Useful HR Updates

What’s news in Employment Law in 2015?

Shared parental leave

 

The Government's proposals for shared parental leave will apply from April 2015. The Government has set out how this complex new system will interact with maternity leave, paternity leave and unpaid parental leave, and for when parents will be eligible for each type of leave. There are also proposals in relation to statutory pay, notice to take leave, KIT days and the right to return to work. There are still questions to be answered in relation to pensions and benefits, such as what

to do if the company offers enhanced maternity pay - should this be offered to those on shared parental leave, or should it be withdrawn altogether? Watch this space....

Flexible working

The right to request flexible working will be extended on 6 April 2014 to all employees with 26 weeks' continuous employment. Much of the current statutory procedure will go, with the intention that it's replaced by HR policy and the ACAS code. HR teams will need to have a policy consistent with the ACAS code. Most importantly, there should be consistency in handling requests in order to reduce the risk of discrimination claims being brought because certain groups have been treated less favourably than others.

Remuneration and bonuses

An issue for HR professionals working in the financial services sector is remuneration and bonuses. The new rules governing fixed bonuses, where the permitted basic salary to bonus ratio will be 1:1, or up to 1:2 with shareholder approval, are effective from 1 January 2014.

  

Pensions auto-enrolment

This will be an issue for medium sized companies (50-499 employees) which become subject to mandatory auto-enrolment at some time between 1 January 2014 and 1 April 2015. Smaller companies will become subject to the new regime between June 2015 and April 2017, so some will need to start preparing in earnest during 2014. It is advised that employers should start planning a year ahead of their own staging date (which is when the legislation will begin to apply to them). Common issues that are coming up when considering pensions are whether to include the application of auto-enrolment to secondees, interns and non-executive directors, as well as the treatment of employees who already have personal pension arrangements and the interaction with salary sacrifice.

Pregnancy discrimination

The Government has launched an investigation into maternity and pregnancy discrimination, following more than 9,000 pregnancy discrimination claims brought against employers since 2007. The research will be conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. From April 2014, employers might be at risk of a financial penalty where the breach of employment legislation has "aggravating features". This could catch a case of proven pregnancy discrimination and employers should bear these issues in mind, particularly if they're thinking that the risk of a claim being brought has diminished because of the introduction of tribunal fees.

  

If you would like assistance with putting policies in place to protect yourself against a claim then please do contact Jane Middleton who works on a consultancy, project or part-time basis. To contact Jane please call her on 07900 250782 or email her on jane@themiddletonpartnership.comwww.themiddletonpartnership.com

  

Employment rights in relation to flooding

  

As we have seen over the last few months, flood conditions can cause widespread disruption to homes and businesses, roads and public transport. This level of disruption will undoubtedly impact employers and businesses throughout Surrey, the Thames Valley, Somerset and other areas of the country badly hit at the moment.

 

Workplace closures:

  

If a business has to close its place of work due to flooding or flood conditions, employees would generally be entitled to be paid. If an employer does make a deduction to their employee's pay, they may be entitled to bring a claim for unauthorised deduction of wages and/or breach of contract to recover the sums owed. The exception to this is if the employment contract has a clause entitling an employer to lay off employees without pay or where they are employed under a zero hours contract. There are complex rules which apply to such clauses and parties should take legal advice in relation to this.

  

Transport disruption/ Road Closures:

  

Employees are expected to make every reasonable effort to attend work despite any severe transport disruption or road closures, but without compromising their health and safety. Generally there is no legal right entitling an employee to be paid by their employer if they are unable to attend work because of flooding and technically it can be treated as an unauthorised absence. However, some employers may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place relating to pay in such situations. A flexible approach is likely to be the most effective way of dealing with flooding and any resulting disruption to travel. Employers should consider the possibility of allowing affected employees to work from home or from alternative premises where available.

  

Employers should check to see whether they already have a policy to cover adverse weather in place. Where an employee's usual route to work or means of transport is severely disrupted by flooding, they should explore other ways of getting into work. An employee should not however feel pressurised to risk their safety.

  

Homes flooded:

  

Where an employee's home has been flooded and they need to take time off to deal with the damage caused, they are not automatically entitled to be paid for this. It is at the employer's discretion to continue to pay an employee as long as they make the time up at a later date. Alternatively, an employer may request that the employee takes the time off as paid annual leave. An employer cannot force an employee to take the time off as holiday without their agreement unless the employment contract contains an express right entitling the employee to do so.

  

Article supplied by Jane Middleton, independent HR consultant at The Middleton Partnership on 07900 250782 or jane@themiddletonpartnership.com

 

 

What’s new in HR since July 2013

 
Perhaps the biggest change in employment law so far this year has been in the regulations on Employment Tribunals and other employment laws:

Fees: 
As from July 29 2013 anyone who wants to make a claim against an employer at a tribunal now has to pay fees.
The amount varies with the type of claim, and claimants must now pay £160 or £250 to lodge a claim. They must also pay hearing fees of either £230 or £950. 
Cap on compensatory awards:
There is now a cap on the amount that can be paid to an employee whose claim for unfair dismissal is successful. The upper limit, or statutory maximum amount, is either £74,200 or the equivalent of 52 weeks’ pay, whichever is the lower.
The amendments to the regulations also made negotiations about possible termination of an employee’s contract inadmissible in unfair dismissal claims. However, discussions may still be admissible in other types of claims such as breach of contract or discrimination.


Whistleblowers: 
With effect from July 25 2013, whistleblowers now no longer have to make disclosures “in good faith” although Tribunals may exercise discretion where this is determined to have been the case and can reduce compensation awards by up to 25%. Whistleblowers must also now how that their disclosures are “in the public interest”.
Employers may now also be liable for any detriment the whistleblower may suffer at the hands of their co-workers and must now take reasonable steps to protect the whistleblower from such treatment.


Employee Shareholders 
From September 1 2013 a new concept of employee shareholder has been introduced. 
Under the new scheme companies can arrange for employees to give up certain statutory UK employment rights in return for a minimum £2,000 worth of free fully paid-up shares in their employer. 
The scheme is voluntary for existing employees but companies may require new employees to accept a job on these terms. Employee shareholders are exempt from Capital Gains Tax in respect of any growth in value on the first £50,000 of shares issued.  
In exchange for receiving shares, employee shareholders will no longer be able to claim ordinary unfair dismissal (this does not apply to automatically unfair dismissals, health and safety dismissals or dismissals amounting to a breach of the Equality Act 2010). 
Employees will also give up their right to a statutory redundancy payment and will not be able to request  flexible working unless they make that request within 14 days of returning from a period of parental leave, nor will they be able to ask for time off to undertake study or training. 
In addition, they will be required to provide 16 weeks’ notice of an early date of return from maternity/adoption/additional paternity leave, instead of the usual eight/six weeks.

 

 

 

  

Is Romance in the office a bad thing?

   

As colleagues spend long hours working side-by-side, workplace relationships have become commonplace for many.   Organisations have varying responses and procedures regarding workplace romance and the question remains: is the office off-limits for finding romance?

 

According to a recent survey of 200 HR directors in the UK, 96.5% either always or sometimes allow office relationships in the workplace, with only 3.5% banning it from taking place. This sentiment is matched by employees, who on the whole, believe that romances should be allowed (73%) in the workplace, according to a separate survey of 1,000 employees. 

  

Although HR directors show tolerance with regard to office romances, there are still major concerns on its impact on the workplace. In fact, 42% of HR directors cite workplace disruption and other employees’ discomfort (34%) as the two major objections.

  

The effects of break-ups

 

In addition to this, a quarter (25%) of HR directors were worried about the possibility of the couple breaking up and its effect on the rest of the office. Break-ups can be tough but even more so with the added pressure of being in the workplace. It can be detrimental to the wellbeing of the workforce, and as such, it’s a situation that has to be handled delicately and discreetly. Interestingly, employees of different age groups have opposing views on office romances, with those aged between 35-44  being the most inclined to have an ‘offair’ and more than four in 10 (44%) admitting to having had a relationship in the office. In comparison, only 22% of young adults (18-24) have had a ‘water cooler’ romance.

  

How can you prepare?

     

From an organisation’s point of view, office romances are a tricky subject to navigate, and as such, HR departments need to be prepared for any situation that may occur.

 There are two key tasks the HR department can undertake to maintain best practice:

 

  1. 1.HR departments must stay informed about potential legal ramifications of relationships – such as accusations of favouritism and the legal implications of bringing personal disputes in to the office.
  2. 2.It’s important to maintain open lines of communication with line managers and employees. HR should stay informed of relationships, and if a break-up arises, they must be able to address any issues quickly and quietly to reduce fallout.

 

      

What employment law changes lie ahead in 2013?
 

As an employer it is important to know what changes are likely to impact your business and your employees.  Below is a summary of the main proposals and consultations that are taking place in 2013.  It is expected that many of these changes will crystallise during 2013, as legislation is approved and codes of practice and guidance finalised.

Effective 1 February
Limits on employment tribunal awards have risen. For example, the limit on the amount of a week's pay for redundancy and unfair dismissal basic award purposes has increased from £430 to £450 and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal has gone up from £72,300 to £74,200.


March 
• Before the deadline of 8 March set by the EU Parental Leave Directive, regulations will increase unpaid parental leave from 13 to 18 weeks.
• The Equality Act provisions covering discrimination questionnaires and employer liability for harassment of an employee by a third party will be repealed.

  
6 April
• The Government has stated its intention to reduce the 90-day minimum period for collective redundancy consultation, replacing it with a shortened 45-day period.
• It is expected that Tribunal procedural rules will be amended to include an initial paper sift carried out by a judge to weed out weak claims.
• A new requirement will be introduced that qualifying whistle-blowing disclosures must be made in the public interest.

  
Summer 2013
Last summer, the Ministry of Justice announced its intention to introduce employment tribunal fees in the summer of 2013. Final tribunal fee proposals include: an issue fee of £160 or £250, depending on claim; similarly, a hearing fee of £230 or £950; and an EAT issue fee of £400 and £1200 hearing fee. Tribunals will have the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse fees paid by the successful party and a fee remission system will operate for those who cannot afford to pay.
Ongoing – pension auto-enrolment staging dates continue through 2013 for organisations with between 500 and 50,000 employees.  
Other changes which may be implemented during 2013 – date unknown
• The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will receive Royal Assent in 2013 and the following changes (which may be amended before Royal Assent) are expected to be phased in during 2013 and into 2014:
o Provisions for equal pay audits to be ordered by a Tribunal, where an employer has broken equal pay and/or sex discrimination laws related to pay.
o Evidence of pre-termination negotiations conducted with a view to agreeing terms for ending employment will become inadmissible in most unfair dismissal claims, except where the employer has acted “improperly”.
o Mandatory pre-claim Acas conciliation whereby prospective claimants must provide certain information to Acas, who will endeavour to conciliate a settlement, before a claim can proceed.
o A power to enable legal officers to determine some tribunal claims without the need for a hearing will be introduced, but further regulations will be needed (to identify which claims, the appeal process and more) before this change can be implemented.
o A new tribunal discretion to impose a financial penalty (maximum £5000) on employers breaching rights where there are one or more aggravating features and a new power providing for a change to the current cap on unfair dismissal awards.   

• The Government’s response to the Modern workplaces consultation proposes a new system of shared parental leave to allow parents to choose how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth. Expected to be introduced in 2015, though enabling legislation.is expected as soon as Parliamentary time allows.
• TUPE reform – following an announcement in December 2012, a further consultation has been announced.
• Working Time Regulations amendments to comply with European Court of Justice decision on the interaction between annual leave with sick leave, maternity leave and parental leave - outcome of the 2011 consultation is awaited.
• Employment tribunal rules review – a consultation on making Acas conciliation compulsory has been announced.
• Reserve forces consultation – proposed large increases in the number of trained reservists and a new relationship between reservists, employers and the government.
• Simplifying recruitment legislation – a consultation on agency workers legislation has been announced.

     

Who would ask that kind of question?

…..a selection of unusual interview questions

 

 Chances are you've never given much thought to how you might fit an elephant into a fridge or why manhole covers are round instead of square. However, it's because of their obscure nature that weird questions like this are becoming more common in job interviews.   In fact, a recent survey found that two out of five candidates had been asked a 'weird' question in their interview,

  
Such questions may seem entirely unrelated to a role but they can reveal a lot about a candidate's ability and personality so it's worth being prepared for them.  This is particularly true in challenging marketing economic market conditions when employers want to add in some interesting twists and turns to the interview and selection process.  So how can you best respond to this line of questioning in a cool and composed way?

  
The key is to take your time to think about the question and why they might be asking it. How can it relate to the company or the role? Is it a chance to show off your mathematical ability, lateral thinking or engineering know-how? Or is it just there to test your personality and creativity? Apply a reasonable rationale to your answer and your efforts will be recognised.
Here are some examples of questions you could face and how you might answer them:

  
How many people are using Linked In in Bristol at 2.30pm on a Friday?
 

This question must have a factual answer, but the journey to working that out is complex. Think what it might mean to you in your role. If it's a digital marketing role, they may be testing your awareness of key audiences and how and when they use social networks. Alternatively, they could simply be trying to get an understanding of how important you think social networks are in working life. Think about all the factors that could influence the answer and talk them through step-by-step.

  
What do you think about garden gnomes?
Not all questions are serious. You might be asked a question like this to show your sense of humour in an otherwise formal situation. It's still worth thinking about the question though and how it might relate to your role. For example, you could say that you admire their reliability as they often stay rooted to the same spot. If you were going for an engineering or construction role you could question whether they have the right tools for the job and so on.

  
Who is your favourite movie character?
Your friends may have endearingly nicknamed you 'Bridget', but is this the kind of workplace personality you want to project? Think of characters that have qualities employers are looking for, whether it's someone who is heroic (Superman), a champion (Rocky), a screen goddess (Grace Kelly) and so on. Avoid picking the villain and don't pick an obscure film that no one knows.

  
If you were a Microsoft Office programme which would you be?
While based on a common office tool, this question can reflect a lot about you, your personality and how you like to work. Access might suggest meticulous organisation, Outlook that you are a communicator and enjoy interacting with colleagues and customers, and PowerPoint might infer that you understand the world through visual impact and making bold statements and so on.
    

The important thing to remember with unusual/weird interview questions is that they are just one part of the process. Embrace them as an opportunity to expand on your potential beyond your CV and traditional interview questions and show your more creative side. (also available as a pdf download)

     

How to handle difficult conversations
addressing an employee's personal hygiene problem

 

All employees are human, so there will come a time during everyone's employment when their personal issues will impact on the workplace in one way or another.  It is also human nature, unfortunately, not to be able to get along harmoniously with all people all of the time; this can lead to complaints being raised about colleagues.

  

When an issue of a personal nature is raised, an employer can understandably find it difficult to talk to the subject about it and deal with it head-on.  However, delaying and/or failing to do so could lead to a breach of a variety of legislation including the Flexible Working Regulations 2002 and the Equality Act 2010. A failure to deal with an employee's grievance under the ACAS Code could also lead to various Employment Tribunal claims, including discrimination and/or constructive dismissal.

