The annual increase in compensation limits has just been announced. The limits apply to dismissals (redundancies or detriments etc.) occurring on, or after 6th April 2017:

  • £489.00 – the maximum amount of a week’s pay for calculating statutory redundancy pay, and the basic award; (up from £479.00)
  • £14,670.00 – the maximum statutory redundancy payment or basic award, i.e. 30 weeks; and
  • £80,541.00 – the maximum compensatory award which can be made for unfair dismissal (up from £78,962.00), or one year’s gross pay whichever is the lower

These increases mean that the maximum total unfair dismissal award is now £95,211.00, although uplifts can add a further 25%.

It is crucial to follow good practice in your HR procedures; considering carefully all dismissals, and ensure that the handling of appeals is conducted fairly and thoroughly. It is important to remember that there is no cap at all on the awards that can be made in many cases, including discrimination claims. Consequently, please seek advice from your HR Consultant, at the earliest opportunity, if you are considering terminating anyone’s employment, for whatever reason, and regardless of their length of service, so that they can ensure that you minimise any potential risks.

If you have started any redundancies, then you will need to update any calculations if the redundancy will take effect after 6th April 2017.

Employees may be entitled to receive guarantee payments for up to five days of lay-off, in any three-month period. The maximum amount of such a statutory guarantee payment will increase to £27.00 (from £26.00) for any one day.

The National Insurance employer threshold and employee threshold will be aligned from April 2017, meaning that both employees and employers will start paying National Insurance on earnings above £157.00 per week.

The personal allowance for tax will increase to £11,500 in April 2017, and will be £12,500 by 2020. The new threshold Upper Earnings Limit (UEL) for higher-rate tax will be £45,000.

Our Consultant would be pleased to answer questions on any of the above, or you can find much of the data on our website, by clicking on Frequently Asked Questions.

Competent and Competence
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “competent” as being adequately qualified or capable and effective. Competence is considered a legal requirement under English common law. The general requirements for competent persons came from the general duties imposed on an employer in s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Regulation 7(5) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 went on to state that, a person is deemed to be competent if he or she has an adequate combination of training and experience, or knowledge. Regulation 7(8) also requires employers to consider appointing a (nominated safety) competent person within their employment, in preference to one who is not in their employment. This means the employer cannot completely delegate safety to a third party, but must appoint in-house and, if necessary, must provide adequate training to help that person become competent. Certainly, when I talk to a client about who would be the best person to appoint in-house as the nominated competent person for safety, I usually point out that someone who has a good grasp of the organisation’s activities, but is also well versed in understanding the operational side of the business, is usually best placed to become the competent person, providing they still have the thirst to want to learn more.

However, purely from a common sense viewpoint, the prevention of injury and ill-health in the workplace inevitably depends on the presence of competent people at all levels in any organisation. Competence was referred to in the case of Wilsons and Clyde Coal Co Ltd v English (1938), which defined the duty of care that an employer owed to its employees, and this included the need to employ competent people.  Subsequent case law has indicated that to be a competent employee, people must have a positive attitude to health and safety at work, and behave responsibly in the workplace, and, that competence is more than just the possession of qualifications, but also involves having sufficient and relevant experience.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and the Approved Code of Practice, (ACOP) to the now withdrawn CDM 2007 Regulations, stated that to be competent, an organisation or individual must have:

  • sufficient knowledge of the specific tasks to be undertaken and the risks which the work will entail;
  • sufficient experience and ability to carry out their duties in relation to the project; to recognise their limitations and take appropriate action in order to prevent harm to those carrying out the designated work; or those affected by the work;
  • specific knowledge about the tasks they will be expected to perform, and the risks associated with these tasks; this may come from formal or “on the job” training;
  • appropriate experience; people are more likely to adopt safe working practices if they understand the reasons why they are necessary; and past experience should be a good indicator of the person’s/organisation’s track record;

The HSE has been concerned for some time that the approach to the appointment of competent people has subsequently become over bureaucratic and costly. It has recently tried to set a different and less prescriptive approach. In the Guidance document L153 Managing Health and Safety in Construction of the CDM 2015, the focus now is that organisations must have the capability to ensure the health and safety of those involved in the work/project.  Competence should be seen by employers as a long-term issue, building on the basics of selection, training, management of experience and life-long learning and ensuring people have the capacity in terms of time, resources, managerial and supervisory capability to deliver the project.  Furthermore, a (construction) workforce should be able to demonstrate competence through qualifications based on agreed national standards.

In other words, when appointing competent people, employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that those persons have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience appropriate to the role they are appointed.

Reasonable steps need to be proportionate and not over-bureaucratic, and will depend on the complexity of the project/work/sector, and the range and nature of the risks involved. This means, in practice, that those appointed should be capable of understanding how to:

  • identify the significant risks are likely to arise within the workplace, and
  • prevent those risks or manage or control them to acceptable levels;

Put simply, competency describes the behaviour that lies behind competent performance, such as critical thinking or analytical skills, and describes what people bring to the job. In contrast, competence describes what people need to do to perform a job, and is concerned with effect and output, rather than effort and input.

In the HSE’s Managing for Health & Safety (HSG65), competence is defined as “the ability to undertake responsibilities and perform activities to a recognised standard on a regular basis. It combines practical and thinking skills, knowledge and experience”. However, two terms of competent and competency are now very much interchangeable as job performance requires a mix of behaviour, attitude and action.

As part of the review, HSG65 makes some suggestions as to what to look for on ineffective management in relation to competence, including:

  • Lack of awareness of key hazards/ risks.
  • Employees lack the skills, knowledge and experience to do their job.
  • Health and safety advice and training is irrelevant, incompetent or wrong.
  • No standards of performance are set; and people are not held accountable.
  • Only knee-jerk reactions follow incidents/near misses.
  • The organisation does not know what it needs to do to move forward.

I think I would add a couple more common failures I have observed within quite a few SMEs especially. Very few job descriptions have written into them the need to demonstrate health and safety awareness and accountability at all times, and fulfil all necessary health and safety requirements. Likewise, another mistake is thinking that the safety competent person has to be formally trained in safety, when really the key criteria is a full understanding of how the business works, and a practical grasp of what the real safety hazards and risks are.

Competency Frameworks in Health and Safety

Organisational capability is effectively the in-house policies and systems that set acceptable health and safety standards, to ensure not just legal compliance, but identifies the resources and people to make sure standards are delivered and health and safety is effectively managed.

An organisation’s policy on health and safety, therefore, needs to include consideration to the level of competency required throughout the organisation, to ensure there is a competent workforce. Determining competency levels and then identifying, maintaining and monitoring the knowledge, skills, and attributes necessary to meet and maintain those levels can be a challenge, so the development of a competency framework can assist in managing this key element of the management system.

Competencies are essential in securing a competent workforce, and describe both the functional skills and knowledge that enables an individual to perform a technical task, as well as the softer skills in terms of how individuals are expected to behave. Competencies can, therefore, be seen as forming the building blocks for competence.

As such, a “competency framework” can be described as a structure that sets out and defines each individual competency (i.e. the behaviours, knowledge, skills and technical attributes) required by individuals at every level of the organisation, so as to achieve and maintain a competent performance to the required standard.

A well-developed health and safety competency framework that defines the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviours can be used for a number of purposes. By identifying the necessary key health and safety competencies of individual roles, these can be used as part of the organisation’s recruitment and selection procedures, through the inclusion of the competencies in job specifications and consequent selection procedures. This will enable the prospective employee’s current competencies to be identified, and whether any areas lacking are capable of being developed if recruited.

Perhaps the most obvious purpose of a competency framework is to assist in the identification and analysis of employees learning and development requirements. The aim is to understand the amount and types of learning and development that will be needed (typically through information, instruction, training and supervision) to ensure that all employees have the right knowledge, skills and behaviours to perform the jobs they do.

By setting competencies at the appropriate level, the employer can then benchmark against the framework to identify and remedy any shortfalls between the current level of competency possessed by the workforce, the required level and what learning and development, if any, will be necessary to bridge the gap.

Employers need to ensure that the competence performance levels required are being met and that any information, instruction, training or supervision provided has been effective in terms of enabling such performance to be undertaken.

As such, the key competencies identified can form part of an employee’s performance review or appraisal process. Through discussion and employee feedback, this may assist in identifying any key areas of concern or gaps, and enable planning for additional activities to bridge the gaps.

For many organisations, some form of organisational change is inevitable, so as to respond to dynamic internal and external influences. Change can be brought about by changes in technology, legislation, and business demands, etc., all of which have the potential to change the organisation’s competency requirements. By mapping competencies on a framework, this can be adapted and changed to track any organisational changes, thereby enabling the necessary new or revised competencies to be identified, and gained through appropriate means. Change can also mean having succession plans and/or transferring knowledge, skills and responsibilities to other employees.

A competency framework will provide clarity to Managers and workers alike, as to what is expected of them, and can provide a clear focus for future development of all employees.

Developing a Competency Framework

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), many Managers and individuals find it hard to use the frameworks to help achieve their goals and, therefore, the goals of the organisation. Typical criticisms include that they are often lengthy, complex, misunderstood and not user friendly. They can also be seen as just another paper exercise, with little value to real-world application.

Developing a competency framework can take effort and should be carefully planned. The following steps can be followed when developing the framework.

Prepare by defining the purpose and scope of the framework (e.g. organisation-wide, department or job specific).

  1. Collect the relevant information from job safety analysis, observations, interviews, good practice guidance, National Occupational Standards, etc.
  2. Build the framework by determining competency levels, identifying the competencies required and validating them against specific roles.
  3. Implement the framework through good communication and awareness processes that explain the purpose, benefits and utilisation of the framework.

In respect of the actual template and content of the framework, this will depend upon organisational circumstances and scope of the framework, but will normally include some form of matrix linking roles/functions to the competency, typically through a “competency statement” along with required behaviours or skills necessary to fulfil the competency. Some organisations combine levels of competency with various layers of the workforce, for example, Level 1 refers to all workers with Level 4 being Senior Managers.

As a simple example, a specific job role could be that they are trained as an emergency first-aider. Generated from legislative requirements, the competency statement could be “to provide employees with immediate attention and emergency first-aid treatment if they are injured, or taken ill at work”. From this, the competency behaviours and skills can be described, and will include having the necessary level of knowledge of first-aid treatment appropriate to the risk and needs assessment. This can be described as a technical skill, which is required to ensure the first aider is competent when giving basic first aid treatment.

However, many employees require certain key behavioural competencies, such as having “strong communication skills with the emotional resilience to cope regularly with stressful and angry callers, staying calm and pleasant at all times”. Physical competencies may require “undertaking manual handling activities on an hourly basis.”  Having identified these, the organisation can then use the framework to ensure it selects the most appropriate individuals to cope with the demands and competencies of the job role, as well as ensuring any training is commensurate with the job risk.

Retaining Competence

The main barriers to retaining competence are a lack of practice and changing circumstances. This is why certain training, e.g. first aid, needs to be refreshed at regular intervals to keep up that competence.  Also, we can all develop bad habits over time, so key messages need reinforcing, e.g. manual handling training, advanced driver training, forklift truck training to name but three.

Knowledge may be refreshed or increased by attending training courses or workshops, which also helps develop contacts made and provides the ability to discuss issues with other people. Knowledge can be simply re-reading in-house safe systems of work, or reading industry-related publications.

Developing experience can vary from taking on more job responsibilities, through to external networking meetings with people in similar jobs, as, in the less formal gatherings, anecdotal evidence can provide guidance on a good, or bad, means of approaching a problem. Certainly, we know from our public training events that many delegates feel they gain from listening how other delegates approach specific matters, as well as learning by working with others in interactive exercises that require them to problem solve in a supporting learning environment.

Finally, the issue of developing any employee’s personal qualities can be addressed through a more formal performance review process or appraisal system across an organisation. Effective performance reviews can be a very efficient means of enhancing personal qualities, but conversely remember that a poor review can damage, and even dis-empower, a competent person.

A safety competent person can develop through a mixture of formal training, as well as networking, and possibly having access to someone that can coach them on more of the safety requirements.

Summary

Many organisations have a tendency to compartmentalise health and safety, rather than recognising that not only does it need to be a key business priority, but that health and safety competencies are required in all jobs, to a greater or lesser degree. Identifying early on in the recruitment process what key health & safety competencies are required for each job role, will help appoint people who are better able to fulfil the subsequent job demands, be they physical or mental.  Using key business competencies as part of performance reviews will help further establish job requirements, increase job productivity and will focus training and development needs.  Fulfilling health and safety requirements should always be an aspect of job performance which should be regularly assessed, especially at Management level.  Remember, the duty of care becomes greater the higher within an organisation someone sits.

Defining competence and training competent people is what helps organisations to thrive, and be better able to cope with constantly changing demands, as well as reducing health and safety accidents/incidents to a minimum. A good health and safety culture is a guarantee to a successful business, so start thinking about introducing a competency framework that goes beyond just legal heath and safety requirements, and you may find that this in one safety initiative that has positive and far reaching outcomes.

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.

The wonderfully titled Employers’ Duties (Implementation) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 change the dates, set out in the 2010 Regulations, for increases in the minimum level of contribution for pensions auto-enrolment (AE). The scheduled dates are changed to align the increases with the beginning of the tax year.

