October 15

Progress on greater transparency on mental health in our workplace is SLOW……you could do better!

In our April 2019 newsletter…’Be a progressive employer and conduct a disability, mental health and wellbeing audit in the workplace’…. we outlined the benefits to be reaped by those employers who drive greater transparency on disability, mental health and wellbeing in their workplace….

Six months on research suggests that progress is slow……

The Government Review, Thriving at Work, believes that ALL employers, of whatever size, can and should meet the following core standards:

• Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
• Develop mental health awareness among employees
• Encourage open conversations about mental health and provide support when employees are struggling
• Provide your employees with good working conditions
• Promote effective people management by training managers
• Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

Disappointingly, recent research has revealed that only a fifth of the employers polled had met even the first of the core standards, above, and almost half had not made any progress at all towards it. Therefore, the majority of organisations in the UK do NOT have a mental health at work plan.

This suggests employers are missing opportunities to intervene at a much earlier stage to minimise the amount of time lost to sickness absence. The latest figures serve as a stark reminder as to just how costly this is for UK employers…..poor workplace mental health, which is the main cause of sickness absence, is estimated to cost between £33bn and £42bn each year.

Mental health is undoubtedly higher up the HR agenda than at any other time. However, much more work needs to be done to ensure organisations have a culture that encourages timely disclosure of mental ill-health – this in turn allows for early intervention, that may minimise the length, severity and impact of a mental ill health episode.

What is required is the development of skills and competence among line managers, and resources need to be found to do just this. Line managers are vital in creating workplaces that are positive for people’s mental health and wellbeing, but they need to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to do this.

Just a few snippets from the recent research which support the need to train your managers properly to deal with mental health and wellbeing:

• Line managers think they do not get enough help from their organisation to support the mental wellbeing of their staff, despite this being viewed as vital in the creation of mentally healthy workplaces.

• Fewer than a third of managers had been sufficiently trained to recognise the signs of mental ill-health in their staff.

• Line managers either have never heard mention of a mental health at work plan or heard about it in passing but have not received support to create one.

• Very few managers ever discuss mental health at all with their direct employees or reports and even less admitted to discussing their reports’ own mental health.

• The majority of UK workers would not discuss mental ill-health with their manager because they were concerned they would be judged as incapable. Instead they would confide in a colleague.

• It is believed many employees have taken absence because of mental ill-health but that is not the reason given for their absence.

Businesses need to work hard to break down these taboos, by investing in training their management teams and thus creating more open lines of communication.

It is undoubtedly an area loaded with often sensitive, and therefore challenging issues, but it is worth remembering that an organisation that promotes transparency around disability, mental health and wellbeing will inevitably enjoy improved employee engagement and retention with consequent gains for performance and productivity.

Professional advice and support is on hand if you need it…..nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call Nicola on 07917 878384

October 2

Thomas Cook, British American Tobacco, possibly Ryanair are facing redundancies….here are our top ten redundancy pitfalls……………

We have seen the collapse of Thomas Cook in the last week resulting in thousands of job losses and now Ryanair has urged its pilots to go on unpaid leave or transfer to other bases to avoid redundancies of the kind that have resulted from the demise of Thomas Cook.

There is more to making someone redundant than handing them a letter and waving them off!

Here are our top 10 redundancy pitfalls:

1. Defining the pool for redundancies incorrectly

The first danger is that the employer can define the redundancy pool too narrowly.

In some circumstances only one employee may be potentially affected by the redundancy and there will be no need to identify a pool for selection. In all other situations the pool of selection must relate to the reason for the potential redundancies, which can be tricky where employees hold similar positions or where employees’ skills are interchangeable. If in doubt put the whole pool of those “at risk” from redundancy and consult them on the selection criteria.

2. Not offering suitable alternative employment

Even though vacancies may be few and there is no legal requirement for the employer to create a vacancy, it is still under an obligation to consider suitable alternative employment in the organisation or its associated bodies.

The employee has a four-week trial period in this alternative post. If they unreasonably reject it, then the redundancy payment may be forfeited.

Remember that a woman on maternity leave must be offered a suitable alternative post before those “at risk” staff that are not on maternity leave.

3. Absence of a genuine redundancy situation

A genuine redundancy occurs where the business or workplace is closed, or there is a diminished need for employees to carry out “work of a particular kind” – that is, a reduction in the size of the workforce. A reorganisation of the business could also lead to redundancies.

Less principled employers may see an economic downturn as a great opportunity to get rid of underperforming staff. This is to be avoided at all costs – an employer failing to prove there is a genuine redundancy situation could end up facing a charge of unfair dismissal.

4. Failure to carry out a fair selection procedure

To prove a role is genuinely redundant, employers must carry out a fair selection procedure, using transparent, consistent and objective redundancy selection criteria. They should avoid choosing an individual for redundancy because of a characteristic such as pregnancy, age or length of service. ‘Last in, first out’ may still be a valid selection criterion but only as one of many others, not on its own.

5. Failure to consult properly on collective redundancies

Consultation is fundamental to a fair redundancy procedure. If an employer is considering making 20 or more redundancies at any one establishment, then it is under a strict legal duty to consult with elected representatives of the workforce for a minimum of 30 days – if laying off 100 or more staff, the minimum period of consultation is 45 days.

The consultation must be “meaningful”; it must not be a “sham”. The decision to make an employee redundant must not have been taken before the consultation begins and the employer should avoid implying that a final decision on the redundancies has already been reached: redundancy is only a possible option at this stage.

6. Failure to inform and consult on an individual basis

Furthermore, even if such collective consultation takes place, an employer is also under a separate duty to consult individually with each employee selected for redundancy. This duty applies in all cases, regardless of the number of redundancies being made. Again, the consultation must be proper and “meaningful”. As with the collective consultation process, it should be a two-way dialogue exploring ways of avoiding, or at least mitigating the effect of the redundancy.

This individual consultation with the “at risk” employees is an essential and integral part of a fair dismissal. Again, failure to consult can lead to the award of hefty compensation for an unfair dismissal.

7. Failure to consider alternatives to redundancy

Employers leaping onto the redundancy bandwagon leave themselves at real risk of being left ill-equipped for the upturn. By failing to consider alternatives to redundancy, they may end up losing skilled and valuable employees, maybe even finding themselves short-staffed. The following should be considered:

• Review whether or not any new vacancy can be filled by redeploying an existing member of staff, with appropriate retraining where necessary.
• Review overtime to see if it can be reduced or stopped altogether.
• Invite staff to volunteer for reduced hours or alternative ways of working.
• Consider reducing or stopping the use of temporary staff.
• Consider seeking agreement to a temporary reduction in the number of days/hours that staff work.
• Consider inviting employees to apply for sabbaticals on part or no pay.

8. Failure to train managers in how to carry out the redundancy exercise

While HR can slink off to its own department once a redundancy announcement has been made, it is up to line managers to cope with redundant staff in the run up to their departure.

Lacking the skills and experience to do so effectively and compassionately will make the situation worse for all concerned – including ‘surviving’ staff.

Communication is key – employers must make sure everyone involved (particularly those being made redundant) hears the news in a timely and appropriate fashion, through the right channels. This is especially important today when so many people use social media for instant communication.

9. Not accounting for the extra costs and resources involved

Redundancy does not begin and end with breaking the news. Employers should be very careful to allocate resources – both time and money – for the duration of the consultation period, and often beyond. Remember as well as a redundancy payment there is also a notice payment that needs to be made in lieu if an employee is not going to work their notice. Accrued but untaken holiday also must be paid to an employee being made redundant. It’s worth also considering the potential for challenges to the redundancy in employment tribunal.

10. Failing to account for the wider effects of the redundancy exercise

It’s inevitable that the staff left behind will suffer from low morale, lower productivity and possibly even increased absence.

They may even suffer ‘survivor guilt’. Employers should never underestimate the impact redundancies can have on remaining staff.

Conclusion:

It is essential that employers get the planning and documentation right during a redundancy exercise. Effective communication is vital. An employer should not underestimate the level of compensation that may be awarded by an employment tribunal if it gets something wrong, let alone the legal costs and wasted management time in defending any such proceedings. Nor should the employer underestimate the effect on staff morale of a redundancy situation in the workplace.

September 10

How long should you keep employee records for….?

The GDPR maintains the line that “data should not be kept longer than necessary for the purpose for which it was processed.” But how does this relate to the different elements of personal data placed in HR’s care?

How long to keep recruitment and applicant data?

During your recruitment process, there’s a lot of data that comes your way (CVs, cover letters, interview notes). Ideally, you’ll want to keep this information for at least six months. This is the period of time during which a discrimination claim could be brought against your organisation. The data you collect during your recruitment process is important for defending any of these potential claims.

