Are You Ready for the Next Employment Law Changes in April 2017?

Reserve your place on our next workshop here.

What are the next changes that will be made to Employment Law and how will they affect your business and your staff?

On 30 March 2017 we will hold the next of our regular Employment Law Update workshops. We do this twice a year, when the changes are approaching, so the next one will be in October 2017.  If you’re a business owner or manager it’s important you understand how they affect you and your employees.

This workshop is your chance to ask your questions in a confidential, friendly session, which is always attended by people who, like you, are looking for ways to keep up to date. Share your issues and hear how other people deal with the issues you have to deal with in your business.

The workshop will be held at Hennerton Golf Club in Wargrave, Berkshire, at 9.30am for a 10am start, finishing at 1pm. The cost is just £20 +VAT and includes plenty of tea and coffee! Online booking is available now.

Someone who attended a previous workshop said:

“I thought the workshop would be full of other HR people who knew more than me – but it wasn’t like that at all. I learnt a great deal from the Employment Law update and it was really useful talking to other people to hear how they dealt with similar issues to me.”

Book your place online now and we look forward to seeing you on 30 March.

The 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, a Contract in a pear tree. Make sure that you have up to date contracts for all your employees.






On the second day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, two boxing gloves. Don’t go picking a fight with your employees just because they don’t do what you want them to do. Learn to manage them properly!





On the third day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, three French Hens. If you have employees from Europe, keep an eye on our blog for news of how Brexit could affect your employees and your business.





On the fourth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, four dreaded words. “You have been fired!” Before you rush to sack anyone, check to make sure you have a good reason and make sure you do it properly.






On the fifth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, five golden things. Here are the five stages of HR that your business will go through.






On the sixth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, six staff-a-laying. Keep your employees delivering all those golden eggs, to the best of their ability, by looking for ways to develop them and their performance.





On the seventh day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, seven swans-a-swimming. If, like a swan, you’re all grace and elegance above water, while below you’re frantically paddling to keep afloat of all things HR, just get in touch to see how we can help.





On the eighth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, eight maids-a-milking. Except that these days, you have to let the men do the milking too, if they want to! You’re not allowed to discriminate. Acas can help you create a fair workplace.





On the ninth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, nine ladies dancing. And the men can dance too!






On the tenth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, ten lords (and ladies) leaping at the Christmas party. Make sure you lay down a few rules for proper behaviour, so that things don’t get out of hand.





On the eleventh day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, eleven pipers piping. Make a big noise when your staff do a great job. Look for the best way to reward them.






On the twelfth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, twelve drummers drumming. I keep drumming good HR practices into my clients’ businesses, to help them grow successful companies that are great places to work.




Merry Christmas …

And have a stress free New Year with lots of happy, productive employees!








How Will the Apprenticeship Levy Affect Employers?

The apprenticeship levy, which the Government hopes will help create three million new apprentices by 2020, is due to come into force in 2017, with a view to creating millions of apprenticeships across the UK. The levy is expected to raise an estimated £3 billion by the end of this Parliament.

If your business has an annual payroll cost of less than £3 million, then you will not be required to pay the levy. If you have more than this, however, there will be a 0.5% tax on your payroll bill, which will be paid through PAYE.

The Government estimates that approximately 22,000 organisations will be required to pay the levy. Many smaller employers will be impacted as well as the large companies, as a workforce of 100 people and an average salary of just over £30,000 will take businesses over the threshold.

Employers that do not pay the levy will still be able to access government support for apprenticeships through the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS). Employers in England that pay the levy and provide apprenticeship training will receive a ‘top-up’ to a digital account. The training must be provided through an accredited provider and, at this point, it is presumed that HRMC will be responsible for enforcing the payment from the employer and ensuring payment to the training provider.

Some employers have voiced concerns over how funding will be distributed, as each course will need different periods of training time and different evaluation methods. For example, an apprenticeship in engineering may need 12 months, while some apprenticeships in sectors such as retail may need less time.

Potentially, it will be difficult to make a one-size-fits-all scheme translate into meaningful and empowering apprenticeships that benefit both employer and employee.

How Can You Use the Apprenticeship Levy?

Consider the areas in your business where training is most needed, to ensure that the apprenticeship levy works in favour of your organisation. It is possible that many employers will not recoup the levy that they pay, and will therefore simply see it as another employment tax.

What Should Employers Do to Prepare?

One of the key parts of preparation for employers is ensuring that you have the financial capability to pay the levy.

Start to think more broadly than the immediate view of an ‘apprenticeship’ as something for young starters. Consider what training your business has put off because of the possible cost, and ascertain what could be done as an apprenticeship so that you can get the best value.

If you’re not sure how best to prepare for the Apprenticeship Levy, or you’d like some advice taking on an apprentice, contact us by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing

Is it Cheaper to Look After Your Staff or Cheaper to Replace Them When They Leave?

How can the loss of key staff members be prevented when so many employers are not interested in managing retention?

