Sickness Absence – How Should You Handle it?

Every employee will invariably be sick and unable to work from time to time. It is important to keep in contact to establish any support they need and when you can expect them to return to work. In extreme circumstances, or where you suspect the sickness my not be genuine, it may be necessary to terminate a contract of employment but you must follow a fair procedure first – do you have the correct processes in place?

Short Term Absence:

• Discuss the problem with your employee as soon as possible and keep lines of communication open at all times
• Monitor the absence and document the ‘calling in sick’ process. Can your employee complete a self-certification notification or do you require a letter from their doctor?
• Once your employee is fit to return to work, make sure you have all your ducks in a row and that you conduct a return to work interview
• If necessary instigate a formal action process including warnings and dismissal, only as a last resort
• Learn from employee absence, conduct reviews and look for patterns that can help you to avoid absence in the future.

Long Term Absence:

This is when a period of absence exceeds four weeks in duration. In these instances your employee is required to provide medical support.
• Keep in regular contact with your employee and help to obtain medical advice that will assist in their return to work
• Avoid the risk of disability discrimination by taking your duty of care seriously and making all necessary adjustments
• Manage their return to work effectively, consider a phased return where necessary
• If your employee is unable to return to work, take the right steps to instigate dismissal on the grounds of ill health.

Dismissal is always a last resort. Factors that must be taken in to consideration before heading down this path include:

• The nature and length of the illness
• Length of service and previous record
• Any improvement in attendance
• The effect of absence on colleagues and the business as a whole
• Whether there are other employment options available.

The key to managing staff sickness is to keep in communication with your employees at all times. Don’t be afraid to contact a member of staff who is on sick leave. Don’t leave the situation to get out of hand.

If you have a member of staff who keeps taking sick leave, or who is on long term sick leave and you’re not sure what to do next, contact me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

How to Give Effective Criticism Without Sounding Critical!

How to Give Effective Criticism Without Sounding Critical!

Everyone needs feedback – good or otherwise – to ensure they’re doing the best for their customers. From a restaurant on the quality of their food and waiting staff, to an airline on their service, such as ease of booking, checking-in, and the helpfulness of the airline staff. The whole experience, in fact.

This is also true of your employees. Good feedback, including the giving of constructive criticism, is essential to an employee’s development. After all, they cannot learn from their mistakes and improve if they’re not aware they’ve made any.

Providing feedback is a fundamental element of effective appraisal interviews. But do remember to offer your employees regular feedback throughout the year, not just at the time of the appraisal interview.

Key Rules for Giving Constructive Criticism

The key rules for making criticism constructive are to concentrate on the person’s actions or behaviour, not his or her personality. You should also look to the future and not the past. The aim is to correct, not punish.

Crucial points to remember when giving criticism:

  • give criticism promptly after the event to which it relates. This is important, as it ensures that the facts are still fresh in both of your minds;
  • make sure that the criticism is clear and specific;
  • avoid generalisations;
  • use specific examples;
  • remember to ask for the employee’s input and be prepared to listen without prejudging;
  • it’s important to deliver criticism objectively and unemotionally, ensuring that no annoyance or disapproval is implied;
  • make sure that the employee understands what he or she has done wrong, why it is wrong, and how he or she should do it next time;
  • explain the effects of the employee’s actions or behaviour on colleagues, the department and/or the organisation as a whole;
  • encourage the employee to take full responsibility for his or her actions;
  • make it clear that you want to work with and support your employee to seek solutions to any problem areas;
  • let the employee know if, in your opinion, they are capable of improvement;
  • since receiving criticism is difficult for most people, and there is a high chance that misunderstandings may arise, check after giving criticism that it has been fully understood;
  • end the conversation with a positive statement. For example, you could state your confidence in the employee’s overall competence to perform the job; and
  • where possible, use praise to cushion criticism.

Using the more positive statements should help your employee to accept what you’re saying without getting upset, and help them to see that you are, in fact, simply trying to help them develop and do well. There are some other interesting tips in this article, published in the Reader’s Digest, that you may find helpful.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me

Helping Employees in the Lead Up to their Retirement

The thought of retirement for the employee can be mixed – a relief, exciting, or even tainted with a dread of the unknown. Especially if they haven’t made any firm retirement plans. Alternatively, they may be planning to work until they’re 70, as recent research undertaken by the CIPD shows that many people feel this will help them to remain mentally fit.

