Easy ways to reward staff without giving them a pay rise

As a business owner and employer, you may have realised by now that recognising your staff’s hard work and dedication is an effective way to keep moral high. Business owners sometimes assume that the only way staff want to be rewarded is with a cash incentive, such as a bonus or a pay rise. However, that isn’t always the case and is not always possible. Thankfully, there are some amazing alternative ways to reward staff, when there’s no money in the budget for an increase in salary or you want to build and retain key staff. Here’s how…

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Offer the opportunity for progression

Often for employees it isn’t just about money; it’s about feeling like they are progressing within a company. Knowing they are moving up the career ladder instils a sense of security and helps staff feel valued. So if the situation allows it, promoting someone from say, Account Executive to Senior Account Executive is often all they really want or need.

Vouchers

Who doesn’t love receiving a gift voucher? Do a little digging to find out which restaurants, shops or hotels an employee loves and present them with a voucher to treat themselves.

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A day off

A simple, yet effective way to show your appreciation is to give an employee an extra one or two days off on top of their current holiday allowance. This means they can book a longer holiday, or use the day as they wish, whether that be lazing about at home, or doing something they enjoy.

Set high standards for training

As well as benefiting the employee, you’ll also reap the advantages of training staff. Whether it’s offering on-site training, or presenting them with the opportunity to enrol in a course, which will help further their career, regular training is effective in ensuring staff remain loyal to the company and they learn a new skill or knowledge which benefits the business.

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Take them out

Who would turn down the opportunity to get away from the office, particularly when it’s paid for?! Whether it’s lunch in a restaurant, a drink in a bar or something more extravagant, taking staff out shows you value their hard work and builds stronger relationships within the workforce.

Employee of the month

This strategy has been around for years, which isn’t surprising, given its ability to instantly praise an employee and boost morale. Not only will you be highlighting their great efforts, you’ll be letting everyone else know. Plus, you’ll spark a little healthy competition among employees who are keen to earn the title for themselves.

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A thank-you note

An old fashioned idea but a goodie… a simple, handwritten note to an employee, acknowledging their good work can go a long way. Leave it sitting on their desk so that they pick it up when they arrive at work the next day. You would be amazed at what this does to someone’s attitude at work and their work performance!

Be their mentor

Or if that isn’t possible, assign someone else who would do a good job. Appointing someone who will help an employee grow and progress within your company is an amazing opportunity that many would snap up in a heartbeat. Choose someone who the person can really learn from and who they admire to ensure it is a worthwhile opportunity.

Making the effort to regularly reward staff by supplementing pay rises and bonuses with some of these perks, brings with it many benefits such as:- staff work well together in a friendly environment, staff will work harder and create better results at work and you hold onto key staff that you don’t want to lose, which ultimately strengthens your business.

If any of these issues are causing you some problems, contact Julie Pollock on 07858089006 or julie@consulthr.co.uk to discuss further.

10 top tips for effectively managing discipline and grievances in the workplace

Whatever the size of your business and regardless of how informal its culture is, one of the key elements that it should have is effective disciplinary and grievance procedures in place. As well as being a requirement of the law, they serve to protect both employers and employees should either the need for disciplinary action or a grievance arise. Not following correct protocol can be a costly mistake. If an employee has been in service for one or more years, failing to take the correct course of action may lead to an unfair dismissal claim, with the potential for a compensation payout.

Thankfully, best practice guidance is available via the ‘LRA code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures’. But if you don’t fancy delving deep into it, we’ve put together some top tips on effectively managing discipline and grievances in the workplace!

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1. Have relevant and clear policies in place

Having discipline and grievance procedures in place ensures that:

  • Everyone is aware of how disciplinary and grievance problems are dealt with
  • Proceedings will be fair
  • Such issues will be acted upon in a timely and sensitive manner

So that your company’s policies are appropriate, you should ensure that:

  • Staff are aware of their existence and they are readily available
  • All managers are fully trained on these procedures
  • Such issues are dealt with as soon as possible
  • Policies are updated in line with changes in the law or the business structure

2. Determine the best route to take

Each individual grievance should be dealt with accordingly, deeming whether a formal or informal route should be taken. Here, be guided by the employee’s wishes, or the severity of the situation. If, for example, an employee is offended by a comment given by someone else in the workplace, addressing the situation by speaking to the employee in question may effectively resolve it. On the other hand, where issues such as discrimination or harassment arise, treating it as a formal grievance is more appropriate.

