Tag Archives: HR

Recruitment and the new grading system for GCSEs

Some of you may remember the old GCE O Level examinations which worked alongside CSE examinations. It was widely accepted that a Grade 1 in CSE was the equivalent to an O level. We then had the introduction in 1988 of GCSEs with an A to G grading system. There was also a “U” classification which meant that the examination was ungraded.

From August 2017 there is a new grading system and those of you involved in recruitment will need to be aware of and understand the changes.

The change is that GCSEs will be graded on a scale from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade and 1 being the lowest. This will apply to English language, English literature and mathematics in 2017, and will be followed in 2018 by 20 other subjects including all sciences, French, German, Spanish, geography, history, religious studies, art and design, drama and PE. Most other subjects will follow in 2019 so that by 2020, all GCSEs will be graded under the new system.

So, from a recruitment position, during this three-year transition period you will come across students who will have a mixture of letters and numbers in their GCSE grades. The good news is that from 2020, all grades will be in numbers.

I am told that the top grade available under the new numbered system, which is a “9”, will be a higher level grade than the current A*. The U classification is to be retained. Ofqual has said this has been done to recognise the fact that the new style GCSEs are more challenging.

I am also advised that the new grade 4 is considered to be a standard pass and is broadly equivalent to a grade C. So if you currently look for GCSEs grades A to C this will change to grades 9 to 4.

Living in Lincolnshire we have a good number of students who move around the country (for example, students of parents who are in the RAF) and you need to be aware of some geographical issues. These GCSE changes only apply to England. Wales and Northern Ireland are not introducing the new 9 to 1 grading system; their GCSE grading systems will retain grades A* to G. Scotland is not affected as its students sit Nationals, not GCSEs, so please remember that when you advertise for GCSEs of a certain grade you need to make it clear that you will accept an equivalent level of qualification.

Head of Human Resource at Nicholsons Chartered Accountants Lincoln HR

When a key employee resigns

It is never a nice situation when a key employee resigns. You have to decide whether you would like the person to stay or whether you are okay with the fact that this employee is leaving you. Whatever your decision when faced with an employee’s resignation, it is important to deal with matters quickly, and even more essential if you are considering an attempt to change their mind. Believe me, the closer it gets to their termination date, the less likely they will do a U-turn. In addition, other administrative factors will need to be considered in relation to the impending departure and keeping all of this confidential will be very difficult.

If you want to try and keep this employee I would set up a meeting with this person within 24 hours of receiving the resignation letter. You may want to do this by sending a letter or e-mail where you make the request to meet in order to discuss the reasons for leaving and any other matters that may be relevant to the decision to leave. You may wish to add in the communication that you would like to explore whether there is any possibility of persuading that person to change their mind. This will get the employee thinking about their position.

You don’t have to try to persuade an employee to stay on – so it’s entirely up to you whether this section is included. If you don’t, the meeting will simply be to discuss the employee’s reasons for leaving with a view to ensuring there are no issues or problems which you may have previously been unaware of.

At the meeting the aim is to discuss what has led to the resignation. When you have this information it will be easier for you to work out whether you can tempt the employee to stay. I tend to look at the following;

  • If they want a career change or move to another part of the country then there is not a lot you can do about it.
  • If it is about salary or benefits – is there anything you can do; pay a bonus? Enhance the benefits? Etc..
  • Are they looking for more flexibility in their work? Could they work from a different location?
  • Could some of their job duties or responsibilities be changed? Or are they feeling disenchanted at a lack of career progression? Some simple variations to their role can make an enormous difference  Is the issue that they just don’t get on with their colleagues or manager? In which case could you consider work location or changing the reporting structure?
  • When I have been involved in these types of conversations, whilst I have asked for confidentiality it rarely happens, so be careful what is said and what you are agreeing to because if confidentiality is breached you may have set precedents that you don’t wish to follow or indeed you may then have an army of employees demanding a pay rise.

If, after discussions, the decision is made to part company you should take time to remind the leaving employee of possible contractual clauses in the contract of employment; such as the duty of confidentiality and secrecy, obligations under any restrictive covenants and the return of Company property. You may also wish to consider, if your contract of employment allows for this, putting the employee on “garden leave”.

Head of Human Resource at Nicholsons Chartered Accountants Lincoln HR


Sickness Absence During Notice Periods

A question that we are regularly asked concerns what an employer should do as regards pay when an employee, who is signed off sick, resigns giving notice.

Sickness absence can always be a problem for employers; especially so when it happens during a departing employee’s notice period. Assuming that you do not have an Occupational Sick Pay scheme in place many employers believe that it is in order to pay the departing employee statutory sick pay (SSP) only during their period of absence through sickness when they are working their contractual notice, but is this correct?

To determine the answer we must go back to the law and what the Employment Rights Act (ERA) of 1996 states. The Act states that the employer must pay full pay during the statutory notice period where an employee is “incapable of work because of sickness or injury”. In the case of a resignation the statutory notice period is always one week, but in the case of a dismissal effected by the employer, e.g. a redundancy, it is one week for each complete year of service to a maximum of twelve weeks.

So if an employee has say one month’s contractual notice, that includes one week’s statutory notice, this means that the statutory part of the notice period should be paid at full pay and any additional contractual amount may be paid at SSP. The statutory notice is the first part of the notice period and any additional contractual notice follows on.

There is however an exception to the rule. Section 87(4) of the ERA states that the employee’s rights to statutory notice pay does not apply if the contractual notice to be given by the employer is “at least one week more than statutory notice” . This is the case if it is a resignation by the employee or a dismissal by the employer.

This particular situation was examined by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in Scotts Company (UK) Ltd v Budd 2003, where Budd (B) was dismissed on three months’ contractual notice after two years’ sickness absence but was not paid any notice pay as he had exhausted all his sick pay entitlement. B was entitled to twelve weeks’ statutory notice as he had been employed for over twelve years, and three months’ contractual notice. He brought a claim for statutory notice pay but the EAT held that Scotts Company (UK) Ltd was not liable for it because B’s employment contract provided for at least one week more than the statutory notice.

Had B only been entitled to receive statutory notice, his employer would have been liable to pay him full notice pay for twelve weeks. It is always the employer’s notice that is looked at to decide if the contractual notice is at least a week more than the statutory minimum.

So, generally speaking, the first week of the notice period should be paid at full pay and the balance paid at your normal sick pay rates, e.g. SSP only. This rule does not apply where the contractual notice you are required to give under the employment contract is at least one week more than statutory notice.

Head of Human Resource at Nicholsons Chartered Accountants Lincoln HR

Dealing with Stress and Anxiety at Workplace- An Issue in Relations to Poor Management

dealing with stress at workplace nicholsons chartered accountants HR

The Health & Safety Executive has released figures regarding cases of stress, depression and anxiety. The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety was 488,000. The number of new instances was 224,000. The impact of these cases was 11.7 million lost days. These numbers are frighteningly high. From our experiences I have seen an increase in issues relating to this type of illness and therefore I am not at all surprised by the numbers.

It is tricky trying to work out what the causes actually are for these types of illness; what the employee believes to be the issue is often very different from what management believes. I tend to believe that a person’s perception is indeed their reality, whether or not that may actually be the problem.

In the majority of cases I come across, issues of management (i.e. poor management) are very often at the centre of the problem. The perception that an employee is being treated unfairly or simply being treated wrongly is pretty common, as is the ability of management to deal with the workload pressures of its employees. These can include the expectation of too much work in too little time, unreasonable and unrealistically tight deadlines and poor man-management skills.

In terms of health & safety issues it is the construction sector that usually leads the way when it comes to health and safety statistics, but this is not the case with stress issues. Hitting the headlines in this area is the otherwise low-risk service sector, in particular those employees working in public sector roles such as healthcare and teaching.

Please remember that stress is just as much a hazard in the work place as any other hazard. There needs to be a stress policy in force and stress should be considered in terms of risk assessing. The HSE are quite prepared to prosecute employers who fail to take reasonable steps to protect their employees.

As readers of previous HS Broadcasts will know, health & safety comes under criminal law, but there is also civil law to be concerned about and I need to state that there have been a number of successful civil claims brought against employers who have failed in their duties to their staff.

I have heard that health & safety inspectors, whether HSE or Local Authority are starting to look at occupational health and reports of work-related stress are taken very seriously. So your managers need to keep a very close eye on staff and take action when they see warning signs.

Click the link below to contact Andy to chat about dealing with stress at workplace.

Head of Human Resource at Nicholsons Chartered Accountants Lincoln HR

Dealing with Employee Rest Break Issue in HR Practice

issues with rest break in HR practice

Rest Breaks

A question that I am regularly asked concerns the law as regards rest breaks. The law is quite straightforward on this issue. If an employee works one minute more than 6 hours in a working day then they have a statutory right to a 20 minute, uninterrupted break. If however they work only 6 hours or less then they have no statutory entitlement to a break (although there may be a right contained within the contract of employment).

However this is only part of it, there are a few other factors to be considered;

  • If a working day exceeds twelve hours, only one rest break needs to be provided – there is no statutory entitlement to two 20 minute breaks.
  • Where the employee is entitled to this 20 minute break this should be taken at some point during the working day and not at the beginning or end of it. It cannot be used so that the employee can start later or finish earlier.
  • Please remember that you cannot force an employee to take any rest breaks indicated by the Working Time Regulations (WTR). If an employee chooses to work right through the 20 minute rest break, that is entirely down to the employee.

At a recent Tribunal case, the Judge was asked to consider rest break entitlements under the WTR, especially with reference to whether the employee must request the break or whether the employer is obliged to ensure that they are provided. This was the question before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in Grange v Abellio London Limited 2016. Mr Grange (G) was employed by Abellio London Ltd (A) as a relief roadside controller to monitor and regulate A’s bus services.

G initially worked 8.5 hours per day, the intention being that he would take a half hour unpaid rest break during his working day, although he often found this difficult due to the nature of his work. On 16 July 2012 A e-mailed G stating that he was to now work straight through for eight hours, i.e. without any break, and leave 30 minutes earlier than he would have done under the previous arrangement. This is clearly in breach of the WTR.

G worked this way but in July 2014 raised a grievance claiming that A had failed to provide him with any statutory rest breaks. When this grievance was rejected, he brought a claim in the tribunal claiming that he had been denied his right to rest breaks under the WTR. The tribunal found that G had not been denied this right as he had never made an actual request to A for any rest breaks. G appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The EAT held that an employer has a duty to provide a worker with a statutory rest break and confirmed that the rest break does not need to be requested. It went on to say that the entitlement under the WTR will be deemed to be “refused” if the employer puts in place any working arrangement that fails to allow a 20 minute rest break to be taken. However, please keep in mind that the Employee does not have to take the rest break if they do not wish to.

To know more about HR related issue, contact Andy Tomlinson or visit his LinkedIn page below.