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Managing Employee Perfomance

An improving economy and the effects of Brexit on foreign workers coming into the UK has made it increasingly difficult for businesses to recruit good quality staff. Employers are therefore driven to maximise the productivity of their existing employees so carrying underperformers becomes intolerable. Here are our top three tips for performance managing your staff, enabling you to retain and reward your good workers and safely exit the underachievers.

1. Clear Job Descriptions: Employees need and respond to knowing exactly what is expected of them. Ambiguity or vagueness will enable staff to float between tasks, never really achieving anything. Clear and defined job roles will give them a sense of purpose and a structure that they can be held accountable to. By all means include a clause that allows you to ask more of them but fundamental key roles and responsibilities are a must.

2. SMART Objectives and Targets: The acronym SMART which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound should be exercised against just about every task or target you set for your staff. Without it employees can’t be held to account. Increase sales! By how much? Paint that wall! By when? Improve customer Service! Compared to what? Appropriate objectives and targets should be the cornerstone of your performance management strategy.

3. Regular Reviews: Performance must be regularly reviewed to measure employees’ outcomes against their targets and objectives. Overachievers might need a reward such as praise to keep them motivated or higher targets to keep them challenged and aid retention. Underperformers might need to be offered training or support, or other action. Reviews don’t have to be onerous. Five minutes might be enough. Make sure though that they are regular and appropriately frequent and use them to set new objectives.

Bonus Tip. Consequences: If someone isn’t meeting expectations there needs to be consequences or you and your team will just continue to carry them leading to disgruntled good workers who willreduce their own performance to match or simply leave. A disciplinary route might be appropriate which could ultimately end in dismissal. Use the above tips to keep it a fair process and to prove you acted appropriately in case of a Tribunal claim.
If you need further help and advice with performance management talk to us by calling 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

05 January 2018, 13:18

The Trouble with Elves & Reindeers

#HRFridayFact: Elves & Reindeer have specific working patterns so make sure that their worker status is correctly stated on their contracts.

Like some of our clients, Santa Claus has a very erratic work schedule that is highly seasonal. Consequently, he needs to ensure that the terms and worker status for both Reindeer and Elves is properly applied to avoid ending up with an Employment Tribunal claim.

With just one evening’s work per year, the reindeer should really have zero-hours contracts as this would allow them to seek other work from other employers when Santa has nothing for them. The problem with this however is that there is no mutuality of contract, meaning the reindeer are not obliged to accept any work that is offered.

This could leave Santa in a pickle if the reindeer choose not to accept the one night’s work per year that he offers and instead decide to stick to their off season jobs of posing for photographs and being fattened up to provide dinner for hungry Icelandics.

Taking the reindeer on as self-employed workers gives rise to the same issues as the zero-hours contract option whereby they don’t have to accept the work. Santa’s only real choice is to offer his reindeer a very generous 364 days holiday per year.

As far as the elves are concerned, Santa most probably has a core team of elves making toys to meet anticipated demand. As Christmas approaches he will need to make an assessment of how many children have been naughty and nice and whether an increase in production is required. This may lead to Santa having to take on more elves to meet demand.

He could take on extra elves on temporary or fixed term contracts and could do this either directly or through an employment agency. Taking on (s)elf employed workers could also be an option. Santa may prefer the authority that employer status gives him but he should remember that employees have access to full benefits from day one such as sick pay.

Agency elves have access to certain benefits immediately, such as access to parking, the staff canteen or crèche facilities and will gain rights to full benefits after 12 weeks in the same role. If Santa opts to engage self-employed elves on a contracted basis, whilst there are no employee rights to worry about, he still needs to be conscious of Health & Safety, HMRC issues like IR35 and discrimination.

Employer status also means Santa can dictate when his employees take their holiday; so he is within his rights to order all employees to take their holidays together or within a certain time frame such as in the summer when there will be little impact on toy production.

With the turmoil over employee status in the Gig Economy jobs with companies such as Uber and Deliveroo, we recommend that Santa steers clear of any such arrangements.

