Returning to the Workplace

On 10th May 2020 the Government began to outline its plan to enable certain sectors to return to work.

Whilst employees who can operate from home are being advised to continue to do so, official guidance on the government’s plans for returning to the workplace continue to emerge, and I urge you to ensure you keep up to date with the governments guidance.

  1. Planning

Communication is key, and you should be consulting with your staff about returning to work.  If you have trade union, employee and health and safety representatives then you need to be including them. 

If you do have trade union or employee representatives, please check any agreements you have in place with them to see if you should be formally consulting.

Whilst employees and workers should be ready to return to work at short notice, you should be flexible where possible.

  • Making the workplace safe

As an employer you must make the workplace as safe as possible for employees, contractors, customers and everyone who needs to visits.  Wherever possible encourage employees to work from home and ensure you follow the government guidelines on working safely during coronavirus on GOV.UK

Risk assessments should be carried out to identify what might cause harm, and reasonable steps taken to prevent them from happening.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have a great managing risks and risk assessment at work section on their website, along with working safely during coronavirus from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at find coronavirus advise on the HSE website

  • Discuss plans with your employees

It is important to make sure you talk to your employees as soon as possible with regards to returning to work, and your conversations should include:

  • when employees might return to the workplace
  • how they will travel to and from work
  • how health and safety is being reviewed, managed and the latest risk assessment findings and actions
  • any planned adjustments to be made to the workplace, e.g. phased return to work, staggering start and finish times, floor markings to help people keep 2 metres apart
  • working from home arrangements

It is so important not to forget any changes that might affect an employee’s employment contract needs to be consulted with them.

  • If someone does not want to return

You may find some people are anxious about safety and going back to the workplace, and it is important to encourage them to talk to you about any concerns and try to resolve them together.

Some people may feel they do not want to return to work or they may be unable to return yet, for example, they may be:

  • worried about catching coronavirus
  • they may be at high risk of getting a severe illness if they catch coronavirus
  • caring for children
  • living with someone who is shielding

As an employer you need to listen to any concerns your staff may have and take steps to ensure you protect everyone, this may be

  • offering extra car parking so employees do not have to use public transport
  • keeping someone on furlough if they are temporarily unable to work
  • temporarily changing hours of work to avoid peak travel time

If after reviewing any reasonable adjustments the employee still does not want to return to work, you may want to consider letting them book annual leave or unpaid leave.

If someone is refusing to return to work without a valid reason, this could result in disciplinary action and your disciplinary policy and procedure needs to be followed.

S Potter Talent Ltd is an award-winning consultancy offering bespoke apprenticeship scheme management, human resources and learning & development strategies for business.

Contact details:

Mobile phone – 07486 073844

Email –

Website –

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To recruit or not to recruit an apprentice in 2020 – that is the question

According to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), more than a quarter of businesses (27%) plan to reduce the number of graduates they recruit this year and 23% will cut apprenticeship and school leaver programmes.

Covid-19 has also impacted internships and placements, which will be reduced by 31%, with more than two thirds (68%) cancelling work experience and other taster opportunities.

With around a third of the businesses replying to ISE’s survey saying they were simply uncertain about their hiring plans, on a positive note a third of businesses were continuing with their recruitment plans, moving their interviews and assessments online.

The situation business owners find themselves in with covid-19 is not for the faint hearted. Do you err on the side of caution, slow down or stop the hiring of apprentices until you know more about how your business with weather the storm or do you carry on as normal with your apprentice strategy for the year and carry on with the original apprentice recruitment plan?

In my experience of running apprentice programmes, one of the key factors to a successful programme is consistency with the apprentice intakes, Missing a year may seem like the only thing to do at for that year, but the knock on effects to the business can have a huge impact in the long term, especially when using the apprenticeship programme to ‘grow your own talent’ to help fill the national skills shortages within your industry. Now is a good time to remind yourself on why the company has an apprenticeship programme in place, and to explore and understand what effect to the business there will be if an apprentice intake is not recruited in 2020.

One thing I have done in the past is to reduce the intake number to ensure the talent pipeline is still resourced rather than skip a whole intake, this is where the company’s succession plan springs into action, in identifying available experience and capabilities in the talent pipeline of the business and taking into account national skill shortages and hard to recruit for role, as well as potential retirees in the coming years.

Whilst these are uncertain times for businesses, I urge you to keep on planning ahead for when this period passes, and it will.

“Always plan ahead, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark” quote from Richard Cushing, America prelate of the Roman Catholic Church

S Potter Talent Ltd is an award-winning consultancy offering bespoke apprenticeship scheme management, human resources and learning & development strategies for business.

Contact details:
Mobile phone – 07486 073844
Email –
Interested in finding out more, then please feel free to book a discovery call at:

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Key points of Furlough

Key points on coronavirus (COVID-19) Job Retention Scheme

The Government has published a guidance on claiming for wage costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as the Furlough Scheme.

Below are key points only, you must also read the Governments full guidance, which can be found here, the ensure you have all the relevant information, as these key points on their own, will not be enough.

• Employers can claim up to 80% of wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. Fees, commissions and bonuses are not included.

• Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including:

  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE who are not working)
  • Public authorities

• Must have a PAYE payroll on or before 28th February 2020 and must have a UK bank account.

• Employers can claim for:

  • Full time employees
  • Part time employees
  • Employees on agency contracts
  • Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

• Individuals are only entitled to minimum wage for the hours they work. If someone is furloughed and are not working, and 80% of their normal earnings would take them below the minimum wage based on their normal working hours, they still only receive 80% as they are not working.

• Any time spent training will be paid at national minimum wage.

• Employees must have been on the company’s payroll on 28th February 2020 to be eligible. Anyone employed after this date are not eligible. If someone was on the payroll from 28th February 2020 and has since been made redundant, they can be rehired and put on the scheme.

• Furlough leave must be taken in minimum blocks of three weeks to be eligible for funding.

• The employee must not be working at all, if they work for even an hour, they will not be eligible. However, they are able to undertake training and do volunteer work, as long as they do not provide services to or make any money for their employer.

• Normal employment law applies when agreeing changes in hours and acceptance of 80% pay, assuming the employees’ contract does not already allow for that.

• The selection process for furlough should follow the organisations standard redundancy process.

• Employees on sick leave or self-isolating cannot be furloughed, but can be furloughed afterwards. Employees who are shielding* can be placed on furlough.

• Employees on maternity, or similar leave can continue to draw SMP, or similar payments.

• Claims can only be made one every three weeks, and can be backdated to 1st March 2020. The scheme is expected to be up and running by the end of April 2020, with further guidance being issued by the Government on the mechanics of claiming the payments.

* shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.

S Potter Talent Ltd is an award-winning consultancy offering bespoke apprenticeship scheme management, human resources and learning & development strategies for business. Contact details: Mobile phone – 07486 073844 Email – Website –

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National Maritime welcomes the development of a new shipyard on the Thames

National Maritime very much welcomes the development of a new shipyard on the Thames and the Expression of Interest from London & Regional Properties Ltd and the Port of London Authority for shipyard operators to develop a new facility on the River Thames.

The development of a new shipyard supports one of the key priority frameworks set out by us in 2009. National Maritime has long recognised the strategic position and importance of the River Thames to supporting regional maritime sector and economic growth. We have always believed that with the right partnership approach, it can become the central axis in promoting and developing excellence in all maritime activities related to business, education and skills.

Expression of Interest: Albert Island Shipyard – Deadline for submissions 10 Feb 2020

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Climate Change Leadership Coordinated in New Centre of Excellence

This month January saw Cefas launch its International Marine Climate Change Centre (iMC3), bringing together scientists from different disciplines to better understand impacts of climate change on marine environments and coastal areas.

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Ambitious £17 Million Pembrokeshire Wave Energy Project on Track for Summer 2020 Deployment

Bombora has now contracted more than 70% of its ground breaking £17 million Pembrokeshire Demonstration Project. The project is currently on schedule for deployment in mid-2020. The project is part of Bombora’s accelerated commercialisation plan to validate mWave’s performance capabilities with a bigger scheme in Lanzarote, Spain already on the horizon.

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Performance Appraisals

For some just the title of this article will send a shiver down your spine. Love them or hate them performance appraisals are key to the current and future success of your business, which cannot be achieved without the commitment, skills, experience and talent of your people who operate within it every day.

The performance appraisal is a process to maximise your employee’s performance so they are able to utilise their talents. It is only by developing your employee’s and providing a workplace that encourages continuous learning, growth and recognises talent that your business will continue to be successful in the future.

Performance appraisals are a great way to motivate employee’s but if managed poorly can have the opposite effect. Below are five tips to assist you in carrying out a productive performance appraisal review meeting:

1. Preparation is key!
Ever been to a review meeting where your manager winged it? Do you remember how it made you feel? Disappointed, undervalued, demotivated, even angry, then why put your staff in that position.

Make time to plan the performance appraisal meeting from booking a suitable day, time and room through to reading the individuals previous appraisal and being clear on the team objectives for the coming year.

Allow enough time for the review to be held, slotting it in between meetings is not ideal, and can lead to ill feelings if half way through you have to rush off to another meeting.

2. Compile an agenda to be circulated prior to the meeting
As any other business meeting having an agenda is a great way of keeping the meeting on track and ensuring all points are covered.

Most organisations will have a formal performance appraisal process in place which can be used as the basis of the agenda.

3. Discuss challenges and successes
There should be no surprises for the appraisee, now is not the time to tell them all the positive feedback or areas they need to improve on for the first time, these conversations should be taking place daily or weekly with the employee outside of the appraisal review process.

4. Discuss development plans
Now is the perfect opportunity to discuss career aspirations and start to look at an appropriate development plan for the appraisee with realistic timeframes.

Development plans don’t need to be expensive external courses, look to up skill current employee’s by tapping into the apprenticeship levy, which includes degree level apprenticeships.

5. Agree actions and next steps
Ensure actions and timeframes are recorded in the appraisal form for both parties to be able to refer to. Also be one step ahead, put the dates in the diary for the next review meetings which will help keep the appraisee focused.

Sue Potter set up SPotter Talent as a consultancy with a vision to create learning cultures within business, and a mission to motivate, inspire and empower people to do things they never thought were possible.

With over 22 years’ experience as a highly accomplished HR professional combining generalist HR and learning & development experience spanning financial, medical, oil & gas and container port sectors with over 10 years experience in leading apprenticeship programmes. An experienced line manager who understands how initiatives that effect culture support commercial strategy and drive revenue and profitability.

If you would like to find out how Sue can help your business, get in contact with her via email:, telephone 07486 073844 or via her website

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Sustainable fisheries enshrined in law as UK leaves the EU

Legislation creating the powers for the UK to operate as an independent coastal state and manage its fish stocks sustainably outside the EU is being introduced into Parliament today (29th January 2020). The introduction of the Fisheries Bill delivers a legal guarantee the UK will leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) at the end of the Transition Period, in December 2020 – allowing the UK to control who may fish in our waters, and on what terms, for the first time since 1973.The Bill ends current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in British waters.

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Over-budget & Over Specified – ‘Vested interest or corruption’

The controversial Ferguson ferry contract which the Scottish Government awarded to the highest of six bidders was based on “incompetence, vested interest or corruption”, MSPs have been told. Ferguson Marine won the contract in 2015 to build two new CalMac ferries despite its £97 million bid being the most expensive, while experts now estimate that it will cost an additional £110 million for the work to be completed. MSPs carrying out an inquiry into the delayed and over-budget new vessels were told by experts today that the Ferguson ferries appear to be “over specified” for their purpose.

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Creating a destination for London’s Historic Boat collection

The Royal Docks is embarking on an exciting new chapter, with over £8bn being invested in the area over the next 20 years. National Maritime has been discussing with partners about the creation of a destination for London’s Historic Boat collection. A collection of vessels associated with Ports, Rivers, Canals, Docks and trades of London which will be used to develop a tourism, skills and education offer. A creation of linear open-air heritage collection of boats, artefacts, objects and landscape running from East India Dock Basin through to Trinity Buoy Wharf and possibly beyond. Vessels displayed ashore, on river pier structures and afloat to suit age and condition and access. The Draft Masterplan is now out for public consultation. The message coming through is that the public want history of the docks and heritage vessels to be included. Join us, National Historic Ships and the Maritime Heritage Trust in voicing your support too. Have your say on what you think should happen.

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