What Can You Do If Your Employee Goes Off Sick During a Disciplinary Procedure?

It is not uncommon, during disciplinary proceedings, for the employee in question to go off sick, whether at the start of the investigation of the charge or during the process itself. The key is for you, their employer, to manage the situation carefully, to avoid any suggestion that you are acting unfairly. At the same time you need to keep the disciplinary process intact until it reaches a conclusion.

If an employee goes off sick either when they are first informed of the disciplinary charge, or at any point during the investigation, you should continue with the investigation as far as possible, in their absence. This means that you should interview and take statements from any other witnesses to the disciplinary matter, before memories start to fade. The investigation should be completed in all respects, except for any enquiries that need to be made of the employee in question.

Seeking Medical Advice

Where the employee’s sickness absence is due to a minor or short-term condition, such as a cold or flu, this is unlikely to cause you any great difficulty. You should just wait for your employee to return to work and continue with the disciplinary process when they are back.

Where the employee’s absence seems likely to be more prolonged, you may want to get confirmation from a medical professional as to whether or not the employee is well enough to take part in a disciplinary process. An employee who is too sick to attend work may be well enough to attend an investigatory meeting or a disciplinary hearing. A medical opinion should be obtained from the employee’s GP, from a company doctor or from an occupational health adviser.

If the employee is likely to be off sick on a long-term basis and is not well enough to undergo any part of the disciplinary process in the meantime, you might have to put the disciplinary proceedings on hold and advise the employee that the matter has been placed on hold pending their recovery.

You can also invite your employee to make written submissions, rather than attending a disciplinary hearing in person, or allow them to nominate a representative to attend the hearing for them.

When is it Fair to Go Ahead?

Factors that will help you to decide whether or not it is fair to proceed with the disciplinary process without the employee include:

  • the importance of dealing with the disciplinary matter promptly
  • how long the employee has been off sick and whether or not there is any likelihood of a return to work in the near future
  • whether or not a long delay in dealing with the matter might be detrimental to other employees.

There is risk involved in holding a disciplinary hearing and dismissing an employee in their absence, when they are off sick, as a tribunal may find that the dismissal is unfair. The tribunal may consider that if the employee had been given the chance to answer the disciplinary charges, they would not have been dismissed.

How Can You Adjust the Normal Procedure?

You can adjust the standard disciplinary procedure by taking any of the measures below, which can help to encourage the employee to attend and take part in the process:

Venue – think about holding the disciplinary hearing at a venue that will reduce the stress caused or to accommodate any physical needs.

Representation – where it appears that the employee’s illness may affect their ability to explain their case, they may be represented in the process by a colleague, union official or someone else approved by you.

Written representations – where the employee has difficulty in explaining their case, you could allow them to rely on written representations.

Documentation – make sure that the employee receives all documentation relating to the disciplinary process well in advance to allow them to prepare fully, taking into account any effect that the employee’s health may have on their abilities.

Timings – matters should be dealt with promptly, but you can allow extra time for any stage of the process, including the duration of a disciplinary hearing and the need to take appropriate breaks.

The Legal Issues

The priority in handling any disciplinary process is to give your employee a fair hearing. The only way of absolutely guaranteeing this, is for the employee to attend and participate in a full disciplinary hearing.

It is therefore best if you can make every effort to adjust the process so that your employee is able to take part. Only when all the other options have been considered, should you conduct the hearing in the employee’s absence. The following principles of natural justice must be followed:

  • the employee must know what they have been accused of
  • the employee must be allowed to state their side of the case
  • you must give fair and impartial consideration to the employee’s side of the story.

Finally, the opportunity to appeal is even more important where the employee has been denied the opportunity to attend a disciplinary hearing in the first place. A full appeal hearing can ‘cure’ any unfairness in the disciplinary hearing itself, so it is in your interests for a full appeal hearing to take place if possible.

Handling disciplinary procedures can be tricky at the best of times. They are only made harder if the employee in question goes off sick during the process. As an employer, you need to make doubly sure that you follow your company procedure for the fair treatment of your employees. If you’re in any doubt about how to handle a disciplinary procedure, please contact me for some advice first. You can call me on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

How Do You Handle Employee Suspension? Part Two – What Happens Next?

