Should your company take a public stand on political/social issues?

As an expert freelance HR consultant who works with clients across a range of industries offering both ad hoc HR and retained HR, one topic that often arises is that of social media and how a business’s views can affect its standing in the eyes of its customers. Ever since social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook exploded in popularity, it has never been easier to openly declare and spread your political beliefs to the world. This has proved to be as true for individuals as it has for businesses, especially those that are very active on social media. But as an expert freelance HR consultant, the question we would suggest you should ask yourself is this: Is taking a stand on political or social issues positive or detrimental to your brand?

Findings from recent research from Sprout Social shows that 66% of consumers say it is important to them that brands take social stands on political and social issues, with 58% of consumers open for brands to make their views clear on social media channels. You can see how some businesses could take statistics like these to mean they almost have to be vocal in some way on any of the current social or political issues that are trending. We have all seen endless brands offering their opinion on a topic that is receiving a lot of coverage, normally one that invites polarisation.

What stance should I take?

But is this the right approach? Business accounts are not the same as personal accounts, so should they be treated the same? Remember, any posts by your business will automatically indicate that these are the official views of your organisation. So, the question you need to ask yourself here is “Should my business be involved in political issues at all?” Whilst it is true that political posts can often get lots of interaction, the chances are very high that there will be people arguing for and against the point made. This is because when it comes to political or social commentary, you can almost guarantee that not everyone will agree with you. As an expert freelance HR consultant I would argue that there is a high chance that a political comment will spark a hostile response from those who have the opposite stance.

You could argue that all press is good press, but in fact, this is not always the case at all. All it takes to lose a long-term and previously loyal customer is just one bad political interaction. Why? Because political beliefs are very personal to a specific person and people are incredibly loyal to their chosen political beliefs and parties. If you are seen to be openly disagreeing with someone’s deeply held personal beliefs, when those beliefs have very little to do with your actual products or services, well then you risk losing that person as a customer forever.

As an experienced freelance HR consultant, I would always advise my clients to consider the bigger picture when thinking about political posts. For example, imagine that you have done research on a particular political issue that you agree with and all data points to 90% of the population having the same opinion. This seems like a very safe bet, doesn’t it? But what of the 10% who do not agree with this opinion? You might have pleased 90% of your customer base, but how will this shared agreement of a specific issue actually relate in terms of increased revenue for the business? Now let’s look at this 10% who did not agree.

As mentioned above, issues such as political stances are much more likely to lose you customers, so you could potentially have lost 10% of your customer base, without increasing revenue from the remaining 90%. So as your local expert freelance HR consultants we would suggest before posting anything politically driven ask yourself this: Do I really want to take that risk?

Of course, there are always exceptions. Some businesses thrive on driving debate amongst their customer base and actually include these strategies in their marketing plans. But for any business that uses social media as a way of showcasing its products or services, interacting with customers and general brand awareness, as a freelance HR consultant I would ask is it really is worth seriously considering the ramifications of political posts before sharing them on business social media channels.

Expert freelance HR consultant

We hope you found this helpful, and if you have any queries relating to HR advice and guidance, feel free to contact our experienced team. We will be happy to offer the very best freelance HR consultant advice on any HR-related subject and offer both ad hoc HR and retained HR packages for all HR requirements.

Will our expert freelance HR services help your business retain its best employees? The answer is yes!

What if freelance HR services Essex could help you retain your star employees?

Employee retention is a fundamental quality of a successful business. It is easier for long-term employees who are familiar with their roles to become specialised and better at their jobs compared to newer, or short-term, employees.

There are many aspects that can impact employee retention and different steps can be taken to reduce your staff turnover. In this blog, we will explain how the expert freelance hr services Essex has available to you can help you retain your best employees!

Freelance HR Services Essex

Communication is key

Like many other things in life, it all comes down to good communication. Communication underpins all strategies for a happy, successful company. Thankfully, here at Blue Tree HR, good communication is our speciality and an important aspect of the expert HR solutions we provide.

Performance management

Effective communication is integral when it comes to successful productivity and performance management. Setting objectives and reviewing performance is important, however, it is equally, if not more, important how these processes are conducted and how the information is used.

Blue Tree HR provides expert HR advice on developing objectives, motivating, and engaging employees in the most effective way – so that you and your managers are able to more successfully manage performance within the company.

But how does this relate to retaining employees?

There can be friction between managers and employees because of how performance reviews are conducted and/or handled. Employees who feel scrutinised, or unchallenged, are likely to seek positions elsewhere. So, by improving performance management, you reduce employee turnover and retain your best employees!

Improve Performance Reviews | HR Services Essex

Disciplinaries, grievances and concerns

Dealing with disciplinaries and grievances is often seen as something to be avoided at all costs. And of course, every company should do their best to reduce the number of grievances and disciplinaries, however, when they do arise, it is important to handle them in the most constructive manner (and not to avoid them).

This is best achieved when you consult the best freelance HR services Essex can offer, like Blue Tree HR, who are able to provide expert HR solutions to any disciplinaries and grievances as an unbiased third party. Contact us today for more information.

Disciplinaries and grievances are signs that something is not working properly- whether for the employer or the employee (and sometimes both). As the best provider of HR services Essex can offer, Blue Tree HR Solutions opens a channel of constructive communication and provides expert HR solutions so that everyone involved is able to move forward in the best way possible.

By providing a clear, open channel for communicating grievances and disciplinary actions, you avoid the build-up of resentment from one party to another. Instead, a constructive environment is created to solve any issues and move forward without bitterness or grudges.

HR Services Essex

How does this help retain the best employees?

Believe it or not, many employees, even the best ones, have grievances or concerns at some point in their careers. It is how these are handled that determines their future employment status with the company. By consulting the best expert freelance HR services Essex can offer, you can make sure grievances and concerns are handled in the best way possible and hold onto the employees that you value most.

With an open channel of communication, you are also more likely to prevent any official grievances and/or disciplinaries. Employees will feel more comfortable communicating difficulties, giving employers a chance to improve practices before becoming an official grievance. This can help prevent accidental discrimination and encourages company growth by introducing effective strategies and practices into the workplace.

The best expert freelance HR services Essex can offer will give advice on allowing your employees to voice their concerns and see positive changes that make their job more enjoyable. This is the most effective way to make your employees feel valued and remain at your company.

What kind of concerns might some of our best employees have?

Work-life balance

A very common concern for employees is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It can be difficult for employees to go to their boss and discuss their mental/physical health, and how their work-life balance impacts it.

Often this can lead to an employee feeling overwhelmed and eventually feeling the need to leave their role. Having an impartial party to discuss things confidentially makes it easier for people to voice any struggles they may be having and help managers and employers implement better processes and/or practices to solve the problem. Take a look at our previous blog to learn more about ensuring your company supports mental health within the workplace.

The expert HR services Essex has available to you makes all the difference when it comes to retaining your best employees

As you can see, there are a number of ways that the expert HR services Essex has available, like Blue Tree HR, can help you retain your star employees! And if you’re looking for expert HR advice, you’ve come to the right place. Blue Tree HR is proud to offer, professional, impartial and compassionate HR services. We will work alongside you and your team to help your organisation develop a dynamic, professional, and happy workplace

For the best HR services Essex can offer, including both retained HR and ad hoc HR packages, get in touch with the Blue Tree HR team today!

Four-Day Working Week – What it is and What to Expect

The four-day working week has gathered momentum recently. With countries such as Iceland and Japan successfully implementing this new way of working. The UK is also set to follow suit. The trial for the four-day working week in England is due to start in June 2022. Scotland will start the trial in 2023, and Wales will likely follow.

What is the Four-Day Working Week?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the four-day working week. There is concern from employees that they will need to compress their shifts, meaning they end up working longer hours. Employers are understandably concerned about the potential implications on productivity levels. The four-day working week means that employees work four days a week instead of five. The terms don’t change. They are paid the same salary and pension contributions but work reduced hours. The focus is on productivity rather than the number of hours spent working.

Benefits of Four-Day Working Week

We often hear people saying that they ‘never stop working, they ‘work 70 hours a week’ or similar. In our society, overworking seems to be a badge of honour. If someone tells us they only work 1 or 2 days a week, we naturally think of them as lazy or unmotivated. Of course, this probably isn’t the case, but, as a society, we have been programmed into thinking this way. Working hard means working over 40 hours a week while working less is simply slacking off. There is nothing to say that working longer hours means you are being any more productive than someone who works less, and in fact, there are many benefits to operating a four-hour week. Although the trial is yet to commence in the UK, we can gain some insights from studies on the new way of working in Iceland.

Higher Productivity

According to the report, the four-day working week resulted in the same or higher productivity. Employees working five days a week are more likely to be distracted throughout the working day by personal issues. Whereas, with the new way of working, they can take care of any personal tasks on their day off, making it easier to focus and concentrate on their work.

Improved Wellbeing

Another positive outcome of the four-day working week was improved wellbeing, including less stress and burnout and a better work-life balance. Fewer hours at work equates to more time at home and enjoying family life.

How to Cope with Four-Day Working Week

For a business, especially an SME, the prospect of a four-day working week being implemented may seem overwhelming. It may be that you are already struggling to get through your workload, which adds another layer of challenges. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you manage your employees and your workload, should the four-day working week come to fruition in the UK.

Reduce Distractions

Many distractions can corrode time, and by reducing these, you can also help employees manage their workloads more efficiently. For instance, you might consider reducing the number or length of meetings or switching phones onto voicemail at set times throughout the day. Distractions waste time and reduce productivity.

Manage Expectations

If you are worried about the implications of the four-day working week on your clients, be open and honest with them. Advise them of the hours your employees will be working and when they can expect to be able to contact you. Open and honest communication is always the best way of working.


The average person may only be productive for three hours a day. Ultimately, most employees spend a significant amount of time on pointless tasks, such as eating, social media, texting, or taking breaks. The idea of anyone working 8 hours a day and being productive for this period is an illusion. Instead of focusing on the number of hours employees work, use a project-based working method. Assign tasks to your employees that you expect each day, and in this way, the number of hours they work won’t matter.

If you want to discuss the implications of the four-day working well or think of implementing this before it comes into force and needs some expert HR advice and guidance or HR support for business, you can contact Blue Tree HR Solutions at and 07516 335 419.

How to Ensure Your Culture is Supporting Mental Health

The average person spends over 13 years at work. Let that sink in.

With the time we spend at work and our lives constantly moving at a staggering pace, it is no wonder that mental health is such a problem in society these days. We spend our time at work trying to juggle phone calls, emails, meetings, and that’s before we sit down and do some work. It is no wonder that many people end up feeling stressed and find that their mental health is suffering. That’s why it is so important to ensure that you are creating a culture that supports mental health. According to a report from Benenden, only 23.8% of employees said their employer speaks to them about mental health.

Listen to your Employees

If employees are telling you that they are overworked or struggling to cope – listen to them and take it on board. There is no point in piling work on someone if they are unable to get through it, as instead of increasing productivity, it will have the opposite impact and you will be dealing with employee burnout. If employees have any concerns, don’t just dismiss them, make sure you take them on board and try to deal with them positively.

Lose the Stigma

There is a lot of stigmas attached to mental health. If someone breaks their leg, they’ll get all the sympathy in the world. However, if someone says they feel anxious, depressed, or generally low, they will either be avoided or met with disbelief. As an invisible illness, it can be difficult for people to comprehend unless they have suffered from it themselves. It is important to lose the stigma attached to mental health. Make mental health a part of your culture, and actively use the words and introduce training so people are familiar with it. If an employee is off with these types of problems, make sure you speak to them on their return and find out what you can do to support them. If an employee says they are staying off with mental health issues, the chances are that this is true. Even if it is mental health problems relating to feeling anxious about going to work.

Recognise Employees

You should always show your appreciation for your employees, even a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way to helping mental health. Your employees are people, they are not robots, and they need to feel that they are valued in some way. Employee recognition is key in any organisation. Employees don’t want to feel that they are just making up numbers, they want to feel appreciated. This is even more important if your employees are working remotely.

Provide Development Opportunities

Employees need to feel that there is a clear development plan in place. A structure that can help them meet their goals. If they don’t have anything to aim for, their mental health may suffer. For SME’s this can be more challenging, but there is no harm in setting out the potential areas of growth.

Awareness of Negativity

One negative employee can have a hugely detrimental impact on other employees, and it is important to be aware of this so you can deal with it quickly. Regular check-ins can help you identify any issues with negativity or poor morale within the company.

Mental health should be at the forefront of everything you do. An awareness of your employees and their mental health should always be a priority. If you would like to discuss changing or improving your workplace culture, or have any questioning regards to HR support for business then you can contact us on 07516 335419 or email

How to Ensure Successful Onboarding of Staff who are Working Remotely

The recent Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many businesses work, with most office workers being encouraged to work from home. According the Office for National Statistics, 86% of those who were working from home in some capacity, did so as a result of the COVID-19. Even when the pandemic comes to an end, many businesses will either be forced or choose to operate on a remote or semi-remote basis. For many, the pandemic has been an eye-opener to how business owners can utilise the skills of people from across the globe. In many cases, there is no real need to work together in an office. The same work can be completed efficiently with remote workers.

The obstacle in all of this is the recruitment and on-boarding of new recruits. How do you onboard new staff without ever meeting them face to face? Is it even possible?

It is possible, but you need to be prepared to alter your current onboarding strategy to adapt it to the remote worker while ensuring they feel welcome and part of the community. These are some tips for the successful onboarding of remote staff.

Develop a Plan

Starting a new job is nerve-wracking enough, but the thought of working remotely can make it feel even more stressful. To ensure new recruits are not worrying about the impending start date, make sure you develop a plan and send it to them at least a few days before they start. The onboarding process should not last a day or two, it should last at least two weeks. This gives the recruit ample time for training, learning the ropes, and settling in. The plan should include what they will do each day, including training, meetings, etc. Do not make the first two weeks heavy for the new start, go easy on them. There is a lot of information to absorb, and you want to ensure they return the next day!

Set Expectations

This is one of the difficulties of remote working and the aspect that business owners find the most difficult to manage. How do you set expectations when you are not in the office together? Consider the following:

What time should their shift commence? If it’s 9 am, for instance, do you want them to be logged in and ready for 9 or do you expect them to start logging in at 9? It may seem pedantic, but it is important to cover your exact requirements with any new starts.

When is the lunch break? Advise them how long they have for lunch and when they should take it. If you don’t have a set time, inform them of this. Do they need to let anyone before logging off or can they suit themselves?

Do you have targets? If you have set targets you expect them to achieve each day, let them know what these are.

Can they work flexibly? What is the general culture of the company? Do you expect them to work rigid hours or are you flexible if the targets are achieved? Some businesses require workers to be at their desk and available during normal working hours, while others don’t care if you work at 4 in the morning if you do the work! It may even be beneficial if you are a global company.

What is the culture? As you are not working face to face, it can be difficult for new starts to get a feel for the culture, so it’s worth giving them some information on this. For example, it may be quite a chatty, relaxed environment or it could be a head down, get on with the work culture. They must understand how they are expected to operate within the business.

Provide Equipment

You should always ensure that the new start has all the necessary equipment. Don’t just assume they have broadband or a laptop. If you are hiring a permanent employee, you should always supply them with a computer/laptop, etc. Not only is this better for the security of files and documents, but they shouldn’t have to use their equipment for work purposes. Also, consider any stationery they may need and a comfortable chair.

Regular Communication

Communication is the most important part of the onboarding process. You don’t have the luxury of speaking to the recruit whenever you want, and it can be easy for people to feel isolated when they are working alone. Make sure you speak to the new start daily during the onboarding process and check that they are getting on well. Find out if they have any questions or concerns. It is a good idea to set up instant messaging or a forum so that employees can get help with any questions they have, quickly and easily. Making your new start feel welcome and part of the company from day one is imperative for successful onboarding.

You can find out more about our HR services, or feel free to contact us for an initial discussion.

Tips for Being Productive When Working from Home

It goes without saying that working from home has a lot of perks. You don’t need to tackle the traffic, stick to a rigid routine or take your breaks at certain times. It can also save you a lot of money, as you don’t need to pay for travel, and you are less likely to nip to the shop for your lunch. However, it does come with its downsides. It can be difficult to treat your days like a normal ‘day in the office’, and consequently, your productivity can plummet.

There are ways to avoid this though, and these are some of our top tips for being productive when working at home.

Work in Short Bursts

When you are working from home, you have the luxury of being able to set your own pace, and even if you have set hours you need to be available, you don’t need to be as rigid with your day. You’ll find that if you work in short bursts, it will be far more effective than trying to work for hours at a time. You may want to set a schedule to work for sets of two hours and take short breaks in-between.

Reduce Social Media

Social media can offer a lot of benefits, but it can also be extremely distracting. You might log on to quickly check your notifications, and before you know it, an hour has passed and all you’ve done is scrolled through content. There is nothing wrong with using social media, but set specific time to use it, otherwise you could lose a lot of time out of your day. Log out of your accounts if it helps or delete the app from your phone.

Set a Routine

Make sure you have a routine set for the day when you are working from home, and one which isn’t too demanding. If you don’t like mornings, make sure you spend the morning on the tasks you enjoy the most and those which don’t take too much brain activity. For example, responding to emails and arranging meetings. Your routine should include your scheduled hours, breaks and you can incorporate your scheduled time for checking social media.

Listen to Music or Podcasts

It’s amazing how important music can be for lift your spirits and making you more productive. If you find it difficult to work with music on, then you can maybe listen to it when you are doing your admin tasks. Podcasts can also be enjoyable, and particularly those which are positive and uplifting.

Manage Expectations

One of the difficulties of working from home is that you may have the day-to-day distractions that your family can bring. Make sure you manage your expectations by setting boundaries. Work in your own quiet space and set times where you don’t want to be distracted. If you have young children at home, try to get into a routine where you work while they are sleeping or give them some things to do while you work. If you have video meetings to attend, make sure you have your own quiet space to undertake them.

Communicate with Others

Although you are working from home, it is not a good idea to get into a routine where you don’t speak to anyone all day. This particularly important if you live on your own. It may be colleagues, clients or you could even arrange to join in networking meetings during your breaks.

If you are working from home and need advice on any issues you are facing at work, get in touch with us to discuss our HR services on 01787 695 084 or email

Blue Tree HR is Green.

Blue Tree HR Solutions are really keen to be environmentally friendly. As the name suggests… we love Trees! For this reason, Blue Tree HR is Green. We have been doing our bit to try and save the planet since the beginning.

We believe it is important that we consider our effect on the environment. Global warming, deforestation, melting polar ice-caps and the resulting endangered species. This list of environmental impacts is endless and it is hard to know what to do.

In reality, we are a small business and we appreciate that we can’t really make a big impact, but doing something is better than nothing.

CO2 Neutral

We registered with Tree-Nation in October 2018. We have been paying to have trees planted in various projects across the world.

It’s something we are very proud to be part of.

Blue Tree HR Solutions committed to being a carbon-neutral company in 2018 and sponsor trees to be planted around the world. For two years we have been off-setting at least 1 tonne of CO2 per month. As a result, we have had 129 trees around the world. And, we adding to this number every month. As the business grows we plan to increase how much we offset. So we remain carbon neutral.

The graph shows the purchase of trees each month to offset CO2 emissions

Projects such as planting indigenous trees and plants deep in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. The Camino Verde project is dedicated to protecting and understanding biodiversity. Also, protecting indigenous rights, autonomy, and wisdom. Resulting in sustainable ways of life and encouraging fair, sustainable development. It’s inspirational stuff!

Different trees are planted for different reasons. For example to provide food or to support wildlife, or maybe generate an income.
The project plants trees all over the world in various replantation projects, many areas have been affected by floods, fire or ongoing deforestation.

Reducing our Travel

Another way that Blue Tree HR is Green, is by reducing our fuel consumption. One of our clients required us to fly to Dublin on a regular basis, this is clearly not very environmentally friendly. I have persuaded them to use video calls instead. This is much better for the environment and actually much more time-efficient. The client thought that having face to face meetings was important. This may be true in some circumstances, but it is not necessary for every meeting.

Reducing waste

We have considered our waste output and as a result we:

  • avoid printing documents wherever possible
  • use recycled paper and pens
  • recycle our paper, printer cartridges and batteries
  • avoid using paper cups at meetings
  • always carry our own water bottles to reduce unnecessary single-use plastic.

Helping Endangered Species

For a couple of years we have been sponsoring an Orangutan via the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). Such amazing animals with a desperate plight.


Approx. 3000 Orangutans are killed every year.

We are looking to find other ways to support wildlife and sustainablity projects across the world. Aspiring to help businesses who are not as fortunate as we are in the UK. We have some ideas, so watch this space!

Other ideas? Ideally, we would have a solar powered company car and visit clients in an eco-friendly fashion. Maybe one day?

Gold breatheHR Partner

We are really pleased to have been promoted to Gold breatheHR partner status.

breatheHR is a great software tool. It’s great to see so many of our clients using it to manage all the day to day admin that comes with managing employees.

Due to social distancing rules in place, we celebrated via a zoom call with Bethan from breatheHR headquarters. Bethan had the balloons and Melanie had the party poppers!

This month we are offering a special deal for anyone new to breatheHR. 20% discount for three months following your free trial during August.

I recommend any business with employees to sign up to breatheHR, it will save you so much time and paper and the price is a no-brainer 😁

You can pay monthly or annually.

If you would like a demo of breatheHR – we can set you up with a free demo account, for you to try before you buy.
See more info here.

Get in touch for more info

Life as an HR Consultant during a pandemic.

Life as an HR consultant over the last 4 months of the pandemic has been an ‘interesting time’! 

In early March before the lockdown began business owners were understandably worried.  We could all see what was going on in China and other parts of Europe on the news and knew it was inevitably going to affect us here in the UK.

The advice given: wash hands for at least 20 seconds

First, we started looking at options. What would we do in a lockdown situation?  What if we can’t work and I won’t be able to afford to pay my staff? 

Lay-off Clause

All of my clients have contracts which include a lay-off clause – so this was our starting point.  Ideally, nobody wants to do this.  It’s in the contract but it really is a route nobody wants to use for any length of time.

Put simply, it allows employers to send staff home when there is no work. The only pay they will receive is a statutory guaranteed payment which is £30 per day for a maximum of five days in a three month period.  That’s a total of £150.00 in three months!

Many businesses closed due to the pandemic during March.

We were all in the dark as to how long the Coronavirus pandemic would continue and that dreaded word kept cropping up ‘unprecedented’!  No employer wanted to tell their staff –“go home, you will get £150.00 and hopefully, you can come back soon”, with the alternative being to pay the staff without any revenue there wasn’t really a choice.  It was quite frightening.

I started preparing letters but advised clients to hold fire with sending them out.  There were whisperings that the government was going to help in some way.

20th March 2020 the government announces the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The 20th March 2020 the government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme.  Typically announcing it on a Friday at 5pm!  Monday morning my phone started ringing at 7am.  Everyone needed to know what they had to do.

Working alongside lots of other HR consultants and got involved in various HR consultants’ forums to consider what was going on.  Everyone was having to figure things out as we were drip-fed the legislation.

But what a relief! 

Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief; Businesses saved overnight. Employers could sleep at night knowing their employees were going to continue to receive some pay when the business was shut down.

I know of business owners literally crying they were so happy; people already been made redundant were called and offered their jobs back.


That seems like a long time ago now and furlough has become a word used more than any other in HR circles.  How we furlough, who we furlough, what can happen during furlough?

Legislation has continued to evolve and overall, I think it has been a great scheme.  There have been some downsides, but people receiving 80% pay whilst not being able to go anywhere and spend their money have mostly been quite happy.  People who earn over £30k per year have been harder hit as the cap was at £2,500 per month. On the whole it had the desired effect.  People stayed at home.

23rd March 2020 – “Stay At Home”

After the announcement on the 23rd March advising everyone to stay at home – about 80% of the employers I work with furloughed their staff. Constructions sites could continue to work, but within a week they could not get access to resources. Inevitably, staff continued to be furloughed into April when everything had come to a standstill.

Keyworkers were not furloughed and continued to work through lockdown.

Since then, I have been advising clients on the changes to the furlough scheme and planning ways of bringing employees back to the workplace or helping them manage staff who are home-working. I also became an NHS volunteer and have been helping people in need – delivering food, collecting prescriptions, and ringing up people who are lonely and need a chat.

Changes to Business

In May the redundancies started. 

Many businesses affected by the pandemic have had to make big changes and the lockdown period has given employers time to consider the most economic way of running effectively.

Unfortunately, this often means job losses.  Again, the HR forums are busy, this time managing redundancies is now commonplace and every HR consultant I know, is dealing with various redundancy situations.

Working with employers to try and avoid redundancies has been the majority of my workload through June, with the job retention scheme making it cost effective to put staff on notice during their furlough, businesses realize it is better to make these decisions now instead of later.

Flexible furlough scheme

Social distancing with anyone who does not live in your household

The flexible furlough scheme came into effect on the 1st July 2020 and this really is a good scheme. I personally think it would have been better if it had been introduced earlier. However, I appreciate the government had to make some quick decisions back in March.

This new improved scheme allows staff to work for the business on a part-time basis or shorter hours. Employers can choose: a week on/ week off or shorter days or a couple of hours a week.  Any arrangement that works for the business.  It helps with the gradual return back to work.

The Job retention Scheme Grant pays 80% of the wages for the time the employees are not working.  I have been kept me busy making sure the correct agreements with employees are in place. And ensuring employers understand what they can and can’t do.

The new ‘Normal’

It feels as though we are through the worst of the pandemic. Many businesses are back at work with the majority of their staff working. 

The way we all work has changed – with alternating shift patterns, one way systems, lots of home working, so many video calls and hand santizer literally everywhere. There are high cases of people suffering from various mental health issues which is a big issue for workplaces and a worrying outcome of the pandemic and lockdown.

We are all trying to keep a distance from each other and panic ensues every time we hear someone cough. But there seems to be some hope… people are getting on with life and employees mostly are happy to get back to some kind of normality.

We are midway through July and I wonder what the future holds.  One thing is for sure if ever there was a time for businesses to need HR support it is 2020.

If you are in need of HR support please get in touch- we give fifteen minutes of free advice to anyone who calls and are happy to answer your questions.


Furlough – FAQs

The Job Retention Scheme, recently proposed by the government is great news for employers. Business owners were wondering how they were going to cope during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Job Retention Scheme

Image of graphic person with a speech bubble
What is the Job Retention Scheme?

With the Job Retention Scheme, employers can put their employees on furlough. This is a temporary lay-off, meaning as soon as there is work available again staff can be asked to return to work as before.

The Government has confirmed it will provide grants to businesses. This will cover 80% of wage costs to a maximum of £2,500 per person per month.

So if you are wondering if this Job Retention Scheme could help you, I have answered a few of the frequently asked questions below:

Can I furlough part-time workers?

Yes. In fact, you can furlough all types of workers part-time, full time, employed agency, zero hours, variable hours. They will all be entitled to the Job Retention Scheme grant.

What is someone is on sick leave?

When someone is on sick leave they will continue to receive sick pay in accordance with their employment terms and conditions. If they are due to return, you can initiate a period of furlough on their return date.

Can I have rotate staff on furlough leave?

You can, but the minimum period for qualifying is three weeks, so you will need to rotate on a three-week cycle, any less and you will not receive the grant.

Can staff do a small amount of work for me whilst on a furlough period?

The government guidance stipulates that anyone on furlough is not permitted to carry out work for their employer or anyone else.

What if my employee has more than one job?

Employees who currently have more than one employer can be put on furlough by one employer and continue to work for the other. If they are put on furlough by more than one employer, they’ll receive separate payments from each employer. The 80% of their normal wage up to a £2,500 monthly cap applies to each job.

What if someone is on maternity leave?

An employee on maternity leave will continue to receive their maternity pay as before, no change. If they are due to start their maternity leave soon, they can be put on furlough, until the maternity leave starts. NOTE: If their earnings have reduced due to a period on furlough their Maternity Leave starting this may affect their Statutory Maternity Pay.

If someone is due to come back to work following maternity leave, you can initiate a period of furlough instead of returning to work.

I had a new recruit who started on during March, do they qualify?

Employers can only claim for staff who were employed on the 28th February and new starters since then do not qualify for the grant.

What about National Minimum wage?

Pay on furlough does not have to meet the national minimum wage because they are not being paid to work.

How is the 80% payment calculated?

For full time and part-time salaried employees, the employee’s actual salary before tax, as of 28 February should be used to calculate the 80%. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.

In the case of employees with variable pay, who have been employed for a full year, employers will claim for the higher of either: the amount the employee earned in the same month last year, or an average of their monthly earnings from the last year.

For staff on variable pay, who’ve been employed for less than a year, employers will claim an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

Is the payment subject the tax and national insurance and pension?

Wages of furloughed employees will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance as usual. Employees will also pay automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings, as usual.

Employers will be liable to pay Employer National Insurance contributions on wages paid as well as the usual pension contributions.

These are difficult times for employers and we are here to help employers. If you have any questions about the Job Retention Scheme or any other employment issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me.