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People Matter September 2017 (Scotland)

New guidance on suspending employees for gross misconduct

In years gone by it has been normal practice to automatically suspend an employee accused of a serious offence, pending an investigation. Usually, the offence would be serious enough to be considered gross misconduct: for example, theft, harassment or violence towards a colleague or customer.

A letter confirming suspension and the reasons why would be issued. It would state, among other things, that it carried no implication of guilt, but was a means by which the company could carry out the investigation impartially. It would tell them that they would be interviewed as part of the process.

Of course, all their colleagues would be aware of the suspension and reach their own conclusions. And herein lies the problem. In recent cases, the courts have made it clear that suspension is not a neutral act and have forcibly advised employers against a “knee-jerk” reaction.

The danger for the employer of reacting by immediately suspending – once the allegation comes to light – is that it can destroy the employment relationship. It could lead to the employee resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. And as in the latest case of Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth, the employee can claim damages.

So, faced with this problem, what should you do? The first thing is to pick up the phone to your local HR Dept and discuss whether there is another option available other than suspension.

In some cases, suspension will still be the right way forward. But only after carefully considering the facts and listening to the employee’s explanation. The letter informing the employee they are suspended must also make clear who has taken that decision.

With an increase of tribunal claims expected, it would be unwise to give a knee-jerk reaction resulting in your scoring an own goal!

Suspending an employee due to gross misconduct is never going to be easy. For help and advice to ensure you get it right at every stage, call us as soon as you realise there is a problem.

Flexible working for parents with children starting reception

Due to reception classes staggering their start times to acclimatise the new intake, you might notice an increase in parents with young children requesting flexible working hours.

Provided an employee has been working at your company for at least 26 weeks, they have a legal right to request flexible working hours. And although you are not legally obliged to grant it, as an employer you must consider any proposal for flexible working in a ‘reasonable manner’.

Considering a flexible working request reasonably could involve assessing the pros and cons of the employee’s request, holding a meeting with the employee to discuss it, and offering an appeal process if the request is denied.

It can be difficult to strike an equilibrium between family life and the interests of the business. But in the longer term, it’s in both the employee’s and employer’s best interests to achieve this balance.

For advice on managing employee requests for flexible working hours, contact the HR Dept.

How good is your onboarding?

According to some sources, a total of £28bn is lost annually in the UK and US on unproductive employees who don’t understand their job. After a quick online search of poor on-boarding, it’s easy to see why.

We came across one lady describing how, when she arrived at her desk on her first day, she was immediately told to visit HR to sort out paperwork… in a different building. When she got there, they didn’t even have her name on file!

One employee stated how they were escorted to their desk without being introduced to anyone or shown around. Another described an onboarding session consisting of the owner talking non-stop about themselves – for eight hours.

For a meaningful employer-employee relationship, it’s important to take time to settle new starters. And don’t forget to tell them what their job is!

Need help with onboarding? Give us a call.

Managing May Day mega holiday requests

Providing employees don’t work weekends and bank holidays, during May 2018 they can transform 14 days of annual leave into 24 days.

This is through a combination of the 7th May and 28th May bank holidays and weekends.

As an employer, it’s good to have this on your radar in case one, two or a flurry of holiday requests come in for next May.

But what should you do if this occurs? There are several issues to consider, including whether you can cope with people missing for so long, and how to manage conflicting holiday requests.

You should have a holiday policy, as this will be a useful tool for managing holiday requests effectively.

For help writing holiday policies or guidance on managing annual leave, contact The HR Dept.

Internships: A millennial could be your social media star

Southern Rail made headlines in July by delegating their Twitter account to a 15-year-old work experience student. Although the thought might have some senior managers quivering in their boots, the student’s witty responses and endearing charm worked wonders for Southern Rail’s reputation.

Many companies rely on a strong social media presence to stay relevant these days. This task can lend itself to social media-savvy millennials who have grown up as digital natives. However, it’s important to define goals and strategies to make sure social media activity is aligned to your business, and offer training. A social media policy is also essential to set out what is and isn’t acceptable when representing the company and offer guidelines on tone of voice and messaging.

For a social media policy or advice on managing interns, contact The HR Dept.

Preparing for seasonal workers

Christmas may be some way off, but it’s important to plan ahead – no, we’re not talking about ordering your turkey or planning the Secret Santa! If your sector experiences a Christmas surge of business, it’s wise to consider your seasonal staffing requirements now.

Alongside getting ahead of the game by sourcing staff early, it will give you the chance to do it properly.

This includes deciding the person’s status, will they be an employee, a worker or an agency worker? All these need contracts and have different rights. We can help with the recruitment and ensure you are legally compliant.

Contact us for advice.

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