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People Matter September 2015

Back to school bugs that hit business

As the new school year begins, and working parents have the relief of not having to worry about summer holiday childcare, another problem can rear its ugly head. Yes, a new school year plus a turn in the weather means that children get exposed to a new round of germs and bugs.

As well as the upset of seeing children unwell, this can present an added dilemma to working parents: how to balance care of a sick child unable to go to school or nursery, with their professional responsibilities.

There are no winners in such a situation. Loyal staff are bound to feel bad about missing work or perform below par due to worry, so your business could suffer one way or another.

Strong, sympathetic and non-discriminatory policies are likely to help business in the long run. As well as compassion there are some statutory allowances that should be incorporated into your plans – parents are now entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for all children under the age of 18, as well as the usual holiday and sickness allowances. Giving the opportunity to work from home could be sensible. You balance removing some of the worry and hassle from the parent whilst still allowing for work to be done.

Whatever you do, make sure policies do not discriminate against non-parents. For professional help getting all the subtleties right, contact your local HR Dept.

Ashley Madison embarrassment

The well-documented Ashley Madison data dump has caused excruciating embarrassment to millions of people. But will it damage the reputation of employers too?

Of the 33 million leaked records, large numbers featured work email addresses –15,000 alone are alleged to have contained .mil or .gov, indicating military/government addresses. What could you do if you discovered some of your proprietary email addresses have been caught up in this mess?

It comes down to your electronic communication, I.T. and social media policies. With well-constructed policies, you may well be able to classify the activity as misconduct/gross misconduct for bringing the company into disrepute, and instigate disciplinary procedures. Without them, you will have to rely on case law.

A clear example of the merits of having such policies. Call us for assistance in appropriate drafting.

Fit for Work 

The Government has now extended the ‘Fit for Work’ programme across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales.

GPs and employers are henceforth able to refer employees, who’ve been absent for four weeks plus for an occupational assessment, with the consent of the employee and in line with ‘Access to Medical Records” regulations. The overarching aim of this programme is to help people get back into work, reducing your sick pay!

How does it work, and how will it affect you and your business?  We’ve put together all the information that you need and condensed it here into one handy article, please take a look.

If you’d like some further guidance on Fit for Work please do get in touch.

The Rugby World Cup   

The Rugby World Cup kicks off soon and excitement is mounting around the country. But with games scheduled during office hours, what does it mean for business? Some of Rugby’s brightest stars have behaved terribly in the last 12 months and have been shown no leniency by management in squad selections. How are you planning to tackle skivers? Will you take a hard line or try to reach an accommodation?

Research on the subject indicated that 41% of professionals are planning to watch a match during work hours (rising to 49% among managers!). Meanwhile only 6% of employees have booked time off. A bit of a discrepancy there! Sheer weight of numbers suggests it might be prudent to accommodate staff where possible, rather than sending them to the sin bin. Of course, your planning will have to take your circumstances into account. It won’t do to have frontline staff disappearing en masse, but for others, where there is room for flexibility, you could devise some creative tactics: e.g. offering late lunch breaks and/or screening games on your premises. If the latter, though, it is important to be sensitive to those who may not want to hear endless National Rugby chants echoing round the walls.

The Rugby World Cup could also present a useful opportunity to do some team building of your own. The same research suggested that 82% of staff believe sporting events are a good way to bond with other staff – regardless of how much they are into the sport. So how about a sweepstake or rugby themed day to bring colleagues together? A lot of games happen to fall on weekends so another idea is to organise a social event to watch some of the big ones.

Whatever you decide, just like your on-field counterparts, it makes sense to have a game plan. And if you end up having to dish out some yellow or red cards, don’t forget The HR Dept is just a phone call away to help you deal with foul play.

Gone to lunch

Do you or your employees have a lunch break to speak of? If the answer is “No” you are not alone. Apparently, the average lunch hour now only lasts about 26 minutes, and almost half of workers take less than 20 minutes (at their desks). Making such sacrifice equates to losing 19 days’ pay a year. The motivation is obviously to get more done – not enough hours in the day and all that – but is it a false economy? Do the costs outweigh the extra time gained?

There are undoubted benefits to taking the time to have a decent lunch break. Experts say that eating the right foods like oily fish, whole grains and avocado can boost afternoon brainpower, while some downtime away from a desk helps to sustain concentration. Worth reflecting on next time you consider your office culture.

Prioritising payroll

A recent survey suggested it would not just be HMRC you have on your back if you get payroll wrong. The study found that 51% of workers would lose faith in their employers after just one payroll error. And more than one third of respondents went as far as to say they would look for another job! Wow! It’s a touchy subject. And with more regulation coming in – such as the new Living Wage requirements – it’s one that is becoming harder to get right.

In fact, the Living Wage (and its knock-on effects up the pay chain) is set to put costing pressures on many sectors like care homes before they even get round to the mechanics of payroll. With so much at stake, The HR Dept has put together a cost-effective payroll solution specifically for SMEs. So, if your payroll is putting you between a rock and a hard place, call us today.

And don’t forget to prepare for updates to the National Minimum Wage coming next month. See The Indicator article for more information.

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