In February, the BBC ran a business article about Octopus Energy's Founder and CEO Greg Jackson, with the inflammatory title "My billion pound company has no HR department". As you can imagine, as an HR Consultant, this is a rattling title to have thrown out into the wider business market.
The article goes on to say that with "more than 1,200 employees, [Mr Jackson] has no interest in traditional things like human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) departments". I enjoy the use of the word 'traditional' instead of the blatant meaning: 'old fashioned' and I have to say it makes me laugh. I sometimes wonder what people think HR people do? I'm certain that the general consensus still is that HR provides glorified filing.
Clearly, if we take this prime example, the industry is often thought of as 'old fashioned' and I can't tell you how many times, when I've told someone what I do, their energy flatlines and you can see the infamous eye-roll. Why has HR received this damning reaction?
How much PRIDE do your colleagues have in the business you work for?
Now I know this may sound like a simple question but when it comes to finding out how motivated or engaged people are in their work and the business generally, it certainly packs a punch.
If you ask your staff that question via a feedback session or a simple questionnaire, bear in mind one word of caution: if you do decide to ask everyone you work with how much pride they have in the business, be prepared for answers that range from the good, to the bad and the downright ugly. It is one of those questions that tends to illicit the truth and sadly, sometimes the truth is not pretty.
On the positive side it is the perfect question to ask if you want to understand just how engaged your colleagues are and if, per chance, the results are not what you expected, say the measurable ‘pride factor’ ranges from 0-50%, then you must be prepared to take action. Dig deeper and found out the five ‘whys’.
As the UK roles out the COVID vaccine, primarily the Oxford-developed vaccine AstraZeneca, there are already rumblings about individuals refusing to take it.
Public Health authorities have advised pregnant women or those who are planning to become pregnant within three months of the first dose should not take the vaccine. There are also warnings for those with certain allergies to avoid taking the vaccine. But what of the infamous anti-vaxxers or those conspiracy theorists who believe taking the vaccine is a Government ploy to insert tracking devices into our systems?
In the case of an employee refusing to have the vaccine (out-with the medically approved refusals), can the employer do anything about it?
ACAS have taken the view that, no, employers are not able to require their employees to take the vaccine and should listen to employee concerns to understand where their refusal is founded. However, if the reasons for refusing the vaccine are unreasonable then employers can take disciplinary action - that seems a fine line to tread, so what could be considered 'unreasonable'?
According to Deimantas Kubilius v Kent Foods Ltd, yes.
An Employment Tribunal decided that the decision by Kent Foods Ltd to dismiss Mr Kubilius after he refused to wear his face mask during the first lockdown was fair.
The background of the case was, Mr Kubilius, a lorry driver for Kent Foods Ltd primarily transported goods to and from the Basildon depot and Tate & Lyle's Refinery. During the first lockdown T&L put a temporary Health & Safety measure in place, requiring all employers, contractors and visitors to wear a face mask when on-site to reduce the risk of Coronavirus infection.
After visiting T&L in May 2020, Kent Foods Ltd was notified that Mr Kubilius had been banned from the site after repeatedly refusing to put a face mask on when asked, stating that "he was in his cab and didn't have to". Mr Kubilius argued that wearing a face mask was not legally enforceable even in the workplace, and that he had done nothing wrong...
The 19th February 2021 will long have reverence in Employment Law in the UK and abroad. It will be known as the day the UK Supreme Court made the decision to dismiss Uber's final appeal (Uber BV and others v Aslam and others  UKSC 5) in a landmark judgment.
The case against Uber, in regard to employment rights, has been in the courts since 2016. In which Uber claimed that the individuals who worked for them were third-party self-employed contractors and therefore didn't qualify for a number of employment rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.
In Scotland, and the UK, there are long-standing tests in law to determine whether an individual is an employee or a contractor. Let's have a look at them here:
Whether we like it or not, most Employers will have to restructure their workforce as the UK returns to work.
This could mean anything from heavily recruiting (as we've seen across a number of sectors) to making a number of redundancies. Every decision being made is to ensure that businesses can remain open and trading, and recover as quickly as possible from any damage suffered this year.
Businesses need to work through their recovery plan, taking a longer term strategic view. Unfortunately this is one of the toughest discussions and decisions any business has to take, as it isn't about their people, it's about their livelihood. One cannot exist without the other, and it's finding the balance to allow for a effective recovery.
Many businesses may find that the post-lockdown economic shock has changed their business needs. It may not be viable to re-start the business after lockdown with the same number of staff doing the same jobs as before. Financial constraints may necessitate a re-shaping of your workforce by re-structuring: reducing hours/days of working, introducing shift patterns, job sharing, redeployment and even making some posts redundant.
It may be necessary to ask certain staff to take on more customer facing roles. These could be low risk employees or those who have had confirmed coronavirus and have some natural immunity toward re-infection; bearing in mind that social distancing measures are still in place and rotational teams provide a far more flexible workforce.
To reduce the risk of legal claims, these processes must be handled fairly and within existing legal boundaries - and pro-active communication with your staff to minimise the impact on moral is vital.
Despite the political football peppering the UK with ongoing changes daily, we all need to start thinking about how we can adjust our old ways of working to make our working environment safer to staff, visitors and customers.
Social distancing measures are likely to continue well into 2021, so what do you, as an Employer, need to start thinking about now?
Employers have a number of common law and statutory duties in relation to health and safety at work, and a starting point will be for all Employers to familiarise themselves with the latest HSE guidance and Government guidance. Detailed guidance has been released for 8 over-branching industries which is a good place to start - you can find those guidelines here:
As we know "furlough" has become the current buzzword, having never been previously heard of in the UK and with current figures stating that 25% of the UK workforce has been furloughed - a lot of us have invested in the Scheme.
The Scheme - as we know - is a grant, not a loan, and there is no debt associated. However, there are potentially some hidden stingers in the Scheme that Employer needs to be aware of.
Part of the deal you agree to when signing up for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is that you, as the Employer, agree with your Employee that they will cease all work when on furlough leave - not just "revenue earning" or "providing non-revenue services". This is where the problems could lie for businesses.
Employers are required to retain records for all Employees that have been put on furlough leave for a period of 5 years. This is to give the HMRC a significant period of time to review all applications made for the Scheme to make sure there has been no abuse of the Scheme.