Employees HR, Redundancy & Trade Unions

Managing people is part of a manager’s job

However, a survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) suggests that 82% of UK workers in management positions lack full training or qualifications.

Just 27% of workers surveyed said say they would describe their manager as “highly effective.”

Furthermore, the poll found that 72% of people who rated their own manager as effective also felt valued and respected. This dropped to just 15% where there was a bad boss in place.

When there is good leadership in place, 74% of those polled were more satisfied with their job, 77% were motivated, and 67% said their organisation had a good culture.

The study also found that bad managers and a toxic workplace culture are causing one in three workers to quit their jobs.

There are bound to be times when a manager has to have a difficult conversation with an employee.

It may be that the employee’s behaviour is proving disruptive and they are not working as part of a team as expected.

It may be that they are not as productive as they should be and they have been given a less than stellar performance review.

It may be that you have to inform people of delays or changes to a contract or project.

Other reasons might include:

Addressing negative feedback

Owning up to a mistake

Providing feedback to a direct report

Investigating inappropriate behaviour

Mediating disputes and conflict resolution

Whatever the reason, there are ways to prepare for that difficult conversation and hopefully arrive at a positive outcome.

Rather than labelling it difficult in advance, try thinking of it as a conversation. It’s wise to plan ahead for the points that you need to make but not to write a script. It is, after all a conversation involving at least two people.

Make it clear that you are open to hearing their perspective and try to show compassion. That means listening to what they have to say.

It helps to be able to give something back and in this context if a follow-up conversation is needed after outlining the changes that need to be made try to find positives when you have that conversation.


Skills shortages are holding back growth

Companies are struggling to find suitably skilled candidates at all levels, according to recent research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

In a study of 800 SMEs, the FSB found that “22 per cent of small companies said a shortage of skilled workers would be a “stumbling block for growth in the upcoming year”, with the information, communication, and technology sector reporting one of the largest skills gaps.”

In its report it said “Successful and growing small businesses are essential to the UK’s economic success. Only when business owners and their staff are equipped with the right skills can their enterprise grow.”

It has called on the Government to maintain an apprenticeship levy which covers the bulk of a company’s training costs.

It also said “lifelong learning must be more widely adopted. Effective support should be readily available to allow small business employers to support their staff to learn new and pertinent skills.”

A separate study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that high-paid and high-skilled graduate jobs were becoming more concentrated in London and the south of England, forcing graduates in other parts of the country to work in jobs that were below their skills levels.

The CBI has also reported on the issue:

Matthew Percival, CBI director of Future of Work, said: “Pay decisions in the last 12 months have been difficult for businesses and workers with companies having to put up prices to afford pay rises that still didn’t match inflation. Fewer than half of companies expect to be able to match inflation in the next 12 months suggesting another difficult year ahead. Employers will need to invest heavily in relationships with their workers and trade unions to minimise disputes and maintain employee engagement.”

The report found that:

  • 65% wanted reforms to the apprenticeship levy whereby employers could use the funds more flexibly.
  • 59% of businesses support making all skill levels eligible for the shortage occupation list.
  • 62% thought the financial support available through the Access to Work scheme for people with disabilities should be increased.
  • 54% thought there should be incentives for businesses to invest in workplace health measures.
Employees Finance HR, Redundancy & Trade Unions

Will everyone return to office-based working by 2026?

According to research by KPMG, two thirds of CEOs expect a return to the five-day office-based week by 2026.

But is that realistic?

Is it affordable?

From an employer’s perspective it might seem desirable at first glance.

But it is important to consider the costs of either renting or buying suitable office space as costs are likely to have risen substantially.

Then there are the energy costs, which will also have risen. In addition, the Government aims to have all commercial buildings in the country with an energy performance certificate rating of A or B by the end of the decade. This is also likely to add to landlords’ costs, which would inevitably be passed on to leaseholders.

There are further, perhaps not yet quantifiable costs as the survey pointed out that 83% of UK executives, believed that financial rewards and promotion opportunities could be linked in future to office attendance.

