May 10

Mental Health Awareness week begins today, 9 May 2022….what are you doing to support your staff….?

According to new research, supporting employee mental health remains the biggest workplace challenge for UK businesses at the moment and according to mental health charity Mind, one in four people in the UK will suffer from some form of mental health problem each year.

A poll of more than 300 companies has found 41% of employers say supporting mental health and wellbeing is their top concern, followed by retaining staff (36%), recruitment (36%), managing Covid-related absence (31%), skills gaps (29%) and hybrid working (26%).

Employers reported implementing the following in a bid to address this:

• review of benefits with increased benefits now on offer;
• investing in health and private medical insurance options;
• allowing more wellbeing days/mental health days;
• retaining flexible hours;
• implementing designated slots in the diary free from virtual meetings.

Although employees are no longer obliged to work from home, it will take time to reverse the impact of isolation and loneliness that has built up over the lockdown. As the hybrid world is still evolving, creating its own range of challenges and opportunities, the most effective approaches will be created by employers working closely with their teams.

Here are six ideas to get your comms around mental health spot on!

1. Run mental health awareness and mindfulness workshops

As well as training for leadership and management, use this week to run mental health awareness workshops to help your employees identify what mental health problems can look like, some signs that their co-workers may be struggling, and how to approach the topic. Spreading awareness of this is key in helping to create an environment where people can feel comfortable discussing it.

You could consider looking at using external providers to deliver training, resources, and workshops, such as from The Wellbeing Project.

Further, you could consider mindfulness training to give your employees the tools they need to process their negative emotions, reduce their stress, and gain insights into their wellbeing.

2. Host talks from management and leaders

Mental health has a huge stigma attached to it, and as many as 60 percent of people with mental health issues felt embarrassed to discuss it with their employers. To address this, it is important to share the experiences of managers or leaders in the team in a safe space and if they are comfortable to do so. Getting them to tell their lived experiences will help employees see that it is not unusual to struggle and face mental health issues, but it will also help them open up about their mental health as it creates a safe environment for them to do so.

3. Hold a series of challenges across the week

A fun way to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week is to hold a series of small challenges during the week to encourage your employees to take time in the day for themselves and their mental health. The challenges can be something as small as an act of kindness, or something like attending one of the mental health workshops or a wellbeing or yoga class.

Anything which gets the workforce talking about mental health and making a small change every day to look after theirs is a win.

4. Arrange a coffee morning

Arranging a coffee morning with your employees where they can talk about any concerns they may have is another activity idea for Mental Health Awareness Week. Create an open channel of communication where they can feel free to talk to their managers, peers, or like-minded individuals about anything and let them know what help is available to them.

If they don’t have anything which they wish to discuss, it is still a nice break from their workday and allows them to take some time for themselves, encouraging healthy habits.

5. Identify your mental health champions

Finally, identify people within your team who can be a mental health ‘champion’. These members of the team will receive some mental health training and can be nominated people who employees can go to if they have any issues which they don’t feel comfortable enough speaking to the managers about.

This solution is not restricted to Mental Health Awareness Week, but rather it is something which can be done year-round to ensure the wellbeing of your employees.

Mental health is not just something to speak about and raise awareness of in May, but an issue which needs to be addressed on many levels within the organisation. Having a healthy company culture and offering support to your employees all year round is essential in actively tackling mental health issues.

For any support on this do email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44(0)7917 878384

May 3

Are your ‘interns’ entitled to a salary and annual leave?

With the summer approaching, students, or those just leaving higher education, are going to be on the lookout for internships or work experience placements to enable them to gain valuable work experience and improve their CV ahead of any future job application.

Typically these schemes have been unpaid, or the employer simply offers to pay travel or lunch expenses, and organisations have been accused of taking advantage of people without a job and bypassing the laws on the minimum wage.

Tribunals are taking up the cause and a number of recent legal cases seem to say that an intern who does work that would be paid work if done by an employee or contractor, can be a ‘worker’ for the purposes of national minimum wage law. If they are a ‘worker’, you must pay them at least the relevant national minimum wage for their age – even if they are prepared to work for nothing.

Identifying workers

The law defines a ‘worker’ for the purposes of national minimum wage law as someone who has either:

• A contract of employment with you, or
• A contract with you under which they must personally perform work or services for you. The contract can be in writing or expressed orally or implied from the circumstances.

Using this definition, it is usually relatively simple to determine whether an intern is personally providing a service, and thus entitled to the national minimum wage. The fact that there may be no formal written contract in place and that their title or role is described as work experience/internship/voluntary work makes no difference.

