Self employed is the new employer’s liability

Do you use self-employed contractors in your organisation?

Are you sure that your working relationship is that of a supplier and client?

This is particularly important in light of the Supreme Court ruling on the Pimlico Plumbers case that Mr Smith, a self-employed plumber was in fact a ‘worker’ and therefore entitled to certain legal rights including the right to a minimum wage, holiday pay and protection from discrimination.

It’s therefore a good time to look again at self-employed individuals in your business, what are they doing for you and how is it being done?   Here are some questions you should be asking yourself;

  • Are they providing their services to other clients and free to do so?
  • Do they use their own tools/equipment?
  • Are they free to substitute – send someone else to carry the service/work for you?
  • Are they free to carry out the work how they choose to, not having to follow working practices or procedures stipulated by you?
  • Do they have a written agreement detailing the terms under which they will provide the services to you?
  • Are they excluded from team meetings, company events etc?
  • Do you only give them work as and when you want to?
  • Do they decide when they will work and can turn down work when offered?
  • Do they invoice you for the time/service they provide to you?

If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions than a Tribunal may consider them a worker and award backdated holiday pay along with other workers entitlements such as minimum wage, sick pay or protection against unlawful discrimination, if they were asked to consider a case.

If you have any questions or concerns on this then please get in touch with the Team at HRML who will be happy to provide you with further advice and guidance.


The unmasking of ‘unconscious bias’

Starbucks closed their US stores recently to provide training for their staff in unconscious bias, following an incident in one of their stores.  What is it and how can recognising and dealing with unconscious bias help us in business and our everyday life?

What it is

Implicit or unconscious bias happens when our brains make incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.

From an early age, we are taught, we read, hear and see things in the media and from others around us that include stereotypes.  The brain then uses this when making quick decisions, when we are not thinking.  This is not intentional and we are mostly unaware of this unconscious bias, but it happens.  It can often result in discriminatory behaviour, which though, unintentional, is still discrimination and unlawful and could land your business in an employment tribunal.

Where do you see it in business?

It has been proved that making snap judgements or decisions can influence the recruitment, promotion, recognition and development of others.   For example, people favour others who look like them, have a similar education, are from the same area or are the same ethnicity as them.

Sometimes a positive or negative trait is transferred onto a person, without any evidence or objective reason. Behaviour which reinforces the bias is noticed whilst behaviour which doesn’t, is ignored.

Studies have shown:

  • CVs with white sounding names sometimes receive a more positive response;
  • In scientific institutions male applicants were rated as significantly more competent and hireable than female applicants, were given a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring than females
  • In healthcare, racial bias influences medical decision making

Cost to Business

  • The wrong candidate being selected and the hire potentially not working out and the cost of rehiring
  • Overlooking skilled and competent people, demotivating individuals and potentially losing them to competitors
  • A discrimination claim (which is uncapped)
  • A less diverse workforce, that all share similar characteristics and views, but are not reflective of your client/customer base and able to relate to them

What can we do?

  • Raise awareness (interactive workshops) so individuals recognise how unconscious bias can influence their judgements and decision making and how to take steps to overcome it;
  • Make sure we make ‘conscious’ decisions which are controlled and well reasoned;
  • Develop concrete, objective indicators & outcomes for recruiting, promoting, recognising and developing our people;
  • Keep monitoring your processes for decision making and raising awareness on an ongoing basis.

And finally – recently, the low number of women on FTSE Boards has also been attributed to unconscious bias so it remains a very relevant and topical issue and one that businesses should address as a matter of urgency.


How driving performance can benefit your business

Are you looking to drive performance within your business?

One of the benefits of developing an employee led performance culture in your organisation, is that it encourages staff to understand their value and enables them to support the business to achieve it’s overall goals and objectives.

When individuals set their personal development goals, they are more likely to want to ‘own them’ and therefore they are more likely to achieve or even exceeded them. This increase in ability to contribute to the success of the organisation can result in increased productivity.

How to achieve this is set out below:


The planning stage outlines what should be achieved and to what standard the performance and competencies must be reached.

Employees will create their own objectives as part of the development plan.  The manager will review the performance and development objectives and then agree the objectives with the employee.

It is fundamental to agree a time scale so that the individual is aware of when the objectives should be met.


The employee’s progress is reviewed at one-on-one meetings. These meetings allow you to offer assistance and to identify any support or tools needed so they can meet the objectives.

