April 2021 National Minimum and Living Wage Increases

The original plan to boost the wages of lower paid workers from April 2021, with an increase of over 5%, has been scaled back with more modest rises of around 2.2% overall. This is more in line with inflation and seeks to protect the living standards of lower paid workers. Even this prudent increase will be a challenge for some businesses suffering the economic effects of the pandemic.

For the first time the National Living Wage has also been extended to 23 and 24 years olds. Previously the rate has only applied to people aged 25 and over.

Here are the new rates which apply from 1st April 2021:

National Living Wage (now 23 and above) £8.91
Aged 21-22 inclusive £8.36
Aged 18-20 inclusive £6.56
Aged under 18 (but above school leaving age) £4.62
Apprentices aged under 19 £4.30
Apprentices aged 19 & over but in first year of apprenticeship £4.30

 

The Low Pay Commission remains committed to the Governments goal of ending low pay and have not recommended any changes to the target of the National Living Wage equating to two thirds of median earnings by 2024. The full effects of furlough and the impact of the pandemic have yet to be assessed though and will be considered later this year when the Low Pay Commission make their recommendations for 2022. Hopefully, business may be starting to recover by then.

Please contact one of our HR Consultancy Team if you have any questions.

By Angela Stancer ACII HR Manager

 

 

Have your premises become unoccupied in Lockdown 3?

We are finally seeing the finish-line of what is hopefully the final lockdown and the end of all the restrictions we’ve been living under for the past year.  Unfortunately we’ve still got another few months of restrictions with a number of businesses unable to trade or working remotely leaving their business premises unoccupied for longer periods.

The occupancy of a property is a material fact in insurance which must be declared to your insurers.  It is essential that your insurer is kept informed if your property becomes unoccupied.  Most insurers are allowing more leniency than normal due to the pandemic and will allow for at least 30 days unoccupancy before applying any additional conditions, however it is vital that insurers are notified as soon as practicable of any changes in occupancy.  

 

Most insurers have their own unoccupied property conditions that will be applied when a property is unoccupied for a certain length of time.  These do vary by insurer and we can discuss the conditions with your insurer if you are struggling to comply with certain aspects.  The conditions will often include the following precautions:

 

  • Existing premises security protections and alarm to be activated
  • Carrying out internal and external inspections every week
  • Repairing  any issues detected in the inspections (e.g. removing graffiti) as soon as possible
  • Keeping a log of the weekly inspections
  • Where possible turn off electricity and water at the mains
  • Removing all waste and gas bottles from the premises – either within or outside the premises

 

If you have not notified your broker that your property is unoccupied or are unsure of any additional conditions that may apply, please contact your insurance broker and who will be able to advise you accordingly.

By Kate Bacon ACII – Chartered Insurance Broker & Commercial Account Handler

Covid-19 Update for Schools

No doubt you’ll have been glued to the TV to hear the UK Government’s plans for a route out of lockdown. The main factor that we’ll deal with today are the updates required to allow children to return to school, in England, on the 8th March. There are some changes that will be needed, with the main focus this time around being on secondary schools.

 

 

Changes for all schools

  • From the 8th March, attendance at school will now be compulsory for all school children in England.
  • Some members of staff will still be required to shield if they have been identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, even if they have received the vaccine. The government will keep this under review with the expectation that most of this group will have been vaccinated by group 6 of the Vaccinate Priority Group list. You may be able to provide alternative work for these persons to allow them to work from home. The identification of these groups will be via a shielding letter which the school is entitled to request sight of.
  • Classes will remain in bubbles. There are no requirements to reduce class sizes from normal sizes.
  • Wraparound care, such as breakfast or afterschool clubs are permitted to operate. Care should be taken to ensure that mixing between bubbles does not occur unduly.
  • School transport should continue. Consideration should be given to: maintaining social distancing, keeping bubbles together, organising queueing and boarding, and the use of facial coverings for all person aged 11 and over.
  • Educational visits are still not advised.
  • PE should be undertaken externally wherever possible, however indoor lessons can be used providing that additional precautions over hygiene and cleaning are implemented. External facilities can be used provided that guidance on transport, and the site rules for the facility, are followed.
  • Temporarily, there is no requirement to follow up a positive lateral flow test with a PCR test. A positive lateral flow test is sufficient to confirm that the individual should isolate. Isolation periods remain at 10 days.

 

Primary Schools

  • Your current controls will continue from the 8th March.
  • There is an acceptance that younger children will find it difficult to social distance and so this is no longer required within these bubbles.
  • Lateral Flow Testing for staff should be continued as implemented presently. There are no plans to test children in primary schools at the present time.
  • Face coverings should be worn by staff wherever possible in circulation areas.

 

Secondary Schools

 

  • Mass testing, using Lateral Flow Testing, must be undertaken on every pupil returning to school from the 8th March. This must be completed every 3 / 4 days for three iterations. Schools will be able to stagger the return to school to accommodate this testing.
  • Once the mass testing has been completed, students can move to home testing. We would urge you not to underestimate the administration burden of doing this. The test subject will be required to submit results via the NHS portal, however as schools do not have access to this system, the results will need to be shared with the school separately. This will require a system of registering results, which for a large student population could be a substantial task.

 

  • Facial coverings should now be worn by staff and pupils throughout the school, including in classrooms. If ease of understanding is required, for example due to lip reading or similar, then a face shield should be worn by the staff member. There is an appreciation, however, that face shields are not as effective as facial coverings and will need to be cleaned regularly.
  • Facial coverings are not required in lessons such as PE where the wearing of them would prevent the impact on the ability of pupils to take part.

 

Special Schools

 

  • Your current controls will continue from the 8th March.
  • School now have flexibility in allowing children who are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to return to school if there are at risk from wider issues such as vulnerability, inability to access remote learning, or that their may be an impact on their wellbeing. In these cases we would strongly recommend that a risk assessment be undertaken so that any additional controls required are identified and that this is agreed in conjunction with the pupil / parents.
  • If a pupil is required to isolate due to COVID symptoms, and they have a social worker, then the social worker must be notified and a contact plan agreed for the child.
  • Where a pupil has an EHC, all therapies that would normally occur should be provided.
  • There is flexibility to utilise lateral flow testing, where possible, based upon the needs of the pupil and to include assisted testing. Swabbing for pupils can be limited to nasal swabbing if necessary. This should only be extended to pupils over the age of 11.

 

 

The updated guidance in full is available from these sources:

 

 

The guidance for asymptomatic testing and for providing school meals is under review at the present time and we expect revised advice to be published in the coming days.

ProAktive will be updating the risk assessments for primary, secondary and specialist settings which will be communicated shortly. If you do require specific advice, however please call our consultants on 01302 341344.

The evolution of flood cover

It looks as though extreme weather has now become the norm for this time of year. Recently we have seen floods caused by Storm Christoph and we are just emerging from the grip of a cold snap due to Storm Darcy’s easterly winds with temperatures in parts of the UK having fallen to around freezing.

Once again insurers are responding and in respect of the recent flooding, PwC have estimated that losses will range from £80m to £120m. Whilst most businesses and individuals can still obtain insurance cover for flood, we are now finding a growing number who cannot.

 

Due to the ever-increasing impact of extreme weather and coupled with the advances of technology, insurers are now using flood mapping systems that can pinpoint individual buildings. Unfortunately, for the buildings that fall in a black zone it can be a “computer says no” scenario.   These individuals and businesses either will pay a very large excess (£25,000) or even be unable to obtain flood cover. As you can imagine this can be a very distressing prospect for some people.

Five years ago, a business whose property was in a black flood area would have struggled to obtain cover and had to hope for the best, however we are now finding new solutions are coming into the marketplace. Flood excess policies are now available which can essentially cover the large excesses that are being imposed. This would allow a business to continue to trade without the worry of having to find thousands of pounds before their main policy responds.

Another way to be able to provide cover is to redesign the insurance process altogether. New entrants to the market are now offering parametric solutions rather than traditional insurance. The key difference is that you choose the limit of cover and what the claims trigger will be.   In respect of flood, this would involve setting a certain depth limit, that upon flood waters reaching that limit, a pre-defined payment will be paid. To allow this to happen, a mobile connected sensor would be installed at the property which is then used to monitor the flood situation and provide data as soon as flooding happens.

Normally flood claims can take a long time to settle however using parametric solutions a payment can now be received in days rather than months. During the last floods caused by Storm Christoph a new catastrophe claims record was set by paying out and settling the claim in a record time of just nine hours and 44 minutes.  

Should flood be an issue for you, or you are struggling to get cover, ProAktive are here to help explore all options and you will not be left with “computer says no”.

By Peter Ryder ACII Chartered Insurance Broker

 

Free Covid-19 Test Kits Available to Businesses: The Pros & Cons

The UK Government has extended its programme of Covid Lateral Flow Testing to more businesses. Previously this was limited to schools and businesses with over 250 employees. From this week, businesses with more than 50 employees are able to register for test kits, which are supplied free of charge. This provision is aimed at those businesses with workforces who cannot work from home.

You are able to sign up for this scheme online: https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests

 

 

So is it a good idea for you?

Good question. There are some very good reasons to undertake Covid testing:

  • Testing should identify employees who are asymptomatic and enable them to self-isolate rather than inadvertently spread the virus in the workplace.
  • By ensuring that only those who test negative for Covid attend the workplace, you are reducing the likelihood of transmission between employees, which should help protect the business.
  • You can inform your customers of the measures that you are taking to reduce the risk of transmission from your employees. This could be especially important if you are visiting multiple customers on a face to face basis, such as when making deliveries.

 

Are there any further considerations?

We would caution anyone from just embarking on a testing regime without considering the impact of doing so:

  • Making Covid tests a mandatory requirement is not recommended. Our advice if you are looking to introduce Covid testing amongst the workforce is to treat it as any other change  or implementation of a policy. Consult with the workforce widely the reasons for the change, share the positive benefits of such a move and listen objectively and sympathetic to individuals concerns and views.
  • Introduce as a voluntary scheme where those happy to take part, can freely give their consent.
  • If someone does not wish to be part of the scheme, they should continue to comply with all other workplace safety measures.
  • You will need to implement a system which tracks which employees have been allocated which test kits. There will be some administration burden to this.
  • You will need somewhere secure to store the kits where they won’t be damaged by low or high temperatures and somewhere to distribute the test kits from. This will require space within your workplace.

 

If you are considering taking advantage of this scheme and want to talk it through , please do not hesitate to contact our consultants on 01302 341344.

 

By Jodi CoolingGroup Operations Director

Is Your Team Suffering From Burn Out?

Many today are juggling working from home, home schooling and increased or reduced workloads. Balancing home working requirements and home life is increasing more difficult.

Burnout can influence every aspect of your employee’s life, from their work, their relationships, to physical and mental health, and can leave them feeling like they have very little left to give.

Employers can help their staff.

 

LEAD THE WAY

Employers who look after the wellbeing of their employees typically experience greater productivity, creativity and staff retention.

 

PROACTIVELY SUPPORT

Staff often need help in many ways, this may be too much / too little work / too difficult work. Keeping the team in the loop, supporting staff and building good relationships with the team will help them to feel as though they can speak up and ask for help when they need it.

 

PROMOTE GOOD PLANNING

Promote the planning of each individual day. Have staff assess the tasks that require undertaking prioritising those that are more important. Estimate how long each task will take and schedule in breaks. Focusing on one task at a time is also of benefit.

 

A TEAM APPROACH

Work with staff to spread the load. Encourage and practice collaborative working.

 

ESTABLISH A WORK LIFE BALANCE

Urge employees to separate work time from their home life. Encourage them to have set work hours, not to accept phone calls, texts, notifications or checking e mails outside of work hours unless absolutely necessary.

 

We hope that this simple advice helps. If you do need advice then our experienced consultants are able to help and we can also provide the Mental Health First Aid course for you or your employees.

 

By Ian French CMIOSHRisk Consultant

Employee engagement, why is it so important?

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year unlike any other, however now comes the time to look forward and embrace 2021. One of the topics at the centre of the discussion in relation to Human Resource Management is Employee Engagement. Employee Engagement is not a new concept, but it continues to be vital. Even more so now, with many businesses changing the way they work, as a result of Covid and the restrictions enforced by the Government including having a workforce that are more dispersed.

Over the years there have been many definitions of Employee Engagement and a simple way to describe it is the ‘emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its purpose and goals’.

Once you’ve got past the definition, two questions usually follow 1) Why should I bother measuring employee engagement? and 2) How do I start to measure it?

Many studies have been conducted into the benefits of achieving high levels of employee engagement and based on the definition above, it’s clear to see why it plays an important role in managing people. ‘Engaged employees’ are shown to be more committed to their employer and that they believe in the Organisation’s purpose. This leads to greater loyalty, performance that goes above and beyond and therefore leads to happy clients. Engaged employees are likely to take fewer sick days, experience better mental health & wellbeing at work and ultimately; what most employers want to hear, it positively impacts the financial performance of the Company.

 

 

There are a variety of ways to measure employee engagement, and one of the most common is to conduct an employee engagement survey. Surveys can be a powerful tool as they allow us to get feedback straight from the horse’s mouth. From our own Company’s experience, they provide a real insight into the organisational culture, values, employee behaviour and working relationships in our organisations. Most importantly, they allow us to see whether our values and goals as a business are understood and reflected in those who are involved in the daily operations. It’s important to remember, as with most HR processes, that Line Managers and Supervisors play an important role in translating the vision and the objectives of the Company and therefore can have a real impact on how employees feel.

Pulling together an employee survey for the first time can be time consuming and confusing but we can help. If you already subscribe to our HR Service, then please speak to your ProAktive consultant. We can offer a stand-alone Employee Engagement Survey service for those who want a helping hand in getting started.

At ProAktive we know first-hand how valuable an Employee Engagement survey can be and having undertaken an annual survey over the last 3 years or so, it has really allowed us to understand our employees views and helped inform our future plans and decisions, as well as giving our people the opportunity to offer improvements and suggestions.

If you’d like to speak to us about how it can help your organisation or if you have any other employment queries, please contact us on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt) HR Business Partner

 

 

2021: Things can only get better?

As you read this blog, I’m guessing that the majority of you will be sat at home, possibly in pyjamas, perhaps contemplating the next round of home schooling, pondering the next episode of your Netflix series or just counting down the clock until you feel you can legitimately have a drink! If this had been suggested to you this time last year I think you would have considered the author mad but this is now a reality for all of us. 

The last twelve months have been tough for everyone. For some it has been beyond tough and unfortunately we have suffered over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths, not forgetting the thousands of non-Covid deaths that have been caused indirectly by the virus. The progress of the vaccine roll-out gives us a light at the end of the tunnel and businesses will be turning their attention to a post-Covid world.

 

It is likely that we will never fully return to the business footprint of  March 2020. Working from home has been a huge benefit for many. The ability to blend work and home has improved the work life balance and in some cases improved productivity. Meetings are often conducted more efficiently and we have seen the numbers of journeys reduce considerably and this is interesting as the amount of motor insurance claims have also reduced significantly. In the summer of 2020 we were expecting all insurance premiums to rise but one of the unintended outcomes of Covid-19 has been a downward pressure on motor insurance premiums, which is fantastic news for all of us. But this is one bright spot in a very turbulent marketplace. It is fair to say that in over thirty years we have never seen an Insurance market that is so unpredictable. 

For example, for those businesses who buy Professional Indemnity Insurance, the immediate future looks bleak. Premiums have risen over the last two years and we are expecting further increases. In addition to this, the availability of cover has become so restricted that for some the insurance they have previously benefitted from may not actually be available. This is the exact opposite of the motor insurance market. 

In addition to the pricing complexities there are also new risk dynamics. Employees now work from home. What are the health & safety implications? What about the I.T equipment? How secure are our networks? What are the employment law implications?  

What about the office space? It is possible that many businesses will seek to save money by utilising home working rather than renting offices. We are starting to see this trend emerge and that means that office buildings may become unoccupied. Not only will landlords lose their yield but the insurance implications are considerable. Did I mention Brexit!?

Hopefully, things will start to get better as we approach Spring but the risks businesses face will be subtly different and require careful consideration. At ProAktive we pride ourselves on our transparency and practical solutions for often complex problems and we will be here to help in the months and years to come. 

By Andy MorleyGroup Managing Director

 

 

 

Online Mental Health First Aid Course

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course developed by Mental Health First Aid England. It is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid and is designed to raise the awareness of mental health in the workplace and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Having a qualified Mental Health First Aider in the workplace provides a point of contact for an employee who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. This interaction could range from having an initial conversation through to supporting the individual to get appropriate help. In a crisis, Mental Health First Aiders can spot the signs of mental ill health and are valuable in providing early support for someone who may be developing a mental health issue.

 

The Mental Health First Aid training course teaches practical skills that can be used every day, including being able to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and feel confident guiding people towards the right professional support.

Course Benefits:

• Gives a deeper understanding of the issues that impact on and relate to people’s mental health
• Raises awareness and mental health literacy
• Reduces stigma around mental ill health
• Boosts knowledge and confidence in dealing with mental health issues
• Promotes early intervention which enables recovery
• Creates a more positive and supportive workplace culture

Details

Two day course – Monday 22nd and Wednesday 24th February

8:45 registration and 5:00 close

Location: Online via Enabley

£250 + VAT per person

To book on this course, RSVP to Kris Kerins on 01302 341344 or kriskerins@proaktive.co.uk

Health & Safety in 2021

As we start the journey into 2021, hopefully we can all start to plan for what the post pandemic will look like. With the national vaccination programme for COVID-19 now underway, now is the time for businesses to shift their mindset from crisis response to active recovery. With that being said, you need to ensure that you don’t let your defences down and continue to operate a COVID-19 secure business in 2021.

I suppose the biggest question we all have is will the COVID-19 vaccine allow us to return to what we all consider normal working conditions? Only time will tell but until we are informed otherwise, we need to ensure that we are carrying on with the measures we have had in place such as social distancing, face coverings, sanitising and when required isolating to ensure the safety of you and your colleagues.

The approach of many businesses throughout 2020 will have been fully focused on COVID-19. The reality is that to enable us to enter this process of recovery, you’ll need to ensure that all the other potential risks to the business are reviewed which may have fallen by the wayside over the last 12 months.

Health and Safety policy

The first thing you need to ensure is that the health and safety policy is reviewed on an annual basis. This is a legal requirement under the health and safety work act etc 1974 for businesses with more than 5 employees.

Risk assessments

The most popular words of 2020 could be possibly be “COVID-19 risk assessment” or the “new normal”, but all joking aside, we need to ensure that all your other risk assessments are reviewed which is an annual requirement. The way you do activities may have changed so we need to ensure these are up to date and reflect the way you now carry out our day-to-day roles ensuring you are as safe as possible.

Training

Many businesses have struggled to get employees onto training courses, both online and indeed face-to-face. Planning the training requirements for the year ahead and booking employees onto relevant courses can start to mend the training gaps that may have appeared throughout 2020.

Workplace inspections

“Work from home “is the current guidance where possible, so you may not be spending time in the office or your normal workplace. It needs to be ensured that workplace inspections are carried out when safe to do so to ensure the safety of your workplace when employees start to return.

Fire safety

Businesses need to ensure that all fire alarms, emergency lighting and fire extinguishers have been checked, tested and serviced to ensure they are in good working condition. With offices being left empty, the weekly and monthly testing schedules may again have fallen by the wayside so this needs to be carried out to ensure the safety of your employees.

If you would like some further advice, please contact our health and safety team on 01302 341 344.

By Aaron MoxamRisk Consultant