A clear example of where an intern would not be personally providing a service, and thus not entitled to the minimum wage, would be where they are simply learning a job by shadowing a member of staff, no work is carried out by the intern, they are simply observing – they would find it difficult to show they were actually providing a service to the organisation.

Exceptions

It is important to be clear about those students who would not be classified as a ‘worker’ in the eyes of the law and therefore would not be entitled to the national minimum wage:

• students on work experience for fewer than 12 months as part of their course
• students on work experience who are still under the school-leaving age (but not school-leavers working in the UK during a gap year)
• some apprentices and some volunteers

An intern is more likely to be classified as a ‘worker’ during their placement if:

• their placement lasts more than a few weeks
• the placement may lead to an offer of permanent, paid work
• the employer is obliged to give them work to do, and they are obliged to do it
• it is real work of the sort a paid employee or contractor would be asked to do
• the business is relying on their specific skills in the tasks they undertake – for example, a marketing student might be asked to draft a market research proposal to put to an external agency
• they cannot come and go as they please

For example, in one legal case a 21-year old worked as an intern on a publishing business’ website for two months. She worked from 10am to 6pm each day, and had been promised payment. At the end of the two month period the company argued she had been working as an unpaid intern.

The Employment Tribunal upheld her claim that she was a ‘worker’ for the purposes of the NMW, even though she had no written contract. She was clearly doing proper work, of real benefit to the business, which would have been done by a paid employee or contractor if she had not done it. It therefore said she should be paid for her work.

In that case, the intern was doing valuable work. Work can be less valuable but still amount to real work – for example, opening or delivering post, stuffing envelopes or photocopying.

Right to paid holidays

As we have established, the majority of interns will be providing a service and thus deemed to be a ‘worker’ who will attract at least the national minimum wage. In addition, those ‘worker’ interns will also be entitled to at least 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year – or, more likely, the pro-rated equivalent to reflect their part time or short term contracted status. This holiday may be taken during the internship or the intern may be paid in lieu of their accrued but untaken holiday at the end of the internship.

Either way, ensuring your intern is allocated the correct amount of holiday entitlement is as important to remember as paying your intern the national minimum wage.

Consequences of ignoring the law

It is important to know if, based on the reality of the relationship, the intern is a ‘worker’ and therefore entitled to the national minimum wage. The consequences of non-payment can be serious – the employer can be required to pay six years backdated pay and could face criminal charges if found to have wilfully neglected to pay the national minimum wage.

If we can assist by supplying with you with an internship agreement email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 (0)7917 878384

April 11

Supporting employees observing Ramadan….

Ramadan began a week or so ago and so it is a good time to remind employers of the importance of supporting Muslim staff who are observing the Islamic holy month. Many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. They may also wish to spend time in prayer, engage in charitable activities and spend time with family and friends to celebrate.

To be an inclusive employer it is important that employers accommodate employees who are observing Ramadan which runs from 2 April to 1 May 2022. There is a festival (Eid al-Fitr) to mark the end of Ramadan when Muslims break their daylight fasting.

1. Encourage openness about religious observance

Employees who are fasting will usually attend work as normal but can be encouraged to tell their employer that they are fasting. However, employers should not assume that all employees want to be treated differently because they are fasting. Further it is important to note that not all individuals observing Ramadan will actually be fasting – for example, there are exceptions for people with health conditions, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

To strike a balance, employers could put a message on their intranet about the fasting period, with an invitation to employees to make their needs during Ramadan known.

2. Educate line managers and colleagues about Ramadan

Employers can raise awareness of key religious events, including Ramadan, by having a calendar of the key religious days and festivals on their intranet. For example, publicising the dates of Ramadan and explaining about fasting can enable employees to be sensitive to the needs of colleagues who may be observing the fast. This can also help managers to anticipate requests for annual leave.

There are simple steps that everyone can take to support individuals during Ramadan observance, including:

• avoiding placing additional burdens on them while they are fasting, for example not asking them to do overtime;
• being considerate by not offering them food or drink;
• avoiding having work events that involve food, such as working lunches and team meetings where biscuits or food spreads are placed in front of them; and
• avoiding scheduling important meetings, such as performance appraisals, late in the day when their energy levels may be low.

3. Be flexible with working patterns

One of the most helpful things that an employer can do for employees observing Ramadan is to allow them to adjust their working patterns. Employers should remember that an employee may be getting up earlier than usual to have a meal before sunrise and staying up late for evening prayers. These factors, and the fact that the employee is not eating during daylight hours, can lead to fatigue and drops in concentration.

