June 10

Should we be rethinking the way in which we work?

After over a year of working from home, many employees are, understandably, feeling apprehensive about returning to the office. Others have simply grown accustomed to the flexibility that accompanies remote working and are reluctant to give it up in favour of long commutes and less family time. So, is it time to rethink the way in which your employees work long term?

Should work become more flexible?

The pandemic has proved to many businesses that might have previously felt reluctant to allow their staff to work remotely that a virtual workplace can be successful, prompting calls from many employees to maintain some element of remote working once the coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Can you require your employees to work in the office?

Employers do have the right to dictate terms of working for staff and, should you wish to, you could make it a contractual obligation for employees to be physically present in the office every day. It is worth noting, however, that even when restrictions do cease entirely, there may still be guidance for clinically vulnerable people or pregnant women who are currently unable to have the vaccine, and this may leave some of your workforce still working virtually.

Additionally, it’s probably worth considering whether it’s a good idea to be completely rigid as to how staff work in a post COVID world. For the sake of morale and team working, it may be positive to encourage – or even require – employees to come physically to work a number of days a week, but forcing reluctant workers to be present every day could be counterproductive.

If you completely reject the idea of a blended way of working, your employees might start to become resentful, which could hurt their engagement and productivity. Furthermore, even if you’re not offering flexibility over hours and place or work, the chances are, someone else will be, and staff might start to look elsewhere for employment, which will cost you time and money as you have to recruit and train new team members.

By giving employees some flexibility to choose the way in which they work, you’ll probably end up with a grateful workforce who will be keen to work effectively within your new working structure, which will boost the bottom line of your business and reduce HR headaches. It is worthwhile being understanding of the reasons why employees may not want to return to the workplace and put in place a steady plan to support their transition back to the work environment.

Managing those who are nervous about returning to the workplace

It is important to be mindful of the anxiety that your employees may feel around returning to work; after all, for over a year now the message from the government has been that home is the safest place to work and therefore it’s only natural that some people have built up worries about the workplace and commuting, especially on public transport.

The best way to manage such employees is as follows:

• maintaining an open dialogue with them
• keeping them informed of your timeline towards returning to work
• informing them of the practices you’re putting in place to keep them safe
• investing in additional wellbeing support such as counselling and training
• consulting staff and getting their input into how the workspace will be managed safely.

Blend between office and home working

Depending on the industry in which you work, the likelihood is that most of your staff will opt for a blend between office and home working when we return to the workplace. To ensure that this happens successfully, it’s going to be up to business owners, managers and HR professionals to put in place the necessary structures.

This will include practicalities, such as:

• making sure that employees, whose areas of business are heavily reliant upon each other, overlap
• deciding how many days per week you’re going to need your staff to be in your place of work
• ensuring there are enough resources available (work stations, equipment etc) for the rota that you decide on.

Ultimately, with the right arrangements in place, as well as a collaborative approach between you and your staff and effective communication, you should be able to manage the return to work effectively to ensure an engaged, happy, productive workforce.

nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or +44(0)7917 878384

May 11

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021…..how healthy is your workforce?

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Research has revealed that the number of employees reporting mental health worries is up 24% since May 2020.

Numerous lockdowns have resulted in a significant increase in the number of staff reporting mental health concerns over the course of the year – now, more than half (51%) of employees have reported a mental health concern compared to this time last year.

A quarter of employees say their employer has not checked the state of their wellbeing during the pandemic, despite swathes of evidence that shows the crisis has had a detrimental effect on workers’ mental health.

The pandemic has, understandably, had a direct impact on employee wellbeing and specifically on mental and financial health. Tackling this and providing the support needed, even as the majority of employees continue to work remotely, is an area of growing importance for organisations.

What do employers need to do?

The simplest most significant thing an employer can do is to make time for conversations with their staff. Regular check ins, enquiring how they are, how they are feeling, how happy they are on a scale of 1 to 10 is a sure fire first step in the process of creating an open culture where staff feel they are able to talk about their mental health.

Further actions to take include the following:

Communication: make sure managers have regular one to ones with their team – regularity encourages a deeper relationship which means employees are more likely to open up about mental health issues.

Keep the conversation going: encourage an open culture where employees feel they can talk about their mental health. Mentioning it once is not going to have an impact. Find multiple opportunities to incorporate the subject into the day to day.

Workplace policies: introduce a mental health at work policy to ensure staff know the support that is available, the way mental health in the workplace is managed and provide emergency contacts.

