General Election 2017 Employment Policies

Britain returns to the polls on 8 June 2017, but what do each of the main political parties propose for employment policy?

The Conservative Party

Described by Theresa May as the “greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history”, the Conservative party manifesto promises:

  • to retain UK worker rights, post-Brexit
  • to continue the Taylor review into employment status and introduce better protections for ‘gig’ economy workers
  • to protect worker pensions better, by giving pension schemes and the Pension Regulator more powers, to prevent mergers or takeovers which may threaten pension scheme solvency, in extreme cases, and giving the Pensions Regulator the power to severely financially punish those who have mismanaged pension funds and left them under-resourced
  • working parents 30 hours of free childcare for three and four year olds, and more programmes to help people return to work after a career break. The Conservative party also aims to encourage more workplaces to offer flexible working and more parents to use Shared Parental Leave
  • to give workers a statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative and to grant a two-week period of paid leave for parents whose child has died
  • to give workers the right to request leave for training
  • to provide targeted support for 18-24 year olds to get them into work
  • to allow larger organisations to pass Apprenticeship Levy funds to smaller organisations in their supply chain
  • to extend pay gap reporting for large employers, to cover race
  • to extend the Equality Act to cover discrimination on grounds of mental health, even if this is of short term duration and would not usually qualify as disability discrimination
  • to get one million more disabled people into employment in the next ten years and give employers support to increase flexible working and digital technology to enable this. Those who have specific disabilities and who are seeking work, are being promised tailored support
  • to incentivise employers to take on people who may otherwise find it difficult to find paid work, e.g. those with a spent criminal conviction, by giving employers a year’s holiday from employer’s National Insurance Contributions
  • to require listed companies to take into account employees’ interests at board level by allowing employees to request information about the future direction of the company they work for, within sensible limits
  • to strengthen shareholders’ voting powers on executive pay and to require listed companies to publish pay ratios between executives and other staff
  • to increase the National Living Wage to 60% of median wages by 2020 and “in line with average earnings by 2022”
  • to double the Immigration Skills Charge to £2,000 a year, for companies employing migrant workers, to encourage businesses to train UK staff.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party’s proposals for employment policy aim to end the “rigged economy” and are largely contained in its 20 point plan. A summary of this and other employment policy pledges include:

  • banning zero-hours contracts, unpaid internships and umbrella companies and give those employees contractually entitled to short hours, but who regularly work more, a right after 12 weeks to a contract reflecting the longer hours regularly worked
  • abolishing the Swedish derogation loophole in respect of the Agency Worker Regulations, which currently allows an employer not to pay agency workers equally, under certain circumstances. Employment agencies and end user employers would be jointly responsible for enforcing agency worker rights
  • granting equal rights to all workers (not just employees) from the first day of employment, and shifting the burden of proof for employment status, so it is assumed a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise
  • raising the minimum wage to the same level as the living wage, which is expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020 and apply to all workers over 18, not just those over 25
  • ending the 1% pay cap on public-sector pay and ensuring public workers receive pay rises in line with inflation
  • introducing maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and for companies bidding for public contracts
  • introducing an “excessive pay levy” on salaries above £330,000. The Labour Party promises it will not raise income tax for those earning less than £80,000 but they would lower the threshold for the 45p additional rate to £80,000 and reintroduce the 50p income tax rate on earnings above £123,000maintaining the apprenticeship levy, but with more flexibility for employers on how the levy is used. The Labour Party will ring-fence more than £400 million from the levy, for small businesses and will require annual reporting on apprenticeships to ensure high quality. Targets would also be set to increase apprenticeships for the disabled and other disadvantaged groups
  • abolishing the 2014 amendments to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, which narrowed the protection of employees, during a takeover of a business
  • extending paid paternity leave to four weeks and maternity pay would be extended to 12 months
  • abolishing Employment Tribunal fees
  • repealing the Trade Union Act, and introducing collective bargaining on worker rights through unions in all different sectors. The Labour Party is committed to guaranteeing unions the right to access workplaces and would only award public contracts to companies that recognise trade unions
  • introducing legislation to make sure employers recruiting from abroad do not undercut UK staff
  • introducing 4 new public holidays, in addition to the 8 current bank holidays, to mark all 4 national patron saints’ days
  • protecting the “triple lock” on state pensions, so that they rise in line with wages, inflation, or by 2.5% – whichever is highest. The Labour Party will also amend the Takeover Code to make sure businesses have a plan to protect pensions and workers
  • making redundancy more complex for employers, in line with European redundancy models, with particular focus on ensuring redundancy against women is not unfair;
  • conducting a public inquiry into blacklisting
  • providing equalities representatives with statutory rights
  • bringing back protection against third-party harassment
  • creating a civil enforcement system to make sure organisations comply with gender pay auditing, introducing ethnicity pay gap reporting and creating a Ministry of labour to ensure that all rights are enforced
  • all existing EU law rights being preserved following Brexit. The Labour Party has also pledged that rights for EU nationals living in Britain and reciprocal rights for UK citizens living in the EU will be protected. The Labour Party has acknowledged though, that free movement of workers is unlikely to be possible, once the UK leaves the EU.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ proposed employment policies include:

