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With a staggering total sales value of £381million last year alone, the UK’s retail industry is enormous. In fact, according to research by Retail Economics, a market leader in economic statistical analysis, it is estimated that a third of all consumer spending in the UK is through the retail industry. The sector itself comprises of a range of businesses, from household names like Sainsbury’s and M&S to small, independent retailers typically only found on the UK highstreets.

What is National Independent Retailer Month?

Throughout July, retail expert Clare Bailey will be running a campaign for National Independent Retailer Month to highlight the importance of small, independent retailers in the local community and economy. It aims to connect small retailers with consumers in the local community as well as informing on the benefits of shopping with local retailers. As part of this campaign, a directory of independent UK retailers has been created with small businesses signing up and being listed free of charge, helping to connect them with local shoppers as well as provide them with regular social media promotion.

What problems do independent retailers face?

Retail is the UK’s largest private sector employer, with around 315,000 businesses employing a total of 4.5million people. Many of these businesses are large firms with thousands of employees, however many small businesses with only a handful of colleagues face a number of specific problems.

As of April 1st 2019, the National Living Wage increased by 4.9% from £7.83 to £8.21 for those aged 25 and over. This has directly impacted on the overall financial burden but also increased pressure to raise the salaries of their higher earners as well.

For many small retailers, these changes come on top of the existing struggle to keep costs low enough to ensure survival. It’s for this reason that this month’s National Independent Retailer campaign is so crucial.

Encouraging more customers back onto the high-street and away from shopping at the big name online and out of town stores is critical to ensuring small retailers survive, as the only way to combat a rise in costs is to create a proportionate rise in sales.

Employee retention and how to achieve it

It is estimated that in the retail industry, employee turnover is at 60% each year, meaning that for the typical retailer over half of its employees leave the business annually. As a result, hiring & training costs are increased, there’s a fall in productivity as the employees that remain with the business take time out to interview applicants, and new employees joining the business will need to be trained and may have less experience than their predecessors.

A high churn rate is very detrimental for this cost conscious sector where maintaining low costs is essential to making a profit in a competitive business environment. Employee turnover is therefore arguably the most important problem faced by independent retailers today.

So how can independent retailers tackle to problem of employee turnover?

According to employment surveys from Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory company, 44% of employees in retail believe that they have to leave their job in order to advance their careers. This is backed up by research from Gallup that found that an astounding 93% of millennials employed in retail left their employer the last time they changed role.

As surprising as these results may be, they can be used to positively influence employee retention.

Regular discussions with employees regarding career progression

Employees often leave due to a lack of clarity over the opportunities available to them in their place of work. Ensuring that they know exactly what promotion opportunities are available, as well as how they can achieve them is likely to reduce the risk of them leaving. This method can be combined with mentoring schemes, where the most skilled employees in the business help to develop the skills of their less experienced colleagues, encouraging internal promotion opportunities while reducing the risk of employees looking elsewhere to advance their career.

Avoiding all turnover isn’t possible, but when employees do decide to the leave the business it provides a great opportunity to get feedback on where the company performs well, and not so well, in terms of keeping their employees happy. It is useful for all businesses to view themselves from their employees point of view, often gaining insight into how to improve the environment for its employees.

If you require any advice on retail-related legislation, HR or strategic advice, or to arrange a free initial consultation, call our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156.

The wellbeing of employees is a fundamental part of any business; employees who are both physically and emotionally healthy are key to thriving in today’s climate. As this is World Wellbeing Week we look a little closer into just what employee wellbeing is, how easy it is to integrate into business culture and why it is so vital to employers to improve the wellbeing of their employees.

Retention and attraction

An excessive workload can often be demotivating and affect employees’ work-life balance, increase stress and negatively impact their performance at work. Employees who feel supported by their employer both emotionally and physically find it easier to manage work-related stress and as a result are likely to be more productive, allowing the business achieve its goals.

Retaining these productive employees is crucial, reducing the need to constantly recruit and train new employees, as well as allowing teams to flourish, developing stronger bonds as they work on tasks together. Employees that feel valued by their employer and happy in their place of work are much less likely to jump ship as soon as another job opportunity becomes available.

But retention is only one side of the coin; a positive culture of wellbeing will help attract new recruits too. Although it’s easy to imagine that the highest wages attract the most talented workers, a recent study by Deloitte found that a good-work life balance was the number one factor considered by young adults looking for employment.

The benefits of supporting employee wellbeing

There are some huge health benefits to be gained that will ultimately benefit your business. Ensuring that employees aren’t tired or over-worked means that they can be physically active out of hours, aiding overall health and creativity.

A 2013 study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato found that workers who exercised four times per week were able to think more creatively than those that were sedentary. A more creative workforce can lead to improvements in both efficiency and productivity.

Recent research from Mind, a UK-based mental health charity found that of 2060 adults in England and Wales, 60% said they would not only feel more motivated at work but would recommend their organisation as a good place of work if their employer took action to support their mental wellbeing.

Putting it into practice

So far, so good but how can your business actually achieve greater employee wellbeing?

  • Create a culture of openness and support
    The Mind survey mentioned above also found that one-in-five people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they felt over-stressed at work which can lead to a lack of productivity and motivation. Regular one-to-ones with managers can help, allowing employees to discuss any issues they are experiencing at work.
  • Prioritise wellbeing
    Involve employees in the decision-making process and inform them about the key decisions being made in the business. Employees that feel involved in finding the best ways to achieve the businesses’ goals will likely feel more motivated to achieve their own targets, providing a huge boost to morale, innovation and productivity. In fact, BITC Workwell FTSE100 Public Reporting Benchmarking Research Findings concluded that FTSE100 companies that prioritise employee wellbeing generally outperform others by 10%.

This World Wellbeing Week is a great opportunity to try out a few ideas and consider what your business could do to improve the wellbeing of its employees and its productivity.

Our team can tell you more about creating wellbeing plans or provide further advice on HR strategies, just book a free consultation or contact one of our Employment Law advisors on 0161 603 2156.

With 2 billion social media users worldwide, 500 million daily Instagram stories being posted and 360,000 tweets sent every minute; social media has a huge presence in society.

Whilst having juxtaposing qualities in terms of good and bad attributes in a business/personal context, advantageously, social media has elevated companies into what they are today. The establishment of social media has created a whole new billion pound sector in the market creating a wealth of new opportunities. Nevertheless, with Social Media Day upon us (30th June), we have to remember to stay in compliance with the law to make sure to safeguard employees and our companies.

Social Media as a business tool

Promoting your business

Social media has excelled businesses into the digital era and has provided cost effective marketing, sales and HR strategies. 73% of marketers believe social media marketing has been “somewhat effective” or “very effective” for their business, proving a triumph in employee minds. 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family. Indicating that, not only is brand loyalty important for a consumer, but also a company’s digital presence.

Many businesses rely on their employees to use social channels as a positive function to spread the brands ethos, personality and message. An example of this includes Starbuck’s “Tweet a Coffee” campaign which was ultimately spread in-house by employees and managed to gain direct impact on sales with an $180,000 increase in the first month. A great way to reward employees on a HR stand point could be through social media, this can be seen through an initiative from Walt Disney Company on their careers Facebook page where they highlight the veterans that work for the company.

Recruitment

Most importantly social media is used to headhunt and find the perfect candidates with apps such as LinkedIn (the second largest professional app in the world). Further research found that Four-fifths of job seekers will research an employer online before applying and two-thirds (66%) of job changes are to organisations that candidates already know. Evidently, social media is used to build relationships and to acquire talent that will fit a company’s values.

However, ACA cautions that using information from a candidate’s social media profile without their permission in the recruitment process could breach GDPR rules. The GDPR principle is that an employer being able to see a candidate’s social media profile does not mean it has the candidate’s consent to take it into account.

Implementing a social media policy in the office

Rules and Regulations

Some estimates report that misuse of the internet and social media by workers costs Britain’s economy billions of pounds every year. ACA proposes that it may be helpful to set some guidelines – for example, personal use of social media is permitted during tea breaks and lunchtime this could help to increase productivity and retain concentration on work related tasks. An employer should consult their employees or trade union representatives when drawing up a policy.

Safeguarding employees

A 470% increase in social media crime over the past decade has led employers grappling with issues like time theft, defamation, cyber bullying, freedom of speech and the invasion of privacy. Therefore, safeguarding employees and training them on the associated risks that social media can bring can help to reduce serious issues such as phishing scams and harassment.

Potential legal risks if policies are not implemented

ACA cautions that employees and employers should also be aware that their online behaviour could break defamation, data protection or privacy laws (which we shall discuss further below). For example, if an employee posted damaging comments about a company or its products or publishing sensitive commercial data could cause serious risks for both your company and employees. Another example of employee risks includes; divulging protected personal data giving details of salary, political or religious beliefs or disciplinary records.

Legal Considerations

Three considerations we would have to examine in regards to social media and alliance with the law include:

Article 8 within the Human Rights Act gives a ‘right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence’. Case law suggests that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace.

The Data Protection Act 1988 covers how information about employees and job applicants can be collected, handled and used.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 covers the extent to which organisations can use covert surveillance on its employees, and prevents breaching privacy of employees.

Whilst laws have been past to safeguard social media usage we could argue that, bilaterally, social media has impeached on law passing. An example of this is the Brueni Boycott, despite celebrities such as George Clooney campaigning on social media sites such as Instagram calling for personalities and members of the public to boycott Brunei-owned hotels; his new law “death by stoning for gay sex” in the Sultanate was rebuked but not eradicated. On the other hand, whilst this case was not successful it has allowed a conversation to be discussed within society.

It is important to remember that whilst social media presents a wealth of positive attributes, safeguarding and complying with regulations will ultimately benefit our businesses in the long run. Training and policy making is the easiest way to enable your employees to fully comply with company rules and to protect them from any mishaps. Therefore if you need any further advice on Social Media Legal Considerations, policy making or laws, or any other HR and Employment Law issues please call one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156 to see how we can assist.

The care sector has experienced many challenges over the past few years. However, none have been more controversial than the recent changes regarding sleep-ins. But what is a sleep-in shift and why has there been so much controversy?

With the law and tribunals yo-yoing on the topic, how are employers able to keep up and remain compliant?

Overview

A ‘sleep-in’ shift is where an employee is allowed to sleep at their place of work; the employee is on call at work but is allowed to sleep if they are not needed for work tasks.

There have been ongoing legal disputes between employers and employees as to how much pay an employee should receive for such a shift (especially considering that the employee is allowed to sleep).  These disputes have resulted in tribunal claims.

The law

Within the National Minimum Wage Act (NMW) there is an opt-out for those employees who are sleeping at work. The law and the Low Pay Commissions Agency advised that when employees are asleep, this time is not considered to be ‘timed-work’ and so the employer does not have to pay NMW.

However, this has been brought into question and many employees have argued that being asleep at work is not true rest as they are away from their home. They argue that the NMW exemption does not apply and they should be allowed to get NMW for the time they are at work (asleep or otherwise).

Previous cases to be aware of

The Whittlestone case is cited as one of the key cases for sleep-ins pre-2018. Mrs. Whittlestone took her employer to a tribunal claiming she had been underpaid NMW arguing that she should have been paid NMW while asleep at work.

In this case the Employment Tribunal concluded that it did not matter whether Mrs Whittlestone was asleep or actually performing duties during her sleep-in, ruling that Mrs Whittlestone should have been paid NMW.

To come to this conclusion the Employment Tribunal considered the employee’s obligation to be at work. Specific consideration was given to the fact that Mrs. Whittlestone would have been disciplined should she have left the work premises. Given the constraints on the employee’s freedom, Mrs. Whittlestone was entitled to be paid the NMW for the duration of her shift, even if she was asleep.

Following the changes in the way the law was interpreted, HMRC advised that all care providers should back pay up to 6 years underpayment. This would have cost the industry over £400 million.

However, the principal of this case has since been challenged.

Most recent ruling

The next important case in this area is the Mencap case. Using the principles of the Whittlestone case, Mencap employees, with the help of Unison, took Mencap to a tribunal for underpayment of NMW during sleep-ins. Mencap lost this case and it was found that Mencap had underpaid NMW to its employees. Any employee working a sleep-in for Mencap should have been paid NMW.

This ruling meant that Mencap was liable for huge back payments, potentially bankrupting the business.

Having initially lost at tribunal, Mencap then appealed against the ruling in 2018 at the Court of Appeal. After a landmark hearing, Mencap won.
The judge concluded that while employees are asleep they are only considered to be available for work rather than actively engaged in work. Therefore, the employees are exempt from NMW and Mencap were not liable to make any back payments.

Future changes

In spite of this most recent ruling, this issue is far from resolved. Unison have lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court. This escalation to the Supreme Court is to challenge the Court of Appeal’s decision (who sit below the Supreme Court in the hierarchy). As the case has not yet been accepted we are waiting to see what happens and will keep you updated.

Where does this leave employers?

While Mencap have contested the original tribunal decision they are very vocal regarding protecting carers’ working conditions. They have published a statement on their website explaining that while they are not in a financial position to make large back payments, employees who work a sleep-in will be paid NMW rather than an ‘on call’ rate moving forward.

At present employers in this sector are not legally obliged to pay NMW while an employee is asleep (should the employee be woken and actively engaged in work this is when NMW would be due).

However, given that this is an area that could change it would be wise to pay NMW for sleep-ins, as Mencap are now doing, or budget for back pay should the law change again.

If you need any advice on this or any care related HR or Employment Law issues please call one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156 to arrange a free initial consultation.

Since fees were abolished in 2017, employees are now more likely to file Employment Tribunal claims. It is therefore even more important that employers act in accordance with employment legislation.

Typical disputes that arise in the workplace include:

  • Unfair/constructive dismissal
  • Discrimination
  • Unpaid wages
  • Protected disclosure
  • Breach of statutory right/contract

Ideally any issues that could potentially lead to an Employment Tribunal should be addressed with the employee in the workplace and an informal discussion can often lead to a resolution. However, if this is not the outcome there are strict rules around what, where and when constitutes a claim.

Timeframe to file a claim at the Employment Tribunal

An employee has 3 months minus 1 day from the date of the incident occurring, e.g. an employee is dismissed on 15th January 2019, they have until 14th April 2019 to file a claim.

ACAS

Before filing a claim, the employee must contact ACAS and start a process called Early Conciliation (a form of mediation). This is free and impartial.

Early conciliation is up to 4 weeks and can be extended by a further 2 weeks if they are almost near settling the matter.

The process of Early Conciliation ‘stops the clock’ on the 3 months minus 1 day timeframe, e.g. an employee is dismissed on 15th January 2019, on 15th February 2019 the employee contacts ACAS to start Early Conciliation. This came to an end after 4 weeks on 15th March 2019. The employee now has until 14th May 2019 to file a claim at the Employment Tribunal.

Submitting a claim to the Tribunal

An employee must complete an ET1 form in order to submit a claim. As stated earlier, since 26th July 2017 these claims have been free.

ACAS are still available even after filing the claim and cases can still be settled up until the Judge makes a final judgement.

How we can help you

Our HR experts can advise employers on all aspects of employment law ensuring that they are compliant and therefore minimise the risks of being taken to an Employment Tribunal.

Our legal team can assist throughout the ACAS Early Conciliation process.

If you are taken to an Employment Tribunal, our legal team will act on your behalf and conduct full litigation during the tribunal claim. Full advice and guidance are provided throughout the process to ensure we get the best possible outcome.

To find out more call 0161 603 2156 or click here to request a free consultation.

It has been just over a year since The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had companies up and down the country in a frenzy. The GDPR came into force on 25th May 2018, replacing its predecessor the Data Protection Act 1998.

With employees reminded of their data protection rights, is it any wonder the Information Commissioner’s Office has reported a 160% increase in data related complaints made by employees against their employers, within the first 5 weeks of GDPR launching?

Yet, do you really know what a subject access request is, and how to approach it?

The Law

GDPR applies to ‘personal data’ and confers the rights of unsuccessful job applicants, employees and ex-employees to request access to any such data, known as a subject access request (SAR). Whilst employees have always had the right to access their personal data through SARs, the enforcing of GDPR in 2018 has served as a reminder. As a result of this, employers must respect the rights of individuals when processing and holding their personal information through good organisation and data handling procedures.

The six key principles of GDPR:

  • Personal data should be processed fairly, lawfully and in a transparent manner.
  • Data should be obtained for specified and lawful purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes.
  • The data should be adequate, relevant and not excessive.
  • The data should be accurate and where necessary kept up to date.
  • Data should not be kept for longer than necessary.
  • Data should be kept secure.

Subject Access Requests

SARs can be hard to recognise. They do not need to have the words ‘subject access request’ or refer to ‘GDPR’ for it to constitute a SAR. It merely needs to ask for personal data. It could include information regarding any grievances or disciplinary action, or information obtained through monitoring processes. The confusion continues as each SAR is different to the next as they are unique to the individual.

A vital change from the Data Protection Act 1998 to the GDPR is the removal of the administrative fee charged to an employee submitting an SAR. This, coupled with the tight time constraints, can present multiple challenges to companies.

Originally, companies had 40 days to respond to a SAR, this has now been reduced to just one month from the date of receipt.

Companies are obliged to respond within one month and inform individuals of:

  • What personal data you hold about them
  • Why you hold it
  • Who you disclose it to
  • Where the data is available

Given the nature of the request, it is not a simple process therefore arrangements must be in place to deal with any potential SARs.

Consequences

Under GDPR, companies can be fined up to £16.5m or 4% of their turnover if they are found to be breaching GDPR laws. This is thirty times more than the maximum penalty available under the Data Protection Act 1998. Whilst there is no set time period within GDPR outlining how long employers can hold records of data, they must be mindful not to hold it longer than necessary.

If you need any advice on Subject Access Requests or any HR and Employment Law issues please call one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156 to see how we can assist.

 

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