Pointless and unproductive meetings will cost £45bn in 2019
Researcher from Doddle has found that the average professional spends two hours a week in pointless meetings, or over 24bn hours of working time. Professionals were also asked to rank pointless meetings against other common occurrences by how irritating they found them:
Poor meetings affect people’s behaviour; if a meeting isn’t working they end up bringing other work and multi-tasking rather than focusing on the meeting. Consider is if the meeting really is essential, and if those invited are required to be present. Try to keep meetings as on-topic as possible to ensure no extra time is wasted.
Educate workers on the effect of alcohol consumption on productivity
Almost a quarter of 18 to 34-year-olds say they have gone to work still feeling drunk after boozy nights out over the past 12 months. According to the new research half (50%) of these workers admit to having driven to work on these occasions. The research shows that young workers are twice as likely as colleagues aged 35 and over to come into work still feeling drunk (12%).
Just one in ten workers said their employer currently provides staff with any health advice on alcohol consumption. Furthermore, almost one in five said their employer has contributed to unhealthy levels of drinking – by encouraging alcohol consumption during staff nights out, for example, paying for work drinks and by promoting a work hard, play hard culture.
The research found that more than a quarter of workers have hangovers on a monthly basis that affect their productivity. In addition, one in four 18 to 34-year-olds have taken sick days in the past 12 months because of hangovers. This compares with just 13% of those aged 35 and over.
Somewhat surprisingly, more than one third of all workers taking time off due to hangovers admitted the reason for their absence to their boss.
Health and Safety – it’s just common-sense
If health & safety truly was just common sense, and every employee had a level head, there would be no accidents. In 2018, 144 fatal injuries were reported to the HSE.
A further 71,062 non-fatal injuries to employees were reported in the same period, with a total of 0.6 million non-fatal injuries to workers.
In the same report the HSE also found that there were over 239,000 new cases of workers suffering from a case of stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18, leading to a loss of 15.4 million working days.
Aside from the moral responsibility that every employer has to their employees, and the legal ramifications of failing to be health & safety compliant, there are also significant fines to consider.
Data from the HSE shows a total of 45 cases in 2017/18, where the fine was greater than £500,000. The largest fine made during this period was £3 million and was given after a fatal fall from height.
Flexible working requests on the rise
Increasingly, requests for flexible working are occurring in the workplace. Originally flexible working was designed as an option for parents or carers needing to adapt their working lives around their caring responsibilities. However, it has now become broader with people seeking to work according to their preferences, rather than their needs.
While there isn’t a legal definition of flexible working, the umbrella term can cover all manner of working outside the office, including from home.
In legal terms, employees have a statutory right to put in a formal flexible working request after 26 weeks’ service and can put in requests of this nature every 12 months. Bur recent research has found that 16% of employees felt that their manager would react badly to a request for a more flexible working schedule, with a further 15% concerned that it could negatively impact their career progression.
However, those who have had their flexible working requests accommodated may also that there are negative consequences. Some workers may feel isolated and struggle to make professional connections; or feel less connected to their teams.
One in 10 employees in the UK are already on some form of flexible working contract, and with this number only set to rise, employers need to be able to accommodate the increasingly flexible workforce. Employers should have policies in place to demonstrate how flexible working can be used and applied for.
Are we doing enough to support mental wellbeing in the workplace?
A city worker has died after falling from a building in Canary Wharf in a case that highlights the importance of mental health support in the workplace.
Eyewitness accounts state that the man sent a text, put down his bag, then jumped four storeys to his death in the Canary Wharf Shopping Centre in East London in January.
Research from Accenture suggests 66% of UK workers have personally experienced mental health challenges, with 61% choosing not to tell anyone about them. The main reason for this is that individuals are fearful that disclosing a mental health condition will prevent them from getting promotions and work-related opportunities. In order to make progress, communication is key. Managers need to have regular, open and honest conversations about mental health with their teams.
However, according to a recent report, 40% of employees work for an organisation that does not offer any mental health support for employees at all.
It is important that business leaders break the culture of stigma and silence around mental health and start making it a management priority and ensuring that a range of support is available for those who need it.
ACAS recommend the following for managers:
Yet another unfair dismissal following a poor investigation
A hospital security officer was unfairly dismissed after lodging a grievance with his employer, a hospital, which went on to fire him ‘in bad faith’, a tribunal has ruled. It found that the dismissal was “outside the range of reasonable responses”after the employer failed to properly investigate issues raised in a collective grievance stating that security officers had lost trust in management.
The concerns were passed on to the HR department, who met with the employee. The officers went on to contact their trade union and raised a collective grievance about their treatment, signed by seven individuals. The hospital instructed an independent HR consultant to investigate the grievance. He interviewed managers and some of the complainants. After initial meetings, all the individuals withdrew from the grievance, with the claimant the last to do so.
The consultant ruled that the grievance had been made in “bad faith”, citing provisions in the Grievance and dispute policy and Acceptable behaviour at work policy suggesting that where grievances or complaints were found to have been made maliciously or in bad faith this would be treated as potential gross misconduct.
But the judge found that the consultant “had not investigated the grievance, made findings of fact and determined it had been made maliciously or in bad faith”. He had “simply conducted some initial interviews”.
A disciplinary hearing took place and it was found that the action amounted to gross misconduct.
The Judge said the outcome was “outside the range of what was reasonable in terms of investigation, grounds for belief and procedure” and awarded the employee £10,990 for his unfair dismissal.
The case highlights the need for employers to carry out full investigation of difficult situations.
Traffic light warning system for late payment of business bills
A traffic light warning system for business bills is to be proposed by Small Business Commissioner after new research into the scale of late payments showed that invoices are taking an average of 37 days to be paid to smaller firms north of the border.
The study by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, in partnership with the commissioner, found that in Scotland nearly one-third of payments owed to small firms by larger business customers are paid after the commissioner’s recommended 30 days, and across the UK 21 per cent take more than 50 days.
Big companies have been required to report their payment practices twice a year since 2017, although many are yet to disclose details. The data will be used to highlight repeated late payers and give them a red light, allowing suppliers to avoid them if they choose. Those that fail to report their payment terms will also receive a red.
Late payment is often identified as the biggest issue facing small businesses and has been cited as a cause of anxiety and depression among company owners. The Federation of Small Businesses estimates that large companies neglecting to settle their bills causes about 50,000 businesses to fail every year.
The traffic light system proposed would help small firms to identify which large businesses habitually pay their bills late.Legislation introduced in April 2017 required all large businesses in the UK to publish their payment practices.
What’s happening with Employment Law in 2019 (aside from Brexit!)
Along with the inevitable changes that will be brought by Brexit there are some other employment law implications for 2019.
Post-Brexit immigration rule changes:
Regardless of whether a deal on the UK’s exit from the EU is agreed, the rules around the employment of EU nationals will change sooner or later. The Government has introduced a scheme under which EU workers already in the UK will be able to apply for “settled status”, to be able to live and work in the UK indefinitely.
However, employers need to be aware that, going forward, the employment of workers from the EU is likely to be subject to restrictions in the same way as the employment of other foreign nationals, so will need to adjust their recruitment processes.
Executive pay reporting:
Rules coming into force on 1 January 2019 mean that UK quoted companies with more than 250 employees will have to report on ratios between the CEO and employees’ pay and benefits.
The requirement applies to financial years beginning on or after 1 January 2019 so the first of reporting will start in 2020.
Extend itemised pay statements to workers:
From 6 April 2019, the right to an itemised pay statement will extend to workers, not just employees. Where a member of staff’s pay varies according to time worked, the employer will have to include on the itemised pay statement the total number of hours worked for which variable pay is received.
Publish second gender pay gap report:
Employers with 250 or more employees on the “snapshot date” (31 March in the public sector and 5 April in the private and voluntary sectors) must report on their percentage gender pay gap annually within 12 months of that date.
This means that the deadlines for the second round of reports are 30 March or 4 April 2019.
Organisations must publish reports on their website and on the GOV.UK website. In the private and voluntary sectors, reports must also be accompanied by a written statement confirming their accuracy, and be signed by a senior person as prescribed by the legislation.
National minimum wage rate increases:
The national living wage is due to increase to £8.21 per hour from 1 April 2019.
Other national minimum wage rates are also due to increase, with hourly rates rising to £7.70 for workers aged at least 21 but under 25, to £6.15 for workers aged at least 18 but under 21 and to £4.35 for workers aged under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age.
The hourly apprentice rate will increase to £3.90 and the daily accommodation offset will increase to £7.55.
The weekly amount for statutory family pay rates is expected to increase to £148.68 for 2019/20. This rate will apply to maternity pay, adoption pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and maternity allowance.
The increase normally occurs on the first Sunday in April, which in 2019 is 7 April.
The weekly rate for statutory sick pay is expected to increase to £94.25 from 6 April 2019.
Be clear of arrangements to pay bonus
OA recent employment tribunal judgment focused on the effective date of the claimant’s resignation and interpretation of the bonus clause in the employment contract. The judgment has some useful guidelines on the interpretation of contracts.
The employee in question joined a business under an executive employment agreement which was later updated to state that the employment would continue (unless terminated earlier under the agreement) until ended by 52 weeks’ written notice by either party, and that notice by the employee could not expire before 31 December 2016.
The agreement stated that he would receive a bonus advance of £500,000, but this was backed by a repayment clause which expressly stated that if he resigned on or before 31 December 2016 the advance would be repayable in full. The employee resigned; the employer sought to recover the bonus as it believed that the clause had been broken and the employee argued. Essentially, after legal wrangling the appeal court agreed that the employee was expected to repay the bonus in full and relied on the “unambiguous language” in the bonus clause.
This case reminds us of the need to be very clear around bonus payments – in particular when the employer would NOT wish them to be paid out! If you want to ensure that your bonus clauses are equally tight and protect the business then ensure that the following is in place:
UK Business prepares for IR35 changes
Private sector businesses are starting to prepare for a significant change to IR35 regulations affecting businesses that engage sub-contractors, due to change in April 2020. When the plans were announced, the Government included a caveat that the revised IR35 rules will not apply where the business is ‘small’ but, it is not yet known how the government will define ‘small’.
In order to determine the status of the individual, who provides sub-contracting services, HMRC has stated that it will continue to use the online CEST (Check Employment Status for Tax) tool, but has stated that it will work with stakeholders to improve the tool and to give further guidance before the reform comes into effect in April 2020.
One of the main problems with the CEST tool is that it relies on the person using it, to have information from the sub-contractor. The person inputting the information on the “client site” often will not have specific information from the contractor and will therefore be unable to determine the true status. In a recent unreported case at the Employment Tribunal, the judge is said to have criticised the CEST tool and disputed its findings. Essentially the tool is expected to be used to allow a client to determine if someone providing services is genuinely self-employed or if they are a “worker” and therefore entitled to be paid for holidays and receive other employment benefits. The changes will increase the compliance burden and HMRC will have to work closely with businesses to ensure that their tool provides clear guidance.
A further consultation is expected on the details of the changes, expected to be published in Summer 2019.