January, 2022

Want to reward staff without adding to payroll cost? Here’s how to do it

With businesses increasingly feeling the economic pinch, employers are considering ways to reward staff without having to increase salaries. Below are some suggestions:

Additional holiday leave

An excellent way to thank or reward staff is to offer additional holiday entitlement. This can be seen as a major staff perk and is likely to retain valued employees seeking a work-life balance. In 2022, there is an additional bank holiday to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum jubilee. Not every employer is obliged to recognise this holiday if they don’t contractually recognise official bank holidays, so this may be a good way to provide an additional day’s holiday without it becoming an ongoing entitlement.

Examining Job Titles

There are various motivators in work, and some staff are motivated by status; so looking at job titles and formalising structures can make people feel valued and important to their employer.  A title change will be the motivator to increase an employee’s status and encourage them to stay in their role.

Employee Development

Offering training is a very practical way to invest in employees and reap a return on that investment – upskilling your workforce is crucial and in turn, your employee gets a number of new skills they might not have achieved without you.

Staff Socialising

Sometimes a staff social event is a great way to say thank you. As restrictions ease, planning that summer barbecue or get togethers can really help employees feel like a team again as well as making people feel that their contribution is valued.

Spruce up the Office

It has been shown that pleasant working environments aid productivity. As employers are trying to encourage their teams back into the office, perhaps a mini upgrade is the motivator that might be needed? A lick of paint and upgrading chairs doesn’t cost a fortune but helps engender pride in the workplace.

Flexible Working

This subject has been high on the agenda for months and it is important that employers think about how they can offer flexibility in working – whether it is looking at changing hours to accommodate school holidays or allowing home working in particular circumstances on an ongoing basis to reduce cost of commuting.

121 HR Solutions can support implementing changes in the workplace and would be pleased to discuss practical ways to aid motivation – call us on 0800 9995 121 to discuss further.

  • Posted on January 31st, 2022

Increased risk of cyber attack due to home working

More than half of firms believe their  exposure to attack  has increased due to  working from home  arrangements with one in 10 having been the victim of a cyber-attack in the last year.

These are among the findings of a survey of almost 1000 UK companies, from all sectors and sizes, carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) which also showed that only one in five have cyber-security accreditations in place.

The huge increase in people working from home  during the pandemic is seen as one of the main reasons for the increase in vulnerability.

The shift to home working and use of cloud-based computer systems happened almost overnight and many businesses were caught out by a lack of cyber-security. Those businesses now have to consider that they are not just providing protection for office systems but for employees in their homes. In order to mitigate the risk, employers are encouraged to develop clear homeworking policies and ensure that all employees have access to information about appropriately using systems, along with information to reduce cyber threats for remote workers.

Managers should also highlight the processes that employees should follow if they experience any security risks whilst working. 121 HR Solutions can help draft homeworking policies and can be contacted at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk

  • Posted on January 31st, 2022

Taxpayer Protection Taskforce appointed to recover fraudulently claimed Covid support

The Government has announced plans to recover up to £1bn of Covid support wrongly claimed by businesses, using a specialised anti-fraud taskforce. Official figures have estimated that £5.8bn has been lost to fraud through its schemes to support businesses during the pandemic, including the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Eat Out to Help Out.

HMRC has said that £500m of wrongly claimed support has already been recovered, and another £350m has been returned without the intervention of HMRC. Separately, £650m in grants that were rightfully claimed have been returned because the companies no longer needed the support.

HMRC has now said it plans to reclaim between £800m and £1bn of Covid support money lost to fraud by 2023 through a new Taxpayer Protection Taskforce of 1,265 HMRC employees.

  • Posted on January 31st, 2022

Auto-enrolment proposals for change mean rising costs for employers

Proposed legislation to amend auto-enrolment pensions to include thousands more employees, including younger workers and lower earners is likely to result in higher costs for employers.

A bill has been introduced to Parliament that would see the minimum age for auto-enrolment reduce from 22 to 18 and remove the £10,000 minimum earning threshold that currently triggers automatic enrolment, meaning that all workers over 18 would be enrolled.

