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Low Pay Rises Forecast For 2021
October 28, 2020
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Employers in the private sector are expected to increase pay by an average of just 1% in the year ahead as a result of COVID-19. 

Pay rises have been falling over the past 12 months, with average pay rise now worth 2.2% down from 2.5% this time last year, research from pay analysts XpertHR found. 

Most employers said they were likely to issue pay freezes, with nearly half (44.8%) of private companies saying they do not expect to increase staff wages.

Looking to 2021, XpertHR said that against the background of the coronavirus pandemic many employers in the private sector are “proceeding with caution”.

Sheila Attwood, XpertHR pay and benefits editor, said: “The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on company finances has seen the value of pay rises fall to the floor over the past few months. 

“Many employers are not optimistic that they will be in a position to award a pay rise in 2021, with a pay freeze easily the most expected outcome of any pay review next year.”

However, the research also showed that manufacturing and production employers are predicting higher pay rises than the private sector overall, at a median 1.5%

The research was based on the pay of 1,600 private organisations. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the number of redundancies in the UK had accelerated at the fastest pace since the financial crisis in 2007-2008.

Major Expansion of Post-18 Education and Training
September 30, 2020
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From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP

The Prime Minister has set out plans to transform the training and skills system, making it fit for the 21st century economy, and helping the country build back better from coronavirus.

Adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully-funded college course – providing them with skills valued by employers, and the opportunity to study at a time and location that suits them.

This offer will be available from April in England, and will be paid for through the National Skills Fund. A full list of available courses will be set out shortly.

Higher education loans will also be made more flexible, allowing adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes, take more high-quality vocational courses in further education colleges and universities, and to support people to retrain for jobs of the future.

These reforms will be backed by continued investment in college buildings and facilities – including over £1.5 billion in capital funding. More details will be set out in a further education white paper later this year.

The coronavirus pandemic and changing economy is why the Prime Minister is developing a long-term plan to ensure that, as work changes, people can retrain, upskill and find new well-paid jobs.

In a speech on Tuesday, the Prime Minister is expected to announce a new Lifetime Skill Guarantee. He will say:

As the Chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job. What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs.

So my message today is that at every stage of your life, this government will help you get the skills you need.

He will add:

We’re transforming the foundations of the skills system so that everyone has the chance to train and retrain.

Apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs taking on apprentices, and greater flexibility in how their training is structured – especially in sectors such as construction and creative industries where there are more varied employment patterns.

In 2000, over 100,000 people were doing Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, but that has reduced to fewer than 35,000 now. Those doing foundation degrees has declined from 81,000 to 30,000.

As a result, only 10% of adults hold a Higher Technical Qualification as their highest qualification, compared to 20% in Germany and 34% in Canada.

This is despite the fact that five years after completion, the average Higher Technical Apprentice earns more than the average graduate.

That is why the government is committed to making higher education more flexible to facilitate lifelong learning, and to make it easy for adults and young people to break up their study into segments, transfer credits between colleges and universities, and enable more part-time study.

This new arrangement will provide finance for shorter term studies, rather than having to study in one three or four year block.

The government is also committing £8 million for digital skills boot camps; expanding successful pilots in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and introducing programmes in four new locations.

From next year, boot camps will be extended to sectors like construction and engineering, helping the country build back better and support our refreshed Industrial Strategy.

Earlier this year the government launched its free online Skills Toolkit, helping people train in digital and numeracy skills. This is being expanded today to include 62 additional courses.

£2.5 billion is also being made available through the National Skills Fund to help get people working again after COVID, as well as giving those in work the chance to train for higher-skilled, better-paid jobs.

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT, said:

BT welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to put skills at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery plan, and particularly the emphasis on digital skills. BT is already heavily invested in this area through Skills for Tomorrow which aims to empower 10 million people by giving them the skills they need to make the most of life in a digital world. Our Work Ready programme, and our support for the new Fast Futures digital courses for young adults, focus on the jobseeker groups that most need new skills. Ensuring that the nation’s workforce is ready for a digital future has never been more urgent – and partnership is key. That’s why BT is a founding partner of FutureDotNow, a coalition which aims to motivate people and businesses across the UK to address the growing skills gap and empower everyone to thrive in a digital UK.

Doug Gurr, Amazon’s U.K. Country Manager, said:

We welcome this initiative to help the country recover from the impact of the pandemic by equipping people with the skills needed to find new jobs and retrain for new opportunities. At Amazon, we continue to provide opportunities for people of all ages to gain new skills with apprenticeships and university bursaries, free computer science and engineering resources through our Amazon Future Engineer and Maths4All programmes, and free training for small businesses through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator. Amazon also offers employees a programme called Career Choice that provides funding for skills development through nationally recognised courses of up to £8,000 over four years.

