Staff Squared Product Update: July 2018 – Part 2

27th July 2018

PRODUCT

Staff Squared’s Latest Additions

It is a busy time here at Staff Squared HQ and, despite the hot weather, we are working hard to crank out more and more new features. We have just released another update full of new improvements that we hope you will love.

Your New and Improved Dashboard Layout

The new dashboard is easier to read and has a cleaner layout. This is all part of ongoing improvements to the overall design and feel of Staff Squared, which you can expect to see more of as we move through 2018.

In addition, any potentially problematic requests are highlighted in red – making them stand out from standard notifications.

Easier to Navigate Company Settings

We’ve made some improvements to various areas of your company settings to ensure that setting up your account is as simple as possible.

For example, the new Company Settings holidays tab layout allows you to define the rules for your holiday and limits in a much easier to understand format.

New and Improved Working Patterns

Your Working Pattern screens are much simpler to navigate. Creating a new working pattern or adding new staff members is now much more straightforward.

What’s Next?

The next feature we are adding is by far the most in-demand – staff onboarding and offboarding checklists. Shortly after this, you can expect to see huge improvements to the way we help you to store and manage your HR files.

Keep your feedback coming. We are always keen to hear from you. You can contact us at support@staffsquared.com.

 

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

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Staff Squared Product Update – July ’18

17th July 2018

PRODUCT

A few weeks ago, we released a series of exciting new features to your HR software in the wake of the release of a sleek and streamlined new look for Staff Squared. As promised, we are super excited to announce the release of even more new and improved features to your calendar.

Staff Squared’s Latest Additions

Day, Week, Month and Schedule Calendar Views

In addition to the standard ‘month’ view, you can now filter your company calendar by day, week and schedule views.

 

Day

Week

Month

Schedule

The Option to Block Holiday Bookings that Exceed Holiday Allowance

Managing staff holiday requests has been made even simpler as admin users now have the ability to block any holiday bookings that will exceed the employee’s holiday allowance at the point of the request being made.

This option can be located in the ‘Holiday’ section of your company settings. Just turn it on, and staff won’t be able to book any holiday that will take them over their holiday allowance.

Let your Staff Record their own Lateness

The option to allow staff to view and record their own lateness has been added to the ‘Permissions’ section of your company settings, meaning that recording staff lateness does not need to always fall down to line managers or admin users.

Detailed Calendar Audit Trails

The calendar now comes complete with a new detailed audit trail which shows a full history of changes made to each absence booking. This includes information such as the time and date of creation, time and date of approval, any edits that have been made to the individual booking and who this was actioned by. This can be found in a second tab on the pop up for the absence within the calendar.

Staff can Edit Pending Holiday Requests

Before now, staff would need to physically delete a pending holiday request and re-add it in order to make changes to the time or date of the request. An unnecessary process that created more work than needed to be done. Now, staff can simply open a pending holiday request and edit the information without the need to delete it.  Holiday approvers will receive notifications that a pending holiday request has been edited.

Recurring Events

Entering recurring events to your calendar manually is now a thing of the past. You now have the ability to set a new company event to recur in the system automatically by choosing how often you would like it to repeat.

Differentiate Between Full and Half Days

Half days will now display as green text with no coloured background, enabling you to tell the difference between full and half day bookings in order to get the most out of your calendar.

Highlighted Dashboard Notifications

Sometimes, absence requests can prove to be potentially problematic. This might be because a staff member has exceeded their holiday allowance, or you have limits set to determine whether certain staff members can be off at the same time. Prior to our recent changes, you would be notified inside the request of any problems. We have now made this even clearer and easier to manage by highlighting these issues within the notification that appears on your dashboard.

Coming soon!

The calendar is just the first of many features that we plan to overhaul to bring you even better functionality than ever. Our designers, developers and testers are already working on the next update, which will include even more useful functionality surrounding staff onboarding, including:

  • An improved dashboard layout.
  • New and improved ‘add staff’ screens.
  • Even easier to navigate company settings.
  • New and improved ‘create’ and ‘edit’ screens for working patterns.

Keep your feedback coming, we’re always keen to hear from you. You can contact us at support@staffsquared.com.

 

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

How can we help?

Staff Squared Product Update: June ’18 – Part 2

28th June 2018

PRODUCT

Following the introduction of Staff Squared’s refreshed user interface, we felt that it was important that the way we bill you is as super simple and as easy to use as the rest of Staff Squared. So in addition to a couple of small minor updates, we’ve overhauled the billing system to make it even easier to use and incorporated direct debits too.

Scroll to the end of this post if you want to read about even more calendar improvements you can expect in the coming weeks.

 

Staff Squared’s Latest Additions

Set your Bradford Factor to run as a Rolling Year Calculation

Typically, a Bradford Factor Score calculation runs on a rolling historic fifty-two week period from today’s date. Up until now, Staff Squared has worked on the basis of a holiday year and some customers wanted us to run this for the rolling fifty-two weeks.

