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. 

 

Why HR is NOT Just for Big Companies

Why HR is NOT Just for Big Companies

When you employ a small number of people it can be tempting to think you don’t need any HR management. But consider this; the smaller your workforce the bigger the impact each employee has on your business.  Which makes effective human resource management more important for smaller companies than large ones. If that hasn’t convinced you, here are five more reasons why HR should be at the top of your to-do list.

HR Isn’t an Option

You might not have the resources, money or time of a larger organisation, but you still hire, fire, train, manage, pay and reward the people in your business.  Whether you are doing these things for five, 50, a few hundred or several thousand people, having quality HR policies and practises in place make everything work more efficiently. When your background isn’t HR, it’s worth bringing in an expert to quickly develop what you need.

Maximising ROI and Driving Growth

All businesses rely on their people to deliver on promises and drive growth.  Strategic HR determines the best way to meet your corporate objectives through your people.  It will also align your employees in the direction of the business and get everyone pulling in the right direction.  

Regardless of size, all businesses can use HR to identify where and how to save on people-related costs and enhance the bottom line.  In fact, it can be easier for smaller business to do this because they are more agile and responsive and tend to have greater visibility of the entire organisation.

Gaining and Retaining Talent

Ambitious graduates or those with grand career plans don’t always consider working for smaller employers.  But boutique businesses offer a range of benefits that job-seekers are less likely to get with the bigger employers. Enhance your recruitment messaging to show how broader roles and additional responsibility will build a bigger experience base and take top talent away from larger competitors.

Treading the Employment Law

If someone goes off sick, makes a claim for unfair dismissal or discrimination you will need to know your employment law so you can deal with the situation fairly and legally. To make matters worse, employment law is an ever-changing beast and it’s a full-time job to keep up with developments.  This make a well-informed HR specialist, whose job it is to be in the know, worth their weight in gold.  Plus, the fees to outsource your HR are insignificant in comparison to the potential cost of getting employment law wrong.  

Changing Workforce Demographics

With millennials soon predicted to account for 75% of the global workforce and with more people working in later life, it’s really important to meet the wide variation in employee needs.  HR helps you do this by taking a lead role in developing and maintaining a strong, inclusive working culture that’s effective for both your business and employees.   

People are probably the most difficult resource you have to manage and they’re critical in keeping the wheels of your business turning.  As a smaller employer, it may not be worth employing a full-time HR role.  But there is significant value in managing your human resources effectively.  Get the best of both worlds by working with an HR consultant.  You’ll benefit from their in-depth HR knowledge while controlling costs and maintaining your existing headcount.

For help with all your HR needs, get in touch on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Winning the War for Talent – An Agency Guide to Recruitment

Winning the War for Talent – An Agency Guide to Recruitment

Delivering quality work for clients relies on having the right individuals, with the right skills, in the right place at the right time. But as the employment market is increasingly candidate-driven, it’s becoming more difficult to hire quality people. Add to this the need to be able to hire quickly and retain flexibility and you have the perfect storm. This agency recruitment guide outlines how to win the war for talent and keep delighting your clients.

Know Where Your Agency’s Headed

If your agency is planning on significant growth, recruitment will be one of your top priorities. You’ll need to establish the type and volume of work you plan to secure and build your team around it. But, as you well know, pitching for work isn’t the same as securing it, so position your business to be able to react as work is confirmed. Particular skill sets, such as SEM and social media management, are in demand, so plan ahead to secure these roles.

Establish Current Capacity

Before recruiting for a role, make sure you really need it by establishing your team’s current capacity and how your billable rate is being spent. This isn’t about checking up on people; understand work volumes by looking at timesheets or online time tracking systems.

Cross-reference this data with an internal skills audit to identify any expertise your team has that could be better used. Re-allocating administrative work or re-designing job roles could free up valuable resources and expertise. Plus, hiring an administrator is generally more cost-effective than paying for a technical or specialist role. If this sounds too complicated or time-consuming, consider hiring an HR consultant to help you carry out the work.

Redesign Roles or Promote from Within

If it’s a more senior role you need, it’s good practise to promote internally. One of the main reasons that people leave agencies is the lack (actual or perceived) of career progression. This ‘promote from within’ approach will also send a positive message when hiring to backfill the vacant post.

Sometimes, an external hire could be a better choice, particularly if no-one on your existing team is ready to step up or you want to bring in a fresh pair of eyes. However you fill the role, you’ll still need to conduct a transparent and fair recruitment process to give everyone the opportunity to apply and be considered.

A Stitch in Time…

Taking the time to write a quality job description and person specification are the foundations of quality recruitment. By accurately setting out the job and skill requirements, you’ll attract the right candidates and have the basis for your interview questions. Work with an HR consultant to ensure you tick all the necessary legal boxes too.

Get the Price Right

With the continuing war for talent in the creative agency sector, proposing the right salary is key to attracting and engaging the best people. Recruit using an HR consultant and you’ll control costs by using their knowledge of market rates to ensure you don’t overpay.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Culture

If you’re recruiting from the Gen Y or millennial populations, and there’s a very good chance you will be, you need to emphasise more than job role and pay. Promoting benefits, perks and other advantages, such as career development and corporate social responsibility will attract quality candidates from these social groups.

Consider what makes working for you special and communicate it in your recruitment literature or at interview. Do you have regular team lunches or nights out, gifts at Christmas, healthy snacks in the office, flexible working or family-friendly offerings? If you’re struggling to entice quality candidates, partner with a Human Resources specialist to improve your offering and make you an employer of choice.

Recruit on the Right Contract

If you do need a last-minute hire or a temporary solution to meet an uptake in work, fixed term or freelance contracts are a good, low-risk stop-gap. Should the work keep pouring in (and you hired well), you can always ask your temp to become permanent.

It’s Not What You Know…

…it’s who you know, particularly when it comes to agency recruitment. Research shows that a lot of agency hires are found through personal and professional networks with LinkedIn the leader in the on-line arena. Using your contacts is a great way to meet and keep a range of suitable candidates warm for speculative roles and leaves you well-positioned when you need to be able to make an offer quickly.

Be Prepared to Deal with Counter Offers

With stiff competition for talented people, don’t be surprised if you make an offer only for the individual to receive a counteroffer from their current employer. You’ll need to have a strategy in mind with a top figure you won’t go beyond. Combine your pay offer with strong messaging about the value of the total package and emphasise cultural fit to differentiate your company from the competition.

Follow this guidance to ensure you only recruit when you need to and that, when you do, you get the best person for the job at the right rate.

If you need pragmatic recruitment support for your agency, get in touch by calling us on 0330 555 1139 or via email at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Are Your Employees Classed as Self Employed or Employed?

Are Your Employees Classed as Self Employed or Employed?

Freelancers, contractors, gig workers, call them what you will. If you employ them you need to be sure you’ve done your IR35 homework to stay on the right side of the tax man. Make a mistake and you could incur significant costs in time, unpaid tax and fines. If you use self-employed contractors, here’s what you need to know about IR35 to establish their employment status and stay legal.

What is IR35?

Aside from being a topic that makes even the most hardened HR professional shudder, IR35 is essentially a piece of tax legislation. Launched in 2000, HMRC sought to clarify the levels of tax and national insurance payable by different types of earner. Unfortunately, the IR35 policy is poorly written and highly complex with no black and white definition of what constitutes self-employment. Which makes it easy to fall foul of the rules.

What Are Your Responsibilities?

As an employer, you’re responsible for treating the people you hire in line with the IR35 rules. At its most basic, this means you need to do the following:

Employees
o You provide at least the legal minimum of benefits such as holiday and sick pay
o You pay their wages and arrange for their tax and NICs to be paid to HMRC
o You pay the relevant employer NICs on their pay

Self-employed contractors
o You pay the rate specified in the contract for the provision of their services
o They arrange for payment of their own tax, NICs and VAT if earnings reach the appropriate limit
o You have no employer NICs to pay because you are not the individual’s employer

What to do in terms of pay, benefits and tax is the easy part. What’s more difficult is establishing who falls into which category because there’s no single, straight forward definition.

How to Ensure Your Contractors Are Not Really Employees

The IR35 legislation doesn’t provide many ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to the employed or self-employed question. Instead, each individual needs to be assessed against a range of considerations and it’s the balance of responses that dictates the individual’s employment status.

Answer the following questions to understand whether HMRC would class someone who works for you as self-employed or an employee.

Mutual and Exclusive Commitment

Are you obliged to provide the individual with regular work? Is the individual obliged to make themselves available to do this work? And is the individual expected to work only for you? If the answer to these questions is yes, HMRC would likely consider them an employee.

If the individual works on an ad hoc basis as work becomes available, they’re free to turn it down and can also work for other people, they are likely to be considered self-employed.

Type, Direction and Control of Work

Does the individual’s contract specify they should perform explicit tasks by a specific deadline? Can they choose which hours to work and could they provide another suitably qualified individual to carry out the task in their place? If so, they’re probably a contractor.

If the individual has their own internal email address and phone number, they perform a broad job role (that could include managing employees or budgets) between hours specified by you, HMRC would likely view them as an employee.

Remuneration

Does the individual receive a fixed wage on a regular date regardless of performance? Are they entitled to receive employee benefits, pension scheme contributions and entitlements such as holiday and sick pay and a notice period? Are they eligible for the company’s staff bonus scheme? If so, HMRC would likely consider them to be an employee.

Has a fee been agreed up front for the service provided? Can the payment be changed or retracted due to performance? Does the individual arrange their own pension contributions, and cover their own holiday and sick pay? Answer yes to these questions and they are likely to be self-employed.

Other Trip Hazards

It’s not just contractual arrangements that identify the nature of an individual’s employment status. HMRC will also look at the day to day treatment of the individual. Which is why asking self-employed people to wear company uniforms, attend company paid training and giving them internal email addresses and phone numbers must be avoided.

If you use contractors, assessing the employment status of your workforce is not a one-off activity. Because working practices and relationships change over time, employment status can change too. Remain vigilant about how you take people on and regularly review your employment arrangements to ensure you’re on HMRC’s good side.

If this article has left you with more questions than answers, get in touch by calling us on 0330 555 1139 or via email at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

5 Things to Watch Out For When Choosing an HR Provider

5 Things to Watch Out For When Choosing an HR Provider

Expanding your business is a great feeling, but more people means more people management and less time for everything else. Which is why many small businesses often choose to work with an HR provider. But getting the right service for the right price is critical. If you’re thinking of hiring an HR provider, make sure you avoid these five common threats.

1. Pressure Sales Tactics

Choosing your HR provider in response to an emergency situation is a natural reaction. But it makes you a perfect target for the pressure sales tactics used by some HR suppliers. With your eyes on your people problem and not the small print, you could end up in a long-term contract you simply don’t need. Try to cancel and you might find yourself trapped by a six-month notice period. Hardly the flexible approach your business needs.

One way round this is to work with an independent HR consultant. You’ll only pay for the service you need when you need it. And most independents won’t tie you into needless long-term contracts or catch you out with automatic renewals.

2. One Size Fits All Provision

Your business is not the same as any other. You have your own challenges, culture and way of doing things. Despite their best assurances, larger HR consultancies rely on standard processes, procedures and text book answers for their scaled-up business to be profitable.

When you’ve got an HR issue, you need someone to tell you what you can do, not what you can’t. Free from a constraining company rule book, independent HR specialists build an in-depth knowledge of your business to provide bespoke solutions. And, because they’re business owners, they combine legal advice with a keen eye on any commercial implications.

3. Call Centre Style Service

The call centre model might be fine for your mobile phone company, but employment services are delivered best face to face, not on the end of the phone. Like many call centres, large HR providers can have high turnover which leaves you explaining the same problem to different people (once you finally get through).

Using an independent HR consultant means developing a real relationship and a deep understanding of your business culture and the challenges you face. When jobs are best done in person, such as at times of change or crisis, an independent HR provider will stand shoulder to shoulder with you or your managers, to deliver the best results.

4. Sky-High Rates That Cover More Than Your Package

Larger HR consultancies may have lots of white papers and lovely offices but it’s the expensive rates and long-term contracts you pay for that cover them. Depending who you deal with, some larger consultancies take a tiered approach to their contracts with smaller organisations taking a back seat to larger companies.

Independent consultants have significantly lower overheads and will provide you with a price based solely on the service you require. They won’t tie you into long term contracts; you just pay for what you need, when you need it. There are countless examples of some of the larger companies automatically renewing contracts for five years, or even longer, meaning you could be liable for thousands just because you forget the renewal date!

5. Hidden Agendas

It’s not just automatically renewing contracts that larger consultancies want to push you into. They often try to sell you their software and systems too. Not only are these expensive and possibly not required, but they make it harder for you to step away from the support required to run them. Changing systems is a tricky process that no organisation wants to do too often.

Choose to work with an independent consultant and you’ll find they know their area of expertise is HR and they stick to it. You won’t be tied in by IT systems making it easy for you to use and pay for your consultant only when you need them. Most independents prefer to work with happy customers who choose to be with them and not clients who stay because they have no choice.

Many small businesses are lured into working with big HR companies because of the promise of insurance that offers a level of free legal support should a claim go to tribunal. It’s important to note that if situations are managed properly, they shouldn’t get anywhere near a tribunal, making this insurance almost worthless. Also, watch out for legal costs. Once the free cover is used up (which won’t take long) many providers charge a premium for legal support, way above market rates.

From one Small Business to Another

Working with like-minded people often gives the best results. After all, part of the joy of running your own business is that you get to choose who you work with and that should include your HR provider. If you want hands-on, cost-effective HR support, get in touch by calling us on 0330 555 1139 or via email at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Increase in Rates – What You Need to Know

Increase in Rates – What You Need to Know

From 1 April, the National Minimum Wage rates will increase to:

• £7.50 for employees aged 25 or over (known as the National Living Wage)
• £7.05 for 21- 24 year olds
• £5.60 for 18-20 year olds
• £4.05 for 16 – 17
• £3.50 for apprentices

From 6 April:

• A week’s pay for the purposes of calculating statutory redundancy payments and the basic award for unfair dismissal, will increase from £479 to £489
• Guarantee pay during periods of lay off will increase from £26 to £27 per day
• SSP will be £89.35 per week.
• Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay is rising to £140.98.

Why You Need An HR Expert IN Your Business

Why You Need An HR Expert IN Your Business

For most SMEs, once you reach a certain point in both company size and profit margin, hiring an HR consultant makes sense both operationally and financially.

Often business owners struggle to see things that are obvious and necessary in their business because they are so focused in their everyday operations. Some firms rely on HR telephone support which has some benefits in terms of cost, but there are so many rewards from having an HR expert working IN your business. Here’re just a few.

 

How Might Brexit Impact Your HR Policies?

How Might Brexit Impact Your HR Policies?

The results of the EU referendum in June 2016 have rocked the business world. The 52% spoke and now Theresa May is busy negotiating the country’s exit strategy. Few businesses saw the result coming and even fewer made plans for life post-Brexit, it was practically impossible, with so little idea about what happens next. There is uncertainty and scepticism about what is around the corner for UK businesses, particularly from an HR point of view, with implication for trade, the value of the pound, immigration, pensions and employment law.

In this article, we discuss some of the likely outcomes from Brexit and how they may impact your business.

Immigration

It still isn’t clear how Brexit will affect EU nationals working in UK businesses. There are currently over two million EU workers in the UK which are a powerful asset to the UK economy. There may be changes on the horizon to right-to-work arrangements and a more intensive system of background checks which will add an additional layer of complexity to managing your workforce. On the flipside, any changes to right-to-work will also affect UK workers, working in the EU, making it even more of a headache.

Now is the time to get a firm hold on information about your workforce. Your HR database should be thoroughly reviewed so you can make sure you can quickly react to events if immigration rules change. You should make sure you have as much information about your workforce as possible including their location, nationality, right to work and copy of their passport.

Employment law

Membership of the EU has had a profound effect on employment law in the UK. Laws concerning anti-discrimination, family leave entitlements, working time regulations, transfer of undertakings and much, much more, could potentially be changed or removed. However, because many of these laws have been implemented into domestic legislation, the position, in general, will be ‘business as usual’.

That said, many people expect changes to several employment laws including those surrounding TUPE, agency worker rules, statutory holiday pay and working time regulations. From a business point of view, it is important to be vigilant and ensure you keep up to date with any legislation changes over the coming years.

Pensions

The volatility in financial markets caused by Brexit has been plain to see and the instability is likely to increase as we approach our official exit from the EU. This turbulence could have a negative effect on pension schemes as the UK, European and global markets readjust. Many fear that the post-Brexit era will see a negative impact on interest rates and economic growth, affecting government bonds which are the bedrock of many pensions schemes. If government bonds are not producing returns, it could affect the ability of companies to pay pensions.

Without clarity from the government as to the terms of Brexit, the markets will continue to fluctuate and it is impossible to predict what is ahead in terms of our economic future. For up to date information on pensions, be sure to visit the Pensions Regulator website.

It’s impossible to predict the full impact of Brexit until government negotiations are complete and the UK’s route out of the EU is planned. However, it’s safe to say Brexit will almost certainly create more work for UK businesses, from implementing legislative changes to the new administrative responsibilities of changes to migration regulations. If you need support with planning your Brexit HR strategy, get in touch by calling us on 0330 555 1139 or via email at hello@crossehr.co.uk.