HR Investigations

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Additional Bank Holiday

The extra bank holiday next is raising a few questions, so I thought I would email you to clarify the situation.

Sometimes additional public holidays are granted by Royal Proclamation. There is an additional bank holiday on 19 September 2022 for Queen Elizabeth II‘s funeral. There was also another in June 2022 for the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Employers need to decide how they will approach these upcoming additional days off. This will be determined to some extent by the wording in the contract. Where the contract entitles employees to take as paid leave “all bank and public holidays”, the employer will have no choice but to grant the extra day in the usual way or negotiate otherwise.

Where the contract requires workers to work on “all bank holidays”, the employer can require them to work on an additional day. If they are paid a higher rate for working on a bank holiday and the contract does not limit the number of bank holidays to which the higher rate applies, the employer must pay that rate for the additional day.

However, where the contract limits entitlement to a day off work (or to a higher rate of pay where bank holidays are worked) to the “usual eight” bank holidays,  or your contract may state the employee is entitled to 28 days of holiday and this is inclusive of bank holidays, the employer will need to decide its policy in relation to the additional day.

Giving Employees the Day Off

If the employer chooses to give its workers the day off as an extra day’s paid holiday (or pay them a higher rate if they work on that day), it should express this as being a non-contractual discretionary measure that applies only during the year in question. Otherwise, workers may, in the future, have grounds to argue that time off (or the higher rate of pay) on additional bank holidays is a contractual right, implied by custom and practice.

If workers will be required to take the additional day off out of their existing holiday entitlement, the employer will need to plan ahead to ensure that it gives them the requisite notice.

If some or all workers will be required to work on the additional public holiday, the employer may wish to consider a one-off discretionary day off in lieu, as a gesture of goodwill. Where workers will be treated differently, for example, one receptionist out of three is required to work but the other two can take the extra holiday days as leave, the employer should have objective criteria for this requirement and the choice of who will work, to minimise the risks of a discrimination claim (for example because of sex or race). In this scenario, the receptionist who works on the bank holiday must be compensated either by being paid or being granted a day off in lieu.

Keeping staff happy with your bank holiday policy

Employees would have heard that there is an extra bank holiday and may assume they are entitled to a paid day off. An alternative would be to ask staff to come in and perhaps allow those that are interested an extended lunch break to watch the proceeding on a screen.

Expert HR advice for small businesses

We hope that you found this blog informative. And remember, if you require expert HR advice for small businesses, or larger concerns, our experienced and professional HR team are always on hand to help. We offer both ad hoc HR and retained HR packages to suit any HR requirements. Contact our friendly team to learn more.

Flexible Working and Managing Flexible Work Requests

Before the pandemic struck the world by a storm in 2020, flexible working arrangements were a nice-to-have perk. Remote employees were the minority, and most business leaders believed they could only nurture a productive workforce in the office. 

But everything changed overnight, and those working on-site were suddenly only essential workers. Even though the COVID-19 crisis is ending in most countries, including the United Kingdom, flexible work isn’t going anywhere. 

Employees Prioritize Flexibility

According to Statista, 4.27 million UK employees have employment contracts that allow flexible hours, making it the most common practice in 2022. Contrary to what employers thought, people like the post-pandemic workplace arrangements and wouldn’t return to strict schedules and solely office work. 

Another report found that the demand for flexible work is increasing, with 8.7 million full-time workers yearning for flexibility. Moreover, the younger generations would likely decline jobs with rigid working hours. 

For instance, 75 per cent of Gen-Z see flexible work as the number one employee benefit. Here’s why this arrangement is also beneficial for companies. 

Four-Day Working Week & Flexible Working

Top 3 Benefits of Flexible Work

1. Enhances Employee Retention

Today, flexible schedules are among the most sought-after employee perks and benefits. Many people would choose flexibility over a prestigious title or additional time off. 

Meeting employees’ needs and expectations is necessary for cultivating loyalty. Companies can retain workers and attract top talent by offering flexible schedules and remote work. 

