Do You Know What the Latest Employment Law Changes Are?

April is the time of year when certain employment law changes come into effect. It’s important to ensure that your business is up to date with legislation. This can be difficult, especially if you don’t have an HR department. Highlighted here are some current and soon to be implemented changes that might affect your business.

Pensions and Auto-Enrolment Minimum Contributions

It’s important to remind your staff that this month, there will be a mandatory increase in contributions. Employers will need to contribute a minimum of 2%, and employees 3%, providing a total minimum contribution of 5% per month.

Statutory Rates

Most years, the Department for Work and Pensions proposes new rates for statutory payment in line with the Consumer Price Index. This year, 2018, the rates are as follows:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) – paid at a rate of 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, the remaining 33 weeks are paid at the statutory rate (or at 90%, whichever is lower). From 1 April 2018, the statutory rate increased from £140.98 to £145.18 per week.
  • Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) – will also increase from £140.98 to £145.18 per week.
  • Maternity Allowance – payable for those who don’t qualify for SMP payment, this will also increase to £145.18 per week.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – as from 6 April, the rate will increase from £89.35 to £92.05 per week. You can offer more if you have a company sick pay scheme, but you cannot offer less.

The amount that your employees must earn to be entitled to these rates is also increasing from £113 to £116 per week. Employees earning less than this will not be eligible.

National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates

As from 1 April 2018, the minimum hourly rates have increased slightly to the following:

  • NLW for employees aged 25 and over increased from £7.50 to £7.83
  • NMW for those aged 21-24 increased from £7.05 to £7.38
  • NMW for those aged 18-20 increased from £5.60 to £5.90
  • NMW for those ages 16-17 increased from £4.05 to £4.20
  • NMW for apprentices aged under 19, or over 19 but in their first year of apprenticeship, increased from £3.50 to £3.70

Changes to Tax on Payments in Lieu of Notice (PILONs)

As from 6 April 2018, an element of all payments received in connection with a termination of employment are chargeable to income tax as general earnings. Whereas previously, if you didn’t have a contractual right to make a PILON, any payment made in respect of an employee’s notice entitlement was regarded as ‘damages for breach of contract’ with the first £30,000 paid tax-free, with no NICs due. For further information on this, click here.

Employment Tribunal Maximum Awards and Limits

With immediate effect, the maximum amount of a week’s pay to calculate the basic award for unfair dismissal or a redundancy payment increases to £508. The maximum amount of the compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases to £83,682.

And finally, GDPR!

With all the publicity and hype around this topic, you are probably aware that the new GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations – come into effect on 25 May. To find out more about this from an HR point of view, read my newsletter here.

If you need advice on how any of the above relates to your business specifically, I’d be delighted to help. Do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Are You Sitting (too) Comfortably?

This guest blog was written by Karen Ambrose of the Karen Ambrose McTimoney Chiropractic practice.

 

According to some research that I read about towards the end of last year, people who work in offices are thought to be ‘dangerously sedentary’, sitting more than people over the age of 75.

Some experts say that sitting down is as bad for us as smoking, while others tell us that standing up too much is also bad. So how much sitting is too much, and what are the alternatives? What should we do to stay healthy and mobile?

What’s so bad about sitting?

You might think that sitting for too long is bad for your muscles and posture, and this is true. Sitting puts a strain on your back, hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your thighs), neck and shoulders. It also causes the gluteal muscles in your bottom to wither, especially if you slouch in your chair.

However, scientists are also worried about what happens inside your body when you sit for too long. After 90 minutes of sitting, your metabolism dramatically winds down and cells aren’t operating at a high enough level to keep your system ‘oiled’. It has been likened to turning off your heating in the summer. When you turn it back on again as the evenings get cooler in the autumn, you worry about the system creaking, or corrosion in unused pipes causing leaks. It’s the same when you sit for a long time – your ‘system’ is essentially turned off. This affects every structure in your body, from brain function to blood flow. After just an hour of sitting, your arteries’ ability to expand is impaired by 50%. This is one of the earliest markers for heart disease and strokes, along with high blood pressure. If you spend a long time sitting, your insulin levels can also be high, which means that you are at higher risk of diabetes.

You don’t even have to be overweight to be at risk, although it makes it worse. A study of older women found that sitting for more than 10 hours a day meant their bodies were biologically eight years older!

You might not have heard of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, but it plays a crucial role in breaking down fats and sugars in your body and sending them to your muscles to be burned off. Your body can’t produce it while you’re sitting down because you’re not using your muscles. Just standing up is enough to activate it.

German researchers have also shown that the risks of some cancers – bowel, womb lining and lung – increases with every two hours that you spend in a chair.

How much is too much?