First aiders: introduce mental health first aider training by asking for volunteers from all levels within the company. They are trained to identify signs of ill-health and so will be able spot vulnerable employees and those who may be burnt out. #

Awareness: if you notice an employee behaving differently ask them if everything is alright. Even if they say they are fine remind them that you are there to help and there are resources available to them.

Employee assistance helplines: sign up to one of the many companies offering benefits to your staff which usually include employee helplines and counselling…’Perkbox’ is one worth considering.

Time off: encourage staff to maintain a routine – planning their time and taking their holidays.

Workloads under control: ensure employees are not working excessive hours and have a healthy work-life balance.

Positive mental health: encourage positive mental health by arranging mental health awareness training, workshops or appointing mental health ‘champions’ who staff can talk to.

Training: provide training covering topics such as managing stress, mindfulness and personal resilience, as well as training for managers and senior staff on supporting employees.

Technology: promote the use of technology for both work and socialising and encourage staff to maintain informal discussions while working remotely….’Slack’ is another one worth considering.

While there have been some really encouraging and inspirational moves from employers to support the mental wellbeing of their staff during the pandemic, we are now facing longer-term stresses that businesses need to prepare for – in particular, the effects of long-Covid and a possible mental health pandemic that could impact our people for a number of years unless we prepare and take action quickly.

We need to embrace impactful, courageous and difficult conversations if we are to support our talent in the new world of work. Making time to talk now could safeguard the wellbeing of our workforces in the future.

To reiterate – regular wellbeing check-ins with staff are a vital way to support your employees’ mental health during the pandemic and beyond and the BEST starting point. I would urge you to adopt this simple practice today.

For any assistance at all email mailto:nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44(0)7917 878384

May 10

IR35 – what is a Status Determination Statement (SDS)?

Under the off-payroll rules, from April 2021, private sector clients are responsible for determining a contractor’s IR35 status. The decision must be contained within a Status Determination Statement (SDS), alongside the client’s reasoning.

What is the Status Determination Statement?

Under the new rules, the end-client is responsible for establishing whether or not an engagement is caught by IR35 or not. Previously, this determination was left to the contractor’s limited company to decide.

A status determination statement is simply a written statement put together by the decision-maker, the end client, stating the employment status of a contractor following an IR35 assessment.

The statement, which can be created in the form of a document or email, will state whether IR35 applies to their engagement with the contractor (whether the contract falls inside or outside IR35) and offer an explanation on how the deemed employment status conclusion was made.

The SDS shall contain:

• the status decision made on an engagement;
• the reasons which led to this decision.

The end-client must make a determination using reasonable care (see below), and pass this document, plus the reasoning behind the decision, to each worker and every party in the supply chain until it reaches the fee-payer.

Significantly, if any party in the supply chain fails to pass the SDS to the next party in the chain, then they will become the ‘fee-payer’, responsible for deducting the worker’s tax liabilities, and paying HMRC.

What does ‘reasonable care’ mean?

Clients must take ‘reasonable care’ when making employment status decisions. According to the new guidance, all clients must demonstrate that they have assessed IR35 correctly, but HMRC may expect a higher degree of care to be taken by larger companies that have greater resources to dedicate to compliance.

Should the client fail to take reasonable care, they will inherit the IR35 liability, regardless of whether it is the ‘fee payer’ in the supply chain.

How will a client work out your employment status?

Companies will take on the task of establishing employment status in different ways – using internal and/or external expertise. In all cases, they have to be able to demonstrate that reasonable care has been taken to work out the status of each contractor.

They may use one or more of the following methods:

• Official or commercial employment status tools (including CEST – despite its limitations).
• HMRC guidance and established employment status principles, based on case law.
• A professional, qualified advisor.

Importantly, a client can only make an accurate IR35 status decision by looking at the whole picture of the assignment and the way it is carried out – including contract wording and working practices.

What happens if the contractor doesn’t agree with the SDS?

If the contractor or the recruitment agency disagree with the SDS, then the contractor needs to inform the client.

The client has 45 days to respond, but significantly, there is no independent body to act as a referee. The client is under no obligation to change their mind, but they must let the contractor know either way.

If the client doesn’t respond within this time period, they will assume the role of ‘fee-payer’ (if they don’t already do so).

If you would like a template Status Determination Statement or assistance in completing one please do get in touch nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or +44(0)7917 878384.

March 18

What will the new IR35 rules mean when engaging freelancers?

In less than a month the new IR35 tax changes will come into force in the private sector meaning some freelancers and the businesses that engage them will have to pay tax differently. The new rules come into force from 6 April 2021 and will apply to services carried out from that date.

What is IR35?

