Author: Neil Ferguson

06
Apr2018

We are Cyber-Essentials Certified!

Gravitate HR recently successfully underwent the process to become Cyber-Essentials certified.

We are proud of this achievement with the associated benefits it brings to our business and the clients we support, so I thought I’d share some awareness of what the initiative is!

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25
Apr2017

Margery’s Back! Endeavour achieved and more P’s

People, Places and Promises and always with Passion

Margery has returned from her travels and is delighted to share some of her experiences:

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03
Feb2017

Glasgow so far and into 2017!

About time I put out another Blog from our Gravitate HR Glasgow office I think! With Christmas and New Year a distant memory and January now behind us, I am keen to reflect on progress so far within our West of Scotland operation and look ahead to 2017.
Within Gravitate as a whole, we have had a very busy start to the year with new accounts coming on board, project work starting and we will launch our new website in the coming weeks which is keeping all hands to the pump!

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Byron Burgers facing a pounding from protester’s beef

During the week of 25th July 2016, the latest high-profile illegal workers within the UK story began to break. If you haven’t already seen it, I am referring to the arrest of 35 workers on the who were found not to have a right to work in the UK, at Byron Burger chains across London. At Gravitate HR, we are always on the lookout for interesting articles and stories from everyday life which are related to the world of Human Resources. When I spotted this story it immediately ticked the boxes for something I wanted to write a blog on, not least the fact they have fairly recently opened in Glasgow and I was hoping to get along to try soon!

What happened?

In early July, the Home Office attended several of Byron’s London chains and arrested a number of individuals suspected of not having the relevant right to work in the UK. We’ve seen companies in the media for employing people without the right to work in the UK before, but the manner in which Byron had cooperated with the Home Office once they were alerted to the workers in question seems to be key to the attention this story is getting.

It is alleged that Byron, in order to cooperate with the Home Office, invited the employees that had been identified as suspected illegal workers to a training session which was in actual fact a sting to facilitate the arrests of them. This has led to widespread condemnation of the company and lots of bad press which I’ll go into a bit more detail on shortly. The company was forced to issue a statement in relation to the incident, to clarify some of the speculation that was mounting. Interestingly the company has not sought to confirm nor deny the rumour regarding inviting the employees to a fake meeting.

Deserved?

It appears that Byron had not “knowingly” employed these individuals who were found not to have the right to work in the UK and that forged documentation was provided during checks. On this basis, I feel a bit for the organisation here. As much as it can’t be easy for those who were arrested, their already low income being taken away from them, there are rules in place and everyone must abide them. So by cooperating with the Home Office, Byron were merely doing what they had to. There is no nice way to organise for employees to be arrested and they could hardly announce in advance that the Home Office was on the way so could all staff go to the meeting room.

With this considered, it makes the extent of the fallout from the situation seems all a bit bizarre. From negative comments on social media, many boycotting the company altogether and the more extreme unleashing of thousands of insects into several chains it demonstrates how quickly an organisation’s brand suffer. The difference here from more recent examples of negative press related to employment law is that Byron are experiencing theirs for complying with the law, rather than say Sports Direct who have regularly featured for allegedly breaking it.

Future for Immigration Laws?

Another reason I found the story so compelling was the reaction towards the story in the post-Brexit context. Admittedly, this took place in London, within which the vast majority of regions voted to remain in the EU. Clearly however, immigration and employment were both key arguments by both sides during the referendum, with the Leave campaign pushing the rhetoric that it would mean less immigration into the UK. Given that the majority voted to leave the European Union, I was surprised to see so many messages criticising Byron for cooperating with the Home Office to aid the removal of the illegal workers.

Regardless of your view on how Byron went about cooperating with the Home Office, the issue of right to work in the UK looks set to continue to be a key, as the UK begins to negotiate its exit from the European Union. Right to work checks and Home Office “raids” may well become more common place in future if fewer non-UK citizens have an automatic right to work in the UK without a special visa as is the current situation with those from within the European Economic Area.

If you have any concerns or queries about your Company’s obligations towards checking employee’s right to work documentation, give me a call on 0141 225 6288.

Gravitate HR Glasgow Update

Glasgow Update

Hello from the West of Scotland! As I approach the end of month two (already!) at Gravitate HR’s – Glasgow office, I wanted to write a short couple of paragraphs on how things were going! On that note, it is so far-so good. I cannot believe how fast it has come in and how quickly I have gotten used to this new albeit familiar role.

Our serviced space on Blythswood Square is perfect both for visitors to the office as well as a central point for me to head outward to meetings, events or catch ups and so I am definitely enjoying the location aspect. There have been plenty of networking events to get along to and I have made so many great new contacts. There are certainly enough networking events happening each week to keep me busy and I am enjoying following up with contacts on a one-to-one basis.

