Making your employees redundant is hard. It’s natural to feel a burden when you hold the fate of others in your hands. In our latest blog, we set out what you can, should and must do during the redundancy process to make sure it’s carried out fairly, sensitively and legally.
Redundancy best practice: what can I do when making someone redundant?
We’ve detailed 10 things you can do to handle your redundancy process fairly and sensitively:
- Provide your employees with as much notice as possible and start consultation as early as you can. Listen and consider all suggestions as part of consultation.
- Invite employees to volunteer for redundancy in the first instance and consider a ‘sweetener’ – i.e., above the statutory minimum for those that volunteer first if budget allows.
- Use defined selection criteria which can include interviews to select employees for redundancy.
- Clearly communicate redundancy selection criteria to your employees and allow employees ask questions about the selection process. Consider all alternatives to redundancy. Redundancy should only be a LAST resort. Remember, it’s the role that is being made redundant.
- Schedule more than one meeting (as part of the consultation process) to allow employees to discuss selection criteria and give them plenty of opportunities to consider their options.
- Be flexible on notice periods – i.e., allow them to leave early – the decision is ultimately yours, but if they’re keen to move on, try to support and facilitate this.
- If budget allows, consider going beyond the minimum statutory redundancy requirements.
- Consider offering emotional support and access to counselling – it’s a stressful process, so listen and help where you can.
- Be flexible about allowing employees to book time off to attend external interviews
- Look after those who are not leaving, they need support too!
Remember – communicate, communicate, communicate and then communicate some more.
What should I ideally do when making someone redundant?
Your employees are entitled to a fair and objective process, so implementing the following steps will help things to run smoothly.
10 things you should do during the redundancy process:
- Explore alternatives – for example, alternative roles with similar pay, skills and conditions, before making your decision. Redundancy should always be a last resort
- Explain why it’s happening and provide an estimated timeline.
- Define and explain the criteria for redundancy.
- Emphasise at the first consultation meeting that no decisions have been made and you wish to work with your employees to find the best solution for everyone.
- Take the consultation seriously – your employees may have some fantastic ideas you hadn’t considered.
- Invite employees to at least one 1-2-1 meeting.
- Take and circulate minutes of all meetings.
- Prepare a matrix of employment criteria to choose the most suitable roles to retain and let go. Remember, it’s the roles being made redundant, not the people!
- Inform employees in writing if their roles are being considered for redundancy
- Inform affected team members they can appeal your decision.
Keep an open mind ahead of the redundancy process and make sure you support your employees as much as you can, such as helping with CVs, interview tips, references, outplacement support or offering training to assist them in securing another role internally.
What do I have to do when making someone redundant?
Under the 1996 Employment Rights Act, employees can be made redundant if the following statements are wholly or partly true:
- The employer ceases to continue the business
- The employer ceases to continue the business in the location where the employee worked
- The need for employee/s to do work of a particular nature ceases or reduces
- The employer no longer needs work of a particular nature to be carried out in the location where the employee worked
When it comes to your legal responsibilities, here are 10 things you must do before making someone redundant:
- Give a paid notice period ahead of redundancy (the length depends on employees’ contract and length of service).
- Carry out a meaningful consultation process to justify your reasons for the redundancies and ensure the process is fair and objective.
- Invite employees to take part in the consultation process in writing.
- Ask employees to attend at least one meeting during the process.
- Detail any severance payments in writing. Employees with more than two years’ service are entitled to at least the statutory minimum.
- Don’t use a “last in, first out” approach – that ended years ago.
- Pay furloughed employees redundancy pay based on their standard wage, not their furlough wage.
- Ensure it’s a fair process that doesn’t discriminate. Selection is based on set criteria that should not discriminate.
- Don’t pre-select employees before the consultation period or selection period.
- Do allow reasonable time off for job interviews.
Help for employers during the redundancy process
Handling human emotions is always challenging, and every business has different needs and experiences.
