Flexible working requests – getting it right!

What is your approach to flexible working and how should a flexible working request be handled?

‘Flexible working’ is a working arrangement not only to benefit the employee but also has associated business benefits and provides flexibility to how and when employees work.

The Employment Rights Act 1996, under section 80F permits a statutory right to request contract variation through submitting a flexible working application.

To make a flexible working application an employee should be continuously employed with their current employer for a period of at least 26 weeks.

An employer must consider all requests reasonably and inform the employee of that decision as soon as possible.

If the employee’s request is accepted, you should discuss the changes with the employee as soon as possible. Be aware that this would be a permanent change to the employee’s contract and employees can only make one request in any 12-month period.

It is a statutory requirement for the process to be completed within three months of the request being received, to include appeals.

A request can only be refused where there is a business reasons for doing so, such as:

  • burden of additional costs
  • inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • inability to recruit additional staff
  • detrimental impact on quality
  • detrimental impact on performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • planned structural change to the business

 

 ‘Good practice’ tips for handling a successful flexible working request:

  • Once the request is received, the employer should arrange a meeting as soon as possible to discuss and allow the employee to be accompanied at the meeting if they so wish
  • Communicate and keep the employee informed
  • Ensure the decision is based on business reasons and not based on the assumption that the employee will be less productive or less reliable
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The recruitment time bomb

As we move further towards full employment, businesses are finding it more and more difficult to recruit the right people.  Combine this with our leaving the EU and therefore removing access to people eager to work for us we are sitting on a recruitment time bomb.  So what can forward-thinking companies do?  The answer is what many forward-thinking companies are already doing and focusing on being an employer of choice.

As employers will all be fighting over the same people, how can you stand out from the crowd and be the most attractive employer?

  1. Consider flexible working practices – this is not just the domain of working parents, many younger workers are much more focused on having a work life balance. Companies that have for example enabled their people to start early and finish early so people can ‘have a life’, have a real pull.
  2. Tailor your benefits package – it is not all about money either. Have the flexibility to tailor your package to the workforce and take advantage of many of the ‘free’ benefits available.
  3. Train and invest in your people – people want to be building up their skillset and learning, understand their aspirations and match them to the business needs
  4. Provide an enjoyable and engaged workplace where people understand what they have to achieve and the part they play in the overall success of their organisation and they have fun doing it
  5. Demonstrate your commitment to their wellbeing by being understanding and encouraging, listening and supporting. You will be amazed at how you will be repaid in enthusiasm, motivation and performance
  6. Ensure the line managers are the best they can be. Many people leave an organisation because of their line manager, don’t be one of those employers
  7. Don’t forget the adage that if you look after your people, they will look after your customers.

 

With social media meaning the word gets out there if you are an employer of choice, if you get it right, your existing people will also be your best recruitment tool!

The Mysterious World of Shared Parental Leave

There is so much confusion around the concept of shared parental leave, it is not surprising that less than 2% of eligible people take it up.  So here is a guide……

A mother (partner) can choose to end their maternity (adoption) leave early (after the 2 weeks compulsory leave following the birth or adoption).  This means that up to 50 weeks of leave can effectively be shared.  This can be divided up and taken separately or together.

If the mother has not used her full entitlement of 39 weeks statutory maternity pay (currently £140.94 a week or 90% of earnings whichever is the lower) this may also be paid.

Parents can stop and start their shared parental leave and return to work between periods of leave with each eligible parent able to submit 3 notices to book periods of leave.

During shared parental leave, the contract of employment continues in force and employees are entitled to receive all contractual benefits except for salary.

Annual leave will continue to accrue throughout the period of shared parental leave.

A parent wanting to take shared parental leave is required to satisfy the “continuity of employment test” and their partner must meet the “employment and earnings test”.

Continuity of employment test – the individual has worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the child’s expected due date/matching date (for adoption) and will still be working for the employer at the start of each leave period.

Employment and earnings test – In the 66 weeks leading up to the baby’s expected due date/matching date, the person has worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 per week (currently) a week in any 13 weeks.

Any employee who wishes to take shared parental leave must first give their line manager notification of their entitlement and intention, at least 8 weeks before they want the period of leave to commence.

An eligible employee has the right to submit 3 separate notifications specifying the leave periods that they intend to take.

SPL can only be taken in complete weeks but may start on any day of the week e.g. if it began on a Tuesday it would finish on a Monday.

Up to 20 ‘shared parental leave keep in touch days’ maybe agreed by both parties

A request for a single uninterrupted period of leave e.g. several weeks in a row cannot be refused, as long as it does not exceed the total number of weeks available and providing the Company has been given at least 8 weeks’ notice.

Where an employee requests a pattern of leave where they return to work in between, requests can be considered on a case by case basis, taking into consideration the reasons for the request and the impact on the Company but if it is not possible to accommodate it, the request may be declined.

 

So there we are…….simple!

The Dark Art of Successful Recruitment

Why is it so difficult to find the right candidate when recruiting?  It really should not be as hit and miss as it seems. Here are a few hints and tips to help you get it right.

In our experience of recruiting for ourselves and our clients, the key to success starts with setting out exactly what you are looking for.  I don’t mean ‘a qualified solicitor’, a ‘chartered engineer’ or ‘quantity surveyor’, that’s the easy bit. I mean what you are REALLY looking for, the person themselves.

So many recruitment processes fail because the recruiter has not spent the time really thinking about the attributes they need in their candidates and how they will fit in with the values, culture and behaviours that are important to your organisation.

  • Before you start, make sure you set out in a ‘person specification’ the skills and attributes you need for the role. These maybe teamwork, communication, reliable, resilient, able to see the bigger picture, customer focused.

 

  • Remember diversity – it is important when setting out what you want, to ensure that throughout your organisation you have sufficient diversity in your teams to enable you for example to see things from your customer’s perspectives and come up with innovative and creative ideas for new products or services.

 

  • Write competency based questions to ask at interview to enable the candidates to give you real life examples of where they have demonstrated these skills and attributes, such as ‘Tell me about a time when you………………….?’ These types of questions mean the candidates have to give you actual examples of what they have done and how they did it.

 

  • Fourthly, you can use psychometric like personality profiles. Lots of our clients like the insights these can give into the candidates and develop interview questions to probe any areas of concern.  They are accessible and affordable now thanks to online questionnaires.  They can also be scarily accurate and therefore very valuable.

 

  • Finally, never take the best of a bad bunch!

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The no nonsense guide to Funding available via GAINS

GAINS (The Gloucestershire Accelerated Impact Network Support) is a European funded programme to help ambitious start-ups and high growth companies here in Gloucestershire.  It offers (subject to some criteria and form filling!) access to 24 hours of coaching support over a 6 month period, from an approved GAINS coach for £1440, which represents a saving of £960 (40% of the coaching cost).

It is accessed via the University of Gloucestershire & the Growth Hub GAINS programme.

The coaching can cover all aspects of developing the business including organisational development, leadership development, business development, marketing, product development… to name a few.

How does it work?

An in depth diagnostic conversation to determine the organisation’s eligibility, its barriers to and opportunities for growth and develop a business plan is the start point.  This will be undertaken by the GAINS Project Manager.

As well as access to the subsidised coaching, the organisation will also be entitled to attend a series of half day masterclasses covering: Leadership for Growth, The Art of Strategy, Finance for Growth, Developing your Product and Breakthrough Business Innovation.  There is also access to a High Growth Network Group.

Who is Eligible?

  • Businesses with at least 10 employees that have the potential to increase turnover or employment by an annual average of 20% over 3 years;
  • Established businesses with fewer than 10 employees with potential to increase to at least 7 employees or grow turnover by £750k over 3 years; and
  • New businesses that might be capable of exceeding £750k-£1M turnover or 7-10 employees over 3 years.

In essence what the organisation’s must achieve as a result of the coaching (provided over a 6 month period) is either: launch a new product, take on a new employee or increase turnover/profitability.

What is HRML’s involvement?

Here at HRML, Julie Heather is a GAINS Coach so we can provide qualifying organisations with 24 hours of coaching to assist them with:

  • organisational and cultural change
  • developing and implementing new structures
  • appointing and developing senior teams and line managers
  • coaching senior team and line managers to lead and manage their people effectively

What next?

Anyone interested will need to initially complete an online form to view and check eligibility.  They will then receive an email asking for financial information and to organise a meeting with the GAINS Project Manager.

For more information contact Julie Heather at HRML for more information on 01452 739000 or julieheather@hrml.co.uk

‘Self employed’ or ‘worker’ and why is it so important?

With the ‘gig’ economy growing rapidly, as employers we need to be clear on our responsibilities or it could cost us dearly.  There has been so much in the news recently but do we really understand what it all means?

The gig economy tends to refer to people using apps to sell their labour. The most commonly used examples are Uber and Deliveroo, but there are a growing number of platforms facilitating working in this way.

Uber have been arguing that their drivers are ‘self employed’ .  This Employment Appeal Tribunal decision in November, in a case originally brought by two of the drivers said they are in fact ‘workers’ when the app is switched on and not as the US owner of Uber claimed, ‘self employed’.  What that means is they could have the following rights:

  • Rights to the minimum wage
  • Sick pay
  • Paid holidays

So this could cost a considerable amount of money, especially as recently the European Court of Justice decided that if ‘workers’ had been mis-classed as self employed they were entitled to be paid that holiday (potentially going back almost 20 years!)

In some ways it doesn’t matter what is written in a contract, if it doesn’t reflect reality it will be overruled. It comes down to a number of factors, including the obligations on the individual when they are available for work. If these are sufficiently onerous then the relationship is one of a ‘worker’.

So what next? Well, there is a feeling that as more people become active in the ‘gig’ economy, people are not having access to employment rights as they did when they were employees.  The independent Taylor Review was commissioned to look into this for the Government.  It considered the implications of these and other new forms of work on worker rights and responsibilities, as well as on employer freedoms and obligations.  It made a number of recommendations including that workers for firms such as Uber and Deliveroo should be classified as ‘dependent contractors’, with extra benefits.

So watch this space for the latest development but in the meantime check whether your self employed contractors really are ‘self employed’.

The Christmas Party Pooper

The party season is coming, so as employers should we be celebrating or panicking?

If you Google ‘Employer’s Christmas party’, the first 6 results are insurance companies offering Employer’s liability Insurance!

So why is this the case?

Firstly, there could be the big risk that harassment could take place and of course violent incidents at alcohol fueled work parties are not unheard of, but is the employer responsible in these situations?

Yes – if the incident arose during the ‘course of employment’.

What that means is if the incident happened during the Christmas party itself the employer is potentially liable.  It doesn’t matter that the employer would have disapproved of the incident or clearly had not directed someone to behave in that way, they still could be liable. The reason is that social events away from the workplace but involving people from work either immediately after work, or for an organised leaving party, are considered to be in the “course of employment”.

However, some relief is possibly at hand.  In a case this past summer, it was decided that the employer was not liable for damages resulting from an incident that occurred after a party when a number of employees continued drinking in a hotel room at a different location in an impromptu session.  It must be remembered that it is still a fine line and one that employers need to be on their guard against because each case will be decided on it’s individual facts. This is not a get out of jail free card.

So, practically what should employers do in advance of the party season?

They should ensure that they have a policy on equality & diversity, harassment and bullying in place and that their code of conduct includes behaviour at work related events.  Also, that everyone is trained and made aware of these polices and the expected behaviour standards (reminding people that they may be personally liable for some acts can really capture people’s attention!)

Happy holidays!