The Oxford English Dictionary describes the etymology of
bonus as being 'an ignorant or jocular application of Latin
bonus ("good (man)"'. It goes on to explain
that the word was probably originally intended 'to signify a
boon, "a good thing" (or bonum in
And bonuses have certainly been 'a good thing' for many
in the City. It is no wonder that the word, according to the OED, probably originated
as slang in the London Stock Exchange.
So it might be somewhat sacrilegious for me to ask my readers in
the Square Mile whether it is time for the end of the bonus
Whilst bonus schemes have a great number of positives and can
incentivise even the laziest of employees to work hard for that all
important end of year bonus, some employers are questioning whether
or not they are still fit for purpose.
With many companies having a bonus scheme linked to company
performance, some employees feel that they are not being rewarded
for their performance if their company doesn't achieve its
Throw in individual targets, personal goals and metrics and you
might find that your bonus system has become overly complicated.
For some, it becomes a source of anger or irritation - exactly the
opposite result than originally intended. As a result, some
companies' feel that the time has come to get rid of their
bonus schemes altogether.
Can a company simply remove their bonus schemes? The short, if
not very revelatory answer, is that it depends on the circumstances
but, if it has been in existence for a period of time, it might not
be so easy for employers to bin the bonus.
If employers have given their employees an annual bonus for a
number of years, this can lead to a contractual entitlement for the
employee to be awarded their bonus. If the bonus scheme simply shut
up shop, this could result in claims by the employee against the
This is not to say that you can't amend a bonus scheme. As
with any changes to an employees express or implied contractual
entitlements, this is best achieved by embarking on a period of
consultation. Engaging with the workforce might produce exactly the
kind of boost to productivity and morale that the system was
originally designed to engender.
What is the alternative? Non-cash incentives, ad-hoc or more
regular performance-related payments, salary increases and share
incentives present some options.
Perhaps it is time to ask your employees 'what would most
Discrimination risks: requirement to speak English at work and
Does your workplace policy disadvantage certain nationalities
Hopefully not intentionally.
What about English language requirements?
That's a question that has become more and more of an issue
over recent years. Millions of workers in the UK don't speak
English as their first language. Does this matter?
The Immigration Act 2016 will introduce a new duty for public
authorities to ensure that their employees in customer-facing roles
speak fluent English. This will be accompanied by a statutory code
of practice, expected to come into force in October 2016.
Employers should, however, think carefully about how this is
reflected in workplace policies. For example, rather than banning
from speaking 'foreign' languages, employers should perhaps
make clear that English is the language of operation for their
business. Additionally, employers should make sure that any policy
has a genuine business reason to exist as an extra layer of
So, that deals with language. What about dress?
There have been a spate of news reports, articles and even cases
on what you can and can't wear at work. In the last few months,
we had to think whether or not it is acceptable to force women to
wear high heeled shoes at work. What about religious symbols? Do
they fit with uniform policies? What about health and safety?
The issue of the workplace dress code and direct discrimination
is now coming to the fore. There are two cases currently in front
of the European Court of Justice relating to bans on employees
wearing religious symbols at work.
When the Court makes its ruling, sometime towards the end of the
year, it will certainly be one to keep an eye out for.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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