Stephen van Rooyen, EVP & CEO, UK and Europeat Sky said:

Given the pace of change in business and in workplaces today, and the economic challenges of COVID, we welcome the Prime Minister’s announcements today to not just rebuild, but to turbo charge skills training in England. The new Skills and Productivity Board has a key role to play in developing our skills economy for current and future generations. It is a privilege to contribute, and I’m looking forward to working with the panel and the government to drive this important agenda. The Skills Productivity Board will provide important advice to government on how to tackle the nation’s skills challenges to help rebuild our economy post-COVID-19 and deliver the bold skills agenda outlined by the Prime Minister today. I look forward to working with government to level up opportunity across the country ensuring people have the skills they need to progress.

Clare Barclay, CEO, Microsoft UK, said:

As a country we face multiple challenges, but we believe that learning unlocks opportunity. Today, more than ever, individuals, businesses and government must build the skills we need for tomorrow. Because if we fail to act now, the UK could easily be left behind in the global economy. There are no better investments in our future than the kinds of accessible, lifelong and flexible programmes that the Prime Minister has announced this morning.

Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive, BAE Systems, said:

It’s more important than ever that government and industry work together to help young people and adults gain the skills needed to work in sectors which will support our nation’s economic recovery. As a major employer of graduates and apprentices, BAE Systems’ investment in skills provides an essential pipeline of talent that enables us to continue to deliver cutting-edge defence and security capabilities, essential to our national security.

Nick Mackenzie, CEO Greene King, said:

We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of increased funding for skills and further education. As a business we are passionate about improving social mobility and developing the skills of the nation’s young people to ensure they are ready for work. That is why we invest heavily in apprenticeships, supporting over 12,500 since 2011.

David Livingstone, CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Citi, said:

With digitisation accelerating throughout the economy, the UK needs to continue to develop a highly skilled and innovative workforce. Banks can play a critical role, and Citi looks forward to expanding the reach of its current apprenticeship programmes, including our recently-launched Data Academy and efforts to encourage former employees back into the workforce. Citi stands ready to play its part in delivering on the UK Government’s ambition to increase employability and transform the country’s training and skills system.

Anthony Impey MBE, Founder, Optimity, said:

The Prime Minister’s announcement today to transform the training and skills system is crucial to helping businesses get back on their feet and start to realise future opportunities. These are tough times for small businesses and skills are a vital part of the recovery process.

Steve Murrells, CEO of the Co-op, said:

The Co-op Group is pleased to work in partnership with the government to create opportunities for adults to gain the skills they need to move into sustainable employment. We are already an industry leader in providing apprenticeships and we are proud of the work our 1,200 current apprentices have done as key workers during the pandemic to support the nation.

We believe that opportunities need to be created where they are most needed and offered to those who most need them. So we have already committed to ensure that groups that have previously been under-represented in our apprenticeship programme receive fair access in the future so we are seeking partnerships focussed on benefitting Black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates. We also know there is more to do to ensure opportunities to develop new skills are made available in the communities that most need them. That’s why we have committed to offer up to 150 kickstarter placements – combining skills and paid employment – in communities where we know the need is greatest.

A Jaguar Land Rover spokesperson said:

We welcome today’s announcement by the Prime Minister. As future technologies increase the need for digital and electrical skills in the automotive industry, Jaguar Land Rover supports any measures aimed at up-skilling and re-skilling our employees as a part of a lifelong approach to learning.

As the largest UK automotive apprenticeship provider, we invest heavily in the training and development of our people throughout their careers. We look forward now to working with government and industry to develop fit for purpose technical courses and qualifications to support future high value job creation and maintain the UK’s global manufacturing competitiveness.

Covid-19 Changing employee Motivations

A recent study has revealed 96% of job seekers questioned would now not consider working for a company with a poor Covid-19 record.

The study, conducted by online job board Zoek and Neil Harrison from NH237 employment consultancy, looked at if Covid-19 was affecting employees’ opinion regarding their current and future employers.

Results revealed a significant change in the priorities of employees, with how a company treats its staff now much more of a concern. An overwhelming 93% of the 1,134 part and full-time workers surveyed said they would now choose a less successful company that supported employees over a more successful one that did not. The study also revealed that people are much more likely to conduct their own research into prospective employers, with issues such as remote working and workplace social distancing now important factors.

Regarding the findings, Diana Campbell, managing director at Zoek, said;

It is really interesting to see how motivations on moving jobs have changed since the job market has started opening back up. It is more important than ever to provide flexibility and confidence to candidates, which is something we have seen a high volume of searches for on Zoek.”

