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Office Romance

It’s Valentine’s Day, so what better time to look at the tricky issue of the office romance!

Keeping personal relationships at work professional can prove problematic. It’s natural that relationships develop in a working environment be it with colleagues, customers or suppliers but as an employer you need to consider the impact that these relationships can have on the organisation whilst respecting the privacy of your employees.

Two of the main concerns surround confidentiality and conflict of interest, both of which could be a big concern for you and the company.

What happens if your employee has a relationship with a supplier or customer whom they manage? Will your employees be offering more flexible terms? Will they be more generous with discounts?  Will confidential information be disclosed?

What happens if a relationship develops between a manager and a subordinate? Is there a chance of discrimination? Could you find yourself dealing with a harassment claim?

In order to minimise the chances of your business being compromised it makes sense to put a policy in place so everyone knows what is expected and although the company doesn’t promote such relations it is accepting of the fact that they will happen. The nature of your business will dictate some areas of your policy but letting employees know they can raise these issues in confidence should form a key part!


Please note: the above is not a complete guide to dealing with personal relationships in the workplace, it is written to highlight possible issues and to give employers useful tips. If you would like more information or help with any of the above please call us 01606 333677.



Discipline

A quick search on twitter revealed the following tweets:

“Got my disciplinary today just going to agree and nod cba with the hassle”

“If I wasn’t on my last disciplinary I would have actually stayed in bed today all day”

“I am so rubbish. Suppose to be getting all my disciplinary comebacks sorted but no!!! I am on twitter following you guys. P45 worth it all”

“Apparently someone at my mum's work wants to file a disciplinary because somebody ate their Jaffa Cakes”

Interesting stuff! It certainly shows us some fascinating points of view on the subject but we think it also shows a lack of understanding about the process and its importance too.

The key point is that an employer must always be fair and reasonable. It’s important an organisation has a procedure which meets with the ACAS Code of Practice and they carry out a full and proper investigation into the alleged misconduct.

It’s also essential that employees know what that procedure is and why they are now in a position where everyone is following it! It’s crucial to remain consistent in this situation and ensure the response to this particular disciplinary matter is in line with earlier incidents and to keep written records.

Being in this situation isn’t a pleasant experience for either party and as an employer it can be a minefield – it’s complex and often confusing and almost every single situation will appear to be different, often clouded by reasons and excuses. If you need it, get help. Getting it wrong can mean you end up at a tribunal.

Looking at this from another angle, it makes sense to put into place everything you can to limit the likelihood of a disciplinary situation arising. Take a step back and look at how your organisation currently operates, do you have clear rules and performance standards? What is communication like in your company? Do you train your managers to help achieve positive outcomes? By taking it one step at a time you can make improvements which will benefit you, your company and your employees.

Please note: the above is not a guide to the disciplinary process; it is a snapshot of current attitudes along with a few useful tips for employers. If you would like more information or help with any of the above please call us 01606 333677.


How to Manage Employee Attendance During Severe Weather and Public Transport Disruption


With the weather forecast set to freezing, there may shortly be occasions when employees have difficulty in travelling to work due to severe weather conditions and disruptions to public transport.


Whilst you should expect your employees to make every effort to come to work, you must also have due regard for their health and safety and employees should under no circumstances travel if it is dangerous to do so.

Deciding how to react in such circumstances can be a bit of headache for employers so, here are some general guidelines to help set out a fair and reasonable approach to managing should the worst weather occur.

 

• Severe weather or disruptions to public transport may make travelling to work slower or more difficult. Where employees find that their journey to work is delayed they should, where possible, contact their line manager or supervisor at the earliest opportunity.

• Employees are expected to make every effort to arrive to work on time. Where poor weather conditions or disruptions to public transport result in employees arriving to work late, can reasonably be expected to make up the time lost (if possible, within one month).

• On occasions, for example in the event of road closures due to severe weather or the total shut down of public transport, it may be impossible for employees to attend work. On such occasions employees should normally be required to take annual leave in respect of that day. Where employees have exhausted their annual leave entitlement, if agreed by the employer, the time away from work would be unpaid.

• If unexpected weather conditions which will make travel difficult occur during the working day, employees could, at management discretion, be allowed to leave work early in order to travel home.

• Certain employees whose normal work includes working from home, may be able to do so in circumstances where travel to work is impossible or impractical due to severe weather or disruption to public transport. However, such employees should only work from home if authorised to do so by their line manager.

• If employees are unable to attend work due to extreme adverse weather, they should contact their line manager (by start of the working day or as soon as reasonably practicable), to inform him/her that they are unable to attend work and to agree the basis on which they take time off, e.g. short notice holiday or unpaid leave.

• Employees who abuse the above procedure should expect to be subject to disciplinary action and this should be written into the Company’s policy accordingly.

