Top 5 challenges of hybrid working

Hybrid working – the best thing since sliced bread or just another challenge for HR professionals to overcome? 

Remember when everyone started referring to the new normal? Well, in the world of employment, it arrived mid to late last year, calling itself hybrid working.

All of a sudden, everyone wanted to switch to a hybrid model. Mainly because of the pandemic causing restrictions on conversing with others and subsequent encouragement to have fewer people in one workspace than before. Some companies who had never entertained hybrid in the past were doing so in their droves. And realising they quite liked it, too!

Some six months or so later, many are now taking the time to assess its merits. It seems this shiny new thing wasn’t all great. Because nothing is ever wholly challenge-free, and hybrid is no different.

So, today, on behalf of those business owners and HR professionals considering making a move to a hybrid model, we’re putting the top 5 challenges under the microscope for a detailed look.

1-Reassessing your facility 

With a hybrid workforce meaning your office headcount has reduced, you might immediately think of reducing the space in which you operate too. No need for a city-based, contemporary building with all the bells and whistles if no one is there to use them.

But is this the correct thing to do? In the short-term, no. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of flexibility and how change can occur in a heartbeat. What looks like a smaller in-office workforce today may revert tomorrow (depending on your longer-term strategy for hybrid working). Best to sit on the fence a while, assess your needs over six months before opting for somewhere with less space for the sake of saving on a few bills.

2-Inconsistent schedules

Let’s be clear, in a past life with an entire office-based workforce, flexibility seemed limited. Even with strategies such as flexi-time in place, most workers would remain committed to certain core working hours across the standard five-day week, Monday to Friday. Everyone knew their place.

With all the will in the world, allowing a hybrid structure at work can lead to severe issues with scheduling.

It depends on the rigidity of your structure, of course. For most companies, hybrid working is better with a set schedule for all to follow. It means everyone knows and appreciates where they need to be and when. The last thing you want to encourage with hybrid working is for staff to come and go entirely as they please. It is highly disruptive, not to mention an opportunity to limit productivity with staff now ‘ships passing in the night’ without an option for team meetings or, worse, cohesion.

3-Missed training opportunities

Once your staff begin working remotely, the chance of them missing vital training increases. Sure, some training lends itself to online delivery. Yet, practical sessions are often better done physically and should not be overlooked – particularly if you want to avoid a drop in people’s ability, not to mention their confidence.

If you’re considering hybrid working, don’t overlook your staff’s training needs. It might require a detailed assessment of your current training plan to see what can move online and what needs to stay face2face, then revamping this to suit the new working environment. Make sure to set any training required physically when the team visits the office, a chance to upskill and progress together as a team – helpful to everyone, regardless of their role.

Adjusting to trust-based productivity

It’s not easy making this switch when you’re used to having a team around you most of the week. Asides from knowing where they are between the core business hours, you can see first-hand what they’re doing each day. How can you trust them to stay productive with all the distractions of home?

As a manager, there will likely be a team member or two where trust is a concern. There are ways to deal with this without impacting the wider team, of course – implementing a reporting system including regular pre-planned catch-ups, for starters. And yes, without seeing your teams working, it might leave you wondering what it is they’re doing – although don’t let it become an issue unless you see a drop in their productivity. Keep a close eye on the situation, but not too close, and address concerns quickly before too much doubt creeps in.

Increased mental health issues

Now, it’s fair to say concerns around mental health may stem from any or all of the above points. And there are several more considerations worth a mention, too.

-Less interaction with your staff: or, “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome

One challenge with hybrid working is seeing staff much less regularly than before. Sure, there might be regular video conferencing catch-ups, but we all appreciate how limiting these can be for deep and genuine conversations.

Of course, hybrid is a mix of both in-person and remote-based working therefore, it doesn’t lose the opportunity altogether for face-to-face catch-ups. Up to you, then, as a leader or HR professional, to ensure the days earmarked for staff to attend site, you make sure these are the days when those meetings happen.

-Reduced hands-on support 

Some team members might think they love working remotely until they actually have to. Off they go, to where the grass is greener, only to realise it’s precisely this – a pasture that sounded amazing but isn’t so great without people to share it with, including a Manager!

Some humans need their leader on hand to tap into regularly for guidance. If this is true of any of your team, you will need to cater to them accordingly, which could pose an issue or two around timing. These workers will need to spend more time working in the office than remotely, and both of your schedules have to sync for this to work.

-Less people cohesion

Creating a joined workforce is not easy, but it’s essential.

