Do I Need A Working From Home Policy?

Working from home and Hybrid working has been a normality for some businesses for many years. However, many other businesses began working from home on a much larger scale during the pandemic. As we start to recover from the pandemic some employers have decided to ditch the office altogether whilst others have decided to opt for a Hybrid solution. 

I didn’t have a Working From Home Policy last year, why would I get one now?

Most businesses were not prepared for Boris’ ‘work from home if you can’ announcement in March 2020, but British businesses are adaptable and resilient and we rose to the challenge in a hurry. That meant scrambling for laptops and PC’s, moving documents onto a cloud and a mass rerouting of telephone lines. For many, the legal and security implications were not a consideration but we are still required to follow GDPR ( General Data Protection Regulations), Employment Law and Health and Safety Laws.

Data

You must still ensure that staff data and client data is secure. This can mean you need to consider a number of things such as:

How do staff dispose of documents containing data, will you supply a shredder, a confidential waste bin or require old documents to be returned to the office for safe disposal?

Are staff able to store documents safely in a locked cupboard?

Will they be sharing their computer with other members of their household?

Are they wearing headphones when they are having conversations which include sensitive data?

Is the email and internet usage encrypted?

Health And Safety

Employers are still responsible for the safety of staff whilst they are working from home. This doesn’t mean you need to do a daily home visit but you may well ask staff to carry out a risk assessment. At the very least you will want to ensure that they have the right chair and desk set up.

Who  Will You Allow To Work From Home?

Working from home is not suitable for everybody, some people do not have the space, the internet speed or the desire to work from home. If you are introducing working from home or hybrid working for a selection of staff then you should be able to explain why you have disallowed it for others. A working from home criteria is useful to help avoid discriminating against groups of people.

Expenses and Bills

Working from home can incur additional expenses for staff, your working from home policy should set out who is responsible for bills and expenses.

Avoiding An Us And Them Culture

If some staff are able to work from home whilst others are in the workplace you will need to make an effort to prevent an us and them culture.

You will still want everyone to feel a part of the team and although working from home has many benefits it can mean that staff miss out on general chit chat where friendships are built or they miss out on the social activities which workplaces inspire. It can also lead to resentment from work based staff who would like to work from home. Keep having regular meetings either via video link or in person and team activities to keep the team together.

How do I get a Homeworking Policy

We are able to supply you with and Homeworking and Hybrid working policy for your business. To enquire about our working from home policy contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Jemma’s experience and tips for managing teams remotely during the pandemic

This month’s blog is all about managing a team remotely. Probably for the first time in history more businesses than I care to imagine are managing whole teams remotely and whilst that can be good it certainly comes with some challenges.

At Orchard Employment Law we have always had an element of working home but it was nothing like this. We still tried to have an office day together at least once a week, however, since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the introduction of the term self-isolating, we have been working from home since 17th March 2020.

The biggest challenge was not doing the work. We try to be eco friendly where possible, our clients have always been able to contact us via telephone, email, and video conferencing. We have a CRM, a cloud storage system, electronic invoicing, and the ability to sign things electronically so we can technically work from anywhere. My preference would be a beach in the Caribbean but a few sunny days in the UK will have to suffice.

The challenge was and is keeping the team happy and motivated. Not one to do things by half, I onboarded a new member of staff at a time when we are compelled to work remotely. So I want to share some of the tips that might help other managers during this time.

 

  • Health and safety

 

For many working from home was not planned, this means your staff could be working around the kitchen table, on an ironing board or some other makeshift office space. Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees and whilst you cannot pop round to their home at the moment you can talk to them about protecting their health. One easy thing you can do is to ask your staff to complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) questionnaire. You can find this online and it is free to fill in.

 

  • Let clients know that team members are working remotely

 

This will help to manage the client’s expectations and ultimately relieve some of the pressure from you and your team. Your clients will probably understand your position and may well be working from home too.

 

  • Have daily video meetings.

 

Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, Whatsapp, Google hangouts and all of the other video conferencing apps are not a substitute for human contact but they are still very good. Most people communicate with more than just words, we use eye contact, facial expressions and other forms of body language to convey how we are feeling.

We have found that daily video meetings with the whole team each morning have been helpful in building and maintaining a working and personal relationship. 

 

  • Have a plan

 

I am not usually one to plan each day but in times of uncertainty, it is even more important for staff to have a sense of leadership and direction. I have found it useful to have a written plan for the next day. This plan is then used in the daily morning video meetings.

