Category: Employers

Will this emotive move backfire and result in an increase of absences?

This week, IKEA’s decision to cut pay for unvaccinated staff who have to self-isolate because of COVID-19 exposure, and in some cases for those who contract the virus as well, will come into force. The move comes as firms struggle with mass staff absences and rising related costs due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Sick pay cuts will be implemented at Wessex Water.

But is the move about mitigating staff shortages? Or is it discrimination against the unvaccinated?

Employment lawyer Sarah Ozanne, of CMS, believes it is about tackling staff shortages: “This action [by IKEA] seems more of a reaction to staff shortages and how to manage them than any intended ‘discrimination’ of the unvaccinated,” she said. However, she also warned of complex legal issues and said striking the right balance is difficult.

She made further comment: “…employers should consider whether their actions are proportionate as a means of achieving the aim of getting employees back into work.”

According to news reports, unvaccinated workers at IKEA, who do not have mitigating circumstances, who test positive will be paid in line with company sick pay. Unvaccinated workers, without mitigating circumstances and required to isolate after being identified as a close contact, could now receive as little as £96.35 a week which is the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) minimum. With average weekly wages at IKEA between about £400 and £450 (location dependent), staff get enhanced sick pay. This massive gap in weekly pay could lead to staff not reporting a close contact and attending work, therefore exacerbating the staff shortage issues by potentially transmitting the virus anyway.

In a statement defining ‘mitigating circumstances’, the retail giant that employs about 10,000 people in the UK said: “Fully vaccinated co-workers or those that are unvaccinated owing to mitigating circumstances which, for example, could include pregnancy or other medical grounds, will receive full pay. Unvaccinated co-workers without mitigating circumstances that test positive with COVID-19 will be paid full company sick pay in line with our company absence policy. Unvaccinated co-workers without mitigating circumstances who have been identified as close contacts of a positive case will be paid Statutory Sick Pay.”

TALiNT International reached out to Olivia Sinfield, a partner at Osborne Clark LLP for comment. She said: “Cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff required to isolate due to ‘close contact’ is being considered as potentially a more viable measure to address the issue of staff absences than issuing of vaccination mandates in the UK.  Vaccination mandates remain, in the UK, largely a legal no go zone except in outlier cases involving health and caring professions.  If anything, the mandating of vaccinations is trickier to justify now on health and safety grounds since the Omicron variant swept the nation over the festive period infecting and being transmitted by the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.”

“When considering cutting sick pay for unvaccinated employees who are self-isolating, employers need to look carefully at what’s in black and white in terms of any contractual sick pay scheme and how this has been operated in the past. Where there is a genuine built-in discretion which has been relied upon in the past then arguments of breach of contract and – worst case scenario, resignations and constructive unfair dismissal claims may be avoided (provided a decent process is followed in rolling out the new rules). In contrast, where sick pay has been paid out historically without much thought around the ‘why’s’ and the ‘for whom’ then hands may be tied, and legal claims follow any attempts now to fetter circumstances where sick pay is paid.”

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Employers rigid in hiring criteria despite skills gap 

Over half of employers (60%) are receiving more applications from candidates who have come from different industries new research by Reed.co.uk has revealed.  

The commissioned researched canvased over 250 hiring decision-makers across the UK and reflected an increasing awareness of transferable skills with an appetite for reskilling among jobseekers. The news comes after Reed.co.uk reported 140,000 courses were purchased in the first half of November – a 786% rise year-on-year – as workers reevaluate their skillset in light of the pandemic.  

Some employers remain rigid in their requirements of applicants, despite this wider range of talent that has become available to businesses with over half (60%) of hiring decision-makers still feeling it is important for applicants to have a university education, which immediately limits the size of their candidate pool.  

Hiring managers within the Construction and Technology sectors – who report more labour shortages than those from any other industries in the survey – are also the most likely to believe a university education is important for candidates. Whereas employers in ‘real estate’ (17%) and ‘creative industries’ (33%) placed the least importance on applicants having a university education. 

Alongside a university education, the research showed that employers add much value to soft skills, such as teamwork and interpersonal skills, as a result of the shift to remote working with two-thirds (64%) of hiring decision-makers in agreement. 

While a university education and soft skills are desirable for a candidate, some employers may need to become more flexible about their expectations, especially as over half (55%) of the businesses surveyed reporting labour shortages.  

Simon Wingate, Managing Director of Reed.co.uk, commented on the findings: “It’s encouraging to see that many workers are already learning new skills to improve their career opportunities. However, employers should be more flexible when it comes to hiring, by looking at workers who haven’t got qualifications but who are willing to learn and have useful transferable skills for a modern working environment. By sticking to a rigid, old-fashioned approach to recruiting, you could be discarding talent that could help fuel your growth plans in 2022.” 