Employers could put in place temporary arrangements during Ramadan to allow employees to:

• start work earlier than usual so that they can leave the workplace earlier; and
• be flexible with their lunchbreak, for example by shortening it or taking it earlier or later in the day.

However, employers should ensure that such temporary arrangements are not seen by others as allowing the employee to reduce their working hours. In addition, employers need to be careful that any temporary arrangements are not in breach of working time legislation. In particular, remember that, where an adult worker’s daily working time is more than six hours, they are entitled to a rest break of at least 20 minutes (30 minutes for young workers).

4. Embrace the advantages of hybrid working

The pandemic has meant that many employers have introduced hybrid working for most or all of their staff. Employers that have moved to the hybrid working model can use this way of working to support employees who are observing Ramadan.

For example, the employer could temporarily amend the ratio of time spent attending the workplace compared with time working remotely, allowing fasting employees to spend more time working at home during Ramadan.

Line managers who are organising meetings on a particular day should think about whether it is possible for the employee to work from home and join the meeting remotely. For example, is the employee being asked to commute to the office during Ramadan to attend one in-person meeting that they could just as easily participate in remotely?

Embracing hybrid working during Ramadan as a way to reduce commuting, which can be draining for an employee who is fasting, is a good way for employers to show their support.

Any questions at all do email or call: nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44(0)7917 878384.

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March 1

Working from home – hybrid working: the tax implications….

HM Revenue & Customs has offered various tax reliefs while employees were required to work from home during the pandemic, but these will soon come to an end and how will they impact hybrid working….?

Following the recent removal of work from home guidance in England and Scotland, thousands of workers have begun to return to their offices for at least a few days a week.

It is now clear that many organisations plan to adopt hybrid working arrangements on a permanent basis, but there are a number of important employment tax and benefits issues that they should keep in mind.

Travel expenses

Employees who have to commute to work may have previously received some form of travel reimbursement from their employer if they were mainly working from home during the pandemic, which would be taxable and liable to National Insurance (NIC). But now, hybrid working raises the question of where the employee’s permanent workplace is, and if reimbursed travel expenses are considered taxable.

For tax purposes, a home can be a place of work, but is not always a permanent workplace – to be a permanent workplace, the employee must be required to work from home and perform substantive duties there. However, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) emphasises that in most cases, it is the employee’s personal choice to work from home.

Ordinarily, a permanent workplace is any place where an employee’s attendance is frequent and follows a pattern. Travel between two workplaces is considered business travel; however, if one of those locations is the employee’s home, HMRC may contend this is ordinary commuting (unless home is a “permanent workplace”) and any reimbursements are thus taxable and liable to NIC.

A temporary workplace is where the employee performs duties of “limited duration” or for a “temporary purpose”. If an employee works at the same place for more than 24 months continuously, it is considered their permanent workplace. HMRC defines continuous work as doing at least 40% of your work from a single location.

The key question is whether an employee’s presence at the office has now become temporary or is simply the normal performance of their role.

Hybrid working arrangements must be carefully structured for home to be a permanent workplace, and travel to an office may still be taxable.

Under hybrid working, an employee may have a pattern of home and office working. In this case, any attendance at the office would be “in the performance of their duties” and the office would be their permanent workplace. Any reimbursed costs for travel from home to a permanent workplace are taxable and liable to NIC.

In contrast, if the company no longer has an office and employees are forced to work from home, their homes may now be considered permanent workplaces. As a result, business travel can be defined as travel from those residences to other temporary workplaces, and tax relief given to any expenses reimbursed.

Hybrid working arrangements must be carefully structured for home to be a permanent workplace, and travel to an office may still be taxable.

Temporary tax reliefs

During the 2020 lockdown, HMRC launched several tax reliefs to help support people working from home. However, these benefits are due to end on 5 April 2022, so it is worth both employers and employees understanding the steps they can take before these reliefs come to an end.

Working from home allowance

In line with HMRC’s home working guidance, employers can pay staff £6 per week tax-free to cover increased energy costs incurred while they are working from home. No records are required unless more than £6 per week is claimed.

Employees whose employers do not cover these costs may still claim tax relief on £6 per week as additional household expenditure through the government microsite. Employees can claim this tax relief for the entire year, regardless of the days they worked from home.

The tax code is amended to provide tax relief, and if the employer does not pay the full amount, the employee can claim tax relief for the difference.

From 6 April 2022, employers might want to consider adopting a formal home working arrangement, if they haven’t already, to use this exemption and pay the tax free allowance.

