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.

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.

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.

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.

How Do You Handle Unauthorised Absence from Work?

What do you do when one of your members of staff keeping missing work for no apparent reason, or doesn’t come back when you expected them to after their holiday? This is known as unauthorised absence and needs to be handled quickly and efficiently.

The first thing to do is find out why someone has been missing work. Is it unusual or do they keep missing work? Next you need to get in touch with them and follow a procedure. This short video will tell you more about this.

We can help you put a procedure in place for handling these issues and can provide you with a template letter to send to staff who have been absent without your authorization. Just call us 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk for some confidential advice.

Poor Performance – Can You Prove It?

Sometimes as a manager you need to deliver bad news or negative feedback to a member of your staff. You might need to pick them up on an issue of performance that you’re not happy with, or where they are not meeting your standards.

This is not a comfortable thing to do. You need to be quite assertive about it, to be taken seriously, so that your member of staff doesn’t just argue with you! To help you discuss the issue in the right way, you need evidence of the poor performance. You have to be able to show your team member what they’ve been doing wrong or below standard. Just telling them that they’re not doing what you want them to do, won’t have any impact, if you can’t prove it.

You need to collect the evidence, so your team member can really understand what they’ve done wrong and how you want them to change. It’s not about collecting evidence just to use against someone – you really need it in order to get the message across and to make a difference.

Is one of your team repeatedly late coming into work? If so, you need a recording system that shows them when they came it late and how often it happens. If your staff clock in and out every day, you have your system. If not, you need to look for another way of recording the time.

Does a member of your staff keep making errors in their work? How many times have they made a mistake and what was the result of it? Again, you need to create a way of recording the error rate and the consequences.

Do some of your clients repeatedly complain about one of your employees? If so, you need to keep all the emails or letters of complaint that you receive. When a customer complains over the phone, ask them if they would mind emailing you the details for your records, so that you improve the situation for them.

When you can show proof of poor performance, it is much easier to discuss the issue with the particular member of staff and, between you, work out what needs to be done in order to improve their performance.

We discussed the importance of collecting evidence at one of my interactive workshops. Click here to watch the short video and find out more.

How NOT to Interview Your Next Employee

Your business is growing and you’re looking to expand your team and take on a new member of staff. How hard can it be? Once you’ve advertised the position and collected all the CVs from the applicants, all you have to do is carry out a few interviews. But if you’ve never interviewed before, or you’ve had no formal training in how to do it, you need to be careful. These days there are many things that can trip you up during an interview. You can be sued by someone before they even start working for you, so this issue of Working Together looks at what you should not ask in an interview and what you can ask.

The key purpose of an interview is to assess the skills, experience and general background of a candidate, to help you make a decision on whether that person is the best person for the job you’re looking to fill. Interviewing is the most commonly used method of assessing prospective employees and it should be a two way process. An interview should be a forum through which each candidate can obtain information about your business and the job.

Here are some topics you should NOT ask about in interviews:

  • Marital status or marriage plans
  • Childcare arrangements
  • General family commitments or domestic arrangements
  • Actual or potential pregnancy or maternity leave
  • Their partner’s occupation and mobility
  • Any actual or potential absences from work for family reasons.

Employment tribunals take the view that these questions, if asked of a female candidate, indicate an intention to discriminate. Instead, you should ask questions that explore the ability to perform the job and they should be asked of all your candidates.

Interview Questions1

So what can you ask?

  • Your questions should check facts about background, test achievement and assess aptitude and potential
  • Ask specific questions on work experience, qualifications, skills, abilities, ambitions and strengths or weaknesses
  • Ask open questions, “what”, “which”, “why”, “how”, “where”, “when” and “who”, rather than closed questions
  • Ask questions that are challenging, but never in a way that may be intimidating
  • Ask questions that require examples of real situations that the candidate has experienced
  • Ask factual questions about past experience and behaviour.

Once you have gathered all the information you need, through open questioning, you should be in a good position to make a decision. Make sure your questioning covers work experience, qualifications, skills, abilities, knowledge, ambitions and strengths and weaknesses. Don’t allow gut feeling alone to determine the selection decision, because gut feelings are inevitably influenced by personal attitudes, and may result in unlawful discrimination. Focus on the requirements of the job and the extent to which each applicant’s background matches these.

I recently ran an interviewing skills workshop for one of my clients and some of their staff. If you’d like me to deliver the same thing for you, do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or clicking here.

Improving Performance Through a Probation Period

Taking on new members of staff for a growing business can be a costly and time consuming process – especially if you get it wrong. Finding the best person for your business is important, and many people think that they can sit back and rest once their new recruit arrives on their first day. But that’s just the start of it!

This blog looks at how to give your new employee the best start with your business.

You worked hard on crafting the best Job Description for your new team member. The adverts went out and the applications came in. You spent time interviewing potential candidates to join your team. Finally you found them – the perfect person to work with you. They even turned up on their start date. What happens next?

If you think you can just sit back and expect your new recruit to get on with their job and perform as you expect them to – with no input from you – you’ll be disappointed.

The first thing to do – even before a new employee joins you – is to decide on the length of their probation period. This could be between three and six months, depending on the type of work being done. The probation period is your chance to start assessing your new recruit; it’s their time to find their feet and get used to their new role. It is a vital tool in measuring the performance of a new employee.

Next you need to plan when you’re going to review their performance, during the probation period. Planning a review halfway through is a good idea – don’t leave it until the end. This allows you to take action if you’re in any doubt about their ability to do the job for which you have employed them. Their performance will only get better if you do something about it. They might not have understood the job that you need them to do, so this is the time to go over what you expect from them. It’s also a good time for them to air any concerns they might have about their future with you.

You should next plan to review the performance of your new recruit before the end of the probation period. This could be after five months, if the probation is six months in length. This gives you time to properly review their performance and plan any action that needs to be taken – such as training or development. This will put you in the best position to be able to confirm whether or not your new recruit will be staying on.

If you decide that they will not remain with you, and your employment contract is correctly worded, the notice period for a new employee is usually less than for someone who successfully completes a probation period. If they have to leave, you can quickly turn your attention to finding a better person to fill their role.

There is no legal requirement for using a probation period at the start of an employment contract. However, it is a very good way of making sure you get the right person for the job, after all the time and effort you put into the recruitment process. Just make sure that your employment contract explains all this and that you discuss the use of the probation period with anyone to whom you offer the job!

What’s the Difference Between Informal and Formal Appraisals?

This is a question I’m often asked by managers, so I thought I would answer it here.

A performance appraisal can occur in two ways – informally or more formally (or systematically.) Informal appraisals can be carried out whenever the supervisor feels it is necessary. The day-to-day working relationship between a manager and an employee offers an opportunity for the employee’s performance to be assessed. This assessment is communicated through conversation on the job, over coffee, or by on-the-spot examination of a particular piece of work. Informal appraisals are especially appropriate when time is an issue. The longer feedback is delayed, the less likely it is to encourage a change in behaviour. Frequent informal feedback to employees can also prevent surprises when the formal evaluation is communicated. However, you should make sure that they don’t become too informal – don’t be tempted to discuss an appraisal in the pub!

Although informal appraisals are useful, they should not take the place of formal appraisals. These are used when the contact between a manager and an employee is more formal. This could be when they don’t see each other on a daily, or even weekly basis. It requires a system to be in place to report managerial impressions and observations on employee performance.

When Should You Carry out Appraisals?

Appraisals typically are conducted once or twice a year, most often annually, near the anniversary of the employee’s start date. For new employees, common timing is to conduct an appraisal 90 days after employment, again at six months and annually after that. ‘Probationary’ or new employees, or those who are new and in a trial period, should be evaluated frequently—perhaps weekly for the first month and monthly thereafter until the end of the introductory period for new employees. After that, annual reviews may be sufficient.

Some managers prefer to meet with their employees more frequently. Some companies in high-technology fields are promising accelerated appraisals— six months instead of a year—so that employees receive more frequent raises. The result for some companies has been a reduction in turnover among these very turnover-prone employees.

A regular time interval is a feature of formal, systematic appraisals that distinguishes them from informal appraisals. Both employees and managers are aware that performance will be reviewed on a regular basis and they can plan for performance discussions. In addition, informal appraisals should be conducted whenever a manager feels they are desirable.

Should We Talk About Pay As Well?

Many experts say that the timing of performance appraisals and pay discussions should be different. The major reason for this view is that employees often focus more on the pay amount than on what they have done well or need to improve. Sometimes managers may manipulate performance appraisal ratings to justify the desired pay treatment for a given individual.

However you carry out appraisals – whether informally or formally – take some time to think about the pros and cons of the different options. This will help you implement the best process for the development of your business and your employees.

How to Make Appraisals Really Easy

Appraisals should be divided in three stages – preparation, the actual meeting and the follow up. Here’s what to focus on at each stage.

 1. Preparation

This is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process and is often missed or skipped over too quickly. You need to have facts about each employee’s performance and evidence of instances in which they have performed well or badly. This will make the appraisal constructive and meaningful.

Throughout the year, track each employee’s performance and keep a log of memorable incidents or projects they’re involved in. Look back at previous appraisal information and job descriptions to make sure they are meeting their agreed objectives.

Make sure that your employees are prepared too. Agree the date, time and place for the meeting at least two weeks in advance; brief them on the importance and scope of the meeting and what you expect from them.

2. The Meeting

Once the preparation is done, here’s how to carry out the meeting:

  • Ask open and probing questions, giving your employees the opportunity to decide how to answer; encourage them to talk freely
  • Listen to what they say without interrupting. Also watch their body language for messages
  • Evaluate performance, not personality. Focus on how well the employee does their job rather than personal characteristics
  • Give feedback based on facts not subjective opinion. Use feedback to positively reinforce the good. In the case of underperformance, use it to help the employee understand the impact of their actions or behaviour and the corrective action required
  • Set SMART objectives for the future and set a timeline for improvement if an employee is underperforming. Look also for development opportunities to help your employees reach their potential
  • Document each appraisal. Write a summary of the discussion, what was agreed and any action to be taken while it’s fresh in your mind.

3. Follow Up

Don’t just walk away at the end of the meeting, breathing a sigh of relief and forgetting about it all until next year!

Do what you say you will do. Fulfilling your promises reflects well on you and your business. If you’ve set deadlines for performance reviews, follow up on them. Check on progress that you discussed in the meeting.

If you don’t follow up with appraisals, the whole process will be a waste of time and something that neither you nor your employees look forward to or find useful.

Still need some help? If you follow all these tips and still think that carrying out appraisals seems too difficult, we can help. Full preparation, support during the meetings and follow up for just £90 +VAT per employee! To find out more or to book dates for your appraisals, call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me straight away.