Flexible working will become the “default” for employees
Last week Amazon announced that, for warehouse workers, it is to offer parents term-time only contracts. The new contracts would guarantee those who care for school-age children, including guardians, six weeks of holiday in the summer and two weeks over the Easter and Christmas breaks. Employees will be entitled to all full-time benefits.
Following a recent UK Government consultation, flexible working will become the default for millions of employees who will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment.
Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.
The new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, and the government hopes this will lead to happier, more productive staff. Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.
The consultation on flexible working has ended and the government response to the consultation confirms intention to introduce changes to the right to request flexible working legislation. This right currently supports all employees with 26 weeks continuous service to make applications to change their work location, working hours, and/or working pattern.
The response states that the government will take forward the following measures to:
- make the right to request flexible working a day one right;
- introduce a new requirement for employees to consult with the employee when they intend to reject their flexible working request;
- allow 2 statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one);
- require a decision period of 2 months in respect of a statutory flexible working request (rather than the current three); and
- remove the existing requirement that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.
The response also commits to:
- developing guidance to raise awareness and understanding of how to make and administer temporary requests for flexible working; and
- launching a call for evidence to better understand how informal flexible working operates in practice.
It also includes a summary of the responses received from individuals and stakeholders.
Remaining resilient with high inflation
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), the trade association for UK retail businesses, research shows that shop price annual inflation accelerated to 9.0% at the start of May, up slightly from 8.8% in April. This is above the 3-month average rate of 8.9%. This brings shop price growth to a new high, although it is now beginning to fall.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) April report shows that food and non-alcoholic beverage prices saw a monthly increase of 1.4% compared with a rise of 1.5% in the equivalent time period last year and an annual rise of 19.1% in April 2023 compared with an annual rise of 19.2% in March 2023. ONS modelling suggests that the annual rate for this category in April 2023 is the second highest seen for over 45 years, when the rate in August 1977 was estimated to be 21.9%.
Will this pattern continue?
Conditions are likely to remain challenging for many businesses and individuals alike. So now is a good time to focus on resilience.
Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress — such as business, workplace, and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
So, what actions can you take now to remain resilient?
Here are a few suggestions to help you think about your business:
- Review your Budgets and set realistic and achievable targets for the rest of 2023.
- Be careful with ‘can’t pay’ customers and get rid of ‘won’t pay’ customers.
- Review your debtors list and chase up overdue invoices (if appropriate).
- Offer existing debtors extended payment terms and/or discounts (if applicable).
- Make sure your terms of business contain explicit payment terms.
- Assign responsibility to one individual for invoicing and collections.
- Put extra effort into making sure your relationships with your better customers are solid.
- Review your list of products and services and eliminate those that are unprofitable or not core products/services.
The important thing to remember in uncertain economic times is that the vast majority of people will not lose their jobs, the majority of businesses won’t fail, and eventually, we’ll recover. (NatWest Bank, Key economic predictions for 2023).
Health and Safety for new and temporary workers
With summer arriving and the subsequent increase in seasonal work, workers are as likely to have an accident in the first six months at a workplace as during the whole of the rest of their working life.
The extra risk arises due to:
- lack of experience of working in a new industry or workplace;
- lack of familiarity with the job and the work environment;
- reluctance to raise concerns (or not knowing how to); and
- eagerness to impress workmates and managers.
This means workers new to a site:
- may not recognise hazards as a potential source of danger;
- may not understand ‘obvious’ rules for use of equipment;
- may be unfamiliar with site layout – especially where site hazards may change from day to day; or
- may ignore warning signs and rules, or cut corners.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have produced guidance on protecting new workers.
National Minimum Wage 2023 rate reminder for employers: Summer Staff
All workers are legally entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW). This includes temporary seasonal staff, who often work short-term contracts in bars, hotels, shops, and warehouses over the summer.
The National Minimum Wage hourly rates from 1 April 2023 are:
- £10.42 – age 23 or over (National Living Wage),
- £10.18 – age 21 to 22,
- £7.49 – age 18 to 20,
- £5.28 – age under 18, and
- £5.28 – apprentice.
If you need help on paying temporary staff please contact us, alternatively you can contact ACAS via their helpline if you need employment law or workplace advice.
ACAS is an independent public body that receives funding from the government. They provide free and impartial advice to employers, employees, and their representatives on:
- employment rights,
- best practice and policies, and
- resolving workplace conflict.
HMRC issues scam warning to tax credits claimants
Tax credit claimants should be on their guard against fraudsters, as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) warns of the latest tactics being employed by scammers.
HMRC has issued a new alert, providing details of a number of new scams reported that aim to trick people into handing over money or personal information. Criminals use deadlines – like the tax credits renewal deadline on 31 July – to target their victims and the department is warning around 1.5 million tax credits customers to be alert to scams that mimic government communications to make them appear genuine.
Typical scam examples include:
- emails or texts claiming an individual’s details aren’t up to date and that they risk losing out on payments that are due to them;
- emails or texts claiming that a direct debit payment hasn’t ‘gone through’;
- phone calls threatening arrest if people don’t immediately pay fake tax owed;
- claims that the victim’s national insurance number has been used in fraud; and
- emails or texts offering spurious tax rebates or bogus grants or support.