Hospitality: where did all my workers go – and what can I do about it?

What a rough old time it’s been for hospitality in the UK. Unarguably, the sector that’s been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions making it either impossible or extremely difficult to trade at times. And while it appears we’re currently out of the woods, hospitality managers would say we’re a far cry from where we were before March 2020 when the bells rang and the doors closed to commence lockdown v1.

Since then, many pubs and restaurants have failed in full to recover while others are all but ‘surviving’, dipping in and out of lockdowns and opening any time they’re permitted just to keep the lights on. It’s been far from plain sailing for some and a complete catastrophe for others.

And then, just when we start to think we’re on the better side of things again, with restrictions lifting this year and almost a feeling of ‘normal’ returning, the sector faces its latest crisis. A shortage of staff.

What is happening to hospitality?

One thing the pandemic has done for many people across all walks of life is causing them to rethink. It’s by no means limited to hospitality, with other sectors also reporting a shortage in people currently applying for roles. However, it seems hospitality is again the one being smashed sideways with masses of jobs available and yet no one queueing up to fill them.

People who have exited hospitality during the pandemic and taken on a new role might well feel nervous about switching back to their old one for fear of another lockdown.  It is an understandable worry – one nobody can bring reassurance – and it will no doubt continue to cause caution among many.

So, what’s going on?

Repositioning the sector

The trouble with hospitality is its image. At least, that’s what many experts in the sector are now claiming, with people heading into hospitality roles doing so with a temporary fix in mind rather than a long-term career.

It’s a fair point when many roles are snapped up by students or young people on a part-time basis. Even the die-hards who work several shifts per week often see their job as ‘a means to an end’ as opposed to a permanent one.

It’s a situation some in the industry are ready to tackle head-on. Mark McCulloch, CEO of Hospitality Marketing Agency, Supersonic, and David MacDowall, COO of Brewdog, have launched a campaign to attract people back into hospitality roles and quickly. By targeting young people looking for their first job, and others already working who have transferable skills or are looking to retrain, they hope to bridge the people gap and help pubs and restaurants support the demands of their customers.

Making the sector hospitable

It’s no secret the sector has had a bad wrap over the years. The hours can be anything but hospitable – not to mention the pay rates – and it seems claims are circulating once again about the poor working conditions.

It’s fair enough when some are being asked to work back to back double-shifts, as recent murmurs in the press have suggested. No wonder workers feel exhausted and robbed of their social lives (and all this while they’re typically so young). Others commenting have highlighted a ‘stay out all night’ mentality where they feel pressure to hang around and socialize with workmates after their shift ends, often well into the night.

It’s all about the work/life balance these days, a point that many restaurants and bars find a challenge due to their operating hours and the impact this has on their staff. Finding a midpoint here could be crucial in tempting people back behind the bar again, limiting the hours spent working each week so they remain manageable and sharing the twilight shifts fairly across the team.


The introduction of the furlough scheme back in March 2020 brought some welcome financial support for the hospitality sector.  As it now tries to reopen its doors and managers ask employees to return to work, many staff are requesting to remain on furlough. One reason is that staff are worried about being forced into isolating when team members or customers test positive, potentially impacting themselves and their family members.  In addition, some staff are nervous about the chance of the hospitality sector closing again and feel reluctant to move away from a role taken while on furlough.

While it is up to the employer to decide when an employee should return, pressure from their staff to remain on furlough is not ideal and creates further problems for business owners. Do they push for good workers to return and risk losing them altogether, or do they agree to their extended absence?

Flexibility and wellbeing 

Another growth area in our lives – even more so thanks to the pandemic – is wellbeing. People are looking for an employer who sympathises with today’s many life demands and if businesses in the hospitality sector are unable to show their mindful side it’s unlikely they’ll find candidates to fill their vacancies.

It’s where away days, team night’s out and birthday bonuses come into play. Even offering wellbeing benefits such as gym memberships or access to a massage can help.  Increasing holiday entitlement can also incentivise staff as it assures them of more quality time with their families. Anything that says ‘we care’ will go a long way towards showing staff you have their interests at heart.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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Hospitality Sector Must Remember Their Legal Obligations Following 2020 Employment Ruling

A nation rejoiced this month as tens of thousands of pubs, bars and restaurants reopened their doors to serve patrons old and new in outdoor settings UK-wide. From May 17th we will see the majority of the industry opened up and getting back to trading.

