Should You Monitor Employee Emails?

Should You Monitor Employee Emails?

“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed – no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres in your skull.”  

― George Orwell, 1984 

Nobody wants to be accused of being Big Brother, but monitoring employees’ emails is perfectly legal if you go about it in the right way. So, what should you do – monitor or not? 

Data Protection and Employee Rights 

As a business owner, you need to make sure your employees are carrying out their work effectively. You also have a responsibility to ensure they’re not using work email to do things they shouldn’t. Like sending offensive emails or sharing unprotected data. At the same time, you don’t want to encroach on your employees’ privacy or demonstrate a lack of trust.   

Before we consider whether you should monitor employees emails, let’s take a look at whether you can.  

The Information Commissioner’s Office states that, in general, it is considered intrusive to monitor your employees’ emails.   

That’s because employees have a right to respect for a private and family life under article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This means people can send personal emails from a work computer and email address and expect them not to be monitored or read by employers.   

But what about work email?  

It’s perfectly legal for employers to monitor employees’ emails as long as certain criteria are fulfilled. This includes being: 

  • clear about the reasons for the monitoring 
  • satisfied that the monitoring arrangement is justified by real benefits 
  • clear with employees for the reasons, extent and nature of any monitoring that’s in place 

If you decide to monitor, you’ll need to warn employees that emails sent from a work computer may be observed. A good way to do this is to include suitable wording in your contract of employment. 

Before implementing a monitoring policy, employers must carry out an assessment of the proposed activity to establish 

  • the reasons for monitoring staff and the benefits that this will bring 
  • any negative effects the monitoring may have on staff 
  • whether the monitoring can be achieved through any less intrusive means   
  • whether the monitoring is justified, taking into account all of the above 

Think you might have sufficient reason to monitor? Then the next thing to consider is proportion.  

In-depth or Light-touch? 

Depending on your business and sector there may be highly valid reasons for monitoring staff email. For example, financial services organisations often monitor communications to ensure sensitive data is not being shared, accidentally or otherwise.  

However, all businesses considering email monitoring should act proportionately and fairly to achieve the right balance between organisational needs and employee privacy.

In most cases assessing the date, time and recipient or sender of an email will help you determine whether it relates to work or not. Reading private emails, particularly those that contain confidential information is likely to breach an employees’ privacy.  

Automated email monitoring can analyse huge amounts of email traffic, spot inappropriate content and deliver reports for managers. This distances managers from the emails themselves and raises a red flag indicating that further investigation is required.

Before jumping straight into an in-depth review of an employee’s inbox, it can often be a good idea to hold a meeting. By discussing how the individual has been using email and the kinds of information they’ve sent you can decide on a proportionate response.  

The Potential Impact of Email Monitoring  

Monitoring employees’ emails can create an atmosphere of distrust if implemented and acted on incorrectly.  

In some sectors, like those with significant data protection requirements, employees are likely to be more understanding of the need for monitoring. However, organisations where data is less sensitive may not find employees so tolerant. 

Should any breach in policy be identified, managers’ next steps are key to how your monitoring policy is perceived. Managers using the information inappropriately will bring the policy intro disrepute. However, used effectively – to curtail inappropriate behaviour or prevent action being taken against the business – employees will likely support the policy.  

Coupled with well-handled conversations and a genuine respect for employees’ privacy, email monitoring can be helpful for businesses. However, history has shown most people don’t appreciate their emails being monitored so introducing this policy requires careful handling.

If you do decide to go down this route ensure you’re acting legally, in line with your policy and for the good of your employees as well as the health of your business.  

For help navigating email monitoring and other employment contract issues, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

How to Deal With Sexual Harassment

How to Deal With Sexual Harassment

#metoo 

Since the #metoo movement hit the headlines, I’ve seen a big increase in the number of workplace sexual harassment cases. 

In this climate, it can be tempting to focus on protecting those who make allegations. But as we all know, there are always two sides to every story.  

In the eyes of the law, employers are responsible for giving both the person making the complaint and the person being accused a fair hearing.  

In this article, I explore: 

  • what you need to do to protect your business from legal proceedings 
  • how you should deal with people who lodge a sexual harassment claim 
  • and how to treat those who have been accused, falsely or otherwise 

What Counts as Sexual Harassment? 

ACAS defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that violates the dignity of a worker. Or that creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. 

Sexual harassment doesn’t have to be intentionally directed at an individual. Making sexual references, gestures or behaving inappropriately in a sexual way can still count as sexual harassment. Even if there’s no intended victim.  

Critically, the nature of sexual harassment is defined by the person experiencing it. This means something can be considered sexual harassment even if the alleged harasser didn’t intend it to be.

Examples include: 

  • making comments of a sexual nature about an individual’s appearance 
  • asking questions about someone’s sex life 
  • telling offensive jokes  
  • displaying pornographic imagery 
  • sending emails of a sexual nature 
  • making unwanted physical contact 
  • sexual assault 

Legally, all your employees, male and female, at all levels of the company are protected from sexual harassment. Depending on the nature of the incident, they will be covered by employment and/or criminal law.  

As a business owner, you’re responsible for the safety of your people. Which means dealing appropriately with claims of sexual harassment is critical for the security of your business. 

Innocent Until Proven Guilty 

Like many crimes of a sexual nature, harassment often takes place behind closed doors or away from other people. Without witnesses, cases often set one person’s account against the other’s. 

As with any grievance, sexual harassment can only be alleged until a full investigation has taken place. This should align with your grievance policy and procedure which should follow the ACAS Code of Practice 

Investigate Thoroughly and Sensitively 

Although it may feel like there’s a lot of pressure to act in the face of claims of sexual harassment, it’s important that you don’t jump to conclusions.  

Examine 

You will need to conduct an investigation into the alleged sexual harassment. In cases of serious sexual harassment you may need to involve the police. Your investigation can run alongside the police investigation and you can take the police’s findings into account.  

Working Arrangements 

Depending on the type of allegation, you may need to consider working arrangements while the matter is investigated. This could include asking the accused to work from home or putting them on paid leave if paths are likely to cross. 

Anonymity 

Experiencing – and being accused of – sexual harassment is often extremely upsetting, so the case needs to be handled sensitively. It’s extremely important that both the claimant and the accused are supported throughout the process. 

The individual making the claim can choose to remain anonymous. However, it’s really important that the person being accused of sexual harassment understands the claim being made against them. This will allow them to mount a defence.  

Evidence 

The individual making the claim should provide as much proof as possible to support their case. If emails have been sent they should provide copies of them. Or if there are witnesses, they should be asked to provide evidence.  

Outcomes 

If the outcome of the case is that the accused is guilty, you will need to take appropriate disciplinary action in line with your procedures. What constitutes a reasonable or justified action will depend on the details of the case. However, all outcomes should be fair and consistent. 

Failing to deal with sexual harassment claims fairly for both parties can place your business at risk from tribunal or criminal claims.  

What Happens if the Claims Are Groundless? 

When someone is falsely accused of sexual harassment they will likely find the experience traumatic. It’s important that you deal with these individuals fairly as other employees will be watching your approach. If possible, you should integrate them back into the business.

Depending on the circumstances, you may feel that you need to take action against the accuser. This forms part of your duty to ensure your employees work in a safe environment where they are not put at risk. Even from false accusations.

Sexual harassment is one of the most difficult claims to investigate and deal with. As long as you do so legally, promptly and deal sensitively with all parties involved, you will be acting appropriately. Which will safeguard your employees and protect your business. 

Don’t deal with sexual harassment claims alone. Contact Crosse HR for pragmatic support on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

Probation and Notice Periods – What You Need to Know

Probation and Notice Periods – What You Need to Know

Thinking of saying goodbye to a new hire? Then something obviously hasn’t worked out. To ensure their departure goes smoothly, you need to give them the right amount of notice.

