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.
Settle Status: EU Workforce
Do you have employees from the EU working within your business? Changes to the law may mean that they have to reapply to secure their residency status with the new EU Settle Status.
To make this transition period easier, we’ll be stepping you through what you need to know as an employer to support the welfare of these employees in such indefinite times.
What is the EU Settle Status?
On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union. Although no official deal has been agreed upon yet, changes have started to slowly filter through – one of the largest being ‘Settled Status’.
But what is settled status and why does it matter?
Settled status is the term for being a resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of your stay. There are two types of status in the EU Settlement Scheme:
- Settled status
- Pre-settled status
EU citizens who are granted settled status are permitted to stay in the UK as long as they choose; they can also apply for a British citizenship if they are eligible.
Pre-settled status – which is usually granted to those who have not lived in the UK for five continuous years – allows inhabitants to stay in the UK for a further five years from the date they are granted pre-settled status. After this period, individuals can reapply for full settled status.
The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.
It is free to apply to the scheme through the government website.
Before beginning the application process for settlement status, applicants should have ready proof of identity and residency. It may also be worth double-checking that applicants have not already received pre-agreed settle status here.
What does this mean for employees?
Citizens of the EU, EEA or Switzerland can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. Without confirmed settlement status, these citizens will not have the assumed right to:
- Work in the UK
- Use the NHS for free
- Enrol in education (or continue studying)
- Access public funds, such as benefits (if eligible)
- Enter the UK without a visa
Employees that do not have settled status face the potential risk of having paperwork refused, being unable to work legally in the UK and even deportation – uprooting their family, career and life.
Therefore, it is important to support your EU workforce through their application to ensure there is no disruption to their legal right to work or live in the UK after this deadline.
How can employers help?
Importance of application:
As employers, there is no legal requirement to inform your workforce of the impending deadline but it’s a good idea to ensure there are no legal hiccups (and it also feels like the right thing to do).
Employers do not require proof that employees have applied but getting status through the scheme will protect their future rights, so it is very important that they apply if you want them to continue working for you.
There are a few practical steps you can take to encourage your employees to apply.
Why not start by sending a letter to all your EU employees? It doesn’t have to take much time with letter templates already drafted up and ready to go. You can also ensure visual cues help prompt their minds by displaying informative posters.
Remember: although you can encourage people to apply, as an employer, you cannot ask them whether they have or about the outcome.
Supporting the process itself:
The process itself was designed to be as seamless as possible. However, with the added complication of coronavirus, a few spanners have been thrown in the works.
Due to many businesses being shut for a number of months and international travel complications, employees may have struggled to renew expiring passports. Therefore, workers may require flexible hours or additional holiday days to address this before their application.
Further, it may be useful to make your facilities available for support. For example, at this time, many printing shops and internet cafes are shut due to the pandemic. Therefore, pre-granting access for your employees to use your scanner, printer or work phone for their application may aid their progress.
Finally, although it is not standard procedure, if the employee requires any documentation to support their application then provide this in a timely manner; holding this process up will cause additional stress for the employee, distracting them from their work and prolonging indecision.
The uncertainty formed in the last few months has had an impact on everyone. However, we must consider those who experience further doubt about their rights within the country compassionately.
Managing stress and keeping a close eye on employees is essential at all times. Look out for key indicators of deteriorating wellbeing, such as:
- Reduced engagement
- Missed deadlines
- Lower morale
- Increased tiredness
If you notice a significant shift in their wellbeing, it may be time to check in; look out for tell-tale signs of poor employee mental health and be ready to act.
Where possible, refer employees for additional support and be compassionate towards their situation. It may be worth considering ways you can support employees with stress outside of work with flexible working, duvet days or even a shift in the workplace culture.
The charity MIND has some great, free resources to help individuals manage stress – at work and home. Could sharing some of their best resources equip your taskforce with more resilience?
Considering your current employees is a great first step, but what about future employees?
If you are planning on recruiting before the settlement deadline, it’s important that you don’t sit on your hands.
Speeding up your recruitment process will allow your business to:
- Beat the deadline;
- Widen your search for talent;
- Allow the successful candidate (if from the EU) to apply for settlement status in time.
As an employer, you have a duty “not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU as both a prospective and current employer”.
That means that you cannot make an offer of employment, or continued employment, dependent on an individual having made an application. However, consideration should not stop here; ensure you address workplace discrimination at all levels for a safe working environment for all.
- Checking your processes and procedures for bias
- Educating employees on how to report discrimination
- Including EU citizens in your diversity reports
- Reminding employees of the fine line between ‘banter’ and discriminatory harassment
- Ensuring you have the processes in place to address hostility appropriately
Right to work checks:
It has been confirmed that there will be no change to right to work checks until 1 January 2021. That means that job applicants can continue to prove their right to work using any of the following:
- their valid passport or national identity card if they’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen
- their valid biometric residence card if they’re a non-EU, EEA or Swiss citizen family member
- their status under the EU Settlement Scheme using the Home Office’s online right to work checking service.
You will not be required to undertake retrospective checks on existing EU employees. Therefore, changes will only apply to applications in the new year.
For more information, read the official right to work checklist here.
For official support on how employers should support the EU Settle Status scheme, GOV have created an ‘employer toolkit’ here.
However, if you require expert HR support and consultancy, please get in touch.
More than a band-aid
Six months ago, businesses were forced to migrate to a new way of working almost overnight as we were urged to stay home to contain the virus. Although many businesses adapted well and remote working became commonplace, the process was rushed – driven by panic and spurred by the need to survive.
These fixes were never built to last.
As we look forward, it seems that remote working is here to stay – with many businesses challenging more traditional setups and looking to ditch or reduce their office overheads. But to be successful long-term, more structure and investment is required – particularly in the effort required to maintain a positive employee connection that transcends distance.
So, how can you keep your team engagement and morale high when working conditions are somewhat different to what you’ve been used to? We discuss this and more, with example to the drawbacks and how to address these going forward.
Leading from the front
Winckworth Sherwood found that 78% of employers are planning on “long-term operational changes” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 9% considering closing their offices completely
- 26% considering reducing their office space
- 47% increasing flexibility around working from home
- 38% increasing flexibility around set working hours
With huge businesses such as BT and Twitter making the offer to employees to permanently choose how they work it feels like we’re on the precipice of a huge cultural shift.
But, with change comes new challenges. What are the issues associated with managing people from afar and how can you look after your staff when you can’t see them? Let’s take a look.
Overcoming barriers to remote working
On the surface, remote working sounds great. It can help employers lure in exceptional talent, reduce office costs, chat and distractions and your employees will relish in their newfound sense of freedom – working how and when they work best.
So, what’s with all the reluctancy and why are some so keen to get back to the office?
Whilst working from home is popular right now, there must be some consideration into the long-term consequences that will begin to appear in the not so distant future.
At this time of great upheaval, we’re going to steer you through some of the HR issues that arise when working from home – with some thought-provoking insight and direction on how to mitigate any hurdles. So, let’s dive in.
Negative impacts on employee wellbeing
It is reported that 62% of employees would be “happy” if their offices closed and working from home became a permanent setup. But that leaves a good proportion of the workforce unhappy with this situation.
There are many reasons this may be, as the office can provide benefits for employees including:
- Social interaction
- Support – personally and professionally
- Routine and a change of scenery
- A place to focus without distractions, such as childcare
- Relief from home pressures, such as strained relationships
So, without the face-to-face interaction you’re used to, how can you look after employees? Be sure to look a little closer for the signs of someone struggling, including reduced engagement or participation, missed deadlines or overdoing their hours. These may be an indication that an employee’s mental health is declining.
To combat this, consider:
- Regular team meetings at a coffee shop or co-working space (when safe to do so)
- Making support digital, such as posting self-help and advice on the intranet
- Setting up support groups, buddy systems and social nights
- Encouraging employees to log their hours
- Reminding employees of their line manager
There is some stipulation that the increase in remote working will lead to a more unjust workplace. So how can you play fair in an increasingly competitive environment?
Say there’s a big promotion coming up. Who will be seen more favourably for the leg up: an employee who is frequently present and visible within the office or a team member that may be less well-known working from home?
There’s a great possibility that a two-tier workforce will soon be established – dividing those that come into work and those that don’t. And, with childcare being a key draw for remote working, women are likely to be most affected by this, causing the gender pay gap to be even further widened.
Other concerns include wages being driven down – due to reduced travel expenses, outsourcing and increased competition. Although it’s understandable for businesses to try and reduce costs, this will further suppress our economy and lead your customers to also look for the cheapest option.
Therefore, is leaning towards this remote workforce just a way of shooting ourselves in the foot? Honestly, we can’t tell you how to run your business. However, to stay mindful, take five to contemplate the following…
- Creating a fair criterion for the recruitment process
- Annually publishing your gender pay report
- Actively planning to reduce any variance found [see above]
- Mapping your pay against GDP and inflation
A huge 46% of HR decision makers are concerned that employees won’t be able to carry out their jobs effectively at home. However, almost half this number of employees have the same concern. So why is this?
A great way to measure whether employees can work effectively at home is to determine what ‘effective’ means to you; take some time to document what a ‘good’ job done looks like.
- Outcome-based measurement
- Clear communication
- Realistic deadlines
- Regular reviews
By measuring outcomes, rather than hours spent in the office, you can then begin to measure whether an employee is effectively working at home or not. Be sure to provide clarity on objectives, detail what is expected from employees and what they need to achieve and by when.
If you have not done the role yourself, you may find it useful to have a discussion with employees to discuss what is reasonable within their time constraints. After all, overly ambitious targets often turn employees off and lead to a decline in motivation, job satisfaction and mental health.
Lack of control (trust)
By having employees under their roof, many employers feel as if they can control their employees better. At the end of the day, the issue is: do you trust your employees?
Failure to trust your employees can lead to wasted time on micromanagement, a reluctancy to take ownership of responsibilities and a reduction in engagement and job satisfaction – with employees viewing ‘spying’ negatively. Trust them too much and you risk them feeling lost or taking advantage.
Therefore, it may reassure you to learn that only 12% of employees struggle to motivate themselves. In fact, employees that work from home tend to work harder due to concerns that it will be perceived negatively or that their privileges will be revoked.
To combat this, consider:
- Learning what makes employees tick and ensuring they feel supported
- Checking in regularly to monitor and ensure progress
- Clearly communicating expectations
- Set meetings and PDRs to review progress and rectify any issues.
We anticipate that AI and monitoring will be stepped up in the months to come. In fact, it’s already happening before our very eyes!
Employees can no longer log in early, collect the kids from school and pretend they were working all along. Technology can now determine when you touch your keypad and will alert your manager if you haven’t been active.
Your emails may be monitored too – determining your intentions and engagement by unpicking what and how you word your emails.
So, with monitoring expected to greatly increase, how can we avoid upsetting employees?
To avoid upset, consider:
- Being transparent about how technologies works
- Explaining why it has been put in place
- Outlining how technology will be used (eg, in PDRs)
- Addressing any concerns that employees may have.
Remember: any worker that has been with you for at least 26 weeks automatically gains the right to apply for flexible working. If you deem it appropriate to grant requests and feel this will not impact the individual’s ability to perform, this may provide a more open solution that will stop employees feeling the need to deceive their employer.
Need more help?
If you are considering whether a return to the office is essential, safe and mutually agreed, check out the CIPD’s useful resource here. It helps point you towards some useful resources and raises some poignant questions.
If you need some support adjusting to remote working and require some assistance motivating and engaging your employees, get in touch with Crosse HR.
Our experts offer shrewd HR solutions that won’t break the bank. Discover more today.
Businesses are facing many challenges right now as they seek to recover from the shock of the pandemic, recover as best possible and plan for rocky tides that lie ahead. However, perhaps one of the most pressing challenges for businesses post-lockdown is about being lean but not mean.
What am I trying to say?
I am talking about balancing cashflow and the affordability to resource with customer and employee satisfaction.
Many business owners have had staff on furlough and are trying to get the timing right in bringing those staff back to work, whilst others are debating how much temporary resource they might need and when.
How does this impact Customer Satisfaction and Employee well-being?
Two examples I have seen this week…
I am currently going through a house purchase. Our buyer changed solicitor mid-way through the process as the firm had furloughed so many people, he couldn’t get the service he needed.
A client of ours was telling us about her husband who is being asked to carry the work of his department of three; to achieve this, he’s having to work twelve-hour days to keep up. The firm can then maximise their use of the furlough scheme.
In both of these examples, the firms are clearly trying their best to manage cash to preserve their future.
However, the outcome is not good for the business with the first example meaning the solicitor lost the work. In the second, the employee, who is already drained after everything we have all gone through in the last few months, due to worries about job security, is sadly expected to accept this increased workload.
What can you do to get it right?
Plan, plan, plan
Of course, no-one knows what the future holds right now and what the recovery will look like, but you still need to try. Doing so will help to estimate the optimum time at which you will need more resource. My advice; –
- Make your best estimate on what income will look like
- Assess the staffing capacity you need to service this well
- Understand the trigger points in advance on when you need to bring the additional resource into service customers and ensure employee well-being.
Consider Capacity requirements
If you have used the furlough scheme, take advantage of its flexible nature. Remember, you can bring people back on any working pattern now so assess what is right for you.
Consider: is it more efficient to bring people back for one day and get everything done for the week ahead or is a few hours per day more appropriate?
If you use any temporary or outsourced resources, talk to them. Make the situation collaborative and discuss what you need, try to be flexible to ensure they can perhaps top up with work from other sources.
Once you’ve looked at what income you might get, and the resource required then look at your cashflow.
- What does that mean for you as a business?
- Do you need additional funding to get you through the next few months?
The balancing act
It is very hard being a business owner right now.
We are all trying to manage cashflow as best we can in uncertain times. A little bit of planning will ensure you can look after your employees, your client and your bank balance.
Be lean but don’t be mean.
About Helen Fleet
Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a Finance Director and guides companies in delivering their financial and business objectives. These can include cashflow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.
Follow Helen on LinkedIn here.
It can be hard to keep on top of the latest advice and regulations at the best of times when you’re spread thin and busy with deadlines – let alone in the middle of a global pandemic.
Understandably, many of our clients feel overwhelmed by all the information out there. Especially with so many opinion pieces and inaccurate assumptions, it can be hard to know what to trust.
To help you cut through all of this noise, we’ve collated some useful resources to help address your most pressing concerns.
This article outlines some of the key changes that you should be aware of and points you in the right direction for more information and support should you need it.
We hope it helps in this stressful time.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
It is well reported that HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs up to a cap of £2,500pm. This is part of their plan to support businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
Who counts as a furloughed worker?
A furloughed worker is someone who is still employed but not working, perhaps due to a lack of work. The purpose of this scheme is to help businesses to continue paying employees that would have otherwise been laid off by putting them on temporary leave.
Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:
- Full-time employees
- Part-time employees
- Employees on agency contracts
- Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
If you have made employees redundant since 28 February 2020, you can rehire and cover these employees under the scheme too.
What will it cost the employer?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. In addition to the 80% grant covered by the government, businesses must also pay:
- Employer National Insurance contribution
- Minimum enrolment employer pension contribution
Where a company is being taken under the management of an administrator, the administrator will be able to access the Job Retention Scheme.
A breakdown of the government support available for businesses
How to access the scheme
Claiming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
If you’re self-isolating because of COVID-19, you are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 per week.
When can I claim SSP?
New legislation has been brought forward to give you access to SSP from the first day you’re self-isolating and cannot work. This new legislation came into action on 13.03.20 and overrides the previous 4-day caveat.
How to report and manage sickness in 10 easy steps
When should I self-isolate?
How to claim SSP
Changes to IR35
In light of the coronavirus creating business uncertainty and high levels of stress, the Treasury confirmed that they would postpone IR35 for another year.
This means that businesses now have until April 2021 to address the reforms necessary. These changes will drive major change in the contracting industry.
What is IR35?
IR35 is designed to combat tax avoidance by “disguised employees”. Under new rules, every medium and large private sector business in the UK will become liable for setting the tax status of any employee that they hire – including contract and temporary workers.
The new rules will apply to businesses with either:
- 50+ employees
- An annual turnover of over £10.2 million
With many companies already reviewing their policies and contracts in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, now is a great time to address IR35 so that you’re prepared when the changes come in next April.
What are the changes that IR35 will make?
Understanding off-payroll working (IR35)
The Good Work Plan
As of April 2020, The Good Work Plan comes into place. This is a plan that sets out the government’s vision for the future of the UK labour market. It seeks to “reward people for hard work” in a bid to boost productivity and earnings in the UK.
The new plan details how to address issues in our labour market, such as:
- The implications of new forms of work
- The rise of digital platforms
- Impacts of new working models
The Good Work Plan also draws on recommendations about:
- Employment status
- Agency workers
- Increasing transparency in the labour market
- The enforcement of employment rights
What changes you should expect to see from The Good Work Plan
Policy Paper – Good Work Plan
Deferring VAT and Income Tax Payments
The government have announced that they will support businesses by deferring tax payments, as outlined below.
- If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.
- For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.
All UK businesses and self-employed individuals are eligible. There is no application required.
Relieve temporary financial distress with HMRC Time to Pay Offer
A breakdown of the government support available for businesses
Supporting your employees’ financial wellbeing
Typically, your employee’s largest financial outgoing will be their monthly mortgage payment.
Taking a break from their mortgage – with a mortgage holiday of up to three months – can act as welcome financial relief. In this unsettling time, if you are having to cut or reduce hours, it may be worth providing some resources for your employees to access this aid.
Am I Eligible?
Whether you are eligible to take a payment holiday, for how long, and the conditions you must meet depends on:
- Your lender
- Your mortgage contract
- Your financial circumstance
It is best to advice that your employee contacts their bank directly to discuss a mortgage payment holiday. However, please do make them aware that this will make their payments go up afterwards.
What About Those Who Rent?
The government has announced a package of measures to protect renters that may be affected by Coronavirus and a subsequent loss of earnings. The emergency legislation means:
- You cannot be evicted from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
- Landlords can take out a mortgage holiday on their Buy to Let mortgage
Pros and Cons of a Mortgage Holiday
Mortgages and Coronavirus: Information for Consumers by FCA
Government Press Release – Protection for Renters
If you are still unsure about how you should be responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, please refer to GOV.UK platform here. It is frequently updated with the latest information and advice.
For further guidance for employees, employers and businesses, please visit the government website here.
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 available here.
We also appreciate that it is especially hard for those who are working from home whilst simultaneously juggling homeschooling. If you’re looking for some advice about working from home with children, you can find some tips here.
If you have any concerns or questions about the latest changes in legislation or how they may affect you, please do not hesitate to contact us online or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try our best to point you in the right direction.