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It’s All Change

It’s All Change

It can be hard to keep on top of the latest advice and regulations at the best of times when you’re spread thin and busy with deadlines – let alone in the middle of a global pandemic. 

Understandably, many of our clients feel overwhelmed by all the information out there. Especially with so many opinion pieces and inaccurate assumptions, it can be hard to know what to trust. 

To help you cut through all of this noise, we’ve collated some useful resources to help address your most pressing concerns. 

This article outlines some of the key changes that you should be aware of and points you in the right direction for more information and support should you need it. 

We hope it helps in this stressful time. 

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 

It is well reported that HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs up to a cap of £2,500pm. This is part of their plan to support businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Who counts as a furloughed worker? 

A furloughed worker is someone who is still employed but not working, perhaps due to a lack of work. The purpose of this scheme is to help businesses to continue paying employees that would have otherwise been laid off by putting them on temporary leave. 

Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including: 

  • Full-time employees 
  • Part-time employees 
  • Employees on agency contracts 
  • Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts 

 If you have made employees redundant since 28 February 2020, you can rehire and cover these employees under the scheme too. 

What will it cost the employer? 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. In addition to the 80% grant covered by the government, businesses must also pay:  

  • Employer National Insurance contribution 
  • Minimum enrolment employer pension contribution 

Where a company is being taken under the management of an administrator, the administrator will be able to access the Job Retention Scheme. 

Useful Resources 

A breakdown of the government support available for businesses 

How to access the scheme 

 

Claiming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) 

If you’re self-isolating because of COVID-19, you are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 per week. 

When can I claim SSP? 

New legislation has been brought forward to give you access to SSP from the first day you’re self-isolating and cannot work. This new legislation came into action on 13.03.20 and overrides the previous 4-day caveat. 

Useful Resources 

How to report and manage sickness in 10 easy steps 

When should I self-isolate? 

How to claim SSP 

 

Changes to IR35 

In light of the coronavirus creating business uncertainty and high levels of stress, the Treasury confirmed that they would postpone IR35 for another year. 

This means that businesses now have until April 2021 to address the reforms necessary. These changes will drive major change in the contracting industry. 

What is IR35? 

IR35 is designed to combat tax avoidance by “disguised employees”. Under new rules, every medium and large private sector business in the UK will become liable for setting the tax status of any employee that they hire – including contract and temporary workers. 

The new rules will apply to businesses with either: 

  • 50+ employees 
  • An annual turnover of over £10.2 million 

With many companies already reviewing their policies and contracts in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, now is a great time to address IR35 so that you’re prepared when the changes come in next April. 

Useful Resources 

What are the changes that IR35 will make? 

Understanding off-payroll working (IR35) 

 

The Good Work Plan 

As of April 2020, The Good Work Plan comes into place. This is a plan that sets out the government’s vision for the future of the UK labour market. It seeks to “reward people for hard work” in a bid to boost productivity and earnings in the UK. 

The new plan details how to address issues in our labour market, such as: 

  • The implications of new forms of work 
  • The rise of digital platforms
  • Impacts of new working models 


The Good Work Plan also draws on recommendations about:

  • Employment status 
  • Agency workers 
  • Increasing transparency in the labour market 
  • The enforcement of employment rights 

Useful Resources 

What changes you should expect to see from The Good Work Plan 

Policy Paper – Good Work Plan 

 

Deferring VAT and Income Tax Payments 

The government have announced that they will support businesses by deferring tax payments, as outlined below. 

Deferred Deadlines: 

  • If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. 
  • For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020. 

All UK businesses and self-employed individuals are eligible. There is no application required. 

Useful Resources 

Relieve temporary financial distress with HMRC Time to Pay Offer 

A breakdown of the government support available for businesses 

 

Supporting your employees’ financial wellbeing 

Typically, your employee’s largest financial outgoing will be their monthly mortgage payment.  

Taking a break from their mortgage – with a mortgage holiday of up to three months – can act as welcome financial relief. In this unsettling time, if you are having to cut or reduce hours, it may be worth providing some resources for your employees to access this aid. 

Am I Eligible? 