Finally, Santa may wish to consider the effect that the National Living Wage will be when it comes into force on the 1st April next year. The increase to £7.83 for over 25 year olds may have quite an impact on his wage bill which may lead to an increase in toy prices and may also result in some redundancies being made.

We don’t usually get many enquiries regarding elves and reindeer but if you do have an issue please contact us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampios.co.uk

Otherwise, have a very merry Christmas.

14 December 2017, 15:47

Staff Arriving for Work Under the Influence

#HRFridayFact: Staff turning up unfit for work due to excess alcohol may be a risk to others an dealt with under your disciplinary policy

The festive season may give rise of incidents where staff turn up for work still under the influence of alcohol from the night before. We recommend that employers clearly state in their staff handbook how turning up for work drunk will be treated. Gross misconduct is justifiable, particularly if driving or operating machinery is part of the worker’s job.

Most employers strictly prohibit the drinking of alcohol during or before work. It unusual for even moderate alcohol consumption to be permitted, for example during lunch breaks; although some alcohol industry related employers might take a different view.

If a member of staff turns in for work and is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, the employer should interview the employee to try to establish the employee's condition. Reasonable belief can be an adequate reason to send the employee home but if the incident is likely to escalate to a disciplinary that has potential to end in dismissal, the employer may want more evidence.

An electronic breathalyser may be a good investment for businesses that employ staff for whom driving or operating machinery is part of their main duties. To use it however there should be a clause in contracts or the Staff Handbook which enables the employer to breathalyse employees if they are suspicious an employee is drunk

If an employee is sent home, an investigation should follow with witness statements as part of a disciplinary process. Remember your duty of care, and don’t let your employee drive him or herself home.

Failing to take a robust stance with employees could potentially lead to a case of corporate manslaughter if a worker was allowed to continue working despite suspicion of being drunk. Remember, directors hold liability for this.

As usual, consistency is key. Anyone suspected of arriving at work drunk should be treated the same as anyone else suspected of the same.

For help and support with issues such as this or for a review of your company documents, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk.

05 December 2017, 10:27

Christmas Party Time

#HRFridayFact: Your company Christmas party is an extension of work so staff should maintain the same standards and behaviour

Its that time of year again when you’re asked to choose between turkey, beef or butternut squash for the work Christmas party. So here’s a timely reminder that even when it’s held off-site and outside normal business hours, your work’s Christmas Party is deemed as an extension of work.

Employers must continue to take their responsibilities towards their employees seriously, particularly when your employees are together in an out-of-work environment and alcohol plays a part.  

Recent, high profile revelations of unwanted sexual harassment has made it more pertinent than ever to ensure your staff fully understand that behaviour that is considered to be unacceptable in the workplace, will be treated with equal gravity if it occurs at the party. This includes sexist remarks or intimidating conduct.

Its right to reward your team for their hard work throughout the year, and Christmas presents an obvious opportunity for this. It makes sense to take advantage of the festive atmosphere and a party or event can also work as a team building exercise.

Follow our top tips to help ensure your Christmas event goes without a hitch:

  • No-one wants to be a killjoy, but a reminder of the expected standards of behaviour is a good idea. An informal word from a line manager to remind staff that they will still be under work ‘rules’ will probably suffice
  • Make sure that anyone who chooses not to attend the party for whatever reason isn’t disadvantaged. If partygoers get extra time off work make sure that non-partygoers get time off too, even if it’s taken at another time
  • Whilst Christmas is a Christian Religious festival, the Christmas party should be seen as morale booster or team building event whereby employers thank their staff for their hard work and loyalty. As such your celebrations should be designed to include all staff and so should cater for different religions and beliefs
  • Alcohol is likely to feature in most parties and with it comes its own raft of complications. Making soft drinks available should go without saying but if your venue of choice is a pub, its association with alcohol may prove offensive to some
  • Think about briefing speakers or entertainers beforehand to ensure that their material is suitable and won't cause offence or breach the Equality Act 2010
  • People can become less guarded about what they say or do after a drink or two. Even if it’s not intended to be malicious or offensive, a throwaway comment or action by a member of staff can still be received as such by another. As an employer you have a duty of care to protect your staff from inappropriate behaviour from other staff
  • Consider the risks attached to accepting offers from employees to provide food; not just food poisoning but religious and allergy issues too. Sticking with external venues and caterers may be a safer option
  • Your duty of care should extend to getting staff to and from the venue safely. This may mean organising taxis or buses so that no-one is tempted to drink and drive
  • You may want to time the party to minimise impact on workers the following day. If you employ drivers for example, a Friday night party will mean staff are less likely to need to drive the following morning when they might still be under the influence of alcohol
  • If you plan to dock worker’s wages for failing to turn up for work or for turning up late, make sure that clause exists in your staff handbook or contracts of employment or you may expose yourself to a ‘Breach of Contract’ claim

