Employee denied holiday but goes off with Stress….what could you do to avoid this??

What to do when an employee has been denied part of his holiday request due to business reasons (another employee already off) but he is now signed of with stress for 2 weeks to include holiday.  


The employee has stated that they have no one to look after the children……This is a struggle for any employer. If an employee has nobody to look after their children what on earth do we expect them to do? Leave the children on their own..?  Bring them to work with them…? I know it’s not the responsibility of the company to ensure childcare but on occasions and with the best will in the world, it is possible to be totally stuck therefore the options as a parent are limited.


In my opinion, the employee has gone down the correct route in terms of being honest and asking for the time off particularly if they know a colleague is also off at the same time, they have followed the right process. We in turn as employers should be trying to find a solution to allow him to care for his children while balancing the needs of the business.  Consider flexible working/agree to answer emails? Work from home? Shorter day etc etc – also consider ‘can you get by for two days’.
I would be asking the employee at his RTW how the situation made him feel and trying to prevent this happening again. Get everything back on an even keel and perhaps offer to support the employee in the future if childcare issues arise.

Consequences
Maybe you could look at the impact it would have had on the business for him to be off as well as his colleague, other than relying on the policy of no more than 1 person off. If he had childcare issues then he could have been granted an unpaid day off  – this would have kept him engaged, your company could have but plans in place for the days requested as he gave notice),  and there wouldn’t be any questions over whether he is ‘genuinely’ sick, no need for a RTW – saving both yours and his time and the  employee would have come back grateful and engaged rather than annoyed. He may also now claim back his holiday allowance as he has a cert for Sick Leave.


Closures Due To Adverse Weather

We were all impacted by Storm Ophelia recently. It did untold damage to property, caused chaos to the public services and as a result many businesses were forced to close.  Were you prepared!!

The following guidelines may give you a few tips for how to handle the next storm or adverse weather conditions that come our way.

When absences arise because employees are excluded from work in exceptionable circumstances such as adverse weather conditions, such as Red, Orange, or Yellow Status weather warnings, the employer reserves the right to introduce any of the following:

  • Employees take unpaid leave
  • Employees take annual leave
  • Employees work from home
  • Employees are paid for the day

Management should assess each situation on a case by case basis and take into consideration   any health and safety issues with due regard for these special circumstances.

If an employer receives adequate notice regarding such circumstances (adverse weather forecast) an action plan should be put in place and communicated to employees. If it is the decision of the Management to close the office then employees will be advised which option is being applied.

The applied action plan may be dependent on the severity and longevity of the situation that arises. In the event that the situation is short-term management may decide to pay the employee a maximum of <<number >> of days in a rolling year.

However if the employee excludes themselves (business opened and accessible) from work payment may/will not be made.

 Employees should be expected to make reasonable efforts to get into work (for example, using alternative travel arrangements).

If the employee believes that there is a health and safety risk involved they should not travel, but should contact their manager and discuss his /her situation.

Communication is the key.  Employees should be asked to notify their Manager by phone, or by some other means, as soon as possible if they have any problems getting into work and to seek clarification on the situation.

Are your Employees Engaged?

Did you know that a mere 16% of employees in Ireland are actively engaged in their work?

Gallup, a performance management company who published the report on the State of the Global Workplace found that 64% of employees in Ireland are not engaged in their work and the remaining 20% are actively disengaged. In other words, 64% of employees lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in the company’s objectives and 20% are unhappy and unproductive at work which means they are liable to spread a negative attitude to their colleagues.

Before you can solve the problem of disengagement, it’s important to understand it and learn how to recognise it.

These are the 10 most important metrics that companies need to keep in mind in order to improve employee engagement.