In a previous blog, which you can read here, we looked at how best to handle suspending an employee. There are certain principles that you need to consider, before you can move on to other considerations. We’ll cover these in this blog.

The Length of Suspension

In line with the Acas code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, the period of suspension should be kept as brief as possible, and its continuance kept under review. Where possible, you should tell your employee how long the suspension is expected to last, and update them as to the progress of the investigation and any delays. The suspension should be lifted immediately if the circumstances of the case no longer justify it.

Pay and Benefits

Your employee should be fully paid during a period of suspension, unless there is a clear contractual right to the contrary. All other benefits should also continue unless the contract states otherwise.

The Risk of Constructive Dismissal

If you impose an unjustified period of suspension, this may amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, entitling your employee to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal. Whether or not you are in breach of this implied term will depend on the circumstances of the particular case. Suspension of an employee may put you at risk of such a claim if, for example:

  • the suspension is imposed without reasonable and proper cause
  • it is imposed in an unreasonable way
  • the suspension is unpaid, in the absence of a contractual right for it to be without pay
  • there is an unnecessarily protracted period of suspension
  • the employee who is suspended is permanently replaced.

The Conclusion of the Investigation

On completion of the investigation, you must decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action. If there is, you should follow your disciplinary procedure and the Acas code of Practice as soon as you can. It may be appropriate for you to keep your employee suspended until the disciplinary procedure is complete if the circumstances still justify it.

If no disciplinary action is needed, you should lift the suspension and ask your employee to return to work without delay. It may be that they feel aggrieved by the period of suspension, so it is advisable for you to have a return-to-work meeting to enable your employee to discuss any concerns that they may have and allow you to address these concerns. You should assure your employee that the period of suspension has not affected their position, or continued employment, and that they will not suffer any future detriment as a result of the suspension.

As with any tricky situation with a member of staff, if you have any concerns about the best course of action to take, please get in touch with me for some confidential advice, before taking any action. It is vital that you follow correct procedures. Call me on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

How Do You Manage Employee Probation Periods? Part One

By setting a probationary period, as an employer, you can let newly recruited employees know that their performance will be under continuous review during the first weeks and months of employment. It also lets them know that their continued employment is subject to them completing the probationary period. This can help you to manage the employee’s expectations and their relationship with you, as their employer.

Length of Probationary Period

The length of a probationary period will depend on the position and your requirements. A role requiring a high degree of skill and responsibility is likely to need a longer probationary period than one with limited skills or responsibility. Probationary periods are typically between three and six months.

You should set out in writing to your employee that the position is subject to satisfactory completion of a probationary period. You should also specify the length of the probationary period, how progress will be monitored and reviewed and that the probationary period may be extended.

It is important for you to set out employees’ roles and responsibilities at the outset and to go through a comprehensive induction process.

It is advisable for you to hold frequent review meetings or one-to-ones with your new employees to provide progress updates, encouragement and support and to identify training needs. If performance issues are identified during the probationary period, you should consider whether or not extra training or coaching would be appropriate, rather than leaving it to the end of the probationary period before addressing performance issues.

Statutory Employment Rights

Probationary periods have no legal status and an employee who is on probation has the same statutory employment rights as other employees. It is the length of continuous service that defines an employee’s statutory employment rights, including his or her rights in the event of dismissal.

Probationers are entitled to:

  • the national minimum wage
  • statutory sick pay
  • rights under the Working Time Regulations
  • annual leave entitlement
  • family-related rights in the same way as other staff.

Dealing with Disciplinary Issues

Employers often don’t apply their formal disciplinary procedure to employees on probation. To avoid ambiguity, where you do not want to follow your full procedure, you should make clear, in writing, in the contract and/or disciplinary procedure, that there is no contractual obligation for you to do so.

As probationers do not normally have sufficient service to claim unfair dismissal, they cannot challenge the procedural fairness of a dismissal in the employment tribunal.

However, a probationer could claim that a dismissal was for an automatically unfair reason or for reasons that amount to unlawful discrimination. Therefore, where an employee on probation is suspected of misconduct, you should investigate further before taking action. If you prejudge the situation and dismiss the employee without going through your disciplinary process and giving the employee the opportunity to explain his or her version of events, this could increase the risk of a claim of unlawful discrimination or automatically unfair dismissal. You will be in a better position to argue that the reason for dismissal was the employee’s misconduct if you investigated the matter and can show reasons behind its decision to dismiss.

Extending the Probationary Period

Where an employee has not reached the required standard of performance by the end of the probationary period but you recognise that there is potential for improvement, you might choose to extend the probationary period. The right for an employer to extend the probationary period should be set out in the contract or offer letter, which should also make clear the terms and conditions that will apply during the extension period.

The extension should be for a reasonable period, taking into account how long it might take him or her to complete an improvement plan. You should discuss your employee’s performance and why you are extending the probationary period with him or her and allow the employee to put forward any explanation for the performance issues.

The extension should be agreed and arranged before the original probationary period ends.

Sickness Absence

Sickness absence during a probationary period will need to be monitored and managed in the usual way. Where the absence is frequent and/or long term, this may make it difficult for you to assess the employee’s performance during the course of the probationary period because of their reduced attendance.

You will need to consider whether to: terminate the contract due to the employee’s failure to complete the probationary period satisfactorily; extend the probationary period to give the employee more time to demonstrate his or her suitability for the job; or confirm the employee in post regardless of the absence.

You should investigate the sickness absence to find out if it is due to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If it is, but you dismiss the employee for failing to complete the probationary period satisfactorily, they may have grounds to bring a disability discrimination claim. You would need to be able to justify your actions.

In part two of this series of blogs, we’ll look at what to do if all goes well through the probation period and you decide to keep your new employee on. If you need any advice now about how to handle probation periods, get in touch by emailing sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk or calling me on 0118 940 3032.

How Do You Handle Employee Suspension? Part One – Practice and Principles

In cases of alleged misconduct by one of your employees, in order to ensure that any dismissal is fair, you should investigate the matter to determine whether or not disciplinary action is necessary. The fairness of the dismissal depends on whether or not there is a fair reason for dismissal and, in the circumstances, whether or not you, as the employer, acted reasonably in treating it as a sufficient reason for dismissal. How you investigate the matter will be relevant to whether or not you acted reasonably.

In some cases, it may be appropriate for you to suspend an employee from work pending the completion of the investigation. However, given the serious implications of suspension for an employee, including for his or her morale and professional reputation, you must ensure that the circumstances of the case justify it, and that it is necessary to ensure a fair investigation. Suspension will not be necessary in every case.

The Acas code of Practice

The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures provides practical guidance on dealing with disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace. The code states that employers should pay a suspended employee during the period of suspension, keep the suspension as brief as possible and keep the suspension under review. You should make clear that the suspension is not disciplinary action in itself.

The non-statutory guidance that accompanies the code says that suspension may be necessary, for example:

  • where relationships have broken down
  • in cases of gross misconduct
  • where there is a risk to an employee or company property, or responsibilities to other parties, or
  • in exceptional cases, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that evidence has been tampered with or destroyed, or witnesses pressurised.

General Principles

While it is preferable for you to have a contractual right to suspend an employee, where the circumstances justify it, you can still suspend without one. You should ensure that the employee suffers no detriment as a result of its decision to suspend, and as such, the employee should be fully paid and benefit from the same terms and conditions of employment throughout the suspension.

If the contract of employment contains a procedure that applies to the suspension of an employee, you should ensure that you comply with it, as a failure to do so may enable the employee to claim breach of contract, and/or to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.

As an employer, you should not suspend an employee without just cause. It is not appropriate to suspend simply because investigative enquiries are being made, where the particular circumstances don’t require it. If it is necessary to remove the employee from, for example, contact with particular colleagues or clients, you should consider if suspension can be avoided by using a less drastic measure, for example a temporary change to the employee’s duties or department.

Where the circumstances of a case justify suspension, you should advise the employee of the reason for the suspension, how long it is likely to last, and that it is a neutral act that does not indicate guilt. You should make clear to the employee that the suspension is not disciplinary action in itself, and that disciplinary action will not necessarily follow.