Whatever the employee’s feelings about retirement, as an employer you need to be as supportive as possible on the lead up to retirement. You also need to be careful about how you approach people who you feel may be nearing retirement age. It could be that your employees don’t want to retire yet, and you may be accused of age discrimination.

Due to a change in the law introduced on 6 April 2011, employers can no longer compel employees to retire at a specified age, unless the requirement to retire is justified objectively – for instance, if your organisation relies on a certain level of fitness to perform their job functions effectively, such as within the construction industry. This change in legislation means that employees can choose to retire when they want.

The law now means that you cannot use retirement as an excuse to dismiss employees who might be experiencing difficulties with their work, for whatever reason. Instead, all employees of all ages should be treated fairly and equally when appraising past performance, or when providing training and development opportunities. Doing this regularly will help to prevent capability issues from arising.

Treating older employees differently from younger employees could amount to age discrimination, which could, unless justified, be unlawful. For example, if you disregard inadequate performance on the part of a 65-year-old employee on the assumption that he or she will be retiring soon, but deliver heavy criticism to a 25-year-old employee whose performance is similarly inadequate, the difference in treatment would amount to age discrimination.

Similarly, if the employee indicates during an appraisal interview that he or she is considering retiring soon, take care not to discriminate against him or her. Instead, you could begin to make future plans if the employee does decide to retire.

Dos and don’ts

  • Do continue to treat the employee in the same way as you would treat other employees, for example in the provision of training opportunities.
  • Do adjust the employee’s performance expectations proportionately if they indicate that they would like to work reduced hours in the run-up to retirement, and if you can accommodate this.
  • Do discuss with the employee how they could pass on their knowledge and skills to other staff in the run-up to retirement.
  • Do discuss succession issues with the employee, for example how they might be involved in training a replacement for the job.
  • Do reassure the employee that they can change their mind about retirement if they wish.
  • Don’t say or do anything that might amount to age discrimination against the employee.
  • Don’t assume that, if the employee indicates that they plan to retire at a particular time, they will do so. Until the employee actually hands in his or her notice, communication of an intention to retire is not binding on the employee. You could, however, remind the employee of the requirement to give notice under the employment contract, and the length of the notice period.

By being mindful of both your legal requirements and your employees’ needs, and acting accordingly, means that your business is not only helping your employee during this often difficult transition in their lives, but you are also protecting, or even improving, your organisation’s reputation as a good employer.

For any further advice on how to help your employees retire well with the least disruption to your business, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

How GDPR Compliant Is Your Organisation’s HR Data?

The main principle behind the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect on 25 May 2018 is to protect people from having unnecessary data stored about them, and for too long. In fact, there are seven main principles that you will need to keep in mind when processing personal data, being:

  1. Lawfulness, fairness and transparency – you will no longer be able to charge a fee when you receive a request for data held, and it must be provided within a month
  2. Purpose limitation – data must only be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes
  3. Data minimisation – it must be adequate, relevant and limited to the purposes required
  4. Accuracy – every reasonable step must be taken to ensure that inaccurate personal data is erased or rectified, without delay
  5. Storage limitation – personal data should not be kept for anything other than the purposes for which it is being processed, or for longer than necessary
  6. Integrity and confidentiality – data must be processed using appropriate technical or organisational measures to ensure its security
  7. Accountability – you will need an officer or someone in your organisation to be responsible for, and able to demonstrate, compliance with these principles

Conduct an audit now!

It’s important that an audit is carried out as soon as possible prior to 25 May 2018. When preparing for GDPR, it may be necessary for various departments – IT, Legal, HR and Compliance – to collaborate, ensuring that data security is robust.

  • The audit needs to assess current HR data and related processing activities to identify any gaps with the GDPR.
  • Assess the legal ramifications on processing personal data. Although consent is currently necessary, it may not meet the more stringent GDPR requirements. Keep in mind that consent may be revoked at any time. You may need to rely on other legal grounds to continue to process employee personal data, but if it can’t be justified you must cease those processing activities.
  • If your business is in an industry that’s highly regulated, you may be able to rely on compliance with a legal obligation as a basis for processing certain employee data. For example, some financial services employers need to provide and update regulatory references for staff for up to six years after the end of employment. Or if you operate in a safety critical environment, you could rely on health and safety risks to justify more intrusive processing of employee data to establish fitness to work, for example.
  • Review or implement documentation. This information must be written in a way that is easy for employees and job applicants to understand, and should include three key documents:
    • Data Protection Policy
    • Privacy notices for employees and job applicants
    • Data Processing Consent documents as signed by your employees
  • To maintain the GDPR principle of data minimisation, you will need to delete data once it is no longer necessary. For this reason, as well as the rights of ex-employees and other data subjects requiring erasure or the restricting of data processing, consider the retention periods of your HR personal data. If you already have a data retention policy, check whether the existing retention periods for HR data can still be justified. You must pay particular attention to matters such as disciplinary warnings, and data retained after the end of employment.
  • Data breaches will need to be reported to the data authority within 72 hours of the breach occurring, so ensure a strict procedure is put in place. Allocate responsibility to certain people to investigate and contain a breach, and to make a report. Train employees to recognise and address data breaches, and put appropriate policies and procedures in place.
  • You may need to appoint a data protection officer, either through recruitment or by training an existing staff member. They will be the accountable person and will liaise with the data protection authority.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) recommends 12 steps that you should take now, which you can access here. Or speak to me – I will be delighted to help you make sense of the new GDPR and how its principles should be applied to your organisation.

Helping You 

If you need help becoming GDPR compliant, I can provide your business with the documents that you need, which are:

  1. Job applicant privacy notice
  2. GDPR compliant data protection policy
  3. Employee privacy notice
  4. Form to make a subject access request

I can also offer an audit to assess compliance and the actions required and deliver training for your employees, either face to face or by webinar. Get in touch if you need any of these documents or some training. Call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Do You Know What the Latest Employment Law Changes Are?

April is the time of year when certain employment law changes come into effect. It’s important to ensure that your business is up to date with legislation. This can be difficult, especially if you don’t have an HR department. Highlighted here are some current and soon to be implemented changes that might affect your business.

Pensions and Auto-Enrolment Minimum Contributions

It’s important to remind your staff that this month, there will be a mandatory increase in contributions. Employers will need to contribute a minimum of 2%, and employees 3%, providing a total minimum contribution of 5% per month.

Statutory Rates

Most years, the Department for Work and Pensions proposes new rates for statutory payment in line with the Consumer Price Index. This year, 2018, the rates are as follows:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) – paid at a rate of 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, the remaining 33 weeks are paid at the statutory rate (or at 90%, whichever is lower). From 1 April 2018, the statutory rate increased from £140.98 to £145.18 per week.
  • Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) – will also increase from £140.98 to £145.18 per week.
  • Maternity Allowance – payable for those who don’t qualify for SMP payment, this will also increase to £145.18 per week.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – as from 6 April, the rate will increase from £89.35 to £92.05 per week. You can offer more if you have a company sick pay scheme, but you cannot offer less.

The amount that your employees must earn to be entitled to these rates is also increasing from £113 to £116 per week. Employees earning less than this will not be eligible.

National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates

As from 1 April 2018, the minimum hourly rates have increased slightly to the following:

  • NLW for employees aged 25 and over increased from £7.50 to £7.83
  • NMW for those aged 21-24 increased from £7.05 to £7.38
  • NMW for those aged 18-20 increased from £5.60 to £5.90
  • NMW for those ages 16-17 increased from £4.05 to £4.20
  • NMW for apprentices aged under 19, or over 19 but in their first year of apprenticeship, increased from £3.50 to £3.70

Changes to Tax on Payments in Lieu of Notice (PILONs)

As from 6 April 2018, an element of all payments received in connection with a termination of employment are chargeable to income tax as general earnings. Whereas previously, if you didn’t have a contractual right to make a PILON, any payment made in respect of an employee’s notice entitlement was regarded as ‘damages for breach of contract’ with the first £30,000 paid tax-free, with no NICs due. For further information on this, click here.

Employment Tribunal Maximum Awards and Limits

With immediate effect, the maximum amount of a week’s pay to calculate the basic award for unfair dismissal or a redundancy payment increases to £508. The maximum amount of the compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases to £83,682.

And finally, GDPR!

With all the publicity and hype around this topic, you are probably aware that the new GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations – come into effect on 25 May. To find out more about this from an HR point of view, read my newsletter here.

If you need advice on how any of the above relates to your business specifically, I’d be delighted to help. Do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Are You Sitting (too) Comfortably?

This guest blog was written by Karen Ambrose of the Karen Ambrose McTimoney Chiropractic practice.

 

According to some research that I read about towards the end of last year, people who work in offices are thought to be ‘dangerously sedentary’, sitting more than people over the age of 75.

Some experts say that sitting down is as bad for us as smoking, while others tell us that standing up too much is also bad. So how much sitting is too much, and what are the alternatives? What should we do to stay healthy and mobile?

What’s so bad about sitting?

You might think that sitting for too long is bad for your muscles and posture, and this is true. Sitting puts a strain on your back, hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your thighs), neck and shoulders. It also causes the gluteal muscles in your bottom to wither, especially if you slouch in your chair.

However, scientists are also worried about what happens inside your body when you sit for too long. After 90 minutes of sitting, your metabolism dramatically winds down and cells aren’t operating at a high enough level to keep your system ‘oiled’. It has been likened to turning off your heating in the summer. When you turn it back on again as the evenings get cooler in the autumn, you worry about the system creaking, or corrosion in unused pipes causing leaks. It’s the same when you sit for a long time – your ‘system’ is essentially turned off. This affects every structure in your body, from brain function to blood flow. After just an hour of sitting, your arteries’ ability to expand is impaired by 50%. This is one of the earliest markers for heart disease and strokes, along with high blood pressure. If you spend a long time sitting, your insulin levels can also be high, which means that you are at higher risk of diabetes.

You don’t even have to be overweight to be at risk, although it makes it worse. A study of older women found that sitting for more than 10 hours a day meant their bodies were biologically eight years older!

You might not have heard of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, but it plays a crucial role in breaking down fats and sugars in your body and sending them to your muscles to be burned off. Your body can’t produce it while you’re sitting down because you’re not using your muscles. Just standing up is enough to activate it.

German researchers have also shown that the risks of some cancers – bowel, womb lining and lung – increases with every two hours that you spend in a chair.

How much is too much?

The research being carried out into the effects of sitting for too long are in their early stages, but what has already been seen is that the problems start to show themselves if you sit for more than 60-70% of your working hours. So if you sit for more than seven hours a day in total, you will be harming yourself. There is a scaling down effect if you sit for less time.

A report by Public Health England concluded that office workers should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day. An Edinburgh University study revealed that middle-aged office workers sat for 7.8 hours a day, which compared to 7.4 hours for people over the age of 75, which researchers say is far too much. They also recommend that you shouldn’t sit for more than an hour at a time. Standing up is enough to engage your muscles just enough to activate your whole system – your brain, your metabolism, your nervous system. Because you’re on your feet, you are more likely to be doing some light movement too. So before you read on – get up and move around or make yourself a cup of coffee before you come back to read the rest of this!

What about standing up?

So does this mean that you should spend more time standing up, instead of sitting at your desk? Not necessarily. Studies into sedentary behaviour shows that people assume they’re being told to stand up all the time rather than sit down. But that’s bad for you too as it brings with it a danger of varicose veins and feet and joint pain.

What’s important is getting a balance between sitting, standing and moving through your day. ‘Binge sitting’ for hours on end is very bad for you and must be broken up. You could invest in a desk that moves up and down, depending on whether you want to work sitting down or standing up. Or you could take regular breaks and go for a short walk. Other leading researchers recommend that in every hour, you should spend no more than 40 minutes sitting down, 15 minutes standing up and 5 minutes moving around. It’s not always possible to do this, but what’s important is to have a go and be aware of how much time you spend sitting. Going for a brisk walk at lunch time will certainly help. You can also change the way that you work, so instead of emailing a colleague, get up, walk across the office and speak to them.

If you find yourself sitting in front of the TV for hours at the end of the day, try getting up during the ad breaks and putting the remote control out of reach so that you have to move. Balancing (carefully) on first one leg and then the other while you’re doing the washing up is a way of stretching and moving more. See how creative you can be with this!

I’m lucky in my job in that I don’t spend much time sitting down. I’m on the move all the time that I am treating each patient. I notice a big difference in my energy levels and muscle stiffness when I have an admin day at my computer, so I make sure that I keep moving – even if it’s just to get up, stretch and make a cup of tea. If you have any stiffness that won’t go away, don’t let it get worse – come and see me and we’ll talk about what treatment will help.

The Karen Ambrose practice is based in Harwell, Oxford. For further information, email Karen@karenambrose.co.uk or telephone 07734 872318.

 

How Do You Discuss Performance in a Positive Way during Appraisals?

Following on from my previous blogs on appraisals – What are the Benefits of Appraisals and Preparing for an Appraisal Interview – I thought it would be helpful to go into further detail about how to deal with an employee’s performance in a positive way during an appraisal. This is especially important if there are negative issues and room for improvement.