But how long should that be when an individual is still in their probation period? And what else do you need to consider? Read on for the answers.

Probation – Not Just For Criminals

Most employers operate a trial period for new employees – also known as a probation period – which can vary from a few days to several weeks or months. The length of probation should be clearly set out in the employee’s contract alongside the employee’s standard notice period.

But what happens if they hand their notice in, or you want them to leave, during their probationary period? Does the standard notice period apply? Or can you legally give less notice and hasten their departure?

It Depends on Length of Service

People with probation periods shorter than one month are not entitled to any notice so you can exit them from your firm immediately.

Of course, notice periods work both ways and employees can notify you of their intent to leave too. Which means you could be left in the lurch if someone leaves within their one-month probation period.

That’s why most organisations stipulate a probation period of three months. This often increases to six months for more senior roles and jobs that are difficult to recruit. By extending the notice period, both employers and employees are protected.

There are two types of notice that employees and employers must give.

Contractual Notice

Contractual notice is the agreed notice period, as set out in the employment contract, that must be given by either side to terminate the arrangement.

You can choose to give more notice than legally required. But of course you cannot give less than the law stipulates.

Typically, contractual notice periods are:

  • Less than one week for staff with under one month’s service
  • One week for people with between one and six months’ service
  • One month for people who have recently passed their probation

These notice periods give both sides a degree of protection and tie in nicely with the following legal minimums.

Statutory Notice

If you don’t include a notice period in your employees’ contracts you have to abide by legally predefined notice periods based on the individual’s length of service:

  • Less than one month’s service > no notice
  • One month to two years’ service > one week’s notice
  • Two years’ service > two week’s notice
  • Three years’ service > three week’s notice

The notice periods increase by one week for every complete year of tenure. So someone with eight years’ service would need to give and be given eight weeks’ notice.

Notice Has Been Served – What Happens Next?

This usually depends on who gave notice and the reasons why.

If an employee gave notice and there’s no problem (like performance issues), you will probably want them to work for the duration. This helps your organisation by keeping work moving and giving you time to recruit.

If you’ve given notice to a member of staff during the probation period, it’s usually because performance or attitude is not up to scratch. Which might mean you don’t want the employee to come in.

In this instance, you will still need to pay them for their notice period and you can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Pay in lieu of notice – you end the employment before the individual serves their notice and pay them as if they had worked their notice period.
  2. Garden leave – the employee serves their notice but doesn’t do any work for your company. This might happen if they are leaving to work for a competitor. Again, they must be paid for the full notice period.

Nobody wants to recruit the wrong person for the role. But occasionally it happens. Protect your business by:

  • checking your contracts of employment
  • paying notice periods as required
  • revisiting your recruitment practices to spot any gaps

If you want help protecting your business from the unexpected, get in touch with Crosse HR.

The Impact of Undervalued Employees

The Impact of Undervalued Employees

“More companies are finding that recognition, appreciation, and human workplace practices improve overall employee experience and fuel business performance.” Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, 2018

Research like this makes employee recognition a critical element of business success. But it can be easy to let appreciation slip, resulting in low morale and high turnover.

What are the tell-tale signs that your organisation is undervaluing your employees? What is the impact on your business? And what steps can you take to boost appreciation? Read on to find out.

How to Tell Whether Your Business Appreciates its Employees

There’s so much to do when you’re running a business: finances, marketing, HR; and then there’s the day job. Which can leave little time for the nice fluffy stuff like appreciating your team.

Except recognising people’s effort isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s an essential aspect of engaging employees, driving performance and delivering your business goals.

