Advocate - Issue 39

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the magazine from the UK’s leading business advisory



Is unlimited holiday really unlimited? Page 12. Women’s health: Creating a female friendly working environment Page 21. Engaging your employees: Why this is important Page 23.


Issue #39

who we are & what we do... advocate magazine is produced by advo and published quarterly. advo are an award-winning advisory, providing centralised management and advice, with bespoke technology platforms for HR, Payroll and Employee Benefit & Wellbeing solutions. Designed and priced with SMEs in mind, our technology platforms and services are delivered by our highly qualified and experienced advisors. advo-one, our unique online portal, underpins and connects all three services - providing access to employee and employer 24/7 from any device. advo-one includes benefits information, company documentation, perks & total reward statements, online payslips, absence management reporting and the ability for employees to book and track holiday. More about advo advo is celebrating its 25-year anniversary in 2022, and continues to grow rapidly as an organisation. Starting life as an Employee Benefits intermediary, advo recognised the need for increased efficiency within essential employer support services. The addition of Payroll and HR has resulted in advo being able to offer one solution for all three services.

What’s in

What’s new at adv Page 3.

Flexible Working Page 5.

EAP: the unsung h Page 8.

Speak to us for: Employee benefits: tailored to you and your business. Our ethos is simple, and as an investors-in-People Gold employer, we practice what we preach: employee well-being adds value to your business. Employees who feel valued and cared for are happier and so much more productive. We will help you create the right benefit solution that meets the needs of your workforce plus continue to support, review and manage this on an ongoing basis. Human resources: all the advantages of an in-house HR team. We believe passionately that HR is the heart of a well-run organisation. We ensure you are always legally up-to date, ready to meet any challenge and we are here for you whenever guidance is needed. Payroll: ensuring compliance, and that employees are paid correctly. Accuracy is vital when paying your employees. Our dedicated experts simplify the process, drawing on a wealth of experience and taking responsibility for both compliance and efficiency. t: 01622 769210 e: w:

advo supports

Holiday leave: Doe travel disruption co Page 9.

Is unlimited holida really unlimited? Page 12

Holiday pay: Who is entitled? Page 14.

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Password importance Page 15.

Four day working week Page 17.

Volunteer leave: Some of the ‘ins & outs’ Page 19.

Women’s health: Female friendly environment Page 21.

Engaging your employees: Why is this important? Page 23.

advo’s ‘From Here to Now’ magazine Page 25.

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FROM THEN TO NOW OUR 25 YEAR JOURNEY Allington Castle, 1st July 2022




The first of official celebrations for advo’s 25th anniversary were held on 1st July at Allington Castle, situated just behind the advo main offices in Maidstone. The Black-Tie Gala event was hosted by Comedian Adam Morrison and included speeches from insurer partners and advo people focussing on the history of the group, current culture and future plans and was followed by late night dancing. People invited included staff, key people from insurers and advo strategic partners. The evening raised over £450 for advo’s charity partner, Porchlight.


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As part of the Gala night and advo’s 25-year celebrations, earlier this year the advo staff set themselves a target of achieving 25 million steps. All recorded and verified the total achieved, by 1st July, of 25,384,845 was announced to big cheers, by Nadiya Gregory at the anniversary dinner. The top three highest totals were Ellie Sultana with an incredible 1,791,495, followed by Simon Friday with 1,273,447 and Luc Genest with 1,252,560. With an average of 2,000 steps in a mile the advo staff have walked just under 12,700 miles, much further than walking from the UK to New Zealand.


This year marks the 50th year of Pride in the UK. At advo, we recognise the importance of fostering a culture of inclusivity and embracing everyone’s individuality and uniqueness so on 28th June advo came together to celebrate and better understand with presentations and fun activities held in the Maidstone office, but with other offices ‘Teaming’ in. As the Pride logo is a rainbow, staff all wore bright colours in support.


Our payroll system, an option module in our ‘one’ platform, has once again, after rigorous testing, been granted HMRC accreditation for the 2022 and 2023 tax year. Accredited systems and companies appear on the HMRC website. In addition Cyber Security Certification has again been achieved, a validation of the advo approach and protocols for data and cyber security.



In June, the advo Mental Health Focus Group held a coffee morning with Maidstone staff and other offices ‘Teaming’ in. Through an ongoing series of events and shared experiences, the Mental Health Focus Group’s aim is to normalise, and gain acceptance for the fact that many of us, at some time in our lives, will face situations that will put us under enormous strain and struggling to cope and that help is at hand if needed.

advo are to be recognised at the prestigious Broker Innovation Awards for the ‘Best use of Technology and the overall award of ‘The Broker Innovation award’. The Broker Innovation awards include the whole of the UK insurance industry and ‘and aim to recognise the innovation and ingenuity of intermediaries’.



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cost of living driving flexible working?

ignificant increases in cost of living, including the upsurge in fuel and costs of travel k, together with working parents thinking about the new school year in September, ieve that we will see a marked increase in the number of flexible working requests.

oyees have a legal right to request flexible and must have worked for the same er for 26 weeks to be eligible. This does not r stop an employer considering any flexible from an employee with less than 26 weeks

straints of the pandemic resulted in some approaches with a new way of working and solutions that go beyond simply working y and more and more employees are gly thinking about how, when and where they

working usually relates to an employee’s arrangement in terms of the time, location tern of work. However, employers could see nusual requests as there are a range of flexible options that employees can request.

ered hours: This type of request sees a

for different start and finish times compared andard working hours. This request could an employee who is not able to work from nd can benefit from off peak travel thus g cost and time. The hours would be set n employees’ contract of employment.

me: Choosing when to start and end work

agreed limits) but often working core hours 10am to 4pm every day. This allows similar to staggered hours in the off-peak travel. where employees work a set number of hours fixed period of time. However, if you have a mber of employees, this may be difficult to d may require close time management.

me working: Reducing working hours. This

n requested to fit in around school drop off k up times or a range of caring responsibilities d be requested for a number or reasons.

Hybrid Working: This is a form of flexible working

that a lot of companies are familiar with where employees travel into the office for some of the week and work remotely for the remainder. Flexible working request are specific to each employee and we would recommend that they should always be considered on a case-by-case request and one size may not fit all. Temporary flexible working arrangements may have been introduced informally during the pandemic so many employers may now be used to dealing with such requests. However, for a flexible working request and permanent change, an employee must make the request in writing. advo would always recommend that a process regarding any request for flexible working is followed. It is important that there is a clear paper trail as ‘ad hoc’ verbal agreements can often lead to misunderstanding and some difficulties. This can be especially tricky if this goes on for some time and the informal agreement no longer suits the needs of the business. If you receive a flexible working request, it is important that it is dealt with fairly and consistently. There are certain timeframes within which a flexible working request must be responded. However, despite the regulatory time frames which must be adhered to, any employee who has made such request may be anxious as to whether their request will be successful and worried about plans that they made need to make, e.g. childcare. For this reason, advo would always urge all employers to address any requests in a timely manner and also, please bear in mind, that any agreed change in working arrangements may also mean that the you, the employer has to make other arrangements to accommodate the request. advocate summer 2022 | 06

FLEXIBLE WORKING Continued from Page 6.

An employee can only make one application for flexible working each year, and you must consider all requests carefully. There are certain legal aspects which employers must be able to tangibly quantify if wishing to reject any application. advo would recommend negotiation and trying to accommodate if not all, but a compromised arrangement. Please always consider other implications of reject an application, such as losing a potential employee through resignation, increased sickness absence and a decrease of performance. There may also be a broader business impact, such as the wider workforce viewing the business as being awkward and unsupportive! It may therefore be worth turning such requests on their head and examining the benefits, such as an increase in productivity, ability to work flexibly outside the regular office hours, decrease in absenteeism and greater employee engagement. Any formal change which has been agreed to an employees’ working arrangement should be formalised and amended in the employees’ contract of employment. We would point out that there are implications of not following the statutory procedure with regards to flexible working requests and if an employee is subject to any detriment by submitting a flexible working request, this could result in a claim being brought at the Employment Tribunal. Please be aware that, in relation to flexible working, a claim to the Employment Tribunal can be made whilst the employee is still working for you! We do expect an increase in flexible working requests and should you receive such a request or require any help at all, please don’t hesitate to contact the HR team at advo or talk to your dedicated HR consultant.

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The unsung hero of Employee Bene to overcome what life throws at us the EAP is there to help.

A key EAP benefit is fast access to ‘talkin therapies’ for mental health issues such anxiety, depression etc…, all without the need to see your GP first.

With a comprehensive EAP starting at ar £10 per employee per annum, (often wit a £500 minimum fee) this incredibly low cost benefit, which is increasingly becom tagged on to other benefits, often goes u the radar, however they are a key tool fo promoting and combatting mental health the workplace.

NHS data shows 1 in 4 adults will experi mental illness in their lifetime, essentiall meaning even a small business with 4 plus employees are likely have someone actively experiencing mental health issu and needing support. In addition to this, mental illness is also on the rise. Accord to analysis of NHS Digital Data led by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as many as million mental health referrals were mad during 2021 – the highest number to dat

Putting aside the fact that taking care of employees’ mental well-being is a good proper thing to do, it’s obviously good fo business too.

Whether as a business, you have a full EA one that includes both face-to-face/vide and telephone support, telephone only, o embedded within an insurance contract, such as a group income protection policy we believe it is of critical importance for employers, large and small. But putting a EAP in place is only the first step, it shou not be considered a “tick box exercise” i only worthwhile if your employees engag with it and understand how to get the be from it.


efits, in our opinion it’s the EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Helping employees in both our home and work lives, whether it’s a financial, legal or emotional issue,

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So, you have an EAP, now what can you do with it! Here are 5 tips:

#1: Employee Engagement

A strong launch or re-launch of an EAP program is a must. Quite often an EAP is initially launched then promoted via a poster on the staffroom wall or on the back of the loo door. Yes, it’s a reminder that it’s there however it will eventually become part of the furniture and forgotten. Given the use of technology it’s easier to have everyone in the same room, be that be virtually or physically. How about setting aside some time to remind your employees of what’s available to them and how it can make a difference to their lives? Ask some questions. Do you know how to use it? Do you know what it can provide? Do you know when to use it? Maybe provide some case studies or examples to how it could be used. Your EAP provider, or broker will be happy to give examples, just reach out to them. Understanding how it works in practice is a much better way of helping people remember when it will be useful and make a difference for them

#2: Get Management On Board

Did you know that most EAP’s allow managers to refer staff on their behalf? A good management team will be in regular communication with employees alongside carrying out 1-2-1’s and ‘return to works’. If a manager picks up on an employee who is struggling, they can make the initial call to the EAP on the employee’s behalf (should they agree) and arrange for a trained professional to call them direct. For someone struggling with mental illness making that initial call could be a big step so having someone make this easier for them can be a good way to start to receive support.

It’s also important for management and the whole business to understand the importance of mental health. There are a wide variety of mental health workshops and training available both free and paid for, so take advantage of the additional support available.

#3: Make The Most of Your Provider What else can your EAP provider do? Have you checked what resources they have? Do they have an online wellbeing portal? Can they help you with promotion and employee engagement?

#4: Am I Double Paying?

Many small businesses provide a range of Employee Benefits, many of which often come with fringe benefits, often this can include an EAP, in particular check your risk policies such as income protection and life insurance. It’s important to ascertain what could be there already and make the most of what you have. Yes, EAP is low cost but why pay more for something you already have? It can also confuse the claims pathways and data on usage that can be a real boon for employers in understanding the state of wellbeing within their workforce

#5: Be Proactive!

Yes, the EAP is an unsung hero for helping those suffering with mental illness however wouldn’t it be even better if you could work to prevent it getting to that point in the first place? Of course, you can’t do this in every scenario however having a strong workplace wellbeing process and promoting positive mental health in the work place is a great place to start. Many small businesses are now having a dedicated Workplace Wellbeing Champion to encourage positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. advocate summer 2022 | 08


There has been much chaos of late with the rail strikes and flight cancellations and this may have had an impact to employees and employers alike. The recent train worker and union disputes and subsequent industrial action do not look like they will be resolved any time soon and with flight cancellations now a regular occurrence, it seems that we may possibly be set for a summer of disruptions So, for employers, what are the implications if a colleague gets stuck abroad or is unable to travel into their workplace? Domestic travel disruption

Travel disruption is not confined to flights abroad, with national rail strikes taking place, this is having a real-time impact for the economy and workplaces. Unlike many of the flight cancellations, there has seemingly been more notice of the strikes and disruptions for commuters and dates and routes affected and so although inconvenient, there is a little more opportunity to make contingency plans. Where at all possible, advo would recommend that if employees can work from home. That

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they should be encouraged to do so if their usual train journey is severely impacted and there is no convenient alternative. For those required in a workplace, the disruption may require more careful management. We would recommend that all employers raise the issue of potential strikes with the team at the earliest opportunity so that employees have the opportunity to explore alternative modes of transport and they should be encouraged to raise concerns, such as a significantly longer or more expensive journey than usual, so that all options may be explored. We would suggest that all employers would

benefit from working collaboratively with those affected to try and seek a workable solution, perhaps rearranging working patterns or even offering some financial assistance, to mitigate the disruption and to avoid the risk of lastminute absences on strike days. If anyone is unable to attend work, employers are within their rights not to pay them but advo would recommend firstly checking the terms and conditions within the contract. This aside, please consider the wider effect this would have on employee morale and the added stress to an already stressful situation. Could the employee work remotely? If remote working is not possible, could the employee take annual leave? What is the effect on affected childcare provision where employees’ normal provision has been affected by the disruptions – employee have a statutory right to unpaid time off for a dependant unless the Company offers a more comprehensive policy Towns and motorway road networks appear to have been busier on strike days so planning journey times in advance is important. On planned strike days, can alternatives be considered. The increased price for fuel may impact employees who may now be faced with having to drive further and commute a considerable distance when strikes are on and it may be worth employers considering the impact that this may have on morale. This can be an extremely frustrating situation and if an employee has already started their day negotiating traffic jams and disruption, together with a concern over fuel costs and already thinking about their journey home, that day may not be the most productive! Where home working may have been offered in the past, for example, during lockdown, and declined on a short-term basis now, it may be difficult to justify the rationale and could subsequently result in disengagement. We are in the midst of increasing costs, and with these added concerns, a solution may be as simple as allowing employees to make

up their hours due to travel disruptions. Any approach should be aimed at positively supports your team and we would always encourage talking to your employees as often a workable solution can be reached. At this time of innovative thinking, it may also be considering introducing a car share arrangement as this could significantly lower travel costs, now and going forward!

Flight cancellations

After two years of restricted travel due to the pandemic, we all hoped Summer 2022 would give us the opportunity to travel abroad, whether this is for a family holiday in the sun or visiting family who may live overseas. However, with scores of flights being cancelled daily, it may be that not everyone will get away as planned, or return when they are meant to. Notwithstanding an argument that flight cancellations or being stuck abroad is not an exceptional circumstance in present times, employee may feel like it is something outside of their control, and advo would generally advise employers to approach any disruptions pragmatically. For those stranded abroad after a cancelled flight home, getting back to work on the date planned may prove problematic unless they have booked additional annual leave as a forward-thinking contingency. Those who are able to work, albeit abroad due to a cancelled flight, should be paid in the normal way. Some employees may have holiday homes or have access to work, e.g. internet connection within their accommodation and may have the facility to do so and this may provide a practical short-term solution. We would also add the caveat with this arrangement to be aware of the security of any data if working remotely. We would also add that requiring or expecting workers to be in a position to work, before they go abroad, may be regarded as wholly unreasonable as holiday is intended as a period of leave for rest and relaxation and employees may feel disgruntled if any such request is made. advocate summer 2022 | 10

H O L I D AY L E AV E Continued from Page 10.

Unless a contract or policy states otherwise, employees stuck abroad who cannot work remotely, or have no means to do so, have no entitlement to be paid for their absence once their annual leave comes to an end. However, assuming employees are making all reasonable efforts to get back to the UK as soon as they can, and being empathetic to the anxiety and administrative burden that employees will be facing in making alternative arrangements, employers could consider treating it in the same way as they would an ‘emergency’ situation, so if this you have such an arrangement and such is paid for a set number of days in other circumstances, it may be prudent to do so here too. Alternative possibilities may be to require the days to be taken as paid annual leave, or otherwise as authorised unpaid absence. Options should be discussed in conjunction with the affected employee to find a mutually convenient solution depending on their specific circumstances, although employers also need to be mindful of treating workers consistently. For others getting away at all may be scuppered where outward flights are cancelled. Although some employees will continue to take their annual leave anyway,

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others may prefer to get back to work and take their leave at another time having rearranged their holiday. Employers should check contractual and policy provisions around cancelling or changing holiday dates, but otherwise should note that in the absence of an express right to cancel, an employer does not have to agree, and that under statutory rules (which can be varied/ excluded with consent) any request for leave should be given with twice as much notice as the length of the absence (which may be relevant where dates are being pushed back a few days or a week). While this gives employers the option to take a strict approach, we would again advise to be flexible and pragmatic where possible given the circumstances. Of course, last minute cancellations or changes may not always be practicable, particularly for roles where temporary cover has already been arranged or the leave is part of a workplace shutdown. However, where the needs of the business are not significantly inconvenienced, advo would always urge employers to do what they can to maintain good employee relations. Employers should agree a process with any employee impacted by a flight cancellation or delay. Normal absence reporting procedures should apply and prior to any holiday, we would suggest that you remind employees to notify their line manager immediately they are aware of any travel disruption so any support or contingency can be put into place. advo does hope your business is not impacted too severely by possible travel disruptions this summer but planning ahead will save kneejerk or any ill thought-out decisions that could negatively impact the business be that through absenteeism, low workforce morale or brand reputation. Appreciating no two situations are the same, advo are available as always to offer commercially sound advice and support should you or your business be impacted by such events.


REALLY UNLIMITED? The mention of unlimited holiday has the ability to captivate even the most sceptical of workers, but is it true?

1) “Unlimited means infinite possibility. There’s so much choice, that you never choose.” Most people would immediately think a company would fall apart because everyone went on a 6-month jolly. However, unlimited holiday policies generally fail because of the opposite. Put simply – most companies will find that given an unlimited holiday, employees will not take enough.

Some companies will advertise unlimited holiday when they really mean unpaid leave. This is not the same thing. Unlimited holiday in the truest sense means unlimited paid leave. An unlimited number of days off, no holiday requests and the ability to take it whenever you want – it sounds like a dream come true. But is there really such a thing as unlimited holiday – and does it work in practice? The concept has roots in the US, largely because there is no legal entitlement to holiday, therefore holiday pay is not accrued and does not need to be paid on termination. It has recently been offered by a growing number of organisations, and is particularly prevalent in tech and start up organisations.

The real impact of unlimited holiday policies In the UK, employers need to consider practical and legal issues such as limits on the number of days that can be taken at one time, and how and if holiday will accrue throughout the year. In the UK, statutory leave will always accrue regardless of annual leave policies and will still need to be paid out when an employee leaves.

Putting a numerical value on holiday time is actually a psychological quirk of ownership. If you are given 25 days of holiday that are yours to take, you are subconsciously motivated to take them. When something is perceived as belonging to you, you immediately value it far more highly. Whereas, the lack of number – the very concept of unlimited – meant that employees potentially don’t value holiday time in the same way. In many companies where unlimited holiday policies have been trialled – and then scrapped – it was due to staff not taking their statutory entitlement (28 days). As we all know, not taking enough annual leave is a one-way ticket to burnout. 2) It opens the door to unfairness While unlimited holiday allows individuals freedom, what many SMEs fail to consider is that holidays aren’t singularly about the individuals taking time off. It affects everyone else in their team, and everyone across the company as a whole. While someone might only take 20 days a year – someone else might feel they need 30. But when one person is away, their work needs to be covered, and it’s the person in the office who picks up the slack. The burden of deciding what unlimited means is shifted to employees. How much is too much? Is it unfair for one employee to take more holiday than another? Do we count how many days each employee takes?


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REALLY UNLIMITED? Continued from page 12.

In addition, every business is made up of different roles, with different skill sets and levels of expertise. This means there are a wide range of salaries. What this can sometimes result in, is a gap between those who can afford to take lots of holidays, and those who cannot. 3) The anxiety of not knowing the limits Numerical limits on holiday allowance don’t just define how many days you take that year. They also help to define what is acceptable behaviour, acting as a company’s handrail, letting everyone know just where the edge is, so they can feel confident about where they stand. Unlimited holiday policies take that handrail away. For a policy that is designed to ensure everyone is at their best, they can cause anxiety – defeating the point! 4) Does unlimited ‘really’ mean unlimited? In its essence, unlimited holiday cannot really mean unlimited, or you run the risk of implying that employees can take more time off than they spend at work! The nature of running a business means there will be times when business needs dictate that you need a full team. What unlimited holiday really means in this context, is that “We’re not counting”. Now, this is the tricky part. When using the word unlimited, managers may feel they have no grounds to deny holiday requests, even if that request goes against the needs of the business.

All in all… Does it work?

I expect a few people reading this might be looking at this policy for their own company. So, naturally, the next question is can unlimited holiday work?

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Ultimately, unlimited holiday schemes will only work if you have a company built on a culture of trust and shared responsibility. Your employees need to trust you, and you need to trust your employees. The practicalities of each job should be considered too – for example, it wouldn’t work for a job involving shift work, or manufacturing and production. Larger companies like Netflix and LinkedIn have obviously found a way to make it work, but I think many SMEs and start up’s would struggle to manage such a policy. I think the system of unlimited holiday places too much emphasis on employees to make the right call, which in itself can cause anxiety and counteracts the whole initiative. Overall, it is clear that the concept of unlimited holiday could be an effective initial employee attraction and engagement tool. In practice, any policy needs to be crafted carefully and the starting point is to ensure employees take their statutory minimum holiday entitlements. After these legal requirements, where you go from there is up to you! A sensible approach could be to give employees a baseline entitlement with a minimum number of days, and then offer discretionary unlimited holiday on top. Or consider a limited, but generous holiday entitlement as standard. Any such policy should have clear guidance to ensure it is not abused and performance remains unaffected. For companies with the management capacity to do so, any entitlement to unlimited holidays could be linked to key performance indicators. The policy could also include the right to remove unlimited holiday in the event of performance issues. If you would like to discuss this further or require guidance regarding any holiday policy or have a query regarding holidays, the HR team at advo are happy to help.


W HO I S E N TI TL ED ? UK law states that all workers must receive 5.6 weeks leave, including bank holidays. Employers can offer more entitlement. Workers/employees can take a week’s pay for each week of statutory leave they take. This is calculated based on the hours they work and how they’re paid for those hours: • •

Fixed contractual hours and pay, they receive their pay for a week Fixed contractual hours, but their rate of pay varies (commission or piece work), they receive their average hourly rate of pay from the previous 52 weeks multiplied by their fixed hours

Variable hours and variable pay (workers that do regular overtime), they receive their average hourly rate of pay multiplied by the average number of hours they have worked per week, calculated on the last 52 weeks before the holiday No fixed hours (casual work, including zero-hours contracts), the average pay from the previous 52 weeks is used for the calculation.

Employers please remember – The 52 week period should only include weeks for which the worker was working. Do not include any week that the worker did not work.

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The UK has become a hotspot for scamming and hacking over the last few years. It’s no surprise that 1 in 5 people (22%) have had their data compromised! As advo is a Cyber Essentials and ISO 27001 accredited company, we do know a thing or two about passwords. According to a new survey by USwitch, Brits admit to the following password fails:

25.3% write their passwords down on paper 30% of people use their birth year 39% use a pet’s name as part of their password

• • •

The key problem with using a birth year or pets name as part of your password is social media! Particularly the likes of quizzes, which sometimes require you to input such information to find out ‘What kind of vegetable you are’. The most secure passwords avoid the use of ANY personal identifying information – as this info will be the first thing hackers try. Outlined below are some simple safety and security tips around passwords to help keep accounts secure:

Password dos: •

Spell out a memorable phrase using a mix of numbers, symbols, and acronyms: Example: T3rRy550c1alMed!Ac1234 (Terrys Social Media Account) You can do the above to customise your password for each site.

Use your keyboard as a canvas to draw or write something memorable to you. Use lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and symbols in every password. Change your password regularly! We’d recommend every 3 months at minimum.

Password don’ts: • • • • •

Don’t write your password down. Not on paper, not in an email, not anywhere! Don’t reuse passwords across accounts. Avoid using loved ones or pets’ names, or your birthday Avoid using memorable keyboard paths. Example: 123456, qwerty. Don’t tell anyone your password.

Its obvious people are still making simple mistakes when it comes to choosing a password. As most of our lives are now stored online, having a strong password is the first line of defence against hackers. Many people revert to using the same one on repeat, which leads to poor password strength, and a free pass to all of your logins (personal and work!) and your personal information to a hacker.


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A four-day working week is great for some, but not for all , we take a closer look at the pros and cons Four day working week trials are becoming increasingly popular, with trials in Iceland, Belgium, and now the UK. These shifts to a fourday working week are, in principle, challenging the rigid five-day week that has been widely accepted for decades. The main issue with these trials is that they focus on maintaining 100% productivity from employees with 20% less work time. This could lead to higher levels of stress during those four days, as employees fight to ensure tasks are completed. Wilson Fletcher, a consultancy business, has operated a four-day week for the last three years. CEO Mark Wilson said “The key to this model is understanding why you are doing it. We don’t ask staff to do five day’s work in four, we’re not trying to compress the week. This in itself means staff do not feel stressed. According to Wilson, a successful four-day week is all down to management. He argues having each Friday off is giving back flexibility to staff, as they have more time to do “life stuff” on the additional day off. For the 87% who want to work flexibly following the pandemic, this is a big step. However, for those working around school hours, or who have disabilities, mental health challenges or other long-term illnesses, and those with caring responsibilities – this approach is as inflexible as it is flexible. Many employees believe the four-day working week model is biased in favour of people with children, and research shows that hybrid working options tend to be favoured in this group. Flexible working in the truest sense negates the need for flexible working requests or four day working week policies. A truly flexible approach is about removing barriers for those who need flexibility, and supporting them in securing a healthy work-life balance.

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We already know that flex working can be life changing – it can let people into the workforce that would otherwise not be able. It’s argued as being a driver towards closing the gender pay gap, and a way that we can genuinely challenge inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. There are also well-documented significant business benefits. Research from CIPD tells us that when people work flexibly, they are more loyal to the company, report greater job satisfaction, and can generate more revenue (43%) because they are more engaged vs less engaged staff (20%).

People with long-term health conditions and caring responsibilities have reduced absence, and can better manage these and work effectively. Flexible working is the number one motivator in the workplace (89%), more so than financial incentives (77%). Flexibility can also reduce staff turnover.

It’s important to recognise and celebrate that it has never been a more exciting time for flexible working. Companies have seen what can be gained from flexible working, and are ripping up and rewriting their flexibility rulebooks. Recognising that we can work differently and be more productive is great, but it’s important to consider that flexible working looks different for everyone. This means that a four-day working week will be brilliant for some, but not for others.

If you are thinking about implementing a four-day working week or compressed hours working, ther are a number of considerations in terms of fairnes and compliance with employment legislation and correct holiday allocation to be addressed. To ensure that any such implementation is successful, please contact the HR team at advo.




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Many employees wish to work for the offer of paid volunteer leave c

Research also tells us that volunteering been shown to be beneficial to the ment health of individuals. Helping others can people feel good about themselves and improve self-esteem and therefore supp the health and wellbeing of your team.

There is no statutory right for paid or unp time off for volunteer leave, other than specific public duties, e.g. a magistrate e Implementing volunteer leave is about d the right thing and there are so many ben for all parties involved: •

Satisfaction felt by employees and improved mental health

Attracts new recruits

Can help employees develop skills an good for personal development

Improve employee engagement

Positive brand reputation for employe and a way for the employer to develo kudos and help their community

Underpin an employer’s social and corporate responsibility ethos

Provide a charity with access to skills otherwise inaccessible to them.

To implement a Volunteer Leave Policy, t would be some planning involved and ad would recommend considering the follow

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r socially responsible organisation and to feel aligned with honourable values and can instil your company’s dedication to investing in the local community.

has tal n help can ports


etc. doing nefits

advo would suggest that, ideally, you choose causes that best align with your vision and values. However, to gain ownership and engagement, you may wish to ask employees to submit their wishes as there may be a charitable cause that is close to employees’ hearts. Or you could select a few charities and cast a vote! The charity that you wish to support may also change in an annual or bi-annual. •

nd be

ers op


there dvo wing:

Which charities/community groups do you wish to support and focus your volunteering efforts?

Who would be the right person to lead any charity campaigns and employee engagement?

This is key to success – the right person should be organised and be infectiously enthusiastic! They would also need the time outside of their normal duties to focus on such engagement. •

How much volunteering time, in addition to annual leave, would be in your volunteer policy?

Some companies allow up to 3 days a year but it is your decision. •

We would suggest using a range of communications channels, both internally and externally, to share the successes of your volunteering programmes and stories. This is positive and engaging news delivering a sense of achievement and everyone know that you are not just all about company profit – you care too. A major key to success is the buy-in of the senior leadership team and management. This helps show that this is heartfelt and genuine and is supported from the top. Don’t forget to include your social commitment and volunteer policy within your recruitment campaigns to help attract candidates. Here at advo we support Porchlight, a Kent based charity for homeless and vulnerable people. We encourage our employees to participate in our many charitable events, e.g. from tombola’s, raffles and to giving paid time off during working hours for our employees to support in the raising of donations, e.g. training for the London and Brighton marathons etc. If you are interested in implementing a volunteering policy, advo can support you.

Would voluntary leave be paid or unpaid? Unpaid leave may not encourage as much engagement!

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Women’s health in the work place has historically been considered a taboo topic. W understanding a recent study commission by SimplyHealth highlights that from a po comfortable discussing topics such as menstrual cramps, smear tests, breast exam You may be thinking, why does this pose a problem for us as a business or on a wider scale the economy? Well, a house of commons briefing paper; Women and the UK economy states in the UK, 15.52 million women aged 16+ were in employment in October to December 2021, according to the ONS UK Labour Market bulletin. This equates to almost 50% of the entire employed population. This means potentially 30% of the entire UK employed population do not feel comfortable speaking to their employer regarding their health issues. The knock-on effect is likely an increased risk of absenteeism and presenteeism, both of which can and do negatively impact the business performance.

impact performance in different ways and learning how to create an accommodating environment where people of all genders can flourish whilst also keeping focus on our commercial goals.” There are a range of things employers can do to help female staff feel comfortable discussing their health. Educate yourself – there is a vast range of information available online covering different women’s health topics. Following on from their study Simplyhealth have provided a great online guide; healthy-living/womens-health

With all of the advo management team and 40% of the director team being female we hope, and strive to ensure we are promoting an open and comfortable environment where everyone regardless of gender feels comfortable discussing health topics with their line manager. Nadiya Gregory, who heads up advo’s Business Development team, commented “Being a member of, and also managing a 100% female based team, means I am regularly navigating matters of women’s health in the work place. The most important tool for me is understanding how women’s health can


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Whilst society is becoming more open and oll of 2000 females, 60% would still not feel minations or menopause with a manager. Health screenings – In general females require more health screenings than males. These also start at a much younger age. Did you know you can set up a free health screening account for your business giving your employees access to discounted rate private health screens? Practical support – providing sanitary goods in the female toilets is a great way to help women feel reassured that their employer is comfortable with discussing women’s health topics. This will also remove the potential scenario of someone using an excuse to leave the office or take time out if they have forgot to bring their own products. Be menopause aware – According to acas “Managing the effects of the menopause at work is important for both employers and their staff. For those experiencing symptoms it can be a difficult and stressful time. Everyone will experience the menopause differently and for some, symptoms can be quite severe and can affect people both physically and mentally” https://

It is therefore so important for employers and managers to consider how to approach employees going through the menopause. Due to the variation in how people experience this a case-by-case approach is often the best fit. Communicate – an employer who is open, understanding and confident in discussing these topics will create a more comfortable environment for employees. Not only will this allow for more open conversations it will also assist with potential absenteeism and presenteeism issues. Speak to advo today to see how our HR and Employee Benefits team can help you establish a female friendly company culture.


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WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? advo’s Nadiya Gregory gives her perspective. Employee engagement has become quite the buzzword in business world. According to a study by Qualtrics, approximately half of the workers in the UK are engaged. That puts the country in sixth place on the list of countries with the highest engagement rates, so perhaps we are not as good as we think we are, perhaps we still have lots to learn? So, what is employee engagement and why are some employees just naturally more engaged than others? Essentially more engaged employees will be more invested in the business and ensuring they are successful. A CIPD article clarifies one of the earliest “official” definitions of employee engagement is Kahn’s which focuses on how people ‘express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally’ as they interact with their jobs. This describes an internal state of being but one which relates closely to behaviour, such as discretionary effort or ‘going the extra mile’. With this in mind is employee engagement just a reflection of personality? Or are employee engagement programmes naturally more likely to appeal to certain personality types? advocate summer 2022 | 23

Let’s take the typical introvert and extrovert stereotypes. A large employee gathering capturing both social and work focused topics is certainly going to appeal to the extroverts whereas this could be viewed as a complete put off for the classic introvert. It is therefore so important for businesses to consider various approaches to engage the whole employee population. We have provided a quick guide including practical advice about how to increase engagement.

Feedback! The best way to find out how to engage your employees is by asking them! Surveys are a vital tool in establishing how best to engage your employees. Carefully considered survey questions will allow you to establish trends in how employees may be feeling as well as understanding what will make them feel more engaged. It’s important to ensure surveys are not a one off. This type of tool should be used at regular intervals. This will help pick up any changes in attitudes and new employees to the business.

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Do you provide staff with benefits such as death in service? Medical insurance, cash plans etc ? Have you checked what technology your benefit insurers provide? Are your payslips accessible online? Where do employees book holiday? Do they have an employee portal? Its really important to fully understand the scope of any technology which you have picked up as part of another service. There may functions included which can help boost engagement.

Continued from page 24.

Employee engagement is certainly high on our agenda. Speak to us directly about how we can help you as a business.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Plan and follow through! So, you have done your survey. Now its time to use all that amazing data to come up with an engagement plan/calendar. Scheduling events in line with company goals will help give structure to your engagement. Being well organised and structured will also demonstrate to the employees how invested you are in them.

Variety is the spice of life! There is never a one suits all solution to engagement with this mind including a variety of engagement topics or activities is a great way to reach out to all employees. Hopefully your employee survey has given you some tips to what your employees enjoy. Use this and build on it! Team building events are a great way to engage employees with the business and their colleagues. What often springs to mind for these type events are physical activities however this won’t always appeal to every employee. Hence why its important to have a mix and maybe just accept that some events will engage certain employees more. Having a mix will ensure you engage as many employees as possible.

Communicate! Very simple but sometimes missed. Make sure you communicate your plans and initiatives with employees! Keep the communication channels open and consistent.

Technology Explore what technology is available.

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Who is Nadiya?

Joining advo in 2012 Nadiya has extensive experience of the employee benefits industry having worked as an account manager running a diverse portfolio of clients for many years. Nadiya currently heads up the Business Development team. In 2013 she was recognised in the Health & Protection Insurance Awards as the most promising newcomer. (Picture above)

THE STORY OF ADVO’S 25 YEAR JOUR NEY Email for your copy

As part of advo’s 25th anniversary celebrations we have put together a history of advo from its humble beginnings to being today one of the UK’s largest advisories, charting the company’s milestones. Copies of our ‘From Here to Now’ magazine are available.




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