The government has confirmed that the state pension will rise by 2.5% from April 2022, breaking the pension lock as a result of the impact of the pandemic
In a busy day in parliament, the minister of state told MPs that this would be a one-year intervention and that the normal increase in line with average earnings increase would be reinstated from the 2023-24 tax year.
As happened last year, once again the state pension will rise at a fixed rate below the RPI rate of inflation.
Secretary of state for work and pensions, Thérèse Coffey MP, said: ‘[Last year], we legislated to set aside the earnings link, allowing me to award an uprating of 2.5% as this was higher than inflation. If we had not done this, state pension would have been frozen.
‘Thanks to our vaccination programme which started with the eldest and most vulnerable in our society, we have seen that as the economy and businesses have reopened and millions have moved off furlough and returned to work, the labour market has shown strong signs of recovery and earnings have risen at an unprecedented rate and we face a distorted reflection of earnings growth.
‘So tomorrow, I will introduce the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill. For 2022/23 only, it will ensure the basic and new state pensions increase by 2.5% or in line with inflation, which is expected to be the higher figure this year. And as happened last year, it will again set aside the earnings element for 2022/23, before being restored for the remainder of this parliament.’
In addition to those receiving basic and new state pensions, this will apply to those receiving standard minimum guarantee in pension credit and widows’ and widowers’ benefits in industrial death benefit.
Coffey added: ‘Since 2010, the full yearly basic state pension has increased by over £2,050 in cash terms. There are also 200,000 fewer pensioners in absolute poverty – both before and after housing costs – than in 2009/10.’
The launch of a social care levy from 2022 will see all taxpayers facing a 1.25% tax charge under government plans, while dividend tax will also rise
From next April the government will create a UK-wide, 1.25% health and social care levy on earned income, hypothecated in law to health and social care, with dividends rates increasing by the same amount. There will also be changes to the amount of savings people can retain when facing a move into care costs and a cap on total cost liability for anyone paying for care home accommodation and care.
The new tax is set to raise £12bn a year and marks a major departure from the Conservatives’ manifesto which committed to the triple lock on income tax, national insurance and VAT. An estimated £5.5bn of the levy will be allocated to social care, while the balance will be used for NHS funding to catch up with the backlog of operations after the pandemic.
Although it was originally floated as an increase in national insurance contributions (NICs), it will now be ringfenced purely for health and social care costs. The levy will be paid by businesses and individuals, including the self employed, from April 20222, and this will be extended in April 2023 to workers who continue to work after state pension age. Legislation will be passed to ensure that the charge is an independent tax, discrete from NICs and it will take a year for HMRC to update its systems to accommodate the levy as a separate charge, as opposed to a NICs’ increase on payslips.
This means that people earning £24,000, less than the average wage, would pay an additional £260 a year for the levy, which will be clearly indicated as the social levy on pay slips. Anyone earning less than £9,680 will not have to pay the levy.
A typical higher rate taxpayer earning £67,100 will contribute £715. Additional rate taxpayers make up just 2% of individuals affected but will contribute nearly 20% of the revenue raised from individuals.
The dividend tax, which will see the current rate of 7.5% rise to 8.75%, and is expected to raise an estimated £600m; this will be legislated in the next Finance Bill. The government said that additional and higher rate taxpayers are expected to contribute over 70% of the revenue from this increase in 2022-23.
In a speech in parliament, the prime minister Boris Johnson said: ‘We will fix the long-term problems of health and social care. From next April we will create a health and social care levy of 1.25% and the dividend rate will rise by the same amount with the levy going to social care across the whole of the UK.’
He added: ‘We need reform and change, we need to build back better. When Covid started, 30,000 beds in hospitals were used by people waiting for care home beds. Governments have ducked this problem for decades. There can be no more dither and delay, and we cannot rely on insurance as the premiums would be too high.’
Johnson said the plan to create a specific levy as opposed to raising income tax, for example, was to ensure that the charge was spread across individuals and businesses.
‘Our new levy will share the cost between individuals and businesses, and everyone will contribute according to their means, including those above state pension age, so those who earn more those who earn more will pay more,’ said Johnson.