Whether you are eligible to take a payment holiday, for how long, and the conditions you must meet dependon: 

  • Your lender 
  • Your mortgage contract 
  • Your financial circumstance 

It is best to advice that your employee contacts their bank directly to discuss a mortgage payment holiday. However, please do make them aware that this will make their payments go up afterwards. 

What About Those Who Rent? 

The government has announced a package of measures to protect renters that may be affected by Coronavirus and a subsequent loss of earnings. The emergency legislation means: 

  • You cannot be evicted from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place 
  • Landlords can take out a mortgage holiday on their Buy to Let mortgage 

Useful Resources 

Pros and Cons of a Mortgage Holiday 

Mortgages and Coronavirus: Information for Consumers by FCA 

Government Press Release – Protection for Renters 

 

General Advice: 

 

Government Advice 

If you are still unsure about how you should be responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, please refer to GOV.UK platform here. It is frequently updated with the latest information and advice. 

For further guidance for employees, employers and businesses, please visit the government website here. 

 

Mental Health 

It is well recognised that isolation and the stress of the outbreak may be triggering for many, leading to a decline in mental health. 

In order to help you address this, we’ve attached some useful resources that help you become aware of your own mental state and some handy tips that may help you look after yourself during this difficult time. 

Discover how you should be looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak here. 

The mental health charity, MIND, have also released some support and resources to help you during this time. You can access this here. 

 

Working from Home 

If you’ve recently transitioned from office to homethe resources below may help you settle into your new work environment more seamlessly! 

Tips for creating a positive environment to work from are available here.  

Top tips for working from home are also available here. 

We also appreciate that it is especially hard for those who are working from home whilst simultaneously juggling homeschooling. If you’re looking for some advice about working from home with children, you can find some tips here.

 

What Next? 

If you have any concerns or questions about the latest changes in legislation or how they may affect you, please do not hesitate to contact us online or email hello@crossehr.co.uk and we will try our best to point you in the right direction. 

 

 

HR Survival Through COVID-19

HR Survival Through COVID-19

Thrive and Survive is a community created by a collective of business people who are coming together to help you overcome the current financial crisis and come out of this with a stronger business.

I recently shared my thoughts on the HR implications of COVID-19 in a webinar that covered:

  • How to deal with 3 scenarios of people ‘out of the business’ with COVID-19 related reasons
  • Furloughing workers – who’re eligible, what are the rules and how to do it
  • Common questions on partial furloughing
  • Advice on keeping in touch with staff, engagement, and productivity
  • Lots of chat on the positives arising for business and the opportunity when this is all over

Please excuse the noise in the background – we can thank the joys of remote working in a busy city for that!

Hopefully, it’s not too distracting and you find it useful.

[PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR LATEST UPDATE]

Since recording this webinar, a lot has changed. It seems that every day new data comes to light, so we just wanted to drop in a little more information to support you with the HR implications of COVID-19.

Since the government briefing on 10.05.20, lockdown restrictions are beginning to lift for certain businesses – but this doesn’t mean you should be too hasty in heading back to work. Let’s take a little look at why…

Health and Safety:

It is important at this point to remind you that it is your moral responsibility to protect the health and safety of your colleagues. Before rushing back to work, ensure you address some primary concerns, including:

  • Social Distancing
  • Commuting
  • Staggering Shifts
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Cleaning, including providing ample hand-washing facilities
  • Mental Health

Before inviting your employees back into the workplace, ensure you follow the guidance of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). As well as directing you towards some useful resources, including industry-specific support for certain work settings, they are regularly updating their website with guidance to help your safe transition back to work.

Talking to Your Employees:

In this stressful time, we must not neglect our duty to check in on our employees.

This high-stress environment is unsettling for everyone, especially those with vulnerable or shielded loved ones. Ensure you communicate with empathy as you seek to return to normal and make reasonable adjustments where possible.

Return to Work Interviews

If you have had members of staff on furlough for a number of months, it may also be worth considering whether a return to work interview would be of use. This short, informal meeting may help you address your workforce’s concerns and facilitate a successful transition back to the office. If you need a little guidance, why not lean on our slick and consistent process here?

Involving Employees in the Process:

By consulting and involving your employees in the steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace you can:

  • Explain the changes
  • Illustrate the safety practices in place
  • Make sure changes will work – their operational input may be vital
  • Hear their ideas and address their concerns
  • Continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak

It is also recommended that you share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. Where possible, publish the results on your website (note: the government expects all employers with over 50 workers to do so).

