Zero Hours Contract Debate Rumbles On

ZeroIt looks like the zero hours contract debate will be rumbling on in 2014 according to the Chief Executive of ACAS. In an article published in HR Magazine this month, Anne Sharp welcomes the Government’s decision to institute a 12-week consultation to produce guidelines for employers and employees to help clear up confusion. As ACAS have seen an increasing number of enquiries from employees concerned with changes in their terms of contracts this can only be a good thing. Zero hours can offer flexibility to both employers and employees but with a second reading due in the House of Commons of a Private Members Bill seeking to prohibit zero hours contracts – it is clear that some strong guidelines to protect employees and inform employers are necessary if they are to remain a part of the flexible working toolkit available to maintain the agile workforce required to support economic growth.

The key to ensuring fairness in the workplace is by being able to track and monitor zero hours workers time and attendance and put in place processes and rules that will show employers and employees are getting the best out of this kind of working practice.

I have always maintained that businesses need to be as agile as possible, however a mix of full-time, part-time and the highly flexible zero-hours contract workers are essential to retain talent and ensure business objectives are met. If you want to keep abreast of the zero hours debate you can find out more by visiting the ACAS or the Government websites:

http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4468

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/zero-hours-employment-contracts

Manage Your Staff Well And Prevent Those Christmas Blues

Christmas BluesFor many people this is the final day of work till the New Year. Others like care workers, policemen and hospital workers will be working over the whole of the festive period. Working unsociable hours can be crucial in order to boost many people’s income and they welcome the extra money in their pay packet. For some employees, however, working unsociable hours and missing out on time with their family can lead to serious issues with their engagement and productivity. Often there is no easy solution to this thorny problem and bosses have no choice but to schedule employees to work and for many employees it is part of their contract of employment.

Of course it isn’t only during the holiday season that employers find it difficult to balance employee wishes and business goals, any periods when customer demand increases can cause issues with staff scheduling.  However, there are steps businesses can take to ensure that they minimise employee disengagement and gain tighter control of overtime costs

Managers can minimise the impact on employees and their bottom line if they are able to track and schedule their employees fairly and accurately. Controlling overtime payments and absence by scheduling those people who have spare hours available and are happy to work is a lot easier if they have the processes and technology to automatically manage employees. Making self-service shift preferences available and keeping an eye on absence levels can help managers monitor employee engagement and make informed decisions around scheduling.

You can find out more about employee engagement and how important it is to your business take a look at this white paper ‘Employee Engagement As A Competitive Differentiator’

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Standard Working Practices v Flexible Working – Who Wins?

Take a look at this brilliant RSA Animate piece on ‘Re-Imaging Work’.  It has made my colleague, Emma Weir, take a closer look at standardisation and the issues employees face when they need to work more flexibly. Here are her thoughts.

Working for Kronos, a billion dollar business founded on standardisation, I have to disagree that standardisation is all negative. However achieving cost savings through standardisation whilst offering employee engaging flexibility does seem to be at odds with each other.

Last week I attended the The Manufacturer magazine’s Directors Conference in Manchester. It was attended by leaders keen on improving employee engagement across a range of manufacturing disciplines, from bed pans to missiles. One manager told me that they were moving to a brand new, more efficient facility shortly and had been told “the employees will be fine about it”. Fortunately she didn’t agree with this massive assumption of how easily employees can adapt, and having been through an office closure recently myself, I am glad she felt that way.

Cost savings and standardisation have an emotional impact on the employee that can severely knock their engagement with a company. My office was recently closed as the demand for virtual training meant we no longer needed classrooms in our facility and now we have a hot desk facility set up in another town. I am lucky that Kronos gives me the flexibility to freely choose where I work (hot desk or home) as long as I record my time on my phone through the Kronos application so my hours are tracked and managed. So this is great, we have achieved a cost saving with standardisation.

On the flipside though I have found that every week I choose a different pattern of home and office work thinking that “this is the one” as I struggle to balance my ever changing workload with the right environment to get the most results – Do I need quiet and focus? Do I need to be locked away from the distractions of working from home? Do I need company and chatter around me to fuel energy, to collaborate? This constant reassessment of where to work is something none of us could predict and I see many of my colleagues and clients going through the same thought processes.

One thing that is true is the extra hours I do to over-compensate for the fear that people who don’t see me think I am not working. This is built into so many minds – including my own – and it has spurred me to build better relationships with my co-workers as I spend more time actively communicating what I am doing and engaging them in my projects – as well as working longer hours of course!

The moral to the story is that when we are looking to find efficiencies that strengthen our business we must always look to our most important asset, our people, and try and predict and understand the emotional impact of any change so that a quick financial gain does not result in a long term productivity hit.

Follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaWeir

 

Biometric technology is cool – it’s official!

Biometric technology, that uses the body’s unique features as an identification technique, has been around for a while. And now it has been adopted by Apple, it looks set to become a pretty cool alternative to passwords.

Does this mean that Kronos has been using cool technology for many years now? Well I think so! We have been using biometric technology since before 2000 to help organisations protect employee data on self-service terminals and to combat fraudulent working time entries. This is often where employees ask colleagues to clock in for them so that they don’t get flagged as late or absent. Less common, but more importantly, it is used to make sure the person who is working is the trained and certified individual you expect. Once a biometric solution has been introduced self-service terminals can be used by employees to check holiday balances, flexitime hours worked, next shifts, they can also make holiday requests sign up or swap shifts in the safe knowledge all their data is protected. Obviously a by-product is the improved accuracy in tracking hours, attendance and the reduction in absence rates. All of which, can help improve employee engagement and has a positive impact on the bottom-line.

With biometrics now becoming more mainstream in mobile technology, I am sure there will be concerns, similar to those we face when customers seek to introduce biometric technology.  Kronos Touch ID technology does not store hard-copy fingerprint images. In fact, no images are stored at all with the Kronos system. Instead, the InTouch terminal equipped with the Touch ID option scans the employee’s finger then converts the fingerprint image into a mathematical representation, which it stores in an encrypted format. As a result, it’s practically impossible to reproduce the original image. A fact that greatly promotes the cause of employee privacy.

The knowledge of the incompatibility (on several levels) of Kronos finger-scanning technology with government and law enforcement IAFIS fingerprinting devices goes a long way toward calming employees’ privacy concerns. In fact, Kronos Touch ID fingerscanning technology uses a unique algorithm, resolution, and capture size. These things combine to make the encrypted fingerprint data stored in the Kronos system irresolvable by government IAFIS technology.

With biometric verification looking to become even more popular, the nightmare of forgotten passwords will be alleviated and, despite the reservations that have been aired recently in the press, I think it won’t be too long before biometrics become commonplace and will be used in many areas of our daily life.

Real Time Information – Are you ready?

Simon MacphersonMany of you will know from 6 April 2013 employers will have to start reporting PAYE information to HMRC in real time. You may see this referred to as Real Time Information – or RTI.

This means that employers (or their accountants, bookkeepers or payroll bureau) will have to send details to HMRC each and every time they pay an employee, at the time they pay them and use payroll software to send this information electronically as part of their routine payroll process.

Although I am sure most organisations will already have electronic payroll solutions in place, I do wonder how many organisations have an efficient workforce management solution in place delivering accurate payroll hours and data to that system. I can only begin to imagine the chaos when organisations try to rectify the inevitable mistakes created by collecting hours manually, loading them into an electronic payroll data system and then loading all those errors in “real time” to a government system! It’s situations like this that makes me so proud of what we do for our customers.

Using a workforce management solution that automatically captures employee time electronically via terminals, biometrics, mobiles, laptops or tablets reduces payroll errors to zero and ensures accurate payroll, in “real-time”!

It will be very interesting to review the news after the first payrolls are processed in April and the mistakes roll in. I’d be very interested to hear from you with your experiences.