  • Recognition     When an employee does not receive recognition for a job well done, their desire to continue doing great work will diminish. Be sure to give constant praise, even for the little things.
  • Feedback:      Touch base with your employees frequently to let them know how they’re doing, and give them meaningful feedback on how they can do even better.
  • Happiness:  When your employees are happy at work, they will perform better. This means creating a positive work environment and making sure they feel valued.
  • Personal Growth :  Offer professional development programs to your employees to keep them motivated to grow within the company.
  • Satisfaction:  This accounts for things like workload, office environment, clarity of expectations, salary, benefits, etc. Making sure that your employees are satisfied with their experience at the company will help keep them engaged.
  • Wellness:  Offering a healthy workplace, perks such as gym access, and mental health initiatives like mindfulness programs will help keep stress at bay.
  • Ambassadorship:  Employees who would recommend their company as a place to work are much more likely to do a great job and be actively engaged. Create a positive company culture and a work space that caters to employees needs.
  • Relationship With Managers:  Relationships between employees and managers need to be based on constant communication, mutual trust and respect.
  • Relationship with colleagues:   70% of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. When colleagues get along well, communication and workflow improve.
  • Company Alignment:   Do your employees’ values align with the mission of the company? It is very important to make sure that your team understands and respects the organisation’s values.

How can Leaders help Employees find Meaning at Work

Organizations spend considerable resources on corporate values and mission statements, but even the most inspiring of these — from Volvo’s commitment to safety to Facebook’s desire to connect people — tend to fade into the background during the daily bustle of the work day.
What workers really need, to feel engaged in and satisfied by their jobs, is an inner sense of purpose. As Deloitte found in a 2016 study, people feel loyal to companies that support their own career and life ambitions — in other words, what’s meaningful to them. And, although that research focused on millennials, in the decade I’ve spent coaching seasoned executives, I’ve found that it’s a common attitude across generations. No matter one’s level, industry or career, we all need to find a personal sense of meaning in what we do.

Leaders and Managers can foster this inner sense of purpose — what matters right now, in each individual’s life and career — with simple conversation. One technique is action identification theory, which states that there are many levels of description for any action. For example, right now I’m writing this article. At a low level, I’m typing words into a keyboard. At a high level, I’m creating better leaders. When leaders walk employees up this ladder, they can help them find meaning in even the most mundane tasks.
Regular check-ins that use five areas of inquiry are another way to help employees explore and call out their inner purpose.

Ask your employees: 

What are you good at doing?

Which work activities require less effort? What do you take on because you believe you’re the best person to do it? What have you gotten noticed for throughout your career? The idea here is to help people identify their strengths and open possibilities from there.

What do you enjoy?

In a typical workweek, what do you look forward to doing? What do you see on your calendar that energizes you? If you could design your job with no restrictions, how would you spend your time? These questions help people find or rediscover what they love about work.

What feels most useful?

Which work outcomes make you most proud? Which of your tasks are most critical to the team or organization? What are the highest priorities for your life and how does your work fit in? This line of inquiry highlights the inherent value of certain work.

What creates a sense of forward momentum?

What are you learning that you’ll use in the future? What do you envision for yourself next? How’s your work today getting you closer to what you want for yourself? The goal here is to show how today’s work helps them advance toward future goals.

How do you relate to others?

Which working partnerships are best for you? What would an office of your favourite people look like? How does your work enhance your family and social connections? These questions encourage people to think about and foster relationships that make work more meaningful.
It’s not easy to guide others toward purpose, but these strategies can help.

Article from Harvard Business Review

Retirement – Dealing with the retirement age challenge

In many countries, there is increasing pressure on employers to put in place more flexible retirement policies. This has been mainly triggered by developments in social policy, increases in state pension age (with the resulting income gap) and the potential shortfalls in occupational pension provision. These factors are leading to a greater number of requests from employees to continue working beyond their contractual retirement age and employers having to respond to these challenges.