Of course, it’s not just those of us who’ve missed frequenting our ‘local’ or favourite eatery cracking open a bottle or two in celebration. No one is more pleased than the countless business owners forced to cease trading on January 5 when the most recent lockdown came into force, and that’s on top of the many months they’d had to shut up shop during the previous year.

Unfortunately, with so many business closures – temporary and permanent – across the hospitality sector, many people have found themselves unemployed as a result. While some have since found alternative jobs in other industries, likely there are plenty champing at the bit to return to the work they know and love this week. And hospitality business owners can’t wait to have them back, on hand to serve a nation that is extremely hungry and thirsty if the number of bookings to leading apps such as TheFork are anything to go by.

It begs the question, is the hospitality industry ready to return to work? While business owners have had several months to prepare for the grand reopening, this doesn’t guarantee they have all of their paperwork in order ready for the latest influx in workers. And with a legal ruling now in play to ensure all employees have the same rights to written terms regardless of any contract, their role type or sector, it’s imperative managers are up to speed on workers’ rights and the hiring process.

What is the right to written terms?

Passed into law on 6th April 2020, the Written Statement of Employment Particulars ensures every person employed in the UK has a document to outline their key particulars such as hours of work and pay rate.  This was done to make sure employees are treated fairly, even those with no formal employment contract in place.

Since the hospitality sector has a high percentage of workers deemed as casual –  that being, with no formal contract in place – anyone working in HR or tasked with hiring needs to become familiar with the legislation that has been in effect now for the past year.

While not the same as an employment contract, some of the information within a contract may also be found within a written terms document.

What information is included in a written terms document?

There are several key components to a written terms document, including:

  • Name and address of the employee as well as their job title, place of work (including an address), their key responsibilities and start date
  • Number of hours the employee is expected to work and how often
  • The period of notice required by the employee and for fixed-term contracts, clear details of the contract start and end dates
  • Pay and entitlements such as the number of days’ holiday permitted and rate of holiday pay, number of sick days and sickness pay, and any other entitlements such as childcare vouchers, a company pension or car allowance

What other documents are mandatory with a new hire?

Also deemed as best practice, directing new hires toward any policies or rules on how a company operates and what is expected of them as an employee – such as a code of conduct – or training manuals necessary to perform their role.

This is provided to an employee on or before their first day of work. Anyone who began their job before the legislation being introduced last April, and want to receive written terms, can request this be provided by their employer (who is obliged to do so within 1 month of receiving the request).

Written terms can also be requested in retrospect of leaving employment, so long as an employee asks for this document within three months of their leaving the role.

Remember that this legislation applies to all industry sectors and not just hospitality.

In need of some HR advice or need some help with Written Terms? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time. You can also see more of what we do on our website HR Support

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Teachers reject proposal to extend classroom hours and reduce holidays

In March 2020, the pandemic forced children away from their classrooms and into a home education programme nobody was prepared for – pupils, parents or teachers. Since then, young people in secondary and primary education have endured ongoing disruption thanks to national and localised lockdowns, in-school Covid-19 outbreaks diminishing year group bubbles and periods in self-isolation from catching or coming into close contact with the virus.

This absence has led to a lack of education provided to students of all ages and a further widening of a gap already in play within the UK system where many are already at a disadvantage. It’s no wonder, then, the Government has been left contemplating how it might deliver parts of a curriculum many of our country’s young people are still to receive, recently proposing a catch-up system including longer school days and shorter holiday breaks as an effective means to retrieve lost learning time.

While it’s something parents might feel worthwhile, the proposition went out to teachers last month to have their say. One of the sector’s largest unions, the National Education Union (NEU), ran a survey during March asking for feedback from some 10,000 members on and the results gave an extremely clear picture of their feelings towards the notion with 98% saying they disagreed on taking this course of action.

Asides from an almost unanimous rejection to increase the hours per school day and reduce those across the school holidays were other key insights as to how teachers are feeling towards the education system, as follows:

  • On delivering the standard curriculum, 82% felt more flexibility was required to deliver learning missed during lockdowns.
  • 68% said more opportunities for sport and exercise were necessary while 66% suggested an increase to practical learning.
  • On the topic of mental health and wellbeing, 80% felt the Government should increase its focus to support students with 68% saying more should be tackle child poverty.
  • Regarding technology, teachers felt positive towards its use in education during periods of lockdown and 57% appreciated its use to facilitate online parents’ evenings.

With £1.7bn spent on supporting the schools most in need after the pandemic, the Government stated that it will continue working with schools and parents to achieve the best outcomes.  The NEU insists this can only come through their listening to the views provided in its survey and responding accordingly to those who have been on the frontline of education throughout the pandemic, both face-to-face and online.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

On March 22, the UK reflected on a year living with the coronavirus.

Back in 2020, as the virus spread rapidly across Europe and the UK Government announced our first national lockdown, it’s unlikely any of us thought we would continue to undergo the strict regime that followed. The effects of Covid-19 have been devastating with individuals and families having to cope with death, long-term illness caused by the virus and temporary or permanent work losses. It’s not surprising to learn how the figures for people suffering from mental health issues during this time have dramatically increased.

When we were first asked a year ago to ‘stay home, protect the NHS and save lives’, including working from home wherever possible, many people were thankful for the respite from the daily grind of prepping for work, the hectic morning regime, strict time-keeping and a lengthy and costly commute to the office. Virtual meetings soon replaced physical ones in the diary and everyone learned to live with having to perform their role remotely. Now, while some seemingly took to this new life like a duck to water, for others it has been nothing shy of a slog from day one. And for all who did kick things off last March feeling OK, how are these individuals feeling a year later and how are you managing mental health in the workplace?

A recent survey from the Office for National Statistics found the number of adults feeling anxious or depressed has doubled since February 2020, before the pandemic began. It’s an astonishing figure and certainly, an issue the government, health bodies and UK businesses must tackle head-on to provide the support much of the adult population currently needs. Perhaps even more worrying is that this figure is likely much higher than reported, with many suffering in silence either because they don’t understand in full what the term mental health represents or they assume it applies to others and not themselves. After all, their feelings might be a little different to usual but they’re nothing to be concerned about or worth mentioning to anyone else.

Employers and HR specialists play a crucial role in supporting their teams through all manner of circumstances, especially so when mental health and wellbeing come into focus. Here are a few pointers

Raising Mental Health awareness

Not everyone understands what we mean by mental health, or if they do, think it applies to others and not them because they feel OK or, what they consider to be ‘normal’. By raising awareness of the topic, you’re at the very least making a once-over taboo subject much easier for people within your workplace to discuss openly, allowing them to understand in full what is meant by the term and encouraging them to consider their feelings as well as those of their colleagues. While an individual is feeling OK, they could have noticed a difference in the behaviour of a colleague, and knowing how to recognise the signs of anxiety or depression allows others to help.

Gain advice and support from experts

If you have limited time or in-house resources to upskill your staff on mental health, an external provider can help you. There are lots of organisations that offer training on mental health either to managers or your entire workforce. Here at Optimal we provide well-being reviews for which helps employers to gain a better understanding of how their employees are feeling and by providing it through a third party organisation like ourselves, it often enables employees to say much more than they maybe would if it was being undertaken by an internal team.  Organisations such as Unmasked Mental Health & Well-Being Ltd provides excellent face-to-face or virtual training to organisations across the UK and their charitable organisation Unmasked Mental Health has a fantastic, easily accessible and affordable counselling support service amongst other things, for individuals suffering from mental health issues.

Check-in frequently with your team

Unless you’re working in one of the emergency services, or a sector which has become busier than ever during the pandemic – food manufacturing, pharma, logistics, care, education – it’s likely your staff has spent much if not all of the past twelve months working from home. While some will have revelled in the experience, many have found it tough to manage without their peers on tap each day for support. As a people manager, it is up to you to ensure your workforce has lots of opportunities to check-in and chat – as a group, as well as individually – to ask how they’re going and offer your support., if you do find an individual is struggling to cope, make provision for them to attend work physically if they can.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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Lockdown changes for employers: what do you need to know?

