What are the latest people issues in the recruitment sector?

Safeguarding workers’ rights

Last month, the government announced its intention to introduce a code for employers using aggressive ‘fire and rehire’ tactics as a way of negotiating contracts. In the wake of widespread criticism of the tactics, last year ACAS issued guidance to the effect that employers should use them only as an absolute last resort.

For now, employers can still operate under these arrangements if they have to, ie the contract changes are critical and voluntary agreement can’t be reached, but effective and meaningful consultation is crucial to making sure individuals really understand the need for changes.

Absence management

Many industries are still badly affected by high levels of staff absenteeism as a result of coronavirus. Recent media attention has been especially focused on the travel industry and the disruption to flights over Easter caused by shortages of crew members.

So what can be done to protect business operations from the impact of high rates of staff absenteeism? A robust absence management procedure is essential, as it can help employers gain a broader picture of absence levels and help to manage multiple, simultaneous absences.

Setting out reasonable expectations is key to managing staff absences, even during a pandemic. Work out what average levels of absence tend to be, and decide in advance what to do when the average levels are exceeded. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the circumstances for each business (eg retailers will have a high proportion of employees who are likely to be at high risk for getting coronavirus). Expectations can also be adjusted an individual basis – for example, for an employee who has a long-term health condition. Employers need to ensure that they treat these individuals fairly.

There are situations where an individual has no choice but to be absent from work, eg they are required to self-isolate after exposure to coronavirus or they have to attend antenatal appointments. It would be inappropriate to include these absences in the employee’s overall absence figures. Every effort must be made to avoid subjecting workers to treatment that could be seen as unfair and/or discriminatory.

Certain other absences (such as emergencies in relation to dependents, parental bereavement leave etc.) should also be excluded from an employee’s absence figures. These rights are protected and employees have to be able to use them without fear of a detriment.

Statutory sick pay rebate scheme

The statutory sick pay (SSP) rebate scheme closed for coronavirus-related absences on 17 March 2022. All claims had to be submitted under this scheme before the end of 24 March 2022. All coronavirus-related changes to SSP rules came to an end as of 25 March 2022.

If any of the issues above concern you, please contact your usual RSM contact or Kerri Constable, our HR consultancy expert.

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