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World Mental Health Day 2018

10 Oct
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

One in four people are affected by mental health in UK each year and 1 in 6 people report experiencing either anxiety or depression. This can have a detrimental impact on employees and running of a business, so it is important to be able to recognise poor mental health in a workplace. According to The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, “less than one in three organisations (32%) train line managers to support their direct reports with poor mental health.” This is not a significant enough number of organisations, considering poor mental health is increasing and is the “primary cause of long-term sickness absence … for more than 22% of UK organisations”. A survey was carried out of over 44,000 employees and less than half of those employees (42%), felt as though their manager would be able to spot whether they were struggling with poor mental health.

As managers, we know this can be a huge responsibility and you’re probably wondering how I do even approach this?

Thankfully, CIPD & Mind have designed a free guide that will help educate managers on managing mental health. Giving them the resources and tools needed to “effectively and confidently” support those who suffer with mental health at work. The ability to offer support in the early stages, can have a tremendously positive impact on the employee but managers must be trained not only to spot the signs but to provide the appropriate and intervention.

Muller-Heyndyk confirms that the new guide cautiously follows the government’s ‘Thriving at work’ employment review. It has stated that it can cost employers £17b – £26b a year, due to ‘presenteeism’.

I’m sure you wouldn’t want your staff severely unhappy and only present because they feel as though they have no choice.

Rachel Suff (senior employee relations adviser at CIPD) says that it is important managers are invested in their employee’s wellbeing, as they are the first port of call for their               employees. Managers may be reluctant to talk about mental health but staying silent can make the situation worse. It is important that managers do not shy aware from mental health. Ensuring that they are proactive in promoting good wellbeing at work.

The guide that has been put together by Mind & CIPD (Mental Health at Work Guide), will hopefully contribute to having positive impact on mental health in a workplace. Giving managers the confidence to effectively support their employees.

Written by: Shakeila Morrison, Business Development Manager, DOHR

 

Who you take advice from matters ……… A LOT!

25 Sep
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Business, employent law, Employment Tribunal, Performance Management   |  No Comments

Would you allow a GP to carry out brain surgery on you?
Would you want your accountant giving you a manicure?

The answer to both, I suspect, is NO!

So why do people listen to family and friends when they need advice on their staff?

The answer we are sometimes given is “because they have run a business”; but more often than not it is just because the employer was venting and family and friends were trying to be supportive.

Would you want a business coach mentoring you if they had already had three of their businesses go into liquidation?

Would you want a business coach guiding your growth from £100k – £3m if they have never run a business of more than £250k and have only ever sold a product when you offer a service?

Making sure you surround your business with the right people is essential for business success and hiring the wrong people or taking advice from people because it ‘feels’ right is an irresponsible risk to introduce into your business.

I am a member of a number of business-related Facebook Groups where members are incredibly supportive of each other. People pose all sorts of business questions and other group members provide useful, enlightened, inspirational and business-focussed advice. However, (there is often a however) I get quite concerned about the people advice that is often given. It is still being given in the right way i.e. from the desire to be supportive and helpful; but so many times it is legally wrong! It may feel right, it may feel like the moral thing to do, it may even be what the advice giver has done in the past…… but none of that makes the advice right.

There are always options and when giving employment law or HR advice (they are not quite the same thing), it is essential that you know 3 things:

  1. What the law says
  2. What your contracts of employment and/or employee handbook says
  3. What has already been said to / is understood by the employee

When people ask about underperforming staff and everyone says “get rid”, “fire today”, “show them the door”, what they do not understand is the following:

  • Does the employee have a contract of employment and if so, what does it say?
  • Is there a contractual disciplinary, grievance or termination policy within the business?
  • How long has the employee been there?
  • Does the employee have any protected features?
  • Are there any medical issues which are causing the poor performance?

The answers to these will all determine the options available to the business owner and the risks associated with each option.

The latest employment tribunal figures show the number of claims last quarter increased by 165% compared to the same quarter last year. In the last quarter, the largest AVERAGE awards were given for disability (£30,700) and the average award for unfair dismissal was £15,007.

As employees no longer need to pay to take a case to the employment tribunal and discrimination claims do not require 2 years service and these awards are uncapped, employers really do need to be aware of the implications of what they say and the decisions they make.

So, while family, friends and other business owners are happy and willing to provide advice, you do need to make sure that you are taking the right advice. It must be right for your business, right for you and right for your employee…. It is just not worth risking your business over.

Don’t commute and use your phone

05 Sep
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, HR Policy, Policies and Procedures, work life balance   |  No Comments

I do think that people now are more aware of how they use their phones while driving – it is illegal to do so – but how aware are people of how they use their phones on a public transport commute?

I had a lovely chat with Roberto Perrone on the BBC 3 Counties Drive Time Show last week discussing the findings of a study carried out by the University of the West of England for the Royal Geographic Society (BBC Report).

My first thought is about defining who we are talking about, because I am fairly sure we are not talking about all commuters. I suspect that the main focus is office workers and managers of other organisations. I don’t think retails staff or factory workers, nurses or emergency response workers will be checking their emails (but please correct me if I am wrong).

The main gist of the article was a question: Should time spent on emails during a commute be considered to be working time?

My next thought was: Does it matter?

Most office staff are not hourly paid and many do not receive overtime for getting their day job done. Therefore if they are spending an extra hour a day clearing emails on their phone, does it matter?

Choice and Control

I think in reality this comes down to whether the employee is required to check their emails or whether they chose to. If they are required to check and respond to their emails on a regular basis then this is different from someone choosing to manage their time, workload and home / work balance in this way.

If someone is required to check their emails, perhaps because they are on call, perhaps because they are waiting for time critical information, then in many cases their job description will reflect this and they should be remunerated accordingly.

If someone choses to leave the office at 5 and finish off their day on their commute home, thus enabling them to reach home at a reasonable time, then this is a personal choice which can be empowering and lead to greater efficiency. Some people only check emails two or three times a day to ensure that they are able to operate at optimum levels without interruptions and deliver what they plan to deliver within each day.

Overload

It is very rare that an employer will tell an employee they must work in the evenings or respond to emails 18 hours a day. It is far more likely that employees adopt these behaviours to enable them to cope with excessive volumes of emails, or to ensure that they are able to stay on top of their workload. Learning to take control of your inbox before it takes control of you is absolutely essential to ensure that you are able to deliver as required. However, there are times when the sheer volume of emails is just too much and the amount of work required from you is just not achievable even if you were to work 24 hours a day.

This is when an employee needs to have a tough conversation with the boss. This is not an emotional outburst, but a considered discussion around volume, expectations, standards deliverables and support.

Overheard

I have lost count of the number of times I have overheard highly confidential conversations on a train. Although these are often between two people sat together, more often than not it is a phone conversation. Discussing the outcome of a meeting, the prospects of a deal or the firing of an employee. People not only need to be aware of the time spent on emails on a phone during a commute, but they also need to be very conscious of the content of their work related conversations in public places.

Management Responsibility

As an employer or manager, you have a duty of care to your staff. This means ensuring that they are not put under excessive stress at work, that the job is reasonable and achievable in the time available. While there may be an occasional need to work from home in the evenings responding to emails or clear down emails on a commute to work, this should not be the norm and if it is, the roles and responsibilities of the employee need to be discussed and possibly reviewed.

The Working Time Directive (WTD) states that employees should not be working more than an average of 48 hours a week. Does this include checking emails either by choice or if required to do so? If the employee has not opted out of the WTD, then it probably does, but choice and control will also play a role here.

Security and devices

Another issue in this debate is around security and data protection. Who owns the phone? Is it a personal phone or a work phone? What security is on the phone? If work emails are on a personal phone, perhaps with confidential information, who is responsible for the security of that data? It is now outside of company systems and security protocols what happens if the phone is lost or stolen?

Employer Control

As an employer, you have a choice. You determine the culture. You set the policies and procedures. Communication is essential for you, your staff and the business, and you need to decide whether you want your team working on their mobiles – personal or otherwise – out of hours, including on their commute.

World Cup fever hits your office

18 Jun
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

It’s Monday the 18th of June 2018.

Now that date may not mean a lot to some of you, but for others, you’ve been marking off the days waiting until England takes their first match tonight in the 2018 World Cup. 

What’s that got to do with business?

Actually, quite a lot.

Tonight’s game is a 7 o’clock kick off. So it doesn’t really impact our work at all. However, you may have a few staff with hangovers tomorrow morning.

What I want to do here, is just give you a couple of tips for dealing with games while at work, and the morning after the night before.

The first thing to remember, is not everybody in your office is going to support England. So you need to be quite mindful of that, either because they just don’t support England, or they don’t think they’ve got a particularly good chance of winning, or because actually, they’re not English themselves, and they support a home team.

One of the things that as an employer, you need to do, is to make sure that nobody in your office is subject to any bullying or harassment because of the team that they support.

Now, it may seem really trivial, but if you’ve got somebody in your office that is from Tunisia, or whose parents are from Tunisia, and they’re playing England tonight, that can be a really difficult dynamic to deal with. As an employer, you have a duty of care towards all of your staff, and that does extend to making sure that they’re not bullied because of the football team that they support. Especially, when it comes to the World Cup. Because actually, what you can end up with, is a discrimination claim against you because of nationality or harassment because of someone’s nationality.

Lots of different things to think about. So the first thing to do is to talk to your staff.  While your encouraging everybody to get involved, to appreciate football – sport is an amazing opportunity to bring people together – they actually just need to be mindful of respect – respecting people regardless of where they’re from or what teams they follow.

So the next thing is whether or not you’re going to allow them to have TV’s on in the office. Now, some companies will say, if its an England game playing, we’ll have the TV on. If you want to watch it take your lunch break during the match, or go down to the local pub. But again, you need to be mindful of the fact that some people aren’t going to be supporting England, so you need to make provisions that apply to anybody regardless of the team that they support to enable people who want to watch the match to do so in a way that minimises the impact on the working day.

Stick to your rules, most companies have a rule where people aren’t allowed to attend work under the influence of drug and alcohol. That’s fine, and if people go to the pub to watch a game then they need to make sure that they come back to work sober. Because if they don’t, then you’re company disciplinary policy applies. You have an absolute right to enforce that, regardless of the reasons for people having gone out.

If you decide to bring pizza or drinks into the office to celebrate, then again, you just need to be mindful of the fact that not everybody drinks and not everybody is going to want to be following the football as there are some people who just don’t want to know. Again, don’t make those people feel marginalised because of the football match that’s on.

So what do you do if people just don’t turn up to work?

You need to follow your own company policies and procedures. If they’ve booked the day off, that’s great, but actually, you’re not obliged to give them the day off. So if you have a whole department of five people that request time off to watch the football, you have the absolute right to say no; and if people still take that time off, and you believe that it’s not due to a genuine sickness absence, then again, you’ve got the right with a back to work interview and an investigation process, to actually discipline for absence without permission.

If that’s the route you want to go down, my one bit of advice, is to be consistent, whatever you do, whatever you apply for one person, needs to be applied for everybody. So you can’t treat men differently to women, you can’t treat young different to old. You can’t treat Tunisian employees any differently to British employees, or the Dutch or the Germans in your office environment.

Whether England will get through to the quarter finals, the semifinals, or even the finals, (not going to say it, but I doubt that they will), but even if they do, World Cup Fever is only going to escalate over the next few weeks.

As an employer, you need to make sure that you are still able to run your business. That your business is running effectively, and that your staff know what they are and aren’t allowed to do. Consistency, communication, are absolutely key here.

Whatever the outcome, have an amazing 2018 World Cup.

Vital Statistics …. for your business

18 Jun
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, jobs, Recruitment, salary, war for talent, Workplace   |  No Comments

Last week there were some interesting stats announced by the ONS (Office for National Statistics):

  • The number of people in work increased
  • The number of unemployed people decreased
  • The number of people aged from 16 to 64 years not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) also decreased
  • The employment rate was 75.6%, higher than for a year earlier (74.8%) and the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971

So what?

Well, it means that it is getting even harder to recruit and retain good quality staff.

What else?

  • Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings in real terms (adjusted for price inflation) increased by 0.4% excluding bonuses, and by 0.1% including bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

Meaning?

The shortage of job seekers is pushing up salaries, albeit not by very much – yet!

So?

You need to ensure that you recruit and retain the right staff. Can you answer “yes” to these questions:

  1. Do you know what you are looking for?
  2. Do you know where to look?
  3. Do you know how to find the right type of people for your business?
  4. Are you attractive enough to encourage applications from the right sort of people?
  5. Can you sort the wheat from the chaff?
  6. Can you make a competitive and compelling offer?

Being able to answer “yes” to the above is essential if you are going to build and maintain a healthy, thriving business against a backdrop of increasing competition for a decreasing number of good quality, qualified, experienced individuals.

It appears you can have your cake AND eat it

14 Jun
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, employee rights, Employment Legislation, Employment Status, Employment Tribunal, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

So this is a very quick video to tell you that today, finally, the Supreme Court have ruled on the case of Gary Smith versus Pimlico Plumbers and Charlie Mullins.

Charlie Mullins famously said that his workers, the people that work for him, the plumbers, “couldn’t have their cake and eat it”. But it appears today that the Supreme Court have said, actually, yes they can.

This is going to go across the whole of the gig economy. What they’ve said is that although Gary Smith decided that he wanted to be self-employed, that he was VAT registered, that he hired his vehicle from Pimlico Plumbers, he was actually a worker.

Now, that doesn’t sound like a big deal to some people, but it means that he’s entitled to national minimum wage, he’s entitled to sick pay, and there are other benefits that he is entitled to.

And it’s not just him. It’s going to be anybody who works in that gig economy space. It’s going to stretch to delivery drivers, to Uber drivers, Addison Lee drivers, anybody who has plumbers, engineers, air conditioner specialists, security guards, cleaners, even waiting staff.

We’ve been waiting for this ruling. It is being seen as a landmark ruling, and the Supreme Court have said that, actually, despite the fact that Gary was given the option as to whether or not he wanted to be self-employed or whether he wanted to be an employee and given the fact that he’s been earning £100,000 a year  as a self employed person; when he got ill, he has turned the tables on his employer and decided actually he wanted to be classed as an employee or worker.

These are really, really important details for anybody who’s looking to employ contractors. It is really important to make sure that you’ve got employment status right, because again, it reinforces the fact that, it is not up to the employer or the individual to decide the basis of that employment relationship. The law determines whether or not somebody is an employee, whether or not they are genuinely self-employed, and there are a series of tests that have to be applied to every relationship to make sure that as a business owner when you take on an employee, you’re taking them on as a genuine employee, or if you take someone on as a contractor, they are a genuine contractor.

The expression that I use is, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck; regardless of whether you call it a hen, a goose, or a chicken.

Employment status is going to be all over the news in the next 24 – 48 hours; it’s all about the gig economy, and it’s all about making sure that the people who are working for you are doing so on a legally acceptable basis. You don’t get to choose, and nor do they. It’s a case of what does the law say.

We’ve finally got some clarity, but it’s going to be difficult for employers to implement.

Is the workplace really changing that much?

16 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

I’ve been asked to comment on a recent article[1] written by George Zarkadakis from Willis Towers Watson’s Talent and Rewards Practice; and that has led to this response.

It’s an interesting article in which the Global Future of Work Survey[2] is cited as finding that companies expect automation, robotics and artificial intelligence to take an increasing role (up to 22% of work being done) in business.

The article looks at the preparedness of businesses, and of HR departments in particular, for what they anticipate being a significant change in working practises over the next three to five years.

The first thing to say is that in real terms I don’t think anything is really changing.

Over the last hundred years we’ve seen massive changes and a significant increase in the use of technology in the workplace.

Even the move to computers and the rise of PCs and Microsoft Office has already resulted in huge levels of automation in the workplace that never existed, even twenty years ago.

The development of apps, the increasing use of mobiles and tablets and the continued development of technology in the workplace – not only in offices but across all areas of business – means that organisations are already making changes and have been on a technological continuum for the past 50 years.

When you look at the High Street and the changes that have happened there, there’s a huge amount of transformation taking place with an increasing number of large retailers going out of business because shoppers are moving online.

But, on the flip side, consumers are also buying more, wanting more choice and are choosing instant gratification – same day / next day delivery. Consumerism is on the rise and that provides a real opportunity for the right retailers; those with a flexible business and entrepreneurial vision. The old models are not working.

Does this come down to planning?

Does this come down to HR?

I’m not sure that it really does.

It comes down to having a flexible mindset and an ability to be realistic about the world around you, to clearly evaluate what is happening, to understand the reasons for the change and to react quickly to those changes.

It is far easier to turn a dingy than an oil tanker.

The shifts that we’re seeing now are no different to the shifts that we’ve seen over the last twenty or thirty years, but we’re perhaps more aware of them because of social media; because of the role that mainstream media is playing, because every change, every success and every failure is amplified in a way that it never has been before.

To say that businesses aren’t ready and that HR is not prepared for what is coming is naïve and feels like a lamb being prepared for sacrifice.

Change can never be orchestrated by one department, nor is it achievable with a magic wand.

No one has a crystal ball and with Brexit on the horizon and changes to the ‘gig’ economy, businesses have a number of equally significant changes to contend with over the next few years.

Technology may well be the lifeline needed to survive the turbulent times ahead.

However, HR is just one cog in the leadership wheel and as HR professionals working at the coal face, we know that in many businesses, we are trusted advisors and subject matter experts supporting the business operations.

All business leaders, whether HR specialists or not, need to be open to change, to embrace new ways of working, to meet new employee expectations and work together to capitalise on opportunities while managing the threats.

However, businesses are not the only stakeholders able to make a difference. Both Government and our education system have vital roles to play in supporting businesses and our economy in the future.

There is currently huge focus for the Government on the Gig economy with the crackdown on zero hour contracts, self-employment, freelancing and contractors.

The issue is that this is almost diametrically opposite to what businesses need and many employees are demanding.

The right to choose and be supported in that choice is essential for both the employer and the employee.

At the moment, we have an employment law system (including the employment tribunals) which is sticking plasters over every crack that appears.

One of the biggest reasons people voted leave in the Brexit referendum was linked, in some way, to business and worker rights (be it employment legislation from Europe or the migrating workforce).

In terms of growing our own workforce, we again have two situations:

1) The abolition of the retirement age and low pension rates mean that older workers are staying in the workplace for longer.

These workers are often resistant to change and unable to adapt with the pace required as new technology is introduced.

At the moment, the only way to safely remove these workers is to performance management them out of the business – and that is no way to treat someone with 20 or 30 years loyal service!

Even then, with the changes to access to the tribunal system, the employer is likely to end up with an age discrimination case on their hands – the older worker, perhaps aged 70, just couldn’t adapt to the work they were being asked to do. Does the business back off and delay change? Or do they press on knowing they will have an unlimited fine age discrimination case against them?

2) Balanced against our older workers are the Millennials who are currently trying to enter the workplace.

A huge proportion of this demographic fear they will never be able to earn enough to own their own homes. These youngsters have skills that businesses can capitalise on, but their work ethic and expectations are different.

Not wrong, just different.

Millennials do not want a job for life. They want challenges, they need variation, they need emotional intelligence and support from their managers and they live a connected life, which many current managers just don’t understand.

Motivating these employees is different because their drivers are different from previous generations. They don’t live to work, they work to live and expect to be treated fairly no matter their background, gender or education.

The employees entering the workplace now are also much better educated and aware of their rights. We are moving increasingly to a US model where litigation is a first option for resolving issues rather than a last resort; and yet our employment legal system has not been significantly shaken up for years.

In the US, if an employer needs someone to leave (for almost any reason) they know they have to pay to make it happen.

What would that kind of system do to the mind-set of employers and employees here in the UK?

Would people work/behave differently? If an employer could write a truthful reference for a dismissed employee without the fear of a claim against them, would that change the way employees behave at work? Would employers be more willing to take on permanent staff rather than wanting a transient workforce or freelancers and contractors?

Our children are being educated in a system that was designed for the Victorian age.

Schools are slowly embracing modern learning techniques and technology, but very few schools are teaching children what they are going to need to enter the modern workplace as fully contributing employees.

Employers are continually complaining that they can’t recruit people with the skills they need.

School leavers aren’t prepared for the world of work and with low retention figures why should employers invest in young workers?

Add to this the fact that many of the jobs our children will be doing in the future don’t even exist yet, the fact that with Brexit we are probably going to lose lower-skilled workers from Eastern Europe, the issue that we already have jobs that people in the UK don’t want to do and the world of work is going to become a more fractious, unpredictable place to be.

There is no certainty in business.

The only certainty we have is that change has always and will continue to happen.

Managing change effectively is the responsibility of everyone within a business and ensuring that the organisation’s vision and goals are defined, documented and communicated is going to be even more important in the future.

The way in which that vision and those goals are achieved will vary over time and the goals themselves may need to be updated, but in essence, for a business to survive, it must be able to offer something that people want to buy. It must be able to compete for customers, staff and resources. It must be able to embrace and evolve with technology.

From the invention of the washing machine to the latest robotics assisting brain surgeons, technology is designed to make life easier for the user.

Watch any sci-fi movie from the 1980s and some of those imagined creations are today’s realities and technology advancement is only limited by our own imaginations.

Why the results of the Global Future of Work survey come as a shock is a surprise to me.

25 years ago very few businesses had websites or apps, very few job boards existed, people didn’t buy their houses or do their weekly shop online, but today Uber, Totaljobs, PurpleBricks, Amazon and Ocado are all changing the way in which we live.

So why wouldn’t technology have the same impact on the way in which we work?

We are going to need technology.

We don’t have enough people to care for our elderly; we don’t have enough people willing to do the repetitive low paid jobs and we have too many mistakes made due to human error. Technology and the advancement of AI and robotics will help us to fill necessary gaps in the workplace and planning for such change lies with every single person in the workplace.

In their analysis of the Global Future of Work Survey, Willis Towers Watson have developed ‘Five myths about the future of work – busted’ [3] which identifies a ‘clear course of action’ which can be summarised as:

  • Change job descriptions based on how automation impacts work
  • Define retraining needs of the workforce, including management
  • Manage employees and workers effectively based on the new job roles

Whether you work for a private or public business, whether the organisation is micro, small or large, whether you currently use technology or not, change is inevitable and those who understand that and are able to adapt to embrace the advantages that technology brings, will be the businesses which not only survive, but thrive in the future.

 

 

[1] https://www.thehrdirector.com/features/artificial-intelligence/unprepared-for-ai/

[2] https://www.willistowerswatson.com/-/media/WTW/PDF/Insights/2018/02/the-future-of-work-debunking-myths-and-navigating-new-realities-wtw.pdf

[3] https://www.willistowerswatson.com/en/insights/2018/01/infographic-five-myths-about-the-future-of-work-busted

121 Review meetings

11 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in 121's, 360 degree feedback, Appraisal skills, Blog, people management, Performance Management, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

These can be held as frequently as the manager and employee feel necessary, often weekly or bi-weekly.

They can all be formal, or a mixture of formal (structured with forms and notes) and informal (verbal, no notes).

At some points notes should be kept on file reflecting discussions, concerns, action plans, commitments and support required.

If at any point an employee is not performing, the 121s and the notes from these meetings may be used in evidence of support offered or commitments made.

 

 

 

Probation Reviews

09 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Employees, Probation, training, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

The Employee should recieve regular feedback during their probation period. This can be done informally, but if there are any concerns, these should be documented with an action plan.

At a minimum, the employee should recieve a formal written review after 3 months and again at about 5 1/2 months.

Failing someone in their final probation review should not be a surprise. As a result of feedback provided, they should know if their employment is going to be confirmed.

Probation Period

06 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Business, people management, Performance Management, Policies and Procedures, Probation, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

This is a trial period at the start of someone’s employment.

A 6 month probation period is ideal as it gives the employee time to learn the role and the employer time to assess performance and to provide feedback, making corrections to performance or attitude if required.

If the new member of staff does not have the right attitude, skills or ability they can be removed more easily during their probation period.

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