The monitoring stage identifies how the employee is doing and what could be improved, it also gives the opportunity to review the development plan to see if anything needs changing or updating.

It is important to meet regularly to review progress and to provide feedback.  If there are issues which might be affecting the achievement of the objectives this could also be identified and addressed during these meetings.  Once again it should be the employee leading the discussion, so encourage them to book the meetings, prepare in advance and lead the sessions.


At the end of a set period, say 3, 6, 12 months, the individual will carry out a self-assessment as a means to reflect on their achievements.  They should also reflect on areas that haven’t been achieved or partially achieved and the circumstances which might have impacted performance or professional development.

As part of this two-way process, the manager would also review the employee’s performance and provide feedback.

Whilst similar in many respects to what we might consider a ‘traditional’ approach, this employee led process increases engagement and the likelihood of a productive, supportive and achievement-led outcome.

Major sporting events & employment

With the Commonwealth Games underway in Australia and a packed summer of sport on the way, including the Football World Cup, it makes sense for employers to plan how to balance the needs of the business with the interests of individuals wishing to follow these events.

From an employment perspective, the challenges mainly come in the form of increased requests for annual leave, sickness absence and website usage during working hours.

So how best should we as employers’ handle this?

  • Be aware of the time differences and when key events may take place;
  • Discuss with your team their wishes and the needs of the business;
  • Identify if there can be any flexibility on your part and theirs. You may allow staff to swap shifts with their manager’s permission but any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should be approved in advance of the event;
  • Consider how you might handle multiple requests for leave, following your normal process first but then you might agree a ‘first come first served’ approach;
  • Sickness absence policies still apply during this time so remind people that attendance levels will be monitored during this period in accordance with your policy, any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could trigger disciplinary proceedings. This could include high levels of sickness, late attendance or lower levels of performance at work due to post event celebrations;
  • Consider if you can operate a more flexible working day for a limited period, agreeing when time will be made up;
  • Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV for key events may be another possible option (always bearing in any mind health & safety implications);
  • You may need to remind people about your policy regarding web use in the work place, what is and is not acceptable use. If you are monitoring internet usage, remember to make it clear that it is happening;
  • It maybe useful to remind people that whilst they may wish to drink while watching events, coming to work under the influence of alcohol or drinking at work may result in disciplinary procedures. You may already have a no alcohol policy in place.

Finally, bear in mind to be fair and consistent with all staff when allowing additional benefits during major sporting events, as not all staff will be interested in the event and may view any ‘additional benefits’ given to colleagues as special treatment.

Right from the start..

You have experienced an increase in demand from your customers, they are becoming more and more demanding and are requesting more of the goods and services you provide.

Due to the demand, you believe you need to increase your headcount to help meet the customer requirement, but equally maintain the same level of service.

You aspire to continue driving the business forward in meeting the customer expectation and the business objectives, therefore you hire extra people.

Now that you have hired new employees into the business, your desire is for them to reflect the behaviours in line with your company culture and values and to deliver an outstanding service to your customers.

So, how could you achieve this?

This can be done by way of:

An effective on boarding programme

Discuss the company’s Mission, Vision and Values and the behaviours you expect of all employees.

Meet the team and key people who will provide new employees with an insight into what the business does and how they fit in.

Other areas you would cover in an induction programme are:

Terms and conditions

It is a good idea to talk through key terms and conditions with the new worker and give them details such as:

  • hours of work, including breaks
  • pay and benefits
  • Sickness and holiday procedures
  • Dress code/PPE

Policies/Company procedures

Provide the employee with a copy of company procedures and employee handbook drawing their attention to the most important areas such as:

  • Equality and Diversity
  • Confidentiality
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • Code of Conduct
  • Use of Social Media

Health and Safety

You are legally required to provide workers with any health and safety information they need to carry out their job safely.  This would include fire safety procedures, notifying them of any hazards on site and inform them if there are dedicated smoking areas.

Other areas which are beneficial to cover as part of the induction are a site tour and an introduction to equipment, where their job might involve operating machinery.

To further enhance a new employee’s knowledge and skill, you may need to provide technical skills training including customer service and IT skills training along with interpersonal skills training covering areas such as listening, verbal and written communication as well as time management.  This training could be in house or via external training, mentoring, coaching or job shadowing.

