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4
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Bright Contracts: The Only HR Software You'll Ever Need

Contracts. . . they are the pain point of every HR professional when recruiting new employees, processing promotions, extending contracts etc. To non HR professionals it may seem like typing up contracts is quick and easy work but this could not be further from the truth. The following are just some of the pain points I’ve had when typing up contracts, read and tick off any that may apply to you too when creating contracts of employment:

  • Formatting Issues
  • Grammatical Errors
  • Mis-matched Fonts
  • Saving Error: Corrupted file error meaning I have lost my entire document
  • Time consuming reading complete contract to check for errors
  • Printing Errors: Prints off centre or like a jigsaw puzzle making it frustrating to read

Well, how many points did you tick off that were applicable to you? If you found yourself even ticking off two of the above then you need Bright Contracts in your life as this software eliminates every single one of them pain points and produces a consistent, formatted, clean and compliant contract and handbook for each of your employees.

Read the below quick fire Q&A to gain an insight into what bright Contracts is, how it works and how it can help you with your contract and handbook creation:

What is Bright Contracts?
Bright Contracts is a software package that has everything you need to create and manage a professional staff handbook and contracts of employment. What was once traditionally an expensive, complicated and time-consuming process is now quick, easy and affordable with Bright Contracts.

Why should I use it?
Without employee contracts in place, an employer is risking large settlements in the case of staff disputes, and fines in the case of regulatory inspections. Having contracts also clearly defines the contractual relationship between you and your employees. Bright Contracts is the easiest way to get sorted.

What is in the handbook & contracts?

The contracts of employment include all core terms which must legally be supplied to new employees. From April 2020, the written statement of particulars must be provided on or before the first day of employment. While the Employment Rights Act 1996 states the items that must be included in the written statement of particulars, employers can refer to their employee handbook for precise details of issues such as: disciplinary and grievance rules and procedures, sickness and pensions etc. which are provisioned for in the Bright Contracts software ensuring your business is fully compliant with employment law.

What legislation is the software based on?
Bright Contracts has been written taking into account employment legislation across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The main piece of legislation governing the content of Bright Contracts is The Employments Rights Act 1996 and The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. The legislation specifies that employees must receive written terms and conditions of employment and what these terms and conditions are. In addition Bright Contracts has taken cognizance of current best practices as well as all relevant legislation in the creation of the content of the contract and handbook. Legislation also requires that employers are provided with details of procedures relating to dismissal, disciplinary and grievances, all of which are covered in our documentation.

How do we know this system complies with requirements and what if the law changes?

The system content has been compiled and tested by HR/Employment law experts. The system will be updated with any changes in legislation, changes brought about by case law or changes in best practice. These updates will be flagged to all current users and will be free to download.

How many people can access Bright Contracts?
When a licence is purchased it comes with two activations which means it can be activated on two separate computers. Once these activations have been used they cannot be deactivated and reactivated on another device.

Do I print off the handbooks and contracts?
The simple answer is yes however if you are trying to reduce your paper foot print then you can also have the handbook and contracts of employment as a pdf document which can then be e-mailed or, if you use our Bright Pay Connect product you can upload the documents to the employee’s connect profile.

You can avail of a free trial of the software or purchase a Bright Contracts licence to adapt these policies to your business today. If you are looking to adopt or change your HR Software book a free 15-minute online demo to see how Bright Contracts can change your world of HR.

Posted in Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook

29
Apr 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Probation & Covid-19

Recruiting has never been an easy task to undertake but recruiting in a pandemic has been even more of a challenge for businesses. A once thriving industry with an abundance of applicants may now find it hard to find the talent or the funds to hire an applicant may suddenly not be available.

Running a business is a challenge for every company but with the pandemic financial difficulty has been a common issue across the world and across many industries. Businesses initially had the funds to hire new employees, then the company takes an unforeseen hit and is no longer in the financial position to keep these new hires, so what can they do if this happens?

When considering terminating a contract of employment during the employees probationary period as a cost-saving measure, the company should first explore alternative options, for example, the availability of government assistance. Since the pandemic hit the UK Government has been trying to help businesses retain their employees through government assistance. It may be in the employer’s best interest to retain their employees during the pandemic in order to avoid having to repeat the recruitment process when the economic situation improves, especially if the employee is performing well in their role.

