Employment legislation changes – April 2024 and beyond

It’s that time of year when we consider forthcoming employment legislation changes from April 2024. Being aware of the changes ensures you can prepare for them and protect your business from any legal claims. Here’s a rundown of the changes.

Payroll costs – National Minimum Wage rates

Inflation continues to be a key issue for many employers who are facing pressure to increase wages.  Whilst there is no legal requirement to increase pay to address issues with high inflation rates, the National Minimum Wage/living rates are going up on 1 April 2024, therefore if your pay is based on minimum wage rates per hour, you will need to implement these changes:

 

Age group Up to 31/3/2024 From 1/4/2024
21 and over £10.18 (£10.42 for 23+) £11.44
18 – 20 £7.49 £8.60
Apprentices under 19 (or over 19 but in year 1 of apprenticeship) and under 18s £5.28 £6.40
Statutory pay rates – From April 2024
Family friendly leave

The rates of Statutory Maternity, Adoption, Paternity, Shared Parental and Parental Bereavement pay will increase to £184.03 per week.

Statutory Sick pay

The rate of Statutory Sick Pay will increase to £116.75 per week.

Statutory redundancy payments

With effect from 6th April 2023, the statutory redundancy pay cap will increase, although the new rate is not widely available yet. Even so it’s important to ensure you get up to date compensation information for anyone who leaves due to redundancy on or after this date. You will need to calculate their redundancy pay on the new rate.  If the redundant employee’s normal weekly rate is under the new figure, you should calculate their redundancy compensation based on their actual weekly pay rate.

Rolled-up holiday pay

With effect from the holiday year starting in April 2024 and thereafter, workers who work irregular or part year hours can have their holiday pay rolled in to their pay, rather than accruing actual holiday which has to be taken as leave.  The method of calculating the holiday pay will be 12.07%. Employers should note this only applies to those employees who work irregular or part-year hours. Other employees with set hours (either part or full-time) will accrue paid holiday which must be taken as paid time off.

Flexible Working Requests

With effect from 6th April 2024, employees will be able to make a flexible working request from day one of their employment, removing the current 26 weeks’ service requirement.  Employees will be able to make two requests a year (currently only one request is possible) and they will no longer be required to set out the likely effects on the business of the change.  Employers will be compelled to consult with the employee before rejecting a request and the time allowed for the whole process, including appeal, will be reduced from three to two months.

Statutory Carer’s Leave

Statutory Carer’s Leave will give carers a minimum of one week’s unpaid leave per year to care for a dependant with a long-term care needs, from day one of their employment.

This will be a day one right for employees and is flexible, however it’s likely advance notice will need to be provided, and it may be possible to postpone requests in a similar way to Unpaid Parental Leave.

This right will be in place from April 2024.

Upcoming changes to be confirmed

2024 is potentially going to be another busy year for changes in employment law.  This is a summary of what may be in the pipeline when it comes to employment legislation changes from April 2024.  In some cases there are no firm dates for implementation however, it pays to be ahead of the changes and consider how they may affect you and your business in advance of the bills being passed in to law.

Paternity Leave

An amendment to the entitlement for fathers and partners to take Paternity Leave has recently been proposed.  If approved fathers and partners will be able to take their Paternity Leave in two split weeks, should they wish, and the timeframe for taking the leave will be extended from 56 days after the birth, to 12 months after the birth, offering more flexibility to new parents.

If passed this amendment will be effective from 24th March 2024.

Redundancy Protection for Pregnancy and Family Leave

This protection extends the right to be redeployed during pregnancy (including if a miscarriage is suffered), maternity and family leave for 18 months after the start of that leave. These are important considerations during an employee’s family/maternity leave and in restructuring or redundancy exercises.  Employers who breach this protection will risk claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination (with uncapped compensation).

This is expected to be in place from April 2024.

Employment Allocation of Tips Act

This ban will make it unlawful for employers to withhold tips from staff.  In addition, employers must also have a written policy related to tip allocation in place.  This will apply to tips, gratuities and service charges given during the previous month.

This is expected to be in place from July 2024.

