prior to embarking on a redundancy process. 121 HR Solutions can support employers who are considering redundancies and offer a fixed fee service to do so. Contact enquiries@121hrsolutions for further information.
Flexible working bill put before Parliament
A Labour MP has introduced a Flexible Working Bill under Parliament’s Ten Minute Rule. If this is passed, it will mean that employers must offer flexible working arrangements in employment contracts and “advertise the available types of such flexibility in vacancy notices.”
It should be noted that, while this Bill has been backed by not just other Labour MPs but also MPs from the Conservative, Liberal Democrats, Green, SNP, and DUP parties, a Private Member’s Bill does not have automatic backing from the current Government and will not be implemented unless this is given. That said, the Bill simply reflects what many employees are currently thinking!
Currently employees have various rights when making flexible working requests. There is a statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of consecutive service and employers must, by law, consider it.
To make a statutory flexible working request, the employee must:
- make the request in writing
- specify the date on which the employee would like to start flexible working
- detail the change that is requested
- explain the effects that the employee thinks the requested change would have on the employer’s business
- explain how the employee thinks any such effects might be dealt with
Employers should hold a meeting to discuss the request before making a decision. This is a chance for the employee to provide reasons for the request and for both parties to work out how they can put the flexible working pattern in place. For example, employers can agree on a trial period to see if the arrangement could work short-term.
After the meeting, employers must consider the request and give the employee a response within at least 3 months – but good practice would suggest that a decision should be provided as soon as possible following the meeting. Employers must have sound business reasons for refusing a request, falling under one of the following categories:
- the burden of additional costs;
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
- inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
- inability to recruit additional staff;
- detrimental impact on quality;
- detrimental impact on performance;
- insufficiency of work during the periods that you propose to work; and
- planned changes.
Not every employer will be in a position to offer flexible working to all employees but it appears that the temporary shift that many businesses were forced to make has resulted in a number of employees preferring home working.
To meet growing demand for more flexibility, it may be worth considering offering working arrangements along the following lines:
- staggering start and finish times
- implementing “flexi-time”, where staff are able to work less hours one day and make it up at a later date
- increased annual leave options, such as the option to buy or sell leave
- job sharing or part-time working options
Employers should be aware that changes of this nature would result in a change to employment terms and conditions, meaning employers should seek staff agreement first.