As a result, the increase that was planned for October 2017 to 5% minimum contribution (2% employer), is postponed to April 2018, and the planned increase from 5% to 8% due in October 2018 will be postponed until April 2019. The Government estimates it will save £390m in tax relief costs in 2017/18, and £450m in 2018/19 through delaying auto-enrolment rate increases.

The Government has said the change will benefit the smallest employers in particular. Some commentators have linked it to an attempt to reduce the pressures on businesses as a result of the new national living wage. The good news for employees is that, aligning to the tax year will make it easier for some employees to plan their retirement saving for the year ahead.

The latest Compliance and Enforcement bulletin was released by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) at the end of July, based on figures reported at the end of June 2016. It tells us that:

  • More than five million people have been auto-enrolled into a pension, which is 66% of all employees in the UK compared with 47% in 2012
  • The average employer contribution into a new AE scheme is 3%
  • To the end of June 2016, 110,000 employers have completed their Declaration of Compliance, and nearly 60,000 of these employers are either small or micro employers
  • Opt-outs have been low, which means that the number of people saving for their retirement is at its highest point since 1997

Action against companies failing to meet auto-enrolment requirements has increased by 300% to 8,812 occurrences, as smaller employers have struggled with their requirement to sign their staff on to pension schemes. The report also attributes the increase in enforcement to smaller employers inevitably being less prepared. Nevertheless, the first group of small and micro-employers subject to pensions auto-enrolment deadlines, achieved a compliance rate of above 95%, said the watchdog. Of the employers who still face auto-enrolment deadlines, approximately 57% are micro-employers and 42% are small employers.

The Pensions Regulator’s formal powers include issuing compliance notices, conducting inspections, and issuing penalty fines to employers. Escalating penalties can be given to businesses that fail to comply with initial warning penalties; they accrue at a daily rate of £50 for micro-employers, and £500 for small employers.

Whilst the delay in contributions is good news; with an aging population and increasing life expectancy, auto-enrolment can only succeed if people and employers start putting more money into their pension pots, to fund them through their retirement. The objective of AE was to provide access to a tax effective means of retirement saving for employees, so it has been a resounding success for the millions of additional employees who have a pension who didn’t have one in 2012. Although a 3% employer contribution will not mean that the job is done, or that retirement will be one long luxurious holiday for all, this means that not all employers are defaulting to the minimum 1% employer contribution.

It is still early days, and the research evidence and experience suggests that the current processes and solutions are far from perfect. But a good start has been made. Among those who have yet to go through auto-enrolment, some are predicting negative consequences of the pension changes, in terms of employment and pay. However, of those who have already gone through automatic enrolment, few report that there are significant extra costs, while many report that they have been able to absorb the additional expense. It requires some planning to be successful and compliant. We would echo the CIPD’s experience that when implemented and communicated effectively, there are positive benefits to be gained. These include having a scheme aligned to a businesses objectives and its culture. It helps if it is also aligned with reward packages and meets the needs of employees.

Our Consultants would be pleased to assist you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.

There is growing awareness of the importance of individual well-being inside and outside the workplace. In working to get the very best out of their organisation, many managers are choosing to adopt practices to increase the well-being of their staff. A comprehensive Government sponsored study in 2014 suggested improvements in well-being will result in improved labour productivity, profitability, and the quality of outputs or services. Employee well-being has gone mainstream. It used to be niche, a luxury that was secondary to health and safety, and certainly not a strategic priority for most businesses.

Well-being includes people’s physical and mental health but it means different things to different people (and different organisations). It can be described as having a happy, healthy workforce, in mind, body and spirit but really well-being goes beyond “wellness”. It includes factors such as the physical and mental aspects of the working environment. It covers several aspects of the way people feel about their lives, including their jobs and their relationships with the people around them i.e. how employees get on with their colleagues and managers. Well-being is about corporate culture, inspiring leadership and a shared organisational belief system. It is a key driver of engagement, so, for many “employers of choice”, focusing on employees’ well-being is a conscious business decision and is more than just seen as part of the organisation’s duty of care to employee welfare. It goes beyond gym membership or mindfulness classes and considers the real basics of everyday work.

Although downward trends in fatal and major injuries at work in many countries reinforce the perception that ‘tough jobs’ are declining, health and well-being in the workplace remains an issue due to a range of factors, including job insecurity, potentially worsening working conditions and issues with work/life balance. Research by RAND Europe, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, suggests that lack of sleep, financial concerns and care of family are negatively associated with productivity. Mental health problems are also found to cause significant productivity loss, especially in the form of presenteeism, i.e. being at work but unfit to work productively. Workers who are subject to workplace bullying report significantly higher levels of absenteeism and presenteeism, than those who are not.

Job satisfaction – including aspects such as satisfaction with training, skills development opportunities, how much autonomy employees have in their role, and how much scope they have to use their own initiative and influence decisions, show a strong and positive link with workplace performance.

Closely linked to well-being is the concept of wellness which can be graphically represented. There are more colourful variations of this approach but we like this one because it demonstrates that as individuals our wellness is multi-faceted and that aspects of it vary with time and circumstances and can be charted. In the example below we would be telling ourselves that we needed to work on our physical and financial health.

Wellness Picture

 

Whilst not wishing to undermine individual responsibility there is a lot which employers can do. ACAS are very clear about the scope which employers have to influence the well-being of their staff. Their sensible advice states that there is no ‘one size fits all’ but where employers are able to raise well-being in their workforce, they are also likely to see improvements in the performance of their workplace.

There will be different factors that influence well-being at an individual level, but detailed analysis of a wide range of research studies has suggested that there are 11 key factors for increasing well-being to boost performance in general. Most employers will not achieve good results in all these areas, but those who are able to focus effort on a number of these areas should be able to increase well-being.

  • Where employees have a degree of autonomy over how they do their job – this does not mean that people should ignore set processes, but could mean that staff have a level of discretion about how they undertake their work. Involvement in decision-making can also be beneficial.
  • Variety in the work employees undertake, which can be addressed through job design.
  • Staff respond positively to a sense that their job has significance within the workplace, as well as the perceived value of the job to society i.e. purpose.
  • Being clear about what is expected of staff, including feedback on performance, which could be addressed through a combination of effective induction, clear employment conditions and a regular appraisal process
  • Supportive supervision, which means ensuring that line-managers are adequately trained; and an environment in which co-workers offer support can also be positive.
  • Staff also benefit from positive interpersonal contact with other people. This includes contact with managers and co-workers, as well as with customers or the general public (where the job requires it).
  • Opportunities for employees to use and develop their skills, which could be through training, and/or by increasing the variety of work they undertake.
  • A sense of physical security is important for employees, including the safety of work practices, the adequacy of equipment and the pleasantness of the work environment.
  • A sense of job security and clear career prospects both help increase well-being.
  • Staff respond well to the perception of fairness in the workplace, both in terms of how the employee is treated but also how they see their co-workers being treated. Effective use of procedures for responding to bullying coupled with disciplinary and grievance procedures where needed are helpful.
  • Higher pay also registered as a strong positive motivator. This relationship, however, depends not only on the absolute level of pay but how this compares with the pay of others.

