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Check Over Your HR Policies To Protect You & Your Employees This Christmas

The lead up to Christmas can be a bit of an HR minefield. Absence, sickness, expenses and office socialising are all potentially at their highest over the next few weeks. And you’d be wise to check over and circulate your HR policies now so everyone knows what is and is not acceptable in your organisation. Remember that in specifying the boundaries in your workplace you are protecting your employees as well as telling them where the line is….

But writing policies and procedures can be tricky in this day and age. You could spend hours writing and tweaking policies for your business – whatever its size. Online you will find a plethora of policy templates. As a small company though, you don’t necessarily need all of these. You should only put policies in place that are going to be used.  Having a policy for the sake of it is pointless!  Write policies which are meaningful and stand by them.

Legal Requirements

Surprisingly there are only 3 policies that are required by law.

These are:

Best Practice

There are also a number of policies that you should provide because they have legal minimum requirements.

These are:

Pay Legally you must pay your employees at least the National Minimum wage and ensure Equal Pay; you must also provide an itemised pay statement and not make any unauthorised deductions from employees pay
Equal Opportunities Legally you must not discriminate against staff or allow harassment and bullying and you must make reasonable adjustments for staff in the work-place if they are disabled
Working Hours and Overtime including rest-breaks and holidays Legally  you must comply with Working Time Regulations provisions for employees and workers
Sickness policy and unauthorised/authorised absence  Legally you must make statutory sick pay payments to employees and allow them time off for dependant emergencies, Jury Service etc.
Maternity, Adoption, Paternity Leave, Parental Leave and Shared Parental leave You must make statutory maternity / adoption / paternity payments to employees and give the appropriate leave
Flexible Working You must consider all employees flexible working requests

There are few other policies that you could consider to ensure consistency within your business. Policies that may well seem all the more relevant with Christmas round the corner: 

For example:

  • Personal e-mail / Internet Usage
  • Alcohol/Drugs In The Workplace
  • Dress Codes
  • Data Protection
  • Expenses
  • Smoking

There are no legal guidelines for these policies and they can be designed around the needs of your business. For example, no smoking (including e-cigarettes) other than during lunch hour.

Where Do I Start?

When it comes to writing policies copious content is not king.  There are millions of pages of policies & procedures rotting away completely unused in filing cabinets and shared network folders that will attest to this fact. Don’t get fooled into thinking that you need a policy for every eventuality – you don’t. And in fact, too many draconian policies can be restrictive to a small business that is growing.   

The types of policies that you need depend on your business type: If your employees operate heavy machinery then you should consider putting in a Drugs & Alcohol Usage Policy but if you are an accountancy firm then this policy is unlikely to be a priority for you.

It is essential to create realistic employment policies – and enforce them. Using a policy to pay lip service to health and safety or treating employees fairly is not enough. If the worst happens and a problem ends up in court or at an employment tribunal, you’ll need to be able to show that you put your company policies into practice.

Communication Is Key

Policies can be part of your employee/company handbook or you can set them out in a separate document. However, for your discipline and grievance policies, you must either set them out in a written statement of main terms and conditions of employment or refer in a written statement to a place where the employee can read them, such as the company intranet.

You should ensure that you make staff aware that your policies exist. The best time to do this is during the induction process (which doesn’t have to be a 3 day off site event but can be something as simple as a checklist to ensure that a new employee to your company has all the relevant information that they need). You should also make sure that employees can easily access policies if necessary, by having them pinned up on a noticeboard for example or, again, on the company intranet.

Contractual Or Not?

Policies generally aren’t contractually binding unless they expressly state otherwise.  However, the terms of some policies could be seen as contractually binding through custom and practice e.g. where employees follow certain working practices or receive certain benefits over a significant period of time. You need to  be conscious of this as ultimately it will be up to an Employment Tribunal to decide on the contractual nature of policies if a claim were ever to be brought against your company.

Never-Ending Updates

Policies are never finished and you must ensure that you regularly review your policies and procedures to ensure that they are up to date, reflect the needs of the business and reflect any legislative changes.

Effective Company Policies

Whatever your policies cover, you should follow 2 essential principles to make a company policy effective.

1 – Make sure any policy is clear

2 – Make sure that any policy is communicated to employees. Unless employees understand a policy it will not work.

You do not want to tie yourself or your managers up with too many rules as this will only prove to be restrictive to day to day operations.  Equally policies and procedures must be realistic, meaningful and be something that you and your management team are prepared to stand by. There is no point in stating that persistent lateness is a disciplinary offence and then not disciplining the one employee who is late every Monday morning. This type of approach will only lead employees to the conclusion that policies are meaningless, making them almost impossible for you to enforce.  

theHRhub – on line and on demand HR support for startups and SMEs

For further advice and support on policy implementation, sign up to theHRhub today.