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Ethnicity pay gap reporting is not mandatory  

Research by People Like Us and Censuswide has revealed that workers from Black, Asian, mixed-race and minority ethnic backgrounds only earn 84% of what their white counterparts are paid. This is 16% less and equates to losing up to £255,000 pounds every year. 

The findings also revealed that people from racially diverse backgrounds are passed over for pay rises – and this happens more frequently the more senior they become with a third passed over at entry level. This figure is more than half at senior manager and director level.  

According to the research 59% of racially diverse respondents believe this ‘progressional glass ceiling’ is down to the colour of their skin. With the pandemic shining a spotlight on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it’s important that HR teams need to review their pay structures.   

Darren Hockley, Managing Director at DeltaNet International commented:  

“The sheer fact that ethnic minority workers are paid 16% less than their white colleagues shows the reality that ethnicity pay gaps continue to exist in organisations. HR teams and business leaders in the UK have a long way to go. While it’s still not mandatory for ethnicity pay gap reporting, some organisations such as PwC are already publishing them to be transparent. The findings clearly show that HR teams must start doing ethnicity pay gap reporting as it will give them the push they need to review their pay structures and question themselves if they are doing enough to address the pay gap. Reporting is the best way to start improving racial equality in the workplace.   

“Organisations must understand the benefits of diversity and inclusion, and this means everyone, regardless of ethnicity, are getting paid their worth. For organisations to retain their best talent and ensure their business continues to prosper, it’s high time business leaders focus on addressing all pay gap issues, including gender and ethnicity. Business leaders ought to undertake unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion training to ensure everyone within their business are not under-represented and paid below their worth.” 

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REC says employers need to rethink hiring processes to mitigate skills shortages 

According to a survey conducted by the REC’s JobsOutlook, business confidence in the UK economy fell by 9%.  

This is the first time since February/ April 2021 that the barometer has fallen into the negative, indicating that confidence in the economy is waning. Uncertainty around rising inflation, labour shortages and the Omicron variant has increased over the past three months and this appears to the be the reason for the drop.  

Business confidence in making hiring and investment decisions continued to improve with a higher proportion of firms saying their prospects were still improving. However, that growth in confidence weakened slightly, falling by two percentage points to net: +11.  

According to the survey, growing uncertainty has led to an increase in demand for temporary workers increasing to net: +15 for the next three months; with demand for the next 4 to 12 months also rising by nine points to net to +14. 

Hiring intentions for permanent staff remained robust at net: +21, both in the short term and in the medium term. 

The survey also reported that in November, shortly after the end of the furlough scheme, 51% of employers had seen no change in the availability of candidates for vacancies.  

Kate Shoesmith, Deputy CEO of the REC, commented: “While the next few weeks are likely to be bumpy, we anticipate a highly competitive labour market in early 2022. There will be particularly high demand for temporary work, which helps businesses to manage uncertainty and keep people in work during tough times. Firms will have to look seriously at their recruitment process and their offer to candidates to attract the staff they need. Recruiters are ideally positioned to help with this.” 

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Mere 15% of employees believe company’s ESG initiatives are genuine 

New research released by PLAY, a product development studio, has found that 77% of workers would like the company they work for to be more transparent about their environmental impact.  

Climate change is front of mind with the study finding that employees are sceptical about their employer’s sustainability initiatives. Overall, only 14% of those surveyed believed that companies’ sustainability initiatives were ‘always’ impactful or genuine. This number fell to under one in 10 for general employees, compared with over a third (34%) of business leaders. This suggests that business leaders may be over-estimating the impact and value of their existing environmental initiatives for employees.  

PLAY’s report surveyed 1,000 UK-based employees, split between 750 general employees and 250 business leaders/Chief Sustainability Officers, about their views on sustainability initiatives in business.   

Are business leaders disconnected with their employees?  

The report seemingly revealed a disconnect between employees and business leaders where the impact of sustainability initiatives is concerned. However, the study showed a consensus between both groups when it came to how best to support the fight against the climate emergency. Business leaders showed a willingness to support in improving sustainability goals and initiatives, but the research revealed there is a disconnect between their actions and words. While 82% of business leaders say they agree that their organisation should support employees to make sustainable decisions and display sustainable behaviours, only 38% of employees said that their company provides them with the tools and resources to build sustainable habits, and 22% don’t know if those resources are available to them.  

Overall, 77% of respondents agreed that major behaviour changes are necessary to ensure individuals, companies and countries achieve their sustainability goals. This figure was as high as 90% of those in the legal sector, 88% of those working in finance, and 84% of those in IT. Business leaders (85%) were also more likely than CSOs (79%) and employees (75%) to agree, implying that behaviour change is a priority on companies’ radar.  

Marcus Thornley, CEO and founder of PLAY commented: “Our research shows the need for business leaders to take sustainability initiatives seriously. There’s a strong desire from employees to get involved in their company’s sustainability projects, but these initiatives currently lack transparency and credibility. Businesses need to support employees with valuable and measurable sustainability goals and approaches, if not they will continue to see these projects delivering little success.  Business leaders need to change this to keep employees engaged, reimagining their approach to sustainability and implementing more innovative means of behaviour change and measurement supported by technology.”  

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Companies in the creative sector looking for talent for growth

Data compiled by creative, digital and marketing recruitment specialists, Aquent, has shown that UK salaries are surging as the economy comes back to life.

The collated data from placements made in the UK during 2021 indicate that companies have engaged in the hiring ‘rush’ that has continued to gain momentum since spring and those working in creative industries have a glimpse into next year’s job market in Aquent’s 2022 salary guide.

The data from this year’s salaries paints a very different picture to the job market in 2020 where stagnating wages and impending redundancies were seen in the advertising and creative industries. According to the report, the recent ‘boom’ in wages is down to a number of factors, including a skills shortage which has resulted in midweight roles pushing for higher salaries.

Companies that have survived the pandemic are searching for talent for further growth; but in the current market, candidates often have multiple job offers and ask for higher salaries to sweeten the deal. Aquent’s data found that in order to make a move to a new role, 42% of talent wanted a 16% to 30% salary increase before tendering their resignation.

UX and CX continue to call the shots

Much like 202, those working in UX and CX design still hold the ‘golden ticket’ in terms of the most sought-after roles. Data from Aquent found that only 20% of UX, CX and Service Design talent are looking for a new role yet 65% would be willing to leave for the right offer.

Salary increases are as follows: junior UX designers and midweight UX designers have increased by 33%; while top-end senior UX designer salaries have risen by 50% (£80k to £120k).

In some cases, senior UX architects have seen salaries double, from 60k in 2021 to £120k, a 50% rise. Compared to data from five years ago, UX architects have seen a 150% increase and senior UX designers a 70% increase in wages since 2016.

Aliza Sweiry, UK managing director, Aquent, commented: “The boost is salaries is welcome news for candidates on the look-out for a new role in 2022. The job market has been turned on its head from the situation last year becoming an ‘employees’ market.

“This is a great time for applicants with itchy feet to explore the job market, we’re seeing candidates ‘flex their muscles’ in terms of what they want and expect from a role and employers are responding with higher salaries and more flexible working options. As always, our salary guides always throw up interesting insights and this year has been no different. It will be fascinating to see how the industry responds this time next year.”

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Employers to carefully consider vaccination policies

New COVID-19 restrictions came into force on 13 December, effectively sending workers back to working from home, if they’re able. But can the businesses that need employees in the workplace force them to be vaccinated?

Damian Kelly, partner and head of the employment law practice at Lodders Solicitors weighed in: “Other than employers of care home staff, employers have no legislative right to require staff to be vaccinated. In other sectors, employers who try to mandate staff vaccinations are running a high risk of Employment Tribunal claims, including claims for unlawful discrimination.”

“Increasingly, employers are seeing value in introducing Vaccination Policies which, whilst falling short of requiring mandatory vaccinations, encourage their staff to get vaccinated and set out various means by which they will be supported in doing so.”

“For care homes and their staff, The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 were approved on 22nd July 2021, and made it mandatory for a person working or providing professional services in a care home to have the COVID-19 vaccine from the 11th of November 2021.

Damien added: “Employers should give careful consideration to the drafting of a Vaccination Policy and the way in which it is communicated and implemented across their workforces. Important issues for consideration are likely to include timing, confidentiality, time off measures and fair procedures for dismissals should they be necessary.”

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71% of employers believe pandemic will mean continued wellbeing support

The emergence of another COVID-19 variant has meant employers head in to 2022 with yet more uncertainty.

But GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector, offers three employee benefit related New Year’s resolutions that make good business sense during the unpredictability of a pandemic:

  1. Think the unthinkable

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the old ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude as most people have had to face up to the fact that it could. For an employer, unthinkable questions could be, ‘What will happen to the business if we lose a key person?’, ‘Can the business afford to pay out for a death or for long-term sick leave?’ and ‘What sort of help should the business provide?’.

If these questions set any alarm bells ringing then it is probably time to make some relatively inexpensive changes to an organisation’s benefits package or to the insurance in place to protect members of staff and the business against financial loss.

  1. Choose to be a nurturing employer

A valued employee will be engaged and productive which is good for business. Employers who take this approach to staff will have little to fear from the much talked about ‘Great Resignation’. However, if employees are re-evaluating what they want out of life and work, as many are, and if they don’t see their employer as having been particularly supportive during the pandemic, they may look elsewhere.

