GP Care's HR Support Service - New Year's Resolutions and Dates for 2011

GP Care provides an HR Support Service to GP practices across the wider Bristol area, providing pragmatic, 'can do' advice from HR specialists who have considerable experience of dealing with complex HR issues whilst working in the commercial sector. Should practices wish to discuss any issues, initially on a free of charge basis, then they should contact the HR Service Manager at GP Care on 0333 332 2100.

Important information for 2011 (New Year’s Resolutions) is set out below.

1. Employment Documentation
Some guidance about “getting your house in order” for the New Year. GP Care’s own experience of completing the CQC registration process confirms that legally compliant, robust HR and Health & Safety Policies and Procedures are critical to the successful registration process. It is therefore timely to:
• Review your existing employment documentation - Contracts of Employment, Employee Handbook etc. – to ensure its compliance with recent developments in Employment Legislation;
• Check you have the correct “Right to Work” documentation recorded on Personal Files, i.e. ensure that all employees have a copy of their Passport or Birth Certificate kept on their Personal Files which can be inspected by the Immigration Authorities;
• Ensure all new employees are taken on under a probationary trial period and that you make a conscious decision to confirm the employment rather than “prolonging the agony”;
• Ensure your H&S policies and procedures reflect what is happening in practice;
• Check your H&S Risk Assessments are up to date.

2. Performance Management
It is common for some of the normal disciplines of timekeeping, attendance etc. that we expect within the working environment to become compromised over the passage of time – particularly in small, tight-knit “family” practice environments. Inevitably some individuals abuse the goodwill and flexibility they enjoy, standards become compromised and resentment breaks out amongst other members of staff who feel put upon because they find themselves constantly having to cover the work for the same colleagues. You are encouraged to:
• Check that standards of timekeeping and attendance are being maintained and that there are no areas where things are “slipping” beyond the point of reason;
• Manage the situation appropriately rather than just acquiesce if you do identify that there are “frequent offenders”;
• Reinforce the required standards of performance and ensure that staff are monitored against them;
• Don’t be afraid to take more formal “performance management” measures using your Disciplinary Procedure if there is no improvement;
• Take more formal action if you have staff who are not performing to the required standard in other aspects of their work. Discuss your concerns with them and ensure any necessary training support is implemented. Confront the issue and not the person!

3. Appraisal Procedures
All too frequently the Appraisal Process is regarded as a “necessary evil” from both the Employee’s and Employer’s perspective – once the paperwork is done it goes in the file and the process is over for another year to the relief of all concerned! This is unfortunate as a good appraisal process is a fundamental management tool that can be motivational and encourage improved organisational performance.
• Check that your Practice’s Appraisal system is still “fit for purpose” – is it working for you?
• Ensure that the feedback is used and regularly monitor performance against it.
• If there are concerns about an employee’s performance that may ultimately require formal disciplinary intervention it is great that there are “no surprises” and there is a record that some attempt has previously been made to address the situation.

Next Steps
If you would like a without obligation conversation with Linda Chick, our very experienced HR Consultant, about any of these suggestions or any other “people” issues within your Practice that may be giving you cause for concern, make it your New Year’s resolution to give her a call. Linda can be contacted via the GP Care office on 0333 332 2100 – or by email info@gpcare.org.uk.

Key developments to watch out for in 2011 include:
1st February

• Tribunal Awards - The limits applying to tribunal awards and other amounts payable under employment legislation will increase for effective dates on or after 1 February 2011. The maximum amount of a 'week's pay' will increase from £380 to £400 and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal from £65,300 to £68,400.

31st March
• Retirement - The last date on which employers can give the minimum six months' notice of intention to retire if wanting to make use of the default retirement age; six months' notice would expire on 30 September.

April
• Bribery Act - The Act will introduce new criminal offences. Most important for employers is the offence of failing to prevent bribery. There is the risk of imprisonment and fines in the event of a breach.
• Additional paternity leave and pay - These provisions apply to parents of babies born (and adoptive parents notified of a match with a prospective adopted child) on or after 3 April 2011, increasing potential leave for fathers to six months.
• Flexible working - The right to request flexible working will be extended to all parents with children under 18.
• Immigration - New measures to control the number of migrants that can come to the UK from outside Europe will come into force including an annual limit of 20,700 on those coming to the UK under Tier 2 (general) and abolishing the existing Tier 1 (general) category and replacing it with a new Tier 1 (exceptional talent) category which will be limited to 1,000 people.
• Rate increases - Weekly rates of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave pay will increase from £124.88 to £128.73 and the rate of statutory sick pay will increase from £79.15 to £81.60.
• Time off for training - May be extended to all employees who have been employed for at least 26 weeks, though this right is under review.
• Equality Act - The public sector single equality duty will come into force as will the controversial power for employers to take positive action on recruitment and promotion. This will allow employers to recruit or promote employees because of their sex, race etc. if they are "as qualified as" other candidates, provided this is done on a case-by-case basis rather than as a matter of policy. 

June 
• Works Councils - The Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees (Amendment) Regulations 2010 will come into force, introducing significant legal changes to pan-European workplace consultation involving European works councils.

October
• Retirement age - The statutory "default retirement age" of 65 will disappear. All compulsory retirements taking effect on or after 1 October will have to be justified to avoid claims of age discrimination and unfair dismissal.
• Agency workers - The Agency Workers Regulations will come into force.

Other Developments
Aside of the changes mentioned above, the Government is committed to introducing its "one-in, one-out" rule, so that no new regulation is brought in without another being cut, and to a review of workplace laws "to ensure they maximize flexibility while protecting fairness and providing the competitive environment required for enterprise to thrive." There have already been indications that proposed changes could be as fundamental as increasing the qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal from one to two years. The results of the workplace review should be announced by April 2011.

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