The research being carried out into the effects of sitting for too long are in their early stages, but what has already been seen is that the problems start to show themselves if you sit for more than 60-70% of your working hours. So if you sit for more than seven hours a day in total, you will be harming yourself. There is a scaling down effect if you sit for less time.

A report by Public Health England concluded that office workers should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day. An Edinburgh University study revealed that middle-aged office workers sat for 7.8 hours a day, which compared to 7.4 hours for people over the age of 75, which researchers say is far too much. They also recommend that you shouldn’t sit for more than an hour at a time. Standing up is enough to engage your muscles just enough to activate your whole system – your brain, your metabolism, your nervous system. Because you’re on your feet, you are more likely to be doing some light movement too. So before you read on – get up and move around or make yourself a cup of coffee before you come back to read the rest of this!

What about standing up?

So does this mean that you should spend more time standing up, instead of sitting at your desk? Not necessarily. Studies into sedentary behaviour shows that people assume they’re being told to stand up all the time rather than sit down. But that’s bad for you too as it brings with it a danger of varicose veins and feet and joint pain.

What’s important is getting a balance between sitting, standing and moving through your day. ‘Binge sitting’ for hours on end is very bad for you and must be broken up. You could invest in a desk that moves up and down, depending on whether you want to work sitting down or standing up. Or you could take regular breaks and go for a short walk. Other leading researchers recommend that in every hour, you should spend no more than 40 minutes sitting down, 15 minutes standing up and 5 minutes moving around. It’s not always possible to do this, but what’s important is to have a go and be aware of how much time you spend sitting. Going for a brisk walk at lunch time will certainly help. You can also change the way that you work, so instead of emailing a colleague, get up, walk across the office and speak to them.

If you find yourself sitting in front of the TV for hours at the end of the day, try getting up during the ad breaks and putting the remote control out of reach so that you have to move. Balancing (carefully) on first one leg and then the other while you’re doing the washing up is a way of stretching and moving more. See how creative you can be with this!

I’m lucky in my job in that I don’t spend much time sitting down. I’m on the move all the time that I am treating each patient. I notice a big difference in my energy levels and muscle stiffness when I have an admin day at my computer, so I make sure that I keep moving – even if it’s just to get up, stretch and make a cup of tea. If you have any stiffness that won’t go away, don’t let it get worse – come and see me and we’ll talk about what treatment will help.

The Karen Ambrose practice is based in Harwell, Oxford. For further information, email Karen@karenambrose.co.uk or telephone 07734 872318.

 

How Do You Discuss Performance in a Positive Way during Appraisals?

Following on from my previous blogs on appraisals – What are the Benefits of Appraisals and Preparing for an Appraisal Interview – I thought it would be helpful to go into further detail about how to deal with an employee’s performance in a positive way during an appraisal. This is especially important if there are negative issues and room for improvement.

It’s important that you are realistic about capabilities and can provide both positive and negative feedback in a positive manner. Negative feedback should be provided in a way that shows that you understand that your employee may need further training, or may have other issues that could be impacting their work. Give them an opportunity to speak freely. This allows them to feel understood, validated, and gives them the opportunity to agree to improvement in the areas needed.

Many people find the thought of these conversations daunting, mainly because it is hard to predict how an employee will respond to negative feedback, unless you know them very well. Here’s some advice on how to handle difficult conversations. Once you’ve learnt these tips, you should find it much easier to have those tricky conversations.

Before the appraisal interview, prepare as much as possible. Ensure you have the following factors listed below in a document that you can store in your employee’s HR file – ideal for measuring improvements over the years.

These factors should be properly defined and used for quantifiable evaluation, which you can share with your employee at each meeting, motivating them to make the necessary improvements. By providing this clear, regularly updated information, appraisal meetings will be far more focused and productive.

Factors for assessing employee performance
 

Job knowledge

 

How in depth is the employee’s understanding of the job? Do they have complete clarity on their responsibilities and the procedures associated with the role?

 

Quantity of work output

 

This can include, for example, promptness in completing allocated tasks, and their reliability in meeting deadlines.

 

Quality of work

 

How clear and accurate is their work? How much supervision is required? Do they effectively meet their objectives?

 

Planning and organisational skills

 

How effective is the employee’s ability to plan and prioritise their work effectively, coordinate different elements of the work, and delegate where appropriate?

 

Ability to learn and develop

 

The speed at which new duties and/or skills are mastered are key to their capabilities, as is the employee’s perceived willingness to learn new things. Consider additional training if there is a weakness.

 

Paperwork

 

How accurate and timely is the employee in the completion of reports and other relevant paperwork?

 

Communication skills

 

Is the employee’s written (including e-mail) and verbal communications with colleagues, superiors, subordinates and/or customers clear, accurate and effective?

 

Working relationships

 

How good is the quality and effectiveness in both working as a member of a team, and their relationships with colleagues and/or customers?

