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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.

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.

 

At least two million people will be affected by the new minimum wage this April. Below we have listed the new national minimum wage along with other rates of pay that will change in April.

National minimum wage – increase in hourly rate of pay as of 1st April 2019:

  • 25 and over
    £8.21
  • 21 to 24
    £7.70
  • 18 to 20
    £6.15
  • Under 18
    £4.35
  • Apprentice
    £3.90

Statutory sick pay increase as of 6th April 2019:

  • From £92.05 to £94.25
    The lower earnings limit has also risen from £116 to £118

Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Pay increase as of 7th April 2019:

  • From £145.18 to £148.68
    The lower earnings limit has also risen from £116 to £118

Statutory Redundancy Cap Pay increase as of 6th April 2019:

  • The gross weekly cap used for calculating redundancy pay has increased from £508 to £525
    Therefore the maximum statutory redundancy payment has increased from £15,240 to £15,750

Deduction of wages is a common dispute between an employer and employee or even an ex-employee, and one that can land an employer at an Employment Tribunal if not completed correctly.

Employers risk unlawful deduction of wages claims or claims that the employer has not paid National Minimum Wage (NMW) if they have made a deduction from an employee’s wage in the wrong way.

Other than the normal reasons for deductions (such as tax and NI contributions) what can an employer legally deduct from an employee’s wages?

We’ve identified different types of deductions that an employer can make and looked at how they can make these deductions safely.

Overpayment of wages

An employer has every right to deduct any overpayments from an employee’s wages. In the case of an overpayment, as the employee has already benefited from the money in a previous wage payment the employer has the right to make deductions that takes the employee below NMW.

However, to act reasonably, it is advised that the employer should attempt agree on a payment plan with the employee to pay back what is owed, especially if the deduction would take the employee below NMW.

Court order

If there has been a court order (such as Child Support Agency payments or an Attachment of Earnings order) then an employer has the right to deduct these from an employee’s wages. In this instance, if the employer does not comply with any such deductions then they could find themselves in contempt of court.

However, it is imperative that court orders should not take an employee’s wage below NMW.

Contractual deductions

If there is a contractual clause that allows the employer to deduct money from an employee’s wages they can do so. This could be for not returning company property or other contractual benefits.

If there is no contractual clause that allows such deductions, employers and employees can come to an agreement to make deductions. It is best practice to get any such agreements in writing and ideally prior to the deductions commencing.

On occasions when an employee has missed work due to being on strike or taking industrial action, the employer is able to deduct for such activities.

Training Agreements

A training agreement should be an independent agreement that is separate from the contract of employment. Usually this will take the form of a ‘loan’, where the employer stipulates how much the employee will be liable to pay back should the employee leave within a certain time period of the training course. To be as reasonable as possible it is advised that the repayment amount should be pro-rata the longer the employee remains employed.

It is vital that the employer and employee agree these terms in advance of the employee completing the training. It is very difficult for an employer to make reasonable deductions for training if the terms are not set in advance.

Uniform

In 2018 many well-known retail operations were fined for failing to pay staff the National Minimum Wage. However, this was not because of obvious deductions that the employers had made.

As per statutory law, employers may require workers to wear specific uniforms. If the employer requires the worker to purchase specific items, such as overalls, then this should be accounted for within their wage.

Wagamamma and TGI Friday’s were caught short on this point and subsequently fined for not paying NMW. This is because they expected employees to buy particular parts of their uniform, (i.e. black jeans). It was concluded by HMRC that asking employees to buy any part of their own uniform pushed the employees below NMW in their first pay cheque.

If an employer provides a uniform, without any charge, any deductions the employer makes for ordinary wear and tear to that uniform will reduce the employee’s pay rate, potentially causing the employee to fall below NMW. However, if the worker damages the uniform, loses it or does not return it at the end of the employment, the employer can deduct this from the employee’s wage.

To avoid any confusion between employer and employee on whose responsibility it is to maintain uniforms, employers are urged to have clear uniform policies and procedures. Where necessary, paying a uniform supplement could be beneficial.

Equipment damage/replacement

Another common question we’re asked is if an employee damages company property, can this be deducted from their wages?

The employer cannot deduct the costs from the employees wage without written consent from the employee.  There also needs to be a clause in the Contract of Employment which gives the employer the authority to do so.

In the absence of a contractual clause that enables an employer to make deductions from wages, both parties can come to an agreement for the deduction to be made. It is suggested that an employer ensures they receive written authorisation from the employee to make any such deductions from their wages. This will be useful should the employee decide to take it to Tribunal for unlawful deduction from wages.

If a deduction of this nature should happen, you need to ensure that the cost must be a ‘reasonable reflection of the cost of repair’.  Meaning, the payment cannot be more than the cost of the damage to the property. Anything more could be seen as a penalty clause and will therefore not be enforceable.

Any deduction has to be reasonable, and employers need to ensure that they deal with each employee to fit their particular circumstances.  You also need to ensure that the amount that you deduct does not take the employee below National Minimum Wage.

Transparency is key

Having a clear policy in place about deductions will make any need to implement it easy for both employers and employees. It is also worth considering that if the employee has to go to any financial expense for the business, or under the order of the business, the employer should not allow the employee to fall below NMW.

If you have any concerns with employee deductions or want to change your current systems and processes, contact one of our Employment Law Advisers on 0161 603 2156 for advice or to arrange your free consultation.

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