“Tis the season! Holiday party invitations are probably flooding your inbox faster than Father Christmas invading shopping centres. Love it or hate it, there’s no avoiding the fact that Christmas is well upon us and somewhere in all those invitations is probably one for the annual work Christmas party. This is a gathering that’s meant to celebrate the season and a year of hard work and commitment, but can be daunting, even for the most extrovert employee. Read More
As BBC Wales has reported today that nearly 200 carers in Wales have had to give up their jobs to look after family. Carers represent a significant part of the working age population, both in the workplace, and in the wider labour market. They are likely to represent 1 in 8 of your workforce as well being a valuable source of recruitment.
Losing carers from the workforce is not only damaging to individuals and their families, but also damaging to employers and the wider economy. As the population ages, and the number of carers rises, the effects of losing carers from the workforce will grow.
An employee might have been caring for a long time or find themselves faced with new caring responsibilities without much warning or time for preparation. Either way, the difficulty of managing the dual pressures of work and home life can be hard to bear. Without support, carers may suffer from stress, exhaustion and might not perform as productively as they potentially are able to. Some feel driven to give up work because it simply becomes too much.
Benefits of Supporting Carers in the Workplace
Supporting carers to manage the difficult job of balancing work with caring responsibilities can deliver real benefits to employers as well as helping individuals and their families. These benefits including the retention of experienced staff members, a reduction in absence and cutting down on avoidable recruitment costs.
What’s more, supportive and flexible working practices can reduce staff turnover and increase loyalty and commitment. Unfortunately, many carers give up work because the job of juggling their work and caring responsibilities simply becomes too much, and they get little or no support from their employer.
By fostering an environment where every member of staff feels supported and comfortable in the workplace is good employment practice. An organisation that has ‘carer friendly’ policies and working practices will also help to reduce levels of stress and sickness absence as well as increasing staff morale and productivity levels. As an employer with these policies in place, you will also have access to a wider pool of potential employees with skills and experience.
What employers can do to support carers
There are a range of measures employers can take to provide a supportive working environment for carers in their workforce. These don’t necessarily need to represent a major change in how an organisation operates, and can sometimes be a small and simple adjustment, but one which makes a significant difference to how supported carers feel at work.
The identification of carers, and understanding of their circumstances is a key starting point for employers and should be central to how support is developed within an organisation, ideally based on regular consultation. There are a number of ways that employers can learn which of their employees are also carers. Depending on the size and structure of their organisation this might be through the establishment of a ‘carers register’, or via staff induction, appraisals or employee surveys. Having a clear definition of what it means to be a carer is important in whatever approach is taken; many people do not identify themselves as carers and may not think to raise the issue with their line manager in the first place.
A workplace should have a supporting and comfortable environment where there is no stigma attached to carers identifying themselves. However, the choice of carers to self-identify themselves should still be respected, understanding that some people may not want to disclose their situation.
It is important that carers are recognised as a distinct group within an organisation’s policies and procedures. This might be via a dedicated ‘carers policy’ or with specific mention made of carers within existing HR policies.
A policy would state the range of support provided to carers within an organisation and the procedures for accessing this provision. These could include the provisions for carers leave or other special leave arrangements, such as paid or unpaid emergency leave; compassionate leave; matched leave and borrowed leave. Additionally, employers can offer flexible working options and/or other forms of workplace support. Depending on the organisation’s policy, a mix of solutions can be used to respond to a particular situation such as flexible working in conjunction with some paid/unpaid time off/special leave for example.
It is important that options are fully discussed and considered from both the employer and employee’s perspectives. Flexibility, fairness, communication and co-operation are important on all sides, between carers, their colleagues, and their managers.
Other Areas of Support
Sometimes, supporting carers in the workplace is not just about changing the hours that they work. There are practical, and often very small changes that can make a difference too. These can include allowing carers to keep their mobile phones on or providing private access to a telephone; signposting to external support and services. You could also consider stablishing a workplace support group for carers, and involving carers in other health and well-being programmes at work.
More than anything, establishing and embedding a culture of support within an organisation will be key in ensuring that carers feel comfortable in the workplace and able to raise with their line managers any issues they might be experiencing with managing their work and caring responsibilities.
Organisations can have very good policies and practical support on paper, but if these are not known throughout the workplace, or consistently applied by line managers, then they can sometimes be of little benefit to carers.
Good communication of carer policies and procedures is essential to getting this right. This can be achieved on a number of levels, from the provision of basic information via staff induction processes, payslip messages, organisation intranet, staff message boards etc, to wider workplace awareness raising sessions involving colleagues and managers.
Line manager training is especially important in ensuring that an organisation is treating carers fairly across all departments or sections, and in providing a consistent approach when a manager leaves and is replaced by someone new.
Developing Carer Friendly Policies
If you’re an employer who is looking to support carers in the workplace, the chances are that you don’t yet have a set of carer friendly policies.
The team at HCHR can help with the development of these policies along with other advice and guidelines on how to support carers in the workplace. Call us today on the number below for more information:
This year, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins on Tuesday, 15 May and ends on Thursday 14 June. During Ramadan Muslims are prohibited from consuming food and drink between the hours of sunrise and sunset for 30 days.
Many Muslims will carry on working during Ramadan and can be affected by a drop in energy, feeling tired and experiencing lower concentration levels.
Supporting Employees During Ramadan
In the UK, employers have a duty to comply with the Equality Act 2010 by maintaining a working environment in which no one is put at a disadvantage because of their religion or belief. Companies may be at risk of discrimination claims if they treat those observing Ramadan less favourably than other employees, or if they operate policies that cause those observing Ramadan to suffer a disadvantage.
To help you to support all your employees during the Ramadan period, ACAS has come up with a set of guidance notes. The guidance states that: “It would be helpful if staff are made aware of when Ramadan is, how long it lasts, and what the fasting entails. While few Muslims would expect their colleagues to abstain from eating and drinking in front of them, particularly in workplaces where lunch is commonly eaten at one’s desk, sensitivity is often appreciated. It’s considerate to offer an acknowledgement of a fasting colleague, or a simple polite request to be excused for eating. On the other hand, working lunches, meetings based around shared food, staff meals and away days are best avoided if possible, or carried out with special arrangements for those who are fasting.”
Read more here.
At HCHR, we would advise you take the following steps:
- Communicate to staff to inform them of Ramadan as this is a good opportunity to inform all employees of what fasting entails and the effect on colleagues taking part.
- Offer support by being flexible with working hours, duties at work and break times. A fasting employee’s day starts much earlier so arrange for meetings, training and other important tasks to be held in the mornings when employees’ energy levels are likely to be higher.
- Approach requests for breaks sensitively as fasting employees may prefer to start earlier, miss or reduce lunch breaks, and get home so they can end the day’s fast with their families.
- It is good practice for employers to have a Ramadan policy, which sets out the standard expected of all employees.
For further help and guidance on supporting employees during the Ramadan period, call HCHR today on the number below:
The office Christmas party is a long-standing tradition and, these days, is not just limited to office staff. For business owners, the festive season and what to do to thank their staff has become a bit of a conundrum. Do you put on an event at a festive venue or do you encourage staff to bring in some food and drink themselves into the office for a less formal bash?
Either way, the key issue that concerns many employers is staff behaviour during the party, particularly if the drinks are flowing! We’ve all heard tales of inappropriate behaviour during the staff ‘do’, which in themselves bring issues for employers and can cause other problems when the culprits eventually return to work.
Managing Cultural Diversity at the Office Christmas Party
As an employer, it’s important that you manage the risk of staff misconduct before the event rather than afterwards when it may be too late.
Many staff aren’t aware that any Christmas event that is work related is an extension of the workplace and as such employers are liable for third party actions and behaviours.
What’s more, with an increasingly cultural diverse workforce in the UK, many staff event now need to cater for these different cultures and religions; employers need to understand that the entire workforce may want to join in boozy Christmas events.
