Increasing retirement age – how can employers plan?

The Department for Work and Pensions has nnounced that around six million people born between 1970 and 1977 would see their state pension age increased from 67 to 68 but what are the implications for employers in this decision? This change means that employees will now spend two years at work for every one year in retirement so someone who joins a company at 55 could easily be with the firm for 10 to 15 years. The idea that someone is too old to be worth training will soon seem to be completely outmoded and organisations which are good at recruiting, retaining and retraining older workers are likely to benefit.

Employers also need to consider the changing nature of pension provision. In the past, a final salary pension scheme meant both that people could afford to retire relatively early and that, where necessary, the pension scheme could be used to ease people out. But now many businesses will have employees who cannot yet draw a state pension and who cannot afford to retire on the private pension pot which they hold. Providing high-quality pensions to make sure older workers can actually afford to leave the organisation at a time that works for the employer and the employee is going to become increasingly important.

Being able to retire at 55 on a company pension and enjoying a life of leisure is becoming less likely. Increasing state pension ages, declining levels of pensions’ saving and a dwindling supply of younger workers means that organisations which give some serious thought to their older workforce will benefit.

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How Interesting are Your Meetings?

Few workers would deny that too many working days are taken up with boring or pointless meetings and according to surveys, meetings are the things that people most hate about their working week!
If you are responsible for running meetings at work, make them count:

• Find out whether your staff value meetings; do they find them useful if not, what suggestions would they make to improve them? This can be done using a survey staff will probably have strong opinions on the matter.
• Consider the optimal length, content, approach, structure, frequency and attendance for meetings, and publicise these as company guidelines.
• Make sure that you ALWAS start and finish on time
• Explain to attendees upfront the aim of the meeting by issuing an agenda in advance
• Progress through the agenda swiftly and purposefully
• Consider if everyone invited must be present at EVERY meeting
• Ask everyone to prepare in advance
• Encourage all staff to speak out – not just those who have the loudest voices
• Limit those who talk too much

Running a meeting well is a skill; make sure you are prepared and your meetings will become more productive and more likely to achieve their aim!

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Do you pay apprentices appropriately?

One in five apprentices did not receive the mandatory national minimum wage (NMW) in 2016, as employers appear to be tripping over the pay rules.

At present, apprentices are entitled to at least £3.50 per hour if they are under 19, or over 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship. After this, they qualify for the rate of NMW for their age group.

A recent survey has discovered that incidences of apprentices receiving less than the rate of NMW they are entitled to rose sharply from 13% for those aged 16-18 or in the first year of their apprenticeship, to 32% for those aged 19-20 in the second year of their apprenticeship.

Hairdressing apprentices were most likely to be underpaid the NMW, with 46% reporting they received less than the legal wage for their toil in 2016. Management apprentices were most likely to receive at least the correct NMW, with just 7% saying they had not.

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The Parental Bereavement Bill

A promise to give employees who lose a child a right to time off has taken a step closer to becoming law. The parental bereavement (pay and leave) bill, which has been introduced in parliament, will give employed parents a statutory right to paid time off to grieve on the death of a child.

The Minister who introduced the bill said, “the loss of a child is a traumatic experience for any parent. For parents holding down a job at the same time as dealing with their grief it can be doubly stressful. We want parents to get the support they need at this deeply upsetting time.”

A right to time off when a child dies does not expressly exist in law at present. Instead, the Employment Rights Act allows employees to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent.

A survey run on behalf of Child Bereavement UK found that almost a third of those who had suffered the loss of a loved one in the last five years felt they had not been treated compassionately by their employer, while more than half of the 4,000 people polled said they would consider leaving their job if their organisation did not provide them with another support to cope with a death.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be working with employers, employee representatives and campaigners over the summer to better understand the needs of bereaved families. The bill is expected to go before parliament for a second reading in the autumn

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Businesses urged to rethink data processes – are you ready?

A fifth of people plan to use their rights under the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to ask their employer or ex-employers to delete their information, research has revealed. This follows recent publicity regarding the way businesses and in particular social media sites use personal data.
The poll of 2,000 consumers found around 20% of employees intend to use the new laws to access the data their employer holds on them.

The GDPR, which is due to come into force in May 2018, will enhance data protection laws and create a range of new responsibilities for those who hold personal data. Penalties for breaches could be up to 4% of organisations’ annual turnover or £20m, whichever is greater.

However it is expected that at least half of companies will not be fully compliant with the regulations by the end of 2018. Employers should not retain personal data of ex-employees beyond defined retention periods – this is not new. What is new, however, is the potential impact on organisations for not complying, as well as the need to proactively demonstrate compliance. The 45 to 54-year-old age group is most likely to make a request.

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IR35 roll out in the private sector

A recent 121 blog looked at the changes to IR35 tax rules and the disruption the rules have caused in the public sector. Now HMRC is saying that the rules could be extended into the private sector as early as spring 2018.

The amendments to the IR35 tax system for the public sector came into effect this April and since then, public sector contractors have had their tax status determined by the organisations hiring them. Those deemed to fall inside the IR35 regime are treated as employees for tax purposes and automatically have their tax and national insurance contributions deducted at source, resulting in significant “pay” cuts for many.

If the impact of the introduction of the rules in the public sector is anything to go by there is a risk for employers that contractors will raise their fees.

Research released in April revealed that the public sector could face a recruitment problem with contractors, with 85% of contractors surveyed threatening to stop working for the public sector if they were caught under IR35.

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Damages arising out of cost of tribunal

Unusually, a police force is pursuing its former head of legal services for nearly £600,000 in costs after she lost an employment tribunal last year.

The employee, who was dismissed by Northumbria Police for gross misconduct in 2014, had claimed she was unfairly dismissed. However, the tribunal found the dismissal to have been fair.

The Police force is seeking to recover more than £577,000 but the ex-employee has stated that she pursued her claim “honestly and in good faith”.

The tribunal hearing exposed a number of embarrassing accusations involving the force. These included rumours that high-ranking officers were involved in affairs, with one leading to a fight at a BBQ, and that there was a culture of bullying and sexist behaviour. Northumbria Police later claimed many of the allegations were based on “speculation, rumour and innuendo” and for this reason seek to secure the costs of the claim from the employee as they believe the tribunal has caused damage to the force’s reputation.

Defending employment tribunal claims will often be costly, and employers will become increasingly keen to try to claim those costs back from employees, particularly now that employment fees have been scrapped. There is an expectation that a sharp rise in employment tribunal claims will result from the fees removal.

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Are you aware of your obligations when employing students and under 18s?

There are a number of employment rights all workers have when they start a job, but young workers – those under 18 years old – have other rights to protect them at work:

• Young workers are entitled to two days off per week.
• A daily rest break of 12 consecutive hours (the break between finishing work one day and starting work the next).
• A rest break of at least 30 minutes if the working day lasts more than 4.5 hours.
• Young workers normally will not work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.
• Young workers don’t normally work at night – however, there are some exceptions.
• Workers aged 16-17 are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage at the relevant rate.

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Do you really manage performance in your workplace?

Managing performance is crucial when considering the relationship between managers and employees. It can be a key element of good communication and foster trust. Managing performance is vital to how well your employees will be engaged in their work because if a performance management system is working well employees are more likely to engage with the goals of the business. An engaged employee is someone who:

• takes pride in their job and shows loyalty towards their lmanager, team or organisation

• goes the extra mile – particularly in areas like customer service, or where employees need to be creative, responsive or adaptable.

Good performance management helps everyone in the organisation to know:

• what the business is trying to achieve
• their role in helping the business achieve its goals
• the skills and competencies they need to fulfil their role
• the standards of performance required
• when there are performance problems and what to do about them.

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How do your young people size up?

A third of companies are concerned about young people’s attitude toward work; particularly in relation to literacy, numeracy, self-management and communication skills. These employer concerns were highlighted in a recent survey which also found that 40% of businesses were worried about younger staff member’s lack of customer awareness.

With the ongoing skills shortage costing the UK economy over £2billion a year, the report concluded that: “Personal attitudes, aptitude, readiness to learn, effective communication skills and a sufficient capacity to cope with numerical data are the key enablers. It is critically important that all young people are helped to develop as fully as possible in these areas.”

However, despite employer’s concerns, the increase of businesses using apprenticeships to their advantage and improving the usability of Learning and Development opportunities has boosted the profitability of some firms – changing people’s lives and providing an opportunity to help young people at a crucial stage in their development.

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