Our expert advice will ease your redundancy process and help achieve a positive outcome for all.
You can also download our free restructuring kit, full of advice and useful templates, to help you steer your business through times of change.
Need extra support in making redundancies? Crosse HR are experts in understanding you and your business, and we’re here to help. Together, we can find the right redundancy solution for your workplace and implement it smoothly and successfully.
Contact us on 0330 555 1139 or email@example.com
“Toss a coin and see if you are disappointed”. We used to say this a lot as teenagers when struggling to make decisions or work out if we had made the right one. Today I deal with business owners making decisions all day long big and small. Decision making without proper consideration can result in costly mistakes, whilst slow decision making can cripple a business with indecision and result in lost opportunities.
Consider where you sit on the decision-making spectrum.
Quick Decision Making
Slow Decision Making
Act now deal with any consequences later
Quick sense check of financial impact
Review info promptly, discuss and decide
Canvass multiple opinions
Canvass multiple opinions and prepare multiple scenarios
Think about the impact of your approach, is it right for your business and is it right for you. Would you like to move along the spectrum in either direction or consider what you need to do that?
You don’t need a detailed forecast every time you make a decision, but you do need to understand the financial impact. A couple of examples might be –
Change in sales Mix – Consider if you have the key data established to enable you to understand for example the impact of a change in sales mix. It is often straight forward to pick up the external costs for any changes but think also about the impact on your time, your margins and that of your team of any change.
New clients – Growth requires investment so understanding how much you will need to pay out in outsource costs, product costs, system changes or new staff costs will influence your funding requirements.
Think about who you talk to when making decisions about the business – is it too many or not enough?
Do you currently make all decisions yourself with no additional input and does that feel right to you or conversely do you ask too many people and acknowledge this then delays your decision making?
You need to ensure you are asking the right people the right questions…. think carefully about their experiences, one might be right for financials, one for culture, one for process changes.
Challenge and Support
Consider who you have around you when making these decisions too – we can all get stuck in our ways. Think about the last time someone told you your idea wasn’t quite right, how did you react- did you listen, and did you consider your position?
Surround yourself with good people with complementary skill sets who you trust and who you know will both challenge and support you.
Consider other business owners with similar challenges perhaps you can create a partnership to challenge and hold each other accountable. You may have other senior team members who you can be more open with and encourage them to bring new ideas and challenge the status quo.
- Be honest about where you are on the spectrum.
- Write three bullet points which state what level of support and challenge you feel you need.
- Consider your wider network and internal team and who could fulfil this role to help improve your decision-making.
Right now, we know you’re facing tough decisions in the workplace, and redundancies are commonplace. Yet, a lack of basic understanding still surrounds redundancy in many businesses.
Our free restructuring toolkit is full of essential information and resources, including a general guide to redundancy, how the redundancy process works and templates for your business plan, consultations, meeting records, notice periods and at-risk employee communications.
In this blog, we’ll give you an insight into what you’ll find in our restructuring toolkit and answer your top 10 most pressing redundancy questions. Read on to gain a clear, practical grasp of redundancy to move forward confidently.
#1 – I have four people and three jobs. Can I make the last one redundant?
No, the “last in, first out” criteria was abolished years ago, as it paved the way for claims of indirect age and gender discrimination and unfair dismissal. Instead, use selection criteria or a competitive interview process to determine who you will make redundant.
#2 – Can I make redundant employees work their notice period?
Yes, as per the terms of their contract. Although employees can try to negotiate a shorter notice period with you, that’s your decision. If your employees refuse to work out their notice, they’ll be in breach of their contract, and you won’t have to pay them for this period.
#3 – Do I have to pay redundancy?
Yes. If your employees have more than two years’ service, they’re entitled to a statutory redundancy payment paid out by the employer.
#4 – Do I have to pay a redundancy notice?
Yes. Regardless of the length of service, all employees are entitled to a paid notice period during a redundancy.
#5 – Can I make a pregnant employee redundant?