If you want to keep CVs on file longer than six months, for example in a talent pool for future opportunities, then you’ll need consent from the applicants. In the interest of keeping information you hold up-to-date, you might want to consider asking applicants in your talent pool to review and update their CV, as well as asking them to re-issue their consent. If you do not gain the applicant’s consent, you should remove their CV from your system.

How long to keep payroll data?

Data relating to PAYE must be kept for three years after an employee leaves your company, as that is how long the HMRC may be interested in the information for conducting reviews or audits. Beyond this, you are unlikely to have a legitimate interest reason for holding pay information for ex-employees. You should therefore remove this information.

How long to keep employee records?

Data such as employees’ personal records (including salary and bonus records), performance appraisals, employment contracts, etc. should be held on to for six years after they have left. This is because whilst employees can bring a claim in a tribunal up to three months after leaving an organisation, they can bring a county or high court claim many years down the line. Under the GDPR, the condition for processing would be legal obligation, or legitimate interest.

See below a helpful chart to have as your ‘go-to’ if you remain unsure!

Accident books, accident records/reports : 3 years from the date of the last entry

Income tax and NI returns/records: not less than 3 years after the end of the financial year to which they relate

Medical records as specified by (COSHH) : 40 years from the date of the last entry
SMP record and certificates : 3 years after the end of the tax year in which the maternity period ends
SSP records : 3 years after the end of the tax year to which they relate
Wage/salary records : 6 years
National minimum wage records : 3 years after the end of the pay reference period following the one that the records cover
Records relating to working time : 2 years from date on which they were made
Application forms and interview notes : 6 months


How to keep your employee data GDPR compliant?

Remember that GDPR has some serious teeth, with huge fines possible for those that transgress. So, it’s wise to go above and beyond what you think is required to ensure you don’t fall foul of these new regulations.

To keep yourself safe, put every category of employee data through this six-step procedure:

1. Carry out an audit – undertake an audit of all your current record keeping to identify how your data is kept, why it is kept, for how long and the reason for that length of time.

2. Put someone in charge – appoint a record keeper with responsibility for this area.

3. Write a statement – draw up a data protection impact statement that details risks associated with your records. This should be added to your existing business risk register.

4. Protect your data – make sure your data is held securely, is backed up, and can’t be stolen or tampered with.

5. Uphold individual rights – ensure that you can access, change or delete data if asked to by an employee

6. Have regular clear outs – check your data regularly and destroy any records you don’t need. If you find that some data needs to be kept for longer than first thought, you must receive consent from all employees involved.

July 3

Summer holidays are approaching….are your employees taking their leave?

Mismanagement of annual leave can have a dramatic impact on a company’s business, as demonstrated by Ryanair’s cancellation of hundreds of flights after it admitted “messing up” the planning of pilots’ holiday a couple of summers ago. Where do employers commonly get annual leave wrong?

1. Not encouraging employees to take annual leave across the leave year

Allowing staff to build up too much annual leave and not spread out their holidays over the year can be a major problem for employers.

This could occur if there is an excess of work to do or a business is struggling because of the economic climate. Employees may feel that they are simply not in a position to take annual leave at certain times during the year without putting their job at risk.

Employers should therefore encourage employees to plan and take annual leave, to help maintain employees’ health and motivation. This will also prevent the workforce from building up an excessive amount of leave to take at the end of the leave year.

Typically, the responsibility for monitoring annual leave is allocated to line managers, who should periodically check their employees’ annual leave balance and remind staff that they need to use the holiday up by the end of the leave year.

2. “Buying out” employees’ annual leave entitlement

An employer may be tempted to offer staff a cash substitute in return for giving up their annual leave entitlement, for example to solve a staffing crisis, complete a big project, or tackle a build-up of accrued but untaken holiday across its workforce.

However, it is a fundamental principle of annual leave law that an employer cannot give employees payment in lieu of their minimum statutory annual leave entitlement (i.e. the 5.6 weeks guaranteed under UK law).

The exception to this is on termination of employment. When an employee leaves a job part way through the holiday year, he or she will be entitled to be paid for any accrued statutory holiday not taken at the date of termination.

3. Allowing employees to carry over excessive amounts of holiday

The general rule is that if holiday is not taken in the correct holiday year it is lost unless an employee is unable to take the leave due to sickness or family related leave.

However, contracts of employment often permit carry over of holiday into the next holiday year although they often put a cap on the number of days that can be taken and impose a rule requiring the excess leave to be used up with the first few months of the next holiday year.

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

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

Line managers can sometimes be reluctant to turn down employees’ holiday requests, particularly if an employee has already planned out a trip or has a family commitment.

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

5. Not paying employees the right amount during annual leave

In recent years, perhaps the single biggest employment law headache for UK employers has revolved around the calculation of holiday pay.

Employers should now be aware that it is no longer permissible to calculate holiday pay on the basis of an employee’s basic pay only. Pay during annual leave should now include other payments such as overtime pay (both compulsory and voluntary), commission, standby/call-out allowances, shift premia and travel allowances.

Employers need to decide on a sensible approach to holiday pay calculations, particularly the length of time used to calculate the average (with 12 weeks being a popular suggestion) and what allowances should be included (if in doubt, include it).

A holiday pay miscalculation across the workforce could be costly in the long run.

Managing annual leave: dos and don’ts for line managers

• Do encourage staff to submit dates for their holiday as far in advance as possible.
• Do review regularly whether or not employees have taken, or at least planned to take, some of their holiday leave.
• Do remind employees periodically how much annual leave they have outstanding.
• Do ask any employee who has not taken any holiday or submitted any holiday dates by for example the middle of the holiday year to nominate holiday dates as a matter of urgency.
• Do ensure that holiday leave is planned in such a way that the department has adequate cover at all times.
• Do be proactive in the management of holiday.
• Don’t leave the matter of holiday to chance.
• Don’t take the view that it is up to each individual to decide whether or not he or she wants to take holiday.
• Don’t wait until near the end of the holiday year before reviewing whether or not employees have taken all their holiday.
• Don’t give in to employees’ requests for pay in lieu of holiday.
• Don’t make staff feel guilty about taking holiday.

May 29

Are you onboarding your new recruits in such a way as to ensure engagement from the off?

In a recent survey it was found that 19% of employees stay in their roles for less than a year. Widespread feedback from employees was:

• poor or no follow up from the organisation before the job started
• the role did not meet expectations
• unsupported and left to their own devices
• an all-round lack of information and communication.

The old adage that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression is so true when it comes to welcoming new team members to your workforce. A good staff onboarding process helps to build engagement from the outset, assists newcomers to settle in and helps them start their career journey with the best possible impression of you, their new employer.

By focusing on employee wellbeing from the moment they walk through the door, businesses can integrate new recruits quickly and align them with organisational goals. This helps ensure new team members are motivated and engaged, boosting performance and productivity.

Below are the do’s and don’t’s of properly onboarding your new recruits:


Don’t neglect onboarding’s importance

Failing to follow up successful recruitment with an efficient and engaging onboarding process can mean losing the best and brightest talent before they can add value to your business. Over a fifth of employees accept a job and then change their mind due to problems they encounter during the onboarding process.

At best it’s disappointing, at worst it’s very expensive, for businesses who have spent weeks assessing and interviewing candidates, only to have the perfect person turn them down or fail to start work.

Do review onboarding plans and processes

Encourage existing and new staff to give open and honest feedback about their initial experience and impressions of joining your organisation. Find out what problems they encountered, who they dealt with and how their experience made them feel.

One third of the UK employees polled said early or first day problems left them feeling unwelcome.

Knowing what hasn’t gone so well in your onboarding process offers a great opportunity to improve the experience for your next new hires.

Don’t wait until day one

Between a candidate being offered a role and them starting work for you, there are lots of factors that can mean they fail to become an engaged member of your workforce.

No one wants to be kept hanging around waiting for offer details and contracts, so ensure these are issued quickly and accurately. New employees can be tempted away by counter offers before they start.

Often there’s a gap between recruitment and employment, when potential recruits may have little contact with your organisation. Bridging that gap with regular communications shows that you’re already thinking of them as an employee before they arrive. This is especially important when dealing with individuals who have longer notice periods.

Engagement with the business needs to happen immediately. Not later down the line when it’s harder to gain positive engagement.

One effective method is to invite new hires with a longer notice period to social events, so that they get to meet their future colleagues in an informal setting.

Do ensure workers have everything they need on the first day

Creating a welcome experience takes planning, organisation and someone taking responsibility. Create a checklist of what needs to be in place ready for your new hire starting and communicate with all the relevant people or departments.

While not all roles require IT set up, there are other factors to consider to ensure a smooth start.

Do new employees need a uniform, or safety equipment? Do you need to make sure your new starter can access buildings and offices on their first day? Do they need to be added to internal phone or email systems? Whoever needs to be involved, make sure communications and roles are clearly understood.

Don’t presume it’s only up to the new employee to impress. Onboarding is a time when employees are forming their first impressions of your business and deciding whether or not they will commit to sticking around and offer a return on your investment in recruiting them.

Employees who are unhappy, or unsettled within their new role will quickly start to look to move on. Word soon gets around about companies who fail to live up to expectations, so a poor onboarding process could mean you encounter problems in hiring new staff in future.

When you consider the cost every time your business has to advertise, recruit and hire a new employee, making sure that you turn every offer into a productive and loyal employee offers a huge cost saving potential.

Do make use of technology to help manage onboarding

Making use of technology can help your business manage the onboarding process more efficiently and effectively.

By tracking all the tasks involved and ensuring no communications are missed along the way, technology can also help your business deliver an effective onboarding experience.

Do provide culture resources.

After your formal onboarding programmes have concluded, give employees the resources they’ll need to start practicing your culture on their own. If you give them sources to reference as they face their day-to-day work, they’re far more likely to develop culture-strengthening habits.

Make sure your employee handbook includes instructions on company culture, including mission, vision and values training.

Provide easy access to employee handbooks and any other content pieces that explain your culture.

When you assign work mentors, only consider employees who are engaged and active contributors to your company culture.

Do repeat!

Remember that the onboarding process isn’t complete until the employee is totally immersed into your culture. So, ensure ongoing training on culture to keep it top of mind for those who get it, and to educate those who don’t.

Always hold regular one-on-one meetings and use them as opportunities to discuss significant culture elements.

Use company and team meetings as opportunities to discuss your culture, specifically your values.

Do reap the benefits of a robust onboarding process.

Businesses that focus on onboarding and offer a positive experience to new employees can really differentiate themselves from the competition.

Making sure that you transform high quality recruits into productive employees is a positive approach to business success.

April 30

Be a progressive employer and conduct a disability, mental health and wellbeing audit in the workplace…….

In November 2018, the government published a new framework intended to support employers to record and report voluntarily on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

This recommends that employers voluntarily report more information about their actions on workplace mental health.

The obligation to conduct an audit is on large employers (those with over 250 employees) across all sectors – public, private and voluntary. These large employers must conduct an audit into their workplace mental health.

However, it can also be used by smaller employers who want to drive greater transparency in their organisation. How enthusiastically small employers will take up the framework – which may be perceived as just another bureaucratic task to take up scarce resources – remains to be seen.

However, the benefits for small to medium sized businesses undertaking an audit into their workplace mental health are significant.

What are the benefits of voluntarily reporting information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?

• improve employee engagement and retention, with consequent gains for performance and productivity – engaged employees are less likely to report workplace stress and take fewer days sickness absence
• better understand the experiences of disabled people and people with mental health conditions in your workforce
• better monitor internal progress in building a more inclusive environment for employees
• access a wider pool of talent and skills through promoting inclusive and disability-friendly recruitment, retention and progression policies
• set an industry example in driving a cultural shift towards increased transparency
• better serve and connect with disabled customers and communities, capitalising on spending power
• engage in open and supportive conversations about disabilities and health conditions to help enable employees to remain in work and achieve their potential

How do we conduct an audit?

GoodHR has created an audit form that can be emailed out to staff and then collected in anonymously. Please contact nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk if you would like a copy.

What do we do with the information gained from the audit?

It is important that the audit is not simply filed away but the data gathered from it is used constructively. The employer should report back on the audit, to the entire workforce, and include the following:

• the organisational policies that have been implemented or amended in relation to the recruitment and retention of disabled people
• support offered to employees with specific disabilities
• the role of networks and support groups
• progression and pay of disabled people
• workplace adjustments
• employee engagement scores

Also, in relation to mental health and wellbeing, the employer should report back on the following:

• employee take up of mental health support offered by the organisation
• the training offered to employees related to mental health
• the percentage of individuals within the organisation that are comfortable disclosing mental health conditions

For employers who choose to report information publicly, the annual report is advised as the most suitable place.