If you are unsure where to start with this, HSENI has released an example COVID-19 risk assessment to help you on your way. You can download via their website.

Need some advice?

If you have any questions about the HR implications of COVID-19 or you’d like to discuss how to run return to work interviews, please do get in contact. We hope this has been of use during this stressful time.

The Employee Reference Question

The Employee Reference Question

One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘What shall I put in an employee reference’?

It’s all well and good if everyone got on, there were no problems and the employee in question left on good terms, that does not tend to pose any questions.

It’s the iffy, ‘I was well rid but really don’t want to say so’ references that cause the dilemmas.

In short, you can give a factually based reference for everyone, the good, the bad and the indifferent.

These are the key details to confirm:

  • Job title
  • Start and end date of employment
  • Short disclaimer at the bottom

That way you cannot be accused of discrimination in any form as you are treating everyone the same. Steer clear from personal opinions because they are exactly that – personal and can cause all sorts of issues.

Keep it short and to the point. For guidance simply download our How-To Guide, which contains a sample reference policy and wording here or call us on 0330 555 1139.

 

Coronavirus: what do you need to know?

Coronavirus: what do you need to know?

A number of employers have asked us for workplace guidance in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Whilst we are not, of course, medically qualified to give advice on how best to deal with the virus, our friends at Keelys Solicitors have put together the following note which to a large extent reflects ACAS guidance.

 

Get the latest updates

All employers should regularly check the government website for up to date information about the spread of the virus and the risk to the public. This is likely to keep changing and you will need to keep your approach to the virus under review as the situation and Government advice develops. The Department of Health and Social Care will be publishing updated data on this page every day at 2pm until further notice.

 

Should employees be paid for time off?

If an employee actually experiences symptoms of coronavirus, they should go off sick immediately and be paid sick pay as usual.

Employees should follow normal absence reporting procedures if they’re not able to attend work. However, the employer might need to make allowances if, for example, employees are not actually sick but are quarantined, advised to self-isolate or are unable to leave an affected area. An employee might not be able to get a sick note in those circumstances.

 

Employees may not be showing any symptoms but may:

a) have been advised by a Doctor to self-isolate;
b) have been placed in quarantine as a precautionary measure; or
c) be abroad in an affected area and not allowed to travel back to the UK.

In those cases the employee is not actually sick. There is therefore no statutory right to pay if they cannot work for these reasons. However, firstly, it would be harsh not to pay staff in those circumstances where they are only following advice or are physically incapable of attending work. Secondly, saying that you will not pay them may cause staff to come to work instead of self-isolating and risk further spread of the virus.

We suggest that employees absent for these reasons are either treated as off sick or, by agreement with the employee, granted annual leave.

 

What happens if an employee returns from an affected zone and appears to have symptoms?

If an employee becomes unwell in the workplace and has recently come back from an area affected by coronavirus, ACAS guidance is as follows:

  • Get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
  • Go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sickbay or staff office
  • Avoid touching anything
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it into a bin immediately. If they do not have tissues, ensure that they cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
  • Use a separate bathroom from others, if possible

The unwell person should use their own mobile phone to call either, for NHS advice: 111; for an ambulance, if they’re seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk: 999. They should tell the operator their symptoms and which country they’ve returned from in the last 14 days.

 

How should the employer respond if someone with coronavirus comes into work?

If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close. The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will get in contact with the employer to:

  • Discuss the case
  • Identify people who have been in contact with the affected person
  • Carry out a risk assessment
  • Advise on any actions or precautions to take

 

What rights do employers have regarding absence?

If an employee chooses not to attend work due to an outbreak, the starting point is that it is down to the employer’s discretion whether to pay them (for what could be quite a long period). We suggest you listen to your employee’s concerns and, if these are well- founded then, where practicable, you should consider granting home working, annual leave or unpaid leave. If an employee unreasonably refuses to attend work, they could be disciplined for that. Please seek advice before taking any disciplinary action, however.

If the employer has instructed an employee not to attend work, you could lay them off temporarily if you have a right in the contract to do so. They would then be entitled to statutory guarantee pay of £29 per day for the first 5 days. If you do not have the right to lay them off, you would need to continue paying them during this absence.

Employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to provide assistance to a dependant in an unexpected event or emergency. This could well apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example, schools may close and alternative arrangements for childcare may need to be made.

 

What can employers do to prevent the virus spreading?

Employers should consider the following steps to help prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Make sure there are clean places for staff to wash hands with hot water and soap and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • Give out hand sanitisers and tissues to staff, and encourage them to use them
  • Consider if any business travel planned to affected areas can be avoided

 

If you are looking for further advice regarding the ongoing issues surrounding coronavirus and its impact on the workplace, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

What are the changes that IR35 will make?

What are the changes that IR35 will make?

We are very honoured to have Emma Spandrzyk of Keelys Solicitors share this guest blog with us. Her piece addresses some of the key insights many of you will have been thinking about when it comes to IR35.

I have recently joined Keelys in the employment department.  I have been working as an employment solicitor for 9 years and, most recently, I have worked in-house for the police.

Some of our clients have been asking us about changes to the law on IR35 next year so we’ve taken some time to explain some of what is happening.

What is the current position?

If someone works on a self-employed basis but, in reality, they are an employee, HMRC can recover the underpaid tax and national insurance from the organisation that they work for.

Sometimes, the individual will set up their own personal service company to provide their services.  If HMRC decides that the arrangement is a sham and that, if the individual was engaged directly by the client, they would be an employee, HMRC can recover the underpaid tax and national insurance under IR35.  Currently, that is recoverable from the individual and/or their company rather than from the end-user.  The exception to that is in the public sector, where the end-user will be liable for the tax and national insurance.

What is changing?

From April 2020 businesses with more than 50 employees or a turnover of more than £10.2m will be affected by the new rules.  They will, therefore, be liable for tax and national insurance if they are found to be engaging people through personal service companies who, in reality, ‘are’ employees.  If your business is smaller than that, you do not need to worry although we would not be surprised if, in future, these rules apply to smaller companies as well.

How to tell if someone falls within IR35?

If you are a larger business who will be covered by the new rules, the first step is to identify the contractors that provide their services through personal service companies.

To assess whether contractors fall within IR35, businesses will need to look at a range of criteria including the following:

  • Control – how much autonomy does the contractor have in terms of how they deliver their work? If the business retains full control over how, when and where tasks are completed, this is indicative of employee status and the contractor is likely to be caught by IR35. If the contractor has full autonomy over the completion of tasks, they are more likely to fall outside the scope of IR35.
  • Personal Service – does the contractor have to undertake the work themselves? The ability to send a substitute helps point towards a contractor being genuinely self-employed and outside the IR35 rules.
  • Mutual Obligation – is there a requirement for both parties to continue to offer and accept work? If the business has an obligation to provide work and there is an expectation that the contractor accepts it, then this will indicate that the contractor is caught by IR35.

As part of the assessment, businesses should also consider factors such as the degree of integration that the contractor has with the business, the level of financial risk they assume and who provides the contractor’s work equipment.

What does this mean for your business?

Businesses will need to show HMRC that they have taken reasonable care in undertaking their contractor assessments. When reviewing assessments, HMRC will look at the size of the business. The bigger the business and the greater the resources available to it, the more effort HMRC will expect in relation to the process.

There is a useful tool on the HMRC website that you can use to assess whether someone is genuinely self-employed or should be treated as an employee: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-employment-status-for-tax

Written statements of particulars

Employers will be used to providing employees with a written statement of terms within two months of starting work. However, from the 6 April onwards, this will become a day one right.

This right will also extend to all categories of “workers” and will not be limited to individuals engaged under a contract of employment.  It will, therefore, apply to zero-hours workers.

You may also have heard that some additional information should be included in the statement.  However, we do not suggest that you make any changes to your contracts because the additional items are very minor. The key thing to ensure is that any new hires post 6 April are given a written statement on day one.

There is no obligation to issue your existing staff with a new statement. You only need to take this step if an individual specifically requests new particulars.

Holiday Pay

The reference period for determining an average week’s pay for the purposes of calculating holiday pay is increasing from 12 to 52 weeks. This is intended to limit the impact of seasonal fluctuations in work on holiday pay.

If you are currently using the 12-week model, you will need to amend any calculations to cover 52 weeks from 6 April 2020.

Agency Workers

Under the “Swedish Derogation”, temporary work agencies can avoid the obligation to pay agency workers the same as the client’s direct employees after a 12 week qualifying period if certain conditions are satisfied.

From 6 April 2020, this derogation will be abolished. This means that all agency workers will have the right to pay parity with permanent employees after 12 weeks.

Tax on Termination Payments

At current, termination payments up to £30,000 can be paid free of income tax or employer’s National Insurance Contributions. Any amount over the £30,000 limit is subject to income tax deductions only.

From 6 April 2020, all termination payments above £30,000 will be subject to both income tax and employer National Insurance Contributions. This is in addition to the changes last year whereby all payments in lieu of notice are subject to tax and National Insurance.

Parental Bereavement Leave

Another right coming in to force on 6 April is the right to Parental Bereavement Leave known as “Jack’s Law”. Working parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will get two weeks’ statutory leave. We suggest you update your Dependent Care Leave Policy with the following wording to reflect this.

“Parental Bereavement Leave:

Staff who lose a child under the age of 18 are entitled to two weeks’ parental bereavement leave which can be taken in a single block of two weeks or as two separate blocks of a week each. The leave can be taken at any time in the period of 12 months after the child’s death. Staff with 26 weeks’ continuous service and weekly average earnings over the lower earnings limit will receive Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay during any period of Parental Bereavement Leave.”

Current Rates and Limits

April 2020 will also see the usual annual increase to the following rates and limits:

  • The National Living Wage (for workers ages 25 or over) from £8.21 to £8.72 per hour.
  • The National Minimum Wage rates:

Workers aged 21-24 – from £7.70 to £8.20 per hour

Workers aged 18-20 – from £6.15 to £6.45 per hour

Workers aged 16-17 – from £4.35 to £4.55 per hour

Apprentice rate – from £3.90 to £4.15 per hour

  • Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Paternity Pay will increase from £148.68 to £151.20.
  • Statutory Sick Pay will increase from £94.25 to £95.85.

Please let me know if you would like further advice on this.  You may also want to speak to your accountant for advice on whether you are taxing staff appropriately.

 

HR Planning for the Year Ahead

HR Planning for the Year Ahead

Successful businesses rely on having the right number of people with the right skills to bring in the business, do the work and make money. At the same time, employing people also means ticking all those employment law boxes. Combining your legal obligations with where your business is heading is the key to great HR planning. As we reveal in this blog.

Factor in Legal, Tax and Fiscal Changes in Your HR Planning

When planning ahead you need to be clear about the immovable objects – the legal changes you must tackle and include in your planning. Employment law, tax and statutory payment changes tend to be introduced around April at the start of the new tax year. 

Rates – like statutory maternity pay, tax thresholds, national minimum wage and statutory sick pay – are amended and will need to be factored into your budgets and processes. You can find this information on the government’s website which is updated each year.

It’s also worth being in the know about employment law changes in advance so you have plenty of time to prepare. Typically, updates will have a long lead-in time so you have plenty of time to prepare. Keep an eye on HR industry blogs, like this one, for details about new rules your company will need to abide by. Then factor them into your HR plans.

Be Clear on Where the Business is Heading 

With your legal obligations clearly mapped out, it’s time to turn your attention to your business’ goals. They will provide the context for your HR plans. For example:

  • Business growth – could mean new roles, redistributing work between individuals, increasing people’s hours, upping overtime or taking on additional headcount
  • Business slow down – stagnant GDP growth might mean your business needs to tighten its belt. Perhaps you need to reduce headcount or ask your staff to increase productivity. However you decide to do more with less it will impact your HR strategy.
  • Business stasis – if your business is neither growing or shrinking, there’s still a lot you can do. Tightening up on people processes, developing your team to ensure you future-proof your business and finding ways to positively impact the bottom line are all possible with good HR planning.  

Anticipating your future HR needs should also look beyond your immediate situation and be based around economic and technological changes as well as what your customers will need in one, three and five years’ time. 

With your legal and business priorities clear, you can now identify your HR priorities. You might decide to go for some quick wins first or tackle those issues that are causing you the most pain. 

Alternatively, complete tasks that will add to the bottom line: this should create additional revenue that could be fed back into the business. Reinvesting in your people is one option that frequently drives even better business results.

