I recently watched a short film I came across on social media. It was called "If I were a young woman now" and features mature women discussing the lifestyles of young women today. One of the women in the video says "Believe me, if I were a young woman now, I would spend more time being, not doing". 
 
In recent research, 4 out of 5 women say they put too much pressure on themselves. And it's not just women who seem to be so busy. Men too find themselves saying "I'm too busy....", "I'm too tired...". This got me to thinking about our busy lives and what being busy stops us being. 
 
When we're busy: 
 
- We don't have time to think straight, and we react instead of thinking things through 
- We're never just present in the moment, enjoying what each of those moments bring 
- We miss opportunities, instead we just see them as distractions 
- We make excuses for problems instead of dealing with them, and then they get worse 
- We forget to look after ourselves - physically and emotionally 
- We no longer dream about the future, things we'd like to achieve, things we long to do 
- We're not there for the people who need us 
- We forget to make time for and keep in touch with friends 
- We don't make the time to do ….. nothing 
Summer is here again and we're in the middle of Britain's longest heatwave since the drought of 1976. While the temperature outside soars, so can the heat indoors, and talk often turns to whether there's a maximum temperature for the workplace and if employees can go home once the thermometer reaches a certain level. 
 
Contrary to popular belief, there is no maximum temperature defined. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in the workplace needs to be "reasonable". What is reasonable depends on the nature of the workplace and the type of work being carried out by employees. 
 
However, employers do have a duty to ensure their employees can work safely in heat, and may wish to consider some temporary work adjustments, especially if the work is strenuous or physical or if employees are pregnant or have medical conditions that are affected by the heat. 
 
Employers could relax dress code rules, provide extra fans, provide water to drink and encourage staff to keep hydrated. Outdoor workers may wish to do most of their work at either end of the day to avoid the mid-day sun. Flexible working hours may also help employees avoid the heat of the rush hour. 
I heard recently that a four-year-old asks up to 400 questions a day. Wow, that's a lot of questions! But it's by asking all these questions that they learn so much during their early years. When they start school, the number of questions children ask begins to decline. Indeed, throughout their school years they are rewarded not for asking questions, but for giving the right answers! 
 
This got me thinking about how many questions we, as adults, ask. How often do we assume we always know the answer (when there might be a better solution), that everything is fine (when it isn't) or that everyone agrees with us (when they don't)? 
 
I firmly believe that one of the most important characteristics in life is to have the ability and willingness to learn. Learning is a life-long process - we don't know everything and there's always the opportunity to learn new skills, knowledge or a better way of doing things. 
 
I don't know what I don't know, but I do know that there's a lot of it. So I'm always asking questions, I actively seek constructive feedback from others and I never want to be the smartest person in the room. I enjoy debate and being challenged, and this is why every day IS a school day and I never stop learning. 
When you can’t afford to give pay rises, then a bit of creativity is called for when thinking of ways to reward your employees without it costing the earth. So we’ve done the thinking for you and here are our top 5 ideas for rewarding your workers without offering a pay rise. 
 
Employee Awards – introduce Employee of the Month or similar award. As well as public recognition and a certificate of achievement you could offer a small prize like a meal for two, theatre tickets, a bouquet of flowers or shopping vouchers. 
 
Days Off – give people an extra day or two’s holiday to be taken on top of their annual holiday allowance. People value their free time, so more of it is always appreciated. 
 
Development Opportunities – offering the opportunity to go to a training course or providing some mentoring sessions with someone they can learn from is a great way to increase their skills and prove some career development. 
 
Nights Out – take the team out for a drink, go bowling, play mini-golf or go to a bingo/quiz night. Getting the team together outside the workplace also helps with team bonding. 
 
Flexible Hours – consider offering flexible work patterns. Perhaps they would appreciate a shorter working week, later starts, earlier finishes or longer break times. It might also be possible to allow some employees to work from home occasionally. 
 
A good tip is that it’s always useful to find out from your employees how they would like to be recognised so that you can make the reward personal to them. 
Last month the Mental Health Foundation hosted its annual Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the focus was on Stress. 
 
The Health and Safety Executive reports that over 500,000 workers experienced work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/2017 with 12.5 million working days being lost to these problems. 
 
However, whilst people are talking about mental health more than ever, there remains a stigma surrounding stress. Employees suffering from stress and associated problems like depression and anxiety often feel they will be thought of as weak if they admit they are finding it difficult to cope. 
 
Employers, in their duty to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees, should look out for staff who may be displaying signs of stress and do what they can to support them. 
 