Yes, although not because she is pregnant. If you wish to make a pregnant employee redundant, you must follow the proper process and ensure her job is genuinely redundant. If you fail to do this, your employee can claim unfair dismissal on the grounds of her gender and circumstances.
#6 – Can I reinstate the job after making someone redundant?
No. The point of redundancy is that the job no longer exists, so you don’t require that employee’s services to fulfil it. If you immediately advertise for the same position after making someone redundant, it isn’t a genuine redundancy, and you could face legal action.
#7 – If business picks up following a redundancy process, can I reinstate the job?
You should wait between six to 12 months after a redundancy process before introducing and advertising for a similar role, or it won’t be a genuine redundancy. If trade has improved significantly after this period, you can review your requirements and proceed accordingly.
#8 – An employee I wanted to retain has volunteered for redundancy. What should I do?
Redundancy is an employer’s choice, not the employee’s. So, ultimately, it’s your decision to make. However, if your employee is volunteering for redundancy, they are likely to be unhappy in their job and may look elsewhere. Therefore, talk to the employee to address any concerns or issues they have to see if you can help them feel happier in their role.
#9 – Can I take redundant employees back if business picks up?
Yes, you can and should.
#10 – How do I stop redundant employees suing me?
You can’t unless you ask them to sign a Settlement Agreement. All employees have a right to take their claim to an employment tribunal if they feel you’ve treated them unlawfully. However, if you’re confident you’ve followed procedure and treated employees fairly, this shouldn’t pose an issue to your business.
How do I find bespoke redundancy support?
In this blog, we’ve covered the 10 most common questions you’ve asked us about redundancy.
However, if we haven’t answered your question here and you need further advice, we can offer you bespoke support designed around your needs and circumstances.
There’s no need to deal with your HR headache alone – let us ease the pain by providing practical support.
Call us on 0330 555 1139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s see how we can help you navigate redundancies with confidence.
Change is coming: are you prepared? This April, the new financial year brings significant changes to the employer landscape – namely, IR35 and the EU settlement scheme. Read on for the key facts and dates you need to know to ensure your business is ready.
IR35 applies to people who work for a business in a self-employed capacity but are essentially employees. Clamping down on this practice, changes to UK law will see HMRC recover unpaid tax and National Insurance from businesses if they believe employers are guilty of using self-employment loopholes to avoid giving employees necessary rights and benefits.
From 1 April 2021, companies that employ more than 50 employees or have a turnover of over £10.2 million will need to pay tax or National Insurance for workers or contractors who are essentially employees.
What’s the difference between an employee and a contractor?
Employees have a contract, paid holidays, PAYE, pensions, and a host of employment rights. Meanwhile, self-employed freelancers, workers, and contractors submit invoices, aren’t entitled to holiday or sick pay, and don’t share the same rights as employees.
EU settled status
Another critical change coming to the world of employment is the EU settled status. This applies to businesses with EU citizens working for them, as the individuals will have to reapply for residency status.
Post-Brexit, EU workers can only remain in the UK if they arrived before 31 December 2020 and have applied for residency via the EU Settlement Scheme.
Once individuals have settled status, they’re free to remain in the UK indefinitely and may be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Pre-settled status is available to those who have been in the UK for less than five years. It permits them to stay for five years, after which they can choose to apply for full settled status if they wish to remain here.
The good news is, there’s still time to apply for EU settled status if you or your employees haven’t done it yet.
The deadline for employees to apply for EU settled status is 30 June 2021. It’s free, and you can do it here: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status
If you’re unsure whether your employees have a legal right to work in the UK post-Brexit, you can check here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-work-checklist
Can I still employ someone from outside the UK post-Brexit?
Free movement between the UK and the EU ended on 31 December 2020, and a new points-based immigration system is in place in the UK.
So, while you can still employ people from the EU to work in your business following Brexit, they must score the necessary points and have a relevant work permit or status, and you must have a sponsor licence from the Home Office.
Skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor must have a skill level equivalent of RQF3 (equivalent to A level), speak English, score 70 points on the system, and earn at least £25,600 (or the “going rate” for the job).
Employees earning lower salaries may still apply by “trading” points, or if their job is on the shortage occupation list.
You may also transfer an employee from another part of your international business to work in the UK via an “intra-company transfer”, but certain stipulations apply.
Need help preparing for IR35 or post-Brexit employment?
Hopefully, this summary will help you work through the changes coming up in 2021.
If you still need any advice or support, we’re here to help. Call us on 0330 555 1139 or drop us a line at email@example.com
You can also take a look at our webinar below, delivered for RIBA West London to share some insight on HR matters currently affecting their members. After many interminable months of furlough doom and gloom, it was great to talk about how businesses can prepare for the future:
- Brexit and work permits
- IR35 and the impact on contracts
- And more
Check out the recording below and ensure you plan for the upcoming change.
Our MD and experienced HR consultant, Olga Crosse, recently joined Fulcrum Care Consulting to discuss what your options are if your staff in care homes refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Olga covers where you stand legally, what the best way to approach your staff is and a ‘last resort protocol’ if staff continuously refuse to take the vaccine. Read on to discover more.
Since the start of the Covid vaccine roll out we have been asked by a lot of our clients who operate in the Care Home space ‘what should we do with some staff who are refusing to have the vaccine, can we force them to?’.
According to Andrew Gregory of the Sunday Times it is expected that between 6% and 8% of the 1.5 million people who work in social care will refuse the vaccine. It has been reported that the National Care Association (NCA) is taking a legal opinion on whether or not care home staff can be ‘made’ to accept the vaccine as they are concerned that as many as 40% of care home staff may refuse the vaccine. On the plus side Nadra Ahmed Chairwoman of the NCA has said that between 50% and 60% of care home staff will definitely have the vaccine. So where does a care home provider stand legally?
Where do you stand legally with the Covid vaccine?
There is no simple answer to that, as a rule you cannot force anyone to accept the Covid vaccine if they do not want to and there is plenty of legislation that protects that right e.g. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 specifically states that a member of the public should not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment, including vaccinations. An employer may fall foul of the Equalities Act 2010 if someone objects on religious or other grounds not to mention breaching Article 8 (right to family and a home life) of the Human Rights Act.
Is there anything else that you can do?
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 which states that employers have a duty of care to ensure a safe working environment might actually go some way in solving the Covid vaccine conundrum for care homes. Basically, employers have to ensure that the people they care for are not exposed to any risks. In that case, it could be deemed reasonable for a care home employer to insist that employees are vaccinated in a care home setting, in order to protect the residents that are being cared. Care Home employers could even make that a pre-condition of employment, which according to Lee Peart of CHP (Care Home Professional), Barchester Healthcare have done just that, and said that they won’t hire anyone who refuses to take vaccination on non-medical grounds. They have made it a condition of employment for any new hires and that is acceptable in that context, however as always we urge employers to proceed with caution before they do anything like that and always take HR and legal advice.
Consultation and communication with care home staff
Persuasion is always better than mandating anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. As with most things, it’s the fear of the unknown, and lack of communication that scares people the most. Therefore, we recommend care home owners (and employers in general) consult with their staff, listen to any concerns, act on those concerns and put measures in place to protect them to try and persuade nervous or dissenting employees to actually take the vaccine.
What should you do as a last resort?
As a last resort, if consultation and persuasion doesn’t work, care home employers could then take the nuclear step and specifically ‘instruct’ the employees to take the vaccine (as the vaccine is there to protect the residents and the staff, this could be seen as a reasonable management instruction) and any refusal to do so would be seen as ‘refusing a reasonable management instruction’ which is a disciplinary offence, which could potentially lead to an employee’s dismissal. We would urge caution before taking this route and try as much as possible to get consensus and agreement first. It is always better to persuade than to impose and legally a lot safer.
Other employers outside of the care home sector need to be very careful in insisting employees take the vaccine (Pimlico Plumbers springs to mind) and making it a condition of employment. Insisting might not be seen as reasonable in any other context and again might be in breach of a number of pieces of legislation, and you could be sued, so if you are a care home owner be sure to proceed with caution and to take HR and legal advice before you take any actions outlined above.
Fulcrum Care Ltd is a dedicated management support consultancy for care homes. Whatever the nature of your query, whether relating to help with a CQC inspection, improvement programmes, care compliance activities, best practice advice or management support, please get in touch for an initial discussion on finding the right solution for you and your care home.
With the (dare we say it?) unprecedented events of 2020 behind us, it’s time to look ahead to 2021. January is the ideal time to reflect on lessons learned in the previous year and prepare for a successful 12 months.
Now, more than ever, it’s vital to tackle the year head-on armed with as much information and foresight as possible.
Read on to see what we gleaned from the challenges of 2020, and how you can set your business up for a fruitful 2021.
How did we support you through 2020?
Hopefully, we were able to support you and your business during the trials of 2020, whether as a client or simply by reading our blogs for HR advice and suggestions on navigating the many issues the year threw at us.
In a rapidly changing landscape of furlough, redundancies and working from home, we sought to be your HR helpline and respond to your shifting needs. As well as providing plenty of free advice, we also created useful resources to address topical challenges happening in your business.
Finding the positives in 2020, we posted a guest blog full of insightful advice on maximising efficiency, income and budget, as well as encouraging you to recognise your strengths and congratulate yourself on surviving what was undoubtedly one of the most challenging years in business.
Appreciating your positive qualities is a fantastic way to grow, both personally and professionally.
In July, we created a free restructuring toolkit to help you work through the changes in your business from an HR perspective. The kit featured advice on redundancy, a business plan template, meeting record templates, at-risk employee communications and a redundancy notice period template.
Aimed at maximising your reduced budget and limited time, the kit is still available for free on our website – download it here.
Return to work toolkit
Bringing your employees back to work after lockdowns and furlough periods was another task to overcome in 2020. To ease the transition, we created a free HR return to work guide. This pack included risk assessments, Covid-safe workplace advice, office hours tips, flexible working support and wellbeing guidance.
Now we’re in our third lockdown, this pack will once again prove useful when your team returns to the office. Download yours here.
Why is HR important to your business in 2021?
With constant changes occurring in the world of work, HR is the cornerstone of your business and can enable you to support your teams through the pandemic’s everyday challenges.
As HR specialists, we understand your employees’ needs and can help you implement processes and procedures that will support your teams and safeguard your business.
Plus, we stay on top of HR trends, technology and challenges to communicate the critical takeaways to you in a simple, digestible format with clear advice on how you can keep your business protected and productive.
Why you need to start planning your year
Forget diets and detoxes: top of your list of new year’s resolutions should be business planning!
Plotting out your objectives and targets for the year may seem tricky at such a confusing time, but it will provide you with a roadmap through which to steer your business through the coming months.
Setting targets helps you prepare for all eventualities, meaning no nasty surprises. Plus, it can encourage positive changes in behaviour which spark higher retention rates, less pressure and increased productivity among your team.
What’s more, planning the year will enable you to react fast to industry or nationwide changes, understand your budget and funding options better and manage staffing levels successfully.
A crucial part of your planning for the year should include your appraisal schedule. As every business tries to perform to its potential during challenging circumstances, appraisals can help you assess what’s working and what’s not. In doing so, you can carve out a clear action plan to ensure your business maximises its resources to hit key targets.
Find out more about appraisals and download your free guide here.
HR changes post-Brexit
January 2021 sees a new points-based immigration system implemented in the UK, so employers who wish to recruit or retain non-UK citizens must follow specific processes to stay compliant. Plus, employees themselves may have the reapply for residency status.
If you’re unsure about these issues and how they might affect your team, check out our blog on the subject here.
Keep following our blog and social media channels to stay updated on all the latest post-Brexit HR news as it develops over this year.
Preparing for IR35
Originally scheduled to be introduced in April 2020, the IR35 tax legislation will now come into play this April.
For a full explanation of the changes due to be implemented – and how you can prepare for them – check out our blog on IR35 here.
Here to support you
As you take your business into 2021, we want to reassure you that we’ll be here with you every step of the way.
HR is a critical element in the smooth running of your business, especially during challenging periods. So, we will be providing advice, support and guidance at every turn.
Whether you’re a client or you use our free HR resources – like the restructuring toolkit, the return to work toolkit or the appraisals toolkit, for example – we will be working hard for you throughout 2021 and beyond.
Remember, we’re always available for a chat, advice or support – please contact us if we can help your business with any kind of HR guidance.
What a year 2020 has been. It’s put a strain on us all: mentally, physically, personally and professionally. So, as we come to our end of year reviews, how should we approach them?
We take a look at the importance of regular appraisals, emotional intelligence, setting targets for 2021 and how to assess personnel that may have been furloughed or missed a significant chunk of time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Read on to discover more…
End of Year Reviews
End of year reviews are annual meetings held to evaluate performance and identify any causes of concern or improvement. They provide an important opportunity to:
- Identify areas of weakness and create a plan to address this
- Refine responsibilities – referencing priorities and workload
- Identify opportunities for development – with reference to training or next steps
- Agree measurable targets and next steps
However, as well as being an opportunity for examination and assessment, end of year reviews also act as a great time for employees to celebrate their achievements. By reflecting back on the year, both parties can recognise the progress made by the employee and explore exciting next steps.
Remember, the review process is the ideal opportunity for employees to share how you can help them perform better!
However, it’s fair to say that this year is a bit different. With many employees absent from the business, forced into new homeworking conditions and mass uncertainty about what the future holds, it’s important to adapt accordingly.
In the next section of this blog, we will advise how you can lead a suitable review in the current climate.
Acting with Empathy
Research shows that empathy is one of the key drivers of overall performance and that teams with more empathetic bosses produce better results. Therefore, with a difficult year under our belts, we urge you to actively act with empathy.
Whilst we’re not suggesting that you simply let employees off the hook for the year, now more than ever, managers must apply an appropriate dose of context with their judgements, rather than viewing performance as just black or white.
Employees are facing a multitude of toils and trouble – with fears of job loss, stress and concerns for health having a significant effect on the workforce as a whole. Therefore, having the emotional intelligence and sensitivity to navigate a successful appraisal in the current circumstances could prove more difficult than anticipated.
When assessing your employees, consider:
- How can I reassure and support the employee?
- Has the pandemic impacted results?
- Would I expect leniency if I missed my targets?
- How can I fairly judge performance?
Whilst analysing progress is key to a successful appraisal, ensure that this is well-balanced with time to check in with the employee, their wellbeing and their plans for the future. Remember, it wasn’t the choice of some to work from home and it could have uprooted feelings of great difficulty or isolation.
Discuss how you can better support them – considering how you can help nurture growth and development. Whilst it’s understandable that many employers wont’ be in a financial position to fund training, pay rises or even promise job security, it may be possible for personnel to utilise this quieter period to undertake free training to further their skills.
It may be useful to point your employees in the direction of The Skills Toolkit for free digital courses that can help teach new skills, recap fundamentals or further knowledge.
Looking to the Future
One aspect of reviews this year that will prove to be especially difficult is setting attainable targets for 2021. Whilst the economy is unstable and uncertain, it’s very difficult to predict how businesses will fare. Therefore, this needs to be reflected in targets and the usual increase in performance or productivity may need be reviewed.
It’s important to:
- Set SMART objectives
- Be realistic – recognise that targets may need to digress from previous years
- Focus on what is attainable in the current circumstances
- Set targets that asses the quality of work produced, not just quantity
- Consider reviewing targets quarterly
Finally, when making plans for the future and discussing next steps, consider how this will look in the coming weeks and months. Will home working be permanent? How will this affect how employees are measured? Do you need to increase the frequency of reviews or touch-base more? These are all questions that must be answered when putting plans in place for 2021.
How to Assess Furloughed Staff:
This year is like no other. Shocks to the economy have meant that much of the workforce have experienced reduced hours, furlough or been absent from the business for weeks or months at a time. So, how should you assess your furloughed staff?
An Employer’s Standpoint:
As an employer, there is no issue in carrying out appraisals whilst your employees are furloughed, since taking part in the appraisal would not count as work.
However, the person who is leading the appraisal (ie, the manager), could not be furloughed whilst appraisals are being conducted. This is because the appraisals are counted as work for the manager or company representative leading the meeting.
Just because an employee hasn’t been present for the whole year, it doesn’t mean that you should skip your end of year appraisal.
This meeting is greatly beneficial for both the employer and employee to check in, refocus and identify how to progress. Failure to do so may result in:
- Employee confusion, upset and anxiety
- Uncertainty for the future
- Outdated or inappropriate goals or targets
How do you measure new starters? Or those that have returned from maternity leave? Measuring employees on a part-time basis isn’t a new concept. As with most plans this year, it just needs a little adapting.
More Support – For Them and For You:
Feedback shouldn’t just be provided once a year in an annual review. In fact, most employees respond best to continual feedback from their managers. To discover more about continual feedback, read our blog here. It’s a great way to provide more support for your employees, especially as many businesses continue with remote working.
For more support and information on how to conduct your staff appraisals, contact us today! We’re experts in supporting you with even the most complicated people-management headaches, so that you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing best by your business and employees.
Coronavirus has highlighted an issue that’s been present for years: employees are concerned about being negatively judged for needing working adjustments to accommodate their children. But what will the knock-on effects be and why do we need to act now to support working parents?
We take a look at the ongoing issues that working parents face, outline your legal standpoint and discuss what ‘reasonable’ adjustments can be made as society faces a modern-day childcare crisis.
UK Childcare Crisis
Childcare has been a hot topic since schools shut in March – exposing a lack of support for over 13 million working parents in the UK. That’s about 40% of the working population.
However, this is an ongoing issue. With entire year groups having to isolate and schools being forced to shut, this isn’t a problem that’s going out of the spotlight any time soon. So, why should employers get on board?
The UK is experiencing a childcare crisis – with a recent survey revealing that a lack of childcare played a role in almost half of female layoffs since the pandemic hit. Furthermore, even our keyworkers felt the strain with 67% forced to reduce their hours due to a lack of access to childcare.
It seems unlikely that any working parent will avoid childcare difficulties at some time over the coming months. So, let’s take a look at some of the issues contributing…
Issues of being a working parent
Lack of support for working parents
Have you ever felt concerned to admit to childcare issues or felt worried that you’d be met with a negative response? Well, you’re not the only one.
In fact, of those working mothers that did experience a lack of childcare during the pandemic, over half reported that they were met with negativity from their employer. Moreover, it’s likely that this fear will increase as we head into a recession and the peril of redundancy grows within society.
The lack of support goes beyond the employer, however. At current, accessing support is more difficult than ever. Whilst grandparents may be isolating or friends are unable to mix bubbles and pitch in together, many are looking to paid support in the form of nurseries or childminders.
Yet, they’ll be met with a nasty struggle – as many working parents may have found. Only 56% of local authorities have enough childcare for parents working full-time, meaning that childcare spaces are hard to come by, especially at such short notice.
Despite the need for childcare to be seen as economic infrastructure, the investment simply doesn’t match and prices for childcare are snowballing out of control, as one of the most highly-regulated sectors push prices up year-on-year.
However, parents are left to brunt the cost of this regulation. In 2020, parents are paying an average of £6,800 for a part-time nursery place. That’s 5% more than last year – well ahead of inflation which sits at 1.50%.