It’s important that you are realistic about capabilities and can provide both positive and negative feedback in a positive manner. Negative feedback should be provided in a way that shows that you understand that your employee may need further training, or may have other issues that could be impacting their work. Give them an opportunity to speak freely. This allows them to feel understood, validated, and gives them the opportunity to agree to improvement in the areas needed.

Many people find the thought of these conversations daunting, mainly because it is hard to predict how an employee will respond to negative feedback, unless you know them very well. Here’s some advice on how to handle difficult conversations. Once you’ve learnt these tips, you should find it much easier to have those tricky conversations.

Before the appraisal interview, prepare as much as possible. Ensure you have the following factors listed below in a document that you can store in your employee’s HR file – ideal for measuring improvements over the years.

These factors should be properly defined and used for quantifiable evaluation, which you can share with your employee at each meeting, motivating them to make the necessary improvements. By providing this clear, regularly updated information, appraisal meetings will be far more focused and productive.

Factors for assessing employee performance
 

Job knowledge

 

How in depth is the employee’s understanding of the job? Do they have complete clarity on their responsibilities and the procedures associated with the role?

 

Quantity of work output

 

This can include, for example, promptness in completing allocated tasks, and their reliability in meeting deadlines.

 

Quality of work

 

How clear and accurate is their work? How much supervision is required? Do they effectively meet their objectives?

 

Planning and organisational skills

 

How effective is the employee’s ability to plan and prioritise their work effectively, coordinate different elements of the work, and delegate where appropriate?

 

Ability to learn and develop

 

The speed at which new duties and/or skills are mastered are key to their capabilities, as is the employee’s perceived willingness to learn new things. Consider additional training if there is a weakness.

 

Paperwork

 

How accurate and timely is the employee in the completion of reports and other relevant paperwork?

 

Communication skills

 

Is the employee’s written (including e-mail) and verbal communications with colleagues, superiors, subordinates and/or customers clear, accurate and effective?

 

Working relationships

 

How good is the quality and effectiveness in both working as a member of a team, and their relationships with colleagues and/or customers?

 

Motivation

 

Is the employee’s level of enthusiasm for his or her work noticeable? And how willing is he/she to take different tasks on board, or make extra effort, when asked?

 

Initiative

 

Check on their ability and willingness to come up with constructive ideas, offer suggestions and take responsibility.

 

Supervisory ability

 

 

Where relevant, how effective is their ability to manage, motivate and lead staff effectively?

 

Performance Ratings

Appraisal schemes should contain a system of performance ratings – a scale on which each employee is graded, based on the factors listed above. A grading scheme might run from 1 to 5, with 5 representing outstanding performance, 3 representing competent performance, and 2 or under representing performance below the required standard.

Where such a system is in place, line managers may find themselves challenged by employees who believe that their ratings should be higher than those awarded. Where there is a difference of opinion, you should discuss with your employee:

  • why the employee was graded at the specified rating, backed up by evidence of how the rating has been arrived at; and
  • why the employee believes that he or she should be more highly graded.

Ask your employee to give specific reasons to justify their belief. You need to be prepared to listen to your employee’s point of view, remaining open-minded about the ratings until the interview has been concluded.

Finally, try to remain positive and supportive throughout the appraisal. Use positive words as much as possible, such as ‘improvement’ and ‘achievement’ rather than ‘failure’ and ‘weakness’. Be aware of your body language so that you don’t alienate your employee. Remind them that you all want to achieve success together – their proactive approach to working to the best of their ability and more helps both the business and them as individuals to have a far more successful future.

If you need any help with carrying out appraisals and performance assessments, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

 

 

How Do You Find the Best People to Join Your Team?

Recruiting new staff is a great way to grow your team and build a stronger business, but what’s the best way to find the people you need? How do you avoid the pitfalls of making expensive recruitment mistakes that you might later regret?

The first mistake that many people make when starting a recruitment process is not putting enough time and effort into compiling a job advert. When you’re doing this, you should look at the advert from the perspective of potential employees. Whether they are searching online or looking at printed job adverts, people looking for a job typically start with two elements in a job search: job title and location.

Job Title – the title of a job advert could be the only information that a potential employee reads about your vacancy. This means that you need to use multiple words in the title of the job posting, so that there are more opportunities for candidates to find the advert when searching online job sites. If you’re using printed adverts, you should still make the job title as long and descriptive as you can. 

Location – you need to show the country, region, county and city or town of the location of the position you’re looking to fill. Many people looking for a new job look within a 30-minute commute of where they live, whether they’re searching online or looking at printed adverts.

Once you’ve written a clear job title and location, here are the next elements of the advert to consider:

Summary of the job – the first paragraph of the advert should encourage people to apply for the job. Make it compelling and interesting rather than just a list of tasks. 

Job description – this should set out the responsibilities of the job, along with the qualifications and competencies required for the role. It should outline the essential and the desirable skills and the competencies, as bulleted lists. This will make it easier for suitable applicants to recognise the match between their own attributes and the requirements for the role.

Job specifics – you need to include important information about whether or not the vacancy is full or part time, the provisional start date, the salary range, company benefits, the formats in which you will accept CVs and the application deadline. 

Contact information – it is good practice to include as many contact details as possible. Include your company website, email address (with a real contact name, rather than info@) and the direct phone number and postal address for a member of the recruitment team. 

Unique job code – every job advert, whether online or in print media, should have a unique reference number to allow you to track the activity generated by it and see which advertising is most effective.

A Word on Layout for Job Adverts 

The content of any job advert should flow in a logical order and contain line breaks to help people to find the relevant information quickly and easily. You should place general information about the company at the end of the advert to avoid confusing the search engines (for online adverts) and so that the critical content for which candidates are looking can be found easily and quickly.

Where Should You Advertise? 

  1. Printed Recruitment Adverts

The growth of online commercial job boards led to predictions about the demise of job advertising in traditional print media, such as national and local newspapers, trade journals and the specialist press. Many national newspapers have either launched their own online job listings or purchased a job board, while local print media often advertise vacancies on aggregated advertising provider sites. The job-board sector has taken over a significant proportion of recruitment advertising revenue and print media no longer dominates as most recruiters’ preferred job advertising channel.

However, depending on the role you are looking to fill, advertising your vacancies in traditional print media has some advantages over online job advertising:

  • A printed job advert has the potential for a longer shelf-life than an online one as it can remain visible to a prospective applicant for as long as they keep the publication. For specialist magazines, this can be weeks or months.
  • Print advertising offers scope for you to be more creative with your campaigns in comparison with most online advertising, which often consists of little more than blocks of text with logos or limited use of images.
  • A positive perception of newspaper job advertising remains, with potential applicants believing that a company that uses print media is serious about recruiting for the role.
  • A recruitment campaign in a respected publication can provide your company with a good opportunity to promote and build your employer brand.
  • For certain types of recruitment, such as a graduate recruitment campaign, a printed brochure with colourful imagery and great content can help to promote your brand above and beyond the immediate recruitment campaign.

The main disadvantage of relying on print media for recruitment is the cost. Print media is significantly more expensive than online channels and is based on the advertising space acquired. There could be extra costs for design, graphics and copywriting. Think carefully about where is best for you to promote your job vacancies, based on where your ideal candidates will look. You need to put your adverts where the highest number of the right sort of people will see them.

  1. Using Your Company Website

Many jobseekers research potential employers by visiting their company website to find background information on your operations, products, services, financial performance, locations, press coverage and job opportunities. Ideally, your company should have a dedicated job section within its website.

  1. Online Job Boards 

Promoting vacancies on commercial job boards has several advantages compared to advertising in other places, including: 

  • You can update the content of the job advert immediately yourself
  • Job board adverts are visible online around the clock and from any location
  • They can bring you a large, diverse audience across multiple generations and socio-economic sectors
  • They cost much less than traditional print advertising. A typical job board advert costs from £50 to £300 for 30 days’ advertising (at the time of writing)
  • Online adverts can deliver quick responses from applicants, speeding up the recruitment process. 

There are some disadvantages associated with job board advertising. A job board posting may generate a high response rate from potential candidates and it could take substantial time and resources for you to process candidate responses. Make sure you have staff ready and able to handle all the applications.

  1. Social Media

Social media recruitment involves you using social and professional digital platforms to promote vacancies and enhance your recruitment process. Typically, social media recruitment supplements, rather than replaces, other ways of attracting candidates.

The most common way for companies to use social media is to promote themselves as an employer, either by driving applicants to their company or careers website, or by developing the company’s page on a social media platform such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

Direct job advertising is another popular way in which you can use social media when hiring staff. The most common approach is to use paid-for, as opposed to free, job advertising. The ability that social media provides for companies to make lasting connections with successful and unsuccessful candidates makes it a good tool for attracting candidates and recruitment in the long term.

There are many ways in which you can search for the best candidates for your job vacancies. Take the time to plan your recruitment campaign and write the best advert that you can, so that you can place it where the best candidates will see it and you will have the best chance of finding the people you are looking for.

For more specific advice on finding the best people for your own team, click here to email me or call me 0118 940 3032.

How Do You Decide on an Appropriate Disciplinary Penalty?

When you are considering what sanction to impose under a disciplinary procedure, as an employer you must ensure that your decision is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.

If the decision does not meet this test, you may be exposed to a claim for unfair dismissal if your employee is dismissed; or a claim for constructive unfair dismissal if your employee resigns in response to the sanction applied.

Once you have reached the decision that an act of misconduct has taken place, there are a number of factors that will influence the next decision as to which sanction it should apply. When considering which penalty would be appropriate in the circumstances, you should take into account the nature of the act of misconduct, the seriousness of its consequences and whether or not the misconduct has occurred repeatedly or is a one-off incident.

Verbal Warning

A verbal warning would be appropriate when dealing with the first occasion of minor misconduct, such as lateness, sub-standard work, appearance/a failure to comply with the dress code, a failure to follow the requirements of the sickness absence reporting procedure or excessive personal use of your email, telephone or internet systems.

First Written Warning

A first written warning is appropriate where further instances of minor misconduct occur after a verbal warning is given, or when you are dealing with the first instance of more serious misconduct, such as:

  • unauthorised absence
  • a failure to carry out a reasonable instruction
  • inappropriate behaviour towards a colleague or customer
  • breaches of the your policies and processes, such as minor infractions of the health and safety policy, or breaches of the email and internet policy or
  • misuse of company property or equipment.

Final Written Warning

A final written warning should be issued for persistent acts of misconduct where you have already issued the employee with warnings or for a very serious act of misconduct that falls short of gross misconduct, for example:

  • persistent lateness
  • further breaches of the your policies and procedures following a written warning
  • persistent unauthorised absence or
  • serious breaches of health and safety rules, even if the incident is a one-off event.

Dismissal with Notice

The ultimate sanction for misconduct or poor performance is dismissal. When taking the decision to dismiss, you must demonstrate that dismissal in the particular circumstances falls within the ‘band of reasonable responses’. This means that you must demonstrate that a ‘reasonable’ employer could have reached the same decision.

Dismissal with notice is likely to be appropriate where a final written warning has been issued for misconduct or poor performance and further acts of misconduct take place or performance does not improve. The final act of misconduct may not be sufficient on its own to amount to gross misconduct, but would justify dismissal when taken together with earlier acts and a failure by the employee to improve or modify his or her conduct.

Dismissal without Notice

In most cases dismissal for a first offence will be appropriate only where the conduct amounts to gross misconduct. Gross misconduct can also justify dismissal without notice. Gross misconduct will arise where the act is so serious that the employment relationship between you and your employee has been irreparably damaged. You should consider carefully whether or not there has been a genuine breakdown in the trust and confidence between the company and the employee. Such a breakdown might occur where you can no longer have confidence that your employee will carry out their duties with honesty and integrity or will perform their role without causing loss or damage to customers or the company. Whether or not a specific act amounts to gross misconduct will depend on the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the employer’s business. Examples of gross misconduct include:

  • fighting or physically threatening behaviour
  • insubordination (a single act is unlikely to be gross misconduct but dismissal may be justified if, for example, the act is accompanied by offensive language)
  • discriminatory conduct, for example racially offensive language
  • theft or fraud
  • acts of dishonesty, for example falsifying time sheets or
  • a breach of the employer’s drug and alcohol policy.

Your Disciplinary Policy

Your staff handbook or disciplinary procedure should list acts that will be regarded as gross misconduct, but it should explain that employees can also be summarily dismissed for something that is not on the list, if this is reasonable in the circumstances. Where disciplinary rules have made it clear that particular conduct will lead to dismissal, it is more likely that the dismissal will be fair.

When did you last check your staff handbook and disciplinary procedure? If they are not fully up to date, get in touch to see what needs to be done to update them. If you have any questions about disciplining or dismissing an employee, call me 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

What Do You Do When a Member of Staff Becomes Disabled?

This guest blog has been written by Roland Chesters from Luminate, a Disability Development Consultant.

Despite the high number of people living with disabilities in the UK, many organisations have still little experience of working with someone with a disability. Too many people just don’t know what to do when a member of staff becomes disabled. They don’t know how to work with and look after that person, or how to meet their legal obligations as an employer.

While every situation will be different, depending on the person and their disability, there are some basic guidelines that you need to follow. I want to share them with you in this post.

Without wanting to sound too obvious, the first thing that needs to done is talk to the member of staff who has become disabled. After all, it’s they who know best how the disability will affect them and their work. Their manager will need to have as many confidential, confidence building conversations as they need, about how to help them to get back to full productivity as soon as possible. Line managers should resist the urge to rush to the internet to find out as much as they can about the disability; the only thing they need to do at this stage is to ask the person with the disability what they need.

The next stage of the process is for the manager to liaise with your HR department, or an Occupational Health specialist, about any adjustments that are needed to help the disabled member of staff to perform at their best. Some of these adjustments might be visible, such as different working hours or equipment that is needed, which can cause other members of staff to start asking questions. “Why is that person coming in later than everyone else?” or “Why does she have a new chair?” Remember that line managers are not allowed to talk to other members of staff about this particular person’s disability – it is up to them to discuss it with their work colleagues, if they want.

#Tip: For SMEs that don’t have Occupational Health advisers or who can’t afford them, the Fit for Work service is a free resource. The service offers free health and work advice through its website and telephone advice line, to help employers with absence prevention. It also provides free referrals for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached, or whose GP expects them to reach, four weeks’ sickness absence.

It’s really important that managers keep communication channels open with someone who has a disability, to make sure that future adjustments can be made if they are needed. Situations change and people adapt to living with disabilities, so managers need to remain supportive and aware of how a disabled member of staff is performing and managing.

How do managers answer questions from their staff about the visible changes to working conditions that they can see? Since managers are not allowed to discuss the details of the disability with other people, the best way to handle it is to just let them know that it’s a confidential matter that has been agreed between the line manager and the individual member of staff.

When someone at work becomes disabled, the organisation needs to assess the impact of the cost of making changes to accommodate that person and the cost of the functioning of the business. They also need to be aware of their legal obligations. However, it’s just as important that managers remember that at the end of the day, they’re dealing with a real person, who has thoughts and feelings. Talking to them about their disability is the best way to find the right solution for everyone, to make sure that they can carry on doing their best for the business.

What is a disability?

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination where they work, as well as in the wider society in which they live. It protects people from discrimination against them, on many grounds (such as age, sex and race), as well as disability. According to the Act, a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The Act states that employers are legally bound to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.  You can find out more about the Act and your legal obligations here.

#Tip: If you have a disability, remember that your employers cannot make adjustments for you until you tell them about your disability. Your boss is not a mind reader!

What are reasonable adjustments?

The average cost of reasonable adjustments per individual is about £75. In many cases these adjustments are simple and inexpensive or even free. What may seem like little changes can have a profound impact in allowing your employees to maintain productive working lives.

Examples of possible reasonable adjustments are:

  • Providing flexible work hours or a phased return to work (flexible, part-time hours)
  • Allocating a ground floor workstation to an employee who uses a wheelchair, or providing a lift or ramp
  • Providing equipment which is suited to the individual, such as a louder phone for an employee with a hearing impairment, or a special keyboard for an employee with arthritis
  • Allowing an employee with social anxiety disorder to work at a designated desk, rather than hot-desking
  • If an employee has a particular phobia, removing such items from the work area
  • Consider job sharing to help reduce the workload.

Factors which may affect what is considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’ include:

  • the extent to which taking the step would prevent the effect in question
  • the extent to which it is practicable for the employer to make the change
  • the financial and other costs which would be incurred by the employer in making the change
  • the extent to which making the change would disrupt any of the employer’s activities
  • the extent of the employer’s financial and other resources
  • the availability to the employer of financial or other assistance with respect to making the adjustment
  • the size and type of business.

#Tip: In situations where an individual requires assistance which is beyond reasonable for the employer to provide, you may consider getting support from Access to Work. This is a government-run programme which helps disabled people to get into or retain employment. The programme provides advice and practical help in assessing the disability needs of a person in the workplace. It may offer financial support towards any costs which are beyond the reasonable adjustments that the company is obliged to provide.

If one of your members of staff has a disability and you think that you might need to make adjustments for them, do get in touch and we can talk about it. Click here to email Roland or call him on 07752 518 925.