Keystone's Guide to HR Retainers
The last 12 months have shone a spotlight onto how schools are run. An increase in staff absences, brought on by Covid, has brought HR to the forefront as schools struggle to manage staff-pupil ratios, maintain face to face teaching and support staff who are anxious about returning to the classroom after remote learning.
If your trust HR team or school HR representative are struggling with this additional workload and ever-changing guidance, an HR retainer can be an excellent way of accessing additional support and expertise.
Here is our guide to HR retainers:
What is an HR retainer?
A 'retainer' is a service where you outsource some of your processes to a professional provider. This could be in HR, operations, finance or any other service. Retainers can either provide a scheduled service (e.g. one day a week) or on a 'stand-by' service where companies can access an expert on-demand. There is no set retainer model and hours/services available depend on the consultancy and the company.
HR is a complex field that combines ethics, welfare, professional development, workforce planning, recruitment, statutory regulations, and employment law. A human resources retainer can support your current HR set-up to look after all aspects of your employees 'lives' from providing advice and guidance to your HR professionals to managing specific projects such as a policy review or restructure.
What are the benefits of an HR retainer?
Single academies may not be able to afford a full-time member of staff and smaller MATs might not be able to support a comprehensive HR team that can manage all the needs that may arise. A retainer can be used to 'plug the gaps' until the role grows big enough to warrant a larger team. A consultant can also give your HR team extra confidence by providing them with advice and support as they grow into the role.
Retainers offer a high degree of flexibility which can be used to quickly scale the time or advice needed based on the needs of the trust or school. It can be hard to know how much support you might need but the experts can evaluate the level of assistance you might need. Choosing a company that can make a bespoke package means that you can get the right level of help without too many added extras that you don't need.
Your retainer may have a stock of templates that can be easily amended to suit your school's branding or culture. As well as helping to ease the workload, this can also lead to a more coherent, more comprehensive series of policies and procedures.
A good retainer will help you to create or finetune your policies and can even provide template policy letters to go along with the policies, e.g. suspensions, disciplinaries or working from home. Retainers can also help you to put your policies into practice and implement them in the best way possible. In a disciplinary hearing, your HR expert can assist you with choosing who to interview and which questions to ask. A good retainer should be prepared to offer you confidence by walking you through your policy and giving what you're missing.
Covid has also led to extra compliance within schools. The ever-changing guidance on mask-wearing and social distancing has made it harder for schools to keep their policies up to date. A retainer could provide template policies to ease the workload of the team.
HR consultants are experts in their field and can use their previous experience to anticipate any issues that may arise. This proactive approach ensures that problems are resolved quickly and easily - before they escalate.
A good consultant keeps up to date with the latest regulations. Information in schools comes from many different sources and it can be hard to keep track, especially on top of your other duties. Some retainer services will send you an email round-up of updates to keep you abreast of the latest changes from the DfE and ESFA.
Conflicts are an inevitable part of school life, despite everyone's best intentions! HR retainers can help to manage conflict to guarantee the best possible outcome for everyone involved. Your HR consultant can agree to be present in the meetings to ensure that procedure is carried out properly. Disciplinary measures can be a stressful time, but having a consultant can help to navigate these issues.
Some consultancy firms also offer HR services for specific one-off projects that may be outside of your team's areas of expertise. This might include a TUPE as your school transfers from a maintained school to an academy or a serious HR incident that needs careful handling.
HR support from Keystone Knowledge
Keystone's HR retainers offer flexible, wrap around coverage from qualified, friendly HR professionals who have worked in schools and trust central teams. We offer two levels of retainer; our Advice Service which is a comprehensive package providing guidance and support on workforce related matters, and an HR Helpline for quick compliance checks and Green and Burgundy book queries. We recognise that no two schools or trusts are the same, so contact us to discuss the level of support that you require.