If employers adopt a policy as set out above, this should be introduced as being non-contractual and the employer should reserve the right to amend or withdraw it at any time.


Annual Leave

Annual leave and sickness absence can be a very difficult subject to fully master.  But there are a few points below from recent case law which we have found useful;

1. Workers on sick leave must continue to accrue annual leave under the WTD (Working Time Directive) during that period of sick leave.

 

2. In the case of a worker on long-term sick leave, the WTD is to be read as requiring the carry-over of annual leave.

3. A worker can take annual holiday whilst on sick leave, for example, to top up their SSP if enhanced sick pay has been exhausted.

4. Where a worker misses a period of prearranged annual leave as a result of falling ill before or during that period of leave, he or she has the option to designate an alternative period for the exercise of the leave entitlement.  Therefore, they must be able to take that annual leave following their return to work, even if this means carrying the annual leave over into the next leave year.

5. Whilst an employer can give notice to workers to take annual leave during a period of long-term sickness absence in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions, it cannot force the worker to take such annual leave.

6. The WTD provisions in respect of carry-over and payment in lieu do not apply to the full 5.6 weeks’ annual leave entitlement under the WTR; nor, by extension, to any additional contractual leave to which the worker may be entitled. They only apply to the four weeks’ annual leave entitlement under the WTD.

7. This highlights the need for employers to make budgetary provision for workers on long-term sick leave to carry forward annual leave from their period of sick leave and to use it in the next available annual leave reference period (ie usually one year).

8. It also raises the need in some cases (most likely capability dismissals) to budget for a large payment in lieu of annual leave on termination, even where the worker has ceased to be entitled to sick pay or other benefits.


Unfair Dismissal – Are You Keeping Track?

As you are all aware on 6th April 2012 the qualifying period for unfair dismissal was extended from 12 months continuous employment to 2 years.  This change applied to people who started their employment on or after 6th April 2012. 

The reasons behind the change were to reduce the burden of employment legislation for employers and to make it easier to recruit.  But do not forget that there are a number of ‘day 1’ rights for which no qualifying period is necessary, for example, potential discrimination claims and some unfair dismissal claims such as Whistle blowing

There are now two qualifying periods for claiming unfair dismissal:
1. Employees employed before 6th April 2012 require 1 year’s continuous service
2. Employees who start employment on or after 6th April 2012 require 2 year’s continuous service (except in automatically unfair cases)

So now that there are two qualifying periods, some of the things we recommend are:
• Ensure you keep a register of employees’ start dates
• Consider whether you need to change any of your employment practices such as disciplinary procedures
• Be aware of other claims for which there is no qualifying period – such as claims of discrimination or whistleblowing


How Engaged Are Your Employees?

Many of the factors influencing employee engagement will be common to all organisations. To help identify these common factors, CIPD commissioned Kingston University and Ipsos/MORI to undertake a national survey of employee attitudes. The results provide a national benchmark against which employers can measure the findings of their own employee attitude surveys.

According to the study engagement can be said to have three dimensions:
• emotional engagement - being very involved emotionally with one’s work

• cognitive engagement - focusing very hard whilst at work

• physical engagement - being willing to ‘go the extra mile’ for your employer.

The report finds that over a third of employees are actively engaged with their work – a rather higher figure than some other surveys. Of the three types of engagement identified, levels of emotional engagement are the highest, with around six in ten employees being emotionally engaged (feeling engrossed in their work), whilst three in five are cognitively engaged (focusing very hard on their work) and around four in ten are physically engaged (willing to go the extra mile).

Other key results from the research are:

• More women than men are engaged with their work.

• Around a quarter of under 35s report feel engaged compared with two in five over 35s.

• Almost half of managers are engaged compared with around three in ten non-managers.

• Those on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more likely to speak positively about their organisation and less likely to quit than those not employed on flexible contracts.

• Public sector employees are more likely not to feel their senior managers have a clear vision for the organisation and have less trust and confidence in their senior managers. They are also less likely to believe organisational communication.
Outcomes of engagement

The report states that the positive linkages which research has found between employee engagement, advocacy, performance and intention to quit mean that it is in employers’ interests to drive up levels of engagement amongst their workforce. But levels of engagement have significant benefits for employees as well, since engagement is positively associated with job satisfaction and experiences of employment.
Implications for your business

Given the clear association between engagement, job satisfaction, advocacy and performance, there is every incentive for employers to seek to drive up levels of engagement among the workforce. Here are some of the factors you should consider:

• allowing people the opportunity to feed their views and opinions upwards is the single most important driver of engagement

• keeping employees informed about what is going on in the organisation is critical

• employees need to see that managers are committed to the organisation in order to feel engaged

• having fair and just management processes for dealing with problems is important in driving up levels of performance.

Different groups of employees are influenced by different combinations of factors, and as employers we need to consider carefully what is most important to our own staff.


