Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claims: disclosing and fixing mistakes with HMRC

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘CJRS’) will end on 31st October 2020. Despite recent ‘kite-flying’ suggesting that it may be extended in certain industries, such as events or leisure, that deadline remains hard and is approaching at speed.

The scheme was introduced at an incredible pace, has frequently evolved and is not without its complexities even now. Many employers have struggled in the correct application of the scheme, often resulting in accidental under-/over-claims being made or overpayments or underpayments to employees.

Common problem areas include:

  • Claiming for days not worked as part of a ‘claim period’;
  • Claiming for days when employees were signed off sick;
  • Identifying which areas of pay constituted ‘regular payments’ such as overtime, commission and fees when calculating how much to claim;
  • ‘Hangover’ problems caused by the fact that until the 5th of June, it was not possible to correct errors in a previous claim period.

HMRC have made regular noise around perceived abuse of the CJRS. The government has said that up to £3.5bn in CJRS payments may have been fraudulently claimed or paid out in error https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54066815 and arrests have already been made of those suspected of defrauding the UK taxpayer and HMRC.

HMRC has the power to recover amounts of CJRS grants that have been incorrectly claimed. If an employer has inadvertently claimed excessively and fails to notify HMRC of this, penalties may be levied.  

The penalties operate on a tiered-system based on knowledge of the error and whether the employer has come forward to report to HMRC or not. If you knew you were not entitled to your grant and did not tell HMRC, that failure will be treated as deliberate and concealed.  In that event HRMC has authority to charge  a penalty of up to 100% on the amount of the CJRS grant that you were not entitled to receive or keep.

A significant number of employers will have realised that they have made errors in the CJRS claims.   Any problems or errors can be identified and there is now a mechanism for correcting them, thereby avoiding any penalties.

In the case of an under-claim, whilst there would be no penalty from HMRC, the employer would have failed make the best use of the available benefits of the scheme – so an opportunity potentially to claim some cash.

If an employer has  incorrectly claimed a CJRS grant (and have not repaid it in the case of an overpayment), HMRC must be notified, within the ‘notification period’ which ends on (and is the later of)

  • 90 days after the relevant grant was received (if this was in excess of the correct amount);
  • 90 days after the date circumstances changed so that you were no longer entitled to the CJRS grant; or
  • 20th October 2020.

The notification and correction can be submitted the next CJRS claim is being made.  Otherwise, the notification of the over-claim must be done separately, via the CJRS portal.

Once the notification is made to HMRC, any amount over- or under-paid will need to be assessed directly by them and remedied if appropriate.

The crucial lesson in all of this is: even if employers feel they have acted correctly, it’s important to consider doing a double check of the historic amounts claimed under the CJRS. 

Check your calculations now, and certainly well in advance of the 20th of October.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pay-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-grants-back

Fathers in focus – “We are in this together”.

We keep hearing this phrase ‘we are in this together’, and it is true.

As lockdown progressed through the weeks and more and more of the colleagues, clients and contacts I spoke with via video conference had the pleasure of meeting my children, I wondered about the titular phrase.

Our obligations to our community are all the same; maintain social distancing, abstaining from seeing loved ones and adhering to the other measures designed to minimise transmission of Covid-19. However, it is less clear whether the impact on our personal lives has been doled out in equal measure.  With Father’s Day 2020 approaching on 21 June, I asked some other working dads to share their stories of life before lockdown, how they have handled the past 3-4 months and whether that has created any aspirations for them in future.

Each of these working dads has faced the challenge of balancing family and work life that many others will have also experienced since March. These stories put into real words some of those challenges; from health and financial wellbeing to increasing parental responsibility. I am indebted to them for their openness and candour. It is my hope that their succinct stories will allow others to reflect and to promote mutual respect and understanding.  Time to put fathers in focus.


Gary, Customer Relationship Manager

Before the pandemic, how did you find juggling your responsibilities as a father (or father-to-be) and working life?

As a relatively new father, I found it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Each day I would leave the house before my daughter woke and return just in time for her to get a bath and go to bed. I have a fairly demanding job, in a business which operates 24/7 and managing a team which works 7 days per week - this can make it difficult to switch off when out of the office. Ultimately, I wasn't spending as much quality time with my daughter as I wanted to and was overly reliant on my wife to make plans.

How have you found being a working father during the coronavirus pandemic?

Personally I feel like I have been a better father during this period. I have been working remotely for a couple of months now and this has given me time back that would previously have been spent on my commute. I've enjoyed reinvesting this time towards Jessica and my own physical health. From feeding her meals to simply playing with her for a few minutes while I take a break from the laptop. I feel like our relationship is growing quickly than it would do otherwise while my wife is also benefitting from the support.

What are your aspiration for the future, once lockdown is lifted, regarding your work-life balance?

Once lockdown is lifted I plan to ensure the 'new normal' includes more frequent remote working. I am fortunate that my employer is generally flexible towards this and has already demonstrated an appetite to encourage this when we return to normality. The additional time I have spent with my daughter during this period has meant I feel like I am doing a better job as a father while also committing time to look after myself and my wife. This in turn, has led to a positive frame of mind and improved the quality of my work.


Gordon, Architect

Before the pandemic, how did you find juggling your responsibilities as a father (or father-to-be) and working life?

Juggling responsibilities between work and the needs of my pregnant wife was quite challenging. I would try and make sure my wife was always top priority. However, this is quite difficult in a corporate world and explaining this to your boss or a client - there is very little sympathy. I never did complain about it and always managed to find a way to keep everyone happy.  

How have you found being a working father during the coronavirus pandemic?

I have actually enjoyed the experience. Our new born arrived in mid-April – a few weeks into the lockdown. It has been nice to spend much more quality time than I would have probably had in a normal situation. Working from home means I get an extra 2 hours back to spend precious time with my son - that would normally be spent on my commute.

What are your aspiration for the future, once lockdown is lifted, regarding your work-life balance?

I have always tried to be a great believer that although careers goals and aspirations can be considered important, Family always has to come first. The current situation that we find ourselves in, has really emphasised this attitude. As my late gran always said. “Work to Live, don’t ever Live to Work"


Pearse, Dentist and Business Owner

 Before the pandemic, how did you find juggling your responsibilities as a father (or father-to-be) and working life?

Finding the balance between work and home life prior to the pandemic has always been challenging. I’m luckier than most because I have a short commute to work and have a half day once a week so I can spend time with my daughter. Despite this my business takes up the majority of the rest of my time including some time at the weekends to catch up. After a busy week at work it can be hard to switch off and drop back into parent mode. 

 How have you found being a working father during the coronavirus pandemic?

Working has been pretty much impossible during the pandemic which has given me so much more time with my daughter and wife. Although it can be stressful in lock down with a toddler, we have had so much fun together. When we look back at the last 2 or 3 months I think the overriding sentiment will be one of happiness and gratefulness; firstly that we have all remained healthy and also that we have had so much quality time together. Our daughter has grown and progressed so much over this time period and it’s been a privilege to be there to experience it all first-hand. When I've had to work it’s been difficult to get uninterrupted periods to focus however I’m lucky enough that my workload has been relatively light. I think if I had to work normal hours if would have been unmanageable.

What are your aspiration for the future, once lock down is lifted, regarding your work-life balance?

I would like to try and find a better work/life balance after lock down has been lifted. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had almost 3 months of time with my daughter which probably equates to 1 year of weekends which is incredible.  I would like to continue to finding more time to spend with her during these precious years.


Andrew, Strategic Planner

Before the pandemic, how did you find juggling your responsibilities as a father (or father-to-be) and working life?

Pre-lockdown looking back I feel I had a healthy routine with work/family life. Our childcare for the kids (4 and 1) involved a mixture of nursery and grandparents which meant I could go to work and also have some time to myself to go to the gym, cinema, out for dinner with my wife etc.

How have you found being a working father during the coronavirus pandemic?

Challenging. My wife and I both work full-time and still are, however we now have to plan our working weeks around also watching the kids and entertaining them throughout the day as we don’t have an alternative. As difficult as this is I am spending much more time with them which is great as we are building an even stronger relationship.

What are your aspiration for the future, once lockdown is lifted, regarding your work-life balance?

Once lockdown is lifted there will no doubt still be many restrictions in place and working from home will almost become the new norm. I don’t actually mind this as I like getting to see my kids anytime throughout the day and get to see them develop and reach different milestones which I might have missed out on if I had been at work all week.


Donnie, Senior Software Engineer

Before the pandemic, how did you find juggling your responsibilities as a father (or father-to-be) and working life?

Careful planning and an understanding employer helped me manage a successful work/family balance.  Where possible I always try and work around the kids to make sure I missed none of those significant childhood milestones. 

How have you found being a working father during the coronavirus pandemic?

A total nightmare. Looking after two young children - 5 and 7 - while my wife worked in a covid hospital ward has led to a set of interesting challenges that I did not expect to encounter. The ability to fully concentrate on anything for more than 10 minutes without interruption during the day has been almost impossible. 

What are your aspiration for the future, once lockdown is lifted, regarding your work-life balance?