 

  • Understand the plan won’t always go to plan

 

Sometimes stuff happens, sometimes the best plan in the world can’t be followed through. This could be for a number of reasons. A piece of technology could fail, the internet might be slow, a client may do something different, your staff might have a personal concern or there could be a power cut.

It is ok if the plan doesn’t go to plan. 

 

  • Acknowledge that your people are people

 

This is not like being at work in the office and it is probably not like the usual working from home. The house might be full of people they live with, your staff may be trying to homeschool, the neighbors might be noisy, the dog might be barking or they could just be feeling stressed due to the pandemic.

Take all of these things into consideration and let your staff know that you are available to talk.

 

  • Be clear about your expectations of work

 

You may have acknowledged that your people are dealing with a lot of unusual external factors but the work still has to be done right?

Be clear and realistic about your expectations, this is not a chance for staff to make unreasonable mistakes, be rude to customers or to spend very little time working. If staff are struggling to work in their normal hours consider moving their hours temporarily, you may get more output early in the morning or late in the evening.

Sometimes you may still need to look at capability or disciplinary procedures.

 

  • Open your eyes to flaws in your systems and processes

 

This may be an opportunity to see weaknesses in a system that you believed was functional. Now is the perfect time to take feedback from staff on processes that could be improved to aid remote working. The chances are that it will strengthen the business in the long run.

 

  • Keep giving feedback

 

Don’t forget to provide reassurance and positive feedback when you can, it will help to boost morale. At the same time let staff know what can be improved, provide training and examples remotely if possible.

 

  • Have a switch-off time

 

Try not to contact staff on non-working days and outside of working hours. Encourage your team to switch the emails off and to divert phone calls so that they can switch their brain off from work. This will help with their mental health and stress levels.

Ask for help

We are here to help you with your queries about Employment Law, HR or general managing people. Contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog,

Jemma

Questions & Answers on Managing Staff Who Isolate Due To Coronavirus

We are all aware of COVID-19, the Coronavirus which is spreading throughout the world. We are, also, all aware of the preventative measures which we all need to be thinking about and doing in order to help stop this disease from spreading further.

Therefore, we did not want to give you another generic blog post preaching about and reminding you of all the things that you’ve already heard and read.

Instead, we thought it would be much more useful for you all to have some practical steps about what to do in your business in relation to COVID-19.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff cannot attend work because their child’s school is closed and they do not have childcare?

Answer

Just because your business is staying open and your staff are well and have not been told to self-isolate, their children’s schools or childminders may decide to close, perhaps for a deep-clean, which means that some of your staff have no childcare and, therefore, might be unable to work.

You are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work but it might be a good idea to think about what staff could do if they have no childcare.

Perhaps think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home or make up their hours on another occasion, and perhaps even allow them to bring their children into work. Of course, you need to ensure that the child in question is well and also not showing any signs of illness. They also need to be aged over 8 years old for insurance purposes. Allowing children into the workplace is a great way to give some educational, interactive and inspiring experiences to school-aged children, and also takes the pressure off their parents a bit as well.

Get the children involved in simple tasks and keep their minds occupied. But make sure that your insurance covers you when children are in the workplace.

Parent’s are also entitled to take parental leave which is unpaid leave to look after children.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff has not been informed to do so by NHS 111 or their GP but still chooses to self-isolate?

Answer

If a member of staff is showing no signs of illness and has not been advised to self-isolate by a medic, but they still CHOOSE to self-isolate, you are under no obligation to pay that staff member.

However, it is good practice to allow the member of staff to take annual leave or unpaid leave or have alternative working arrangements.

Question

If I choose to close my business down for a period of time, do I still have to pay my staff?

Answer

You are under a legal obligation to provide work for permanent staff (unless you have a lay-off clause in your contract).

If you feel it necessary to close your business premises then, if possible, you could ask your staff to work from home or another location in order for you to not have to close down completely.

If you do not have a lay-off clause and you are unable to offer home-working or provide any work then you will still be required to pay your staff their normal wage or salary.

You can also force your staff to take annual leave. However, we strongly recommend against this unless it is absolutely necessary and you must give them 2 days notice for every day you want them to take off. Of course, you could ask your staff if they would prefer to take annual leave but we would recommend that they be the one to make that decision.

Question

What is the current legislation in relation to Statutory Sick Pay and Coronavuris?

Answer

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will be initiating emergency legislation in relation to Sick Pay.

It is proposed that the new Law will allow staff who self isolate to reduce the spread of Coronavirus to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1 of isolation.

Although this is emergency legislation, it could still take up to 3 months to come into effect.

