How Legal Are Your Employees?

There’s a lot more to running a business than ‘doing business’. You have to spend time looking after your staff too! And that involves understanding all the legal implications of recruiting, retaining and releasing staff. The law changes on a regular basis, so you really need to know what’s going on, in order to keep on the right side of the law.

Because you’re busy doing what you do, in this blog we’ll bring you a summary of some of the recent legal changes that you need to know about. We discussed them all at our Employment Law Update workshop in May. If you have any questions about particular issues and how they relate to your employees, please do get in touch. We’ll run another workshop in the autumn.

March 2015: Companions – from March this year, changes have been made to the right to be accompanied in disciplinary meetings. Employees now have the right to choose any fellow employee, and employers must agree to this choice. The employee must think about the practicalities of their choice and can change their mind at any time. The request to be accompanied does not have to be in writing, but employees must give their employer time to make the necessary arrangements for the meeting.

April 2015: Parental Leave – before this year, parental leave was 18 weeks before the 5th birthday of the child. This has been extended to 18 weeks before the 18th birthday. The right to parental leave is an employee’s right to be absent from work for the purpose of caring for a child for whom he or she has parental responsibility. Parents can use it to spend more time with their children and achieve a better balance between their work and family life. The time is unpaid and employees must have completed one year’s service with the company to be eligible.

April 2015: Shared Parental Leave – this is a new right enabling mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed. It applies to children born on or after 5 April 2015 and must be taken by the child’s 1st birthday. The basic rate of pay is £139.58 per week.

This leave does not replace maternity leave, statutory maternity pay or the maternity allowance and is optional to parents. It allows the mother to end her maternity leave early and allow the father to take leave instead. It does not replace the father’s paid ordinary paternity leave.

Adopters and surrogate parents have the same rights as others. A mother can share her leave with the child’s father, her husband, partner or civil partner, a partner living in an enduring family relationship, but not with grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews.

Click here to see a calculator that can help you work out the numbers and for more eligibility.

Holiday Pay Calculations – in a recent case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that a week’s pay, when calculating holiday pay, must include overtime that employees are required to work, even if the employer is not contractually obliged to offer a minimum number of overtime hours.

The government has introduced the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014, which limits any potential back claims for holiday pay to two years for claims made from 1 July 2015. Arrears are limited to claims in the last three months.

The following now need to be included in calculating holiday pay: compulsory overtime, semi-voluntary overtime, commission and supplements for on call and anti social hours. It applies to the first four weeks of holiday only.

There are more details here in one of our blogs.

Keep reading our blogs for news on more employment law changes that will be coming in later this year.

Take Seven Steps to Improve Employee Performance – Part Two

Improving the performance of employees is something that all employers should be thinking about on a regular basis. But what happens when someone isn’t performing as well as they could be? What do you do when one person’s performance starts to affect the rest of the team?

There is a simple seven stage process that we recommend you use in these situations. Recently we wrote about the first three steps to look at – holding informal conversations, offering support and carrying out a performance review meeting. Click here to read about them again, or if you missed them.

Here are the next two steps of the process to follow.

Step 4: Make a Decision

Once you’ve carried out the performance review meeting with your employee, you need to make an informed decision about the action you need to take, in order to improve their performance. Take your time in reviewing the situation and don’t be too hasty to make your decision. Consider all the facts and the situation.

It could be that you need to provide your employee with a clearer job description and expectations for what you want them to achieve. They might need training in order to be able to carry out their job to the standard you expect. In the worst cases, you might need to give them a warning about their performance and explain how you want the situation to improve.

Step 5: Inform Your Employee of Your Decision

Make it completely clear what decision you have made, following the meeting with your employee. Telling them face to face is usually the best way to do this, as it allows further discussion. You should also put your decision in writing, so that there is a record of your decision on file, should any issues arise later.

At this stage, it is also vital that you agree the next steps with your employee. What actions do you want them to take and by when? Explain the goals you want them to achieve, or tell them about the training you need them to undertake. Again, make sure everything is in writing.

There are two more steps that you need to follow, in order to fully tackle performance issues. We’ll cover them in a future blog. If you can’t wait until then and you have employee issues that you need to deal with now, don’t leave them to escalate. Contact us on 0118 940 3032 or email for some help and advice.

What is the Role of Employers in the Tax-free Childcare Scheme?

As an employer, you are not obliged to play a role in the Tax-free Childcare scheme as the scheme will operate directly between parents and the Government. Parents will be able to set up and pay into their own childcare accounts online, which the Government will then top up at the rate of 20%, up to an annual limit of £2,000 per child (or in the case of a disabled child up to £4,000). However, employers can choose to play a voluntary role by providing employees with information on the scheme and/or by paying into employees’ childcare accounts.

However, employers can act as a source of information on the scheme, for example by referring employees to the Government web portal for advice. A useful time to provide this information may be prior to, and on return from periods of family-related leave. This option may appeal if you do not currently offer employer-supported childcare (i.e. childcare vouchers or directly contracted childcare.)

You can also choose to pay into a childcare account for your employees, if you wish to. This could be done by facilitating payment into the childcare account on behalf of the employee. Under this option employers make the payment into the childcare account directly from the employee’s net pay via the payroll system. Alternatively, you may choose to make additional payments into childcare accounts without an employee’s net pay being reduced. In this case, the additional payment you make will be classed as earnings and subject to appropriate tax and national insurance deductions. Instead of making a series of smaller payments, employers will also have the option of making one bulk payment.

Should you choose to take up a payment role within the scheme, you would not be required to take on any wider responsibilities such as checking an employee’s eligibility for Tax-free Childcare. This would remain the Government’s responsibility.

The Government has said that Tax-free Childcare will be introduced in autumn 2015 and we’ll bring you more news when we have it. Do contact us in the meantime, if you would like to discuss this issue in relation to your business.