Despite the growing good news around vaccinations, we all appreciate that we’re going to be living with the ‘fallout’ of COVID for a while yet, whether that’s changes to our working patterns or reducing costs across the board to meet financial requirements. 2 potential big-ticket items worthy of a review this month, that should result in a quick check of company employment contracts and handbooks are
- Changes to working patterns and some contractual considerations as a result of COVID, and
- Forthcoming potential changes resulting from Brexit
The change to working patterns for many because of COVID have the potential to change a lot of the moving parts of your contract of employment over the coming months, here are some of our picks of what you should potentially look at as people and teams start to return to work and the office.
- Lean and agile workforces
Like it or not flex working will be here to stay for the foreseeable and working practises and policies to cover this within your business is not only a ‘good to have’ for engagement purposes, but it also improves communication.
Clarity is key!, Ensure everyone knows what is changing ahead of time, along with any new guidelines that might now be in place.
Aside from the engagement and improved communications, you should be aware that you also have a legal obligation to offer and in some cases honour, a flexible working request after 6 months service. You will need to demonstrate that you have dealt with these requests appropriately and against the backdrop of the last 12 months.
So, be reasonable, honest and transparent, and prepare and consider the possible benefit for both parties.
You may be aware that there are changes coming in on April 6th 2021 in relation to status relating to Contractor and consultant employment status and taxation. Under IR35, or Off Payroll Regulations (OPR), from 6th April should you use contractors and consultants in your business, it becomes your responsibility as a business owner to check the employment status of these individuals, along with any taxation payments that may be due.
Check out the HMRC CEST tool which will help you determine status, as well as next steps.
- Changes to your employment paperwork
Here are a few suggestions on parts of the contract that you might want to review, in light of the last 12 months. Hours and place of work, check and review wording around “Place of work”, what will this look like for you and your teams going forward? Do you need to add any updates to show improved flexibility now?
There will no doubt be a more blended approach to how we work going forward but that can make it more difficult in terms of communication, think about how you will continue to communicate with everyone when teams are dispersed flexibly, do all of you current policies include these new tools and working practices?
Mobility clauses, as we become more open to flexible working and the opportunity of recruiting people from literally anywhere now, check any mobility clauses in your contract to account for this new benefit. You may also want to check any redeployment clauses in the contract to cover the business if anyone if off sick or shielding in the future, and as a result of furlough, check you have a clause or policy around lay off and short time working.
As we switch from ‘working at home’ to ‘working from home’ other areas that may need reviewing include:
- Onboarding and reboarding
Everyone will be aware that as an employer you have a duty of care to make workplaces COVID secure, but have you considered any wellbeing implications of staff who are returning to work, after an extended period of working from home or furlough. As well as it being good for employee engagement you also have a legal obligation to consider duty of care and wellbeing of your employees.
- Check if you need to make any reasonable adjustments for returning employees.
- If time permits have a quick check in with staff ahead of their return even if they have been working from home, to let them know what will happen and what they can expect.
- Update them on any new things you have in place and how they can effectively address concerns!
- Nip things in the bud and deal with them before they come back to the workplace, it will save you so much time in the long run!
The ongoing management of any performance reviews will no doubt need to be streamlined to cover any new ways of working, so consider the practicality and regularity that suits you and your teams, but in the interim its worth remembering people will be out of sorts, and it will show up at different levels, maybe at different times for different people, if they are out of sorts don’t be too quick to jump to performance reviews with staff, it will take time
Ask twice, listen, and respond accordingly, performance reviews should be your last attempt to address issues, give it time, set reasonable expectations clearly and ahead of time.
- IT & Security
With an anecdotal rise in companies using monitoring software on employees, just be mindful and ask “do we really need to do this… how will it affect employee engagement and loyalty”. If you decide it is the best option for you and the business, then ensure you are complying with current data protection and GDPR regulations on what you can and cannot monitor.
GDPR will be retained in UK law, as a result of Brexit, there are some great tools and resources for SMEs on the ICO website.
In conclusion, this is an opportune time to strengthen your contracts and supporting documentation for the future. As a starting point, consider what you want your business to look like and take the opportunity to future proof the business in respect of what you want your business to look like going forward, and then work your contracts and supporting working practices around this.
- Few final points
Applications for settled status of EU workers should be in by the 30th June, although you cannot ask employees for proof of status, our suggestion would be to proactively approach employees and encourage them to apply. By 1st July all checks need to be in place so encourage your employees now, ahead of the deadline.
Extension of CJRS & HMRC Taskforce
CJRS has been extended again, with the introduction of a new HMRC Taskforce being released as part of the budget last week, make sure you have all the relevant and up to date paperwork in place that complies with HMRC regulations, this doesn’t just relate to payroll info, this also includes any letters to your employees in respect of furlough, check you have any replacement or ongoing paperwork in place.
The return of children to school could ease some childcare commitments. Our coronavirus furlough content can guide you through the process for asking staff to return to work in line with government guidelines.
We have also updated our letter for taking staff off furlough, alongside adding a new letter for ending furlough due to schools reopening, if you need copies of these please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Increase in national minimum wage comes in from April.
If you would like some help or advice on changing any of your employment paperwork or what options you can take, then please get in touch www.rowanhr.com email@example.com