Alongside these factors which can boost well-being, the research also showed that when the demands of a job are particularly high this can reduce well-being. It was noted that job demands resulted not only from the amount of work a member of staff was undertaking, but also from the level of compatibility with pressures outside of work.

A key thread that runs through many of these factors is ensuring good, open communication with employees.

Fairness is one of ACAS’s key levers for productivity so it is not surprising that employees’ perception of fairness at work can also impact their health. According to a recent study by the University of East Anglia, fairness is vital to well-being and productivity. Researchers investigated how employees’ perceptions of workplace policies for rewards, pay, promotion, and assignments were impacting their health and found that employees who reported more fairness at work also reported better health. The findings suggest that employees who feel they are being treated fairly at work are more motivated and more likely to feel healthy. We would recommend five ways to improve perceptions of fairness in the workplace:

  1. Offer clear and transparent policies
  2. Show empathy which requires time and listening
  3. Handle promotions with care lest the internal candidates feel slighted
  4. Provide honest feedback on both a formal and informal basis
  5. Avoid favouritism and the impression of favouritism

High levels of well-being at work are good for the employee and the organisation. It means lower sickness-absence levels, better retention and more satisfied customers. People with higher levels of well-being live longer, have happier lives and are easier to work with. Towers Watson surveyed 74 leading organisations in the UK during 2012 regarding their health and well-being programmes. Organisations who report that they have been able to create an internal culture of health are more likely to regard linking health to productivity as essential to their health strategy and measure employee outcomes associated with their programmes. As a result, they are more likely to understand the return on investment associated with their programmes, and where they observe quantifiable returns they are more likely to report appreciable positive return on investment associated with their programmes.

Improving health and well-being can have real societal, economic and personal benefits above and beyond their value to business alone but just because the benefits to employers are difficult to quantify does not mean they should be discounted. Employers often say that their employees are their greatest asset but assets need looking after and should be used effectively.

We explored all of these themes further on our “Improving Workplace Productivity” course ran last year.  If this a course you would be interested in running in-house, please do not hesitate to contact us, as we would be pleased to provide you with a proposal for consideration.

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.

 

The Government is acting to stamp out slavery and human trafficking in the UK. Legislation requiring organisations to report on what they are doing to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains is now law. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 represents the first step to eradicating the use and abuse of forced and child labour at home, and abroad, in supply chains. By obliging organisations to report on their efforts to tackle forced labour, the UK is going some way to opening a window on the murky world of modern slavery. The Act consolidates previous offences relating to trafficking and slavery. It also criminalises aiding, abetting or, procuring forced labour or human trafficking, or being an accessory to such offences. What the Act is aiming to do is to take that transparency to the next level. For example, it is encouraging organisations to demonstrate how they check that human trafficking isn’t taking place with suppliers. The UK is the first country in Europe to introduce such provisions on services and goods and therefore this position is unaffected by the recent Referendum result as it is not derived from any EU initiative.

Context

It may seem like it is far-fetched, but modern slavery does indeed exist in this country, as well as most of the countries which are likely to be supplying us, and it will become an increasingly live issue. According to 2014 Global Slavery Index, there are an estimated 35.8 million men, women and children trapped in modern slavery globally. The Home Office figures suggest there are between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK alone.  Modern slavery is a broad concept encompassing slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour, and human trafficking, and is prevalent in many sectors.

Recent research by YouGov, which involved 263 businesses with turnovers under the £36m threshold, found that nearly 61% were unaware of the reporting requirement. 80% said they had yet to discover slavery in their supply chains, yet very few had actively investigated. Two-thirds of the SMEs said they had never taken action to keep their supply chains free of slavery, and 75% said they wouldn’t know what to do if they discovered slavery in their supply chain. Only 5% of organisations have mapped their supply chains in an attempt to uncover modern slavery, and just 4% have provided training to staff on how to spot the signs of possible slavery amongst suppliers.

Obligations

Section 54 of the Act requires businesses with a turnover greater than £36m, to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement. The statement must confirm either:

  • the steps that have been taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in any of its supply chains or in part of its own business; or
  • that no such steps have been taken;

The reporting that organisations with more than £36 million turnover should follow in respect of their obligations is clearly set out and is straightforward:

  1. An explanation of its policy
  2. How it engages with stakeholders
  3. How it integrates findings into its decision making process
  4. How it is tracking its impacts in this area
  5. What it is doing to provide a remedy for any impacts

A link to the statement must be published in a prominent position on their website homepage, and the statement must be approved and signed by a Director. So, although organisations could opt to take no action as a result of the Act, and simply produce a statement under option (b) above, the Government hopes that public pressure and scrutiny from shareholders and the media, together with the risk of reputational damage, will encourage organisations to take real steps to investigate their supply chains, and publish details of their efforts. The goal of the Act is to persuade organisations to do the right thing. It is intended to have a cascade effect on SMEs.

For UK nationals, the trafficking provisions have extra-territorial application which means, an offence is committed regardless of where in the world the arranging, or facilitating of trafficking, takes place.

Next Steps for Employers

The new measures will apply to financial years ending on, or after 31st March 2016. Large organisations should start thinking about compliance now. Steps to consider include:

  • Introduce a modern slavery statement into policies.
  • Auditing your practices to check that all employees, and agency staff, are paid at least the minimum wage, and have the right to work.
  • Updating template commercial agreements to include an obligation that suppliers will comply with the Act.
  • Engage more closely with suppliers on a practical level, to resolve any issues around slavery and trafficking.
  • Appointing an appropriate senior person to be responsible for compliance.
  • Ensuring that staff, particularly those involved in recruitment, procurement and supply chain management, are aware of the law, and are appropriately trained to make the right enquiries of potential suppliers.
  • Consider what due diligence steps might be applicable.
  • Identify any high-risk sectors in which you, or your suppliers, do business, perhaps referring to third party sources, such as the Global Slavery Index.

Many smaller organisations are unaware of the significance of the Modern Slavery Act, despite it meaning that they will face greater scrutiny from larger organisations they supply to, on slave and child labour issues. That is the conclusion of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), which found that 61% of small organisations surveyed, have not even heard of the Act.  If you, like most of our clients, are a small or medium sized employer, but supply larger organisations, then you are likely to go through a supplier assessment, so you need to consider:

  • What you can do to prove that you are paying people properly, and only employ people with the right to work here?
  • What do your suppliers do about the above, e.g. employment agencies and outsourced suppliers?
  • Are you comfortable about the products/services which you buy from abroad?
  • Training relevant staff about slavery and human trafficking.
  • Expanding your whistleblowing policy to cover any concerns about slavery or human trafficking, or consider introducing new related policies.