Purchasing equipment for use at home

Home office equipment is tax and NIC exempt if the sole purpose is to allow the employee to work and there is insignificant private use. The employer must retain ownership of the equipment to qualify for this exemption and should take care when updating or replacing old equipment so that the ownership does not pass to the employee.

A temporary tax and NIC exemption allows employers to reimburse employees for expenses incurred due to working from home if it is available to all employees on equal terms.

HMRC has confirmed that no benefit-in-kind arises should employees resume work and keep the equipment, because there has not been a transfer of ownership.

Cycling to work

Many employers have a cycle to work programme to assist employees with their commute. In these schemes, employees are expected to cycle to work for at least half of their commutes (however, those who joined before 20 December 2020 are exempt from this requirement). Employers must also undertake an annual audit to ensure any company bicycles are used for qualifying trips only.

Other hybrid working benefits

There are also a number of additional benefits employers can offer under hybrid working arrangements that are not subject to easement. For example, some employers may wish to provide a company mobile phone or sim card.

Hybrid working may affect the perceived value of some more traditional benefits for employees. As some benefits become more appealing, employers must decide if company cars, workplace parking, and season ticket loans are still a viable offering.

Many employers will be deliberating whether hybrid working arrangements should be a permanent fixture. In particular, it is important that they regularly audit any policies and seek expert advice to ensure they fully understand HMRC policies on hybrid working benefits.

For assistance please get in touch: nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44(0)7917 878384.

February 16

Flexible working requests – what is an employer’s obligation?

As more businesses look to encourage people back to the office, how flexible should they be and could refusing flexible working requests constitute indirect discrimination?

Flexible working is evolving rapidly and an increasing number of people are seeking more freedom over when, where and how they fulfil their role. Employees are seeking to break out of the traditional and rigid structure of working 9-to-5 in the office and employers have seen a sharp rise in flexible working requests since the pandemic.

At the end of 2021 the government consulted on introducing a day one right to request flexible working but as yet no decision has been made.

Although there is not a burden or an obligation on an employer to agree to all flexible working requests, it is imperative that employers understand how to handle flexible working requests and consider the risks associated with them.

Although working from home is unlikely to become a strict legal right for everyone, employees who are called back into the office after having enjoyed the benefits of hybrid or remote working may turn to statutory flexible working requests. It is important to remember, also, that women who are seeking flexible working for childcare reasons will have the added layer of protection from discrimination laws.

Seeking flexible working for childcare reasons:

Two recent cases have made it clear that indirect sex discrimination may be a successful basis for a claim after refusal to accommodate a woman’s request for flexible working to accommodate her family.

Indirect discrimination is concerned with decisions or policies which, in practice, have the effect of placing a group of people with a particular protected characteristic at a disadvantage. Sex is included as a relevant protected characteristic under the Act.

In one case a woman asked to finish at 5pm instead of 6pm to enable her to pick up her child from nursery. Her employer refused the request giving, amongst others, the following reasons: an inability to reorganise work among other employees and an inability to meet customer demand.

The tribunal considered that the employer’s practice had put the woman at a disadvantage because of her sex. It was argued that the practice for sale managers to work full time 9am-6pm, Monday to Friday, was a practice which placed women with children at a substantial disadvantage compared with men with children. Therefore, the tribunal upheld the following:

• refusing the employee’s request was indirect discrimination
• whilst the employer’s business concerns were recognised, they did not outweigh the discriminatory impact on the female employee.

Another recent case ruled that employment tribunals must accept as fact that women are still more likely to bear the primary burden of childcare responsibilities and this often hinders their ability to work certain hours. There is childcare disparity, this must be accepted as a ‘fact without evidence’ and the employment appeal tribunal held that….“While things might have progressed somewhat in that men do now bear a greater proportion of child care responsibilities than they did decades ago, the position is still far from equal.”

Tips for employers

The above recent cases have reaffirmed the need for employers to carefully consider all flexible working requests. Before rejecting proposed changes, employers should not only assess their practices and business needs, but also ensure consideration is given to whether the employee making the request may have a protected characteristic and whether they are likely to suffer a disadvantage.

Employers need to consider the following:

1. Try to be as flexible as possible and treat the request as a conversation with the employee in order to identify a pattern that works for both parties. If the request has been refused for a business reason, can an alternative working arrangement be agreed with the employee? Even if this proves not to be possible, this will assist employers in demonstrating that they have acted reasonably.

2. Offering a trial period may provide a way to assess the impact of modified working arrangements in the workplace and whether the request can work in practice.

3. When considering a flexible working request, employers should keep clear records of their reasoning when making decisions.

