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There are two key months in the employment law calendar – April and October. They key changes this month, and what you need to do to ensure you comply with the new provisions is outlined below.

What has changed

1.With effect from 1 April 2019, the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for workers aged 25 and over increases to £8.21 per hour. Other NMW rates also increase, with hourly rates rising to £7.70 for workers aged 21 to 24, to £6.15 for workers aged 18 to 20 and to £4.35 for workers under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age. The NMW rate for apprentices will increase to £3.90 per hour.

Employers should increase hourly rates of pay to comply with the changes above, and should write to employees to confirm the change to their pay rate.

Employers must keep records of all payments to employees and workers so they can demonstrate they have complied with NMW rules. This can include a copy of the letters issued above, along with records of actual payments made to employees for hours worked.

2. The weekly rate of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay increases to £148.68 for pay weeks commencing on or after 7 April 2019.

The weekly rate of statutory sick pay increases to £94.25 from 6 April 2019.

Employers must ensure that employees receive these statutory minimum rates, and update their policies to reflect these changes.

3. New limits on statutory redundancy pay comes into force on 6 April 2019. Employers that dismiss employees by reason of redundancy must pay employees with 2 years service an amount based on their weekly pay, age and length of service. The weekly pay is subject to a cap, and this cap has increased to £525 with effect from this date.

Employers must ensure they update their redundancy policies and procedures to reflect this change and that the new cap is applied to any redundancies made after 6 April 2019. This applies where the redundancy consultation process started prior to this date.

4. There are two important changes to the Employment Rights Act 1996 which come into force on 6th April. These affect pay slip information:

  • Employers must include the total number of hours worked where pay varies according to hours worked.
  • Payslips must be given to all “workers” not just employees.

What is a worker?

A worker is any individual who works for an employer, whether under a contract of employment, or any other contract or arrangements where the individual (worker) undertakes to personally complete any work or provide a service. The following are likely to be workers, but not employees:

  • Most agency workers
  • Casual workers
  • Some freelancers

Employers should update their pay processes to ensure their payslips comply with the new requirements.

5. From 6 April 2019, the minimum level of employer contribution into a pension auto-enrolment scheme increases from 2% to 3% of qualifying earnings. There is a corresponding increase in employee contributions from 3% to 5%. The total minimum contribution has therefore increased from 5% to 8% of qualifying earnings.

What are qualifying earnings?

Qualifying earnings is the name given to a band of earnings that can be used to calculate contributions for auto-enrolment. For the 2019/2020 tax year this is between £6,136 and £50,000. The figures are reviewed annually by the government.

Employers should ensure that their, and their employees’ contributions to pension schemes are increased in line with the new rates.

6. The personal tax allowance is increasing to £12,500, and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 for the 2019/2020 tax year, which commences on 6 April 2019.

Employees will be issued with tax codes for the 2019/2020 tax year, and employers must ensure that these are applied.

What changes are planned for the future?

The Government has proposed legislation for 2019, following the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. The proposed new legislation will:

  • Prevent agency workers from being paid a lower rate than permanent employees doing the same job.
  • Extend the right to a day one written statement of rights of workers, going further to include detail on rights such as eligibility for sick leave and pay, and details of other types of paid leave such as maternity and paternity leave.
  • Quadruple maximum employment tribunal fines for employers who are demonstrated to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight from £5,000 to £20,000.
  • Extend the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks, ensuring those in seasonal or atypical roles have holiday pay calculated over a longer period.
  • Lower the threshold required to request to set up Information and Consultation arrangements from 10% to 2%.
  • The government also plans to legislate to improve the clarity of employment status tests to reflect the reality of modern working relationships. This aims to provide greater clarity around whether an individual is self-employed, a worker or an employee – not always as simple as it sounds to establish!

The 2018’s Court of Appeal decision on Mencap v Tomlinson Blake and Shannon v Rampersad set a precedent that individuals working on sleep-in shifts, such as nurses and care workers, would not be entitled to the NMW for time spent asleep in cases where they were available for work but not actually working. A request to appeal this decision was lodged with the Supreme Court by UNISON and a decision is expected in 2019 as to whether the appeal will be allowed to proceed. Any ruling will be significant in determining whether employers will be required to pay NMW rates for employees working sleep-in shifts.

The government has brought forward a review into the use of non-disclosure agreements, and a response is expected in 2019. The government aims to provide more detailed advice on when and how these types of agreement can be used in the workplace.

Finally, employers should continue to monitor developments as the Brexit process continues. At the time of writing, the official leave date is 12 April, however, the situation is changing rapidly, and it is important that employers keep up to date with the implications of any deal agreed or a no-deal Brexit. This could particularly affect employees who are EEA nationals. It is advisable that employers encourage any employee who is an EEA national to apply for settled or pre-settled status so their right to remain living and working in the UK is not affected.