3. Designated chairperson

If the need for a formal grievance procedure arises, an appropriate chairperson will need to oversee the meeting. It is essential that the person in question is deemed suitable. Often, the individual’s line manager will chair it. If, however, the subject is of a sensitive nature or the complaint is about the manager, a more senior member of staff may be better suited to deal with it.

4. Confidentiality

Throughout the process, this is of the upmost of importance. Employees concerned, and those who serve as witnesses should be made aware that they are not permitted to discuss the issue with anyone else.

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5. Investigation

This fact-finding exercise is critical to collate all relevant information relating to the grievance or disciplinary. This stage is essential to establish the facts. Interviews with witnesses may be required, in which notes should be taken. Other steps such as reviewing CCTV, computer or phone records may also be required.

6. Hold a grievance meeting

It is important that a meeting is held as soon as possible, after the issue has been raised. It may be necessary to adjourn it until further investigations are carried out.

7. The right to be accompanied

Employees should be made aware that they have the right to be accompaniedat both disciplinary and grievance meetings. Often this is a trade union representative or a work colleague of the employee’s choice.

8. Reaching a decision

The panel should carefully consider all information and arrive at a fair and reasonable outcome. The employee should be made aware of the decision taken in writing.

So, in the case of a disciplinary process they should be advised if a warning is being issued, what level, the duration of the warning and the improvement expected.

In the case of a grievance process, the employee should be informed of the outcome of their complaints and what action will be taken to resolve the matter.

In either case, the employee should also be made aware that they have the right to appeal.

9. Appeal

If possible, an appeal should be chaired by someone who is more senior to the person who chaired the previous meeting, has not been involved in the process so far, and therefore deemed impartial. Again, employees have the right to be accompanied.

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10. Seek the advice of a professional

Here at Consult HR, one of the key services we offer is flexibility in dealing with grievances and disciplinary action. We offer on site support or advice on how to conduct investigations, discipline and dismissal meetings, as well as providing advice on appropriate questioning techniques. Furthermore, we can conduct independent investigations or disciplinary hearings and present a report on our findings to ensure a thorough and fair process is conducted.

For more information, contact Julie on: 07858089006.

Easy ways to keep employees motivated during summer

Unsurprisingly, the summer months see many employers report lower levels of productivity in the workplace. With holidays, kids off school and big sporting events, it might seem like an impossible task to keep staff focused. And for those who aren’t taking any time of work, being left behind in the office while others are away, can be a bit of a drag.

However, we have the answer. Here, we’ve rounded up our top tips to keep employees driven during the summer months.

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Embrace the great outdoors

It’s widely known that Vitamin-D has a multitude of benefits when enjoyed in moderation and with sun protection. So we say… embrace the great outdoors! One easy activity to take outside is company meetings. Technology has never been more mobile meaning that any necessary laptops, tablets etc can be brought with you. Rather than sitting in a stuffy boardroom dreaming of the great outdoors, staff will be full of new ideas given the change of location, not to mention the sunshine.

Consider activities

The summer months are the perfect time to stage an activity. Whether it’s a charity event, team building exercise or sponsored tournament, a day away from the office will definitely boost morale and bring a team closer together, increasing productivity in the process.

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An unexpected treat

Sometimes the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact. Whether it’s something as simple as nipping to the local park for a picnic or having an ice-cream truck stop by in the afternoon, the way to employees’ hearts is definitely through their stomachs. Their gratitude will be shown through their focus in the office.

Dress down Fridays

If your work environment allows it, dress down Fridays are the perfect way to keep staff focused during the week. We all remember those non-uniform days at school and how happy we were when the day rolled around. Having dress-down Fridays can have the same effect. With the summer months typically being warmer, not having to wear a full suit will ensure employees stay cool and comfortable.

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Finish early Fridays

Speaking of the F-word, allowing staff to finish early on Fridays can also have the same impact. Getting out just as little as an hour early really does wonderful things for team spirit.

Consider working from home

From time-to-time, allowing employees to work from home can be immensely rewarding. Often, working from home has less distractions than a bustling office so you may discover that an employee is actually much more productive at home. Plus, with rapid advances in technology such as videoconferencing and remote desktop applications, staying connected has never been easier.

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Offer incentives

Perhaps the biggest motivator of all, putting incentives in place for reaching targets is a sure way to get employees’ heads in the game. The reward could be anything such as finishing early, working from home or a monetary bonus.

Encourage creativity

Banish boredom from the workplace! If staff are allowed to work on projects that they actually want to spend time on, they are more likely to be productive. Ask them for their input to determine what they’d love to be doing. By allowing staff to be creative, they’ll throw themselves into it in the hope of impressing you, and therefore output remains high during summer.

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Offer good feedback

Feeding back to employees on how they are doing, gives them value. Feedback should be provided on the standard of their work and on the role they play within the company. Feeling like you are part of something bigger is a fantastic incentive, especially if there is opportunity for growth.

Give a little control

Where possible, loosen the reigns and give staff some control. This creates a sense of responsibility and helps establish trust, which in turn keeps productivity high during the summer months.

Armed with these top tips, keeping staff morale and productivity levels high during summer will be a breeze! For help with your HR, get in touch by calling: 078 5808 9006 or emailing: Julie@consulthr.co.uk.

Top tips to reduce employee absenteeism in the workplace

We’ve just had a scorching May and early June and fingers crossed, the good weather is set to return. While the sunshine puts a spring in our step, it has brought with it some problems, with many employers reporting that they noticed a rise in absenteeism in the workplace.

In particular, employees are phoning in sick when employers suspected that they were basking in the sun in their gardens or soaking up the sun at the beach!

With the average UK worker being absent over six days annually, costing employers an average of £554 in sick pay per employee, no doubt you are keen to limit this cost within your business.

Effectively dealing with employee absence and differentiating between genuine absence and those taking advantage is a common challenge that many employers face.

So what exactly can you do to reduce employee absenteeism? Here, Julie Pollock from Consult HR provides her top tips on how you get a handle on it this summer.

employee absenteeism

Have a clear policy in place

The first and most important step is to ensure that your company has a practical, well-written policy in place, which is given to employees when they take up their post. The document should state the process which employees are expected to follow should absence from work arise. Having clear attendance and absence policies will keep employees versed on the standards expected of them, as well as assisting managers when dealing with proceedings. Furthermore, the policy should be readily available to staff, such as on the company’s intranet. This easy access and high visibility will enhance its importance. Finally, asking employees to read and confirm they have understood the procedures regarding absence helps improve compliance.

Conduct return to work interviews

The thought of having to sit down with a manager face-to-face to explain absence, after taking a ‘sneaky’ day off can be enough to make employees think twice about actually phoning in sick.

So having return to work interviews as standard practice can reduce your absence levels without you even noticing.

Ensure managers are approachable

If employees don’t have an understanding point of contact in the form of a manager, they may be less likely to discuss issues or requests which could avoid absence. For example, if an employee feels they can’t approach staff for a couple of hours off to attend a necessary appointment, the result of this may be calling in sick at the last minute, requiring a full day off work. Having an open, sympathetic ear will help put employees at ease and open the door for communication and ultimately reduce absence levels.

employee absenteeism

Monitor absence

If you aren’t already doing so, monitoring absence patterns and levels is an effective way of foreseeing potential problems. This will help you identify those employees you need to have a conversation with, distinguishing between those who genuinely need assistance with ongoing health problems and those who may be taking advantage of your company’s sick pay scheme.

Keeping a record will also help you to keep abreast of trends, ie those that have ‘Monday-itis’. Furthermore, this can help notify you of absence trends, which may reveal that the employee has some external issues, which are impacting on their ability to attend work and may be resolved in a short period of time with some support from you.

Communication Is Key

Where you identify some concerns with an employee’s attendance at work, address the matter early by having a conversation, advising the employee concerned what your concerns are. This in itself may be enough to correct the problem early without the matter getting out of hand.

Health and wellbeing programmes

Companies which offer health and wellness programmes, have been shown to have lower levels of absence than those which don’t. These programmes cover a range of conditions, such as offering on-site yoga classes at lunchtime, to helping employees quit smoking or lose weight. There should be no pressure for employees to participate but they should be made aware of such programmes should they wish to avail of them. As well as helping improve health and wellbeing, staff moral will be higher and good working relationships will be developed, not to mention improved attendance levels.