  • abolishing the public sector pay cap and Employment Tribunal fees
  • creating a ‘good employer’ kitemark, covering areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name-blind recruitment (the latter of which would be mandatory for public sector employers)
  • running an independent review into setting a genuine living wage for all sectors
  • requiring large employers to publish the number of staff earning less than a living wage and pay ratios between top and median pay
  • introducing pay gap reporting in relation to gender, race and sexual orientation
  • encouraging large listed employers to give employees the right to request shares and changing company law to allow German-style two-tier boards, including employees
  • aiming to double the number of businesses hiring apprentices and the Liberal Democrats will support the growth of sector-led national colleges for vocational education
  • making sure that apprenticeship levy monies are all spent on training
  • updating employment rights to better suit modern working practices, including the gig economy
  • introducing a right for those on zero-hours contracts to request a fixed contract, and possibly introducing a right to request more regular working patterns, after a qualification period
  • making flexible working, paternity and shared parental leave a right from day one of employment and encouraging more employers to offer flexible working;
  • introducing an additional month of shared parental leave;
  • extending free childcare places to all two year olds to assist working parents
  • extending the Access to Work programme aimed at getting disabled people back into work
  • campaigning to keep the UK in the Single Market, preserving freedom of movement within the EU and failing that, campaigning for the UK to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and to make sure employment rights stemming from the EU are not undermined
  • a 1% rise in income tax, to ring-fence an extra £6 billion of funding per year for the NHS.

The Green Party

  • The Green Party believes that “the introduction of a minimum wage of £10 by 2020 is a necessary step towards tackling inequality and poverty”
  • the Green Party would also abolish zero hours contracts and would work towards a four day working week (maximum of 35 hours)
  • the Green Party proposes that 40% of all company boards should be women, to assist in ending the gender pay gap
  • the Green Party would introduce a ‘wealth tax’ for the highest 1% of earners and introduce a higher rate of corporation tax for large business. The cap on employee national insurance contributions would also be removed by a Green Party government.

The UK Independence Party

  • UKIP has said it will cut net migration to zero within 5 years by implementing a visa system for skilled workers and students and banning migration for unskilled and low-skilled workers.

The Scottish National Party

  • The SNP have said that it will expand free childcare to cover 1,140 hours per year by 2022, (around 25 hours per working week) and make sure all those staff helping to deliver this target are paid at least the living wage
  • The SNP would not allow public procurement contracts to be awarded to companies engaging in blacklisting or exploitative zero-hours contracts.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s policies relating to workers include:

  • training and recruiting 1,000 more doctors and 5,000 more nurses for the Welsh NHS, over the next decade
  • Welsh-specific visas
  • free full-time nursery places for all 3 year olds, to help working parents;
  • introducing a “real, independently verified living wage”
  • protecting up to 200,000 jobs by maintaining trade with Europe, and guaranteeing the rights of Europeans currently living and working in Wales, post Brexit.

