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.

How can we be more effective?

Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® has been referenced over many years.  First published in 1989, it’s been reissued multiple times since then, and has been adapted / spun out in to targeted versions, for example focussing on teenagers, families, journals, workbooks and card decks.  He continued to release books up to a year before he passed away in 2012, leaving a legacy of effective leadership principles.

What’s it about?

Covey seems to have had a genuine wish to help others and lead by example by closely following the principles of the habits himself. He provides practical advice, which requires us to look inside ourselves.  Reading the habits, we may already find that we’re on the right track.

What are the 7 habits?

There’s much more to the habits in the book, however here is a flavour of the 7 habits:

Habit 1: Be Proactive®

Take responsibility for your life. This habit encourages us to move away from blaming external factors and responding to them in a reactive way. We should use proactive language; I will, I can etc.  and our energy should be focussed on things we can control.  The first step is to build awareness of where we expend our energy now, so we can develop into a more proactive approach.

Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind®

We will not feel successful, if we achieve things which are not where we wanted to end up.  We need to focus on what we want, and how we want to live, and then use the 1st Habit of proactivity to get there.

Habit 3: Put First Things First®

This is where the 1st and 2nd Habits come together, and we can make decisions about what we will and won’t do.  We don’t have to do everything, it’s about choosing proactively what you will do, and prioritising accordingly. These decisions will be made based on our purpose, values and role, with the end in mind.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win®

Be co-operative and collaborative.  It’s a mindset which means that we seek mutual benefit with our solutions.  Covey identifies 3 character traits; Integrity, Maturity and Abundance Mentality (believing there is plenty for everyone). It doesn’t have to be either / or, both parties can ‘win’. Further character traits identified are empathy, confidence, consideration, sensitivity and bravery, which all underpin real Maturity.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®

Communication is key, but this Habit is more focussed on listening, and really understanding others.  We all want to get our point across, but in doing so we may not listen to the other person properly.  This means we may miss their meaning or make assumptions, based on our own point of view.

Habit 6: Synergize®

This is about teamwork, being openminded and finding new solutions. This is best done with multiple contributors who all bring different insights and experiences.  The principle of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ is in play here.  Valuing differences is important to achieve synergy. It might feel uncomfortable initially, as there may be disagreements, but the outcome will be more interesting and successful.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®

This means preserving and enhancing ourselves in 4 different areas of life: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.  We need to grow in each of these areas, for example through healthy lifestyle choices, making social connections, reading, learning, spending time in the natural world, music and art. By growing in these areas we become more able to deal with challenges, grow and continue to build on the other 6 Habits.

Although a lot of focus of adopting the 7 Habits has been on implementing these principles in leadership and management, they can apply to all of us.  After all, the title of the book is simply to make us highly effective people, whether you’re a junior executive or business owner.  If you’re new to a leadership role, read one of our previous blogs to get some practical leadership tips.

Social media posts

The media has covered situations where individuals have been disciplined, or had offers of employment withdrawn, as a result of posts they put on social media.  This was because posts in question were deemed to be ‘unacceptable’ to their employer or potential employer.

But, the posts were made from personal accounts, so why did these organisations take this action?  Surely it’s none of their business what an individual posts on social media. Especially if the post was private or there was no mention of the organisation in their profile or the post?

When does it matter?

Even if a post is from a personal account, the key consideration is whether it can be linked to their employment.  Or if it could damage the organisation’s reputation.  This issue needs to be considered properly and fully before action is taken.  Of course a post by an employee or applicant may not put your organisation in a particularly positive light. But it’s important not to take a disproportionate view of the damage or potential damage to its reputation.  The facts should be considered carefully, including:

  • The employee’s role and seniority
  • The nature of the social media post
  • Whether the damage to reputation is actual or potential and if it’s a genuine risk
  • Whether the employee has received a previous warning for similar conduct
  • Whether the employee expressed regret at their actions?
  • Are there any other mitigating factors to consider?

Organisations should ensure clear information and training is given to employees about the importance of the corporate reputation and image. There should also be a clear policy about the organisation’s expectations about employees’ use of social media.  It’s also important to have clear policies on equality, diversity and inclusion and conduct training in this area.  That way the organisation can demonstrate the their stance in these areas, and therefore how the employee’s actions are a direct breach.  A clear disciplinary policy and procedure is also important, ensuring it includes the types of behaviour and conduct that will be regarded as serious, or gross misconduct.

Rights of the parties

Obviously, individuals have rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, and the GDPR Data Protection Act 2018, so monitoring social media needs to be done with care, to avoid breaching these rights.  It requires a very careful balancing act to make sure the rights of both parties are protected.  Not easy.

When it comes to monitoring social media, it’s always best to have a very clear policy about social media and data protection, privacy and monitoring.  Equally important is ensuring these policies are within the principle of fair, lawful and transparent processing of personal data.  Generally, the most usual grounds for monitoring this activity will be legitimate interests. But again, this needs to be balanced against the individual’s rights and freedoms.  If the social media account is private, and there was an expectation it would remain so, then potentially the individual’s rights would override the organisation’s legitimate interests in monitoring that activity.

The organisation would need to articulate the purpose of the monitoring. For example, if it were to prevent sexual harassment, or ‘hate speech’, this might provide a legitimate reason.  A stronger argument might be reputation protection of the business, and minimising vicarious liability for the acts of an individual.  If the individual doesn’t have a private account and states the name of their employer on their profile, a clear connection can be made. If the named organisation were seen to tolerate posts of a discriminatory nature the reputational damage would be difficult to deny.

How do you deal with it?

If an employee puts a post on social media that is contrary to their aim to eliminate discrimination and hate speech, or which detrimentally impacts the organisation’s reputation, it should be treated as any disciplinary would.  The disciplinary policy should be followed as with any disciplinary issue.  The investigation and consideration of all the facts and impact on the organisation should be thorough. Any investigation conducted should be undertaken by someone other than the employee’s manager, or the person who will make the ultimate disciplinary decision.  Any action you take must be done within the ACAS Code of Practice for disciplinary and grievances.  Regardless of the severity of the alleged offence, employers should not dismiss an employee without following a fair process.

If one of your employees has made social media posts of concern, and you’d like advice, get in touch.

Why do I need HR?

As a small business you might ask ‘why do I need HR?’ if you have a small headcount and everything seems to be going well.  An HR Consultant is often engaged to support and advise when there are employee related issues or problems. That might be a situation involving redundancy, a disciplinary, grievance or dismissal.  Of course, ensuring that these situations are dealt with correctly is very important.  We do our job, help you to resolve the issue and that’s that.  All good.  But there IS more to HR than troubleshooting of this kind, and it’s important even (or I would argue especially) for small businesses. The way your people are managed will have a direct impact on their success, and by implication the the success of your business.  In a small business where the headcount is under 50, each employee has a greater proportional impact on the working environment, the team, the success of the business and how well it functions.

What do I need to know about HR?

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), states that Human Resources Management (HRM) is:

“…the function within an organisation that focuses on the recruitment, management, and direction of the people who work in the organisation. HRM can also be performed by line managers.”

There are multiple stages in an employment relationship, some of which are included in the definition above.  If we look at this in more detail, the stages are:

Employees experience these activities during their journey with you, their employer. But you won’t positively impact the success of your people and your business without considering the ‘how’ in each of these areas. Let’s look at each stage in more detail:

Attraction

What skills, knowledge and experience do you need, and how will you attract these people in a competitive recruitment market?

Recruitment

What are your recruitment methods, and do they successfully identify if the candidates have the skills, knowledge and experience you need?  How many of your new starters leave before they finish their probationary period with you?

Onboarding

How can you ensure effective onboarding of someone into their job and the company, enabling them to become productive quickly and begin making a positive impact on your business?

Development

How do you develop your onboarded employees? What development and progression can you provide so that your people become better and better at their jobs and become the experts, managers or leaders of the future?  Or do people leave to get that development and progression?

Retention

How do you treat your employees while they’re with you? What can you offer them that will keep them loyal and engaged?  Or might they always be on the lookout for the next opportunity elsewhere?  How do you make sure you keep all the knowledge, skill and experience you have supported and developed from walking out of the door, reducing your ROI, and increasing your costs?

Separation

How do you treat leavers? Does that change depending on whether they’re a voluntary or involuntary leaver? What do your current employee population observe when others leave, and does that process feel dignified, respectful and make them feel glad they still work there?  Could your leavers be employees of the future, once they’ve gained other experiences, and would they want to return to you?

And the cycle continues…..

What should I do?

In short, the first stage would be to look at what you currently do.  Ask yourself and selected others 5(ish!) key questions:

  1. Are your people processes efficient and effective for the business and your people?
  2. What kinds of experiences do your employees have at the various stages of the employee lifecycle?
  3. What kinds of behaviours do you value? Do you see these demonstrated by your managers and employees consistently in their interactions with each other?
  4. What kind of employer do you want to be?  How does that link in with your brand marketing and PR?
  5. How high is your employee turnover? How successful are your attempts to recruit new talent?

