How Do You Handle Employee Suspension? Part One – Practice and Principles

In cases of alleged misconduct by one of your employees, in order to ensure that any dismissal is fair, you should investigate the matter to determine whether or not disciplinary action is necessary. The fairness of the dismissal depends on whether or not there is a fair reason for dismissal and, in the circumstances, whether or not you, as the employer, acted reasonably in treating it as a sufficient reason for dismissal. How you investigate the matter will be relevant to whether or not you acted reasonably.

In some cases, it may be appropriate for you to suspend an employee from work pending the completion of the investigation. However, given the serious implications of suspension for an employee, including for his or her morale and professional reputation, you must ensure that the circumstances of the case justify it, and that it is necessary to ensure a fair investigation. Suspension will not be necessary in every case.

The Acas code of Practice

The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures provides practical guidance on dealing with disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace. The code states that employers should pay a suspended employee during the period of suspension, keep the suspension as brief as possible and keep the suspension under review. You should make clear that the suspension is not disciplinary action in itself.

The non-statutory guidance that accompanies the code says that suspension may be necessary, for example:

  • where relationships have broken down
  • in cases of gross misconduct
  • where there is a risk to an employee or company property, or responsibilities to other parties, or
  • in exceptional cases, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that evidence has been tampered with or destroyed, or witnesses pressurised.

General Principles

While it is preferable for you to have a contractual right to suspend an employee, where the circumstances justify it, you can still suspend without one. You should ensure that the employee suffers no detriment as a result of its decision to suspend, and as such, the employee should be fully paid and benefit from the same terms and conditions of employment throughout the suspension.

If the contract of employment contains a procedure that applies to the suspension of an employee, you should ensure that you comply with it, as a failure to do so may enable the employee to claim breach of contract, and/or to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.

As an employer, you should not suspend an employee without just cause. It is not appropriate to suspend simply because investigative enquiries are being made, where the particular circumstances don’t require it. If it is necessary to remove the employee from, for example, contact with particular colleagues or clients, you should consider if suspension can be avoided by using a less drastic measure, for example a temporary change to the employee’s duties or department.

Where the circumstances of a case justify suspension, you should advise the employee of the reason for the suspension, how long it is likely to last, and that it is a neutral act that does not indicate guilt. You should make clear to the employee that the suspension is not disciplinary action in itself, and that disciplinary action will not necessarily follow.

You should also aim to keep the suspension and the reason for it confidential, so as not to cause damage to the employee’s reputation, particularly as the investigation will not necessarily result in disciplinary action. Where it is necessary to explain the employee’s absence, you may consider discussing with the employee how he or she would like this to be communicated to clients and colleagues; this may be appropriate particularly if the employee holds a senior position. Where the employee’s colleagues are aware of the suspension and/or the disciplinary issue, for example if they are witnesses or involved in the investigatory process, you should explain that the suspension is a precautionary measure while the matter is being investigated, and that it will not necessarily result in disciplinary action. Employees should be encouraged to treat the matter as confidential. You may wish to provide managers with a statement confirming how to respond to queries relating to the suspended employee’s absence, to ensure that a consistent message is communicated.

Think that you might need to suspend one of your employees? Call me first, before you do anything! We can discuss the situation in complete confidence, to help you make the best decision. Call me now on 0118 940 3032.

Six Common Summer Employment Issues

With high temperatures possible during the summer months, in this blog we’ll look at some employment law scenarios that you may have to deal with, as an employer.

Maximum office temperatures – The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in the workplace needs to be “reasonable”. However, there is no maximum temperature. What is reasonable will depend on the nature of your workplace and the work being carried out by your employees. Factors such as whether or not the work is strenuous or physical will need to be taken into account.

Unauthorised time off – If a holiday request is refused but your employee goes ahead and takes the time off anyway, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. You should carry out an investigation to establish whether or not the absence was for genuine reasons. If, however, there is no credible explanation from the employee, it may become a disciplinary issue and your disciplinary process will need to be followed.

Summer dress codes – It may be reasonable for you to adopt a more relaxed dress code during the summer months. However, the extent to which your employees may be allowed to dress down when the temperature rises will in part depend on the role he or she performs.

In the case of customer-facing roles, certain standards of presentation may need to be maintained. For health and safety reasons, it may be necessary for employees to continue to wear protective clothing, irrespective of summer heat.

One way or the other, you should ensure that the dress code is reasonable, appropriate to the needs of your particular business and does not discriminate between groups of employees.

