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Executive People Update

Posted on: January 8th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

As part of keeping you in our focus, our exec people update ensures you’re on top of the latest changes in legislation, case law and employment trends. Click here for more information about how we can support you to manage the latest changes.


Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports has just decided that vegans can be protected under the Equality Act 2019. That’s only the case for ‘ethical vegans’ whose beliefs extend to every aspect of their life, not just diet. So mickey taking and inappropriate ‘banter’ about such beliefs should be nipped in the bud to avoid the potential for harassment claims.

Getting ready for April 

1st – Wage increases: The National Living Wage is increasing from £8.21 to £8.72 (for workers aged 25 and over). The National Minimum Wage will also increase:

  • Workers aged 21 to 25 – from £7.70 to £8.20
  • Workers aged 18 to 20 – from £6.15 to £6.45
  • Workers over compulsory school age under 18 – from £4.35 to £4.55
  • Apprentices – from £3.90 to £4.15

4th – Gender Pay Gap reporting: the deadline to report for all businesses that had 250 or more employees on 5th April 2019. It isn’t compulsory to accompany your data with a narrative, however it’s potentially the more powerful of the two. It gives you an opportunity to explain any negative data and your plans to address it, or shout about your successes and what you’ve achieved.

6th – The Good Work Plan:

  • All workers, not just employees, will have the right to an employment contract from day-one
  • The reference period for calculating holiday pay will extend from 12 to 52 weeks

It’s also a great time of year to update your employment contracts. Click here for our help.

6th – IR35: If you’re working with a self-employed individuals or ‘off-payroll’ workers, you’ll be responsible for determining their employment status. If they’re deemed to be employees, then you’ll also be responsible for their PAYE and NICs too (plus any penalties from HMRC if you get it wrong!).

Click here if you’d like our support (if you use consultancy agreements, they’ll need updating).

6th – Termination payments: employer NICs of 13.8% will become payable on termination payments above £30,000. At present, only income tax is payable.

Holiday reminders

If your holiday year ends in March, now is a good time to be reminding all of your people about any annual leave they still have left to take. A change last year means that the position is no longer ‘use it or lose it’. If you’re not taking proactive steps to remind employees or don’t have a system in place to do so, they could potentially carry over up to four weeks’ holiday into the next year.

Click here to find out more about Intelligent Employment Hub – our cloud-based people system designed to make managing holidays a breeze, and make your people processes more efficient.


Drug and alcohol testing

Posted on: December 18th, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

It’s the season to be jolly! But when employees abuse that right and put colleagues, the business and themselves at risk, you have a duty to investigate and take appropriate action.

We’ve seen a huge increase over the last year in substance and alcohol abuse. Below is our guide to taking the appropriate steps when testing for drugs and alcohol.

Right to a private life: often cited by employees! You won’t breach this right if you can justify the testing in the interests of health, policy of public safety, and you don’t do more than is necessary.

GDPR: make sure you follow the principles by being clear on your aim, by limiting the testing and ensuring the tests are as accurate as possible.

Impact assessments: you’ll need one! It should identify the aim of the testing, who is carrying it out, why it’s necessary, the possible risks associated, whether there is an alternative to testing (and much more!).

Employment contract: it’s always helpful to have a clause confirming you have the right to test. Bear in mind though, this isn’t the perfect defence to claims for breach of data protection regulations and resignations leading to unfair dismissal.

Singling out: it goes without saying that selecting particular individuals without justification could lead to claims for discrimination and resignations leading to unfair dismissal.

You should also ensure you’ve got a robust drug and alcohol policy in place, and always seek advice if you’re unsure on how to handle any issues. Luckily, we can help in both instances! Just get in touch!


Parenting v Performance – managing the needs of working parents

Posted on: November 28th, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

Any working parent knows that balancing work and children can be a tricky business at the best of times. When their child falls ill they rely on childcare support, unpaid time off, sickness absence, home working or holiday.

We’re hearing more and more that you’re struggling to balance support for working parents with sustaining performance. Here’s out guide to your rights and options when an employee’s child falls sick…

Know your rights – you have to allow the employee reasonable unpaid time off if:

a. help is needed where the child falls ill;

b. they need to make arrangements for the care of an ill child;

c. they need to deal with disrupted care arrangements;

d. they need to deal with an unexpected incident involving the child at school;

e. (and clearly in the event of the child’s death).

The employee doesn’t have the right to unpaid time off to:

a. deal with an appointment at their home (such as a delivery or plumber);

b. take their child to a medical or dental appointment;

c. take their child to and from school/nursery;

d. care for the child (beyond when they initially fall ill and once they have had time to arrange for their care).

Balanced approach – it’s all well and good knowing your rights, but managing an employee with a sick child can be complex. You’re likely to be trying to support them, drive performance and deal consistently with everyone within their team. We’d suggest:

a. having a clear policy to deal with these situations and following it to the letter (to avoid inconsistency creeping in);

b. ensuring that the employee continues to tell you when they are likely to return and agreeing what is a reasonable amount of time off in the circumstances;

c. confirming what will be communicated with the team so that they’re aware of the support you’re giving to the individual and also to them;

d. avoiding homeworking in the circumstances unless you’re certain the employee is able to do their job;

e. keeping a record on your people system of absences taken so that you can track trends and levels of absence (click here for more info about our system, Intelligent Employment Hub);

f. asking for evidence the child is sick if you begin to doubt how genuine the absence is;

g. dealing with inappropriate absence as a disciplinary issue;

h. avoiding payment for absence (even if absence is just for an hour or so) if you doubt the genuineness of the absence or it’s becoming too frequent.

Other rights – bear in mind that if the child is disabled the employee has additional rights that you’ll need to consider. Also remember that there are other statutory rights such as shared parental leave and statutory parental leave that could support both you and the employee in the appropriate circumstances. 

Encourage healthy conversations – manage sickness absence

Posted on: November 21st, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

On average, employees take 4.4 days’ sickness absence each year, at a cost of around £600 per employee (1) . What’s more, two in five say they’d fake it for another day off! (2)

Here are our suggestions on keeping your team happy and healthy.

Healthy conversation – every return from absence should be supported by a ‘welcome back’ meeting between the employee and manager. Our equivalent to a ‘return to work interview’ – it’s a positive, easy to handle discussion to record the absence, identify any support and check on sickness absence levels.

Hold managers accountable following training – it’s their job to ensure that their team are aware of their sickness absence levels, provide support where needed and follow up when the employee returns.

Timely triggers – help managers to track absence with a people system which fires an alert to them when absence needs dealing with formally (in accordance with your policy). Click here to find out about our system – Intelligent Employment Hub.

Keep in contact – agree when you’ll chat with the employee when they’re absent. Don’t be out of sight and mind.

Proactive steps – support employees with positive advice on how to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing including dietary advice, flu jabs and telephone support lines.

Time out – ensure that time off is quality time to relax. Encourage employees to switch off and avoid contacting them unless absolutely necessary.

A great policy – should set out clear markers as to what level of absence is unacceptable, when formal discussions will be held and when support will be offered. It should also set out that lying about being ill is a disciplinary issue.

Flexibility – being ‘sick’ isn’t always black and white. On odd occasions the offer of flexibility, whether an extra day off or working from home,can mean that an off-colour employee remains productive.

Pay – consider whether your sick pay appropriately balances support for employee’s sickness absence alongside encouraging their return.

We’ve created an engaging and interactive toolkit designed to support managers throughout the absence process (and more!). Click here if you’d like to know more!

Sources – (1) Office for National Statistics, (2) ComRes & BBC

Inbox impact assessments

Posted on: November 15th, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

Even though employees use work emails and you have a good email policy, doesn’t mean you can freely root around inboxes.

Whether you’re accessing an inbox when an employee’s absent, in an emergency or to investigate, here’s what you need to know.

Employee’s have the right to put their trust and confidence in you as their employer. Snooping at emails without proper cause, will breach that trust and confidence, data protection laws, right to a private life and could give rise to constructive dismissal claims (and possibly discrimination claims). So only access inboxes with good reason.

Before you open an inbox, ensure you’ve carried out an impact assessment to show:

  • the reasons for the access
  • there isn’t another way to secure the information
  • you’ve limited the search to particular terms
  • that any data found will be kept secure, not needlessly shared and deleted appropriately.

If someone is absent and you need to look at their emails, ensure that you limit the view to subject headings only and open only those which appear relevant.

As ever, a policy setting out when you may access inboxes, identifying whether personal use of work email is permitted and the need to mark personal emails as private is a must!

You can access our impact assessment template through the Intelligent Employment platform. If you don’t have access and want to know how it will benefit your business, get in touch!