When new employees are hired every employee has a probationary period to allow both the employee and the employer see if they are a ‘good fit’. If an employer decides to proceed with terminating the contract of an employee on probation for economic reasons during the pandemic they must ensure the reasons for the dismissal are explained to the employee and correctly documented. Assuming the employee has less than two years’ service with the company they will be unable to claim unfair dismissal unless the dismissal was for an automatically unfair reason, for example, they could claim they were really dismissed for making a complaint about health and safety in the workplace. The employer will also need to be able to demonstrate that the dismissal was not discriminatory as dismissed employees do not need to have two years’ service to bring a discrimination claim.

The employer must give the employee their contractual notice or the statutory minimum which is set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 86 (1), whichever is greater, or make payment in lieu of notice. If an employer makes payment in lieu of notice when it is not provided for under the contract of employment this will be a breach of contract and therefore they are unable to enforce any post-employment restrictive covenants. If there is a contractual dismissal procedure the employer must follow this in order to avoid a claim for breach of contract.

Related Articles:

Vaccinations & The Workplace

- How To Manage Annual Leave Requests After Furlough

Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employment Contract, Employment Law

15
Apr 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Vaccinations & The Workplace

With vaccinations rolling out we expect to see the vast majority of healthy adults receiving the vaccine over late summer and early autumn. Thus, providing some optimism for employers who can start planning to return their employees to the workplace. This raises questions such as; can employer’s ensure employees’ health and safety when they return to the workplace? Can employers mandate that all their employees be vaccinated before returning?

Under The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, it is the employer's responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees, therefore it is not unreasonable for an employer to want to have their workforce vaccinated. In the past year safety protocols have been introduced making it essential for employers to ensure these protocols are fully implemented if they intend on having their employees return to the workplace, subject to the restriction levels in force.

While it has been highly recommended by the governing bodies that everyone receives the Covid-19 vaccine, it is not mandatory in the United Kingdom. This leaves employers in a challenging situation; while they are seeking to ensure they have a safe workplace for their employees, they cannot force their employees to get vaccinated and it is very unlikely that the UK Government will introduce any laws stating employees are obliged to take the vaccine. Therefore, what are the main considerations for employers?

1.Assess the Risk

Under The Health and Safety at Work Act, an employer must carry out a risk assessment of the workplace and any potential risks that have been identified must be addressed. As scientists are still not clear on whether the vaccine prevents the spread of Covid-19 it is vitally important that employers insist that all employees follow the safety protocols in place whether they have been vaccinated or not.

Employees also have responsibilities under The Health and Safety at Work Act to work together with their employer to protect themselves and their colleagues from potential risks; this could reasonably include the risk of Covid-19 infection. Employees must adhere to all guidelines and protocols implemented by their employers.
Communication is crucial; while employers cannot force their employees to get vaccinated, they can emphasise the importance of the vaccine to their employees and that it would help to return business to normal. Employers should also provide as much information from appropriate sources to educate and inform their employees. An employer may also highlight legitimate circumstances where vaccination is not recommended.

2. Avoid Potential Discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees are protected from discrimination on the nine grounds including religion, age and disability. An employee may decide not to get the vaccine for a number of reasons that would fall under these specific grounds, such as a medical condition or their religious beliefs. Therefore, it is important to note that any mandate by an employer that employees need to take the vaccine could constitute discrimination under this Act.

3.Managing Employees who Refuse Vaccination

There is little an employer can do if their employee refuses to get the vaccine however, understanding their concerns is important and finding solutions that meet the business needs without infringing on their rights is crucial in managing their integration into the workplace. Extending remote working may be a solution however this may not be viable for all sectors of your company. Employers need to think carefully about any action they take and consider the potential legal consequences associated with these actions.

4.Data Protection Concerns

As part of assessing the risks, employers will certainly want to know who has or has not been vaccinated before bringing employees back to the workplace. In order to process this personal data, there must be a legal basis to do so, the grounds for which are set out in the General Data Protection Regulations. Employees are not legally obliged to provide personal medical information.

While employees are not obliged to provide personal medical information, employers may seek vaccination information on the foundation that they are meeting their legal obligations under The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It will be up to the employee if they wish to volunteer this information to their employer. If they choose to volunteer this information, then employers should not disclose this information to other employees. As this type of medical information falls under the sensitive category of Special Category Personal Data, then under GDPR and data protection laws there are additional protections afforded to the processing of this information. If an employee volunteers the fact that they have not nor intend to avail of the vaccine, it should be emphasized that there may be legitimate medical reasons why someone may not receive the vaccine.