So, to cater for both needs we have added the option to choose whether the Bradford Factor calculation runs based on the last fifty-two weeks, or aligned with a company’s current holiday year.

Head over to the company settings page for sickness to set the Bradford Factor calculations as you want them for your business.

Pay for Staff Squared annually and receive a 20% discount!

You can now choose to pay for the year ahead, rather than month to month, and receive a 20% discount. You can also pay by Direct Debit – so much easier than cards as Direct Debits never expire!

 

 

Even more GDPR compliant with Staff Squared

The changes to data protection law are always first and foremost in the front of our minds, and for this reason, you now have the choice as to what personal information Managers should have access to for the staff they directly manage.

 

 

Coming soon!

As I type this, our designers, developers and testers are finalising another update to the calendar which includes even more useful functionality, including:

  • Day, week and month views on our calendar
  • The ability to block holiday requests if they are going to exceed a staff member’s holiday allowance.
  • More detailed audit history on absence requests.
  • More streamlined flows for processing holiday requests.

 

Keep your feedback coming, we’re always keen to hear from you. You can contact us at support@staffsquared.com

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

How can we help?

Holiday Accrual and How to Handle Holiday Pay Accruals in your Business

8th June 2018

MANAGING STAFF

There are many HR duties that you need to stay on top of when running a business. One of these duties in particular might include accounting for holiday pay accruals for your employees. Keeping ahead of the game can prove difficult, especially in a fast paced and thriving company, which is why we have compiled a guide on holiday pay entitlement and how accruals work.  

Holiday Pay Accruals Explained

FRS 102, the most recent accounting guidelines, introduced extra demands on finance departments that require firms to consider the amount of outstanding holiday held by their employees at the year-end as a potential accrual.

Businesses issuing a holiday accrual is not considered to be mandatory by law unless the result is material, which means that you will need to make an adjustment at the end of the holiday calendar year if the anticipated shortfall of holiday taken by staff is significant enough.

Materiality is judged based on a number of factors; therefore, it may be necessary to consult an auditor to assess whether holiday accrual is required. For this reason, it is always advised that all relevant information is at hand to decipher if holiday accruals are a requirement for your business, and so it is fundamental to maintain reliable holiday and sickness records throughout the year.

In a bid to reduce the potential difference at the end of the year, many companies send their staff reminders about their holiday entitlement, including how many days they have left to take and when to take them by.

Holiday Accrual

Most workers are legally entitled to a statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks (28 days) paid holiday per year; however, some employers may opt to use a holiday accrual system under the Working Time Regulations in place of an up-front allowance.

Holiday pay entitlement starts to build up from the moment that the employee begins work, and accrues in proportion to their annual entitlement on a monthly basis.

For example, a full-time member of staff who has been employed for six months would have built up 6/12ths (or one half) of their annual entitlement. As the average annual allowance for a typical nine to five job is 28 days, the employee would have accrued 28 X 6/12 = 14 days.

Working out holiday entitlement using an accrual system is particularly useful for companies who regularly onboard temporary staff.

If an employee who has their full annual entitlement available up-front was to use their entire allowance in the first six months but ended their employment before the end of the company’s holiday year, the HR department would be left having to work out how much money is owed back to them – consequently, this would also mean having to make adjustments to the employee’s final pay cheque too. While issuing a holiday accrual system is not mandatory by law, the biggest benefit that it can provide is the knowledge that a staff member will have only ever taken the amount of paid leave that they earned in the period they worked.

At the end of employment, any holiday that an employee has accrued but has not used will be owed to them in the form of monetary payment.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

How can we help?

Staff Squared Product Update: June ’18

7th June 2018

PRODUCT

The last few weeks have been full of excitement here at Staff Squared, with the release of a streamlined look for Staff Squared, a sparkling new marketing site and lots of plans for the future.

We have worked tirelessly over the last year to refine the look and feel of Staff Squared, giving you a sleeker and more refined system to work with.

With that out of the way, we have now turned our attention to improving each area of Staff Squared in order of most to least used sections of the application – so it will be of little surprise to hear that our first range of improvements exist primarily within the calendar since this is the core of Staff Squared.  

We’ve added a range of enhancements, driven by both our new in-house designer and valued customer feedback, which we’re always delighted to receive.

Staff Squared’s Latest Additions

Easier To Read Calendar

A number of customers have commented that it was sometimes difficult to read the calendar, and it was required to scroll down the screen in order to view the entire month. We’ve made a number of small but extremely important changes to the look and feel of the calendar to make it easier to take in.

Coming soon: Day and week views to give you even more ways to view your calendar information.

Click here to see full sized image

You can now add Staff to an Existing Event

Up until now, if you created a company event but wanted to add more people to it, you had to delete and recreate the event from scratch.

You can now simply edit existing calendar events to add and remove people from them.

 

Subscribe to Holiday Approval Notifications

Sometimes, certain members of staff find it useful to receive notifications about the outcome of holiday requests even if they’re not holiday approvers.

To cater for this we’ve added an option to the Settings tab of staff profiles called ‘Send me copies of all holiday and sick leave responses’. Turning this on sends copies of all holiday request responses to the staff member.

 

Move Effortlessly Between Staff Profiles

A customer approached us with the idea that there should be “next” and “previous” buttons on the employee ‘Files’ page. They specifically wanted to be able to select the Files tab, and then move between profiles one at a time uploading files for each staff member.

We’ve added “next” and “previous” buttons to cater for this, and carried it through the entire staff profile. Staff Squared also remembers what tab you’re on so you don’t have to reselect it each time.

 

View Sickness Comments on the ‘Sick’ Tab of Staff Profiles

You can now see comments on an employee’s ‘Sick’ tab on their profile; whereas before, you were only able to see the reason for their sickness in this section of the account and needed to find the absence within a report or the company calendar to view any comments.

 

Only Administrators can now see Ex-Staff Records

Since only administrators can terminate staff, we’ve updated Staff Squared so that only administrators are able to see terminated staff.

Staff and Managers will not be able to see ‘Ex-Staff’

 

Require that newly Hired Staff Read Files as Part of Their Onboarding

It has always been possible to require that files are read by existing employees.

Any new staff added to your account are now also asked to read any files that are marked as “required reading”.

 

Coming soon!

As I type this, the designers, developers and testers are finalising another update to the calendar which includes even more useful functionality, including:

  • Day, week and month views.
  • The ability to block holiday requests if they are going to exceed a staff member’s holiday allowance.
  • More detailed audit history on absence requests.
  • More streamlined flows for processing holiday requests.

Keep your feedback coming, we’re always keen to hear from you. You can contact us on customercareteam@staffsquared.com.

 

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

How can we help?

Top 10 Employee Benefits to Keep Staff Happy and Engaged

5th June 2018

MANAGING STAFF

Historically, the implementation of employee benefits has been primarily regarded as a retention tool for employers. However, the ideal behind these incentives has progressed considerably throughout the years, and employers have begun to embrace a more individualistic approach to how they reward their staff. Such perks are no longer thought of as just a tool used to retain staff, but also to attract and reward them.

What are Employee Benefits?

Employee benefits are non-cash provisions that are of financial value and cost to the company, which are offered in addition to an employee’s normal wage or salary.
There is an extremely vast variety of employee benefits for employers to choose from, which allows companies to draw up a benefits package that best suits their corporate needs, including:

  • Company Car
  • Education Funding
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Discount Schemes
  • Gym/Fitness Privileges
  • Commuter Assistance
  • Dress Down Days
  • Sick Pay
  • Health Care Insurance
  • Pension Schemes
  • Childcare
  • Pension Plans
  • Student Loan Reimbursements
  • Mental Health Days
  • Optical/Dental Care
  • Sabbatical Leave
  • Casual Dress
  • Flexible Working

While they are offered by employers worldwide, the take on employee benefits can differ from country to country.

In the United Kingdom, benefits are divided into three separate categories:

  • Core Benefits: These are benefits that are made available to all staff; including holiday entitlement (legal entitlement is 5.6 weeks per annum for a full-time worker), pensions (required by law) and life insurance.
  • Flexible Benefits: Also known as ‘Flex Schemes’, flexible benefits offer employees a budget to spend on the benefits that they want to take advantage of. This is done through payroll, and the benefits are dependent on what the company decides to offer.
  • Voluntary Benefits: These are products and services that are not funded by the employer but can be purchased through payroll by the employee through an ‘opt-in’ scheme. They are usually government backed and can include childcare vouchers, cycle to work programmes or pension contributions.

Whereas, in the United States, employee benefits are not categorised. Federal law does not require employers to provide their staff with paid time off (PTO – holiday and sick leave) or retirement plans; although, a clear majority of companies do offer these as part of their staff benefits package at a generous rate.

Why Providing Benefits to Employees works to the Employer’s Advantage

Think about a time when you have had to replace an employee who has handed you their resignation. Maybe they haven’t given you any notice at all. How much time and money has it cost you and your company? According to ACAS,  it costs £30,000 to replace a single member of staff on average.
A high staff turnover will cost a company a lot of money that is unaffordable to lose. Reasons that staff turnover might be higher than desired could be down to a many number of things. Here are just a few examples:

  • No growth opportunities.
  • Feeling undervalued.
  • Workload imbalance.
  • Insufficient training.
  • Poor management or leadership.

This is where offering staff an appropriate benefits package and rewarding employees becomes invaluable. Not only are employers helping them to save money or plan for the future and unexpected events; but they are made to feel valued, which ultimately lends itself to building the strong foundations of loyal and hardworking employees, decreasing staff turnover considerably.
The advantages of providing employee benefits does not stop at simply retaining staff. Quality candidates will be attracted to a company by the right incentives, and whether that be a large, multinational organisation or a small start-up that is just beginning to grow, the people a company employs are absolutely vital!

Top 10 Employee Benefits

The list of available employee benefit options is extensive, but we decided to narrow our final selection down to just ten.
As employee benefits directly affect staff, we decided to put a list of benefits to the test via a poll within a small business. The results are as follows:

10. Childcare

With 79.8% of parents in the UK in full-time employment, many working parents face the dilemma of how best to manage the cost of care for their children.
1 in 5 families feel that they have an insufficient balance between time and money, with more than one third admitting that they don’t have enough of it. 41% of parents have even suggested that they are worried about discussing family/work related issues with their employers, and have lied or bent the truth to bosses about family and work life conflictions.
An employee’s life outside of the office will, no doubt, greatly impact their performance at work. In some cases, these issues may also influence the career decisions a person makes. This is what makes aiding childcare costs a valuable tool to carry in your employer’s arsenal. By having some outside stressors of family life alleviated, staff are given the opportunity to come into work with a clear and focused head on their shoulders.

9. Private Pension Scheme

Fundamentally, a pension is a pot of cash that you, your employer and sometimes the Government pays into as a way of saving for your retirement.

Workplace pensions are a core benefit for employees as all employers are now required by law to offer you a pension scheme and contribute towards it. However, this is an auto-enrolment process which employees can choose to ‘opt-out’ of.

If you intend for your company to thrive, you need to attract and retain able, experienced and hardworking staff. But in today’s tough economy, this is not always easy.

We have established that employee benefits are useful by way of boosting staff morale; but the most effective way of making employees feel valued is to actively invest in their future. Providing a solid pension scheme to staff is possibly the best way of going about this as it allows them to put their minds at ease, and shows them that you are dedicated to them – leaving them dedicated to you.

8. Annual Bonuses

There can be a lot of controversy surrounding bonuses, particularly where fairness is concerned. On the one hand, hardworking employees are rewarded, while on the other hand, lower performing staff members are reaping the benefits without putting in the same amount of leg work. It is for this reason that bonuses need to be structured effectively, to ensure that the distribution stays fair. Bonuses can be structured via:

  • Percentage of salary
  • A flat rate payment (i.e. a full month’s salary)
  • Percentage of new sales
  • Percentage of company profit

Having said this, if done right, end of year bonuses are another great way of holding onto staff as it makes them feel valued and appreciated. Furthermore, it is a good way to thank and reward employees for the hard work they have contributed throughout the year. It is a gesture that will demonstrate to employees how you recognise and applaud their efforts. Offering annual bonuses doesn’t just lift the spirits of employees, but gives them a reason to stay.

7. Stocked Kitchen

Keeping your staff kitchen well-stocked with tea, coffee and healthy snacks might seem fairly inconsequential, but it is a very effective way to motivate staff. Supplying free food and drink to staff is a relatively low-cost to employers which has a big impact on morale, offering a more ‘home-away-from-home’ kind of feel.

Aside from the effect this benefit has on the way employees feel at work, by providing free healthy snacks to your workforce, you are actively encouraging an increase in focus, energy and productivity. Equally, by encouraging employees to eat more healthily, the chances are that they will become healthier, meaning that you may even see a decrease in the amount of sick days being taken.

A stocked kitchen can also seem attractive to potential candidates looking to join the team!

6. Christmas Closure

Unless your company has a specific reason for not being able to close over the festive period, you will find that there are a fair few advantages to shutting up shop for a week, including improving your relationship with staff. First and foremost, it acts as a great tool for employee engagement and also works well as a recruitment tool.

You will save money as a lot of offices will close over the Christmas period; therefore, your employees will not have a significant workload to share between them, and you will still have to pay them a full wage away from their holiday entitlement. If you allow staff to take holiday over this period, you will save on not only the wages you would be ordinarily paying, but you will also be saving on overheads as you will not be paying to light and heat your offices, or to power your electronic equipment.

You will notice that productivity will increase, as if staff are required to work over a holiday period when they would much rather be at home enjoying the festivities with their loved ones, the chances are that they will not be as focused or motivated as usual. By allowing staff to have this time off, you will more than likely gain gratitude from your employees and in return, receive more efficiency.

5. Performance Bonuses

As with annual bonuses , there is a fine line between what is fair and what is not; however, performance bonuses certainly have their uses when managed strategically. They act as compensation for work performed to a level that is above and beyond the expected duties of an employee.

Bonuses are particularly useful tools for start-up companies as they are usually only paid out if the business makes a considerable profit, and are consequently often used as an incentive to increase the productivity of an individual or team.

Having the knowledge that working hard and showing initiative will not only be recognised and appreciated, but appropriately rewarded too, will ultimately motivate employees to strive to be their best selves at work. Where performance bonuses are adopted as part of an employee benefit package, it is imperative to follow predetermined criteria. SMART guidelines are very helpful to follow when agreeing on such objectives.

4. Flexible Working

Flexible working is designed to allow staff the option of altering their work day around outside responsibilities, whether that be by amending the hours that they are present in the office, or arranging a fixed pattern of working from home on certain days.
By UK law, all employees are entitled to requesting flexible working, and these requests are left to the discretion of the employer. Some employers decide to actively offer flexible working to all employees, with the intention of promoting a happier, loyal and more productive workforce. Flexible working is an inevitable perk that could attract talented job-seekers to apply for vacancies, and could also help to prevent an increased turnover. Offering flexible working holds the potential to save companies money by reducing lateness and absenteeism.
Modern technology makes remote working far more achievable now than ever before, meaning that work can still be completed while employees are unable to physically make it into the office. This makes flexible working another benefit that is advantageous to working parents, as it gives them more freedom when arranging childcare .

3. Casual Dress

As an employer, you want to think that your staff feel comfortable and relaxed in their workplace, which is where offering a casual dress code is a definite advantage, so long as there are clear guidelines as to what clothing is and isn’t acceptable. This should be down to the employer’s discretion.
41% of staff asked about their preference of employee benefits said that being allowed to wear casual clothes to work makes them feel cheerful and that they have the ability to express their individuality while still conforming to set guidelines. By allowing staff to feel comfortable at work, morale can be boosted, which in turn will aid productivity and creativity.

2. Health Care Insurance

According to UK Healthcare, 6.3 days were taken off due to sickness or injury per employee on average in 2016. With healthcare insurance covering the cost of an individual’s private medical and surgical expenses, as well as providing shorter waiting times, better facilities and faster diagnosis, it is no surprise that healthcare insurance comes in at a close second next to sick pay. Over 50% of staff expressed that employers providing healthcare insurance in their benefits package is of high importance to them.
The advantage of offering this benefit to staff is simply that it works to keep staff healthy and feeling valued, which in turn keeps them focused and hardworking. Also, knowing that their healthcare is covered by the employer is likely to keep staff wanting to remain in employment with their company.

1. Sick Pay

Seemingly, and somewhat unsurprisingly, the most valued employee benefit is paid sick leave, with 75% of employees polled choosing sick pay as their preferred benefit.
By law, the Government requires all employers to provide Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to their staff. Providing that you qualify, you will receive £89.35 per week for up to 28 weeks of sickness; although, the premise of SSP will differ if you are self-employed.
SSP details the minimum amount that an employer must pay to their staff, but some companies may decide to provide more than this basic requirement. Occupational Sick Pay (OSP) is the contractual sick pay agreed on by the company and is often far more generous than SSP. Examples of this include SSP plus a contractual top up or even full salary.
Sick leave is necessary to ensure that the overall running of a business is efficient for the following reasons:

  • Employees recover faster at home, where they are able to rest up and care for themselves properly.
  • Those without paid sick leave may be more likely to work through their illness, leaving them open to becoming more sick and, as a result, taking more time off work to recover in the long run.
  • Staff may not work to their potential and could make mistakes if they are not feeling 100%.
  • By being present at work while sick, staff run the risk of spreading their germs, which could result in more staff taking time off work (especially where food handling is required – customers then become at risk too!).

To Summarise

That concludes the rundown of our ‘Top 10 Employee Benefits’, with each one holding its own unique advantage; although, there is one universal selling point to providing these ‘perks’. Loyalty. If you treat your staff in a way that makes them feel valued, they will undoubtedly pay you back ten-fold with hard work, contribution and a low staff turnover.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

How can we help?

Managing Absence – How Flexible Should SMEs Be?

30th May 2018

MANAGING STAFF

Whether you’re working in HR or not, you’ve probably come across any number of daft or outlandish reasons colleagues have used in order to get a sneaky day off work. A recent article on the subject highlighted excuses as varied as “I’m too fat for my uniform” to the implausible sounding “I forgot to come back to work after lunch” to the downright weird such as “My car is surrounded by wild animals”. To be fair the chances of your vehicle being inaccessible due to marauding wildlife happening here in the UK are minimal and you’d be advised not to use this excuse if you’re thinking of pulling a sickie any time soon!

But joking aside, absenteeism is costing the UK economy around £15 billion annually – and small and medium enterprises are often the hardest hit. The problem is compounded by many SMEs being caught between a flexible small business approach to work and the need to implement policies and procedures for managing absence as the company grows.

For example, a firm with 100 employees who each take an average of six non-holiday days per year could save in excess of £23,000 simply by decreasing absenteeism to 4.7 days per person per annum. So how does a busy firm go about managing SME absence, especially when a lack of big business resources make investing the time to implement new policies seem overwhelming?

Being flexible is key – and is something that most SME can afford to be, especially when rising costs and a lack of productivity and engagement are concerns. It’s important to decide how flexible you want to be in regards to tackling absenteeism though. Ways of managing absence should be fairly easy to implement, especially if you’re at the lower end of the scale, staff-wise and embracing flexible working could be the answer to cutting the cost of absenteeism.

This may well include changing the mindset of older or more traditional managers or owners by making them aware of the benefits to the business that managing absence through a more flexible approach will entail. For example, the business should be willing to engage in different ways of organising tasks and using new technology so that remote work is possible. This is something particularly useful in helping with managing SME absence in firms where there is a high ratio of parents who might otherwise need to take time off to care for poorly children.

When considering a flexible approach, it is also crucial that you take the number of employees into account: if you have, say, 20 employees, it should be fairly easy to allow for more informal arrangements that are based on trust. However, if you employ a greater number of staff you will probably want to implement a more structured policy. For larger SMEs flexibility will likely need to be tempered by some formality such as HR-led systems for managing absence and tracking days off while businesses of all sizes will definitely benefit from improved communication between managers and staff when it comes to time off.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

How can we help?

How to Make your Office Space Look Fun, Yet Professional

25th May 2018

SMALL BUSINESS

It is thought that the average working person will spend ninety thousand hours – a staggering one third of their life – at work over a lifetime. According to the Office for National Statistics, 75.3% of people aged sixteen to sixty-four in the United Kingdom were in employment as of January 2018, meaning that for most people, the workplace becomes a home away from home.

 

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life.

 

Maintaining a professional and presentable workspace is, of course, imperative to the image of any self-respecting business as it benefits the company’s reputation and, in turn, success. Whether it be a potential new client or a new starter, the impression a person walking into your office for the first time has of the environment surrounding them will greatly influence their overall response to your business as a whole.

 

The image you present for your business influences more than just its success. An astounding twelve and a half million days were lost in 2016/17 to work related stress, depression or anxiety alone; and while a large amount of these cases were caused by aspects such as workload or lack of support, an overwhelming 21% of instances are induced by other attributes including low morale or engagement and a poor working environment. This goes to show just how much influence the standard of a company’s working environment can have on its staff and their overall performance.  

(http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/stress.pdf)

 

Providing a Fun Environment

So, we’ve established that while an office should keep to a certain level of professionalism, the look and feel of a work space should give staff – or any visitors likely to step foot into the workplace – a sense of ease and comfort. This is fundamental to invoking the desired attitude needed to make sure a business thrives for a number of reasons:

  • It nurtures employees’ emotional wellness.
  • It constitutes for a higher level of productivity and employee engagement.
  • It boosts morale amongst staff.
  • It works towards a high level of staff retention – happy employees stay.
  • Working in a ‘fun’ environment will make staff feel more at home, which in turn will encourage improved communication and collaboration.
  • Fun breeds creativity!

Since our work is shaped so greatly by our surroundings, here are some great ideas for making your work space look fun, while keeping it professional.

Create a theme

Go with a theme that captures the personality of your company and employees. For example, a law firm might decorate their office with a minimalistic style, incorporating inspirational quote wall transfers and maybe even a plaque depicting the Lawyer’s Prayer, while a sports reporter might be more likely to display sports memorabilia, team colours and historic sporting event articles. Remember to keep it subtle and not to go overboard with tacky decor. Keep it tasteful and appropriate. The last thing you want is to include random items of decor that do not fit in with your overall theme.

Encourage personal items

Of course, employees should be expected to exercise reasonable care to safeguard their privacy and the image of their company, and there are certain items that just wouldn’t be appropriate to display at work. But allowing staff the opportunity to decorate their desks with personal belongings, such as family photos, children’s drawings or that favourite teddy will give your office a more homely vibe, making everyone feel more comfortable and happy. Displaying personal effects at work can help to take a small step back from an environment that feels too corporate.

Wall decor

Motivational quotes and colourful canvases are always a brilliant go-to if you are looking for ideas to decorate your wall space with. Alternatively, modern and stylish shelving units are also a great way to add zest to your office space, while remaining uncluttered and professional. Shelves offer a way to display decorative items and store files without leaving the office looking messy and unorganised.  

Keep it colourful

Whether it be full focal point walls covered in a bold shade of your choice, or hints of colour in furniture and decor dotted around the office, traces of colour will add vibrancy and energy to an otherwise bland and boring office space – and who knows, maybe the visual stimulant will even eradicate the need of so much coffee!

Keep it simple

Personal items and colourful decor will definitely help to make your office look and feel more fun, but don’t forget that the goal is to keep it professional too. Make sure any decorating done is kept simple and smart. There is nothing more unprofessional looking than a cluttered and overbearing office.

Create a cool break area

Your staff room should be an incredibly important part of the office. Staff need a place to go during their breaks that is away from their usual working environment, where they are able to relax and have a bit of fun to break up their day. The possibilities to creating a cool and relaxing staff area for your employees are endless really, but a few include:

  • Provide space to sit down and be comfortable, where staff can enjoy their lunch, coffee or a chin wag with colleagues – offer a choice of sofas and a table and chairs.
  • Offer some activities for staff. Breaks can be anything from a short 15 minutes, to an hour lunch period, and providing books, games or other activities for staff to participate in offers a great way for them to unwind during their down time, while giving them the opportunity to either sit quietly by themselves or interact with their colleagues.
  • Personalise the space by decorating your break area in a way that remains consistent with the rest of your office, but is still fun and feels accommodating. Consider things like cheerful colours and wall art.
  • Most importantly – listen to your team! Your staff are the ones who will be using the space most frequently, so let them have a say as to what the staff area actually looks like!
  • No break room is complete without a coffee machine! Create a workplace that your staff really love by adding a kettle and fridge or cupboard filled with snacks that will give your employees an extra energy boost throughout the day!

Be at one with nature

Interior plants offer a beautiful addition to an office while also benefiting the overall well-being of your staff, offering a visually meditative experience that ultimately leads to happier, healthier and more productive employees. Aside from that, plants offer many other benefits, including a reduction in stress levels and cleaner air.

Stock up a bookshelf

Have you ever visited the library to get some work done? Perhaps during your studying years? There is always a more focused atmosphere which usually provides the inspiration needed for the task at hand. Non-work-related books have the ability to make your work space look less corporate, while still bringing a professional feel about the place. Displaying an array of materials, from War and Peace to Harry Potter is also likely to keep you inspired by a wide range of influences and encourage that flare of creativity you would like to see from your employees.

Office dog

Okay, okay. So this last one might just be wishful thinking on my part, but many offices have taken the step to allow a dog onto their premises, meaning that staff can take it in turns to bring their fur baby into work (assuming that the dog is well behaved and all staff are comfortable with the arrangement). It has been proven that the presence of an animal can reduce stress and increase morale within a team. Plus – who doesn’t love puppy cuddles? If you do consider bringing in a puppy policy though, it is important that the environment is safe and happy for the dog to be in – a little paws for thought would certainly go a long way here.

Getting the Right Balance

Further than just looking the part, it is important to also play the part. While some of these suggestions might feel as though they encroach too closely to or over the professional boundaries you expect your employees to work within, maintaining a good balance between professionalism from your staff and a cool office design and environment can be very straight forward to achieve as long as you know how.

Set a good example – First and foremost, you need to set the tone for your employees. They are only going to be as professional as the example you set for them. This does not just cover the standard of your personal work and time keeping, but also includes the topics of conversation you chose to have with and around your employees. Steer clear of talk of anything too personal. During work hours, you are their boss – not their friend.

Enforce a dress code – Regardless of whether or not a casual dress code is part of your efforts to create a more fun and relaxed feel in your office, guidelines are still a necessity to ensure that your staff know what is expected of them when it comes to work wear. While this will clear up any uncertainty of what is and is not acceptable to wear to work in terms of presentation, it also covers you where health and safety is concerned. For example, if your staff are likely to be doing heavy lifting or manual handling, it would not be advisable to allow them to wear sandals on their feet in case of an accident or injury.

Separate the break area from the workspace – Taking a small break from work is a must if you expect to maintain productivity and motivation throughout the day, however, this should not be at the expense of other staff members who are still trying to work.

Set goals – Having goals gives you something to work towards each day, and setting objectives ahead of time will give your staff something to constantly strive for. Rather than waiting around for a new task to be delegated to them, they are able to manage their own workload, which demonstrates to your workforce that you trust them to stay on top of their own responsibilities. Let’s face it – who doesn’t want to work harder when they feel that their employer shows confidence in their abilities?

Have a positive and professional attitude – At the end of the day, you are the one who can set the appropriate tone in your office. Show your employees how to stay positive and professional at work and still have fun – they will be sure to follow suit!

Remember that it only takes one person to make a difference. Tell your staff when they are doing a great job – but equally, don’t be afraid to sit them down for a chat if things aren’t quite on track.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

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What is Shared Parental Leave?

25th May 2018

MANAGING STAFF

Introducing a child to your family should be one of the most important and happiest events of your life. What makes the experience of becoming a parent more incredible is the process of establishing a strong, unique and blissful bond with your child, and the most meaningful way of creating this relationship is with time.

Traditionally, while most working men are entitled to a two-week duration of paid paternity leave, the option to take a substantial amount of paid time off of work to care for a newborn has only been offered to mothers. Maternity leave currently stands at up to fifty-two weeks, with the first six weeks paid at 90% of the average weekly earnings, and the remaining thirty three being paid at £140.98 per week or 90% of the average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). The first two weeks of maternity leave are compulsory (https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/pay).

The Shared Parental Leave (SPL) guidance is now in effect as an arrangement to enable mothers and fathers alike to spend priceless time with a new baby or adopted child in the first year of their life as part of a family, either taking leave separately, or else simultaneously, giving them the opportunity to really bond as a family unit. Parents are now given the option of sharing up to fifty weeks of leave including up to thirty-seven weeks of pay. This can be taken in three block absences, and is on top of paternity leave and the mandatory first two weeks of maternity leave; however, the two allowances (maternity/paternity leave and SPL) cannot be constituted in alignment with one another. Any time taken as maternity leave (apart from the first two weeks from birth or date of adoption) will be deducted from SPL. For example: The mother begins her maternity leave 4 weeks prior to having her baby but proceeds to exchange maternity allowance for SPL. The total amount of weeks she and the other parent or named partner will be entitled to would be 46 weeks.

Note: Shared Parental Leave does not replace maternity and paternity allowance. These are still available to parents who do not wish to take SPL.

While the obvious advantage to SPL would seem to be that fathers are given an equal opportunity to spend irreplaceable time at home with their children and for mothers to be able to continue with their career progression even after having a child, these circumstances of change are also profitable to all parents who are in work. This includes those who are adopting, same-sex couples, cohabiting couples and even those who are bringing up a child together, undeterred by them coming from a previous relationship.

Companies, especially smaller businesses, will find that will find that the implementation of Shared Parental Leave is especially beneficial to them in some cases. Rather than having to make arrangements of cover for an employee going away for anywhere up to a year on maternity leave, an employer will have the opportunity to work with the staff member requesting SPL to come to an agreement that works in the favour of both parties.

Who are Eligible for Shared Parental Leave?

Here is where the guidelines of Shared Parental Leave start to become a little complicated.

Before assessment of whether a person is eligible for SPL, they must first prove that they qualify. Mothers or adopters have to be entitled to maternity or adoption leave and name a partner who they will share main responsibility of the child with. If they qualify, to be considered for SPL, eligibility will be decided based on a continuity of employment test. Once this has been passed, the other parent or named partner must then pass the employment and earnings test.

Continuity of Employment Test

By the end of the fifteenth week before the due date or the week in which an adoptive parent is notified of a match for adoption, the person must have worked for the same employer for a minimum of twenty-six weeks. They must still be employed in the first week of SPL that is taken.

Employment and Earnings Test

During the sixty-six weeks leading up to the due date or week in which an adoptive parent is notified of a match for adoption, they must have worked a minimum of twenty-six weeks and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 per week in thirteen of those sixty-six weeks.

How Much Notice Should be Given to Employers?

Employers must be notified at a minimum of eight weeks before a person wishes to take Shared Parental Leave.

Having the discussion about a person’s intention to take SPL with an employer should really take place as soon as possible. This gives both the employer and employees the opportunity to come to an agreement of leave which will work best for all concerned. As parents have the option to take SPL in three blocks, it is beneficial to establish what pattern of leave the employer deems acceptable. By having this conversation early on, the employee can make sure that they are fully aware of their statutory rights and of any other provisions on offer from their employer.

Further Information

If you require any further information or guidance in relation to Shared Parental Leave or wish to review or download a Shared Parental Leave Form, visit the ACAS website at http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4911.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

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Shared Parental Leave – Is it Working for SMEs?

16th May 2018

MANAGING STAFFOPERATIONS

Shared parental leave has been an option in the UK since April 2015. But, it seems to have gone under the radar, with the latest statistics from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing that only 2% of eligible couples have taken advantage of this government scheme. It sounds like a great idea, both parents can spend quality time with their newborn, so why is it being overlooked?

Shared Parental Leave and Gender Roles

Traditionally it has always been the mother that takes maternity leave she is the one to carry the baby, gives birth and the one to take time out from work. It has been this way for a long time, and sometimes traditions are hard to break. Are men still seen as the breadwinner or does it make financial sense to stick with ‘maternity leave’? Traditional values could be playing a part in this, but for such a low take-up it seems that wider factors may be at play.

Financial Factors

Shared parental leave may look like a great option, but financially it favours the mother.  More often than not they are entitled to an enhanced maternity pay, and in a majority of cases the father is not which means they receive the statutory government pay of £140.98 per week (this is all based on individual company policies).
When couples look at their options, many are finding that it just isn’t financially viable for both parties to take time on statutory maternity leave, especially when the gender pay gap analysis has found that men will typically earn more than their spouse. So while on paper man might not appear to be taking time with the family over these first months, the reality might be that taking this time as paid holiday makes better financial sense at a time where money is at a premium.

The Changing Workplace

The idea of taking time out of work for most people is a scary thought, so much can change in such a small amount of time especially in SMEs. Businesses grow, people develop and being left behind due to parental leave can be an intimidating idea. SMEs could certainly feel the effect of shared parental leave, they have smaller teams with prominent job roles, and individuals they rely upon daily.

However, shared parental leave can also give both parents the chance to spend time with their newborn, without one half of them having to take a prolonged period away from work. This could mean workers feel less out of touch with their roles when they return, allowing them to feel confident and keep developing with the company.

‘Share the joy’ is a new campaign from the Government to encourage parents that shared parental leave is the perfect chance for both new parents to enjoy their baby.  Something is stopping new parents, it may be down to tradition, finance, work worries or even confusion of eligibility. With that in mind, does more need to be done and is shared parental leave another way of creating a perfect work/life balance which could ultimately lead to a happier workplace.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Customer Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

How can we help?

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