A blog providing trustworthy Human Resources advice to business owners, managers and employees plus the occasional LOL true story from the workplace.
How to avoid costly legal action against your business
When you’re an HR consultant, you often find yourself having in-depth conversations about how business owners can avoid legal action. Of course, we offer services that go way beyond this. We can help you to boost your profits, create a happier and more productive workforce, and achieve your big strategic goals.
However, steering clear of expensive and potentially reputation-damaging legal action is something that many leaders are very keen to do, for obvious reasons. If you’re worried about ending up on the wrong side of the law, then it’s important that you take some positive steps towards minimizing the risk.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to keep your business practices compliant, up to date, and above board.
Know the law
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep up to date with the law. New pieces of legislation are passed on a regular basis, so it’s vital that you stay on the ball. The last thing that you want is to find out that new provisions came into force, rendering your existing policies and procedures unlawful.
This might seem like a huge burden, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider working with an HR consultant on a retainer basis. This will ensure that you get the information that you need well in advance, and are given useful, practical advice so that you can make the necessary changes.
Consistently implement people policies
People policies are there for a very good reason. They outline acceptable standards of behavior, make your expectations clear, and map out what will happen if a problem occurs. If you decide that they should only be applied to some staff, some of the time, then you could be accused of discrimination.
The bottom line here is that your whole workforce should be held to the same standards. You’ve no doubt spent a great deal of time creating and implementing your policies. They’re there to help you, so use them properly!
Always keep records
If any problems arise, having a comprehensive paper trail can be extremely useful. Your documentation should clearly outline the details of each stage of everyday employment situations, such as absences, performance discussions, grievances, and so on.
These days, you can find solutions that will allow you to safely store information of this nature online or on encrypted systems. This isn’t always necessary, but it could save you time. Whichever route you decide to go down, make sure your records are up to date, accurate, and confidential.
Give your line managers the capability they need
As your business grows, it’s unlikely that you’ll be personally handling all people management practices. By ensuring your line managers have the HR training that they need, you could avoid finding yourself in a situation where your operations aren’t compliant with the law.
It’s down to you to make sure that your managers are consistently compliant. When you invest in your leadership team, you’ll find that many potentially volatile incidents can be quickly defused before they spiral out of control.
Not many business owners would intentionally break the law when it comes to how they treat their greatest asset – their people. But if you aren’t vigilant, you could find yourself in a tricky situation.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to put your niggling worries to bed once and for all when it comes to complying with employment legislation, then get in touch. We can arrange an initial review of your existing practices.
Four strategies for reducing absenteeism
A few years ago Forbes reported that U.S. workforce illness from sick days to worker's compensation is costing the economy $576B annually. Simply put, your staff are calling in sick and it’s having a severe impact on your bottom line. If you want to mitigate the impact, it’s time to think about how you can nip the problem in the bud.
Now of course, it’s important to note that managing absenteeism isn’t about trying to ensure that every single employee is always present and correct. Even with the best people management policies and procedures, it’s highly likely that you’ll still have to pick up the phone now and again and be told that an important member of your team can’t make it into the office today.
However, there are certain things that you can do to make sure that the occasional absence doesn’t spiral out of control and become a real problem for your business. Here, we’re going to outline some proven strategies that you can put into action.
Clearly outline your expectations
If you don’t already have an absence policy, then this needs to be a key priority. You can’t expect staff to follow your guidelines, if they don’t even exist! A good policy will outline arrangements for calling in sick, identify trigger points that indicate that absence has reached an unacceptable level, and will be clearly communicated to all staff.
Of course, your policy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if it doesn’t become part of the way you do business on a daily basis. Line managers need to be confident with putting it into action. It’s vital that the rules are applied to everyone. If you have staff members with a disability, then there will be extra considerations that need to be made. For help with complex issues, speak with an HR consultant about your circumstances.
Always hold return-to-work discussions
After any period of absence, whether it’s three days or three months, there should be a return-to-work discussion between the individual and the line manager. It’s important that you establish the reason for the absence, assess what you might be able to do to support that person back into work, and follow the procedures outlined in your policy.
Even when schedules are busy, make sure that these conversations are always marked into the diary. When they’re carried out correctly, they can help you prevent a whole load of potential issues.
Think about how you can make reasonable adjustments to get staff back into their roles
Coming back to work after a period of absence can be daunting. What can you do to make the process more manageable? It might be that you can slightly alter roles and responsibilities so that you can encourage long-term absentees to come back to their jobs and ease themselves back into routine.
In practical terms, you could agree to shorter working hours for the first couple of weeks, or you could ensure that the staff member has a reduced workload. If you’re unsure about what you could do, talk to the individual in question to establish a way forward that will help them.
Take a flexible approach to managing the rota
It’s important to recognize that staff have a life outside of your business. They may want to attend a parents’ evening, go see their favorite band, or have to take care of serious matters such as an ill family member. If they’re forced to choose between missing out and calling in sick, then you aren’t always going to win.
Ask yourself whether it would be feasible, from an operational point of view, to add some flexibility into how working schedules are managed. From time to time, could you allow staff to swap shifts or catch up with their work later in the week? As long as you have firm boundaries in place, this kind of approach could help you to minimize problems.
If absence is an issue in your business, then the bad news is that you probably can’t make improvements overnight. You need a considered and careful approach, and it’ll certainly be a learning curve. But when you get it right, the benefits will be huge.