Therefore, with childcare costs becoming an increasing strain on the family unit, it’s concerning to see that families are opting to reduce their groceries in favour of childcare, or feel forced to cut their hours to access tax-free support.
A backstep for equality
The role of a mother has shifted from a stay at home mum to working a triple shift – looking after the home, the family and a job.
As the primary caregiver in the UK, it appears that working mothers are perhaps the worst-affected by the childcare crisis, with a recent study revealing that 72% have been forced to reduce their hours (capping their earning potential) due to a lack of childcare.
But what will be the long-term affects of a mother having to put her career second?
- Higher levels of female unemployment
- Less women in senior roles
- Reduced diversity
- Increased gender pay gap
With 46% of working mothers stating that childcare was a deciding factor in their redundancy since the pandemic broke, this issue cannot be ignored any longer.
Therefore, in order to avoid taking a step back into the 40s, we must act now to support working parents as a whole.
An employee is entitled to take reasonable time off as “dependants leave” but only in specified circumstances. There is no statutory obligation on employers to pay the employee for the time off and what is “reasonable” is not mandated.
An employee also has a separate entitlement to take unpaid parental leave of up to 18 weeks (per child), at any time until the child is 18; but advance notice must be given (whereas time off for dependants is designed to deal with emergency situations). One type of leave could transition into the other.
For more information about the rights surrounding work and childcare, download our detailed 9-page explainer in our Return to Work Toolkit.
In addition to dependants leave and unpaid parental leave, anyone who has worked for 26-weeks continuously has the statutory right to submit a formal flexible working request.
The request can include possible changes to work arrangements, such as:
- Reduction or variation of working hours
- Reduction or variation of the days worked
- Working from a different location, eg home.
Employer Support – Going The Extra Mile
With all that said, what can employers do above the legal minimum to make the lives of working parents better? Well, here are just a few things to consider:
Normalise Working Parents
Everyone knows THAT news segment where the toddler broke in during an interview on BBC. But, have you seen how they handled the more recent interview with Dr Clare Wenham and her toddler’s unicorn? Normalising parenting can go a long way to reducing anxiety around childcare.
As with all change, ensure your leadership get on board and lead by example – being a parent and being a professional should not be a paradox.
As the pandemic escalates the shift away from ‘traditional’ ways of working, it’s important to carefully consider your employee’s requests and try to be as accommodating as possible. Failure to do so will likely push them towards a decision of ‘work or home’ – meaning that you could lose out on quality talent.
Download our free flexible working request form and flexible working methods explainer here.
Simple and effective: showing compassion and understanding to working parents can reduce the fear surrounding this widespread issue.
In such stressful times, employers should be making it as easy as possible for working parents to follow the rules and government guidance. For example, if an employee is concerned that they will lose their job if required to care for children forced to isolate, they may be encouraged to illegally break the isolation period to hide issues from their employer. This will put your workforce as a whole in jeopardy.
To combat the negative experiences of many, we must establish a safer, more understanding environment where employees are able to be transparent about the issues they face – without fear of an adverse reaction.
Putting formal policies in place to protect both the employee and employer can help establish a more collaborative approach to problem-solving. For example, by having a homeworking policy in place, employers can feel in control of individuals who seek to work from home on a more permanent basis.
Download our free policies here, including:
- Homeworking policy
- Health and wellbeing policy
- Flexible working policy
Gender Pay Report
Whilst it isn’t legally required by all businesses, publishing an annual gender pay report can help employers to become conscious of inequalities within the business.
Consider checking in on the differences between genders in regards to pay, promotional opportunities and recruitment. The first step of righting a wrong is identifying it, after all!
Need more help?
During these testing times, the team at Crosse HR are trying to do their bit – supporting small businesses by providing free templates to help time and resources go further.
However, if you require further expert HR support and consultancy, please get in touch. Contact Crosse HR for shrewd, sensibly priced HR solutions you can rely on.