Work Experience

25 Feb
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

As a parent, I am keen for my child to get proper work experience within a corporate environment; as an employer I am keen that I hire suitably qualified staff who have real life work experience; but as an employer, can I provide the work experience that today’s youngsters need?

 

Knowing what employers value more is sometimes a difficult question, even for the employers themselves to answer. Do they want someone with an English degree or are they happy to take a 22 year old with 5 years work experience in an office environment?

At the end of the day, employers need to understand what skills and experience, knowledge and application a person would need to perform the job to the highest standards. There are plenty of teachers with a degree who have no idea how to interact effectively with young children, there are highly qualified doctors with no bedside manners at all and there are scientists with all the knowledge in the world, but no idea how to use their skill to help the world.

At the same time, there are businessmen who have no qualifications at all running some of the largest corporations in the world, there are healthcare assistants who bring light to the hearts of many and certainly have no formal training and there are nursery care assistants in whom we trust the care of our children who left school with only the minimal of qualifications, if we are lucky, yet they show a level of care and understanding that provides parents with security.

Being good at something is not just about studying the theory, it is knowing how to apply it and then practicing it again and again. There is a saying I have used for many many years: “Tell me and I will know, Show me and I will understand, involve me and I will remember” This applies to all aspects of life, but knowing how to behave in the workplace, how to turn up on time, dress appropriately, speak to people with respect and deliver on deadlines are all fundamental business skills that must not only be taught, but be practiced.

There are work experience schemes running in schools, collages and universities. If you are interested in finding out more about work experience, how to set up a scheme and what you would need to provide for a meaningful work experience ‘experience’, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Do I have to pay staff if they don’t come to work due to the snow?

18 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Absence, Annual Leave, Bad weather, Blog, pay, snow   |  No Comments

On days like today, when the snow is falling steadily and settling rapidly, we are often asked about withholding pay for absent staff.

Our first response is always “What does your contract say”? 

As a general rule, if staff are absent from work and it is not for pre arranged holiday, then as an employer, you are not required to pay for the missed day. If your contract indicates that you will, ‘for reasons beyond their control’ then you must!

In many cases, employers will work with employees to find the most appropriate compromise. Imagine a retail shop – you need to keep trading, so arranging to change the rosters so that people who can get to work do so and those who can’t, cover more shifts to make up the time once the snow has passed.

If you run an office based business, can employees work from home? A little forward planning might mean people taking laptops home when they wouldn’t normally and forwarding desk phones to mobiles, ‘just in case’.

If staff do make it into work and then their child’s school shuts, parents do have the right to unpaid time of to resolve family emergencies and a school closure would be considered to be just such an emergency.

One option that many employers explore is forcing staff to take the day as holiday. It is not possible to force holiday upon people with such short notice, however if an employee suggests it (rather than having the day unpaid) and you as the employer are comfortable with that approach, then there is no reason why the compromise can not be agreed.

So what then happens if the weather deteriorates during the day and you send your staff home, what are your obligations then? Well, if you close the office preventing staff from carrying out their duties, then you are not allowed to make any deduction from salary.

As an ideal, your contracts of employment or employee handbook, should document a policy and procedure relating to snow days.

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure that your employees are working in a healthy and safe environment. Be mindful of field based staff and drivers. Don’t force them to work if it is not safe for them to do so, as you could end up with a corporate manslaughter case on your hands. Issue advice about bad weather driving and ensure they have emergency provisions in their vehicles. Be prepared to cover accommodation costs if your mobile staff get caught away from home stranded by the snow.

We Do HR – Making the Workplace a Better Place to be

08 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Health and Safety, HR, HR Policy, HR Support, Human Resources, Recruitment   |  No Comments

I am on a mission…..

Our strapline is “Making the workplace a better place to be” – but what does that mean?

Over the years, the management of people within a business has had many different names; the most familiar used today are “personnel” and “Human Resources (HR)”.  Whatever you choose to call it, staff have always been managed to a greater or lesser extent and whoever you talk to will always have stories about good and bad managers.

So, why our strapline?

Whether you are the employer or the employee, working in a ‘good’ place makes life far more bearable. We all spend too much of our time at work not to be happy. Doing a job which satisfies and challenges us, working alongside people who’s company we enjoy are both essential elements of a good workplace, but so is the working environment, including business culture and management ethos.

When we work with business owners, we ensure that we fully understand not only the business issues within the company, but the working environment as well:

  • If a company wants to remain informal, then we help them to develop and/or reinforce an approach which is a ‘soft-touch’, but compliant with employment legislation. This is often the request of small or family owned businesses.
  • If a company wants to build a base for rapid expansion, then we will ensure all of the HR policies and procedures form a foundation which is solid and easily scalable.
  • If a company doesn’t know what they want, but has an increasing number of employee relations issues, then we will review what is currently happening, understand the cause of the issues and work with the business owners and / or managers to put into place robust, transparent and well-communicated HR policies, procedures, processes and practices.

This approach to HR Management provides line managers with a mandate to manage, making the workplace better for them. At the same time, employees understand what is expected of them for example: hours of work, dress code, health and safety and sickness notification; and what commitments the company has made with respect to terms and conditions of employment and HR policies such as disciplinaries, grievances, sick pay and leave, annual leave, health and safety, discrimination etc.

‘Making the workplace a better place to be’ may take on many different guises and change over time. At DOHR we ensure we know what the workplace looks like now and how it needs to look in the future. Implementing good HR practices, we work very closely with business owners and managers to realise the vision, to reduce risk to the business and make their workplace a better place to be.

Three-quarters of computer users still not sitting pretty

01 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Employees, Employers, Health, Health and Safety   |  No Comments

Around 75 per cent of regular computer users still aren’t aware of the principles of good workstation posture, according to research carried out by Clearworld Health & Safety. The consequences of poor posture include neck, back and shoulder pain, as well as joint problems and even increased stress.

Having prepared risk assessments for over 10,000 regular computer users, I consistently find that a tiny minority of computer users experience no problems at all.

Computers are as integral to our lives as phones and TVs, yet the majority of people still don’t seem to be aware of how to use them safely. A few simple changes in the way you sit at your desk can easily prevent the onset of long-term health problems.

Following these five simple tips will help you remain safely seated at work:

  • Make sure the height of your chair is adjusted so your elbows are level with the desk and the backrest is at a comfortable angle.
  • There’s an art to sitting properly! Perching on the edge of the chair or leaning forward provides no support for your back. Sit as far back in the chair as possible, so you can feel the backrest support where your back curves inwards.
  • Prevent twisting and stretching by ensuring the PC screen is directly in front of you, with the keyboard and mouse close enough to have your arms in a comfortable L-shape.
  • Accessorise if necessary. If your feet aren’t resting flat on the floor, get a footrest. If your wrists are titled upwards when using the keyboard or mouse, get a wrist rest.
  • Screen breaks should be taken for about five minutes an hour – this can simply mean letting your eyes focus on a different part of the room.

Many owners of small companies aren’t aware that they are legally obliged to have up-to-date health and safety documentation (including workstation risk assessments) if they employ five people or more. For a competent risk assessor to carry out these risk assessments, please visit clearworld.co.uk. For a 10% discount, please mention DOHR at the time of booking.

Haydn Glick (Tech IOSH), Clearworld Health & Safety Ltd.

Recharge the Batteries

07 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Annual Leave, Blog, Employees, Employers   |  No Comments

The festive season is nearly upon us, the new year is looming, staff are flagging and lookingHoliday forward to a few days off. If you work in retail – not a chance, prepare for the onslaught – Christmas and the January sales. If you work in an office or a manufacturing environment, you might be in luck. Many offices and factories close for at least the three bank holidays, some even close for the three working days between Christmas and New Year. Us, well we are closing for a few extra days as well.

We all need a break and recharging the batteries is absolutely essential to achieving an engaged workforce who are healthy, motivated and highly focused on delivering a fantastic service to clients. In many companies the annual leave (holiday) year runs in line with the annual calendar and therefore for many, this is the last opportunity to take unused holiday time. Many companies operate a ‘use it or lose it’ policy and as long as they have given employees  the opportunity to use the time, the onus is on the employee to ensure they ‘claim’ everything they are entitled to.

It is really important that an annual leave policy is clearly documented: that staff know when they can take their holiday, what their entitlement is, how bank holidays are treated and are aware of any ‘black out periods’ when the business is at it’s busiest and holiday can not be taken.

Rules such as the number of staff allowed to be off at any one time and any priority given to parents required to take leave during the school holidays should be communicated so that expectations are managed appropriately.

Good practice dictates that managers ensure leave is spread throughout the year and that staff know what holiday time they have left. They should be encouraged to have used at least half of their leave before the end of Q3 with the rest of their leave planned, authorised and booked appropriately.

Holiday pay can be confusing for some employees and the complexity may occur with part time or term time only staff. It is essential that the contract of employment provides the formula for calculating holiday pay and / or holiday entitlement. All entitlements for part time staff must be pro rated based on the full time entitlements i.e. if the normal working week is 40 hours and an employee works 20 hours, they are a 0.5 full time equivalent (FTE). Therefore the annual leave entitlement is pro rated and if the full time employee has 30 days holiday including bank holidays, the part time employee has 15 days including the public and bank holidays which fall on their normal working days.

Ensure your employees have the opportunity to recharge their batteries – it will be better for your business.Christmas holidays

Signage Requirements Relaxed

28 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Health and Safety   |  1 Comments

With the best will in the world, I do sometimes sense that some of my clients find the requirements of health & safety signage a bit unnecessary at times. Is it really necessary to display a “fire exit” sign above the only way out of the building? Is it really necessary to display “fire route” signage pointing people down stairs (rather than up)?… and is it really necessary to display a “no smoking” sign, stating “it is against the law to smoke in these premises” at every entrance to the building?

Well, the good news is that in line with the government’s desire to reduce the burden on small business of excessive health & safety demands, some of the signage requirements have now been relaxed, and a more common-sense approach will now satisfy legal requirements.

A new set of Regulations have been published called The Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2012, which have replaced the Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2007. The major change in the new Regulations is that it is now no longer necessary to display a no-smoking sign of a specific size, shape and content at each entrance to the smoke-free premises. It is now only necessary to display at least one legible no-smoking sign within smoke-free premises, of any size, shape or content.

As far as fire exit and fire route signage is concerned, this has to comply with the requirements of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. These Regulations are specific in requiring pictogram signage of certain shape, size and colour. The location of these signs should be determined within the fire risk assessment for your premises, which should be carried out by a competent person.

If a building is very small with a very simple layout, then a reasonable fire risk assessor should take this into account, apply common sense and not require fire exit or fire route signage to be displayed. If however, there could potentially be any uncertainty as to the best way out of a building during a fire evacuation, then conforming signage should be displayed.

If your premises is in need of a fire risk assessment to be carried out by a competent risk assessor, applying common sense, please visit clearworld.co.uk. For a 10% discount, please mention DOHR at the time of booking.

Haydn Glick (Tech IOSH), Clearworld Health & Safety Ltd.

Show you care

26 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Benefits, Blog, Employees, Fit notes, Health, sickness   |  No Comments

Getting the benefits package right for your staff is important for their motivation and engagement, but it can be even more important for your business.

When a member of staff goes off sick, there is an impact on productivity and in some cases other members of the team will need to step in to ensure things get done. But when a member of staff has a longer term condition the disruption to the business could be significant. The aim would be to get the employee fit and back to work as quickly as possible.

Waiting for appointments on the NHS could take up to 18 weeks and this is before you are even seen by a specialist, never mind being treated. The impact on business can be huge – so what can an employer do?

With the increasing pressure on and cut backs within the NHS, more and more people are turning to the private medical sector. Employers who are able are providing their employees with private medical insurance. This benefit makes staff feel valued, but also gets employees treated and back into the workplace as soon as reasonably practical. It is important that employees are supported while they are off, but equally, it is important to ensure the business is able to function efficiently with all staff performing at their optimum level.

There is a range of providers and group schemes work in several different ways. In some cases each employee will have their own policy, in some cases usually for larger companies,  it is a group scheme and often with an individual employee’s medical history disregarded. In larger companies partners or families are often also insured for senior members of management, while in other companies some or all of the staff are able to pay for family members to be covered at the corporate discount rate.

Providing private medical insurance is a cost to your business, but it can also provide long term cost savings and be a way of protecting your business, keeping staff healthy and in work longer.

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