Lockdown v3.0 is changing. Restrictions are lifting in increments ranging from two to five weeks, with each stage of the journey affecting the commercial sector in different ways.

Whether yours is an essential service our nation relies on – emergencies and healthcare, education, manufacturing, logistics, construction, essential retail – a business that has continued to trade behind closed doors during the lockdown or one forced to close temporarily, it’s crucial to understand rules specific to you as journey toward ‘normal’. And, while the lockdown is ending, there are still plenty of rules and guidelines in place we’ll all need to continue following to help minimise the spread of the coronavirus.

So, what do you need to know about your sector and how our exit from the lockdown will impact both your customers and your teams? Here is a reminder of the proposed  ‘roadmap to freedom’ set out by our Prime Minister back in February:

March 8primary and secondary education providers reopened to all students.

March 29some sporting facilities are permitted to reopen providing they can deliver their activities outdoors – football, rugby, netball or cricket clubs for children, for example – and tennis courts, golf clubs and outdoor swimming pools for all ages.

April 12 (and not before) – hospitality reopens in part, but only where pubs and restaurants can serve customers in an outdoor setting, and self-catering holiday providers within the UK are open to trade. Commemorative events such as weddings and funerals can have up to 15 people in attendance.

May 17 (and not before) – indoor entertainment such as theatres, cinemas and children’s play centres can reopen, alongside any indoor sports facilities. The numbers permitted at weddings and funerals increases to 30.

June 21 (and not before) – nightclubs, large events in stadiums and music festivals are permitted.  

Note that the above dates are provisional and subject to change where the Government – or the ‘science’ providing the guidance – deems it unsafe to proceed.

Assuming all does go to plan, the UK could be living a life close to its previous normal by the summer. Yet some of the measures in place, certainly around social distancing, might well live on after June 21 with the Government continuing to encourage minimal people movement unless it’s altogether necessary.

The message is clear – continue working from home where possible

For those businesses able to do so, the Government has asked for employers to continue supporting a ‘work from home’ policy wherever possible, even post-lockdown. It’s a trend many may well stick to on a permanent basis, with lessons learned as to how effective it can be for some companies, as well as extremely cost-efficient.

Some employees prefer the flexibility work from home allows, not to mention the time and expense it saves on the daily commute. Technology has certainly stepped up, too, allowing for teams to continue supporting one another from multiple remote locations.  However, some of your staff do find it more difficult to work from home for a plethora of reasons and while limited space or access to technology is less a worry than issues around mental health, the reasons for an individual wanting to attend work to perform their job are all viable and must be considered.

If you’re re-opening, ensure it is safe to do so

For businesses who remained open during the latest lockdown – and those about to join them – it is critical each one provides a Covid-secure workplace to protect their teams.

As part of your ‘return to work’ strategy, employers and HR must have measures in place to ensure a safe environment for everyone. This includes conducting a risk assessment of your workplace; if you’re unsure what to include in yours, the Health and Safety Executive Covid-19 Risk Assessment document is a great place to start. The UK Government website also includes clear guidance on Covid safety that’s tailored specifically to individual sectors to help every business appreciate their legal obligations around compliance.

If you’re still unsure on how the lifting of the lockdown restrictions affects your business, seek advice from a professional people expert as soon as possible.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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Covid-19 Vaccines: An Employer’s Guide

With the UK Government COVID-19 vaccination programme now in full swing, it leaves many questions for employers and their staff in terms of expectations or even the legalities around having the jab.

The media has already reported on a certain London-based plumbing company preparing a ‘no jab, no job’ policy which sees them set to exclude people without the vaccine from future employment while also paying to vaccinate all current employees. It’s likely something many businesses have been mulling over – but how does taking this position look both morally and legally?

Thankfully, our governing body – The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – has released a guide to help business owners and HR professionals to understand their responsibility as the vaccination programme continues to gain pace and staff begin their potential return to the workplace.

Download the CIPD paper ‘Preparing for the COVID-19 Vaccination: Guide for Employers’

It is widely known the UK Government hopes to have offered the vaccine to all adults aged over 16 years by Autumn. Of course, not all will take up the offer and even if they do, this won’t leave work facilities and staff altogether void of Covid-19 and other precautionary measures such as social distancing, handwashing and protective wear may need to continue.

Since the Government has left it open to individuals to make their own choice on having the vaccination, an employer cannot yet force its staff to take up the offer of a jab as and when it comes their way. Although it is certainly within their interests to promote the vaccine amongst team members as a means for improved wellbeing, with a healthy workforce typically a happy one – and a protected workplace much more likely to drive down the level of absence caused by sick leave.

As with most things ‘people’, it comes down to HR to understand all there is to know on a subject which, in fairness, still comes with so many unknowns; and that’s before they can even attempt to manage the message! The CIPD guide serves as a great starting point for HR professionals looking to understand more on the vaccine, covering everything from adopting a workplace vaccine policy to handling questions raised by employees around the vaccine programme, how to manage staff who refuse the vaccine and guidance for female employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

So, while we’re still a long way from what most of us consider ‘normal’, there are a lot of employers can be doing both in preparing physically for the months to come and virtually in supporting their teams to understand what the vaccine means in terms of their role. Above all else, encouraging an ‘open door’ environment where staff feel they can ask questions – and the HR team will listen before providing an answer – will serve you well on the journey to our country’s new normal.

And the higher your team retention, the faster you’ll come out of the blocks when it’s time.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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Employment Law Changes for 2021

Changes from April 1 every employer needs to know about 

There’s never a dull moment for Employers or HR professionals, and the Government changes from April 1 have kept us all nicely busy as we update our systems to suit. Here’s everything you need to know to stay on top of the latest updates to employment legislation.

The National Living Wage (and National Minimum Wage) is going up!

Thousands of low paid workers are set for a pay increase next month, as the Government increases the National Living Wage from £8.72 per hour to £8.91 per hour.

The changes announced last November will finally come into effect next month with everyone aged 23 and over set to benefit from the 2.2% increase, including the two ages previously exempt now joining the ’25 years and over’ club as eligible for the scheme. That’s around 4% of the UK population who’ll benefit from the change from April 1.

Until now, anyone below 25 years has been forced to settle with the lower-paid National Minimum Wage, with pay rates under this scheme starting at £4.55 for 16 and 17-year-olds and rising to £8.20 for ages 21 to 24 years. Now, 23 and 24-year-olds will receive a pay increase of close to 9%, while those already in the 25+ age bracket will receive an increase of just 2.2%. Those aged 21 to 22 years, while not yet eligible for the new NWL scheme will see their minimum wage rate increasing by 2% to £8.36 per hour.

So, make sure you’ve made those changes to your payroll system from April 1.


Family-related pay and statutory sick pay are also on the rise.

Also commencing this month, an increase to the weekly rate for family-related absence and statutory sick pay. From April 4, maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement pay increases to £151.97 per week, and from April 6, statutory sick pay increases to £96.35 per week.

Employees must always meet several criteria to qualify for these types of pay, and the UK Government website explains each one in full.

Since each of the new rates become mandatory on their respective date, employers and HR professionals are expected to familiarize themselves with the changes immediately. Also critical is your ensuring any documentation referring to the rates is amended to reflect the changes and for all employees to be notified.


Redundancy pay rates are also changing in April.

Another key change for Employers and HR specialists to be aware of is the statutory redundancy pay which was increased from April 6. From this date, the maximum weekly pay has increased to £544.

The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal also increases for those taking place on or after April 6, from £88,519 to £89,493.


Gender Pay Gap reporting has been extended until October 2021.

Employers with over 250 staff are required by law to report on the difference in pay between their male and female workers. Typically, the report is due for submission at the close of March although in 2021, due to the ongoing situation with the Covid-19 virus, the deadline has been extended to October 5.


Introducing IR35 on April 6.

The new ‘anti-avoidance tax legislation’ also comes into effect this month, with employers now responsible for proving any contractors are self-employed and not employed by the business, to reduce tax fraud.

As of April 6, any employer who uses self-employed contractors in its business is required to become familiar with the difference between the two types of worker – employed or self-employed contractor – for tax purposes, to ensure they are meeting the correct tax requirements.

Since the above are all legislated it’s critical to implement any changes to avoid headaches down the track.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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Government Launches Modern Slavery Statement Registry

On Thursday 11th March 2021, The Home Office launched a modern slavery statement registry online, to provide a platform for organisations to share the positive steps they have taken to tackle and prevent modern slavery.

The registry will enhance transparency and accessibility, by bringing modern slavery statements together in one place and will make it easier to find and compare them.

It will allow users such as consumers, investors and civil society, to search for statements and scrutinise the action organisations are taking to identify and address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.

The registry follows commitment from the government to strengthen the reporting requirements under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, following the Transparency in Supply Chains Consultation, and publication of the world’s first Government Modern Slavery Statement in March 2020.

All organisations are strongly encouraged to submit their most recently published statement on the registry to demonstrate that they have reported.

If your organisation is required to produce a statement under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, in future it will be mandatory for you to submit your statement to the registry as part of the proposed changes to strengthen the reporting requirements to the Act. These measures require legislative change and will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

To lead by example, the government has submitted the Government Modern Slavery Statement on the registry today.

Learn more about the registry and find out how to submit a statement.

Managing Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Each one of us will likely experience an issue with a work colleague at some stage during our career. You might think it inevitable, what with a good few hours of our days spent working, whether it’s from a physical workspace or a home office – and the latter just as likely a place for conflict to arise.

In fact, during the Covid-19 pandemic – a time when many of us have found ourselves working from a remote location – workplace bullying and harassment is said to have risen dramatically. Perhaps it’s no surprise when you consider the upheaval caused these past twelve months, with lives forced to adapt to new ways of working at speed or even to drop their work altogether through being furloughed. It’s no wonder stress is on the increase and the most level-headed of humans are seeing their patience tested like never before.

Still, despite the pressures we’re feeling at work currently – even in pre (and post) Covid times – there is no excuse for workplace bullying, and every employer has a duty of care to its staff in terms of their wellbeing. But what exactly do we mean by bullying? It’s worth reminding ourselves since some employees may not even recognise a situation as one where they’re being bullied; and similarly, might fail to see their behaviour toward a colleague as unacceptable.

The Government defines bullying and harassment as “…behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended”, with harassment unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 (you can read more on this topic here). It can take on many forms – offensive or insulting comments, spreading malicious rumours, misuse of power, and threats or even acts of physical abuse.

While the workplace will always be a place where opinions differ or relationships turn sour, it is essential you have a mechanism in place for managing difficulties and preventing harassment and bullying from becoming something that ‘just happens’. Here’s how.

Create a workplace bullying and harassment policy 

Just as you have policies in place for other essentials across your business – for health and safety, absence, and equal opportunities – you’ll need one for anti-bullying and harassment, either in stand-alone form or as a component within another policy such as a Code of Conduct Policy. While the document needn’t be war and peace, the content must at minimum be clear on the following points:

  • What you class as bullying or harassment within your organisation (and refer to the Government’s Equality Act 2010 to validate the legalities around harassment)
  • How you intend to deal with bullying and harassment
  • The steps to follow if an employee feels any bullying or harassment toward them

Above all else, it’s your responsibility as an employer to make your staff aware of the policy document and how to obtain a copy.

Let your team know your thoughts on bullying. 

Most companies have a mechanism for on-boarding staff, where information on procedures and compulsory training is delivered to new starts. While this provides a great opportunity to explain your policy against bullying and harassment, it should never end there. Posting infographics on the walls around the building, particularly in break out areas, is another opportunity to ensure your message stays in people’s minds both to help prevent untoward behaviour and to remind staff of what to do if and when any bullying occurs.

Assign a pair of supporting ears. 

Now, while some employees will feel comfortable raising concerns around bullying directly with their line manager, plenty will feel unable to do so; certainly, when it’s their manager who is posing an issue to them. Provide a point of contact for your team to approach with any concerns around bullying or harassment, preferably, someone you feel they will see as someone they can trust – ideally, an HR professional. If you’re a larger organisation, you may have an internal HR team with specific HR professionals who pick up these issues.  If you don’t have that resource internally, is there a leader in the organisation who takes that responsibility. Whoever takes on the role, make sure your staff knows who they are and how to make contact with them whenever necessary.

