March 2017


Hello, we would like to share the latest news within Cluer HR as well as keeping you up to date with developments in the world of HR and employment law as they occur.

It’s all part of the service. We hope you find it useful. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Retail giant Debenhams miscalculated number of weeks’ pay per year for around 12,000 employees meaning their pay was under the minimum wage.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Business needs to be confident in payroll systems after one of Britain’s best-known retailers says a rudimentary payroll error led to it being fined £63,000. It topped the government’s most recent list of businesses that failed to pay the minimum wage.

The employees were underpaid by an average of £10 each in 2015, forcing it to pay back almost £135,000 and making it the worst offender in the latest figures. Although, it has been claimed that the error originated in a misinterpretation of the number of weeks that should be used when calculating pay – while there are 52 weeks in a calendar year, there are 52.17 weeks for payroll purposes, as mandated by HMRC.

What does this mean for your business?

If you have employees on salaries, make sure that they factor down to a minimum of the minimum wage hourly rate using 52.17 weeks in a year (not 52).

Also, be mindful that any deductions made from pay don’t put you in breach of the minimum wage regulations. For example, asking staff to pay for their uniforms, removing accommodation deposits from salaries (resulting in their hourly rate being below the minimum wage) are in breach of the regulations. Contact us for any further clarification or advice at: [email protected] or call us on 01386 751740.

Should employers be offering ‘Paw-ternity’ leave?

Owning a new dog is very much like being a full-time parent. You’re rudely awoken every night by anxious baby barks. They demand to be constantly fed. The moment you take your eye off the ball, they’re causing chaos everywhere. And yet, that pup is the king of your heart and the thought of returning to work just days after acquiring your new canine baby can be too much to bear. It’s not just puppies who can be a handful either. Resettling rescue dogs and older animals can be time-consuming and stressful – particularly if you’re rushing in and out of the office. The craft beer company BrewDog has just introduced Puppy Parental Leave – meaning that staff members don’t have to take holiday days to care for their dogs. Once the leave period has finished, staff are then welcome to bring their pets to work. BrewDog’s Aberdeenshire HQ currently boasts around 50 regular office dogs. And most of their bars are dog-friendly too. This company offers paid puppy leave for new dog owners. Brewdog co-founder James Watt said ‘.we wanted to take the stress out of the situation and let our teams take the time they need to welcome their new puppy or dog into their family. We always want to raise the bar when it comes to offering our staff the best possible benefits; at BrewDog we care about two things above all else. People and beer. We also just really, really like dogs.’

What does this mean your business?

If you’ve noticed an unusually high dog-ownership (or desire to be dog owners) in your staff then this might be something to consider!

High Court Awards £2 Damages To Claimant

Image credit: Shutterstock

An investment management business which claimed £15m in damages for stolen data from departing staff has ended up with just £2 compensation after a High Court judge ruled that no injury had been sustained.

The Honourable Mr Justice Leggatt said Marathon Asset Management had ‘missed the jackpot’ and was entitled only to nominal damages of £1 from each of the defendants. The award followed a protracted case which included a nine­day hearing and a judgment running to 283 pages.

The company had sued James Seddon and Luke Bridgeman after files were copied prior to their departure from the business. Marathon’s case was not that the files were used or any loss was suffered, but that the defendants should pay the value of what they had taken. Bridgeman admitted liability and a breach of the duty of fidelity and Seddon was found to be liable for breaches of duties of confidence, but Leggatt said Marathon’s argument ‘fails to match the remedy to the wrong’.

HR message/Implications:

This judgment serves as a warning to anyone attempting to assert significant losses for the removal of company documents. Marathon’s £15m claim and £2 payout show how widely perception of value can differ from the actual amount that can be reasonably claimed in damages, and how hard it can be to establish a realistic usage value for commercial documents.

Zero Hour Contracts Reach Record Levels

Image credit: Shutterstock

The number of people on controversial zero hours contracts has reached a record high of 910,000.

Office of National Statistics data reveal that 105,000 more people were on contracts that do not guarantee work in 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. That’s an increase of nearly 14%. In 2005, there were just 100,000 people on zero hours contracts (ZHCs). But although the new figures are a record, they also reveal a sharp slowing in the rate of increase in the last six months of 2016. “It’s notable that the increase of 0.8% in the second half of 2016 compares to a 7.7% rise over the same period in 2015,” said Conor D’Arcy, policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, which undertook the analysis of the ONS’s Labour Force Survey. “Ever since ZHCs hit the headlines the numbers have increased sharply every six months. The latest figures bring this run to an end.” That decline in the rate of increase for such contracts – which have been criticised for being forced on lower paid workers – could be down to three reasons. First, as the levels of employment reach record highs, people looking for work can be more demanding about the type on contracts they sign. The number of people on zero hours contracts rose rapidly after the financial crisis as employers sought to cut costs and be more flexible and employees were more concerned about losing their jobs. Second, as the UK approaches full employment, the number of new jobs being created – whether full time or zero hours – is slowing. The third reason appears to be business reputation.

Although zero hours contracts have been controversial, many say they provide flexibility to people such as students, parents and those with other caring responsibilities. The employee – who still receives employment rights such as annual leave – does not have to accept work offered. “We shouldn’t dismiss all ZHCs as exploitative,” Mr D’Arcy said. “Over the past year, approaching half of the increase has been among workers aged 55-64. “For many of these workers, ZHCs could offer a flexible transition from full-time work to retirement, allowing them to top up their incomes.Neither are they all low-paid positions: one in six ZHC workers are in the three highest-paying occupation groups.”

Government is concerned that “precarious working” is undermining the tax base as people on zero hours contracts are generally less well paid and more reliant on in-work benefits. The Treasury is likely to announce further steps towards “balancing” the amount of tax paid by the self-employed and those on short term or zero hours contracts”

If you’d like advice on whether you should be offering ZHCs, get in touch at: [email protected] or call us on 01386 751740.

Reminder: Statutory Rates for Family Leave To Increase

There is to be an increase to the statutory pay rates for family friendly leave next month (last year the rates remained at 2015 levels).

Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay will rise from £139.58 to £140.98 a week from 2 April 2017. Statutory sick pay will also increase from £88.45 to £89.35 per week.

Growth Support Grants For SME’s in Worcestershire

Image credit: Shutterstock

“Everything You Wanted to Know about Business Growth Support and Grants Available to You and Your Clients in Worcestershire.” If you are a Worcestershire-based business, you might be interested in this free event taking place on April 6th.

Brought to you by the Business Accelerator Programme and being delivered BizSmart this 2-hour session will give you access to the latest information on the key business growth support available across the County and in the Districts and how you and your clients can access it. The event is free when booked via EventBrite – places are limited to 125.

Do You Follow Our Blogs? They Could Rescue You From Some Sticky Situations!

This month we discussed new tougher laws on Dress Code Discrimination following the treatment of PWC’s receptionist and also posed the question Is Flexible Working Parent-Biased? It is something that should now be offered universally, although still remains very much in the parents-camp. Read more by clicking on the links or find them on our website. You can sign up to receive them in your inbox too.

Sign up for HR updates

Receive regular HR updates and access to free resources.