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Parenting v Performance – managing the needs of working parents

Posted on: November 28th, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

Any working parent knows that balancing work and children can be a tricky business at the best of times. When their child falls ill they rely on childcare support, unpaid time off, sickness absence, home working or holiday.

We’re hearing more and more that you’re struggling to balance support for working parents with sustaining performance. Here’s out guide to your rights and options when an employee’s child falls sick…

Know your rights – you have to allow the employee reasonable unpaid time off if:

a. help is needed where the child falls ill;

b. they need to make arrangements for the care of an ill child;

c. they need to deal with disrupted care arrangements;

d. they need to deal with an unexpected incident involving the child at school;

e. (and clearly in the event of the child’s death).

The employee doesn’t have the right to unpaid time off to:

a. deal with an appointment at their home (such as a delivery or plumber);

b. take their child to a medical or dental appointment;

c. take their child to and from school/nursery;

d. care for the child (beyond when they initially fall ill and once they have had time to arrange for their care).

Balanced approach – it’s all well and good knowing your rights, but managing an employee with a sick child can be complex. You’re likely to be trying to support them, drive performance and deal consistently with everyone within their team. We’d suggest:

a. having a clear policy to deal with these situations and following it to the letter (to avoid inconsistency creeping in);

b. ensuring that the employee continues to tell you when they are likely to return and agreeing what is a reasonable amount of time off in the circumstances;

c. confirming what will be communicated with the team so that they’re aware of the support you’re giving to the individual and also to them;

d. avoiding homeworking in the circumstances unless you’re certain the employee is able to do their job;

e. keeping a record on your people system of absences taken so that you can track trends and levels of absence (click here for more info about our system, Intelligent Employment Hub);

f. asking for evidence the child is sick if you begin to doubt how genuine the absence is;

g. dealing with inappropriate absence as a disciplinary issue;

h. avoiding payment for absence (even if absence is just for an hour or so) if you doubt the genuineness of the absence or it’s becoming too frequent.

Other rights – bear in mind that if the child is disabled the employee has additional rights that you’ll need to consider. Also remember that there are other statutory rights such as shared parental leave and statutory parental leave that could support both you and the employee in the appropriate circumstances. 

Encourage healthy conversations – manage sickness absence

Posted on: November 21st, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

On average, employees take 4.4 days’ sickness absence each year, at a cost of around £600 per employee (1) . What’s more, two in five say they’d fake it for another day off! (2)

Here are our suggestions on keeping your team happy and healthy.

Healthy conversation – every return from absence should be supported by a ‘welcome back’ meeting between the employee and manager. Our equivalent to a ‘return to work interview’ – it’s a positive, easy to handle discussion to record the absence, identify any support and check on sickness absence levels.

Hold managers accountable following training – it’s their job to ensure that their team are aware of their sickness absence levels, provide support where needed and follow up when the employee returns.

Timely triggers – help managers to track absence with a people system which fires an alert to them when absence needs dealing with formally (in accordance with your policy). Click here to find out about our system – Intelligent Employment Hub.

Keep in contact – agree when you’ll chat with the employee when they’re absent. Don’t be out of sight and mind.

Proactive steps – support employees with positive advice on how to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing including dietary advice, flu jabs and telephone support lines.

Time out – ensure that time off is quality time to relax. Encourage employees to switch off and avoid contacting them unless absolutely necessary.

A great policy – should set out clear markers as to what level of absence is unacceptable, when formal discussions will be held and when support will be offered. It should also set out that lying about being ill is a disciplinary issue.

Flexibility – being ‘sick’ isn’t always black and white. On odd occasions the offer of flexibility, whether an extra day off or working from home,can mean that an off-colour employee remains productive.

Pay – consider whether your sick pay appropriately balances support for employee’s sickness absence alongside encouraging their return.

We’ve created an engaging and interactive toolkit designed to support managers throughout the absence process (and more!). Click here if you’d like to know more!

Sources – (1) Office for National Statistics, (2) ComRes & BBC

Contract confidence

Posted on: November 8th, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

Compliant, commercial, contemporary – the three Cs that make for a great employment contract.

We review our fair share of them…here’s what we always tend to see:

Poorly drafted post-termination restrictions (or none at all) – meaning little or no protection when the employee leaves.

