Policies and Procedures

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.

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.

Family Friendly Policies

28 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Employment, Employment Legislation, Flexi-time, Flexible working, gender, Home-workers, HR Policy, HR Support, Human Resources, Job Sharing, Maternity, Part-time Workers Act, Paternity, people management, Policies and Procedures, reduced hours, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

A full set of policies around maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay need to be developed so that employees feel valued and their skills are not lost from the business, but so that they business is able to function effectively with short and long term absences as a result of the prospective and actual birth of a baby.

The law provides for statutory time off and pay, but companies can provide more or structure things differently.

 

 

Social Media

14 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, HR Policy, Policies and Procedures, policy, Social Media, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

Companies need to think about what they will and will not allow their staff to do in terms of social media.

Do employees have access to company accounts and if so, what are the rules around the use of that account?

If employees comment on ‘a day at the office’ what might the implications be for your business in terms of reputation to clients, suppliers and exisiting or potential employees.

A clear, well thought through policy is essential to enable apropriate use of social media for your business.

Discrimination

05 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, employee rights, Employees, employent law, Employment, gender, HR, Maternity, Part-time Workers Act, Policies and Procedures, Race Discrimination, Recruitment, RIsk, Sexual Orientation, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

 

Well written policies and procedures which are communicated and applied consistently are the key to ensuring that the risk  of discrimination is reduced as much as possible.

Employees (as well as workers and job applicants) could bring claims for discrimination on the basis of Age, Gender, Race, Beliefs, Marital Status, Disability and Sexual Orientation.

Care must be taken not to over generalise i.e. “everyone must wear trousers” or “everyone must work on a specific day of the week” as this could have a disproportionate negative impact on a sub sect of your workforce. Therefore you end up discriminating against some, as a result of trying to treat everyone the same.

Why Corporate Jargon And Nonsense Stops Businesses Taking HR Seriously

10 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Compensation, Contract of employment, Employees, Employment, Human Resources, people manaagment, Policies and Procedures, Recruitment, training   |  No Comments

(And The Four Processes That Most Business Owners  Need To Go Through When Dealing With Staff)

I’ve been studying and practicing HR for over 25 years. 

Which means that I ‘get it’.  I ‘understand’ it.  However ludicrously worded something is, or however jargonny a contract sounds, I can usually root out the genuine meaning, and what it means in the real world.

However, use the term HR or Human Resources in front of your common or garden business owner and you’ll often get a blank look, especially if they have never worked in large organisations or corporations that have had a whole HR department dedicated to looking after the staff, employees, and contractors.

But here’s the thing, whether you’re Mickey the Butcher or Microsoft, you still need to be able to practice HR correctly – failure to do so puts your business under significant risk from an employment tribunal.

With that in mind, this article is designed to help you to do exactly that, by cutting through the jargon and breaking down the four processes that you’ll need to go through, whether you’ve got two employees or 20,000.

So the first area is recruitment: the hiring of the right staff. 

Make sure that you know the skills that you need and that the people that you are hiring have the ability to do the job, but don’t forget that attitude and aptitude are also really, really important. 

Making sure that somebody has the right attitude, is going to fit in with your business and your culture will engage with your goals and has the ability to learn the rest of the skills that you need to give them is absolutely vital. 

Why?  Nobody is going to come fully formed, so you need employees who can be moulded, and moulding is all about attitude. 

And, as a plus point, when employees are not fully formed, they are generally easier to work with – they don’t have the same fixed ideas about things that someone who has ‘been there and done it’ has.

In addition, it is also really good idea to hire people who are better than you at key elements of the business. You shouldn’t be sweating over the books when someone else will be able to do them quicker, easier and more effectively than you.

Similarly, you may be good and able to type your letters up yourself, but actually having a VA or an in-house PA is going to drive your business forward much quicker for you as they are freeing up your time. 

 

The second element is Employee Relations

Now, this is a big area for HR!

At the most basic level, it means giving all of the staff that you hire a contract of employment. 

It means making sure that you have made decisions about:

  • How much holiday they are going to have
  • What you are going to do in the event of sick pay
  • What dress code you want within your business
  • What time you want people at work
  • What time they work till
  • How long their breaks are

Sound extreme?  Perhaps.  But by documenting all of these from day one, there is absolute clarity for you and for your staff, and no one can pretend that they didn’t know what was expected of them.

 

The third element is training, development and learning. 

Now, all three of these take time and happen in multiple phases, but all business owners need to be mindful of them; otherwise, they generally don’t happen.

Generally, the first phase is known as “induction” and when you first bring somebody into the business, the best way to get them to hit the ground running is to induct them properly. 

Once they know what they should be doing, it is all about monitoring and managing their performance so they are performing at the best possible level that they can.

And again it takes practice and they will improve over time, which is why regular documented progress meetings are a really, really useful tool.  No matter what size your business, whether you have one employee, five employees, or 25 employees, sitting down with your staff on a regular basis, sharing your vision, sharing the goals and asking them to deliver key elements of those goals is essential to moving the business forward. 

 

And then there is reward. 

Reward can come in multiple formats. 

Pay is the most obvious but there is also commission, bonus and other incentives which you give to your staff to encourage them to reach the targets that you set or to reward them for achieving certain outcomes. 

However, reward is also about the environment in which people work. 

It’s about the way in which you treat them, the pizza in the office on a Friday or giving people a day off to go and deal with an emergency because you know that they have been in the office late working on projects for the last three or four weeks.  

Reward is also about the culture and the corporate social responsibility that the business shows. 

Many youngsters nowadays are choosing to work or not work for companies based on the ethos of those companies. 

People are becoming more picky and people want to work for great bosses and brands that they believe in. 

Consequently, positioning your business (no matter how big or small) as an employer of choice will really help you to recruit and to retain the right staff for your business. 

So, as a business owner, the next time you think about your role within the business, you are not only the finance person, the marketing person and the salesperson – you are also the HR person. 

You are responsible for the recruitment and retention, the training and development, the reward and the frameworks within which your staff work and operate. You are also responsible for the way in which your staff are going to help you to achieve business success, by making sure that you are an effective manager.  That takes practice, but as they say, practice makes perfect.

High Heels and a Noose Around the Neck

23 May
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Agency workers, Blog, employee rights, Policies and Procedures   |  No Comments

What makes my line of work fascinating …. People!

What drives me to destruction …. People!

There is an old saying ….. “there’s none so queer as folk” and in my line of work I never cease to be amazed by what I see, what I hear and how far people (both employers and employees) are prepared to rub up against the very edges of the law.

I regularly get calls from BBC Three Counties Radio being asked to comment on an HR story which has hit the news. This has ranged from Jeremy Clarkson hitting a producer to dogs being allowed in the workplace and most recently a female employee being sent home from work because the heel of her shoe was not high enough and a butcher who advertised a vacancy but didn’t want any drama queens to apply!

Interestingly, I have now noticed that ahead of going live on air The Producer always asks BBC 3 Counties Radiome my opinion and then the presenter takes the opposite view point. Over the years I have been doing this, I know exactly how the presenter would generally respond (regardless of my view point), but once the discussion gets going he ensures we have a good debate around the issues. Some of these discussions become very interesting as we can generally both argue for the employer and the employee on both sides on any argument.

This is one of the greatest problems faced by employers, you can always see a situation from multiple perspectives and making the ‘right’ decision will depend on your business, your morals, the law, your finances, the individual themselves and the rest of your team (both internal and external). It is very rare that there is a black and white decision with no risks attached.

One recent interview focussed on an agency worker who had been assigned to work on reception in the London office of a global management consultancy company. She had been informed that a uniform would be provided on arrival and that she needed to wear black shoes with a heel of between 2 and 4 inches. She was wearing smart black flat shoes but was sent home as she was ‘inappropriately’ dressed.

Now on the one hand, an employer is absolutely entitled to have a dress code policy and enforce it; but on the other hand it must be reasonable and not expose the employer to any risks. In this case the risks are that the employee can bring a sex or disability discrimination claim:

  • A male employee would not be asked to wear a heel of between 2 and 4 inches.
  • An employee with a knee or back problem might struggle to wear a heel
  • There is no requirement of the role to wear such a heel
    • Examples of job related requirements might include:
      • the use of personal protective equipment i.e. steel capped shoes, hi-vi jackets or ear defenders
      • training shoes in a gym environment to protect the floor
      • lace up shoes for the police

TiesIn a similar scenario we dealt with recently, an estate agent had a dress code policy in which all employees were required to wear suits. For ladies this could be a trouser, skirt or dress suit, but it had to be a business suit. This was clearly stated in the dress code of the company and was in contracts of employment which every employee was given and signed before commencing work. A male employee refused to wear a tie. His manager asked him nicely and informally. His manager called him into a meeting to discuss any issues or concerns and to point out that there was a contractual obligation. The employee’s attitude was “I’m not wearing a tie and you can’t make me” – my polite interpretation and a summary of the conversation. The line manager warned the employee that they were in breach of company policy, that everyone else complied with the policy and continued failure to follow a reasonable request would lead to disciplinary procedures.

As in so many cases we see, the employee goes running off to the doctor. Now usually they come back with a fit note signing them off work for 4 weeks due to work related stress a.k.a. being asked to do something they don’t want to do or being told that they could face disciplinary action. (Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of employers who do put their employees under incredible, unacceptable stress, but we are talking about a tie).

In this instance, the employee returned with a fit note from his doctor stating that wearing a tie gave him migraines. So what does the employer do? The doctor says the employee can’t wear a tie. Well, is it the tie which is to tight or the short collar? The employer, willing to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ gave the employee four options:

  • Undo the top button, and then push the tie up to hide the open collar
  • Buy shirts with larger size neck sizes
  • Buy a collar extender to increase the neck size
  • Wear a clip on tie

The employee still refused. He ended up in a disciplinary meeting the outcome of which was a written warning. He is still refusing to wear his tie and the company will be taking further action.

Is a tie, or the height of the heel worth making a fuss over? Well, that depends on the nature of your business.

Is the dress code policy reasonable and appropriate to the working environment? Each employer needs to think about whether they want their staff in specific clothes or a uniform or in deed to refrain from wearing certain clothes. Every business owner needs to decide what is right for them, their business and their clients. For some businesses and organisations, it doesn’t matter at all, while for others the staff wearing branded clothes or specific colours or personal protective equipment is expected and essential and in some instances, the dress code may only apply at specific times or locations.

Whatever dress code you want to enforce, there are 4 golden rules:

  • Be clear about what is and is not allowed / required
  • Check that the policy itself is not exposing your business to the risks of discrimination claims
  • Document your policy (ideally in your contracts of employment) and ensure that it is properly communicated to remove any doubt
  • Be consistent in its application, so as not to discriminate against any group of employees

Bullying is prevalent in UK workplaces… and it’s on the rise

19 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Bullying, Discrimination, Policies and Procedures, Race Discrimination   |  No Comments

It’s National Anti-Bullying Week, and shockingly, Acas have reported that over the past year they received around 20,000 calls about harassment and bullying at work.

Some callers even reported that workplace bullying caused them to self-harm or have suicidal thoughts.

Bullying is defined as any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It’s not necessarily always apparent to others, and may be happening in the workplace without your awareness.

Recently published results of the largest ever survey (with 24,000 responses) regarding attitudes towards race in the workplace, contained some particularly troubling findings…

According to the Race at Work report from Business in the Community (BITC), racial harassment and bullying in the workplace is prevalent.