In conclusion, given the fact the vast majority of the working population will not be returning to the workplace until later this year, it is hoped that the vast majority will have availed of the vaccine. However, communication and planning are essential in ensuring a smooth transition when the return to the workplace occurs. Employers must ensure health and safety policies and procedures are updated, risk assessments are carried out and adhering to safety protocols, all of which are essential in getting people back into the workplace. Remember to be mindful and respectful of an individual’s right to not avail of the vaccine and plan accordingly by offering alternative working arrangements where appropriate and avoid any situation which may constitute discrimination thus leading to legal issues.

Bright Contracts has recently updated its software to include a COVID-19 vaccine policy applicable to any business/ industry. 
You can avail of a free trial of the software or purchase a Bright Contracts licence to adapt these policies to your business today or book a demo of the software.

 Related Articles:

How To Manage Annual Leave Requests After Furlough

Posted in Annual Leave, Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Employee Handbook, Employment Law

7
Apr 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

How To Manage Annual Leave Requests After Furlough

With the coronavirus pandemic, some employees will be on furlough meaning they are not working. However, it is important for employers to note that employees who are on furlough still accrue annual leave. This is because the contract of employment continues during this period.

Employees are permitted to take annual leave while on furlough, without their furlough period coming to an end. If they choose to do so, the organisation will need to top up their pay to 100% of their normal wages if they are receiving reduced pay while on furlough.

Dealing with Excess Annual Leave

As the UK draws closer to the end of lockdown and employees return to the workplace from furlough, managers may be in a situation where a number of employees will ask to take annual leave at the same time, particularly when they have leave to take before the end of the leave year. Where possible managers should allow the leave however, they need to ensure business continuity therefore they will need to balance the employee’s request about the timing of leave against the needs of the business.

Line managers may wish to require employees to take annual leave during furlough, for example to avoid a build-up of leave that employees will need to take when they are back at work. If an employer requires an employee to take annual leave while on furlough, the employer should consider whether any restrictions the employee is under, such as the need to socially distance or self-isolate, would prevent the employee from fully utilising their annual leave for the purpose of resting, leisure time etc. Managers should be aware of the company’s approach to annual leave for the period of furlough before making any decisions.

Standard employment law provisions state that employers can require employees to take annual leave as long as they give twice as many days’ notice as the period of leave the employee is required to take. For example, if the employer requires the employee to take two week's annual leave at a certain time, the employer must therefore give the employee at least four weeks' advance notice (or what is outlined in the contract of employment).

Bank Holidays & Furlough

Where a bank holiday falls within an employee’s period of furlough and the employee would have usually worked the bank holiday, their furlough will be unaffected by the bank holiday. However, if the employee would usually have had the bank holiday as annual leave, the employer should either pay the employee in full for a bank holiday or allow them to take a day's annual leave at a later date.

 

If a worker on furlough takes annual leave, an employer must calculate and pay the correct holiday pay in accordance with current legislation. It is not permitted for an employer to buy out an employee's statutory annual leave entitlement, i.e. give the employee a cash substitute (except on termination of employment). This prohibition on buy-out applies to the entire period of statutory annual leave, i.e. 5.6 weeks. Where an employer grants annual leave in excess of the statutory minimum, the employer is free to make its own rules and arrangements regarding buy-out in respect of the portion of annual leave that exceeds the 5.6 weeks.

To prevent workers losing their holiday and to enable key workers to keep working, the normal rules on carrying over annual leave have been modified. The Government has amended reg.13 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 to allow workers to carry over up to four weeks' annual leave into the next two holiday years, where it has not been feasible for them to take it as a result of the effects of coronavirus. These amendments to the Working Time Regulations 1998 apply to all employees.

Book a demo of BrightContracts today to discover more features that can help you streamline your HR processes.

Related Articles:

Posted in Annual Leave, Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Employee Handbook

30
Mar 20

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Carry Over of Annual leave – Government Relaxes Rules

The rules in relation to the carry over of annual leave have been temporarily relaxed to deal with the coronavirus disruption.

The Government has announced that employees and workers who are unable to take their annual leave due to coronavirus may carry over up to four weeks’ paid holiday into the next two leave years.

The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 will amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 to create an exemption relating specifically to the coronavirus outbreak.

Employees may be unable to take their annual leave for a number of reasons, including:

  • they are working in key sectors and due to work demands cannot take annual leave,
  • they are self-isolating or are too sick to take holidays before the end of their leave year,
  • they have been temporarily sent home, placed on layoff or furlough leave.

If an individual leaves their job, either by resigning or due to dismissal during the two-year period, any untaken paid holiday must be added to their final pay. The government has stressed that employers should ensure in so far as possible that workers have adequate opportunity to take their holidays. An individual should not be paid in lieu for holidays unless they are leaving.

The change will apply to most workers including agency workers and those on zero-hours workers.

The temporary change relates only to 4 weeks leave. Employers who do not currently have a policy on the carry over of leave, may decide whether they will allow for extra holidays to be carried over. Extra holidays may include;

  • the remaining 1.6 weeks of statutory leave,
  • any contractual holiday entitlement above the legal minimum.
23
Mar 20

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme & Furlough Leave

The below are some of the key points in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, we will update as more information becomes available.

What is it?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows all UK employers to access financial support to continue paying part of their employees salary that would otherwise have been laid off due to Covid-19. It prevents against layoffs and redundancies.

What organisations are eligible?

All UK companies are eligible: limited companies, sole traders who employee people, LLPs, partnerships, charities.

Which employees are eligible?

Furlough leave is available to all employees on a contract, including;

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero hour contracts

How does it work?

  • The employer must designate affected employees as furloughed workers.
  • They should notify the employee that they have been marked as Furlough. Agreement from the employee may be required.
  • HMRC must be notified of the employee designated as furloughed workers as well as details of their earnings. This is done through an online portal (not currently set up).
  • HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, based on the February earnings of salaried workers, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
  • Wages for those on variable hours, can be calculated based on the higher of either:
    • the same month's earning from the previous year
    • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, employers can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

  • Employees remain employed, their continuity of service is not impacted.
  • Employer may choose to top-up the other 20% of salary. If they don’t top-up the 20% it will be a deduction in wages.
  • Wages paid through the Scheme are subject to the usual income tax and other deductions.

What are the employment issues?

Changing the status of employees to a furloughed worker remains subject to existing employment law. Generally, where an employee’s contract contains a layoff or short term clause employers should be able to place employees on furlough leave. Where there is no such clause, it is best advised to get agreement from the employee.

Additionally, a 20% reduction in salary will be a change in terms and conditions of employment. Where employers are not topping up the government payment, they should also seek agreement from the employee.

Given the current situation and the alternatives for those employees should they not agree, one can expect that most employees will agree. That said, prudent employers will seek to get their employees agreement as part of their furlough leave process.

Please see a sample letter to notify your employee that they have designated as a furlough worker here

 

 

Posted in Coronavirus

12
Feb 20

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Employment Law Changes 2020

This April sees a number of significant employment law changes. To help you keep up-to-date and ensure you are prepared for the changes we have outlined some of the key changes below.

Parental Bereavement Leave

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 will come into effect this April. It is often commonly referred to as “Jack’s Law”, after Jack Herd whose mother campaigned for statutory leave following the death of her son.

Under the Act, employees who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy will be entitled to two weeks leave. This will be a right from day one of their employment.

Employment Contracts a Day 1 Right

Currently an employer must give all employees a written statement of their terms of employment within two months of starting employment. From April the written statement must be given on the first day of employment. Additionally, the right to a written statement has been extended to workers as well as employees. Employers will need to be sure that they have processes in place to ensure they can meet this deadline.

Holiday Pay Changes for Variable Workers

Currently, the holiday pay reference period is 12 weeks. From 6 April 2020, the holiday pay reference period will increase from 12 weeks to 52 weeks. When calculating an employees’ holiday pay entitlement an employer will now be required to look back at the previous 52 weeks where a worker has worked and received pay, discarding any weeks not worked or where no pay was received, to calculate the average weekly pay.

It is hoped that this change will help to even out the variation in pay for workers, particularly those in seasonal or atypical roles.

National Minimum Wage Changes

The rates for the national minimum wage will increase on 1 April 2020. The national living wage rate, for workers aged 25 and over, will increase from £8.21 to £8.72. Click here for further details. 

