Do you have a policy on how to deal with staff absence caused by severe weather? It is best not to wait until the next storm comes along and instead have a plan in place on how you will manage employment issues. My short video will give you guidance on the steps you should take in managing absence caused by severe weather. If you would like more information or help please call me on 07900 604 551,
In day-to-day life people ask me lots of questions –
And my pet hate at the moment …
If you think about it though these are easy questions that we all give our stock answers to – even if things are going quite badly we might just say “yes I’m fine”.
When was the last time someone asked you a question about yourself that really stopped and made you think? It might not be a very complex question it could be a question such as:
Asking the right question at the right moment can really make someone stop and think about the answer. Someone I am working with at the moment described this as “a question that followed me home”. I loved this comment so much I felt I had to write about it.
I am reaching the end of my certificate in coaching practice and I think I have completed 41 hours of training to date. Training to become a workplace coach has been one of the most exciting and stretching experiences of my career so far. During this course there have been so many questions that have followed me home and I have really challenged myself about what I enjoy in my work, what my goals need to be for 2017, what might stop me from getting there and most importantly what I am going to do about those barriers!
I haven’t got all the answers yet but I certainly feel that I am on right path to finding them!
How often does someone ask you a question that really makes you think …. and maybe even follows you home?
If you would like to speak to me further about workplace coaching please click on the link or contact me.
Halloween can be a great time for staff to dress up and have a bit of a laugh! However, employers may want to consider some of the issues that Halloween costumes can have at work.
Changing the normal dress code and encouraging staff to come into work in fancy dress is common at Halloween and can be motivational and great fun. However, when we think about it there have been a few examples of stories in the news where fancy dress costumes have caused distress and people have been offended.
If Employers want to celebrate Halloween at work then it would be wise to set out some guidance around what is appropriate. Some points to consider are:
Don’t be put off by my guide – it is just a few points to consider! Have fun and enjoy the day.
Do you have any work Halloween stories? I would love to hear them.
I recently went for a great day out to the Safari park with my family… What on earth has that got to do with HR Consultancy I hear you ask! Well stay with me and I will explain....
The sea lion show is one of our favourite attractions and we always plan the visit to make sure we can fit it in. This year it did not disappoint and as usual we are all amazed at the fantastic tricks the sea lions did. During the show my son said to me “that sea lion will do anything for those fish mum.” I thought about it and sure enough during the show the sea lion was fed lots of fish after each trick as a reward. It left me wondering what the show would have been like without the fish!
Although I’ve never come across a business who reward their staff with fish it did get me thinking about how organisations incentivise and reward performance. In recent years I have been involved in the design and launch of a number of performance management systems. I often get into debates regarding the design of the system and whether there should be some sort of link to financial reward. This could be a direct link between the achievement of KPIs and a bonus payment or a performance rating which is linked to a pay rise. Does this type of reward really incentivise and motivate people to deliver a higher level of performance?
The answer to this question will clearly vary depending on the person and also the job they are employed to do, however, I would argue that in most cases the financial reward is not the key motivator for people.
I recently read the fantastic book “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink which answered a lot of questions for me on what really matters to people. I agree that pay is important but as outlined by Daniel H. Pink if basic pay is fair and in line with the market in most cases this is not what really motivates and ultimately leads to high levels of performance. There are lots of actions organisations can take to motivate people - in my view some of the most important ones are:
I would love to hear your thoughts on this – are these things important to people or are we not too far removed from the sea lion and we will perform to our optimum level if the financial rewards are right?
Please share your thoughts with me or drop me an email at email@example.com
Thanks for reading my blog!
The case Metroline West Ltd v. Ajaj provides useful guidance on the actions an employer can take if they have an employee who has made up or exaggerated the effects of an illness to take fraudulent sick leave.
In this case a bus driver Mr Ajaj reported that he had suffered an injury at work after slipping. He was assessed by the occupational health department and they advised that he was unfit for driving duties.
The company became concerned about the genuineness of Mr Ajaj’s injury and had reason to believe that restrictions on his mobility were inconsistent with his own reporting of his injuries. Mr Ajaj had told his employer that he could only do “light” shopping and walk for only five or six minutes at a time.
The company took the decision to arrange covert surveillance of Mr Ajaj around the time he was due to attend a sickness absence meeting. The covert surveillance showed Mr Ajaj carrying bags of shopping and walking for well in excess of six minutes.
A disciplinary procedure was carried out at Mr Ajaj was dismissed for:
Mr Ajaj brought a claim for unfair dismissal to an Employment Tribunal. The tribunal upheld Mr Ajaj’s claim for unfair dismissal. In reaching this decision they looked at the facts of the case and stated that Mr Ajaj’s medical condition was improving but the issue that prevented him from returning to work was sitting rather than walking. The tribunal found that it would have been reasonable for the employer to consider the job that the employee does in relation to his injury. However, the tribunal reduced compensation for Mr Ajaj as they stated that he had exaggerated the impact of his injury.
The employer then appealed the case. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturned the decision of the tribunal and they concluded that Mr Ajaj was not unfairly dismissed. The EAT focused on the fact that Mr Ajaj had deliberately misrepresented and exaggerated the extent of his injuries.
The EAT found that the employee had committed an act of misconduct when they were dishonest with their employer regarding the impact of the medical condition. This dishonestly led to a fundamental breach of trust and confidence in the employee / employer relationship therefore the dismissal was fair.
This case is useful when dealing with sickness absence that is not genuine and therefore should be treated as a misconduct issue rather than a capability issue.
Do you have any examples similar to this case? please share them with me and give me your thoughts on the impact of this judgement.
The issue of covert monitoring is also an interesting one, in this case the employer could show that the monitoring was reasonable in the context of the case. Look out for future blog articles regarding the use of covert CCTV and secret voice recording.
Following the result of the EU referendum on 23 June 2016 one of the key questions relates to the impact of employing staff in the UK from EU countries. We await confirmation on the approach the government will take in order to exit the EU, however, in any event it is likely that this process will take up to two years.
As things stand, during the transition phase, EU nationals currently working in the UK or considering moving to the UK will still be able to freely move and work here.
Many businesses employ staff from EU countries and have done so for many years, if these individuals have been resident in the UK continuously for 5 years or more they will be able to apply for a permanent residence card. Full details can be found on the following link:
For those individuals who have not been resident in the UK for 5 years the implications of the Brexit vote are still not completely clear. As the government takes steps to exit the EU I will continue to keep my clients up-to-date. If you would like me to add your details to my mailing list please drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Once the UK has left the EU the impact people travelling to the UK to work will depend on the outcome of the negotiations. Some of the options might be:
In the meantime, my advice is:
Since setting up Bell HR 6 years ago I have worked with a wide variety of businesses from different industries and of different sizes. The thing I most enjoy about my work is seeing businesses grow and being able to support them through that journey.
In the early days a small “micro” business is likely to come to me to ask for basic legal advice relating to setting up contracts of employment and writing policies in relation to people management. I am also there for the business owner to answer the odd people management questions as they crop up. At this stage is is common to find that “micro” businesses will adopt a flexible approach to job roles and organisational structure.
The early days of a “micro” business tend to be very exciting. Staff working closely with the owner and will tend to feel a strong sense of motivation from seeing their actions are helping the business become more successful and grow.
As the the business grows the people management challenges tend to change as more people join the organisation and the culture moves away from everyone getting stuck in to make the micro business a success. The informal approach to job roles and structure may not work in a larger organisation but it is important to ensure that the approach to people management does not become over complicated, transactional and inflexible.
My top tips in developing an HR plan for a growing business are:
It would be interesting to find out what HR challenges you have come across as your business grows. Share your thoughts!
Anyone watching the news or looking at social media on 4 November 2014 will be aware that the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has now handed down its decision in the holiday pay cases. The media have reported that overtime payments must be included in holiday pay. Once we get past the headlines it is worth looking at the decision in more detail to determine how this will impact on your Company.
Workers should receive pay which is “normally received” when they go off on holiday. The cases before the EAT dealt with regular non-guaranteed overtime. The EAT ruled that this does form part of pay “normally received”.
Non-guaranteed overtime is overtime which the employer is not obliged to offer but when this is offered the employee is obliged to accept it. It is wise for employers to review how employees are asked to work overtime, the obligation on the employee to accept the overtime and also the frequency in which overtime is worked. The answers to these questions should determine whether overtime is classed as regular non-guaranteed overtime.
The requirement to include overtime in holiday pay only applies to the first 4 weeks of holiday taken in each holiday year. The remaining 1.6 weeks (required by UK law) or any additional contractual holidays do not have to reflect overtime payments. For administrative reasons it may be difficult for employers to keep track of this and calculate holiday payments. However, where the impact of this is significant the EAT decision is helpful.
This decision has been expected for a while and one of the major concerns for employers was the possibility that employees could claim for incorrect holiday pay spanning back years. The decision states that claims will be deemed to be out of time if there has been a break of more than 3 months between payments. This limits the claim an employee can make for historic holiday pay.
What should employers do now?
Review how frequently employees are working overtime
Consider how this is offered and the obligation on the employee to accept the overtime
Review the pay employees receive when they are off on holiday and consider whether this is the same pay they normally receive when they are at work (employers should consider factors such as overtime, regular allowances, regular additional payments and commission)
Review the financial impact on your company and consider the implications of the 4 weeks holiday or the full entitlement
Review the wording in your contracts of employment regarding holiday pay
What is changing on 30 June 2014?
Changes brought in by the Children and Families Act 2014 mean that from 30 June 2014 employees are no longer required to have parental responsibility or caring responsibility to make a request for flexible working. Any employee with more than 26 weeks service has the right to make a statutory request flexible working.
What is flexible working?
There are various forms of flexible working this can mean a change in working pattern, a change in the number of hours worked, introduction of a job share arrangement or a change in work location such as working from home.
How often can employees request flexible working?
An employee has the right to make one statutory request for flexible working in a 12 month period.
If you would like to ensure your flexible working policy is up-to-date please contact me
The World Cup starts in 2 weeks time. I am sure this sporting event will have widespread appeal (even if Scotland are not in it this time!!). Due to the time difference between Rio and the UK some football matches will be played during working hours. Giving staff time off to watch World Cup football matches can be a great opportunity to build employee engagement and increase motivation, however, employers must also consider the impact this will have on the smooth running of the business.
Some points to consider....
Holidays - How are requests for annual leave going to be managed? If there are more requests than the Company can manage managers may look to adopt a fair allocation of holidays. Don't forget that not everyone loves football but that doesn't mean they should not be allocated holidays during the World Cup!
Flexible Working - Employers may consider putting flexible working in place for a short time to allow employees time off to watch World Cup games.
Internet Use - Will employees be allowed to watch the World Cup on the internet at work? Employers may want to consider how this fits with computer use and internet policies.
Clearly increased alcohol consumption may also be a factor for employers to consider!
Employers can put guidelines in place to support employees with requests for time off but also ensure that there is clear guidance regarding increased absence or misconduct.
If you would like further guidance on how to manage the impact of large sporting events in the workplace please feel free to give me a call. The first 30 minutes is free!
A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case shows the importance of having a well drafted Drugs policy in place for staff.
In the case Kuehne & Nagel Ltd v Cosgrove - Ms Cosgrove was employed as a Warehouse Operative. As a result of an anonymous tip-off she agreed to take a drug test. The test showed a positive result for cannabis. The company policy stated that a positive test for illegal substances would be classified as gross misconduct. Ms Cosgrove was suspended, invited to attend a disciplinary hearing and then dismissed. During the investigation it had not been clear if Ms Cosgrove was under the influence of cannabis at work but she admitted that she had consumed cannabis the previous weekend. Ms Cosgrove raised a claim for unfair dismissal.
Ms Cosgrove was successful at tribunal as she argued that the dismissal was unfair as there was no proof that she was under the influence of cannabis at work. Ms Cosgrove was awarded £7,865 in compensation. The Company appealed this decision. The EAT considered the facts of the case and in particular they noted that the company had a policy in place which stated that there was a zero tolerance policy on drugs. This policy was required as the company operate in a safety critical environment. Also the EAT considered the fact that (unlike alcohol) there is no test that can show if the employee was under the influence of cannabis at a particular time.
The EAT found that the employment tribunal had failed to apply the correct legal test to a claim of unfair dismissal and the dismissal was found to be fair.
For safety reasons some organisations must operate a zero tolerance policy in relation to substance misuse. This case shows that employers can still enforce these rules. The main lesson for employers is that they must have a clearly drafted policy on drug use, this must be communicated to staff and there must be clarity on how drug testing will be carried out.
If you need to review your Alcohol and Drug policy to ensure it meets your business needs please get in touch.
If an employer fails to carry out a reasonable investigation prior to taking disciplinary action this may render the dismissal unfair. The investigation carried out by an employer will very much depend on the circumstances of the case and the resources available to the employer. I thought it would be helpful to provide an outline of some of the points employers should consider when carrying out a disciplinary investigation.
Who should carry out an investigation? The person appointed to carry out the disciplinary investigation is known as the investigating officer. They should be independent to the allegations and they should have a good understanding of the disciplinary procedures.
When should the investigation be carried out? The investigating officer should not delay the investigation and should take action as soon as possible.
What steps should the investigating officer take in carrying out the investigation? The investigating officer should review the allegations and consider what evidence is available. Depending on the circumstances of the case and employer rules the evidence could be gathered from witness statements, CCTV records, emails, staff files and training records. It is important that the investigating officer takes time to plan the investigation before it commences.
When is it appropriate to suspend an employee? If the allegations may be deemed to be gross misconduct which would result in summary dismissal then the investigating officer may decide to suspend the employee. If the investigating officer believes there is a risk of the employee damaging the investigation it may be appropriate to suspend. In most cases the employee will be suspended on full pay. At the investigation stage the investigating officer is still gathering facts and no decision has been made regarding disciplinary action.
What steps should be taken once the investigation is complete? Ideally the investigatory officer should pass the information they have gathered to another manager who will then carry out a disciplinary hearing.
If the investigating officer gathers the facts regarding the allegation and decides that there is no case to answer and no disciplinary action will be taken then they should inform the employee this is the case.
The ACAS code of practice on discipline and grievance procedures provides practical guidance on handling disciplinary situations in the workplace. Whilst this code is not legally binding employment tribunals will take this code into account when considering any case. A tribunal can adjust any award by up to 25% for an unreasonable failure to comply with its provisions.
This article provides a practical guide but is not intended to be advice on a specific case. If you would like advice on a case you are managing please feel free to give me a call on 07900 60 4551.
Following consultation the Government have announced that Employment Tribunal Fees will come into force on 29 July 2013. This will mean that employees wishing to make a claim at tribunal will now need to pay. The fees vary according to the complexity of the case and are paid on issue of the claim and then before the hearing. The fees are as follows:
Level one claims - a fee of £160 on issue of a claim and £250 hearing fee
Level two claims - a fee of £230 on issue of a claim and £950 hearing fee
Level one claims will consist of more straightforward claims such as unlawful deduction from wages. Level two claims will be more complex claims including unfair dismissal and discrimination.
If the employee cannot afford to pay the fees then they can apply for remission. An employee making a claim can only apply for remission if they are in receipt of specified benefits or their income is below a certain amount.
This significant change may encourage employees to think twice before deciding to take their employer to a tribunal. Please get in touch if you would like more information.
Thank you to everyone who attended my Lunch and Learn session at Stirling University Innovation Park this week. If you did not manage to come along to my session but would still like to receive free guidance notes on managing poor performance please drop me an email to request this.
Alison Bell, HR consultant and owner at Bell HR, is an energetic and skilled professional with over two decades’ experience in best practice people management and employment law advice. She is also a long-time professional member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a further reflection of her commitment to high standards. Alison works with small and medium sized businesses throughout Central Scotland. Her aim? To provide a reliable, practical and affordable HR solution for business owners.