There are clearly a lot of differences between the employment policies of the main political parties and the way in which your business will operate may well be very different depending on the result of the General Election. We will update you with the actual policies being introduced by the next government after the General Election, as and when they are officially announced. In the meantime, if you have any questions about employment law or policy, please do not hesitate to contact me.

How to Deal with an Employee’s Difficult Attitude

Sometimes, as a Manager, you might have to deliver some bad news to one of your employees. You may have to tell someone that their job is redundant, or discuss some poor performance or unacceptable behaviour. The topic under discussion may be a sensitive issue. Some employees could react negatively, by becoming upset, angry or verbally abusive. There are several things that you can do, as their manager, to ensure that the meeting remains productive.

Remain calm. It is your responsibility to achieve a successful outcome to the meeting and this can be done only if you remain calm and refrain from bringing your own feelings into play.

Let the employee ‘vent’. It is important that the employee calms down. However, allowing the employee some time to vent his or her anger or frustration, gives them space and a feeling of being listened to. They may also reveal information that may help in finding a resolution to the problem.

Remember the reason for the meeting. It is easy for the employee to veer into other topics if he or she feels uncomfortable, or is looking for excuses for his or her behaviour. To get back on track, you should remind them of the reason for the meeting and the ideal outcome.

Remember that the issue needs to be dealt with. When faced with a difficult attitude, you might be tempted to postpone the meeting in the hope that the employee will calm down. However, this can make both parties lose sight of the issue. Don’t postpone the meeting simply because the employee is not being receptive.

Inform the employee that his or her attitude does not assist the organisation as a whole. If the issue being discussed is the employee’s misconduct, you could explain to the employee that his or her difficult attitude in the meeting mirrors his or her behaviour in the workplace. This may help the employee to reflect on his or her behaviour and calm down.

Following the Meeting

After the conversation, you should keep the momentum going. Achieving a successful outcome is an ongoing, building process. Failing to keep on top of the issue may undo all the good work and may leave you having to deal with the issue from the beginning. To ensure momentum is not lost, there are several things that you can do:

  • Make sure that the employee feels supported. If the employee knows that a manager is there to support and help him or her, this will be invaluable in achieving a successful outcome to the conversation.
  • Have regular informal chats with the individual and less regular formal discussions, including a further meeting to review the outcomes or first step.
  • Ensure that what was said and agreed in the meeting is well documented. Both parties should agree that the contents of the document reflect what was agreed and thereafter refer to it if there is confusion or disagreement.
  • Monitor how the agreed actions are being implemented by the employee.
  • Comply with your obligations as to follow-up, for example providing agreed training.

Dealing with a difficult attitude or an angry or upset employee is not something that you have to handle every day, as a manager. However, if you’re prepared, if and when the situation does arrive, you’ll be in a better position to handle it. If you have a difficult conversation to have with a client and you’d like some help getting the best outcome for everyone, call me on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk and I can give you some advice and pointers.

What’s Changing in Employment Law?

Every year in April, a number of changes are made to Employment Law. As a manager or an employer, it is really important that you know about these changes and how they might affect your staff and your business. If you missed our recent workshop, where we talked through many of the changes, here is a summary of those that affect how much you pay your staff and when.

National Minimum Wage – from 1 April 2017 these have increased as follows:

  • Workers aged 25 and over – £7.50
  • Workers 21 to 24 – £7.05
  • Workers 18 to 20 – £5.60
  • School age to 18 – £4.05
  • Apprentices under 19 or in their first year – £3.50

If you need to review your pay rates, you should identify eligible workers and check the new rates which are now applicable. Work out the gross pay received during the pay reference period, including bonuses and commission but not overtime or tips. Calculate the number of hours worked, excluding rest breaks and travel to work. You will then need to pay any arrears immediately and increase the worker’s pay to the minimum wage level or higher. Make sure that you keep records of changes in pay, as it your responsibility, as the employer, to prove payment. HMRC have the right to check at any time, to ask to see records and to order payment of arrears.

Statutory Redundancy Rates – the maximum week’s pay for the purposes of calculating a statutory redundancy payment increased to £489 on 6 April 2017. The maximum number of years of employment that can be taken into account is 20. From 6 April 2017, the maximum statutory redundancy payment that an employee will be able receive is £14,670.

Statutory Maternity Pay – from 2 April 2017, statutory maternity pay after the first six weeks of maternity leave increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate.) The lower earnings limit also increases to £113 in April 2017.

Statutory Paternity Pay – Statutory paternity pay increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate) on 2 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. Paternity pay is available to a person of either sex in an adoption situation, and to the spouse, civil partner or partner of either sex of the biological mother of a child.

Shared Parental Leave – Statutory shared parental pay increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate), on 2 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. The shared parental leave and pay depends on the amount of maternity leave and pay that the mother takes, and the amount of shared parental leave and pay that the other parent takes. Shared parental leave and pay is also available in an adoption situation. Each parent claims shared parental leave and pay from his or her own employer. Parents must satisfy individual eligibility requirements and joint eligibility requirements.

Statutory Sick Pay – the rate of statutory sick pay increased to £89.35 a week on 6 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. If the employee’s average earnings before deductions, such as tax and national insurance, are equal to or more than the lower earnings limit (currently £112), they will be entitled to £88.45 a week. Although the rate of statutory sick pay normally increases on 6 April, the rate did not rise on 6 April 2016. This rate has therefore applied since 6 April 2015.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting – from 6 April 2017, companies and employers in the private and voluntary sectors with 250 or more employees are required to publish gender pay gaps. These must be published annually on the organisation’s website and uploaded to a Government-sponsored website.

Apprentice Levy – on 6 April 2017, this levy was introduced, to be paid via PAYE. The levy will be 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill, although employers will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against payments. It applies to employers with a pay bill over £3 million. The Digital Apprenticeship Service will distribute funds raised by the levy. The levy is being used to fund the cost of apprenticeship training and assessment through co-investment, up to 90% of agreed price. Employers with 50 or fewer employees can receive 100% of the cost if they take on apprentices aged 16-18 (or 19-24 who have previously been in care, in local authority education or on a health and care plan.)

A number of other changes are being made to Employment Law this spring, which we’ll cover in some of our blog posts, which you can read here. If there are any issues that you would like to know more about, please contact us for a confidential chat. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

How Can You Improve Employee Performance for Free?

Employee performance is something that I am asked about on a regular basis. How do you manage it? What’s the best way to improve it? To help answer these questions and any specific ones that you have, I am running a free webinar at 11am on Wednesday 31 May 2017. It will last for around one hour, to give you plenty of time to ask any questions that you have. Book your place online now so that you don’t miss out. Click here to reserve your place.

Handling Difficult Conversations – Part Two

In a previous blog post we wrote about the first couple of steps that you can take, when preparing to handle a difficult conversation with a member of your staff. Here are the next steps for you to follow.

3. Listening

Taking the time to listen will also help you to gather useful information about the issue. You should prepare questions but must let the employee explain or react in his or her own time.

Dos and don’ts

  • Do ask for the individual’s view, as this could help to find an appropriate solution to the issue
  • Do use open questions such as “what is your view on that?”
  • Do listen to and acknowledge the employee’s point of view
  • Do appreciate the value of silence. This allows the individual time to gather his or her thoughts
  • Do ask if you have not understood what has been said
  • Do summarise the main points of what the employee has said. This is useful as it shows that you have listened, helps to consolidate your thoughts and helps you to decide where the conversation should go next
  • Do check that the employee has understood what you have said
  • Don’t jump in while the individual is speaking
  • Don’t answer questions that you have put to the employee to answer
  • Don’t ask multiple questions as this can come across as intimidating and prevent the employee from giving a useful answer.

4. Explore the Issues

During the conversation, you and your employee should explore the issue together. If you explore the issue as a whole, including the reasons why it arose, this will increase the chances that the conversation will be successful. Exploring the issue could also help you to find out more about the individual, the team and the organisation.