I am keen to meet with more business owners/Directors operating in the West who may have HR needs that are not currently being met and so if there is anyone within your network who you think I should be speaking to please get in touch neil@gravitatehr.co.uk and I’ll be happy to meet with them to discuss further.

Is Gender Equality really that much of a tall order to achieve?

Many will have seen coverage this week of the most recent reminder that some organisation’s views are still decades behind where they perhaps should be. I refer of course to the news that Nicola Thorp, a receptionist was sent home from work for refusing to wear high-heels under a veiled argument of failure to comply with “appearance guidelines”. I find news like this interesting and frustrating in equal measure. Interesting because it sparks conversation and thought around the issue of gender equality; frustrating because in 2016, we are still having to have conversations and thoughts around whether it is appropriate to insist a female member of staff wear high heels to sit behind the desk of a reception.

Dress Codes

In HR Consultancy, we are often asked to draft bespoke policies for clients which cover acceptable dress code within the organisation and I wholeheartedly agree that it is reasonable for an employer to have such a policy. We take into consideration the industry and sector in which the client operates, their culture and the organisation’s own views when tailoring these policies and the criteria (or guidelines) for the organisation to initiate disciplinary proceedings, should an employee be in breach of the policy. I am pleased to say I have never been asked by a client to compromise my integrity by adding a section to a policy which would only apply to members of a certain gender. As Ms Thorpe stated to the employer, the same would not have been asked of a male employee.

The organisation who enforced this policy have confirmed they are reviewing the matter, but it took someone to complain publicly for them to do it, so any change made is unlikely to be done so, simply because it is the right thing to do.

Moral Issue

Much of the commentary on this topic surrounds the question of whether the dress code was justifiable from a legal perspective. There are cases for both sides on that front. I am more interested in the moral aspect of having a policy such as this in place.

For me, it should be down to the personal choice of the individual whether or not they wish to wear heels. But if the coin is flipped it raises an interesting point. If a male employee was to decide to turn up to work wearing heels for the same role, how would the organisation respond to this?

By enforcing this provision onto female members of staff is there a suggestion that visitors to the building would take issue if the receptionist was not wearing heels? I am surmising somewhat, but to think that people would still hold an expectation such as this in 2016 is frustrating, given all the efforts and initiatives to reduce gender inequality which exist.

Viral News

Another interesting aspect of this is the attention that is being paid to the issue, which can only be a good thing. The petition started by Ms Thorpe to have it made illegal for a company to force a female member of staff to wear high heels now having over 127,000 signatures. The UK media is covering the story and without linking directly to every single article, I haven’t come across one yet that is in support of the employer on this matter. The news has even spread across the Atlantic and so hopefully this can serve as a positive assault on gender inequality in the workplace.

Interesting to me on this note is where PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) fits into the furore, as it was within their offices that the issue arose. They did not employ Ms Thorpe, nor was it their policy that caused the fallout, the policy belonged to Portico who PwC outsourced their reception services to. However, PwC’s name is all over the story and rightly or wrongly they are being referenced multiple times throughout the coverage. This demonstrates just how easily social media can impact an organisation’s reputation, which is another area of great interest to me. I am sure the PwC PR department is working overtime at present (hopefully they all have comfortable footwear on!) to reassert that this was not their policy.

Take a look at this video by Stylist Magazine showing just how tough a few men found it to walk in high heels!

Gravitate HR Glasgow Open for Business!

Gravitate HR Glasgow open for business!

As many of my contacts will be aware, Gravitate HR is expanding its reach to the West of Scotland and I am delighted to announce that our Glasgow office is now open! Our new premises in Blythswood Square is perfectly positioned to service our existing clients and to help our business grow. As part of the move, I will be heading up the Glasgow office in my new role as Head of Client Services – Glasgow and so I am looking forward to the opportunity to establish new connections and growing our client base.

With that in mind, if there is anyone within your network based in Glasgow and the West who you think could benefit from our HR services then I would be delighted to be introduced to them and catch up for a coffee so please send them my way!

Similarly, if any of my existing connections would like to catch up to hear more about our new venture then it would be great to see you so please get in touch, neil@gravitatehr.co.uk.

The contact details for the new office: Gravitate HR, 5 Blythswood Square, Glasgow, G2 4AD. Telephone: 0141 225 6288.

Lastly if you have not already then please give me a follow on twitter! @Gravitateglasg

Seminar Summary – Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental Health in the Workplace Seminar – A Reflection.

Gravitate HR recently hosted a lunch time seminar on tackling mental health in the workplace, in conjunction with Sara Maude of The Mind Solution and I thought it might be useful to blog the key discussion points from the session.

Attendees of the seminar ranged from Directors and Managers within SME organisations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife to Sole Traders and Consultants within the healthcare industry. All guests had a keen interest in learning more about this topic which is an important one for employers and employees alike.

Understanding the Term

Initially, Sara engaged the audience by asking for their interpretation of what mental health meant. A discussion around common terms given to mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the stigmatisms and associations which still surround mental health issues then followed.

The general consensus was that the effects of these conditions general led individuals to suffer, often in silence, until they reached breaking point.

Understanding the Impact

Sara provided some statistics and numbers which helped to contextualise how common mental health issues were and the impact of absence as a result of mental health issues has on a business. Using a company of 25 employees and some average statistics on mental health conditions, Sara was able to demonstrate the financial impact that absence related to mental health can have.

Company of 25 employees

1 in 4 has a mental health condition = 6 people

Average salary = £26,500

£100 per day (including on costs)

Average number of days absence = 9

Cost of absence = £5,400 (based on 6 people)

Similarly, Sara demonstrated the cost that presentism can have, i.e. where an employee is not absent from work due to a condition but is not operating at anywhere near their 100% productivity potential:

6 employees operating at 50% for 20 days = 120 days

50% of daily rate = £50 cost

X 120 days = £6,000

Total cost = £11, 400

As well as cost to the business, other impacts identified included the wider impact which mental health conditions can have on the individual who is affected and the knock-on effect this can have within the wider team. All in all, it was seen as prudent to have a mentally healthy workplace.

Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace

The final section of the seminar provided some practical steps and considerations for businesses to make when seeking to create a working environment that promotes positive mental health. Some of these steps included:

• Ensuring commitment to any initiatives from the top levels of the organisation is achieved to ensure staff are aware that it is being taken seriously;

• Having clear objectives and knowing what you are trying to achieve by implementing any initiatives;

• Linking your wellbeing initiatives and approaches to your overall business strategy – not “throwing jelly against the wall and hoping it sticks”; and

• Creating a sustainable approach – being aware that one-off events will not elicit the positive results that regular and relevant initiatives will.

The seminar proved to be a thought-provoking one with delegates leaving reflecting on how they might implement some of the learnings within their own organisation. We thank Sara for speaking at our seminar. We look forward to our next lunchtime seminar – details to follow.

Coming Soon – The (National) Living Wage

Coming Soon – The (National) Living Wage

Around 12 months ago I attended seminar in Edinburgh hosted by the Living Wage Foundation and subsequently wrote a Blog article detailing the Living Wage campaign and what it may mean to SMEs in the UK.

Fast forward one year and there have been some very important developments in this area and so I thought it worth writing again on this topic and detailing what those updates are.

The main headline is that as of 1st April 2016, all employees and workers aged 25 and over will be entitled to £7.20 per hour which is a 50p per hour increase to the current National Minimum Wage which will remain in place at current levels for those below 25. Employers would be well placed to carry out a review of their salaries and their employee’s ages to determine if any salary increases are required when April comes around.

The Name

I try not to give too much in the way of opinion when blogging and it is important that there is no bias present when disseminating this sort of HR related information, but I do feel there is a point to be made here. The National Living Wage (NLW) is the term being used by the Government which has been somewhat hi-jacked from the pre-existing Living Wage Foundation (LWF) who campaign for employers to pay their staff a higher amount.

The LWF’s voluntary rate (£8.25 per hour or £9.40 per hour in London), which is calculated independently, is already ahead of the new NLW which does not go live until April 2016. This hijacked term, I think, could potentially cause unnecessary confusion for employers and employees in terms of entitlements and furthermore clouds the work that the Living Wage Foundation have been carrying out for well over a decade.

The Impact

Moving away from the trivial matter around how we should refer to the Living Wage, there are more significant issues that are brought about by such a jump to the rates. Businesses who employ staff over the age of 25 will need to consider how they will cope with the higher payroll costs that an involuntary salary increase brings about.

Similarly this creates yet another continual personal details review that affected employers are required to carry out to ensure they are compliant. As with Auto-enrolment, monitoring of an employee’s age to ensure they are paid appropriately is essential.

From a positive impact perspective, employers will be hoping that this increase, although compulsory for those employees who qualify, will perhaps bring about increases to motivation and productivity however improved commitment is perhaps unlikely given any alternative role will also pay this as a minimum.

Finally, as with any increases to salary or similar changes to terms and conditions, employers should inform their staff in writing of the change and place a copy in the personnel file to ensure everything is kept up to date.

Christmas 2015 Shutdown

This year we will finish up on Christmas Eve at 12pm and will reopen 8.30am on Tuesday 5th January 2016.

If you have any urgent queries during this time please contact Margery McBain by email or on 07743 936 137. Leave a message and your call will be returned.

We would like to wish all of our clients and contacts a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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