Blog

"The Company Christmas Do" - Nightmare or Success?

Rita Finch - Thursday, December 17, 2015


The Christmas season will soon be upon us so, have you sorted your Christmas party yet?

As an employer, do you dread it or or do you see it as an opportunity to thank your staff for all their hard work throughout the year?

Whatever your reasons or feelings for having a Christmas party, it will be much more enjoyable knowing that you have done all you can to cover yourself from any legal or HR issues which may arise from the festivities!

It's helpful to know the pitfalls before you can put safeguards in place so here are some common problems encountered:

An employer gets drunk and decides  he/she will drive home

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility of care towards your employees, even if the party is outside of the workplace and contracted working hours.

A solution to this problem might be that you arrange transport to take your employees home after the party or at least make sure that you have circulated telephone numbers of local taxis beforehand.

An employee complains that he/she has been sexually harassed by a colleague

Make sure you have the right policies and procedures in place, taking care to follow your policies absolutely!

An employee fails to turn up for work the next day

Perhaps you could arrange for the party to be held at a time when you will be closed the next day.  However, this may not be possible so make sure you have the right policies and procedures in place.

After all that - is it really worth having a Christmas party for your employees?

Of course, provided you have:

  • Thought ahead;
  • Know your legal duties as an employer; and
  • Have put the right policies and procedures in place
Once that's done.... 

Relax and have a really good time!


Happy Christmas!






Company Handbooks

Rita Finch - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

  

What's the point of a Company Handbook?

The creation of a company Handbook is not a legal necessity; however, as an employer, you have a legal obligation to have certain written policies and procedures.


Although not all policies and procedures are legally required, it is extremely good practice to have formal written policies and procedures put together in the form of a Company Handbook. This will help to protect you and your business from any misunderstandings which could ultimately result in a very expensive tribunal - not to mention the disruption to your business!


The Company Handbook:

Defines company rules and procedures.

The list of policies that might be included is long and varied, some are fairly standard and others would be specific.

Provides clear communication and understanding of what's expected
Helps clarify expected behaviour in areas such as IT usage, telecoms and social media.

Helps prevent disputes with employees
Many disciplinary issues and poor working practices can often be rooted in misunderstandings that develop due to lack of clarity.

Forms part of the induction process
  • Assists new starters with familiarisation process and provides an ongoing reference manual.

  • Aids efficiency and professionalism

  • Many handbooks start with an introduction to the company ethos and aims

  • Assists employers in being legally compliant

  • Certain key policies relating to health & safety, grievances and disciplinary must be written down. 

  • Once written the contents of a Company Handbook are not set in stone, they are flexible and can be adapted as the company evolves and requirements change.  But employers need to remember that any changes to areas considered contractual, must be in line with current employment legislation and may require employee consultation.

If you have any questions regarding this blog please contact us: phone: 0115 896 7536 or email:rita@finchconsultancy.co.uk or alan@finchconsultancy.co.uk


10 Years celebration

Rita Finch - Tuesday, September 15, 2015


We are pleased to announce that this month, we will have been in business for 10 years and we would like you to celebrate with us!! 

As a special offer to mark our 10 years in business, we are offering a 20% discount on our Company Handbooks. If you already have a Company Handbook, which has not been updated in the last 6 months, we will give you a free review to ensure that it is still compliant!

The Finch Consultancy was born in September 2005 and we started by working from home but as the business grew, we realised we needed some office accommodation and so we moved to Ripley.  As growth continued, we not only needed more space but felt it would be advantageous to be in Nottingham and in December 2012, we moved to Wharf House in Nottingham which is where we are based today.

During the last ten years, we have had the opportunity to meet some lovely people who have been significant contributors to the success of our business.

It has been an interesting journey with its inevitable "ups" and "downs" but the learning curve has been tremendous. As I'm sure you will agree, owning your own business is challenging but also exciting and as we continue our journey we are constantly looking at ways in which we can improve the services we offer to our clients.

We have, and have had, some fantastic clients and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their business and their loyalty. Without them, we wouldn't have a successful business!

This offer is available until the end of October 2015. Contact us now to qualify and we will arrange an appointment to suit you. 

Contact details: phone: 0115 896 7536 or email: alan@finchconsultancy.co.uk or rita@finchconsultancy.co.uk


E-cigarettes - Warning to Employers

Rita Finch - Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Do you have a current smoking policy? If so, you may think that this will cover you with regard to the smoking of e-cigarettes. Unfortunately this is not the case!

The Health Act 2006 introduced a statutory prohibition on smoking in public places, including all offices and workplaces. However, the Act does not include the smoking of e-cigarettes and there is no legal requirement to ban them at work. 

Therefore, for now, it's up to you, the employer, to decide how to tackle this issue. You may decide on a policy to ban the use of e-cigarettes altogether, or you may think that e-cigarettes are a helpful aid to stop smoking.