The survey also revealed that 57% of people felt their employers had communicated well during the lockdown. However, 17% said they had not heard anything from their employers, and only a third knew their employers’ plans for the next six months. The impact of covid-19 will change relations, and expectations, moving forward between employers and employees.

The behaviour of companies during the lockdown was a hot topic, with 55% admitting to sharing stories on social media, both good and bad, regarding their employers’ behaviour. Neil Harrison, lead consultant at NH237 Consulting, said the findings revealed the need for companies to communicate better the good things they have done during the shutdown. He said,

“I truly believe that what an organisation presents to the outside world in terms of candidate attraction has to be born out of the internal employee experience and prevailing culture. This report has further proved that even in the current climate, candidates aren’t willing to go just anywhere to take the next step in their career.”

Managing Your People Effectively in the Post-Pandemic Era
September 11, 2020
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By Tim Boag

The coronavirus lockdown has forced millions of employees to adapt to socially distanced working arrangements and working remotely – a trend many expect to continue well after the pandemic subsides.

Multinational businesses such as Facebook and Twitter have already moved towards making working from home the norm, a shift enabled by technology and telecommuting.

For small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, who may not have the resources of larger firms, hybrid or blended working is more likely to become the new normal, where employees split their time between the office and home.

Managing colleagues remotely can be challenging. Homeworking can cause mental stress, video call fatigue, burnout and a craving for ‘real’ human interaction.

These factors are exacerbated by the added worry of the pandemic. In this climate, leaders need to establish how they can best manage their workforce, maintain good levels of productivity, and care for their employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.

Below are some useful tips to help manage your business during this challenging time:

Keep in regular contact with stakeholders and customers

SMEs should prioritise frequent communication with key stakeholders, whether they are colleagues or customers. Although face to face interactions are difficult right now, video conferencing tools – such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Google Hangouts among others – make it easy to keep in touch with your stakeholders.

Instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Skype offer an even quicker way to communicate updates and information to stakeholders. Finding the right communication tool can often be a case of trial and error but it’s important to find the right one for your business.

Encouragingly, Aldermore’s recent research found that 30% of SMEs had actually increased the amount they communicate with customers and clients during the pandemic.

Of course, while frequent communication is crucial for maintaining employee morale and keeping on top of workloads, it’s important not to go overboard and inundate your people.

Find out what frequency works best for your organisation. If daily calls are causing fatigue among employees, switch to having them every other day or even weekly.

Embrace technology

Communicating well with stakeholders from home often relies heavily on technology. Aldermore’s research found that one in five (20%) SMEs wanted more guidance on how to improve the technological capacity of their business.

One simple way of improving capabilities, is to provide employees with the necessary IT tools – whether that means providing training, a sufficient laptop, a monitor, mouse or headphones, they should have the tools they need to work from home effectively.

Technology can also play an important role in improving interactions between a business and its customers. To ensure our brokers and SME customers were backed throughout this crisis we fast tracked the launch of our online broker portal, Asset Backer, to all our intermediary partners. Asset Backer offers an electronic, paperless end-to-end process, which allows businesses to continue working with customers remotely.

Have robust cyber security measures in place

Mass working from home has created more opportunities for fraudsters to target companies and their customers. Since February for example, over 2,100 COVID-19 related scam cases have been reported to Action Fraud.

Given the heightened risk, it is important companies have robust security measures in place to protect their business. Even simple steps such as reminding employees to regularly change their passwords and keeping their laptop locked when not in use, can go a long way to protecting a business.

Employee wellbeing has to be the number one priority

During this pandemic, it is crucial that businesses focus on the wellbeing of their people. Leaders need to be even more conscious of someone’s personal circumstances and show flexibility towards them, for example allowing those with childcare commitments to flex their working hours.

Keeping morale high can be difficult in these challenging times, but organising virtual coffee catch ups or quiz evenings can go a long way towards boosting spirits. As humans we all need that social interaction, sense of belonging and shared identity that has been put under pressure by lockdown.

As the economy emerges from the gloom of the pandemic, businesses leaders must face up to the prospect that a large proportion of their colleagues may want to continue working at least part of the time out of the office.

When managing a workforce at a distance, it is vital that leaders keep in frequent contact with their stakeholders, embrace technology, monitor and respond to the wellbeing of their employees.

By doing so they will be able to reap the benefits, including increased productivity, improved employees’ morale and enhanced efficiency.

Tim Boag is group managing director of business finance at Aldermore

CareerWise Canada: Working with Mature Clients

An article by TANYA MYKHAYLYCHENKO

This article covers several challenges mature workers face and how career pros can address them.

Career professionals have a broad range of tools for success when working with mature clients who have been in full-time management or administrative roles for 10+ years with the same employer.

Many of these workers are dedicated professionals who were known and respected in their recent workplace for their strong knowledge of the organization and its processes. Often you can hear them say, “I don’t know how to put this on the resume, but I just get things done. I’m very reliable.”

Mature workers who have not had to look for work in several years need help understanding ATS, networking, follow-up and ways of articulating their professional differentiators. The added challenges of post-COVID hiring may include higher competition, more agile businesses and more reliance on technology. In the current climate, mature workers may also need some assistance with highlighting their technical skills and their ability to work remotely.

Understanding the Agile, Contingent Workforce of Today

Competition is high, many roles are temporary, and businesses are trying to be agile and save resources. COVID-19 is introducing new remote ways to do business, use more technologies and delegate tasks to workers (in any location) who can be productive in a remote setting.

If your client was used to stability and long-term employment in their previous organization, they may first consider acknowledging the current situation to position themselves as a candidate who offers both stability and adaptability.

To support mature workers:

  • Prepare them to leverage their experience and years of dedication to previous employers while expressing their adaptability to most recent changes in hiring.
    • They can speed up their hiring process by being highly articulate about their measurable results, technical skills and soft skills – the combination that makes them stand out.
  • Train them to highlight their hard skills as well as demonstrate confidence, competence, resilience and strong communication. A candidate with a calm, executive presence is seen as a reliable employee able to handle challenges.
  • Articulate their value for them: focus on their ability to build consensus at all levels of the organization while listening to employer’s needs and solving problems.
  • Help your client identify their top 3-5 differentiators that make them competitive.
    • You may recommend that they write down a list of their top 10-15 strengths and pick 3-5 from this list when applying for a specific role.
    • You can help them adopt a positive attitude of sharing, in concise terms, their unique professional value with a focus on employer’s needs.
    • You can emphasize the necessity to research a target company, follow up, reach the hiring manager and build their LinkedIn network.

Understanding the Achievement-Based Resume Structure

As with all other applicants, mature workers may focus too much on job duties in their resumes.

To support your clients:

  • Explain how the resume logic evolved with a focus on readability (documents must be easy to skim) and measurable results (‘problem – action – result’ format).
  • Train mature workers to think in terms of how they solve problems and what outcomes they deliver (vs. process and experience).
  • Ask specific questions or develop questionnaires to help them articulate results.
  • Encourage them to prepare for interviews following the same achievement-based approach and think in terms of how they can help employers save money, make money, improve operations or address difficulties.

Understanding Current Job Application Cycles

Submitting a resume alone is not enough. Many mature workers may favour a resume spray approach where they send applications to 50+ open positions online, without prior knowledge of companies. Help them understand a job search strategy as a more focused, yet varied effort.

To support your clients:

  • Help them inform their immediate network (service providers, community organizations, extended family, former colleagues or clients, religious, sports or recreational affiliations, etc.) that they are looking for a new role.
  • Encourage your clients to create a list of 20 target employers and research them, follow them on social media, identify decision-makers and connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Provide your clients with examples of networking messages that are brief, clear and authentic.
  • Help your clients understand the full cycle of the job application process:
    • customizing the application for each specific role
    • following up
    • networking online
    • building relationships while interviewing (for future opportunities)
    • “closing the sale” after in-person interviews with some form of 30-60-90-day plan or a list of their action items for the first month if they were to be hired.
  • Inspire your clients to be proactive at every stage of the application vs. waiting for a response. Help them understand that an online job application puts them in the pool of 100-200 other applicants and an interview invitation puts them in a pool of 2-6 other competitions. What will they do to keep standing out?

Throughout the process of working with mature workers, remind yourself of where they are coming from and how this informs their current motivation, approaches or challenges. By showing your understanding and acknowledgement of their current state, you can help them adopt new ways of looking for work faster, while finding the best approach for each individual.


TANYA MYKHAYLYCHENKO

Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a resume writer with a background in university teaching and IT staffing. She is a member of Editors Canada and Career Professionals of Canada.

ViewPoint: Unlocking the Post-Covid Potential of Apprenticeships

By John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company.

The A level results season revealed much about our prevailing national mind-set and attitudes to learning and qualifications.

John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company

Amid the outcry and confusion about school leavers’ prospects for admission to university, was an almost deafening silence about the impact of Covid and exam-grading on those seeking to move from education into employment or training. – the course the majority take.

The issue takes us down a well-trodden path of discord between academic qualifications versus vocational learning and pathways.

The pivotal importance of apprenticeships

recent report by the Centre for Social Justice highlighted the pivotal importance of apprenticeships in developing learning, skills and providing opportunity. It also identified the challenges we face in unleashing their full potential, including the perennial problem about raising the status of apprenticeships in the UK.

Unlike Germany, we don’t have a Mittelstand, which creates a significant demand-pull for apprenticeships and places a premium on technical skills and learning; our services dominated economy leans towards different skills sets and our education system has built-in incentives that have tended to push pupils towards academic choices over vocational.

We also face immediate pandemic related pressures that seem likely, certainly in the short-term, to limit opportunity. Many employers have made business-survival decisions to put apprenticeship intake on hold. In such circumstances, opportunities to create apprenticeship places will be at a premium.

Employers determined to support young people despite many predicting a downturn in apprenticeship places

However, despite the immediate and long-standing challenges, evidence also points to a growing awareness about the importance of apprenticeships, both in providing opportunity to young people and developing the talent the economy needs. In August, the Government seized an opportunity to increase the number of nursing apprenticeships as a response to the surge of interest in health careers.

In a recent poll by Savanta Comres for The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), of business leaders amongst Britain’s largest employers, more than three quarters (77%) said employers should be now looking to increase apprenticeships. A similar proportion (76%) said there was now an increased need to support young people entering work.

Teachers now recognise employability skills as more important than exams

Educators are also increasing their recognition of the apprenticeship route. More than four in five schools (83%) without a sixth form now report through the CEC’s Compass platform that their young people have had the full range of information on apprenticeships. This drops slightly to 79 percent in schools with sixth forms – a sign of the lingering incentive towards academic routes. However, it is a vast improvement from 44 percent in 2017.

Teachers now recognise employability skills are more important than academic qualifications in preparing young people for their working lives. In a recent poll of 5,000 teachers by Teacher Tapp, almost three-quarters – 74% – say skills like teamwork and public speaking will equip pupils to secure a good job in these uncertain economic times. In contrast, 62% say the same about good academic qualifications.

9 out of 10 Young People have now had apprenticeships discussed with them

Young people themselves say they are now more aware of apprenticeships. The recent Youth Voice Census found that 86 percent of young people have had apprenticeships discussed with them. Our own Future Skills research, which identifies the impact of careers education on young people’s decision making about their next steps, found that 55 percent say they have thought about whether an apprenticeship is right for them and 58 percent have thought about whether moving straight to work after education is best next step for them.

What is certain, particularly in the current challenging and uncertain environment, is that more support will be necessary to unlock the true potential of apprenticeships. Government’s package of support for Kickstart, training and apprenticeships is timely step in that direction. Allied to such measures, enabling schools and colleges to refocus on equipping their students to make informed and ambitious decisions regarding their futures is more important than ever.

This support will be vital in providing a bridge between the crisis management solutions necessary to combat the immediate effects of the pandemic and a longer-term recovery plan with apprenticeships at the forefront.

John Yarham, interim CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company

Why Providing Flexibility Could Cost Companies Dearly
September 8, 2020
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BY Musab Hemsi

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically accelerated the shift towards more flexible working practices across the economy.

Remote working was a simple necessity at the start of the pandemic, but it’s clear that many of the habits we’ve adopted during this period are here to stay.

For employees, this brings many benefits, with better work-life balance, more free time and less money spent commuting. Meanwhile, employers may be able to reduce their reliance on expensive office spaces.

However, many employers will not be aware of the potential legal implications of how they handle requests for flexible working as we look beyond the pandemic. Here’s what employers need to know.

In 2014, the rules on flexible working were changed to enable employees with over 26 weeks’ service to request a change to their working hours, the times they work and their place of work.

This legal framework is underpinned by a statutory regime, which requires employers to formally decide on any request for flexible working within three months of receiving a request. This process can be extended by agreement with the employee.

Legally, there are only a handful of reasons an employer can refuse a request for more flexible working. These mostly relate to an impact on customers, colleagues and their ability to carry out the work within the new arrangement.

However, many employees will have found that their ability to carry out their work has not been compromised while working remotely during the pandemic. In fact, many have reported an increase in their productivity, with more flexible working arrangements. In light of this, employers should be aware of the possibility of appeals if they refuse applications on these grounds.

Another legal nuance employers should be aware of is that mishandling requests for more flexible working could expose them to unlawful discrimination claims.

This is especially true in relation to employees who have childcare or disability issues that restrict their ability to work in accordance with traditional working practices.

If a decision to refuse flexible working arrangements to an employee has even an unintended effect of discriminating against that employee based on a protected characteristic, employers may find themselves in hot water.

For example, refusing a disabled employee the ability to work flexibly may count as unlawful discrimination if the employer’s premises are not designed to accommodate wheelchair users.

It’s therefore key to have a positive dialogue with employees who request flexible working and to understand their reasoning. This results in both better outcomes for the employee and protects the employer from the risk of potentially costly and time-consuming legal consequences.

Ultimately, employers should work to ensure that they have a robust and comprehensive system in place to handle requests and ensure that managers are well-placed to take decisions with proper business rationale, while enabling employees to set out their case for flexible working.

