Hybrid Working – how will contracts change?

‘What is it we need to change in our employment contracts and policies to reflect the new normal’

……is a question I’ve been frequently asked when recently presenting to groups of managers and directors about maximising productivity and engagement in a hybrid working environment.

I’ve not been a great enthusiast for rushing into contractual changes just because everyone’s predicting that a third of employees will quit if they can’t continue flexible working or that over a million workers at the top 50 employers will not be bought back to the office.

Balancing all this enthusiasm, I have previously commented that home working is not for every job, or for every person, and that under the pressure of Covid we have made it work but it might not be sustainable in the long term.

Add onto this the fact that many jobs cannot be done from home and its a peculiarly middle-class assumption that we all have homes that are suitable to work from.

All this plus the fact that 2.8 million homes do not have internet access, and 11.7 million people lack the necessary digital skills to work from home (Beyond Digital: Planning for a Hybrid World – House of Lords COVID-19 Committee), it’s easy to see that this is not going to work for a sizeable portion of the working population.

Nonetheless, employers are naturally keen to ensure that more permanent arrangements are properly established and that the interests of both the employer and the employee are recognised and codified.  SMEs will be able to take a more informal approach than larger organisations who will need policies to ensure consistency of application across the organisation.

What are you likely to need in terms of contracts and policies if you are keen to facilitate home/hybrid working in some form.

Firstly, assuming you are an enthusiast for home/agile/hybrid (whatever) working, the possible contractual changes you’ll want to consider are :-

  • Arrangements for trial periods, or provisions that allow home working after a successful probationary period for new colleagues.
  • Provisions for ending a home working arrangement if it is not working or business needs change.
  • A new definition of the ‘place of work’ which you have a statutory duty to define.
  • Reserving the right to require home working.
  • Defining flexibility to move home – you may want to insist that home remains within a certain distance from the Company location.
  • Clarity about hours of work. Is it the same as the past, is there some flexibility, defining any core times for availability etc.
  • Establishing responsibility to take breaks and to record hours so that there is no breach of the Working Time Directive.
  • Access to the home to recover equipment or undertake health and safety checks.
  • Requirements to attend the workplace as required from time to time, and the rules with regard to travel expenditure etc. Travel to a workplace is generally a taxable benefit if paid for by the employer, so it is probably best to make it clear that where this happens it is at the employee’s expense.
  • Equipment and insurance issues.
  • Data protection and confidentiality provisions.

Secondly, what about policy changes.  Many larger organisations have already had ‘Homeworking’ policies, and we will probably see these renamed ‘Hybrid Working’ polices.  One of the advantages of a policy is that it enables the employer to keep the content in the contract to a minimum, and have a more flexible policy in a Staff Handbook.

A policy is not mandatory, but if you are going to have one it will help you set more of a tone and define expectations which are not always possible in a contract.

Some of the content will be an expansion of the items above, other issues might include:-

  • Understanding the concept.
  • Defining the characteristics of roles that are suitable for hybrid working.
  • Outlining the personal qualities needed for successful home working.
  • The discretionary nature of any arrangements, but take care, they can’t always be changed back easily, no matter what you say in a contract or policy.
  • Suitable work area and equipment.
  • Personal commitments that may interfere with effectiveness.
  • Working from abroad.
  • How will performance be measured.
  • Health and safety responsibilities – you probably need to address lighting, display screen equipment (see this HSE Checklist), electrical testing, reporting of accidents, and the supply of a first aid kit.
  • Tax, expenses issues.
  • Rules about meeting at the employee’s home.
  • Insurance, lease or mortgage issues.
  • Lifestyle issues, mental wellbeing etc.
  • Relationship between hybrid working and permanent flexible working arrangements

Finally, don’t forget those whose role prevents home working – we are in danger of creating a two-tier workforce.

They might not be able to work from home, but are there other areas of flexibility that could be introduced – the evidence suggests that other forms of flexibility have decreased during the pandemic.  Flexitime, condensed hours, job sharing, term time working, annualised hours are some that can be applied to many roles.