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Instil flexible working hours

This is a big decision for a company to take, but one which can result in lower levels of employee absenteeism. Flexible working can take many forms such as working from home, job-sharing, part-time, term-time, job-shares and flexitime. Being able to fit working hours around the demands of a busy life, will again, ensure employees take fewer unexpected days off work. Furthermore, being accommodating instils a greater level of trust between the employer and employee.

Keep staff moral high

Keeping staff motivated is an effective way to ensure absence levels are kept to a minimum. Encourage good morale with incentives, recognition programmes, career advancement opportunities and arranging social events for teams. Undoubtedly, a combination of emotional and physical factors are responsible for preventing employee absenteeism. A positive work environment is a key factor in encouraging staff to come to work everyday.

If you are struggling with employee absenteeism in the workplace, help is at hand. At Consult HR, many companies have benefited from our outsourced HR services. For more information, get in touch here.

A no-nonsense guide to GDPR

There’s absolutely no getting away from GDPR at the minute, and with everyone keen to share their take on it, it can be hard to know where to start to ensure that your company complies with the change in legislation. Here, we share our straightforward approach to help you get to grips with what you need to do.

The UK Data Protection Act is set to change. This outdated law was created in the nineties and with the digital age offering new ways of working and how we handle and store data, this will be replaced with the much-needed and up-to-date Data Protection Bill.

The new regulation aims to strengthen the rights of citizens to data privacy. This means that every business, which deals with information on the public or employees, must meet new standards of security and transparency.

GDPR

So what does this mean?

Every business, regardless of size and sector, almost certainly holds, stores and processes information for both their own staff and the public. In-line with this new law, how you store, manage and process data for anyone will change. Organisations must analyse the data they currently hold and review their consent procedures to ensure they meet the new standards.

And what do I need to do?

The key is to ensure you put a plan in place now. Ensuring you have an effective and compliant strategy prepared, which will save you much hassle (not to mention a hefty fine) in the long-run.

GDPR

Here is our simple, 11 step guide on what you need to do now.

  1. Audit and retention: An information audit is required to establish what personal information you hold, how you received it and store it and how and who you share it with and how long you hold this information for.
  1. Review privacy notices: Issue privacy notices to those who you store personal data on, advise them of the detail of the data you hold, why you hold it and remind them of their right to withdraw their consent at any time.
  1. Review employment contracts: Ensure your employee contracts and all relevant policies are updated in line with these new changes.
  1. Individuals’ rights: Ensure you have a well defined process in place detailing the right to request deletion of personal data or how data is communicated electronically.
  1. Access to data: Outline how you plan to handle requests for data, including compliance within the new timescales.
  1. Explain your lawful basis for processing personal data: By law, you need to explain why you are holding information.
  1. Obtaining consent: Decide if you need consent to hold and process the personal data you have and if so, ensure you get this consent before 25th May (consent is not always required).
  1. Security measures: Ensure you put proper provisions and procedures in place to secure data such as: password protection, encrypting data, procedures for working at your desk or in an open office environment, homeworking and mobile workers.
  1. Personal data breach: Should a breach of personal data occur, a policy should be in place to detect, report and investigate such issues and ensure the breach is reported within the specified timeframe.
  1. Assigning a data protection officer: Assign a responsible individual within the business the responsibility for ensuring compliance.
  1. Train staff: Ensure you train all staff on compliance and train them on your procedures implemented to avoid data breaches. This will protect the company from hefty fines.

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What happens if I don’t comply?

There are many serious implications for the company including reputational damage where your company could be named and shamed for a data breach.

However the most serious of all is the fines that are imposed for a data breach which can be up to 4% of your annual turnover or fines of up to €20 million. 

Where it all went wrong for some…

Whitehead Nursing Home – Staff payroll details and residents’ personal data was able to be accessed from a stolen laptop (FINED £15,000)

Moneysupermarket – Sent a mass e-mail out to individuals who had unsubscribed (FINED £80,000)

TalkTalk Telecom Group – They had an insecure portal and individuals were able to get unauthorised access to personal data (FINED £100,000)

So as you can see there is significant financial risk with not getting to grips with your requirements around GDPR.  This is not the time to bury your head in the sand. If you need some help with getting compliant, get in touch with us here and we will be able to guide you through this.