Employers need to be sensible about this. You should not be worrying about office paper in this respect, unless you are an office supplies business. It needs good judgment, and a degree of risk assessment. Whilst it is a good idea to make someone senior responsible, no one department or individual can tackle this due diligence issue in isolation. For more information, a useful resource to look at is “The Stronger Together Project” – their website is http://stronger2gether.org.

The reporting obligation aims to prevent forced and child labour in the UK and abroad, by putting greater onus on larger organisations to be accountable for the practices of their suppliers. The legal duties in the Act must not override the moral obligation to make sure that supply chains are slavery-free. It is what some people are calling hidden labour exploitation, or the unseen crime.

You should conduct some sort of analysis of your exposure, and develop an action plan to deal with issues arising.

 

If you are unsure of how to proceed, please speak to our Consultants.

 

Growing Your Business

Huge change is coming to the early careers landscape. The Government wants 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020. According to the Skills Funding Agency, 80% of those who employ apprentices agree that they make the workplace more productive. There are numerous advantages arising from bringing eager new people into your business, and apprenticeships now cover more skills and industries than ever before. Apprenticeships enable businesses to grow their own skilled workforce, while also gaining access to administrative support, financial help, and providing apprentices with a programme of structured learning.

The Government believes that economic benefits are generated when education and training helps individuals achieve a higher level of qualification, increasing their employment prospects, productivity and wages. Despite skill shortages reported by employers, investment by UK employers in training is low compared to international competitors, having declined rapidly in the last 20 years. The proportion of employers engaged with apprenticeships is higher in other countries. It is 24% in Germany, 30% in Australia but only 15% in England. The Government is positioning itself to support apprenticeships by making it easier to take on apprentices.

Benefits

There are many benefits of bringing an apprentice into your business; here are 6 important ones when looking at the positives from a business perspective.

  1. Loyalty: Apprenticeships are attractive to many companies who want to “grow their own” bespoke employees, rather than depending on the labour market to find skilled workers. In return, 9 out of 10 stay with the same employer after completion.
  2. Fresh ideas and enthusiasm: Bringing in apprentices means they will be doing on-the-job training alongside existing staff, as well as external training with a learning provider. This arrangement can bring fresh ideas and innovation to businesses.
  3. Increased productivity: Apprenticeships help businesses boost productivity by bringing in new talent that quickly helps to grow their skills base.
  4. Availability: Apprenticeship vacancies have increased at a record rate, with up to 28,000 available at any one time on the national apprenticeship website. Recruitment costs are often lower than for non-apprentices.
  5. Grants and financial support: Apprenticeships enable young people to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining valuable qualifications. Businesses with less than 50 staff can apply for an Apprenticeship Grant of £1,500.

They are comparatively inexpensive to employ: An apprentice must be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, which is currently £3.30 per hour, whereas the National Minimum Wage is £5.30 for an 18 – 20 year old. These rates will increase to £3.40 and £5.55 respectively in October 2016.

Constraints

If the benefits are that great why are many employers reluctant to recruit and develop apprentices?

There are probably three reasons; the first being lack of experience. Many younger Managers will have little experience of such training. Secondly, there are bound to be employers with bad experiences, either of employing poor quality apprentices, or of their own children being badly treated in their apprenticeships. In our experience, a third significant factor is the fear that they will be stuck with someone who is not working out. Historically, this had some strong foundation in the legalities of employing apprentices, who were seen as being on some sort of fixed term contract, because the main purpose of the contract was to train the apprentice, which means that an employer owed them greater obligations compared to normal employees.

They enjoyed certain rights that are not extended to other workers or employees, including protection from certain forms of dismissal. It is often thought that apprentices are employees with fixed term contracts. In fact, this is not the case. The Fixed-Term Employee (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations exclude apprentices from their provisions.

The nature of an apprentice’s contract made it difficult for an employer to dismiss them during the course of their apprenticeship. Legal precedents suggested that ordinary redundancy was not permissible in an apprenticeship. In reality, of course, the employer only had to show that they were dismissing the apprentice fairly and reasonably. You can legally dismiss an apprentice on the grounds of, for example, gross misconduct, or, if they break the terms of the contract, such as not attending college or passing exams.

However, an employer can struggle to show that a dismissal for anything other than gross misconduct is fair. The apprentice’s behaviour must be so unreasonable that it is no longer possible to teach the apprentice.  An employer cannot dismiss a ‘traditional apprentice’ engaged under a contract of apprenticeship for redundancy, unless there is a closure of the business, or the employer’s business undergoes a fundamental change in its character.

The Future

To make it easier for employers to take on apprentices without such constraints, apprentice agreements are being replaced by ‘approved English apprenticeship agreements’.

If an employer would like to employ an apprentice under such an agreement (so the apprentice does not have enhanced protection from dismissal), the apprentice must work for the employer in accordance with an approved English apprenticeship, under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act, which was amended in 2015.

An approved apprenticeship agreement must:

  • Provide for an individual to work as an apprentice in a sector for which the Secretary of State has published an approved apprenticeship standard.
  • Provide for the apprentice to receive training in order to assist the apprentice to achieve the approved apprenticeship standard in the work done under the agreement.
  • Satisfy any other conditions specified by the Secretary of State in regulations.

An approved English apprenticeship agreement is deemed to be a contract of service, resulting in an employer being able to terminate such an agreement as any other employment contract. As apprentices are also employees, they have the same rights any other employees, including the right not to be discriminated against; the right not to be unfairly dismissed; the right to statutory sick pay; and the right to family-friendly leave.

How can we protect our Organisation?

The most important way in which you can provide protection is simply to understand the costs associated with hiring and employing an apprentice. All too often, businesses take on apprentices only to find that they cannot afford to keep them. Whatever the legal situation, this is a very bad idea.

You should also remember that there is significant financial help available for organisations that wish to take on apprentices. Although employers need to be careful when employing apprentices, and ensure that the apprenticeship is set up correctly, there are clear benefits in doing so.  Hiring apprentices is a good way to in-house grow talent by developing a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. As well as being a financially astute move, employers also report satisfaction at helping young people realise their potential.  It can also help organisations to improve productivity and competitiveness.

Therefore, although employers need to be careful when employing apprentices, and ensure that the apprenticeship is set up correctly, this is not difficult if you talk to our Consultants about drafting appropriate apprenticeship employment contracts that can give you all of the benefits, and will help minimise the issues if you need, at some stage, to let them go either during, or at the end of the training.

In November 2014, in our Newsletter No. 87, we reported on the case of Bear Scotland, which said that overtime should be included in holiday pay calculations, if it is a normal part of an employee’s remuneration.
Since then, many of our clients have changed the way they pay holiday pay in respect of such overtime. More recently, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in British Gas v Lock has confirmed that, the same logic should apply to commission payments. This is hardly surprising, as the case had previously been to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) who had ruled against British Gas, but had to remit the case to the British Courts to apply the ruling to UK law. The ECJ had concluded that because his commission was directly linked to the work Mr Lock carried out, it must be taken into account when calculating holiday pay.