Shine a spotlight on virtual bullying and harassment.

HR professionals and business leaders know how bullying takes places across different formats but understandably, your staff might be less savvy than you, seeing only physical face-to-face confrontations as an issue. Most, if not all, businesses use email and internal messaging to communicate internally and it is here where much untoward behaviour occurs. Similarly, virtual meeting spaces such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meets are prime places for belittling of colleagues, often without anyone realizing they have behaved inappropriately toward a colleague. By providing your employees with the knowledge or specific training around cyber-bullying, you’ll help everyone to recognize the virtual world is no different to the physical one in terms of acceptable behaviour with all team members responsible for their actions towards others.

Always remember your staff wellbeing lies at the heart of a winning culture. Look after your team well, and the rest of the business will look after itself.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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Recruiting in the Health & Social Care sector: the ‘must-know’ fundamentals


There is nothing like a global pandemic to create employee churn. Unfortunately, in many cases since March 2020, this has been less a personal decision to move on and more an industry downturn causing mass redundancy. Yet as some sectors have had little choice but to take a rest for now – tourism clearly at the front of the pack here – others have seen a sharp rise in recruitment during COVID 19, the healthcare industry among them.

It’s no surprise demand in health & social care has risen significantly, with patient numbers increasing in public and private hospitals, health centres and care homes. Health & Social care providers are having to up their recruitment game, not only to hire more medical staff but to fill administrative vacancies too. It’s a field where many who’ve found themselves out of work since the pandemic took hold are now seeking employment – yes, to find another job and also, one they feel plays a part in the national effort to fight COVID.

Now, anyone who’s new to the health & social care sector might think it’s a simple transition to make from, say, a city-based office reception role into one within a doctor’s surgery or hospital. While many of the required practical skills are the same, the process for hiring is much more stringent. It’s why many organisations – including the UK’s largest health care employer, the NHS – use specialist recruiters to attract new talent and fill vacancies, from surgeons to support staff, removing the headache of having to manage the process themselves.

Whether you’re a health or social care organisation looking to recruit in 2021, or an individual looking to begin your career in this sector, here are your ‘must-knows’ – from the HR advisors in the know!

Disclosure and Barring Service – or, DBS

Background checks are essential when recruiting for health & social care vacancies – and not just for those professionals who’ll be managing patients directly. Anyone in the sector not tasked with administering patient care, such as a surgery receptionist, still requires a DBS certificate due to their coming into regular contact with patients and their data. There are several types available – Basic, Standard and Enhanced – with the correct one per role dependent on its responsibilities and proximity to patients. While you can acquire a Basic DBS online, both the Standard and Enhanced DBS certificates come through a specialist who understands the process and correct certification in each circumstance. It is the responsibility of an authorised DBS certificate provider to remain knowledgeable on the specific DBS requirements to the healthcare industry so that you don’t have to.

Mandatory eLearning for Health & Social care Workers

Over the years, it has become apparent a collection of skills is necessary across the health & social care landscape, regardless of the setting – from dental surgeries to private practices. In 2020, the Core Skills Training Framework (CSTF) was developed by Skills for Health UK to ensure a unified approach to training within the healthcare sector. It provides health & social care workers with 11 e-Assessments covering topics viewed as mandatory to the industry, regardless of role, providing a consistent knowledge base across the industry while improving inter-sector mobility. Mandatory eLearning topics include:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Equality, diversity and human rights
  • Fire safety
  • Health, safety and welfare
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Information governance and data security
  • Moving and handing
  • Preventing radicalisation
  • Resuscitation
  • Safeguarding adults
  • Safeguarding children

All mandatory courses are obtained through an authorised HR specialist to ensure a level playing field regarding the course content, delivery and testing. Coursework and exams are delivered and taken online, and each one CPD-accredited for consistency.

You can see this a multi-step approach to recruiting, with many boxes to tick before you can even begin the interview stage! It’s no wonder health & social care organisations turn to outsourced HR advisors for their people-hiring to make things simple, taking care of everything from CV handling to pre-screening of applicants, and supporting with the certification process.

When you’re next recruiting staff into your health or social care organisation, arrange a chat with one of our team at Optimal for some professional, independent HR advice.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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