Despite these considerations, remember to enjoy yourselves and have a good time; which will be easier to do if your party runs incident free.

For support with implementing anything mentioned here, or for help dealing with the aftermath of your Christmas Party, please call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

01 December 2017, 14:44

Time off Work for the School Play

#HRFridayFact: The School Nativity or seasonal play isn’t an emergency so employers are not obliged to give staff time off to go and watch

As Christmas rolls around, employers are likely to be asked for time off by some of their employees to enable them to go and watch their child or grandchild perform in a school play. Like any other request for time-off, employers are under no obligation to grant it.  

Employers must allow staff to take reasonable time off for emergencies involving dependants. This normally refers to children but could also be an elderly or disabled relative for whom the employee was a carer or held responsibility for welfare. Any time taken off in emergency circumstances does not have to be paid.

A Nativity or seasonal play isn’t an emergency so doesn’t fall under these rules. However it may seem harsh and uncaring not to allow the time off; particularly when, by virtue of the fact that it is a Nativity play, it would be held during the season of goodwill.

Options for how the time-off is taken will largely be either as holiday, unpaid leave or granted as discretionary paid leave. As an employer, whichever policy you choose, we strongly recommend that you apply it consistently across the workforce. This will help prevent claims of favouritism or worse, discrimination.

Unlike emergencies, events such as school plays and sports days are known about in advance and so can be planned for. With this in mind, an employer may decide that staff must take a holiday day for such events; or half-day if you allow this.

As school plays probably result in just a few hours absence it might be unreasonable to break holiday down to hours to accommodate them and so discretionary paid leave might be an easier solution. Or you could ask the employee to make the hours back at another time.

Depending upon the profile of the workforce, a business might have just one or two employees that ask for a few hours off for Nativity duties. As the impact on the business is likely to be negligible, the absence may be simply overlooked. However it may disgruntle other employees if this time off is paid and no equivalent time off is offered.

Also, as your employees’ children will be of differing ages, make sure that your decisions are consistent from year to year.

For some businesses, particularly retail and leisure, The festive season is the busiest time of year and can often be a period where no leave is allowed at all for anybody.

Ultimately, consistency is key. So to re-iterate, whichever policy you opt for when it comes to ad-hoc or discretionary leave, keep it consistent across the workforce to maintain morale and harmony. Don’t be drawn into favouring any particular reason for requesting leave.

Your leave policy should be available in you staff handbook and if you would like some help or support with this then just call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

24 November 2017, 11:26

Payslip Rules

#HRFridayFact: Providing employees with a pay-slip is a legal requirement. Electronic versions are acceptable if staff can access them

The legal terminology for a pay-slip is an ‘itemised pay statement’ and employers must provide one for all employees either on or before each pay day. You can provide pay-slips electronically, but a hard copy must be issued if an employee cannot access an electronic version, eg. they don’t have an e-mail address.

Pay statements must accurately include the amount of gross pay the employee is due to receive, and where appropriate, what that pay is made up of eg.

  • Gross pay
  • Statutory Sick pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Commission or Bonus

If employees earn a basic and a variable commission, we recommend that these are itemised separately, particularly as commission must now be included when calculating an employee’s holiday pay.

Of course deductions must be itemised also, and these include variable deductions; amounts which could change each month such as

  • Income tax
  • National Insurance
  • Pension contributions

And fixed deductions; amounts that usually remain consistent such as

  • Union subsidies
  • County Court issued attachment of earnings

The amount of take-home or net pay must also be given as must any parts of the net pay amount that will be paid via different methods, eg. cash and bank transfer.

