6 tips to make your business spick and span.

Don’t worry there’s no dusting involved!

We are now over one year into the pandemic and, although restrictions are lifting, it is still a precarious and distressing time for many motor trade businesses. Unfortunately, with livelihoods themselves on the line, it is easy to overlook some of the key business basics. The pandemic and current shortages of experienced staff have been a challenge for the motor trade sector. Allison Lewis, an insurance specialist and head of employment law at DAS, has highlighted 6 areas that businesses of any size should review.

 

1. Contracts

Do your employment contracts contain the terms that are legally required? Do those terms provide adequate protection for the business? Do the contracts actually align to the jobs in practice? And are the contracts fair to your employees? Employers should carry out an annual audit of their contracts of employment across the whole workforce. This may sound tedious and time-consuming, but it’s at the top of the list for a reason.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there is undoubtedly more of a need to brush up on contractual documents. Were you one of the businesses that were caught out when considering furlough because your contracts don’t allow you to vary terms with employees? Would you have benefitted from a ‘lay off clause’ in your contracts? Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it is reactive. Review those contracts sooner rather than later and remember that they need to be issued at the commencement of employment now as opposed to within two months of your new starters joining.

 

2. Staff Status

With apologies for all the inverted commas, are you confident that ‘self-employed’ staff are not actually ‘workers’ or even ‘employees’? It’s important to ensure that you have accurately assessed the status of everyone engaged by the business as getting this wrong could prove costly.

Some businesses have been affected by the lack of clarity around the status of their workforce during the pandemic. For instance if a self-employed person is actually a worker, this would allow them to be eligible for furlough. It is now even more important to review status of your staff at this time given the changes in connection with IR35 have now been made.

 

3. Handbooks

Are your staff handbooks up to date? In particular, did you pay attention to the changes in employment law that have taken place in the last 12 months?

Your handbooks will need updating since the outbreak of Covid-19 to ensure that your health and safety policies reflect the requirements around social distancing, what should happen in the event of a lockdown, what your decisions in relation to pay for those affected by Covid-19 are to be, and guidance for those that are living with individuals that are ‘vulnerable’. You will need to check your policies around IT, confidentiality, use of company devices and working from home policies in general if you have staff working from home. In addition, consider your policy with regards to your staff using public transport to get to work and travel between business sites and premises. Do you need to implement a policy on this? If you are moving to a ’work from anywhere’ position, it is vitally important to have a policy to reflect the rules around this.

Having a decent, up to date handbook has many benefits; it will provide clarity for staff, give them reassurance that you as an employer have considered their needs, and it will ultimately provide protection and structure for the business. It’s also important to ensure your management team know the policies of the business and have had training on them, enabling them to provide both leadership and consistency.

 

4. Pay-Gap

Since April 2018, businesses with more than 250 employees have been required to publish data comparing the earnings of their male and female employees. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the gender pay gap from 2018 to 2019 stands at 8.9% among full-time employees. Regardless of the size of your business, it is imperative that you continue to monitor the gender pay gap and ensure that you are implementing a transparent and fair pay structure regardless of gender. How are you getting on with yours? Is your gender pay-gap closing? If not, what steps can be taken to improve this?

 

5. HR Admin

Are you on top of your admin? For example, have you organised probationary reviews for your new starters? It’s particularly important to remember that if you treat those on probation differently to existing staff (i.e. they are not be entitled to bonus, other benefits, have a shorter notice period, may not be able to work from home etc) then they may actually become eligible for these benefits if you have not formally extended the probationary period and communicated this properly – even if they are not performing to a required standard.

 

6. Holiday and Wellbeing

Finally, what measures have you got in place to ensure that your people take their all of holiday this year? We frequently talk to businesses who are struggling with the operational challenge of ensuring that staff take their holiday entitlement by the year end and this will only be made more difficult given the impact of Covid-19. Not taking holiday can lead to a whole list of issues such as burn out, illness, stress, and damage to morale (not to mention the fact that it is contrary to the working time regulations). Rolling over holiday to the next year is an acceptable practice and is now permitted where staff cannot take leave due to issues associated with Covid-19 for a period of two years but it’s certainly not best practice, and should be avoided where possible. Carryover also provides a headache for you as an employer and also means your employees are not rested.

This is a tricky topic for employers at the moment. We are hearing of difficult conversations taking place with employers compelling employees to take leave whilst on furlough or during lockdown. This is legal so long as the right amount of notice is given in accordance with the Working Time Regulations 1998. Employees would prefer not to take holiday because they cannot travel as they may have done if they had the chance. Despite this, employees should be encouraged to take rest for their wellbeing and if working from home, this is really important to ensure they are getting that separation from home and work.

As an employer, it is more important than ever now to encourage engagement and interaction between staff members so as to ensure that you are caring for their wellbeing. Daily video meetings for just ten minutes or so can make the world of difference. However, we are also hearing of screen burnout – days being filled with back to back video calls.

Employers could set up groups to support their staff whilst they are separated and working from home. Book club, group online exercise classes, quizzes and video calls over lunch as well as a daily steps challenge are just a few suggestions. Another idea would be to hold walk and talk meetings – using the time to get out in the fresh air whilst having a conversation can make the world of difference. Initiatives like this really do make a difference when trying to stay connected.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

 

About SEIB

We’ve been arranging Motor Trade insurance for over 20 years. As a business, we have helped motor traders of all sizes source the insurance they need. If you’d like to request a quote, please call us on 01708 850 011 or email motortrade@seib.co.uk.