How to Prepare

Employers are well advised to review their contracts of employment with staff and put practices in place to ensure the correct information is provided within the correct timeframe. 

To find out more about these topics and other legislative changes, register for our webinar here.

28
Jan 20

Posted by
Nicola Sheridan

Parental Bereavement Leave

Research suggests that 1 in 10 employees are likely to be affected by the death of a loved one during their employment. In response to this, "Jack’s Law" has been introduced through the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act. This will come into force in April 2020 and now gives employed parents, who have lost a child, the right to take paid statutory leave to allow them time to grieve.

Who is entitled to this leave?

All employees have a ‘day one’ right to this bereavement leave. Parents and primary carers will be entitled to paid bereavement leave if they have been employed for a continuous period of 26 weeks. Female employees who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy will still be entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and/or pay, as will a mother who loses a child after it is born.

What is the entitlement?

  • Bereaved parents will be entitled to take two weeks’ bereavement leave. 
  • There are rules around when this leave is available to be used and how it should be taken.
  • Paid bereavement leave is paid at the lower of £151.20 a week or 90% of salary. As this is a statutory payment, it is at the employer’s discretion if you wish to top-up this amount.

Employers should now put plans in place to introduce and manage the Parental Bereavement Leave policy. You will need to determine if you will give a top-up payment and the approach you will take to communicating this to your staff. 

Other considerations

Different religions have their own bereavement traditions and funeral rites. If you were to refuse an employee to observe their beliefs and customs, it could amount to religious discrimination. Employees who suffer a loss may experience mental health issues such as depression and/or anxiety. This could constitute a disability under the Equality Act. It is advisable to look into further training on the Equality Act to prevent potential issues from religious discrimination or mental health arising.

The Bright Contracts Handbook will be updated shortly to include a new Parental Bereavement Leave Policy.

 

8
Jan 20

Posted by
Debbie Clarke

Minimum Wage Rates Increase from 1st April 2020

It has been announced that on the 1st April 2020 the minimum wage will increase by amounts ranging from 4.6% to 6.5%. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is the minimum pay per hour that most employees are entitled to by law. An employee's age and if they are an apprentice will determine the rate they will receive.

These rates were recommended to the government by the Low Pay Commission, an independent body that advise on the national minimum wage and living wage. It is estimated that approximately three million workers will see pay increases due to the new rates being introduced. Employees aged 25 and over will see a rise of 51p from £8.21 to £8.72, which will result in an increase of £930 annually.

Please see the current rates and the new rates below:

  Rates from 1 April 2019 are Rates from 1 April 2020 will be
25 yrs old and over £8.21 per hour £8.72 per hour
21-24 yrs old £7.70 per hour £8.20 per hour
18-20 yrs old £6.15 per hour £6.45 per hour
16-17 yrs old £4.35 per hour £4.55 per hour
Apprentices under 19 or 19 or over who
are in the first year of apprenticeship
£3.90 per hour £4.15 per hour


It has also been recommended by the Low Pay Commission that the national living wage will be paid to employees aged 21 and over. The National Living Wage is an obligatory minimum wage currently paid to employees aged 25 and over that was introduced in April 2016. The government aims to achieve this recommendation by 2024.

Posted in Wages

6
Jan 20

Posted by
Nicola Sheridan

Coming in 2020 - The Good Work Plan

The aim of this plan is to strengthen employment rights and improve working lives for employees in the UK. Changes to existing employment law are coming, while some entirely new entitlements are planned. There is a clear focus by Government now on improving communication and certainty in the working relationship. 

We will be looking at this in more detail over the coming months but for now, some points for employers to take note of include:

  • Currently, you have 2 months to provide the written particulars of employment to staff. From April 6th, this will change to a “day-one” right instead. This will ensure that both you and your employees (staff and workers) are clear about the main contractual terms from the start of employment. A comprehensive list of terms and conditions must be included in this contract.
  • The ‘opt-out’ option for agency workers to receive a guaranteed level of pay between temporary assignments has been removed. They are to receive the same pay as permanent staff after working up 12 weeks service.
  • In terms of holidays, the reference period used to calculate holiday pay will be extended from 12 to 52 weeks. This is positive for any of your staff working variable hours. The Government has plans to launch a new holiday entitlement calculator which we are sure will be welcomed by all to correctly determine employees’ holiday entitlement.

As employers, you will need to start planning now for how these changes will impact on you.

 

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