How well do you know your employees’ holiday entitlement?

Bank holiday season has arrived and with the summer holiday season almost upon us, now is the period when staff will be taking time off and submitting their annual leave requests. Holiday entitlement can leave many employers scratching their heads as they get to grips with who is due what. Here, we get clear on those common holiday queries that cause business owners some confusion.

employees' holiday entitlement

Annual leave entitlement

One of the most common questions we get asked at Consult HR is how to calculate employees’ holiday entitlement as this causes employers lots of confusion.

Full-time workers are allowed 5.6 weeks (28 days) holidays a year. This is the statutory minimum entitlement and therefore legal requirement, which employers must offer as a minimum (employers can give their employees more holidays than this if they wish).

For part-time staff, holiday entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis based on the hours and days they work. Working out exactly how many days this is can be a little tricky.

The employee’s annual leave entitlement should be included in their employment contract which should be issued to them within two months of their start date. To manually work out how many days off a part-time employee is entitled to, multiply the number of days they work each week by 5.6. So, if someone works 3 days a week, their leave entitlement would be 16.8 days off a year (3 days x 5.6). Thankfully, this handy calculator takes the hassle out of it for you.

employees' holiday entitlement

Bank holiday allowance

When it comes to bank holiday entitlement, there are 5 key things to always remember:

  1. Whether or not employees receive bank holiday entitlement is down to the employer. Employees do not have a statutory right to take off work on bank holidays and whether or not employees receive entitlement should be stated in their contract of employment.
  2. Bank holidays can form part of an employee’s total annual leave allowance. Employees can take all bank holidays as paid leave or employers can count bank holidays as additional holiday days. This is at the discretion of the employer, and again, should be included in the employee’s contract.
  3. Employees are not entitled to extra pay for working on a bank holiday, so if your business operates as normal on a bank holiday, employees are not entitled to any additional payments beyond their normal days pay, unless your policy states otherwise.
  4. When it comes to bank holiday entitlement, part-time staff are entitled a pro-rata entitlement according to the hours they work. Some employers think that the part time employee is only entitled to the bank holiday if they are scheduled to work on that day and that is incorrect.
  5. As per the terms of their contract, if it states that an employee is required to work on bank holidays, they cannot refuse to work.

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Can you refuse holiday requests? 

In summary, yes! It is a common misconception that employees can take annual leave whenever they want. Employers have control over staff’s annual leave as long as they ensure they have the opportunity to use their leave.

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Managing holidays around your business’ needs

Having a system in place for requesting annual leave is a good idea to enable you to manage staff holidays effectively. Julie Pollock from Consult HR has suggested some key points you should consider putting into your annual leave policy:
  • The process the staff member should follow when they want to request holidays, who they should make the request to, how they make the request and what notice you require
  • If you have closure days that the company close during the year, set these out in your policy
  • State times during the year when staff cannot request holidays, ie peak business periods
  • How you allocate holidays, ie first come, first served basis
  • If you restrict the number of people off on annual leave at any one time, specify this
  • Specify if there are certain times in the year when you want staff to request leave or maximum periods of time that staff can take off at any one time
  • State if staff are allowed to carry holidays over from one year to the next
  • State what happens if staff have overtaken on holidays at the time they leave their employment

If you need some help with a particular employee holiday issue, get in touch here today! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook here for the latest HR news and free advice, and leave your name & email address in the comments section below to sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Are you ready for April’s statutory rates changes?

In just a few weeks, changes to statutory rates will come into effect. So what are these and how can you ensure your company avoids negative publicity for non-compliance? Here, we share the changes you need to know about, plus why 179 companies have been hit with huge fines.

The start of April is when businesses are required by law to adhere to the new statutory pay rates.

The latest list published by the government outlines 179 companies fined for not paying minimum wage to their employees. Global brands such as Wagamama, Marriott Hotels and TGI Friday’s are among the top offenders, while Northern Ireland based businesses Moy Park, Wilson’s Country Limited, QCS Contract Cleaning Ltd and Tayto were also named and shamed. The result of this has seen all 179 companies incur hefty fines, as well as being obliged to compensate workers for their shortfall.

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Wagamama is believed to have failed to pay £133,212 to 2630 workers, while TGI Friday’s owed its staff £59,348.