This is just the start of the process, and it will lead to further conversations and questions, no doubt.  Maybe this next year is the year you start to take a strategic approach to your people management practices?

If you’re asking yourself “Why do I need HR?” and you’d like more information, or if you would like support to look at any or all of these areas to make your business even more successful, get in touch.

How to give feedback

In the workplace, managers and colleagues give feedback to others as part of their normal management and team practices.  Feedback should be constructive, and it’s a valuable process, aimed at improving skills, communication, relationships and success (individual and organisational).

In a study by Christine Porath[1], she found that higher levels of feedback were associated with 89% greater thriving at work, 63% more engagement and 79% higher job satisfaction.  She also found that giving honest, careful feedback and creating a ‘feedback loop’, (where team members provided feedback to each other), created stronger connections, and better relationships at work.  Adding recognition and / or reward in to the mix lead to employees becoming happier and more engaged.

The good and the bad

Provided the feedback is truly constructive, there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ feedback as all feedback of this nature will be valuable.

But if that feedback is not constructive, or not delivered in an appropriate way, I think we can probably call it ‘bad’ feedback, as it will often have the opposite effect of what is desired. i.e., it resulted in a disengaged, demotivated employee, and ultimately damage their success and potentially that of the team.

How to give good feedback

For many years there was a well-known saying linked to giving feedback which was referred to as the ‘**** sandwich’ i.e., say something nice, say something negative and then distract the person with something positive again. It seems this doesn’t work because the ‘negative’ points get lost, with people, understandably, clinging to the positive messages.

Here are our top tips for preparing and providing good quality feedback.

Preparation:
  • Be clear what you’re providing feedback about and consider what you want the outcome to be
  • Allocate enough time to the feedback session and make sure it’s in a confidential setting without interruptions
  • Be factual, specific, kind and objective – describe behaviour / actions / outcomes, not personality, attitude or character
  • Provide the context and describe what you noticed.  E.g., “I noticed that your reports have been submitted 2-3 days late on a couple of occasions lately”
  • Outline the impact and why it’s a problem
  • Write down the key points you want to get across.
The meeting:
  • Present your prepared observations
  • Be mindful of your body language and tone.  Keep it calm and respectful
  • Ask for their perspective of your observations
  • Encourage them to explore alternatives – ways to improve next time
  • Present feedback as a positive opportunity, not a threat, and include a balance of feedback (i.e., if some things went well, say so)
  • Listen actively, show empathy and demonstrate you’re listening – paraphrase and reflect what you’ve heard
  • Acknowledge their feelings
  • Reaffirm that your intention is to offer feedback to help them improve their performance, and help them progress, develop, grow in their role and the organisation.

Feedback should be given as close to an issue arising to ensure it’s relevant, and to demonstrate that it’s important.  Don’t wait for your next scheduled monthly or quarterly 1-1 to share the feedback.

If you need to give difficult feedback to an employee and you’re not sure how, get in touch.

 

[1] Mastering Community: The Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves us from Surviving to Thriving by Christine Porath 2022

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.

Successful hiring

Obviously, employers are always keen to make successful hiring decisions. However it is common for a new hire to be unsuccessful in probation. This is often because it transpires that they don’t actually have the skills and experience needed for the job.

Why does this happen?

There are two potential answers to this question:

  • The criteria for the job was not correctly defined at the start, and / or
  • The questions during the selection process did not successfully establish the skills and experience of the candidate.

A great deal of management time and effort (and often direct cost) goes in to recruiting and onboarding a new employee, so when it doesn’t work out, more management time goes in to dealing with the problem. There are often direct costs in paying notice in lieu and untaken holiday when the leaver is processed.  You then end up doubling the recruitment costs and time for filling that role, when you repeat the process to recruit a better replacement.  So, getting the selection process right, makes business sense.

Tips for making successful hiring decisions:
  • REALLY think about the job you need to fill. Consider the skills and experience that person needs to have.
  • Create a job ad and job description which clearly articulates the qualifications, skills and experience you’re looking for. This will enable potential applicants without the skills you need to self-select out of the process.
  • Involve more than one person in the shortlisting and interviewing process and spend time preparing together.
  • Devise interview questions which are open and based on the candidates’ experiences. Plan to have a two-way conversation with them about it, so you can assess them against what’s required.
  • Probe the candidate on their experience to ‘drill down’ in to the detail.  This will eliminate any potential embellishments, assumptions or misunderstandings about the experiences they have actually had.
  • Ensure all candidates are interviewed in the same robust way, regardless of whether they are recommended by a contact, or you have worked with them before.
  • Ensure one of the interviewers is taking notes of the candidate’s responses (the content, not their opinion about it). This will serve as an accurate reminder about the candidates, so you can discuss your thoughts about them effectively afterwards.
  • If you’re in doubt about a candidate, ask them back, or meet them for coffee so you can ask them more about the areas where you feel less convinced. Or involve a third interviewer to do this – prepping with them about the areas of focus/concern.
  • Do not appoint someone just because they are the best in an unsatisfactory group of candidates. If they do not have the essential skills and experience, and these areas cannot easily be developed or trained upon joining, do not appoint them.

Not everyone has a natural ability to interview well, but training or coaching can help your managers run an effective selection process, so they can find the right person for the job.

If you or your team need support in making more successful hiring decisions, get in touch.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental Health Awareness week in the UK is an initiative introduced by the Mental Health Foundation.  In 2023, Mental Health Awareness week is from 15-21st May and the theme this year is Anxiety.

Anxiety can affect people both physically and mentally. People may experience different symptoms, including increased heart rate, headaches and chest pains.  It can cause people to feel tense or nervous, making it hard to relax and detrimentally affect sleep and concentration.

Mental health is something everyone has, like physical health, and they are connected – you will have noticed physical symptoms of anxiety described above.  Equally, those experiencing physical health problems can experience declining mental health as a result.

Mental health at work

Your employees’ mental health problems have a big potential impact at work, for example:

  • Increased absence from work
  • Lack of concentration leading to reduced productivity
  • Increased accidents at work due to lack of attention
  • Increased attrition rates
  • Poor morale and low-esteem in the workforce

It is estimated that cost to employers of poor mental health at work cost £56 billion per year [1], consisting of:

  • absenteeism cost: £6.1 billion
  • presenteeism cost: £24.8-£27.6 billion
  • staff turnover cost £22.4 billion

So, if you consider the cost, investing in ways to support good mental health at work seems to be a ‘no-brainer’.

Promoting good mental health at work

Businesses can take small steps to support their employees’ mental health. Here are some ideas:

  1. Talk to people in your team and get to know them, so you can notice any changes in their behaviour and demeanour.
  2. In your regular 1-1s with your team, ask them how they’re feeling, if they have any worries or concerns, and respond constructively. Normalise that kind of conversation.
  3. Encourage your staff to ‘switch off’ out of work, especially when it comes to accessing and responding to emails outside of working hours.
  4. When addressing issues with your staff, make sure you deliver difficult messages in a kind and supportive way.
  5. Consider introducing an Employee Assistance Programme which offers a confidential counselling support service.
  6. If you operate as a remote business, think about introducing more face-to-face interactions with your team, or alternatively review the frequency of video / phone calls.
  7. Encourage employees to take physical exercise, whether lunchtime walking or yoga, walking meetings, sponsored challenges, subsidised gym membership, volunteering days or competitive ‘step challenges’ between teams.
  8. Introduce a ‘buddy’ system, where a colleague is allocated to an employee as an additional support. This provides another way for them to flag concerns.
  9. Train some employees as Mental Health First Aiders, and provide regular training about mental health to all employees and managers.
  10. Ensure your managers are meeting their team members regularly and providing feedback to them, not just via an annual appraisal system.

Mental Health problems affect one in four people in any given year [2] so if you have a team of 12 people, 3 of them may be struggling.  If those three employees are absent as a result, then that could have a big impact on your business.

If you would like help with supporting the mental health of your employees, get in touch here.

References:

1 – Source: Deloitte | March 2022

2 – Source: Mind.org.uk

Droughts, drains and talent

The post-Covid ‘Great Resignation’ has received a lot of coverage, as employees re-evaluate their priorities decide to make life-changes.   Employers are definitely experiencing challenges in hiring, due to low unemployment rates and high inflationary pressures. Undoubtedly the impact of Brexit is in the mix, adding to the difficulties in certain sectors.

Earlier this year, the FT reported that in Q1 2022 UK unemployment rates fell to their lowest in nearly half a century.  In August 2022 People Management reported that the number of job vacancies rose to a new high of 1.85m in the last week of July 2022.  We are now experiencing much higher rates of inflation, with the Consumer Price Index exceeding 10% in July 2022. This increased inflation is putting pressure on employers to increase wages.