Three quarters (73%) of employers believe the pandemic will mean long-term changes in the way they support the health and wellbeing of staff, with 71% of employers believing the pandemic will mean a continued uplift in checking in with staff as a way to support them.

  1. Shout it out

If an employer has put measures in place to both protect and nurture its staff, it needs to be bolder in communicating this support so that staff can derive maximum benefit from everything that is in place.

If employees are pointed in the right direction and communications are little and often, then they remember to use the support and help when they most need it.

In addition, developing an external communications strategy is also important in order to win the attention of an organisation’s next generation of employees.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “If a business is doing great things for its people in terms of looking after them in the present and protecting them from unknown future events, then they need to shout about it. This, in turn, drives engagement and appreciation which aids productivity, attraction and retention.

“I’m sure all employers had hoped to be heading in to the new year without the ongoing threat from the COVID-19 virus but as it looks like we could be in for another bumpy ride in 2022, employers would be wise to focus their New Year’s resolutions around their virus-weary staff.”

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40% rate healthcare benefits packages more important than salary

A survey by Aetna International has revealed that 88% of expats in key global markets want the choice to pick their employer health care package inclusions based on their own lifestyles and health concerns, promoting the need for personalisation.

Proactive self care, according to the survey forms a central part of expat lifestyles and those surveyed expressed a desire for more holistic benefits that supported wellbeing, mental and physical health. With 52% stating that having tailored benefits featuring wellbeing elements was more important now than pre-pandemic. Furthermore, the survey revealed that a quarter (25%) of expats thought counselling and therapy sessions should be included in packages. Overall, this was the largest endorsement for any well-being offer which respondents were surveyed on.

Of the markets surveyed, counselling and therapy topped the inclusions list in the USA and Singapore, ranked second in the UK and UAE, and fourth in Hong Kong. These findings underline a growing global recognition of the importance of mental health.

Interestingly, 40% of expats surveyed ranked a health care benefits package as the most important job offer consideration, compared to 52% who stated salary.

Fitness sessions and apps, life coaching and yoga and meditation sessions round out the top* inclusions respondents were keen on. Mindfulness app subscriptions followed closely at six on the list, overall demonstrating an appetite for a more well-integrated healthy lifestyle offer.

Dr Hemal Desai, Global Medical Director, Aetna International commented: “People are becoming more aware of all areas of their health. They are understanding that a healthy lifestyle amounts to more than just exercising and eating well, and that each person is different. Mental health is clearly growing in focus and more people are learning about how to manage it. There are plenty of tools available to help an individual with everything from mindfulness and sleep to calming and alleviating stress. We’re also observing that convenient access to these tools included as part of an employer’s benefits offer appears to be a growing priority for busy expats.”

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64% of workers will resign if not paid more in 2022

According to new findings in Robert Walters’ 2022 UK Salary Guide, two thirds of professionals have stated that they will actively be seeking work in the New Year, with 59% feeling ‘very confident’ about job opportunities in their sector. This, despite calls to return to working from home.

Robert Walters believes that the large majority of white-collar workers have held onto their December bonuses and January pay increases and that the Great Resignation is still on its way.

According to the findings in the survey conducted of 6,000 white collar workers, January appraisals could trigger a mass employee exodus if workers are not duly rewarded for their loyalty and hard work during the pandemic. It found that 72% of professionals are expecting a pay rise in the new year, where are a poll of 500 companies by Robert Walters revealed that less than 28% of employers plan to make changes to existing pay packages.

The stark difference between employee’s expectations compared to what employers are willing to pay – dubbed The Great Pay Divide – could result in the Great Resignation peaking in February/March 2022.

Toby Fowlston, CEO of Robert Walters & Walters People commented: “For firms that have performed well in 2021; the talks of your organisation ‘bouncing back,’ hitting record profits, or hiring in certain areas rapidly, will all be front of mind for employees in their upcoming appraisal. This conversation is a sensitive one – but it is exactly that, a conversation. Companies need to prepare their management teams on how to best articulate their company’s narrative around remuneration and career opportunities. Meetings should be face to face (where COVID-19 rules allow) to maximise a human connection. If this process isn’t managed correctly businesses will be faced with the challenge of high staff turnover in the first quarter of the year.”

Pay or we’ll leave

The survey revealed that two thirds (64%) of professionals have stated that they would leave their job if they are not offered a pay rise in 2022.

Toby continued: “Employers should not rest on their laurels assuming that an employee of 5+ years will not leave their business in times like these.

Professionals with the most in demand skill sets across legal, accounting and finance are achieving 20 to 30% pay increases when moving roles. In technology the pay rises are even higher, sometimes up to 50% for those with software development or cyber security experience.

More than ever organisations need to take the time to make detailed assessments of market rates and competitor pay to ensure their January pay and bonus meetings are aligned with their industry.”

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