Unfortunately, we find that many employers approach flexible working requests with a closed mind. This is usually an error, and employers would be far better off maintaining a constructive dialogue with employees who make flexible working requests and trying to accommodate their requests.

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the eyes of many businesses to the potential of drastic changes in working practices without compromising on the quality or quantity of work. As we look to the future, employers would be wise to consider the potential of embracing flexible working in a way that benefits both the employer and their employees.

Musab Hemsi is partner at LexLeyton

ViewPoint: Careers Advisers – Are We Ready for the New Normal?
August 26, 2020
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By Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Advisors, Leicester College

Since March 2020, the vast majority of career services, and providers such as schools, colleges and universities transferred all their services to providing a service remotely.

© Sarfraz Ahmed, August 2020 - Member of the Careers Writers Association

For our own health and safety, the vast majority of us worked from home.

Through the combination use of:

  • Telephone Guidance
  • Video Chat
  • Live Streams
  • E-guidance
  • Social Media

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of us have had to rethink the way we work and engage with our customers, Although this has meant a shift in the way that we engage with our customers, it has been a positive in the sense that many of us have had to embrace technology such as using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, using Streamyard for Live Streams.

Personally, whilst in lockdown, I’ve had the opportunity to record my first podcast and been a guest on local radio in Leicester and nationally as well. Telephone guidance has been successful for providing advice especially to support Educational, Healthcare Plans (EHCP) reviews, and has allowed the College Careers Team to effectively support the work of Additional Support Managers to effectively provide progression for students from their current course.

Live streaming has taken Careers Advisers and placed them in front of a ‘live’ audience albeit through a variety of social media platforms. This has for many taken away from the traditional method of delivery and has taken them out of their comfort zones. Live streaming can be daunting, as not only are you seeing yourself on a screen for the first time, but your advice and the way that you give that advice is immortalised online, and available on a variety of platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube. Live stream content can be readily accessed time and time again, locally, nationally and internationally, as with any careers activity, preparation and practise is essential something that is crucial for a success live stream.

Another activity that careers advisers have engaged in is blogging, whether its physically writing articles or ‘blogs’ or creating ‘video blogs’ or podcasts. I personally find these a fun way to engage with an audience, and often practitioners point of view will provide real life context that may support an academic piece of research. Lockdown and working from home has given rise to engaging in webinars, within a week I could be engaging in at least four or five webinars a week. These were provided by universities, colleges, careers publications and websites.

I particular found the webinars from Youth Employment UK, Career Pilot, Amazing Apprenticeships, DMH Associates and EMSI particular useful and informative. Engaging with other professionals can make you feel that you are part of wider collective, especially we are all in the ‘same boat’, and a lot of the issues and concerns we had were similar. Often these webinars led to further debate and discussion on sites such as LinkedIn, as shared our thoughts, articles and findings and collectively we supported each other online.

Now three months on, the ideas of going back to work in the office can appear to be a very daunting thought to say the least

Talking to career professionals there are many areas of concern. First and foremost safety and protection for both themselves and those that they serve, whether or the use of screens and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and hand sanitisers will be enough to adequate protection. Will social distancing be feasible within a careers setting such as in interview rooms and in offices where we provide 1:1 careers guidance, interview rooms will have to ventilated and not crowded and be able to provide adequate protection, this includes spaces such as classrooms and group work settings. Large assemblies and events will have to take account health and safety issues and in many cases will have to be re-thought.

There clearly needs to be a more flexible approach to working, as the last few months have shown that many career services can be run successfully remotely. This could include a more staggered return to the office allowing some staff to work from home, so that staff is not in the office at the same time, ensuring that social distancing guidelines are met.

In the past few months many of us have embraced technology, especially the use of Microsoft Teams to have meetings with colleagues, to contact students, to conduct video interviews, and deliver group work sessions online. This shift for many has been challenging and a huge learning curve as prior to the lockdown very few of us used Microsoft Teams or any other similar technology.

I feel a ‘blended approach’ is crucial for a safe return to going back to work, although working from home can still be maintained to a certain extent. Travelling to and from work and to other venues are also issues for many career advisers as safety could be also be an issue on public transport. For those working in schools, colleges and universities, there is still a concern of potential risk of having large number people gathered in one place and how this will be managed and maintained.

The recent upsurge of interest in career guidance as well as the government’s commitment has meant that the government will be looking to increase the number of advisers to help address issues of unemployment and misplacement as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As such we do not know how this will be tackled and indeed if there enough advisers to meet the demand, we will have to wait and see.