You should also aim to keep the suspension and the reason for it confidential, so as not to cause damage to the employee’s reputation, particularly as the investigation will not necessarily result in disciplinary action. Where it is necessary to explain the employee’s absence, you may consider discussing with the employee how he or she would like this to be communicated to clients and colleagues; this may be appropriate particularly if the employee holds a senior position. Where the employee’s colleagues are aware of the suspension and/or the disciplinary issue, for example if they are witnesses or involved in the investigatory process, you should explain that the suspension is a precautionary measure while the matter is being investigated, and that it will not necessarily result in disciplinary action. Employees should be encouraged to treat the matter as confidential. You may wish to provide managers with a statement confirming how to respond to queries relating to the suspended employee’s absence, to ensure that a consistent message is communicated.

Think that you might need to suspend one of your employees? Call me first, before you do anything! We can discuss the situation in complete confidence, to help you make the best decision. Call me now on 0118 940 3032.

Six Common Summer Employment Issues

With high temperatures possible during the summer months, in this blog we’ll look at some employment law scenarios that you may have to deal with, as an employer.

Maximum office temperatures – The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in the workplace needs to be “reasonable”. However, there is no maximum temperature. What is reasonable will depend on the nature of your workplace and the work being carried out by your employees. Factors such as whether or not the work is strenuous or physical will need to be taken into account.

Unauthorised time off – If a holiday request is refused but your employee goes ahead and takes the time off anyway, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. You should carry out an investigation to establish whether or not the absence was for genuine reasons. If, however, there is no credible explanation from the employee, it may become a disciplinary issue and your disciplinary process will need to be followed.

Summer dress codes – It may be reasonable for you to adopt a more relaxed dress code during the summer months. However, the extent to which your employees may be allowed to dress down when the temperature rises will in part depend on the role he or she performs.

In the case of customer-facing roles, certain standards of presentation may need to be maintained. For health and safety reasons, it may be necessary for employees to continue to wear protective clothing, irrespective of summer heat.

One way or the other, you should ensure that the dress code is reasonable, appropriate to the needs of your particular business and does not discriminate between groups of employees.

Competing summer holiday requests – Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, you are not obliged to agree to an employee’s request to take holiday at a particular time, unless the employment contract provides otherwise.

If competing requests for holiday are received from different members of staff, your managers may prioritise requests, provided that they do this in a way which is fair and consistent, for example on a first-come, first-served basis.

To avoid the short periods of notice for requests and refusals, it makes sense for your business to have its own holiday policy in which you can set out your own notice provisions and other arrangements relating to holiday.

Late return from summer holiday – Issues may also arise in the case of an employee who returns late from his or her summer holiday. In the first instance, you should allow the employee the opportunity to provide an explanation. Supporting evidence, for example a medical certificate in the case of ill health, should be requested.

However, if the explanation does not appear genuine, you will need to consider following your disciplinary policy.

Summer work experience – The school summer holidays are typically a time when employers offer school-age children the opportunity to carry out work experience. You do not have to pay a child of compulsory school age while on work experience. However, all other rules and restrictions on employing young people will apply, and relevant approvals from the local authority or school governing body will need to be obtained.

Is your business ready for more heat this summer? If you need any advice regarding working conditions for your employees over the summer, just get in touch. You can call 0118 940 3032 or email me at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Source: XpertHR

Performance Management – How Do You Get The Best From Your Team?

In May 2017 I ran a webinar where we talked about performance management and what you can do to get the best from your team. We covered the success factors of performance management and what effective performance management requires. We discussed the differences between formal and informal performance management and the day-to-day issues that need to be covered. We also looked at Personal Development Plans and how you can use them to get the best from your employees. There was a lot to get through, so I thought I would share more tips here.

Performance management is fundamental to the effectiveness of your organisation, dependent as it is on your people for the goods and services that you provide. Each person can make a difference. Collectively, a workforce that performs at high levels can help your organisation to survive and prosper in a competitive marketplace.

What is Performance Management?

Performance management consists of two parallel processes:

  • the informal, day-to-day management of individuals and teams by their immediate line manager and
  • the formal framework within which the performance of individuals and teams is assessed and improved.

The two processes are mutually supportive and depend on the same factors for success. They involve:

  • monitoring individual or team performance against accepted benchmarks or standards
  • feedback on performance – both praise (positive reinforcement) and feedback highlighting unsatisfactory performance
  • ensuring that negative feedback is delivered in an objective manner and is accompanied by an explanation of why the performance is unsatisfactory, affording an opportunity for the employee to provide an explanation as well as the means to improve in the future
  • coaching, training or other support to address poor performance
  • follow-up monitoring to check that the performance has improved, with the improvements reinforced with positive feedback
  • the option to progress to formal procedures, such as the disciplinary or capability procedures if poor performance continues and represents serious cause for concern.