The responsibilities on employers are increasing all the time, and the risks of getting things wrong are also growing. If you would like further information or advice, please contact us at enquiries@opthr.co.uk

There are so many benefits behind HR software to include in your small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). But without purpose, these benefits would just be ‘nice to have’, so while we will explore 5 main benefits, it’s vital to first consider why it’s important to even think about HR software for your SME.

Why HR software?

The most valuable and important asset in your company is the people who work there, not your office building or your warehouse but your people. Without them, your SME simply would not exist. Having the right HR Package in place is the most critical factor in production and the effectiveness of end to end processes for any organisation. Therefore, one of your top priorities is to look after your people, the most precious resource in your business.

Using an online system makes managing people simple, it will save you (and everyone else) a lot of time and will help you to keep your most valuable asset happy, motivated and focused on the job at hand.

Here are even more reasons to ditch haphazard systems of spreadsheets, documents and post-it notes and adopt a proactive solution into your SME:

1.It saves a huge amount of time

One of the main advantages of a human resource software is that it will automate the time-consuming tasks which you loathe to do, so you have more time to come up with that incredible idea which will take your business to the next level.

If you have more than a few employees, then staying on top of basic employee information can become a nightmare if it’s all paperwork and filing cabinets. Just think, how long does it take you to dig out the holiday request form someone filled in a few months ago to find out how much holiday time is still remaining? “I have a spreadsheet for that” I hear you say, but I’m willing to bet it took you a few hours (and headaches) to set up and requires some time maintaining it.

The impact that the right HR package can have on your SME can be significant: from automating simple processes, such as holiday allowance, absence, training, and giving employee self-service (to maintain their personal details for example), to streamlining processes, enabling your employees to be efficient and productive, and focusing on the activities that are valuable to your business. These are just some of the many advantages that will save you time (and money). Everything available, at a glance!

2. Our clients tell us that they love how everything they need to know, is readily available at a quick glance.

Another advantage of human resource software is that you will have relevant data immediately available whenever you want or need which, in turn, makes decision-making easier. On the flip side, poor decision-making can happen when the information we’re looking at is out of date or inadequate.

Additionally, with great data comes great power, having the ability to really dig into analytics can help you solve problems and spot trends. For example, is there a particular role with a high turnover or absence? You can dig into this and find out if those employees were getting enough training or having enough one-to-ones with their line manager. Having the right system in place makes collecting this data easy and accessing it will be a breeze.

The opportunities are endless and would simply be unfeasible given the amount of time and effort using a paper-based system would take to gain the same insights.

3. Grow your staff

As explained earlier, your staff are your most valuable asset and holding on to them is a top priority. It is also more cost effective to grow and develop the staff you already have than to keep recruiting. Which is where HR software will be hugely beneficial.

The advantage of human resources software is that it can help you keep track of all points of development for your employees, from performance to the training courses they’ve attended. For instance, we know that holding regular appraisals is hugely beneficial to your employee’s morale. With HR management software you will never forget an appraisal again and will always have the data available to remind you what you talked about, the feedback received and the objectives you set together. All this information is also available to your employee helping them to feel engaged with the company and their work and drives your business forward as employees’ contribution increases as their performance develops and they improve their skills.

Using all this information you can work together to plot the career development of your staff, giving them something to aim for.

4. Secure document management

For too long companies have kept all their sensitive employee data in a filing cabinet. With your obligations under Data Protection and GDPR, it’s time to ask ourselves how secure is that filing cabinet? We simply cannot know who has access to it or even if someone unauthorised has actually accessed it.

Part of the set of benefits of modern HR software is that all the information you store is extremely secure and you can set permissions on who can access what information.

The added advantage of storing all your documents within cloud-based platform is the knowledge that all your data is safe from any physical catastrophes such as a flood or fire. As long as you have a computer (or mobile device) you can still access your data.

Only with a modern HR application will you get a full document management solution. From knowing who reads what when, to increasing productivity by reducing paperwork. It’s also an easily accessible place to archive old documents, policies, staff handbooks and training manuals. You no longer have any need to print everything out, meaning you can finally become a ‘paper-free office’.

5. Leave and sickness monitoring

Properly managing absence is a necessity when running a small business. Having a problem with sickness absences or a rush of annual leave can be a nightmare to manage with a small team. So another benefit that comes with this system is that you can implement more careful holiday planning and know the data behind absence.

Even more than being a glorified calendar, good HR software will also calculate pro-rata entitlements, keep track of remaining leave and manage all holiday requests.

Most human resource managers agree that holiday booking is the most time-consuming aspect of people management, but with the right platform you can automate it. Making the whole process simple and straight forward, allowing employees to request holidays at any time. No more messy, time-consuming, email trails and spreadsheets!

There are many more benefits to HR systems, but I hope that this has given you a helpful overview of what it can do for your business.

So if you’re fed up with being bogged down with your current HR admin and processes, I’d love to hear from you.

As the second half of 2018 begins, you can’t help but reflect on your successes (and setbacks) as you think about what lies ahead.

When all has gone well, your next steps are clear. Double down on what’s working and get implementing towards that next milestone. But what happens if you’re falling short of targets, are struggling to get profitable, and are stuck with outdated systems and methods that aren’t taking you forward?

Read More

I have a BIG frustration with my industry (perhaps you feel the same way about yours!)

But after a lot of thinking, I’ve decided this is a good thing. After all, frustrations lead you to ask different questions. They inspire you to look at a situation with fresh eyes. They provide the gateway to breakthroughs, new ways of working, and ultimately transformation.

So while this particular frustration has stuck in my throat for a long time, my mind has been working overtime trying to figure out a new way forward.

Sometimes you need to give ideas time to brew – and this has undoubtedly been the case with what I’m sharing with you in this article.

I’m all for rapid action and quick implementation. Sometimes that’s absolutely the right way forward.

But when you move into business transformation, you need to give yourself the time and space to let your thoughts incubate.

That way you can be sure that you’ve hit upon the right outcome – when you find it.

So what was this big frustration?

And why does it matter to you?

Let me explain…

The box doesn’t fit anymore

As a seasoned HR professional who’s worked nationally and internationally and for big businesses and small ones, there’s not a lot I haven’t encountered when it comes to HR.

In fact, I’ve been inside interview rooms where I’ve heard things that would make you squirm, make you blush, and even make you angry at the injustice.

But that’s the real beauty of this role – it’s ALWAYS different. No day is the same.

However, despite my love for an industry I have a deep passion for, I do get frustrated that most people fail to see the enormous potential HR holds for their business.

You see, most people push HR into the box of compliance, legislation, and tick boxes.

And while HR fundamentals are about ensuring things are watertight – for you and your staff – there’s a whole other folder waiting for you to open.

And once you’ve got the fundamentals nailed, this other folder presents opportunities for business growth and personal development that can blow your mind.

And that’s what frustrates me!

Apply HR as an enabler, and your business can transform – in all kinds of ways. From improved attendance, to staff development, to implementing significant changes that rock your world.

Leverage this aspect of HR and it does become a game-changer.

And I want to create the space and opportunities for more of that to happen.

Here’s how I’m going to do it…

Three stands – three ways to change your world, your business, and your team’s success

Opt HR Consulting: There is and always will be a demand for HR advice and consultation.

Get your HR wrong and you can get into all sorts of rough water. From tribunals to fines to getting tied up in red tape, you’ve heard it all before! So don’t worry… you can rely on us to help you navigate the waters.

You can rely on us to help you get compliant, stay compliant, and troubleshoot any ongoing or ad hoc issues and challenges. Everything from grievances to absence, to behaviour management, our team of highly skilled, highly knowledgeable experts will help you get on top.

But that’s not all…

Opt HR Connections: Working in HR can be lonely – especially when you’re lumped under the compliance label! As a result, there is a ton of unlocked potential hiding in organisations and consulting companies across the country.

I want to create a space that unlocks that potential and gives HR professionals an opportunity to connect, network, and share best practice. I want to build a community of high-performing individuals who want to change the perception of HR and help businesses use this knowledge base and skill set to leverage growth, transformation, and change.

That’s why I’m launching HR Connections – through monthly meet-ups, hot seats, mentoring, and best practice shares, we’re working to inspire and empower a new breed of HR professionals who can bring more and add more value to ambitious companies.

It’s the most powerful way I can imagine to change the perception of HR (and what it can do for your business), AND inspire excellent people to enable transformation in their workplace.

Opt HR Coaching: I’ve been coaching my entire professional career. From front-line staff to top-level management, I love helping people work through hurdles, achieve their goals, and show up as their best.

Specialising in supporting HR practitioners and business leaders who want to harness the potential of their team to transform their business, I’ve launched a series of coaching packages.

Focusing on skills development, mindset, and strategies to achieve goals, this coaching opportunity offers accountability and will help high-achievers keep pushing forward.  

To me it’s clear…

Change the perception of HR in business and we can unlock a raft of skills, expertise and knowledge that businesses and managers can leverage to embed and navigate change.

I love the New Year.

For me, it represents a blank slate and the potential to achieve something significant in the year ahead. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be filled with optimism and plenty of exciting plans for 2018.

But don’t make the mistake of running before you can walk!

I understand that you’re itching to get started.

However, sometimes you need to slow things down before you can pick up pace – and that’s especially true when it comes to your staff.

Without the right policies, procedures, and management in place, you risk scuppering your plans before they even get started.

Your team is your most valuable resource.

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