Preparing for an Appraisal Interview

While you might not look forward to carrying out appraisals with your employees or members of your team, they are a very good way to keep track of performance and to make sure that staff are working happily and productively.

If appraisals are to be successful in motivating employees and enhancing job performance, it’s essential that you plan and conduct effective appraisal interviews.

Preparation for an appraisal interview is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process.

Keeping the Necessary Records

You must have the necessary facts about your employee’s performance before you when you carry out an appraisal interview. Since they are generally conducted once a year, and no manager has a perfect memory, you should make records throughout the year of instances when your employees have performed well, adequately or badly.

Doing so will provide specific, factual examples of job performance for you to discuss with each employee during the appraisal interview. Without such evidence, the appraisal interview may turn into a haphazard chat based on generalisations – which is neither meaningful or constructive.

Having specific examples will be particularly important if you need to discuss aspects of an employee’s performance that are not wholly satisfactory. This will act as a starting point for discussion on why performance was not satisfactory in the particular area and what can be done to achieve an improvement in the future. Without concrete examples, your employee may not accept your claim that their performance was unsatisfactory and they may become defensive.

Checklist for Appraisal Interview Preparation

If you fail to prepare properly for an appraisal interview, the employee being interviewed will quickly sense and resent this.

Dos and don’ts:

  • Do review the job description and the previous year’s appraisal report to check the job duties and responsibilities and what was said at the previous year’s appraisal.
  • Do talk to other managers or supervisors – and peers where appropriate – with whom the employee has been working during the year to obtain factual feedback on performance.
  • Do think through what aspects of the employee’s performance are to be discussed and identify specific examples of both good and not-so-good performance.
  • Do be prepared to back up any criticism with facts and examples.
  • Do consider what points the employee may wish to raise and think through how any delicate areas can best be handled.
  • Do agree the date, time and place for the interview at least two weeks in advance, taking into account the employee’s preferences. Part-time employees should be appraised at times that fall within their normal working hours.
  • Don’t underestimate the time necessary for the interview. There is no ideal length of time for an appraisal interview, but it useful to schedule more time than you think you will need to avoid having to cut a discussion short.
  • Don’t forget to brief each employee well in advance about the purpose and scope of the appraisal interview.
  • Don’t be tempted to complete the appraisal form until after the interview, although you should review the appraisal form and make some provisional notes.
  • Don’t allow interruptions during the interview and make sure that there are no distractions from mobile phones and other electronic devices.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of taking into account the personality and temperament of each employee. Any likely reactions should be identified beforehand and an appropriate response planned. Different styles of interview may be needed to cater for individual needs. A relatively insecure employee may, for example, need a lot of reassurance.

Advance Briefing

Employees should be properly briefed before their appraisal interview on what the interview is for, how it will be conducted and what they should expect to gain from it. These briefings can be done on a group basis. However, it is also important for you to make sure that each individual has the opportunity to raise questions about the purpose and process of appraisal and to have any doubts or concerns dealt with.

The briefings can be carried out at the same time as the self-appraisal forms are issued.

If you’re planning your annual appraisals and you need any help or advice with getting the best from them, you can listen to the free webinar that we held last year. Just click here to find it. If you have any specific questions, please do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing me here.

How Does Snow White Manage the Seven Dwarfs?

Managing a team of employees brings with it many challenges. Everyone in the team is different – with different needs and needing to be managed differently. How do you work with everyone in your team, to make sure that everyone is pulling together and ensuring that you’re getting the best from each individual and therefore the team as a whole?

In this festive blog, we’ll look at how Snow White manages the very different characters of the seven Dwarfs, for the best effect.

Did you know that six out of seven dwarfs are not Happy?

The seven Dwarfs are all very different and need to be managed differently by Snow White, if she is to get the best from her team. As their manager, she has spent a lot of time getting to know each of the Dwarfs and what motivates them. She has also used a number of different personality profiling tools to help her. Here’s what she’s learnt over the years.

