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Monthly Newsletter

Monthly Newsletters

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive easy to read information on the latest HR topics plus important Employment Law updates which may affect your business.

March 2022

Who pays the bills?

With the increase in working from home, should employers contribute towards peoples internet and heating bills?

The cost of living is going to be a huge issue for many employees going forward. There is no obligation for employers to contribute to energy bills. However, as part of your organisation’s financial wellbeing strategy you could offer signposting to good advice and support for employees on how to reduce their energy bills. This will be helpful both financially and from an environmental perspective.

At the start of the pandemic we saw a number of companies making one-off payments to contribute to office equipment as a way to support employees with setting up their home offices. Yet we haven’t really seen any companies continue to contribute to internet and utility bills in response to the increased level of home working. But this could likely we due to the availability of home working tax relief from the government.

For further advice and support with your financial wellbeing strategy, contact The HR Team. 

Employers to cover commuting costs?

Should an employer feel obliged to pay their employees’ commuting costs if they’re now required to come into the office for say, three days per week?

This will depend on the contract of employment – if this still states that the primary place of work is the office, then businesses would not be obliged to fund the commute to work. If however, employees are on home-based contracts, then typically travel to an office would fall under the travel policy and be reimbursed.

This is a challenging subject at the moment as the cost effectiveness of commuting is being challenged by the recent skyrocketing of fuel prices across the UK.

For further advice and support with terms and conditions of employment, contact The HR Team. 

Office Perks and Incentives

Employers who value the benefit of a face-to-face team environment are keen to keep their office-based culture alive by introducing attractive office perks and incentives.

Increasingly, companies are having to look at ways to encourage employees back to the office and overcome obstacles such as higher commuting costs. Companies are having to get creative by offering attractive office-based perks such as free coffees, a well-stocked fruit bowl and incentives such as ‘Breakfast Mondays’ and ‘Pizza Wednesdays’ in order to make office days more appealing than working from home.

The key to success is a regular review of your benefits package and office incentives. If take-up of certain perks such as a ‘cycle to work scheme’ have dropped off since the pandemic, you may need to reassess, to ensure you are offering a range of benefits that suit your staff. To get an overview of which benefits are being used and which would be most valued by your staff, you could run a survey. This will provide an evidence base to support any decisions to withdraw certain benefits if they are no longer financially viable or wanted by the majority of your staff. Decisions to withdraw any benefits should be communicated clearly to your employees in order to avoid any surprises.

The HR Team can support you by developing a comprehensive company benefits package to help retain existing staff and attract the best new talent.

Employment Law updates

At a glance

15 March 2022 – Laws requiring mandatory vaccination for those working in care homes and working within health and social care will be revoked.

17 March 2022 – The SSP rebate scheme for covid-related sickness closes.

24 March 2022 – The COVID-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations will be removed. This includes SSP payments for those isolating (unless too unwell to work), and the payment of SSP from day 1.
All claims under the SSP rebate scheme for covid-related sickness must be submitted, and all amendments to claims made before this date.

1 April 2022 – National Minimum Wage rates will increase.

3 April 2022 – Family friendly payment rates will increase, including SMP, SAP, ShPP, SPP, SPBP.

6 April 2022 – The ability to manually check the status of those with a biometric residence card or permit, or frontier work permit, will be removed. From that date, only online checks will be possible. In order to complete these checks, the employer will need the individual’s date of birth and right to work share code.

6 April 2022 – The following rates will increase:
-SSP rate
-Compensation limits, statutory guarantee pay and weekly redundancy payments
-National insurance contributions will increase by 1.25%
-6 April 2022 HMRC has asked that payslips include a message to say “1.25% uplift in NICs funds NHS, health & social care.” This is in place until 5 April 2023
-6 April 2022 The lower earnings limit will increase for the first time in two years, to £123

End of legal requirement to isolate
The government has recently announced that all Covid-19 restrictions in England, including the legal requirement to self-isolate for people infected with Covid-19, will end under the government’s ‘living with Covid plan’.

Instead of legislation, voluntary guidance will “advise” people with Covid-19 not to attend workplaces. Employers will once again need to consider carefully how to develop and implement new policies fairly and safely in the workplace so that staff and customers, particularly those who are clinically vulnerable, are not put at risk.

Closure of SSP Rebate Scheme
The Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will close on 17 March 2022. Employers will no longer be able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences or periods of self-isolation that occur after 17 March 2022. Employers only have until 24 March 2022 to submit any new claims for absence periods up to 17 March 2022, or to amend claims they have already submitted. After then, there is a return to the normal SSP rules. This means employers should revert to paying SSP from the fourth qualifying day their employee is off work regardless of the reason for their sickness absence.

For further advice on amending your Company policies in line with the latest Employment Law updates, contact The HR Team


December 2021

Planning ahead for future skills and talent needs?

Many companies would admit to having been affected by the labour squeeze since the economy has started to pick up, in the wake of the pandemic. A recent CIPD poll of 1000 companies found that 47% were now struggling to fill vacancies and 27% said they expected the number of hard-to-fill vacancies to increase over the next six months.

Similarly, recruitment agencies are seeing a record growth in job adverts over the last few months and official figures from the Office for National Statistics put job vacancies at another record high in the last quarter, rising by 388,000 to 1.17 million from August to October. The number of people on payroll increased by 160,000 while unemployment fell to 4.3% – nearly pre-pandemic levels.

In the world of HR, we are now seeing employees taking advantage of the new labour market and there has been a surge in job-to-job moves as people everywhere are rethinking their career priorities after the pandemic. Working from home has become the new normal for many people and they are not willing to give that up, so are now seeking out alternative employment from companies who offer better flexible working arrangements as standard.

Employers must now focus on the culture of their organisation and improve how they develop and retain their existing workforce if they want to hold on to their good staff. A great company culture speaks for itself. Organisations who do the following will be more likely to retain talent:

• Nurture employees by offering excellent training and development opportunities
• Make staff feel appreciated by offering a variety of perks, rewards and incentives
• Encourage effective, honest and open communication at all levels of the business
• Show trust and autonomy by offering greater flexibility and work-life balance
• Promote social responsibility, for example by offering the chance to give back to the local community with time off for volunteer work
• Offer inclusive social events
• Provide additional annual leave, above the statutory minimum
• Provide a Company sick pay scheme
• Promote employee wellbeing

The list goes on… ! The important thing is for companies to find what works for their business and their employees. You can’t please everyone, but in general, when employees feel appreciated, see that their employer really cares and is willing to put time and energy into ensuring their company is a fantastic place to work, employee loyalty soon follows. The HR Team can help business owners by discussing more ways to help you improve your company culture and support you in developing and retaining your existing staff.

For expert advice on company culture & employee retention, contact The HR Team. 


Hiring an apprentice. What are the benefits?

Apprenticeships are an exciting opportunity for both apprentice and employer. You can employ apprentices at different levels, from school leavers and university graduates to people who want to further their careers or change career direction completely. You can hire someone new or upskill an existing employee. As an employer, you can get funding from the government to help pay for apprenticeship training.

The benefits for your business
Hiring an apprentice is a productive and effective way to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.
• 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation
• 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity
• 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service

Other benefits of working with apprentices include:
• you can adapt their training according to the needs of your business
• they’re motivated to learn new skills
• you can expand and upskill your workforce

Financial incentives for employers
From 11 January 2022, employers can apply for a payment of £3,000 for new apprentices of any age who have an employment start date of 1 October 2021 to 31 January 2022. These apprentices must also have an apprenticeship start date of 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.
Applications open on 11 January 2022 and close on 15 May 2022.

The incentive payment is in addition to the £1,000 employers already receive for hiring an apprentice:
• aged 16 to 18 years old
• aged 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan or who has been in the care of their local authority

For further information and support with hiring an apprentice, contact The HR Team. 

Statutory Pay Limits Increase from April 2022

What is changing?

The government has announced the new rates for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, parental bereavement and shared parental payments which will take effect from April 2022, as well as the rate for statutory sick pay.

On 11 April 2022, the rates for statutory pay rates will increase to:

• Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Adoption Pay, Shared Parental Pay, Parental Bereavement Pay and Maternity Allowance will increase from £151.97 to £156.66 per week (or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower).

• The Statutory Sick Pay rate will increase from £96.35 to £99.35 per week

Why do I need to plan ahead for this?

Companies who fail to pay these minimum rates from 11 April 2022 could find themselves on the receiving end of claims for back pay together with perhaps the serious claims of discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal dependant on the circumstances.

What should I do?

• Check to see if your contracts and policies comply and if not, update them; and
• Ensure you are familiar with your new obligations and are implementing them from 11 April 2022.

Employers who have employees on sickness absence, or maternity leave etc, in the run up to April 2022, must remember to factor in the increases for these employees where their absence continues past the rate change date, as well as employees who go on sick leave, maternity leave etc after the new rates are in place.

The national minimum/living wage rates and real living wage rates from 1 April 2022 are:

Rate from April 2022Current rate (April 2021 to March 2022)Increase
National Living Wage£9.50£8.916.6%
21–22-Year-Old Rate£9.18£8.369.8%
18–20-Year-Old Rate£6.83£6.564.1%
16–17-Year-Old Rate£4.81£4.624.1%
Apprentice Rate£4.81£4.3011.9%
Accommodation Offset£8.70£8.364.1%

For further information and support with employee wage increases, contact The HR Team

To ensure your business receives all the latest Employment Law updates that may be relevant and crucial to the way you run your business, contact The HR Team and subscribe to our mailing list.

November 2021

Planning ahead for future skills and talent needs?

Since lockdown, employees in every sector appear to be re-evaluating their priorities and many are keen to renegotiate their previous terms and conditions. Whilst some people are happy to get back to the office environment, there has also been a steep rise in requests for flexible working arrangements. Many of our clients are now navigating new hybrid working policies in order to try to balance their employees’ needs with the requirements of the business. There is a growing realisation across the UK that many businesses are facing recruitment difficulties and even a hiring crisis in the wake of the pandemic and the changing dynamics of the labour market.

However, as employers hastily try to fill a record number of vacancies, CIPD has warned that many companies are failing to consider their longer-term skills and talent requirements. In a recent Resourcing and Talent Planning survey, the HR body found that just 46% of businesses had a workforce planning strategy based on their current and future workforce needs. This means that over half of all companies surveyed, were not planning ahead and simply taking an ad hoc approach to recruitment.

The pandemic has meant that companies have not had the capacity to plan ahead when it comes to resourcing. But according to Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion advisor at CIPD, that is exactly what is needed if companies are to survive and thrive. As HR professionals we encourage our clients to undertake retention initiatives to protect their most valuable asset and also to collect data to identify future skills requirements and their supply of talent.

For expert advice on workforce planning to assess the skills and talent needs of your Company, contact The HR Team. 


Is advertising vacancies on social media discriminatory?

Facebook’s algorithm is in hot water, and employers could be liable if they use such platforms to promote their roles. Social media has become a popular place for businesses to advertise their vacancies. Aside from the benefit of a far-reaching audience, many platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have sophisticated algorithms that promise to make sure the right people see adverts. However, a recent investigation by the charity Global Witness has revealed that job adverts on Facebook were disproportionately being shown to the genders stereotypically associated with those roles. Worryingly, these decisions were being automatically generated by the software’s ‘optimisation for ad delivery’ system. The organisation had not even specified who it wanted the adverts to be shown to.

This revelation could land employers in very hot water! According to the same investigation, 95% of those shown an advert for nursery nurse jobs were women, whilst 96% of those shown an advert for mechanic jobs were men. 75% of users shown an advert for pilot jobs were men and 77% of users shown posts for psychologist jobs were women. A spokesperson for Facebook told People Management that their system takes into account all kinds of information to try to serve people ads they will be most interested in but would review the findings of these reports.

Employment experts have warned that businesses using such platforms to advertise vacancies could be opening themselves up to legal claims. “An employer could be acting in breach of the Equality Act because of the way Facebook’s algorithm operates,” said Alan Lewis, Partner at Constantine Law, citing Section 39 (1) (a) which requires employers not to discriminate against a person in the recruitment arrangement including through practises such as advertising. Lewis went on to agree that employers inadvertently undermine their own diversity efforts by advertising on Facebook.

So what can employers do? By advertising in a range of publications both online and offline, your adverts will appeal to viewers on a basis which is much more in line with equality and are targeted at men and women and readers of different ages.

The HR Team can help you by drafting and reviewing your job adverts and by giving you expert guidance on the best ways to advertise and recruit without fear of discrimination claims.

New laws planned to prevent employers withholding tips

Currently, businesses are able to choose whether to pass tips on to workers or whether to keep them. However, the government has said that it is acting on concerns that the move towards a more cashless society has made it easier to withhold tips.

Although the government has not specified when the measures will come into force, it has said the changes could help two million hospitality workers who rely on tips to top up their income. According to CIPD, Labour markets minister Paul Skully said “Unfortunately, some companies choose to withhold cash from hardworking staff who have been tipped by customers as a reward for good service. Our plans will make this illegal and ensure tips will go to those who worked for it. This will provide a boost to workers in pubs, cafes and restaurants across the country.”

Under this new government proposal, employers in the hospitality sector would be legally obliged to pass tips on to staff and could face tribunal claims if they fail to do so. Under the new regulations, employees would be able to request their employer’s tipping record and could bring a tribunal claim if they suspect them of breaking the rules. The employment tribunal will also have the power to fine businesses caught flouting the rules and can require them to compensate workers for any tips lost.

To ensure your business receives all the latest Employment Law updates that may be relevant and crucial to the way you run your business, contact The HR Team and subscribe to our mailing list.

October 2021

Are ‘No jab, no job’ policies allowed?

Now that all adult age groups are eligible for the Covid vaccine, many businesses are now considering whether they are able to implement a mandatory vaccination policy. But many HR experts suggest that employers insisting their employees be vaccinated should be very cautious about enforcing it.

Following months of speculation, the Government appear to have given their support to firms wanting to introduce a requirement for their staff to be vaccinated. In a recent interview with Sky News, transport minister Grant Shapps said mandatory vaccination was a “good idea” and that “some organisations are going to require it”.

These comments could be taken as an implication that the government are backing employer’s rights to enforce vaccination, but they were certainly not the clear confirmation many companies were hoping for. In addition, Shapps said “We are not going to make it legislation that every adult has to be double vaccinated before they go back to the office”.

At this stage, (aside from care homes in England) there are no legislative changes that might protect employers facing tribunal claims off the back of such a policy. Therefore, employers taking a broad approach to vaccination must proceed with caution. Employers that take action against an employee for not being vaccinated, face a high risk of a claim if they cannot show their mandate was reasonable. Therefore when considering whether to make the vaccine mandatory, a business needs to assess their individual risk.

For expert advice on whether your Company should implement a Mandatory Vaccine Policy, contact The HR Team. 


Is it Legal to Cut Remote Workers’ Pay?

Now that restrictions have been lifted, many companies are now having to pull out all the stops to try to tempt workers back to the office. Promises of additional benefits and a focus on company culture are high on the agenda.

Another approach now gaining momentum, is to consider cutting the pay of those workers who might choose to work remotely. Big names like Google, Twitter and Facebook have already joined the growing number of organisations who have taken this approach.

It could be argued that people who choose to work from home are not paying commuter costs so they have a “de facto pay rise” which could be considered unfair on those who are travelling into the office to work. On the other hand, cutting the pay of remote workers could create a culture of distrust and resentment among staff.

Reducing pay may be appropriate if the job role has changed. This may be because part of the role cannot be carried out away from the office or the employee had opted to work from home. But even in these circumstances, an employer would still need to go through the proper process of changing terms and conditions and ultimately gain consent from employees in order to make such changes.

A Company may decide to offer fully remote working for all staff and wish to reduce salaries, but they would need to gain consent first. Remote workers could argue that working from home reduces Company overheads and if productivity has not diminished then a pay cut would be unfair. Employment Lawyers warn that staff who are no longer expected to commute, particularly into central London, are effectively being asked to give up their London Weighting. This is an employment law minefield for businesses.

In a recent interview with People Management, Paul Seath, employment partner at Bates Wells, explained that any differences between pay, benefits or prospects of those working from home when compared to those working in the office could give rise to discrimination issues. “For example, it can be said more women will choose remote working because it better suits their caring responsibilities”, he said. “As such, if remote workers are paid less, it is going to have a greater impact on women.”

Rather than risking staff turnover and legal claims by pursuing salary cuts, it seems the way forward could be a more balanced approach, with more focus on a hybrid model rather than purely office or remote working. If employers want to create a positive and connected workforce culture, they must ensure remote working capabilities are maintained in a fair and equal way. Flexibility and effective communication across the workforce will enable remote/hybrid/office-based teams to remain connected and ultimately be the key to a happy workforce and future business success.

The The HR Team can help you by reviewing and updating your current HR policies and advise on any new terms and conditions you wish to introduce.

Government Plans Employer Duty to Prevent Sexual Harassment

Employers could be legally required to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. In response to its consultation on harassment in the workplace, the government said it would bring forward legislation to create a new “preventative duty” for employers. This would also protect employees from harassment by third parties, such as customers.

The government said it would publish new guidance and a statutory code of practice and is also considering extending the time allowed to bring cases to employment tribunal. According to a report by CIPD, Liz Truss, minister for women and equalities, said the measures would “motivate employers to make improvements to workplace practices and culture”.

However, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at CIPD, warned that creating a proactive duty may not have the desired effect. “Employers are already required under the law to make reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of workers by their colleagues. Improving employers’ compliance with their existing legal obligations under the Equality Act would make more sense than creating a new duty.”

On a practical level, employers must create a culture whereby staff know that they can bring up any concerns of sexual harassment in the knowledge they will be heard and issues dealt with. Managers should ensure that a Sexual Harassment Policy is in place with a clear reporting procedure. Regular and ongoing Sexual Harassment training across the workforce is also vital in order to raise awareness on the subject. By incorporating staff welfare into review meetings and appraisals, staff are given the opportunity to voice any concerns over colleagues who have made them or others feel uncomfortable.

Any allegations or concerns should be dealt with as soon as possible and it goes without saying that there should be a clear zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment in any organisation. Regardless of an employee’s stature within the business… if they are found guilty of sexually harassing a colleague or staff member there should be immediate consequences.

To add a Sexual Harassment Policy to your Staff Handbook, or to book a Sexual Harassment Training Course for your employees, contact The HR Team.


September 2021

Flex from Day One?

Despite lockdown restrictions lifting, just one in five employees expect to return to an office-based role. Most workers state they still want to meet with colleagues, yet only a small number crave to be in the office full time. Blending office with home working appears to be the most popular choice. Human connection motivates staff and drives success by boosting confidence and increasing communication skills. Also, heading out of the home can help keep personal relationships healthy.

While COVID-19 sees an increase in remote working, research reveals that 46% of staff still can’t work on a flexible basis in their current role. Compared to those who can work flexibly, these employees are about twice as likely to be dissatisfied in their job.

Currently, UK flexible working practices have some way to go; lower paid manual jobs don’t have the same flexible benefits as higher salaried managerial positions. Plus, employees can only request to work flexibly once every 12 months, after 26 weeks of employment. The CIPD’s ‘Flex From 1st’ campaign is urging employers to support flexible working for all, and from the first day of employment. Research shows how flexible working arrangements improve wellbeing, work–life balance and efficiency.

Looking creatively at flexible working prospects could provide a fresh view on what is possible. Employers need to take flexible working requests seriously, as they are most certainly set to rise.

The HR Team can help you explore your options and devise a realistic flexible working policy that fits the needs of your business.

Furlough Final

Introduced in March 2020, the furlough scheme ends at the end of this month, having been set up as a short-term measure to give businesses the financial support necessary to try to retain staff throughout the pandemic. Several extensions later, over the past 18 months, a total of 11.6 million jobs were put on furlough.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be ending on 30 September 2021. Claims for September must be submitted by 14 October 2021 and any amendments must be made by 28 October 2021.

To date, there are no set rules for advising staff about the end of furlough. However, strong communication will be key to a smooth back to work transition. Write to all affected employees, stating that the furlough agreement is ending and include a return-to-work date, where to work from, plus information on how return to work will impact wages, annual leave information and the measures you will implement to protect health and safety whilst at work.

Although this scheme may now be drawing to a close, bear in mind that furloughed employees retain their employment rights, such as annual leave and the right not to be unfairly dismissed. Any employers now considering redundancies must follow the usual rules to avoid costly tribunals.

Employers must remember to keep written records of any furlough agreements for five years. Industry experts have stated that furlough fraud remains a concern in the context of redundancy and unfair dismissal.

Are you all set with your end of furlough plans? If not, don’t delay – contact The HR Team for expert advice.


Menopause Matters

Menopause affects half of all employees in the workplace. A recent report found nearly half a million women left work or were thinking of leaving due to menopausal symptoms.

Providing support for female employees going through the menopause could be critical to their health and wellbeing and will also benefit your business in various ways; fewer sick days, better loyalty, less staff leaving and a more dedicated team.

Promoting women can also help you close any gender pay gap, whilst tapping into diverse talent makes for an age and gender inclusive workplace.

It can be difficult to know where to start. But a first step is to make the Menopause less of a taboo subject in your office. Replace hushed whispers with honest and open chats. Fine tune your office in line with physical and mental health issues entitlement. Make sure you comply with the 2010 Equality Act by making sure working conditions don’t make symptoms worse.

It is now a legal requirement to support staff who are peri-menopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal, so make sure managers jump on board too. No-one should suffer in silence. It can be tough, so we need to nod a little respect to those suffering.

If you would like further advice or a Menopause Policy including in your staff handbook, contact the HR Team today.