The report found 3 out of 10 employees in the UK had witnessed or experienced racial harassment in the workplace in the last year alone, a disappointing increase on previous years.

Only 55% of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers said they felt like a valued member of their team, compared to 71% of white employees.

Despite this, 65% of BAME staff said they enjoy working for their organisation, compared to 61% of white employees. Additionally, 64% of BAME employees said they’re keen to progress in the workplace, whereas for white employees the number was a mere 41%.

Sandra Kerr, race equality director at BITC stated:

“Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of workplace processes and cultures for BAME employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise. The scale of this challenge is immense and needs immediate action.”

This report raises some major issues that employers absolutely must address.

But workplace bullying isn’t limited to racism.

Results of another study have been released this week, revealing that workplace bullying is a growing problem in Britain and many people are simply too afraid to speak up about it.

People don’t always feel confident enough to complain, particularly if the harasser is a manager or senior member of staff. Sometimes, they’ll quite simply resign.

It’s therefore very important for employers to ensure that staff are fully aware of the options available to them when it comes to bullying or harassment, and that these of course remain confidential.

These findings provide some real eye-opening truths on the current state of bullying in the workplace, and it’s vital that employers reflect on these results and have a good look at their working environment.

Start taking action today to ensure that your business is fully implementing anti-bullying policies and utilising managers with good people management skills. Here are some recommendations for taking action:

  • Promote training and awareness of bullying in the workplace (there are more incidences of bullying within minority ethnic groups; women in male-dominated workplaces; those with disabilities or long-term health problems; LGBT people; and those working in health care)
  • All people managers to have mandatory training to deal with bullying and harassment (inexperienced employers feel they lack the skills to go through complex grievance and disciplinary procedures that bullying allegations may involve)
  • Managers at every level to have objectives around ensuring harmony and inclusion in their teams (managers alerted to bullying allegations may favour simply moving staff around rather than investigating and dealing with underlying behaviours)
  • Senior leaders to recognise that harassment and bullying exists and take action to erase it from the workplace
  • Employers to review succession planning lists to ensure the inclusion of diverse talent from all walks of life
  • Ensure appropriate policies and procedures are in place (barriers to people making complaints to do something about unwanted behaviour might make the situation worse)

You may not be aware of any bullying or harassment in your workplace, but according to these recent results, the chances are there may be something going on.

Bullying is the enemy of diversity and consequently, business performance and profits.

By not challenging unacceptable behaviour and not effectively implementing your Anti-Bullying Policy, you put your diverse culture at risk, and ultimately, your business itself.

You can make a difference.

Commit to speaking out.

If you witness behaviour that you consider to be bullying or harassment, take action. If you hear someone in the office use unacceptable language, challenge it.

Let’s prevent these numbers from rising any further, instead, we can take action and decrease them.

If you’re interested any further advice regarding this sensitive issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us

And if you’d like to have a listen of my recent interview where I discuss my thoughts on this subject, you can do so by clicking this link!

The Dreaded Appraisal

22 Oct
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, HR Consultancy, HR Policy, HR Support, Performance Management, Policies and Procedures   |  No Comments

Results sign postThis time of year, we find many of our clients want to take the opportunity to appraise staff. Of course there is no hard and fast rule as to when to do this and some companies will link appraisals to the financial year end, the end of the calendar year or the employee’s anniversary with the company.

It’s important for every business to have an appraisal process in place as part of its general performance management framework. Staff must have objectives set that are aligned to the business goals and these are often cascaded down through any management structures which exist within the organisation.  Appraisals are  also an excellent tool for keeping  staff fully engaged with the business as they help them to understand the business and to set their personal goals to that they contribute to future success.

An appraisal is an opportunity to step off the rat wheel, to step back from the daily grind and to review successes and failures with the benefit of hindsight. Activities and progress from the last year should be discussed and lessons learnt turned into positives. Nothing should be raised in an annual appraisal which has not already been discussed in a timely fashion throughout the year. This is a review and summarise activity which plays a significant role for future goal setting. Any areas for concern or opportunities for development should be discussed in an open and honest way during the appraisal.

There are four stages to an effective appraisal:

  1. Preparation
  2. Meeting
  3. Write up
  4. Follow through

Preparation

Preparation for both the appraiser (manager) and appraisee (employee) is essential. The appraiser should ensure that the appraisee has all the paperwork at least a week before their meeting. The manager should ask the employee to work through the paperwork, filling it all in with their opinions, thoughts and views. Having a copy of last years appraisal or any interim reviews, targets etc. would be a useful starting point for reviewing the year.

The manager also needs to prepare and they should go through the same process for each of their direct reports.

The Meeting

The meeting is a two way process. It is an open and honest discussion, during which the appraisal form is jointly completed. While the employee has a significant input, if the appraiser and appraisee can not agree, it is the appraisers view which is documented and the appraisee has the opportunity to make their views known in a comments box. Examples and feedback from others are particularly powerful in an appraisal meeting.

Write it up

Following the meeting, the paperwork is finalised. Despite any differences of opinion in the meeting, the appraisers view is what is documented, hopefully with consensus. The employee should get the opportunity to add their comments and should be given a final copy of their appraisal form.

Follow up

Once complete, businesses do one of two things with the appraisal documentation. Many will just put it in the personnel file and forget about it until next year. Successful organisations however, will bring the document to life, making it a working, evolving and directive tool for guiding progress and development throughout the next 12 months. The documentation should be used in monthly or quarterly 121 meetings and updated where appropriate as roles change, the business evolves and set objectives are met.

Does your business carry out appraisals? Do you see a benefit in them or are they a waste of time? Do you even look at your appraisal notes during the year? We would love to know your views.

For help and assistance with any of your appraisal needs from policy to forms or training, we are happy to help.

Bribery – Have you protected your business?

27 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Bribery, Compliance, employent law, Employment Legislation, Hertfordshire, Policies and Procedures, training   |  No Comments

I was in a room with 20 different employers this week and asked a simple question….

How many of you have a policy on bribery and have trained your staff in the application of that policy?

Despite the Bribery Act 2010 having come into force in July 2011, 90% of the businesses represented did not have a policy and had not trained their staff in relation to their duties under the Bribery Act. The first case has now been brought under this legislation and a court official was found guilty of being bribed to make a speeding offence disappear.

The previous bribery legislation was mixed and confusing, some of it being over 100 years old.

For those of you who are not clear, bribery is defined as ‘the giving or taking of a reward in return for acting dishonestly and/or in breach of the law’. There are four offences under the Act:

  1. Bribing another person
  2. Being bribed
  3. Bribing a foreign public official
  4. Failure to prevent bribery

It is the last of these which employers need to be especially wary of. There is an absolute obligation for employers, even those with one employee, to have a policy which ensures that employees know that bribery is not acceptable. There is also an absolute obligation for employers to brief / train their staff in relation to the law, their policy and its application to their business environment.

So what counts as bribery? Is it…..

  1. Tipping your postman for Christmas deliveries
  2. Taking clients out for dinner
  3. Taking potential clients our for an afternoon at Wimbledon
  4. Sending clothing samples to a fashion reviewer for their children
  5. Giving a FIFA official an amount of money to secure their vote in deciding the location of the 2022 World Cup? – This news broke the week the legislation came into force!!!

To find out more about The Bribery Act 2010, it’s implications for your business and how to protect your business from prosecution,  join us at the Business Essentials Conference on 29th February 2012 where you will be able to discuss the Act in the context of your business and walk away with a policy, training guidelines and some standard forms and letters. This would normally cost approximately £500 + VAT but the one day conference will cost you just £120. For more information and to book visit www.businessessentialsconference.co.uk or call us on 01923 504100.

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