National Living Wage – increase next year

You’ll know by now that each year the government announce increases to the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage. Predictions are in for what the new National Living Wage rate will be in 2019 and it’s a significant increase so worth planning for…..

What is the National Living Wage?

This is the rate that employers legally have to pay to their employees over the age of 25. It was first introduced in 2016 at £7.20 and resulted in significant costs to many employers.

Many people are still confused by the other term ‘Real Living Wage’. Just to clarify, this is the figure calculated by the Living Wage Foundation based on the real cost of living in the UK. It causes confusion but the main difference is that there is no legal requirement to pay the ‘Real Living Wage’.

What will the National Living Rate be next year?

The rate is currently £7.83. Phillip Hammond announced in the recent budget that the National Living Rate would be rising to £8.21 next year. This represents a 4.9% rise to the current rate and therefore one that employers need to start planning for.

(For information the real living wage has been announced as a 2.9% increase to £9.00 per hour except for London where it increases by 3.4% to £10.55).

Don’t get caught out

The next rise will take effect in April next year. Remember, employers who are incorrectly paying their staff below the minimum rates can be named and shamed and also fined up to 200% of the underpayment. Most employers caught by this in the past were as a result of simple errors and not deliberate attempts to underpay their staff.

Start planning

You know it’s coming and we recommend that you analyse your workforce now to assess the cost and plan for the increases.

7 Quick Tips – Conducting an Effective Appraisal and Setting Objectives

So it’s the beginning of the year and a good time to give some focus to your staff for the year ahead so that everyone is aligned towards achieving your business goals.

Appraisals are a great way to engage your employees which leads to them taking pride in their job and going the extra mile.

But why does the word ‘appraisal’ makes everyone groan?

Managers see it as an additional task to complete with much form filling. The staff themselves often dread the discussion particularly if they’ve had poor experiences of appraisals in the past where it has been purely a paper exercise of no value, or they’ve received criticism that they see as unjust.

So, here’s some advice by way of quick tips that will make conducting appraisals simple and effective for you and your managers.

1. Don’t obsess about having the perfect form – An appraisal is about reviewing objectives and setting new ones for the year ahead, reviewing competence and performance, and discussing training and development needs. So yes it may be useful to have a structured form to record the information, but as long as you write it down then this will suffice. There are many templates available on-line, but be careful not to download one that’s over complicated. Feel free to use our template:

Staff Appraisal Form

2. Do some preparation – it sounds obvious but often gets missed. For each person, you need to be ready to talk about the objectives you’re setting them (see 4. below) and be able to give them feedback on how they’re performing against their previous objectives (see 5. below). If they’ve had a previous review then take time to recap on this before your meeting. Think about talking to other managers or even customers, if appropriate, to get their perspective and feedback.

3. Listen to your employee – although you’ll have already prepared objectives and feedback, remember the appraisal is a 2-way discussion. Be prepared to listen to your employee about any ideas or concerns. Being involved in the objective setting will have a positive impact on your employee’s engagement with them.

4. Set challenging objectives for the year ahead – which align to the overall goals of your business. Think beyond just the day to day tasks of the role. When you set your objectives, ensure they are ‘SMART’:

Specific – state a desired outcome. What the employee need to achieve?
Measurable – how will you and your employee know when the objective has been achieved?
Achievable – is the objective something your employee is capable of achieving but also challenging?
Relevant – does the objective relate to those of your business?
Timebound – when does the objective need to be achieved?

5. Give constructive feedback and lots of praise where it’s due – telling people when they are doing a good job sounds so obvious, but is often overlooked. Yet receiving praise and endorsement that you’re doing well is a powerful motivator. Where you need to let your employee know about concerns with their work, competence or behaviour, make sure you provide specific examples to back up the criticism. This will help your employee understand your concerns and to be more accepting of the issue. Talk about ways that your employee can improve. Remember though, the appraisal meeting should not turn into a disciplinary meeting to address specific issues.

6. Discuss training needs and area for development – Discuss any training and development needs that your employee may need to support with achieving objectives, developing in their current role, or preparing for future roles in your organisation. Remember there are lot of ways to learn, not just attending training courses. Define how the training need will be met and set timescales for it being completed.

7. Write up and ongoing review – End the meeting by summarising the key points and actions agreed. After the meeting, write up your notes from the meeting on a template if you have chosen to use one. Let your employee review the notes and add any comments. And most importantly, agree when you will review the document again. It’s useful to have regular informal catch ups with your employees about their work, but you may want to have a more formal quarterly or 6 monthly review of the appraisal objectives. This will help both you and your employee to monitor whether he/she is on track with achieving the objectives, to agree any necessary changes and to align further support if required.

The Benefits in a Nutshell
• Your employee receives valuable feedback
• Your employee learns what is expected of him/her
• Your employee gains recognition for his/her efforts
• Problems are recognised and addressed
• Your employee can contribute to discussions about his/her training

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
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.

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 Want to take a peek at who they are…. Link:

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.

Zero Hours Contracts – Forthcoming Changes

More regulation of zero hours contracts, such as a ban on exclusivity clauses are on the cards.  The government intends to develop a code of practice by the end of 2014.

New Legislation on Ante-Natal Appointments

From 1st October 2014, employed fathers (or the mother’s partner) will be given the right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments, make sure your business is ready..