What is a good job?

Next month sees the publication of the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) report on the Review of Modern Employment which has been commissioned by the Government.  This promises to be a far-reaching.  It will look at ways to ensure that the regulatory framework surrounding employment, and the support provided to businesses and workers, is keeping pace with changes in the labour market and the economy.

It will also examine how flexibility can be maintained while supporting job security and workplace rights, and whether new employment practices can be better used as an opportunity for underrepresented groups.

Some of the initial consultation has already highlighted the elements that a wide group of both manual and professional employees describe as ‘good work’.  They include –

  • Fair wage
  • Security of employment
  • Some degree of autonomy and flexibility
  • Productive and useful work
  • Opportunity to progress and to exercise a skill (or skills) and get better at it

One of the recent changes in the labour market is the rapid move towards a ‘gig’ economy. A ‘gig’ economy has been described it as “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs”.    The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recently reported that within 12 years, 50% of the workforce will be freelance.  Together with the changing demographics and technology, the pace of change will only increase.

With these changes afoot, the human resources profession together with their colleagues on the senior management team, need to understand what these trends might mean for the way we engage and motivate the whole workforce.   This is not just about engaging with paid employees, but also freelancers and contractors so that the resourcing and retention strategies make sense.

Why not talk to us about your organisation and how you might think about what good work looks like for you.  We’d love to hear from you.

If you would like to receive a link to the report, please email me and I will send a link as soon as it is published.


How flexible are your working practices?

Research shows that 46% of people in the UK want to work flexibly, yet there are only 8.7% of jobs are advertised as such.   This doesn’t just apply to women.  47% of fathers say that they wish to reduce their hours or move to a less stressful role.  There is also evidence that 30% of employees would choose flexible working over a pay rise, yet just under half of employees say flexible working is not encouraged in their workplace.

Many organisations, particularly small to medium-sized businesses, find it a challenge to keep women once they start having families.   Part of the challenge is making sure the policies and procedure about maternity and paternity leave are clear to line managers and put into practice by them, particularly around the KIT (keeping in touch) days and being in regular contact during the leave period.

So what can be done?  Having a flexible working policy is a good start.  Some employers have started introducing parental coaching to help both new parents and the organisation adapt to their new identity and to think through what would work best for both parties, making sure any obstacles can be overcome.

In addition, it can be useful to have a senior person in the organisation who has made a successful return to work to act as a role model in this regard to new parents in the organisation.  Companies who have introduced this type of ‘mentor’ role have found that it has helped managed expectations from both the employer’s and the employee’s perspective.

If you want further information check out the Working Families website.  They have carried out research and have written some useful guides  – https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk.

If you are facing some of these challenges why not talk to us.  We’d be delighted to talk them through with you.


Why better HR support is key to productivity

The Chancellor’s recent budget highlighted the UK’s poor productivity growth.  It is complex because there are many contributing factors such as low investment in capital equipment, cheap labour and poor levels of literacy and numeracy.  Increasingly though management quality is coming under the spotlight.   The chief economist at the Bank of England argued in a speech made in March 2017 that management quality is plausibly the main reason for many of the UK’s low productivity companies.

Against this backdrop the CIPD have developed and piloted its People Skills initiative which provided HR support to more than 400 small firms through local partners.

One of the most significant findings from the research project is that the first step to business improvement for many small businesses is getting the very basics of people management in place – establishing staff terms and conditions, drafting job descriptions and having one or two important staff policies in place. The research suggests that until these people management ‘foundations’ are in place, owner-managers don’t have the capability, interest, or time to invest in value-added activity like training staff.   Moreover, HR interventions, if they are to
be applied appropriately and implemented effectively, require specialist knowledge.

The CIPD research found that while the typical type of support delivered to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)s through the People Skills Initiative service was fairly transactional, there was evidence that the initiative added significant value to participant organisations.

So whether you are needing to get the transactional basics resolved such as drafting your employment contracts and establishing your disciplinary procedures or you are looking for transformational change such as reforming performance management practices or reconfiguring your reward system, please get in touch for an initial free consultation.


More Selfies?

Today, about one in seven of those in employment are self-employed.  Self-employment increased rapidly during the 1980s and again over the last 15 years. So why is this and what are the implications for employers?

While the self-employed have seen the gap in earnings with employees widen to their disadvantage, they nevertheless, have the very highest levels of job satisfaction: they derive greater value from the nature of their work and say they have more control over it, appearing to find it easier to manage a good work-life balance.

In the past it tended to be older males who were self-employed, but this is now changing with a rise in female and part-time self-employed, and by growth in a broader range of industries and occupations providing personal services and professional advice.

Despite recent recessions only a small proportion of the increase can be attributed to the inability to find dependent employment, although in some cases job loss was the event that originally led some people to switch to self-employment.

So what are the implications?
Employers probably need to pay the self-employed more attention.   It is clear that business owners and HR departments must manage a more diverse workforce that may consist of self-employed workers.

Having clear HR policies can help bring clarity to the employment relationship and expectations about behaviour.   It is also important that employers are clear who are its employees and who are contracted to provide services through businesses or as ‘freelancers’.