Many employers don’t attempt to manage retention of their staff. Those that do so seldom evaluate the impact of their measures, and often base them on unreliable assumptions about the reasons why employees resign.

Several research studies have shown that retention is linked to employee engagement, which in turn is linked to profitability, customer service and other important business metrics. So is it better to focus on improving engagement, rather than retention. Or should you not worry and just bear the cost of replacing people when they leave?

Despite all the evidence that staff attrition costs money, many businesses take no active steps to control their staff turnover. Research has shown that action is most likely to be taken after the event: when turnover has already become a problem and damage is being done to organisational efficiency.

Studies also consistently show that employers tend to mishandle their efforts to manage retention, focusing on issues that they believe are linked to resignations rather than those that actually motivate staff to leave. Pay in particular is often used to encourage employees to stay, yet it is much less of a deciding factor in employees’ own decision-making than being offered career opportunities, being kept informed and consulted and having faith in the business’s leadership.

What is ‘employee engagement’?

It embraces the older concepts of job satisfaction, motivation and attachment that described individual employees’ attitudes to their employer, but goes beyond them to provide a complete model of the psychological relationship between individuals and organisations. It is a two-way process in which employers and employees interact and respond to each other, unlike the more static concept of job satisfaction.

Employee engagement involves two issues:

  • personal satisfaction in the individual’s job or role (“I like my work and do it well”); and
  • the individual’s contribution to their employer’s success (“I help achieve the goals of my organisation”).

Staff retention can be used as a measure of employee engagement, with many companies now believing that employee engagement is one of the keys to managing performance and retaining talent. Initiatives to improve employee engagement are much more likely to gain the interest and active support of senior management than those focused narrowly on increasing staff retention. Employee engagement has much broader business benefits, including:

  • increased profitability
  • faster revenue growth
  • improved organisational efficiency
  • better attendance levels
  • heightened customer focus.

Look after your staff and they are more likely to look after you and the future of your business. If you need some advice or ideas on employee engagement, email us at or call 0118 940 3032.

How Do You Handle Unauthorised Absence from Work?

What do you do when one of your members of staff keeping missing work for no apparent reason, or doesn’t come back when you expected them to after their holiday? This is known as unauthorised absence and needs to be handled quickly and efficiently.

The first thing to do is find out why someone has been missing work. Is it unusual or do they keep missing work? Next you need to get in touch with them and follow a procedure. This short video will tell you more about this.

We can help you put a procedure in place for handling these issues and can provide you with a template letter to send to staff who have been absent without your authorization. Just call us 0118 940 3032 or email for some confidential advice.

How Do You Deal with Poor Staff Performance?

What do you do when you first think that one of your members of staff isn’t doing as well as you would like them to?

Whatever you do, don’t ignore it and just hope that the situation will improve!

For some tips on how to deal with the early stages of poor performance, watch this short video.

If you still have any questions about how to help your staff to perform better, or you have a more difficult situation to deal with, call us 0118 940 3032 or email for some confidential advice.

Staff Accuse B&Q of Using the National Living Wage as an ‘Excuse’ to Cut Pay and Benefits

Employers are being warned to avoid kneejerk moves when introducing measures to offset increased wage costs.

A petition drafted by a B&Q manager, accusing the DIY retailer of slashing employee benefits in an effort to offset the costs of the national living wage (NLW), has so far attracted more than 120,000 signatures. As an employer you could face a similar negative reaction if you attempt to alter terms and conditions as a result of the law to increase salaries for your lowest paid staff. The £7.20 an hour wage came into force on Friday 1 April.

As part of the change, the B&Q employees say that the retailer has suggested time-and-a-half pay for working Sundays and double time for working bank holidays; a restructuring of allowances for employees working in parts of the UK where the cost of living is higher; and the removal of a summer and winter bonus, which equates to 6% of annual salary.

The petition says that B&Q staff are required to accept the new terms and conditions of employment, or face losing their job.

“Big businesses like B&Q are using the NLW as an excuse to cut overall pay and rewards for the people who need it the most,” the petition reads.

B&Q denies that the changes to terms and conditions are as a result of the NLW, stating that a review of its pay and reward framework was launched “long before” the new wage was announced.

A B&Q spokesman said: “Our aim is to reward all of our people fairly so that employees who are doing the same job receive the same pay. That isn’t the case at the moment, as some have been benefitting from allowances for a long time when others have not, and that can’t continue.”

A survey from the Federation of Small Business found that 54% of SMEs believe they have been negatively impacted by the 50p an hour increase in pay, and will put off hiring new staff as a result. 41% will cut staff hours, while 26% plan to erode pay differentials by freezing or cutting the wages of higher paid staff.

According to analysis by the FT, employers are actively are actively considering increasing the number of self-employed individuals or apprentices – all of whom are exempt from the NLW – in their staffing mix.

But Esther Smith, employment partner at UK law firm TLT, warned that this could leave employers open to discrimination claims.

“Employers may, consciously or unconsciously, look to employ younger people to avoid the higher wage costs.  Also, if they operate zero hours’ contracts, they may elect to offer less work to those people over 25,” she said. “Both of these actions would expose the employer to age discrimination claims.”

Before you make any major decisions which could affect your business and your employees, get in touch by contacting us on 0118 940 3032 or emailing

Reporting the Gender Pay and Gender Bonus Gap Data

The draft Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016 require employers, with more than 250 employees, to publish their first gender pay gap report by 30 April 2018, giving you up to 12 months from the pay period covered by the report to do this. The report must appear on your website, in English, in a manner that is accessible to all your employees and to the public. Once published it must remain there for at least three years.

Employers will have to publish the results, but not the raw data on which the calculations are based, for each of the benchmarks set out below:

  • The mean gender pay gap
  • The median gender pay gap
  • The mean bonus pay gap
  • The proportion of men and women receiving a bonus payment and
  • The number of men and women in each of the four pay bands.

Your report will have to include a written statement confirming that the information is accurate. This must be signed by a director, partner or member of your organisation’s governing body.

As an employer you will also be expected to upload the information to a government website, where the intention is to create a publicly available league table or database.

There will be no legal obligation on you to publish any form of commentary on the figures or to set out any actions that it may be taking to address the gender pay gap. However, ministers have made clear that the Government will strongly encourage you to do so.

You should be particularly aware of the potential damage to your reputation, especially among potential future employees, of failing to set the data in context or to provide an explanation. Where you can report a gender pay gap that is narrower than that generally seen in the wider economy, and/or within its industry, this could enhance your organisation in the eyes of both job applicants and existing employees. However, you cannot assume that a job applicant will automatically be aware that your gender pay gap is better than average. This needs to be spelled out.

If your company’s gender pay gap is wider that the average, additional explanation will help to protect your reputation. Is the gap wide because of the industry in which you operate or the types of roles that exist within it?  For example, women make up only 14.4% of all employees in science and technology occupations and represented just 15% of undergraduate entrants to engineering and technology courses in 2014/15. Employers with a large number of well-paid roles in these areas may struggle to recruit women to them.

Additionally, you may wish to use the opportunity to set out what you are doing to ensure that you recruit, develop, reward and promote women as well as men. This is particularly important if there are few mitigation factors to explain a wide pay gap within your organisation.

Need help with writing your first gender pay gap report? Get in touch to find out how we can help by contacting us on 0118 940 3032 or emailing

What Do You Do if an Employee Appeals Your Decision?

If you’ve had to make a decision about one of your employees and an issue such as their flexible working request or a disciplinary situation, your employee has the right to appeal against your decision.

What do you do next? How should you handle their appeal?

Your employee can appeal against a disciplinary decision on both conduct and performance matters, or any other employment decision, but they must do so in writing. They need to set out the grounds for their appeal within the number of days set out in your own policy, of you giving them your decision.

You should then hear their appeal without delay. Where possible this should be done by a manager, preferably more senior and not previously involved in the case. This is not always possible in a smaller business, so the same manager or owner may have to hear the appeal, and they must be objective. At this meeting you need to hear what your employee has to say, and consider it against all the facts. You may need to carry out further investigations in order to reach your conclusion, before making your final decision.

Following the meeting, you should write to your employee to tell them the outcome of the appeal, and how the decision was reached. Examples of all the letters for all stages of the formal disciplinary process are available from the Disciplining staff section of the Acas website.

Whatever decision is made regarding the appeal, you must keep a confidential written record of the case.

If you run a small business and need someone impartial to handle appeals, or initial disciplinary meetings for you, do get in touch to talk about how we can do this for you. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email

Changes to the National Minimum Wages

The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 lays down minimum levels of hourly pay for certain employees. The current rate for those aged 21 and over is £6.70 per hour. From 1 April 2016, the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2016 introduce the national living wage, set at £7.20 per hour, for workers aged 25 and over.

The National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 make sure that the hourly rate, at which a worker is entitled to be paid in respect of his or her work in any pay reference period, is the rate that is in force on the first day of that period. The pay reference period is a month or, in the case of a worker who is paid wages by reference to a period shorter than a month, that period. Therefore, where a pay reference period begins before 1 April 2016, the old rate of the national minimum wage will apply for that pay reference period.

From 1 April 2016, the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2016 introduce a compulsory national living wage of £7.20 per hour for all workers aged 25 and over. The Regulations also double the financial penalties for which employers will be liable if they are found to have paid any workers below the national minimum wage. The penalty is increased from 100% to 200% of the total underpayment for all workers specified in the HMRC notice of underpayment.

If you need to know more about these changes, how they affect your business and your employees, or how to handle the changes, come to our next Employment Law Update workshop. It is being held on 12 April 2016 in Wargrave, Berkshire and costs just £20 +VAT. Click here for details and online booking.