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 alonein the middle of a global pandemic.
Understandably, many of our clients feel overwhelmed by all the information outthere. 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:
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 employersfor 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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 depends on:
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
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 websitehere.
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 home, the 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 availablehere.
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.
If you have any concerns or questions about the latest changes in legislation or how they may affect you, please do not hesitate tocontact us online or email email@example.com and we will try our best to point you in the right direction.
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:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Cleaning, including providing ample hand-washing facilities
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.
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:
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.
Mr Daniel Kessler who heads up the UCLA’s Bedari Kindness Institute (funded (to the tune of $20 million) by very kind people Jennifer and Matthew C Harris) says
‘Kindness, is “the thoughts, feelings and beliefs associated with actions intending to benefit others, where benefiting others is an end in itself, not a means to an end”.
And unkindness, on the other hand, is “intolerant beliefs, the lack of valuation of others’ welfare”.
It got me thinking, if I am to live a long life I must consciously try to be kinder, then companies could last longer if they were kinder too, after all a company is made up of its people right!
So, how better to be kind folks, than to look after your people and genuinely care about them. That’s why I am providing you with a Wellbeing policy for free (how kind is that) to show your people that you genuinely care.
Christmas is coming, and with it comes parties, Instagram opportunities, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, extended time off and plenty of time on people’s hands. In other words, Social media and HR.
So what you may well ask has this got to do with me as an employer?
Plenty is the short answer, plenty.
You cannot control what an employee does or says in their free time, but what if it’s being done in your company name, company time or is associated in any way with your company. Do you even know who or what you or your brand is being associated with?
It might be the time to find out or at least set the boundaries around what is acceptable or not.
Quite bluntly, employees should not be associating their employers in any way on any form of private social media, this includes, not stating where they work, no company logos, not discussing company business, clients or other colleagues (even if they are friends) on any of their private accounts.
Many an employee and employer has at the very least been angry the very worst severely embarrassed or reputationally scarred by a rogue employee who decides to post or rant about ‘work’, post pictures of themselves in fancy dress (think that Justin Trudeau post), drunk, on holiday (when they’ve rang in sick), high, taking drugs, espousing views that would make the most ardent left or right winger choke over their cornflakes, engaging in splats on Twitter with a major client, swinging, posing provocative, boasting about all sorts – you get the picture, all the while sitting proudly next to that is your Company name.
So what to do about it, like anything you set the boundaries, and the easiest way to do that is draft a policy into your HR Handbook or Policies & Procedures and make all employees aware of it.
To help you out, I have drafted one here for you for free. Download our Social Media Policy template to enable your business to develop clear policy guidelines around social media usage.
If you need any help with any of the topics mentioned in this blog then please contact us.
15.1 million women are at work in the UK. So it’s safe to assume that at some stage in the next 20 or so years those 15.1m women will go through the menopause in the workplace. That’s an awful lot of people who are absolutely guaranteed to go through a fairly seismic shift in their lives. Learn more about managing the menopause in the workplace and download our free Menopause HR Policy.
Menopause in the Workplace
We hear a lot of talk about millennials and their issues, but consider this, a huge proportion of the workforce at any given time is going through a massive physical and physiological change and no one wants to talk about it much less do anything about it.
99% of businesses in the UK do not even have a menopause in the workplace policy, they have Well-being policies sure but nothing not a jot, iota or mention of what perhaps 10% of their workforce is going through and 50% will face at some stage in their lives.
We all have mothers, sisters, friends, wives, girlfriends, work colleagues, so it’s safe to assume that all of us know someone that is going through this right now – silently, alone and totally ignored.
The average age for women to go through the menopause is 51, (some go through it much earlier, some later), it can last up to 7 years, yes you heard right, 7 long, upsetting, draining, weird years. Symptoms include interrupted sleep, hot flushes, night sweats, night terrors, weight gain, irritability, mood swings, depression, general malaise, brain fog and a lot more I won’t mention – in short, a fairly miserable set of symptoms.