4. Employers should ensure they remain fair and consistent in their treatment of flexible working requests.

5. Employers should consult their existing policies and practices for flexible working, which ideally will incorporate the statutory requirements and principles outlined above and from the Acas code of practice.

For assistance on flexible working requests, do contact: nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44(0)7917 878384.

January 14

The Great Resignation….how do you retain your staff in 2022?

In August 2021 the number of open job positions in the UK exceeded an unprecedented 1 million for the first time in the UK’s history. ‘The Great Resignation’ is making it harder for companies to recruit people and many existing employees are considering changing jobs and moving employers. Data from Microsoft published earlier in the year suggests that an estimated 40% of the global workforce is considering changing jobs in 2021-2022.

Why are so many people leaving?

Many workers are thought to be making the decision to leave based on how their employers treated them – or didn’t treat them ¬– during the pandemic. The pandemic has changed the way people work and how they view work. Reversing the tide is going to require managers who care, who engage and who give workers a sense of purpose. In other words, people are looking for roles with more progressive, supportive cultures than they may have experienced to date. There is now a greater emphasis on wellbeing and flexible working, among others.

The importance of ‘people first’ company cultures

The importance of company culture really can’t be overstated in the battle for recruitment and retention. If people are leaving an organisation because they are feeling unsupported or poorly treated, word will get round very quickly and a business will suffer reputationally, along with its ability to attract candidates and retain existing team members.

How to build a great company culture

There are plenty ways to build a great company culture as the business grows:

1. Establish your culture by defining your values

Your values will steer the way your people behave, treat one another and go about their day-to-day work. When a company is in its infancy, the culture that develops will be that of the founders. It’s often one that values a ‘can-do’ attitude. Your culture is a consequence of your values. So before you do anything else, you must establish your company values:

• what is the business’ purpose?
• what do I want the business to be known for?
• which characteristics do we value in our employees?

2. Communicate your values

Once you have agreed your values, you must communicate them to your employees. Only when this is done can they start to translate into company culture. Get your staff together for an afternoon and communicate your values in an engaging and inspiring way. Invite them to participate – this way they’ll be more likely to engage with your vision and contribute towards building your new culture.

Going forward, ensure projects and initiatives are underpinned by these culture-relevant values. And be certain to communicate them at every employee induction.

3. Hire for cultural “add” rather than culture “fit”

Hiring the right people is an important way of building a strong company culture. Which makes hiring for culture fit seem like a great idea. You ask candidates what they value in a company and gauge if they align with your culture or not.

But hiring on the basis of cultural fit can quickly create an environment where everyone thinks the same. Further, it also limits employee diversity which is bad news for company culture and business results.

Instead, hire for culture add. Ask what candidates can bring to your business that will move your culture in the right direction.

4. How does your culture define success?

The way a business defines, measures and rewards success says a lot about its culture. You will need to agree how you will measure company and individual performance. Think also about the way your definition of success reinforces your culture. Will you reward employees for hitting targets, or award them bonuses for passing certain levels of turnover? What about customer satisfaction or cost-reduction? Each type of measurement sends a message of its own and affects the way your culture develops.

5. Be transparent

Transparency helps improve trust and satisfaction for your employees. It’s also an important component of a strong culture. This also applies to communicating how employees’ work will help the organisation towards its mission and objectives (which can often get lost in day-to-day work.)

Don’t try to hide the low points – celebrate the highs and analyse the lows, consulting with staff about where things have gone wrong and what can be done to improve them in the future. Be transparent about your successes too; be sure to share any upturns in revenue, exciting achievements and business-growth.

6. Culture leads from the top

Leaders need to acknowledge that – like it or not – they set the cultural agenda and are responsible for curating how it builds in a company. It then needs to exist independently of the leaders. It’s also important for leaders to connect with their people emotionally. Gone are the days when managers keep their distance and focus on the metrics. People need to know that their leaders care about them and that they take rational decisions based on sound ethical principles.

7. Do what you say you’re going to do

Building a strong company culture is about practicing what you preach. Company values are only worth something when you put them into practice. If you say you’re a ‘people-first’ company, demonstrate this by investing in your people. Failing to deliver on your promises creates a distrustful and disloyal culture. Live up to your promises and you’ll be rewarded with a strong culture and a happy, engaged and motivated team.

Flexible working and recruitment

Allowing people to work from home and balance duties of care with their work lives means employers can recruit from a wider and more diverse pool of people than they did before the pandemic took hold. The result is that more employers are recruiting outside of their geographic area, with more people using technology to communicate and collaborate from wherever they live.

