HR Bits & Bytes (Nov 23)

In this session, we’re talking recruitment challenges, training allowances and the sharp rise in sickness levels, lets go….

It seems the job market’s been on a bit of a wild ride lately!

Official ONS data shows unemployment at 4.2% and with more people seeking jobs and layoffs on the horizon, the unemployment rate has crept up from its record lows. Still, it’s not quite at the levels we’ve seen in the past.

According to our clients, recruitment challenges along with the sharp rise in sickness levels are their top concerns at going into 2024. Dealing with sickness absence can be frustrating and time-consuming, so here are some tips to help save time:

  • Ensure your records are up to date; employees are obligated to inform you of any medical conditions that may impact their ability to perform their job. This can help you manage longer-term absences. 
  • Remind your managers to record absences as this can help you track patterns or trends that may need to be addressed. 
  • Remember, you are not responsible for managing an employee’s medical condition, but rather to signpost them to the appropriate assistance that will enable them to continue working. 
  • Check your insurance or bank benefits to see if there are any Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that you can offer your employees. These are sometimes a very cost-effective way to help employees and employers, whilst also being a benefit to your team. 

Could Occupational Health consultations be a solution?

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has partnered with HM Treasury to review tax incentives for occupational health provision.  The issue of occupational health provision is a crucial one, particularly for microbusinesses who are less likely to offer such services to their employees. The IoD’s consultation response highlights that; costs and the belief that sickness doesn’t pose any major issues for businesses are the primary reasons given for not providing occupational health services.

However, expanding Benefit in Kind exemptions is considered by many to be the policy most likely to increase investment in occupational health. The government’s role should not be prescriptive, but rather leverage the tax system to allow employers to cater to their staff’s specific needs. It remains to be seen how the government will progress on this issue, but many are eager to see action taken to improve occupational health provision for all employees.

TUPE consultations update – promising news for SMEs

Great news for small and medium-sized enterprises: the existing process for consulting with employees is set to be revised. Here are the main points to keep in mind:

  • Employers will be able to consult with their employees directly, without representatives in place, for small transfers (of fewer than 10 employees).
  • For small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) undergoing any size transfer, the need to consult with representatives will be eliminated.
  • These changes will apply to TUPE transfers taking place on or after 1 July 2024, subject to parliamentary approval.

It’s important to note that employers are prohibited from making changes to their employees’ terms and conditions after a transfer, except for pre-existing “economic, technical or organisational reasons.” This update comes as a relief to employers who may have been hesitant to consider mergers or acquisitions in the past.

If you need further assistance in understanding how this may affect your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In other news…

Training allowances proposed to aid retention.  

Get ready to hit the training ground! Thanks to Autumn Statement 2023, HMRC is set to give businesses the lowdown on which training costs can be written off for tax purposes. Hooray! This means upgrading skills or keeping up with the latest tech or industry trends won’t put a dent in your profits. Get those training wheels spinning! 

The National Living Wage (NLW) will increase by over a pound an hour from April 2024,  

As we’re sure you will have seen. the National Living Wage (NLW) is getting a bit of a boost!  

Starting April 2024, the NLW will increase by over a whopping pound per hour! You won’t believe it, but since 2010, the NLW will have doubled in cash value from around £10,500 to nearly £21,000 per year for full-time workers! 

The NLW eligibility will extend by reducing the age threshold to 21-year-olds for the first time, giving them a 12.4% increase, worth almost £2,300 a year for a full-time worker in this age group. And that’s not all! The National Minimum Wage rates for younger workers are also on the rise! 2.7 million workers will be seeing more money in their pay packets, as 18-20-year-olds get a £1.11 increase to £8.60 per hour! 

It’s not just the NLW that’s getting a raise: The minimum hourly wage for apprentices will also increase next year. An 18-year-old apprentice in industries like construction could get over 20% more, going from £5.28 to £6.40 an hour!  

We’ll keep you updated in the New Year and send a reminder to check contracts and ages of employees who might fall into the new age thresholds.

Illegal immigrants  

Brace yourselves, landlords and employers, because the Home Office is putting its foot down! If you’re caught renting to or hiring undercover migrants, you’ll be slapped with a fine of up to £45k for a first-time offense (previously £15k) and an eye-watering £60k for repeat offenses.  

Updates on Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023, 

UK law is getting a makeover to keep a bunch of equality protections that were previously covered by EU case law. If these protections were to go the way of the dodo, it would’ve happened by the end of 2023. But, thanks to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023, they’re sticking around! 

What’s on the list?  

  • Protection against employment discrimination 
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination 
  • Association-based discrimination 
  • Disability definition, and 
  • Equal pay.  

Phew, that’s a lot! But wait, there’s more…The Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023 is in the works and will be released soon. So, stay tuned. If anything changes that may affect your work duties, we’ll be sure to give you a heads up. 

 The Economic Crime and Transparency Bill is gearing up to wrap up the final stages of its passage, with Lords poring over amendments. This Bill packs a punch with a whole range of reforms aimed at tackling economic crime and pushing for more corporate transparency. Once it’s all said and done, it might be time to give your anti-bribery and tax evasion policies a good dusting off. 

Finally, the ones we feel like we’ve been talking about for the whole of 2023; Flexible Working Act 2023 and The Carers Leave Act 2023 – we will see both Acts coming in to play in 2024 (likely to be April but we’ll keep you updated).

And Finally ………….

In preparation for the new on the horizon changes, we would recommend considering a review of the following areas to check that you are covered and ready for the forthcoming changes.

  • Carers leave
  • Changes to flexible working
  • Part year workers ( if relevant)
  • Minimum Wage increase
  • Changes to TUPE requirements for sme business

As always, if you would like any support or further information on any of the above areas or would like some help in updating your current processes, please contact us on

“Rowan Consulting have provided fantastic support to our HR function, the team is hugely knowledgeable in terms of coaching, recruitment and leadership development and combined with their thorough understanding of our business culture, always adapts the approach using a variety of tools to get the best outcomes for the business”.  HR Manager – Engineering (2023)


  • With over 20 years' experience in structuring and growing businesses and teams from inception, through periods of growth and change and finally structuring them ready for sale, Karen and her team have helped dozens of business owners and leaders manage growth and change within their business by concentrating on the human side of running and managing a business. An experienced Organisational Coach and HR Consultant, Karen has extensive experience in working with growth SMEs and a proven background in delivery and development of employees against business goals, her specialism is in working with small and medium size companies, delivering operational, people-based solutions that are commercially focused and enable growth of the business. Karen also works as a Non-Executive Director and Trustee and is a trained Predictive Index (PI) Analyst.

    View all posts
Rowan Consulting

Management & HR Consultants

Get instant access to our free library of resources.

Receive the latest Rowan insights and news by signing up.

PS Make sure to add us to your address book and whitelist our emails so they don’t end up in your spam inbox.