If a disagreement arises over pay then the pay statement will be the go-to document for the basis of a discussion. If the disagreement can’t be resolved informally then the employee should raise a written complaint or grievance that could go as far as Tribunal in the worst case.

Most payroll software manages pay and deductions, including the production and sending of pay statements. However it is up to employers to ensure that details and parameters are correctly entered into the payroll system. Changes to taxation rates or minimum wage rates will usually be updated automatically through online updates these days, but non-standard employee tax codes will probably have to be amended manually.

Paying employees in exchange for work is the basis of all contracts of employment so make sure that you are fulfilling your end of the deal.

For help and support with employers’ obligations to employees call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

14 November 2017, 16:13

Don't Presume Guilt

#HRFridayFact: A full investigation should be a major element of your disciplinary process. Don’t presume guilt until proof is evident

As cases of sexual harassment continue to make headline news, the actions taken against alleged perpetrators seem quite severe. In all disciplinary matters, including those of bullying and harassment, employers should never presume guilt or make decisions ahead of time.

Unless an employee owns up to a misdemeanour, everyone is entitled to a full and fair hearing and investigation. Even if your evidence is undisputable, you must still go through a proper process.

There may be occasions where suspension is a reasonable step, but this is usually a last resort position and only where the alleged perpetrator is an immediate risk to the business or, in harassment cases, where their continued presence in the business may compromise a fair investigation.

Potential to bring the organisation into disrepute could also be a reason to suspend and may be what is behind the suspensions and dismissals we are hearing about in the media. While the allegations of sexual harassment are considerable, at this moment in time they do remain just allegations and dismissing on this basis is a risk.

Making decisions without due consideration makes the disciplinary processes problematic. If a dismissal outcome looks like it’s been prejudged, then it’s easy to argue that a fair process has not been followed. The employer can be subject to a claim of wrongful or unfair dismissal, even if the case is effectively sound.

The golden rules in disciplinary cases are consistency and objectivity. Always follow a fair process to ensure any outcome is fairly enforceable.

For help and support with any disciplinary and grievance issues, call us on 01452 331331 or mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

10 November 2017, 13:51

Gender Identity in Sexual Harassment Policies

#HRFridayFact: Ensure policies you have to combat sexual harassment are gender-neutral to avoid claims for sexual orientation discrimination

In light of current events surrounding cases of sexual harassment and the #MeToo hashtag stirring considerable interest, you will probably be inclined to check that your organisation’s bullying and harassment policies are up to scratch and that everyone has received appropriate training. When doing so, make sure that any references to sexual harassment don’t have a gender bias as this could be seen as discriminatory.

To be fully inclusive of all gender/sexual identities, the politically acceptable acronym is LGBTQQIAAP which can also be shortened to LGBT+. Explanations of the meaning of each letter are:

  • Lesbian - Women that are only attracted to women
  • Gay - Men that are only attracted to men. Gay can also be used to describe homosexual men and women
  • Bisexual - A person that is attracted to both sexes
  • Transgender - A person that has/is transitioning to the opposite sex that they were born with/attributed with at birth (Female to male. Male to female)
  • Queer - A person that does not want to label themselves as, e.g. Lesbian, so they call themselves queer instead
  • Questioning - Someone that is questioning their sexual orientation, unsure which gender/s they are attracted to
  • Intersex - A hermaphrodite; someone born with the genitals of both sexes
  • Asexual - A person that isn't sexually attracted to either gender
  • Allies - A straight person that supports the LGBT(QQIAAP) community
  • Pansexual - A person that is attracted to a person because of their personality and do not care what gender they have relationships with

An alternative may be to use phrases such as “inclusive” which are neutral and do not refer to a particular gender/sexual identity.

Businesses should note that allowing an environment where harassment, sexual or otherwise, occurs, can potentially expose an organisation and make them culpable to any occurrence of harassment and thereby at risk of a Tribunal claim.

Organisational culture will play a large part here so make sure that your risk is minimised by ensuring that all employees undergo Dignity at Work training and that their attendance is recorded. This will provide evidence that suitable action was taken to make everyone aware of what is and what isn’t acceptable and appropriate behaviour in the workplace and help to remove blame from the business.

For information about the Dignity at Work training that we can provide for your organisation, please call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

03 November 2017, 14:50

E-cigs and Vapes

#HRFridayFact: E-cigs & vapes remain outside the scope of smoke free legislation so it’s up to employers to say if they’re allowed or not

With news of a cross-party inquiry into electronic cigarettes announced this week, it’s worth reminding ourselves that although it wouldn’t be illegal to allow the use of E-cigarettes and vaporizers in the workplace, employers should give due consideration as to whether or not to allow them.

Under smoke free legislation, the act of smoking requires something, typically tobacco, to be burnt. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) such as E-cigarettes and vaporizers produce a vapour instead, which is how they escape the smoke free legislation.

Because the use of vapes and e-cigarettes mimic the act of normal cigarette smoking, their use might give the impression that smoking is condoned in your place of work. This in itself may give rise to complaints from other members of staff. Equally the vapour that is produced could be considered off-putting or offensive to other members of staff and even customers, thereby encouraging complaints.

Whilst ENDS are claimed to be safe, they are still a relatively new product and therefore too new for any meaningful studies to have been undertaken of their long term effects. Hence the cross-party inquiry which hopes to establish the gaps in available information about their safety upon both users and anyone who lives or works in an environment where they are used.

Of course it is in an employer’s interest to have a healthy workforce. There is no doubt that normal smoking can be the cause or underlying cause of very many health issues. Having staff off sick is disruptive to production and service levels and puts pressure on other team members. Although the long term effects are unclear, ENDS are marketed predominantly as a mechanism to quit normal, unhealthy smoking. Most health practitioners would certainly seem to favour e-cigarettes over normal cigarettes.

With this in mind, where an employer has a high proportion of smokers in their workforce, it may be advantageous to actively promote the use of ENDS at work. This could potentially lead to a healthier workforce with improved attendance in the long term. Don’t forget of course that the NHS provides a free quit smoking service that employees can be directed towards.

Our advice would be to treat the use of E-cigarettes and vapes in the same way as regular cigarettes but whatever an organisation’s decision, the wellbeing of the entire workforce should be considered. Policies, as usual should be clear and unambiguous and made available to all employees in a staff handbook. Policies should cover what is and what is not acceptable including information regarding smoking breaks and where it is acceptable to smoke. There is no obligation to allow smokers or vapers more rest periods or breaks than other staff.

For further support and advice call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

25 October 2017, 12:13

Referencing Previous Incidents During Investigations

#HRFridayFact: Incidents not resulting in disciplinary action can be taken into consideration when later disciplining, including dismissal

A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has determined that an incident that leads to an investigation but in itself does not result in any disciplinary action being taken, can still be taken into consideration when a new investigation does result in disciplinary action; Up to and including dismissal.

In the case of NHS 24 vs Pillar, Ms Pillar, a nurse practitioner was employed to triage inbound patient telephone calls. She was disciplined and subsequently dismissed following a patient safety incident.

The investigatory report that resulted in the dismissal referred to two previous patient safety incidents involving Ms Pillar where no disciplinary action was taken.

Despite a successful Tribunal claim against her dismissal, the EAT held that the dismissal was sound as the previous incidents were evidence that there was a lack of clinical competence rather than an accumulation of warnings.

For most employers, depending on the severity of any incidents, we would expect to see an escalation of disciplinary actions; for example a verbal warning leading to a written warning and then a dismissal. Presumably the fact that at least one patient’s life was put in danger added to the perceived severity of the incident in the NHS 24 vs Pillar case.

Notwithstanding, it would seem that even if investigations do not lead to disciplinary action being taken, this case means we may now have some wiggle room to take them into account should we need to escalate the severity of any discipline to dismissal.

There is of course no substitute for proper management including timely appraisals and appropriate training. We would also recommend that to mitigate any potential risk of ending up in Tribunal, especially now that Tribunal fees have been rescinded, employers should still follow a full and proper process and ensure that and punishment fits the crime.

For help and support with any stage of an investigation or disciplinary matters, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

20 October 2017, 10:30