Cohesion has never been more critical than it is today. Remember, we have all been a long time apart these past two years, and some businesses have people who joined mid pandemic still to meet their peers in the flesh. It’s time to up your culture game with initiatives to bring people closer physically and emotionally. Not only reconnecting with one another with your brand’s very essence.

Make sure any hybrid model includes regular opportunities to come together physically – company-wide meetings, events or away days. Show everyone you genuinely care for your people and their wellbeing.

What can you take away from our top 5 challenges to hybrid working?

It’s a lot to think about and essential when considering the move to hybrid working. Just because it’s on-trend right now doesn’t mean it suits your organisation. As with all things HR policy, make sure you do your homework before implementing any changes.

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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The Great Resignation – fact or fiction?

We really did hear it all last year.

From headlines suggesting “More people than EVER moving jobs!” to others telling us “Vacancies grow as employees stand firm!” it’s difficult to know what to believe.

So, what is happening in the recruitment world this 2022? Are we seeing mass people movement across sectors? Or are workers staying glued to the spot in case the pandemic takes hold again (perhaps for other reasons – dare we suggest they might actually enjoy what they do)?

Today, we’re taking a closer look at what is really happening in job land!

The Facts

They’re calling it the Great Resignation. It’s true, 2021 saw large numbers quitting their jobs – a record-breaking 4.5million people by November, according to a Guardian report. But what do the figures actually tell us about the employment situation and can we expect the same this year? And if people are moving on mass, why?

In an ongoing time of uncertainty, people look for stability wherever possible. While many might assume this is reason enough to stay in their current role, it all depends on that role. If you’re a full-time corporate worker expected at a desk between business core hours, juggling work and school closure-driven childcare, then perhaps it’s no wonder you fancy a sea change to a role more flexible. And that’s before we consider the millions of workers in retail, hospitality and leisure whose sectors were the worst hit during the pandemic – sure enough, we can forgive these folks for wanting to escape the sinking ship.

When you appreciate WHO is moving, it starts to make sense.

Check the data, and it certainly appears that resignations have skyrocketed in hospitality, leisure, and retail. We already know that businesses in these sectors struggled to survive pressure caused by the pandemic, with many going bust in 2020 and others left on tenterhooks after more lockdowns in 2021. Surely, where workers are sensing the writing on the wall, they help protect themselves by moving on before being forced to do so. Indeed, some will doubtless have grown so tired of the ‘on and off’ switch since March 2020 – working one minute and locked down the next – perhaps it was finally time to seek a new horizon beyond their sector.

Then, of course, there is healthcare. A sector with a workforce completely exhausted – or worse, unable to attend work thanks to testing positive frequently and isolating. Surely, even the hardiest and dedicated of workers must be thinking they’ve had enough. The figures would certainly agree. Although the dip last year does seem to be closing somewhat.

Resignations, yes. But not out of work.

One thing that’s hard to escape, pandemic or otherwise, and that’s the monthly bills. Unless you’ve a stash of cash somewhere – which isn’t that many of us – employment remains critical, and resigning from your job is seldom to sit and do nothing.

So, where are our masses of resigned types headed to? Suppose you’ve just left a struggling sector. In that case, it’s likely you’ve gone somewhere entirely new – unless you’ve found yourself a competitor willing to pay you slightly more (and even so, it still leaves you in a position somewhat precarious).

Just as some sectors have dipped, others have grown and given rise to new roles to fill for those out of work. Manufacturing and logistics are taking on more staff than ever to support the growth in online retail. IT services companies continue to expand, needing more staff to fulfil roles both technical and administrative – and while the former warrants specific skills, the latter requires less formal training, something ex-hospitality workers with customer service experience might suit.

Then there are those looking for something altogether different called ‘self-employment’. Because, as we have seen throughout the pandemic, some businesses forced into change have seen better results than beforehand, encouraging some PAYE workers to walk away from so-called stability towards entrepreneurial life. And why not? If it’s flexibility you’re wanting, you’ll certainly have it on tap by running your own show!

What can HR do to reduce movement?

If you’re tasked with keeping your workforce content, talk of mass resignation will worry you. As most HR professionals know, retention is key to stability and keeping recruitment costs down. Losing one staff member may well cause a ripple effect, with more following suit putting incredible pressure on those remaining and causing headaches for hiring managers too.

Nowadays, a wage alone is not enough to keep people happy in a job. Sure, financial stability matters, but other factors are creeping up the list of employee must-haves. If you’re going to retain your staff this year (and beyond), then you need to build a strategy to accommodate those needs – including the following fundamentals:


No doubt about it, flexible working is having a field day. Finally! While some corporate companies cottoned onto it years ago, it has become more prominent thanks to Covid and rules around social distancing. But it goes beyond corporate into all sectors, and if you want to impress your workforce, flexible working is key. Adapting quickly to the pandemic – not to mention the sacrifices made – says we can and will remain productive even when working flexibly, and you’ll get more out of your workforce by meeting them half-way.