Currently, staff who are unwell and earn on average at least £118 per week are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from day 4 of illness.

Employers are encouraged to pay Statutory Sick Pay to staff who self-isolate even though the law only applies to staff who are unable to work due to illness (or medical recommendation) and not those who self-isolate by choice.

Do you have more questions?

For further advice and guidance in relation to staff and Coronavirus or any other Employment Law query, contact us on 01634 564 136 or email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Planning for changes in Employment Law for 2020

2020 is another year of changes to the world of employment law and HR. In this blog, we are talking about some of the changes that we know are already going to happen, and, of course, that much discussed and debated subject that is Brexit.

Written Statement of Terms and Conditions (Contracts)

First up, we have the Written Statement of Terms and Conditions, also known as a Contract.

Currently, an employer has up to eight weeks to supply Terms and Conditions of Employment to all employees who have been continuously employed for more than one month.

From 6th April 2020, all new employees and workers will have the right to a Statement of Written Particulars from their first day of employment. Additional information will also need to be included as part of this new extended right.

Employers will need to prepare for this change during their recruitment process and have the Employment Contract sent to their chosen candidate before ‘day one’ of employment.

Employers will also need to consider who will qualify as a worker, and issue Employment Contracts to employees whilst using a separate template when issuing particulars for workers.

 

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

There is currently no law regarding bereavement leave and pay for parents.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 is due to come into force in April 2020. However, this has not yet been confirmed.

If it does come into force, parents who suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18 years or a stillbirth after 24 weeks’ of pregnancy, will have the right to two weeks’ bereavement leave and, in some cases, pay.

We have not yet received any details of the new entitlement or those who will qualify and these will be set out in separate regulations.

However, we do know that bereaved parents will be entitled to take this leave in one two-week block or in two separate blocks of one week and that the leave must be taken before the end of a period of at least 56 days beginning with the date of the child’s death.

Bereaved parents who have been continuously employed for a minimum of 26 weeks will also be entitled to receive Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay. Parents with less than 26 weeks’ continuous service will be entitled to take two weeks’ of unpaid leave.

 

Agency Worker Rights

There are three important changes to Agency Worker Rights which will come into effect on 6th April 2020: –

  • Currently, the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 entitles agency workers to receive the same pay and basic working conditions as direct employees once they have completed 12 weeks’ continuous service working in the same role.

Under the Swedish Derogation (sometimes referred to as ‘pay between assignments’ contracts), agency workers are able to agree to a contract which removes this right.

From 6th April 2020, the Swedish Derogation will be abolished and these contracts will no longer be permissible. All agency workers, after 12 weeks’ continuous service, will be entitled to the same rate of pay as their permanent coworkers;

  • From 6th April 2020, all agency workers will be entitled to receive a Key Information Statement which sets out more clearly what their employment relationship is and the terms and conditions with their agency;
  • From 6th April 2020, all agency workers who are considered as employees will be protected from unfair dismissal and/or suffering a detriment if the reasons are in relation to asserting rights linked to The Agency Worker Regulations 2010.

 

Holiday Pay Calculations

The current way to calculate holiday pay can be complicated, especially for those employees with variable hours and variable rates of pay. The current holiday pay reference period is 12 weeks.

From 6th April 2020, this holiday pay reference period will increase to 52 weeks, meaning that employers will need to look at the previous 52 weeks where a worker has worked and received pay (disregarding any weeks when the worker did not work or where no payment was received) in order to calculate the average weekly pay.

 

National Minimum Wage Amounts

National Minimum and Living Wage amounts always change in April of each year and 2020 is no different.

The current rates are as follows: –

Age Rate

25 years and over £8.21

21 to 24 years £7.70

18 to 20 years £6.15

Under 18 years £4.35

Apprentice £3.90

From 6th April 2020, these rates will change, as follows: –

Age Rate

25 years and over £8.72

21 to 24 years £8.20

18 to 20 years £6.45

Under 18 years £4.55

Apprentice £4.15

 

Brexit

First of all, we all know that the UK is due to leave the European Union at midnight on Friday 31st January and when this happens, it is likely to bring about changes to the way the employment law world works, although any changes are unlikely to happen straight away. However, businesses will still need to be prepared.

At the moment, existing legislation and case law still applies and will continue to do so until new legislation is brought in.

Whether or not the UK is able to withdraw from current EU legislation and requirements will, ultimately, depend on the UK’s relationship with the EU and other countries. It is possible that trade agreements with other countries will be based upon some if not all, current EU employment legislation.

Any changes that do come into force will not necessarily be immediate or even significant, for the following reasons: –

  • A lot of EU employment law is based on UK legislation, meaning these will remain in place until amended;
  • Many UK employment rights, such as National Minimum Wage Amounts and unfair dismissal rights, do not arise from EU legislation.
  • In many other cases, UK legislation provides protection which far exceeds the EU minimum, for example, maternity leave and the right to 5.6 weeks’ holiday (EU law states a four-week minimum).
  • Changes to primary legislation need the approval of Parliament, and so the Government at the time of any changes will need to consider whether any amendments are politically favourable.

If you have any questions or queries about anything in this blog, or if there is anything employment law or HR related that you need help with, please get in touch with us by emailing info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk 

6 Questions Employers Should Not Ask During an Interview.

It is always important to ask questions of a potential employee. How else will you know if they are the right fit for your business otherwise?

However, you should ensure that your questions don’t delve too deep into the potential employee’s personal details. After all, you don’t want a discrimination case brought against you, even if you did not intend to discriminate.

Therefore, it is important to know what questions are a definite no-no. So, here goes: –

 

  1. Are you married?

 

Any questions about marital status, children or future family plans are simply not permissible.

Such questions are too much of a personal nature and could even be potentially discriminatory. Asking a potential employee if they are married could be seen as trying to determine their sexual orientation and this has absolutely no bearing on whether they have the ability to do carry out the job or not.

  1. Were you born in the UK?

 

Yes, you have a legal obligation to ensure that your employees are eligible to actually work in the UK. But you should not ask questions about their race, religion or native language.

A question of whether or not English is the potential employee’s first language is irrelevant, even if your employees are required to speak fluent English.

If the potential employee can speak and write in English to the standard that you require, and they can provide proof of their legal right to work in the UK, then they may well be the perfect person for your business.

 

  1. How old are you?

This question might seem innocent enough, but there are very few reasons why you need to know a potential employee’s age.

Yes, some businesses require their employees to be a certain age for legal reasons, i.e. to sell alcohol, but otherwise, a potential employee’s age should not affect their ability to carry out the job effectively.

Instead, you can ask the potential employee for their date of birth on a separate Equal Opportunites Form, but remember that the interviewer is not be allowed to see this.

 

  1. How many sick days did you take in your last job?

Questions along the lines of health, sickness or indeed disabilities should always be avoided at all costs.

The only time you may need to ask such questions is if you need to find out if the potential employee might need an assessment to establish their suitability for the job, or to establish whether adjustments need to be made in order to accommodate their needs (e.g. fitting a lift or disabled toilet).

 

  1. Do you have any previous criminal convictions?

Potential employees are not required to advise of any criminal convictions if they have already served their sentence.

Therefore, you should not ask such questions, nor refuse employment because of a previous crime. The only exception to refusing employment is if the position relates to teaching, childminding, financial matters etc.

Remember that criminal records checks can be requested from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for certain roles (e.g. working with children, healthcare etc). However, these should be requested before the interview stage.

 

  1. Are you a member of a trade union?

The Government website advises that an employer must not use the fact that a potential employee is a member of a trade union for or against them when deciding whether they are suitable for the position or not. This includes not employing them because they are a trade union member, or insisting that they join a trade union before you offer them the job.
The above questions are the big red flag ones that should not be asked of a potential employee during an interview. If you would like any further information on what you can and cannot ask or any other Employment Law query please get in touch via our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Things To Look Out For In 2019

It’s hard to believe that we are already in 2019.

This year, there are a few different changes to legislation that will come into force and which you should be aware of in your business.

There will, of course, be more new laws and other legislative amendments throughout the year, but for now, here is a summary of the changes that we already know about.

 

National Living Wage Will Increase

From April, the UK National Living Wage will increase from £7.83 to £8.21 per hour. This will benefit around 2.4million workers and is an average £690 annual pay rise for full-time employees.

Other National Wage Rate changes are as follows: –

Age Group New Rate Current Rate

25 & Over £8.21 £7.83

21 to 24 £7.70 £7.38

18 to 20 £6.15 £5.90

Under 18 £4.35 £4.20

Apprentice £3.90 £3.70

 

Income Tax Thresholds Will Increase

The tax-free Personal Allowance will increase by another £650 in April to £12,500 – this is the amount you earn before you have to start paying income tax.

This means a basic rate taxpayer will pay £1,205 less tax in 2019-20 than in 2010-11.

And the amount that someone will have to earn before they start paying tax at the Higher Rate Threshold of 40% will increase from £46,350 to £50,000 in April, meaning that there is an additional £730 for people who earn above £50,000.

However, those earning more than £100,000 will not benefit as much, or even at all.

 

National Minimum Wage For Sleep-Ins

Last year, the Court of Appeal decided that people who work sleep-in shifts, i.e. nurses and care workers, are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage for any time that they spend sleeping and are ‘available for work’ but not ‘actually working’.

A request to appeal this decision was lodged with the Supreme Court and a decision is expected in 2019.

 

Pension Contributions

The minimum contributions for auto-enrolment pension schemes will increase for both employers and employees from April.

Current legislation means that employers must contribute a minimum of 2% of an employee’s pre-tax salary, with the employee contributing 3%.

Under the new legislation, employers and employees will now have to contribute a minimum of 3% and 5% respectively.

 

Itemised Payslips

From 6th April, a person’s legal right to receive a payslip will be extended so as to include workers as well as employees, such as contractors and freelancers.

Employers will also be required to include the total number of hours worked on payslips for employees whose wages vary depending on how much time they have worked. The payslip will also need to include the total number of hours worked for variable pay rates.

 

Sick Pay and Statutory Family Pay Rates To Increase

Statutory Family Pay Rates are likely to increase to £148.68 in April. This rate will apply to Maternity Pay, Adoption Pay, Paternity Pay, Shared Parental Pay and Maternity Allowance.

The weekly rate for Statutory Sick Pay is likely to increase to £94.25 from 6th April.

 

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

It was confirmed last year that the Government will be introducing a right for bereaved parents to take paid time off work.

Under the current proposals, parents who have suffered a bereavement will be able to take leave as a single two-week period, as two separate periods of one week each, or as a single week.

They will be entitled to take such leave within 56 weeks of their child’s death.

It is expected that this new legislation will come into effect in April 2020, but employers should start preparing for it this year.

Employers may also decide to introduce their own Bereavement Leave Policy if they do not already have one.

 

Further Changes To The Apprenticeship Levy To Support Employers

From April, larger businesses will be able to invest up to 25% of their Apprenticeship Levy into supporting apprentices in their own supply chain.

Further, some employers will only be required to pay half of what they currently pay for apprenticeship training – down from 10% to 5%. The Government will be paying the remaining 95%.

 

The Annual Investment Allowance Will Increase

The Annual Investment Allowance increased from £200,000 to £1million on 1st January 2019. This will end on 31st December 2020 and will help businesses to invest and grow.

In addition to this, from October 2018, businesses are now able to deduct 2% of the cost of any new non-residential structures and buildings from their profits before they pay tax.

 

Post-Brexit Immigration Rules

What are likely to possibly be the most significant changes to occur in 2019 are those relating to the employment of EU nationals, regardless of whether a deal on the UK’s exit from the EU is agreed or not.

Once the UK leaves the EU, free-movement will end. However, it is highly likely that this will be delayed pending legislation to repeal current laws. It will also take time to put into place the practical arrangements necessary to make these changes possible.

The Government has introduced a scheme in which EU workers who are already living in the UK will be able to apply for “settled status”, in order that they will be able to continue to live and work in the UK indefinitely.

However, employers should be aware that, moving forwards, the employment of EU nationals is highly likely to be subject to the same restrictions as those involving the employment of other foreign nationals. Employers will, therefore, need to adapt their recruitment processes as a result.

If you would like any further information on how these changes will affect you and your business, please email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk We’d be happy to help.

Things that employers should be thinking about leading up to Christmas

Not long now until we start hearing Christmas jingles and seeing Christmas adverts on the TV and everyone starts talking about mince pies and mulled wine.

Of course, there are some people who think November is too early to start talking about Christmas, whilst others are literally counting down the days. And some have even finished all of their Christmas present shopping! 

We have a few tips to help you, as an employer, get through the Christmas period, and get your staff motivated and productive, instead of wishing the days away until they get a break.

Christmas Opening Hours

First of all, you should be confirming to your clients and customers, as well as your employees, what your Christmas opening hours are. If your business provides services all year round, inclusive of bank holidays, you need to start letting your employees know when they will be working in order to avoid poor attendance over the festive period.

Payroll

Secondly, start planning your Christmas payroll. Will you be paying your employees early? Does payday fall on a Christmas bank holiday? Will your employees be paid after Christmas?

Be organised in this regard to avoid delays in paying your staff.

 

Christmas Parties

Whether you are organising an official or unofficial Christmas party, it is always wise to remind your staff about what you expect from them.

Send an email or memo to your staff to gently remind them to behave appropriately, drink responsibly and arrange appropriate transport. No one wants to come back to work after Christmas without their driving licence or having to face a disciplinary over events that took place at a work party.

Also, remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas, so you need to be mindful to not exclude or discriminate against any staff members.

 

Bonuses

Many businesses reward their staff with Christmas or end-of-year bonuses and this is a great way to help staff morale.

However, we would always advise employers to have a policy in place regarding bonuses, in order to avoid being sued for discrimination or non-payment of a bonus.

This policy should state that bonuses are non-contractual and it should also clearly set out qualification terms, including that staff members must still be working for you at the time of payment in order to receive the bonus.

 

Adverse Weather

It happens every year. Snow, ice, frost and fallen trees can cause havoc on our roads and also on public transport, so much so that you could have staff who are late to work or even unable to make it into work at all because of the winter weather.

You are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work, but it is always a good idea to put things in place which allow your staff to maintain pay and also for your business to continue to function.

Think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home or make up their hours on another occasion.

If you do decide to pay staff who cannot attend work, ensure that they are told that it is an act of goodwill and is not intended to be contractual.

 

Sickness

Coughs, colds, sniffles and maybe even the flu are inevitable at this time of year, and this can mean that businesses experience higher absence levels than normal.

November and December are the perfect time to promote good hygiene in the workplace. Provide your staff with hand sanitisers, sweet-smelling antibacterial soaps, telephone wipes and keyboard wipes to help reduce germs spreading and to keep staff healthier for longer.

Now is also the perfect time to review your sickness policy and remind employees who, how and when they should contact work if they are sick.

 

Annual leave reminders

Some businesses have their holiday year starting on 1st January and ending on 31st December. If this is the case for your business, now is the perfect time to remind staff about their unused annual holiday allowance.

You do not have to allow staff to roll over their unused holiday into the next year unless there are exceptional circumstances such as maternity leave or illness. Remind staff that unless they use up their holiday entitlement, it will not roll over into 2019. As the saying goes, use it or lose it.

And believe it or not, you are also able to refuse holiday if it is not a convenient time for your business or if there are too many staff off.

That being said though, it is good to give staff time to rest so you should be reasonable when receiving holiday requests.

Many employers are also unaware that they can impose annual leave. So if your business has a down period or if your staff have unused holiday you can simply give them a day off. Remember to give notice though.

We hope that these tips help you to get through the festive period smoothly and efficiently.

But remember to have fun as well!

For any help with staffing issues, Employment Law or HR you can contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

A quick overview of Sick Pay

Although we are currently enjoying the Indian Summer we will, at some point, start experiencing cooler weather. With this, it is common to have staff off work with coughs, colds, sniffles and maybe even the flu so this month we are blogging about sick pay.

There are two types of Sick Pay and they are often referred to as Statutory Sick Pay and Company Sick Pay.

Here is a quick guide to sick pay.

Statutory Sick Pay

If an employee is unwell and too sick to work, they could be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). As an employer, it is your legal obligation to pay this to your employee.

There are certain criteria which need to be met for an employee to receive SSP, including: –

  • They must be classed as an employee and must have carried out some work for you;
  • They must have been ill for at least four days in a row (including non-working days);
  • They must earn an average of at least £116 per week;
  • They must tell you that they are sick before the qualifying deadline – or within seven days if they do not have one.

Agency and casual workers, part-time staff and staff on fixed-term contracts are also entitled to receive SSP (as long as the above criteria are met).

Of course, there are exceptions to the above. An employee will not qualify for SSP if: –

  • They have received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks) in any one year;
  • They are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay.

An employee will still qualify for SSP if they started working for you recently but have not yet received eight weeks’ pay.

If your employee has regular periods of sickness, these may be classed as ‘linked’. In these situations, the periods of sickness should: –

  • Last for four or more days each;
  • Be eight weeks or less apart.

However, the employee will not be eligible to receive SSP if they have a continuous series of linked periods that last for more than three years.

Your employee is only required to provide a doctor’s fit note (previously called a sick note) if they are off sick for more than seven days in a row (including non-working days).

Statutory Sick Pay is paid at a rate of £92.05 a week (as at October 2018), for up to 28 weeks in any one year. As an employer, you cannot pay less than this amount. However, you can pay more if you have a Company Sick Pay Policy (see below).

SSP is payable from the fourth ‘qualifying day’ (the day on which the employee is normally required to work). The first three qualifying days are called ‘waiting days’. SSP is not normally paid for the first 3 qualifying days unless the employee has been off sick and getting SSP within the last 8 weeks. Payment of SSP stops when the employee returns to work.

Remember that the employee’s period of sick leave does not stop if they are on annual leave/holiday during their illness.

If the employee has worked for just one minute before going home as sick, you cannot count that day as a sick day. If the employee works a shift that ends the day after it started and becomes sick during the shift or after it has finished, the second day will count as a sick day.

It is entirely up to you how you record your employees’ sickness absence. However, remember that HMRC may need to review your records if there is any future dispute over the payment of SSP for a particular employee.

You can no longer claim back SSP for sick leave from the Government.

 

Company Sick Pay / Contractual Sick Pay

Some companies have a Company Sick Pay Policy, sometimes called a Contractual Sick Pay Policy. In these cases, the employee’s Contract of Employment must state what the company’s sick pay policy is and how much they will be paid.

For example, the employee’s contract may include provision for payment of the employee’s normal salary in circumstances when they are off sick. Alternatively, the Contract of Employment might state that the employee will receive their normal salary less the amount of statutory sick pay.

If under the terms of the employee’s contract, contractual sick pay is not payable at all, the employee will only be entitled to receive SSP.

Why monitor sickness

Monitoring sickness can help you to identify trends. It may be that your staff member is off sick every Friday or at the end of the month.

You might find that sickness levels are related to stress or that the staff member has a disability.

By monitoring sickness levels you can reduce absences and help your staff.

If you would like more information about matters relating to Employment Law or HR, please contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

What should employers know about Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, to raise awareness of the devastating disease that is Alzheimer’s, with the aim of challenging the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 

There are over 100 types of  Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia. This year (2018) marks the 7th World Alzheimer’s Month.

World Alzheimer’s Day is on 21st September each year and 10th October is Mental Health Awareness Day.

Dementia in the Workplace

People can live well with Dementia, however, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease automatically qualify as a disability so employers need to be aware of disability discrimination. Some employers choose to have an Equal Opportunities policy, Bullying and Harassment Policy and an Anti Discrimination Policy to help prevent discrimination from occurring. It also helps staff to know what they should do if they feel they have been discriminated against.

According to the ACAS website, “More than 40,000 people under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with Dementia in the UK – and 18 per cent of them continue to work after a diagnosis. As the number of people with Dementia is forecast to increase (to over 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2051), and with a greater number of people expected to work later in life, it’s an issue that’s bound to become increasingly significant in the workplace.”

The future is unclear on the matter of Dementia in the workplace, but it is highly likely that businesses will see an increase in employees who have Dementia over the coming years, and this could become an issue because some employees may find it difficult to cope with this syndrome whilst at the same time still trying to perform their work duties. 

Being aware of the symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s and the different stages of this disease will be invaluable to both employers and employees, in order to improve the response to supporting affected employees in identifying their symptoms and moving forward and helping them to live well.

Although memory loss is a well-known symptom of Dementia and Alzheimer’s, some other early signs of Dementia could include: –

  • Loss of initiative;
  • Changes in mood and behaviour;
  • Changes in personality;
  • Problems with abstract thinking;
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks;
  • Poor judgment;
  • Disorientation of time and place;
  • Misplacing things.

With improved awareness, employers (and their staff) can reduce the likelihood of misinterpreting some of the early signs of Dementia and mistaking them for capability or misconduct issues.

The Alzheimer’s Society says that “Employers must be prepared to support … people aged under 65 with Dementia, many of whom continue to work following diagnosis …

“The Equality Act (2010) requires employers to avoid discrimination and make reasonable adjustments to ensure people with Dementia are not disadvantaged in the workplace. Employers are also obliged to consider requests for flexible working from carers under the Flexible Working Regulations (2006).

“Employers should provide appropriate support throughout the journey of a person with Dementia. As the condition advances, employees will require information, advice and guidance about finishing work.”

Supporting people with Dementia is going to be an ongoing matter for employers, but employers do have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for staff with Dementia in order that they are not disadvantaged at work.

Such adjustments could include clear signage, having quiet areas, and installing visual barriers to minimise distractions. They might also include a review of the employee’s current job description, reallocation of duties, a change of working hours, or redeployment to another position within the business.

Of course, at some point in the future, it may not be possible for the employer to continue to make adjustments to accommodate a Dementia employee, and the time may come that the employee will no longer be able to continue with their duties. However, when that time does come, employers should avoid using capability and disciplinary procedures, and should instead follow a ‘dignified exit package and strategy’.

The diagnosis of Dementia will be a difficult time for the employee. However, honesty about options over a long period of time will ease some of that difficulty and help them to continue with their working commitments as much as possible.

If you would like any further advice on Dementia and Alzheimer’s in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or give us a call on 01634 564 136.

Flexible Working Uncovered

What is flexible working?

Well, in short, flexible working is a different way of working which will suit an employee’s needs and requirements, e.g. having a flexible start and finish time, or working from home.

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers. This is known as ‘making a statutory application’. However, an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks in order to be eligible.

Are there different types of flexible working?

Yes, there are indeed different types. These include: –

1. Job sharing

This means that two people carry out one job and split the hours between them.

2. Working from home

Sometimes, it can be possible for employees to do some or all of their work from home or somewhere away from the office.

3. Part-time

I think we all know what this means, but to clarify, it is working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).

4. Compressed hours

This means that an employee could work full-time hours but over fewer days, e.g. instead of working 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday, an employee could work 9am until 7pm Monday to Thursday.

5. Flexitime

In this example, an employee can choose when he or she wants to start work and when to finish work (within agreed limits) but could still work certain ‘core hours’.

6. Annualised hours

In this instance, the employee is required to work a specific number of hours over the course of the year, but they have some flexibility about when they actually carry out that work. There can be certain ‘core hours’ which they work regularly every week, and the rest they work on a flexible basis or when there’s extra demand.

7. Staggered hours

Here, the employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.

8. Phased retirement

In this example, older staff can choose when they want to retire, and so they are able to reduce their hours and work gradually.

A flexi-time case study

Employee perspective

Orchard Employment Law’s Personal Assistant, Lucy, works part-time and does flexi-hours at home. This is what she has to say about flexible working: –

“The one thing that I dreaded about going back to work after I had my son, was that my previous employer wouldn’t be flexible about the hours that I wanted to work and also that I would potentially need to take time off if my son was poorly etc. I basically didn’t want to be held ransom or made to feel guilty because my child needed me.

I have been working with Jemma since December 2017, working from home on Mondays and Fridays and in the office on Wednesdays.

My now three-year-old toddler goes to nursery on Mondays and Fridays (and to Nanny and Grandad’s house on Wednesdays) so working from home gives me the flexibility to be able to take him to nursery and pick him up, without the worry of having to battle rush-hour traffic and potentially being late for work.

During the nursery/school holidays, I work around my son, so will do an hour here and there when he is entertained by his toys or his own books, or I start at 7am before he wakes up and in the evenings when he has gone to bed. I also sometimes stagger my hours so that instead of doing all of them on Mondays and Fridays, I spread them out over Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. This means that I don’t miss out on spending quality time with my son, but still get my hours done.

Another advantage of flexible working and working from home is that if my son (or

myself for that matter) is poorly, I can still do my work but be at home to look after him without having to take time off sick or as a holiday.

The downside of working from home is that it can get a bit lonely at times. But Jemma and I always make sure that we talk at least once a day on the phone. And when I’m in the office on Wednesdays, I actually get to speak to adults and have a proper conversation.

I also know that if I have any issues that need to be dealt with urgently, I can email, text or phone Jemma (depending on the urgency) and not have to worry that problems won’t be dealt with until I’m actually in the office.

As some of you may know, Jemma and I have an office in a co-working space in Chatham, so when we are in the office we are able to not only bounce ideas off each other but also our co-workers, who will give us their honest opinions on our ideas and tell us if they think they will work or if we should scrap the idea completely. There are also always lots of treats in the kitchen area, which is never good for the diet, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m only in the office once a week!

Even though I only work in the office once a week, I still feel like part of a team. I do think that if I was always working from home then I would feel quite isolated and not part of a team but thankfully that’s not the case.

Flexible working with Jemma was the answer that I was looking for when I decided to get back into law after having my son. Working from home two days a week and in the office once a week is the perfect situation for me.

 

Employers perspective

Prior to starting the busienss, I had experienced the benefits of working flexibly and so I knew that I wanted to use some of those principles when I became an employer. By hiring Lucy on family-friendly terms has been beneficial in many ways.

I was able to secure a high calibre employee with over 15 years of legal experience because I was forthcoming in offering a family friendly method of working. I also believe that we have less absenteeism because Lucy is able to work extra hours in her own time.

However, this way of working only works because we have the correct systems in place. We have a good, real-time computer system which allows both myself and Lucy to keep abreast of work done with clients. We keep in contact by phone regularly and we have weekly face to face meetings to discuss client updates, business development and personal development.

I would recommend flexible working to any business.

If you would like more information about flexible working or any other HR matter. Please contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk