Five key compliance challenges for HR

HR departments face a constant barrage of new regulation and compliance requirements, and forthcoming developments such as GDPR will add to this burden. Chris Berry looks at five key challenges HR must deal with in the coming months.

Compliance - it's coming at the HR team thick and fast, from all directions. Just when you get on top of one new regulation, there's yet another to wrap your head around.

One of the most pressing challenges for HR will be demonstrating how complying with new requirements has actually led to change.

This is difficult because it's a series of negatives: finances were not risked; employees' personal data rights were not breached; a safeguarding scandal did not happen; a gig economy worker's rights were not overlooked and so on.

So, it is becoming more important than ever to record all the steps taken to meet requirements, and keep them to hand in updated reports, sometimes at short notice.

Usually it will be HR's job to prove organisations aren't winging it, and that change has been incorporated into the fabric of day-to-day operations. HR will either contribute to or become solely responsible for reporting on compliance issues.

Below are five challenges HR teams should be preparing for, all of which will need a review of systems and processes.

1. Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR)

Originally targeted at banks and big financial houses, the Senior Managers and Certification Regime rolls out to all financial services firms, affecting about 60,000 SMEs, in 2018.

It applies to all staff whose role could cause significant financial harm to the company or its customers, and is designed to embed individual responsibility into corporate culture.

HR, as the heart of a well-functioning organisation, will play a key role in nurturing the new culture, and recording the change.

New processes will have to be applied to embed this shift, tracking the good conduct of senior managers - along with new job descriptions, statements of responsibility, prescribed responsibilities and conduct rules. Bonuses and payments might also be linked into the tracking system.

HR will need to create a responsibilities map and log this to the system. And protection for whistleblowers should be built in, along with triggers for follow-up action.

2. Brexit

As the talks between the EU and UK begin, uncertainty over Brexit is causing anxiety for staff who are EU nationals, or married to EU nationals, as well as the HR team who needs to support them, and consider how to fill their positions if they decide to leave.

Already for some EU nationals, the uncertainty has proven too much, and despite being highly valued team members, they have resigned.

As a good employer, ensure appropriate documentation remains available in your systems for some time afterwards - allowing former staff access to their payslips, P60s, and anything else that eases their transition.

Even a small amount of administrative support will be welcomed by frustrated former employees facing difficult decisions.

Also, don't lose their details. Remember, negotiations will be protracted. We have no real clarity about the final outcomes. You might well find you're in a position to invite staff back when the negotiations are complete. Keeping track of great former team members helps reduce the cost of recruitment in the future.

Make sure a complete list of passports has been made, and work to reassure those you've identified as being affected.

Review the training budget as many industries risk a skills shortage. In some, native senior team members are 10 to 15 years away from retirement, while almost all other staff members are non-native.

Prepare to pay more, as wages to UK staff will almost certainly go up to attract strong performers. And if it remains possible to access lower paid European staff, via increased visa controls, administration costs can be expected to soar.

Review the ratio of jobs to employees. A possible skills shortage could be the trigger for revisiting the number of team members doing certain hours. The ratio could be shifted in either direction.

Many employers have seen an increase in part-time and contract employees working less than a full week. You might look at reorganising the workforce around fewer employees putting in more time, converting small roles into larger ones, or the reverse.

Being prepared to onboard volunteers and part-time staff might help to plug resource gaps.

3. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Many UK businesses are not GDPR ready - risking fines that could sink them. And HR will have an important role to play meeting the new requirements.

With less than a year until the stringent privacy Regulations come into force, some organisations have let this drop off the planning agenda, believing, wrongly, that the new European Regulations won't affect them.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), new fines will be as high as €10 million or 2% of the offending company's global turnover. And for more serious violations the penalties double: €20 million or 4% of global turnover - whichever is greater.

GDPR puts personal privacy ahead of business interests. This has a huge impact on all organisations, not only in terms of the client data they manage, but more importantly, the HR data - which could be quite sensitive.

The HR team will play an important role in protecting the data held for employees, leavers and job applicants. The main changes affect the way staff access, correct, delete and transfer their details.

Rethink how personal data is collected, used and kept, from handling recruitment and employer references, to monitoring staff performance and storing records.

Make sure that permission has been opted-into, and not assumed. Also, ensuring that when consent is withdrawn, the affected data is deleted appropriately.

New accountability measures will make it important that systems are in place to show that the Regulations are being met.

4. The gig economy

Various cases involving Uber, Excel, CitySprint and more have highlighted employer risks in the so-called gig economy.

What does this really mean to HR, aside from a headache? It means agency staff, casual staff, self-employed contractors - all non-permanent staff - need intelligible contracts and attention paid to rights including paid leave, sick leave, and overtime.

All of this can be very difficult to monitor, measure and adjust against widely varying work hours.

The next level of complication comes with staff who are working at more than one role for the organisation - including any who are volunteering.

HR must ensure consistency in onboarding, induction, appraisals, payments, and off-boarding - to retain the organisation's cultural cohesion.

It's important to be efficient in this, as some team members might be with the team for just a few hours, although in that time they will have to conduct themselves in line with given values.

Wishing permanent staff well and keeping an eye on their progress, should they leave to go freelance, is also good idea, as you might well ask them back for key projects.

5. Safeguarding

Scandals that cost the reputation of a company, or expensive tribunal claims that threaten the business's financial health, can be the result of simple mistakes by an overwhelmed HR team.

Safeguarding requirements apply across schools and all children's services and activities, as well as hospices and other care organisations.

DBS or visa checks, health and safety certificates, proof of qualifications, and so many more pre-conditions to appointing staff are putting extra pressure on the HR team. New requirements are being added regularly to the workload.

Try to use a one-stop system that connects directly to your own third-party checkers, such as screening companies conducting DBS checks. Or use a system that works with partner-checking organisations for a complete solution.

You need a second layer of checking, so once the certificate arrives, it can be assigned to someone else to verify it, if need be. That specialist might not be in HR.

To help remove human error, set up the system so that induction cannot continue until the check has been confirmed.