Competing summer holiday requests – Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, you are not obliged to agree to an employee’s request to take holiday at a particular time, unless the employment contract provides otherwise.

If competing requests for holiday are received from different members of staff, your managers may prioritise requests, provided that they do this in a way which is fair and consistent, for example on a first-come, first-served basis.

To avoid the short periods of notice for requests and refusals, it makes sense for your business to have its own holiday policy in which you can set out your own notice provisions and other arrangements relating to holiday.

Late return from summer holiday – Issues may also arise in the case of an employee who returns late from his or her summer holiday. In the first instance, you should allow the employee the opportunity to provide an explanation. Supporting evidence, for example a medical certificate in the case of ill health, should be requested.

However, if the explanation does not appear genuine, you will need to consider following your disciplinary policy.

Summer work experience – The school summer holidays are typically a time when employers offer school-age children the opportunity to carry out work experience. You do not have to pay a child of compulsory school age while on work experience. However, all other rules and restrictions on employing young people will apply, and relevant approvals from the local authority or school governing body will need to be obtained.

Is your business ready for more heat this summer? If you need any advice regarding working conditions for your employees over the summer, just get in touch. You can call 0118 940 3032 or email me at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Source: XpertHR

Performance Management – How Do You Get The Best From Your Team?

In May 2017 I ran a webinar where we talked about performance management and what you can do to get the best from your team. We covered the success factors of performance management and what effective performance management requires. We discussed the differences between formal and informal performance management and the day-to-day issues that need to be covered. We also looked at Personal Development Plans and how you can use them to get the best from your employees. There was a lot to get through, so I thought I would share more tips here.

Performance management is fundamental to the effectiveness of your organisation, dependent as it is on your people for the goods and services that you provide. Each person can make a difference. Collectively, a workforce that performs at high levels can help your organisation to survive and prosper in a competitive marketplace.

What is Performance Management?

Performance management consists of two parallel processes:

  • the informal, day-to-day management of individuals and teams by their immediate line manager and
  • the formal framework within which the performance of individuals and teams is assessed and improved.

The two processes are mutually supportive and depend on the same factors for success. They involve:

  • monitoring individual or team performance against accepted benchmarks or standards
  • feedback on performance – both praise (positive reinforcement) and feedback highlighting unsatisfactory performance
  • ensuring that negative feedback is delivered in an objective manner and is accompanied by an explanation of why the performance is unsatisfactory, affording an opportunity for the employee to provide an explanation as well as the means to improve in the future
  • coaching, training or other support to address poor performance
  • follow-up monitoring to check that the performance has improved, with the improvements reinforced with positive feedback
  • the option to progress to formal procedures, such as the disciplinary or capability procedures if poor performance continues and represents serious cause for concern.

Effective Performance Management

Effective performance management depends on the quality of the supervisory and people management skills of those responsible for managing your company’s workforce. It requires capable, motivated managers to put the parallel informal and formal performance management processes into effect. It requires the business to have simple but effective formal performance management procedures for your managers to use. Effective Performance Management also needs effective recruitment processes that result in suitable individuals being recruited to people management roles.

In addition, your business needs good induction, and training and development systems that give individuals the skills, knowledge and experience to manage performance effectively. Incentives – psychological rewards, tangible rewards or both – to encourage the workforce to take performance management seriously must be considered. And finally, your company needs formal structures that allow it to make sure that both managers and their reports are observing the performance management policy.

As you can see, improving the performance of your people first requires effective management of that performance, with the processes and procedures to support it. Start by putting the necessary processes and procedures in place and you will be able to effectively improve the performance of your teams.

Listen to the Webinar

If you missed the webinar that I ran on 31 May 2017 and you would like to listen to it, you can hear it here. If you joined us on the webinar, you can also listen again, in case you missed anything.

When you click the link, you’ll need to register by putting your contact details into the form on the page and then you’ll be able to download the webinar and listen to it as many times as you like.

Performance Management – How to Get the Best from Your Team

In May I delivered a free webinar that covered a number of aspects of performance management and how to get the best from your team.

We talked about the success factors of performance management and what effective performance management requires. We discussed the differences between formal and informal performance management and the day-to-day issues that need to be covered. We also looked at Personal Development Plans and how you can use them to get the best from your employees.

If you missed the webinar and you would like to listen to it, you can hear it here. You need to register by putting your contact details into the form on the page and then you’ll be able to download the webinar and listen to it as many times as you like.

If you have any questions about how to improve the performance of your team, do get in touch. You can call me on 0118 940 3032 or email me at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

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