 

Ken Allison | 29 June 2021 | Paradigm Partners | www.paradigmpartners.co.uk

Ken is an engaging trainer and speaker who manages to make his topics, highly interactive, challenging, entertaining, and above all, relevant to the 21st Century executive. Ken uses his understanding of managing businesses to show managers what they ‘can do’ rather than what they ‘cannot do’.

Ken specialises in taking the strain out of employment law related people issues through training workshops for managers, and his firm’s ‘ExecutiveHR’ service, providing telephone based support services to businesses throughout the UK.

Is #Priti #Patel a bully?

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It won’t surprise you that the question in the title is not one I am going to get into.

Firstly, just as I would be reluctant to label a child as a ‘naughty child’ just because they occasionally did something naughty, so I am reluctant to label any individual as being a ‘bully’ just because they may have displayed bullying behaviours.

Secondly, the concept of bullying means different things to different people and is somewhat difficult to define.

In a recent CIPD survey 20% of organisations reported an increase in negative conflict such as bullying and harassment in the workplace.  This is not surprising given the current covid related situation with so many people having to work in difficult circumstances.

Bullying and harassment are frequently complained of when employees are put under pressure in some way.  Their work is criticised, they are under the threat of redundancy, or their attendance is being reviewed are three typical examples.  This is not to suggest that it doesn’t also occur because some people intentionally or otherwise seek to intimidate or dominate colleagues.

In Priti Patel’s case, leaked reports in The Times suggest that she told civil servants that they were ‘f***ing useless’, and even the brief findings of the full report by Sir Alan Allan, reproduced in The Guardian, refers to ‘occasions of shouting and swearing’.

What is bullying?

The definition of bullying poses challenges, and I covered the similarities and differences between bullying and harassment in a previous blog about sexual harassment.

There are lots of different definitions of bullying (unlike harassment which has a legal definition in the Equality Act 2010), with the definition by #ACAS as the most frequently referred to

‘offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’.

The Civil Service have their own definition quoted in the report about the Home Secretary’s recent behaviour

‘intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down’.

Interestingly, the Civil Service guidance also makes this helpful comment

‘legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of a worker’s performance will not amount to bullying’.

How will I recognise it?

Helpfully, in another publication, ACAS give us a few examples which include

  • someone has spread a false rumour about you
  • someone keeps putting you down in meetings
  • your boss does not let you go on training courses but they allow everyone else to
  • your boss keeps giving you heavier workloads than everyone else
  • your team never lets you join social events

Sometimes physical intimidation can be involved such as when a boss stands or sits on their desk towering over an employee whilst addressing them, or invades their personal space.

Does intention matter?

Priti Patel said ‘I have never intentionally set out to upset anyone’.  Sir Alan’s report acknowledges that the bullying behaviours may not have been intentional and that the Home Secretary was ‘frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness’.  But, that’s not really the point, it’s more the effect that is important!

Unlike harassment (which is similar, but on the basis of some form of discrimination), bullying in itself can’t give rise to a claim in front of an Employment Tribunal.  In most cases bullying gives rise to a claim for constructive dismissal, and it is for the Tribunal to decide whether the behaviour complained of was so serious as to breach the implied duty of trust and confidence that should exist between an employee and their employer.

They may decide this in relation to Sir Philip Rutnam’s constructive dismissal claim against Priti Patel after he resigned in February alleging bullying and whistleblowing.

The intention of the perpetrator does not matter (it’s not an excuse).

Being the subject of bullying behaviour can make some people ill with stress/anxiety etc. and give rise to a personal injury claim, and it may even be a breach of an employer’s ‘duty of care’ in health and safety terms, particularly if nothing is done after a complaint.

What do employers need to do about bullying?