With inflationary pressures affecting employees and employers alike, many employers are undoubtedly feeling the ‘squeeze’. Their challenge is to balance the organisation’s need to retain and recruit talent in a competitive market, with the increasing demand for high salaries.

People Management also reported in July 2022 that 80% of employers are hiring for ‘potential’ skills and capabilities, with a view to developing their own talent.  In order to address the skills shortage, maintain low attrition rates and ensure the organisation’s capability is developed, 60% of employers are providing employees with learning resources to support organisational capability. Employers are having to take a more creative approach to retaining and attracting talent. It’s no longer feasible to rely on the draw of a high basic salary, to ensure the organisation’s costs don’t escalate.

What are the practical steps employers can take to aid retention and resourcing?

There’s no one panacea, as organisations in different markets will experience the current climate in different ways. But a good place to start is for leaders to ask themselves 10 challenging questions:

  1. Do you have leaders who motivate and inspire their teams and lead with compassion?
  2. How capable and effective are your people managers at managing in the Post-Covid era of hybrid working?
  3. How healthy is your organisation’s culture?
  4. Are benefits aligned with employee priorities, and do you know what your people value?
  5. Can you offer career progression and development opportunities?
  6. Does the organisation have a sense of community, where employees are truly invested and engaged in the organisation?
  7. Is good performance rewarded with valued benefits?
  8. Do you have a long-term talent strategy, for example a pipeline through relationships with education establishments, or apprenticeships?
  9. Are your recruitment processes efficient and effective, and do good candidates ‘disappear’ during the process?
  10. How successful are your new hires and what are the retention rates during the first six-12 months?

Once you have answered these questions, you may be able to identify areas of focus. These areas can then help you to develop a retention and attraction action plan for the short and long-term.

If you’re finding the current labour market challenging, or if you’re experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’ first hand in your business, get in touch with Helpful HR.

Supporting through Furlough – Communication

Many companies have furloughed employees due to the significant impact of the coronavirus. We’re not going to attempt to advise on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the purposes of this blog, but if you do need support on this click here, for information provided by the government. Instead this blog post is about supporting through furlough with regular communication.

Why?

While your employees are furloughed you need to consider how you can keep them engaged with the business. There’s a danger of them being out of sight and out of mind. If this is how they feel, it will undermine your relationship with them. Any lack of proactivity in communicating with your furloughed employees could have a detrimental impact when they return to work.  Negative feelings about how they were treated during furlough could translate into a lack of motivation and productivity. Good levels of productivity when your employees return to work will undoubtedly be essential in keeping the business going, so anything you can do now to keep them engaged can only be a good thing.

How?

For small businesses with a handful of furloughed employees it may be easier to stay in touch on a 1-1 basis. A regular individual phone / video call or email may suffice and be manageable. If you’re a larger employer with more than 10 furloughed employees it may be more challenging. It might take a whole day to call or email each employee individually. Employee communication is important and individual contact will be appreciated, but currently that might not be the best use of your time. You will need to ensure you spend time on the operational aspects of the business and adapting to the industry landscape. Employee communication should not be to the detriment of the business. If time is an issue, this individual communication is likely to happen less frequently, and that may leave your furloughed employees feeling forgotten and disengaged.

Top tips for keeping in touch

If you do have a larger number of furloughed employees, here are some ideas for communicating with your furloughed employees:

  • Weekly update emails, outlining what’s happening in the business commercially. In addition you could communicate any further changes that have occurred as a result of coronavirus. You will also want to remind employees that if they have concerns they can contact you directly.
  • Regular Zoom meetings for teams to help them feel connected. No work should be done during these meetings, but there’s no reason why you can’t enable colleagues to catch-up.
  • Create a WhatsApp group which is available for everyone to engage in.  It can be used for chat and also for sharing any business information.
  • Create a Facebook group for employees. It can be a group for all employees, so that furloughed employees can engage with working employees.
  • Set up some online training sessions for furloughed employees which will enable them to keep their skills up-to-date.
  • Create a wellbeing communication channel. This should be separate to the business updates. You could send out emails with useful links, or create a Facebook page so employees can share resources to keep them healthy in body and mind during furlough.

These are just a few examples of what you can do. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to monitor what your employees are saying so if there are any posts or messages of concern, you can address them proactively.

If you need any support in supporting through furlough, please do get in touch

Coming soon: More on managing through COVID-19