The issue can be explored in a number of ways:

You can use probing questions to understand or clarify what the employee has said, for example “tell me more about that.”

You might ask rather than tell. You could ask the employee what he or she sees as the ideal outcome of the conversation and how this might be achieved, as well as how others might respond to this.

You can discuss the pros and cons of the different options with the employee.

5. Agree Action

Having ascertained the ideal outcome of the conversation, you and your employee need to agree how it can be achieved.

You need to agree the way forward together. This encourages joint ownership of the issue, which helps the employee to treat it seriously and take responsibility for resolving it.

Brainstorming will help the employee feel involved and is an easy way of comparing the positives and negatives of different solutions.

If the issue requires action, you should both agree a deadline. Scheduling a date by which the action must be completed helps to focus minds. This could be coupled with the date for the next meeting to review the situation.

If the employee needs to improve, you should both agree how development or progress will be measured.

The employee may need support from you to resolve the issue and you need to take this into account.

Once it has been agreed what the employee is going to do, you should ask them to summarise this, which ensures that they have fully understood what is required and by when.

You should end the meeting by explaining that you want the individual to succeed.

When you have a difficult conversation to handle with an employee, don’t put it off. Spend time preparing for it and you will be able to get the best outcome for both you and you member of staff.

Two-Thirds of Small Businesses Risk Being Fined Through Lack of HR Resources

A recent report shows that time-poor small businesses are struggling with the burden of HR administration, leaving themselves at risk.

Only 25% of small business owners polled feel up to speed on matters to do with employee rights and employer regulations. As little as 37% of SME (small-to-medium sized enterprise) owners have a good understanding on all matters to do with employee rights and employer regulations and keep updated on regulatory changes on an ongoing basis.

New research from Jobandtalent has uncovered a worrying lack of understanding around employment regulations amongst small businesses in the UK. A lack of HR resources and expertise is leading to risky hiring practices in this market, the report finds.

The report follows the release of official data from the pensions regulator, which revealed that the number of employers being fined up to £10,000 a day for not complying with the new regulations on workplace pensions, has shot up by 300% in three months.

The survey of 500 SME owners was carried out by OnePoll and was commissioned by Jobandtalent, an online job marketplace, which matches SMEs with local talent. The research found that owners of SMEs are most at risk due to a lack of dedicated HR expertise or resource.

According to the Jobandtalent survey, a quarter of SME owners admitted that while they understand current regulation, they struggle to keep up with changes. Worryingly, 12% felt they have limited to no understanding of present employment regulations – let alone changes in the future. This represents a clear risk to the business.

When questioned about the hiring process and time to hire new talent, two-thirds (67%) of the 500 SME owners questioned revealed that they do not have anyone dedicated to finding talent and hiring or HR. Of those businesses, the vast majority (77%) answered that the responsibility for hiring fell to the business owner.

Is your business at risk, because you don’t have time to keep up with all the changes? Don’t take the risk – if you have a question about HR or Employment Law, contact us now and we talk about what you need to do. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Handling Difficult Conversations – Part One

Difficult conversations with employees are part of a line manager’s role.

Any conversation that you would rather not have can result in you expecting it to be a difficult one. However, issues need to be dealt with before they escalate into more serious problems, so in this series of blogs we’ll look at how best to handle them.

Issues that managers find difficult to raise with employees include:

  • delivering bad news, such as confirmation that an employee is being dismissed
  • providing feedback on performance
  • raising an issue of misconduct
  • raising the issue of an employee’s personal hygiene
  • addressing a conflict between colleagues
  • acknowledging that the line manager was wrong and the employee was right.

What happens if you ignore the issue?

Failing to have a conversation to address the issue could have a number of potentially serious consequences:

  • The issue may interfere with your own work
  • If an issue of poor performance or misconduct is left unchecked, the employee may think that the situation is acceptable
  • Failing to address issues of poor performance or misconduct will make it more difficult for you to impose a disciplinary sanction at a later date
  • If left unresolved the issue may cause productivity problems for the individual, the team and the organisation
  • If the issue that needs to be addressed is the employee’s failure to pull his or her weight, failing to address it may cause problems with the employee’s colleagues who may have to pick up the individual’s slack
  • A loss of respect for you as a manager and the organisation as a whole can develop.

Once you have decided to address the issue by having a conversation with the individual, you should conduct it in an appropriate manner so that both parties use the situation to maximum benefit. There are five key areas that you should consider.

1. Preparation

Effective preparation for the meeting will help you get across what you want to say without losing sight of the objective. There are several strands to effective preparation:

  • Investigate the issue before the meeting to be able to provide evidence
  • Decide what the ideal outcome of the conversation would be
  • Think carefully about the differences between your character and that of your employee. You could adapt your style of doing things to assist with understanding and acceptance of the message by your employee.
  • Think about your frame of mind before having the conversation
  • Concentrate on the issue rather than the individual

You should prepare any materials that may be needed for the meeting, including extra copies of documents for the employee. You can also practise what you are going to say, particularly any opening statement or questions.

A difficult conversation should always be conducted in private so that neither the line manager nor the employee is embarrassed and so that you both feel that they can speak freely. You should allow sufficient time to enable proper discussion.

2. Communication

It is important for you to communicate the issue clearly, so that there are no misunderstandings. You must also put the message across in a way that is constructive, even though the information may seem negative.

Set the right tone: begin the conversation in a professional manner as this will encourage a professional attitude throughout the meeting and help to achieve a successful outcome.

State the issues clearly: To avoid misunderstanding, state clearly what the issue is. Praise or positive comments can be useful, but you should not let this cloud the message that you need to impart.

Put the issue in context: Demonstrate why the issue is important.

Give specific examples and evidence: If the message that needs to be imparted is that the employee has been refused a request for flexible working, it helps if you can give specific examples of why the request cannot be accommodated.

Focus on the issue, not the person: Avoid expressing your opinion about the employee. This can be done by sticking to the facts and avoiding generalisations and comments on the individual’s personality.

Avoid an attitude of blame: The issue needs to be addressed in a collaborative way. Managers should not approach a conversation with an attitude of ‘line manager versus the employee, but with an attitude of ‘both versus the problem’.

Avoid belittling the issue: Your own fear of a difficult conversation could lead you to belittle the issue. Avoid phrases such as “this won’t take long”, “it’s really not a big deal” and “I’m sure you’re aware of what I’ll be saying”.

Be positive: Managers should be bold and state that they want a successful outcome to the meeting. This will give a constructive tone and feel to the conversation even if the news seems bad. It also helps if you use positive words, such as “improvement” and “achievement”, rather than negative words, such as “failure” and “weakness”.

Body language: Be aware of your own body language so that it does not alienate the employee. Your attitude will usually be replicated by the employee.

There is a lot more to getting through difficult conversations with employees, including listening, exploring the issue and agreeing the next action, which we’ll cover in the next blog in this series.

If you need some help now with handling difficult conversations, contact us now and we can provide you with some free, impartial advice, to help you get started. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Source: Xperthr

Are You Ready for the Next Employment Law Changes in April 2017?

Reserve your place on our next workshop here.

What are the next changes that will be made to Employment Law and how will they affect your business and your staff?

On 30 March 2017 we will hold the next of our regular Employment Law Update workshops. We do this twice a year, when the changes are approaching, so the next one will be in October 2017.  If you’re a business owner or manager it’s important you understand how they affect you and your employees.

This workshop is your chance to ask your questions in a confidential, friendly session, which is always attended by people who, like you, are looking for ways to keep up to date. Share your issues and hear how other people deal with the issues you have to deal with in your business.

The workshop will be held at Hennerton Golf Club in Wargrave, Berkshire, at 9.30am for a 10am start, finishing at 1pm. The cost is just £20 +VAT and includes plenty of tea and coffee! Online booking is available now.

Someone who attended a previous workshop said:

“I thought the workshop would be full of other HR people who knew more than me – but it wasn’t like that at all. I learnt a great deal from the Employment Law update and it was really useful talking to other people to hear how they dealt with similar issues to me.”

Book your place online now and we look forward to seeing you on 30 March.

How Do You Handle Winter Staff Sickness?

After a few months of cold winter weather and numerous ‘bugs’ going around the office, you might be wondering how best to handle winter staff sickness issues and how to keep your business running at full capacity. This blog will give you some tips on how to do this, until the better spring weather arrives.

How are you and your staff coping with the winter weather and the cold and flu bugs that always do the rounds at this time of year? Many people will need a bit of time off at some point during the year, to recover from an illness, so what are the benefits of managing absence in a proactive way?

Both long and short term absences can cost a huge amount – both financially and in terms of manpower. It’s never an easy conversation to have with your employees and it can be difficult to keep up with what action you can take, to keep within the law. The bottom line is this – do nothing and the problem won’t go away, but it could get worse. Finding out early on what’s going on with an employee who is absent can make a significant difference to your relationship with them and to their absence levels in the future. Talking to them allows you to get to the root of the problem and to provide them with the support that they need. By focusing on the absence it may also deter casual absenteeism – too many days off here and there.

Dealing with Short Term Absence

You should have a procedure in place that requires your employees to talk to a named person, rather than leaving a message, when reporting their absence. There should also be guidance on how soon after the start of the working day an employee should contact that named person, if they are too ill to come into work. A standard form should then be completed recording the date, time, reason given and predicted time of absence, to make sure the relevant facts are gathered consistently for each absence. If an employee does not turn up for work and does not report in sick, you should contact them by phone as soon as you can, to find out where they are.

Discussing the problem is essential; especially if one of your employees keeps taking days off for sickness. Maybe there is a work issue which you can help them deal with and solve. Providing the support they need will result in an improved working relationship, better morale and less time off sick.

You should always speak to the member of staff when they return to work, irrespective of how long they’ve been away. It shows you’re taking the situation seriously and acts as a deterrent for people who shouldn’t really be taking time off. Asking how someone is feeling after they’ve been off for even one day also shows that you care about them. Keep the conversation informal but take it seriously. Ensure confidentiality, have a clear structure, record what is said and above all, remain positive and supportive. You can ask them if they visited their GP, how they are feeling now and if there anything you can do to support them. Just remember not to ask any intrusive medical questions!

Communicating with your employees improves productivity and decreases absence, so follow these simple guidelines when dealing with short term sick leave.

There is plenty more advice on the Acas website, with guidance as to what to do when any of your employees take time off for being ill this winter. You can find the information here.

Are You Up To Date with What You Can Ask an Employee?

Book you place on our next Employment Law Update workshop.

There are certain questions that you cannot ask an employee who has been off sick. What’s more, what you can ask and the rules on how to handle the situation change from time to time, as changes are made to Employment Law. You can search the internet and HR publications for news on all the latest changes, which will be happening on 1 April 2017, but do you really have the time?

Twice a year we run interactive workshops that bring you details of all the changes to the law that you need to know about. We do the research so that you don’t have to! Our next workshop will be from 10am – 1pm on 30 March 2017 at Hennerton Golf Club in Wargrave, Berkshire. Before the event we will do the digging to find out about all the important legal changes that might affect your business and your employees. Then we deliver them to you in simple sections throughout the workshop, helping you to understand what you need to do about particular changes.

The workshop costs just £20 +VAT, to include plenty of tea and coffee to keep you going through the morning. You can ask any questions you have in total confidentiality and talk to the other participants about how they will be handling the next round of changes.

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The Difficult Issue of Dealing with Personal Hygiene Issues at Work

Dealing effectively with an employee who has a personal hygiene problem is one of the most difficult and sensitive situations that you’re likely to face, as a manager. The problem may be one of body odour, dirty or stale-smelling clothing, dirty hair or bad breath.

It is advisable not to ignore a problem of this nature as, the longer the matter is allowed to continue unresolved, the more difficult it will be to raise the issue with the employee. Unless the issue is raised with the employee, it is likely that the problem will continue and other employees may become hostile towards the problem employee and disillusioned by management’s lack of willingness to tackle the problem.

Whether a problem of this nature is brought to your attention informally by one or more of your employee’s colleagues, as a result of a formal complaint, as a result of comments overheard by chance, or by evidence that colleagues are avoiding the person, the issue needs to be tackled promptly and firmly.

Open communication

The only effective method of dealing with a problem of lack of personal hygiene is through honest, open, two-way communication with the employee in question. Plain language should be used to explain the problem. Dropping hints, for example making comments about bad smells, putting a bar of soap in the employee’s desk drawer or leaving a stick of deodorant in a prominent place, is unlikely to work, and may create further problems such as ill-feeling or upset.

It will be important for you to bear in mind that a problem of body odour or bad breath may be rooted in the employee’s health and may not always be due to a lack of personal hygiene. You therefore need to have an open mind and be careful not to be seen to accuse the employee of poor personal standards.

Discussion guidelines

To handle the matter, you should arrange to talk to your employee privately, bearing in mind that an interview of this nature is likely to be difficult and possibly embarrassing for the employee. You will therefore need to be sensitive, understanding and patient during the interview. Clearly, discussions with the employee should be held privately and kept confidential, and it will be important for the employee to be reassured that this is the case.

You should specify the problem factually and in plain language. For example, you might say: “I have noticed sometimes that you have quite a strong body odour and I feel that this is something that needs to be addressed” or “I have noticed on occasions that the clothing you wear to work has a stale smell and I feel that this is something that needs to be addressed.”

Depending on the response you get, you might ask your employee if he or she is aware of any reason for the problem, for example an underlying medical cause. If this is the case, you should not ask intrusive questions into the employee’s state of health, but move on to discuss what can be done to resolve the matter.

Make sure that you reassure the employee that the aim of the discussion is to help and encourage him or her to recognise and solve a problem. Do not tell the employee that other people have commented on the problem (even if they have), as this is likely to cause unnecessary embarrassment.

Action agreement

Having pointed out the problem and allowed the employee adequate time and opportunity to respond, you need to ask your employee what solution he or she thinks would be feasible. Depending on what explanation they give (if any), the solution may be one of the following:

  • See his or her own doctor to explain that the problem has been highlighted at work and ask for (further) medical intervention
  • Agree to be seen by a company-nominated doctor at the employer’s expense to discuss the matter and seek a solution
  • Undertake to bathe more frequently and/or to wash his or her hair more frequently and/or to launder his or her clothes more frequently
  • Undertake to brush his or her teeth and/or use a mouthwash more frequently.

If the problem is one of lack of personal hygiene, you should inform the employee clearly and firmly that an improvement is required so as to avoid further difficulties. This should, however, be put across to the employee in a supportive way, and not in a manner that implies criticism or threat. However, do not be afraid to stress the importance of improvement. You may be able to justify a requirement for improvement along the lines of “providing an acceptable working environment for all, given the close proximity in which colleagues have to work” or “creating a positive image on the part of the organisation when dealing with the public”. Do what you can to secure the employee’s agreed commitment to change and set a date for a review, perhaps in a month’s time.

Dealing with a personal hygiene problem in the workplace is certainly no easy matter, but the employee may, in the longer term, benefit from the sort of frank feedback that will be necessary in such a situation.

If you have a problem such as this at work and you’re still not sure how to handle it, call us for a confidential chat and we’ll help you through it. Call me now on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Source: XpertHR

How Do You Deal with Harassment at Work?

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 blog gives some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as harassment.

Sex-related harassment:

  • Telling jokes about women
  • Making derogatory sexist remarks
  • 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.

Racial harassment:

  • Calling someone a nickname linked to his or her 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 his or her religion.

Sexual orientation harassment:

  • Deliberate isolation of someone on grounds of his or her 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 his or her age
  • Ignoring someone, or treating his or her views as worthless, just because he or she is younger or older than other employees.

Guarding 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. You should make sure that you properly brief all your 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.

If you’re concerned about harassment within your company – and you need someone to speak to about it, call me now on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.