PeopleTalk March 2016

140915_6860 - editedFrom  Donna’s Desk

Spring is in the air and as March sets in, Easter looms and the start of the new tax year is just around the corner, it is time to have a spring clean; to brush away the business cobwebs of winter hibernation, to take a fresh look at the green shoots of your business, to sow the seeds of a successful summer and then to harvest the rewards. Just like the evolving seasons which need to be respected and behaviour adapted based on environmental conditions, your business needs the right amount of planning, food, water and light to help it grow. Spring is an invigorating time of year for most of us and it should be for your business too.

Take a clean piece of paper and a sharpened pencil. Right down the three things which will make a real difference to your business this year. Now for each of those ‘goals’ identify the things which need to happen to ensure you achieve those goals. What do you need to do this quarter, this month, this week and today to ensure that in 12 months time, you have achieved those goals?

Enjoy this month’s newsletter and as always, if you have any thoughts, comments or content for us, please let us know.

Private messages made public. Who’s watching you?

Employers are being warned against ‘snooping’ on staff, despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that this is actually allowed under certain circumstances.private messaging

Bogdan Bărbulescu, an engineer in Romania, had been using Yahoo Messenger to chat with his family as well as professional contacts, and had asked the ECHR to rule that the company had breached his right to confidential correspondence by accessing his personal messages.

He claimed that his employer had violated his right to correspondence and was in breach of the Constitution and Criminal Code by accessing his communications. However, his complaint was dismissed on grounds that his employer had complied with dismissal proceedings and the complainant had been informed of company regulations which stated that it was “strictly forbidden” to use computers, photocopiers, telephones, telex and fax machines for “personal purposes”. Bărbulescu appealed, claiming his e-mails were protected by legislation – the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. However, the Court of Appeal held that the employer’s conduct had been reasonable and that monitoring had been the only way to establish whether a disciplinary breach had occurred.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD said the ruling was “not a green light for businesses to start snooping on employees. The line between work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred. We know that the working day rarely fits into a nine-to-five mold any more. Employees often respond to work emails on personal devices outside of usual working hours so it makes sense that, on occasion, they may want to engage in social correspondence during the working day on a work device.”

Our advice is to ensure that you have a clear policy on the use of company facilities for personal use and on your right to monitor communications into and out of your business. This policy needs to be documented and communicated to all staff and, as with all policies and procedures – applied consistently throughout your business.

Embedding policies by communicating them, ensuring adequate training is provided and keeping an audit trail such as signed acceptance forms will all help to reinforce your policies and provide you with a defense should you ever need it in an employment tribunal.

In business, give and take is essential, especially where you require your staff to work long hours and to monitor emails in an evening or over a weekend. Allowing employees to use company equipment for personal use can buy you credit with your staff and encourage them to go the extra mile, but you still have a business to run and your staff need to know and respect the difference between reasonable use and abuse.

Ask the Expert!

One of my employees is on a zero hours contract but most of the time works he works 9am – 5pm, five days a week.   Is that acceptable or should I change his contract?

The Government has recently issued revised guidance for businesses which employ workers on zero hours contracts. The guidance gives examples of what is considered “inappropriate use” of zero hours contracts and states that zero hours contracts should not be used as a permanent arrangement for an employee who works set hours each week, even if the hours worked are part-time.  For example if an individual is asked to work, from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Wednesday for a 12 month period, it may be more appropriate to offer that worker a permanent part-time contract or even a fixed-term contract.

Zero hours contracts would only be applicable if the hours you are asking an employee to work are variable from week to week and day to day, and are therefore not consistent. Zero hours contracts are rarely appropriate to run the core business, but might be useful for unexpected or irregular events such as bereavement leave or where the business has varying levels of workflow i.e at different times of the year.

Furthermore, from 11 January 2016, employers are no longer able to restrict zero hours employees from working elsewhere whilst in employment with you. Zero hours employees have the ability to make a complaint to an employment tribunal if they have been dismissed or subjected to a detriment or they had been prohibited from working for another employer. No qualifying period is required to bring this type of claim.

As a result of these changes and the guidance issued, businesses need to review whether employing zero hours employees is in fact appropriate. Ultimately it will depend on the individual circumstances, but due consideration should be given to issuing such employees with a standard full or part-time contract instead.

If as a result of these changes, you need to change the contract of employment for any of your staff, you should seek advice before issuing an existing employee with a new contract as prior consultation needs to take place. It is imperative that the new contract reflects the fundamental terms contained within the zero hours contract, such as the rate of remuneration and job role, so that the worker does not suffer any detriment by the change.

New Pay Rates

As you already know, there is a new National Living Wage coming into force in April. This means that if you employ anyone over the age of 25, you must pay them at least £7.20 per hour.

As a quick guide, the following rates apply as a minimum from 1st April 2016:

Hourly Rate Annual Salary per hours per week
Age   35 37.5 40 45 48
Apprentices £3.30 £6,006.00 £6,435.00 £6,864.00 £7,722.00 £8,236.80
16 – 17 years £3.87 £7,043.40 £7,546.50 £8,049.60 £9,055.80 £9,659.52
18 – 20 years £5.30 £9,646.00 £10,335.00 £11,024.00 £12,402.00 £13,228.80
21 – 24 years £6.70 £12,194.00 £13,065.00 £13,936.00 £15,678.00 £16,723.20
25 years + £7.20 £13,104.00 £14,040.00 £14,976.00 £16,848.00 £17,971.20

Calculating Holiday Pay

The majority of employees are paid their annual salary in 12 equal monthly instalment, but new case law now means that it is no longer just the basic pay which is paid when an employee is on annual leave.

There has been hours and hours of tribunals and appeals involving Unison, British Gas and an employee called Locke. I am not going to bore you with the details here, but if you pay a sales commission to an employee whilst they are away on annual leave, you still need to pay them commission as if they had been at work.

The industries we expect this to affect the most are estate agents and recruitment agents, but there will be numerous businesses all around the country now trying to find a legal way of calculating pay while an employee is on annual leave. We do expect further case law in this area as various scenarios are ‘tested’, but we would prefer our clients not to be the guinea pigs!

The way in which each employer will deal with this change will vary depending on their contracts of employment, commission structure and the nature of their business. We will ensure that we raise annual leave pay with our clients over the next couple of months, but if you think this change affects you, please do call your nominated HR advisor for a personal discussion.

Quotes of the Month

March is the month of Mother’s day and National Women’s History. Through the centuries, many courageous women have stepped forward to fight inequality and to champion causes for the benefit of society. Their work to break down barriers has allowed future generations of women to pass through with significantly less resistance.

In 1975, International Women’s Day was developed. Women’s History Week is a progression of that, and Women’s History Month is a further extension. Throughout the month, various community events, internet blog series and television programmes will be staged to look back on women’s’ achievements, to celebrate the progress made by women around the world and to remember that there is still plenty of work to be done .

  • “Parents can only give good advice or put them [children] on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank
  • “As you become clearer about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.” – Oprah Winfrey
  • “Seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark, for all the right reasons.” – Chrissie Wellington
  • “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” – Margaret Thatcher
  • “People tend to forget their duties but remember their rights.” – Indira Gandhi

Jacqui Frost Profile PhotoMissed business opportunities if you don’t have your phones answered properly – Jacqui Frost

Each month we bring you the thoughts, learnings and insights from a guest writer. This month, it is our privilege to introduce you to Jacqui Frost, founder of The Office Genie, a call answering service and back office support company.

Opportunities Are Never Lost…

I recently came across a quote that literally sums up the reason for my entire businesses existence in just two short sentences. It read…

“Opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss. Seize the moment”.

You see, I often come across businesses that are unknowingly pushing potential clients straight into the hands of their competitors and I’m willing to bet that they are losing out on a fairly large chunk of money in doing so! Think about the last time you tried to find a new mechanic or book in with a new hairdresser, was it a simple process? Or did it consist of you flicking through an online directory trying salon after salon or garage after garage just waiting for someone to pick up the phone?

If I told you that you could be much more profitable by simply picking up the phone, you’d probably say I’m bonkers! But it’s a fact that when someone calls a business with a genuine enquiry they are usually at the very end of the conversion process, all you need to do is answer their questions and make the sales process as simple as possible, but do you think that playing telephone tag is the simplest way of selling? Unfortunately, in our fast paced and desperately competitive world, by the time you call them back to make the sale, they’ll more than likely have purchased their goods elsewhere, resulting in a missed opportunity.

Answering your phone really could be the difference between £100 profit or £10,000 profit – which would you prefer? I understand that many industries require hands on work, work that you can’t simply drop just to answer the phone so you need to ensure you have measures in place which means your business can be available even when you aren’t.

We at The Office Genie offer telephone call handling support, meaning that we can take your calls, book your appointments and take your payments all whilst you focus on the job in front of you. We grant the wishes of business owners by giving them more time whilst increasing their customer acquisition and retention rates. Our Genies are experienced, professional receptionists and PA’s that provide first class customer service to all of our clients for just a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.

It’s time to seize the moment!

Time Out!

What HR terms can be found in the word search?

D F W H S I C K P A Y C G Y N N U P L A Q Advert
A P O I U Y T R E W Q A B N W R H Y H N E Application
A D V E R T G J O B D E S C R I P T I O N Assessment
A S D F G H J J K L M B B F R X Z C S W F Employee
Q U A L I F I C A T I O N S A L A R R G B Experience
Z C X V B M N L K K J H G F T F D T F C D Interview
A S C F H J Y T B G T G B T E S T I N G F Job Description
S K I L L S F G T H T G H J K Y T R G B E Psychometric
A E M P L O Y E E D F F C G Z X U W B C X Pay
B L H Y Q Y L H B A U G J L K H F C B A P Qualifications
S D I N T E R V I E W T E S Y B G C V S E Roleplay
T A S C W A B S Y T G V R O L E P L A Y R Salary
N U H B E Y P A Y I J L K G Y F C F D V I Skills
E F G V I D F L S D C V B T A T L D C M E Sick Pay
M M Y C V A P A Y M Q T N L Y L G T F D N Testing

Answers can be sent to us at [email protected]

Answer to last months’ Time Out!

The answer to last months’ time out, yes, you got it!



This new section of our newsletter is designed to help you think about the people you have in your workforce, plan for absences, be sensitive to their causes & beliefs and facilitate conversations around some of the issues raised and how they might impact on your employees and as a consequence, your workplace.

This month, you need to be aware of the Easter Weekend and ensure that you correctly calculate, deduct or pay for your bank holidays in line with your company policies and procedures.

March is:

  • Awareness Month for:
    • Prostate Cancer
    • Ovarian Cancer
    • Cerebral Palsy Awareness
  • Save Your Vision Month
  • Women’s History Month
1st Zero Discrimination Day Secular
Saint David’s Day
Intercalary Days (end) Baha’i
2nd Nineteen Day Fast (start) Baha’i
3rd World Book Day UK
5th Saint Piran’s Day Christian
6th Mothering Sunday UK
Orthodox Sunday Orthodox Christian
Meatfare Sunday Orthodox Christian
7th Maha Shivaratri Hindu
8th International Women’s Day
13th Cheesefare Sunday Orthodox Christian
L. Ron Hubbard Birthday Scientology
14th Clean Monday Orthodox Christian
17th Saint Patrick’s Day
Bank Holiday Northern Ireland / ROI
19th Saint Joseph’s Day
20th Palm Sunday Christian
Spring Equinox
Ostara Wicca / Pagan – Northern Hemisphere
Mabon Wicca / Pagan – Southern Hemisphere
21st Naw-Rúz (New Year) Baha’i
Norooz (New Year) Persian / Soroastrian
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Secular
World Down Syndrome Day
22nd World Water Day
23rd Magha Puji (Sangha Day) Buddist
Holi Hindu
Purim begins at sundown Judaism
Lord’s Evening Meal Jehovah’s Witness Christian
24th Maundy Thursday Christian
Hola Mohalla Sikh
25th Good Friday Christian
Annunciation to the Theotokos Orthodox Christian
Bank Holiday England, Wales, Northern Ireland & ROI
26th Holy Saturday Christian
27th Easter Sunday Christian
British Summer Time Begins
28th Easter Monday Christian
Bank Holiday England, Wales, Northern Ireland & ROI
Khordad Sal (Birth of Prophet Zaranthushtra) Zoroastrian

Welcome to New Readers:

Lee Bradburne

Simon Hutchings

Chris Schemilt

Matt Hardy

Snezana Knowles

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