 

Motivation

 

Is the employee’s level of enthusiasm for his or her work noticeable? And how willing is he/she to take different tasks on board, or make extra effort, when asked?

 

Initiative

 

Check on their ability and willingness to come up with constructive ideas, offer suggestions and take responsibility.

 

Supervisory ability

 

 

Where relevant, how effective is their ability to manage, motivate and lead staff effectively?

 

Performance Ratings

Appraisal schemes should contain a system of performance ratings – a scale on which each employee is graded, based on the factors listed above. A grading scheme might run from 1 to 5, with 5 representing outstanding performance, 3 representing competent performance, and 2 or under representing performance below the required standard.

Where such a system is in place, line managers may find themselves challenged by employees who believe that their ratings should be higher than those awarded. Where there is a difference of opinion, you should discuss with your employee:

  • why the employee was graded at the specified rating, backed up by evidence of how the rating has been arrived at; and
  • why the employee believes that he or she should be more highly graded.

Ask your employee to give specific reasons to justify their belief. You need to be prepared to listen to your employee’s point of view, remaining open-minded about the ratings until the interview has been concluded.

Finally, try to remain positive and supportive throughout the appraisal. Use positive words as much as possible, such as ‘improvement’ and ‘achievement’ rather than ‘failure’ and ‘weakness’. Be aware of your body language so that you don’t alienate your employee. Remind them that you all want to achieve success together – their proactive approach to working to the best of their ability and more helps both the business and them as individuals to have a far more successful future.

If you need any help with carrying out appraisals and performance assessments, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

 

 

How Do You Find the Best People to Join Your Team?

Recruiting new staff is a great way to grow your team and build a stronger business, but what’s the best way to find the people you need? How do you avoid the pitfalls of making expensive recruitment mistakes that you might later regret?

The first mistake that many people make when starting a recruitment process is not putting enough time and effort into compiling a job advert. When you’re doing this, you should look at the advert from the perspective of potential employees. Whether they are searching online or looking at printed job adverts, people looking for a job typically start with two elements in a job search: job title and location.

Job Title – the title of a job advert could be the only information that a potential employee reads about your vacancy. This means that you need to use multiple words in the title of the job posting, so that there are more opportunities for candidates to find the advert when searching online job sites. If you’re using printed adverts, you should still make the job title as long and descriptive as you can. 

Location – you need to show the country, region, county and city or town of the location of the position you’re looking to fill. Many people looking for a new job look within a 30-minute commute of where they live, whether they’re searching online or looking at printed adverts.

Once you’ve written a clear job title and location, here are the next elements of the advert to consider:

Summary of the job – the first paragraph of the advert should encourage people to apply for the job. Make it compelling and interesting rather than just a list of tasks. 

Job description – this should set out the responsibilities of the job, along with the qualifications and competencies required for the role. It should outline the essential and the desirable skills and the competencies, as bulleted lists. This will make it easier for suitable applicants to recognise the match between their own attributes and the requirements for the role.

Job specifics – you need to include important information about whether or not the vacancy is full or part time, the provisional start date, the salary range, company benefits, the formats in which you will accept CVs and the application deadline. 

Contact information – it is good practice to include as many contact details as possible. Include your company website, email address (with a real contact name, rather than info@) and the direct phone number and postal address for a member of the recruitment team. 

Unique job code – every job advert, whether online or in print media, should have a unique reference number to allow you to track the activity generated by it and see which advertising is most effective.

A Word on Layout for Job Adverts 

The content of any job advert should flow in a logical order and contain line breaks to help people to find the relevant information quickly and easily. You should place general information about the company at the end of the advert to avoid confusing the search engines (for online adverts) and so that the critical content for which candidates are looking can be found easily and quickly.

Where Should You Advertise? 

  1. Printed Recruitment Adverts

The growth of online commercial job boards led to predictions about the demise of job advertising in traditional print media, such as national and local newspapers, trade journals and the specialist press. Many national newspapers have either launched their own online job listings or purchased a job board, while local print media often advertise vacancies on aggregated advertising provider sites. The job-board sector has taken over a significant proportion of recruitment advertising revenue and print media no longer dominates as most recruiters’ preferred job advertising channel.

However, depending on the role you are looking to fill, advertising your vacancies in traditional print media has some advantages over online job advertising:

  • A printed job advert has the potential for a longer shelf-life than an online one as it can remain visible to a prospective applicant for as long as they keep the publication. For specialist magazines, this can be weeks or months.
  • Print advertising offers scope for you to be more creative with your campaigns in comparison with most online advertising, which often consists of little more than blocks of text with logos or limited use of images.
  • A positive perception of newspaper job advertising remains, with potential applicants believing that a company that uses print media is serious about recruiting for the role.
  • A recruitment campaign in a respected publication can provide your company with a good opportunity to promote and build your employer brand.
  • For certain types of recruitment, such as a graduate recruitment campaign, a printed brochure with colourful imagery and great content can help to promote your brand above and beyond the immediate recruitment campaign.

