In a Nutshell: Working Time – What Employers Should Know

Some of our clients have seasonal peaks, particularly through the summer months. So their employees are clear from their contracts of employment about the need to work longer hours through these peak periods. However, employers also need to consider the impact of working long hours on their employees’ home life, and they must also be aware of the Working Time Regulations that sets legal limits on working hours, defines rest breaks and also rights to paid leave.

So in a nutshell, these are the key points from the Regulations:

• The Regulations apply to all workers, and there are special rules for younger workers – see section below.
• There is a limit of an average 48 hours a week on working hours (over a 17 week reference period).
• Individuals may choose to work longer by “opting out” (but should not be under any obligation to). They should sign a written agreement to be kept on file, and can opt back in again by giving notice.
• There should be at least 11 consecutive hours’ rest in any 24-hour period.
• Where the working day is longer than six hours, a 20 minute rest break should be provided. This does not have to be a paid break. Employees should be encouraged to leave their workstation and have a complete rest from working.
• There should be at least one day off per week. This can be averaged over a two week period, so an employee could have less than 24 hours’ rest one week, as long as the average over two weeks is at least 24 hours.
• There is also a limit on the normal working hours of night workers to an average eight hours in any 24-hour period, and an entitlement for night workers to receive regular health assessments.
• There is an entitlement to at least 5.6 weeks’ paid leave per year (pro-rata for part-time employees).

Younger workers’ special rules (under 18)
• There is a limit on their working hours to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.
• There should be a rest break of at least 30 minutes where their work lasts more than 4.5 hours.
• There is an entitlement to 2 days off each week.
• Ensure your contracts and policies reflect these entitlements. Contracts should clearly state hours of work, what flexibility and additional hours are required, and whether there is any additional pay or time off in lieu applicable. Holiday entitlement should be clearly outlined and be at least the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks (28 days), which can be inclusive of public holidays.
• If you decide you need to make changes to your employees’ working hours to accommodate business requirements, use a consultative approach and explain the reasons for needing to change. It is advisable to seek professional HR advice.
• Where your employees work long hours for periods, keep a record of the hours to check they do not exceed the average 48 hours over a 17 week period.
• Employees should not be obligated to sign an opt out, but if they do, keep a copy on file and ensure employees are aware that they can end this agreement by giving notice.
• Encourage your employees to take their breaks, though you don’t have to police this.
• Be mindful of younger workers and their special rules.

Do your employees have to take a break?

Many employees choose not to take a break in their working day, in fact ACAS research shows that less than a third of UK workers take an hour off for lunch.

We’ve all done it, and at the time we pride ourselves on being conscientious, and working through to get the job done, and really where’s the harm?
Well, as employers, there are few things to bear in mind.

There’s obviously a legal perspective which is covered below, but also there is much research showing that taking regular breaks can make people happier, more focussed and more productive, surely this is what we want from our employees?

But down to the legal stance on the matter:

• The Working Time Regulations stipulate that all employees who work for more than six hours in a day are entitled to a rest period of at least 20 minutes. Employees should be encouraged to move away from their work station for this period, and take a complete break from work.
• Different rules apply for young workers under the age of 18, who must take a break of at least 30 minutes if they work for more than 4.5 hours in a day.
• You are not required to pay your employees for this period of rest.
• You are also not required to “police” your employees to ensure they take the break, so you don’t need to be keeping a record of who takes a break and for how long, but your employment policies should make it very clear that your employees are expected to take a break.
And of course, being a good caring employer, and bearing in mind the research noted above on the benefits, why wouldn’t you actively encourage your employees to leave their desk or down their tools and take some time out. Even better, lead by example !

Are you paying your workers in accordance with the law?

Any of you who have attended our seminars will know that we are an advocate of the ACAS service that provides advice and information for both employers and employees on workplace issues.

So we wanted to make you aware that ACAS has now issued a guide for small employers which covers the basics of employment law on staff pay. ACAS states that the new guide ‘Help for small firms: Handling pay and wages’ can “help small and medium sized businesses stay on the right side of the law and ensure pay issues are handled correctly.”

It covers matters such as:

Paying new staff
Different types of pay systems
Wage Slips
What to do during staff absences
Wage deductions
Overpayments
Ending employment and paying notice

The guide has broken down the topics into a series of practical steps and is a useful reference point for managers and those dealing with pay.

Know your employees’ rights – it could help avoid costly mistakes

Being aware of your employees’ rights that are provided by law is a must for any employer. ConciseHR can help review your documents and processes to keep you compliant, but take a look over the rights listed out below.

