Steve’s Blog: Don’t make excuses!

It’s all too easy to overlook new legislation-imposed deadlines and edicts.  But should HR professionals instead understand and harness such requirements to achieve a Return on Investment?

I doubt that any of us can claim to have met every deadline that we have encountered in life.  Indeed some people seem to make a habit of failing to hit them.  Author Douglas Adams once famously said;

“I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

And of course many others are also familiar with that sound.  Recently Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs outlined a list of the more bizarre excuses that they receive for late submissions.  From this listing my personal favourite is:

“My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.”

Although a close second place was a reworking of that old school homework excuse:

“The hamster ate my post.”

So it appears that we can all be creative – if not always that credible – in our own defence when really needed.  But wouldn’t it be a better idea if we instead used that creativity as a constructive force both in our personal and work life?

And a positive and ingenious approach might certainly be of use as yet another new legislation-led deadline moves into view for HR professionals.  This new challenge arrives on the 6th April this year – just a little over two months away – with the introduction of “Day One” written statements of employment particulars for all workers.

The new requirements

The new written statements are required for all new workers (a broader definition than “employee”), and arise as part of the recommendations made in the Taylor Review in 2017, and The Good Work Plan in 2018.  A lot has happened since then – not least a change of Prime Minister, a General Election, and the UK’s imminent departure from the EU – so many HR professionals could be forgiven for overlooking this apparently minor new workplace requirement.

Yet regardless of employer awareness, it is the case that the legislation to introduce the new statements is already in place, so with just two months to go this should now be moving up the HR “to-do” listing with some rapidity.  For more information on the new requirements, please see this useful summary page put together by Matt Jenkin, Employment Partner at Moorcrofts.

What about Employee Benefits (EB)?

Not only are the new statements required to be provided sooner than in the past, but they are also intended to be much more comprehensive.  And that means the inclusion of all contractual Employee Benefits* being provided within the one document.  So is this a tangible obstacle, or can employers easily include such offerings?

Much will depend on how well employers currently manage and communicate their Employee Benefits package.  Those employers with more sophisticated offerings and on-boarding processes – particularly ones where the Employee Benefits platform interfaces with both the HR systems and Total Reward Statements – shouldn’t find the new rules particularly challenging.  Conversely those without the benefit of such tools may find the collating and publication of the details on the first day of every employment a much more testing experience.  It’s worth remembering that this is a legal requirement, so getting this right first time, every time, is strongly recommended.

There are two other points worth mentioning here.  Firstly, care should be taken not to inadvertently suggest that a non-contractual benefit isn’t incorrectly recorded as a contractual one.  This will need careful consideration before the template for your company is finalised for obvious reasons.

It’s also worth highlighting that the process only applies to new hires.  So it’s not legally necessary to roll out the revised “Day One” statement to all existing employees on the 6th April 2020.

A positive rather than a negative?

The above paragraphs provide only a broad outline of the new requirements to achieve compliance (for more detailed information please speak to a legal adviser).  But I’m hoping that the savvy HR professional will recognise that this change also represents an excellent opportunity to do more than merely comply with the new rules.

For starters, the new statement could perhaps include much more than just a list of the benefits provided.  Take the opportunity to really drive home all the components of the package, so that workers can really understand the range of support available.

It’s also worth going further than the legal requirement of providing a comprehensive benefits statement to new workers only.  Your organisation will need to spend the time and expense setting up the new system for joiners anyway, so why not go just that little bit further and include existing employees too?  In this way you can ensure that every employee really understands and appreciates those company-supported benefits.

Ultimately your organisation has little choice but to spend the time, effort, and money to meet the new requirements.  So it follows that you might as well harness this effort to produce a tangible Return on Investment as part of the process too.  It’s either that, or time to start looking for another excuse.

Steve Herbert is Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing

*Pension scheme details and employee training provided can be provided in a supplementary statements within 2 months of start date.

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