The main disadvantage of relying on print media for recruitment is the cost. Print media is significantly more expensive than online channels and is based on the advertising space acquired. There could be extra costs for design, graphics and copywriting. Think carefully about where is best for you to promote your job vacancies, based on where your ideal candidates will look. You need to put your adverts where the highest number of the right sort of people will see them.

  1. Using Your Company Website

Many jobseekers research potential employers by visiting their company website to find background information on your operations, products, services, financial performance, locations, press coverage and job opportunities. Ideally, your company should have a dedicated job section within its website.

  1. Online Job Boards 

Promoting vacancies on commercial job boards has several advantages compared to advertising in other places, including: 

  • You can update the content of the job advert immediately yourself
  • Job board adverts are visible online around the clock and from any location
  • They can bring you a large, diverse audience across multiple generations and socio-economic sectors
  • They cost much less than traditional print advertising. A typical job board advert costs from £50 to £300 for 30 days’ advertising (at the time of writing)
  • Online adverts can deliver quick responses from applicants, speeding up the recruitment process. 

There are some disadvantages associated with job board advertising. A job board posting may generate a high response rate from potential candidates and it could take substantial time and resources for you to process candidate responses. Make sure you have staff ready and able to handle all the applications.

  1. Social Media

Social media recruitment involves you using social and professional digital platforms to promote vacancies and enhance your recruitment process. Typically, social media recruitment supplements, rather than replaces, other ways of attracting candidates.

The most common way for companies to use social media is to promote themselves as an employer, either by driving applicants to their company or careers website, or by developing the company’s page on a social media platform such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

Direct job advertising is another popular way in which you can use social media when hiring staff. The most common approach is to use paid-for, as opposed to free, job advertising. The ability that social media provides for companies to make lasting connections with successful and unsuccessful candidates makes it a good tool for attracting candidates and recruitment in the long term.

There are many ways in which you can search for the best candidates for your job vacancies. Take the time to plan your recruitment campaign and write the best advert that you can, so that you can place it where the best candidates will see it and you will have the best chance of finding the people you are looking for.

For more specific advice on finding the best people for your own team, click here to email me or call me 0118 940 3032.

How Do You Decide on an Appropriate Disciplinary Penalty?

When you are considering what sanction to impose under a disciplinary procedure, as an employer you must ensure that your decision is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.

If the decision does not meet this test, you may be exposed to a claim for unfair dismissal if your employee is dismissed; or a claim for constructive unfair dismissal if your employee resigns in response to the sanction applied.

Once you have reached the decision that an act of misconduct has taken place, there are a number of factors that will influence the next decision as to which sanction it should apply. When considering which penalty would be appropriate in the circumstances, you should take into account the nature of the act of misconduct, the seriousness of its consequences and whether or not the misconduct has occurred repeatedly or is a one-off incident.

Verbal Warning

A verbal warning would be appropriate when dealing with the first occasion of minor misconduct, such as lateness, sub-standard work, appearance/a failure to comply with the dress code, a failure to follow the requirements of the sickness absence reporting procedure or excessive personal use of your email, telephone or internet systems.

First Written Warning

A first written warning is appropriate where further instances of minor misconduct occur after a verbal warning is given, or when you are dealing with the first instance of more serious misconduct, such as:

  • unauthorised absence
  • a failure to carry out a reasonable instruction
  • inappropriate behaviour towards a colleague or customer
  • breaches of the your policies and processes, such as minor infractions of the health and safety policy, or breaches of the email and internet policy or
  • misuse of company property or equipment.

Final Written Warning

A final written warning should be issued for persistent acts of misconduct where you have already issued the employee with warnings or for a very serious act of misconduct that falls short of gross misconduct, for example:

  • persistent lateness
  • further breaches of the your policies and procedures following a written warning
  • persistent unauthorised absence or
  • serious breaches of health and safety rules, even if the incident is a one-off event.

Dismissal with Notice

The ultimate sanction for misconduct or poor performance is dismissal. When taking the decision to dismiss, you must demonstrate that dismissal in the particular circumstances falls within the ‘band of reasonable responses’. This means that you must demonstrate that a ‘reasonable’ employer could have reached the same decision.

Dismissal with notice is likely to be appropriate where a final written warning has been issued for misconduct or poor performance and further acts of misconduct take place or performance does not improve. The final act of misconduct may not be sufficient on its own to amount to gross misconduct, but would justify dismissal when taken together with earlier acts and a failure by the employee to improve or modify his or her conduct.