 

Work rights for everyone

 

From the first day of work, all people at work, including agency workers, have the following rights:

 

  • The National Minimum wage
  • Health & Safety Protection
  • Working Time Rights (includes paid holidays, breaks and a limit on the working week).
  • The Right to Join a Union
  • Protection from Unlawful Discrimination

 

Rights for legal status “employees”

 

Rights on applying for a job

  • Not to be discriminated against in a job selection process on the grounds of  trade union membership, sex (including pregnancy/ maternity status), race (including nationality), disability, age, sexual orientation, religion/ belief (including lack thereof), or being transgender.

Rights from first day at work

  • A right not to have deductions made from pay (with some exceptions such as for tax) unless as an employer you have the contractual power to make the deductions and the employee has agreed to them in advance.
  • A right to Statutory Sick Pay provided National Insurance contributions are being paid by the employee.
  • A right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of  trade union membership, sex (including pregnancy/ maternity status), race (including nationality), disability, age, sexual orientation, religion/ belief (including lack thereof), or being transgender.
  • A right to equal pay with members of the opposite sex doing the same job, a similar job, or a job of equal value to you.
  • An entitlement to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, even if your employee was pregnant when she started the job.
  • Time off for medical appointments if your employee is pregnant.
  • Time off as unpaid leave to deal with unexpected emergencies involving family members or people who rely on your employee for their care.
  • The  right for a trade union to be recognised by the employer to negotiate working conditions if at least 10% of the people in the department/ workplace are members of that union and the union can show that the majority of employees in that department/ workplace are likely to support it being formally recognised.
  • The right to take a trade union representative or fellow worker into a disciplinary, grievance hearing, flexible working request meeting, and time off to train request meeting.
  • Can claim wrongful dismissal if you dismiss without giving the agreed notice, or resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal if it breaks a fundamental term of your employee’s contract.
  • Although more service is needed before your employee is able to claim general unfair dismissal, they can already complain about dismissal on certain grounds (e.g. dismissal for whistle-blowing, or on the basis of a protected characteristic such as race).
  • A right not to be unfairly dismissed for political views.
  • A mother’s partner has the right to attend up to 2 ante-natal appointments with the expectant mother.

Rights after a month

  • To be given one week’s notice of dismissal (or more, if the contract entitles your employee to a longer notice).
  • To be paid if suspended on medical grounds.
  • To be paid wages where laid off (where you ask your employee to work for at least a day less per week than usual).

Rights after eight weeks

  • Entitlement to a written statement of  terms of employment which must include  pay, hours, where your employee is expected to work, holidays and other benefits such as a pension entitlement.

Rights after 26 weeks

  • A right to request flexible working
  • To take shared parental leave (for babies born/adopted on or after 5th April 2015)

Rights after two years’ service

  • To claim unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal (after first advising ACAS for conciliation to be considered).
  • To claim statutory redundancy pay where dismissed due to redundancy.
  • A right, on request, to written reasons for dismissal. If your employee was dismissed because of pregnancy, maternity or childbirth, this right is from day one of employment.

Tribunal compensation awards increase 6th April 2015

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2015 (SI 2015/226) comes into force on 6 April 2015. It increases the limit on certain tribunal awards. The two important changes are:

  • A week’s pay will increase to £475.
  • The cap on the compensatory award will increase to £78,335.

They apply where the effective date of termination is on or after 6 April 2015.

 

Call ConciseHR today if you need any help or advice 01332 242407

Government names and shames employers

Government names 70 employers who have not paid their workers the national minimum wage.

(Source gov.uk) Want to take a peek at who they are…. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-names-and-shames-largest-ever-number-of-national-minimum-wage-offenders.

And compliance monitoring is set to increase! The Business Minister Jo Swinson said:

“Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal, immoral and completely unacceptable. Naming and shaming gives a clear warning to employers who ignore the rules, that they will face reputational consequences as well as financial penalties of up to £20,000 if they don’t pay the minimum wage”.

Do you know what the current rates are?

  • adult rate (21 and over) – £6.50 per hour
  • 18 to 20 year olds – £5.13 per hour
  • 16 to 17 year olds – £3.79 per hour
  • apprentice rate – £2.73 per hour

The apprentice rate applies to apprentices aged 16 to 18 years and those aged 19 years and over who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage rate for their age.

Pensions auto-enrolment – what you should know

Pensions Auto-enrolment – what you should know

For small and micro employers, the time is almost upon you for planning your auto-enrolment, hence a timely reminder from us to start thinking about this.  A few useful points are provided below:


What is it?

ALL employers are legally required to automatically enrol certain staff into a pension scheme and make contributions for them.  You will also have to tell your staff about the scheme you put them in and allow other staff to join if they request to do so.