Many careers professionals have been concerned about the level of pay and its inconsistency across the board. Career advisers in schools and colleges are yet to be paid a wage that is reflects their level 6 minimum level of qualification, (equivalent to degree Level) and many have additional postgraduate qualifications and higher as well as the constant research and training necessary to keep up to date, especially in times of change, this has been evident in the recent pandemic crisis.

In recent times due a shift in policy which has led to a downsizing of services such as Connexions, meant many Careers Advisers have had to refocus and retrain and as such the profession has lost a lot of talented and dedicated advisers, through a barrage of pay cuts, redundancies and a loss of opportunity to progress in their own careers. Clearly these underlying issues will still need to be addressed if the is a demand for careers advisers in the future.

Why careers guidance is more important than ever

Interesting enough Sir John Holman’s recent blog entitled “Why careers guidance is more important than ever”, published on the Association of Colleges (AoC) website (10 July 2020), highlighting the need for good careers guidance, especially in the current climate.

He also emphasised that careers guidance needs to be a priority in schools and colleges, and that careers guidance needs to be taken seriously and that commitment needs to come from the top through Career Leads, ensuring that “careers is being embedded across the curriculum”.

He felt that “Colleges are critical for protecting those vulnerable students in their community who have most to lose as the jobs market goes through turbulent change. As job opportunities disappear, new ones will appear, and good career guidance can steer students towards them.

Recent governments guidelines in terms of the Gatsby Benchmarks (2014), and the Careers Strategy (2017), will still have to be adhered to, however Careers Services and Advisers may need to rethink the way there guidance is delivered in a post Covid world.

As careers resources may need to be adapted traditional guidance techniques for a new generation, using new technology to deliver to groups, and to perhaps adopt a more ‘blended’ approach, through the use of live streams, and uploading content onto readily accessible platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube.

In preparing for the new normal, our services and our practises will need to be flexible and adapts to ensure that we operate in a safe environment that helps to meet the needs of our customers more than ever.

Redundancy: Seven Questions Employers Should Ask Themselves

By Richard Thomas Employment Law Partner Capital Law 

What are your legal requirements as an employer when making redundancies?

Serious sad woman in sweater carrying cardboard box full of stuff and leaving office after dismissal

In the volatile market situation we find ourselves in at present, redundancies may be unavoidable for some organisations, but there are certain legal obligations that need to be fulfilled when employers take this route. Here, we’ll look at seven key aspects employers should consider before embarking on this.

1. Is redundancy a ‘legally straightforward’ way of dismissing employees?

Not really. There are plenty of variables that can easily complicate and delay a redundancy process. These include an employee’s length of service, the number of employees at risk, the involvement of a trade union, the number of sites affected, and the timescales involved. Add to these the logistics of trying to arrange the consultation process mid-pandemic, and it can quickly become difficult.

2. What is required before I can start a redundancy process?

The key condition is that a ‘genuine redundancy’ situation must be proven. In the current context, it would be relatively easy for many businesses to show that they find themselves in such a situation.

There is no one-size-fits-all test, but the situation must fall within one or more of the following categories: a business closure (the business shuts altogether); a workplace closure (the business is partly shut/ is relocated); or a reduction of workforce (the business no longer has sufficient work for some or all its staff).

As well as the impact of Covid-19, other scenarios could include a reduction in demand and/or customers, automating systems and streamlining staff.

3. How should I choose the employees to be made redundant?

At the outset, the business should ‘identify the ‘pool’ – i.e. the group of employees from which it will choose those who are to be made redundant.

When choosing those who are to be made redundant, fair and objective selection criteria should be used. Common examples can include length of service; disciplinary history; performance, skills, qualifications, experience and appraisals.

Selection criteria should not be based on unlawful/unfair grounds, such as an employee’s age, sex or race (discriminatory factors), absence for family, maternity, or disability related reasons, a role as a trade union or employee representative, or whistleblowing.

There is usually no requirement to consider any selection criteria if all employees are being made redundant, or if there is a pool of one.

4. Do I need to consider any alternatives to compulsory redundancy?

One option to consider at the outset is to offer voluntary redundancy. This might reduce the number of employees in the process, or prevent it happening altogether.

Before and during any meaningful process, you should consider other ways in which compulsory redundancies could be avoided, or at least reduced. This might include:

  • Identifying and offering alternative employment.
  • Recruitment freezes.
  • Reviewing and ending contractor arrangements.
  • Reducing overtime.
  • Allowing sabbaticals, flexible or reduced working, career breaks etc.
  • Cutting bonuses and other benefit schemes.
  • Early retirement.

If an employee has two years’ service or more, employers will be under a legal obligation to consider alternatives like the above, or otherwise be faced with the risk of a claim for unfair dismissal.

Employees and their representatives may also have their own suggestions on how to avoid a redundancy situation, which should come to light during the consultation process.

5. Do I need to think about collective consultation?

Quite possibly. In addition to individual consultation, if the number of proposed redundancies will be 20 or more within a period of 90 days at a single establishment, this will trigger collective consultation requirements. These include:

  • Notifying the Redundancy Payments Service before any consultation starts.
  • Consulting with trade union/elected employee representatives, and providing them with certain prescribed information.
  • An obligatory freeze on any redundancies taking effect for a 30-day period for 20 to 99 redundancies, or 45 days for 100 or more redundancies in 90 days.

Failing to follow these rules can prove costly. An employment tribunal can award up to 90 days’ uncapped pay per affected employee where an employer has breached its obligations.

If fewer than 20 redundancies are proposed, there are no strict collective consultation rules to follow, but it is always best practice to fully consult employees (and their representatives if applicable) throughout the process.

6. How do I consult during the pandemic?

If businesses remain open and staffed, and it is possible to do so, the traditional way of consulting face-to-face and electing representatives (within social distancing guidelines) may still be a viable option.

For many businesses, however, the alternative virtual route may be best. Employers can, just as efficiently, inform and consult employees through Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype etc. Provided that the legal requirements are met, conducting the process remotely should not prove to be an obstacle for employers.

Similarly, employers who have been required to arrange elections of employee representatives (which should be done by secret ballot) have found online tools such as Doopoll and SurveyMonkey useful for gathering nominations, while still protecting anonymity.

7. What will I need to pay redundant employees?

If an employee has two years’ continuous service or more, they will normally be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment (SRP) – calculated on the basis of their age, pay and length of service, and paid tax-free. There is also a weekly cap (currently £538) and a total cap (currently £16,140) when it comes to calculating SRP.

Some businesses may also offer enhanced redundancy packages, over and above SRP, which may also be paid tax-free (but not guaranteed) up to £30,000.

For those who have less than two years’ service, there is no automatic legal right to SRP. The employee’s contract and all redundancy-related policy documents should be checked, however, to make sure that no such right exists.

In addition, redundant employees (regardless of their length of service) will be entitled to their notice period and pay at the end of the procedure. Depending on the employee’s contract, you may be able to make a payment in lieu of their notice period (otherwise known as PILON).

Chancellor Announces a Summer Statement in Response to Coronavirus

By: Rachel Miller

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a raft of new measures designed to protect, support and create jobs, including a job retention bonus.

Rishi Sunak Covid-19, 10 Downing Street mini budget

The “Plan for jobs” announced by the chancellor in his summer statement is part of the government’s plan to secure the UK’s economic recovery from coronavirus.

The key measures are:

  • A new Job Retention Bonus will be paid to employers who bring staff back from furlough. UK employers will be paid £1,000 for each employee who is continuously employed until the end of January 2021 earning over the lower earnings limit (£520 per month).
  • There will be a new Kick Start Scheme to support the creation of jobs for young people aged 16-25. Funding will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus employer NICs and minimum statutory employer pension contributions. The scheme will target those on Universal Credit who are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.
  • There will be additional funding for employers providing traineeships. The Government will fund employers in England who provide trainees aged 16-24 with work experience, at a rate of £1,000 per trainee.
  • From 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021, the Government will pay employers in England £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 and £1,500 per apprentice aged over 25. This is in addition to previously announced incentives.
  • The rate of VAT will be cut on food and non-alcoholic drinks from 20% to 5% from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021. The reduced (5%) rate will apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK. The reduced rate also applies to supplies of accommodation and admission to attractions across the UK.
  • A temporary ‘Eat Out to Help Out‘ scheme will run throughout August. Every diner in participating establishments across the UK will receive a 50% discount (up to £10 per head) on their meal. The discount can be used unlimited times and will be valid Monday to Wednesday on any eat-in meal (including on non-alcoholic drinks). Participating establishments will be fully reimbursed for the 50% discount.
  • The nil rate band of Residential Stamp Duty Land Tax will be extended with immediate effect from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31 March 2020.
  • A new Green Homes Grant to support green jobs will provide homeowners and landlords with vouchers to pay £3 for every £2 spent making a home energy efficient (up to £5,000 per household). For those on the lowest incomes, the scheme will fully fund energy efficiency measures of up to £10,000 per household.
  • The Government also announced a range of measures to support the creation of jobs including: a Construction Talent Retention Scheme to support the redeployment of workers at risk of redundancy; a new Office for Talent which will focus on attracting, retaining and developing top research and science talent across the UK and internationally; a Green Jobs Challenge Fund to help environmental charities and public authorities create and protect 5,000 jobs in England; an Automotive Transformation Fund to develop and embed the next generation of cutting-edge automotive technologies in batteries, motors, electronics and fuel cells.