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

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.

October 27

Newsflash! The Job Support Scheme has been tweaked to be more inviting….!

The Job Support Scheme – which comes into effect on 1 November 2020 – when first announced, saw employers paying a third of their employees’ wages for hours not worked and required employees to be working at least a third of their normal hours.

All change!!!

A new scheme was announced yesterday which reduced the employer contribution to those unworked hours to just 5% and reduces the minimum hours requirement on employees to 20%, so those working just one day a week will be eligible.

The ENHANCED Part-time Job Support Scheme key facts

• Begins 1 November 2020 and runs for six months and replaces the furlough scheme
• Employees must work 20% of their hours (down from an originally stated one-third) to qualify
• Staff must have been on an employer’s payroll on 23 September 2020 to qualify for the scheme (redundancies since this date may be able to be reinstated)
• Staff will receive a 27% pay cut
• Government will pay 62% of unworked hours, capped at £1,541.75 per month
• Employer will pay just 5% of unworked hours – down from 33%
• All SMEs are eligible for the scheme
• Larger businesses must demonstrate a slump in turnover
• Firms on scheme cannot make staff redundant
• Cash grants of up to £2,100 a month are available for businesses in Tier 2 areas – mostly targeting hospitality and leisure firms
• These are available retrospectively for firms in areas already subject to tighter Tier 2 restrictions

Businesses that have not used the furlough scheme can also access the new scheme, but not all companies will be able to apply because larger companies can still only access the scheme if their turnover has fallen significantly as a result of the pandemic.

Companies must pay the full wage for hours worked. It will then have to contribute a small top up for hours not worked alongside the Government in order to receive the subsidy.

Any queries please email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 7917878384

October 19

When did you last check in on the wellbeing of your staff….?

There is plenty of research that shows a happy workforce increases performance and productivity in a business. Employees who feel physically and emotionally healthy are more likely to be engaged, productive and committed to their jobs.

They will also be more able to cope with the disruption and stress a new routine may bring.

COVID has resulted in a huge rise in home working and a related increasing reliance on technology – both of which can have a potential impact on the health and wellbeing of our workforce.

Adapting to homeworking

It can be difficult for employees to adapt to a new work style if they are used to a high level of interaction with their team every day. If a typical working day involves a bustling office atmosphere, calling clients or attending meetings, the new working from home policy can take its toll on employee’s mental health and wellbeing as this drastic change can cause a feeling of isolation.

Safeguarding your employee’s mental health and emotional wellbeing does not have to be on overwhelming task, even a quick phone call can go a long way.

Keep in contact

• Daily, every other day or weekly phone calls or even video calls are key.
• They will enable you to continually assess workflow, set new tasks and check on your employee’s wellbeing.
• They open up the opportunity to discuss topics that aren’t work-related – catching up on plans for the weekend, asking after their family…..you would usually have these types of conversations in passing, over lunch or in brief meetings so it’s important to maintain this level of socialising where you can.

Promote a healthy work-life balance

Overwork is more of a threat to an organisation than underwork when staff are working from home.

There are fewer colleagues to take you for a coffee or pull you over for an opportune chat. Video calls take up so much of the day that subsequent actions and written work are being done in the evenings. The inbox buzzes from dawn till dusk – with early starters and late finishers emailing around the clock.

As an employer you need to balance keeping productivity up alongside encouraging people to keep taking breaks. When working from home it can be very easy to feel tempted to stay at your laptop throughout your lunch or extend the end of the day by a few hours.

Some ideas:

• Encourage staff to work only their contracted hours and not stretch their working day into home life
• Ban online meetings between 12 and 1, to encourage a proper lunch break.
• Make 1:1s a walking phone call outside, to encourage exercise and a screen break.
• Encourage staff to put their work equipment out of sight when its home time which will make a big difference in marking the end of the working day.
• Share links to free apps such as Nike Training Club or Daily Workouts Fitness Trainer

Schedule regular team meetings

Ensure team meetings and catch-ups scheduled in your diary are not bumped out, they are an important way to connect with your staff.

They will:
• Ensure the consistency of the normal working week
• Replicate the ‘buzz’ of the normal work environment, helping people connect and socialise.
• Enable virtual lunches to be established where employees can eat with each other over a video call

Collaborative tools and platforms

There are plenty of tools that allow employees to interact with one another. Employees can often feel like they are on an island so by having the ability to surround themselves with colleagues through these inherently social collaboration forums, can boost productivity and morale.

Note though the phenomenon of ‘zoom fatigue’! Video calls are found to be a more draining way to meet with colleagues as our brains need to work harder to process information and work out visual cues that we rely on in analogue exchanges.

• Appreciating that conference calling can be difficult for those who are the less forthright in a team will help managers to facilitate online meetings.
• Cap the number of attendees when appropriate.
• Employees who feel they are spending an excessive amount of time in virtual meetings need to be encouraged to have the confidence to ask to step out when required.
• All virtual meeting attendees should turn off all other digital distractions such as phone and inbox to help them be truly present and get the most out of the time on the call.

Provide mental health training and resources

It is important that your employees know that you support them so by communicating this to them can really benefit their wellbeing. Employee Assistance Programmes are a resource that employers can sign up to giving employees unlimited access to phone support from qualified counsellors so they can discuss anything they need to.

Running a ‘wellbeing’ day or week or month is always well received. You may consider the following to get staff motivated and engaged:

• Virtual lunch with a Deliveroo allowance
• Virtual yoga or meditation sessions
• Virtual mindfulness
• Virtual session on health and nutrition
• Virtual bingo or quiz
• Random act of kindness – posted each month

Call to action!

• GoodHR can provide you with a staff wellbeing checklist for your managers and heads of department.
• GoodHR can provide you with a mental health and wellbeing audit – and even conduct it on your behalf, gathering the information and feeding it back to you.

Do get in touch by email to nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call 07917 878384

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