Of course, not all stress that employees experience is work-related. There can be personal issues outside of work or at home that cause people to come to work feeling stressed. The additional pressure of work can then cause people to feel overloaded. While it’s generally acknowledged that an amount of work pressure is normally a benefit to motivation and productivity, too much pressure, or pressure when they are already struggling can affect their emotional and physical health, reduce their productivity and lead to issues with their work performance. 
 
Spotting the signs of someone experiencing stress 
Signs you should look out for include: 
 
• changes in the employee’s behaviour, their mood and/or the way they interact with their colleagues 
• changes in the standard of the employee’s work, their ability to focus and/or loss of interest in their work 
• they may start turning up late for work or being absent due to sickness 
• the employee may become withdrawn and appear anxious or tired 
• increases in smoking, drinking and/or losing their appetite 
 
Talking to the employee 
Although it’s important not to make assumptions, if you think an employee may be suffering from stress, the worst thing to do is to avoid the issue. You should arrange to speak with the employee in private as soon as possible. Conversations of a sensitive nature can be extremely difficult, so it’s important that you are positive and supportive and try to reassure the employee. 
 
It may be that the employee doesn’t want to talk about what they are going through. If that’s the case, then it’s important you let them know you are there to help and support them in any way you can. And if the employee does wish to talk in the future, that your door is always open. 
 
If the employee does decide to talk, you should listen rather than talk, give the employee as much time as necessary and be open minded to anything that you hear. 
 
If the problem is work related, then you can try to identify what’s causing the problem. It may be possible to make some changes to their working arrangements or responsibilities. Sometimes that is all that’s needed, and any changes made can be temporary or, if necessary, made permanent. Even where the problem is not work-related, this type of support may still help, as it’s a reduction in the overall pressure in the employee’s life. 
 
Follow up 
It’s important that you continue to monitor the employee, check how they are feeling and whether any workplace changes are helping. Be sure to offer additional support as and when needed. 
If the situation isn’t improving, or appears to be getting worse, then you should seek expert HR guidance on next steps. 
 
With last week being the spring half-term holiday, it got us thinking about how it can be difficult for working parents to balance their work life with caring for a young family. In addition, all employees - parents or not - can have times when they're struggling to cope with various family difficulties. 
 
Many large corporations and public bodies have specific policies in place that address these employee needs, whilst smaller businesses often don't have anything defined. As a result, it can be confusing for employers to know what to do when an employee is experiencing problems at home. However, providing a family friendly work environment with clear work life balance policies doesn't have to be difficult or costly. 
 
Amongst your employees, you're likely to have: 
 
•Mothers and fathers with young children 
•Individuals with sick or elderly dependents 
•Individuals facing and/or coping with separation or divorce 
•Individuals facing and/or coping with bereavement 
•Pregnant women with maternity rights 
•Fathers entitled to paternity leave 
•Parents entitled to parental leave 
•Individuals with short and/or long term medical conditions 
 
There is often complex legislation surrounding employees' rights relating to these types of issues. What are the rules when someone asks for time off for a dependent, requests compassionate leave or needs to attend medical appointments during working hours? What rights does a pregnant woman or new father have, and what about when the parents are adopting a child? 
 
It can be a minefield trying to deal with employee issues if you don't know the law and don't have policies in place defining how they are handled. Mishandling an issue could ultimately see the employment relationship breaking down and you could find yourself facing an Employment Tribunal. 
 
If you would like to find out more about family friendly and work life balance policies, please feel free to give me a call on 01582 488410 or email us
The 2018 World Cup in Russia starts on 14 June and continues through to the World Cup Final on Sunday 15 July. Whilst employers will look to minimise disruption during working hours, it’s also a great opportunity to use the tournament to boost employee morale. 
 
If you have football fans amongst your workforce then they will really appreciate being able to watch the games, especially those involving their home countries. Read on for our top tips to help you manage the occasion. 
 
Decide on your approach to the tournament before it starts and let your employees know. 
 
Are you offering any flexible working arrangements during the period? For example, extended lunch times and/or allowing employees to leave work early as long as they make the time up elsewhere. 
 
What about annual leave requests? Are you able to offer additional holiday slots at short notice? Or perhaps people can swap shifts with colleagues who are not interested in the football. 
 
Will you be allowing employees to watch or listen to games during working time? If so, what are the arrangements for watching/listening to games? Will games be televised in communal/rest areas, or can employees watch/listen to games on their work PCs or their own mobile devices? 
 
Make sure you treat everyone the same. Don’t just cater for the England games, you must offer the same arrangements to fans from other countries taking part. 
 
Making special arrangements and informing employees what the approach will be can have a real positive impact on employees’ morale. It can also reduce the risk of unauthorised absences, which are much harder to manage on the day. 
 
It’s also important to set out standards of behaviour expected during the tournament. You should make it clear that antagonistic or racist comments will not be tolerated, nor will disruptive behaviour. It is unusual for disciplinary issues to arise as a result of watching this type of event. However, if an employee does misbehave then make sure to take the appropriate action. 
 
Other options include allowing employees to wear their football shirts to work, putting up national flags in the workplace, allowing people to bring in typical food eaten in their home country and making a real celebration of the event. 
 
If handled well, sporting events bring people together and create a fantastic atmosphere, which benefits both the employee and employer and has a real positive impact on employee engagement. 
 
You’re about to reach the end of an employee’s probationary period. It’s time to decide whether you confirm their employment, extend the probationary period or dismiss them. 
 
Best practice suggests that you should have a formal review meeting with the employee. Even if you are entirely happy with their performance and conduct, it’s a good opportunity to provide them with feedback on how they’ve done and give them a chance to voice their opinions about the job and what it’s like to work for the company. 
 
On the other hand, if the employee’s performance has been unsatisfactory and you’re looking to dismiss them, the formal meeting means that you can provide them with constructive feedback on their performance and conduct. You are able to discuss any areas of concern and you can give them a clear understanding of what they will need to improve for future jobs they may have. 
 
It’s also useful to get their thoughts on why their performance wasn’t up to scratch. Did they get the right training? Were they given effective support to help them succeed? Were there any issues outside of their control which stopped them doing a good job? If you identify anything that impacted their ability to do a good job, you might want to consider extending the probationary period for a time rather than simply dismiss them. This gives you the time to address any workplace problems and may also prevent a tribunal claim. The employee has the chance to improve their performance and demonstrate competence in the full range of duties and required behaviours. 
 
We also recommend that, prior to the meeting, you write up an assessment of the employee and set out any recommendations you are making, together with the reasons why. This will help you stay on course during the meeting and can be kept as a formal record of their performance. 
The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour most workers under the age of 25 are entitled to by law. The National Living Wage is the minimum pay per hour most workers aged 25 and over are entitled to by law. The rate of pay received will depend on a worker's age and whether or not they are an apprentice. 
 
From 1 April 2018 the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage will be increased. The new rates are set out below. 
 
National Living Wage payable to all workers aged 25 and over 
Increases from £7.50 to £7.83 per hour 
 
Adult National Minimum Wage payable to workers aged 21 to 24 
Increases from £7.05 to £7.38 per hour 
 
Youth Development National Minimum Wage payable to workers aged 18-20 
Increases from £5.60 to £5.90 per hour 
 
Young Workers National Minimum Wage payable to workers aged 16 & 17 
Increases from £4.05 to £4.20 per hour 
 
Apprentice National Minimum Wage payable to apprentices under 19 or in 1st year of their apprenticeship 
Increases from £3.50 to £3.70 per hour 
(Apprentices aged 19 or over in their second year of apprenticeship must receive the national minimum wage or national living wage rate their age entitles them to). 
 
Best practice dictates that employers should advise employees in writing that the payments will be increased in line with new legislation. Employers should also inform employees when they will receive increases required due to a change in the employee's age. 
 
The rates are reviewed annually by the Low Pay Commission and currently it's expected they are likely to rise each year. 
 
If you would like to find out more or need help with the minimum wage rates, please contact us and we will be happy to help you. 
 
All the talk we’re currently hearing about the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is its impact on how we store and process customer data. However, when the GDPR takes effect on 25 May 2018, it’s not just customer data we need to consider. From that date, employees will have the same rights over their own personal data as customers do. 
 
EMPLOYEE RIGHTS 
 
Any person – including employees - whose personal data you hold has the right to: 
 
Be informed. About the purpose and legal basis for processing the data, how the data is to be processed, how long the data will be kept, any other parties involved in the processing of data and the privacy policy that relates to their data. 
Access. There must be a Subject Access Request process so that employees may request a copy of their data. 
Rectify incorrect personal data. Employees must have a facility to request that incorrect data is corrected. 
Be forgotten. Employees may ask for personal data to be erased under certain circumstances. 
Request their data be moved. Employees can request that their data be moved elsewhere and reused for their own purposes. 
Object. Employees may be allowed to object to their personal data being processed in certain circumstances. 
Restrict processing of their data. When processing is restricted, storage of the data is permitted, but further processing is not. 
Not have their data used for automated decision making and profiling. Such processing must have specific consent, be necessary for the performance of a contract or must be authorised by law. 
 
By 25 May 2018, employers are required to have policies and processes in place that satisfy the rights of employees. Those processes will also need to demonstrate compliance with the following data protection principles. 
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