The key benefits of carrying out effective inductions together with training opportunities are:

-Enhances your employer brand

-Boosts employee engagement and retention

-Increases potential internal promotions, rather than costly recruitment & training of new employee

-A highly skilled workforce

Managing Absence Successfully

Did you know, according to the Centre of Economic and Business Research, sickness absences cost businesses a huge £18 billion per year?

The CIPD’s Annual Absence Management Survey Report 2016 confirmed that the most common causes of short term illnesses are:

  • Minor Illnesses such as flu, colds, stomach upsets, headache, migraines
  • Stress
  • Musculoskeletal injuries such as neck strain, repetitive strain
  • Home and family carer responsibilities
  • Mental Ill health such as clinical depression and anxiety

The common causes of long term illnesses are:

  • Stress
  • Acute medical conditions such as stroke, heart conditions
  • Mental ill health such as clinical depression and anxiety
  • Musculoskeletal injuries such as neck strain, repetitive strain

So, what steps can you put in place to manage both short and long-term absence?

  • Have a clear Sickness Notification Policy requiring the individual to phone and speak to a line manager to notify they are absent. This allows for a conversation to manage any operational impact and can deter non-genuine short-term absences.
  • Request that fit notes are supplied where absences are more than 7 days in a row. This could indicate the duration which the absence is likely to be.
  • Consider whether a phased return or adjustment to work pattern or work load is required.
  • Return to work interviews are important and are used as a deterrent of non-genuine short-term absences. These interviews are proven to help identify underlying health issues which might be causing the absence.
  • Flexible working initiatives such as working from home or change of working hours are worth considering as they support staff in better work life balance, thus reducing the chances of developing stress related illnesses.
  • Consider Employee Assistance programmes (EAP). This is a counselling service which aims to help reduce absence by offering support to employees to help them cope with work and personal life issues.  Advice on stress management, depression, relationships, financial concerns and family concerns are some of what is generally offered by an EAP.
  • Occupational Health – you could consider the services of an Occupational Health provider if the absence is long term.


Introducing HRML Genie – Our HR System

An HR System allows businesses to function efficiently by effectively managing its employees. With a robust system in place, admin tasks can be performed quickly and accurately without the hassle of handling high volumes of paper.

The benefits of having an HR system are innumerable as they continue to address more and more business-related challenges. Cumbersome systems are officially a thing of the past, as our intuitive and straightforward online software is designed to help you easily and securely access all your HR data from anywhere with an accessible internet connection.

We have recently launched our HR System– HRML Genie.  

The key essential features which HRML Genie offers include:

Approve / Monitor Holiday Requests

This is a simple and straightforward process for holiday approval and saves time. A central record is kept so you are familiar with who is currently on holiday.  HRML Genie allows employees to view their holiday allowance, submit and check requests against an online team calendar.

Manage Employee Absence

Every absence is logged, approved and analysed. By having a central absence management system you can be proactive and identify problems before they develop, without adding extra admin.

Performance Management

Keeping on top of performance is key within a business.  Individual employee performance records are kept to allow you to:

  • Keep notes of all one to one meetings
  • Record actions and objectives
  • Receive notifications to make sure meetings happen
  • Link employee objectives with company goals

Having this functionality means it’s easy to identify training needs or ascertain specific certification which may be required. This is also a useful tool which provides employees the opportunity to develop.

Streamline reports

In addition to simply sort and manage data, HRML Genie offers a powerful analytical feature that can integrate and process data which identifies important trends by generating custom reports.

Organise Documents: keep all employee documents safe and publish policies online

This feature allows you to:

  • Easily share your company documents policies & procedures and monitors who reads them.
  • Keep all documents relating to individual employees in one secure place.
  • Mail merge feature enables you to create and send documents to an individual, department or group audience within your company, making communication in your business super easy.

API System & Calendar Integration

The benefit of this feature allows you to Streamline information across key systems and be assured that your data has synced perfectly between platforms.  Your holiday calendars in HRML Genie can be displayed in other applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar and Apple Calendar.

What’s more, employees can be responsible for entering their own data, meaning they can manage tasks such as updating their home address and contact details rather than this being done by you as the employer.  This is not only an employee engagement tool but enables HR to focus on key specific business requirements.

By automating many of the day-to-day HR processes, HRML Genie will free up time so you and your employees can focus on the value aspects of the job, thus increasing productivity and innovation in your workplace.

If you would like to find out more on HRML genie or to preview a demo, please call us on 01452 739000 today.