Top 5 HR Questions for October

Here’s the Top 5 HR questions you have asked us this month and our answers. 

1.With the cost-of-living crisis – should we be giving people a salary increase?

Many clients have contacted us with this question in the last month, and there really is no right or wrong answer to this question, it really depends on whether your business can afford to or not!

  • If you have the cashflow to do so, you may want to consider a “one off” payment as a lump sum, or an uplift in salary for an agreed period of time. What’s important is that this is clearly communicated as a one off, or gesture of goodwill, so that it is not considered as a salary increase and therefore expected on an ongoing basis. Just ask us if you need help wording something to this effect.
  • You may want to review your salaries overall – are they keeping up with inflation and the market, are they competitive?
  • Have you reviewed your benefits recently, and if not, could you afford to enhance your employee benefits and offer benefits that at the moment employees may value, such as gift cards for their favourite supermarket or a meal out as these may become luxuries that they can no longer afford.
  • Think about financial stress as an “employee wellbeing” issue. If you have employees who are stressed and worrying about paying their bills or putting food on their tables at home, they won’t be able to perform at their best. Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place will ensure your employees have someone to talk to. You could also signpost employees to the debt management charity; www.stepchange.org 

2.I’ve heard that there are some changes to the right to work checks that came into force on the 1st October – what does that mean we need to do?

A recent survey conducted by Xydus, found that almost half (48 per cent) of businesses are unprepared for the upcoming changes to right to work checks, so here’s how you can get ready for the changes coming into force on the 1st October. The survey also found that more than three-quarters (78 per cent) did not know they could face imprisonment if non-compliant with the new checks – so be warned! ☹

The changes, which will be implemented on 1 October, mean that, if you are continuing to carrying out digital right to work checks, employers will need to use a government identity service providers (IDSPs) to conduct these checks.

The current right to work check guidelines were put in place to allow for remote working during the pandemic. Employers have been able to temporarily carry out checks on right to work documents using video calls, emails or through apps, instead of using original copies of documents. These measures are due to end on 30 September.

If employers want to carry out digital checks, the government recommends employers use a certified IDSPs – meaning that only digital images of personal documents taken using the certified technology are permitted. Records must be kept for two years after an employee exits the business.

In-person right to work checks remain unaffected. You can find a list of the certified IDSP’s here; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/digital-identity-certification-for-right-to-work-right-to-rent-and-criminal-record-checks/digital-identity-certification-for-right-to-work-right-to-rent-and-criminal-record-checks

3.Following the announcement of an additional UK bank holiday for Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on Monday 19 September, many of our clients contacted us about what to do, and with another Bank Holiday potentially on the horizon for the Coronation, here’s some of the things to consider in your business.

It’s likely that the Coronation of King Charles will also create an additional Bank holiday, so we thought we would set out what to do if we have another Bank Holiday either this year or next year, when the coronation is confirmed.

The most recent bank holiday operates in the same way as all other bank holidays. There is no statutory entitlement to have specific bank holidays off, so whether you have to give your staff the bank holiday off or not, depends on what your contract of employment says! So, get it out and have a read of the wording around Bank Holidays, and if you are still in doubt, ask us to read it and confirm your position as not all wording is clear! However, if the contract says employees are entitled to ‘all bank and public holidays’, employers will be required to grant the extra day as additional leave.

Managing those who are not entitled to the holiday

Many contracts will provide for a specified number of public holidays in addition to a specified amount of annual leave entitlement or, alternatively, public holidays will be specified as being included within the total annual leave entitlement.

If employees are not entitled to the additional bank holiday, employers have three options:

  1. Employees work as normal; although employees will be able to request annual leave on this date in the normal way using their annual leave entitlement. The employer is under no obligation to allow any particular request for holidays but should only refuse a request if there are reasonable grounds to do so.
  2. Close the business, but this requires employees to take the day off as part of their annual leave entitlement. Employers must generally ensure that they give employees’ what’s known as “statutory” notice, which is at least two days’ notice if they are requiring them to take one day’s annual leave on a specific date, but more notice is advisable; or
  3. Close the business, and grant employees an additional day of paid leave as a gesture of goodwill on a one-off discretionary basis.

In accordance with government guidance, most issues that arise will likely be a matter for discussion between individuals and their employer. Although the first step is for employers to review the employment contract, employees should ensure that they are open to having conversations with their employees to discuss leave around the bank holiday and potentially flexibility around working hours if individuals wish to pay their respects. Where an employee is not entitled to the day off and refuses to come into work, disciplinary action may be taken subject to the proper procedures being followed.

Potential claims

Organistions should ensure that part-time employees are not treated less favourably than full-time employees when it comes to annual leave entitlement. Therefore, if the extra day off is being given then part-timers should receive, at least, the appropriately pro-rated amount of leave.

In terms of potential discrimination claims, being a royalist or monarchist may come within the scope of a ‘philosophical belief’ under the Equality Act. Therefore, if this is a genuinely held belief then it could amount to a protected characteristic and employers should tread carefully if employees raise this as a concern.

We expect many businesses will give staff the day off as a gesture of goodwill, irrespective of the legal entitlements. In any case, employers should communicate their decision clearly and quickly to enable employees to make any necessary arrangements (such as childcare given that schools will be shut) and manage employees’ expectations given the publicity surrounding any further bank holidays

4.Do we need an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy as this is all I seem to hear about these days?

In short, yes, its probably a very good idea to have one, although its not a legal requirement to have one.

We all know how hard it is to find good people at the moment, and being able to demonstrate that you have an EDI policy, could be one thing that your future employees are looking for, the fact that you are looking to have a diverse workforce will be appealing to many prospective employees.

It’s important that your actions and internal processes also match what your EDI policy says you are trying to achieve as a business, otherwise, you might as well put it in the bin!

Training your managers and employees about EDI is also important, as this could help you to defend any discrimination claims you may receive, but training isn’t just about imparting information, its about helping people to understand why EDI is important, the benefits that Equality, Diversity and Inclusion can bring as well as the role and part they have to play in this.

If you’d like to talk about how we can provide you with a relevant EDI policy or training, then get in touch.

5.I attended an Employment Law seminar online the other day, and I’m now worried that we are not a compliant employer! What can I do to make sure we are doing what we should be?

First thing is not to panic! Many of these online seminars are in essence a sales opportunity and will play on “fear tactics.”

I’m not denying that there are a lot of responsibilities if you are an employer, but you have to get these into perspective!

The best thing to do is to give us a call and have a FREE no obligation chat about your business and your people. And if we think it’s necessary, we can arrange a HR Health check or a full blown HR Audit, and then provide you with everything you need to be fully compliant. https://bit.ly/callmerakihr

If you would like to come to our next Employment Law update with Prisca Bradley? It’s on the 20th January 2023 at 9:30am via Zoom, and there is no hard sell, just facts and useful information to help you make sure you are a compliant employer. Let us know you are interested by contacting us at hello@merakihr.com.