Statutory Neonatal Care Leave

This statutory leave will allow parents whose babies need hospital neonatal care to take 12 weeks’ paid leave. This is in addition to their statutory maternity, shared parental or paternity leave. The right will:

  • be available from day one of employment;
  • apply to parents with babies who are admitted to hospital before they are 28 days old;
  • apply to babies who need to stay in hospital for 7 days continuously or more.

This is expected to be in place from April 2025.

Right to request more predictable working patterns

Employees and workers (including agency and zero hours workers) will have the right to formally request a more stable working pattern.  In addition, this right will also be available to those on fixed-term contracts of less than a year.  This right will apply after 26 weeks of continuous employment.

Employers will only be able to refuse requests  if there is a legal reason for refusing the request.

This is expected to be in place ‘in due course’.

Proactive duty to prevent sexual harassment

This will require employers to have proactive measures in place to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.  As a result employers will be legally responsible if no measures are in place.  And that responsibility applies, regardless of whether or not an incident has occurred. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in increased compensation of up to 25%.

This is expected to be in place from October 2024.

Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) Act 2023

This Act brings in changes to the Automatic Enrolment populations and employers who use Qualifying Earnings to calculate contributions:

  • Lowering the age criteria for auto-enrolment from 22 to 18 years of age
  • Removing the Lower Earnings Limit of £6,240 if you’re using qualifying earnings

There is no indication at this point when this change will come in to effect.

If you’re concerned about what these employment legislation changes from April 2024 mean for your business and need help reviewing your policies, please get in touch with Helpful HR.

Unconscious bias

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is a term which is commonly used in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  In this blog post we try to demystify unconscious bias and explain what it really means.

Unconscious bias is an unconscious inclination or prejudice.  It can be referred to in the context of a ‘gut’ feeling, or instinct feeling people have. These feelings will be informed by experiences and influences during their lives.  There is usually no ill will, but it is nevertheless seen as an issue in workplaces.  This bias can influence business decisions, and can compromise an employer’s ability to be an inclusive and equal workplace.

From a legal perspective, the areas to be aware of are around certain criteria, which could be covered under the description of a ‘protected characteristic’ most commonly related to age, gender, race, religion/belief, disability, sexuality and marital/partnership status.

Unconscious bias around gender, for example is the way someone might assume that a pink clothing item is appropriate for a little girl, or that little boys play with trucks while girls will want a dolly to play with.  Or age bias might be that an older person is overqualified for a junior role they’ve applied for.

We’re all human, and our decisions are informed by our own experiences.  So if it’s just about being human, why is it a problem?

What’s the problem?

Put simply, not tackling unconscious bias, means that those experiences and influences informing our decisions will continue to harm certain groups or individuals, unchecked.  Being aware of our natural bias, means that we are more likely to look beyond the assumptions we may instinctively make about an individual or group, and prevent us from treating those people differently.   Ultimately if they are treated differently, or they suffer a detriment as a result, they may have a claim for (indirect or direct) discrimination.

Over time, employees who think they are treated differently due to unconscious bias, develop feelings of isolation and alienation, and feel uncomfortable being themselves. This would take its toll on anyone, and may also affect the organisation’s performance overall.  Employees who experience bias and prejudice often actively disengage and reduce their contributions, and ultimately seek a role elsewhere.

What are the benefits of tackling unconscious bias?

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is seen as an increasingly important part of what a business has to offer.  To be an inclusive employer means that employees feel welcome, valued and included. This in turn means team members will stay longer and be more engaged and productive.

Diversity in the workplace is a serious competitive advantage with immediate and tangible benefits. It ensures a variety of different perspectives and a variety of different skills and experiences.  It gives organisations access to a greater range of talent, potentially increasing creativity and innovation.

The best way to overcome unconscious bias, is to ensure people become more self-aware (and self-critical) about their decisions and behaviours.  This can be done via training in a variety of formats. Alternatively, you could develop some supporting systems and processes, to ensure decision makers at all levels are challenged in a safe setting.

You can find out more about the benefits of tackling unconscious bias and what approach works here.  And if you’d like some advice about EDI issues in your business, please do get in touch.

Bullying at work

The topic of bullying at work was in the mainstream media in April 2023 after the resignation of the then deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab after an investigation in to claims of bullying made against him; especially after his underwhelming acceptance of the allegations against him, famously stating that “in setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent” in his resignation letter.

Dominic Saab’s resignation came less than two years after Priti Patel (then Home Secretary) was accused of bullying and was found to have been in breach of the ministerial code.

What is Bullying?

When it comes to dealing with bullying at work, as a business you need to identify or define what ‘bullying’ is, so you can ensure your employees have a clear understanding of what it actually means.

In guidance from ACAS they say that there is no legal definition of ‘bullying’ but it is described as unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either:

  • Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting
  • An abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm to someone.

This behaviour could be a pattern or a one off, face to face, on social media, emails, phonecalls, outside of work or in work, and it can go unnoticed by others. It could be among peers, or in a senior/junior relationship (and despite what you might think, a senior person can be bullied by a junior person).

The union Unison also has some clear guidelines and defines bullying as persistant offensive, intimidating, humiliating behaviour, which attempts to undermine an individual or a group of employees.

Likewise Indeed.com has some advice about bullying, describing a workplace bully as someone who repeatedly harms or mistreats employees by causing them pain or engaging in other forms of physical or verbal harassment.

Legal firms often describe bullying as offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviour, or an abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees, and which may cause them to suffer work-related stress.

There is no shortage of information about what bullying may involve, leaving organisations with no room to claim ignorance on the subject.

Examples of bullying

Bullying takes different forms, so to illustrate the breadth of possibilities, it’s helpful to outline some examples to bring the topic to life.  Examples could include:

  • Setting someone up to fail / setting impossible targets
  • Spreading malicious rumours about someone
  • Making humiliating comments about someone online
  • Undermining someone’s authority
  • Undermining someone’s competence with constant criticism
  • Ridiculing someone openly, by blaming or criticising them in front of others
  • Making threats about the security of someone’s employment if they exercise a right, or make a reasonable request

At work, it’s unlikely the bullying will take a physical form, and it will be more verbal and emotionally challenging behaviour.

Reality

If someone expresses upset about another person’s behaviour towards them does that automatically make them a bully?  Unfortunately, there are shades of grey when it comes to this issue.  The investigation into a complaint will be key in identifying if it was a reasonable response to someone’s behaviour.

If a someone says, “Your shoes are an interesting colour!” and the recipient of the comment states they are offended or feel belittled, does that mean they’re being bullied?  The question is whether it was reasonable to expect someone to be offended or feel belittled by a comment.

However, if someone says, “Come on, old man, do you need a sit-down?!” even as a joke, the question of whether it was reasonable to be offended by that comment may be easier to answer.  But it’s rarely that easy, so the investigation into the behaviour and the context needs to be done with an open mind, and with the definition of bullying and the relevant complaints procedure front and centre.

Direct financial risks to your business

The most obvious risk employers will be concerned about is the risk of a legal claim.  So what does that actually mean, and what is the risk?

Under the Equality Act 2010, if the bullying is due to a ‘protected characteristic’ then it is classed as harassment.  Protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy (also covered under direct discrimination legislation)

Any harassment claim at an employment tribunal under the Equality Act 2010 has an uncapped potential award. This means it’s difficult to quantify the potential financial risk, but the cost of defending a claim will be substantial (by current estimates, upwards of £15k), without including the compensation the Tribunal panel may award, if the claim is successful.

The other risk of a bullying claim is for constructive dismissal (Unfair Dismissal). This would arise if the employee feels the bullying is so bad they have no option but to leave.  Awards for Unfair Dismissal are capped at around a year’s salary, or c.£90k, so still represents significant financial risk.

Indirect financial risks to your business

The impact of having a workplace which tolerates (or fails to address) bullying could be serious.  Your workforce will operate in a state of fear,  afraid to make mistakes or put forward new ideas.  This does not engender creativity or engagement at work, both of which will affect your productivity.

Your attrition rates will increase as employees leave what they feel is a ‘toxic’ culture. As a result your recruitment costs will go up, and you will lose talent.

In addition, do not underestimate the power of reputational damage.  Social media platforms provide an opportunity for unhappy employees to share their experiences. With the advent of websites like Glassdoor, employers who fail to deal with bullying will quickly be exposed, making it even harder to attract and retain talent. It may also affect the success of the business. Potential customers may choose a competitor due to the reputation you have as an employer, directly hitting your bottom line.

Practicalities of dealing with it

The first thing to do is make sure you have an anti-bullying and harassment policy place. You should ensure it’s shared with all your workers, and that it is followed. This is a communication and training piece, AND a leadership one.  Leaders must lead by example, otherwise the policy ‘isn’t worth the paper it’s written on’ (to coin a phrase).

Best practice is for employers to create an inclusive culture.  Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD states workplaces should have a “safe culture where people can speak up, where differences are respected and celebrated.” Research by the CIPD shows that employees are looking for an inclusive and supportive culture.

As well as having a policy and communicating it to everyone, leaders and managers need to ‘walk the walk’. Managers need training to recognise bullying, encourage people to flag concerns to them, and ensure they investigate and address it.  There should be a consistent approach, therefore following policy and procedure is key.  The investigation must have integrity and confidentiality so any subsequent decisions are fair and reasonable, and are seen as such.

 

Dealing with bullying is never easy, undoubtedly, but it needs to be done reduce risk to your business. If you have concerns about culture in your business and you don’t know where to start, get in touch here.

Employment legislation changes – April 2023 and beyond

As an employer it’s important to know of any forthcoming employment law changes. Being aware of the changes ensures you can prepare for them and protect your business from any legal claims. Here’s a rundown of the changes taking effect from April 2023.

Payroll costs – National Minimum Wage rates

The cost of living increase continues to be a key issue for many employers who are facing pressure to increase wages.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to increase pay to address issues with high inflation rates, the National Minimum Wage/living rates are going up on 1 April 2023, therefore if your pay is based on minimum wage rates, you will need to implement these changes:

Age group​ Up to 31/3/2023 From 1/4/2023 % Increase​
23 and over​ £9.50 £10.42 9.7%
21 or 22​ £9.18 £​10.18 10.9%
18 – 20​ £6.83 £7.49 9.7%
16-17 £4.81 £5.28 9.7%
Apprentices under 19 (or over 19 but in year 1 of apprenticeship​) £4.381 £5.28 9.7%
Statutory pay rates
Family friendly leave

From 3 April 2023 Statutory Maternity, Adoption, Paternity, Shared Parental and Parental Bereavement pay will increase to £172.48 per week.

Statutory Sick pay

On 3 April 2023 Statutory Sick Pay will increase to £109.40 per week.

Statutory redundancy payments

With effect from 6th April 2023, the statutory redundancy pay cap increases to £643 per week, therefore for anyone who leaves due to redundancy on or after this date, you will need to calculate their redundancy pay on this new rate.  If the redundant employee’s normal weekly rate is under this figure, you should calculate their redundancy compensation based on their actual weekly pay rate.

Bank holidays – The King’s Coronation

In 2023 there will be an additional Bank Holiday to celebrate the King’s Coronation, on Monday 8th May 2023. This is in addition to the usual May Day Bank Holiday on 1st May, and the Spring Bank Holiday on Monday 29th May 2023.

An employee’s individual contract of employment will dictate whether they are entitled to take this additional day off and how this day’s leave will be treated.  Employers should check the wording in their employees’ contracts, and communicate clearly to employees if they are expected to work on the additional bank holiday, and / or if they need to take it from their annual leave entitlement.

Upcoming changes to be confirmed

2023 is potentially going to be a busy year for changes in employment law, with lots of Bills under consideration.  This is a summary of what may be in the pipeline.  There are no firm dates for implementation, but in the meantime it pays to be ahead of the changes and consider how they may affect you and your business in advance of the bills being passed in to law.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

During her brief time as Conservative Prime Minister, Liz Truss expressed the Party’s commitment to change Working Time Regulations’ rules on taking breaks, limiting the 48-hour working week and calculating holiday pay. In addition, the government introduced the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill which, if passed unamended, will remove all UK laws containing EU law by the end of 2023. In addition it will give the government powers to repeal or replace those laws without Parliamentary scrutiny. As well as the working time rules, the TUPE and the agency workers regulations may be at the top of a possible list for reform, due the fact that these laws derive directly from EU regulations.

Anti-strike policies

Conservative proposals for restricting the effect of industrial action were outlined by the the previous Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps in July 2022. Consequently, some anti-strike measures are already passing or have passed into law, such as the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill and Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 which allow organisations to use agency workers to cover striking workers.

However, the Regulatory Policy Committee have stated the Strikes Bill is ‘not fit for purpose’ and subsequently have suggested another impact assessment is needed. In addition, the TUC has mounted a legal challenge to the agency worker rule change, which is due to be heard in March 2023.

The Carer’s Leave Bill

The Carer’s Leave Bill will give carers one week’s unpaid leave a year to care for a dependant with a long-term care need that is:

  • likely to last more than three months;
  • is a disability under the Equality Act 2010; and/or
  • connected to old age.

This will be a day one right for employees.

Many organisations already support carers and have policies in place, however this will involve changes to flexible working policies and practices, therefore communicating any changes relating to flexible working requests and requests for carer leave to managers will be very important, to ensure any speculative enquiries are dealt with appropriately.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill 

This bill extends the right to be redeployed during pregnancy (including miscarriage), maternity and family leave for 18 months after the start of that leave. These are important considerations that will have to be managed during an employee’s family/maternity leave and in restructuring or redundancy exercises.

Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill will allow parents whose babies need hospital neonatal care to take 12 weeks’ paid leave in addition to their statutory maternity or paternity leave. The right will:

  • be available from day one of employment;
  • apply to parents with babies who are admitted to hospital before they are 28 days old;
  • apply to babies who need to stay in hospital for 7 days continuously or more.
Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill

This bill will make it unlawful for employers to withhold tips from staff.  A new statutory Code of Practice on how tips should be distributed will be developed, and in addition workers will gain a new right to request information on an employer’s tipping record to help them to bring a tribunal claim under the new rules.

Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill

This new legislation would:

  • make flexible working requests a day one right for employees (thereby removing the current 26 weeks’ service requirement)
  • allow employees to make two requests a year (currently only one request is possible)
  • require employers to consult with the employee, before rejecting a request
  • shorten the time employers have to reply to a request from three to two months
  • remove the requirement for employees to set out the likely effects on the business of the change.
Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill

This bill will give all employees and workers (including agency and zero hours workers) the right to formally request a more stable working pattern and will be available to those who:

  • have worked for the employer for 26 weeks (not necessarily continuously)
  • are on work patterns that lack certainty in the hours and time they work
  • are on fixed term contracts under 12 months’ in duration.

Workers will be able to make two requests a year, however employers will be able to refuse requests on specific grounds, e.g. due to the additional costs involved or a lack of work at the times requested.  This reform is intended to rectify one-sided flexibility favouring employers to the detriment of workers.

Office of the Whistleblower

A Bill on whistleblowing could, if passed, repeal the current framework in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and introduce broader protection with a bigger range of penalties. The bill involves the creation of a new body, potentially called the Office of the Whistleblower, which would be given investigation powers and have the authority to order redress.

Auto-Enrolment Pension Changes 

There is an Automatic Enrolment Private Members Bill moving through Parliament which looks set to bring in changes to the Automatic Enrolment populations and employers who use Qualifying Earnings to calculate contributions:

  • Lowering the age criteria for auto-enrolment from 22 to 18 years of age
  • Removing the Lower Earnings Limit of £6,240 if you’re using qualifying earnings

Predictions are that this particular change will come in to effect either in April 2024, or at the earliest in October 2023.

And….

The government is also backing the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill currently passing through Parliament, which would cover the following:

  • reintroducing employers’ liability for the harassment of their staff by third-parties (whether they are customers, clients, or suppliers). This liability was previously removed in 2013;
  • requiring employers to proactively prevent the sexual harassment of their staff;
  • allowing for a 25% uplift in any award in a successful sexual harassment tribunal claim where the employer failed to prevent the harassment occurring.
If you’re concerned about what these employment law changes mean for your business and need help in preparing for them, please get in touch with Helpful HR.

 

 

Employment legislation changes – April 2022

As an employer it’s important to know of any forthcoming employment law changes. Being aware of the changes ensures you can prepare for them and protect your business from any legal claims. Here’s a rundown of the changes taking effect from April 2022.

Gender pay gap reporting

For businesses in the private sector with a headcount of 250 or more, your ‘snapshot’  gender pay gap reporting is due to be published on or before 4th April 2022.  The information about what you need to report can be found here.

There is currently speculation about the introduction of new ethnicity pay gap reporting, but there are no clear plans to introduce that requirement.

Payroll costs – National Minimum Wage rates

The cost of living increase is likely to be a key issue for many employers who will face increasing pressure from employees to increase wages.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to increase pay to address issues with increases in inflation rates, National Minimum Wage/living rates are going up on 1 April 2022 so if your pay is based on minimum wage rates, you will need to implement these changes:

Age group​ Up to 31/3/2022 From 1/4/2022 % Increase​
23 and over​ £8.91​ £9.50​ 6.62​
21 or 22​ £8.36​ £9.18​ 9.81​
18 – 20​ £6.56​ £6.83​ 4.12​
Under 18 (but above compulsory school age​) £4.62​ £4.81​ 4.11​
Apprentices under 19 (or over 19 but in year 1 of apprenticeship​) £4.30​ £4.81​ 11.86​
Health and Social Care Levy – 6 April 2022

The UK is introducing a new social care levy  from 6 April 2022 to help fund health and social care. This will be collected via a 1.25% increase in National Insurance rates for employers and employees in 2022.

People above State Pension age will not be affected by the temporary increase to National Insurance contributions for the 2022 to 2023 tax year, but will be liable to pay the levy from April 2023.

Statutory pay rates
Family friendly leave

From 3 April 2022 Statutory Maternity, Adoption,  Paternity, Shared Parental and parental bereavement pay will increase to £156.66 per week.

Statutory Sick pay

On 6 April 2022 Statutory Sick Pay will increase to £99.35 per week.

Statutory redundancy payments

For anyone made redundant on or after 6th April 2022, the statutory redundancy pay weekly pay rate increases to £571, therefore for anyone who leaves due to redundancy on or after 6th April 2022 you will need to base their redundancy pay on this new weekly cap.  If the redundant employee’s normal weekly rate is under this figure, you should calculate their redundancy compensation based on their actual weekly pay rate.

Right to work checks

Although the concept of right to work checks is not new, there are changes to be aware of which come in to effect from 6th April 2022.  Full guidance is here

Key changes include:

  • implementation of a new Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) process,
  • changes for those that hold a Biometric Residence Card, Biometric Residence Permit or Frontier Worker Permit.
Bank holidays – The Queen’s Jubilee

In 2022 there will be an additional Bank Holiday to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on Friday 3rd June. The usual late May bank holiday has moved to Thursday 2 June to give workers a four-day weekend.

Individual contracts of employment will dictate whether employees are entitled to take this additional day off, and how this day’s leave will be treated.  Employers should check the wording in contracts and communicate clearly to employees whether they are expected to work on the additional bank holiday, and / or if they need to take it from their annual leave entitlement.

As the Jubilee week is to all intents and purposes a 3-day week and is at school half-term in most places, employers should prepare for a large number of annual leave requests.

If you’re concerned about what these employment law changes mean for your business and need help in preparing for them, please get in touch with Helpful HR.

 

 

5 tips for managing long-term sickness absence

Absence of more than 4 weeks is often defined as long-term sickness absence. In some cases an employee’s absence can continue month after month.  But how do employers manage this absence in a positive and pro-active way that benefits the business and the employee?

Here are 5 tips for managing long-term sickness absence:
  1. Make sure you have a sickness absence policy.  Any policy you have should include: absence notification requirements; sick pay applicable and what the qualifying criteria is; expectations regarding contact with the employee during sickness; an absence review process and how long-term absence will be dealt with.
  2. Introduce an Ill Health Capability procedure. This will enable you to manage an employee’s long-term absence through a fair and transparent process.
  3. Maintain regular communication with the employee.  Contrary to popular belief it is rarely appropriate to cease contact with an employee while they are off sick.  Limit this contact to business updates and enquiries regarding the employee’s health.  You should put no pressure on the employee to return or deal with work during their absence.  A supportive and empathetic approach should be taken, focussed on their wellbeing and what you can do to support them. This will support their ongoing engagement with the business and hopefully a productive return to work.
  4. Consider the steps you need to take to support the remainder of the team during the employee’s absence.  This will reduce any potential resentment about additional workload. The danger is that resentment builds and is directed at the absent employee, making their return to work difficult. Carry out regular check-ins with the team to enable you to address any issues they share.
  5.  Ensure you follow the policies you have in place correctly.  Put milestone dates in the diary to prompt actions under the policies and procedures to ensure you stay on track. For example: the date the current fit note expires; next planned contact date and why; when Company and Statutory sick pay expires, and the stages of the Ill Health Capability procedure.

Although every situation is different, you will be best placed for success if you have these basics in place.   The worst-case scenario is that you get it wrong and receive an employment tribunal claim against you alleging disability discrimination.  In addition to this, the employee may be disengaged even if they do return, therefore they are unlikely to be productive.  The alternative is that they ‘disappear into the ether’, making it difficult to resolve the situation one way or another.

Helpful HR can support you if you have an employee absent from work due to long-term sickness, so get in touch and we can get you on track and limit the risk of a costly employment tribunal claim.

Employment law changes in April 2020

As an employer it’s important to know of any forthcoming employment law changes. Being aware of the changes ensures you can prepare for them and protect your business from any legal claims. Here’s a rundown of the changes taking effect from April 2020.

Introducing parental bereavement leave

An Act passed in 2018 has resulted in the introduction of parental bereavement leave to provide support for bereaved parents. The leave will be available to parents who lose a child under 18, or suffer a still-birth in the later stages of pregnancy.

What is it?

Employees will be entitled to 2 weeks leave, and employees with 26-weeks continuous service will also be entitled to pay at the statutory rate. This leave is separate from the statutory right to unpaid time-off in an emergency, and compassionate leave which is discretionary.

Action to take

Employers should take the following steps, prior to April 2020:

  • review your current leave policies and decide if you will follow or exceed the minimum requirements of this legislation;
  • review and update policies and handbook to include this entitlement, as well as any other policies which may benefit from this information (for example, any family friendly policies);
  • consider if you need to review and update other content in your handbook, and
  • review and update your contracts of employment, so they are fit for purpose.

More information

Changes to written statements of particulars of employment

The current law states that written statements must be issued by employers to their employees within 2 months of their start date.  The new law will require employers to give all workers (not just employees) a written statement on or before their start date. In addition the written statements must include:

  • the hours and days of the week the worker /employee is required to work, if they are varied and how;
  • any details of a probationary period;
  • their entitlements to paid leave;
  • any details of training provided by the employer and
  • other benefits not covered elsewhere in the written statement.
Action to take

Employers should take the following steps, prior to April 2020:

  • be aware of exactly what needs to be included in the written statement;
  • know about any other information which needs to be provided to employees in writing;
  • ensure you have a template statement / contract of employment which is ready to use, should you need to make a new hire and
  • review your current written statement / contract of employment to ensure it complies with the new requirements.

More information

Increase in the holiday pay reference period from 12 weeks to 52 weeks

The reference period for calculating holiday pay for workers with irregular hours will change. Employers will need to look back over the past 52 weeks for the purposes of calculating holiday pay.

IR35 changes for the private and public sector

The public sector IR35 reforms will be extended to cover medium and large private-sector employers. This means that responsibility for determining if IR35 applies to independent contractors will shift to the organisation, not the individual. Employers should review whether they fall in to the category ‘medium’ or ‘large’ employer and then review their contractors and pay arrangements to determine how the new rules will affect them.

More information

If you’re concerned about what these employment law changes mean for your business and need help in preparing for them, please get in touch with Helpful HR.