‘Income tax is not paid by businesses so the whole burden would rest on individuals. The new levy will fall on businesses and individuals. And the highest earners will pay the majority.
‘And because we are also increasing dividends tax rates we will be asking better-off business owners and investors to make a fair contribution too.’
He stressed that the highest earning 14% will pay around half the revenues, no-one earning less than £9,568 will pay the levy, and the majority of small businesses will be exempt, with 40 per cent of all businesses paying nothing at all.
This will raise an estimated £12bn a year, with money from the levy going directly to health and social care across the whole of the UK.
Existing NICs reliefs to support employers will apply to the Levy. Companies employing apprentices under the age of 25, all people under the age of 21, veterans and employers in freeports will not pay the levy for these employees as long as their yearly gross earnings are less than £50,270, or £25,000 for new freeport employees.
James Ross, partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery, said: ‘As far as individuals are concerned, the government has made some attempt to address the inequities of increased taxation on earned income by increasing the rate of tax on dividends (in order to reduce the benefits of routing income through service companies).
‘This, however, introduces asymmetries elsewhere in the tax system. The top rate of tax on dividends will increase to 39.35% – nearly twice the 20% top rate of tax on capital gain. Individuals who hold material shareholdings in trading or investment companies will have clear incentives to try and structure their returns as capital gains rather than dividend income.’
Care cost cap
There will also be wide-ranging changes to the costs paid by people facing residential care. The PM set out plans for a limit on what people can be expected to pay. From April 2023, no-one starting care will have to pay more than £86,000 towards their care.
Currently, anyone in England with assets over £23,250 must pay for their care in full.
The savings limit will also be increased to £20,000 from the current £14,000, which means that they will not have to make any contribution to care costs.
Meanwhile anyone with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will be eligible for some means-tested support. This new upper capital limit of £100,000 is more than four times the current limit. However, if a person’s total assets are over £100,000, full fees must be paid.
The supporting document primarily sets out ongoing issues with NHS backlogs and plans to address this, but also gives brief details on how the new asset limits will work.
When these reforms are implemented, around 150,000 people will directly benefit at any one point in time.
A white paper on integrated health and social care will be released later this year setting out more detailed plans.
HMRC launched 278 civil investigations into suspected tax evasion during the first 10 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 278 civil investigations, which were opened between 1 April 2020 and 31 January 2021, were otherwise known as Code of Practice 9 enquiries (COP9).
These are opened into the affairs of taxpayers who are suspected of committing serious tax fraud. This includes deliberately paying less tax than is due, overclaiming tax reliefs or misclaiming government grants.
Under a COP9 enquiry, HMRC has the right to seek recovery of tax, interest and penalties for as far back as 20 years. Despite these far-reaching investigatory powers, many will see this as a far preferable alternative to a criminal investigation.
Taxpayers will be required to provide details of the amount of tax they have evaded which saves HMRC from using its resources to investigate such matters. HMRC sees Cop9 enquiries as a much quicker and less costly process than having to enter criminal proceedings.
It is expected that HMRC may use the COP9 tool to encourage more suspected furlough fraudsters to come forward. ‘HMRC is throwing taxpayers a lifeline by issuing these COP9 enquiries. It’s an opportunity for those who know that there are serious misgivings within their tax affairs to bring this to light and avoid the possibility of a substantial prison sentence.
‘HMRC’s offer of a COP9 deal doesn’t last forever, so tax evaders who receive an offer shouldn’t ignore it. If they do spurn the approach from HMRC then they could find themselves facing a full-blown criminal prosecution.’
Dependent on the severity of the tax evasion that has been engaged in, the financial penalties imposed under the COP9 investigations can be up to 200% of the tax HRMC believes is owed.
If the individual chooses to fully cooperate with the investigation they will receive immunity from criminal prosecution. Taxpayers can also avoid the possibility of prison by requesting to make a disclosure and voluntary entering into a COP9 agreement with HMRC. This is known as a contractual disclosure facility (CDF). ‘Given the severity of the financial penalties under COP9 enquiries, including the possibility of being publicly named and shamed, they are most definitely not an amnesty nor an easy route out.
‘However, taxpayers who have deliberately misrepresented their affairs are likely to have a more favourable outcome if they fully cooperate with HMRC and own up to committing tax fraud.’