I will throw a party once the schools return! On a serious note I do think that I had a great work/life balance pre covid and I would like to return to that or as close as possible. 


Global Day of Parents – Thinking Family Friendly

 Day of

The UN has designated 1 June the Global Day of Parents as an opportunity “to appreciate all parents for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship”.  Unfortunately such appreciation doesn’t come with a guarantee of an uninterrupted night’s sleep or a break from the demands of home schooling, which might be more welcomed by working parents currently juggling balancing work and child care through the lockdown. It is however an opportunity for businesses to think about their family friendly policies and how these can benefit both employer and employee.

Even before the sweeping public health safeguards introduced by the Government came into force, many employers were looking at ways to set themselves apart from the crowd and attract new talent, and this included promoting their family friendly policies, including agile and flexible working practices. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced companies to switch to remote working very quickly, and the ability to do this was critical in allowing parts of the economy to survive. As we start to emerge from the strictest measures of the lockdown, there is increasing talk of ‘the new normal’ and especially what this might look like for future working practices.

Facebook has announced that it expects half of its workforce to move to working outside of its offices, Twitter said that its employees could work at home “forever” if they wish, whilst over in New Zealand, the Prime Minster Jacinda Adern has talked about moving to a four day working week. 

Work-life balance and flexibility tend to feature highly on attributes that might attract employees to a certain company, and this is especially true for working parents and those with other caring responsibilities. However, a move to remote working also means that there is the potential for businesses to save money on expensive office space. Law firm Slater and Gordon has announced that it will move out of its London offices when the lease ends in September and instead look to find smaller office space suitable for hosting meetings with staff working remotely.

Research has already shown that creating enabling and flexible environments can enhance productivity, creativity and wellbeing in staff, and the internet is awash with articles of the positive feedback coming from employees about their new at home working arrangements.

Some studies have also been able to demonstrate that family friendly policies have led to a reduction in absenteeism and a lower turnover of staff, meaning cost savings for employers. These findings reflect that having flexible and family friendly policies can help in building and maintaining a sustainable business.

The lasting effects of the current pandemic remain to be seen but certainly it is forcing businesses to rethink the way they work. Of course, what we must remember is this is not ‘normal’ home working and, for the majority, it was imposed without the opportunity for proper planning. For working parents it has also meant trying to get in as many working hours as possible whilst teaching maths or meeting never ending snack demands; it just isn’t reflective of real life. Whilst the current lockdown has been something of a dress rehearsal for different ways of working, sustainable businesses looking to make a more permanent move to flexible working practices will need to think about ensuring that they have the right tools, structure and culture to ensure its success.

LexLeyton can help businesses to create strategies for developing and maintaining family friendly policies, including flexible and agile working plans, to benefit culture and sustainable growth. Contact us for a free consultation and to discuss how we can help.

Why your company needs unconscious bias training

unconscious bias training

Today is World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development. It provides an opportunity to reflect on our understanding of the value of cultural diversity and the benefits of learning to “live together” better.

It’s also a good time to examine why ‘unconscious bias’  is one of the key reasons why diversity is often not achieved in the workplace.

The "unconscious" consists of the processes of the mind which occur automatically and are not available to introspection.

According to Professor Timothy Wilson’s studies and book “Strangers to ourselves”, we consciously process one piece of information for every 275,000 pieces of information we unconsciously process.

If we had to process all of the information that we encountered during a day, we would not be able to make any rational decisions as our brain would be overloaded!

Unconscious bias, therefore, happens as a result of our brain taking a short cut when faced with an option or decision, using our past knowledge to make assumptions to inform that decision. As individuals, our biases are influenced by a huge range of factors including our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.

  • How does unconscious bias impact decisions made in the workplace?

The Covid-19 crisis has in in some companies, thrown a light on long held negative assumptions around the ability of individuals, whole departments or in many cases whole businesses being able to productively and effectively work at home. Of course the experience of remote working has been hugely different across the range of companies and industries that have been thrown into conducting a real time experiment on managing their business and workforce in a very different way and before COVID-19, many employers and managers would not have entertained a request to work from home, purely on the basis of an unconscious bias against this way of working.

Most judgements and opinions we hold reflect an element of subjectivity, which is why unconscious bias can influence almost all of our decisions.

In the workplace, unconscious bias impacts:

  • Attraction and recruitment
  • Salaries
  • Mentoring opportunities
  • Assigning work
  • Listening to ideas and suggestions.
  • Performance reviews
  • Determining policies
  • Treatment of customers
  • Promotions

If you’re hiring, promoting or giving more responsibilities to a specific individual  based on ‘gut feeling,’ you’re likely doing so on the basis of unconscious bias. When you are under pressure or lacking time, your brain will try to make the decision making process easier for you and favour things you are familiar with or that you prefer on an unconscious level.