It is estimated that lowering the auto-enrolment age would allow younger workers to save an additional £20,267 when they retire. Currently just one in five 16-21 year olds has a workplace pension. However, the expansion of auto-enrolment is likely to lead to higher costs for employers who currently contribute at least 3% towards employees’ pension savings and employees with a large number of part-time staff are most likely to see cost increases under the proposal. If it goes through, the proposal would help workers with multiple jobs, who currently have the earnings limit applied separately to each job.

As further updates are available on this subject 121 HR Solutions will provide guidance to employers.

  • Posted on January 31st, 2022

Covid absence – the cost to employers

Employers across the country have encountered issues with staffing levels due to self-isolation and Covid absences and are trying to counter the cost of this.

Employers are under no obligation to maintain full pay for periods of self-isolation (unless contracts provide this) and only have to pay SSP.

However, if businesses have chosen to pay full pay for periods of isolation over the past 18 months to two years, this may have become an implied contractual term even though it’s not written into employment contracts. This means that employers must go through the same consultation processes they are obliged to do for any other change to terms and conditions. Failure to do so may lead to lengthy and costly claims of unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal, breach of contract and a risk of discrimination claims.

Organisations may therefore need to consider amending existing policies and procedures relating to contractual sick pay entitlements and eligibility requirements for Covid-related absences. In particular, employers may want to update the evidence required for those who test positive for Covid, especially because a confirmatory PCR test is no longer needed for asymptomatic individuals.

Similarly, employers are experiencing difficulty in determining which of their employees are vaccinated or exempt. Whilst some employees will be wiling to divulge this information, not all will wish to and this may increase the likelihood of absence for unvaccinated employees.  If the employer is privy to this information, it must be stored in line with normal data protection rules and treated as sensitive data.

121 HR Solutions has provided guidance across a range of Covid queries for the past two years and continues to support clients in this, and any other area of employment practice!

  • Posted on January 31st, 2022

Care home worker who refused vaccination was fairly dismissed

A care assistant in a nursing home providing residential care for dementia sufferers was dismissed in December 2020, prior to the introduction of compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for workers in the care sector in England.  The care assistant claimed unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

Employment Judge, taking care to make plain that the decision was based entirely on the facts of the case and should not be taken as a general indication that dismissal for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is fair, set out that the refusal to be vaccinated was an unreasonable refusal to comply with a reasonable management instruction.  The care assistant said her reason was due to fear of and scepticism about the vaccine, rather than religious belief.  The judge found that in particular because she represented a risk to others, her actions fell within the definition and examples of gross misconduct set out in the employer’s disciplinary procedure.  Her refusal to be vaccinated therefore amounted to a repudiatory breach of her contract of employment entitling the employer to summarily dismiss her.

It’s an interesting case, and a subject we are surely going to see more of as the cases reach the tribunals!  Remember vaccination is not a legal requirement for any role at present apart from the Care sector in England – there is sure to be more developments on this subject.

  • Posted on January 26th, 2022

Two in five don’t trust their employer to prioritise mental health

Nearly two in five office workers have little or no trust in their employer’s ability to treat their mental health as a priority, according to global research that exposes a gap between what employers promise and what they achieve when it comes to mental health support.

Although employees generally felt organisations had taken positive action to improve physical health since the start of the pandemic, research from healthcare and benefits providers found that many still believed their mental health was not being prioritised in the way they had hoped.

While 36% said their employer’s communications around mental health issues had been “good” over the past year, only 25% said the same about the concrete steps that had been taken to support mental wellbeing.

This is in sharp contrast to the previous year’s survey, which found that 52% rated their employer’s support for mental health as “good”. 38% of the 3,520 office workers polled said they had little or no trust in their employer’s capacity to treat their mental health as a priority.

Over the last year and certainly throughout the pandemic, businesses have been much more vocal about the importance of employee health and wellbeing. Many employees still feel that their mental health is not as important to their employer as their physical health and safety.

Research also found that some employees – for example, very young employees or those who work part time – have a more negative view of their company’s approach to health and wellbeing, suggesting more needs to be done to cater to the needs of the entire workforce.

Employees’ perceptions about physical health support were more positive. 42% felt their employer’s actions to support their physical health over the past year had been “good” – particularly when it came to tackling postural or musculoskeletal conditions.

Now is the time for employers to build upon the good work they’ve already started and make sure their strategies and internal culture are supportive of whole person health – covering everything from physical health, to an individual’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

  • Posted on January 26th, 2022

Flexible working requests behind growing number of tribunal cases

The number of employment tribunal decisions relating to flexible working has leapt by 52% in the past year which saw a record high of 193 cases, up from 127 in 2019-20, according to research.

The findings suggest that the rise in the number of claims for flexible working may be driven by employees resisting attempts by employers to bring them back into the office.

Claims brought to the employment tribunals over flexible working are often brought alongside claims for discrimination.  Whilst some employers may not be too concerned about the financial implications of a failure to comply with this requirement (the maximum compensation if the employee brings a Tribunal claim is eight weeks’ pay, capped at the statutory maximum, £544 per week), the risks significantly increase where the employee brings a claim of indirect discrimination as well, challenging whether the employer can justify its reasoning.

This is most commonly framed as a sex or disability discrimination claim. Given compensation in discrimination claims is uncapped, getting things wrong can be a costly mistake.

Should you receive a flexible working request ensure that you manage it in line with your Flexible Working policy giving due time and attention in managing this. 121 HR Solutions are always on hand to provide practical advice and support in managing such situations.

  • Posted on January 25th, 2022

Employers to conduct digital checks of candidates’ right to work in the UK

Digital right-to-work checks are to be made permanent, the government has announced, following widespread calls to make the temporary measure a longer-term feature.

The change was initially deployed as a temporary measure to aid with remote working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and was set to end on 5 April this year, following a number of extensions on the initial end date.

However, the government has said digital checks will now continue past this date despite there being concerns about the cost of the digital checks, which could potentially create a “two-tier system” that disadvantages UK nationals. The cost of the digital right-to-work checks is to be funded by employers, with an individual check costing between £1.45 and £70, according to the Home Office. In addition, the costs will only be applied to documents from UK nationals, while the existing free online service can still be used for applications from overseas.

The announcement comes as the government revealed plans to extend its Seasonal Worker Visa route until 2024, allowing overseas workers to come to the UK for up to six months. 30,000 visas will be made available this year for workers in the horticulture sector, with the potential to increase by another 10,000.

121 HR Solutions can assist with visa queries and can be contacted at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk

  • Posted on January 25th, 2022

What’s in store for HR in 2022?

Whilst it may be viewed as an understatement at this stage, it can be said that 2020 and 2021 changed the way we work forever. They are the years that are classed as the reactivity to constantly stay up to date to ensure compliance with the everchanging Government rules as well as paving the way for all the uncertainties surrounding working life throughout the course of the pandemic.

We’ve certainly learned over the last 2 years that things can never really be 100% certain, with rules and regulations continuously changing, but it would definitely be fair to say that heading into 2022, organisations are far more equipped to plan for what’s coming and have learned how to be particularly pro-active in assessing the impacts of proposed changes on individual organisations. That being said, there are a few key measures which are expected over the next few months, so what are the up-and-coming HR trends for 2022 and how can you prepare for them?

In April 2022, there are increases to the National Minimum Wage, statutory maternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement leave.  Statutory Sick Pay also increases.   April 2022 also heralds the deadline date for publishing gender pay gap reports.

Another change coming in 2022 is the changes to bank holidays, to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The late May bank holiday (normally falling on Monday 30th May) will be moved to Thursday 2nd June 2022, with the additional bank holiday on Friday 3rd June 2022. Employers should check the wording of employees’ contracts to understand their obligations; there won’t be the automatic right to the additional day, or to time off on fixed bank holidays. Instead, employers may be able to ask employees to work on 3 June 2022 but give them the day off at a different time in the year.

Despite oftentimes feeling like we’ve seen the back of the Covid-19 Pandemic, unfortunately it will still be around in 2022. However, the rollout of the vaccines has definitely eased the strain on organisations and put them in a much better position to return to as close to a normal working environment as possible.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the last two years, it’s that organisations should be prepared for change and be able to adapt quickly and efficiently to ensure compliance with mandatory regulations put in place. Keeping on top of the fast paced changes will allow smooth transitions throughout 2022 and beyond!

  • Posted on January 25th, 2022

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