So, when planning the event, ensure that there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available and do not make it compulsory for all staff to attend. You also need to ensure that there is a vegetarian choice on the menu. The last thing you want is to face is a grievance from an employee who feels they have been discriminated against is at the Christmas Party.
If you employ disabled staff who have access requirements you need to ensure that the venue is fully accessible for these employees too.
Setting Out Expectations
There are a number of measures, employers need to put in place before the festive party even takes place.
Firstly, you should remind staff that normal rules of behaviour apply even off the premises and that the party venue is an extension of the workplace. As an employer, you have a duty of care to other employees and those working at the venue and so you are responsible for staff behaviour at the company’s Christmas party.
It’s also important to remind staff about discrimination and in particular sex harassment policies. They need to be reminded that any inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas party will be handled in the same way as during working hours.
To Drink or Not to Drink?
Remind staff not to drink and drive and that they need to make suitable arrangements to get home if they do want to drink. If the budget allows, put on transport yourself or at least offer to organise transport at a small cost to staff members.
Staff need to understand that over indulging at the Christmas party doesn’t excuse them from coming into work the next day. If you operate a Monday to Friday business consider holding the event either on a Friday or Saturday night.
If you employee under 18 years olds you need to consider the venue if you hold it off work premises to ensure that they allow under 18’s on the premises, ensuring that the youngsters understand that they are not allowed to consume alcohol at the venue.
If you are providing alcoholic drinks don’t provide them free all night. Ensure that the venue staff understand that anyone who is showing signs of being worse for wear are not to be served and to advise you of any inappropriate behaviour.
Alcohol, as well know, can cause unwanted sexual advances and even cause fights between even the best of friends.
If an employee becomes intoxicated it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employee is taken home safely.
Setting Out Policies and Procedures
Your policies and procedures for staff behaviour at all times, including at the annual Christmas party, should be updated regularly to take into account the guidance we have included in this blog.
If you are not sure whether your policies are fit-for-use and up-to-date, then call the team at HCHR today on the number below:
There is no doubt, the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal has opened a huge can of worms in terms of workplace sexual harassment, with the behavior of MP’s in House of Commons now also firmly in the limelight.
No form of harassment in the workplace is acceptable. The number of people, and in particularly women, coming forward with claims of sexual harassment is very concerning.
A recent poll carried out by Opinium Research, and widely reported in the Guardian, states that: “One in five women said that they have been victims of workplace sexual harassment. What’s more 14 per cent of people in the UK have experienced sexual harassment at work – rising to 20 per cent among women and dropping to seven per cent among men.”
Read more here.
As the door has literally been opened for people who have faced workplace sexual harassment, more and more UK employers could find themselves having to deal with this uncomfortable issue.
So we’ve come up with guidelines for employers who want to make sure that their employees are not subject to harassment and that they have the policies and procedures in place to deal with the issues should they come to light.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is identified as a discrete form of unlawful discrimination in the Equality Act 2010. It involves conduct that is unwanted from the perspective of the person on the receiving end and has the purpose or effect either of violating the person’s dignity or of creating an environment that he or she finds intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.
Sexual harassment is defined as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature”.
Sexual harassment is a behaviour that has a sexual content or sexual connotation. Examples could include unwelcome physical touching, making sexual remarks to or about a person, telling jokes with a sexual content or displaying sexually explicit images on a computer screen.
The law says it’s only sexual harassment where the behaviour is meant to or has the effect of either:
- violating your dignity, or
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
Remember, if an employee is treated badly or less favourably because of their reaction to sexual harassment, they may have a claim under the Equality Act.
Dealing with workplace sexual harassment
If you are alerted to the fact that an employee in your business feels that they have been sexually harassed, you will need to address the matter as soon as possible.
As an employe,r you are legally responsible for the behaviour of your workers and most employers consider sexual harassment as a disciplinary offence. It is not surprising, therefore, that until recently most sexual harassment cases are not brought against the perpetrators, but against employers.
Employers will need to follow their dignity at work policy to support the employee who has been subjected to sexual harassment, and investigations will need to take place to make sure that the situation is dealt with appropriately. Employers need to take any claims of sexual harassment seriously, or face being left at risk of tribunal claims further down the line. Employers have a legal obligation to protect employee’s wellbeing and dignity at work.
Protecting the Business
The big danger for businesses is they allow joke emails and inappropriate language in the workplace carry out without recourse only to find that offence is taken and harassment is alleged.
Furthermore, the widespread use of jokes and inappropriate language could be put forward to suggest institutional sexism.
An employer is generally “vicariously liable” for the actions of its employees in the course of employment, so if a member of staff is found to have harassed a colleague, the employer will be held responsible.
However, there is an important exception; if the employer can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent harassment then they may escape liability.
It is not enough though, just to have a well-drafted anti-harassment policy; all employees must be told about it and should be aware of what they need to do if they believe they are being harassed on any grounds.
It’s also highly recommended that equal opportunity training should be carried out with all managers at the very least and make sure that they discipline any employee guilty of harassment.
If they take all reasonable steps to prevent the conduct, then the employer will not be liable for the actions of an employee guilty of harassment, but the victim can still bring a claim against the harasser personally.
If an employee comes to you alleging harassment, but then says that they do not want to take it any further. They need to understand that any such allegation is very serious and will have to be investigated.
Claims of this nature should be taken seriously; suspension of the alleged harasser considered and witness statements taken as soon as possible. Harassment findings should be dealt with seriously and consistently.
Even if the employer does not find in favour of the alleged victim, the employee still has the option to bring an employment tribunal claim, while still in employment, and the tribunal will consider all of the evidence when reaching its decision.
If you are still unsure of your legal responsibilities in terms of sexual harassment in the workplace or you don’t have the appropriate policies and procedures in place to manage an such allegations, then call the specialist team at HCHR today on the number below:
There has been a lot of mention on employment rights lately in the news. But as we all know, when the law changes for any reason, it has a huge impact on HR within an organisation. The knock-on effect requires having to make the relevant changes to HR policies to comply with new legislation.
However, when employment law changes, business owners often find themselves looking for a new policy on the intranet to ensure that they comply with the new legislation. However, by responding in this way, we sometimes find that we are missing a very important point.
The Most Important Employment Right of All
In essence, we face the risk of losing our ability to see employees as the individuals that they are and the opportunity to consider them in their own unique context.
When we defer our decisions to documents, we lose our ability to be compassionate; to apply a little tolerance; and to treat people as humans and not resources.
The one right we should all have at work, is to be our imperfect human self. A simple human conversation is our most significant opportunity to change any work situation for the better.
Creating a People Culture
The heart and soul of every great company is its people and the most successful organisations are those in which the passions of its employees match the guiding principles of the business.
One of the most important challenges business owners face when growing and developing the organisation is to fulfil its people with opportunities for them to grow and learn. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day needs of the business, focus on competition and changes in the external environment, but driving a fulfilling culture is a task leaders must not lose sight of.
People change and their aspirations and interests evolve. What’s more, the world we live in is also changing at a more accelerated pace, which means businesses must adapt. But at the same time, we need to maintain a business that offers opportunity for all and stays deeply rooted in the passions of its employees. This should be a top priority on the agendas of all business owners and in particular the HR department.
An organisation’s values don’t have to hang on the wall as the company’s mission, but they should be engrained at the deepest level. This is how employees treat each other, the ethical standards by which you run your business, and the types of projects you decide to take on.
It’s business owners’ responsibility to understand what makes their employees tick, touching the emotional core of employees and helping them to excel. The most successful businesses, allow employees to try something new, by providing growth opportunities and expanding at the same time.
Business owners also need to be the driving force by cheering employees on and helping them accomplish their goals. It is truly amazing what can be accomplished when you have someone in your corner, and the inspiration cascades to others and builds momentum.
Make learning a part of the job
A learning environment always encourages employees to try to look at a problem or solution through a new lens, looking for new skills to apply to a challenge and adopting best practices from those around them.
It is not all about the training, but instead making learning a part of the everyday job. Businesses should create an environment in which knowledge is power and having an open mindset that enables fine tuning of skills.
Ensuring that you have the right policies and procedures are in place is of course important as these are the standards by which you expect your employees to behave. However, don’t let a rigid approach to compliance overshadow the fact that your employees are human beings, with rights that go beyond the rules and who, if treated correctly, can make or break a business.
The team at HCHR can not only help business owners to develop a set of policies that comply with employment law, but can also help to guide and nurture leaders to ensure they themselves have the skills to manage their people as effectively as possible.
For more information and a free half hour consultation, call us today on the number below:
Uncertainty and confusion over where electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) can and cannot be used has increased in recent years with both members of the public and organisations uncertain how to manage their workplace policies. But despite their popularity, it has been reported that over half of UK businesses don’t have a policy on “vaping” in the workplace.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) supports regulation of electronic cigarettes to ensure they are safe and effective, but organisations should form their own policies on where and when they can be used in a working environment.
E-cigarettes in Public and Worplaces
Says Shakira Joyner, MD of HCHR in Swansea, “A law to regulate the use of electronic cigarettes in the workplace is unlikely. So business owners need to make clear to staff and customers the approach they are going to take. Any approach should take into account the needs and health of everybody it could affect and consider the relative risks of electronic cigarettes compared to tobacco cigarettes.”
To this end, the UK Government has launched a 5-point guide to policy making on the use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces. Click here to full the full guide.
If you are still unsure about how to formulate your workplace policy on the use of e-cigarettes, then call HCHR today on the number below. We have a team of experienced professionals who work with a number of clients from a cross section of industries in developing a range of workplace policies and procedures, including the use of e-cigarettes.
Yesterday People Management magazine published an article relating to a ruling by the Equal Rights Tribunal that has found in favour of a male employee who had been refused the right to take additional paternity leave at full pay by his employer.
The article states that:
Mr M Ali had worked for Capita Customer Management since he was TUPE transferred from Telefónica in July 2013. He took two weeks of paid paternity leave after his daughter was born prematurely in February 2016, as well as two weeks of annual leave.
However, Ali’s wife was diagnosed with postnatal depression and was advised to return to work to aid her recovery.
Ali wished to take more time off to care for his family and discussed taking extra leave with his employer when he returned to work in March. He was told that he could take the leave under the recently introduced shared parental leave rules, but that he would only be entitled to statutory pay.
Read more here.
At HCHR, we have reported extensively on changes to a father’s paternity entitlements including the the recently introduced shared parental leave rules. This recent ruling is an interesting development and a further step in recognising the equal rights of both parents when it comes to maternity and paternity rights.
If businesses are unsure where they stand in terms of paternity (or maternity leave) and don’t have a policy in place which is in line with the new rules, then call HCHR today for advice and guidance on the number below:
It seems that dress codes are never too far from the headlines these days whether it be regarding banning religious dress, requiring employees to wear certain dress or encouraging employers who ban tattoos at work to reconsider their approach.
It’s probably a fair statement that for years, many people associated tattoos with gangs, bikers, and other groups, however today, tattoos have gained wider social acceptance and more and more people, men and women alike, have them. Some credit this major trend to the number of athletes and Hollywood stars with lots of visible tattoos. So, what’s an employer to do? Is body art a workplace issue? Does having a visible tattoo say anything about an individual that is relevant to their job?
Employers are free to hire (or to not hire) as they see fit – having a tattoo does not qualify you as having a protected characteristic under Equality legislation. But that does not change the stereotypes and perceptions of tattoos and piercings, and how that can have an affect on your business (and it works both ways – would you trust the work of a tattoo artist who didn’t have any art on their arm)?
Is it “acceptable” to turn someone down for a job because they have a tattoo in a visible place? If your company’s rules state that it is unacceptable for an employee to have visible tattoos, then the plain answer is yes. But here lies the key. Employers should be clear on what the rules and acceptable standards are, regardless of whether they allow tattoos or strictly forbid them.