Choose the Right HR Strategies, Systems and Providers

With a solid understanding of your current and future people needs, you can start choosing which areas of HR to dedicate the most time and resources to. If you anticipate significant talent gaps, training, recruitment and performance management strategies should help. Or, if your business is facing a tough time, a restructuring programme could be the key.

Getting this right is critical to the health of your business so if you don’t have sufficient HR support, it’s worth investing in an experienced HR consultant to provide expert advice and practical help. 

Part of your HR planning should include a review of the systems you have in place to support your plans. There’s a wide range of HR technology available that: 

  • Makes it more efficient to administer your human resources
  • Provides options for employees and managers to process standard requests like holidays
  • Keeps track of employee data and gives you insight into your workforce with online reports

So, if spreadsheets aren’t cutting it any more, it could be time to consider going digital with your workforce administration.

Communicate Your HR Planning

Once you’ve firmed up your plans and put timescales, resource and budget to your changes, it’s time to communicate with your team. Start with leaders first to get their feedback and input if you’ve not already done this. Then roll out your plans to staff. Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • What’s in it for me?
  • Is my job at risk?
  • Is the business stable?
  • Where is the business heading?
  • Will you provide training to help me adapt?

If your planned changes are significant you might want to hold face-to-face town hall meetings backed up by written communications including FAQs. Where changes are more incremental, cascading communications through line managers is a good approach.

With your HR plans in place, you might think you’re done for the next twelve months. But my experience tells me you’ll need to keep on top of any changes that the business and your people face. Combining annual planning with this level of flexibility will mean you’re ready to take care of any human resource issues that come your way.

Get your HR plans squared away with pragmatic, adaptable HR support from Crosse HR. Get in touch on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Should You Monitor Employee Emails?

Should You Monitor Employee Emails?

Monitoring employees’ emails or not to monitor? That is the question! Nobody wants to be accused of being Big Brother, but monitoring employees’ emails is perfectly legal if you go about it in the right way.

“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed – no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres in your skull.”  

― George Orwell, 1984 

Data Protection and Employee Rights 

As a business owner, you need to make sure your employees are carrying out their work effectively. You also have a responsibility to ensure they’re not using work email to do things they shouldn’t. Like sending offensive emails or sharing unprotected data. At the same time, you don’t want to encroach on your employees’ privacy or demonstrate a lack of trust.   

Before we consider whether you should monitor employees emails, let’s take a look at whether you can.  

The Information Commissioner’s Office states that, in general, it is considered intrusive to monitor your employees’ emails.   

That’s because employees have a right to respect for a private and family life under article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This means people can send personal emails from a work computer and email address and expect them not to be monitored or read by employers.   

But what about work email?  

It’s perfectly legal for employers to monitor employees’ emails as long as certain criteria are fulfilled. This includes being: 

  • clear about the reasons for the monitoring 
  • satisfied that the monitoring arrangement is justified by real benefits 
  • clear with employees for the reasons, extent and nature of any monitoring that’s in place 

If you decide to monitor, you’ll need to warn employees that emails sent from a work computer may be observed. A good way to do this is to include suitable wording in your contract of employment. 

Before implementing a monitoring policy, employers must carry out an assessment of the proposed activity to establish 

  • the reasons for monitoring staff and the benefits that this will bring 
  • any negative effects the monitoring may have on staff 
  • whether the monitoring can be achieved through any less intrusive means   
  • whether the monitoring is justified, taking into account all of the above 

Think you might have sufficient reason to monitor? Then the next thing to consider is proportion.  

In-depth or Light-touch? 

Depending on your business and sector there may be highly valid reasons for monitoring staff email. For example, financial services organisations often monitor communications to ensure sensitive data is not being shared, accidentally or otherwise.  

However, all businesses considering email monitoring should act proportionately and fairly to achieve the right balance between organisational needs and employee privacy.

In most cases assessing the date, time and recipient or sender of an email will help you determine whether it relates to work or not. Reading private emails, particularly those that contain confidential information is likely to breach an employees’ privacy.  

Automated email monitoring can analyse huge amounts of email traffic, spot inappropriate content and deliver reports for managers. This distances managers from the emails themselves and raises a red flag indicating that further investigation is required.