With the skills shortage in the UK we will all have to work a lot longer (up to 70 and beyond) as we have diddly squat in pensions. But yet, not yet halfway through their working lives, a huge proportion of women are going through the hell that is the menopause in the workplace – unsupported.
Do you have a Menopause Policy?
Recently I’ve written a Menopause HR Policy, to help all employers and I mean ALL employers deal with this issue. Include it in your wellbeing policies, have it as a stand-alone, it’s as important as your maternity policy. You can download it below for free. So employers start preparing and start by buying fans!
Download your Free Menopause in the Workplace HR Policy
Employee mental health is important but with the British stiff upper lips it can mean that mental health is a topic rarely discussed. With 12.5 million working days lost to stress, anxiety or depression in 2016/2017, spotting the telltale signs of poor employee mental health is business critical.
We look at five red flags that show all’s not well with your workforce and we review how you can take the initiative in opening up mental health discussion in your organisation.
Red Flag #1 – Silly Mistakes
We all make silly mistakes from time to time. But when you notice someone making more errors than usual, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.
Maybe your employee is turning over a problem in their mind making it difficult to concentrate. Or perhaps raised anxiety levels and adrenaline mean they’re easily distracted. Both behaviours can be a sign of an underlying problem.
Red Flag #2 – Short Tempers or Skittishness
When the usually calm and kind Jane snaps, shouts or loses her temper, it’s time for a chat.
You might also find that people who are suffering with mental health problems speed up and talk more or faster or jump between topics. All these behaviours are a result of a cortisol spike or a long-term increase in adrenaline.
While some people are naturally more likely to flare up or topic-hop than others, you need to be aware of times when this is out of the ordinary for a particular individual. Then be prepared to step in.
Red Flag #3 – Flat-lining
Keep your eye out for any staff who are unusually quiet or who fail to see the funny side of things. If something goes wrong and an individual gets a bit teary, becomes subdued or leaves the room, you might find that they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Other signs of mental ill health can include people avoiding social situations like team lunches or drinks after work.
Forcing people to join in or expecting someone to resolve this situation alone is a definite no-no. Instead, take them to one side and check in to make sure they’re ok.
Red Flag #4 – Alcohol on the Breath
Everyone has the odd mid-week evening when they really need a drink. But if one of your team is regularly coming into work with alcohol on their breath, you need to address the situation.
This isn’t just for the wellbeing of the individual concerned but for the safety of those around them, particularly in roles where staff drive or operate machinery. Immediate action is called for in this case to prevent an accident.
Red Flag #5 – Appearance
Appearance might only be skin deep but it can tell us a lot about an individual’s state of mind. When we’re under pressure, or feeling exhausted due to depression, self-care can be one of the first things to go.
Someone who’s looking a bit disheveled, seems to showering less or is failing to take care of their appearance might be struggling to maintain their mental health.
Another telltale sign can be an individual’s weight. People with anxiety often feel like they don’t want to eat due to the high levels of adrenaline in their system. Others find that depression and anxiety make them turn to food for comfort.
Either way, weight can be a good indicator that someone is struggling. Of course, referencing someone’s appearance is not a good jumping off point for a supportive conversation. So, what should you do to help your staff?
Take the Employee Mental Health Well-Being Initiative
Talking about mental health is the first step to addressing it. As a leader, it can be encouraging to talk about the support you find helpful and the tactics you use to keep on top of stress and anxiety.
One way to to help is to ask your team for a list of early signs of mental distress and the tactics that aid them. They can share these with you so you know what to look out for and the best way to intervene.
Beyond this, developing a wellness plan for your business will formalise your response as an organisation and also helps employees know that you care about their well-being.
Keeping an eye on your employee mental health is good for your staff and your business. By following the advice in this article, you’ll be ready to spot issues and respond appropriately when your employees need you most.