Doc – is a great team leader and a fixer. He can often see a solution to a problem that the others can’t figure out. But he can be a bit bossy too, expecting the other Dwarfs to jump when he gives them an order. Snow White has to give him enough challenging work to stop him from getting bored and trying to boss the others around.

Grumpy – is the technician of the team. He’s great with detail and analysis, but this means that he’s not good at speaking to clients. He gets frustrated when anyone asks him a silly question or doesn’t understand the answer he gives them. He just wants to be left to get on with his work, which he’s actually really good at.

Happy – is always happy! He’s great at motivating the rest of the team and keeping projects going through his energy. He does get distracted easily and sometimes comes up with a new idea before finishing the project that he’s working on. He relies on other members of the team to get the work finished.

Sleepy – sometimes the others think that he’s not pulling his weight as he’s always taking time out for a snooze. But actually, Sleepy is the reflector in the team. When Happy comes up with yet another great new idea, Sleepy is the one who will sleep on it and then come back with the useful questions and suggestions that help the team to decide whether or not to pursue this particular idea.

Dopey – is the joker in the team. He likes to have a laugh and can keep things light, even when the team is working to a deadline. He loves playing practical jokes on Grumpy and teasing Doc when he gets too bossy.

Bashful – is the shy, quiet one in the team. Snow While can’t shout at him if he does something wrong, but spends time explaining exactly what she wants him to do and he’ll do a great job for her. She won’t ask him to go networking or give a presentation to the rest of the Dwarfs because he’s too much of an introvert to do that. He’s a steady, reliable worker who often finishes what Happy starts.

Sneezy – is the member of the team who will come down with the latest bug first. He complains a lot about how it’s too cold or too hot in the office, but Snow White has learnt to keep him busy with plenty of interesting work and responsibility for projects.

By spending time with each of her team members, Snow White has come to know their strengths very well. She can manage them individually and as a team, to get the best from them all through the year!

How to Manage Annual Leave

Mismanagement of annual leave can have a dramatic impact on your company’s business, as demonstrated by Ryanair’s cancellation of hundreds of flights after it admitted “messing up” the planning of pilots’ holiday in the summer of 2017.

Here are some of the most common problems with managing annual leave, to help you to avoid them:

1. Encourage your employees to take holiday throughout the year

Allowing staff to build up too much leave and not spread out their holidays over the year can be a major problem for you. This could occur if there is an excess of work to do or if the business is struggling because of the economic climate, meaning that employees feel they are not able to take annual leave without putting their jobs at risk.

You should encourage your employees to plan and take annual leave. The responsibility for monitoring it is usually allocated to line managers, who should check their employees’ annual leave balance and remind them that they need to use the holiday up by the end of the leave year.

  • Do encourage your staff to submit dates for their holiday as far in advance as possible.
  • Do review regularly whether or not employees have taken, or at least planned to take, some of their holiday.

2. “Buying out” annual leave entitlement

You may be tempted to offer staff a cash substitute in return for giving up their annual leave entitlement. However, it is a fundamental principle of annual leave law that employers can’t give employees payment in lieu of their minimum statutory annual leave entitlement (i.e. the 5.6 weeks guaranteed under UK law). The exception to this is on termination of employment. When an employee leaves a job part way through the holiday year, they will be entitled to be paid for any accrued statutory holiday not taken by the date they leave.

  • Don’t give in to employees’ requests for pay in lieu of holiday.

3. Carrying over of excessive amounts of holiday

You could consider allowing employees who have not taken their full entitlement to carry over holiday into subsequent leave years. Current EU law prevents you from carrying over the first four weeks of your employees’ statutory annual leave, except when an employee is unable to take the leave because of sickness absence.

Beyond the first four weeks of statutory annual leave, you can allow employees to carry forward periods of holiday. If you do, you should have a rule requiring the excess leave to be used up within the first few months of the next holiday year.