Reasons for underpayments include failing to pay workers for travelling between jobs, not paying overtime and deducting money for uniforms.

As well as being required by law to pay back the shortfall to employees, the named companies face fines of up to 200% of the wages owed.

Julie Pollock from Consult HR said: “Employers should not underestimate the power of the Government in this area and the compliance officers can commence an investigation and remove information from an employer’s premises with no warning. They have also taken to ‘naming and shaming’ those employers found to be in breach exposing them to negative publicity.”

In Wagamama’s case, the breach came about because the company did not provide a uniform: Wagamama’s gave staff T-shirts that they expected to be worn with a black skirt or trousers. However, by not paying for the additional items, the restaurant breached minimum wage regulations.”

Unpaid breaks, requiring staff to arrive early for their shift and unpaid time spent in meetings could all lead to underpayment of wages.

There are also warnings that employers making deductions from staff for the cost of the Christmas party could also fall foul of the law if these deductions lowered employees’ wages to less than the minimum wage.

Moreover, additional payments such as tips and service charges should not count towards wages.

Back in 2017, Argos topped the list for paying below the minimum wage because staff were expected to attend unpaid briefings and undergo lengthy security checks outside working hours.

Primark and Sports Direct were among 260 UK employers who had been named and shamed by the government for failing to pay the national minimum wage and national living wage.

The key here is to ensure that as a business, you are adhering to the new statutory rates.

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Confused by what exactly this all means? Don’t panic! We’ve laid it all out for you…

The changes are as follows:

National minimum wage

The hourly rate will increase as follows:

  • From £7.05 to £7.38 for 21-24 year olds
  • From £5.60 to £5.90 for 18-20 year olds
  • From £4.05 to £4.20 for 16-17 year olds
  • From £3.50 to £3.70 for apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship.

National living wage (for 25 years and over)

The hourly rate will increase from £7.50 to £7.83 for 25s and over.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The weekly rate of SSP increases from £89.35 to £92.05.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

The weekly rate of SMP increases from £140.98 to £145.18.

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)

The weekly rate of SAP increases from £140.98 to £145.18.

Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP)

The weekly rate of SPP increases from £140.98 to £145.18.

 Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SShPP)

The weekly rate of SShPP increases from £140.98 to £145.18.

The government takes a ‘no excuse’ approach against companies for failing to pay staff less than minimum wage and ‘ignorance of the law’ will not be an acceptable explanation for non-compliance.

Undertake a review of your working practices and make necessary adjustments to any areas of risk is the advice from Julie Pollock from Consult HR, if you want to avoid penalties and protect your business from reputational damage.

If you need some help with a particular staffing issue, get in touch here today! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook here for the latest HR news and free advice, and leave your name & email address in the comments section below to sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Love is in the air; potential problems with workplace romances

Is love in the air in your workplace? As an employer have you ever thought of the problems associated with workplace romances? Here, we get to the heart of the topic by looking at how to effectively deal with relationships in the office.

A survey conducted by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), revealed that 41 per cent of office workers have experienced a romantic relationship in the workplace. With figures higher than a lot of us probably expected, this topic definitely deserves discussion.

Here, we reveal the potential problems that can arise as the result of workplace romances and how to effectively deal with them.

workplace romances

A ban is a no-no!

While as an employer you may deem it appropriate to have an all-out ban on personal relationships at work, this is both unrealistic and a breach of the Human Rights Act. A blanket ban on romantic relationships is likely to aggravate employees, fuel the relationship and create friction between the employer and employee, not to mention the potential law suits that could arise.

workplace romances

Make it clear

Having a clear policy will ensure that everyone knows exactly where they stand. In the policy, define what you deem as “inappropriate conduct” in the workplace, which could lead to disciplinary action. It is also worth outlining a broad ban on “intimate behaviour” while at work, such as kissing, holding hands or touching. The employer is also within their rights to ensure couples keep communications at work, strictly professional, which extends to electronic communications. For example, sending and receiving emails, should not focus on subjects which are not related to work. Employees should be made aware that management have the right to monitor such exchanges and intervene if necessary.

workplace romances

Talk is cheap

Often the biggest worry about workplace romances is the exchange of information between the two parties. Employees should be made aware that it is a breach of their contract to share confidential information. This extends to discussing the proceedings in meetings, staff changes or other commercially sensitive information. Again, this is an area which can be outlined in the company’s policy, highlighting that discussing confidential matters with a partner can lead to disciplinary action.