Do you want to discuss your challenges with a professional, and walk away with a manageable action plan so you know exactly what you need to do? Contact us today.
Five critical actions for managing an employee grievance
If a member of your staff brought up a grievance, would you know how to handle it? Regardless of how good your people practices may be and how capable your line managers are, you might find yourself in a situation where you need to follow a formal grievance procedure.
This procedure should be included in your staff handbook and it should always be followed to the letter. It’s crucially important because it can help you to nip any problems in the bud and keep your business out of costly employment tribunals.
Here we’re going to outline the five critical steps that you need to cover.
1. Informal discussion
All grievances should be taken seriously, so it’s vital that you address the problem head-on rather than attempt to brush the issue under the carpet, in the hope that it will just disappear or fix itself. However, there’s no need to blow things out of proportion. Many problems can be handled with an informal chat between the employee and their line manager.
If a suitable outcome can’t be reached, then the employee should be asked to submit a formal grievance letter, if they haven’t already done so.
2. Formal meeting
At this stage, the issue needs to be discussed in more depth. The meeting should of course be held in a confidential setting, chaired by the manager designated to handle the full grievance process. Your employee should be advised that they can bring along a colleague or trade union representative.
Collect as much information as possible and ask plenty of questions. It’s always wise to remain impartial and to treat the meeting as a fact-finding mission before going away to tie up loose ends and verify the finer details.
If the issues being discussed are particularly complex, then it may be necessary for you to pause proceedings for a short period of time to gather more information and cross-reference the accounts that you’ve received.
Though it’s important that you’re thorough here, be mindful that the time is ticking. Having unresolved grievance procedures ticking on can have a real, tangible negative impact on your workforce. Wherever possible, give your employee a date that they can expect to hear the outcome by. Managing expectations is critical and shows that you’re treating the situation with importance.
4. Make and communicate your final decision
At this stage, the employer must decide whether to uphold or dismiss the grievance. The decision should be communicated to the employee in writing. They should also be provided with notes and minutes from any formal grievance meetings that were held as part of the process.
To fulfill your obligations here, you’ll need to make sure that all paperwork is carefully collated throughout the procedure. It should go without saying that your records need to be timely, accurate and confidential.
5. Offer the right to appeal
It would be easy to assume that once the final decision has been communicated, everything is done and dusted. This isn’t the case though. You need to offer the option of an appeal, which would essentially restart the entire process.
To minimise the potential impact of bias, the case should be handed over to another manager wherever possible.
The very nature of grievances procedures means that they can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. However, they’re sometimes unavoidable and you need to be sure that you can handle the situation in line with your responsibilities as an employer.
If you’re handling a particularly contentious grievance procedure, or it’s your first time navigating your way through the process, then bringing in some external help from an HR professional could help you ease the load and get the best possible outcome. To have an initial chat about how we could work together, get in touch today.
Your guide to minimizing conflict in a family business
Being part of a family business can seem like a dream come true for many people. The opportunity to work alongside your nearest and dearest to pursue your goals and create financial independence is something that can have huge appeal. So, it’s no surprise that Harvard Business School has reported that family firms account for two thirds of businesses across the globe.
Regardless of how close your family unit may be, there are unique challenges that come hand-in-hand with working alongside your relatives. It might sound good on paper, but when you have to line manage your brother and answer to your sister-in-law, all before 9am, cracks can very easily start to appear.
It’s vital that you lay the right foundations for avoiding unnecessary conflict. Here, we share some of our top tips.
Utilize official channels of communication
It’s natural to occasionally want to discuss work outside of the office, especially if you’re socializing with people who play an active role in the projects that you’re working on. However, it’s important to think about the potential consequences. Imagine that you tell your family members about some big upcoming changes within the business over Sunday dinner. By the time they get to work the next day, they’ve already digested the information, and they’re eager to discuss the details with their colleagues. Your other members of staff are going to feel out of the loop. This can only lead to despondency. Schedule meetings where all stakeholders can be present, and stick to other topics of conversation when socializing with family.
Create a succession plan
You might plan on handing your business over to your children when the time comes for you to enjoy your retirement, but making assumptions is never wise. They might have other plans, or they could quite simply be lacking the skills required to take over.
No one wants to think about what will happen when they’re no longer around, but if you want your business to survive and provide opportunities for your family for years to come, then it’s essential that you carefully consider what the management structure will look like in the future.
Ensure everyone knows who they should answer to
Think about the structure of traditional businesses. Employees have line managers, they know who’s in charge and where they should turn to for guidance and management. Just because the majority of your staff happen to be relatives, doesn’t mean that you should neglect the creation of an organizational hierarchy.
Of course, this also applies for non-family employees. They need to know who they can go to when they have questions, who they should be taking direction from on a daily basis, and who will be carrying out their important HR-related discussions, such as performance reviews.
Seek out external HR assistance
It can be hard to make impartial, strategic decisions when you’re dealing with family members. As your business grows, it makes sense to bring in some external HR help. This will give you a sounding board for your worries and concerns. You’ll be able to ensure that you’re acting in accordance with the law, and you’ll get guidance on how to handle difficult situations.
Our retainer clients love having the peace of mind that comes with knowing they can just pick up the phone and talk to us about their latest challenges, whether it be a small issue that they want to nip in the bud, or something more complex that they need to get right.
Want to discuss how we could work together, to make sure that you get timely and confidential HR advice? Give us a call today and we can talk you through your options, without any kind of obligation.
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