  • Do remind your employees now and then how much annual leave they have outstanding.
  • Do ask any employee who hasn’t taken any holiday or submitted any holiday dates by a certain date – such as the middle of the holiday year – to book some holiday dates as soon as they can.
  • Don’t wait until near the end of the holiday year before reviewing whether or not employees have taken all their holiday.
  • Don’t make staff feel guilty about taking holiday.

4. Allowing too many employees to take leave at the same time

One of the biggest dangers for employers is the effect on the business of allowing too many employees to take time off during particular periods, typically in the summer or at Christmas.

Line managers can sometimes be reluctant to turn down employees’ holiday requests, particularly if an employee has already booked a trip or has a family commitment. However, as their employer you don’t have to agree to a worker’s request to take holiday at a particular time, unless the contract of employment contract says otherwise.

You should have a clear policy on holiday requests, such as ‘first-come, first-served’ approach. Line managers should be brave enough to turn down holiday requests (with the correct notice) when the timing of leave would cause the business difficulties.

  • Do ensure that holiday leave is planned in such a way that the department has adequate cover at all times.
  • Don’t leave the matter of holiday to chance.
  • Don’t take the view that it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not they want to take holiday.

5. Paying your employees the right amount during annual leave

The calculation of holiday pay needs to be done correctly and can no longer be based on just an employee’s basic pay.

Case law has established that pay during annual leave should now include other payments such as overtime pay (both compulsory and voluntary), standby/call-out allowances, shift premia and travel allowances.

You need to decide on a sensible approach to holiday pay calculations, including the length of time used to calculate the average and what allowances should be included.

These are probably the most common issues of annual leave that you will face an employer. Encouraging your employees to take their full allowance of holiday is not only good practice for the business – it is also vital for the health and welfare of your employees. Ensuring that employees take regular time off will help you to build a stronger, more productive workforce in the long run.

If you have any questions about dealing with holiday issues, do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing me here.

Source: XpertHR

Maintaining a Healthy, Happy Work Environment

We all want to create a working environment in which our employees look forward to spending time and where they will be their most productive. But sometimes it can go wrong and people find that they have to work somewhere they might feel unhappy, degraded or even humiliated. The creation of an offensive work environment is to be avoided at all costs, if your employees are to remain happy and healthy.

The phrase “creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” means that behaviour can amount to harassment even if it is not targeted at an individual. It will be enough that the behaviour creates an atmosphere at work that causes offence to a particular employee, or makes them feel uncomfortable. For example, the circulation of sexually explicit material around an office, even though it might not be targeted at a particular employee, could constitute sexual harassment against any woman or man who found it distasteful.

Harassment can be physical, verbal or non-verbal and a wide range of different types of behaviour at work may potentially be perceived as harassment. This rather long list gives you some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as harassment:

  • Sex-related harassment
    • Telling jokes about women
    • Making derogatory sexist remarks
    • Deliberately placing tools or materials that a woman needs to do her job on a high shelf to make it harder for her to reach them
  • Harassment of a sexual nature
    • The display of sexually explicit material on computer screens or in calendars
    • Leering at a woman in a manner that is overtly sexual
    • Physically touching someone in a sexual manner where such conduct is not welcome
    • Remarks, banter or jokes of a sexual nature
    • Making sexual suggestions or persisting with sexual advances after it has been made clear that such approaches are unwelcome
  • Gender reassignment harassment
    • Calling someone a nickname linked to the fact that he or she has undergone gender reassignment
    • Inappropriate touching designed to check whether or not an individual has undergone reconstructive surgery
    • Leaving items specifically associated with the individual’s old or new gender on their desk
  • Racial harassment
    • Calling someone a nickname linked to their skin colour or nationality
    • Remarks, banter or jokes about people from different racial backgrounds
  • Disability harassment
    • Using insulting terminology when referring to a disabled colleague
    • Excessive staring, for example at someone with a facial disfigurement
    • Mimicking a disabled colleague’s mannerisms or speech
  • Religious harassment
    • Remarks, banter or jokes about particular religious beliefs or religious practices
    • Derogatory remarks made about a particular item of clothing or jewellery worn by someone as a symbol of their religion
  • Sexual orientation harassment
    • Deliberate isolation of someone on grounds of their sexuality or perceived sexuality
    • Deliberately behaving in an effeminate manner in the presence of someone who is gay
    • Calling someone a nickname based on his or her sexuality or perceived sexuality
  • Age harassment
    • Banter and jokes that make fun of older people or demean their abilities
    • Calling someone a name linked to their age
    • Ignoring someone, or treating their views as worthless, just because they are younger or older than other employees

How do you guard against offensive jokes, banter and remarks?