Your staff deserve to feel valued and it starts with their development.

It might well have dropped off the radar because of the pandemic, but ongoing training is essential from new starts to seasoned veterans. Assess your entire team for skills relevant to their role; if any are lacking, arrange training to bridge the gap. Make sure you have a visible, long-term training strategy that covers each role company-wide so your teams know what to expect and when. By demonstrating your commitment to their development, you are more likely to receive their commitment in return.


It’s time to face it; your people are tired – in some cases, exhausted. Covid has caused fatigue across the nation to a degree we’re only really appreciating now, and employers have to take this seriously if they want to optimise workplace wellbeing.

We mean more than a massage on the company (however well your staff might receive this!). Wellbeing needs to become a part of who you are through a wellness strategy. This can include drop-in sessions covering mindfulness techniques, work-based fitness classes or support towards gym membership, and designated times for breaks. Also, swap unhealthy snacks for fresh fruit bowls and make sure water stations are plentiful.

Assign a leader as your wellbeing officer to ensure team members stay well.

Benefits to your staff are ten-fold – and for your company, it’s a happier, healthier productive workforce, day in and day out. Care for your individuals, and they’re less likely to leave!

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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The new ‘Digital right to work check’ – everything you need to know

The process of running essential pre-employment checks is all set to become much quicker and simpler this year, with the launch of the digital right to work (RTW) check.

From April 6th, 2022, UK businesses can access the online system to assess whether their prospective recruits have the correct credentials to work in the UK.

It follows a campaign led by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) to make digital assessment the default process over the pre-Covid method, which involved physically handling a candidate’s documents to ascertain their work validity.

 Out with the old, in with the new

When the Covid pandemic took hold, digital means for checking an employee’s right to work quickly replaced the original method for gathering and analysing physical documents. Initially, this was considered only a temporary measure, yet when the virus showed no sign of moving on, the REC pushed the case to make it a permanent fixture.

And with the growth in hybrid and work-from-home models gaining pace throughout the pandemic, with more staff than ever before working remotely, the system could not have arrived at a better time.

This will appear a positive leap forward for many professionals working in recruitment with the system tipped to reduce the time and cost of hiring significantly. Indeed, when many have raised their concerns about the current difficulty in hiring – the complexities of a reduced talent pool due to Brexit and the current reluctance of workers to move jobs – anything to help improve the hiring process is bound to be well received.

Progress comes at a price

It is not without criticism, of course, with some commercial business owners concerned about the ongoing cost of implementing and using the system. When many already feel stretched by the impact of the pandemic, too – plus the inflation and National Insurance – and having to fund new technology is a bitter pill to swallow.

It is a point heard in full by the REC, who has stressed the cruciality of making the system accessible to all manner of companies – not only large entities – and kept at the same low price-point for everyone. Hopefully, the hundreds of thousands of checks made each day in the UK are sufficient to warrant its costs keeping to a minimum.

More than likely, the many smaller firms who use a temporary workforce over permanent recruits will benefit from the time saved processing documents digitally over physically, justifying the system’s initial outlay.

The system will apply to checks on UK citizens only, and employers will have the freedom to use various online resources to assess applicants currently based overseas.

You can read more about this story on the REC website

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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3 Ways To Better Manage Performance

It’s one of the key responsibilities of a people manager: assessing performance. And with many an employee’s success dependent on a performance measurement, it’s important to get it right.

Why bother? Put simply, without a robust system in place for assessing your staff, it’s unlikely your organisation will operate at its best. Remember, a salary alone is not enough to gain the most from your teams – sure, it helps individuals to settle the bills each month but what happens when it comes to promotions or a pay increase? If you’re not measuring staff performance, you’re not putting yourself in an optimum position to have meaningful conversations with your teams, or giving individuals an opportunity to improve and progress their career.

So, how do you best measure your employees’ performance? There are several ways to do so and today, we’re taking a look at three that have become commonplace for many organisations globally to give those of you lacking a performance measurement strategy some ideas on how to drive your teams forward.

Competency Frameworks

Competencies measure the behaviours and skills of an individual at work. A competency framework provides clarity about how an employee is expected to behave within the company and in their role, as well as the skills necessary to perform their position effectively.

Whether it’s a business owner, HR specialist or senior manager developing the framework, it is the employer’s responsibility to create one that works in practice. In other words, it needs to be extremely clear as to what each competency is and how it will be measured so that your employees know exactly what they are working toward or need to show you to meet the metric. For maximum impact, it’s a good idea to restrict the number of competencies on your framework to just a few – we would suggest ten at the most. You may wish to include a mix of competency type – for example, one or two core competencies that support the company vision, five job-specific competencies, and a handful of leadership competencies to assist with career progression and optimising talent.

If you’re creating a framework for the first time, check out the CIPD website for some useful tips on how to make yours a success.

360-degree review

As it might sound, this type of review system considers information from the wider area and provides a full 360-degree vision of an employee’s performance as seen by their peers and staff from other departments. It can be extremely beneficial, with the information provided helps you to form a picture of how your employee operates while they’re away from the activities you see as their manager.

Again, it is important to keep any questions included in a 360-degree survey to a minimum and also, to make it clear to the respondents exactly what it is you want to obtain from them. Stick to clear and measurable questioning techniques where you can – including grade scales, for example. While it might be tempting to throw in a few open questions, which are an effective means to retrieving broader feedback, try to link these to a measured question to avoid respondents straying from the point. For example, a 1-10 graded answer to the question ‘How well do you feel your colleague contributes ideas in team meetings?’ could be followed with ‘In a few words or sentences, please explain the reason for your grading’.


While management and HR have their objectives to meet, it’s important to remember your staff have their own needs to meet and many would say ‘feeling valued’ ranks much higher nowadays on their list of employment must-haves. Self-evaluation is a great way to give your employees a chance to have their say in terms of their performance, at the same time, providing each one with a sense of value.

Now, on its own, self-assessment might not be the most effective way to measure an employee’s performance although when used alongside a competency framework and 360-degree evaluation, it can be an extremely effective tool, often providing you with insights you would otherwise have missed. Once you know how your employee feels about their performance, it can be used alongside the information gathered from your other reviews to make a deeper assessment of their current ability, helping you to shape a plan to help them improve as required.

Whatever mechanism you choose to adopt for performance measurement, remember it is much more effective when done consistently and at regular intervals throughout the year. An annual appraisal is OK; quarterly catch-ups provide much more insight and in turn, success. Which ensures better outcomes for your employee and you, the manager.

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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The Do’s And Don’ts On Withdrawing An Offer Of Work

Ahh. The relief when you’re recruiting and you finally have that ‘YES!’ feeling about a candidate – particularly when you’ve been trying to fill the vacancy for some time and constantly coming up with square pegs for a round hole.

Yet, before you go rushing toward the paperwork preparation – or even provide a verbal offer to the candidate – it’s time to stop for a second. There are several things to consider before you hand over an employment contract; at least, if you’re wanting to ensure the hiring process runs smoothly with both parties – employer and employee – clear on the expectations moving forward.

Our HR specialists are often asked about the protocol when making an offer of employment and whether it can later be withdrawn. The answer is simple: it depends on how your offer was structured in the first place. Time for a reminder, then, of the key considerations when you’re hiring someone new into your organisation and best practice for a written offer of employment.

Conditional work offers

This type of offer is exactly as it sounds: an offer, but with some conditions attached. It’s more than fair to provide a conditional offer to your new employee, and we would encourage that this becomes standard to your hiring process. Here are a few conditions to consider including along with your offer of employment:

References – it is very much expected for a recruit to provide two references – at least one from a former employer – before you take them on, giving you confirmation they are who they say they are and have the skills necessary to fulfil the role on offer. A personal reference is also useful when it comes to accessing a candidate’s character.

DBS checks – if the position involves working with vulnerable or younger people then this type of tick in a box is often compulsory to the role, and something you have likely already checked during the early stages of the recruitment process. Still, it is a good idea to include it as part of your final stage checks in case you need a backup.

Medical checks – does your vacancy warrant a level of fitness to perform the role effectively? Or, is the role a senior one within the company? Either way, you might want to consider including medical checks as a condition to prevent hiring someone physically or mentally unable to fulfil the role’s tasks.

Proof of qualifications – this is fundamental to many positions, particularly where you are hiring for a senior or mid-entry level role where often the expectation and salary are based on the skills and experience a candidate brings to the table.

Proof of right to work – people applying for work in the UK should be in the correct legal position to do so, which means having British citizenship or a visa allowing them to reside and work in the UK (since Brexit, which took effect on January 1, 2021, the latter now applies to any new EU citizens arriving into the UK to work).

Unconditional work offers

If you made an offer without conditions then you are still entitled to withdraw your offer but only before your new hire has accepted the contract.

