Posts Tagged ‘remote working’

Can employers force employees to come back to the workplace?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

Getting employees back into the workplace

There have been a lot of queries on whether employers can force employees to come back whether on a full time or hybrid basis and what rights the employees have.

Essentially, employees are obliged to meet the terms of their employment contract which will state where the normal place of work is. While during the pandemic this changed for many employees, now that the guidelines are to phase back into the workplace, this will now be applicable again.

However, we are advising employers to act cautiously. Before implementing any changes we recommend developing a plan based on your specific business needs and the circumstances and needs of your employees. There is no one solution that will work across all businesses and for all roles. Collaborate and communicate with your employees and agree a plan. If at that point terms and policies need to be changed, they should be done so with the full agreement of both the employer and the employee.

5 Key Points to consider when returning to work

Anxiety

In the transition back to a new routine post-pandemic, virtually all employees will likely have personal challenges competing for their energy and attention. Preparation and showing care, kindness and wellbeing will be key success factors. Ensure managers are ready for this, and know what supports are available.

Induction

With everyone socially isolating for over a year, there will need to be an induction and integration process to support people on returning to the workplace. Regardless of whether individuals are coming back to an onsite or hybrid model, how things work, COVID-19 response, where things now are, use of desks and equipment will have changed for many.

Collaboration

Big gaps emerged during the pandemic around team working, collaboration and innovation (CIPD HR Practices in Ireland 2021). These have to be purposefully built into time onsite and blended working models, so time at the workplace provides face-to-face engagement, both formal and informal. If everyone is working blended, things like face-to-face meetings, team collaboration, have to be planned so the right people are on site on the right days.

Equality

Equality and parenting/caring issues will have to closely managed. This will require close monitoring and interventions to deliver equality and fairness, and attract and retain minority groups. Hybrid working is a positive way to enhance flexibility. Employees have more choice over when, where and how they work, and employers will be able to attract and retain a more diverse pool of employees and those with skills in demand.

Culture

One of the biggest challenges for leaders and managers will be the culture – bringing people together again around a common mission, purpose and ways of working. A gap has already emerged between those working remotely and essential onsite workers in some companies so getting everyone to re-engage on a common agenda will be critical.

 

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

How can I successfully manage meetings in a hybrid working world?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

How can I successfully manage meetings in a hybrid working world?

As employees start to return to work in a Hybrid model, it is important to ensure our communication practices are up to scratch and inclusive of all parties across the workplace, no matter where you have employees working from or when they are working.

We have developed our top 10 tips for hosting engaging and effective meetings:

PURPOSE: Be clear about the purpose of the meeting (such as decision-making, information-sharing, collaboration) and check it’s suited to a hybrid approach. Communicate the intended outcome so everyone can prepare and are clear about the purpose – set expectations from the start.

INCLUSIVNESS: Avoid ‘presence disparity’ so that those present are not treated differently to those joining remotely. Take steps to involve remote participants by providing everyone with a chance to speak, use first names to be inclusive and personable.

EQUALITY: Ensure everyone has an equal voice, don’t just default to people you can see or those in the meeting room. Use tools and technical functionality like chat or hand-raising for example and explain how questions or comments will be answered at the beginning of the meeting. Make sure remote participants can contribute throughout – don’t just bring them in at the end.

TRAINING: Provide refresher training on facilitating meetings, to include all types of meetings and ensure you provide training on the tools and functionality now available on various platforms.

INDIVIDUAL TEAMS: Encourage and support teams to establish their own principles for hybrid meetings. This may include how often they should meet physically and for what purpose, what technology to use and how to ensure that communication is inclusive of all attendees.

CONSISTENCY: Decide which form of communication is important. There are various communication channels you can use, not every communication will need to be a meeting. Consider if there are other opportunities. There are many different ways to communicate – but using too many channels can be overwhelming. Agree a primary channel for each particular purpose, such as one platform for online meetings, and one for messaging. Check that everyone knows how to use them fully.

TECHNOLOGY TOOLS: Make use of smart technology (asynchronous) tools that allow people to contribute without having to be at the meeting (such as Slack or chat functions in platforms like Microsoft Teams. This provides schedule- and location-flexibility, and reduce meeting time as alternatives to having hybrid meetings.

LOCAL CONVERSATIONS: Don’t allow those in the meeting room to begin side conversations that remote participants cannot hear or take part in.

USE OF EQUIPMENT: Avoid using equipment in the room (such as a flip chart or visual aids) that those attending remotely are unable to properly see. Present slides via the remote technology in use.