For instance, you might hire someone because they remind you of someone (due to their physical appearance or where they studied) that has already been successful in your company or to yourself.

  • What would unconscious bias training achieve?

The objective of unconscious bias training is to raise awareness of biases in the workplace and should be designed to adjust automatic patterns of thinking, and ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviours.

Imagine the kinds of things that would happen in the workplace if we lived in a world without unconscious bias!

  • The best person for the job would be hired (according to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, picking the right person for a job can lead to someone being up to 800 times more productive).
  • People would be promoted solely as a result of performance.
  • Employees would feel they are treated fairly and retention would rise (according to research undertook by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development).

Overcoming unconscious bias is crucial to retaining and attracting great talent.  A Glassdoor survey found that, nowadays, a company’ culture and ethics are more valued than salary.

IBM and MIT professors Thomas Malone and Patrick J. McGovern have been studying innovation and collective intelligence. They realised that group intelligence is not equal to the combined intelligence of the individuals in the group, but instead, it is determined by each individual's different thought processes, their different social backgrounds and the proportion of women within the group.

According to a Forbes study, a diverse set of experiences and perspectives is crucial to

innovation and the development of new ideas.  Hiring employees that are able to challenge each other will not only boost productivity but will also give your company a competitive edge. According to McKinsey & Company research, companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.  Aside from these enormous benefits, removing unconscious bias in the workplace would remove the risk to employers of expensive discrimination claims.

If your business is interested in exploring the benefits of addressing unconscious bias in the workplace please get in touch to discuss how our training can your business on its journey to a sustainable future.

How will employee family friendly policies play a role in navigating what could be a ‘new normal’ as we emerge from COVID-19?

Working parents are well used to the juggle of balancing work and child care, but a new level of difficulty was thrust upon them when the sweeping public health safeguards introduced by the Government in the face of the current pandemic saw schools and nurseries close. Many mums and dads will now be trying to work from home whilst simultaneously entertaining children, home-schooling and fulfilling the never ending snack demands.

The willingness of employers to show flexibility to their employees with caring responsibilities varies widely and the charity Working Families, dedicated to promoting work-life balance, estimates that the number of people getting in touch with its Legal Advice Service has quadrupled in comparison to the months prior to the lockdown. Reputational considerations should form part of any employer’s strategy during the lockdown, and how employees have been treated during this unprecedented time could have a lasting effect on how employers  are perceived by both employees and in the wider market long after the restrictions start to lift.

However even before the lockdown employers were increasingly looking at ways to make themselves stand out from the crowd and attract new talent, and this included promoting their family friendly policies.  Also, the government were consulting on whether employers should have a duty to consider if a job can be done flexibly. 

Work-life balance and flexibility tend to feature highly on attributes that might attract employees to a certain company, and this is especially true for working parents and those with other caring responsibilities.

A lot of companies might use the statutory position as their starting point, typically mirroring the various types of leave and pay provided for as a statutory minimum. However, the low take up of shared parental leave demonstrates that the statutory schemes are not always reflective of what a workforce might actually need or value. In today’s modern world families come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of needs. Of course it might not always be possible to cater for everyone, but more creative employers are giving thought to what other family-friendly policies they might be able to offer. Insurance firm Zurich announced late last year a wide-ranging suite of family-friendly policies including additional support for parents whose children are born prematurely, paid leave to support through the IVF process and paid leave to support people through miscarriages.

Not all companies will be in a position to offer such generous policies, and a careful cost analysis would need to be carried out, however there are more cost neutral options, such as flexible or agile working arrangements, home working and job sharing that could be of huge help to working families. Even giving more thought to the culture and attitudes to work life balance could have a significant impact on how ‘family friendly’ your workplace really is.

Research also shows that creating enabling and flexible environments can enhance productivity, creativity and wellbeing in staff. Some studies have also been able to demonstrate that family friendly policies have led to a reduction in absenteeism and a lower turnover of staff, meaning cost savings for employers. These findings reflect that having flexible and family friendly policies can help in building and maintaining a sustainable business.

There is increasing talk of ‘the new normal’ when it comes to working practices once we start to emerge from the strictest phase of the current lockdown, with many predicting that work culture could change dramatically. Perhaps some of the family friendly policies mentioned above will become part of that ‘new normal’, but there is still plenty of room to think creatively if businesses want to mark themselves out as a family friendly employer. LexLeyton can help businesses to create strategies for developing and maintaining if you family friendly policies to benefit culture and sustainable growth. Contact us for a free consultation and to discuss how we can help.