Failing to appreciate your staff is a behaviour that can easily fly under the radar. So, here are five behaviours to look out for that mean your leaders don’t value your staff:

  1. You haven’t got their back – when a customer or colleague points the finger, employees want to know their manager will be there to support them. Leaders who immediately look for fault and seek to apportion blame lose trust from their teams. Making them less likely to go the extra mile for their boss and the business in the future.
  2. Employees’ strengths aren’t played to – people often have unique talents beyond the job description, like strong organisational skills or an ability to speak a foreign language.  Managers who fail to comprehend the full potential of their team are doing the business a disservice by missing out on opportunities. This short-sightedness also leaves employees frustrated because they know they aren’t adding best value.
  3. Nobody asks for employees’ opinions – do senior people interrupt colleagues during meetings? Are less senior staff even consulted about decisions? Failing to get fresh insight from team members is a missed chance to grow and expand your knowledge. Neglect this and employees will feel ignored and disrespected, which isn’t good for engagement.
  4. Feedback is unheard of – employees want feedback so they can grow and improve. Leaders who withhold this lose out on an opportunity to build trust and show they value the relationship and their employees’ career. Deliver on this front and you’ll gain loyalty from your staff. Fail to do so and their heads will be turned by your competitors.
  5. You don’t trust them to manage their work – micromanaging employees signals that you don’t have confidence in their ability to perform. Employees either become extremely frustrated or they begin to doubt themselves leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, engagement and performance dips and employees’ chances to develop or grow are stifled.

If these behaviours are allowed to continue for any period of time, frustration and disengagement will soon turn people’s head and they’ll begin to look for new jobs. Leading to two other major challenges for your business too:

  • Retention Risk

Losing your best people isn’t a smart move in a highly competitive recruitment market. With unemployment at 4.1% – the lowest in 18 years – retention is currently a major issue for businesses.

  • Recruitment

Empty seats mean more recruitment which means more time and more money. And with the advent of online platforms like Glassdoor, you could be facing employer branding problems too as employees publicly advertise their reasons for leaving. Which will give your business a bad reputation and make it even harder to hire the right people.

How to Value Your Employees

Showing your appreciation is simple and it doesn’t need to cost a penny. Start by identifying when people have gone above and beyond and thank them for their efforts. Or congratulate your team at the end of a busy week or for delivering a project successfully.

Many firms operate formal recognition schemes where employees can provide peer-to-peer recognition and managers can give rewards or gifts.

Other firms choose to get to know each member of their team via company-paid socials so they can build relationships and appreciate the potential each person has to offer.

The long and short of this article is that if you fail to value your employees, you’re failing to value your organisation. If any of this rings true for your business, it’s time to start identifying and celebrating success. It will pay dividends all round.

If you want practical HR support to implement a recognition scheme or train your managers in employee appreciation, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Stress Outside of Work – Is it Your Problem?

Stress Outside of Work – Is it Your Problem?

Almost half of all working days lost during 2016 to 2017 were due to stress. As the highest reported figure in almost a decade, it’s clear that there’s a growing problem.

Almost every piece of research into the causes of stress lists work as the primary factor. The government makes provision for this via health and safety legislation which states that employers have a responsibility to manage workplace stress.

But what about causes of stress outside the workplace? As an employer, are you responsible for helping employees counteract the effects of these stressors?

We take a look at why you should be concerned about non-work stress and the steps you can take to mitigate it.

What Are the Biggest Stressors Outside Work?

Research from the physiological society established that in 2017, the most stressful events that could take place in an individual’s life were:

  1. the death of their partner, a relative or friend
  2. imprisonment
  3. fire or flood damage to an individual’s home
  4. serious illness
  5. being fired
  6. separation or divorce
  7. identity theft
  8. unexpected money problems
  9. starting a new job
  10. planning a wedding

The research also showed that different problems impact different generations differently. Take the loss of a smartphone. This is rated as the 14th most stressful life event overall. However, when you look at the data by age group, it’s considered far more stressful by younger people than for seniors.

In contrast, serious illness is more concerning the older people get.

While there’s no requirement for employers to take steps to minimise non-work related stress, there are plenty of compelling business reasons to do so. The International Labour Organization notes that stress – and subsequent productivity loss – costs Europe around €617 billion each year.

Aside from the economic impact, stress often presents in employees as:

  • an inability to sleep
  • anxiety
  • disrupted concentration
  • over-eating

Concerningly for business owners, stress leads to almost one third of staff being less productive at work while 22% report feeling disengaged from their work. And more than one in ten say stress causes them to take days off sick.

Which means many things for employers:

  • Business risk – lack of sleep has been one of the major causes of industrial accidents including the Chernobyl disaster and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
  • Additional cost – unexpected sick days disrupt work and can be costly for businesses.
  • More recruitment – longer term sickness absence means recruiting additional temporary headcount. Alternatively, firms can ask other team members to pick up more work although this can ratchet up their stress levels too.
  • Under-delivery – disengagement and poor performance also has a direct impact on the effectiveness of your business.

This means that choosing to only manage workplace stress is short-sighted.

Without legal requirements in place, the extent to which you support employees to live healthy lives outside of work is entirely up to you. But the more you can do for your people, the more they’ll be able to do for your business.

There are plenty of ways to support employee well-being. Here are just a few examples.

Employee Assistance Programmes

This cost-effective benefit provides employees with over-the-phone or online assistance for a range of problems including legal issues, parenting and health. Many providers also give employers the option to add face-to-face counselling sessions for employees.

The costs tend to be fairly low; about £14 per employee for a comprehensive plan and £2-3 for telephone-based support only. When an employee is in dire straits, having this service on-hand is of enormous benefit.

In some cases simply having someone to talk to can prevent an employee going off sick. Or, if they do need some time away, the counselling or advice services can bring them back to work more quickly.

Financial Education

Financial pressures impact every age group. However, they are particularly pressing for millennials who are combating high levels of student and personal debt along with inflated rent and low income. All without the life experience to help counteract these pressures.

Other employee groups may also have financial concerns, particularly if they’re saving to buy a house, starting a family or approaching retirement.

Many businesses now offer financial education programmes that help employees find ways to manage their money better. This puts people in control and reduces their stress levels.

Depending how far you want to go, you may decide to provide flexible benefits packages that can be used to direct money to where individual’s most need it.

For example, instead of automatically sending any additional pension contribution (on top of the auto-enrolment minimum) direct to pension schemes, you could:

  • give employees the option to direct this money to a savings pot
  • send it off to pay off a student loan
  • or add it to salary to increase income while saving ahead of the birth of a child for example

This kind of flexibility will provide options that will help all employees address their financial concerns.

Flexible Working

Once upon-a-time, flexible working was a standout employee benefit. But today it’s a must-have for modern businesses. Consider how you could find ways to enable staff to fit work around their lives. This could include offering flexitime or giving people the option (and technology) to work from home

Duvet Days

Ever woken up and felt like you needed to stay in bed all day? That’s exactly why duvet days exist. This benefit allows employees to call in, or book ahead, to take a day off in addition to their holiday allowance.

This permits employees to rest mind and body while you get a refreshed employee back at work with their head in the right place.

Culture

You can have the most supportive policies in the world but if employees don’t feel able to use them they won’t benefit anyone. Ensuring your business operates a caring culture that places employee wellbeing ahead of the business will ensure your business succeeds.

A Final Word From Mary Queen of Shops

Mary Portas, business expert and agency founder, says that to be successful:

“Businesses have to be kinder … Tomorrow’s businesses will be built on collaboration and understanding, and people will bring their whole selves to work, and not aim for profit at all costs.”

This means that trying to ignore your employees wider lives – and the stresses within them –  will have negative implications for your organisation.

So, take a long hard look at your stress management practices and see what else you could do to completely support your employees.

For HR support that will help you take care of your staff and support organisational performance, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

 

School Holidays and Parental Absence

School Holidays and Parental Absence

The school holidays are an absence nightmare for parents and businesses alike.

With everyone clambering for time off all at once, it can be difficult to know who has most rights and exactly how the holidays should be managed. On top of all that, you also need to keep your business running.

Don’t panic – we’re here to help with this question and answer blog that will help you balance everyone’s holiday needs and meet your employment law obligations.

I’ve Got Too Many Leave Requests – Can I Refuse Any?

Yes, you can. Although employees have the right to statutory annual leave, employers can say when leave can or cannot be taken.

Some organisations operate shutdown periods when staff must use their holiday, often at Christmas or during slow periods, whereas other firms stop people taking leave during busy times.

Refusing a holiday request can cause disagreements with employees and has the potential to impact morale and engagement if not handled properly.

That’s why it’s important to ensure your contracts clearly include planned closures or times when employees cannot take time off. Your holiday policy should also set out any other rules governing holiday. For example, some organisations do not allow two people on the same team to be off at the same time.  

Timely communications will also remind employees to book leave in advance or retain enough holidays to cover any shutdowns or busy holiday months. This will help staff plan their lives while also taking into consideration the needs of the business.

Should I Give Parents First Choice Over Holiday Dates During School Breaks?

There’s no legal obligation to do so and should you give preference to parents over non-parents you could face claims of discrimination.

To avoid this issue, many businesses have a neutral holiday policy that states leave will be granted on a first-come first-served basis.

This approach tends to work best for everyone as managers and employees can plan in advance. That inevitably means parents need to think about summer holiday childcare well in advance so they can get their requests in early.

Is Flexible Working An Option During School Holidays?

Flexible working allows people to work from home and/or work more flexible hours. Some parents may request flexible working to cover a specific period, like the summer holidays.

However, a flexible working request cannot be granted for a specific period: if you agree to the request (and there’s no legal reason that you have to), flexible working forms a permanent part of the employee’s terms and conditions.

Other arrangements, like a temporary change to working patterns, can be negotiated between the employer and the employee. For example, unpaid leave cold be granted if holiday has been used up or you could agree to a reduction in hours for a certain period of time.

Do I have to Give Parents Time Off to Spend With Their Dependents?

This is a tricky one and the answer is that it depends.

In general no, you don’t have to give parents time off to spend with their dependents. However, if there is an emergency, such as a parent’s childminding arrangements breaking down, they have a legal right to ‘reasonable time off for dependents’ to deal with the situation.

Some roles afford employers the opportunity to grant the option for a parent to work from home. While there is no legal requirement to do this, it’s a good way of keeping work progressing and your employee happy.

If this isn’t an option, you are legally required to give your employee unpaid leave. Normally this would be at least one or two days or whatever length of time is considered reasonable given the circumstances.

Alternatively, you can allow an employee to take paid holiday. This is particularly useful if the employee has accrued a large amount of leave that they need to use up.

Can Someone Take Three Weeks Holiday?

If two parents need to cover half the summer vacation each, you may receive a request for three weeks leave.

This is perfectly legal as long as you’re happy to agree to the request. Some companies stipulate that no more than two weeks’ holiday can be taken at any one time except in unusual circumstances, like someone going on honeymoon.

If you want to limit holiday periods to a certain duration, you could see if it’s possible for the employee to split their leave so it does not exceed two weeks at any one time.

As with any holiday request, you are within your rights to refuse it.

There are many ways to deal with holiday requests at busy times of the year. Whichever options you take, try to be fair and consistent in your approach and stick to the guidance set out in your holiday policy.

Not got a holiday policy in place? Or got a tricky holiday situation on your hands? Then get in touch with Crosse HR today.

 

When Planning Staff Holidays Goes Wrong

When Planning Staff Holidays Goes Wrong

Summer doesn’t always mean sun but it does mean lots of holiday requests. Although planning staff leave can seem like a straightforward HR activity, there’s plenty that can go wrong. Just ask Ryanair who had to cancel large numbers of flights after “messing up” pilot holidays last year.

Read on for the holiday management challenges your business is most likely to face and the steps you can take to ensure you don’t end up like Ryanair.