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Last Minute Christmas Party Ideas

Ok so it’s the start of December. The last few weeks have been super stressful and any plans for a Christmas get together have got somewhat awry. You know it’s important for team morale to bring everyone together at this time of year and last minute drinks at a super cramped at  All Bar One where no one can sit down isn’t going to cut it….

Well don’t panic. You can still give the team a Christmas team a ‘do’ to remember – you just might need to think a bit more creatively…. Here’s some ideas:

1. Have A Champagne Breakfast

Ok so all the decent venues are booked up at lunch time and in the evening but what about for breakfast? If you’re thinking about having a get together at late notice than having something during work hours is probably you’re best as staff may well already have plans in the evening and for working parents getting childcare at this time of year is a real challenge. So why not let your team share the joys of the season over a champagne breakfast instead…

2. Invite Them Over To Yours

A wonderful way to make a small team feel special is to invite them into your home or your local pub. No guest list is required and it could really help your staff get to know you better.

3. Hold An Impromptu Office Party

Who needs a fancy venue? Push the desks back a bit and fire on some festive tunes and you’ve got an instant party… You’ll need to do some proper hosting though to make the team feel special. Make some effort with the decorations, ask the leadership team to each bring in some  homemade christmas food and why not be the drinks waiter yourself?

5. Look For A Ready-Made Solution

Shared Christmas parties are becoming more and more popular. Here, you can really get more bang for your buck and all the hard work starts for you. For example, the ‘Rocking Good Christmas’ dinner and disco by West End Events is just £50 a head.

6. Ask For Help

Whilst it’s ok to lean on a trusted member of staff to organise this all for you – especially if it’s your office manager or PA, it’s what they are there for. But you must show your appreciation. Please don’t forget to thank them in public and give them their own Christmas treat or bonus….

theHRhub – online and on demand HR support for startups and SMEs.  

For a no-strings discussion about your HR needs and how we can help call us now on 0203 627 7948 or check out our website at www.thehrhub.com

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HR Horrors: Managing In A Downturn

Restructure. Rightsizing. Downsizing. And any other ‘ing you might use when you are considering making people redundant. It happens to most companies at some point. Even the best ones you can think of – will at some point realise that they can’t sustain themselves at the size and structure they are and look to make changes.

The average person spends around 2 years in tech companies in the UK (can be higher in other industries), so being ‘let go’ is not quite the kick in the teeth it once was to many in this area. However regardless of what is the ‘norm’ in an industry, handing in your notice to trade your skills elsewhere is not the same as being asked to leave and so it will still come as a shock to most in that situation. To help you through such a sticky situation, here’s our quick guide for things to be mindful of when proposing any cuts.

  • Don’t procrastinate too much: over both the decision to make the cuts and the timing of taking any action once your decisions have been made. Some of the companies I most respect are in the successful position they enjoy now because they had courage to make changes in advance of when they needed them rather than waiting and praying for things to improve.
  • Do try and think of alternatives: yes, the consultation period is designed to provide the time to do this, but by and large people see this is just part of the process to follow. And in reality, although an individual can suggest alternatives during that period, it is your role to do this before it even gets to this stage.
  • Know your legals: although evidence suggests that treating people with dignity and respect throughout such a process is the best way of avoiding any comeback, get familiar with what you legally need to provide for all those you are considering losing.
  • Be honest: people can smell fake redundancies a mile off. And while there are many businesses which use a mass change to sweep up a few individuals who they haven’t dealt with at a performance level, if the business needs to change, then be frank about it.
  • Be respectful: for every time an individual hears ‘it’s not you we want to make redundant, it’s the role’ they just hear ‘bullsh**. And following on from this…
  •  Avoid making irrelevant comments: In the past I’ve heard ones such as  “it’s as hard for me to make this decision as it is for you”. It’s not. You are the one in the driving seat, so you will not be thanked for this.
  • Think of the others in your team: By all means, manage a smooth and respectful exit for those leaving, however your real efforts should be reserved to focus those who will see you through the next few months and years.
  • Work on bonding the team back together again: Having a big party post-layoffs will likely be ill-advised, however bolstering your team by spending some time with them re-focussing them on future goals is heartily encouraged. From All-hands, team meetings, 1-2-1’s – you can never over-communicate during this period.

Yes, there is paperwork and a (sometimes complex) legal situation to manage, however having managed many of these situations myself over the years, the best way you are going to deal with this is by treating people with respect, paying above the bare minimum if you can afford it and moving the process through as quickly as possible.

Want some more tips? Check out our YouTube video here.

If you’re considering such a change and worried about how to even start going about it, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk, call 0203 627 7048.

Photo Credit: the scream by Mark Tighe

 

Hiring Your First Employee? Here’s Everything A Startup Needs To Know

When your business gets to the stage where you need to start bringing in extra help, it can be a really exciting time. You’re growing, you’re increasing your bottom line and recruiting your first employee will help you get even closer to fulfilling the vision you dreamed of. 

That excitement can quickly turn into worry and doubt though. There’s no denying that there’s a ton of things that you need to think about and you wouldn’t be the first business owner to wonder if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

You can stop stressing right now though, because we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at what you need to do:

Carry out the appropriate pre-employment checks

It isn’t legally necessary for you to take general employment references (although its advisable to confirm what a candidate has told you on their CV) however it is your responsibility to ensure that your employee has a legal right to work here in the UK. So make sure you ask your team members to bring their passport (or other suitable document) in for you to take a look on their first day in order for you to take a copy and file. You might also have to apply for a DBS check (previously known as a CRB check) in certain circumstances, such as if your member of staff will be working with children or vulnerable people. And although you might think that things like this are merely box ticking exercises, you could face serious penalties if you don’t fulfil your obligations in these areas.

Take out suitable insurance cover

When you become an employer, you need to have employers’ liability insurance. Your policy must cover you for at least £5million, and be issued by an authorised insurer. The damage is high if you fail to do this and get caught with fines of up to £2,500 for every single day that you are not adequately insured….

Tell HMRC that you’re now an employer

You need to let HMRC know that you’re now employing staff, and this needs to be done before the first scheduled payday. The process can take up to two weeks, and (like most things these days) can usually be all done and dusted online.

Ensure that you’re paying minimum wage

If you fail to pay your staff minimum wage, then you’re breaking the law. This is a fairly straightforward consideration, though you need to be mindful that there are different requirements in place for different groups of people. The figures can change on a fairly regular basis, so make sure that you’re keeping up to date with the latest news and legislation. When you sign up for our email updates, you’ll get everything you need delivered directly to your inbox.

Don’t do it alone

Following the advice that we’ve outlined here will help you to get off to the best possible start when it comes to recruiting your first employee. The reality here though is that there are many, many things that you need to consider as part of the process, and it would be impossible to cover absolutely everything.

Have you considered, for example, how much holiday your new recruit will be entitled to? Or what will happen if they’re sick? Or how you’ll encourage them to make the best possible contribution to your business? Or whether you should pay pension contributions on their behalf? When you really start to think about everything that you need to address, you can see that it can be a real can of worms.

Rather than struggling on your own, it makes good business sense to get some help. And that’s where we come in. We can make sure that you’re fully prepared for the future. Get in touch today, and we can arrange to have a no-obligation chat about working together. Call us on 0203 627 7048 on drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk. 

Image by Andreas Klinke Johannsen

Uber Confused? How The Recent Legal Ruling Could Affect Your Team’s Employment

Last week an employment tribunal determined that drivers of Uber – the world’s largest platform for individuals to find and pay for private taxi hire – were not self-employed (as stated in their written contracts) but were instead deemed legally to be ‘workers’, with a right to paid holidays and the minimum wage.

The decision is significant. And not just to Uber – who in light of this will have a serious hit on their payroll and business model – but to those other businesses who employ those on the basis of being self-employed.  The focus in many articles written has been about those who work in the ‘gig’ economy, where armies of freelance staff carry out tasks such as delivering packages or undertaking chores.. However there are risks for everyone who employs people on a self-employed basis and rely on just the written contract for this to be so, regardless of industry.

The lines between being Self-employed versus Worker versus Employee status are often blurred

There are three distinct categories of working individuals in the UK. These are the self-employed, workers and employees………..And as a small business you need to be mindful of the difference between each of these groups and ensure you are providing them with their minimum legal entitlements.

Whilst it is relatively clear cut what rights each group has, there is no ‘checklist’ unfortunately where you can categorically state that someone is deemed to be self-employed or not. After all, if there was, one imagines Uber’s in-house legal team would have been all over it. However some of the indicators of the truly self-employed are that they have control over how and when they do their work, they’re able to provide substitutions to undertake the work offered if they are not available, they aren’t beholden to undertaking all work offered without recourse, they can work for other people and they can make a profit or loss on their own business, which they run. Those who are self-employed also therefore take care of their own taxes and are not subject to PAYE.

The first point to note, for those concerned that this means all freelance staff might consider themselves permanent employees, is that the tribunal deemed the drivers to be ‘workers’ and not ‘self-employed’. And whilst this is one step closer to that of ’employee’ status, it falls short of it, meaning that although these drivers now have the legal right to claim and be paid the minimum wage and paid holidays as per the Working Time Directive, they do not accrue the additional rights of ’employees’ which include paid sickness, the right not to be unfairly dismissed, the right to request flexible working, to name but a few.