Being faith-friendly – Employer’s guide to Ramadan

If recent weeks have shown us anything, it is the power of togetherness.  We have adapted and sacrificed for one another. We have adopted collective behaviour and demonstrated personal discipline. As a community we have supported those in need or less fortunate than ourselves.

The holy month of Ramadan commences on the evening of the 23rd of April and ends on the evening of the 23rd of May this year.. This is an Islamic festival which is observed by Muslims across the globe. Ramadhan lasts for a lunar month and during this time many Muslims refrain from eating or drinking during hours of daylight. There is more to fasting than may first appear. Muslims also adopt a mindset of caring for those in their community, supplying cooked food and essentials to those who struggle to provide for themselves. They pray for and support their neighbours. They pay fitrana for every member of their household; money to support charitable causes.

Whilst some Muslims typically seek to take time off work during Ramadan, many are likely to continue working during the month if they are able.

Fasting may effect productivity and concentration levels as well as increasing fatigue. It is important for employers to understand the challenges facing their employees during this time, many of whom may already have been significantly impacted by the effects (either related to their work or family contexts) of business and social response to the COVID -V19 pandemnic.This year will be very different for Muslim employees and as traditionally, communal activities and prayer are observed and encouraged. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, access to important individual and communal prayer facilities, quiet rooms and multi faith rooms have been largely suspended with these restrictions potentially negatively impacting on employee wellbeing during an already difficult period.

To support employees who are observing this festival employers should consider the following key areas


1. Accommodate flexible working

ACAS guidance and the ECHR Code of Practice suggest adopting a practical approach and discussing with the employee whether there are any temporary arrangements which could be put in place for the duration of Ramadan.

One way in which to do this is to offer employees who are observing Ramadhan the option to work flexibly, this could involve:

  • Holding meetings at more suitable times during the day;
  • Arrange working hours differently for the month – some staff may wish to start their day earlier or later or work through their lunch hours.


2. Rest breaks

Individuals observing the festival should be encouraged to take rest breaks where needed. They may also wish to practise their faith more during Ramadan than they do at other times of the year and employers should be sensitive to this, and try to accommodate requests to take more breaks during the day than would ordinarily be taken.


3. Annual leave requests

Employers may find that there is a high demand for annual leave from those who are observing the festival, particularly during the end of Ramadan which is marked by the festival of Eid. It is difficult for employees to plan in advance because Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so annual leave requests may be made at short notice.

Employers should ensure that they deal with annual leave requests in a fair manner and in line with the annual leave policy. Where it is not possible to grant leave, employers should provide reasoned, rational justifications for the refusal. In addition, where annual leave requests are granted for those observing the festival, employers should ensure that other employees do not suffer any detriment as a result.

4. Awareness, tolerance and understanding

Values such as awareness, tolerance and understanding are the cornerstone of nurturing a healthy employer/employee relationship. Employees will feel valued where employers try to understand what is important to them, whether that is in relation to their faith or otherwise.

Employers could introduce a clear policy on Ramadan, or better yet, on religious festivals generally, setting out what the expected employee standards are, and what employees observing religious festivals can expect in terms of support. Having such a policy should have an affirming impact on employees.

Some employers go a step further and proactively engage in recognising religious festivals with their workforce.

Being an open, accepting and considerate employer where you can show yourself as progressive in your thinking and approach will no doubt have a positive impact on the ethos of your organisation, and will help to ensure that you continue to attract a diverse and balanced workforce.

For employers wishing to know more, below is an image of the Ramadan timetable published by Glasgow Central Mosque for 2020, setting out prayer times and other key information. Muslims will fast during the daylight hours, between the times highlighted in turquoise. This information may vary depending on location.

6 April 2020 Changes – Equal treatment for agency workers

As part of the various commitments set out in the Good Work Plan, the Agency Workers (Amendment) Regulations 2019 and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2019 came into force on 6 April 2020.

WHAT ARE AGENCY WORKERS?

An agency worker contracts with an employment business to work for one or more of their clients (or hirers), they are therefore not directly recruited by the businesses where they work.

WHAT ARE THE CHANGES?

  • Removal of the Swedish derogations

The Swedish derogation provided an exemption from the right to equal treatment. In fact, agency workers that had a “Pay Between Assignment Contract” could give up the right to pay parity with comparable permanent staff in return for a guarantee to receive a certain amount of pay when they had gaps between assignments.

  • Equal Treatment for all Agency Workers

All agency workers will have a right to pay parity after having worked for the company for the qualifying period (12 weeks).

  • Protection from Unfair Dismissal and Detriment

Where an agency worker is an employee, they will be unfairly dismissed if the principal reason for their dismissal is that they have (or they are suspected to have):

  • Brought proceedings or given evidence at proceedings under the Agency Workers Regulations.
  • Alleged that a temporary work agency has breached the Regulations.
  • Refused to forgo a right under the Regulations.

Agency workers also have the right to not be subjected to a detriment for taking such action, or being suspected to have taken such actions.

WHAT STEPS DOES YOUR BUSINESS NEED TO TAKE?

If you are an Employment Business (Agency):

  • Requirement to provide statement to existing agency workers

By no later than 30 April 2020 you must provide agency workers, whose existing contracts contain a Swedish derogation provision, with a written statement advising that, with effect from 6 April 2020, those provisions no longer apply.

Agency workers will have the right to bring a claim in the employment tribunal if you fail to do so.

  • Requirement to provide a Key information document for new agency workers

From 6th April 2020, you must provide agency work-seekers with a document that must be headed “Key Information Document. It must be easily understandable and on a maximum of two pages.

The document must include information about:

  • The identity of the employment business.
  • The type of contract
  • Minimum pay and methods of payment.
  • Non-monetary benefits.
  • The nature and amount of any potential deductions
  • Annual leave and payment in respect of such leave

If your business uses Agency Workers

If your company currently hires agency workers who are employed under Swedish derogation contracts, these changes could have significant financial implications if you have to pay them at least the same rate as direct recruits.

Take the time to check with the agencies you contract with and understand the terms of their contracts with their agents.

April 2020 Employment Law Changes – A Recap of What’s New

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was shaping up to be a year of significant change in employment law.  Notwithstanding the many developments which are being brought in to support companies in responding to the threat of Coronavirus, other major changes planned for this year have still taken place (with one major exception).  Here, we revisit some of the important changes affecting your business in 2020.

Employee Written Statement of Terms

Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1378) came into force on 6 April 2020

A written statement of terms, usually all covered in a contract of employment, must now be given on or before the first day of employment to all new workers – this previously had to be given within two months of employment starting and only to employees.

In addition, more information than previously must be included in the statement. For instance the written statement now has to include a description of working hours, paid leave, probationary period, training entitlement and benefits.

What does it mean for your business?

The requirement to produce statements on or before day one means that employers must now know the full details of the job offered from the outset and amend internal processes to ensure contracts are issued before new staff begin. Clear communication between managers, recruiters and candidates will make all the difference.

Holiday Pay

Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1378) came into force on 6 April 2020

The reference period for determining an average week’s pay for holiday pay purposes has now increased from 12 weeks to 52 weeks (or, if the worker has been employed for under 52 weeks, the number of complete weeks for which the worker has been employed).

What does it mean for your business?

A review of current working practices and calculation methods will be important. If your company has an external payroll function, request confirmation that the changes have been factored into the calculation methodology.

Agency Workers

The Agency Workers (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/724) came into force on 6 April 2020

Temporary work agencies must provide agency work seekers with a “Key Information Document,” which must include information on the type of contract, the minimum expected rate of pay, the mode of payment and who will be making the payment.

What does it mean for your business?

Whilst not anticipated to have a significant impact on the private, voluntary or public sectors, these changes will provide greater transparency for workers about the terms they are signing up to.

Pay Parity

Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2019 came into force on 6 April 2020

The “Swedish Derogation“ has now been removed from the Agency Workers Regulations 2010.  Employment businesses are no longer able to avoid pay parity between agency workers and direct employees.  Before, if agency workers had a “Pay Between Assignment Contract”  they would give up the right to pay parity with comparable permanent staff in return for a guarantee to receive a certain amount of pay when they had gaps between assignments.

Agencies must also inform relevant agency workers by 30 April 2020 that the Swedish Derogation no longer applies.

What does it mean for your business?

If your company previously hired agency workers under Swedish Derogation contracts, then these changes could have significant financial implications.  In most cases, your company will now have to pay worker at least the same rate as direct recruits.

Take the time to check with the agencies you contract with and understand the terms of their contracts with their agents.

Informing and Consulting with your Employees

The Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/731) came into force on 6 April 2020

Employees have the right to request that their employer sets up or changes arrangements to inform and consult (I&C) them about issues in their organisation. The requirement to inform and consult employees does not come about automatically.

Following these changes, in a business with 50+ employees, only 2% of the workforce now need to request I&C for this to become a requirement, subject to certain exceptions.  Prior to April 2020, that threshold was 10% of the workforce.

What does it mean for your business?

Even though this is European-derived legislation, the UK Government has decided to strengthen the requirement to I&C.  Employers can take a pro-active approach and introduce an agreed I&C arrangement before any request.  

National Insurance Contributions

The National Insurance Contributions (Termination Awards and Sporting Testimonials) Act 2019 came into force 6 April 2020

All termination payments above the £30,000 threshold are now subject to Class 1A National Insurance contributions (NICs).

That will affect payments and benefits that are received in connection with the termination of a person’s employment.

What does it mean for your business?

Currently, certain forms of termination awards are exempt from employee and employer NICs and the first £30,000 of a compensatory payment on termination is free from income tax. This change will prevent employers seeking NIC exemption through disguised termination payments.

Parental Bereavement

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 came into effect on 6th April 2020

Employed parents or carers who have lost a child (under the age of 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy) are entitled to two weeks’ leave (irrespective of their length of service).  This may be taken in one block or in two separate blocks of one week. Where an employee is eligible, the leave is paid at the same rate as statutory paternity pay i.e. £151.20 per week or 90% of weekly earnings if lower.

What does it mean for your business?

This reform not only concerns biological parents but also includes adopters, foster parents and guardians, as well as close relatives or family friends who have taken responsibility for the child’s care in the absence of parents. It is therefore very important to think very carefully before deciding who to grant this leave to.

Offering time and flexibility to bereaved families at a time that best suits them might also be extremely beneficial to bereaved parents.  Providing this support at such a difficult time demonstrates the values and culture of a business, as well as strengthening the relationship between the company and its employees.

IR35

Draft Finance Bill which was published on 11 July 2019, changes were expected in April 2020 but have been postponed to 2021

The off-payroll working rules were introduced in 2000 and require that individuals who work like employees, but through their own company, pay similar taxes to other employees.

With the new reform, large and medium-sized organisations in the private sector will become responsible for assessing the correct employment status of the contractors they engage to work for them.

From April 2021, all payments made to personal service companies will be treated as payments of employment income on which the client (or a third-party intermediary) must account for tax. This shifts responsibility for IR35 tax compliance from the personal service company to the client or intermediary that uses the services of the personal service company.

What does it mean for your business?

The Government is keen on making sure everyone is paying the proper amount of tax for their work and there can be substantial financial impacts for your company if it appears there are errors in the employment status of the contractors you engage to work for you.  Although the changes have been postponed, it would be prudent for businesses to continue to prepare as best they can, seeking advice from qualified specialists.

Potential job losses – how to speak to employees

Simon Mayberry

Insights from Simon Mayberry, Senior Associate, LexLeyton.

These are difficult times for employers across the country, especially in industries where homeworking is not an option. Managers are having to hold extremely difficult conversations, but positive results can come from these with a good deal of preparation, a sense of humanity and an authentic and open-minded approach on both the part of the employer and the employee.

It is tempting for employers to panic and resort to redundancies. However, this might not be necessary, especially following the announcement of the Chancellor’s support package on Friday. Employers should take time to consider what options are open to them, such as employees agreeing to temporary unpaid leave, relaxing rules on time off for dependants, encouraging the use of annual leave or, now, furloughing staff. There are many options other than redundancy and we have seen tremendous support from employees in the retail and hospitality sectors in agreeing to short-term measures to save jobs in the long-term.

Sustainable businesses rely on their people. I think we were all touched by the Chancellor’s words on Friday when he spoke of wanting to look back and think of kind deeds done by all during this difficult time. Our experience has been that where businesses engage with their employees with humanity and respect, they stand a much better chance of pulling together for the good of the everyone.

The message must be for employers to assess which roles are required to keep operating, to engage and reach agreement with those who are not in this group (and who cannot work from home) and to work together to minimise job losses. The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will play a large part in this, but it is not a panacea. Job losses will be necessary for many employers, but where these are unavoidable they should be managed in as compassionate a manner as possible. Unlike some well-publicised companies, I would hope that, like the Chancellor, we would all wish to look back and think that we had acted with kindness during this crisis.

If you need help form one of our lawyer on this subject request a free consultation here

Gender Pay Gap Reporting Deadlines suspended for this year

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak, it has been announced yesterday that enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting deadlines will be suspended for this year.

As a result, employers who had a duty to publish their gender pay gap report for 2019-2020 will not be expected to do so (although they can do so if they wish).

The deadline for publishing reports for relevant public sector bodies was next week (30 March 2020) with private and voluntary sector employers shortly after on 4 April 2020.

In a joint statement, the Minister for Women & Equalities and the Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair, said:

“WE RECOGNISE THAT EMPLOYERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE FACING UNPRECEDENTED UNCERTAINTY AND PRESSURE AT THIS TIME. BECAUSE OF THIS WE FEEL IT IS ONLY RIGHT TO SUSPEND ENFORCEMENT OF GENDER PAY GAP REPORTING THIS YEAR.”

More details on the announcement can be found here.

Why should I have an employee handbook (or why should a lawyer review my handbook?) – Part 2

workforce management

In our first article on employee handbooks, we discussed how having one can help satisfy your minimum legal obligations as an employer. Let’s look at how an employee handbook can lay the foundations for a better workforce management strategy.

Make things run smoothly

Employees like to be communicated to in a straightforward way so an employee handbook is a great place to collate all your internal policies and procedures. It’s your handbook, so you can put in it what you like! Anything that could be helpful to the smooth running of your business from an employee management perspective can be included.

Cleary stating in your handbook what your policy is on things like expenses, company cars, booking annual leave etc. improves the chances that your employees will get their admin sorted in the way it needs to be,  without wasting management time by continuously raising the same question over and over again because there is no central place of reference.

Giving some thought to the tone of voice, design of your handbook and how it will be distributed and embedded into your business are all important factors to work through so that it fits with and supports your culture, as well as being useful to and accessible by your employees.

Help your managers as well as your employees

Employment law is complicated; that’s why we are here to help.

Although a handbook is aimed at individual employees – it’s a key tool for managers who are responsible for the performance and wellbeing of your workforce, providing a useful framework for their management and support and to ensure that they are dealing with matters consistently.

Having policies in place on things like disciplinaries, grievances, maternity/paternity/shared parental leave, and flexible working etc. ensures that you have a practical guide for the managers of your business to help them do their job. How they manage day to day issues involving your workforce can have an immediate impact on the wider culture of the business, it’s day to day operational and financial performance and if handled badly, expose you to financial and reputational risk from employee claims.

Setting the standards

A handbook is the perfect place to set out the standards that employees are expected to meet and what will happen should they fail to meet those expectations. It can incorporate procedures around things like reporting sickness absence, timekeeping, uniform or substance misuse etc. Anything (within reason) that your business may want to enforce can ideally be set out in the handbook - whether it relates to the efficiency of your business, or how you expect your employees or customers to be treated.

It is helpful when an employer needs to take disciplinary action against an employee that it can point to a clear rule in an employee handbook, supported by a record of the employee having received and read it (always something to think about when you are on-boarding a new employee or changing your policies and procedures).

Building your culture and setting the tone

A great way for a business to ‘set the tone’ and its cultural aspirations is by including an overview of its mission and values at the beginning of an employee handbook. The way a business does things ‘around here’ is important to the development of its internal culture, and potentially a valuable business asset which can benefit your employee attraction and retention strategies.

Making sure your handbook reflects your business, who you are and how you want to be seen both internally and externally is a fantastic opportunity to codify your cultural positioning and use that to add value to your business.

For example, do you have a bring your dog or pet to work policy (we love dogs in our office!)? Something that you might already be doing even informally, like allowing pets in to the workplace, might actually have some legal implications for your employees that you should think about addressing in a policy.  Also, having a policy on something like bringing animals to work for both existing and future employees might be seen as a real benefit of working for your company.

It’s brilliant for us to see employers thinking much more expansively about how they can use their employee handbook to benefit employee attraction and engagement, and more and more are doing so with some great results. However we also see handbooks that are setting a tone in ways which that were not really intended... which can be really unhelpful.

Employment law is one of the fastest moving areas of law.  Some of the significant changes in recent times include new equality legislation, abolition of the mandatory retirement age, increases in permitted unpaid parental leave, the introduction of shared parental leave and entitlements to request flexible working to mention just a few. By spring 2020 further legislative changes will be introduced to require paid parental bereavement leave and increases to the reference period for calculating holiday pay.

Unless your business is really diligent about keeping its handbook up to date, it may miss ensuring that all the changes find their way into the handbook which can leave it out of date and potentially fall foul of the law.

When facing a claim from an employee, often the starting place for the Employment Tribunal is the employee handbook, the policies contained within it, how those policies are followed and consistency across the business.  Don’t get caught out by having a handbook as a tick box exercise only as Tribunals frown on this and defending a claim can often be an uphill battle.

LexLeyton can help you draft or update your existing employee handbook. If you would like a free review and consultation with one of our expert employment solicitors to help you get started with a set of bespoke recommendations please register here

Read the first part of our series on the employee handbook:

Why should I get an employee handbook (or why should I get a lawyer to review mine)? – Part 1