Before jumping straight into an in-depth review of an employee’s inbox, it can often be a good idea to hold a meeting. By discussing how the individual has been using email and the kinds of information they’ve sent you can decide on a proportionate response.  

The Potential Impact of Monitoring Employees’ Emails  

Monitoring employees’ emails can create an atmosphere of distrust if implemented and acted on incorrectly.  

In some sectors, like those with significant data protection requirements, employees are likely to be more understanding of the need for monitoring employees’ emails. However, organisations where data is less sensitive may not find employees so tolerant. 

Should any breach in policy be identified, managers’ next steps are key to how your monitoring policy is perceived. Managers using the information inappropriately will bring the policy intro disrepute. However, used effectively – to curtail inappropriate behaviour or prevent action being taken against the business – employees will likely support the policy.  

Coupled with well-handled conversations and a genuine respect for employees’ privacy, email monitoring can be helpful for businesses. However, history has shown most people don’t appreciate their emails being monitored so introducing this policy requires careful handling.

If you do decide to go down this route ensure you’re acting legally, in line with your policy and for the good of your employees as well as the health of your business.  

For help navigating email monitoring and other employment contract issues, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

Probation and Notice Periods – What You Need to Know

Probation and Notice Periods – What You Need to Know

Probation period not up yet? Thinking of saying goodbye to a new hire? Then something obviously hasn’t worked out. To ensure their departure goes smoothly, you need to give them the right amount of notice.

But how long should that be when an individual is still in their probation period? And what else do you need to consider? Read on for the answers.

Probation – Not Just For Criminals

Most employers operate a trial period for new employees – also known as a probation period – which can vary from a few days to several weeks or months. The length of probation should be clearly set out in the employee’s contract alongside the employee’s standard notice period.

But what happens if they hand their notice in, or you want them to leave, during their probationary period? Does the standard notice period apply? Or can you legally give less notice and hasten their departure?

It Depends on Length of Service

People with probation periods shorter than one month are not entitled to any notice so you can exit them from your firm immediately.

Of course, notice periods work both ways and employees can notify you of their intent to leave too. Which means you could be left in the lurch if someone leaves within their one-month probation period.

That’s why most organisations stipulate a probation period of three months. This often increases to six months for more senior roles and jobs that are difficult to recruit. By extending the notice period, both employers and employees are protected.

There are two types of notice that employees and employers must give.

Contractual Notice

Contractual notice is the agreed notice period, as set out in the employment contract, that must be given by either side to terminate the arrangement.

You can choose to give more notice than legally required. But of course you cannot give less than the law stipulates.

Typically, contractual notice periods are:

  • Less than one week for staff with under one month’s service
  • One week for people with between one and six months’ service
  • One month for people who have recently passed their probation

These notice periods give both sides a degree of protection and tie in nicely with the following legal minimums.

Statutory Notice

If you don’t include a notice period in your employees’ contracts you have to abide by legally predefined notice periods based on the individual’s length of service:

  • Less than one month’s service > no notice
  • One month to two years’ service > one week’s notice
  • Two years’ service > two week’s notice
  • Three years’ service > three week’s notice

The notice periods increase by one week for every complete year of tenure. So someone with eight years’ service would need to give and be given eight weeks’ notice.

Notice Has Been Served – What Happens Next?

This usually depends on who gave notice and the reasons why.

If an employee gave notice and there’s no problem (like performance issues), you will probably want them to work for the duration. This helps your organisation by keeping work moving and giving you time to recruit.

If you’ve given notice to a member of staff during the probation period, it’s usually because performance or attitude is not up to scratch. Which might mean you don’t want the employee to come in.

In this instance, you will still need to pay them for their notice period and you can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Pay in lieu of notice – you end the employment before the individual serves their notice and pay them as if they had worked their notice period.
  2. Garden leave – the employee serves their notice but doesn’t do any work for your company. This might happen if they are leaving to work for a competitor. Again, they must be paid for the full notice period.

Nobody wants to recruit the wrong person for the role. But occasionally it happens. Protect your business by:

  • checking your contracts of employment
  • paying notice periods as required
  • revisiting your recruitment practices to spot any gaps

If you want help protecting your business from the unexpected, get in touch with Crosse HR.