According to Jon Holt, the chief executive of KPMG UK, a move to return to fully office-based working is likely to raise tensions between employers and employees.

“Issuing an ‘all hands on deck’ edict is a simple response to a complex issue – it won’t work for all businesses,” he said.

Many people have got used to the benefits of remote working, which include avoiding a sometimes-lengthy commute, better time management, lower costs and the ability to manage life in general more easily.

According to an article on the issue in the Guardian newspaper “Multiple employee surveys in recent years have shown that most workers have no desire to return to their desks full-time, with some saying they would quit their jobs if current workplace flexibility was taken away.”

Clearly, a lot more thought needs to be given before contemplating such a move.

Have you been working remotely and happily? Would you be happy to return to the office?

Let us know what you think in the comments.


Are you hiring?

According to research by Barclays Bank “UK small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) could hire as many as 3.5m people in the next three months”.

According to the Barclays Business Barometer, nearly three-in-five (57 per cent) reported revenue growth last quarter, marking the highest level in 18 months.

It says, many are turning to innovative “technology investments to increase productivity (45 per cent), as well as future-proof their company (44 per cent)”.

At the same time the ONS (Office for National Statistics) has reported that core inflation had dropped to 6.8% in July, down from 7% the previous month and 7.3% in May.

Staffing Industry Analysts, which researches recruitment trends, has also reported “Employer hiring confidence has grown in almost every sector across the UK, rising by 8% since last quarter to 29%, according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey for Q3.

This was particularly true in the communications sector but also in financials and real estate, it said.

Manpower’s real time vacancy data showed “vacancies are down on the year but up month on month throughout 2023.

Are you feeling more confident that the worst may be over after the last couple of difficult years?

Let us know what you think.

If you want to talk to someone about your future growth strategy message, call or email K2.

Accounting & Bookkeeping Cash Flow & Forecasting Employees Finance

Can you afford to do this?

It was announced today that wages had risen by approximately 8%, the highest rate since records began in 2001.

Recently the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development revealed that of 2000 employers it had spoken to 40% had made counteroffers to keep hold of staff tempted by higher wages from rivals in the past 12 months. 

With good employees in short supply and vacancies at over 1 million in the last 12 months it is no surprise that employers want to hang on to key and valued people.

However, with no sign of any easing of interest rates, costs continuing to rise and ongoing difficult trading conditions is this ever-rising wage rate spiral sustainable for businesses?

Bibby Financial Services has said that over half of the SMEs it surveyed “think the current business climate is worse now than during the pandemic. Four in ten believe trading conditions are tougher now that they were amid the pandemic, while more than a third said the global economy is doing worse than it was after the 2008 financial crisis”.

It is the perfect definition of being between a rock and a hard place for many businesses.

So what can you do to protect your business?

Firstly, keep a close eye on your finances and we have a free tool to help you.

You can download it here and if you need someone to talk to message us or call.

We’re here to help.


Burnout and how to deal with it as an employer

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

It has become increasingly prevalent as the lines between work and home have become more blurred and the UK’s economic problems have made life harder for businesses.

In July 2023 the Guardian reported that “More than half of workers (55%) reported that work had become more intense and demanding” according to TUC research.

And in May statistics from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) revealed a rise in the numbers of workers not seeking work for health reasons. It blamed the uplift on “conditions related to mental health, particularly in the young”.

Burnout saps the energy, increases stress and sufferers lose the ability and energy to effectively meet the demands of their jobs.

As a business owner why should you do something to help employees to avoid burnout?

Well as the above statistics indicate it could make recruitment more difficult.

Burnout in employees also reduces productivity. 

You can use a wellbeing plan to identify what good wellbeing looks like for you, as well as what it looks like when things aren’t so good. You can also use it to encourage employees to assess their own wellbeing.

You could also introduce stress risk assessments for identifying a risk, then explore ways of removing or reducing the risk.