Transparency with employees

To reassure employees, who may be reluctant to share this sort of information, it is important to:
• state the questions used (on the audit form)
• explain the collection methodology – anonymised or not, depending on what is agreed.
• be transparent with employees about data usage, handling and storage so that they are reassured that the process is fully GDPR compliant.

Conclusion: why is the voluntary reporting framework a useful tool for employers?

Collecting relevant data – for instance around levels of disability employment – can pose a significant challenge for employers.

For this reason, the voluntary audit focuses not just on the publication of numbers, but also more broadly on the shaping and sharing of an organisational narrative which captures how an employer is seeking to support their employees to create an open and supportive culture around managing health at work.

March 4

Focus on preventing mental health issues arising in the work place.

Recently, the Prime Minister unveiled plans to transform mental health support in the workplace – the latest public recognition of the rising tide of employees suffering from mental health and stress at work issues. We do not yet know whether this latest initiative will actually help, but it is really important that employers don’t just focus on how to manage employees once they become ill but also what is behind their mental health issues and how they may prevent them arising.

Employers focus tends to be on potential disability discrimination issues – given that there is no requirement for employees to have two years’ service, and there is no cap on compensation if a disability discrimination claim is successful, this is understandable.

Furthermore, disability claims tend to focus upon how the employer dealt with the employee after they became unwell, considering questions such as have reasonable adjustments been made? Has there been unfavourable treatment because of something arising in consequence of disability? Has there been less favourable treatment because of disability?

Although it is important that employers keep these questions in mind when considering how to manage mental health and stress at work issues, too often insufficient attention is given to the reason why an employee may have fallen ill in the first place.

Duty of care

Legally, all employers have a duty of care to avoid causing “psychiatric injury” to their employees. Just as an employer can be held liable for causing physical injuries through unsafe working conditions, so too can liability arise for personal injury, as a result of causing an employee to sustain psychiatric injury.

Occupational stressors can be a key factor in causing an employee to develop a mental health issue, or in exacerbating an existing condition, such as:

• intense work pressure,
• excessive working hours,
• difficult working conditions, such as being subject to bullying,
• unreasonable performance/disciplinary management process,
• during periods of economic uncertainty, even robust employees can be at risk.

And it is not just mental health that is at risk in these situations, as being subjected to high levels of stress can also give rise to physiological disorders, such as a higher risk of heart attack.

Laying the blame

As the link between work and mental illness continues to gain even greater public recognition, there is also a growing trend of employees seeking to blame their employer for breaching the duty of care to avoid causing them psychiatric injury.

To succeed in a claim an employee would have to prove that the injury was reasonably foreseeable. For example, the court would ask – would a reasonable employer have foreseen that the employee was at risk of developing a psychiatric illness because of work-related factors?

What should employers do?

Here are some tips:

• Adopt a company-wide approach to promoting the wellbeing of your staff – make sure you have a stress policy in your handbook and ensure everyone knows it is there and be familiar with its content.

• Make sure line managers are aware of the Health & Safety Executive Management Standards which cover the key areas of work that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates :

o Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment

o Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work

o Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues

o Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour

o Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles

o Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

• Make sure line managers receive education and training on mental health so that they have the confidence to respond and know what to do if an employee asks for help.

• Establish preventative measures, such as return-to-work and exit interview programmes.

• Look out for trends in illness and sickness absence within your workforce. These may identify high risk managers and departments, and you can then take appropriate measures to address any issues.

• Ensure that a manager is accountable for being in contact with an employee who is developing a mental health issue at work. Touch base with them regularly, in an appropriate manner, as this can have a positive impact and reduce the scope for an individual to become embittered and more likely to bring a claim.

If you need any assistance at all please email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk

February 5

The dreaded appraisal!!

In many organisations, appraisals are widely reported to be dreaded by all parties. Managers see them as an embarrassing formality which take up too much precious time. Staff often say they find appraisals daunting, often threatening and, sometimes, even demotivating. Done badly, the appraisal process can indeed frustrate and damage staff relations, especially if seen as a one-off ‘end of term report’ – or even worse, a ‘character assassination’!

As a result, many high-profile organisations are publicly ditching their appraisal systems for a serious of regular ‘catch-ups’ and it can seem overwhelmingly tempting to follow suit, but it is worth looking at the issue more deeply before you do…..

• The clear operational focus of frequent, short-term reviews tends to be dominated by managers setting short-term KPIs, leaving competencies and values overlooked;

• The short-term focus can also ignore employees’ career development, which naturally needs a longer-term focus;

• Changing the frequency of appraisal does not magically make managers more skilled at, or more enthusiastic about, developing staff performance. Nor does it mean that they are
going to be any better at tackling that difficult conversation! Training is all important.

Instead of abandoning the traditional annual appraisal, a better way forward may be as follows:

1. The employee completes a self-appraisal form and the comments of those who work closely with them are fed into that appraisal form

2. The manager adds their comments to the appraisal form

3. The manager (who has been trained to hold appraisals), holds an appraisal meeting and feeds back all the comments – care and sensitivity are required because the system is
transparent with full disclosure which should make those tough conversations easier to conduct

4. The objectives and development goals that are identified in the appraisal meeting can then be reviewed on a regular basis – the appraisal report is not filed away for another 12
months but, rather, is used to monitor progress through the year.

The way ahead may therefore be an annual appraisal followed by regular catch ups through the year. Your employees are also more likely to benefit from an ongoing approach that creates a structure for your staff and better monitors employee progress.

Common pitfalls to be avoided:

• Appraisals conducted by a boss and subordinate alone often lack objectivity. Consider a more senior employee conducting the appraisal, or even an external third party;
• To be effective, all the senior management must be fully committed to the process, should provide training for those who conduct appraisals, and should also make the process
and procedures transparent and consistent throughout their organisation.;
• Appraisal linked to discussions on pay or bonus only diminish the possibility of an honest and objective interchange and may well increase the chances of employee demotivation
and loss of mutual good-will;
• Appraisals conducted in the absence of any clear and agreed statements of what is expected of the individual being appraised (usually the job description) mean that it is
highly unlikely that a review of performance can be either fair or objective.

• Many appraisals are conducted badly: for example:

– without impartiality;
– without proper preparation or due reference to appropriate records;
– without reserving adequate time for the process;
– without careful listening skills and two-way participation;
– without due confidentiality;
– without appropriate follow-up action which is properly recorded and monitored.

• Some methods of appraisal are far too time-consuming, requiring more effort than the parties involved feel is worth-while and/or they are much too bureaucratic, based on a ‘tick-
box mentality’ that allows for no proper discussion;

• Some appraisals concentrate on past performance at the expense of looking forward. The outcome of an appraisal should never come as a complete surprise. It is the saving up of
‘bad news’ until appraisal-time that probably gives appraisals such a bad name.

A reason to appraise….

Despite all the innate mistrust of the appraisal system (by those in particular who have seen the process fail before or conducted badly), the benefits of a well-conducted appraisal process are substantial.

These include opportunities to:

• review performance and development needs formally and objectively;
• seek collaborative solutions to possible problems, before they become a running sore;
• praise and acknowledge good performance;
• improve relationships and internal communications;
• improve the effectiveness of the organisation and its employees.

If your appraisal form needs a refresh or your appraisal process is a little ad hoc or your senior management team could benefit from an external appraiser do get in touch with me at nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk

February 1

Gender pay…workplace harassment and bullying…mental health… are you up to speed?

The spotlight focused on these issues, by both the traditional and social media, has never burned so bright. That they are now openly discussed is a good thing.

So there has never been a better time to scrutinise existing policies on these areas and make sure they are as good as they can be; make any amendments that are needed and ensure that company policies on each are effectively communicated. It’s a time to be proactive and transparent. This not only reassures existing employees but acts as a signal to everyone – including future talent – that your business cares: that these are issues that matter and that you are prepared to act on them.

So what steps should you be taking to make certain your policies on these critical areas are as up to speed as they can be?

1. Scrutinise your company approach to pay and remuneration

Gender pay gap reporting legislation, as anticipated, has moved pay and gender issues to the top of the agenda. Though not the same as equal pay, the reporting has nevertheless highlighted that significant gender-based pay differences exist in far too many businesses.

So you need to scrutinise your company’s approach to remuneration. Check for any unjustifiable differences between male and female employees. If there are differences the onus is on you to prove that these differences are not gender related.

2. Be open with your staff on reward packages and pay rises

The trend among employers is already towards greater openness on reward packages and pay rises. Clearly this is driven to some extent by the gender pay gap reporting, but other legislation has contributed too, such as the Equality Act of 2010 that makes it illegal to prevent or restrict employees discussing pay.

Any employee can make a claim for equal pay at a tribunal – and retain that right for up to six months after they leave your employ. A tribunal can order contractual terms to be equalised in future, and order arrears to be paid for up to six years.

So you need to check for discrepancies in job types and pay structures, set up evaluation schemes to assess what constitutes equal work, check you are not discriminating against part-time workers, and build awareness in the business of barriers to women’s progress.

3. Harassment and bullying – take a stand

From unwanted physical contact and unwelcome remarks to shouting and persistent unwarranted criticism – harassment and bullying can take many forms.

You need to make clear what constitutes harassment and bullying and communicate your policies, including your grievance and disciplinary procedures. Be aware of cyber bullying too. Even if content is posted externally on someone else’s website, you could find yourself liable if it originates in your workplace.

Make sure people know how to get help and how to complain formally and informally. Treat all allegations quickly and confidentially and show that victimisation will not be tolerated. Keep records – names, dates, nature and frequency, action taken and follow up. Treat these with the utmost confidence.

Offer counselling by trained internal or external consultants. This should also be extended to those whose behaviour is unacceptable. They may, for whatever reason, not recognise what the problem is and should be given an opportunity to change.

4. Encourage good mental health

According to NHS figures at any given time one sixth of the adult population will have some form of mental health issue. Despite this prevalence mental health can still be seen as more difficult to deal with than physical health issues. Firstly you need to ensure your company fosters a supportive culture. Remember that legally a mental illness is classified as a disability, so you must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the individual’s needs.

There are a range of actions you can take to improve employee mental health, ranging from training to improve people management skills, to offering third-party assistance or counselling. You need to give your line managers the confidence to spot the warning signs and know how to react.

Ask yourself if it’s a workload issue. You need to get the balance right for all employees. Also would an interviewee coming to your business feel comfortable disclosing a mental health issue? Do your interviewers make your company policy on this area clear? It’s a good test of how confident you are (and how clear your policies are in this area).

Conclusion….

There is a legal agenda behind all these workplace ‘issues’, but above all they are about the overall good of your present and future workforce. If you want to attract and retain the very best talent having clear and well-communicated policies on gender pay, bullying and harassment and employee mental health will not only ensure you do not fall foul of the law – a law your employees have the power to enact through a tribunal – but also make for a better, happier, more empowered, and more productive workforce

If you need advice on any of these issues, please email me at nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk

January 9

What is garden leave and when should it be used?

Garden leave is one of the many tools employers have at their disposal to help protect their business interests.

If you place someone on garden leave (often known as ‘gardening leave’), it means that you require the employee to be away from the workplace during their notice period.

The employer is under no obligation to provide work or assign any duties to the employee for the whole or part of the employee’s notice period. It often involves asking the employee:
• not to perform any service for the company,
• not to attend the premises,
• not to use company equipment,
• to refrain from business contact with customers, suppliers and other employees.

Despite this, they still remain an employee and they will continue to receive salary and contractual benefits in the usual way.

They will also be bound by the express and implied terms of their contract of employment, most especially confidentiality clauses and restrictive covenants. This typically means that they will not be allowed to:

• work for another employer,
• act in a self-employed capacity,
• do anything that is contrary to the employer’s business interests.

They must be available for the employer, for example, if a manager has some queries or needs help with the handover.

Why do employers use garden leave?

Typically you will find a garden leave clause in the contracts of senior employees to:

• stop an employee working for a competitor until their notice period has come to a close (so even though they are not in the office, you retain control over them),
• keep them away from confidential or sensitive company data and prevent them from misusing this data,
• stop the employee from poaching customers or colleagues,
• enable the successor to the role to start work without worrying that the other employee will get in the way,
• they may also be used if the employer is concerned that the post-termination restrictive clauses applicable to the employee are not enforceable.

When can you put someone on garden leave?

It will occur when someone resigns from their post or is dismissed with notice.

What are the risks for employers?

If you do not have a clear and well-drafted garden leave clause in the employee’s contract of employment and you decide to place them on garden leave (and it has not been agreed to by the employee in writing), you expose yourself to the risk of claims of breach of contract. This could entitle the employee to argue that it amounts to a fundamental breach of the contract. They could resign and claim constructive dismissal. It could also mean you lose your rights to enforce post-termination restrictive covenants.

If the employee has a notice period which exceeds six months, the employer may not be permitted to enforce garden leave for the full period. This is because it’s likely a court would think it’s longer than necessary to protect the employer’s business interests.

To check that your business is protected with garden leave provisions and post-termination restrictive covenants please email me at nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk

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