2. Boosts Productivity

Employers often hold back from introducing flexible working because they fear it would affect productivity as they wouldn’t be able to monitor employees. But according to Gartner, 43% of workers are more productive if allowed flexibility.  Moreover, this work arrangement enables people to relax and focus on their assignments without office pressure. Many employees feel less productive on-site due to managerial micromanagement and team competition.

3. Improves Employee Engagement

Empowered employees are more engaged, and what’s a better way of empowering them than responding to their needs and ensuring they can choose a work arrangement that stimulates their creativity? Flexible working also shows companies respect and care about their workers.

People want to know their employers trust them to work outside the office and get the work done just as efficiently. That boosts their engagement and helps them enjoy their tasks.

How to Manage Flexible Work Requests

Acas 2021 survey found over 55 per cent of employers expect an increase in flexible work requests, as people wish to split their time between home and office. Even though companies have the right to decline, they should consider the benefits of flexibility and discuss it with their workers in more depth. 

They should be fair and objective, as most employees have reason to ask for flexible working, such as restoring work-life balance or preventing burnout. Employers can ask for a written flexible work request and discuss why the worker would prefer this arrangement. 

However, they should be clear about flexibility policies and what flexible work consists of in their companies. If employers have no relevant regulations, they should consider introducing them and providing all employees equal access to flexible working. 

Making flexibility a part of the company culture helps attract high-quality candidates and retain employees, especially working parents, students, minorities, and people from diverse groups. Whether you approve the flexible work request or not, it shouldn’t take a long time, and it might alter your employee’s contract. 

Flexible work has numerous advantages for companies and employees, but employers are often reluctant to introduce this work arrangement. Although business leaders often fear flexibility would impact productivity, loyalty, and commitment, people with access to this benefit are more engaged and motivated. 

Hence, before declining a flexible work request, consider the benefits. Besides improving employees’ work-life balance, it also helps instill trust and nurture lasting retention.  

How HR Consultants at Blue Tree HR Solutions can help with Flexible working

Flexible working requests and considering offering hybrid working and a more flexible working arrangement to staff and new recruits may seem like another headache for employers.  At Blue Tree HR Solutions we can help you implement a policy and support you during flexible work requests and help you find ways to make working hours convenient and beneficial for employers and employees.

If you require expert HR advice for small businesses then take a look at our ad hoc HR and retained HR packages. Feel free to contact our friendly team for more information. 

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.

5 Ways to Improve Your Skills During Lockdown

If you are currently on furlough or out of work, you may be fed up with Netflix or going for endless walks. The novelty soon wears off. With all the free time you have at your disposal, it is a great time to explore new opportunities and learn new skills. There are endless benefits to upgrading your skills. It gives you the chance to broaden your career prospects, and it helps keep your mind active. It can also boost your mental wellbeing. You may even be able to make some money from it. These are some ways to improve your skills; without it being a financial burden.

Networking and Events

Networking can improve your mental health, while also learning from others. It is particularly beneficial now when many of us are having little communication with our loved ones. There are platforms like Eventbrite, where you can find a range of different events and networking opportunities. Some are free, while others have a small fee. You may also find some other events by looking at your local government website.


We tend to think that any courses we sign up to will be expensive, but there are many free options. The Open University has a wide range of free courses; including history and the arts, health, sports, and psychology, and science. If you are considering a career change or want to enhance your knowledge, there are plenty of options to consider. Other platforms such as Udemy also offer free courses. 

Learn a Language

There’s no excuse to put off learning a language now. Learning languages can improve your career opportunities. It can also allow you to engage with a network of different people. Learning languages is interesting and challenging. There are free language courses on the Open University website (link above), and a quick google search will take you to other resources. You can also get one-to-one tuition from a platform such as Babbel.

Government Courses

The government has resources available for those who want to learn new skills. Some courses are free, including Future LearnBusiness Gateway (Scotland only), and The Skills Toolkit. Take advantage of every free skills resource you can, as this may change when things return to normality.

Hobbies and Interests

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time, now is the ideal opportunity. You never know, you might be able to make money from your hobby. YouTube is a useful resource for getting access to tutorials.

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

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.