Is your business cyber-safe?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is warning small businesses to take care or face a fine in respect of cyber attacks. The warning comes after a company which suffered a cyber attack was fined £60,000.

The investigation by the ICO found that a small company failed to take basic steps to stop its website being attacked. The ICO explained that regardless of size, if the business handles personal information then data protection laws apply and businesses must protect that information.

‘If a company is subject to a cyber attack and the ICO find that they haven’t taken steps to protect people’s personal information in line with the law, they could face a fine and under the new General Data Protection Legislation (GDPR) coming into force next year, those fines are set to increase.

The company in question failed to prevent an attack and protect the personal details of 26,000 of its customers.

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Have you set up a pension scheme?

A third of small businesses still do not know what auto-enrolment is. One in four has missed its deadline for implementing a company pension scheme. Many small employers (employing only one or two staff) still do not believe they have an obligation to set up a pension scheme. From October this year, anyone setting up a business or taking on staff will have to pay pensions instantly.

Whether you are a hairdresser or an architect, if you employ at least one person you will have to put them into a pension scheme and pay into it from the start:

• Check that your employees meet the criteria for age (22 to state pension age) and salary (more than £10,000 per year)
• Choose a pension scheme that can be used for auto-enrolment. If you do not know where to start, the Pensions Regulator can guide you.
• Write to each member of staff and let them know how auto-enrolment applies to them.
• Complete your declaration of compliance online. You must do this within five months of the start of the scheme.

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Employment Tribunal Fees Scrapped

In 2013, the Government introduced tribunal fees of up to £1,200, in order to cut down on the number of claimants bringing “malicious and weak” cases. It was thought that this move would help employers who struggled to cope with spurious tribunal claims against them. However, since then 79% fewer cases have been brought and Trade Union Unison vigorously fought the move, saying that the fees prevented workers accessing justice.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. The government had already made a voluntary commitment to reimburse all fees if it was found they acted unlawfully. Fees have raised about £32m since being introduced.

Justice minister Dominic Raab said the government would cease taking fees for employment tribunals “immediately” and begin the process of reimbursing claimants, dating back to 2013.

Fees ranged between £390 and £1,200. Discrimination cases cost more for claimants because of the complexity and time hearings took.

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Would you take up “gig” work if the employment rights were better?

Two in five people would be more likely to take up so called “gig” work – where they are paid flexibly and do not have a fixed contract, if employment rights relating to this type of work were improved, research has found.

The study of 2,000 UK adults also found that, while 77% of people would prefer to be full-time employees, almost half were already in gig-style jobs or would consider working in this way.

Gig work was more popular among younger workers, with 58% of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed saying they would consider working in the gig economy, compared with just 30% of those aged over 55. However, many flagged fears about not being able to earn a decent income, job security and lack of rights such as holiday and sick pay.

The research shows that while many workers are open to the idea of gig working, for many their concerns over job security still outweigh the benefits this type of work can offer.

A number of cases have been brought recently attempting to determine what rights gig workers should have. In October, a tribunal decided Uber’s drivers should be classified as workers rather than self-employed. The taxi-hailing app has appealed against the decision and the case is scheduled to be heard in September.

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Are you recruiting graduates this year?

The number of university leavers vying for relatively well-paid jobs has almost trebled in just three years, it has emerged. Among investment banks, some 232 candidates are applying for each position, while an average 188 graduates are competing for positions in energy or utilities companies.

The disclosure underlines the extent to which the jobs market has failed to keep pace with the expansion of university places in recent years. Candidates leaving university without at least a 2:1 are likely to miss out, as almost three quarters of firms say this is a minimum requirement.

The poll also found that while there was there was stiffer competition for jobs the average starting salary had increased slightly to £25,500 – the first rise since 2008.

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How do you manage your remote workers?

UK organisations lose over £100m every year because of work-related stress, depression and anxiety, a figure which could soar in the coming decade if poorly managed nomadic working practices continue, according to an NHS organisation, Fit for Work. 48% of the UK would not feel comfortable talking to their manager about mental health issues, despite 65% of the population reporting that they are close to someone who has experienced mental illness.

Remote working is often considered as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for staff suffering from stress and depression, or for staff who are unwell. However, this will only work if remote workers remain part of the team and are well managed.

It is recommended that managers look at evolving their processes for remote workers to include:

Office Time: Ensuring remote workers have at least one day in the office each month and helping them to make the most of this, establishing a support network including mentors or buddies

Online Support: Looking at support mechanisms which enable discussions on line during the working day

Context: Speaking to colleagues without a frame of reference can be extremely challenging, so remote workers must be included in company communications, staff parties, off-site meetings and events.

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Do you understand the apprenticeship levy?

A fifth of apprenticeship levy-paying employers still don’t understand how the scheme works, three months after it was introduced. Research also revealed that a further 2% of the 200 senior managers questioned knew nothing about the levy at all. However, 85% believe the levy will have a positive impact on their organisation and 87% were confident it would benefit UK productivity and the economy.

The levy, which came into effect in April, is paid by businesses with a payroll of more than £3m per annum. These organisations are charged 0.5% of their total wage bill and, in return, the government adds 10p for every £1 paid by businesses to put towards training apprentices.

The levy has so far been met with mixed reactions. The Institute for Fiscal Studies described it as a “stealth tax” that was “poor value for money” in a report published in January.

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What are entitlements to breaks at work?

With job-related stress on the rise, encouraging employees to take a breather could be beneficial on many levels. Taking a break – even a short one –helps productivity and creativity.

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 an employee is entitled to 20 minutes’ rest break after working for more than six hours.
Employers should ensure that each of their workers has an opportunity to take a rest break whenever a right to one arises and actively create arrangements, and an atmosphere, to enable this. Where necessary – for example, where someone needs to be continually present, breaks, along with adequate cover, may have to be scheduled.

Employers cannot force employees to take rest break but if employees regularly ‘decide’ not to take one, it may be worth looking more closely at working arrangements. In the current climate, where allegations about the poor treatment of workers often hit the headlines, reviewing break arrangements (before someone else does) makes sense. Plus, there is empirical evidence to suggest that giving workers a break could actually increase their output.

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What perks do employees value?

It can be tricky considering what perks motivate employees but a recent survey has highlighted that employees want conventional benefits after political and economic uncertainty.

The study found that 26% of those asked said they wanted to work for a company who employed less than 50 employees – whilst just 5% wanted to work at a start-up. 80% of staff wanted one job that was full-time and 60% said they enjoyed working in an office – so long as there was flexibility.

And the benefits are reflective of this more stable desire. 44% of workers wanted health insurance, 24% wanted paid time off and 14% cited a good pension as one of the main benefits they craved. But more than any of this, the employees questioned said that they wanted the opportunity to improve themselves by learning new skills and training in new functions.

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Are you aware of your responsibilities to pay the National Minimum Wage?

Shortfalls in national minimum wage (NMW) payments hit a record £10.9m last year, affecting close to 100,000 employees, the Government has revealed. The Government has introduced tougher penalties for non-compliance of the NMW in April last year, with a record £10.9m in arrears, for 98,000 workers, identified by HMRC last year.

Underpayments occurring since April 2016 have been subject to a penalty of 200% of the value of the arrears, capped at £20,000 per worker. Financial resources available for enforcement are also being increased – from £20m in 2016-17 to £25.3m in 2017-18.

It could be that employers understands the law, but ignore it and exploit their workers or the employer doesn’t fully understand the legal requirements but this is not the first time NMW underpayments have been brought to light.

British workers lose almost £3bn each year in unpaid wages and holiday. Some of the country’s best-known retailers have been caught out by failing to pay staff the correct wage, including John Lewis. The retailer announced that it had to restate its profits to the tune of £36m after it breached NMW laws, blaming the mishap on a payroll error – more specifically, its pay averaging practice, which aims to make sure staff take home the same pay each month regardless of the precise number of hours they worked in that period.

Tesco revealed that it had paid staff less than the NMW in March, citing an error that occurred while it was introducing its new payroll system, which led to 140,000 of the supermarket’s workers being short-changed almost £10m between them.

The NMW currently stands at £7.50 per hour for workers over 25.

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