General banter linked to sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or age is the most common form of harassment in employment. Managers should make sure that they properly brief all their staff as to the types of conduct and speech that might cause offence to others and make it clear that such behaviour will be unacceptable.

The basic rule should be that any jokes, remarks or banter that might cause offence to another employee on any grounds will not be permitted. Employees should be encouraged to realise that their colleagues will have differing views and feelings and differing levels of sensitivity about certain matters.

In addition, no individual employee can ever know everything about their colleagues – who they are married to or any family issues that might mean that offence will be caused by inappropriate remarks. It should be a requirement in every department that employees treat their colleagues with dignity and respect and refrain from any behaviour that might cause offence.

Are you worried about the environment in which your staff work? Do you need help creating the most productive environment possible? Call me on 0118 940 3032 or email me here and we can talk about how I can help you to do this.

Source: XpertHR

Are You Up to Date with Employment Law?

On 12 October 2017 we ran our latest Employment Law update workshop, to take our clients and contacts through the latest changes.

Here are some of the issues that we discussed, that you might need to know about for your business and employees.

Female managers earn less than their male colleagues. Data has been released showing that female HR managers earn on average £4500 less than their male counterparts. That’s a gender pay gap of 10% for doing the same job. Across all management roles, female managers earn £12000 less than their male colleagues – a gap of 26.8%. The new gender pay gap reporting rules require all companies with more than 250 employees do disclose the difference between average male and female hourly pay by April 2018. According to certain sources, so far only 77 companies have published their data – out of 7850 that will have to.

A new corporate offence of failing to prevent tax evasion came into effect on 30 September 2017. The offence covers organisations that fail to prevent instances when their associates, including employees, agents and service providers facilitate tax evasion. Organisations may be criminally liable if:

  • their client committed tax fraud
  • one of their associates deliberately and dishonestly facilitated the fraud or
  • the organisation failed to prevent its associate from facilitating fraud.

Organisations can defend themselves by putting in place procedures such as risk assessments, due diligence assessments and fraud prevention policies and procedures.

Tribunal fees have been reversed. The Supreme Court has agreed that it is unlawful to charge tribunal fees, so they are no longer payable by a claimant on bringing an employment tribunal. All those claimants who have paid fees since they were introduced are to be reimbursed – that means that £32 million will be repaid!

Injury to feelings. The Vento Bands used to determine levels of compensation for injury to feelings in discrimination cases have been adjusted for claims issued on or after 11 September 2017 as follows:

  • Lower band – £800-£8400
  • Middle band – £8400-25200
  • Upper band – £25200-£42000 and exceptional cases over £42000.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR requires that personal data be processed according to many of the same principles as under the current Data Protection Act 1998. The GDPR also has new requirements:

  • that restrict the use of consent as a justification for processing data
  • on demonstrating compliance through the documentation of data processing activities
  • on adopting organisational measures for data protection such and policies and practices, and
  • on providing more information to employees and job applicants on the purpose and legal grounds for collecting their data and their rights in relation to their personal data.

There is still much to find out about GDPR and how it will affect your business, so we’ll cover this in more detail at our next workshop in 2018.

In the meantime, if you need any more advice on any of these topics, please do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing me here.

It’s Time to Stamp Out Bullying at Work!

The issue of bullying and harassment at work is a serious matter. The CIPD published a study showing that 13% of employees reported having experienced bullying or harassment at work in the previous 12 months. Yet many managers assume that the problem does not exist, often because no one has complained. A belief or assumption that bullying and harassment do not happen is probably the biggest barrier to tackling the problem.