The UK government has announced that it has cut the cost of the NHS Test and Trace PCR test for international arrivals and has launched a review to private testing providers
The government has announced that the cost of NHS Test and Trace tests for international arrivals will be reduced from £88 to £68 for one test for green or fully vaccinated and amber arrivals, and from £170 to £136 for two tests for amber arrivals who are not fully vaccinated.
The health secretary has also announced that there will be a rapid internal review of the private testing providers that are listed on gov.uk. The review began at the weekend and will last 10 days and any providers failing to meet necessary standards will be removed.
Sajid Javid stated that any providers offering misleading claims and excessive pricing will be clamped down on and swiftly be removed from the official list.
The health secretary said that ‘too many providers are acting like cowboys and that needs to stop’ and that ‘the public should be allowed to enjoy their summer holidays without having to face excessive costs or anxiety.’
The call for a review came from an investigation of the list from the Liberal Democrats which found that more than 100 outlets charged £200 for a PCR test and only 11% of the providers offered tests for under £50, with the cheapest offering prices ranging from £20.
It also found that 24% of the providers were charging more than £200 with a Mayfair GP clinic listed as £575, although on its own website it stated that prices started at £399.
After publishing its results, the Liberal Democrats called on the government to cap the cost of PCR tests for international travel, cut the red tape that is keeping prices high, and scrap the VAT on tests.
Guidance from HMRC, states Covid-19 tests are only exempt from VAT, which amounts to 20% on the sale price, if administered by a registered health professional or if the company selling them has sales of less than £85,000 a year.
Munira Wilson, health spokeswoman, Liberal Democrats said: ‘International travel cannot become a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. The price of PCR tests for international travel are a rip-off and far higher than most other countries. Many have not seen their loved ones abroad since the beginning of the pandemic and the cost of testing is a real barrier to travel.
‘When the cost of providing a test is estimated to be £20, why are many companies charging well over £100 and some over £500? Testing is vital in our fight against the pandemic, but if it is safe to travel it should be affordable to travel.’
Other Conservative MP’s have also joined the call for a VAT cut on PCR tests with a recent study by the University of Hull showing that axing the VAT on Covid-19 travel tests could boost the UK economy by £5bn.
The study also found that the overall tax take from holiday spending could rise from £1.9bn to £2bn.
PCR tests are free or zero-rated for VAT in seven of the 10 most popular tourist destinations for UK holidaymakers with Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus ,and Ireland having all scrapped VAT on tests.
Tests are also taxed at just 5% in Malta and Italy and even Turkey, which taxes them at 18% and is still lower than the UK.
HMRC tax investigations are targeting football clubs, players and their agents for millions in underpaid tax, particularly from lucrative transfers and image rights
According to data provided by HMRC to accountancy firm Hacker Young, HMRC has uncovered £5.8m in tax owed by players and £4.8m owed by agents in the last year. Aside from the players, HMRC claims that a further £34m is owed by the clubs themselves.
In the last 12 months, the tax authority has opened compliance investigations into nine football clubs, 93 football players, and 23 agents. The number of investigations opened in 2020-21 totalled 125.
HMRC is increasingly targeting agents’ fees, representing the money that agents are paid by the football club and player to manage a transfer. HMRC published new guidance on agents’ fees in April of this year.
Agents’ fees are often split 50/50 between the club and player with the club normally paying the player’s half. The player must pay tax on their half of the agents’ fees, as it is treated as a benefit in kind. In most cases, the agent does far more work for the player but the 50/50 split means the player’s tax bill is less.
HMRC has voiced concerns that this 50/50 split was being exploited and has now demanded that the agent’s work for the club is properly accounted for, or the fee is split in a more representative manner.
Another area under investigation is image rights, where big names in football set up companies to run their image rights deals, which are taxed at the 19% corporation tax rate rather than the 45% high-earner income tax rate. These range from lucrative sponsorship deals to corporate endorsements.
Despite the strain of Covid-19, HMRC managed to claw back £55.6m in unpaid tax in the last 12 months from the world of football.
Elliott Buss, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: ‘HMRC sees the football industry as an area where there is a great deal of unpaid tax owed by extremely high earners.
‘Despite HMRC’s capabilities being stretched over the past year, they still identified a significant sum in unpaid tax from the football industry totalling £55.6m. HMRC increasingly targeting agent’s fees is a clear signal that they think this is an area where too much tax is going underpaid.’
HMRC has requested that clubs and agents keep evidence of the relationship between the agents and the club in the transfer process and that records, such as letters between the agent and the club, texts, emails, and Whatsapp messages are kept.
HMRC will then use these records to determine whether the split is justified.
Buss added: ‘A longstanding focus of HMRC’s has been footballers’ use of image rights. It is understandable that the likes of Marcus Rashford or Harry Kane would utilise a company to sell their image – as their ‘image’ will be in high demand amongst advertisers.
‘However, players who have near to no brand recognition are seen by HMRC as using image rights as a way to avoid paying tax and that is why HMRC is actively investigating the use of image rights in football.’
Around 660,000 jobs will likely still need furlough when the scheme ends in September with thousands being pushed into unemployment if the government doesn’t extend it past the deadline
The analysis from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) found that the additional 20% employer contributions towards furlough wages at the start of August will not be cost-effective for nearly 250,000, jobs.
The thinktank detailed that once furlough is no longer an option, workers could be at risk of becoming redundant or seeing a reduction in hours or pay.
The New Economics Foundation states that the government’s September deadline is premature as certain industries will not be able to trade at full capacity when furlough ends.
An example of this is the aviation industry which at the end of June had one third of workers still on furlough and international travel will not return to normal come the deadline and there is possibility of a permanent shift occurring.
Alex Chapman, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said: ‘The current end date for the furlough scheme is arbitrary and can cause unnecessary harm to thousands of workers across the UK, by risking unemployment or facing a reduction in pay. Our analysis highlights that demand will remain suppressed because of voluntary measures that the public will take in response to the uncertainty around the delta variant.
‘The furlough scheme has been a necessary lifeline for millions of workers, and we strongly urge the Chancellor to retain it beyond September.
‘Over time, similar to some of our European neighbours, a more permanent furlough scheme should be introduced that can help the British workforce build resiliency against future economic shocks such as climate disruption, trade realignment, and other public health emergencies.’
The analysis also highlights that self-isolation is still a requirement for those in close contact with a Covid-19 infected person and even with the requirements for isolating easing from 16 August for those who are double-vaccinated, at the current rate around 10m adults will have not received both jabs by this date.
In order to avoid a surge in unemployment at the end of furlough New Economics Foundation recommends that the government rolls back the increase of employer contributions and extends the furlough scheme until a realistic point where voluntary social distancing is likely to end.
It also calls for the government to allow furloughed workers to use their subsidised non-working hours on training, with a priority for industries that may never recover to pre-pandemic levels of output.
This would make furloughed workers more attractive for their employers to bring back and would increase both productivity and the government’s tax return.
The application process for the fifth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant will depend on details of two years of turnover and losses resulting from the pandemic
The scheme is due to open shortly and HMRC will be contacting self employed individuals directly advising them of their eligibility to apply for the scheme, which will be open from late July. There are some rule changes for the fifth grant which are important to take into account and also note that accountants are not allowed to apply directly on behalf of their clients.
HMRC has confirmed that ‘the fifth grant is different. In most cases, you’ll need to provide two turnover figures when you make your claim. We’ll use these to work out how much you’ll get’.
Claims must include information about turnover if you submitted a tax return for your business in 2019 to 2020 as well as any of the following tax years: 2018-19, 2017-18 and 2016-17. Turnover includes the takings, fees, sales or money earned or received by your business.
Turnover must be calculated for a 12-month period, starting on any day from 1 April 2020 to 6 April 2020.
Where to find turnover figures
Turnover figures can be obtained from the 2020-21 self assessment tax return, from accounting software, go through your bookkeeping or spreadsheet records that cover your self-employment invoices and payments received, check the bank account used for your business to account for money coming in from customers, or ask your accountant or tax adviser.
Claims must not include previous SEISS grants, Eat Out to Help Out payments and local authority or devolved administration grants.
In the case of partnerships, work out and include your percentage share of the partnership’s turnover, for each individual partnership. This will be the same as the percentage of profit taken from each partnership in your reference year, even if your profit share percentage changed in 2020 to 2021. You should add this to the turnover from your other businesses.
In most cases, you must use the turnover reported in your 2019 to 2020 tax return as a reference year. The figure needs to be based on a 12-month period and include the total turnover for all your businesses.
If 2019-20 was not a normal year for your business, you can use the turnover reported in your 2018-19 tax return. Your records should show how 2019-20 was not a normal year for you. For example, if you were on carers leave, long term sick leave or had a new child; carried out reservist duties; lost a large contract or are eligible for the fifth grant but did not submit a 2019 to 2020 return.
If your turnover is down by 30% or more, the grant will be:
worked out at 80% of three months’ average trading profits; and
capped at £7,500.
If your turnover is down by less than 30%, the grant will be:
- worked out at 30% of three months’ average trading profits; and
- capped at £2,850.
If you had a total turnover of £20,000 for 2019-20, which fell to £10,000 for April 2020 to April 2021, representing a 50% drop in revenue, you will get the higher grant amount which is worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits as turnover is down by 30% or more.
If turnover is down by 20% compared to 2019-20 you will get the lower grant amount which is worth 30% of three months’ average trading profits as turnover is down by less than 30%.
If 2019-20 was not a normal year for your business, due to the pandemic, SEISS applicants can use 2018-19 as the turnover reference year.
If you are currently trading but have reduced demand, you must keep any evidence that your business has had reduced activity, capacity or demand due to Covid-19 at the time you made your claim, such as:
- business accounts showing reduction in activity compared to previous years;
- records of reduced or cancelled contracts or appointments; and
- a record of dates where you had reduced demand or capacity due to government restrictions.
What is mental health discrimination?
Discrimination in general is when an employer or co-worker treats someone differently based on one of the protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation).
Discrimination due to mental health is a bit more difficult to define because, while mental health isn’t directly a protected characteristic, disability is.
The Equality Act 2010 defines a disabled person as someone with a physical or mental injury. It must be substantial or long term (likely to last more than 12 months) and affect their ability to conduct day-to-day activities.
So for discrimination based on mental health to be unlawful, the mental health issue needs to fit the definition of a disability. The employer also must know — or be reasonably expected to know — about the disability.
If an employee with mental health problems that qualify as a disability is treated differently at work because of their condition, this could be shown to be discriminatory, which could lead to a costly employment tribunal. Discrimination cases have an unlimited fine and no minimum service period for employees, so they can devastate a business.
Types of discrimination
There are six types of disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
- Direct discrimination.
- Discrimination arising from disability.
- Indirect discrimination.
- Failing to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Direct and indirect discrimination in mental health
Direct discrimination is where someone treats an employee unfairly because of a protected characteristic.
Discrimination against mental health in the workplace occurs mainly through these forms. They occur from direct treatment or practices that affect employees.
Mental health discrimination may occur, for example, if an organisation does not offer an employee a promotion because they have depression but instead gives the promotion to a colleague who does not have depression — even though they have less experience and fewer qualifications. Or if someone with depression is penalised for taking too much time off sick.
Discrimination by association happens when an employee gets worse treatment because of a connection or association with another person with a disability (eg it is their partner who suffers with mental ill health).
Indirect discrimination occurs where a practice that applies to everyone inadvertently disadvantages someone with a protected characteristic. For example, where an employer only considers those who have a driving licence eligible for promotion even though this is not a key requirement of the job. This may discriminate against people with mental or physical health problems that prevent them from holding a driving licence.
There are times when an employer can justify discrimination against those with a disability, if they can show there was a good reason for this other than merely being cheaper (eg the safety of others) and it was proportionate.
Organisations should re-evaluate all policies to ensure no groups are discriminated against or lose out unfairly. Make sure all your managers and supervisors are trained to recognise discrimination, know how to assess changes to ensure that discrimination does not occur and know what steps to take if it is reported.
Harassment and mental health
The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as conduct that violates dignity or produces an unpleasant environment. For it to be discrimination, it needs to link to a protected characteristic.
An example of harassment would be if a colleague finds out their colleague has bipolar disorder and makes offensive remarks in the office about being in a manic phase. This can happen in or outside of the workplace, as harassment may begin outside, but the feelings will continue into the workplace.
Organisations should have a policy in place to deal with harassment (see our template Bullying and Harassment Policy), and this should be communicated to all employees. It is also worth considering how to ensure a positive, respectful and supportive work culture.
Victimisation of someone with a mental illness
This is the mistreatment of a person because they are making a complaint about discrimination or harassment.
For example, an employee complains to their employer about disability discrimination. After this, the manager treats them badly because they are seen as a troublemaker or less loyal to the organisation.
Organisations should ensure that management or HR is scrupulously neutral when faced with any such issues. If there has been a complaint or grievance raised, make sure a fair process is followed, and each step is documented. Consider if anything needs to be done to improve work, so that employees feel able to discuss mental health issues in a supportive environment.
Failure to make reasonable adjustments
The Equality Act 2010 requires employers and service providers to make reasonable adjustments if an employee is at a substantial disadvantage compared to other people who do not have a mental health problem. The adjustments — for example, counselling, flexible working hours, a change in duties — should aim to remove any disadvantage suffered but should be realistic in balancing cost, effectiveness and practicality.
Adjustments should be made in consultation with the employee and be specific to their needs. Often a note from the employee’s GP is a good starting point. Otherwise it might be worth getting an occupational health assessment for advice if you have the resources.
Dismissal for mental health issues
It is possible to dismiss an employee fairly if they can no longer carry out their job because of their mental ill health. However, the organisation must first have considered how to make adjustments for and support their employee if the issue qualifies as a disability. Dismissal should be the last resort. This is especially true if it can be argued that the mental health condition has arisen from or been worsened by work-related stress.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out how life will soon return close to normal as he confirmed that social distancing will end, facemasks will no longer be mandatory and there will be no limits on gatherings.
He said that the final step would go ahead as planned on 19 July although this will not be confirmed until 12 July after a review of the latest data.
“If we don’t go ahead now when we’ve clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link… when would we go ahead?”, Mr Johnson asked.
Assuming that there is no late change of plan, limits on social contact will end, meaning there will be no restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings. Weddings, funerals and other life events will be able to take place without limits or restrictions.
All venues currently closed will be allowed to reopen, including nightclubs, and there will be no legal requirement for table service in hospitality settings. Limits on named care home visitors will also be lifted.
The powers given to local authorities to enforce rules will expire and large-scale events will not legally require certification.
The one metre plus rule will be lifted other than in specific places such as at the border to help manage the risks of new variants coming into the country.
The guidance to work from home where possible will also end, to allow employers to start planning a safe return to workplaces.
While face coverings will no longer be legally required in shops, schools, hospitality or on public transport, guidance will be in place to suggest where people might choose to wear one.
Speaking at the press conference with the Prime Minister, England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, outlined three scenarios where he would continue to do so.
“The first is any situation which is indoors, crowded, or indoors with close proximity with other people; the second situation I’d do it is if I was required to by any competent authority; and the third reason is if someone else was uncomfortable if I did not wear a mask,” he explained.
Mr Johnson said that people’s personal judgement will now be key in learning to live with the virus.
He also signalled the Government’s intention to move to a new regime whereby fully vaccinated people would no longer need to self-isolate if identified as a contact. Further details will be set out in due course, Mr Johnson said.
Finally, he confirmed that the vaccine rollout will accelerate further, by reducing the vaccine dose interval for under-40s from 12 weeks to eight. This will mean every adult has the chance to have two doses by mid-September.
As the warmer months are now upon us, and people start looking to the skies for some summer sunshine, employers may begin worrying about how to keep their workforce operating efficiently during this time. Below, we take a look at some of the key summer issues for employers and how to manage these effectively.
Managing holiday leave
With most employees looking to take a significant part of their annual leave during the summer months, the holiday diary may look a little busier than normal. Where employees have requested holiday in line with the internal holiday policy, and this has been previously approved, the key requirement for employers is to ensure holidays are managed properly.
It will be important for managers to plan for upcoming holidays and manage an employee’s workload while they’re on leave. If someone is covering the role, it will be essential for a smooth handover so that the covering employee understands what is required and feels comfortable with undertaking this work. Additional time should be planned in for a handover to be completed on the employee’s return, rather than expecting them to get straight back into their work without understanding what has happened in their absence. This will help to prevent important tasks being missed or follow-up tasks falling by the wayside.
Where conflicting leave requests are received, or a request cannot be approved in line with the internal policy, for example where the maximum amount of employees are already booked off, then managers should respond to the request in a timely manner confirming that this is refused. Explaining the reasons why, and referring to the holiday policy and the rules set out within this, will help to limit any potential issues regarding this decision.
Dealing with family emergencies
As extensive childcare arrangements are put in place by working parents, there is a greater likelihood that time off may be required where these arrangements break down. Managers need to understand the right to time off for dependants, a statutory right for unpaid leave to deal with emergency situations concerning their dependants, and how their internal policy applies to this time.
The law requires employees to contact their employer as soon as reasonably practicable to alert them to their time off, the reason for this and how long they believe will be needed. Recording this leave accurately will be crucial to ensure there is no detriment suffered by employees because they have exercised their right to this time off. Generally, time off for dependants will provide unpaid time off of one or two days as this will be the time needed to handle the emergency, although this will depend on the circumstances; therefore any additional time off will need to be discussed and agreed with the employee, such as taking short notice holiday or unpaid leave.
Summer dress codes
Once the temperatures start creeping up, the issue of formal dress codes is inevitably raised. While a suit and tie may be comfortable during the cooler months, commuting in professional attire and spending long days in a warmer office can result in employees challenging the normal clothing standards. If staff are uncomfortable this could have a detrimental impact on morale and productivity.
It is a business decision for employers to decide whether they will relax normal dress policies or introduce a stand-alone summer dress code that contains different rules. The overall aim behind the code itself will need to be maintained, such as having a professional image for customers or meeting brand requirements. Matters to consider include avoiding more stringent requirements on employees of one gender as this could be discriminatory on the grounds of sex, while health and safety requirements including appropriate footwear will need to be maintained. Including employees in the process to decide summer dress requirements can help employers introduce a policy which meets their needs and will be applied positively by the workforce.
Where the normal dress code is retained, managers should continue to enforce this. This means breaches of the code will be addressed, usually under the disciplinary procedure as an act of misconduct, with disciplinary sanctions imposed as are reasonable. Although this may cause employees to become disgruntled, failing to impose the policy during summertime could lead to issues of fairness and reasonableness when managers seek to enforce the rules at different times of the year.
The most uttered question on warmer days is usually “how hot does it have to be before I can be sent home?” There is no maximum workplace temperature set in UK legislation, although health and safety laws say that temperatures should remain reasonable based on the type of workplace and activities carried out. Therefore, indoor office temperatures will be classed as reasonable at a higher temperature than for those carrying out physical activities outdoors.
To ensure staff feel comfortable and their productivity is not being detrimentally affected by a warmer workplace, employers can proactively review their workplace temperatures to ensure these remain suitable for most employees. A simple complaint about overheating may lead to a formal grievance if this is not managed properly.
Warmer temperatures may affect some staff more than others. For example, women going through the menopause who may already be suffering with hot flushes may find their symptoms exacerbated by the hot weather. If a complaint is raised about overheating, it would be prudent to discuss this with the employee in confidence to see if any further support is needed.
Take steps to review air conditioning or cooling systems to ensure these are operating properly and, where possible, to resolve issues and evaluate whether individual measures, such as the provision of desk fans, may need to be taken.
With blue sky dazzling outside the office window, keeping employees on task and efficient can be hard work in summer.
Ensuring all employees are aware of their tasklists and any relevant deadlines will provide transparency over what is required of them. In addition, regular catch ups or meetings can help to check whether employees are on track and, if not, whether there are any issues which need managing. Certain workplaces may introduce incentives to have an element of competition and challenge around maintaining high work rates, in order to win an individual or team prize.
Showing employees that they are valued for their hard work is effective people management at any time, but can be especially welcomed during summer when they may be covering for others due to high levels of leave. Small acts, such as ice creams, cool drinks or early finishes to enjoy the summer sunshine, will show employees that their hard work is recognised and valued, helping keep them engaged and productive during this time.