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When love becomes heartbreak

The breakup of a work relationship often has the biggest impact on the workplace. When relationships turn sour, this can lead to a feeling of unease between the two individuals involved with the impact being felt by the rest of the workplace. And of course, not forgetting the headache it can give a manager! In order to deal with this effectively, having a rule in your policy, which states that employees should inform management if there is a change in their personal relationship, can help with this. Notifying employers gives management time to address any potential problems early, as well as reminding employees of what is expected of them in the workplace, in light of the separation.

Workplace romances

Refrain from playing cupid

It’s worth bearing in mind, that sexual harassment can take a wide variety of forms. In the employment tribunal case of Craddock v Fontoura t/a Countyclean, the business owner’s behaviour was deemed as sexual harassment after he frequently suggested that a male and female colleague should form a relationship. Despite honourable intentions, the employer’s need to play cupid between staff was unwelcome.

workplace romances

In summary, office romances aren’t always hearts and flowers. Employees are entitled to a private life, and employers should only interfere when this has a direct impact on the workplace. Consult HR can help you with your staffing problems. If you need help with this, contact one of our HR experts on 078 5808 9006 or get in touch here.

Top HR tips to beat the January blues in the workplace

This month, keep morale and productivity high, thanks to our top HR tips to beat the January blues in the workplace.

Whether it’s fact, or a mere fragment of our imagination, this year, so-called Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year –  falls on the 15th of January. Christmas is but a distant memory, the credit card bills have arrived and that next holiday seems an eternity away. All of this can leave your workforce feeling a little sluggish, which is turn can see a decrease in productivity. So what steps can you take to keep the office a hive of activity? Here are our top 10 HR tips to beat the January blues in the workplace…

January blues

TIP #1: A survey by Investors in People revealed that 44% of employees questioned said that a welcome back from bosses would increase their motivation. So on a Monday morning, kick start the working week by showing an interest in employees’ weekends; the perfect way to boost morale.

TIP #2: There’s no denying that staff like to feel part of the company and in the loop. A weekly company newsletter is the perfect way to communicate new year wishes and set out plans for a great year ahead.

TIP #3: No doubt after the festive period, staff will be keen to book their next holiday. You may find that you are inundated with holiday requests after Christmas and rather than increasing stress levels and fobbing staff off, ensure you have a good holiday request process in place. Dealing with holiday requests swiftly will make sure staff feel valued, which in turn will affect their productivity and work quality.

January blues

TIP #5: Don’t forget to acknowledge staff who have worked antisocial or additional hours over the festive period. Let’s face it – no one likes working when others are on holidays so ensure this is highlighted at their next appraisal.

TIP #6: January is the perfect time to set out your plans for the year. A recent survey revealed that 47% of UK workers are looking to change jobs in 2018. The main reason? Poor management was citied by a huge 49%. With this in mind, communication is key to retaining staff. It’s a great idea for line managers to sit down with staff to discuss the key role they play in the success of the business and how the work they carry out meets this. This should be a two-way conversation, allowing the employee to contribute their objectives too.

TIP #7: The come-down after the festive season brings with it increased stress levels and lower moods. Evidence links physical exercise to good mental health so ensure your employees can get out at lunchtime. A quick walk in the fresh air can do wonders for a person’s mood and in-turn, help them regain their focus for the afternoon’s work. And when it comes to breaks, encourage staff to take theirs away from their desk. So many people are guilty of eating while they work so ensure your office boasts a welcoming staff room, canteen etc, so staff have a place of respite to escape to for a few minutes each day.

TIP #8: Give praise where praise is due! During a time when moods are low, the easiest way to pick staff up is by telling them you appreciate the good job they’re doing. Acknowledging hard work is an instant mood booster and staff will be keen to keep the momentum going!

January blues

TIP #9: Assess employee training needs for the year ahead. Learning and self development go hand-in-hand and are the perfect staff incentive, with both the employee and the employer benefiting. Encouraging learning and development of skills increases staff retention levels and motivation.

TIP #10: Be stress-aware! Post-Christmas blues, changes in staff, performance reviews and new goals for the year ahead can trigger stress in staff. Promote an open discussion on stress in the workplace, offering advice to staff on stress management, which they can use to their advantage. Plus, ensure managers and supervisors are aware of the symptoms of stress and how best to approach it.

If it suits your business, give flexible working hours some thought. A flexi hours system can help reduce stress and has been shown to increase productivity in the workplace.

This January, use these top tips in your workplace to keep moods and productivity high.

How to avoid tears, tantrums and legal actions following your office Christmas party

Tis the season to be jolly but with the office Christmas party comes the need to keep both your employees and business safe during the festive frenzy. With a staggering 9 out of 10 businesses having had an employment issue as the result of a Christmas party, here are my top tips for avoiding tears, tantrums and legal actions this festive season.

You are invited to attend…

As an employer organising a Christmas party, you are undoubtedly responsible for the behavior of your employees at the event. When it comes to inviting staff, avoid discrimination claims by extending the invite to everyone. This includes those who are sick, on maternity leave or who may have mentioned they are unable to attend.

At the time of inviting employees, it is important to address the code of conduct that is expected of them, highlighting that social events connected with work are an extension of the workplace. In particular, staff should adhere to the Dignity at Work and Bullying and Harassment policies or indeed, these should be put in place if they are not already in existence.

The Chief Constable of the Police in Lincolnshire was held accountable for the actions of a male employee, who sexually harassed a female colleague, whilst at a pub. The Employment Appeal Tribunal in The Chief Constable of Lincolnshire v Stubbs [1999] ICR 547 upheld the original Employment Tribunal’s conclusion that “attending a public house for relaxation immediately after the end of the working day is, in our view, merely an extension of employment…”

 

Office Christmas party

It was the drink talking…

In Judge v Crown Leisure Ltd [2005] IRLR 823 (CA), a company director who attended the office Christmas party advised Mr Judge that he planned to align his salary soon to meet that of a new employee who was earning considerably more. Two years later, with no advance in salary, Mr Judge resigned and claimed constructive dismissal. His claim was dismissed in the view that the Director was merely providing “words of comfort”.

Beware of promises made. Don’t make promises about pay rises or promotions at the Christmas party. The employer here was not held to it but a different tribunal may have ruled differently. Plus, the entire affair is costly in time and money so it’s best to avoid this type of conversation outside of the office.

The morning after

As employers are obliged to provide a safe place of work, be mindful of employees who are required to work the day after the Christmas party, especially those who have to drive or operate office machinery.

Employers should make employees aware of their expectations in not returning to work the day after the Christmas party under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With this in mind, it is advisable to limit the amount of free alcohol that employees have access to at the Christmas party.

 

Office Christmas party

Secret Santa implications

Although fun and a highlight of the festive season, the anonymity surrounding Secret Santa can result in inappropriate or offensive gifts being swapped. An easy way to avoid potential problems, is to make staff aware that this practice falls under the Dignity at Work and Bullying and Harassment policies, which they should keep in mind when purchasing gifts. It’s also advisable to put a spending limit on gifts in order to ensure that all staff feel included.

Beware of social media

While many believe there is no such thing as bad publicity, a clip or photos of your office Christmas party going viral on social media, for all the wrong reasons, can bring with it much more than just a hangover. With the popularity of social media on the rise, comes an increase in the number of cases involving inappropriate use of social media sites.

To avoid this, employers should have a Social Media Policy in place, which advises employees not to place material online which could negatively affect the reputation of the employer, or which breaches its Bullying and Harassment Procedures. Employees should be reminded about the practice of social media in the run up to Christmas.

The Christmas bonus conundrum

At this time of year, it is common practice for Christmas bonuses to be given, as a gesture of goodwill. However, with the effects of the economic downturn still lingering, employers often question whether they are obliged to give employees such bonuses.

If an employee’s contact is silent in relation to this payment, it can be argued that if this has previously been a custom, it is an implied term in his/her employment contract. To avoid this, employee contracts should be very clear that Christmas bonuses are at the discretion of the employer.

 

Office Christmas party

Have fun

While this all might sound a bit Scrooge, we don’t advocate that your Christmas party should be a bland affair, free of all fun. With the correct communications and employee expectations laid out beforehand, the office Christmas party can be a great event, devoid of drama and disciplinary hearings.

Happy Christmas from Consult HR.