Many employees may be reluctant to report instances of bullying or harassment out of fear of damaging working relationships with their colleagues, fear of reprisals, embarrassment or worry that they may be perceived as troublemakers. It is important for managers to bear in mind that just because no one has complained does not mean that bullying or harassment is not taking place.

Let’s look at what you can do to deal with bullying and prevent it from happening.

What is Bullying?

Bullying at work is behaviour that is:

  • threatening, aggressive or intimidating;
  • abusive, insulting or offensive;
  • cruel or vindictive; or
  • humiliating, degrading or demeaning.

Bullying will inevitably erode the victim’s confidence and self-esteem. It normally relates to negative behaviours that are repeated and persistent, and deliberately targeted at a particular individual. It is often an abuse of power, position or knowledge, and may be perpetrated by the victim’s manager, peers or even subordinates.

The following table gives some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as bullying.

What about Harassment? 

Harassment is unlawful if it relates to sex, gender reassignment, race (which includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins), religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability or age.

The right not to be harassed at work extends to all workers, so agency temps, casual staff and contractors are all protected.

Employees can complain of harassment even if the behaviour in question is not directed at them. This is because the complainant does not actually need to possess the relevant protected characteristic. An employee can complain of unlawful harassment if they have experienced:

  • harassment because they are related to or associated with someone who possesses a relevant protected characteristic; or
  • harassment by a colleague who has the mistaken perception that they possess a relevant protected characteristic.

For example, an employee could complain of harassment where it relates to the fact that they have a homosexual family member or is wrongly perceived to be homosexual. In addition, harassment could occur where a protected characteristic is used as an excuse for the behaviour, even if the perpetrator does not believe that the employee possess the protected characteristic. For example, a line manager may harass a colleague if he teases him about a learning difficulty, even if he does not have a learning difficulty and the line manager knows that he does not.

It is also unlawful to engage in unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, or to treat a person less favourably because they have rejected or submitted to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or unwanted conduct related to sex or gender reassignment.

How Can You Stamp Out Bullying and Harassment? 

As an employer you should have and put into effect an anti-bullying/harassment policy. You need to make sure that all your employees know that bullying and harassment at work will not be tolerated and that all instances of such behaviour will be viewed as misconduct, leading to disciplinary action up to and including summary dismissal. 

You should also have a well-publicised complaints procedure, to provide a clear route for employees who believe that they are experiencing bullying or harassment at work to raise the matter without fear of recrimination and have it dealt with.

All your managers and supervisors should receive training in how to prevent and deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace. The training should include an overview of the relevant legislation and what it means and the measures needed to deal fairly and effectively with instances of harassment should they occur. Further, all your staff should, ideally, receive basic harassment awareness training.

You should also make a confidential record of any complaints of bullying or harassment that arise. Once a complaint has been effectively dealt with, you must follow up to ensure that working relationships have returned to normal and that no further harassment is taking place. 

As with most people issues, the best way to deal with bullying and harassment is straight away. Stamp it out immediately so that it does not escalate into a more serious problem and make it clear to your employees that it will not be tolerated.

If you think you’re being bullied at work, or that bullying is happening in your workplace, please do get in touch with me straight away for a confidential conversation. Call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Source: XpertHR

What Are the Benefits of Appraisals?

Appraisals are a two-headed process of looking backwards to analyse past job performance and also looking forward into the future with a view to improving future performance.

The overall objective of an effective appraisal scheme should be to help each of your employees to maximise their job performance for the joint benefit of that employee and your organisation.

This blog aims to help line managers to understand the processes involved in conducting effective appraisals.

The Purpose of appraisals

The main purpose of an appraisal scheme should be to assist employees to improve their performance. This will be of benefit to both the employees and the organisation.

An appraisal scheme may be designed to include some or all of the following elements:

  • a review of the employee’s past performance
  • discussion of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses
  • discussion of any problems and constraints, with a view to identifying solutions
  • a review of the extent to which the employee has achieved set targets
  • discussion of appropriate targets for the forthcoming year
  • identification of training and development needs in relation to the employee’s current job
  • identification of training and development needs in relation to a job that the employee may do in the future
  • a review of the employee’s long-term potential
  • a discussion about the employer’s future plans and
  • a discussion about the employee’s future ambitions and plans.

The Benefits of Appraisals

If carried out effectively, a staff appraisal scheme will provide benefits for the individual, the line manager and the organisation.

What are the Problem Areas to Look For?

While appraisal schemes have many potential benefits, it is useful for line managers to appreciate the negative issues that they may sometimes raise.

  • If appraisal is linked to the organisation’s pay review process, discussions may become focused on pay instead of performance. Pay reviews are therefore best kept separate from performance appraisal.
  • The line manager may be tempted to use the appraisal interview to raise disciplinary matters. If there is a problem with an employee’s conduct or performance, the matter should be raised with the employee at the time the problem arises, and not stored up for the annual appraisal interview.
  • Managers may be reluctant to deliver criticism on a face-to-face basis, perhaps because of a fear that the employee might react badly, become defensive or even respond negatively to the whole process of appraisal.
  • Line managers may not work closely with their staff and may not therefore have the necessary insight into their performance or strengths and weaknesses. If this is the case, it will be vital for the line manager to talk to the employee’s immediate supervisor to gain the necessary feedback.
  • Personal likes and dislikes can affect the outcome of appraisal interviews, unless the line manager has a sound awareness of these, and is able to put them to one side and view the employee’s abilities objectively.
  • An employee may believe that the line manager holds prejudices against him or her, perhaps as a result of a personality clash or because of disagreements over the year.
  • Some employees are intrinsically suspicious of appraisal.

If you need more advice about appraisals, you can listen to the free webinar that we ran in October 2017. Click here to register your details and you’ll be able to listen to the webinar straight away.

Source: XpertHR

What Can You Do If Your Employee Goes Off Sick During a Disciplinary Procedure?

It is not uncommon, during disciplinary proceedings, for the employee in question to go off sick, whether at the start of the investigation of the charge or during the process itself. The key is for you, their employer, to manage the situation carefully, to avoid any suggestion that you are acting unfairly. At the same time you need to keep the disciplinary process intact until it reaches a conclusion.

If an employee goes off sick either when they are first informed of the disciplinary charge, or at any point during the investigation, you should continue with the investigation as far as possible, in their absence. This means that you should interview and take statements from any other witnesses to the disciplinary matter, before memories start to fade. The investigation should be completed in all respects, except for any enquiries that need to be made of the employee in question.

Seeking Medical Advice

Where the employee’s sickness absence is due to a minor or short-term condition, such as a cold or flu, this is unlikely to cause you any great difficulty. You should just wait for your employee to return to work and continue with the disciplinary process when they are back.

Where the employee’s absence seems likely to be more prolonged, you may want to get confirmation from a medical professional as to whether or not the employee is well enough to take part in a disciplinary process. An employee who is too sick to attend work may be well enough to attend an investigatory meeting or a disciplinary hearing. A medical opinion should be obtained from the employee’s GP, from a company doctor or from an occupational health adviser.

If the employee is likely to be off sick on a long-term basis and is not well enough to undergo any part of the disciplinary process in the meantime, you might have to put the disciplinary proceedings on hold and advise the employee that the matter has been placed on hold pending their recovery.

You can also invite your employee to make written submissions, rather than attending a disciplinary hearing in person, or allow them to nominate a representative to attend the hearing for them.

When is it Fair to Go Ahead?

Factors that will help you to decide whether or not it is fair to proceed with the disciplinary process without the employee include:

  • the importance of dealing with the disciplinary matter promptly
  • how long the employee has been off sick and whether or not there is any likelihood of a return to work in the near future
  • whether or not a long delay in dealing with the matter might be detrimental to other employees.

There is risk involved in holding a disciplinary hearing and dismissing an employee in their absence, when they are off sick, as a tribunal may find that the dismissal is unfair. The tribunal may consider that if the employee had been given the chance to answer the disciplinary charges, they would not have been dismissed.

How Can You Adjust the Normal Procedure?

You can adjust the standard disciplinary procedure by taking any of the measures below, which can help to encourage the employee to attend and take part in the process:

Venue – think about holding the disciplinary hearing at a venue that will reduce the stress caused or to accommodate any physical needs.

Representation – where it appears that the employee’s illness may affect their ability to explain their case, they may be represented in the process by a colleague, union official or someone else approved by you.

Written representations – where the employee has difficulty in explaining their case, you could allow them to rely on written representations.

Documentation – make sure that the employee receives all documentation relating to the disciplinary process well in advance to allow them to prepare fully, taking into account any effect that the employee’s health may have on their abilities.

Timings – matters should be dealt with promptly, but you can allow extra time for any stage of the process, including the duration of a disciplinary hearing and the need to take appropriate breaks.

The Legal Issues

The priority in handling any disciplinary process is to give your employee a fair hearing. The only way of absolutely guaranteeing this, is for the employee to attend and participate in a full disciplinary hearing.

It is therefore best if you can make every effort to adjust the process so that your employee is able to take part. Only when all the other options have been considered, should you conduct the hearing in the employee’s absence. The following principles of natural justice must be followed:

  • the employee must know what they have been accused of
  • the employee must be allowed to state their side of the case
  • you must give fair and impartial consideration to the employee’s side of the story.

Finally, the opportunity to appeal is even more important where the employee has been denied the opportunity to attend a disciplinary hearing in the first place. A full appeal hearing can ‘cure’ any unfairness in the disciplinary hearing itself, so it is in your interests for a full appeal hearing to take place if possible.

Handling disciplinary procedures can be tricky at the best of times. They are only made harder if the employee in question goes off sick during the process. As an employer, you need to make doubly sure that you follow your company procedure for the fair treatment of your employees. If you’re in any doubt about how to handle a disciplinary procedure, please contact me for some advice first. You can call me on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

How Do You Handle Employee Suspension? Part Two – What Happens Next?

In a previous blog, which you can read here, we looked at how best to handle suspending an employee. There are certain principles that you need to consider, before you can move on to other considerations. We’ll cover these in this blog.

The Length of Suspension

In line with the Acas code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, the period of suspension should be kept as brief as possible, and its continuance kept under review. Where possible, you should tell your employee how long the suspension is expected to last, and update them as to the progress of the investigation and any delays. The suspension should be lifted immediately if the circumstances of the case no longer justify it.

Pay and Benefits

Your employee should be fully paid during a period of suspension, unless there is a clear contractual right to the contrary. All other benefits should also continue unless the contract states otherwise.

The Risk of Constructive Dismissal

If you impose an unjustified period of suspension, this may amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, entitling your employee to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal. Whether or not you are in breach of this implied term will depend on the circumstances of the particular case. Suspension of an employee may put you at risk of such a claim if, for example:

  • the suspension is imposed without reasonable and proper cause
  • it is imposed in an unreasonable way
  • the suspension is unpaid, in the absence of a contractual right for it to be without pay
  • there is an unnecessarily protracted period of suspension
  • the employee who is suspended is permanently replaced.

The Conclusion of the Investigation

On completion of the investigation, you must decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action. If there is, you should follow your disciplinary procedure and the Acas code of Practice as soon as you can. It may be appropriate for you to keep your employee suspended until the disciplinary procedure is complete if the circumstances still justify it.

If no disciplinary action is needed, you should lift the suspension and ask your employee to return to work without delay. It may be that they feel aggrieved by the period of suspension, so it is advisable for you to have a return-to-work meeting to enable your employee to discuss any concerns that they may have and allow you to address these concerns. You should assure your employee that the period of suspension has not affected their position, or continued employment, and that they will not suffer any future detriment as a result of the suspension.

As with any tricky situation with a member of staff, if you have any concerns about the best course of action to take, please get in touch with me for some confidential advice, before taking any action. It is vital that you follow correct procedures. Call me on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

How Do You Manage Employee Probation Periods? Part One

By setting a probationary period, as an employer, you can let newly recruited employees know that their performance will be under continuous review during the first weeks and months of employment. It also lets them know that their continued employment is subject to them completing the probationary period. This can help you to manage the employee’s expectations and their relationship with you, as their employer.

Length of Probationary Period

The length of a probationary period will depend on the position and your requirements. A role requiring a high degree of skill and responsibility is likely to need a longer probationary period than one with limited skills or responsibility. Probationary periods are typically between three and six months.

You should set out in writing to your employee that the position is subject to satisfactory completion of a probationary period. You should also specify the length of the probationary period, how progress will be monitored and reviewed and that the probationary period may be extended.

It is important for you to set out employees’ roles and responsibilities at the outset and to go through a comprehensive induction process.

It is advisable for you to hold frequent review meetings or one-to-ones with your new employees to provide progress updates, encouragement and support and to identify training needs. If performance issues are identified during the probationary period, you should consider whether or not extra training or coaching would be appropriate, rather than leaving it to the end of the probationary period before addressing performance issues.

Statutory Employment Rights

Probationary periods have no legal status and an employee who is on probation has the same statutory employment rights as other employees. It is the length of continuous service that defines an employee’s statutory employment rights, including his or her rights in the event of dismissal.

Probationers are entitled to:

  • the national minimum wage
  • statutory sick pay
  • rights under the Working Time Regulations
  • annual leave entitlement
  • family-related rights in the same way as other staff.

Dealing with Disciplinary Issues

Employers often don’t apply their formal disciplinary procedure to employees on probation. To avoid ambiguity, where you do not want to follow your full procedure, you should make clear, in writing, in the contract and/or disciplinary procedure, that there is no contractual obligation for you to do so.

As probationers do not normally have sufficient service to claim unfair dismissal, they cannot challenge the procedural fairness of a dismissal in the employment tribunal.

However, a probationer could claim that a dismissal was for an automatically unfair reason or for reasons that amount to unlawful discrimination. Therefore, where an employee on probation is suspected of misconduct, you should investigate further before taking action. If you prejudge the situation and dismiss the employee without going through your disciplinary process and giving the employee the opportunity to explain his or her version of events, this could increase the risk of a claim of unlawful discrimination or automatically unfair dismissal. You will be in a better position to argue that the reason for dismissal was the employee’s misconduct if you investigated the matter and can show reasons behind its decision to dismiss.

Extending the Probationary Period

Where an employee has not reached the required standard of performance by the end of the probationary period but you recognise that there is potential for improvement, you might choose to extend the probationary period. The right for an employer to extend the probationary period should be set out in the contract or offer letter, which should also make clear the terms and conditions that will apply during the extension period.

The extension should be for a reasonable period, taking into account how long it might take him or her to complete an improvement plan. You should discuss your employee’s performance and why you are extending the probationary period with him or her and allow the employee to put forward any explanation for the performance issues.

The extension should be agreed and arranged before the original probationary period ends.

Sickness Absence

Sickness absence during a probationary period will need to be monitored and managed in the usual way. Where the absence is frequent and/or long term, this may make it difficult for you to assess the employee’s performance during the course of the probationary period because of their reduced attendance.

You will need to consider whether to: terminate the contract due to the employee’s failure to complete the probationary period satisfactorily; extend the probationary period to give the employee more time to demonstrate his or her suitability for the job; or confirm the employee in post regardless of the absence.

You should investigate the sickness absence to find out if it is due to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If it is, but you dismiss the employee for failing to complete the probationary period satisfactorily, they may have grounds to bring a disability discrimination claim. You would need to be able to justify your actions.

In part two of this series of blogs, we’ll look at what to do if all goes well through the probation period and you decide to keep your new employee on. If you need any advice now about how to handle probation periods, get in touch by emailing sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk or calling me on 0118 940 3032.