The EAT’s technical judgment decided that the UK’s Working Time Regulations can be interpreted compatibly with the EU Working Time Directive, so as to include commission payments in the calculation of holiday pay in respect of four weeks’ annual. Parliament’s purpose in enacting the Regulations was to comply with its obligation to fully implement the Directive. It is permissible, and indeed necessary, to imply words into the Working Time Regulations 1998 to comply with EU law. The judge refused to criticise the previous EAT case of Bear Scotland, deciding that if that case was wrongly decided then the Court of Appeal must decide that, not the EAT. We will, therefore, have to wait for the Court of Appeal to have an opportunity to consider the decisions in Bear Scotland and the British Gas cases.

The Facts

Mr Lock worked for British Gas and earned commission on sales, which represented around 60% of his pay. When he took holiday, his commission payments in subsequent months were lower because he had been unable to generate sales whilst on holiday. There remain other outstanding questions for a Tribunal to consider, including whether British Gas’s scheme operates, so as to effectively compensate for periods of annual leave so that no further money is due.

Implications

Unfortunately, the judgment does not shed any light on a number of practical issues. A further Employment Tribunal hearing will now be required to determine how much compensation British Gas must pay the claimant, to compensate him for the missing commission payments. The Tribunal will also need to decide the relevant reference period for calculating the commission, and whether this should be the previous 12 weeks, the previous 12 months or some other period. The European Court of Justice simply said this was a matter for national courts to determine, by taking an average over a period they considered to be representative. Whatever the Tribunal decide will not bind any other Tribunal, so it may take some time (years potentially) to get definitive rulings. A very large number of commission based Tribunal claims have apparently been stayed (suspended) pending the outcome of this case.

One point that is clear from other cases – and had already been accepted by the Tribunal – is that only the four weeks of paid annual leave entitlement deriving from the WTD will be affected by the result. It is, therefore, open to employers should they decide to pay commission (or overtime pay), to only do so for 20 days per annum and pay basic pay on public holidays, or holidays they provide in excess of the statutory minimum. Employers can decide their policy on how to treat the additional 1.6 weeks’ statutory minimum leave, and any additional contractual entitlement, but may decide to include pay for commission/overtime in all holiday pay to avoid complicating the administration. In some cases, however, it is much simpler to just pay normal pay on public holidays, rather than doing calculations.

Options

Given the potential appeal, and the questions yet to be considered by the Tribunal, employers have a dilemma. They can:

  • Maintain a “wait and see” approach to commission-based holiday pay.
  • Ensure that holiday pay includes a payment in respect of commission.

We would not recommend the first approach, as employers risk backdated claims for ‘unlawful deductions from wages’, and amongst our own client base, we know that some employees have already become aware of the changes in holiday pay calculations and are asking for back dated payments. ACAS are already saying that commission should be factored into statutory holiday pay calculations, for the four weeks of statutory annual leave required under European law. Employers should seriously consider ensuring that holiday pay includes a payment in respect of commission. They should review and consider what other elements of pay should be paid when employees take their four weeks’ annual leave provided by Reg. 13 of the Working Time Regulations, or they risk legal claims.

Limitation on a Claim for an Underpayment

The introduction of The Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 means that, when making a claim for backdated deductions from wages for holiday pay, a two year cap will be placed on all claims that are brought after 1st July 2015. This means that, the period that the claim can cover will be limited to a maximum of two years. This may seem like a lot, but is better than the worst case scenarios which envisaged going back to 1999!

Action

The logic behind ensuring that employees are not worse off by going on holiday is very difficult to argue with, and the chances of the Court of Appeal doing much more than clarifying some important details are slim. We are still surprised by the deafening silence experienced by most of our clients in respect of holiday pay, albeit many have made changes to ensure they are in control of any changes, and do not get any Tribunal claims with substantial cost and employee relations implications.

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.

2016 Budget Announcements

Termination Payments

Chancellor George Osborne has announced that from April 2018, termination payments over £30,000 will be subject to employer’s National Insurance Contributions as well as Income Tax, which is already payable. Under £30,000 will still be free of tax. He said in his speech that “the rules are complex and the exemptions incentivise employers to manipulate the rules, structuring arrangements to include payments that are ordinarily taxable such as notice and bonuses to minimise the tax and NICs due”.

For people who lose their job, payments up to £30,000 will remain tax-free, and they will not need to pay National Insurance on any of the payment.

It appears that more complex proposals floated by HMRC in their recent consultation on this issue, have not been taken further at this stage. But, they are also planning further consulting on wider changes to the tax and NI treatment of termination payments, including:

  • taxing Payments In Lieu of Notice (PILONs) irrespective of whether they are contractual in nature or not; and,
  • bringing in new rules to prevent contractual termination payments being “disguised” as damages in order to avoid tax and NI on them;

These changes will be an additional cost to employers – potentially making termination settlements much more expensive in the future. It is worth noting that had the £30,000 exemption kept pace with earnings, it would now be over £72,000, but the amount has remained static for a very long time.

In two years time, employers are less likely to be generous in what they are prepared to offer to staff in termination situations, as they look for ways to absorb the additional costs that the change will bring. As we get closer to the 2018 implementation date, some employers who are planning to restructure their workforce, are likely to look to push their plans forward sooner than they might otherwise, to avoid the national insurance charge.

Employers and employees may also be disappointed that an opportunity for simplification has been missed.

Salary Sacrifice

The Government is also considering limiting the range of benefits that attract income tax and NICs advantages when they are provided as part of salary sacrifice schemes, although the Treasury makes clear that pension saving, childcare and health-related benefits, such as Cycle to Work, will continue to benefit from income tax and NICs relief when provided through salary sacrifice arrangements.

Minimum Wage 2016

The standard rate of the national minimum wage for 21 to 24 year-olds will increase by 3.7% to £6.95 per hour, from October 2016, based on recommendations for the new rates from the Low Pay Commission.

Workers aged between 18 and 20 will see their pay rates rise by 4.7% to £5.55 per hour. The minimum wage for 16 to 17 year-olds increases to £4.00 per hour, a rise of 3.4%, while the apprentice rate increases 3% to £3.40.

The Government said the increase will mean that, for the first time, the national minimum wage for 21 to 24 year-olds is restored to its highest level in real terms, above its previous peak before the recession.

The National Living Wage, the minimum wage rate for workers aged 25 and over of £7.20 per hour, will be effective on 1st April 2016.

Commentary

The challenge for employers is keeping up with pay, whilst juggling a number of other employment-related costs. It is increasingly difficult to disentangle rises to the national minimum wage rates with other business costs, such as the new apprenticeship levy, and pensions auto-enrolment. Necessary actions for employers are:

  • From 2018, termination payments over £30,000 will need to add NI contributions to the calculations to establish the true cost.
  • Review whether salary sacrifice is really a good long term option.
  • Plan for the further changes to the NMW to ensure they do not mismanage the increases due in October this year.

New Statutory Figures

The annual increase in compensation limits has been announced. The new limits are applicable where the event that gives rise to the award or payment occurs on or after 6th April 2016 and are:

  • £479.00 – the maximum amount of a week’s pay for calculating statutory redundancy pay and the basic award; (up from £475.00)
  • £14,370.00 – the maximum statutory redundancy payment or basic award, i.e. 30 weeks; and
  • £78,962.00 – the maximum compensatory award which can be made for unfair dismissal (up from £78,335.00) or one year’s gross pay whichever is the lower

These increases mean that the maximum total unfair dismissal award is now £93,332.00, although uplifts can add a further 25%.

It remains very important to follow good practice in your HR procedures; carefully consider all dismissals, and ensure that the handling of appeals is conducted as thoroughly as possible. It is also important to remember that there is no cap at all on the awards that can be made in many cases, including discrimination claims.

Employees may be entitled to receive guarantee payments for up to five days of lay-off in any three-month period. The maximum amount of such a statutory guarantee payment for any one day will remain at £26.00.

From 6th April 2016

Statutory Adoption, Maternity, Paternity and Shared Parental Leave Pay, and Maternity Allowance, will all remain at £139.58 per week.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will also remain at £88.45 per week.

The Lower Earning Limit (LEL) also remains static at £112.00 per week, i.e. £5,824.00 per annum.

We have produced a new useful Information card with these rates. If you would like a copy, please contact us. Our Consultants will be pleased to answer questions on any of the above, or you can find much of the data by clicking on Frequently Asked Questions.

Managers may be required to investigate all sorts of issues, ranging from an employee or customer complaint, a quality issue, through to an accident or near miss. In just about all cases, the chain of events leading up to the incident may not have been planned, but the investigation, with the benefit of hindsight, can invariably identify that it was an incident waiting to happen, i.e. it was foreseeable. Put another way, most incidents happen for a reason, which is usually down to human error, or management failings, but invariably a mixture of both. Indeed, it has been estimated that in the case of accidents, only 5% are events that could not have possibly been predicted.

Therefore, part of the process of any good investigation is to work out more than just what happened, but why, i.e. the root cause. What were the influencing factors? For example, what was people’s motivation for behaving the way they did? Were people taking accepted short cuts which management were well aware of, and permitted to happen by doing nothing to stop it? How well was management overseeing activities, and what part did they play in the acts and omissions that took place, prior to the incident happening?

The purpose of an investigation, therefore, goes beyond establishing the facts leading up to the incident, but involves identifying what were the real factors that led up to the event happening. Like it or not, management usually play a starring role in letting issues happen. The easy option for an investigator is to blame an individual, or series of individuals, but does that actually solve why the incident happened. The more important part of any investigation is to actually make (i) balanced conclusions as to the factors that influenced the incident happening, and (ii) recommendations regarding what steps need to now be put in place to prevent such an incident happening again. Whilst the rest of this article really is more about accident investigation, I would argue that the principles are the same, regardless of what incident is being investigated.

There is no specific legal requirement to investigate accidents and incidents. However, such investigations are a core, if not fundamental, part of a successful health and safety management system. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) document, HSG65 Managing for Health and Safety, promotes a Plan, Do, Check, Act approach. Investigation of accidents and incidents is part of the “Check” step, and may highlight shortcomings in the organisation’s management system for health and safety. The purpose of accident and incident investigation, if done well, should lead to the prevention of such events in the future.

For an investigation to be meaningful there must be a methodology in place, which ensures such outcomes. Managers need to understand how to investigate accidents effectively, and that their remit goes far beyond merely establishing whose fault was it. Sadly, many investigations end up being merely a scapegoating exercise, which is why in the health and safety policies we do for clients, we make it clear that this is not the purpose of an accident investigation.

It is usually not practicable to investigate all minor or apparently trivial accidents, so it is important that organisations take a sensible and proportionate approach to the investigation of accidents. Therefore, decisions need to be made as to what accidents need investigating. It is the potential consequences and the likelihood of the adverse event recurring that really should determine the level of investigation, not simply the injury or ill health suffered on a particular occasion.

Similarly, the causes of a near miss can have the potential to cause injury and ill health, and a decision must be made as to the investigation of such near misses. It will also be important to consider who was injured in the accidents, and it may be necessary to give higher priority to investigations where, for example, young people or members of the public are involved.

The organisation’s policy should also decide when the investigation should take place. The urgency of an investigation will depend on the magnitude and immediacy of the risk involved (e.g. a major accident involving an everyday job will need to be investigated quickly). In practice, where the decision has been made to investigate an accident, it should take place as soon as possible, otherwise evidence may be lost and, individual recollections of the accident may be less reliable. There may also be external demands for an investigation to take place within a defined timescale, e.g. the enforcing authorities or insurance companies may require an investigation.

Who should investigate accidents?

This will depend on the size of the management team, and whether there is someone that takes responsibility for health and safety matters. It is usually a good idea that it is not the Manager that investigates, as there may not be sufficient independence. What I mean by this is that the temptation to cover up acts and omissions may be too great, and it is unlikely that they may admit that poor supervision was a major contributory factor. If the organisation has proper health and safety representatives, it is a good idea to ask for their input, especially if they routinely perform the work or processes themselves.

Data collection

The collection of information must be detailed. Photographs or videos of the scene should be taken and, where necessary, dimensions and other technical measurements can be helpful, e.g. machine speeds, or the precise measurement of how far someone fell.

Interviewing witnesses will form an important part of any accident investigation. To ensure a clear recollection of events, witnesses need to be interviewed as soon as possible after the accident. Where the injured have been seriously harmed, it may be necessary to delay interviews depending on required medical treatment. Where there are a number of witnesses, it is good practice to separate them immediately after the accident, and prior to interview, to avoid any deliberate or inadvertent collusion, or worse, witnesses are pressurised into not admitting the full extent of what people were doing at the time of the incident.

In all cases, it is important to manage interviews with witnesses carefully. Some may be nervous, and even in shock, if a very serious accident has occurred. It is essential to explain that the purpose of the investigation is to prevent a recurrence, and not to allocate blame.

When interviewing witnesses, and, in particular, when taking statements from witnesses, it is important not to use leading questions, or to put words in the witness’s mouth. The interviewer must also bear in mind that not all witnesses will be helpful and co-operative. Some may be deliberately misleading. Others may be trying to pursue a false claim, or be attempting to cover up actions of their own that were involved in the accident. Consequently, the organisation’s policy for accident investigation should stipulate that giving false evidence during an accident investigation could lead to disciplinary action.

The collection of information, as part of accident investigation, will also include the examination of records relevant to the accident. These may include:

  • risk assessments relating to the activities or processes involved in the accident
  • relevant working procedures and practices, including any applicable safe systems of work, written or verbal
  • training records
  • maintenance or cleaning and inspection records
  • previous accident investigation reports
  • sickness and absence records
  • disciplinary records

The process of the collection of information during an investigation should be recorded, and should meet the following criteria:

  • It must be objective and unbiased.
  • It must identify the sequence of events, and conditions that led up to the accident or incident.
  • It must identify the immediate causes.
  • It must identify underlying causes, i.e. previous actions that have perhaps been allowed, or caused undetected, unsafe conditions or practices.
  • It must identify root causes, such as poor supervision, inadequate monitoring, insufficient training or a lack of resources to name but a few, contributing factors that lead to an inadequate health and safety management system.

Recommendations

Following the investigation, suggested outcomes for improvement must be carefully analysed, and an action plan for the implementation of additional control measures should be developed, and implemented. It will be important at this stage to involve senior management, especially if more resources and expenditure will be required.

The action plan should have SMART objectives (be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, with Timescales). For the proposed action plan to be SMART, management, employees and their representatives should all contribute to a constructive discussion, prior to agreeing the final action plan. The implementation of additional control measures must also be sensible (including timescales for implementation) and proportionate with the level of risk involved.

Summary

The investigation of accidents and incidents is a key activity, and plays an important part in the management of health and safety. It should be taken seriously, should not be a knee jerk reaction, apportioning blame and alike.
Organisations must carefully plan how they will investigate accidents, and to make sure that those involved have received adequate training, and are fully aware of the organisation’s policies and procedures.

A quality accident investigation, which identifies weaknesses in the management of health and safety that are then corrected or improved upon, will lead to the reduction of more accidents in the future.

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.

Despite increased business awareness of the importance of actively supporting health and well-being in the workplace, there remains a stubborn ‘implementation gap’ in UK workplaces, which is threatening individuals’ health and long-term business sustainability.

This is according to a new report from the CIPD, Growing the health and well-being agenda: From first steps to full potential, which highlights that the average cost of absence now stands at £554 per employee per year. It also reveals that:

  • Only 8% of UK employers currently have a stand-alone well-being strategy that supports the wider organisational strategy.
  • The majority of employers are more reactive than proactive in their approach to well-being (61%).
  • Almost two-fifths of employees are under excessive pressure at work at least once a week.
  • 43% say that long hours working is the norm for their organisation.
  • Well-being is taken into account in business decisions only to a little extent, or not at all, in the majority (57%) of cases.
  • Less than two-fifths of organisations monitor the cost of employee absence.

It is reported that many well-being efforts consist of one-off initiatives that aren’t joined up, and therefore often fail to have a long-term impact in the workplace. To address this, the CIPD recommends that a proactive employee well-being programme – based on the foundations of good people management, leadership and culture – should be at the core of how an organisation fulfils its mission and carries out its operations.

Sir Professor Cary Cooper, CIPD President and well-being expert, said: “A workforce that is well works well, but we’re still seeing far too many people doing more work than they can cope with, working long or unsociable hours, suffering from technology overload and unable to switch off. Organisations need to take better care of their people and recognise how the demands of work can affect their physical and mental health, as well as their ability to perform well at work. Prevention is better than a cure; it’s high time that business leaders recognise this and create cultures in organisations in which well-being is centre stage and people are happy, healthy and committed to achieving organisational success.”

To stem the rising cost and prevalence of employee ill-health, the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, is urging employers and policy-makers to recognise not just the potential cost of inaction on well-being, but also the growing body of evidence that positively links the introduction of well-being programmes at work, with improved employee engagement and business performance.

To progress the health and well-being agenda, the CIPD has the following recommendations for employers:

  • Implement a holistic approach to health and well-being that is preventative and proactive, and respond quickly to offer support when issues emerge. Their approach should promote good physical health, good mental health and ‘good work’.
  • Line Managers are pivotal in shaping employees’ experience of work, bringing people management policies to life, and managing the potential causes of stress. Training is vital to ensure they have a clear understanding of health and well-being responsibilities, and have the confidence and skills to implement policies, and handle difficult conversations with staff in a sensitive and effective way.
  • Creating a healthy culture is perhaps the greatest challenge for organisations. It requires commitment and role-modelling from senior leaders and Managers.

Mental Health Awareness

The CIPD’s initiative comes at roughly the same time as increased public awareness of the importance of ensuring good mental health at work and elsewhere. Almost 6% of people with mental health conditions are currently unable to work, despite evidence showing employment can be a crucial part of treatment. The Prime Minister recently announced that action will be taken across government, the NHS and private companies, to treat potentially debilitating mental health conditions early on, through improved access to care and to help those already struggling with mental health issues to find or return to work. He highlighted the need for a shift in attitude to people with mental health conditions in the workplace and to agree new workplace standards.

Practical Steps

In our experience, less than two-fifths of organisations monitor the cost of employee absence, which is surprising given the cost impact of even average levels of staff absence.

We would agree with the CIPD that there is a lot to be said for taking a positive approach to well-being, indeed much of it comes down to good management in creating an environment which people want to attend, and give 100% commitment. Most of us know that it is the best motivated of our colleagues who attend work most regularly. Management are responsible for providing the motivation that makes us less prone to illness, and more likely to come in when we are ‘a bit under the weather’. Generating a positive environment in which your staff can perform and develop doing worthwhile work, will go a long way to controlling our attendance levels.

There are, however, many other more tangible control measures which you can do without making the environment inhospitable. The first thing to do is, ensure that you have good accurate records of non-attendance at work. This not only avoids embarrassment and claims of unfair treatment, but gives you a base for appropriate KPIs and cost measurement.

The next most important measure to take is to ensure that you are doing Return to Work interviews properly. There are three good reasons for this:

  1. To ensure employees are fit for work. Allowing someone to work, who is not safe to themselves, or others, is an unnecessary risk.
  2. To show appropriate concern for the good attendee.
  3. To let the poor attendee know that they have been missed, and what may happen if they are off work again.

Such meetings provide the opportunity to explore ways in which you can help the individual to attend as required, and to discuss ways that they can better manage their own attendance. You may need to stress that it is non-attendance which is of concern, not their honesty. People with good attendance records can be praised for their record, which should reinforce the desired attendance behaviours.

Managing attendance is not easy or simple, but it does require a range of approaches which have to be adapted to fit the individual’s circumstances, and job role.

We will be exploring all of these themes further at our forthcoming course “How to Deal with the Absent Employee” being run in April and May.

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.