Dismissal without Notice

In most cases dismissal for a first offence will be appropriate only where the conduct amounts to gross misconduct. Gross misconduct can also justify dismissal without notice. Gross misconduct will arise where the act is so serious that the employment relationship between you and your employee has been irreparably damaged. You should consider carefully whether or not there has been a genuine breakdown in the trust and confidence between the company and the employee. Such a breakdown might occur where you can no longer have confidence that your employee will carry out their duties with honesty and integrity or will perform their role without causing loss or damage to customers or the company. Whether or not a specific act amounts to gross misconduct will depend on the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the employer’s business. Examples of gross misconduct include:

  • fighting or physically threatening behaviour
  • insubordination (a single act is unlikely to be gross misconduct but dismissal may be justified if, for example, the act is accompanied by offensive language)
  • discriminatory conduct, for example racially offensive language
  • theft or fraud
  • acts of dishonesty, for example falsifying time sheets or
  • a breach of the employer’s drug and alcohol policy.

Your Disciplinary Policy

Your staff handbook or disciplinary procedure should list acts that will be regarded as gross misconduct, but it should explain that employees can also be summarily dismissed for something that is not on the list, if this is reasonable in the circumstances. Where disciplinary rules have made it clear that particular conduct will lead to dismissal, it is more likely that the dismissal will be fair.

When did you last check your staff handbook and disciplinary procedure? If they are not fully up to date, get in touch to see what needs to be done to update them. If you have any questions about disciplining or dismissing an employee, call me 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

What Do You Do When a Member of Staff Becomes Disabled?

This guest blog has been written by Roland Chesters from Luminate, a Disability Development Consultant.

Despite the high number of people living with disabilities in the UK, many organisations have still little experience of working with someone with a disability. Too many people just don’t know what to do when a member of staff becomes disabled. They don’t know how to work with and look after that person, or how to meet their legal obligations as an employer.

While every situation will be different, depending on the person and their disability, there are some basic guidelines that you need to follow. I want to share them with you in this post.

Without wanting to sound too obvious, the first thing that needs to done is talk to the member of staff who has become disabled. After all, it’s they who know best how the disability will affect them and their work. Their manager will need to have as many confidential, confidence building conversations as they need, about how to help them to get back to full productivity as soon as possible. Line managers should resist the urge to rush to the internet to find out as much as they can about the disability; the only thing they need to do at this stage is to ask the person with the disability what they need.

The next stage of the process is for the manager to liaise with your HR department, or an Occupational Health specialist, about any adjustments that are needed to help the disabled member of staff to perform at their best. Some of these adjustments might be visible, such as different working hours or equipment that is needed, which can cause other members of staff to start asking questions. “Why is that person coming in later than everyone else?” or “Why does she have a new chair?” Remember that line managers are not allowed to talk to other members of staff about this particular person’s disability – it is up to them to discuss it with their work colleagues, if they want.

#Tip: For SMEs that don’t have Occupational Health advisers or who can’t afford them, the Fit for Work service is a free resource. The service offers free health and work advice through its website and telephone advice line, to help employers with absence prevention. It also provides free referrals for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached, or whose GP expects them to reach, four weeks’ sickness absence.

It’s really important that managers keep communication channels open with someone who has a disability, to make sure that future adjustments can be made if they are needed. Situations change and people adapt to living with disabilities, so managers need to remain supportive and aware of how a disabled member of staff is performing and managing.

How do managers answer questions from their staff about the visible changes to working conditions that they can see? Since managers are not allowed to discuss the details of the disability with other people, the best way to handle it is to just let them know that it’s a confidential matter that has been agreed between the line manager and the individual member of staff.

When someone at work becomes disabled, the organisation needs to assess the impact of the cost of making changes to accommodate that person and the cost of the functioning of the business. They also need to be aware of their legal obligations. However, it’s just as important that managers remember that at the end of the day, they’re dealing with a real person, who has thoughts and feelings. Talking to them about their disability is the best way to find the right solution for everyone, to make sure that they can carry on doing their best for the business.

What is a disability?

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination where they work, as well as in the wider society in which they live. It protects people from discrimination against them, on many grounds (such as age, sex and race), as well as disability. According to the Act, a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The Act states that employers are legally bound to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.  You can find out more about the Act and your legal obligations here.

#Tip: If you have a disability, remember that your employers cannot make adjustments for you until you tell them about your disability. Your boss is not a mind reader!

What are reasonable adjustments?

The average cost of reasonable adjustments per individual is about £75. In many cases these adjustments are simple and inexpensive or even free. What may seem like little changes can have a profound impact in allowing your employees to maintain productive working lives.

Examples of possible reasonable adjustments are:

  • Providing flexible work hours or a phased return to work (flexible, part-time hours)
  • Allocating a ground floor workstation to an employee who uses a wheelchair, or providing a lift or ramp
  • Providing equipment which is suited to the individual, such as a louder phone for an employee with a hearing impairment, or a special keyboard for an employee with arthritis
  • Allowing an employee with social anxiety disorder to work at a designated desk, rather than hot-desking
  • If an employee has a particular phobia, removing such items from the work area
  • Consider job sharing to help reduce the workload.