  

What about the scenario where an employee raises an informal complaint that his colleague's personal hygiene is generally poor, he comes back from lunch every day smelling of alcohol and he is inappropriately aggressive after lunch. If the employer does nothing, his behaviour could get worse and/or impact upon other employees or clients. This could also create a precedent for other employees drinking at lunchtime and the complainant is obviously unlikely to be satisfied, which could lead to his resigning, etc.

The manager has the difficult role of raising this very personal issue with the employee. Here is an outline framework for structuring difficult conversations.

• Begin the conversation by explaining the purpose of the meeting - explain that an informal complaint has been made that you would like to discuss with him.
• You would like to hear what he has to say about this complaint, his reasons etc., then you will talk this through together and set some objectives (if appropriate).
• Adopt a calm and professional manner.
• Reassure him about confidentiality - the complainant will be updated, the subject's line manager will know about the complaint but otherwise you hope to keep the matter confidential.
• State what the issues are and give evidence.  Tell him what the problem is using your knowledge of the situation - provide details of the complaint that has been raised.
• Give specific examples and refer to dates and specific interactions which form the basis of the complaint.
• Explain the impact the problem is having on the team and the organisation, including the business' policy/expectations - explain that although the employer does not have a written alcohol and drugs policy, it expects employees to have a good level of personal hygiene, it does not expect employees to attend work displaying any signs of having consumed alcohol and it expects employees to speak to one another professionally and calmly, creating a harmonious working environment
• Listen to what he has to say - he could provide a variety of reasons for his behaviour: the complainant has a personal grudge against him; he thought 3 glasses of wine over lunch was acceptable because he has seen other employees drink this much; he has an alcohol problem; he has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness and this is his way of dealing with it; he was not aware of his personal hygiene issue; he has halitosis or liver disease, which causes bad breath/odours; he had not noticed a difference in his behaviour in the afternoon; the examples provided of aggressive behaviour were specific incidents where his colleague had acted negligently, etc.
• Keep an open mind and don't jump to conclusions - see the variety of reasons set out above!
• Acknowledge his position and any mitigating circumstances - consideration should be given to whether or not there are any protected characteristics such as disability. NB whilst alcoholism on its own does not qualify as a "disability" under the Equality Act 2010, an associated condition, such as liver disease could do so.
• If a new argument emerges, adjourn the meeting if this seems appropriate - for example, if he says that the complainant has raised this issue on discriminatory grounds, you may want to explore such accusation further before continuing the meeting.
• Agree a way forward.  Ask the employee for proposals to resolve the situation - he may agree to meet with his doctor to ask for counselling regarding his alcoholism and to take steps to address his personal hygiene.
• Discuss the options.
• Make a decision.
• Arrange a follow up meeting.
• Monitor and feedback on progress. 
• Continue to provide support where agreed.
• Provide a written copy of the agreed outcomes, any support or training to be provided and any consequences if the agreement is breached.
Of course, conversations such as these do not always go to plan and the direction of the meeting will depend on what the employee has to say, but this agenda should hopefully assist managers to maintain the direction of the meeting. 
The importance of these conversations should not be underestimated. If employers get these conversations right, they could improve employee morale, integration, levels of engagement and performance. They could also put a useful marker in the sand should a separate discussion be appropriate regarding termination of employment, whether this be via the formal disciplinary process (ACAS Code) or the without prejudice route (compromise/settlement agreements).

 

Appraisals and motivating staff

 

Companies use regular appraisals as a means of assessing the performance of their staff and as long as they are well designed and executed they can also stimulate and motivate them.

 

While they are often seen as a means of identifying where an individual may need to improve, they also have a value in providing both recognition, a sense of personal value and in encouraging people to do better.

 

For full details of how to achieve these results go to our downloads for a free copy of the full guide in both PDF and PowerPoint formats .

 

The London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games – are you ready?

 

It's nearly here – The London 2012 Olympic Games – are you ready and prepared for how this is going to impact your business and your workforce?

 

 The facts:

The Olympic Games are running from 27th July – 12th August 2012 and the Paralympic Games from 29th August – 9th September 2012The venues for the Games are spread around the UK; therefore, the issue of staff disruption is not just centred on London. The Games will have an impact on how employees are able to travel to and from work and plans should be made to cope with the expected disruption.

 

 

If you haven’t already done so you should be starting to think about how your business can continue to run smoothly during this time – such as considering more flexible working arrangements, how you might minimise potential disruption and in order to manage staff expectations.

download the full document of useful advice for employers 

   

How to manage conflict in the workplace

 

Conflict at work is never easy to deal with and can take many forms. It may be that you just don’t get on with a colleague or that you have a grievance against your manager. Conflict may take the form of rivalry between teams; or it may be apparent by the lack of trust and cooperation between large groups of employees and management. Conflict and confrontation often occur together, neither is very pleasant, but both are part of modern life.When a conflict arises you should try to take a calm approach and not react in a challenging or defensive way. It is also important that you don’t ignore the problem as it needs to be dealt with. The best way to handle such situations is to face it with a clearly prepared plan of action.

The causes of conflict at work can often be put into the following categories:

  • Poor management
  • Unfair treatment
  • Unclear job roles
  • Inadequate training
  • Poor communication
  • Poor working environment
  • Lack of equal opportunities
  • Bullying and harassment

What are the typical responses to conflict?

Fight you react in a challenging/defensive way. At work this may mean shouting or losing your temper.

Flight - you turn your back on what's going on. This is a common reaction - by ignoring a problem you hope it will go away.

Freeze - you are not sure how to react and become very passive/introverted. You might begin to deal with the issue but things drift or become drawn out through indecision.

Face - Approach a problem in a calm and rational way with a planned/prepared approach.

If some of this rings a bell in the workplace, then the following advice may help you to deal with things:

  • Investigating the problem informally - simply talking and listening to try and give people the time to express their feelings and concerns can often help to clear the air. Does the person know that they are making you feel uncomfortable by the way they talk to you or make jokes? Does your line manager know that they are overlooking you for promotion and treating your colleague more favourably? Sometimes by just raising these issues in an informal way makes the problem go away much quicker.
  • Investigating the problem formally – if the informal approach doesn’t work then you may need to raise a grievance and take it to a more formal stage. Look at whether your company has procedures for raising grievances, this may be found on your company intranet site or in your employee handbook. This will most likely mean raising a complaint to your line manager or with HR.
  • Outside help e.g. Mediation - Outside help is probably of most benefit between the informal and the formal stages of conflict but there are no hard and fast rules and it partly depends on the kind of help you want. Mediation is the most common form of dispute resolution that an employer may use to help you at work if the above stages don’t work. It involves an independent, impartial person helping two individuals or groups to reach a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

 

CASE STUDY - A

Your new Manager has just joined the team and is very inexperienced as a Manager. They constantly overlook your contribution to the team and shout at you across the desk when things don’t go well. You find your Manager condescending, unapproachable and inflexible. Team meetings have become a painful experience because they accomplish nothing. It is very close to appraisal time and you are worried that you will not be treated fairly. What should you do?

Many new Managers can feel insecure and inexperienced at managing a new team and are not sure how to best deal with their team when things go wrong. Try and work with your Manager, be helpful and cooperative even if you feel at the time they aren’t making the best decisions. Provide solutions to problems in team meetings and ensure that your Manager knows exactly what projects you are working on and forward on any feedback that your receive prior to the appraisal meeting.

 

CASE STUDY – B

Your colleague is constantly making inappropriate jokes and jibes about you. At first you found that you were able to deal with this but it is now becoming a daily ritual and the rest of the team are now joining in and it is starting to upset you. What should you do?

On many occasions your colleagues may not even realise that their jokes are upsetting you. The next time they make a joke ask them to stop and if you feel uncomfortable talking to them in the team environment ask them away from the desk and explain that the jokes are now starting to upset you and you would appreciate them stopping. If this does not work and your colleague continues then raise it formally with your line Manager or HR.

A good source of help is ACAS which have a guide to “Managing Conflict at Work” www.acas.gov.uk

 Also available as a download

  

Top 5 HR Tips for Small Businesses

 

 

By Jane Middleton
It takes lots of effort, dedication and commitment to run a successful business but you are only as good as your people, so effective people management should be a top priority.  Please read ahead for our top five HR tips:

1. Know what your legal employment obligations are:
Changes to employment law can take place regularly and small businesses should ensure they keep up to date with these changes.  You must ensure that ACAS best practice is followed in order to avoid costly unfair dismissal or discrimination claims (www.acas.gov.uk).  In 2010/2011 the average award for a successful unfair dismissal claim was £8,924 (Employment Tribunals and EAT Statistics).  As a quick guide the legislative and best practice considerations throughout the employee ‘life cycle’ are:
• Recruitment and selection (advertising, interviewing and other forms of selection, making the decision and offer, induction)
• Learning and development (providing training and other forms of work-based development)
• Performance management, discipline and grievance (managing under-performance, following best practice procedures appropriately)
• Reward (avoiding discrimination in pay and benefits, etc)
• Termination (managing redundancy, dismissal, ‘garden leave’, restrictive covenants, etc)
Please see the previous article called “What’s going to change in 2012” for the main legislative changes that you should be aware of in 2012.
2. Ease new employees into the workforce
To help your new employees settle in quickly and feel valued it is important to provide an induction during their first few days. The induction should provide new employees with all the tools to enable them to start their job (e.g. introductions to fellow colleagues, tour of office, information on their day to day duties, and provide training).
All employees should receive a written statement of employment particulars within two months of their start date and it is important to give an employee handbook/information pack to all new joiners, which will contain all the relevant information about the company and procedures in place.  Involve new employees in meetings from day one to ensure that they feel part of the team.
3. It’s not just about the money – ensure employee motivation and engagement 
Small businesses should not ignore non-financial rewards as they are a vital tool for retaining and motivating employees.  If the work force is not intrinsically motivated to deliver results the organisation could experience lost productivity and a decrease in employee morale which could affect customer satisfaction.  Now more than ever, employees need to know that their contributions are valued and have a direct impact on the bottom line of the organisation. Here are a few ways to encourage employee engagement:
• Offering flexible working patterns
• Minimise workplace stress
• Provide clear expectations 
• Provide the tools to do the job
• Recognise accomplishments
• Foster a team environment
• Provide training and encourage “Continual Professional Development”4. Communicate, communicate, communicate:
Communication, though the simplest tool available to all of us, is often used poorly and, if used properly, can play a big role when it comes to harnessing engagement from your team.  Managers should interact with employees as often as possible and seek their input.  Always be sure to follow up and act on their suggestions and ideas, as consulting with employees will give them the sense of feeling valued, as well as accessing knowledge that could help your business.
5. Be flexible:
A flexible organisation will better meet the challenges facing it in these uncertain business and economic environments.  Flexible working opportunities can benefit everyone - employers, employees and their families. These benefits can be considerable: increased productivity, lower levels of absenteeism, increased loyalty to the organisation, and improved employee wellbeing. Flexibility can reflect the structure of resources, such as having a core team, supported by part time or outsourced staff, as and when the business needs it. Alternatively, you can implement flexible working practices such as part-time working, working from home or job-sharing. The introduction of new technologies will enable small businesses to embrace the concept of flexibility.(also available as a download)

 

 

14 questions HR are likely to ask you at interview

by Jane Middleton of The Middleton Partnership

1. How do you cope with the stress or pressure of work?
2. What do you find motivates you the most in a work context?
3. Do you prefer to work alone, or do you work better in groups?
4. To what extent would you be available to work overtime at short notice?
5. The job involves travelling away on business on average two or three days every month. How do you feel about that?
6. How would you deal with someone at work whose views are strongly opposed to your own views?   
7. Have you ever found yourself in a team situation where people don’t get on or where it becomes very political – how did you handle it?
8. Give us an example of a challenging situation you've overcome – professional or personal.  
9. What do you find interesting about this job, this company?
10. Why should we hire you over others?
11. In what ways can you contribute to our company?
12. Are you interviewing elsewhere and what stage are those meetings at?
13. When would you be available to start work?
14. What are your salary expectations?

If you require further guidance on this or any other HR topic then please contact Jane Middleton at The Middleton Partnership on 07900 250782 or jane@themiddletonpartnership.com

(also available as a download)

    

What’s going to change in 2012

An overview of the key items of employment law that are going to change or come into effect in 2012 from Jane Middleton of The Middleton Partnership

6 April 2012 – Tribunals
The qualifying period for unfair dismissal will double to two years from 6 April 2012.  Tribunal fees are looking at being introduced – employers could be fined up to £5,000(on top of any damages) if they lose a tribunal case, but the fine would not apply to employees.  These changes might mean that more cases are settled rather than going to a full hearing

June 2012 Holidays - extra bank holiday
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee will be marked with an additional bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June 2012. The late May bank holiday will be moved to Monday 4 June to create a long weekend of celebration.

July / August 2012 London Olympics
Many employees are likely to request time off to watch Olympic events while others may claim that they are 'unwell'.  The Working Time Regulations 1998 allow employers to specify, subject to certain notice requirements, when their employees can and cannot take leave.
Your employees' contracts of employment may also entitle you to refuse holiday requests where there are business reasons for their having to be at work on a particular date.  Both of these powers exist whether or not the employee got lucky in the Olympic lottery. You should ideally be able to justify those decisions - for example, that a minimum number of staff is required to operate a particular system /coverage of a desk or shift.
A more proactive approach would be to decide early on how requests for holiday during the Olympics will be approved, ensuring that the process does not discriminate against any particular section of the workforce and that it is fair and consistent.  You might decide, for example, to approve holiday on a first come, first served basis, or by way of a lottery/draw and/or capping the number of people within the team who are allowed to take holiday at the same time.  Communication and clarity will also be very important. Once a strategy has been decided for the Olympic period, it is important to communicate this to employees - ideally ahead of the 2012 holiday year so that (if appropriate) they can make arrangements and ask for time off work well in advance.

October 2012 - Pension reform
The government is set to introduce compulsory workplace pensions from 2012 and vast numbers of employers, from the largest to the smallest, will be affected.
Initially, smaller businesses with fewer staff need not to worry, because the reform will be carried out in stages.  Only employers with over 30,000 staff will be forced by law to offer their workers a company pension scheme in 2012.  However, by 2013 any employer with more than 350 staff on its books will be obliged to set up and contribute into workplace plan for its employees.  And between 2014 and 2016, those employers with less than 350 staff will be subject to the same rules.  Employees will be auto-enrolled and can expect their company to put a minimum 3% of any earnings between £5,035 and £3,540 into each worker's fund.  To help, the government is introducing NEST – National Employment Savings Trust – which will be provide a state-led alternative for any employer wishing to use it.

2012 - Mandatory equal pay audits to be introduced - Equality Act 2010

Tribunals will gain new powers this year to order employers to conduct and publish a pay audit if they have breached the Equality Act 2010.  
2012 (month tbc) Working Time Regulations 
Government have suggested that workers who are unable to take annual leave during one holiday year should be able to carry it forward to the next.
2012 (month tbc) - Flexible working - proposed extension of right to request flexible working
The Government plans to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. The right is currently available only to parents of children under 17 (and disabled children under 18) and certain carers.  Under the proposals, the 26-week qualifying period will remain, but employers will be encouraged to consider flexible working opportunities at the point of recruitment.   Requests would be considered by using the current statutory process, but there would be a new duty to consider requests “reasonably” alongside a code of practice providing guidance for employers.

To contact Jane Middleton, please email her on jane@themiddletonpartnership.com, talk to her on 07900 250782 or find out more information about what The Middleton Partnership can do for your business at www.themiddletonpartnership.com

(also available as a download)


 
 Career Progression

by Jane Middleton, The Middleton Partnership


Many of us are so focused on keeping our jobs that we have all but forgotten about our ambitions for career progression in the workplace.  However, as jobs are made redundant, this may be the ideal moment to get that promotion you've been dreaming of.

1. Firstly, assess the damage. Where are the gaps/vacancies in the company, and do you have the skills to fill them?  If so, start doing the extra work. That's an ideal approach, because you can prove you're good at the job before formally asking for the promotion.

2. In other cases, you'll have to sell the idea to your manager/the manager before you can take on the extra duties. Either way, how you ask for the promotion is key.

3. Frame your request in a way that demonstrates you want to help the company get through these tough times, not just take advantage of a personal opportunity.
Maybe you could say it like this "I know there are reductions happening, and fewer people will be doing more work. I'd like to be considered to help with the overflow. Here are the areas where I think I can contribute."

4. Don't be put off if the answer isn't an immediate yes. In these difficult market conditions, people decisions often require more approval signatures than they used to.

5. If your boss gives you a resounding no, follow up by asking, "What can I do to put myself in a better position to make this happen in the future? What do you feel are the areas where I need to improve?"  Whatever you do try to get concrete suggestions from them, so that you can act on them now and then remind them later on about the conversation later.

6. More money usually comes with a promotion, but it's far from guaranteed these days. If you've already started taking on additional responsibilities, build your case by showcasing your accomplishments. If you are doing a job that three people used to do, point it out to the management. You're saving the company thousands of pounds.

7. If that doesn't work, you might have better luck asking for more money in the form of a performance-based bonus.  Of course the money/budget just may not be there to give you. Take the promotion anyway – it will make you far more marketable in and out of the company.  Eventually, the economy will pull out of its current slump. Make sure to ask your boss when a good time might be to re-evaluate your salary. Ask what hurdles the company needs to overcome before your salary can match your additional job responsibilities.

Get these things clearly established, so you can go back and say, “This is what you said in the last conversation we had on this subject”.
Good luck !

To contact Jane Middleton, please email her on
jane@themiddletonpartnership.com, talk to her on 07900 250782 or find out more information about what The Middleton Partnership can do for your business at www.themiddletonpartnership.com

(also available as a download)


How to…….. resign  

by Jane Middleton from The Middleton Partnership


Make sure that you know what you are doing, be prepared, be positive and good luck!


Employers!

check Jane's useful guide in our downloads section

1.    Are you committed to leaving? Make a list of the reasons of why you feel you should resign 
2.    Have you looked at all the internal options available?
3.    Would you leave if you were offered more money or a promotion?
4.    Will you be better off in your new job? Consider money, location, career and personal development as the main factors 
5.    Talk to your family/friends for advice if in doubt about your decision – don’t do anything rash.


The Resignation meeting


Work out what you're going to say and then stick to it. Your manager/HR will try and probe you for more information – details that you may not want to give at this stage. Don’t be obstructive but simply make it clear that you are resigning.  
Emphasise the positives: you never know when your career will mean that you cross paths with your former employers again so don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your time at the company.
Expect a reaction: unless your manager is expecting you to resign, your decision may come as a surprise to them. They may get emotional or even confrontational in which case, stick to your prepared comments.
Keep calm: The manager may by now no longer see you as a team player and may even feel betrayed. Once again, stick to your pre-prepared comments and try not to be thrown by their reaction and what they might say to throw you off guard. 
Always leave the meeting on a good note and be as co-operative as possible. Stress that you will carry out a handover of any uncompleted work to the best of your ability. People remember both the first and last impression you make on them.

The Resignation letter

In its simplest form, a resignation letter should include the following information: name, date, the person it is addressed to, notice of termination of employment, when this is effective from and finally, your signature.   Often your employer won’t accept an email as it does not contain your signature.  Automatic signatures are often not acceptable to employers.

If you're leaving in good circumstances and feel that you want to say a little bit more, again, emphasise the positive – perhaps thank your manager for the opportunities he / she gave you - you never know when you may need your ex-employer to vouch for you or to give you a reference. If however, you're leaving in strained or bad circumstances, resist the temptation to say anything personal or negative. 
Leave on good terms 
Make sure that you’ve given ample notice to the firm of your intention to leave. Your notice period is usually stated in your contract of employment or in the Company handbook. If no period of notice is stipulated, the statutory notice requirement is 1 weeks’ notice.
Make sure that you’ve completed any outstanding tasks and participated in the smooth handover of any unfinished work.
Ensure that your boss knows that you’ve actively participated in this process and that you have been as co-operative as possible
Take time out to speak to all of your colleagues and associates. Give them support and make positive comments about their contribution to your time at the company.

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To contact Jane Middleton, please email her on
 jane@themiddletonpartnership.com, talk to her on 07900 250782 or find out more information about what The Middleton Partnership can do for your business at www.themiddletonpartnership.com

(article also available in downloads)

download guide to managing employee absence click here

How to bounce back from a poor performance review by Jane Middleton

We all know it can hurt.A less than positive or a negative performance review can be like a really nasty slap in the face.It's not pleasant......go ahead and cry if you need to (in private).Now, once you're able to sit back and look at things rationally, how can you take the necessary steps to redeem yourself?

Think about it, don’t argue, improve and get over it! Let's see what we can do to get you back on track……..

Get Jane’s helpful four-step guide from our free downloads

To contact Jane Middleton, please email her on jane@themiddletonpartnership.com, talk to her on 07900 250782 or find out more at www.themiddletonpartnership.com

 
   Agency Worker Regulations – what do they really mean?

HR expert Jane Middleton of the Middleton Partnership explains what the new AWR regulations, introduced on October 1, mean for temporary/agency workers and for employers.

The new regulations give agency workers the entitlement to the same or no less favourable treatment as comparable employees with respect to basic employment and working conditions, if and when they complete a qualifying period of 12 weeks in a particular job for a company.

This covers basic conditions of employment and pay, including any bonus, commission or holiday pay relating to the assignment. The regulations aim to ensure an agency worker is engaged on the same relevant terms and conditions as a "comparable employee".

Go to our downloads page to get a pdf of the full article containing guidance for both workers and employers.

Jane Middleton is the founding partner of The Middleton Partnership – an independent Human Resources consultancy focussed on providing best practice support and advice to smaller businesses. Jane set up The Middleton Partnership in January 2011 having spent 17 years working in senior HR business partner roles in for Citi, Cazenove and JPMorgan.

Email her on jane@themiddletonpartnership.com, talk to her on 07900 250782 or find out more information about The Middleton Partnership visit www.themiddletonpartnership.com

We at RMS are delighted to announce that we have partnered with HR consultant Jane Middleton, of the Middleton Partnership, and will be featuring regular contributions from her. As the seasonal festivities grow closer, here is her advice on the office party.

   ‘Tis the season to be jolly

The office Christmas party should absolutely be the time for teams to relax, enjoy themselves and forget about the stresses and strains of work. It should also be the opportunity for companies to reward everyone for their hard work during the year. However, it’s worth everyone being aware of some of the “pitfalls” of the office party season.

Here are a few sobering facts before you head out on the tiles….. According to a recent survey of employees carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), one in 10 workers know of someone from their organisation who has either been disciplined or sacked for inappropriate behaviour at the office Christmas “do”.

Of these, nearly a third said that the reason for action was fighting, and one-fifth (19%) said that threatening behaviour was to blame. The next most common reasons were sexual harassment (17%), bullying (12%), and other forms of discrimination (8%). Almost half (46%) said the reason was for 'other inappropriate behaviour', which could include unorthodox use of the office photocopier, amorous activity on company premises, or insulting the boss.

Everyone wants to have a good time, so here are a few tips for the party organisers, which might help the evening go with a swing …….

Getting the venue right - The party's premises must be suitable for everyone, comply with health and safety regulations and have suitable access for disabled staff. It is always sensible to arrange a visit to the venue to carry out a quick risk assessment. The venue's smoking policy should be communicated to employees and observed.

Open to all to attend - It is vital that employers ensure the party is timed so that all employees, regardless of age, gender, religion, disability or any other factor have the opportunity to attend. Should any section of the workforce be seen to be favoured or discriminated against, employers could find themselves under question under the Equality Act.

Transport -Employers may also liable for an accident that has been caused following the Christmas party due to drink driving. Providing transport home or paying for taxis after the party is a good idea to prevent this and ensure everyone gets home safely.

Inevitably the party will involve the consumption of alcohol, which can of course, when consumed in excess and have an undesirable effect on people's actions and behaviour. Also, in the current economic environment with people under increasing pressure at work, there is an added risk that people will drink too much, let off steam, and do something they might regret in the sober light of the next morning. Employers need to take a sensible approach to the provision of alcohol and be ready to nip any unruly behaviour in the bud. Employees should be reminded beforehand that although out of the office, they are still representing the company, and any behaviour that could be damaging to the company's reputation will be dealt with accordingly.

Employers could consider sending out a friendly email saying how much they are looking forward to seeing everyone at the staff party and include a gentle reminder that everyone is expected to behave appropriately.

Top tips for employees:

 

  1. Treat members of the opposite sex respectfully. Jokes and comments that are unacceptable in the workplace are still not acceptable at an office party. And certainly, be cautious of body contact -touching in inappropriate ways at an office party is still inappropriate.
  2. Drink in moderation and try and eat something before the party starts !
  3. Dress appropriately. Maybe leave the plunging neckline or revealing clothing for other settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS: Secret Santa gifts: – if your team, department, office organises a “secret santa” gift idea then it’s worth being mindful of the type of present you should not purchase – please don’t pick anything that has the potential to offend.

Jane Middleton is the founding partner of The Middleton Partnership – an independent Human Resources consultancy focussed on providing best practice support and advice to smaller businesses.

Email her on jane@themiddletonpartnership.com, or call 07900 250782 or visit www.themiddletonpartnership.com