Most importantly, communicating these with employees and engaging them in working together on ways to minimise stress as well as looking out for each other’s mental wellbeing could help to minimise the chances of burnout before they can take a firm hold.

Employees General

Have you taken part in a trial for a four-day working week?

According to the results of a study into trials of a four-day week in the UK, USA, Canada and Ireland productivity was not affected by the reduction in working hours.

“Participants reported a better work-life balance and improved mental and physical health. Kickstarter, one of the companies involved in the trial, saw staff retention rise from 70% to over 90%”.

The World Economic Forum has also reported results from a similar trial and found that in the UK 49% of businesses reported a smooth transition to a four-day week and 29% said it was extremely smooth.

It also found that productivity improved significantly for 15% and improved slightly for 34%.

Of those that had tried it 86% said they were likely or extremely likely to implement the system.

The BBC reported that the numbers were even higher according to results of the UK’s four-day week trial with 92% of employers saying they would continue with the four-day week.

However, it does not work for all businesses, the BBC report continued.

A small proportion of businesses, particularly those in customer-facing enterprises, found that “creating enough slack in the schedule for a four-day week means extra hiring costs – making it prohibitive to move forward with a new model”.

And what about this finding from a survey of 500 SMEs by business insurer Superscript which found that 33% of SME bosses feel that there are not enough minutes in the day to get everything done?

It is all very well to advise people to “work smarter not harder” but that is a tall order for many SME owners.

Clearly the four-day week may work well for some but not for others.

What do you think?


Monitoring of remote workers can have negative consequences.

The development of monitoring tools to keep track of remote workers began during the Covid lockdowns.

However, as hybrid and remote working have continued the increased sophistication and use of such software has continued.

But in essence it is a number crunching exercise and relying on algorithms and statistics alone can easily mislead managers.

The statistics should be understood in the context of the role, and can lead to unrealistic activity goals. They should be used with caution. 

If they are not, then they can alienate the most dedicated of workers.

Surveillance is not only about logging. It has the potential for it to be used against workers.

Calculating productivity by such things as the numbers of clicks and keystrokes on the computer without reference to quality is counterproductive.

It makes employees fearful and worried about being watched.

Excessive monitoring can be counterproductive for companies too: it is associated with potentially lower productivity and higher staff turnover rates.

Essentially what it boils down to is trust and a degree of understanding about how people manage their time.

Employees need to feel respected, valued and trusted if you want them to be at their productive best.

Employees Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery

Are you considering restructuring your business?

Are you considering restructuring your business?

Do your employees know?

You may think they don’t but don’t underestimate the efficiency of the staff rumour mill.

At a time when it is proving difficult to recruit key employees it is crucial in a restructure that you retain those employees that are going to be key to its success.

They will be essential to the business’ recovery going forward.

It is important to keep employees fully informed, and not relying on the rumour mill if you want them to put their energies into helping it survive.

Their opinions, feelings and concerns should be actively listened to. If they don’t know what is going on they are likely to be worrying about the future of their career and their jobs and more likely to be a flight risk.

Clarity will do a great deal to help employees to put their efforts into supporting the restructure to help assure their future.

Preparation and planning are vital for a smooth restructure. From the first phase, business leaders should ensure that employees are central to every decision made.

You have legal obligations too.

For contractual changes to be legal in a business that wants to change the contracts of more than 20 employees, a 45-day consultation period with staff must take place. This is also true if there are to be redundancies.

If you don’t comply it could add a delay to the restructuring proceedings.

Keeping your employees informed and engaged will go a long way towards ensuring a successful restructuring outcome and the future of the business.

Employees General Turnaround

The most important lesson the army taught me about turnaround

By Tony Groom

When a turnaround professional arrives at a business, they’re arriving at a business in crisis.

Most people think it’s the big strategic shifts that are the critical piece of a turnaround, but during this initial phase the most important job to do is steady the ship and give everyone some confidence back.

This is best achieved not by barking out orders but by rolling up your sleeves and showing people you’re there to help.