Uber may be frantically re-counting the impact of the additional holiday pay and increase in wages into their spreadsheets – and one suspects they have been doing this for quite some time….- however they do not (at this stage), have to contend with including sickness and notice pay in these calculations.

But what if my team want to be Self-employed?

The gig economy is triumphing at the moment and it shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. By 2020, the gig economy (or Uberisation as it’s sometimes referred to) is forecast to be worth nearly $63 billion globally, and £2 billion in the UK alone and as this trend gathers force, people who work for themselves are going to become an ever-more powerful economic and political force. Many of them by their own absolute choice.

So the simple answer is that if your team want to be self-employed and are legitimately running their own businesses, then they will be unlikely to challenge it in court and you have little to worry about. The trouble comes when one party feels the employment relationship has shifted and the other party doesn’t. Something that becomes more likely the longer, and more regular, an arrangement takes place.

We would therefore advise reviewing not just your contracts on a regular basis, but also your actual working arrangements to make sure that they are supporting both parties intentions.

Now is the time to make sure everything in order and as a minimum you should conduct a review of your current staff and employees status to ensure that there are no grey areas and your workforce is correctly classified. For help on this, or other matters concerning your team, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk.

Photo credit: Erich Ferdinand

Sorry, What did you say? Top Tips For Communicating As Your SME Grows

“Do you have a communications strategy?” I was asked when I started out. Err, well not one written down. Or really articulated. Ok, nope.  

Partly because this is definitely something I put in the ‘BIG Business’ Box. Partly because I really didn’t think I needed one (I mean, there were just a couple of us, chatting away over mail or phone?). And partly because in the long list of to-do’s, this was an area I definitely thought I could wing it. ..

But of course, that’s exactly the time where the clarity should start. Because getting great communication is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses as they grow and something that we have seen first hand in both every employee survey that we at TheHRhub have ever managed and the number of hours spent ironing out disputes and gripes in businesses which have been caused by (weak) communication). Just scanning back at the results which cover hundreds and hundreds of companies, the phrase“ better communication needed” is in the ‘ things to be improved’ section of over 90% of the results.

But it’s such a big area and it means so many different things to people, that you need to really drill down further to understand what lies behind it ( hint: it’s not just “oh, I didn’t get that memo…”).

The fastest, smartest ways of empowering people and solving any business dilemmas (HR or otherwise) are to keep communication and conversations on a basis of information flow. But as Stephen Covey knows only too well “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” And he should know a thing or two about this having written “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

For communication to be good in your business, it needs to be open, transparent and consistent. And it starts with HOW you communicate. If you follow that mantra, communication becomes the way in which you empower and involve your team members, keep everyone aware of what’s going on and where you’re heading.

Including a communications plan as part of your other strategic priorities and owning it is key. Why? Because if you don’t write it down and plan it like every other aspect of your growth, it’s easy to let it slide and you end up having no consistent voice in your business.

Communication should breathe life into you and your team and help to motivate fantastic performance and drive your customers and clients forward.  Some our top tips for daily and weekly practices which in turn form the cultural tone of your business are shown below:

  1. Be omni-channel: make sure your plan includes how you want to channel communication through your business (i.e. systems) as well as what you want to say and when. Time and money is lost where you use 3 three different systems to do the same thing. Businesses I know use Slack, Convo and Google+ (to name but a few) successfully to share information in real time.
  2. Be transparent: most leaders worry about how much information to share with their teams, but well timed information shared with a goal for the team to get behind is a valuable way of making the team feel included.
  3. Be vulnerable: go first to inspire trust from those around you and talk about where you have challenges and what help you might need.
  4. Be constructive: when there is a whiff of dissent, show that you are interested in what is being suppressed and allow it to safely surface so others can discuss it honestly.
  5. Be clear: with your goals, your direction and all you need from your team so that people know what is expected.
  6. Be bold: confront difficult issues and don’t let problems fester. Speak out but make sure the person is clear what was expected and the consequences of the failure in accepting accountability.
  7. Be inclusive: with any goal, focus on the collective outcomes.
  8. Be energetic and start as you mean to go on: have buzz sessions at the start of each day to rev up the energy and keep everyone on track.
  9. Be adaptable: for managing important information, consider several “channels” for making sure the information hits home – a face-to-face conversation, followed up with an email and maybe a poster or a catch up at the end of the week.
  10. Be timely: Avoid long meetings. It sounds obvious but it can deplete energy very quickly. Best to start with a clear agenda, sent to everyone at least a day in advance and requests for contributions then follow up with notes afterwards to make sure the information is fully understood.

If you want to chat about how outsourced HR can boost your business and employee success, then we can help. Get in touch today at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or by calling 0203 627 7048 to arrange an initial, no-obligation consultation.

We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: The ultimate HR support for startups and SMEs.

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