Effective Performance Management

Effective performance management depends on the quality of the supervisory and people management skills of those responsible for managing your company’s workforce. It requires capable, motivated managers to put the parallel informal and formal performance management processes into effect. It requires the business to have simple but effective formal performance management procedures for your managers to use. Effective Performance Management also needs effective recruitment processes that result in suitable individuals being recruited to people management roles.

In addition, your business needs good induction, and training and development systems that give individuals the skills, knowledge and experience to manage performance effectively. Incentives – psychological rewards, tangible rewards or both – to encourage the workforce to take performance management seriously must be considered. And finally, your company needs formal structures that allow it to make sure that both managers and their reports are observing the performance management policy.

As you can see, improving the performance of your people first requires effective management of that performance, with the processes and procedures to support it. Start by putting the necessary processes and procedures in place and you will be able to effectively improve the performance of your teams.

Listen to the Webinar

If you missed the webinar that I ran on 31 May 2017 and you would like to listen to it, you can hear it here. If you joined us on the webinar, you can also listen again, in case you missed anything.

When you click the link, you’ll need to register by putting your contact details into the form on the page and then you’ll be able to download the webinar and listen to it as many times as you like.

Performance Management – How to Get the Best from Your Team

In May I delivered a free webinar that covered a number of aspects of performance management and how to get the best from your team.

We talked about the success factors of performance management and what effective performance management requires. We discussed the differences between formal and informal performance management and the day-to-day issues that need to be covered. We also looked at Personal Development Plans and how you can use them to get the best from your employees.

If you missed the webinar and you would like to listen to it, you can hear it here. You need to register by putting your contact details into the form on the page and then you’ll be able to download the webinar and listen to it as many times as you like.

If you have any questions about how to improve the performance of your team, do get in touch. You can call me on 0118 940 3032 or email me at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

General Election 2017 Employment Policies

Britain returns to the polls on 8 June 2017, but what do each of the main political parties propose for employment policy?

The Conservative Party

Described by Theresa May as the “greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history”, the Conservative party manifesto promises:

  • to retain UK worker rights, post-Brexit
  • to continue the Taylor review into employment status and introduce better protections for ‘gig’ economy workers
  • to protect worker pensions better, by giving pension schemes and the Pension Regulator more powers, to prevent mergers or takeovers which may threaten pension scheme solvency, in extreme cases, and giving the Pensions Regulator the power to severely financially punish those who have mismanaged pension funds and left them under-resourced
  • working parents 30 hours of free childcare for three and four year olds, and more programmes to help people return to work after a career break. The Conservative party also aims to encourage more workplaces to offer flexible working and more parents to use Shared Parental Leave
  • to give workers a statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative and to grant a two-week period of paid leave for parents whose child has died
  • to give workers the right to request leave for training
  • to provide targeted support for 18-24 year olds to get them into work
  • to allow larger organisations to pass Apprenticeship Levy funds to smaller organisations in their supply chain
  • to extend pay gap reporting for large employers, to cover race
  • to extend the Equality Act to cover discrimination on grounds of mental health, even if this is of short term duration and would not usually qualify as disability discrimination
  • to get one million more disabled people into employment in the next ten years and give employers support to increase flexible working and digital technology to enable this. Those who have specific disabilities and who are seeking work, are being promised tailored support
  • to incentivise employers to take on people who may otherwise find it difficult to find paid work, e.g. those with a spent criminal conviction, by giving employers a year’s holiday from employer’s National Insurance Contributions
  • to require listed companies to take into account employees’ interests at board level by allowing employees to request information about the future direction of the company they work for, within sensible limits
  • to strengthen shareholders’ voting powers on executive pay and to require listed companies to publish pay ratios between executives and other staff
  • to increase the National Living Wage to 60% of median wages by 2020 and “in line with average earnings by 2022”
  • to double the Immigration Skills Charge to £2,000 a year, for companies employing migrant workers, to encourage businesses to train UK staff.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party’s proposals for employment policy aim to end the “rigged economy” and are largely contained in its 20 point plan. A summary of this and other employment policy pledges include:

  • banning zero-hours contracts, unpaid internships and umbrella companies and give those employees contractually entitled to short hours, but who regularly work more, a right after 12 weeks to a contract reflecting the longer hours regularly worked
  • abolishing the Swedish derogation loophole in respect of the Agency Worker Regulations, which currently allows an employer not to pay agency workers equally, under certain circumstances. Employment agencies and end user employers would be jointly responsible for enforcing agency worker rights
  • granting equal rights to all workers (not just employees) from the first day of employment, and shifting the burden of proof for employment status, so it is assumed a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise
  • raising the minimum wage to the same level as the living wage, which is expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020 and apply to all workers over 18, not just those over 25
  • ending the 1% pay cap on public-sector pay and ensuring public workers receive pay rises in line with inflation
  • introducing maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and for companies bidding for public contracts
  • introducing an “excessive pay levy” on salaries above £330,000. The Labour Party promises it will not raise income tax for those earning less than £80,000 but they would lower the threshold for the 45p additional rate to £80,000 and reintroduce the 50p income tax rate on earnings above £123,000maintaining the apprenticeship levy, but with more flexibility for employers on how the levy is used. The Labour Party will ring-fence more than £400 million from the levy, for small businesses and will require annual reporting on apprenticeships to ensure high quality. Targets would also be set to increase apprenticeships for the disabled and other disadvantaged groups
  • abolishing the 2014 amendments to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, which narrowed the protection of employees, during a takeover of a business
  • extending paid paternity leave to four weeks and maternity pay would be extended to 12 months
  • abolishing Employment Tribunal fees
  • repealing the Trade Union Act, and introducing collective bargaining on worker rights through unions in all different sectors. The Labour Party is committed to guaranteeing unions the right to access workplaces and would only award public contracts to companies that recognise trade unions
  • introducing legislation to make sure employers recruiting from abroad do not undercut UK staff
  • introducing 4 new public holidays, in addition to the 8 current bank holidays, to mark all 4 national patron saints’ days
  • protecting the “triple lock” on state pensions, so that they rise in line with wages, inflation, or by 2.5% – whichever is highest. The Labour Party will also amend the Takeover Code to make sure businesses have a plan to protect pensions and workers
  • making redundancy more complex for employers, in line with European redundancy models, with particular focus on ensuring redundancy against women is not unfair;
  • conducting a public inquiry into blacklisting
  • providing equalities representatives with statutory rights
  • bringing back protection against third-party harassment
  • creating a civil enforcement system to make sure organisations comply with gender pay auditing, introducing ethnicity pay gap reporting and creating a Ministry of labour to ensure that all rights are enforced
  • all existing EU law rights being preserved following Brexit. The Labour Party has also pledged that rights for EU nationals living in Britain and reciprocal rights for UK citizens living in the EU will be protected. The Labour Party has acknowledged though, that free movement of workers is unlikely to be possible, once the UK leaves the EU.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ proposed employment policies include:

  • abolishing the public sector pay cap and Employment Tribunal fees
  • creating a ‘good employer’ kitemark, covering areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name-blind recruitment (the latter of which would be mandatory for public sector employers)
  • running an independent review into setting a genuine living wage for all sectors
  • requiring large employers to publish the number of staff earning less than a living wage and pay ratios between top and median pay
  • introducing pay gap reporting in relation to gender, race and sexual orientation
  • encouraging large listed employers to give employees the right to request shares and changing company law to allow German-style two-tier boards, including employees
  • aiming to double the number of businesses hiring apprentices and the Liberal Democrats will support the growth of sector-led national colleges for vocational education
  • making sure that apprenticeship levy monies are all spent on training
  • updating employment rights to better suit modern working practices, including the gig economy
  • introducing a right for those on zero-hours contracts to request a fixed contract, and possibly introducing a right to request more regular working patterns, after a qualification period
  • making flexible working, paternity and shared parental leave a right from day one of employment and encouraging more employers to offer flexible working;
  • introducing an additional month of shared parental leave;
  • extending free childcare places to all two year olds to assist working parents
  • extending the Access to Work programme aimed at getting disabled people back into work
  • campaigning to keep the UK in the Single Market, preserving freedom of movement within the EU and failing that, campaigning for the UK to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and to make sure employment rights stemming from the EU are not undermined
  • a 1% rise in income tax, to ring-fence an extra £6 billion of funding per year for the NHS.

The Green Party

  • The Green Party believes that “the introduction of a minimum wage of £10 by 2020 is a necessary step towards tackling inequality and poverty”
  • the Green Party would also abolish zero hours contracts and would work towards a four day working week (maximum of 35 hours)
  • the Green Party proposes that 40% of all company boards should be women, to assist in ending the gender pay gap
  • the Green Party would introduce a ‘wealth tax’ for the highest 1% of earners and introduce a higher rate of corporation tax for large business. The cap on employee national insurance contributions would also be removed by a Green Party government.

The UK Independence Party

  • UKIP has said it will cut net migration to zero within 5 years by implementing a visa system for skilled workers and students and banning migration for unskilled and low-skilled workers.

The Scottish National Party

  • The SNP have said that it will expand free childcare to cover 1,140 hours per year by 2022, (around 25 hours per working week) and make sure all those staff helping to deliver this target are paid at least the living wage
  • The SNP would not allow public procurement contracts to be awarded to companies engaging in blacklisting or exploitative zero-hours contracts.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s policies relating to workers include:

  • training and recruiting 1,000 more doctors and 5,000 more nurses for the Welsh NHS, over the next decade
  • Welsh-specific visas
  • free full-time nursery places for all 3 year olds, to help working parents;
  • introducing a “real, independently verified living wage”
  • protecting up to 200,000 jobs by maintaining trade with Europe, and guaranteeing the rights of Europeans currently living and working in Wales, post Brexit.

There are clearly a lot of differences between the employment policies of the main political parties and the way in which your business will operate may well be very different depending on the result of the General Election. We will update you with the actual policies being introduced by the next government after the General Election, as and when they are officially announced. In the meantime, if you have any questions about employment law or policy, please do not hesitate to contact me.

How to Deal with an Employee’s Difficult Attitude

Sometimes, as a Manager, you might have to deliver some bad news to one of your employees. You may have to tell someone that their job is redundant, or discuss some poor performance or unacceptable behaviour. The topic under discussion may be a sensitive issue. Some employees could react negatively, by becoming upset, angry or verbally abusive. There are several things that you can do, as their manager, to ensure that the meeting remains productive.

Remain calm. It is your responsibility to achieve a successful outcome to the meeting and this can be done only if you remain calm and refrain from bringing your own feelings into play.

Let the employee ‘vent’. It is important that the employee calms down. However, allowing the employee some time to vent his or her anger or frustration, gives them space and a feeling of being listened to. They may also reveal information that may help in finding a resolution to the problem.

Remember the reason for the meeting. It is easy for the employee to veer into other topics if he or she feels uncomfortable, or is looking for excuses for his or her behaviour. To get back on track, you should remind them of the reason for the meeting and the ideal outcome.

Remember that the issue needs to be dealt with. When faced with a difficult attitude, you might be tempted to postpone the meeting in the hope that the employee will calm down. However, this can make both parties lose sight of the issue. Don’t postpone the meeting simply because the employee is not being receptive.

Inform the employee that his or her attitude does not assist the organisation as a whole. If the issue being discussed is the employee’s misconduct, you could explain to the employee that his or her difficult attitude in the meeting mirrors his or her behaviour in the workplace. This may help the employee to reflect on his or her behaviour and calm down.

Following the Meeting

After the conversation, you should keep the momentum going. Achieving a successful outcome is an ongoing, building process. Failing to keep on top of the issue may undo all the good work and may leave you having to deal with the issue from the beginning. To ensure momentum is not lost, there are several things that you can do:

  • Make sure that the employee feels supported. If the employee knows that a manager is there to support and help him or her, this will be invaluable in achieving a successful outcome to the conversation.
  • Have regular informal chats with the individual and less regular formal discussions, including a further meeting to review the outcomes or first step.
  • Ensure that what was said and agreed in the meeting is well documented. Both parties should agree that the contents of the document reflect what was agreed and thereafter refer to it if there is confusion or disagreement.
  • Monitor how the agreed actions are being implemented by the employee.
  • Comply with your obligations as to follow-up, for example providing agreed training.

Dealing with a difficult attitude or an angry or upset employee is not something that you have to handle every day, as a manager. However, if you’re prepared, if and when the situation does arrive, you’ll be in a better position to handle it. If you have a difficult conversation to have with a client and you’d like some help getting the best outcome for everyone, call me on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk and I can give you some advice and pointers.

What’s Changing in Employment Law?

Every year in April, a number of changes are made to Employment Law. As a manager or an employer, it is really important that you know about these changes and how they might affect your staff and your business. If you missed our recent workshop, where we talked through many of the changes, here is a summary of those that affect how much you pay your staff and when.

National Minimum Wage – from 1 April 2017 these have increased as follows:

  • Workers aged 25 and over – £7.50
  • Workers 21 to 24 – £7.05
  • Workers 18 to 20 – £5.60
  • School age to 18 – £4.05
  • Apprentices under 19 or in their first year – £3.50

If you need to review your pay rates, you should identify eligible workers and check the new rates which are now applicable. Work out the gross pay received during the pay reference period, including bonuses and commission but not overtime or tips. Calculate the number of hours worked, excluding rest breaks and travel to work. You will then need to pay any arrears immediately and increase the worker’s pay to the minimum wage level or higher. Make sure that you keep records of changes in pay, as it your responsibility, as the employer, to prove payment. HMRC have the right to check at any time, to ask to see records and to order payment of arrears.

Statutory Redundancy Rates – the maximum week’s pay for the purposes of calculating a statutory redundancy payment increased to £489 on 6 April 2017. The maximum number of years of employment that can be taken into account is 20. From 6 April 2017, the maximum statutory redundancy payment that an employee will be able receive is £14,670.

Statutory Maternity Pay – from 2 April 2017, statutory maternity pay after the first six weeks of maternity leave increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate.) The lower earnings limit also increases to £113 in April 2017.

Statutory Paternity Pay – Statutory paternity pay increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate) on 2 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. Paternity pay is available to a person of either sex in an adoption situation, and to the spouse, civil partner or partner of either sex of the biological mother of a child.

Shared Parental Leave – Statutory shared parental pay increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate), on 2 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. The shared parental leave and pay depends on the amount of maternity leave and pay that the mother takes, and the amount of shared parental leave and pay that the other parent takes. Shared parental leave and pay is also available in an adoption situation. Each parent claims shared parental leave and pay from his or her own employer. Parents must satisfy individual eligibility requirements and joint eligibility requirements.

Statutory Sick Pay – the rate of statutory sick pay increased to £89.35 a week on 6 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. If the employee’s average earnings before deductions, such as tax and national insurance, are equal to or more than the lower earnings limit (currently £112), they will be entitled to £88.45 a week. Although the rate of statutory sick pay normally increases on 6 April, the rate did not rise on 6 April 2016. This rate has therefore applied since 6 April 2015.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting – from 6 April 2017, companies and employers in the private and voluntary sectors with 250 or more employees are required to publish gender pay gaps. These must be published annually on the organisation’s website and uploaded to a Government-sponsored website.

Apprentice Levy – on 6 April 2017, this levy was introduced, to be paid via PAYE. The levy will be 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill, although employers will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against payments. It applies to employers with a pay bill over £3 million. The Digital Apprenticeship Service will distribute funds raised by the levy. The levy is being used to fund the cost of apprenticeship training and assessment through co-investment, up to 90% of agreed price. Employers with 50 or fewer employees can receive 100% of the cost if they take on apprentices aged 16-18 (or 19-24 who have previously been in care, in local authority education or on a health and care plan.)

A number of other changes are being made to Employment Law this spring, which we’ll cover in some of our blog posts, which you can read here. If there are any issues that you would like to know more about, please contact us for a confidential chat. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

How Can You Improve Employee Performance for Free?

Employee performance is something that I am asked about on a regular basis. How do you manage it? What’s the best way to improve it? To help answer these questions and any specific ones that you have, I am running a free webinar at 11am on Wednesday 31 May 2017. It will last for around one hour, to give you plenty of time to ask any questions that you have. Book your place online now so that you don’t miss out. Click here to reserve your place.