This is something the army taught me at a young age. 

When I was a junior officer there was one senior sergeant who commanded more loyalty from his soldiers than anyone else. This loyalty stemmed from the respect he showed to each and every one of them. One might assume soldiers should salute their sergeant first, but he never missed an opportunity to salute the soldiers first.

One thing that made him such a brilliant leader was he never saw himself as a traditional leader. He wasn’t there to hand out orders to a team that needed guidance. He trusted that his soldiers knew what they needed to do and his job was simply to remove the roadblocks that would stop them getting on with their job.

This is a lesson I apply to every turnaround. 

Whilst the big strategy shift is obviously integral, bringing calm to the crisis usually happens in the smaller moments. It means the turnaround professional should get stuck in and remove the roadblocks that are standing in people’s way.

A road block could be the breakdown of a relationship with a key supplier. Or it could be as simple as not having the correct health and safety form to meet incoming regulations. 

Clearing these issues helps lighten the load on the team and starts building the momentum needed to make the bigger operational changes.

Employees HR, Redundancy & Trade Unions

What can SMEs do to protect themselves from skills shortages?

BCC’s most recent update on the difficulties to find workers highlights shortages in several key areas.

The February 2023 update said:

“Attempted recruitment in Q4 remained virtually unchanged from the previous quarter, with 61% of firms looking to find staff (62% in Q3 2022). 

“Overall, over eight in ten firms (82%) attempting to recruit reported recruitment difficulties, up from 76% in Q3. 

“While the problem is persistent across all sectors, firms in the hospitality sector are most likely to face challenges when recruiting, with 87% reporting difficulties. This is closely followed by the manufacturing sector on 85%, and the construction sector; professional services; and public, education, health sector all on 83%.” 

According to research from fintech provider Nucleus Commercial Finance 68% of SMES with up to 150 employees are concerned about staffing in 2023.

So what can SMEs that are already strapped for cash do to help themselves in the short and medium term?

  1. Are you using existing staff as effectively as possible? Many companies have discovered that they already have the people they need but are not using all their available skill sets, paying close attention to skills that could be transferable.
  2. Be more open-minded when recruiting: New staff members don’t have to be perfect from the start. Businesses could hire applicants with 70 to 80 percent of the right requirements and help them grow into the role.
  3. Use contingent workers, such as freelancers, consultants and contractors to fill gaps.
  4. Encourage older workers to consider working on a consultancy or part time basis instead of retiring.
  5. Make sure the business is an attractive place to work by ensuring there are opportunities for staff to progress their careers with additional training. 

In the medium term if you partner with nearby educational facilities you can offer work experience to their students and create relationships with them so that they are motivated to work for you when they complete their courses.


What perks do employees most value and how important are they?

It can be a challenge to recruit and retain the best staff, especially at the moment, but can offering perks really make a difference?

Online recruiters Glassdoor argues that many workers will tolerate less pay if other perks and benefits fill in the gap.

Among the top perks it lists are free bicycle repairs on site, a day off for Christmas shopping,  four free weeks of holiday for four years work, free on-site dentistry and free day-care for new parents.

But although they may be appreciated how important are they?

It is argued that a benefits package can Improve workplace morale, reduce stress and associated staff absences, boost productivity, help set the tone for your company’s internal values and ethos and can also both reduce staff turnover by helping to retain existing staff and make recruiting top talent easier.

But to be truly effective perks and benefits must offer something employees will actually value and which will help them.

In this context perhaps arguably free day-care is one of the most appreciated.

However, the work perks most appreciated by employees vary with age.

According to Glassdoor, again, younger workers (aged 18-24) particularly prioritise retailer and restaurant discounts, free coffee and tea, help with housing, additional holiday days for long service, free taxis if you need to stay in the office late, clothing allowance, phone allowance/work phone and free/on-site gym and classes among other things.

As they get older, their needs change and are likely to be reflected in their choices of most valued perks so for 35-45 year-olds the choices are likely to prioritise flexible working hours, enhanced pension contribution, unlimited holiday days, free coffee and tea, additional holiday days for long service, private health care, dental care and free eye tests.

By the time they are over 55 their highest priorities include flexible working hours, enhanced pension contribution, private health care and additional holiday days for long service.

The point about offering perks and benefits to employees is that they can not only demonstrate that the employer values its people and understands the pressures on them.

This can only help with both recruitment and retention.

Employees General

Is CEO pay a fair reflection of what they do?

In the context of rising costs of living with more and more ordinary workers struggling to make ends meet this is a question many would be likely to ask.

FTSE 100 data shows CEO pay and bonus packages average £3.4m each which equates to 103 times the £33,000 average salary for full-time UK workers.

But according to a recent survey by the High Pay Centre, more than 60 per cent of people think that chief executives should be paid only 10 times the average salary.

So it is fair to ask what makes them worth such enormous sums when Britain’s productivity, judged by output per worker, is 20% to 30% lower than most other industrialised economies.

CEO remuneration packages are made up of a combination of salaries, bonuses, and stock option packages, according to Investopedia.

In theory the package is designed to align executives’ actions with company success, in other words to make it performance related.

However, this only works if the package is reduced when the company is doing less well.

Performance can be gauged by any number of things such as profit or revenue growth, return on equity, or share price appreciation. 

But, arguably, using financial metrics and annual share price gains is not always a fair measure of how well an executive is doing their job. 

Perceived fair pay depends on many factors, with an important one being company value. If value has increased due to CEO effort, directors and investors believe it is fair to reward the CEO for this increase. Arguably the converse should be true.

But this suggests that company value is entirely within the CEO’s control when in fact other factors such as interest rate rises for example may come into play.

According to the independent Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), however, “intrinsic motivation and personal reputation are the primary drivers of CEO effort. CEOs are intrinsically motivated to do a good job or to be seen by their colleagues, their peers, and wider society as having done a good job”.

CEO remuneration is a complex issue and the concept of fairness is likely to arouse considerable passion on all sides of the debate.

Employees HR, Redundancy & Trade Unions

There are good reasons to employ older workers

It has been calculated that there are around 300,000 fewer people in the workforce than there were before the pandemic.

At the same time as employers complain about recruitment difficulties, research carried out in the autumn of 2022 by CMI (Chartered Management Institute) found that there was considerable reluctance to consider taking on older workers.

In a survey of more than 1,000 managers working in UK businesses just four out of 10 (42%) were open “to a large extent” to hiring people aged between 50 and 64 while just 18% of managers said they were open to a large extent to hiring people aged over 65.

Ann Francke, chief executive of the CMI, said the findings pointed to cultural and leadership failings in businesses of all sizes.

Yet there are many benefits to employing older workers.

Older workers are likely to be more settled as well as having better problem-solving, productivity and output, and smarter decision-making skills.

They are usually able and willing to learn new skills and, thanks to their accumulated life skills, are often better at dealing with customers. This often also makes them positive role models for younger employees as well as potential mentors.

Ideally, a business will benefit from a mix of older and younger employees combining both the steadying influence and wisdom of the former with the innovative skills of the latter.

Can your business afford to miss out on any of this?

Employees Sustainability

How can business sustainability help with recruitment?

The Harvard Business School definition of business sustainability is twofold.

It says there are two things that should be measured for business sustainability. They are the effect a business has on the environment, and the effect a business has on society, with the goal of sustainable practice being to have a positive impact on at least one of those areas.

At the moment businesses are reporting difficulty in recruiting suitable candidates so anything that can help to increase applications is important.

This is where sustainability comes in.

Adobe recently surveyed its US workforce and found that almost a third of people said they would only work for an employer that prioritised sustainability

About a third of employees thought it would boost productivity rates (35 percent), position their company as a leader (31 percent), and open more opportunities for innovation (37 percent). 

Forty-three percent thought it would improve workplace culture.

Albeit this is just a snapshot of employee attitudes in one business in the US, there is no reason to suppose that they do not apply to candidates elsewhere.

But it is not enough to just talk the talk. A business must be able to demonstrate its commitment to and active initiatives to make itself sustainable.

Employees General HR, Redundancy & Trade Unions

A disconnect in perceptions of productivity?

The results of a recent survey of more than 20,000 people in 11 different countries has identified two completely opposite views about productivity in relation to working from home.

While four out of five bosses surveyed felt their staff were less productive when working remotely, the majority of employees, around 87%, felt they were more productive.

There could be a number of explanations for this.

At a time when, according to the latest Begbies Traynor Red Flag report, more than 600,000 UK companies are in critical financial distress it is possible that anxious bosses are desperate to increase their firms’ productivity and this is distorting their perceptions.

There can be little doubt that less commuting and a better work/life balance as well as enabling employees to work for longer periods. Perhaps there is a little distortion of perception going on here too? 

However, for the findings to be a more accurate reflection of the reality, there are a number of questions that should be asked.

  1. How well have the bosses communicated their expectations to remote workers and do they give feedback on performance?
  2. Do employees have measurable goals?
  3. Do employees have the right tools and technology to allow them to get things done?
  4. Are their devices suitable for the job they are doing?

In assessing, and hopefully improving, productivity there needs to be an established baseline from which to measure.


It is still important for businesses to protect their employees from Covid

Infections have been climbing again thanks to new variants and reportedly cases have risen by 29% in the UK in the last week.

The NHS is also struggling with large caseloads at a time of year when it usually has a respite.

Yet reportedly one in four people who have Covid are going to work.

While it is understandable that businesses facing a perfect storm of rising costs, supply chain issues and recruitment difficulties may be reluctant to let people take time off work, there is still much they can do to protect people.

Firstly, after two years of survival during lockdowns by using remote working, businesses can still allow people with Covid to return to remote working.

While regulations regarding Covid may have been removed, businesses should still be ensuring their workplaces are as safe as possible.

This means ensuring there is plenty of fresh air circulating, providing hand sanitisation stations and asking people to wear masks to protect themselves and others, especially in customer-facing roles.

Given the current difficulties in recruiting staff it makes sense for a business to demonstrate that it has employees’ wellbeing at heart.

Our Board Briefing is still worth a read.


Keep your valued employees by giving them a stake in the business

The numbers of employee-owned businesses have more than doubled in a year, according to the Employee Ownership Association (EOA).

There are now more than 1,000 Employee Owned businesses in the UK, it says, compared with 500 in 2020.

As trading conditions become increasingly difficult thanks to a combination of factors, including the war in Ukraine, post-Covid supply chain disruption and the difficulty in recruiting skilled people, employers have turned to EOTs (Employee Owned Trusts) as a way of both spreading the risks in business and in keeping and rewarding staff for loyalty during the pandemic.

There are also tax benefits from turning a business into an EOT.

But there are a number of things to consider in structuring and formalising an EOT and it is important to understand exactly what a business is getting into.

The questions, according to accountants Price Bailey include:

  • What is the commercial purpose of an EOT?
  • Is it suitable for my business?
  • Who will be the controlling party?
  • Who will manage the EOT?
  • What is the market value of the company and what are the value of shares to be sold?
  • How will the share purchase be funded? And if the company is going to fund it, over how many years?

Businesses that have successfully converted to EOTs reportedly say that it improves social responsibility and keeps staff informed and engaged. It can also improve productivity.

If you are struggling with managing your business might an EOT be the way forward?

Employees General

Are there situations where process automation produces a worse result?

A shortage of candidates amid a high demand for staff has for some time been a complaint made by businesses.

The competition for suitable people has led to their offering higher starting salaries for new staff.

But the question has to be asked: how are they going about the recruitment process?

For several years now, candidates have been assessed using AI (Artificial Intelligence).

This method has become increasingly sophisticated as candidates are now being asked to answer standard interview questions in front of a camera while the software behind it notes thousands of barely perceptible changes to posture, facial expression, vocal tone and word choice.

Some companies selling AI recruitment tools even offer a reactive, AI-powered chatbot that will conduct the entire interview process.

But there have been examples of eminently qualified people being rejected at the first hurdle by these methods and in one recently-reported case and employee with a long track record of work with various high profile publications dis covered his application had been rejected because he had not reached the required score in a test that seemed to bear no relation to the skills needed for the position.

He queried it unsuccessfully and after filing a claim with the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK was awarded £8000 in compensation. In his view the fault was in the software that was “weeding out good candidates”.

There have been reports of candidates who scored highly on most tests but found themselves excluded perhaps because of age, or an employment gap of longer than six months or because they were missing just a couple of skills from a very long list.

It must be remembered that software is written by human beings and human beings have inherent biases of which they may be unaware, not to mention that they can make mistakes.

At the moment there are no standards for checking whether an AI-based selection process is fair and unbiased although there are reportedly plans in both the UK and USA for bringing in national standards.

In the meantime, while the use of AI tools in the recruitment process may be useful at some stages potential employers should think carefully before applying them too widely.


Taking the longer view

Could taking on apprentices be a better business solution to the staffing crisis during the current economic uncertainty?

It is understandable that following the easing of all the Covid pandemic restrictions businesses should be keen to go all-out for growth and therefore recruiting qualified staff.

But recruitment itself is currently a problem and in the face of all the other pressures including supply chain issues, rising energy prices and of course the Ukraine war, perhaps a slower, steadier approach would be more sensible.

Consolidating the current business and planning ahead would ease some of the pressure and this is where taking on apprentices may be a better way forward.

For businesses that are below the threshold of a £3 million payroll there is no apprenticeship levy and there is financial help for both taking on and training apprentices. There is a £1000 incentive payment for taking on an apprentice.

Then, depending on the size of your business, you pay just 5% towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice and the government will pay the rest up to the funding band maximum.

If you employ fewer than 50 employees, the government will pay 100% of the apprenticeship training costs up to the funding band maximum for apprentices aged 16 to 18 or 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan provided by their local authority or has been in the care of their local authority.

You must pay them the national minimum wage for their age group but if they are under 25 and on an approved Government apprenticeship scheme you don’t pay NI.

The FSB has a lot of useful information on its website to help smaller employer considering the apprenticeship route.

Thinking longer term could be a good way of protecting your business and preparing it for future growth.


The post-Covid restriction dilemma for bosses and employees

Restrictions may have been lifted but Covid levels in the community are still high and this can cause problems for both employer and their employees.

If someone contracts Covid the advice still is to self-isolate for at least five days.

However, this could result in employees losing three days of the statutory sick pay available from the Government, leaving them with just two days sick pay if they abide by the rules. SSP in the UK is just £96.35 per week.

To make matters worse, lateral flow tests are no longer free, so there is also a risk that someone with mild symptoms that are similar to a cold may not test themselves at all, carrying on working and risking spread of the illness to other colleagues.

In a previous post we advised employers to complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19, provide adequate ventilation, clean more often and to ask people with COVID-19 or any of the main COVID-19 symptoms to stay away and enable them to work remotely.

But is there more employers can do to protect their businesses and their workforce in this situation?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

Firstly, employers can protect their workforce and help individuals to isolate if necessary by buying stocks of Lateral Flow Tests and making them available to employees.

Secondly, if they have a workplace sickness scheme, it may be worth introducing sickness pay from day one in the specific case of a Covid infection.

The benefits are obvious albeit you may have to pay a little to reap them.  

It will encourage employees to do the right thing while protecting their income.

It will protect the rest of the workforce and ensure minimal disruption to production and at the same time will send out a message to employees that you do value them and care about their welfare.

Given the difficulties businesses are having in recruiting and retaining staff, it will help you to keep loyal employees.