Obtaining feedback – and acting on it

It is important to obtain feedback regularly to understand how employees are feeling about their roles and employers and to use this as the basis for a framework of changes and improvements that are needed. Asking employees for their thoughts on either an informal or more formal basis will suffice – if you don’t ask you will never know. The final step is to ensure that employers act on the feedback from these surveys and make the changes.

Exit interview, meet ‘stay interview’

A stay interview is essentially a conversation between an employer and employee about the latter’s experience of the company and views on their working lives. It provides insight which an employer can use to highlight areas for improvement which may otherwise be ground for an employee choosing to work elsewhere.

‘Stay’ interviews are obviously preferable to exit interviews and should be prioritised, especially for high performing employees whose departure would be the most damaging to a business.

In summary….

Following two difficult years, confidence is returning to various sectors yet many business leaders’ plans for recovery will be thwarted if their most talented people look elsewhere.

Employers must work harder than ever to attract the best candidates and retain existing talent. Focusing on building a strong culture can help businesses compete with larger competitors who may be able to offer larger salaries and a reputation for genuinely putting people first will also go a long way in the battle for recruitment and retention.

For assistance in conducting stay and exit interviews please get in touch: nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44(0)7917 878384.

January 6

Are all employees entitled to the extra bank holiday in June 2022 to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee….?

What is changing?

The Spring Bank Holiday (normally due to take place on the last Monday in May) will be moved to Thursday 2 June. The additional Bank Holiday will then take place on Friday 3 June. We shall have two bank holidays back to back in 2022.

Are employees automatically entitled to the additional bank holiday?

This will depend on the wording of the employee’s contract of employment. It is important to note that employees do not have an automatic right to paid time off on a bank holiday. Employers are advised to check the wording of their employment contracts and communicate with employees about whether or not they will be required to work on the additional bank holiday in line with the terms of the contract.

Below are the most commonly used phrases relating to bank holidays that are seen in employment contracts and what they mean in terms of the employee’s right to have paid time off work on 3 June 2022.

“20 days holiday per annum plus bank holidays”

Yes – employees will have a contractual entitlement to take paid time off on the additional bank holiday as the wording on holiday entitlement in the contract is unlimited. Therefore, there is a contractual entitlement to paid time off on all bank holidays – including extra ones.

“28 days holiday per annum”

Potentially – where the contract is silent on bank holidays, the employee has the ability to book using their 28-day holiday allowance any of the bank holidays, including the additional bank holiday. However, there is no increase in holiday entitlement as a result of the additional bank holiday and so they have no contractual entitlement to the 9 bank holidays in 2022.

“20 days holiday per annum plus 8 bank/public holidays”

Potentially – similar to above, the contract is silent on which bank holidays are included within the employee’s holiday entitlement and therefore an employee has the ability to book the additional bank holiday as paid time off in June 2022. This will, however, mean that the employee will not be entitled to one of the later bank holidays in the year. We would recommend this is clarified to the employee at the time of booking annual leave.

“20 days holiday per annum plus New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Early May Bank Holiday, Spring Bank Holiday, Summer Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day”

No – where there is a list of bank holidays contained within the contract, the employee will only be entitled to receive paid time off on those bank holidays listed. Employees with such wording in their contract will be entitled to paid time off on 2 June 2022 as this is the date the bank holiday referred to as the “Spring Bank Holiday” has been moved too but not on 3 June 2022.

“20 days holiday per annum plus the usual bank/public holidays observed in England and Wales”

No – as the additional bank holiday is not usually observed in England and Wales, employees would not be entitled to take paid time off on the additional bank holiday.

“20 days holiday per annum plus the 8 bank/public holidays usually observed in England and Wales”

No – as above, the bank holidays which are included within holiday entitlement are listed and therefore there is no entitlement to the additional bank holiday.

Even where there is no contractual entitlement to take the additional bank holiday as paid time off, many employers, as a gesture of goodwill, will decide to allow their employees to take the additional bank holiday or if that is not possible for business reasons, to provide time off in lieu.

Previous approach to time off for additional bank holidays

We previously enjoyed an additional bank holiday in 2011 (to mark the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and 2012 (for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee). Therefore, when considering whether to allow employees paid time off for the additional bank holiday in 2022 we would recommend considering what has been done previously. To the extent employees have previously been offered paid time-off or time-off in lieu to mark an additional bank holiday, to adopt a different approach in respect of the 2022 additional bank holiday may cause a negative reaction from employees (in particular those with long enough service to have been working when this happened previously).

The importance of planning….

It is important as we kick off 2022 that you alert all of your staff to this extra bank holiday, let them know whether they are going to benefit from it as part of their entitlement, or not, and adjust your holiday planners to take account of the fact that in 2022 there are 9 bank holidays instead of the ‘usual’ 8 days…

November 28

The office Christmas party – how to avoid an HR headache….!

For employers, Christmas parties provide a unique opportunity to strengthen teams, thank employees and relax. However, when one drink flows into another, an evening of cheer can quickly turn into a serious problem with far-reaching consequences, to the extent that employers can be potentially liable for their employees’ drunken actions.

What can employers do to avoid the legal hangover?

1. Planning ahead

Duty of care: an employer has a general duty of care towards its employees, as follows:

• ensuring colleagues behave well towards one another;
• ensuring the venue is accessible to all, including those with disabilities;
• ensuring people can get home safely.

Travelling home: it is important to remind staff not to drink and drive and details should be given on how people can get home after the event. Some companies arrange a minibus for transport, provide local taxi numbers and/or give details of the nearest public transport routes. It can be a good idea to make sure the party finishes before public transport stops for the day.

Non-discriminatory celebrations: employers should ensure that the celebrations are non-discriminatory in all respects. Food and drink options should take vegetarian and vegan requirements into account and non-alcoholic drinks should be provided. Employers should try to avoid clashes with other religious holiday dates such as Hanukkah and invites should include agency, fixed term and part time staff as well as those on family friendly leave.

2. Risk assessment

Having a thorough risk assessment in place for the venue is key to avoiding negligence claims. The risk assessment should include examining the venue for unstable surfaces and dangerous corners as well as having steps in place for any foreseeable injuries such as slips or falls. Obviously, it should also include an assessment with regard to those employees with disabilities.

3. Reminder of standards expected

Whether the party takes place in the office or not, it will be considered to be an extension of the workplace and employers can be vicariously liable for the events that unfold.

Therefore it is helpful, in advance of the Christmas party, to remind staff of exactly that and also remind them of the standard of behaviour that you are expecting and make it clear that excess alcohol consumption and inappropriate behaviour and unwanted sexual conduct may lead to disciplinary action being taken in the same way it would as if it took place during work hours.

In light of the #MeToo movement many employers issue a reminder of the types of behaviour which could amount to harassment in an effort to be seen to be taking “reasonable steps” to prevent incidents between colleagues.

It is also a prime opportunity to remind the workforce of all applicable company policies, relating to equal opportunities, discrimination, bullying and harassment, drug and alcohol misuse, social media and any other relevant policies.

4. Alternatives to the “traditional” party

Whilst the “dry” approach to a Christmas party may not be the best morale booster at this time of year, some companies are trying to limit alcohol consumption during the festive season by replacing the traditional parties with themed activities or team-building events. This type of approach may also be seen as more inclusive to the entire workforce, some of whom may not want their work-social event to focus on the consumption of alcohol.

5.Complaints

Where an incident occurs and a complaint is made, employers should deal with it fairly and swiftly, regardless of whether the incident occurred at a formal work event or an after-party. Investigations should be conducted professionally and thoroughly – a failure to do so could result in additional complaints.

Where an incident involves more than one employee, steps should be taken to ensure all those involved are given a fair opportunity to present their version of events and this principle should not be overlooked in situations where you are dealing with a complainant and an alleged perpetrator. Often the rights of the alleged perpetrators are put aside and there are knee-jerk reactions before the full facts are known.

Conclusions

The legal responsibilities associated with them may mean that Christmas parties seem like too much of a risk. However, the good news is that the horror stories tend to arise from quite particular and often quite extreme situations. With a few simple precautions, you can make sure that your Christmas party strikes the delicate balance between entertainment and professionalism.

November 1

Do you have an environmental policy in your staff handbook…?

As the UK hosts the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this week, many employers are considering their environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.

Research has found that whilst most companies feel that their employees have a key role in how they deliver their ESG strategies, very few had involved HR in delivery – meaning hardly any companies in the UK have an environmental policy which sets out their strategy and targets.

It is critical for HR to play a role in organisations’ environment/climate change agenda. From embedding environmental strategies, to designing measurable objectives and links to performance-based pay, HR is an area that can make or break the success of a company’s environmental strategy. Investors, employees and potential new hires are all looking at how companies are responding to the climate crisis.

It is essential that employers convert their organisation’s environmental strategy into an engaging ambition that colleagues choose to support. Companies can then measure how well they enable and motivate employees to contribute to the transition to net zero.

The benefits of an environmental policy

An environmental policy can provide significant benefits to your business, as follows:

• helping you to stay within the law
• keeping employees informed about their environmental roles and responsibilities
• improving cost control
• reducing incidents that result in liability
• conserving raw materials and energy
• improving your monitoring of environmental impacts
• improving the efficiency of your processes

The benefits are not restricted to internal operations. By demonstrating commitment to environmental management, you can develop positive relations with external stakeholders, such as investors, insurers, customers, suppliers, regulators and the local community. This in turn can lead to an improved corporate image and financial benefits, such as increased investment, customer sales and market share.

An environmental policy is an important addition to your staff handbook. Get in touch with GoodHR for a draft policy that you can tweak to suit your own organisation.

It’s important to bear in mind that these benefits are unlikely to be achieved simply by having an environmental policy in place. You will need to ensure the policy is integrated in to the business with workshops and training.

nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 7917878384

October 12

How to combat workplace stress

It’s normal to feel a little pressure at work. A certain amount is healthy and helps us to be more productive. But when the pressure becomes too much, you may begin to feel overwhelmed and stressed. This is when it becomes a problem.

Stress can affect anyone, in any workplace and at any time. But if it isn’t dealt with, it can have catastrophic effects on health, wellbeing and ultimately your productivity – and that of the business.

Why managing stress is important for business

Research by the Health & Safety Executive found that 12.8 million working days are lost to stress every year. Another survey revealed that 1 in 5 of us call in sick due to stress. The writing is on the wall: stress is damaging to business success.

The health risks of workplace stress

Stress is the human reaction to being overwhelmed or under threat. It’s a natural reflex and is part of what’s called the ‘fight or flight’ response. But when this becomes repetitive, it takes a big toll on our bodies. Risks include:

• a lowered immune system
• heart disease
• poor mental health
• high blood pressure
• digestive issues
• fertility problems

Symptoms of workplace stress

When stress hits, it makes itself known. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

• faster heartbeat than normal
• upset stomach
• headaches or dizziness
• tense or painful muscles
• difficulty concentrating
• finding it difficult to make decisions
• forgetting things
• worrying a lot
• being irritable
• change in appetite
• engaging in coping behaviours (e.g. drinking, smoking)

Ways to reduce stress at work

1. Talk about it

They say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and it’s not just a myth. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, call a friend or family member and talk about it.

Or if you feel comfortable enough talking to your line manager, put a 121 meeting in their diary to discuss how you’re feeling. Or call your HR/People person/team.

2. Take regular breaks

Taking regular breaks from your work actually makes you more productive than if you power through your day. Try the following: 25 minutes of concentration followed by a 5-minute break and a 15-minute break every 2 hours. And by ‘break’, that means stepping away from your desk and disconnecting with your work completely.

3. Create a list

If you’ve got lots of ‘to-dos’ in your head, an easy way to take the pressure off is to write everything down. If you like to be organised, you could even colour-code each task in order of priority to get your workload in order. Remember to tick them off as you go for that sense of achievement.

4. Need help? Ask for it

You’re only human and you can only do so much. So, it’s important to identify when you’ve got too much on your plate and you begin to feel stressed. Your line manager is there to ensure your workload is manageable, so be sure to discuss it with them if it gets too much.

Remember to delegate to your team, too. What tasks are there on your to-do list that someone else could easily take on?

5. Break it down

A big project can easily seem daunting, and it’s easy to let it stress you out. Take some time to break your projects down into small, bitesize tasks. This will help you to approach the work in a different way and see it as doable, rather than challenging.

What are the different steps for the project? How long will each one take? What tasks will you set yourself and others in order to tick off each step?

6. Get moving

It’s a known fact that exercise gets endorphins flowing, helps boost your mood and looks after your mental health.

“Doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times.”

If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you get your body moving. You may not feel like it at first, but pushing yourself to exercise will help you feel better in the long run.

7. Schedule some down-time

Make sure you plan in some ‘me-time’ where you can practice some self-care. The human body can only take on so much, so taking some time to rest and re-charge is essential for managing stress.

Something as simple as a short walk or break during your day can be beneficial. Just make sure you get a breather. Meditating works wonders too- we recommend the Headspace app for a few minutes of peace.

8. Maintain a work-life balance

When you’ve got a lot on your plate at work, it can be easy to work that extra hour in the evenings or check your emails at the weekends. This is an easy – but dangerous – habit to fall into. Apparently 50% of the UK workforce regularly work through their breaks and outside of their working hours.

Establishing the line between your work and personal life is crucial for minimising stress and preventing burnout. You will find you are more productive if you stick to your contracted hours.

If you need further assistance please contact nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or +44(0)7917 878384

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