Factors which may affect what is considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’ include:

  • the extent to which taking the step would prevent the effect in question
  • the extent to which it is practicable for the employer to make the change
  • the financial and other costs which would be incurred by the employer in making the change
  • the extent to which making the change would disrupt any of the employer’s activities
  • the extent of the employer’s financial and other resources
  • the availability to the employer of financial or other assistance with respect to making the adjustment
  • the size and type of business.

#Tip: In situations where an individual requires assistance which is beyond reasonable for the employer to provide, you may consider getting support from Access to Work. This is a government-run programme which helps disabled people to get into or retain employment. The programme provides advice and practical help in assessing the disability needs of a person in the workplace. It may offer financial support towards any costs which are beyond the reasonable adjustments that the company is obliged to provide.

If one of your members of staff has a disability and you think that you might need to make adjustments for them, do get in touch and we can talk about it. Click here to email Roland or call him on 07752 518 925.

Preparing for an Appraisal Interview

While you might not look forward to carrying out appraisals with your employees or members of your team, they are a very good way to keep track of performance and to make sure that staff are working happily and productively.

If appraisals are to be successful in motivating employees and enhancing job performance, it’s essential that you plan and conduct effective appraisal interviews.

Preparation for an appraisal interview is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process.

Keeping the Necessary Records

You must have the necessary facts about your employee’s performance before you when you carry out an appraisal interview. Since they are generally conducted once a year, and no manager has a perfect memory, you should make records throughout the year of instances when your employees have performed well, adequately or badly.

Doing so will provide specific, factual examples of job performance for you to discuss with each employee during the appraisal interview. Without such evidence, the appraisal interview may turn into a haphazard chat based on generalisations – which is neither meaningful or constructive.

Having specific examples will be particularly important if you need to discuss aspects of an employee’s performance that are not wholly satisfactory. This will act as a starting point for discussion on why performance was not satisfactory in the particular area and what can be done to achieve an improvement in the future. Without concrete examples, your employee may not accept your claim that their performance was unsatisfactory and they may become defensive.

Checklist for Appraisal Interview Preparation

If you fail to prepare properly for an appraisal interview, the employee being interviewed will quickly sense and resent this.

Dos and don’ts:

  • Do review the job description and the previous year’s appraisal report to check the job duties and responsibilities and what was said at the previous year’s appraisal.
  • Do talk to other managers or supervisors – and peers where appropriate – with whom the employee has been working during the year to obtain factual feedback on performance.
  • Do think through what aspects of the employee’s performance are to be discussed and identify specific examples of both good and not-so-good performance.
  • Do be prepared to back up any criticism with facts and examples.
  • Do consider what points the employee may wish to raise and think through how any delicate areas can best be handled.
  • Do agree the date, time and place for the interview at least two weeks in advance, taking into account the employee’s preferences. Part-time employees should be appraised at times that fall within their normal working hours.
  • Don’t underestimate the time necessary for the interview. There is no ideal length of time for an appraisal interview, but it useful to schedule more time than you think you will need to avoid having to cut a discussion short.
  • Don’t forget to brief each employee well in advance about the purpose and scope of the appraisal interview.
  • Don’t be tempted to complete the appraisal form until after the interview, although you should review the appraisal form and make some provisional notes.
  • Don’t allow interruptions during the interview and make sure that there are no distractions from mobile phones and other electronic devices.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of taking into account the personality and temperament of each employee. Any likely reactions should be identified beforehand and an appropriate response planned. Different styles of interview may be needed to cater for individual needs. A relatively insecure employee may, for example, need a lot of reassurance.

Advance Briefing

Employees should be properly briefed before their appraisal interview on what the interview is for, how it will be conducted and what they should expect to gain from it. These briefings can be done on a group basis. However, it is also important for you to make sure that each individual has the opportunity to raise questions about the purpose and process of appraisal and to have any doubts or concerns dealt with.

The briefings can be carried out at the same time as the self-appraisal forms are issued.

If you’re planning your annual appraisals and you need any help or advice with getting the best from them, you can listen to the free webinar that we held last year. Just click here to find it. If you have any specific questions, please do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing me here.

How Does Snow White Manage the Seven Dwarfs?

Managing a team of employees brings with it many challenges. Everyone in the team is different – with different needs and needing to be managed differently. How do you work with everyone in your team, to make sure that everyone is pulling together and ensuring that you’re getting the best from each individual and therefore the team as a whole?

In this festive blog, we’ll look at how Snow White manages the very different characters of the seven Dwarfs, for the best effect.

Did you know that six out of seven dwarfs are not Happy?

