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Category : Employment Law

Elective and Cosmetic Surgery and Your Employment Policies

In November, we updated our Sickness and Absence Policy to include a section on elective and cosmetic surgery.

For these purposes, cosmetic surgery may be defined as surgery which is intended to improve a person’s appearance rather than their health. Elective surgery, on the other hand, refers to any surgery that is scheduled in advance, doesn’t involve a medical emergency, and does not have to be performed within 24 hours. Elective surgery can include cosmetic surgery.

Employers must be careful to observe strict confidentiality in respect of elective and cosmetic surgery. Clearly, employers cannot disclose information about any medical procedure without the employee’s consent. Communication is key here and, in some sensitive situations, it is advisable to agree in advance with the employee what will be communicated to colleagues.

All employees, including those who are undergoing elective and cosmetic surgery, are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) when they are unfit to work provided that they follow the proper procedures and supply the appropriate certification. If employees are indeed unfit to work, and have provided the employer with the correct notice, SSP should be paid.

Contractual Sick Pay is, however, in the control of the employer and it is advisable to be clear about what the company policy is. Some employers may treat elective and cosmetic surgery in the same way as ‘ordinary’ sick leave but, if different arrangements apply, the company policy should be clear and applied consistently.

Employed vs. Self-Employed – Can You Spot the Difference?

A self-employed/independent contractor working arrangement has considerable attractions for both the employer and the self-employed worker, but it can be difficult definitively to identify the difference between employed and self-employed status.

HMRC provides helpful guidance that employers and workers can use to determine if an individual is an employee or self-employed and the key factors that determine whether a worker is an independent contractor depend on the tests of control, substitution and mutuality of obligation.

Control

If the client/employer specifically tells a contractor how to perform a task, what task to perform, when to perform it and where the task should be performed – known as ‘how, what, when and where’ tests – then the worker is probably controlled by the client and therefore an employee.

Substitution

If a contractor is required to perform the services himself/herself without being allowed to provide a substitute, then this, too, is an indication of employment.

Mutuality of Obligation

This is where an employer is obliged to provide work and the employee is obliged to perform the work. If a worker has to perform any task allocated by the client or employer then there is a mutuality of obligation and the worker is probably not an independent contractor.

In the case of a dispute, a range of factors are taken into account but these are the main ones.

With the rise of the gig economy worker, the situation has become even more complicated.

A Gig as a Plumber

Earlier this year, a gig economy worker status question came before the Supreme Court for the first time in the case of Pimlico Plumbers Ltd v Smith.   Its decision – that Mr Smith was indeed a worker and not a self-employed contractor as stated in his contract – follows the direction of travel set by other cases which have considered whether staff in the gig economy are workers, and so entitled to paid holiday and limited other rights, or genuinely self-employed and out of employment protection altogether.

Pimlico Plumbers Ltd v Smith concerned Mr Smith, a plumber working for Pimlico Plumbers, who claimed that the company had deprived him of a number of employment rights, such as paid holidays and sick pay, because it wrongly classified him as a self-employed contractor.  The background of the case was that Mr Smith had worked for Pimlico Plumbers Ltd for over five years and had a contract with the company which described him as an independent contractor.  Mr Smith was registered for VAT, submitted invoices, and filed tax returns on the basis that he was self-employed.  Mr Smith’s contract was terminated four months after he suffered a heart attack. He subsequently brought various claims in the Employment Tribunal and his employment status was considered as a preliminary issue. The Supreme Court has now upheld the rulings of the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), and Court of Appeal that Mr Smith was a worker, not an independent contractor. This decision is a significant one and means that Mr Smith can now proceed with his claims for unlawful deductions from wages, paid holiday, and disability discrimination.

In reaching a decision, the Supreme Court noted that Mr Smith took on a significant proportion of the commercial risk (i.e. he would not be paid in the event a customer failed to settle an invoice), provided his own tools and materials, was personally liable for his work, and was not supervised by the company. However, the facts considered by the court showed that Pimlico Plumbers had tight control over Mr Smith’s working life, which pointed away from Mr Smith being a truly independent contractor.

The following factors were particularly relevant to the Court’s decision:

  • • Mr Smith was required to carry a company identity card, wear a branded uniform, and use a Pimlico Plumbers-branded, tracked van leased from the company;
  • • Pimlico Plumbers had tight control over payment terms and the administrative aspect of all jobs;
  • • Mr Smith’s contract referred to ‘wages’, ‘gross misconduct’, and ‘dismissal’;
  • • Mr Smith was subject to post-termination restrictive covenants, including a three-month non-competition covenant;
  • • The terms of Mr Smith’s contract clearly pointed to an obligation of personal performance. Although he could appoint another Pimlico operative to do a job he had quoted for, but no longer wished to perform, this was more like swapping a shift than providing a substitute; and
  • • Mr Smith’s contract stated that the company was not obliged to offer him work and he was not required to accept work, but Mr Smith’s contract also stated he must work at least 40 hours per week for Pimlico. The working hours indicated a level of commitment to the company on Mr Smith’s part which was inconsistent with his self-employed status.

Although this is an interesting and significant case, the question of employment status is always tied closely to the facts of any given case, and it does not automatically follow, therefore, that other gig economy workers have employment rights.

More cases are due to be heard by courts and tribunals in the coming months and this should hopefully provide more clarity.  In the meantime, employers should ensure that they have written contracts in place that reflect the reality of the working relationship.  Here at Simply-Docs, we have a variety of documents covering a wide range of employer/employee and freelance working relationships accompanied by explanations of when the document should be used.  If in doubt, always seek professional advice.

A Tough Gig?

Time to deliveroo some über-important rights to gig economy workers?

Many of us have been there. You whip out your smartphone to book a taxi to take you home and, on the way, you order up a tasty takeaway to be sped to your house in a large box strapped the back of a student riding a bicycle. It’s convenient to be sure, but many (not least our drivers and box-backed riders) can’t help but notice that many legal protections bestowed upon employees are conspicuous only by their absence.

The gig economy has grown considerably in recent years and it can be highly beneficial, not only for businesses, but also for workers who value the flexibility inherent in the business model. Such benefits notwithstanding, however, the House of Commons Work & Pensions, and Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committees recently called on the government to close loopholes in employment law that currently allow gig economy businesses to force workers to be self-employed, denying them key entitlements such as holiday and sick pay.

This follows on from the Taylor Review, commissioned by the government in October 2016 and lead by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts. The Review’s report (available here) was published in July 2017 and, at the time of writing, is yet to receive a full response from the government.

Shifting the Burden

There have been a number of court cases concerning the status of gig economy workers, including some which the persistently-embattled Uber has lost, but the default position for such workers remains mostly unchanged.

The Committees argue that “the current situation puts an unacceptable burden on workers to address poor practice through an expensive and risky court case while the companies themselves operate with relative impunity.” Under the new proposals, gig economy workers would benefit from a new presumption of worker by default, shifting the burden onto the companies who would have to either provide basic standards, rights, and benefits to their workers or prove that their workers’ true status reflected self-employment. Furthermore, the proposals include tough new penalties designed to outweigh any gains that companies might stand to make from unlawful practices.

Wage Premiums

The Committees’ proposals also include measures to compensate workers for the uncertainty inherent in gig economy work in the form of a wage premium for hours where work cannot be guaranteed. Not only would this help to balance out a situation in which the flexibility benefits can become quite one-sided, but it may also encourage companies to provide more clearly-defined hours or staff rotas.

A Good Gig?

Pleasing everyone may be difficult, of course. While it would be difficult to argue against improving the rights and protections afforded to gig economy workers, a trade-off that may stand to reduce the flexibility in the system may not be so welcome. Gig economy businesses, of course, maintain that everyone working for them loves the flexibility, and they most likely do, however the lack of protections and rights must surely be addressed in some manner that allows the flexibility in working hours to be preserved.

Do you work in the gig economy? Does your business take on staff on a self-employed basis like this? If so, how would you respond to a change in the law that required you to provide increased rights and benefits to workers while retaining the flexibility inherent in the gig economy of today? As ever, we value your input on the subject!

Is Politics in the Workplace Giving You a Headache?

Just when you thought you’d seen enough emotively divisive politics to last a lifetime, with the election of President Trump following hot on the heels of the Brexit referendum; along comes a general election just to make sure that peoples’ conversations don’t stray to anything quite so mundane as the weather and the weekend’s football scores. A general election is inevitably contentious at the best of times, and with Brexit front and centre, the 2017 election is shaping up to be even more so.

Now that’s all well and good, and it’s everyone’s prerogative to hold and share their political views or – as some quite understandably choose – to switch off and filter out the noise altogether. When in the company of colleagues, however, this isn’t quite so straightforward. Politics among friends can cause enough problems, and these can be come even more acute in the workplace. What, then, can employers do to keep things peaceful and productive?

Outside of the workplace, of course, there isn’t a great deal that an employer can do about their employees’ political activities unless those activities have a direct impact on their employment. An employer could, for example, take action against an employee whose political activities are bringing the employer into disrepute.

Ordinarily, however, politics in the workplace is something that should be handled with care. Even if an employee’s political affiliations may be seen as offensive, employers must take great care when considering disciplinary action or dismissal. If an employee is dismissed because of their political opinions or affiliation, the normal rules regarding unfair dismissal don’t apply: employees do not need to have had two years’ continuous employment.

There is however a line that, if crossed by an employee, entitles an employer to take action. For an employee to hold political opinions and affiliations is one thing (and don’t forget, employers can’t take any action on the basis of an employee’s membership of a particular political party), but if the expression of those opinions and affiliations crosses over into campaigning, employers are in a better position to do something about it.

As to the definition of campaigning, it can take many forms, ranging from heated political discussions between colleagues, to handing out leaflets, putting up posters, and organising political meetings. Imposing a ban on political conversations in the workplace is neither desirable nor practical, but prohibiting the more active types of campaigning is arguably quite reasonable. Politics is by its very nature a polarising subject and seems to be one that is becoming increasingly personal and, at times, hostile. By preventing staff from campaigning at work, employers can help to avoid a lot of disruption, not only to productivity but also to staff relations and morale. In more extreme cases, such behaviour could even be considered to be bullying or harassment and thus a reason for dismissal in itself. Political expression isn’t a defence to allegations of discrimination or harassment either, so be on your guard for the would-be activist on your staff that goes around upsetting everyone under the banner of free speech, and don’t take any nonsense! Action could also be taken against an employee that was found to be spending time on non-work activities like political campaigning during working hours, or perhaps using company equipment for political purposes.

As with many situations like this, it is better to be proactive than reactive, and our Political Activity in the Workplace Policy is on hand to assist, setting out the expectations and code of conduct that apply to all of your employees. Most importantly, the policy removes ambiguity by clearly setting out what is and what is not permitted and sets out the various consequences employees may face for failing to adhere to it.

It would be nice to think that after the 8th June election, politics might quieten down for a while, but with formal Brexit negotiations set to commence shortly thereafter, political temperatures seem set to remain high for the foreseeable future. Political awareness and involvement among the populous is vital, but at work it must have its limits. You can’t, after all, run a successful business if the remainers, re-leavers, and brexiteers on your staff are at each others’ throats all day long! How do you deal with political activity in your business? Is it something you would prefer to keep out? Perhaps you go the opposite way and provide specific forums for your employees to exchange and debate their political views? Your views, as ever, are welcome!

Zeroing in on Zero Hours Contracts?

According to the Office for National Statistics, over 900,000 employees in Britain are currently employed on zero-hours employment contracts. Zero-hours contracts often crop up in the news, and it’s fair to say that they’ve gotten something of a bad name – often not without good reason. Particularly with the rise of the gig economy, zero-hours contracts and other means of securing peoples’ labour without too much commitment have become very popular with some employers.

None of this is to say that the situation is settled, however, and some are now taking action to offer alternatives to their employees. McDonald’s, for example, recently offered fixed-hours contracts to its 115,000 zero-hours employees (according to the BBC, around 20% of employees at the Golden Arches have chosen to take the fixed-hours option. We certainly hope they’re lovin’ it).

On the political front, with a general election once again on our doorstep, the Labour Party’s 2017 manifesto includes a pledge to ban zero-hours contracts. The Liberal Democrats, while not planning to ban them, have pledged to create a formal right for zero-hours employees to request fixed contracts instead. The Conservative Party manifesto, on the other hand, is silent on zero-hours contracts themselves, but nevertheless emphasises the importance of protecting those working in the gig economy – a broad statement of policy to be sure, but one that arguably wouldn’t rule out future action on zero-hours contracts.

In October 2016, the government appointed Matthew Taylor, former policy chief to Tony Blair, and Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts to lead a review of employment practices. Taylor has previously suggested improvements to zero-hours contracts including the payment of premium wages to zero-hours employees. As for the review, the deadline for the submission of evidence passed earlier this week, meaning that a final report shouldn’t be too far away. While the full results of the review have not yet been published, it is believed that Taylor will recommend a right for zero-hours employees to request fixed-hours contracts instead.

With such an emphasis on the negatives of zero-hours contracts, then, it may at first appear that the benefits are all one-sided, favouring only employers. While it is true that many employees prefer the certainty and security that zero-hours contracts simply can’t offer, there are those who like the flexibility that they provide. Indeed, according to a 2013 study (updated in 2015) by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, many zero-hours employees were happy with the arrangement and more content than their permanently-employed counterparts. Among the benefits, zero-hours contracts enable workers to take on a more diverse variety of work instead of being limited to one specialism or department. In other cases, they may facilitate a better work/life balance – ideal for those professionals that want to focus their energies on their families as well as their offices.

There is no question that zero-hours contracts have been used unfairly, and one may even be led to question whether their recent surge in popularity may have been buttressed by a government happy to see unemployment figures drop – even if the reality is that some of those who are “employed” have no work to do; but it is difficult to argue that the solution is simply to get rid of what can – when properly used – be a beneficial employment relationship for both employers and employees alike. What may be the better option for employers, then, is to offer employees a choice.

The future of the zero-hours contract may currently be a little uncertain; but for now at least, when used fairly and in the right circumstances, both employers and employees can benefit from their flexible nature. What’s more, thanks to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, since 26th May 2015, exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts have been unenforceable, making them somewhat fairer than perhaps they once were.

To find out more about zero-hours contracts and to see whether they might have a place in your business, take a look at our Employment templates:

Zero Hours Contract
Zero Hours Policy
Zero Hours Employment Offer Letter
Casual Workers / Zero Hours Comparison

Does your business use zero-hours contracts? Perhaps you’re a professional that is on a zero-hours contract? We want to hear your thoughts. Not all zero-hours contracts deserve the bad rap, but with the election just around the corner, they’re in the spotlight again. Would you like to see them stick around as they are, reformed with restrictions designed to protect employees, or eliminated altogether?

Could Becoming a Freelancer Be the Correct Career Choice for You?

The freedom to pick and choose how, when and where you work are some of the big advantages of becoming a freelancer, and it can be tempting to jump right into the world of self-employment for these very reasons.

However, if you’re not fully prepared for the implications of freelancing, you could be surprised by many of the challenges which come with working for yourself. Consider whether you are ready to give up the day job by asking yourself the following five questions:

1. Do you have a portfolio of work?

No matter how much experience you have, clients will always want to look at examples of your previous work to see if you’re right for them. If you don’t have a portfolio yet, be sure to prepare one and publish it on your website – or at least build up your LinkedIn profile.

You could offer your services to friends or family for free or create your own projects. For example, those wishing to become a self-employed writer can create a blog to showcase their skills – and a budding freelance software developer could build an app or freely downloadable software.

2. Do you know how to pitch work?

Depending on the nature of your freelance work, you may be required to pitch your services to clients face-to-face, over the phone or via email. You should have a well-rehearsed and persuasive pitch and be confident in your ability to sell your service, as well as yourself. If you struggle to pitch your work you might struggle to find clients.

A successful pitch should explain exactly why you’re right for the job, bringing in prior experience and areas of expertise that are relevant to the client or job in front of you. Practise pitching to friends and family members first, and be sure to get your website copy right down to the[a2]  last detail before using it as a basis for your pitch.

3. Could you offer competitive rates?

Figuring out what you will charge for your freelance services is incredibly important but also pretty tough. You’ll want to earn enough to make your work worthwhile and to pay your basic monthly bills, whilst offering value for money to your client. You’ll also want to position your prices in line with your competitors in order to make your service appealing.

Many freelancers provide quotes to their clients on a project-by-project basis, so you can assess every request that comes in and tailor your prices in accordance with the amount of time required to complete the job. But it’s always a good idea to also have a basic hourly and daily rate in mind, as some clients prefer to work on this basis.

Remember that you need to offer clients value for money. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer who takes 10 hours to produce a logo. If you want to work at a rate of £40 per hour, you may quote a client £400 to create a logo design. If that same client has received a quote of £300 for the very same job from another freelancer, your pricing won’t seem like value for money. Will you be able to explain to your client why your pricing is higher, and what added value they’ll receive from paying you more? Perhaps it will be of superior quality, turned around faster or you’ll be able to provide the logo in multiple formats. Whatever your USP, be sure that you remain an appealing choice to potential clients by ensuring that you offer value for money.

4. Are you financially prepared?

The biggest downside to working as a freelancer is the lack of a reliable monthly income, which is very daunting when you have regular monthly expenses to pay such as rent, mortgage or utility bills.

Depending on the industry you work in, it may be possible to find clients who can provide you with work on a consistent enough basis that you can maintain a steady stream of income, but it is not a guaranteed wage. You also have to consider scenarios such as late payments from clients or unforeseen business expenses.

To ensure that you can stay afloat at times where business is slow or invoice payment is delayed, you should have some savings behind you. Aim to save three to six months’ worth of income before you quit the day job and go freelance, as this should give you a good safety net for those tougher times.

5. Could you successfully maintain professional client relationships?

One of the trickiest things about working as a freelancer is developing successful relationships with clients. Your clients pay your wages so they are the closest thing to a boss, but remember that you are running a business and do not rely too much on repeat business or view them like an employer.

You also need to make sure that you’re paid fully and on-time. No matter how pleasant and reliable a client may be, you should ensure that contractual terms are agreed in writing in advance of starting any work to avoid misunderstandings further down the line. The idea of drawing up legal contracts, invoices and terms and conditions may seem daunting to new freelancers, but putting these in place can help to secure the success of your fledgling business.

At Simply-Docs, we have a wide range of valuable business documents for freelancers, including invoice templates and a range of  service agreements .

Could Flexible Working Hours Make Your Business More Profitable?

Flexible working is an increasingly popular trend, fuelled by changing social dynamics and the ability for many professionals to carry out their work from virtually any location with a Wi-Fi signal. It refers both to flexible patterns of work as well as to the choice of working remotely from home or elsewhere.

Flexible working is an attractive prospect for many employees who are parents with young children or have other caring responsibilities. Employers need to reasonably consider all requests for flexible working.

So what’s in it for your business? Isn’t it better to have your staff all in one place, somewhere you can manage them? Recent studies suggest not. Flexible working isn’t just about creating a pleasant atmosphere for your workers, or moving away from micro-management and presenteeism. In fact, you may well find that flexible working increases profitability in a number of ways:

Reduce Your Costs

A study by Vodafone UK has revealed that implementing flexible working could save UK businesses £34 billion. For example, hot-desking, where workers on different shifts share desks to maximise use of office space, can reduce rental costs. Businesses can save not only by renting less square footage but also in paying less for heating and lighting.

Improve Productivity and Customer Service

As there’s no commute involved for homeworkers, employees could potentially be available to work earlier or later. A study by IBM into their own alternative workplace programme revealed 87% of employees believed their productivity and effectiveness had improved since they started working from home.

However, employers must ensure homeworkers have an adequate and safe working space. For instance, implementing robust health and safety policies can avoid many problems which could otherwise be very costly in the long run.

Attract Better Quality Candidates for Jobs

The benefits of allowing flexibility at work means that a wider range of people are able to apply for positions – including parents who need time to look after young children or semi-retired workers. Consequently, your business could gain an advantage by being able to select candidates with as wide a skill set as possible. Accessibility to a wider pool of potential employees can give your business the edge and ensure that the best candidates don’t end up working for a competitor.

Improve Staff Loyalty

Flexible working boosts morale and reduces the risk of stress and burnout. A happier workforce is less likely to have a high turnover of staff and all the associated costs. On the other hand, failure to offer flexible working arrangements may also mean that employees take their skills and experience to a rival company with a more flexible approach.

Future Trends

Acas notes that “New technology has … accelerated the opportunities for people to work from home and to stay in touch with colleagues and the emergence of a … ‘4G’ workforce has provided an extra dimension to the need for flexibility.” As the technology revolution gathers pace, it may be time to consider introducing or formalising flexible working policies to future-proof your organisation.

Simply-Docs has a wide selection of ready-to-use document templates to help small businesses implement flexible working while reducing costs – including contract amendments, and flexible and home working documents. To talk more about how we can help your business manage a more flexible approach to working, simply contact our friendly team today

When Will the Gender Pay Gap Close?

Gender Pay Gap Close

Image from Pixabay

Technological innovation, accumulation of capital, and productivity are three of the most important factors that determine a country’s long-term economic growth. What underpins all of these, though, is the contribution made by people in the collective form of the labour force.

But what if half of this workforce were not being utilised to their full potential? Or, worse still, they were not being rewarded fairly for an equal contribution?

In reality, this is the situation the world’s economy currently finds itself in. At present, women, who make up approximately half of the global workforce, only earn 77% of the amount that is paid to men and enjoy fewer job benefits.

Here, we take a look at some of the causes behind this gender-based inequality and consider how long it will be before the gender pay gap might close.

Education

Fresh out of university is surely the time when men and women should be paid the same. After all, this is the phase in life when men and women are most likely to compete for the same jobs with just as much work experience and similar grades to one another.

As it turns out, even in their first year of work after higher education, female graduates with similar qualifications and experience earn less than men. In fact, a report recently published by Futuretrack   has revealed that male graduates in the UK earn an average of £24,000 to £26,999, while female graduates earn between £21,000 and £23,999.

On this evidence, it is clear that the gender pay gap starts early. And, unfortunately, it’s a pattern that typically continues, even as both sexes continue to climb up the career ladder.

More men are in top jobs

In an article published by The Guardian, it was revealed that only one in 10 executive directors at the UK’s top companies are female. What’s more, in countries such as France and Germany, the ratio of females in boardroom-level jobs is even worse.

This statistic suggests that finding a way to get more women into better paid jobs would be an obvious way of closing the gender pay gap. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence to suggest, that even when women are in jobs that traditionally pay well, they still earn less than men.

Taking the high paid position of a doctor as an example, there are now more women GPs than men in the UK. In the medical profession as a whole, the split of female to male practitioners is nearly 50-50. Even so, female doctors still earn around 29% less than men, and the gap has only widened since 2004.

More women balance their career with children

A recent report by the International Labour Organisation revealed that women face a ‘motherhood pay gap’. In other words, this means that women are much more likely to take time off work or quit their job to look after their children and will earn less than men as a result.

Furthermore, statistics suggest that mothers earn a lot less than women that don’t have children, and the difference increases with every child a woman has.

In 2015, the UK Government made fundamental changes to paternity leave that gave fathers more flexibility to take time off work after the birth of a child. All the same, in many cases, women are still more likely to clear their work schedule to look after children, which will arguably help prolong the gender pay gap that currently exists.

Women earn less because of discrimination

In the UK, the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970. This made it illegal for companies to pay men more than women for doing the same job. Over four-and-a-half decades later, a report by the recruitment company Robert Half has revealed that UK women earn, on average, £300,000 less than men over the course of a working life.

Historically, one of the main issues with legally enforcing equal pay is that women have carried the responsibility of filing a complaint if they suspected a man in the same role was being paid more. This, of course, means that women need to prove they are being discriminated against, which, in many cases, has proven difficult.

In a recent bid to counteract this, the government announced new rules that would force companies with more than 250 employees to reveal their gender pay data. Those companies that fail to address the gap will subsequently have their data published in a league table.

Although this is an obvious step in the right direction, the rules are expected to affect only 8,000 employers across the UK, which, hypothetically, means it will only start to scratch the surface of unmasking gender pay discrimination in the UK.

So, when will the gender pay gap close?

The gender pay gap starts from the first day of work and continues all the way to retirement. Between males dominating top jobs, women balancing careers with children, and discrimination, it is clear a lot has to change before the gender pay gap even nears closing.

Because of these factors, if the pay gap continues to close at its current rate, the World Economic Forum has calculated that it will take another 118 years before men and women are paid the same. Or, to put it another way, the best guess for when the gender pay gap will close is 2133.

Have you got an opinion on anything you have read, or on the gender pay gap in general? Then join the conversation in the comments section below.

At Simply-Docs, we provide fully customisable, ready-to-use documents that are ideal for businesses. These include employment documents, health & safety documents and a wide selection of corporate documents that help make running a company a lot easier.

For more information about how our services can save you money, contact our friendly team today.

Consultation on Tips and Gratuities

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published a consultation document in respect of tips and gratuities responding to a call for evidence, which ran from 1 September 2015 to 10 November 2015.

Why is a consultation taking place?

Since 1 October 2009, employers have been prohibited from using tips, gratuities and cover charges to make up payment of the national minimum wage. But tips and gratuities remain a contentious issue. Recent reports suggest that some companies have allegedly reduced the amount of tips being given to workers in order to fund the national living wage and, last year, there was widespread negative publicity over the deduction of administrative fees of 8-10% from customer tips at Pizza Express and other restaurant chains. This is legal and many employers said the charges were a way of covering the cost of pooling and distributing tips.

What is the consultation aiming to do?

In general terms, the policy objectives of the consultation are to make it clear to customers that payments are voluntary, ensure that workers receive a fair share and to increase transparency to workers and customers as to how the payments are treated. Consultation proposals include making it clear on bills that any service charges are voluntary, prohibiting or limiting employers from charging an administrative fee to workers who receive tips and placing the voluntary Code of Practice on a statutory basis. The voluntary Code of Practice was introduced in 2009 to improve the information available on tips, gratuities and service charges and how they differ from cover charges. If the voluntary Code were put on a statutory basis, it could be taken into account in certain tribunal proceedings.

This consultation will close on 27 June 2016.

10 Essential Tips for Starting Your Own Restaurant

Tables outside restaurant.

Image by Skitter Photo

Many people dream of opening up their own restaurants, but very few are brave enough to take the plunge. That’s not surprising – any restauranteur will tell you that starting a restaurant isn’t easy. And, while the oft-quoted statistic that 90% of restaurants fail in their first year is not actually true, it is a fact that opening a restaurant is not a business venture for anyone looking to get rich quick.

Still, new restaurants are opening in the UK every day. With the right business idea, a bit of expertise, some start-up funding and a lot of hard work, there’s no reason you can’t make your own restaurant succeed.

To help get you started, here are our top 10 tips to starting a restaurant.

  • 1.     Be realistic

Ah, to be a restaurateur. Long lunches over a bottle of wine. Friendly regulars who are always smiling. Escaping the nine-to-five grind. What’s not to love?

If you think running a restaurant is going to be anything like that, think again. That’s the fantasy; the reality is very different. If you already work in the restaurant industry, you’ll know this. If you don’t, go get some experience. If you don’t fancy quitting your day job to wait tables and wash dishes, then the realities of running a restaurant probably aren’t for you.

  • 2.     Decide what type of restaurant you want

Ethnic eatery or traditional British fare? Family friendly or more for the millennials? Fine dining or fast food? Before you do anything, you need to have a clear idea of your restaurant concept.

By far the most important thing about your restaurant concept is that it’s something you’re passionate about and can honestly imagine devoting yourself to, day in and day out, for years to come. Be honest with yourself and what your skills and interests are, and don’t try to jump on any food trend bandwagons just because they’re popular at the moment.

  • 3.     Do your research

Once you’ve got a restaurant concept in mind, it’s time to research its viability. Where should your restaurant be located? Is there a market for your concept there? What is the competition like? And how much do business rentals in the area cost?

You might have to adjust your initial concept at this stage – in fact, you almost certainly will. Just ensure that you don’t end up wandering too far from your original idea without realising, in the spirit of making compromises. It’s surprisingly easy to do.

  • 4.     Learn about the rules and regulations

If you’re not one for paperwork, forget about starting and running your own restaurant. Before starting a restaurant, there are a number of regulatory hoops that have to be jumped through – from registering your business with the local authority to ensuring your staff have the right food hygiene certificates.

Fortunately, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have a number of useful resources to help get you started, including a guide to starting a food business and a Safer Food, Better Business for Caterers information pack.

  • 5.     Write a business plan

A comprehensive business plan is essential to ensuring that you stay on budget and on track. It should include market research and financial information, and provide anyone reading it with an in-depth understanding of your business idea, not to mention the initial start-up costs and long-term financial forecasts involved.

If, at the end of compiling your business plan, you realise your start-up costs are sky high, go back and refine it further until it seems more manageable. A sound financial plan is essential to the next step.

  • 6.     Secure start-up capital

Whether you’re launching a Michelin restaurant or a hot dog stand, a restaurant is always going to require significant start-up capital – enough to cover initial costs and at least six months of running costs.

Ideally, you’ll be able to cover these initial costs using your own savings, or with the help of loans from friends or family, but if this isn’t an option then you’re going to need a business partner or bank loan. Whatever the case, this is where having an airtight business plan is of paramount importance – no one is going to invest in someone whose numbers don’t add up.

  • 7.     Hire the right people

A restaurant owner can’t do everything at once, so bring a great team on board who are just as passionate and excited about this project as you are.

In particular, take your time when it comes to finding the right chef. Your restaurant is only as good as the food it serves, and if your chef can’t deliver, no amount of marketing or quality service can compensate for that.

  • 8.     Get the restaurant ready to launch

Once you’ve signed a lease on a property, it can be tempting to rush preparations and open your doors to the paying public at once. But you only get one chance to make a first impression – so hold fire, and make sure you get it right.

If your restaurant needs any renovations or alterations, get them done now. Use this time to make sure that everything’s up to code. And decorate the interior and exterior to ensure that they accurately reflect your restaurant concept and create an inviting ambience.

  • 9.     Make a menu

Work together with your head chef to create the perfect menu. Try to keep it short and sweet – it’ll keep your kitchen running smoothly and food waste to a minimum, and customers generally find long menus overwhelming anyway.

It is advisable to provide at least some options for customers with dietary requirements, or at the very least to clearly mark which dishes can be adapted to accommodate special diets if required.

  • 10.  Get ready for hard work

Once the restaurant is open, say goodbye to weekends and holidays for the foreseeable future. The hard work doesn’t end here; in fact, it’s only just begun. As the owner, it’ll be your job to keep the hundreds of plates required to keep your restaurant running spinning – from marketing and hiring staff to tapering menus and filing taxes.

But, if you love the restaurant business, it’ll all be worth it.

How can Simply-Docs help?

Starting a business is difficult enough, so why waste time and money drafting complicated documents or paying a solicitor to do it for you? At Simply-Docs, we provide a wide range of fully customisable, ready-to-use documents that are ideal for entrepreneurs.

Restaurateurs may be particularly interested in our employment documents, which include all the policies, forms, letter templates and employment contracts necessary to recruit, manage and dismiss employees. We also offer a variety of health and safety documents, plus food and hygiene documents which include all the H&S documents and templates a restauranteur will need when starting a business,

For more information about our services, contact our friendly team today.

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