When will it affect my business?

  •  Every employer has been given a ‘Staging Date’. This is the date by which your pension scheme should be up and running, not when the planning starts!  The Pensions Regulator will write directly to small employers alerting them that they have 12 months to go before staging, however, you can find out your staging date very easily by entering your PAYE reference into the Pensions Regulator tool.
  • As a rule of thumb, small employers (less than 50 employees) will have a staging date between 1st June 2015 and 1st April 2017.  New employers from 1st April 2012 will stage in 2017 or 2018.

Why are we reminding you now?

The Regulator suggests it takes 12 months planning and preparation.  Lessons learned from companies who have done this confirm this is the case.

  • There will be a cost to your business, not just for contributions, but potentially for implementation, though good planning can reduce this.
  • Pensions providers are becoming saturated, getting your provider sorted out earlier than the rest is advisable.
  • It’s a significant change for you and your staff, so a clear communication plan is essential.

Your next steps

If you do nothing else yet, the important things for today are:

  • Check when your staging is.
  • Make a note of your 12 months pre planning date.
  • Talk to your HR support about the steps you will need to take.

So in a nutshell, it’s coming, it affects all employers, and planning properly can take away the headache of implementing this for your employees, and potentially reduce the cost.

Latest HR legislation changes and updates

It’s our aim to keep you up-to-date with forthcoming changes in employment law, and tell you ‘in a nutshell’ what this means for you. So here is what’s happening currently or in the near future.

On its way in 2015…

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) – April

This new scheme takes effect for parents (or adopters) whose babies are due on or after 5th April 2015, and enables mothers to share 50 weeks of their 52 weeks maternity leave (and 37 or their 39 weeks statutory maternity pay) with their partner. It seeks to move away from the current inflexible arrangements for maternity and paternity leave and create a more equal system allowing both parents to assist with childcare and keep a strong link with their workplace. The mother and her partner can take their leave together if they wish, or in succession.
This means that from 5th April, you could receive a request from your employee to take SPL so we recommend that you start reviewing and updating any existing maternity, paternity and adoption policies, and prepare a policy and procedure for SPL.

Fit for Work Service – rolling out through 2015

This is a free government service that aims to help you manage sickness absence in your workplace, and provide you with access to an occupational health service that is free of charge.  You will be able to make a free referral for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached 4 weeks of sickness absence, thereby receiving advice and recommendations get your employee back to work.
There will be a phased roll out of the referral service with further details likely to be announced soon, so we will keep you up to date.  At this point we recommend you review any existing sickness absence policies to reflect this new service.

Pensions Auto-enrolment – impacting SMEs from 2015

You’ll have already seen information on this from us, but just as a reminder this is starting to impact smaller organisations from now and takes at least 12 months planning time.  Every organisation employing people (even just one) will have a Staging Date, which is when you need to have implemented your auto-enrolment by.  It’s easy to find out when your Staging Date is so we urge you to do this and work back from there.  Just enter your PAYE reference into the Pensions Regulator tool.

Holiday Pay

It’s worth mentioning this topic as you’ll have probably heard lots in the media.  Late last year in a UK Employment Appeal Tribunal case (Bear Scotland versus Fulton), the courts ruled that holiday pay should include both guaranteed and non-guaranteed overtime.  The government has since taken action to reduce the potential cost of huge backdated claims on employers by limiting backdated claims to 2 years.  These changes apply to claims made on or after 1st July 2015.

Summary of changes from 2014

Just as a reminder, here’s the key changes from last year.  Just contact us if you require further information or support updating your current policies and procedures.
 

  • Increased penalties for employers who do not pay the minimum wage (current standard adult hourly rate is £6.50).
  • Early conciliation of dispute claims by ACAS prior to employment tribunal claims.This has reduced tribunals by 80%.
  • Increased penalty up to £20,000 for illegally employing an immigrant – are your employment checks in place?
  • The right to request flexible working extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service.
  • A mother’s partner has the right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.
  • A new employment allowance to reduce employers NI contributions bill.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) – Employers are you ready?

Expected to take effect for parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5th April 2015.

The new proposed system will enable mothers to share 50 weeks of their 52 weeks maternity leave and 37 weeks of their 39 weeks statutory maternity pay with their partner when they opt into it.

Some key points from the proposals are:

  • The mother and her partner can take their leave together if they wish, or take it in succession.
  • Each parent will have the right to have up to 20 ‘Keeping in touch’ (KIT) days during SPL (this is in addition to the ten days allowed during maternity and adoption leave).
  • Employees who have taken SPL will have the right to return to the same job if the total leave taken is 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks.