November 24

Making redundancies during lockdown….

With job losses continuing to hit the headlines and one in three firms reporting a likelihood of having to make redundancies over the next three months, many admit they are unaware of the rules surrounding the consultation process, particularly in lockdown.

Despite the challenges of COVID 19, it is important for employers to ensure the correct procedures are followed and communication is properly maintained when such a decision has to be taken remotely.

Mitigating risk

Mitigating the risk of claims for unfair dismissal is key. Successful claims can entitle employees to compensation of up to 52 weeks’ gross pay (subject to a statutory cap) and, even if unsuccessful, require significant resources of time and money to defend.

Careful planning of the redundancy process will reduce the risks of such claims being brought.

Timing of consultation

• If you are proposing to dismiss less than 20 staff, there are no set rules around when to consult, or for how long, but full and proper consultation is important to ensure the redundancy is not unfair.

• If you are proposing to dismiss 20 or more employees in a 90 day period, a 30 day consultation period, before the first of the dismissals takes effect, is required.

• The consultation period rises to 45 days if 100 or more dismissals are proposed.

Purpose of consultation

Consultation should be carried out with a view to reaching agreement with the employees on the matters discussed and should cover:

• The way in which dismissals can be avoided or the number reduced, such as pay cuts or reductions in hours.

• The way in which employees will be selected for redundancy.

• The fact that voluntary redundancy can be offered as way to avoid compulsory redundancies.

Consultation during COVID

Consultation should start as early as possible and before firm decisions have been made. If businesses are aware that job losses are already required or are likely to follow the winding down of the furlough scheme they should start to consult with their employees as early as possible.

The pool of affected employees must be made regardless of whether an employee is on furlough or not. Although the fact that an employee has been furloughed may indicate that their role is not essential, employers should ensure they do not automatically place all furloughed employees into the pool for selection.

Certain groups, such as women and those who are clinically vulnerable, are more likely to have been furloughed due to childcare or medical reasons, which could lead to claims for discrimination if they are automatically selected for the pool.

Use criteria that are as objective as possible and ensure two managers are scoring. Potentially redundant employees should be given the opportunity to challenge their selection for redundancy and suggest alternatives and, where possible, alternative roles should be sought within the organisation or any wider group.

Video-conferencing is the best substitute for face to face consultation. Once lockdown has eased to the extent that we can safely meet in person, discussions as significant as one regarding redundancy should where possible be held in person. However, in the absence of face to face, conferencing via Zoom, Teams or the equivalent is the only acceptable method – redundancy via email or a phone call will land you in hot water!

Employees should also be given the right to appeal against their dismissal. This should be heard by someone in the organisation who has not been involved in the redundancy process.

Five principles for employers to consider if they are facing tough decisions in the coming weeks.

Do it openly: whatever the scale, the sooner people understand the situation, the better for everyone.

Do it thoroughly: offer employees the information and guidance they need to make decisions.

Do it genuinely: consultation means hearing people’s views before you make a decision, so be open to alternatives from individuals and always give feedback.

Do it fairly: organisations must ensure that the procedures take place without any form of discrimination.

Do it with dignity: the way you let people go says a lot about your company’s values. Employers must think carefully about how they handle these conversations, whether face-to-face or remote.

Contact nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 (0)7917878384.

November 18

Christmas in the workplace….COVID friendly!

How do you celebrate Christmas during COVID? In a year when your staff, more than ever, deserve thanks it looks like the Christmas party will be impossible to pull off and any festive celebration will be difficult and very different from the way that your staff are used to…

Even if we are out of lockdown in early December it is quite likely that there will be pressure to find ways to celebrate whilst also complying with the ‘rule of six’, social distancing guidelines, reduced hours and all the other rules and regulations that are imposed upon us as a result of COVID.

However, with a little creativity and effort it will be possible to reward and engage your staff in different ways this year, some ideas are as follows:

Virtual fun!

A virtual alternative to the Christmas ‘do’ is par for the course in a year dominated by zoom or teams or the like! A Christmas quiz may be a little tame and the chances are quizzes have become the end of month ‘norm’ but you could send out party packs in advance of the event containing the following:

• Cocktail making equipment
• Pictionary – it’s possible – and fun – to play this over video
• Themed cards, hats and props for a game of charades
• Festive-themed bingo sets
• Virtual karaoke – end of night once everyone has warmed up!

Eat, drink and be merry

This could be a simple gift of a voucher for your employee and their family for a food delivery service, so they can dine in on the company.

More ambitiously, especially if you are all geographically close by, you could set aside a time when a local pub, restaurant or takeaway will deliver so you can enjoy food together, but apart. Don’t forget a box of Christmas crackers!

Secret Santa

There are plenty of online Secret Santa sites that can help organise a present-giving system, either with contributions from the employer or with an agreed spending limit for participants.

With a bit of planning, gifts can be delivered and then opened at an agreed time on a team video call! Just make sure you agree the logistics – who contributes, how much, and who covers practicalities such as postage costs.

Say it with a hamper

Christmas hampers can sometimes feel a bit old-fashioned and don’t always deliver the best value for money – but choose carefully and they can be very well received. Be thoughtful about the contents – alcohol or meat products may not be appropriate for everyone – and try to personalise wherever possible.

Twelve Days of Christmas!

Why not host your very own 12 days of Christmas! You could, for example, set aside a prize fund for each day from December 1st to the 12th. Pull names out of a hat to win a prize each day, with maybe twelve winners on 1 December, eleven on 2 December and so on…..until there is one big winner on the final day – the prizes get bigger as the number of winners get smaller!

Staff awards ceremony

As well as thanking all employees who have worked so hard to keep the business going through exceptional challenges with a gift or an event, you could pay special attention to those who have gone the extra mile during lockdown and beyond. An online ‘awards ceremony’ could be held by you with silly hats rather than black tie!

There’s always next year…

Although activities like these aren’t exactly what we imagined we’d be doing at this time of year, businesses must get imaginative and find new ways to excite employees and inject some fun into their day – these sorts of virtual experiences and events are a great alternative way to engage and motivate your employees this year…..doing nothing is not an option!

Contact nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 (0)7917878384.

November 6

Furlough extended until end of March 2021….

The government has just announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the furlough scheme) will now continue until 31 March 2021 as follows:

• The employer must have made a PAYE RTI submission between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020.

• The employee must have been on payroll on 30 October 2020.

• Employer does not need to have used the furlough scheme before.

• Employer can fully furlough employees or use the flexible furlough scheme – employees can work full time, part time, undertake shift work or take on no work at all.

• Employers will only be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension costs for employees who are fully furloughed.

• Employers will have to pay their employees usual wages for the hours worked.

• The furlough scheme can be used for employees who are shielding or who have caring responsibilities.

• Employees on payroll on 23 September 2020 and who were subsequently made redundant (or who were on a fixed term contract which expired on or after 23 September 2020) can be re-employed and claimed for provided an RTI submission was made from 20 March until 23 September 2020.

• To be eligible for the grant the employer must confirm in writing to the employee that they have been fully or flexibly furloughed.

• The employer will be able to claim 80% of the employee’s usual wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month – the cap of £2,500 being proportional to the hours not worked.

• This scheme will be reviewed by the government in January 2021.

Any queries email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 (0)7917 878384

November 3

The rise of the freelancer during the pandemic….how to safely engage them….

The coronavirus pandemic has forced SME leaders to rethink their workforce as the reality is that many will be unable to retain or rehire furloughed staff – further they may have made many redundancies and are considering more, despite the reprieve that the further extension of the furlough scheme has provided.

Many of these businesses have turned to freelancers to assist in this challenging period as they look to survive and pivot in this new world….

….similarly, employees on furlough with the permission to work ‘elsewhere’, or who have been made redundant in a market place with few jobs, are having to think creatively about they way they are engaged going forward…

For employers, the argument for utilising freelancers is irresistible given the current situation – they are used to:

• remote working,
• collaborating within teams,
• hitting deadlines,
• they work hard to both retain custom and boost their all-important reputation.

It’s the agility of freelancers that is now most attractive and this trend looks to continue.

THE PROS OF HIRING A FREELANCER

Here are some of the main benefits of hiring a freelancer:

• Experienced experts/specialists in their field
• No obligation to offer holiday/sick pay
• Paid only for the time that they work
• Independent and committed they require little management
• They insure themselves.

THE CONS OF HIRING A FREELANCER

Here are the cons of hiring a freelancer:

• Focus on the job they are hired to do, rather than assist on various tasks
• Experienced freelancers may be expensive
• You are still responsible for their health and safety if working on your premises
• Work on multiple jobs, for many clients so may not always be available
• Remote working so requiring a degree of trust.

LEGALITIES TO BE AWARE OF

As with hiring an employee, there are certain legalities that you need to be aware of when you are hiring a freelancer:

Confidential Information

If the freelancer is exposed to confidential information about your business, then you need to make sure that somewhere in the contract it is made clear that this information is confidential and there will be repercussions if they use or reveal that information.

Intellectual property

When an employee works for you, their work and creation will belong to the business. However, this is different for freelancers. If you want the right of ownership of the intellectual property, this needs to be agreed on and be specified in the contract.

Health and Safety

Most freelancers will work on a remote basis which means that you will not be responsible for their health and safety. However, if they are working on your premises, you will be responsible if they are harmed due to failure to have a safe working environment.

Contract

A contract is the most important document when it comes to working relationships. The contract should include all the details of the working relationship between you and the freelancer, and it should be WRITTEN….although a verbal contract can be easy, it’s harder to use as evidence if there is an issue or dispute.

Contact nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 (0)7917878384 for an up to date freelancer agreement.