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.


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.


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 £7.83 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 over 25s)

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

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.


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.

Starbucks Dyslexia Discrimination Case

Starbucks Found To Have Discriminated Against An Employee Who Was Dyslexic

Dyslexia is said to affect around 10% of people within the UK, but the problem for employers is that it is often seen as an invisible disability and is not detected until something goes wrong.

Recently a Starbucks employee with Dyslexia won a disability discrimination case against her employer, after being wrongly accused of falsifying documents.

An employment tribunal found that Meseret Kumulchew had faced discrimination after making mistakes due to her difficulty with reading and writing. She was accused of purposely falsifying documents after she had mistakenly entered the wrong water and fridge temperatures.

The tribunal found that Starbucks had committed several wrong doings

  • Discrimination – They discriminated against the employee because of her dyslexia.
  • Victimisation – They victimised the employee by demoting her and making her feel unable to do the job due to her disability.
  • Reasonable Adjustments – Starbucks also failed to make reasonable adjustments to help accommodate Meseret Kumulchew’s disability.

The Disability Discrimination Act covers dyslexia; therefore all workplaces need to comply with it. There are a number of steps employers should take to identify and support the needs of a dyslexic employee:


  • Understand what it is

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. Although it is more than just a literacy problem – it can also cause problems with short-term memory and with tasks that involve using sequences.  It is a condition that cannot be cured, but the difficulties it causes can be alleviated with appropriate intervention and specialist support.


  • Treat each dyslexic person as an individual, everyone is different.

Dyslexia will affect people in different ways. It is important that employers are aware of the nature of individual’s dyslexia and how it affects them in the work place. This will try to determine and help provide the appropriate support. Failure to do so will mean an employee will not be able to demonstrate their full potential in the work place.

  • Adapt your recruitment procedures. 
Completing forms is something that is feared by many dyslexic people. Therefore changes to size, style and layout of text will help with this. If an applicant reveals they are dyslexic, it is important to remember that dyslexia affects everyone differently. Do not assume you know the way it might affect their performance within a particular role. If psychometric testing or other selection processes are required, a dyslexic person may need extra time or other methods of writing or recording information.


  •  Consider training needs

Many dyslexic employees’ fail to progress within their careers because they are hesitant to undergo any further training, fearing that their difficulties will be exposed to others. Tasks such as note taking or reading training material can be a frightening process for dyslexic people, especially when they have to work quickly in front of others. It is important that trainers and line managers are aware of these issues and discuss any support options with the employee concerned. This may include the use of recording equipment during presentations.


  • Making reasonable adjustments

Once you identify that an employee has a disability, you as he employer has a legal requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act to consider reasonable adjustments.  As dyslexia will affect people differently it is important that you know how it affects each individual within your work place and make reasonable adjustments to help accommodate them. The British Dyslexia Association has determined the most appropriate adjustments that can be made for particular individuals according to their needs, wither it is written or verbal communications or time and work planning. These can be viewed in the link below.



Employers found to have discriminated against an employee on the grounds of disability could face huge financial penalties, the compensation awards for discrimination cases are unlimited.


Contact Consult HR today if you need assistance with managing a process involving employees suffering from a disability.