Below are some issues you may want to consider before forming a policy:

  • It is in the interests of the employer to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace
  • You may wish to support your employees to give up smoking - should this include allowing the use of e-cigarettes?
  • The long term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown and may create an unpleasant environment for other staff members

There may be a concern that banning e-cigarettes completely may hinder those who are trying to stop smoking (its important to note here that if you restrict rather than ban 
e-cigarettes you will need a clear policy on the usage).

According to Acas "Some experts have questioned the safety of chemicals used in e-cigarettes, and the British Medical Association (BMA) says that more research is needed
to establish the effectiveness and safety of the devices as a nicotine-replacement
therapy."

Whatever your decision is, make sure you have clear written rules and policies about the smoking of e-cigarettes or you could find yourself facing a tribunal!  

According to Stuart Jones, who is head of employment and pensions at Weightmans: "The recent case of Insley v Accent Catering, one of the first employment tribunal decisions to address this issue, considered whether an employer had acted fairly in taking disciplinary action against an employee for using an e-cigarette on a client's premises."

It is important that, once you have made your decision and written your policy, you consult with your employees.  If you want a happy workforce,  keep your employees updated with any new decisions made. If appropriate, you may wish to include your employees in the decision making?

If you would like to know more please contact Alan or Rita on 0115 896 7536 or email me at rita@finchconsultancy.co.uk






 

Recruiting and Immigration Law

Rita Finch - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

                                                     

Employers have a duty to prevent illegal working in the UK by carrying out certain document checks on potential employees to make sure that they are lawfully allowed to work in the UK - and this needs to do be done before they are employed!

If it is found that the employer has not carried out document checks as specified in the Government's Guidelines, a hefty financial penalty of up to £20,000 could be imposed for each illegal worker. 

However, it is important to note that, if it becomes apparent that an employee is working illegally, but it can be proven that document checks were correctly carried out, an employer should not receive a civil penalty for that worker.

How do you carry out these checks and what documents do you need to see?

There are 3 basic steps to conducting a "right to work" check. 

Remember three key words: 

Obtain: make sure the right documents are received as set out in Lists A and B (see below).

Check: the documents received must be the originals and up to date 

Copy: make copies of the original documents to keep on file.

As their legal duty, employers should ask to examine all original documents on List A or B as set out in the Government's Checking Service

Documents in List A show the potential employee is not subject to immigration control and restrictions on their residing and working in the UK - such as:

British nationals

  • European nationals
  • Family members of European nationals
  • Overseas nationals with indefinite leave to remain, or limited to remain but with no probation on employment
  • Some, but not all, overseas students (their right to work will be limited during term time)

Documents in List B show that the potential employee's leave to remain in the UK is for a limited period of time and may restrict the type and hours of work. Employers have a legal obligation to carry out checks on employees who fall into this category every 12 months.

Please note that the rules also state that employers must carry out the initial "right to work" check on all potential employees and must not discriminate when doing so. 

What if the documents are still with the Border and Immigration Agency?

If this is the case, employers can use the Border and Immigration Agency's employer checking service, which will check someone's legal entitlement to work: www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/employimmigrants (you should inform the potential employee that you are using this service).

The Government has announced that there will be changes to the immigration rules for the UK's visa system which will take effect on 24 April 2015. According to the Home Secretary Theresa May, these changes will help Britain to continue to welcome business visitors. However, there have been no announced changes with regard to document checks as yet. 


Given the complexities of immigration law and the risks to potential employers of "getting it wrong", it is extremely important that employers seek further information and advice. Either contact the government's checking service:   or contact the Border and Immigration Agency on 0845 010 6677.

If you would like to discuss this matter further with us then please don't hesitate to contact us: email: rita@finchcconsultancy.co.uk or ring: 0115 896 7536 or visit our website www.finchconsultancy.co.uk





Caring responsibilities and High Absence Levels

Rita Finch - Tuesday, February 03, 2015

As an employer, are you aware that one of your employees could have caring responsibilities outside of work which, in turn, could potentially lead to a lack of performance or high absenteeism?

According to The Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) "More than one in three employers report that absence levels have increased because their staff are struggling to cope with caring responsibilities outside of work."

With people living longer, the demands and needs of elderly parents have increased and this is an issue that is set to escalate .

With this in mind, the likelihood of one of your employees falling into this category is fairly high. So how would you deal with supporting your employee yet protect your business at the same time?

All employees have the right to time off during working hours for any dependants they may have. This time off is to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies; however, as an employer you have no legal obligation to pay them during this period of absence.

Flexible working is one way of meeting the demands of both the employees needs and the company's needs. It is important to remember here that employees do have the right to request flexible working under new legislation.

According to Dr. Jill Miller, CIPD Research Advisor: "it is proven that flexible working can improve engagement and productivity within the workforce." (look for link)

It is important to note here that ALL employees (except for those with less than 26 weeks service) have the right to request flexible working and as an employer, you can only refuse if there are sound business reasons for doing so, for example:

  • There would be additional costs to the business
  • You would be unable to reorganise work to other members of staff
  • You would be unable to recruit new staff
  • It would have a detrimental impact on the quality of work or performance
  • Causing problems re meeting demands of customers
  • You have planned structural changes to the business
So, how can you be prepared to deal with a request for flexible working? One way is to develop a good written policy and procedure for handling requests to work flexibly, and by doing this, you will help to ensure that you are consistent, objective, transparent and fair with all members of staff. It is also important to create the right environment where employees will not be treated badly if they ask for flexible working arrangements.

Here are some of the issues that the policy should include:

  • How employees should make the application
  • A statement that you will consider the request and only reject it for the reasons shown above
  • Who can accompany the employee at any meeting held regarding the request
  • Time limits on dealing with requests

 According to the annual CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey, only one in six organisations have flexible working policies in place to help staff fulfil their caring responsibilities outside of work whilst continuing to meet the demands of their job. The Survey also found that "flexible working arrangements are by far the most common type of support (68%).

If you would like to discuss further please either email me at rita@finchconsultancy.co.uk or ring us on 0115 896 7536









 

Managing Change in the Workplace

Rita Finch - Wednesday, November 12, 2014



Failure rates for delivering change in the workplace are frequently shown to be as high as 70% according to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD).

I think you'll agree, this is a pretty high percentage rate and would indicate that we, as employers, struggle when it comes to the field of "change management".

Lets face it, as an owner and employer of a small to medium business, we have so many things to deal with how can we possibly be expected to take on "change management". Surely, our employees will just have to go along with whatever changes we deem necessary to make, or should they?

Change is uncertain and could, by its very nature, be quite threatening, which in turn, could create many behavioural problems within the workplace.  One of which could be resistance from staff members causing us many a sleepless night. Employees who were once easy going, compliant and efficient become "employees from hell!"

For us to make necessary changes in our businesses, we need the support and help of our employees. Its hard enough to row in the rough waters of change but if the current is against us too, we are likely to drown!

According to Susan Jacobs: "without information we face uncertainty and a feeling of lack of control, both of which trigger a threat response". The need for certainty and control is crucial to motivation because, when they are present, we feel safe and secure leaving our minds to be able to think clearly.

I hear you saying: "but the change may be something that employees may not like"; however, if access to information and time to process it is given, individuals feel more valued and therefore more ready to accept the change and go along with it.

So, what can we do to mange change effectively?

It's impossible to be too rigid about effective change but there are some known basic building blocks:

  • communication being high on the agenda! 
  • build trust: high levels of trust should create conditions which enable significant change to take place
  • know your legal rights for example: contracts of employment, redundancies etc.
  • demonstrate emotional understanding: change is an emotional process
  • demonstrate strong leadership
  • engage with employees
  • use problem solving techniques
If we want our employees to support us when it comes to making changes, we need to look after them.  If we don't manage change well, our employees are likely to be less motivated, less productive and therefore affect growth within our businesses.

If you would like any further information regarding this blog, please don't hesitate to contact us either by telephone: 0115 986 7536, email: rita@finchconsultancy.co.uk or through our website



Equal pay audits - are you compliant?

Rita Finch - Wednesday, October 01, 2014

New legislation relating to equal pay comes into effect on the 1st October 2014.

It forms part of the government's strategy to close the gap between pay for men and women in the workplace. It will give Employment Tribunals the power to order an employer to carry out an equal pay audit (EPA) where that employer has been found to be in breach of equal pay law. This could be either an equal pay claim or a dispute over a non-contractual payment, such as a bonus.

What are the implications to an employer?

If any pay inequalities are identified and the underlying causes for those inequalities are shown to be obvious sexual discrimination in relation to pay, then an employer could face a hefty fine of £5,000.

So, what can you do as an employer to protect yourself?

Set up an equal pay audit yourself to make sure there is no gender discrimination with regard to equal pay;

Make sure you follow The Equality and Human Rights Commission's Statutory code of practice on equal pay (this code of practice also includes how to carry out a compliant equal pay audit in-house - pages 47-57); and

Put together a strategy which will help ensure all your employees - now and in the future - are awarded equal pay.

What are the exceptions?

businesses with less than 10 employees and start up businesses are currently exempt from EPA's. In addition,Tribunals cannot order an EPA where:

the employer has already completed a suitable EPA within the last 3 years;

it is clear, without an EPA, whether action is required to prevent equal pay breaches occurring or continuing;

the breach by the tribunal gives no reason to suspect that there may be other equal pay issues within the employer's organisation; or

the Tribunal considers that the disadvantages of an audit outweigh its benefits.

If you would like any further information regarding this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us either by telephone: 0115 986 7536, email: rita@finchconsultancy.co.uk or through our website


Rita Finch is a director at The Finch Consultancy