BEFORE AND AFTER MEETINGS: Don’t start in-person conversations before the meeting starts (or remote participants have joined) or continue conversations after they have left.

A successful meeting will be engaging, have clear objectives, actions, outcomes and a purpose.  In a hybrid working world it is even more important not to lose sight of these and to put some extra energy and thought into the planning and execution of meetings.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Can I change my employees’ terms & conditions when they are working remotely?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

Can I change my employees’ terms & conditions when they are working remotely?

Permanent or temporary changes to terms and conditions of an employee’s contract can occur:

  • With the employee’s consent.
  • Without the employee’s consent, but in reliance upon a contractual provision allowing for changes of the contract, such as a variation or mobility clause.

Variations with Employee Consent

The provisions of an employment contract most affected by the impact of COVID-19 relate to remuneration, working hours and location of work.  Remuneration and working hours are fundamental terms of any employment contract (as is work location but to a lesser degree).  It is a general principle of contract law that the terms of a contract cannot be altered without the agreement of both parties, meaning that unilateral alterations of these provisions by an employer would generally amount to a breach of contract.

Employers must also consider the statutory protections afforded to employees.  Reducing an employee’s pay and without consent may also expose employers to claims under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 before the Workplace Relations Commission, or employees may resign and claim constructive dismissal.

To implement a valid reduction in pay or working hours, without the risk of legal challenge, employee consent or agreement should be sought.  In practical terms this should involve communicating with employees regarding the financial impact of COVID-19 on the business, outlining the rationale behind the proposed changes and consulting with the employees well in advance of the proposed changes to obtain the necessary agreement to reduce pay or working hours.

Once consent or agreement has been obtained, employers should record the agreed variation to the terms and conditions in writing.  This can be done by way of a side letter or addition to the contract which must be provided to the employee no later than one month after the change takes effect.

Variations Through Reliance on Terms of Contract:  Flexibility and Variation Clauses

Many employment contracts include a flexibility or variation clause that aims to allow employers to vary the terms and conditions of employment without any input from an employee.  While the existence of such a clause in an employment contract may be of some comfort if changes are proposed, it should not be relied upon in isolation to impose changes without consultation.  The Irish Courts, while accepting, that in certain circumstances alterations to terms and conditions are necessary for commercial effectiveness, have consistently held that such clauses must be exercised reasonably. It is generally accepted that such clauses are intended to permit minor non-material changes, which do not relate to core terms, such as updates to reflect changes in law or statute or a change in a work practice. Imposing pay cuts, even of a temporary nature, without consultation or consent, by reliance on such clauses is unlikely to be viewed by a Court as reasonable.

Variations: Mobility Clauses

With remote working, or some form of hybrid arrangement between home and workplace set to continue, many employers have already taken steps to reduce the capacity of their physical workplace.  Reliance on a mobility clause post lockdown to relocate employees to work from home permanently, or, to introduce a hybrid working arrangement where employees are opposed to such changes is not without risk of legal challenge.

In order to successfully rely on a mobility clause to introduce significant changes to a work location, employers should provide employees with as much notice as possible of the proposed change, provide detail on the commercial rationale for the proposed changes and afford the employees an opportunity to make representations in respect of the changes before introducing such measures.

Can Employees Who Refuse to Accept Changes to Terms and Conditions be Lawfully Dismissed?

Section 6.1 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977-2015 (the Acts) provides that dismissals are deemed to be unfair for the purpose of the Acts unless “having regard to all the circumstances, there are substantial grounds justifying the dismissal”. Can a dismissal for refusal to accept material changes to terms and conditions, which an employer claims are essential to the survival of a business, qualify as “substantial grounds” so as to make the dismissal lawful?

The commercial rationale and full effect of the proposed changes should be sufficiently and clearly explained to employees.  Given the importance of fair procedures in the Irish context, it is likely that the procedural fairness followed by an employer in seeking to introduce changes to fundamental terms of the contract will be critical.

Consideration should be given to the extent to which the burden of the proposed changes is being shared between management and employees below management level.  Ideally any changes should be across the board and not targeted at lower paid employees or middle management while senior management remain unaffected. Targeting specific groups of employees can also lead to potential discrimination claims and should be avoided.

Key Takeaway: Engage and Consult

To avoid potential claims, employers who propose to implement changes to employee terms and conditions, on a permanent or temporary basis, should consider putting in place arrangements to engage and consult with them in advance.  Where agreement cannot be reached, evidence of reasonableness, consultation and negotiation by the employer will be critical in successfully defending any legal challenges that may ensue.