Old data protection provisions – meaning you’re not securing appropriate consent to take photos of employees or provide references.

Continued accrual of benefits after five years’ service – you could well be discriminating against younger individuals.

Holiday allowance – no reminder that if employees don’t use it, they lose it (new case law makes this important).

Performance processes that are still called disciplinaries – likely to make your process unfair.

Failure to comply with employment contract fundamentals – they’ve been required by law since 1996. Without them you could be exposed to fines of up to four weeks’ pay per employee.

Complex and confusing – tone that is not simple or straight-talking devalues what should be a straightforward document.

With the Good Work Plan making agreed employment contracts a day-one right, it’s a good time to take a fresh look at your contracts. Let us know if you’d like to look into a review or update of your documents.

 

Tribunal trends – our views

Posted on: August 13th, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

Our tribunal advocate, George Miller, explains the tribunal trends we’ve seen in the last year (and how to avoid being on the wrong side of a claim).

Poor claims designed to elicit cash

Lack of evidence and bringing every claim under the sun are common. But, tribunals are wise to employees manoeuvring employers into defending claims without the prospect of success. They’re striking out claims and issuing orders for employees to pay money into the tribunal to continue with their claim.

Low value claims 

There’s been an increase in claims for smaller amounts of cash – like holiday and notice pay for example.

A long time for cases to be heard

15 months in some cases for the claim to be heard at tribunal. Tactically lengthy waiting times can take the wind out of an employee’s sails, but often you’re as keen to dispose of the case as they are!

Increase in claims being withdrawn 

We’re increasingly successful in encouraging employees to withdraw their case or settle for low values. It’s still only 10% of cases that ultimately end up going to a full hearing.

Lack of fees make tribunal claims attractive to disgruntled employees, but there’s plenty you can do to avoid one landing…

  • Train – great managers to have great conversations
  • Talk – nip issues in the bud early to avoid escalation and surprises
  • Respect – deliver consistent decisions in accordance with company values
  • Culture – drive great behaviours and trust so employees know you’re trying to get it right
  • Processes – set, update, and communicate sound processes to support challenging employment issues
  • Performance – communicate frequently and follow up often
  • Evidence – keep records on a great people system (they’re your first defence)
  • Precedents – don’t settle unless you really need to (if you’re known to pay out at the sniff of a claim you can often find plenty more landing your way).

Watch this space for news on when tribunal fees are set to be introduced again (no news yet!).

 

Executive People Update

Posted on: July 23rd, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

As part of keeping you in our focus, our exec people update ensures you’re on top of the latest people opportunities, challenges and legislative changes so you’re ready to update the Board.

If you want more insight, give us a call or send us an email and we’ll make sure you’re fully up to speed with all the detail.

40% increase in employment tribunal calls to ACAS

New data in the 2018/19 report from ACAS shows a 40% increase in Early Conciliation calls from individuals who intend to sue their employer at tribunal. That said, of the 39,000 calls of this type, just under 10% ended up in front of an employment tribunal (either because the individual withdrew or settlement was entered into). Watch out for our take on tribunal trends in future updates…

Holiday pay should include voluntary overtime (sometimes)

We’ve been given further clarity on what needs to be paid to employees during their statutory four weeks’ annual leave. Provided the pattern of overtime is ‘sufficiently regular and settled’, the court was clear the overtime pay must be included within the holiday pay calculation of four weeks’ statutory leave – even if the overtime is voluntary.

Living Wage accreditation 

Join Ikea, Nestle and Aviva in securing accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation, if you:

• Pay the ‘real Living Wage’ to employees aged 18 and older (£9.00 or £10.55 in London)
• Provide at least four weeks’ notice of shifts
• Provide an accurate contract that reflects hours worked
• Provide a contract with a guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week.

Why pay it? 86% of businesses say it’s improved their reputation…

Parental bereavement 

It’s truly tragic circumstances that give rise to such legislation, but The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act is due to come into force in April 2020. It affords two weeks’ paid leave for parents who’ve been employed continuously for 26 weeks and lost a child under the age of 18. We’ll be updating our policies on Intelligent Employment to ensure you stay ahead.

Give us a shout if you have any questions and we’d be delighted to chat through with you.