It is important that employers review their retirement age policy to ensure that they are well positioned to deal with any challenges from employees and changes in legislation. Any retirement age policy should ideally fit in with:

  • The new statutory framework and age-discrimination legislation
  • The needs of the employer’s business in the areas of career progression, succession planning and productivity
  • Retirement income adequacy for retiring employees taking account of Company and State pensions

Employers often think that employees will have to retire when they reach the defined Normal Retirement Age under their occupational pension scheme. However this is not the case. The majority of pension schemes provide flexibility for benefits to be taken before or after Normal Retirement Age and it is essential to look more broadly at what has been communicated about retirement age within employment contracts and within employment policies that have been implemented in the past.

The new statutory framework introduced in 2016 and case law emanating from Irish courts and tribunals has made it clear that the setting of a compulsory retirement age must be objectively justified by the existence of a legitimate aim and evidence that the means of achieving that aim is appropriate and necessary. One of the consequences of the new law is that if fixed term contracts are offered post retirement, the employer will have to demonstrate evidence of objective justification for the termination of employment at the point of expiry of the fixed term contract.
Where changes are made, particular care needs to be exercised when amending the terms of pension and risk benefit plans including:

  • Reviewing the funding and cost implications of altering retirement age in defined benefit plans
  • Trying to introduce retirement flexibility while still operating within the Revenue Commissioner’s restrictive rules in terms of pension access.
  • Considering how to deal with the potential gap between the company’s retirement age and the new State pension age (which is gradually phasing to age 68).
  • Amending the terms of death and disability plans with insurers to reflect new retirement policies.

Employers should be cautious in how they approach the retirement age issue

There are many pitfalls for employers in trying to deal with retirement age and it can be a very sensitive issue for employees.

Employers need to:

  • Engage with employees as they reach the retirement window and ensure that contracts of employment specify a retirement age
  • Have an “objective justification” for any defined specific retirement age. Reasons which have been accepted by the courts in the past include succession planning, and the promotion of intergenerational fairness
  • Reserve the right to vary and review the retirement age as the needs of the business evolve and develop
  • Be careful in setting precedents where employees are allowed to work beyond a set retirement age (even if it involves offering a fixed term contract). Such practices can make it more difficult for employers to enforce their set retirement age in other cases.

Article provided by Willis Towers Watson

Tips to Consider when Introducing Performance Management

A culture of high standards can only be achieved if the company strategy, goals and objectives are shared throughout the workforce.  The company needs to provide an interactive platform for engagement and alignment for both management and employees.

Let’s look at the basics:

First thing we would recommend is making sure all job descriptions are fit for purpose and relevant for the job. Depending on the size of your organisation, line or departmental managers will play a vital role in instilling a culture of high performance throughout your organisation. Here are a few tips that we would recommend to get your company ready for performance reviews and goal setting for the rest of the year.

  • Do you currently have a policy in place in relation to performance management? If not this is something we recommend you look at. The policy should demonstrate the company’s commitment to a high performance environment throughout.
  • Set goals and targets for the company, then each department/team and then for individual staff members. By including each team member in the goal setting task this will get everyone thinking about what they want to achieve not only in terms of the company but also on a personal level. If people have a personal interest they are more likely to work harder to achieve the goals.
  • Have continuous meetings. Organisations are moving away from, what some have referred to as the bureaucratic annual performance reviews and are having weekly or monthly catch ups to make sure everyone is still working towards the same goal. We think this is a god idea and it ensures there are no surprises for either party.
    • Don’t just focus on under performers, your star players will need to be incentivised and motivated as much as an underperformer………

Having continuous and regular performance meetings with all employees is essential for the growth and sustainability of a company. By having clear targets and goals set in advance of the year ahead you will keep everyone working towards the same goals.

If you would like any support or further advice on managing performance Contact Right Hand HR and Mary will be available to support you.

Ireland’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day, 31st March17

The Benefits of Workplace Wellbeing

Did you know that the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion has defined workplace health promotion as the ”combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and well-being of people at work”?

According to the World Health Organisation, there are many benefits of workforce health promotion to the employee and the organisation.