If you have any questions about the employment status of your people or would simply like reassurance about your current employment practice, please get in touch.   We’d be happy to advise.


What’s the dress code?

Back in 2016, a secretary at the global accountancy firm, PWC, was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels in line with the company’s dress code.  It was a much publicised case.

Now, the Government Equalities Office have released their latest guidance on the issue of workplace dress codes entitled “Dress codes and sex discrimination – what you need to know.

The guidance is a direct response to requests made earlier this year by both the Women and Equalities and Petitions Select Committees and provides best practice recommendations for enforcing dress code policies.

Amongst the main takeaways from the guidance is that whilst dress code policies remain lawful, they should not be constructed in a way that disadvantages one employee over another. Additionally, whilst dress codes for male and female employees do not have to be identical, the standards imposed should be equivalent and any less favourable treatment on account of gender runs the risk of direct discrimination. To mitigate the risk organisations are urged to avoid gender specific requirements altogether explaining that requiring female staff to wear high heels, make-up or have manicured nails is likely to be unlawful, providing there is no equivalent requirement for men.

Employers are also encouraged to consider if there is a valid business reason for enforcing a specific dress code and if this is truly required to achieve a legitimate business aim. For example, employers in formal settings who wish for their staff to dress smart can reasonably achieve this aim without requiring female employees to wear high heeled shoes.

In other notable points, the guidance recommends that dress codes should:

  • Not be a source of harassment at the hands of colleagues of customers
  • Take into account relevant health & safety requirements
  • Allow for reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010
  • Allow transgender staff to dress in line with their gender identity
  • Allow flexibility around religious symbols and jewellery

Whilst this guidance does little to alter the laws surrounding dress codes, organisations would be wise to consider its recommendations that many commonly enforced requirements either ‘could’ or ‘may’ be considered unlawful should a case ever be taken to an employment tribunal.  Moreover, this guidance adds further weight to the governments ongoing efforts to address workplace inequality which includes gender pay gap reporting and the promotion of shared parental leave.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss issues around dress code or talk about any challenges you are facing. We’d be delighted to help you.


Some myths about Flexible Working

The flexible working arrangements regulations have been in place since 2014, yet a recent report, Megatrends, published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) in January 2019 shows that the take up of flexible working has flat-lined – the number of full-time employees taking up a flexible arrangement between 2010 and 2017 has remained 27%. However, the number of arrangements has increased from 23% since 2005 and it is worth noting that the numbers of part-time roles has increased from 4%(1950s) to 26% in 2018.

Any organisational culture in a company or business needs to show that flexible working adds value. We tend to think of flexible working as ‘working from home’. However flexible working also includes working patterns such as compressed hours, a nine-day fortnight, working from another location and better use of technology to promote collaboration such as teleconferencing and secure shared on-line documents. Some larger international companies have allowed different business units to design their own flexible working policies that work for them. Why have a one-size fits all when across the globe countries and cultures have very different needs around work / life balance?

Many employers are still suspicious that if they cannot see an employee in the office at their desk they are not fully working. It’s good to think about introducing the subject of flexible working at regular one-to one meetings with employees to see if a flexible working arrangement would improve productivity and efficiency. This shows that you trust the individual to give their best and shows you are interested in making their working pattern the best it can be.

One challenge facing employers is whether to have a formal flexible working arrangement process or an informal one. Having a formal process can feel a bit patronising, particularly making them fill in an application form. On the other hand, you want to have a consistent approach and make sure all employees are not being treated differently.

So what next? If you believe your organisation could benefit from flexible working arrangements why not give Hafton a call or email them at info@haftonconsultancy.com.


What will happen to your talent after Brexit?

Yes, we are all fed up with hearing about Brexit, but while all the bluster has been going on, nine months have passed since the government published its long-term proposals for post-Brexit immigration. Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) research found that 58% of employers had either not heard of the UK’s future skills-based immigration system or had no knowledge of its contents.

The main principles in the proposal are that: –

  • skilled workers will have to be sponsored by an employer;
  • there’s a suggested minimum salary threshold of £30,000 per annum;
  • no limit  to the overall  number of visas issued;
  • there is likely to be a transitional system allowing temporary workers scheme to come to UK without a job offer for up to 12 months at a time.

The Government has faced criticism because these proposals are all geared to higher-skilled workers whereas a large number of employers, relying on EU citizens to take up minimum wage roles, can expect significant change. The hospitality and travel sector as well as caring professions can expect to be widely affected.

Another challenge to watch out for is that currently EU citizens make up one in eight of the UK workforce. According to official figures, more than half a million EU citizens applied to the EU Settlement Scheme last month, which has renewed concerns over the growing backlog of applications from European employees looking to stay in the country after Brexit.

Recent figures reveal that there will be a backlog of applications totalling 275,500 at the end of September which could cause problems with the current Brexit deadline current still set for 31 October.

So, is there anything you can do as an employer to protect yourself?

  • Carry out a ‘late’ risk assessment of your workforce / roles to be filled
  • Ensure your current employees feel valued and speak to them directly about the challenges
  • Support them with any settlement visas applications.

Hafton partners with immigration lawyers who can offer support with legal aspects of the EU settled status or any or other aspects of moving to the UK. If you believe your organisation would benefit from further advice please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or email us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.

One of Hafton’s clients has offered financial support to their employees applying for EU settlement status, asking them to give a guarantee that they will stay for an agreed period.


Does your organisation believe it pays its staff fairly for their contribution?

It’s surprising that 75% of HR respondents to a survey about pay feel that staff are paid fairly whereas only 33% of all workers have that view.  Or is it?  Maybe management and HR professionals are out of touch?

The reward management survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that less than 40% of employers had carried out a fair pay audit in the last three years. Line managers can play an important role by explaining the organisation’s pay policies and this relies on the HR function making sure that line managers are on board.  In some cases, it could be just a question of having improved communications about pay and supporting managers to have improved communication around pay.

Here are some of the top tips from the CIPD for employers about helping improve real and perceived fairness around pay. Ensure staff know what they need to do to get a pay rise.  According to the research less than half of employees know how to do this.

These top tips include:-

  • audit actual pay outcomes
  • ensure you pay a liveable wage
  • ensure that staff know what they need to do to get a pay rise

Management and HR teams can do a lot to manage perceptions around fair pay.  For example, they can

  • seek the views of employees and shareholders/trustees to agree on what ‘fair looks like’,
  • make sure staff understand what the organisation expects of them, why it wants it and how the organisation will reward and recognise their efforts.
  • support managers to have meaningful conversations with their teams about the fairness of pay outcomes.

If you believe your organisation would benefit from further advice about fairness around pay please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or emailing us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.


Never mind the gender pay gap – what about the ethnicity pay gap?

We know that a number of organisations are still not publishing their gender pay gap despite legislation being in place since 2017.  However, it seems there is some progress being made in the gender pay arena.  Incidentally, the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 apply to private and voluntary-sector organisations with 250 or more employees so there are many organisations with less than 250 employees who are under the radar.  In a similar vein some companies have committed to publishing their ethnicity pay gap and the government is considering making this mandatory too.

Remember back in November 2017 when the BBC first published its pay gap data?  There were some shocking differences between male and female presenters, yet far less attention was paid to the gap between white and BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) staff.  The figures showed that the highest-earning man was paid over £2m per annum compared to the highest paid woman (c £500,000).  That compares to the highest paid BAME presenter earning £300,000 and the highest paid BAME female presenter earning £250,000.   The differences in the BBC pay levels indicates that there is a wide ethnicity gap which need to be addressed as vigorously as the gender gap.

Carrie Gracie, the China Editor for the BBC, won a pay-out of £280,000 which she donated to the Fawcett Society which campaigns for women’s rights.  Just recently Samira Ahmed also won her case, which has not been announced yet when she claimed she was out of pocket to the tune of £700,000 because of the difference in pay between her and Jeremy Vine.

But is this just an issue for the BBC?  Research shows that it is similar across other sectors and industries.   So maybe the better question is why?  Part of the answer lies in the fact stereotypical roles for women are paid less and BAME men are more likely to be occupying female dominated roles such as care or service roles.

If you believe your organisation would benefit from further advice about fairness and equality around pay please get in touch with Hafton by emailing us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.


And now for some good news . . .

Yes, there is a faint glimmer of hope for businesses on the horizon.   An announcement which came out last week about IR35 legislation (the rollout of changes to private sector off-payroll rules) and the enforcement of gender gap reporting will be delayed for the time-being. Both of these changes weredue tomorrow on 1 April 2020.

Just a quick reminder about what this news means for employers.


So what is IR35?  IR35 is a term used to describe two sets of tax legislation thatare designed to combat tax avoidance by workers, and the firms hiring them.  The latter are companies who are supplying their services to clients via an intermediary, such as a limited company, but who would be an employee if the intermediary was not used.

The Government had intended to introduce the rollout this year to the private sector having done so across the public sector in the UK.

In short, IR35 involves applying three main principles to determine employment status.  These are known as the principal ‘tests of employment’:

Control:  What degree of control does the client have over what, how, when and where the worker completes the work

Substitution:  is personal service by the worker required, or can the worker send a substitute in their place?

Mutuality of Obligation:  This is a concept where the employer is obliged to offer work, and the worker is obligated to accept it.

However, our advice is that you should check your workforce contracts to see how many fall foul of these principles.  Now is a good time to do a review and assess the outcome for your business.

Gender gap reporting

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) said it had decided to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines this year in the wake of the challenge presented to employers by coronavirus, meaning it will not investigate any employers failing to report their pay gap.

While employers will not be obliged to publish their gender pay gaps this year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) recommends and encourages all businesses that are able to submit their data, should do so.

Again, this is a good opportunity if you have additional capacity in your business because of the changes in circumstances, to prepare and assess your gender pay gap if any.

If you would like to find out more or have any questions please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or emailing us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.