Some Pitfalls Of Interviews

When it comes to conducting an interview, there is a lot of work an preparation needed for it from the interviewer.  It can be just as nerve-wracking for them as it is for the interviewee. 

Below are a number of pitfalls when it comes to conducting interviews.

• Lack of preparation
This includes not having read the candidate’s application, being unclear about the purpose and responsibilities of the job and the terms of employment.  As the saying goes ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.

• Poor Structure
Without any structure to the interview you could either run on for long time, or miss out on some vital information.  Go in with a plan of how you want the interview to run – what will you do first, how many questions, any assessments to complete, how do you have and how will you close the interview?

• Lack of notes
No matter how good the interview or selection procedure, it needs to be backed up with a detailed record.   This also helps to show why certain candidates were not selected and why others were.  Also make sure you make notes during the interview, as this gives you something to refer back to at a later date, especially if you are seeing a number of people in a short space of time as they can all merge into one person when thinking back. 

• Its question time!
Interviewers should not offer opinions or suggest the answers they want.  However, do not avoid hard questions if you feel they are relevant and will help with making your decision.  Follow up relevant topics, “Why” is a good follow-up question.  Think about what you want to ask the candidate, and use a mix of open and closed questions and ensure you probe where relevant.  Stick to the specifics. 

• Look who’s talking!
During the interview, the Interviewers should not talk too much.  You should mainly be listening, using silence to elicit further revelations.

• Prejudices
These get in the way of effective interviewing, whether they are for or against the candidate. You should try and exclude them and avoid being influenced by appearance.

• Its chemistry time
Do not let the lack of rapport with the candidate or a very good rapport with the candidate influence your assessment of the person, qualifications, skills and abilities.


 

OUT OF THE QUESTION? – How to decide if an HR outsourced service is for you…

Do you have unresolved people issues but are unsure if an outsourced hr service is for you?  Consult the SAGEGREEN OUTSOURCINDEXER to find out.
Simply answer the 5 questions below, add up your score and find out what it says about your outsourcing needs…
1. How many of the following needs apply to your organization? (tick all that apply)

a) Reduction of overheads and employees
b) Reduction of fixed costs
c) Access to external skills
d) Increased focus on our core competencies (not having to deal with red tape of employment)
e) Ability to measure the benefit and cost of people management activities

2. How many change projects do you have on the go at present?

a) None – we don’t need to change a thing
b) Fewer than 5 – we’re pretty much where we want to be
c) More than 10 – we have a lot to do!
d) More than 15 – Er…

3. How much do you know about how forthcoming changes in employment legislation will affect your business?

a) Quite a lot because we employ lawyers to tell us
b) Something because I spend a lot of time researching this and attending seminars
c) Not a lot – I prefer to wait and see if it affects us at all
d) Nothing and I am not really interested to know

4. When was the last time you measured feedback from your employees about what it is like to work for your company?
a. Within the last six months
b. Within the last year
c. About two years ago
d. What’s feedback?

5. Does your organization typically buy in or build the specialist services it needs?
a. We usually buy them in
b. We mostly spend time and money building our own
Add up your score and check out the OUTSOURCINDEXER’s conclusions:

1a. 10 points

1b. 10 points

1c. 10 points

1d. 10 points

1e. 10 points

1f. 0 points

2a. 0 points

2b. 5 points

2c. 8 points

2d. 10 points

 

 

3a. 0 points

3b. 5 points

3c. 8 points

3d. 10 points

4a.0 points

4b. 5 points

4c. 8 points

4d. 10 points

 

 

 

5a. 5 points

5b. 10 points

 

 


Less than 10
You seem to have the capability, commitment and infrastructure to meet all of your own human resources needs without any outsourced assistance.  But, make sure the processes and methods supporting your internal services continue to meet yours and your employees needs by observing what your competitors are doing and regularly seeking feedback from your employees.

Between 10 and 50
An outsourced HR service could be a viable option for you. You should undertake an in-depth analysis of your current HR processes and procedures.  Obtain expert assistance to do this and benchmark yourself against your competitors.
More than 50
You need HR outsourcing.  Get some advice about how best to progress.  Avoid the pain by letting someone take care of this for you – someone with the time and resources to deliver a first-class service.


How to Handle Remote Working Effectively

When we think about remote working most of us think this means working means working from home or in some satellite office, but for many of us it is more about travelling around the county, the country and the world on a regular basis.

Whilst the flexibility in location, travel and hours of work together with opening up
employment opportunities across the country or the world can be very attractive, if not managed properly such remote working can lead to employees feeling isolated and left out from other company activities and a general feeling of being unloved.

Effective remote working is not just about ensuring employees have the practical kit and equipment to be able to carry out their job  it’s also whether their working environment, their health, safety, welfare and well-being are being adequately catered for.

Here are some of the key differences faced by employers of remote workers:

 

Office, factory or work-place based workers

 

Remote workers

 

have day-to-day and face-to-face contact with their managers and colleagues

 

may only have sporadic contact with managers and colleagues

 

do not have to be personally concerned with

the upkeep of their workspace

 

may have to organise and supervise the

upkeep of their workspace

 

are often supervised

 

are unsupervised

 

have swift access to in-house support services

 

do not have swift access to support services

 

may have to be at the office during set hours

 

may be able to work flexibly as long as tasks

are completed satisfactorily

Source CIPD

If you find yourself in the position of managing workers remotely, one of the most important steps to take is to set clear and agreed objectives with each of your remote workers.

To be effective the objectives should contain:

• A statement of background – what has led to this situation?

• The purpose – why is this being done now?

• The overall objective (in fewer than 30 words)

• The main deliverables with expected delivery dates

• The main benefits to be gained in financial and company terms

• The costs – this should not be confused with the financial benefits to the company;
These costs are the costs of establishing remote working

• The skills needed, paying particular attention to skills that do not exist

• Any other activities that will affect remote working or that your remote working will
affect the benefits to the worker.

If you are responsible for managing remote workers you need to consider all of the above points and discuss them with not only your employee but also anyone else who will be affected by them
(Such as other colleagues in project management terms) and these discussions should be as wide-ranging as possible in order to make objectives understood, relevant and achievable.


 

It looks like winter's coming!

I think we can all say our summer is officially over and winter is settling in, not that we really had much of a hot summer!

However, it is starting to get colder so employers need to think about the cold weather, snow and ice before it arrives.  The winter weather can cause a number of work related risks to our employees, so we need to ensure we are prepared. 

The main legal requirement is the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA).  This states that employers are required to protect their own employees and third parties who could be affected by their work activities.  This does therefore include the consideration of the impact of wintery weather.

You can be sure that winter will bring increased levels of absenteeism as a result of bad weather, transport disruption and sickness.  So be prepared for absence.  Where extreme weather impacts on staff attendance (e.g. cannot get into work due to the snow), it is good HR practice for employers to find alternatives to docking pay, thereby avoiding bad feeling among staff. Alternatives to docking pay would be to:

•  require the employee to take the day as holiday (agreement on this is preferred)
•  provide for home working where appropriate
•  allow staff to make up the time.

Some of the things to also consider are:

•  Flu Jabs and the control of office spread bugs - You should give strong encouragement to your employees to take advantage of flu jabs and indeed any other safeguards that their GPs recommend. You could even consider handing out boxes of tissues for employees’ to use and encouraging the use of sanitising handwashes. This may help limit the spread of germs and will also let employees see that they are cared for.
•  Epidemics or Snow stopping operations – A great problem can arise if there is an epidemic, this causes such a high absence level that the organisation cannot operate satisfactorily, or if there such a high snow fall it stops operations due to employees unable to get in or you to get to your customers. In these cases flexibility of the team is a major advantage. So check to see who else could do the work of each employee and train where needed before bad things happen. Much of the solution will depend upon which members of staff are still available at the time. A first priority should be to tell customers and suppliers how the situation will affect them. They may not be greatly sympathetic but at least will be grateful for you giving them warning of problems. Even if your organisation can only tick over during an epidemic you should ensure that cash continues to flow so that you do not run out of funds and are still able to pay your suppliers.
•  Contingency plans for burst office pipes – make sure before winter sets in that you have your heating checked or give it a quick run to make sure it is working ok.  You should also consider if you have the facilities to get it repaired quickly, or if you should have some form of alternative heating available. 
•  Slipping – According to Croner one of the most significant risks associated with the winter weather is the risk of slipping due to the ice or snow.  Employers do have a duty of care to both employees and the public.  Therefore, employers need to be prepared and take reasonable action to avoid this as much as possible.  So think about the use of salt, grit and signage if the floor is wet.      
•  Low temperatures in the workplace - The Health and Safety (Workplace) Regulations 1992, with their associated Approved Code of Practice (ACOP), require the temperature inside workplaces to be reasonable. What constitutes a reasonable temperature depends on the work activities.  But for example, workrooms where there is no work that involves severe physical effort, eg an office, the temperature should not drop below 16°C.  If there is a situation where this minimum temperature cannot be achieved, e.g. the work is outdoors. Here, warm clothing, hot drinks and warm rest areas should be provided, and time spent in the cold areas limited.
•  Driving for work (but not daily commuting) – the Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to consider the driving employees do for work reasons.  So with the wintery conditions coming up it can make driving conditions very dangerous.  So it would be worth while completing a risk assessment to look at when should an employee not drive at all.  Also look at sending reminders out about the maintenance of the vehicles as this can have an impact. 


The best advice and practice is to put a plan of action in place before the inclement weather arrives.


 

Key Points For Managing Maternity Issues

Banks might be considered among the worst companies for customer service, but they are the best to work for if you have children, according to a survey for the charity Working Families.

Four of the 10 employers scoring the highest marks in the charity's annual survey were banks - with Deloitte coming first in the ‘Best for Mothers’ category.

You may not have aspirations to win awards in this area, but, it is vitally important for your business that you manage matters in a fair and proper manner.

Here are a few tips to take into account when you are managing maternity. 

DO -

-Advise employees of their right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave (Ordinary and Additional)
-Provide pregnant employees with the information they require and what their duties and responsibilities are
-Respond within 28 days when a woman gives notice of going on maternity leave
-Maintain employees’ terms and conditions of employment during maternity leave
-Ensure that pregnant employees are clear about which benefits will continue during their maternity leave
-Discuss with them the concept of “keeping in touch” days and how these can benefit both parties

DON'T -

-Assume that pregnant employees will know what their entitlements are and how and when they should notify you by
-Allow women to return to work within two weeks of giving birth
-Force an employee to maintain contact or come into work during maternity leave
-Terminate an employee’s employment without reference to her if she does not return to work on the day she is due back


Just Like Winter, Employment Changes Are On The Way!

Back in January this year we reported on a number of proposed changes to employment legislation in the UK.
The Coalition Government’s stated objective was to reform and simplify employment law in order to reduce red tape for business.  Our view at that time was that whilst these are important developments we were unsure as to just how much would survive consultation to be implemented.
Some changes have already occurred, for example, with effect  from 6  April 2012,  the qualifying period for claiming Unfair Dismissal increased from one two years (for employees engaged from that date) and a number of other changes are on their way.
If you are an employer (particularly in the SME sector), here are some ones to watch:
• The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill currently on its way through Parliament will allow employers to hold “without prejudice” conversations with employees about their performance.

• The review by Mr Justice Underhill of employment tribunal practice and procedures has recommended changes to help identify and manage weak cases more effectively.

•  The Ministry of Justice has confirmed it will introduce fees for users of the Employment Tribunal from the summer of 2013, in a bid to encourage employers and staff to mediate or settle disputes.

There are also plans underway affecting other areas such as the current (optional) pre-claim conciliation scheme (PCC) operated by ACAS which is currently used by only 20% of claimants.  It is proposed that potential claimants will be required to submit key details of their dispute to ACAS within the relevant time limit (usually 3 or 6 months) before claims are submitted to an Employment Tribunal.  Financial penalties are also planned for employers who  breach an employee’s rights and statutory annual leave.
The government has stated that there is still much work to be done to develop the new rules underpinning the new process and it remains to be seen what impact if any these changes will have on business.
To learn more about these proposals and how they might affect your business, contact Jane Caven at Sagegreen Human Resources or attend one of our regional Employment Seminars to hear about changes first-hand fro m our employment team.

Details to be posted on our website shortly.


 

Key Points for Managing Dismissal

It seems obvious that if company disciplinary procedures are correctly followed there is less risk of a challenge of unfair dismissal at Employment Tribunal. However, if a claim is made and reaches an Employment Tribunal it is important that employers understand the basis on which the case will be judged.

Here are some key factors to note if you are considering dismissing an employee: 


To defeat a complaint of unfair dismissal, you must establish:

1. the principal reason for dismissal, and
2. that it was a potentially fair reason for dismissal or,
3. was ‘some other substantial reason of a kind such as to justify the dismissal of an employee holding the position which the employee held.

You must then show that the reason was:

- a reason which relates to the ‘capability’ of the employee for performing work of the kind which s/he was employed to do, or

- a reason which relates to the ‘qualifications’ of the employee for performing work of the kind which s/he was employed to do, or

- A reason which relates to the conduct of the employee, or

- That the employee was redundant, or

- That the employee could not continue to work in the position which he held without contravention of a statutory duty or restriction, or

- Some other substantial reason capable of justifying dismissal

Also, take note that the burden to establish the reason for the dismissal is on YOU, the employer.


How should an employer deal with a complaint of bullying?

We are often asked by clients about the correct way to deal with difficult and sensitive situations involving allegations of bullying and harassment.  Here are some key steps to consider if you are faced with such a situation.
The first step in dealing with bullying or harassment in the workplace is to follow your organization’s grievance procedure with respect to the bullying, and the organization’s disciplinary and dismissal process with respect to the alleged perpetrator. A well drafted policy will always include informal stages which should be followed in appropriate cases. Some organizations have an express policy dealing with bullying which should correspond with the stages in the disciplinary and grievance process. The following additional points should be emphasized:

• All employees and managers should be fully aware of the provisions of the policy and trained in its implementation.
• The procedures should be followed consistently with respect to all such allegations.
• The policy should also incorporate procedures which correspond with the equal opportunities policy so that racial; sexual harassment etc. can be identified and dealt with in a sensitive way.
• The policy should state that harassment and bullying is not and will not be tolerated within the organization and define what constitutes bullying and harassment.
Your organization’s grievance procedure should be followed and all such procedures should cater for the possibility that the line manager may be the source of the grievance and therefore nominate an alternative senior member of management to hear the grievance. The following steps will be essential:
Investigation
• A thorough investigation undertaken with care and sensitivity.
• Investigations into allegations of bullying should also be thorough and impartial.
• You must protect the rights of both the alleged harasser and the person making the complaint and, therefore, confidentiality is crucial.
• Reference to a trained confidential counselling service as well as dealing with the grievance can help the Company’s position. The counsellor should have no direct role in the grievance procedure.
• The investigation may begin with a thorough confidential interview with the complainant to ascertain the facts:

o Who was involved?
o Were there witnesses?
o When and where did the incident occur?
o An indication of what the employee wants to happen, e.g. disciplining the person concerned, reallocation of duties, reorganization of team members, relocation etc.

• Moving the employee will only be appropriate where the complainant specifically requests this rather than continuing to work with the alleged bully.
Further steps
• Explain the procedure in full to the complainant, and follow that procedure to the letter.
• Prepare written statements from all witnesses in the investigation.
• Interview the alleged harasser confidentially and keep a record of that.
• Advise the harasser of the allegations against them and the disciplinary procedure if necessary, listening to their version of events, allowing them to be accompanied if required.
• A copy of the complainant's written statement may be given to the alleged harasser who should be afforded an opportunity to reply to the allegations.
Action is Key
• Following the initial interviews (depending on the strength of evidence) if the complaint is valid the employer should take prompt action to stop the bullying.
• Action taken by the employer may include suspension on full pay and/ or invoking the full disciplinary and dismissal procedure which may lead to dismissal in serious cases.
• A verbal warning or written may be appropriate in minor isolated cases.
• Monitor the ongoing relationship between both employees after the incident.
If you do not know who to believe and there is a total conflict of evidence a very detailed investigation should be undertaken. The senior manager handling the grievance should talk to all witnesses in an effort to ascertain whether or not the alleged incident occurred. You only have to have a reasonable belief based on a thorough investigation. It does not matter if you are subsequently proved to be wrong as long as you had a genuine belief that the incidents occurred at the time you took action.

While every care has been taken in compiling these notes, Sagegreen cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions; the notes are not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.


Is it too early to be thinking about 2013 ?

A client of ours started their budgeting programme last week. Amazing, but given all the turmoil of the markets, the weather, the Jubilee, the Euros, the Olympics and now the Paralympics we do still need to manage our businesses as usual. Whether you are clinging on and fighting for survival or desparately trying to cope with a rapid expansion programme the reality of your day job is still there. That does mean that you need to look ahead and plan. Plan using your best information dosed with a real splash of ambition. Hopefully, this will give you more confidence aswell as a list of things to focus on. 2013 ? - well there’s only 1 Bank Holiday, Halloween, bonfire night and Christmas left of 2012.

 


 

New Payment Powers for Employment Tribunals

In 2010 the Government began a review of employment law in an attempt to modernise the employment tribunal system and to make it more efficient.
The review included plans to introduce financial penalties for unsuccessful respondents and fees for making claims to employment tribunals.
The changes were implemented on the 6th April 2012 and from that date the payment of expenses to parties and witnesses for attendance at tribunal hearings has ceased.
In addition, tribunals now have powers to direct that parties to the case should bear the costs of witness attendance, where a witness order (to attend) has been issued. The winning party can now claim these costs back from the losing  party.
The cap on costs awards has been raised from £10,000 to £20,000 but, such costs are currently awarded in specific circumstances where a party is deemed to have acted unreasonably or is their claim is vexatious.


What’s all this talent management, executive coaching and business planning malarkey?

Unless you are very lucky a business without a plan is unlikely to achieve what the stakeholders want. Without skilled people motivated and intent on doing the right things in the right way no plan is going to be delivered. Good talent management is about identifying existing skills and future skill requirements and equipping the team with them to deliver the plan. Executive coaching is a highly focused tool to equip key players with these skills. It can accelerate personal development and substantially increase motivation and team engagement. But it has to be totally results focused and in the context of the business plan. So Business planning needs talent management which can often be made very effective with executive coaching.


Tips on how to deal with Ego/Personality and other office conflicts...

According to a study by Psychometrics Canada into conflict in the workplace, the most common causes are personality clashes/egos (86%), poor leadership (73%), lack of honesty (67%) stress (64%) and conflicting values (59%)

Most people will, at some time, come into contact with some (if not all!) of the above and on occasion it may even have been you.  But, what do you do  if you are the manager or leader within an organization dealing with such issues?  How do you manage such situations effectively to get employees back on track?  Here are some ideas as to how you can tackle the issues decisively and effectively:

1.Do not be afraid to get involved at an early stage – if you see or know of something occurring, intervene, don’t wait in the hope that things will blow-over or sort themselves out – they seldom do!

2.Be open and honest with all parties concerned – don’t duck the issues or try to placate individuals at the expense of others

3.Keep to the facts of the matter – resist the temptation to speculate as to why individuals have  behaved as they have – stick to the evidence at hand

4.Never make things personal – if matters relate to behaviours ask the individual(s) to self-assess in order to recognise their behaviour and make changes, do not try to do this on their behalf

5.Always let the individual(s) know the impact their behaviour is having on others and how this makes you/others feel

6.Avoid blame and assume positive intent – that is, try to (genuinely) understand why the individual(s) have behaved as they have and deal with the root causes rather than the symptoms or outcomes from those cause

7.Always monitor situations after the event and remain vigilant to problems arising again in the future

One last thought to leave you with is that not every situation can be redeemed, so, most importantly do not unwittingly move into ‘saviour syndrome’ whereby you try endlessly to resolve the same issue over and over again and it can be more effective sometimes to accept that it is just not possible to put things right and when this happens seek advice from HR or other employment professionals to find the best way forward.

 

 


 

Are you sick of this?

For many employers in the UK sickness absence can cause considerable concern.  While employees will, on occasions be sick, the employer should try to ensure that effective absence management procedures are in place to minimise the impact of sickness absence.

So you need to think about
- having a sickness absence policy and procedure in place that is communicated to all employees
- conducting return to work interviews
- continued communication with the employee, especially if they are on long term sickness absence
- ensuring you measure and monitor sickness absence
- training managers on dealing with absence issues and the organisation’s policy

If it sounds like a lot to do, don’t worry.  You can get help with all that.

Employers can get into the tricky situation of where an employee is frequently off or has been off for a substantial amount of time and they’re not sure on how best to approach it.  If that’s the situation you find yourself in, give us a call.  We’re help to help.

 


 

 


Enjoy the sweet taste of success...

A specialist equipment manufacturer was, like many businesses nowadays, finding their sales were depleted and that the whole business seemed to be underperforming. 

Motivation among the employees was understandably low and the Managing Director decided it was time to get some expert help. They really needed to find new ways to increasing sales in traditional markets.

They asked our team at Sagegreen for objective help and experience and we began a coaching for improvement programme with their sales people. During the programme of both one to one coaching and team training sessions, they learned new skills, developed new ideas and challenged their own attitudes about the best way to attack the job at hand. As a result, team members became more closely aware of their own motivations and became re-energised.

Recently we received great news, for our client and us: “Mark, one of the sales team, who has been totally re-energised since the training programme, landed the company’s single largest order. Not only was it for £250K, but he sold a difficult product to a new market segment.”

As if that weren’t success enough, it was followed by: “Rob, working on the same difficult product, has just had the green light from a customer for a £1 million order.”

We just love the taste of success, don’t you?


 

Have you got a buddy?

Do you currently have an induction process in place for when you take on new employees or when you promote current employees?  Does it achieve everything you want it to?

If you haven’t an induction process in place, it might be worth taking a moment to consider one.

Inductions help to integrate new people into the organisation and their new role.  They enable new staff to learn about the structure, culture and rules of the organisation. 

What could an induction programme include?  Well, you can package a lot of pre-employment information in it, a handbook, your company policies and procedures, health and safety gen.  You can include pay information, available benefits, their contract of employment, notes on training and general information on your organisation.  The more knowledge staff have about their employer, the sooner they’ll feel part of it and be able to contribute more.  Both parties win.

Have you considered organising a ‘buddy’ for the employee for a few weeks to show them around, support them and answer any questions?  This can really pay dividends, as many of our clients have found.

We’re pretty cool when it comes to helping employees settle into their new role.  Maybe we can help you and yours.
Are you aware of the planned implementation of "auto-enrolment" of employees to pension schemes?

This development requires all employers automatically to enrol eligible workers into a qualifying workplace pension scheme to which the employer must contribute, unless the worker chooses to opt out.

Employees can be enrolled into an existing company pension scheme if it meets or exceeds minimum requirements. Alternatively, you can amend current schemes to meet the requirements, you can set up a new scheme or arrange for enrolment into the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST).

However, there's no need for major panic!

The auto-enrolment duty is being phased in according to employer size: larger to medium-sized employers are affected between October 2012 and July 2014, small and micro-employers from August 2014 to September 2016.

Contribution levels are also being phased in and will rise over time. Just ask us for details and we'll be glad to help. 


 

Pension changes – are you ready for auto-enrolment?

Are you aware of the planned implementation of ‘auto-enrolment’ of employees to pension schemes? 

This development requires all employers automatically to enrol eligible workers into a qualifying workplace pension scheme to which the employer must contribute, unless the worker chooses to opt out.  

Employees can be enrolled into an existing company pension scheme if it meets or exceeds minimum requirements.  Alternatively, you can amend current schemes to meet the requirements, you can set up a new scheme or arrange for enrolment into the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST).

However, there’s no need for major panic!

The auto-enrolment duty is being phased in according to employer size:  larger to medium-sized employers are affected between October 2012 and July 2014, small and micro-employers from August 2014 to September 2016.

Contribution levels are also being phased in and will rise over time.  Just ask us for details and we’ll be glad to help.


 


How many coaches does it take to change a light bulb?

This is a question I would put to all employers who are thinking about introducing a coaching programme.

Why, you may ask, is this relevant?

Well, it's one of several key considerations when setting up a coaching programme, particularly if employers are to engage external coaches.

If you are contemplating such a programme here are some of the main points to consider:

1. The purpose of the coaching
2. Why particular individuals have been selected
3. The objectives of the coaching from the organisation's perspective
4. The length of the coaching arrangements (number of sessions, length of each session)
5. Who the coach will be
6. Typical outline of a coaching session
7. Confidentiality and reporting back information
8. How the coaching will be evaluated

However, perhaps the most important question of all is given in the answer to the headline question above... how many coaches does it take to change a light bulb? The answer of course is one, BUT, the light bulb must want to change!

The KEY consideration is to ensure that the individual(s) to be coached really do want to change and are not simply going through the motions of participating in the programme because it seems politic to do so or it flatters ego.

In our experience people are flattered and delighted to receive 1-1 coaching. We find the positive results go well beyond the actual programme. The "coachees" become more loyal to the company, more committed and certainly more energised. But beware- their enthusiasm can be infectious! 



Are you fit for the coming sporting events?

As we all know the summer of 2012 coincides with the Olympics and European Football Championships. A large number of employees will want to watch these key events or even attend (if they are the lucky ones to get a ticket). But as an employer I'm sure you'll be wondering what you can do to make sure employees enjoy the events -but that it doesn't affect employee performance and your business.

However, of course you have no obligation to cater for your employees' sporting interests, but evidence suggests that where employers demonstrate they care about their staff and their interests outside work, employees are more likely to go the extra mile (!) for the organisation. It also shows that it could overcome possible problems of people "bunking" off work, understaffing and lack of performance.

Having a Special/Sporting Events Policy would help clarify for employees where they stand in these circumstances. Some ideas of what you can allow include flexible hours, shift swaps, unpaid leave and special screenings on your premises (remember the TV Licence!)

So everyone who wants to watch these sports can enjoy them without it compromising your business. But remember not everyone is interested in sports! 

We can help you with deciding the best plan of action for this time period.  




The end of the world is nigh! (or not)

We hear so much about the depressing state of the economy, austerity measures and the fear of unemployment. Well, as a recruitment business, we have a really unique outlook on economic reality (UK style).

In the last 2 months we have tackled 2 great assignments with 2 rapidly growing clients. Both clients are in the service sector. One is struggling with just 40% year on year growth and the second is leaping forward by a mere 80% p.a. Both have multi million £ turnover and operate nationally. The first needed a Finance Director (£100k+ package) the second a Finance Manager (£40k+package). The ability to cope with such extraordinary change was essential.

To find suitable candidates for the FD role we undertook a confidential search. That means we identified similar businesses in the region and found who their incumbent FD is. We sourced their contact details and made discrete approaches (you know- those unexpected phone calls you get on the mobile on the way home).

Fantastic responses with nearly 20 highly relevant candidates expressing an interest in the role. Through interviews, psychometric tests and a good knowledge of our client we whittled it down to a short list. First interviews at client premises went superbly. Well actually not true. They liked them all - so bit of a problem. But second meetings helped sort that out and a preferred candidate has had a fantastic offer that includes potentially life changing equity options.

For the Finance Manager we placed an advert on the internet. Using a trade only portal it reached all the key recruitment websites. Unsuprisingly we were inundated with applications. We filtered them and then interviewed people who seemed to fit the bill. Using competency based interview techniques we selected a shortlist of 4 for the client to meet. They liked candidate number 3 and she liked them. 1 month later she's on the induction programme.

I could regale you with war stories of people not prepared to commute 10 miles or tell you about the candidates that did not show for interviews (including the £100k+ job!!) but that's just depressing.

The fact is great opportunities do exist; we know how to find superb team members and have skills and insight to select great people.

Yes, it's tough. Yes, finding great people is hard work. But if you know how to find them and where to look, it is possible to add supreme talent to your team.  



Thought for today

“In a moment we catch a glimpse of the potential of all that we can be and in a moment we can lose that fear.” Nelson Mandela

Thought for tomorrow

“Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if youre not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were.” David Rockefeller