The Problem – Holiday Build-up

Allow staff to sit on their holidays and you’ll be saving up problems. No business can operate effectively if everyone keeps hold of their leave and tries to use it all at the same time.

While you don’t have to grant holiday requests, you also don’t want to disengage your employees by refusing holiday. Particularly if they have a lot to take and very little time to take it in.

Allowing large holiday balances to accrue also means staff will be tired, are unlikely to be performing well and could be at risk of burning out. All of which can lead to mistakes and disengagement which carry the risk of impacting your bottom line.

The Solutions

Good holiday management

Like any other aspect of your employee’s terms and conditions, holidays need to be managed. Ensure your line managers can easily monitor who has how much holiday and what’s been taken and when. Managers should also be aware of religious holidays for people of faith to ensure they know when to expect a glut of holiday requests.

Reporting

A good way to gain oversight of holiday balances and to support leader in managing this HR activity is to set up holiday reporting as part of your suite of HR analytics.

Run monthly reports on the number of days’ holiday:

  • due to be taken in the year
  • that have been taken to date
  • that have been booked in
  • outstanding

Create your report so you can identify the position for your business as a whole and by team. This will help your managers identify who needs to take more holiday and encourage them to book leave.  

Buying out leave

If employees have built up a lot of holidays it is possible to buy-out some of their leave. However, this is only possible for holidays above the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks. Don’t forget that this should be the exception, not the rule as rested employees equal better performance.

With revised legislation around holiday pay, it could be worth bringing in an HR specialist to help you calculate the amounts accurately.

Carrying holiday over

An alternative to paying for holidays is to allow employees to carry over any holidays above the statutory minimum.

Be warned: this should be a temporary fix; if managers fail to manage holiday effectively the following year you’ll end up in a similar situation.

If employees are finding it difficult to take leave, you need to look at whether workload is preventing people from going on holiday. Alternatively, it could be a cultural issue where taking holiday is frowned upon.

Either way, you need to understand the reasons that leave isn’t being taken and take steps to tackle them.

The Problem – Too Many Holidays at the Same Time

Another issue you might face is when too many employees are granted leave at the same time. This is particularly difficult to manage at busy times of the year like Christmas and the summer holidays.

It can be challenging for managers to reject holiday requests, particularly when someone has booked a trip or made a family commitment before agreeing their leave.

The Solution – Just Say No

Remind line managers that employers don’t have to agree to a worker’s holiday request unless the contract of employment says otherwise. For example, many firms require employees to hold back a certain number of days’ holiday to cover the Christmas period and of course these dates would have to be agreed.

Your holiday policy should clearly set out what happens in periods of high demand, for example, operating on a first-come, first-served basis. Managers need to put on a thick skin and be prepared to deny holidays when they don’t work well for the business.

Communicating clearly with staff well before busy holiday periods will help employees plan their leave more effectively.

The Problem – Paying Incorrect Holiday Pay

It might sound surprising, but failing to pay employees properly during their holidays has been one of the biggest employment law challenges in recent years.

Holiday pay cannot be calculated solely on basic pay: it must include a range of other items like overtime, commission, stand-by and callout pay, shift premia and travel allowances.

The Solution – Determine Your Holiday Pay Formula

To accurately calculate holiday pay, you should take the period before the employee’s holiday (usually at least 12 weeks) to identify a true reflection of their pay.

If you’re unsure whether a particular allowance should be included, the rule of thumb is to add it in. Of course, over a period of time, this could prove expensive, so you may want to invest in an experienced HR professional to help you legally calculate employees’ holiday pay.

Managing employee holidays effectively is good for the health of your employees and your business. Rest and recuperation translates into improved motivation and less sick leave. Which ultimately improves your bottom line.

So, review your holiday policy and implement the suggestions in this article to watch your business’ well-being soar.

If you need help creating, updating or managing your holiday policy, contact Crosse HR to ensure you’re treating your employees legally and fairly.

Unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal?

Unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal?

The intricacies of employment law often trip business owners up. And one of the most common hazards is dismissing someone in line with the letter of the law. There are two kinds of dismissal that sound similar but mean very different things and you need to avoid getting either of them wrong.

In this blog, we explore the differences between unfair and wrongful dismissal and explain how you can avoid falling foul of either.

Isn’t Unfair the Same as Wrongful?

Not quite. In fact, in legal terms, they are entirely different concepts, as we explain.

Wrongful Dismissal

This happens when you breach an individual’s contract in the process of dismissing them. The most common breach is failing to give an employee the correct length of contractual or statutory notice.

When are employees protected?

Employees have this right from day one so you need to be vigilant from the outset of a new employment contract. If you cannot settle the issue via conciliation with HR support, you could be looking at a tribunal or court case.

Claims for £25,000 or less would be settled in an employment tribunal whereas those over £25,000, would require a county or high court action.

How much could it cost?

 Damages are not fixed. The figure will be set in reference to the individual’s pay and benefits for the period of their notice had they received it. This can include items like a company car, bonus, health cover and pension payments.

The more senior the employee, the longer their notice period is likely to be and therefore the more costly their claim. It’s also worth noting that it’s unlikely you will be able to recover your court costs.

On the plus side, employees are required to look for a new job as soon as possible. If they secure one and work during what would have been their notice period, their new pay and benefits will be taken into consideration. This could reduce the amount of any monies owed.

What can you do to avoid it?

 If you want to dismiss an employee, ensure you give them notice in line with their contract or statutory minimums. If you want the individual out of the business immediately, you could pay them in lieu of notice. This means paying them all their usual pay and benefits as if they had still been working up until the end of their notice period.

This is a very common practice and in many cases will be cheaper than paying court, salary and benefit costs. You’ll also save time and effort into the bargain.

What else do you need to know?

What constitutes wrongful dismissal is defined by referring to case law. This means that the most recent judgement on the topic sets a precedent by which wrongful dismissal is assessed.

As such, it can change form time to time so you need to keep abreast of any changes. Or work with someone who does that as their day job.

Unfair Dismissal

 Employees are protected by law from being unfairly dismissed. It’s a statutory right and is based on the employer’s reason for dismissal. For you to defend an employee’s claim you must show that:

  • the reason for dismissal is one of the potentially fair reasons listed in the Employment Rights Act 1996 including:
    • capability
    • conduct
    • redundancy
    • statutory illegality
    • some other substantial reason
  • your conduct was fair and reasonable in the circumstances, taking into consideration the size and resources of your organisation. This means:

Both these tests must be passed: if you dismiss for a fair reason but carry out the dismissal unfairly, you will still be deemed to have acted unfairly. The only good news in this scenario is that the amount of compensation might be reduced.

When are employees protected?

Except in specific circumstances, employees must have a minimum of two years’ continuous service to qualify for the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim. And it can only be pursued in an employment tribunal.

How much could it cost?

 Compensation is made up of a basic award (calculated on the basis of age, length of service and salary) and a compensatory award limited to one year’s gross pay or £80,541, whichever is lowest. This takes into account future loss of earnings and loss of statutory rights.

What can you do to avoid it?

If you have an employee who you want to dismiss, you need to tread carefully. The Acas Discipline and Grievance Guide provides step-by-step advice on dealing with challenging situations including capability and conduct.

If you find you have dismissed someone unfairly and you do not have a case to defend, you could reinstate or re-engage your employee.

What else do you need to know?

 Sometimes an employee will pursue tandem claims. While this will mean a more complicated case it doesn’t necessarily mean more compensation as an employee would not be entitled to double recovery for the same loss.

What’s the key takeaway from all this? Bring in an HR specialist early on if you’re thinking of dismissing someone. It might cost you a few hours of their time but it’s likely to be a lot cheaper and quicker than getting it wrong and having to pay compensation and undergo a lengthy legal process.