Many employers have policies that do not allow visible tattoos. Depending on the employer’s industry and the type of job, this may make sense. For example, the odds are that a five-star hotel may not want the customer facing concierge to have large tattoos of skulls and crossbones on the back of each hand. But the same hotel may have less concern if a chef in the kitchen has those same tattoos because direct contact with the hotel’s customers is minimal. From a business perspective, the issue for the hotel is to write a policy that draws appropriate lines between jobs in which visible tattoos may or may not be appropriate.
Remember – there is always the potential risk that a tattoo or piercing may be religious which of course may open an entirely different can of legislation worms.
In today’s global marketplace, employers are taking more seriously the need to provide a work environment that welcomes employees from many different backgrounds. The competition to attract and retain skilled workers has resulted in corporate cultures that strive to demonstrate the value placed on individual and group contributions. And there is increasing attention paid to offering a company culture and benefit package that supports a variety of lifestyles. Should someone with a visible tattoo be treated any differently?
In drafting the policies, it’s important to stay focused on the business issues at hand. Policies that prohibit tattoos should not reflect value judgments about tattoos or the people who get them. In fact, many employers would likely be surprised to find out how many current employees have tattoos and simply cover them up at work. So negative assumptions about what tattoos say about the people who have them are very often misplaced.
What should you do to protect your business?
The best advice we can give employers? Make your rules clear and stick to them. Have a written policy, and make it explicit what the expectations are and then your staff will know where they stand. Whichever school of thought you are in, be it pro-tattoo or dead against, a policy stating this is the best place to start. If employees (or potential employees) do not sit in the same school of thought they are then free to make their own choices about what course of action suits them best.
What can HCHR do for you?
At HCHR we are here to help demystify the fog surrounding taboo subjects, by providing you with policies to clear the waters and get you on the right track as an employer and reducing the risk wherever possible.
For guidance on this or other HR matters, call us today on the number below:
The statement itself is a paradox.
As business owners and managers, you want to create workplaces where misconduct can’t thrive. However, translating this into practice is not always easy. Do you take the route of becoming policy police to keep organisation law and order or instead focus your energy and attention on organisation culture?
Ask yourself what is the culture of your organisation? What does it say about you as a leader?
As US Based Word Wide Technology states “culture is not just a poster.
Now before you start inwardly groaning, organisation culture isn’t all about chill out rooms, pool tables, rock wall climbing – or for you to emulate Mark Zuckerburg. Most people entering the workplace are looking for a positive supportive culture, which can take many forms and doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Indeed, it is proven that a caring work environment leads to happy customers — and it also leads to a workplace of minimal misconduct. So, what can your organization do to create a culture of trust, one in which employee misconduct is addressed as soon as it occurs? Here are our top tips…
- Proactively train managers to effectively communicate diplomatically and tactfully to their direct reports. They need to handle difficult situations in a way that fosters mutual respect. Equipping your managers to be able to handle difficult conversations in a constructive manner is fundamental to creating a culture of openness, honesty and integrity.
- Foster a supportive culture– rather than trying to prevent misconduct through rigorous rules, work to create a culture that makes employees feel supported and valued. Smart businesses realize that before they can effectively and sustainably compete externally, they have to be strong internally. Rather than creating an aggressive workplace in which employees compete against one another foster a friendly, team-oriented community that encourages everyone to succeed.
- Establish a strong anti-harassment policy– establish a strong anti-harassment policy, clearly defining misconduct and the consequences of engaging in this type of behaviour. The policy should prohibit harassment or offensive conduct in any form requiring all employees to report any offenses they observe, regardless of the perpetrator.
- Share your results – HR can often take a back seat to production goals or revenue reports, making it more challenging to promote the tools and systems needed to enhance company culture. To build support, you need to frame needs in business terms. How does proactively training mesh with company values? What is the cost in legal fees for ignoring workplace misconduct? What are your employee retention rates?
Misconduct can’t survive in the midst of a strong culture and is far less likely to show up, and when it does, managers and teammates will nip it in the bud.
Organisations looking to develop a strong culture to eliminate workplace misconduct should seek advice from an experienced HR professional such the team at Swansea-based HCHR. Call today for a free consultation on the number below: