The importance of hybrid working for your employees’ wellbeing

With the UK government putting an end to coronavirus restrictions, the term “hybrid working” seems to be the phrase of every employer’s lips. In essence, it’s a new working arrangement in which an individual, team or organisation work part of their time in the office and part remotely. The model appears to be the office of the future for many businesses, with many early adopters already proving its success. 

Apart from the obvious benefits for a business, such as the requirement for less office space, lower office running costs and a happier and more productive workforce, the hybrid workplace also prioritises the employee experience and wellbeing. 

Here are some reasons why: 

Increased productivity 

The hybrid working model helps employees utilise their time better and reduces the stress of commuting in the office each day. According to a study by Moneybarn the average commute time in the UK is 62 minutes a day. That’s at least five hours each week that can be used to work more productively, whilst also eliminating the stress of commuting or sitting in traffic every day. 

Employees can organise their week around their workload, doing more concentrated tasks at home without the noises and interruptions of the traditional office environment, and be in the office when they need to collaborate, share information and be on hand for meetings. 

Increased happiness

The hybrid working arrangement gives employees more freedom on where (and often when) they can work and having this flexibility and choice can lead to increased happiness. 

Although for some workers, working from home can be difficult and isolating, having a blended approach will increase their mental wellbeing where they can look forward to seeing their colleagues on days when they are in the office. 

Improved work-life balance 

Having a healthy work-life balance is a vital aspect of a productive, happy and engaged workforce. Having a hybrid working model helps achieve a healthier work-life balance. Employees can structure their day and week to account for emergency school drop offs, attending doctors appointments or staying at home if their child is sick. These events might otherwise be interrupting an employer’s work schedule if they had to be in the office, whereas with a hybrid model, they are able to make up that time at home. 

Moving to a hybrid working arrangement will take some adjusting, particularly for employers, who need to strike the right balance between flexible working and maintaining some sort of control on where and when their teams work.  

We recommend employers create a hybrid working policy to ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them, whether working remotely or in the office. This will help to set boundaries and outline goals and expectations for successful hybrid working. 

If your business needs help creating a hybrid working policy, our extensive experience in HR, along with our passion for ensuring a happy and productive work culture will help you create the right balance for both you and your staff. 

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How Employers can handle holiday dilemmas this summer

Now that restrictions on international travel begin to ease across the UK, many of us will be yearning to jet off somewhere hot with their family this summer.  Whilst we all want our employees to take a well-earned break, it also presents dilemmas on how employers navigate issues around holiday leave, quarantine and periods for self-isolation.    

We’ve put together this simple guide to help you tackle those tricky holiday requests and dilemmas this summer as UK restrictions ease.  

Requirement to quarantine 

Employees could be asked to self-isolate for up to 10 days following their return to the UK. 

There could be a valid reason for your employee to go abroad, such as family wedding or sick relative, so employers should take a sympathetic approach where possible and not dismiss their request for leave until you understand the full circumstances. 

Consider whether you can accommodate the period of self-isolation, i.e. supporting home working arrangements or even working from a quarantine hotel. 

Statutory sick pay and post-holiday quarantine

Statutory sick pay is not available where a healthy employee cannot work because they are required to self-isolate on their return from a trip abroad. 

However, employers should consider offering unpaid leave in order to quarantine.  In circumstances where the employee has travelled abroad to deal with a family emergency, the quarantine period could be taken as compassionate leave. 

Dealing with influx of holiday requests

It’s likely you’ll see an influx in holiday requests come through for the school summer holidays following the lift on the travel ban. 

To help anticipate any problems, remind all your employees to give as much notice as possible on holiday requests, setting out that they’ll be granted on a first come – first served basis, as well as operational circumstances of the business.  

Remind employees that requests can be turned down if: 

  • They cannot be accommodated for operational reasons, or
  • The employee has provided insufficient notice

If you don’t have a Holiday Notice Request Policy currently in place, employees must give notice equivalent to at least twice as many days as the number of days they wish to take. Employers can give counter notice requiring that the leave not be taken, as long as the counter notice is equivalent to the length of the holiday requested. 

Cancelling of Leave and carrying holiday forward

Travel restrictions are changing daily and it’s likely that employees who have requested leave may want to cancel last minute.  

Employers don’t have to agree to an employee’s request to cancel holiday that is already booked, unless the employee has the right to cancel annual leave under their contract of employment. However, you should be as flexible as possible and take into account the needs of the business and the employee’s personal circumstances when making a decision.

Employers concerned about annual leave build-up across their workforce can make use of the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 [https://www.xperthr.co.uk/employment-law-manual/holiday-and-holiday-pay/20366/#coronavirus-and-carrying-forward-leave], which came into force on 26 March 2020.

These Regulations allow up to four weeks’ annual leave to be carried over into the next two holiday years where it has not been “reasonably practicable” for employees to take it as a result of the effects of the pandemic. 

Build-up of substantial leave untaken

Some employees may be reluctant to take holiday with so much uncertainty surrounding restrictions which may amount to a substantial amount of leave untaken throughout 2020/21. 

You should encourage staff to take a portion of their leave over the summer, especially if you know that business can be quieter during this period. 

Employees with children 

Employees with children may find it hard to struggle to balance their childcare responsibilities with work, and they may ask for extra flexibility. 

In this case, the following furlough scheme applies: 

Furlough scheme changes this summer

  • Employers can continue to claim 80% of workers’ pay until 30 June
  • From 1 July to 31 July, employers must contribute 10% of workers’ pay, with the government paying 70%
  • From 1 August to 30 September, employers must contribute 20% of workers’ pay, with the government paying 60%
  • The furlough scheme is expected to close at the end of September

You have no obligation to agree to an employee’s request to be furloughed this summer. However, the Government’s guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme makes clear that furlough is an option when an employee has childcare problems.

If you need help navigating the ever-changing Employment Law surrounding furlough, quarantine and holiday leave, please feel free to book a consultation with us

Physical UK Right to Work Checks

The date for physical right-to-work checks to resume, which was to be 21st June, has been pushed back by the Home Office.  It has been agreed that Covid-19 “adjusted” checks can now continue until 1 September 2021, in line with current government public health guidance for employees to continue to work from home where possible.

Had the return to physical checks gone ahead on 21 June as planned, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) had estimated that more than 300,000 people a week would have had their start dates delayed. However, delaying the physical checks to a later date does not resolve the issue completely, and the REC would like the Home Office to allow employers to use digital checks for the long term, or at a minimum until social distancing restrictions have been lifted completely.

The latest guidance says that for the period up to and including 31 August 2021, checks can continue to be carried out remotely using video calls, with applicants and employees sending scanned documents or photos of their right to work documents by email, rather than employers needing to see the originals. The Employer Checking Service should be used if an applicant or employee cannot provide any of the required documentation.

Effective 1 September 2021, requirements will change and employers will then be required to physically check the applicant’s original documents or check their right to work online. In previous communication from the Home Office, physical right to work checks had been due to resume on 17 May but on 12 May, this date was then pushed back to 21 June. If you need support or further guidance please get in touch.

Further information on the Right to Work checks can be found on the UK’s Government website, click here to go there direct.