5 Reasons Why Organisations May Not Want to Continue Home/Remote Working?

an image of a woman working remotely from the comfort of her couch with two children

 As a result of the pandemic, the way organisations operated changed drastically with employees working from home or remotely. Now the Government has mapped out a path to return to normality, organisations may choose to return to offices. By doing so, organisations may see the following benefits:

1. Supervision

Although organisations have managed to supervise during the lockdown, some have found it is difficult to supervise junior staff remotely. Some staff have not been able to carry out all their duties remotely.

2. Teamwork

Of course, staff can work as a team remotely however the chances are that colleagues are more likely to talk, collaborate and discuss ideas in the office when they are together rather than booking a virtual call.

3. Productivity

Sometimes it’s just easier to talk rather than spending 10 minutes drafting an email and being careful on how you draft the email so that a colleague is not offended. We all know that emails can sometimes come across as rude!

4. IT

Although some organisations invested heavily on their IT infrastructure during the first lockdown, there are some who have not been able to, either because they are not regulated or because they consider it too costly. The challenge organisations may find is ensuring that wherever their employees are working from, it is secure and data is protected.

5. Mental health

Working from home has been a challenge for many, either because they are trying to work and manage childcare or because they are working around the clock and have not been able to spend quality time with their partners! Being able to talk, meet, go out socially feels good. Having time to go out for a walk at lunch or a coffee is good for your mental health! The likelihood is that working from the office, gives many a structure, there’s a time to clock off!

If you find yourself needing to seek advice for employers please contact our Specialist Employment Documentation Solicitors on 020 7903 6888 or email: contact@davenportsolicitors.com.

Reasons why you should consider outsourcing your HR

pexels fauxels  Copy

Are you thinking of outsourcing your HR function but wondering what the benefits are?

Ultimately, HR professionals need to have a deep understanding of different rules and regulations, as well as specialised expertise and knowledge in the field. Having an HR manager onboard 24/7 can be a waste of money and trying to hire people internally could lead to crucial mistakes that could be easily avoided. In this post, we look at reasons why you should consider outsourcing your HR.

As a business that works with a lot of SMEs, Davenport HR understand that small companies with limited headcounts can find themselves overwhelmed by HR and its growing demands. If you’ve got CEOs and General Managers stretching themselves to cover the HR function, or you’re like the majority of other businesses that we come into contact with, you may believe your company’s HR skills are lacking, it might be a sign you need help.
Here are our top reasons to outsource your HR:

Cost-Saving

Working with a specialist HR Consultancy like Davenport HR can help to cut business costs, plus you’ll have more time to focus more on your customer-facing responsibilities and core business.

Comply with Legal Issues

As a business owner, you may be unaware of how strict the rules or regulations surrounding human resources can be. But when you’re outsourcing, you know that the person you’re working with has a deep understanding of HR and employment law and will always be up to date with the most recent changes, thus meaning your business will always be compliant.

This is particularly important if you’re in a heavily regulated sector, like healthcare and finance, for instance. People in these industries have to always make sure that they remain compliant and working with an HR professional that understands HR law in and out will allow you to do so.

Gain Greater HR Expertise

Outsourced HR can work with your current team to build their HR knowledge and skills. While we’re there to essentially take the grunt work off your hands, the best value will be found in developing a true understanding of why HR-related know-how is so important to any business.

Motivated, Engaged Employees

At Davenport HR, we’ll work with you to develop a benefits package for your staff. When you’re able to offer employees a great benefits package, and they know that you take your business seriously enough to work with HR professionals, they will know that you actually care about them as employees, which will make them more engaged and in turn boost morale. Your management team will also appreciate having a team of experts helping them with establishing a company culture.

For more information on the services Davenport HR offer, contact a member of our team today.

A guide to conducting remote interviews

Woman sitting at table on laptop

The Coronavirus pandemic has placed us in strange and uncertain times, affecting every industry in some way. As we adjust to the ‘new normal’, recruitment has begun to increase again, albeit not to the same levels as pre-covid.

When hiring, it is important to ensure the successful candidate has all the necessary qualifications and desired experience. It is also about the candidate and business getting to know each other on a more personal level, which without face to face interaction, can be more difficult.

The goal of interviews should remain the same: for all parties to leave a positive impression and to ascertain the best candidate for the vacant position. Below are some considerations for conducting a remote interview.

Set expectations

It is important that before the interview commences all parties involved are on the same page about all aspects of the interview. It should be clear as to whether the interview will be just audio or a video interview, the software that will be used and an introductory email introducing all participants of the interview, their role at the interview and setting out an interview agenda.

Prepare technology

There is the perception that by conducting interviews from home, the process becomes more casual. However, this may lead participants to feel less of a need to prepare ahead of the interview. An aspect of preparation that should not be overlooked is technology. The interviewer should provide the interviewee with the opportunity for a test run ahead of the interview to ensure they are familiar with the platform being used to conduct the interview.

It would be naive to think that all remote interviews will be conducted without some aspect of technical difficulties such as wifi dropping out or an issue with the video platform itself. Therefore, it is good practice to have the candidate’s contact number in front of you should the interview need to be completed via phone.

If interviewers require the candidate to show their work or make a presentation during the interview, they should ask them to provide a copy beforehand to ensure that the material can be seen, should there be a technological issue.

Read more: How to manage remote employees effectively

Questions

Technological issues and inexperience in conducting remote interviews can both lead to awkward silences and confusion. Therefore, interviewers should have prepared their most important questions ahead of the interview, just as they would for an in-person interview. After the questions have been asked, ample time should be given for responses to be provided. An interviewer should not rush any follow-up questions. They should make sure that a candidate has finished their response before moving on.

Surroundings

If an interview is being conducted by video, participants must ensure that their environment is appropriate. They should make sure that they are not sitting in front of a window or direct light behind as this will make it difficult for them to be seen. Participants should also make sure that they have removed any clutter which may distract them during the interview. In particular, any confidential documentation that can be seen via the camera.

Interviewers should understand that some candidates might not have access to a laptop/computer with a video camera or a quiet space with four walls and this should not be held against them.

Don’t forget the small talk

The walk to the interview room or the escort from the building after the interview provide participants with the opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal basis. The interview is where the professional abilities are assessed but these moments before and after, give interviewers the chance to get know what the candidate will be like to work with. Therefore, it is important that this aspect is preserved in remote interviews by giving a moment before the interview commences once the call has begun.

How to use a redundancy selection pool

Young business woman in white dress sitting at table in cafe and writing in notebook

What is a redundancy selection pool?

A redundancy selection pool is a way of grouping employees, with similar roles, who are at risk of redundancy. Any employees selected for a redundancy selection pool must be done fairly and in no way discriminated against. It is important to document your selection criteria and process.

A redundancy selection pool is not relevant for a smaller business where only one employee in a specific function is being made redundant.

It is important to note, a redundancy selection pool relates to employees in the same or similar roles or employees across departments at a similar skill level. You may need a few, separate redundancy pools if you are planning on making multiple redundancies across the business (e.g. marketing, finance and IT).

If you have a recognised trade union, you should check and follow any agreements you may have with them about how selection pools are set up.

Consulting with employees or their representatives

Once you have a proposal on pooling and how the selection process will work it is important to consult with at-risk employees or their representatives.

It is important to be open and collaborative during the selection process. Naturally, it can be a stressful time for any at-risk employees and it is key that they understand the proposals and the reasons behind them and trust that it is fair.

Selecting from the redundancy pool

When selecting employees from the redundancy pool it must be done objectively. It is often advisable to create a scoring matrix to grade at-risk employees and compare their skills, experience and performance.

Selection criteria may include:

  • skills or experience;
  • relevant qualifications;
  • disciplinary record; and/or
  • appraisal ratings.

When processing employee data, businesses should ensure it is done in accordance with their data protection policy and employee privacy notice.

Establishing an appeals process

You should set up an appeals process for employees who feel they have been unfairly selected. This can reduce the chances of someone making a claim against you to an employment tribunal.

You should explain in your redundancy plans how someone can appeal. You might meet with employees face-to-face to listen to their concerns or ask them to write a letter or email explaining why they do not agree with your decision.

How to manage remote employees effectively

Woman sitting at table with laptop and books

What are remote employees?

Remote employees are employees of a business that carry out work outside of the company’s physical office. There are different levels of remote employee. From those working one day a week away from home to fully remote employees who rarely visit a physical office space.

With the recent global events, many businesses have found themselves adopting a model of remote working a lot quicker than initially planned. For some, this is only for specific teams on particular days, to enable a staggered approach in returning to the office. For others though, they have seen their whole business shift to a remote working model, indefinitely and for the foreseeable future.

Common challenges of remote working

Distractions at home

Employers and employees have done a great job adapting to the sudden shift to remote working. However, many employees don’t have a dedicated working environment in their home, meaning rapid improvisation on their part.

With that, it can sometimes be challenging for employees to remain 100% focused during working hours. Workspaces aren’t ergonomically optimised. Distractions that otherwise would have been left at home have found themselves a place in your working environment and, of course, unexpected parental duties.

Social isolation

The idea of remote working, for employees, sounds great. However, one of the most common complaints to arise from employees is a lack of social interaction. Losing the ability to casually chat with colleagues can lead to a very rigid and monotonous workday.

Over a long period, if left, this can lead to employees feeling less motivated at work and losing a sense of belonging at a company. This, in turn, can lead to a decrease in employee satisfaction and retention.

Excessive or lack of supervision

For some employers and managers, the idea of employees working from home creates assumptions that they are not working as hard or as efficiently. In actual fact, research shows employees are more active throughout the day and into the evening.

How managers can support remote employees

Offering a level of flexibility in working hours

Employers should now understand, that with the shift to remote working, an employee’s personal and professional life have blurred slightly. If possible and if in no way detrimental to their work, employers should consider allowing employees some flexibility in their working hours.

Regular check-ins and group calls

It is important, as an employer or manager, to establish a daily or weekly call with your team. This helps everybody understand what each person is doing and also encourages employees to be accountable for their work.

It may also help setting up monthly team calls, with no real agenda and no plan to talk about work-related matters. This can go some way in recreating office ‘water cooler’ conversations and help motivate people.

Returning to work during the COVID-19 Pandemic: 5 steps to working safely

Empty office meeting room

The COVID-19 Secure guidelines, applicable in England, are supported by five key steps to working safely which employers need to implement. They are:

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Before employees start to return to the workplace, employers should ensure the safety of their workplaces by:
    • carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance;
    • consulting with their workers or trade unions; and
    • sharing the results of their risk assessment with their workforces and on their websites.
  • When the government announced the publication of the COVID-19 Secure guidelines it suggested that employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their websites and stated that the government expected all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.
  • Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures. Employers are called on to ensure an increased frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:
    • encouraging people to follow the NHS guidance on handwashing;
    • providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms;
    • frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly;
    • More cleaning for busy areas;
    • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets; and
    • providing hand drying facilities (either paper towels or electrical dryers).
  • Help people to work from home. Employers should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:
    • discussing home working arrangements;
    • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example, remote access to work systems;
    • including them in all necessary communications; and
    • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Maintain two-metre social distancing, where possible. The employer should do this by:
    • putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance;
    • avoiding sharing workstations;
    • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a two-metre distance;
    • arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible; and
    • switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible.
  • Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk. Employers should do this by:
    • considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate;
    • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible;
    • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other;
    • using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible;
    • staggering arrival and departure times; and
    • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams or partnering.

A downloadable poster “Staying Covid-Secure in 2020” has been produced reflecting the five steps which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed the government’s guidance.

The importance of HR in growing companies

iphone notebook pen working

As companies begin to grow the importance of HR within the business becomes increasingly clear. From recruitment to employee onboarding and employee management, HR manages the whole employee experience.

During company growth, you need to make sure you are employing the right people for the job. They need to be onboarded quickly and they will need assistance to grow through training and development.

In particular, a company’s HR team is responsible for creating, rolling out and managing policies between employees and the management team of the company. The role of the HR team in a company affects all aspects of the business because HR supports employees and employees are a company’s most important resource.

HR for new companies

For small companies, with growth in their sights, we have created a free HR toolkit.

Our free HR toolkit for fast-growing companies has been created to help save time by providing key documents and HR templates for businesses so they can focus their energy on growing their company.

Download our FREE HR toolkit

HR for established companies

For more established companies that are looking for that added support each month, we have fixed-fee HR support packages. One of the key benefits of our HR packages is access to our employment solicitors (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm) through our Employment Law Advice Line.

View our HR support packages

It is important HR teams have robust systems in place, especially during times of growth to ensure a consistent and enjoyable employee experience.

Employer’s step-by-step guide to redundancy

Macbook pro on brown wooden table

We have compiled an employer’s step-by-step guide to redundancy.

  1. Is there a genuine redundancy situation? If so, how many redundancies do you need to make? Is it a redundancy or a reorganisation scenario? Are there ways of avoiding redundancies?
  2. If proposing to make more than 20 people redundant from one establishment, you need to start consulting with your recognised union (if you recognise one) or start the process of electing employee representatives.
  3. Choose your selection pool and provisionally choose your selection criteria.
  4. Write to those who may be affected, explaining why you are considering making redundancies, setting out the anticipated number of redundancies and the pool they are being drawn from, inform them about the proposed selection criteria and explain the process and expected timetable.
  5. Invite volunteers for redundancies, explaining the terms of any enhanced voluntary redundancy package.
  6. Hold the first individual consultation meeting with each person affected. Explain the position again, give them the chance to comment on the selection criteria (or, if consulting collectively, do that as part of the collective consultation), and discuss voluntary redundancies. Consider any suggestions they make, and if you agree with their suggestions, do as they have suggested.
  7. Carry out the individual scoring using a selection ‘matrix’ and send each employee a copy of their score sheet. Tell them the break point, i.e. the score above which people’s jobs are safe. If consulting collectively, meet regularly with the representatives while all this is going on to discuss ways to avoid redundancies.
  8. Hold a second consultation meeting with all the employees who fall below the break point. Go through their scores with them and give them the chance to explain if and why they think you have underscored them. Listen to what they have to say. If you accept what they say, adjust their scores. If that moves them above the break point, pushing someone who was previously above it down underneath the break point, you need to hold this second consultation with the employee who has been pushed below the break point, allowing them to comment on their scores too. If you do not accept their arguments, make sure you keep a note of what they said and your reasons as to why you did not accept it. Discuss any alternative employment. Is there anything they would like to be considered for? Invite the employee to consider their position and get back to you within the next few days if they want to be offered or be considered for any particular role.
  9. If no suitable alternative employment has been identified and you have not revised their scores upwards, hold a third and final consultation meeting at which you tell them their selection for redundancy is now confirmed and you are giving them notice. If you have identified suitable alternative employment, explain and offer it to them. If not, tell them you will keep looking up until the date their notice expires. Explain their right to time off to seek new employment. Remind them that they should come forward at any time with suggestions for alternative employment. Explain calculations for their notice pay, redundancy payment and any other payments. Tell them when their final day of work will be. If they have any outstanding holiday, consider making them take it during their notice period. Make it clear whether you want them to work their notice or whether they can stay at home. Offer a right of appeal.
  10. Keep looking for alternative employment.
  11. When their notice period expires, make any outstanding payments (likely to be outstanding holiday pay, outstanding expenses and their redundancy payment).

It is imperative that minutes of meetings are taken, and all meetings should be followed up and confirmed to the employees in writing.

Returning to work in a post-lockdown world

Turned on silver laptop on tabletop

Returning to work in a post-lockdown world is very much high on the agenda this week. With the prime minister set to announce a roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday 10 May 2020.

As part of that roadmap (and as reported on earlier this week) workplace rules, post-lockdown, are likely to be covered.

We look at what normality could mean for many employers and employees post-lockdown.

Health & safety and employee wellbeing

Enhanced health & safety and employee wellbeing measures will likely need to be introduced into workplaces. Covering not only office premises but taking into account employees that will be working from home for an extended period, perhaps even permanently.

Social distancing practices

For businesses that require employees on-site, a raft of social distancing measures will need to be introduced before workers can return to work.

These are likely to include limits on gatherings in the workplace, for example, two people to a lift or a limit on how many people can participate in on-site meetings. Employers will also need to look at ensuring safe distances are adhered to with regards to people’s desks.

Sales of tape will likely go up, with many businesses resorting to physical markings to keep employees at a safe distance from each other.

Additional hygiene products and procedures

Businesses will likely need to improve and formalise enhanced hygiene procedures. As well as being prepared for the increase in the use of items such as paper towels, hand soap and cleaning products.

In particular, hotels and restaurants will need robust procedures in place to ensure the safety of staff and patrons.

Improvements to mental health practices

It is quite easy to neglect the strains on mental health that the current situation is having on employees. With lockdown depriving people of the things that they need to stay well, such as the routine of work and social engagements and peer support groups.

Employers are encouraged to begin planning how they can assist employees in dealing with the current and new challenges that will be presented to them.

Returning to work

For many, working in an office full-time will be a distant memory, with employers and employees realising the productivity and wellbeing benefits.

Staggered start times

For sectors and jobs where working from home is not a valid option, employers may look to implement staggered start times for employees. This will go some way to negating the number of employees on-site. But also to ensure that public transport, during typical rush hour times, is less crowded.

More open communications

The need for clear and consistent internal employee communications has never been more pertinent. To keep employees safe and able to work, employers are having to put a greater focus on communicating updates with their staff.

Productivity

According to recent research from Willis Towers Watson, employee productivity remains resilient, despite the widespread disruption caused by COVID-19.

The survey found that two-thirds of companies had the majority of their staff (75% of employees) working remotely, with 85% saying they had the technology, tools and resources needed to work productively for an extended period.

Conclusion

With announcements set for this Sunday (10 May 2020), there will be some respite with certain restrictions being relaxed, where safe. However, for most, working life has changed over the long-term.

Furlough scheme eligibility date extended

Bridge over river in London

The Furlough scheme eligibility date has now been extended to 19 March 2020, from 28 February 2020.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers can access government support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary (80%) for those employees that would have otherwise been laid off during this crisis.

Initially, the scheme supported those employed up to and on 28 February, leaving many workers who changed employers after this date without any income. Following widespread criticism, the date has been extended to 19 March. One day before the scheme was first announced.

Read more: Coronavirus FAQs: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020.

This change makes the scheme more generous while keeping the substantial fraud risks under control and is expected to benefit over 200,000 employees.

Employers will be able to make a claim for 80% of employees’ wages, up to £2,500 per month, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme when its claims portal opens on Monday 20 April.

Lastly, a recent direction issued by the Treasury to HMRC states that an employer must have instructed an employee in writing to cease all work in order for that employee to be eligible under the scheme. Previously, HMRC’s guidance said employees only needed to be notified that they needed to stop working.