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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
UK employees work some of the longest hours in Europe. Yet the UK’s productivity is lagging behind other G7 countries causing businesses and the economy reduced growth. Long hours also contribute to stress, depression and anxiety which, in 2018/19, accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases. In short, a long hours culture isn’t any good for anyone.
Now a ruling from the European Court of Justice has mandated that businesses record all the hours employees work using timekeeping systems. We take a look at what this means for your business. And how you can get the best return from your timekeeping system investment.
Why Is This Happening?
The EU has previously attempted to limit a long hours’ culture in the shape of the Working Time Directive. This law, established in 2003, stated that, unless employees choose to opt out, they should not work longer than 48 hours a week and they are entitled to an 11-hour break every 24 hours.
However, some trade unions have questioned the law’s efficacy, particularly when it comes to the accurate recording of employees’ hours.
According to a Spanish trade union, 53.7% of overtime hours worked in Spain are not recorded.
This results in an action being brought before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) seeking to force Deutsche Bank to set up a timekeeping system.
In making its judgement the court noted:
the importance of workers’ fundamental rights to a limit on the maximum number of working hours and to daily and weekly rest periods in line with the Working Time Directive
that Member States are required to ensure workers benefit from the rights conferred on them
without a system to record the duration of time worked each day by each worker it’s not possible to determine, objectively and reliably, the number of hours worked and when, or the number of hours of overtime worked.
This has resulted in the ECJ mandating that businesses must introduce new timekeeping systems to ensure workers’ rights are complied with.
What Kind of System Do You Need?
The ECJ did not define the type of system you need to use leaving it to Member States to define their own arrangements. However, the system must determine the number of normal and overtime hours worked and when in a way that’s objective and reliable.
TImekeeping systems typically consist of a combination of hardware and software. The physical system can take the form of a biometric scanner, swipe card system or a clocking in machine. Supported by software that captures the data, these systems can be customised to provide the exact reporting your business needs.
There are lots of different solutions available with price points starting at several hundred pounds and running into thousands or tens of thousands of pounds. The exact cost will depend on the number of employees and sites you operate and your business requirements.
The Business Benefits
Let’s be honest – the law says you need to have a timekeeping system so you’ll have to set aside some budget. However, introducing a new timekeeping system can do much more than help you meet your legal obligations.
More information, more insight
With more reliable data, you’ll have a better understanding of your workforce’s habits which will empower you to make decisions based on facts rather than guesswork.
Timekeeping system reports can flag issues like:
recurrent absences which might indicate a disengaged colleague, a potential leaver or someone struggling with ill health
dips in performance from one of your best people that directly correlate to long hours
recurrent lateness and no evidence that the hours are being made up at the end of the day
With this kind of information you can assess workforce challenges and take action to correct them. Which could mean keeping hold of top performers, retaining someone with illness or ensuring every team member is fulfilling their contractual hours.
Help with holiday pay calculations
The information gathered in a timekeeping system can also help you calculate holiday pay which must now include regular overtime and commission payments. Depending on the system you already use for this process, you may be able to adapt it to meet the new timekeeping requirements. Or you could kill two birds with one stone with your new software.
Fair treatment and employee engagement
This new requirement isn’t just good for you as a business owner but for your employees too. They’ll feel that they’re being fairly compensated for the time they work leading to engaged employees and an even more harmonious workplace.
Using a timekeeping system to visualise your business’ time and attendance, you’ll have the insight to help your people and your business achieve peak performance. And you’ll be one step ahead of legislation too.
Find out more about Crosse HR’s services or get in touch for support with any people problems on 0330 555 1139 or at email@example.com.
A few beers at the match the night before, mid-week drinks or a catch-up with friends over a few glasses of wine. In moderation this kind of drinking is fine. But research from the Drink Aware campaign shows that as many as 89,000 people could be hungover or under the influence at work. Which could pose difficulties in the workplace.
As the festive season draws near, the likelihood of your staff turning up to work a little worse for wear is increasingly likely.So how can you, as an employer, solve this alcohol-induced headache?
Alcohol and Work – A Modern Concern?
In the past, it was considered completely normal to visit the pub at lunchtime with colleagues and have several alcoholic drinks before returning to work. However, consuming alcohol at lunchtime has become something of a social taboo that’s frowned upon by both organisations and their workers.
In modern Britain, even traditionalists like Lloyd’s of London, have banned lunchtime drinking due to alcohol-related harassment cases.
The reasons for this change are clear as alcohol is associated with lower productivity levels, reduced inhibitions and the potential for mistakes to be made. Plus the chance that staff could place themselves and others at risk.
For employers, there are two alcohol-related situations that need to be considered, planned for and dealt with.
24-Hour Party People
It’s easy to forget that alcohol can stay in your bloodstream for up to 24 hours after you finish drinking. As anyone who’s used an online alcohol calculator will know, it can be surprising how long it takes to be safe to drive after a few drinks. A bottle of 13% wine that’s consumed by 11pm means you probably can’t drive legally until 10am.
What does this mean for you as the boss? Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 you have a duty, as far as is reasonably practical, to protect the health, safety and welfare of all your staff.
This means, if someone is still under the influence of alcohol or is a risk due to a hangover, you have a responsibility to stop them from working. Knowingly allowing an employee to work under the influence of alcohol and putting colleagues, customers or the individual at risk could result in prosecution.
Sending the individual home is probably the safest bet. But don’t forget, you’ll need to ensure they get home safely, which could mean getting them a taxi or a lift home.
Make Your Position Clear with Policy
To protect your business and yourself, it’s a good idea to have a policy around alcohol and the workplace. Depending on the nature of your business, you might decide to completely ban the consumption of alcohol during or immediately before working hours.
Or it may be appropriate to allow moderate drinking at lunch or with clients at meals for example. You’ll need to decide which approach is safe and suitable for your business.
Your policy needs to be clear that if an employee shows up to work under the influence of alcohol, then this will be classed as a gross misconduct offence usually resulting in a disciplinary process.
From Hangovers to Alcohol Dependency
Dealing with people who are under the influence is one aspect of dealing with alcohol in the workplace. But what about situations where staff have had a few drinks the night before and arrive in work hungover? Where do you stand then?
This probably depends on the severity of the hangover. A slight headache and raging thirst could pose a low enough risk to be tolerated in the workplace – particularly in low-risk roles and environments. However, it’s not pleasant for other workers to put up with a colleague who’s not pulling their weight with a waft of alcohol on their breath.
As long as this only happens occasionally and performance is not regularly impacted, there’s probably no need to address these kinds of situations.
However, repeated offences could be an indication that someone is alcohol dependent, which is another issue entirely.
Providing Support for Your Staff
Its likely that colleagues and supervisors will be the first to notice a change in behaviour, alcohol on the breath or someone struggling to complete their work effectively or safely.
In this situation, it’s important that everyone feels able to speak up so help can be provided. With the right support in place, it’s more likely that individuals will come forward enabling you to take action.
Employee assistance programmes are an excellent way to provide help to your staff. Not only do they provide phone helplines but face-to-face counselling sessions that will help staff address any underlying issues causing alcohol misuse.
With Christmas fast approaching it’s likely company events will feature alcohol. So refresh your policy, or get on in place ahead of time, then communicate your expectations to line managers and staff. There’s no need to be heavy handed – a light touch communication about everyone enjoying themselves responsibly should set the tone.
If your event is at a venue with bar staff, ask them to refuse service to anyone who looks like they’ve had enough. Don’t forget – if it appears you have encouraged staff to over-consume, it can be difficult to dismiss anyone for gross misconduct offences relating to alcohol.
If you don’t have an alcohol policy in place, we’re more than happy to draft one for you. Ensuring everyone at your company has a very merry Christmas without the hangover.
Performance management used to be a once a year event or twice at a push. Managers set objectives at the start of the year, gave feedback six months later and at the year-end provided an overall rating. If employees were really lucky, they were asked about their career aspirations and development needs.
Following years of feedback, it emerged that this style of performance management wasn’t as effective as employees or employers would have liked. In fact, only two in ten employees believed that annual performance appraisals motivated them to do outstanding work.
Now organisations around the world are trading in their annual process for continual performance management. An approach that’s better suited to modern businesses seeking improved employee performance and enhanced results. We explore what continual performance management is, why it’s favoured over annual appraisals and how to implement it in your organisation.