The seven Dwarfs are all very different and need to be managed differently by Snow White, if she is to get the best from her team. As their manager, she has spent a lot of time getting to know each of the Dwarfs and what motivates them. She has also used a number of different personality profiling tools to help her. Here’s what she’s learnt over the years.

Doc – is a great team leader and a fixer. He can often see a solution to a problem that the others can’t figure out. But he can be a bit bossy too, expecting the other Dwarfs to jump when he gives them an order. Snow White has to give him enough challenging work to stop him from getting bored and trying to boss the others around.

Grumpy – is the technician of the team. He’s great with detail and analysis, but this means that he’s not good at speaking to clients. He gets frustrated when anyone asks him a silly question or doesn’t understand the answer he gives them. He just wants to be left to get on with his work, which he’s actually really good at.

Happy – is always happy! He’s great at motivating the rest of the team and keeping projects going through his energy. He does get distracted easily and sometimes comes up with a new idea before finishing the project that he’s working on. He relies on other members of the team to get the work finished.

Sleepy – sometimes the others think that he’s not pulling his weight as he’s always taking time out for a snooze. But actually, Sleepy is the reflector in the team. When Happy comes up with yet another great new idea, Sleepy is the one who will sleep on it and then come back with the useful questions and suggestions that help the team to decide whether or not to pursue this particular idea.

Dopey – is the joker in the team. He likes to have a laugh and can keep things light, even when the team is working to a deadline. He loves playing practical jokes on Grumpy and teasing Doc when he gets too bossy.

Bashful – is the shy, quiet one in the team. Snow While can’t shout at him if he does something wrong, but spends time explaining exactly what she wants him to do and he’ll do a great job for her. She won’t ask him to go networking or give a presentation to the rest of the Dwarfs because he’s too much of an introvert to do that. He’s a steady, reliable worker who often finishes what Happy starts.

Sneezy – is the member of the team who will come down with the latest bug first. He complains a lot about how it’s too cold or too hot in the office, but Snow White has learnt to keep him busy with plenty of interesting work and responsibility for projects.

By spending time with each of her team members, Snow White has come to know their strengths very well. She can manage them individually and as a team, to get the best from them all through the year!

How to Manage Annual Leave

Mismanagement of annual leave can have a dramatic impact on your company’s business, as demonstrated by Ryanair’s cancellation of hundreds of flights after it admitted “messing up” the planning of pilots’ holiday in the summer of 2017.

Here are some of the most common problems with managing annual leave, to help you to avoid them:

1. Encourage your employees to take holiday throughout the year

Allowing staff to build up too much leave and not spread out their holidays over the year can be a major problem for you. This could occur if there is an excess of work to do or if the business is struggling because of the economic climate, meaning that employees feel they are not able to take annual leave without putting their jobs at risk.

You should encourage your employees to plan and take annual leave. The responsibility for monitoring it is usually allocated to line managers, who should check their employees’ annual leave balance and remind them that they need to use the holiday up by the end of the leave year.

  • Do encourage your staff to submit dates for their holiday as far in advance as possible.
  • Do review regularly whether or not employees have taken, or at least planned to take, some of their holiday.

2. “Buying out” annual leave entitlement

You may be tempted to offer staff a cash substitute in return for giving up their annual leave entitlement. However, it is a fundamental principle of annual leave law that employers can’t give employees payment in lieu of their minimum statutory annual leave entitlement (i.e. the 5.6 weeks guaranteed under UK law). The exception to this is on termination of employment. When an employee leaves a job part way through the holiday year, they will be entitled to be paid for any accrued statutory holiday not taken by the date they leave.

  • Don’t give in to employees’ requests for pay in lieu of holiday.

3. Carrying over of excessive amounts of holiday

You could consider allowing employees who have not taken their full entitlement to carry over holiday into subsequent leave years. Current EU law prevents you from carrying over the first four weeks of your employees’ statutory annual leave, except when an employee is unable to take the leave because of sickness absence.

Beyond the first four weeks of statutory annual leave, you can allow employees to carry forward periods of holiday. If you do, you should have a rule requiring the excess leave to be used up within the first few months of the next holiday year.

  • Do remind your employees now and then how much annual leave they have outstanding.
  • Do ask any employee who hasn’t taken any holiday or submitted any holiday dates by a certain date – such as the middle of the holiday year – to book some holiday dates as soon as they can.
  • Don’t wait until near the end of the holiday year before reviewing whether or not employees have taken all their holiday.
  • Don’t make staff feel guilty about taking holiday.

4. Allowing too many employees to take leave at the same time

One of the biggest dangers for employers is the effect on the business of allowing too many employees to take time off during particular periods, typically in the summer or at Christmas.

Line managers can sometimes be reluctant to turn down employees’ holiday requests, particularly if an employee has already booked a trip or has a family commitment. However, as their employer you don’t have to agree to a worker’s request to take holiday at a particular time, unless the contract of employment contract says otherwise.