Benefits of Workforce Health Promotion

To the organisation To the employee
A well managed health and safety programme A safe and healthy work environment
A positive and caring image Enhanced self-esteem
Improved staff morale Reduced stress
Reduced staff turnover Improved morale
Reduced absenteeism Increased job satisfaction
Increased productivity Increased skills for health protection
Reduced health care/insurance costs Improved health
Reduced risk of fines and litigation Improved sense of well-being

Large and small companies across the country are encouraged to participate in Ireland’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day, which is on 31st March2017.  The event aims to improve employee health through promoting better nutrition and physical activity. Click on the link to find out how your company can get involved:  http://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/workplace/en/index1.html

Carrying Over Annual Leave

annual-leave 

It’s coming to the end of the year and I’m sure everyone is trying to get the last few loose ends tied up in anticipation of the Christmas break and the New Year.                                                                                                   christmas

However this time of year also throws up one of the major administrative headaches that an Company may encounter, and this is regarding annual leave entitlements and people carrying over leave into the following year.

This can be quite onerous for employers as the more people you employ and the more that take over additional annual leave, the more difficult it becomes to manage the process effectively.

Strictly speaking all employees should receive at least 20 working days or four working weeks annual leave in a year. However there are times when it is simply unavoidable due to employee or business circumstances (maternity leave/sick leave/specific projects that need completion) to ensure all employees take their annual leave in the calendar year. In certain cases it may be detrimental to the business to allow persons to take all of their annual leave by the end of the leave year if they have a very short window in which to take this, so the end result is employees having to carry over annual leave.

The other scenario is where an employee just hasn’t used up their annual leave in the leave year and so has days remaining which they must carry over. In the latter case there may be a situation where an employee has been doing this on a regular basis and so year on year there is annual leave being carried over and it can be an administrative nightmare.

An employee’s annual leave is governed by the provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, and it specifies that the timing at which the annual leave can be taken shall be determined by the employer having regard to certain requirements. These requirements relate to the opportunities for rest and recreation and taking into account the work life balance. However the legislation also specifies that an employee should take their annual leave entitlement in a leave year and if they do not then within the first six months of the following year.

In cases where an employee is carrying over annual leave, it is important to highlight the time frame in which the additional annual leave should be taken. Some employers are willing to allow up to six months in which to take the additional leave, whereas some require it be taken in the first quarter of the year. Some companies also have a “use it or lose it” approach. It is at the discretion of the employer. However it should be specified in the company’s annual leave policy as to what the situation regarding this will be.

In an effort to address this issue it is important to have a well-structured policy which employees and management alike can refer to with regards to issues like annual leave.

Internally it is also worthwhile to pre-empt such a situation by setting a reminder in the calendar for September or October where you can go and proactively check how many days annual leave are remaining for some staff. This will give you the opportunity to address this matter with staff who have a large amount of days remaining and request that they take these days within the leave year. It will resolve the headache of carry over days and lead to an easier life for those controlling this issue.

If there are employees who are carrying over days and not using them, you could potentially look to give them notice of these days and book them for the employees by giving sufficient notice. This should only be used where the employee is unwilling, despite several requests, to take the annual leave and the company is left with no option but to book the days for the employee.

A well thought out and easily communicated policy will resolve a large amount of issues employees may have with regards to taking leave and carrying over excess days, which in the long run will lead to a more efficient and streamlined process.

Office Christmas Party Time

christmas-party

Christmas is round the corner and this year more companies are planning to have a Christmas party. But planning a Christmas party can be troublesome if certain do’s and don’ts are not followed. Christmas is all about enjoying and having fun with colleagues and co-workers. But in the fun of enjoying Christmas parties certain things should not be forgotten.

Employees often forget parties are an extension of the work environment and as such some basic guidelines should be followed if you want to set the right impression.  Employers need to set the scene – this is not to stop the fun night out, but rather to ensure that there are no repercussions as a result of the party.

I highly recommend that the employer communicates to all the employees some key messages which would include:

  • Reminder that the party is a work function and an appropriate standard of conduct is expected. The guidelines as laid out in the employee handbook will apply (e.g. Harassment Policy and Grievance Procedures, Dignity and Respect at Work Policy or Code of Conduct).
  • It is also advisable to remind staff to drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation.
  • A reminder that the use of illegal drugs is prohibited at all times during the Christmas Party.
  • Mention not to drink and drive – arrange for a lift if possible

If you have managers, advise them on how to respond to any unwanted conduct that may occur at the event, and that they should not talk office politics at the party.

For any more information please contact Mary at mryan@righthandhr.ie or on 086 8225448.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE WORK RELATED STRESS

manage-stress

Many of us encounter varying degrees of stress throughout the course of our working days however it can cause serious illnesses if an employee suffers from prolonged bouts of stress. Stress is unique to each individual and is not specific to any particular job. Stress means a negative reaction to pressure, accompanied by fear of not coping, loss of control and lack of support.  It is a physical and emotional experience and can effect blood pressure, hormone activity, digestive disturbance and sleep patterns to name but a few negative effects of stress. It is important to note that stress is a “state” and the effects differ from person to person. Workplace stress occurs “when the demands of the job and the working environment on a person exceeds their capacity to meet them”. There are varying factors which cause work related stress such as poor communications, bullying and harassment, work overload, long or unsocial hours, etc.

It goes without saying that work related stress impacts both the employee and the organisation. For the employee it can impact them physically and mentally. This may result in them calling in sick, or taking a leave of absence from work. For the employer it leads to a loss of manpower, productivity, efficiency, and customer service to name but a few.

Employers have a duty of care to employees and this is reinforced in the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. It would be advisable for employers to have a procedure in place to tackle the issue should they identify an employee experiencing such stress. This not only empowers the employer to take action to help the employee, but it also shows the employee experiencing stress and other co-workers that the company cares and that they are willing to help alleviate such stresses.

Policies and procedures that can be put in place to protect and support employees can include:

  • Dignity at Work
  • Grievance and Discipline Procedures
  • Performance Management Programme
  • Employment Assistance Programmes

Employers should ensure that demands that are placed on employees are reasonable. It is best practice that if employers become aware of staff members suffering from stress, they take action immediately to ascertain the cause and identify ways of removing the stressor. Often one of the first instances of when an employer becomes aware that an employee is suffering from stress is when they receive a sickness certificate from the employee. Once this occurs, the employer should write to the employee immediately expressing concern regarding the nature of the illness. The employer must take steps to establish the cause of the stress and remove it, if practicable, for the employee’s health and safety.

There are a number of actions which an employer can take in dealing with work-related stress. One such action is to refer an employee for an Occupational Health Assessment which will provide them with objective medical advice on the employee’s condition. Another action is to identify the causes of stress, be they working hours or workload and take steps to alleviate them. The employer can also offer the employee sick leave, annual leave or unpaid leave to take time to recover from the stress related illness. Other alternatives include a move to a different position or department which does not have the same stressors as their current role. Each individual case is unique to the individual circumstances and each employer must bear this in mind in evaluating the best course of action to tackle the issues.

If an employer fails to take action when made aware of an employee suffering from work related stress, they then can become liable for damages as they failed to adhere to their duty of care. If an employer is aware that an employee is susceptible to stress and fails to take necessary precautions to protect them, the employer is liable for any damages arising from their failure to act.

A happy workforce is a productive workforce and companies need to be more aware that each employee has a personal as well as a work life. Sometimes it may be the impact of either work or personal issues which causes stress, or a combination of both. This is why it is a good idea to have one to one appraisals with employees from time to time to get a better insight into the employees work life and should any issues arise, it can be taken from there.

Appraisals and employee meetings allow for a better rapport to be built with the employees and pave the way for more communicative relationships.