 

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Watch Webinar Recording ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’ in partnership with Enterprise Ireland

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Voltedge Management hosted, in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, the webinar ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’. The webinar discusses how Covid-19 has impacted the world of work,  how the changes brought about by Covid-19 impact your company and how you manage your employees, the practices you need to implement to continue to attract, engage and develop your employees in a post Covid-19 era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to watch the recording. 

You can also download the webinar slides here

Coinciding with the webinar, Voltedge and Enterprise Ireland have also developed the guide of the same name. Click HERE to download the guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’.

Watch Webinar Recording ‘Tips For Employers Managing Remote Workers’ with Fredericka Sheppard

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

In case you missed the webinar ‘Tips For Employers Managing Remote Workers’ with Voltedge Co-Founder and Managing Director Fredericka Sheppard, in partnership with AccountantOnline, you can access the recording on the link below.

Some of us are experiencing working from home for the first time so there are still some considerations we need to make. Isolation, distractions, and lack of supervision are a real concern for some employees, and as a business owner, it may be your responsibility to promote a good remote working culture.

We recognise that many businesses are managing (newly) remote employees and so, this webinar will help you address your challenges with managing remote workers and highlight the opportunities within your organisation. The webinar provides tips and best practices to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees.

Topics Covered

1) Remote Working – what does that really mean for companies

2) Employer responsibilities and the need to build a good Remote Working Culture

3) Addressing Diversity & Inclusion in a virtual workplace

4) A review of the expected regulations on the Right to Disconnect and the Right to request to Work Remotely

5) Challenges and opportunities for companies and managers

6) Developing your own toolkit for a remote working strategy

Click HERE to watch the recording.

Voltedge and Enterprise Ireland ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’ Guide

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Voltedge and Enterprise Ireland are delighted to share with you our new guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’. The guide is intended for all Irish businesses that are preparing for a new chapter in how we work, as we move towards a post-Covid-19 era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How has Covid-19 impacted the world of work? How might the introduction of hybrid or fully remote teams change the way you do business? What new skills will you need to attract, motivate and engage your employees?

The guide considers these and other topics related to how Covid-19 will affect the work environment in the future, as well as covering many of the questions that employers and employees will have.

Sections in the guide include:

  • Leadership at a time of transition
  • The evolving workplace for the future
  • Remote and blended working
  • Employee health and well-being
  • Resource planning in a virtual world

The ‘Emerging Through Covid-19’ guide also includes an FAQ section, a risk assessment template, and a suggested audit and employee surveys to help employers in their approach to this new landscape of work.

Click here to download your copy of the guide today.

Emerging Through Covid-10 – The Future of Work Webinar with Enterprise Ireland

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Voltedge Management is delighted to invite you to join our webinar together with Enterprise Ireland, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19 – The future of work’, which takes place on Tuesday, 22 June 2021.

The aim of the webinar is to assist companies as we prepare to embark on a new era of work post-Covid-19.

How has Covid-19 impacted the world of work? How might the introduction of hybrid or fully remote teams change the way you do business? What new skills will you need to attract, motivate and engage your employees?

The webinar will consider these and other topics related to how Covid-19 will affect the work environment in the future. Join us as our panel discusses the questions and the HR-related challenges that will face Irish companies.

Speakers:

  • Fredericka Sheppard, Joint Managing Director, Voltedge Management Ltd.
  • Joyce Rigby Jones, Joint Managing Director, Voltedge Management Ltd.
  • Karen Hernandez, Senior Executive, Client Management Development, Enterprise Ireland

Discussion topics will include:

  • Understanding how Covid-19 has impacted the world of work, from a global and Irish perspective
  • Consider how the changes brought about by Covid-19 impact your company and how you manage your employees
  • Understand what practices you need to implement to continue to attract, engage and develop your employees in a post Covid-19 era

The webinar will be hosted by RTÉ broadcaster and journalist Della Kilroy.

Date and time: 10am on Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Click here to register.

Tips For Employers Managing Remote Workers Webinar

Monday, May 10th, 2021

Receive tips and best practice advice for managing remote workers

#BusinessGrowth webinar with Fredericka Sheppard, Managing Director & Co-Founder of Voltedge Management, and Accountant Online.

 

Why join?

Are you a business manager or owner that is managing remote workers for the first time? Some of us are experiencing working from home for the first time so there are still some considerations we need to make. Isolation, distractions, and lack of supervision are a real concern for some employees, and as a business owner, it may be your responsibility to promote a good remote working culture.

We recognise that many businesses are managing (newly) remote employees and so, this webinar will help you address your challenges with managing remote workers and highlight the opportunities within your organisation. We will provide tips and best practices to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees.

What will be covered?

1) Remote Working – what does that really mean for companies

2) Employer responsibilities and the need to build a good Remote Working Culture

3) Addressing Diversity & Inclusion in a virtual workplace

4) A review of the expected regulations on the Right to Disconnect and the Right to request to Work Remotely

5) Challenges and opportunities for companies and managers

6) Developing your own toolkit for a remote working strategy

Click here to register.

HR & Employment Law – Round Up 2020 and a Look Ahead to 2021

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

As 2020 draws to a close and we take time to look back and reflect on what has happened this year, we find ourselves continuing to acknowledge what an unprecedented year it has been for us all. COVID-19 has touched every employer in some way or another and while the pandemic has certainly impacted and changed the world of work, our employment laws, codes of practices and guidelines largely remain the same.

 COVID-19 – HR & employment practices issues

Health & Safety

COVID-19 is predominantly a health & safety issue from a work perspective and employers have a duty of care for all employees under H&S legalisation.   While there are no new specific employment regulations related to COVID-19 in place, employers are required to comply with all existing H&S legislation and they must also ensure they comply with the range of obligations and requirements set out in the government’s living document – The Work Safely Protocol (the Protocol), originally issued in May 2020 and updated in November 2020.

The Protocol and the HSA provide various checklists to support employers in providing a safe working environment both onsite and remotely during COVID-19.  Despite the good news on impending vaccines, we expect that COVID-19 will be with us for a significant part of 2021 and employers will still need to continue to review and follow the Protocol for some time yet.

 Layoff, Short time & Redundancy

During 2020, unfortunately many employers were forced to lay off employees or reduce working hours as a result of COVID-19.  Normally, employees on lay off or on short-time hours can claim redundancy from an employer after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks. If employees were put on lay off or short-time hours because of COVID-19, their right to claim redundancy has been temporarily suspended.

This rule became effective under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act from 13 March 2020 and has been extended up until 31 March 2021. Employers are reminded that when selecting employees for lay off or short time working, they should apply the same criteria for selection as for redundancy. The criteria should be reasonable and applied fairly.

While it is expected that many businesses will recover post pandemic, it is anticipated that there will likely be some level of redundancies once the right to claim redundancy has been lifted.  It is important to note that where a business needs to restructure due to COVID-19 and where it may result in potential redundancies, then all the normal redundancy procedures including consultation and selection must be followed.

Working from Home – Ireland & Abroad

Working from Home

Employers reminded that under H&S legalisation, they have a duty of care for all employees even when they are working remotely.   For so many businesses, remote working became a forced necessity rather than a choice.  Many of the arrangements were put in place literally overnight with little time for planning and evaluating risks and supports needed for both the employer and employees.

The updated version of the Protocol guides that  “All staff should continue to work from home to the greatest extent possible” and that employers should develop and consult on working from home policies in conjunction with workers. Employers should familiarise themselves with their H&S obligations which include carrying out risk assessments, provision of equipment etc.

As we move into 2021, it is clear that many organisations will continue to either work remotely in the short term or engage in “blended” working models for the future. In addition to their H&S obligations, employers will need to develop more detailed Working From Home Policies which set out criteria for eligibility,  H&S guidelines for working remotely and also address issues such as Data Protection, Well-Being and Recording of Working Time & Rest breaks.

Engaging with employees at an early stage either through discussion or employee survey would be a great way to address any concerns and to develop a policy that meets both the individual and business needs.

Working from Home – Abroad

In some cases, non-Irish employees chose to return to their home countries and are continuing to work remotely overseas.  It is really important that employers are fully aware of the implications of continuing to permit these arrangements and the potential risks associated with the employee acquiring employment rights in another jurisdiction or giving rise to a tax liability for either the employee and employer in another country.

While most jurisdictions have a taken a flexible and pragmatic approach to these type of arrangements during 2020, it is imperative that employers have a clear understanding of the potential risks that may arise should they continue into 2021.

The right to disconnect

Increasingly, technology has blurred the lines between work and personal life. For many, home working and COVID-19 restrictions has resulted in significantly increased “work-life blur” and is having a significant mental and physical health impact. Unlike some other European countries, there is currently no specific legislation in Ireland that explicitly refers to the right to disconnect.

Between 2016 and 2018, France, Belgium and Spain have all introduced “right to disconnect” legislation.  While it remains to be seen if Ireland follows the lead of other countries and addresses this, some larger organisations are already developing policies that set guidelines and boundaries for their employees.

Retirement Ages & Pensions

The qualifying age for the state pension became a key election issue in February 2020.  As a result of significant political negotiations, the qualifying age for state pension will remain at 66 years for now. While the public sector pension age is now 70, there is still no fixed retirement age in the private sector and many employers continue to face legal challenges as their employees push to work longer.   Employers can establish a mandatory retirement age for employees, but such ages must be capable of being reasonably and objectively justified if they are challenged by employees as being discriminatory on grounds of age.

While a national auto-enrolment occupational pension scheme has been promised for several years, no further progress has been made on this and the pandemic has seen the matter pushed back again.

Family Leave & Flexible Working

Parental Leave increased from 22 week up to 26 weeks with effect from 1 September 2020.  Parental leave entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. Employees can take up to 26 weeks’ parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday. In general, employees must have been working for an employer for at least a year to get the full amount of parental leave and must give at least 6 weeks’ notice before taking parental leave.

 Parent’s Leave

The current 2 weeks’ parent’s leave is set to increase to 5 weeks for each parent with effect from 1st April 2021.  Parents will be able to take this leave during the first 2 years of their child’s life (or 2 years from adoption).

Flexible Working

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the Department of Justice launched a public consultation in January 2020 on flexible working, which aims to help the government address and consider a number of issues relating to flexible working.  While remote working has been a dominant topic during 2020, there is still the broader topic of flexible working to contend with.

The EU Work Life Balance Directive extends the right to request flexible working arrangements to carers and working parents of children up to eight years old. This includes the right to request reduced working hours, flexible working hours and remote working options.  Under the EU Directive, the statutory right to request flexible working will come into effect no later than August 2022.

Illness Benefit & Statutory Sick Pay

Employees who have been told to self-isolate or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may claim COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit.   The benefit can be claimed from the first day of isolation or a COVID-19 diagnosis and will be paid for a maximum of 2 weeks where an employee is required to self-isolate and for up to a maximum of 10 weeks where an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to work as a result. This benefit is planned to be in place up until March 2021.

As part of Budget 2021, it was announced that the number of waiting days for the standard Illness Benefit will be reduced from 6 days to 3 days on new claims (from the end of February 2021).

Ireland is one of only a small number of European countries in which there is no legal obligation on employers to provide for sick pay. The Government has recently launched a consultation process on the provision of a Statutory Sick Pay Scheme with a view to it being introduced in late 2021.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

It had been expected that the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting would come into law during 2020. However, with the focus on other priorities such as COVID-19, progress on the legislation has been slow.  The European Commission announced a five-year strategy in March 2020 that includes legislative proposals on pay transparency.

Binding measures aimed at increasing pay transparency and providing enforcement mechanisms are due to be published by the end of the year. While we do not yet know what form the EU measures will take, the announcement should re-prioritise the Bill here and we would expect to see this back on the agenda during 2021.

Minimum Wage

Since 1 February 2020, the national minimum wage is €10.10 per hour. The Government has approved increasing the national minimum wage by 10 cent per hour, from €10.10 to €10.20 from 1 January 2021.

Liz O’Donovan, Senior HR Consultant

Employer Guide to Managing the COVID-19 Situation

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Voltedge has developed an Employer Guide to Managing the COVID-19 situation to assist SME’s to practically manage this unprecedented situation.  We understand that all businesses, no matter what sector, now find themselves in a challenging and difficult situation with anxious employees and an uncertain economic horizon.

With all of the difficulties being communicated via  social media and other media channels, we have been focusing on developing robust and practical contingency plans to help you put an action plan in place to secure your business and support your employees.

Our Employer Guide includes:

Contingency Plan
A comprehensive template, covering Business Actions, Continuity Measures and Employee Planning Actions. It addresses all the elements you as a business need to focus on.

COVID-19 Virus Employee Policy
This template allows you to customise the policy with relevant contact details and can be circulated to staff to ensure they are aware of what is expected of them and what they can expect from you.

Short time / Lay off and Alternatives
Voltedge can provide full details and advice on the above and the implications of cost control for employers.

Remote Working Policy and Guidelines
More and more people are being asked to work from home and it can be daunting at first if it is not something that employees are used to. Providing them with a policy outlining expectations and some guidelines and tips on best practice will make the transition a more positive experience and provide more productive outputs.

FAQ’s
This answers many of the current questions employers are being asked including information on the latest welfare / sick pay arrangements.

In addition to this pack Voltedge can advise you on setting up a Steering Committee who can then provide the relevant guidance and information to whole organisation in a structured and managed way.

As this is an evolving situation we will continue to keep you informed of any important updates, further business implications and government directives.

If you are interested in our guide and would like to find out more please contact us on 01 5252914 or email ingrid@voltedge.ie