You should have a clear policy on holiday requests, such as ‘first-come, first-served’ approach. Line managers should be brave enough to turn down holiday requests (with the correct notice) when the timing of leave would cause the business difficulties.

  • Do ensure that holiday leave is planned in such a way that the department has adequate cover at all times.
  • Don’t leave the matter of holiday to chance.
  • Don’t take the view that it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not they want to take holiday.

5. Paying your employees the right amount during annual leave

The calculation of holiday pay needs to be done correctly and can no longer be based on just an employee’s basic pay.

Case law has established that pay during annual leave should now include other payments such as overtime pay (both compulsory and voluntary), standby/call-out allowances, shift premia and travel allowances.

You need to decide on a sensible approach to holiday pay calculations, including the length of time used to calculate the average and what allowances should be included.

These are probably the most common issues of annual leave that you will face an employer. Encouraging your employees to take their full allowance of holiday is not only good practice for the business – it is also vital for the health and welfare of your employees. Ensuring that employees take regular time off will help you to build a stronger, more productive workforce in the long run.

If you have any questions about dealing with holiday issues, do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing me here.

Source: XpertHR

Maintaining a Healthy, Happy Work Environment

We all want to create a working environment in which our employees look forward to spending time and where they will be their most productive. But sometimes it can go wrong and people find that they have to work somewhere they might feel unhappy, degraded or even humiliated. The creation of an offensive work environment is to be avoided at all costs, if your employees are to remain happy and healthy.

The phrase “creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” means that behaviour can amount to harassment even if it is not targeted at an individual. It will be enough that the behaviour creates an atmosphere at work that causes offence to a particular employee, or makes them feel uncomfortable. For example, the circulation of sexually explicit material around an office, even though it might not be targeted at a particular employee, could constitute sexual harassment against any woman or man who found it distasteful.

Harassment can be physical, verbal or non-verbal and a wide range of different types of behaviour at work may potentially be perceived as harassment. This rather long list gives you some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as harassment:

  • Sex-related harassment
    • Telling jokes about women
    • Making derogatory sexist remarks
    • Deliberately placing tools or materials that a woman needs to do her job on a high shelf to make it harder for her to reach them
  • Harassment of a sexual nature
    • The display of sexually explicit material on computer screens or in calendars
    • Leering at a woman in a manner that is overtly sexual
    • Physically touching someone in a sexual manner where such conduct is not welcome
    • Remarks, banter or jokes of a sexual nature
    • Making sexual suggestions or persisting with sexual advances after it has been made clear that such approaches are unwelcome
  • Gender reassignment harassment
    • Calling someone a nickname linked to the fact that he or she has undergone gender reassignment
    • Inappropriate touching designed to check whether or not an individual has undergone reconstructive surgery
    • Leaving items specifically associated with the individual’s old or new gender on their desk
  • Racial harassment
    • Calling someone a nickname linked to their skin colour or nationality
    • Remarks, banter or jokes about people from different racial backgrounds
  • Disability harassment
    • Using insulting terminology when referring to a disabled colleague
    • Excessive staring, for example at someone with a facial disfigurement
    • Mimicking a disabled colleague’s mannerisms or speech
  • Religious harassment
    • Remarks, banter or jokes about particular religious beliefs or religious practices
    • Derogatory remarks made about a particular item of clothing or jewellery worn by someone as a symbol of their religion
  • Sexual orientation harassment
    • Deliberate isolation of someone on grounds of their sexuality or perceived sexuality
    • Deliberately behaving in an effeminate manner in the presence of someone who is gay
    • Calling someone a nickname based on his or her sexuality or perceived sexuality
  • Age harassment
    • Banter and jokes that make fun of older people or demean their abilities
    • Calling someone a name linked to their age
    • Ignoring someone, or treating their views as worthless, just because they are younger or older than other employees

How do you guard against offensive jokes, banter and remarks?

General banter linked to sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or age is the most common form of harassment in employment. Managers should make sure that they properly brief all their staff as to the types of conduct and speech that might cause offence to others and make it clear that such behaviour will be unacceptable.

The basic rule should be that any jokes, remarks or banter that might cause offence to another employee on any grounds will not be permitted. Employees should be encouraged to realise that their colleagues will have differing views and feelings and differing levels of sensitivity about certain matters.

In addition, no individual employee can ever know everything about their colleagues – who they are married to or any family issues that might mean that offence will be caused by inappropriate remarks. It should be a requirement in every department that employees treat their colleagues with dignity and respect and refrain from any behaviour that might cause offence.

Are you worried about the environment in which your staff work? Do you need help creating the most productive environment possible? Call me on 0118 940 3032 or email me here and we can talk about how I can help you to do this.

Source: XpertHR