  • A clear Harassment and Bullying Policy (and the best will give examples so that employees understand the types of behaviours that are unacceptable) will be important in large organisations, but they are not everything.
  • What will be far more significant will be leaders challenging bullying behaviours, setting an example themselves, and providing guidance to individuals when unhelpful behaviours are observed. Remember, that for some people, it will be unintentional, and a quiet word will ‘nip it in the bud’.
  • Don’t forget that your responsibilities will also extend to events outside work, but that are reasonably connected to work – this could include the pub next door where everyone goes for a drink after work on Friday.
  • Either in work or connected to work in some way, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if nobody complains I don’t have to do anything. ‘I can’t do anything unless you put it in writing’ never has been an appropriate response in this area.
  • Encourage leaders to be proactive and create an environment where people feel it is safe to raise issues and that their concerns will be treated with appropriate confidentiality.

Above all, remember that colleagues do not perform at their best in an environment where bullying is allowed or condoned.  It rarely gets the best out of people, so there is a cost to the business.

Given the outstanding Rutnam case mentioned above, we have not heard the end of this matter.

For me, it’s provided a nice opportunity to write about something other than covid related employment matters.

Stay safe.

Ken Allison | 25 November 2020 | Paradigm Partners | www.paradigmpartners.co.uk

Ken Allison is an engaging trainer and speaker who manages to make his topics, highly interactive, challenging, entertaining, and above all, relevant to the 21st Century executive. Ken uses his understanding of managing businesses to show managers what they ‘can do’ rather than what they ‘cannot do’.

Ken specialises in taking the strain out of employment law related people issues through training workshops for managers, and his firm’s ‘ExecutiveHR’ service, providing telephone based support services to businesses throughout the UK.

Questions for the ‘New Normal’…. 5 questions I’ve been asked in #CEO groups in the last fortnight.

During the last fortnight I’ve given my presentation, ‘The F Word’, to about 200 #CEOs of #SME businesses, most of whom have been grappling with getting their businesses fit for the future and maximising the benefit of the CJRS to conserve their cash flow as we get the country back to work.

Here are 5 of the most popular questions I have been asked.

1.  If an employee doesn’t want to carry out their role if you bring them back from furlough can you leave them on it?

Not all my answers are so long (!) but this really is an important issue at the moment.

Although not wanting to carry out their role is different from not wanting to come back to work, you can leave an employee on furlough as long as you like and as long as the scheme is available, but just remember that it looks as if from August employers will have to contribute towards the 80% wages costs.

Grappling with the ‘reluctant returners’ is one of the most difficult issues being faced by employers at the moment.  Despite the fact that ACAS say that ‘If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action’, any action should be preceded with dialogue.

That dialogue should endeavour to address the anxieties of staff, and in particular, the steps you have taken to make the workplace safe.

I have covered what the various anxieties might be in a previous blog, and emphasised the need to be able to demonstrate that you have complied with the Governments 5 steps to a covid safe working environment:-

  • Carried out and shared the results of a covid 19 risk assessment
  • Have cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
  • Helped people to work from home wherever possible
  • Taken steps to maintain 2m distance at work
  • Where not possible to maintain social distancing, done everything practical to manage the risk

Following these steps and communicating them to employees will go a long way to removing their anxieties and preventing a claim that they reasonably perceived that they were in imminent danger if they came to work, which is most likely to be their claim if action is taken against them.

Ultimately, if someone is refusing to return to work, that could lead to a dismissal, but it is a situation where you will need professional advice.

2.  We have terminated the contract of someone with less than 2 years’ service. Notice expires end June. She wants us to keep her on furlough until it runs out. Could we or should we do that?

Someone with less than two years’ service can be dismissed without a reasonable process.  That’s not to suggest that you behave unreasonably, but you do have more flexibility with these colleagues when faced with having to make redundancies, and this is probably the context of the question.

You can extend her notice if you wish to, but take care that does not lead to her accruing the two years necessary to claim unfair dismissal.  Also note that she will accrue more holidays, so require that they be taken during her notice.

3.  Can we alter the furlough agreement re holiday clause?

Yes, employers have always been able to require that holidays be taken at specific times.  Many do it at Christmas, and some have measures that ensure holidays are evenly distributed throughout the year (phased holidays).