What Is Continual Performance Management?
Continual performance management is a human resource (HR) process that takes place throughout the year. It’s an ongoing, holistic approach to appraisal that replaces infrequent with regular feedback leading to a more natural employee-manager conversation and healthier, more authentic workplace relationships.
What Issues Does It Seek to Address?
Can you remember exactly how you delivered a piece of work two weeks ago? How about three months ago? What about half a year?
The whole premise of continual performance management is that it’s difficult to remember exactly what we’ve delivered and how we’ve delivered it a long time after the event. This makes it tough on employees to give an accurate account and difficult for managers to make an accurate assessment of performance.
In addition, modern agile businesses move much faster which often results in objectives set at the start of the year no longer being relevant six or twelve months later.
Why Is Continual Performance Management Proving so Popular?
Continual performance management enables organisations to be far more flexible in how they set and evaluate performance. By creating objectives for the next quarter, they’re far more likely to be relevant and aligned to changing strategic objectives. And, by regularly reviewing performance, it’s easy for managers and employees to recall what’s been done and how it’s been achieved. Which should lead to more accurate performance assessments.
Regular reviews also mean that managers are encouraged to provide on-the-spot feedback. This is much more powerful than waiting several months to deliver insight and it enables staff to quickly correct their performance ensuring problematic actions or behaviours are nipped in the bud and minimising the potential for poor performance to spread to other team members.
Feedback about good performance also means that staff are more likely to keep doing more of the right activities in the right way. Which can only be good for business.
How Can You Implement Ongoing Appraisals?
Continual appraisals often include check-ins between the line manager and each employee every month or at least quarterly. These sessions cover:
Progress against objectives
Issues or concerns
Any new or amended objectives
Between each check-in, employees work on their objectives and get feedback from their line manager to keep them on course. One of the major benefits is that managers and staff aren’t bogged down completing lengthy forms in one sitting, an approach that many people dread.
If continual performance management sounds like a lot of additional work, it isn’t. Implemented correctly, ongoing performance appraisals offer a more frequent but lighter touch that provides more benefit to the organisation.
What Will Your Managers Need to Implement It?
One of the major concerns among leaders around introducing this style of appraisal is the ability of line managers to have meaningful conversations. That’s why it’s important to train and educate supervisors and managers at all levels before implementing this new approach.
Remember: performance management needs to be followed by every manager at every level of the organisation. If you’re the most senior leader in your organisation, how you performance manage your direct reports will cascade down the organisation. To ensure you get a great return from introducing this change, the new process needs to start with you.
If you need a little more persuading that continual performance management is for you, research shows that high performing companies are more likely to provide more frequent performance feedback and align their objectives closely with strategy. Making continuous performance appraisal a step closer to even greater business success.
Over the past few decades, lifestyles have become more flexible and people are able to differentiate in their choices about practically everything. This isn’t just a consumer trend: businesses have also become wise to the fact that their employees all have different needs that need to be catered for through flexible benefits.
This has resulted in organisations taking a more individualistic approach to benefit provision.
In this blog, we explore what flexible benefits are, why they’re a popular choice and how your business can implement and get the most from them.
What Are Flexible Benefits?
All organisations provide employee benefits which are usually determined by grade. In most instances, the more senior the role, the more valuable the benefits package. Depending on seniority, core employee benefit packages, where the benefits are paid for by the employer, typically include items like:
private medical insurance
critical illness cover
long-term health cover
In addition, employers also often voluntary benefits like think discounted gym memberships, dental insurance and household or holiday insurance. Employees can choose to take up these products voluntarily, paying for the benefits themselves, usually out of their pay.
This approach is fine if the core benefits on offer meet every employee’s needs. But what if your employer provides a company car but you don’t drive? Or you’re already covered on your partner’s private medical insurance so you don’t gain any advantage from this benefit? Or you don’t have any dependents but your employer insists on providing life cover any way?
When benefits aren’t suitable for employees, companies are paying for benefits that aren’t used or they’re providing an unappetising benefit offering to their staff that fails to engage.
Flexible benefit programmes provide a solution to this problem. Instead of offering standard benefit packages in the usual way, flexible benefit packages enable employees to vary their pay and benefits to meet their personal requirements.
In most schemes, staff can retain their existing salary while selecting the right mix of benefits for them. Or they can adjust their salary up or down by taking fewer or more benefits.
Let’s look at some examples to explore how this works:
A single employee rejects the family private medical insurance cover they’re entitled to due to their grade and opts for single cover only – they receive the cost difference in cash
Someone who doesn’t take all their holidays each year chooses to sell five days holiday and uses the saving to take up family private medical cover with the rest taken as cash
An individual who doesn’t drive forgoes the company car benefit and takes the cash instead – they use it to buy more holiday and take up dental insurance and gym membership
These are just a few examples of the sorts of flexibility flexible benefit schemes can offer. However, not all programmes will be this flexible; some employers decide that their staff must take a certain level of benefits (usually items like life cover or other insurances) as a minimum. And there are other considerations, like minimum pension auto-enrolmentcontributions, that need to be worked into the scheme.
How Many Companies Use Flexible Schemes?
According to Aon, just 12% of employers operate flexible benefit schemes. Which is surprising given research from Willis Towers Watson which shows that:
66% of employees who are offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs
30% of employees who are not offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs
However, the answer could lie in the perceived challenges associated with setting up and running a flexible benefit scheme.
What to Consider When Setting Up a Flexible Benefits Programme
There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a flexible benefits scheme in your organisation:
Online or paper – this might work for smaller businesses or those where staff don’t have access to computers. Otherwise online options, although more expensive, tend to offer ease of use and greater flexibility.
Choosing benefit options – it’s easiest to transition your existing benefits to a flex scheme before expanding the options available. You’ll need to decide which benefits must be selected or whether you want to allow a more flexible approach.
Keeping schemes up to date – every change in your benefits, tax and legislation must be reflected in your scheme which involves additional work in terms of configuring scheme rules, calculations and systems (if online).
Although each of these sounds fairly straight forward, flexible benefit schemes can quickly become complex and require technical decision making which requires HR specialist knowledge.
However, the pay off could well be worth the effort as flexible benefits help organisations stand out in the recruitment marketplace. And they can also be a powerful tool for retention as your benefit packagewill meet the needs of every segment of your workforce, regardless of life stage.
There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a successful flexible benefits scheme, so consider working with a seasoned HR consultant to ensure you deliver legally and secure a great return on your investment.
For flexible support with all your HR projects, get in touch with Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the time of year the rows start – the annual leave booking season. Wall calendars and online calendars are pored over and leave is booked, most of it around the same time, there will be rows between parents and non parents about who should take priority and why and on we go.
So it makes sense to have a few set of rules to try and take the tension out of the whole thing.
Firstly be clear about how much leave can be blocked in one go i.e. one, two week blocks (financial services now insist on this), if there is a cap i.e. two weeks maximum etc.
Secondly, be clear how much advance notice must be given, a month’s notice is usually acceptable if you want to book a week, 2 days is not acceptable if you want to book anything at all and if leave needs to be approved by a manager or some such.
Thirdly, be clear leave can be refused, obviously as a last resort and with good reason but it’s good to get the story straight.
Fourthly, be very clear about how many employees can be out at the same time. It never ceases to amaze me, no matter how often you say it and set the limits, they will give it a go anyway and all book the same time off and fight about it for weeks afterwards.
Fifthly, be very clear what precedents you want to set i.e. if you had the first two weeks off in July last year, you might not get it this year, same goes for half terms, school holidays and Christmas.
Sixthly, what the rules are if you are sick on holidays (holiday can be claimed back if proven), if your flight is delayed (usually unpaid, get proof) and you don’t get back when you are supposed to, the rules around social media and mixing the professional with personal, working on holiday, using the work mobile on holiday etc.
And as an aside, it’s amazing how many of my clients who are schools that have set holidays agreed years in advance, encounter the same problems with leave! So if you are a school struggling with leave requests outside of school holidays, call me 0330 555 1139.
Finally, when it comes to annual leave, be fair, consistent and apply the rules to all staff, no exceptions.
If in doubt contact CrosseHR, we’ll draft a policy for you to be proud of.
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.
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.