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People Matter November 2015

The ‘nightmare’ before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Once idyllic, but the reality behind this poem nowadays could well be a household silent in drunken slumber after – shall we say – ‘overdoing it’ at the Christmas party.

Christmas parties should be fun! Everyone can let their hair down, raise their glasses up and mildly embarrass themselves on the dance floor. But could you just be one sexual harassment claim or health and safety disaster away from a fun night turning into the nightmare before Christmas? Here are some practical tips to ward off those potential disasters:

The ‘inappropriate behaviour at the party’ nightmare: Remind staff that while a good time should be had – the party is an extension of the workplace; that giving someone unwanted attention under the mistletoe, talking rudely to a boss or doing a ‘Full Monty’ could lead to disciplinary action.

The ‘accident’ nightmare: If hosting a party don’t forget health and safety. For instance, don’t obstruct fire exits and ensure sparkly lights are not a fire risk or trip hazard.

The ‘being ill at work’ nightmare: There’s often one employee (you know who he/she is!) who parties so hard they are physically sick at work the following day. Gross!! Others may show up late, or not at all. Try holding the party on a Friday or Saturday night. If this is not possible, remind staff of their professional obligations to the business. Well-managed holiday bookings may help too.

If you have concerns – before or after the party – give The HR Dept a call.

Sad SAD situation

It’s that time of year when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) rears its ugly head. If you’re in the dark on this (forgive the pun), it’s when the lack of sunshine from short winter days gets people down and can lead to a form of depression. It’s a serious condition that could have knock-on effects on productivity. With one in three of us getting up while it’s still dark and working until after sunset, it could strike anywhere.

Encouraging staff to get out at lunchtime may help, whilst keeping blinds open during daylight hours could also be beneficial. For added support we recommend exploring Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) – these are an employee benefit that provides cost effect access to a whole range of support services including counselling. To find out more call The HR Dept.

From zero to hero

With Sports Direct rightly being demonised for their improper use of zero hour contracts, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking these arrangements have no place in a modern workplace. But this would be wrong – used correctly they benefit the worker and the company. And with Christmas coming, they may be essential for some firms. The catering and retail sectors in particular need extra bodies to cope with demand.

Zero hour contracts allow companies to manage demand flexibly and are popular with students and people with other responsibilities. After banning exclusivity clauses, the government have issued guidance for employers (link) which explains when these are appropriate and when other contracts may be better.

Make sure safety does not slip this winter

The beautiful colours of Autumn bring with them a host of health and safety issues for which businesses like yours may need to prepare. Those tawny leaves may look stunning when on a crisp November walk, but add the inevitable downpour or two and they soon become wet and slippery.

Moreover, they can conceal other trip hazards like small steps or potholes. If external paths on your premises are prone to fallen leaves, it’s sensible to put a procedure in place to remove them regularly. That way it will just be the leaves that are falling and not your staff or customers.

Another hallmark of Autumn is the end of daylight saving hours, aka ‘the clocks going back.’ This year was no exception and the evenings are rapidly drawing in. The responsibility to employers here is to ensure there is adequate lighting in and around the workplace. The principal risk is again trip hazards being concealed – this time in the shadows. Inspect your workplace as the natural light fades to identify any black spots. Shadowing employees is a useful technique to get a clear idea of where they move. Depending on your office location, good quality outside lighting may boost security too.

As the sunshine of the summer becomes a distant memory, replaced by wet and then freezing conditions, your attention too must rest upon weather conditions. Use signage to encourage employees to stick to paths and not take shortcuts across grass which may be more prone to flooding. Better still over the long term, you could look at redirecting paths if employees have been cutting those corners.

Other sensible precautions to take are to ensure you have good entrance matting in place at all external doors, keep a stockpile of gritting salt onsite for when it turns icy and keep an eye on the weather forecast so you are not caught unawares.

For further guidance, call the Health and Safety Department who can ensure your safety doesn’t slip this autumn and winter!

Guess who

It’s sad, but job applicants with ‘white’ sounding names are almost twice as likely to get a call back than those with ethnic sounding names – a problem highlighted by the Prime Minister recently. Some organisations – including the BBC, Deloitte and HSBC– are now using name-blind CVs as a counter-measure.

Not only is it illegal to discriminate on grounds of ethnicity or gender – two factors a name may reveal – it also diminishes the talent pool. Employers may miss out on superior candidates because of a conscious or sub-conscious bias for or against certain name types.

Will name-blind CVs end discrimination? It should certainly help, although it is of course just one stage in the recruitment process and there are other tell-tale pointers on a CV that may unfairly sway a recruiter: schools attended for instance.

If you want help with best recruitment practice, then call The HR Dept today.

Christmas: Turkeys, tinsel…and temps!

Do you rely on temps over Christmas? If so, you are certainly not alone. Sainsbury’s estimates it will need 15,000 of them, Game 4,000 and Royal Mail a whopping 21,000! So, it’s not just Santa who needs helpers right now. With such demand, you may be wise to recruit early to avoid missing out on the best people.

What else should you do? Ensure your payroll systems can cope. You may be relying on them, but temps too will almost certainly be relying on you. They are unlikely to put in a good shift if they are not paid promptly. Another idea is to keep an eye out for talent you could use permanently. If you are lucky you may find your next star employee among a batch of Christmas temps – a good Christmas present for you. For help with temporary recruitment and payroll, speak to The HR Dept today.

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