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Workers took the fewest sick days in 2020 than at any time since records began, according to the recent ONS data.

Whilst covid itself might have led to more sickness-related absence, measures put in place last year such as:

the furlough scheme

shielding

social distancing

home working

appear to have contributed towards the reduction in other causes of workplace absence.

In the UK, the rate of sickness absence was as low as 1.8% last year, which is the lowest level on record. The ONS, which collates data, could not quantify the amount of people shielding that were employed and able to work from home or the number of furloughed workers.

This begs the question: could shifting to homeworking have a positive effect on sickness absence rates? It is thought that last year, many workers that were slightly unwell and perhaps couldn’t have made it into their usual workplace, worked from home on days when they otherwise would have rang in sick.

Let us know what you think on our social channels (search Supportis on instagram, facebook or Linkedin), and if you need any assistance with managing your workers or workplace health and safety, please give us a call on 0161 603 2156 for a free, no-obligation chat about how we can help.

Now that it has been nearly a year since the pandemic began to spread in the UK and lockdown was implemented, we are starting to see some coronavirus-related judgements come through the Employment Tribunal system.

In the recent case of An Operations Coordinator v A Facilities Management Service Provider, a worker resigned after raising complaints around safety in the workplace and her request to work remotely during the pandemic was rejected. The Irish WRC found constructive dismissal was proven.

This is a first-instance ruling, handed down in a different jurisdiction however, it’s an early example of a covid-related claim that many UK employers will likely be facing over the next few months and beyond.

This is decision is confirmation that when management turn down requests to work remotely where this is a possibility, they could later face claims for discrimination and constructive dismissal.

It is so important that management ensure that your workplace have:

  • consulted individually and collectively over changes (including the possibility of homeworking);
  • carried out a COVID workplace risk assessment and mitigated any risk; and
  • put in place a safe working during the pandemic policy.

If you need any further advice, or you don’t have any of the above clearly in place, give us a call on 0161 603 2156 for a free, no-obligation discussion on your workplace practices and policies.

While LGBTQ+ rights have continued to improve over the years, there is more work to do to tackle inequality

We’ll keep playing our part in fighting against discrimination in all forms, promoting equality and diversity, with aim to:

  • Increasing the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBTQ+”) people, their history, lives and their experiences in our workplace culture and the wider community;
  • Raising awareness on matters affecting the LGBTQ+ community;
  • Working to make educational and other institutions safe spaces for all LGBTQ+ communities; and
  • Promoting the welfare of LGBTQ+ people, by ensuring that our workplace recognises and enables LGBTQ+ people to achieve their full potential.

There are a wealth of resources to help educate and raise awareness at https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/

https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Wall-Chart-A0_V7.6_lo.pdf

The Equality Act 2010 provides that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their gender or sexual orientation.

A Stonewall study found that over a third of LGBTQ+ employees fear potential scrutiny and negativity so choose to hide their sexual orientation in the workplace.

Management need to convey a clear message around the importance of diversity to help LGBTQ+ employees feel more secure at the workplace.

Key steps that organisations can take include:

  • Distribution of an inclusion and diversity policy outlining how outdated stereotypes will be challenged
  • Promoting equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ and other minority employees
  • Setting specific targets (for example the BBC aim to increase their LGBTQ+ workforce through changes to recruitment processes)

Employers have legal obligations to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees and should take into consideration how LGBTQ+ employees are being treated at work. It could be that your business has a culture that allows ‘office banter’ that is in fact classed as bullying or harassment.

Employers need to be aware that they can also be vicariously liable for these workplace situations even if they did not know about them. Significant compensation claims can arise from bullying and harassment; so employers must ensure they implement and maintain a zero tolerance approach to this issue and all accusations are fully investigated. Management should also make clear that any acts of misconduct in this area will be met with disciplinary action.

Holding regular and compulsory equality and diversity training to further promote awareness is also advisable, this could be part of an induction process or from time to time. Management should be fully competent in responding to the needs and requirements of every employee.

Employers should also consider implementing open forums to invite any concerns or suggestions from employees to be shared confidentially. Through this, management will be able to process and understand employees’ views, identify areas for improvement, and help to reassure the workforce that their comments are being addressed and taken seriously at a senior level.

HMRC has confirmed that employees with childcare responsibilities can be put onto the ‘furlough’ scheme if they are unable to work due to school closures and thus having extra childcare and homeschooling responsibilities.

The Check which employees you can put on furlough guidance has recently been updated to reflect that you can furlough employees who:

  • have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household.

This latest update to the scheme appears to have provided a resolution to previous confusion around whether working parents affected by school closures were eligible for the furlough scheme.

The furlough scheme currently runs until the end of April 2021. The Trades Union Congress has pleaded with Employers to furlough struggling parents so they do not have to juggle work and home-schooling responsibilities. The furlough scheme offers a sensible alternative to unpaid leave or reducing staff hours, whilst ensuring that parents can utilise the hours in the working day to ensure children that are currently disallowed into schools are monitored, cared for and educated at home.

HR Magazine reports that some UK firms are even starting to offer fully-paid “lockdown leave” to help ease the pressure off working parents, and increasing leave allowance for staff who are juggling childcare and work.

If you have any HR queries, please give us a call on 0161 603 2156 and our friendly team will be happy to help!

It has recently been announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak that the national living wage (NLW) annual increase will include 23-year olds from April 2021.

This is an increase of 2.2% from the current rate of £8.72 to £8.91 and the increase will come into effect from 1st April 2021. This will mean employees earning the minimum wage currently, will see a rise of nearly 9%.

Sunak said of the change: “Taken together, these minimum wage increases will likely benefit around two million people. A full-time worker on the national living wage will see their annual earnings increase by £345 next year. Compared to 2016, when the (NLW) policy was first introduced, that’s a pay rise of over £4,000.”

The labour government first introduced the National Minimum Wage in 1998. Prior to that, there was no official ‘minimum wage’, although there had been a battle from trade unions to introduce such a rate. The NMW was re-branded as the National Living Wage for those over 25 in 2016. It is perhaps not surprising that the threshold age of 25 has already been lowered to 23 only 5 years later, as a rise in inflation and living costs has meant that the living wage was no longer sufficient.

The pandemic has also shed a light on the importance of the work of key workers, such as those in food retail and hospitality, many of whom are students and those under 25 and will be sure to benefit from this rise in pay.

It is extremely important that as an Employer, you are paying at least the National Minimum Wage. If you think that this is not the case, you should seek to rectify this immediately.

Are there any workers who don’t qualify for the National Minimum Wage?

Yes, they include:

the self-employed;

voluntary workers;

company directors (unless they are under a contract that defines them as a worker).

If you have any queries on the National Minimum/Living wage, please give us a call on 0161 603 2156 for confidential advice.

It has been widely acknowledged that alongside being in the midst of the pandemic, there is also a mental health crisis ongoing. Shocking stats show that almost 20% of adults have experienced depression in some form in June 2020, which is nearly double the pre-pandemic figure. 39% of employees have experienced poor mental health where work was a contributing factor in the last year.

Many factors influence how someone’s life is affected by the pandemic: age, sex, ethnicity, caring responsibilities and career choice can mean that someone is disproportionately affected. Many employees have reported that both their mental and physical health has deteriorated since the national lockdowns have been in place.

Many are suffering being socially and physically isolated, the uncertain nature of the pandemic is causing anxiety and taking a toll on the mental health of employees. It can often feel like ‘Groundhog Day’, for both those who are homeworking and those who are commuting as life has become monotonous, many are feeling trapped in the current circumstances with social and life events having been postponed or cancelled.

In light of World Mental Health Day on 10th October,we reflect on the importance of de-stigmatising mental health, particularly in the workplace, and what practical steps you can take as an employer to support your workforce throughout the pandemic and beyond.

HR’s effect on employee’s wellbeing

An effective HR manager/team can play a key role in supporting employee wellbeing. Absence management and policy implementation, such as dealing with flexible working requests, can make an impactful difference to employees’ quality of their working lives. Management are often the first point of contact if employees are finding things difficult or require workplace adjustments to better facilitate a healthy work environment.

An effective HR manager should be holding regular wellbeing meetings with staff and be able to identify early warning signs of deteriorating mental health and offer guidance or link employees to sources of professional help when required.

The impact the pandemic is having on management can mean that they are dealing with a complex mix of personal employee situations and circumstances. Management need to make sure that employees are treated as individuals, treating both employees’ work-related and personal issues with a sensitive and empathetic approach.

Join the Mental Health at Work Commitment

The Mental Health at Work Commitment, is a set of positive steps for employers to take to improve and support the mental health of their workforce. The commitment provides a framework to help employers support positive mental health changes for their employees, whilst providing tools and practical advice to assist in implementing the six standards.

Employers should take practical steps to reduce mental health stigma and improve the support to employees. In these uncertain times, employees should feel that there is an ‘open door’ policy between themselves and management, so that they can express how they are feeling in a safe and comfortable space and know that they will be supported.

We have collated some mental health at work resources here:

https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/

https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-support-mental-health-work

https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm

If you would like to discuss how you could support your employees further, we are available on 0161 603 2156 for confidential advice.

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If you'd like to find out more about how Supportis can help your business flourish then give us a call on 0161 603 2156 or send us an email.

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