Once an offer of employment is accepted, your proposed hire can claim ‘breach of contract’ if you later withdraw. A claim can include their seeking losses incurred for resigning from their current role, with damages or compensation to match your company’s standard notice period (typically, at least one month’s pay – three months for senior roles). Depending on the reason you give for the withdrawal, a candidate may also look to seek compensation based on discrimination if they feel inequality has come into play.

It’s best not to leave things to chance when recruiting new hires. Make sure all parties know where they stand from the outset to avoid a potentially sticky situation later on.

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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Care Workers’ Rights While Sleeping Over – The Rules On Pay

Care workers are being denied access to the National Minimum Wage for their hours spent asleep during an overnight shift.

In March, a court ruled in favour of learning disability charity Mencap, dismissing claims brought by two of its former employees they were entitled to the minimum wage while asleep, instead, favouring the employer’s defence to pay only the statutory amount during their hours awake.

The ruling brings a five-year battle between Mencap and Clare Tomlinson-Blake – later, joined by a second claimant, John Shannon – to a close, clearing the company of any rights to repay the former workers earnings missed during their tenure and setting a precedent to all UK-based care homes moving forward.

Care providers nationally are celebrating the result, which provides absolute clarity as to how their care workers are compensated, an area previously dowsed in uncertainty. It also secures the financial situation for many facilities; had the workers’ claims been successful, the estimated bill for care homes stood at £400 million, a figure Mencap suggested would have caused severe financial implications for larger organisations like theirs while bankrupting countless smaller ones.

It’s less celebratory for care workers such as Tomlinson-Blake, who feels others like her should be compensated fairly for overnight shifts, whether they’re awake or asleep, with staff available in emergencies and therefore ‘working’ to protect society’s most vulnerable.

It falls at a particularly difficult time for many within a sector already famed for its unattractive rates of pay, with care workers under increasing pressure during the Covid-19 pandemic, forced to work for longer hours in an environment where exposure to the virus has been much greater than it has elsewhere.

Before her original court-hearing in 2017 – when Tomlinson-Blake first raised a claim against Mencap – care workers were paid a flat rate of £35 for night-shifts. After that hearing, it was suggested workers be paid by the hour, and at the national minimum wage rate, in effect doubling their pay to around £70 per shift. Yet a ruling for employers to provide the pay gap in back payments for up to six years announced at the same hearing was later reversed, giving a green light to employers to revert to their original lesser flat rate of pay – something that looks unlikely to change in the wake of the latest ruling in March.

Others, however, are choosing to pay their staff at an increased rate regardless of the guidance and one they feel equates to the value each employee brings to their role. It’s a trend the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) hopes will eventually extend wider, as they call on the government to establish a standard fair rate of pay for all overnight care workers, preventing further damage to the sector in the wake of the recent court ruling.

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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1 in 3 Teachers Planning To Quit Their Profession

A recent poll run by the National Education Union has uncovered that 1 in every 3 teachers in the UK plans to quit the profession within the next five years.

It’s likely of little surprise to many, with the survey – conducted in April 2021 – coming after over a year’s worth of disruption to the UK’s education system caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with challenges including safety at work and the constant switching between in-person and online lessons damaging to teachers’ wellbeing.

From the 10,000 teachers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who participated in the poll, it was clear how exhausted the majority currently feels toward teaching with the stats speaking loudly as to the intentions of many:

  • 35% stated they would “definitely not” be working within the profession by 2026
  • 66% agreed the status of the profession had diminished and blamed the government for failing to listen to their ongoing issues
  • 70% blamed an increased workload as a major reason to leave
  • 55% feel their work-life balance has become worse since before the pandemic began

After what has been a tough few months for everyone – teachers being no exception – unions have now called for a 7% increase to their salaries with the hope this will support many toward rethinking their plans to leave a sector already under pressure thanks to outdated testing systems and funding cuts.

Yet with 95% of respondents admitting they have concerns for their wellbeing, it is likely an increase to their pay alone is insufficient in turning the tide.

Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal says “During the pandemic, schools and academies had to adapt very quickly to delivering both classroom based teaching for keyworker and vulnerable children, as well as remote learning for all other students, this was on top of trying to manage their own caring responsibilities and other family commitments.  Employees are exhausted and their mental health has suffered as a result of this.  The introduction of our well-being reviews has been a huge success in some schools and academies and it has enabled us to signpost individuals to organisations who can provide appropriate support swiftly and prevent more serious long term issues. We cannot afford to lose such talent from this sector.”

Would you like to introduce well-being reviews into your School or Academy? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR team at any time.

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

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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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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.

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

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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

We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn!