November 30, 2020


Simplifying subject access requests - new detailed guidance

More and more people are waking up to the power of their personal data and are  exercising their rights. That's why, as an organisation, it's important you know how to  deal with a SAR effectively and efficiently. 

We've clarified our position on three key areas to do with SARs - stopping the clock  for clarification, what is a manifestly unfounded request and what can be included  when charging a fee for excessive, unfounded or repeat requests. All of these  changes will help make it easier for you when you're dealing with your next SAR. 

You can find more detailed guidance on the ICO web page at   

Rights of Access detailed guidance. 

The ICO published the Right of Access detailed guidance. The guidance doesn’t  alter the existing law but rather provides clarification for employers on how to deal  with subject access requests ('SAR'). Following consultation, there are three main  areas that the guidance addresses: 

1) What amounts to a ‘manifestly excessive’ SAR? 

The guidance confirms that it is a balancing act and the employer must determine  whether the SAR is “clearly or obviously unreasonable”. This involves assessing  whether the response required is “proportionate when balanced with the burden or  costs involved”. Employers should consider all the circumstances, including (but not  limited to): the nature of the information, the context of the request, whether not  complying with the SAR could cause substantive damage to the employee, your  available resources etc. 

You can view the full list and further details here

2) What is a ‘reasonable fee’ for complying with a manifestly excessive or  unfounded SAR?

A ‘reasonable fee’ can include: the cost of staff time, photocopying, printing, postage,  envelopes, USB sticks etc. Employers can take into account the administrative cost  related to assessing the information, locating it, copying it and communicating with  the employee. 

3) Stopping the clock when clarification of the SAR is required.

An employer can potentially ‘stop the clock’ on the 30 day time limit for compliance  with an SAR, if clarification is genuinely required and if the organisation processes a  large volume of information about that employee.

Employment Tribunal Single Claims Cases show a huge  increase in numbers.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has published the employment tribunal quarterly  statistics for the period April to June 2020. During this period, single claim receipts  and outstanding caseloads rose by 18% and 31% respectively in comparison with  the same period in 2019, while disposals decreased by 21%.  

The MoJ notes that the increase in single claim receipts was likely due to rising  levels of unemployment and changes to working conditions during the COVID-19  pandemic, noting that this was ‘the highest level of single ET claims since 2012/13’,  while the decline in disposals was likely due to COVID-19 related impacts on the  tribunals.  

This is evidence that Employment Tribunal claims are on the increase, with the  current situation could your business cope with the costs of defending a claim made  against your business?

Tips on how to recruit and retain good staff

Recruitment and retention

While recruitment and retention seem to be a function of the human resource team, it  remains the main hub of all policies and systems of human resource departments.  Acquiring qualified employees, retaining them in the company, giving them the right  training to complete their jobs and encouraging them to further their education, skills,  and awarding them with compensation and benefits will drive your organisation to  success. 

Training and development

Nearly all employees, including the ones with skills and qualities, require training at a  particular point because each organisation differs with the other. Procedures and  policies need to be conveyed firmly to all employees as a procedure of on-boarding.  This procedure will ensure that all employees are on the same wavelength.  

The human resource management system takes the responsibility of the ongoing  employee development. this continuous education keeps the skills of employees up  to date for them to bring modern and original ideas to the firm. 

Development of good relations

The human resource department has the basic function of ensuring that it grows  good working relations among employees. They possess the responsibility of  seminars, meetings, and other official gatherings for the management. This  department also lends a helping hand when drafting marketing and business plans. 

Implementing and developing the right human resource system for your firm is vital.  

While it may seem possible to handle these functions manually, using an automated  system will give enough time to the human resource team to maintain and develop  the data that gets into the system. You need to remember that each company  requires its human resource management system because companies differ in size. 

Management of conflicts

There are those moments when there may arise a conflict between the employee  and the employer. No one can avoid a conflict from taking place. However, you can  just try to manage them. The human resource team will bear the role of the mediator  or counsellor to sort these differences effectively. They take the right course of action  to ensure that nothing gets out of hand.

10 top tips for managing your remote teams

Working remotely might be the dream for many employees. But if you’re a manager or  owner of an SME, you may find managing a remote team difficult. Especially if you’re  used to sitting alongside your team every day. 

And with 90% of employees saying they’d like to work remotely, it's a trend that isn't  going to fizzle out anytime soon. 

As a manager, getting to grips with managing a remote team is a skill that you’ll benefit  from sooner or later. 

In this post we give you 10 hands-on tips to help you manage your remote team and  work-from-home employees. 

1. Give them the right tools

A tablet or laptop alone isn’t enough to help your team work remotely. 

Give them productive software such as video conferencing subscriptions, cloud-based  apps and chat tools. This is essential for online meetings, managing workload and day to-day communication, 

And remember that hardware such as keyboards, mice and monitors are just as  important. Inadequate equipment affects productivity, puts your team at risk of aches  and pains and could lead to health problems. 

2. Stay in touch with scheduled check-ins

When it comes to staying in touch, finding the right balance can be difficult. 

Leave your team for too long without contact and they’ll feel isolated. Over-compensate  for the increased distance and you’ll interrupt their ability to crack on with their job. So,  what’s the solution? 

Schedule 1 or 2 general check-ins each day. A morning group call followed up by a  one-to-one chat is a good balance. It helps your employees feel connected whilst also  giving them the chance to talk to you about subjects that aren’t relevant to the wider  team. 

This kind of schedule also gives everyone the opportunity to fit in project-related calls  with other contacts and to do more focused work.

3. Switch to the cloud

Keep your remote team aligned by working in the cloud. 

Saving documents to individual hard-drives can cause chaos, especially if you’re  working on a shared document such as a proposal or presentation. 

Using cloud-based storage and collaborative documents such as Google  Docs and Google Sheets makes remote working easier. 

Cloud-based HR software like Breathehr, makes managing your remote team easier  too. You can conduct performance reviews, track holidays and log sick leave online,  plus so much more. 

4. Give clear guidance

Clear communication can be a make or break for remote team management. 

Without the subtle nuances of face-to-face contact, remote communication can mean  details get lost in translation. Communicate clearly with these simple tips: 

  • Unless you’re dealing with very junior employees, tell your team what needs to  be done, rather than how you want it to be done. This autonomous working  style saves you both time and can help you motivate your employees.
  • Don’t overwhelm people with long lists. Keep guidance short by sticking to  priorities.
  • Provide your team with resources to help them resolve problems on their own.  Links to important files, details of helpful contacts and helpful online training will  all help.
  • Communicate guidance in more than one way. For instance, follow up an  email with a phone call to make sure your team understands what you’ve  asked them to do. 

5. Use several communication channels 

Instead of sticking to your default communication channel, mix things up a bit. 

Using a variety can help you get your team’s attention and will help you reinforce  important messages and accommodate different working styles. 

  • Make a redundancy plan
  • Avoid compulsory redundancies
  • Redundancy consultations
  • Select employees for redundancy
  • Give employees notice of redundancy
  • Work out redundancy pay
  • Support your staff and plan for the future
  • Acas training and support for employers

6. Recognise your team's hard work

Working remotely can make people feel isolated and unappreciated. 

Make sure your team knows how valued they are by recognising and thanking them. A  simple “thank you” via Slack or a cheerful gif goes a long way. 

Want to get everyone involved in team recognition? Breathe's Kudos tool might be just  what you need. Say thanks for a job well done, put a smile on someone's face and  make them feel valued and appreciated. 

7. Health & wellbeing still matters 

Your team is your responsibility whether they’re in the same building as you or not. Make sure you’re accounting for their health & wellbeing as well as their output. 

Help their physical health by ensuring they have a healthy workspace set up.  Remember that few people have the luxury of a home office and will probably be  working from their dining table or bedroom, perhaps alongside other family members. 

Working remotely can also affect your team's mental health. 

That might be because your employees miss the buzz of working with others or  because they’re feeling the stress of working whilst also caring for other family  members. 

Use your scheduled catch ups to “ask twice” how someone is feeling. This method  helps encourage people to speak up about how they're feeling, and also shows you’re  there to help. 

Remember, especially for employees who live alone, that you may be the only person  they can confide in.

8. Inject some fun into your work

Remote work can still be fun. With themed team meetings and group chats on Slack,  you can still have fun with your team, even if you can’t work side by side. 

A little creativity can add a lot of enjoyment and connection to your remote meetings.

9. Done is better than perfect

If your team is remote working out of necessity rather than choice, things are bound to  be different and sometimes you’ll have to deal with imperfection. 

Perhaps pets keep joining your Zoom calls. Or maybe phone calls are interrupted by  kids asking for a snack. 

Keep your focus on what’s working and try to ignore the “window-dressing”. If you treat  these mishaps as a problem, you’ll add extra pressure to your team and create  unnecessary stress.

10. Time off is still important

Remote working seems wonderful because it’s so relaxed. But this lack of structure can  become a problem, and employees may struggle to switch off at the end of their  working day. 

This can affect their health in the long term. Support your employees to find a healthy  working pattern. Perhaps a flexible working routine suits them while working remotely,  especially if they have children to look after. 

Focus on delivering tasks not hours and your remote team will thank you.

Why employee work-life balance matters (and how you  can improve it) 

Having a positive work-life balance can help employees carve out enough time  for both work and the many other facets of their lives.

But when running a business, although not intentional, it’s understandably easy to  focus on the work domain of employees’ lives, forgetting they have a whole other life  outside of the office. 

Why is a good work-life balance important for employees?

It is important that employees have a good work-life balance. Not only does it  improve their mental health, but it benefits the business too. Employees with a good  work-life balance are more efficient, productive and motivated. 

You can find out more about how to manage a multigenerational workforce  and their wellbeing needs by downloading our free employer’s guide today.

While ensuring such a balance isn’t the sole responsibility of employers, you can do  a lot to help by establishing supportive policies and realistic expectations. 

At the moment, it’s fair to say that here in the UK we’re not quite there with the whole  work-life balance concept. Around 6.5 million UK employees – that’s around 30% of  the working population – describe themselves as unhappy at work, according  to research published last year. 

How does a poor work-life balance affect employees.

The Mental Health Foundation calls the increasingly demanding work culture in the  UK “perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the  general population”. Why is this the case? 

Research shows poor work-life balance impacts the mental health of  employees

A survey by the foundation on the subject demonstrates why: 

  • 1 in 3 feel unhappy about the time they devote to work 
  • 40%+ are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work • When working long hours 27% feel depressed, 34% feel anxious and 58%  feel irritable
  • Nearly two thirds of employees have experienced a negative effect on their  personal life such as a lack of personal development, poor home life and  physical and mental health issues

The survey also found that as weekly hours increase, so do feelings of unhappiness.  Which feeds into their next finding: the more hours that employees spend at work,  the more hours outside of work they are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it. 

Muddling through with a poor work-life balance is no fun; it makes employees more  disengaged with life in general, envious of their friends’ lifestyles and feeling alienated by modern life, according to the YouGov report. 

The Mental Health Foundation states: “The cumulative effect of increased working  hours is having an important effect on the lifestyle of a huge number of people, which  is likely to prove damaging to their mental well-being.” 

Poor mental well-being directly affects how employees behave at work - a  government report on work related stress demonstrated that stress accounted for  nearly half of all working days lost because of ill health. 

A poor work-life balance can also impact productivity in the workplace 

An ACAS report on flexible working and work-life balance showed how a poor  balance can lead to absence, low productivity and stress. But when balance is  achieved, benefits can include: 

  • Better levels of efficiency and productivity
  • Lower levels of absence, sickness and stress
  • A motivated workforce
  • Improved customer service
  • Higher retention levels
  • More applicants for vacancies 

There is no doubt that when employees are given the space and time to live a whole  and rounded life their sense of wellbeing increases, and they feel happier. And  as this article highlights, a happier workforce is good news for business.  

How to improve your employees’ work-life balance 

Most employees need to work to have sufficient money to live, so it can be  challenging for them to bring up such issues with the employer.  

This is where you come in. There are many ways that business owners and HR  managers can help employees achieve a better work-life balance: 

  • Flexible working options (e.g. compressed hours, job sharing, remote  working)
  • Paid time off policies
  • Supporting employees with caring duties (see our article How to support carer  employees provides advice on this)
  • Implementing reasonable time and communication expectations
  • Mental and physical health promoting activities (e.g. gym membership, cycle  to work scheme, lunchtime meditation classes)
  • Medical services such as 24/7 access to GP and health assessments at work  help employees fit appointments around their work and other commitments.

5 exercises to do at your desk

If more members of your team are working remotely at the moment, they're likely to  be using more uncomfortable equipment than they do in the office. 

Help them stay active and avoid aches and pains by sharing these five desk  exercises that can be done from their desks (or dining room tables) at home. 

1. Leg Extensions

While sitting down, lift your legs alternatively until they’re straight out in front of you.  Hold for as long as you are comfortable, then lower and lift the other leg. Repeat 10  times. Try counting how long you can keep your legs raised, and see if you can  increase the time a little each day. Then lift one foot a few inches off the floor,  keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees. Again, hold until it becomes uncomfortable  then switch to the other leg. 

2. Arm Extensions

Holding your arms straight, move them behind you and lift them up as far as you  can, which will do wonders for tight shoulder muscles, then bring them forward,  keeping the arm straight, until your hands meet. Make sure your shoulders don’t  creep up around your ears whilst doing this exercise and try to maintain an upright  posture throughout. Repeat 10 times. 

3. Neck rotations

Relax your shoulders and lower your chin until it touches your chest and take a deep  breath in while rotating your head very slowly clockwise. When your head is as far  back as you can get it, slowly begin to exhale while circling your head back to rest  your chin on your chest again. Do this 5 times clockwise, then 5 times anti-clockwise  to relax and stretch tense neck muscles. 

4. Back twists

Sit up straight and put your left hand on the small of your back, with your elbow bent.  Twist to the left as far as you can comfortably. Change to the right side and repeat.  Keep switching from side to side, and always move slowly and smoothly – don’t jerk  or force yourself to twist further than is comfortable. 

5. Punch the air

Punching the air above your head with both arms for intense 30-second bursts is a  great way of releasing stress and getting your heart beating faster. Then repeat in  front of you and to the sides and finish with 30 seconds overhead again. 

Employees should be encouraged to move around whenever possible. “Whatever  position you adopt, don’t stay like it for more than 20 to 30 minutes. Constantly changing position uses all your muscles and all the systems in your body.”

What is Stress?

Many of us will have experienced levels of stress during this pandemic which, given  the circumstances, is completely natural. 

Stress is the body’s way natural response to pressure. This response can produce  physical and emotional responses and can be caused by a host of different  situations or life events. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, purchasing  anew house, or the birth of a child can produce stress. 

Some of the most common symptoms of stress can be split into four areas: - 

  • behavioral;
  • emotional
  • psychological; and
  • physical; 

Symptoms of stress will often accumulate until you are forced to take notice of them,  such as: - 

  • increased reliance on alcohol;  
  • smoking;  
  • caffeine;  
  • drugs;  
  • aggressive outbursts;  
  • dizziness or palpitations;  
  • panic attacks; and  
  • nausea. 

Here are a few suggestions on how to reduce any unwanted stress during  these challenging times: -

  • Relax your mind;
  • Be kind to others;
  • Keep moving;
  • Stay connected with family and friends; and
  • Take care of yourself.

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