IR35, also known as the ‘off-payroll working rules’, is designed to make sure that in an engagement, which is considered to be akin to an employment relationship, those working through their own companies, and their engagers (the clients), pay the same income tax and National Insurance contributions as those who are employed directly.

What is changing in the private sector?

Under the new IR35 reform, responsibility for determining the status of the freelancer will shift to the end client, where eligible, from 6 April 2021. This is already the case for all businesses and workers in the public sector, where changes were introduced in 2017.

Who does IR35 apply to?

Off-payroll working rules apply if a freelancer provides services to a client through an intermediary (usually their own company, in other words ‘a personal service company’), but would be classed as an employee for tax purposes if they were contracted directly.

If the rules apply and the freelancer is deemed to be inside IR35, tax and National Insurance contributions must be deducted by the end client from the freelancer’s fees and paid to HMRC.

IR35 applies on a contract by contract basis, so some contracts maybe inside IR35 and some maybe outside IR35.

Inside IR35

The freelancer pays the same tax and National Insurance as they would if they were an employee. The end client will be required to pay the necessary tax and NIC.

Outside IR35

Nothing changes. The freelancer is paid a flat fee as normal and is responsible for managing their own taxes.

Who decides the freelancer’s IR35 status?

Responsibility for determining status as inside or outside IR35 will lie with the end-client under the new legislation. This means the business using the freelancer’s services will be responsible for deciding their employment status.

However, if the freelancer is working with a ‘small company’ (turnover of £10.2m or less, balance sheet total of less than £5.1m and less than 50 employees) nothing changes – responsibility for checking their status vis a vis their end client remains with the freelancer (as it does now).

New rules will apply to parent companies, so larger businesses won’t be able to setup smaller companies to avoid paying contributions where a freelancer is deemed inside IR35.

Three tests to determine status

The way the freelancer’s status will be judged by the end client – and HMRC – will remain the same, namely the three key factors which determine employment status, or not, as follows:

1. Control

• Who has control over how the work is completed?
• Who has control over the working hours or the location of where the work has to be done?

If the answer is the end client (the business engaging the freelancer) then the freelancer maybe inside IR35.

2. Mutuality of obligation

If the end client company is obliged to give the freelancer more work once they have finished a task or project, then they maybe inside IR35.

The freelancer contract should be specific about the work that will be carried out in the project, and it should not imply any automatic renewals of the services, nor should there be any expectation that they will continue to be paid if no work is available.

3. Personal Service

Does the freelancer personally have to complete the work that they have been engaged to do? To be outside of IR35 the freelancer needs to be able to demonstrate that their personal service is not a requirement of the engagement and ideally they have a genuine right to send a substitute.

Sole trader freelancers are not impacted by IR35

It is also important to bear in mind that IR35 only applies to individuals operating through their own limited companies. If the freelancer is a sole trader, the IR35 legislation will not have any impact. However, the end client will still have to decide on the employment status (employee, sole trader or a worker) in order to ensure it does not fall foul of the HMRC – and this has always been the case….

The way ahead

It is essential to remember that genuine freelancers and self-employed workers will not be affected.

Whilst limited company freelancers (unless working with ‘small’ companies) will lose the right to set their own status, they are not powerless – they can have their contracts reviewed by us at GoodHR, discuss reform with their end client or obtain a Confirmation of Arrangements as to the true nature of the working relationship.

However, engagers are likely to take a safe approach which will lead to many more freelancers being taxed under PAYE than needs to be the case – including those that could safely operate outside of IR35 if some time and effort was given to setting up the correctly worded contract and assessing status.

Essential to have a correctly drafted freelancer agreement

Invest time and energy now to put the processes in place to help you hire the freelancers you need, when you need them, with minimal tax and legal risk or fuss, and you will reap the benefits of being able to utilise a flexible workforce when things pick up.

The freelancer contract must be carefully drafted. However, it must reflect the actual working arrangement because contractual amendments that are simply window dressing and not a reflection of the true agreement between the parties could rightly be dismissed by HMRC as a sham.

Freelancing isn’t dead, it’s a vital part of our long-term future.

Every business should of course look to be fully compliant around IR35. But they should do so in a way that doesn’t restrict their ability to react to changing needs.

If you’re unsure about whether your contract will be considered inside or outside IR35, it’s advisable to speak to Nicola Goodridge : nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or on +44(0)79178783.

March 2

Can UK employers require staff to be vaccinated against COVID?

Clearly employees cannot be physically forced to have the vaccine, so can they be disciplined or dismissed if they refuse?

What are the legal issues involved?

Is it reasonable for employers to instruct employees to have the vaccine?

If the employer is a care home or in the health sector, such an instruction may well be reasonable in order to protect the employee and those they come into contact with. However, it is unlikely to be reasonable if the employer is office-based and the work requires limited personal contact or where other protective measures such as social distancing can be more easily implemented.

Is it a breach of Human Rights to require a vaccination in order to work?

There may be scope to argue that a vaccination requirement is an unnecessary invasion of an individual’s right to privacy, particularly when there are other, less invasive, ways to minimise the risk of transmission in the workplace.

Can the employer discipline or dismiss an employee who refuses?

If the employee has a genuine medical or religious reason, for example:

• being allergic to ingredients in the vaccine;
• being pregnant;
• being medically unable to receive the vaccine;
• for reasons of religion or belief (for example, concerns that some vaccines may contain gelatine as a stabiliser);

then in those instances, the reason for refusal would be reasonable and disciplining or dismissing an employee could well give rise to successful claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

If an employee simply says they are “anti-vaccination” then it is worth remembering that the Tribunal has held that veganism is a belief protected by the equality laws and so it may be that being anti-vaccination could be held to be a philosophical belief equally worthy of protection. In which case, subjecting the employee to any detriment associated with it, for example disciplinary sanctions or dismissal may well also give rise to claims.

What about pregnant employees?

The vaccine is not currently recommended for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or who plan to get pregnant very shortly. A blanket instruction could therefore lead to conversations that employees are not comfortable having, including disclosures of pregnancy much earlier than the employee would otherwise like. Not only will that be problematic for employee relations but such a blanket requirement for vaccination is also likely to be indirectly discriminatory.

What about the employer’s obligations towards its other workers?

An employer owes all of its workers (not just its employees) a duty to provide a safe system of work. If employers are employing or engaging staff who have not had the vaccine, it may well be argued that they are failing to meet this obligation. As a result, staff may justifiably refuse to attend a workplace that they believe to be unsafe, raising the potential for staff to refuse to come to work and argue that their refusal is justified on health and safety grounds.

Employers must document all health and safety concerns and carefully consider anything which affected employees could argue was detrimental (eg segregating employees who have not had the vaccine). Employers should also ensure that they record their justifications in writing.

The actions that need to be taken now……

* Identify issues and processes in the workplace that can be adapted to ensure the workplace is COVID secure.

• Identify those roles that can continue to be performed effectively from home, those that can continue to be safely performed with existing COVID secure arrangements in place and whether there are any roles that may reasonably justify an employee having to have a vaccination in order to work safely.

• Consider how to manage employees whose role requires them to be vaccinated but who refuse to do so. Cases will need to be reviewed on an individual basis.

• Involve the workforce in considering risk and identifying solutions.

• Provide clear information to employees on the vaccine programme which may help to encourage participation.

If you need any help or have any questions please get in touch: nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or +44(0)7917878384

February 8

Are any of your employees EU passport holders and have you checked their immigration status….?

The UK has left the European Union…..what does this mean for employers when it comes to checking whether their staff have the right to work in the UK, and what do employees from the EU need to do now?

At the moment employees can prove their right to work in the UK by showing their employer a valid passport or identity card from one of the countries below. However, now is a great time to make sure you understand what will be changing, so that you can be prepared and stay ahead.

Which employees are affected?

They are affected if they are a European passport holder or have a national ID card from any of these countries:

* Austria * Estonia * Ireland (optional) * Netherlands * Spain
* Belgium * Finland * Italy * Norway * Sweden
* Bulgaria * France * Latvia * Poland * Switzerland
* Croatia * Germany * Liechtenstein * Portugal
* Cyprus * Greece * Lithuania * Romania
* Czech Rep * Hungary * Luxembourg * Slovakia
* Denmark * Iceland * Malta * Slovenia

What changed?

Up until now, these employees have been free to live and work in the UK without needing any sort of visa. There have been no restrictions on the sort of work they can do and how long they can live here for. The UK government has given all Europeans until 30 June 2021 to take action.

All employers should….(before too long and well before 30.6.21) do the following:

• Audit your employees and see who is on an EU passport/residence card
• Ask them what their immigration status is
• If they have Pre-Settled or Settled status, ask to see confirmation of that status

If they are unsure or aware that they need to formalise their status you can advise them as follows:

1. Make an application to the UK Home Office for Settled or Pre Settled Status

This is to ensure that the Home Office knows they are physically in the UK and can give a legal status document for the future. Without applying, the employee will not be recognised as being legal in the UK after 1 July 2021. This means that they will not be able to live here or work here without a visa.

2. European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

Employees can apply under the EUSS for either Settled or Pre Settled status. The difference between the two depends on how long they have lived here for – less than 5 years or more than 5 years.

Employees who have already lived in the UK for 5 years or more:

They should apply to the Home Office for Settled status under EUSS. Settled status gives them the right to live in the UK indefinitely. It means:

• They can live and work in the UK without any sort of work permit or sponsorship
• They can work for any UK employer or be self employed
• They can leave the UK for up to 5 years and still come back as a permanent resident
• They are entitled to NHS services as long as they are living here
• In most cases, they will be able to apply for a British passport after a year of having Settled status

Employees who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years

They should apply to the Home Office for Pre Settled status under EUSS. Pre settled status gives them the right to continue to live and work in the UK. They can then apply for Settled status once they have been here for 5 years. As the holder of Pre Settled status:

• They can continue to live and work here after 30 June 2021 without any other visa or sponsorship
• They can work for any UK employer or be self employed
• They are entitled to NHS services as long as they are living here
• They can apply for Settled status after living here for 5 years and then a UK passport
• They can leave the UK for up to 2 years and still come back with their Pre Settled status.
However, if they spend more than 6 months outside the UK in any 12 month period, their cycle to claim Settled status after 5 years will start again.

3. What happens after the employee applies?

They will receive an email from the Home Office acknowledging their application. In most cases, they will then receive a further email confirming whether they have been granted Pre Settled or Settled status.

Once they have this, no further action is required.

4. When can they apply for a UK passport?

In most cases, they can apply for UK citizenship one year after obtaining Settled status. Before they apply, they should check that their home country allows them to hold dual nationality. Once approved for naturalisation as a British citizen, they can apply for their first British passport.

5. Your employee’s family

They will need to apply under the EUSS for family members living with them provided they are EU nationals. If they are from outside the EU, the situation may not be straightforward and they should obtain advice.

In a nutshell!

• Audit staff now
• Encourage relevant staff to take action now if they have any doubts about their status
• Point them in this direction: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

If you require any assistance at all please email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call Nicola on +44(0)7917 878384

January 8

How do we support employees unable to work normal hours due to childcare responsibilities….?

On Monday 4 January 2021, the prime minister announced that a new lockdown in England would commence immediately and last until at least mid-February 2021. Schools will close to most pupils, and instead offer online learning until after February’s half-term break.

Many working parents will, once again, find their home and professional lives blurred in a way unimaginable before March 2020. With schools, nurseries and childcare facilities closed to the majority of children, working parents are suddenly tasked with video conferencing whilst simultaneously supervising a maths lesson or working late into the night as the penance for an afternoon spent with the kids.

What practical steps can employers take?

1. What if it is not practical for the employee to work effectively from home?

Unpaid dependant care leave: an employee can take unpaid time off to take whatever action is necessary because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of their child (which includes school closures).

Furlough leave: employees can be furloughed because they are ‘unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, including employees that need to look after children’. An employer does not need to be facing a wider reduction in demand, or be closed, to be eligible to claim for these employees.

Unpaid parental leave: parents of a child under 18, who are employees with one year’s service, can take up to four weeks’ unpaid parental leave per year (up to a maximum of 18 weeks in total), although an employer could allow more time to be used in these specific circumstances.

Taking annual leave: the employee could take some annual leave to cover times when alternative childcare is not available. Holiday could be taken either be in single blocks of time or, with the employer’s agreement, broken into a few days holiday each week, to allow the employee to work fewer hours.

Reverse time off in lieu: it may be possible for the employer and employee to agree that the employee will be granted some paid time off now, which will be made up the time later in the year (eg by working unpaid overtime).

2. What if the employee can work from home but is juggling childcare responsibilities?

Set core hours and then allow for flexi schedules: require all staff to work between 11am and 4pm and beyond those core hours allow staff to work early mornings and into the evenings so that they are free to share childcare duties with their partner.

Allow a temporary change to working patterns: if need be, consider a request to revise hours for a month or two whilst employees manage their childcare responsibilities.

Allocate no-meeting hours: consider when parents are most busy with childcare duties and block out those hours as meeting-free, this maybe first thing in the morning, around lunchtime or at the end of the school day. Take a survey and go with the majority view.

Create a group for parents on whatever social media platform you use internally: already a ‘thing’ in many organisations in the UK, this sort of group provides support, practical and moral, for employees juggling frantically!

3. Further helpful practical steps to take…

• Free antigen tests for employees, their partners and anyone over 18 years old living in their household.

• Emergency loans of up to say £750 per person.

• Option to reduce pension salary sacrifice for a year.

For advice on any of the above please get in touch: nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or 07917 878384

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

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