If you have not provided for holidays in your original furlough agreement  here’s an example of something you could add:-

‘We require you to use all accrued holiday by the end of July, and if we extend your furlough further, any more holidays accrued must also be used by the new end date for furlough.  If you have any doubts about the rate of holiday accrual, please discuss this with one of us, but basically most of you will have a total holiday entitlement of 32 days including public holidays which accrue at the rate of 2.66 days per month.

You should book your holidays in the normal way, and you may want to choose dates that you definitely would prefer us not to call you back into work’.

You do not have to follow this exactly; a lot might depend on where you are in your holiday year.  Clearing at least 50% of your accrued leave might be another option.

4.  I understood employees can carry holiday over for 2 years due to Covid, is this right?

This is only partially correct.  The Government has passed legislation which allows the carry forward of annual leave where the employee has been prevented from taking it – normally carry forward of 4 weeks of the statutory 5.6 weeks holiday is not allowed.

It is only really for situations where an employee wants to take their leave in the current year, but cannot because you are, for instance, too busy.

The Government has published guidance on the topic, which includes on the rate of pay for holidays during furlough – although, frankly, they simply quote complex regulations which are rarely followed to the letter anyway.

The consensus amongst legal commentators is that whether on furlough or during a temporary period of reduced salary or hours, holiday pay should be at the ‘normal’ (100%) level for salaried staff.  There are different rules where pay varies.

5.  If an employee agrees to resign, rather than be made redundant, can they give a resignation notice to expire at the end of July, and if they do, can they withdraw it before that time or can it be enforced?

They can give you notice which is longer than required in their contract and you can refuse to allow a withdrawal of notice.  There are circumstances in which you need to take care in refusing.

For instance, if a resignation was given in haste, such as after an argument.  Then it might be reasonable to allow a withdrawal.

A resignation under pressure might also lead to an unfair dismissal claim – for instance, a situation where you put it to someone to resign or else, we will make you redundant!

These questions were also interspersed with lots of others about the challenges of managing colleagues who are working remotely.  I covered this briefly in my recent #LinkedIn blog and I intend to return to this theme in the future.

Watch this space.

Ken Allison | 28th May 2020 | Paradigm Partners | www.paradigmpartners.co.uk

Ken Allison is an engaging trainer and speaker who manages to make his topics, highly interactive, challenging, entertaining, and above all, relevant to the 21st Century executive. Ken uses his understanding of managing businesses to show managers what they ‘can do’ rather than what they ‘cannot do’.

Ken specialises in taking the strain out of employment law related people issues through training workshops for managers, and his firm’s ‘ExecutiveHR’ service, providing telephone based support services to businesses throughout the UK.

Nothing in this article should be relied on as a substitute for taking professional advice about your particular situation.

 

 

 

202020: 20 #employment law commitments and promises to look out for in 2020!

Few people will read all of this, but if I don’t write this blog each year, there’s bound to be someone who misses it!

This year I’ve done my best to cover all the known #employment law changes and listed them in an approximate order of importance.

So, I’ve started with those items that are likely to affect all organisations regardless of size, progressed onto to those that will predominantly impact on larger organisations, and finished with those that address very specific circumstances.

These are a mixture of matters that have already been committed to legislation (with or without implementation dates) and promises made in the Queens Speech (QS) in December 2019.

Likely to affect all employers.

1. From April 2020 all workers will be entitled to a written statement of their terms (usually given in a Contract of Employment) on or before the first day of engagement. Currently this only has to be provided within the first two months of employment.

The amount of information that is required is also being increased (although most well drafted contracts will already comply), so employers will have to review their contracts, and if you currently don’t issue them until a new employee has started, you may need to look at your approach.

2. Currently women on maternity leave that are affected by redundancy must be offered a suitable vacancy where one exists. This right effectively gives them priority over other employees.

The Government has made a QS commitment to extend this right from the point at which the employer is notified of the pregnancy until six months after the end of maternity leave.

Similar rights exist elsewhere in Europe.

3. Extended leave and pay for neonatal care to support parents with premature or sick babies.

4. As promised in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto, unpaid carers will be granted a weeks’ leave.

5. A consultation followed by legislation will make flexible working the default unless an employer has good reasons not to allow it. Another manifesto promise which we will have to wait and see how it will differ from the current right to request flexible working after 26 weeks employment.

6. Calculating holiday pay for workers whose working patterns vary can be a nightmare. Currently, pay for these types of workers should reflect their average in the previous twelve weeks. From April 2020, it will be the average of the previous 52 weeks.

7. Termination payments over £30k will not only be taxable (which they are at the moment) but will also be subject to employer’s national insurance payments.

8. The introduction of a single labour market enforcement body (QS Commitment). Proposed originally in the Taylor Review, it’s envisaged that it will be responsible for areas such as modern slavery, sick and holiday pay, and other matters related to vulnerable workers.

9. National minimum wage increases come into force on 1st April with the headline National Living Wage (for those aged 25 and over) going from £8.21 to £8.72.

10. There will probably be increases to statutory pay rates for maternity, paternity, shared parental pay, adoption and sick pay from the first Sunday in April.

Similarly, caps for Employment Tribunal compensation and redundancy pay are also likely to increase.

11. Parents who have lost a child will be allowed two weeks leave (Parents Bereavement Leave), although a firm date for the introduction of this is still awaited. This leave will be paid after 26 weeks of service.

Mostly affecting larger employers.

12. Temporary work agencies must provide work seekers with a Key Information document including information about minimum expected rates of pay, and who will pay them.

13. The ‘Swedish derogation’ which allowed employment businesses to avoid pay parity requirements providing workers remain contracted to the agency between assignments will be scrapped from April 2020.

This is likely to inflate the costs of using agency workers.

14. There has been previous consultation about a ‘National Disability Strategy’ to encourage employers to retain disabled employees and others with health conditions. Detailed proposals are promised.

15. Addressing concerns about zero hours contracts, it is proposed to introduce a right to request a more predictable contract after 26 weeks, which presumably will work a bit like the current right to request flexible working i.e. a worker can ask, and an employer can reasonably refuse.

16. Executive pay reporting came into effect from 1st January 2020. This requires companies with more than 250 employees to report on the comparison between their CEOs pay and that of employees at various levels.

From now on this information must be in their annual director’s remuneration report.

Changes affecting specific circumstances.

17. Although strike action in the UK is at an all-time low, it’s hard to believe that if you are a rail commuter in the South East or North West. Minimum Service Agreements are to be introduced to set out minimum service patterns and numbers and nature of staff that must work during a strike.

18. Off payroll working arrangements (usually referred to as IR 35) have been changed in the public sector, and from April 2020 these changes apply to larger and medium sized private sector organisations.

There may be changes to the detail of this legislation, but just this week it has been confirmed that there will not be any change to the implementation date.

The rule changes mean that payments made to individuals through personal service companies will be subject to tax deductions by the client.

Small companies are exempt. You’ll need advice, but basically turnover under £10.2 million and less than 50 employees in the tax year will qualify as small.

19. Legislation to ensure tips go to workers in full.

20. Subject to a minimum of 15, an employer has to respond to a request from 10% or more of employees who ask the employer set up an ‘information and consultation arrangement’ (normally referred to as a Works Council).

From April 2020 the percentage is being reduced to 2%.

I’ve done my best to ensure that this list is comprehensive, but as ever I look forward to comments on anything you think I have missed.

It will be interesting to look back on 2020 to see how much of it got delivered.

We shall see.

9th January 2020 | Paradigm Partners | www.paradigmpartners.co.uk

Ken Allison is an engaging trainer and speaker who manages to make his topics, highly interactive, challenging, entertaining, and above all, relevant to the 21st Century executive. Ken uses his understanding of managing businesses to show managers what they ‘can do’ rather than what they ‘cannot do’.

Ken specialises in taking the strain out of employment law related people issues through training workshops for managers, and his firm’s ‘ExecutiveHR’ service, providing telephone based support services to businesses throughout the UK.