- Treat a pregnant woman less favourably for a reason related to her
- pregnancy, pregnancy related absence or absence on maternity leave. It is
- discrimination to dismiss, make redundant or otherwise treat her less favourably,
- eg in relation to a pay rise, promotion, training;
- Select a woman for redundancy for a reason related to her pregnancy, the consequences
- of her pregnancy or absence on maternity leave;
- Select a woman for redundancy because she is working part-time or flexibly unless there
- are very good objective reasons;
- Treat a pregnant woman less favourably because of pregnancy related absence
- being singled out for redundancy
- not being offered suitable alternative employment as part of the redundancy procedure, being dismissed from employment on the day they inform their employer of their pregnancy, or very soon after,
- being selected for redundancy with the suggestion that pregnancy is the reason,
- wishing return to work part time but have to leave employment instead because their employer refuses to allow them to work part time
- finding their jobs have gone on returning from maternity leave
One woman contacted the organisation who was 28 weeks pregnant and was told she would be made redundant the next month. She was the only one of seven staff to be selected for redundancy and was given no reasons why. When asked why she thought she had been selected she said “My employer doesn’t want to pay SMP” (Maternity pay).
If HR has a strategic focus, it can help to support the business’s long term aims and encourage efficiency.
- Its potential value as a recruitment and retention tool in a tight labour market.
- The changing profile of the workforce (for example, with more women in the labour market and an ageing population it is increasingly common for workers to have caring responsibilities outside the workplace).
- Advances in technology (facilitating, for example, remote working and hot desking arrangements).
- An increasing need for businesses to be able to deliver services to customers on a 24/7 basis.
- The economic situation – some organisations have offered part-time working or sabbaticals as a method of avoiding or minimising redundancies.
- The increased demand for an effective work-life balance.
- the burden of additional costs
- detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
- the inability to reorganise work among existing staff
- the inability to recruit additional staff
- where it will have a detrimental impact on quality and performance.
- Establish a clear process for how flexible working works in the organisation.
- Ensure that there are clear roles and responsibilities for employees, line managers and HR.
- Assess the current levels of support offered to line managers and ensure it is sufficient.
- Invest in ongoing communication and awareness raising.
- Assess how conducive the organisation culture is to flexible working – and take action accordingly.
- Make use of pilots (when introducing new initiatives) and trial periods (for individual flexible working arrangements) in order to highlight potential problems with flexible working arrangements.
- Build in opportunities and mechanisms to monitor and evaluate progress with flexible working.
Reflecting on the many HR issues I have helped my clients with I have noticed a common theme of basic mistakes many employers make. They are quite simple to put right, but can be costly if they are ignored.
1) Not issuing an employment contract and employee handbook
Many businesses that employ staff still fail to provide employment terms and conditions within eight weeks of a new employee starting in accordance with the Employment Rights Act 1996. A contract (employment terms and conditions) can contain basic policies such as grievance and discipline so an employee handbook may not always be necessary if there are only one or two members of staff. However if there are five or more employees it might be a good idea to develop a small employee handbook to provide guidance on various HR procedures. It is important to remember that if an employer ends up in an employment tribunal and has not issued a contract then should the employee win their case an award can be made of up to four weeks pay for the lack of this document.
2) Not undertaking a thorough investigation
With many HR issues it is really important to do a thorough investigation to avoid a miscarriage of justice further down the line. An investigation may be necessary in relation to disciplinary matters, capability, bullying & harassment and sickness absence. An investigation should uncover the full facts that will inform a decision of whether to take action against the employee or not. If an employer has dismissed an employee for gross misconduct without undertaking a full investigation they could end up losing an employment tribunal.
3) Failing to take action with bullying and harassment
Let’s face it dealing with bullying and harassment in the workplace is not pleasant and many employers turn a blind eye to the plight of employees who speak of being bullied and harassed. If an employer does not ignore the problem, many pay lip service to undertaking a full investigation and dealing with any perpetrator. Whilst bullying per se can not be pursued in an employment tribunal, employers need to be aware that if the harassment can be pinned on a protected characteristic and proven in an employment tribunal, an employer may lose their case.
4) Failing to manage poor performance
This is another issue that employers tend to shy away from. Perhaps it is because they would prefer not to sit down with the employee and speak about the performance issues face to face and they fear possible conflict. Us British are not very comfortable with delivering bad news. However, poor performance is a financial cost to businesses – direct costs are loss of productivity and profit and indirect costs of morale of those employees who watch the poor performer not being dealt with.
5) Failing to manage sickness absence
Intermittent or long term sickness absence is not easy to deal with. With intermittent absence it is important to watch out for trends eg Monday/Friday syndrome and nip things in the bud before they get out of hand by having an informal conversation to begin with about the problem. With long term absence many employers don’t think they can intervene when their employee sends in a sick note that means they will be off for weeks. However it is important to deal with the situation as soon as possible by meeting with the employee to find out what is happening. After all an employee is being paid to come to work so an employer needs to know the prognosis for the future and how quickly they will return to work, if at all. They may need the support of an occupational health advisor preparing a report that will help an employer manage the situation. Research shows that the longer an employee is allowed to remain on long term sick without it being dealt with the longer they will be absent. If an employee is off so long they eventually exhaust sick pay an employer may consider termination.
6) Failing to manage a disciplinary situation
Disciplinary situations in the workplace can range from misconduct to gross misconduct, but nevertheless need to handled and quickly. If the situation is gross misconduct, then the employee may need to be suspended to get them out the workplace, prevent any conflict or further wrong doing. A thorough investigation should then be completed as quickly as possible followed by a fair hearing allowing the employee to have their say with the right to a companion. The outcome should be confirmed in writing with the right to appeal. The disciplinary situation needs to be fair and reasonable to avoid a compensation award in an employment tribunal.
7) Not consulting in relation to a redundancy situation
Consulting about redundancy is part of the legal process and consultation should be meaningful. The number of staff at risk of redundancy will dictate how long the consultation period should be. From April 2013 if there 100+ staff the consultation period shall be 45 days. With 20-99 staff the consultation period is 30 days and less than 20 employees there is no set time frame. However with the latter the consultation period needs to be reasonable and I would advise that at least a week is provided between the last consultation meeting and notification of dismissal depending on the number of staff to be consulted with. Failing to consult will attract a protective award in an employment tribunal.
Induction is an important process following on from recruitment and needs to be effective to avoid the “induction crisis” which is where employees do not feel comfortable with their new surroundings and decide to leave which incurs another recruitment cost for the organisation. In recent years the term “onboarding” has crept into the language of HR and is a US term for the induction process.
- a clear outline of the job/rolerequirements
- explanation of terms and conditions
- orientation (physical) – describing where the facilities are
- orientation (organisational) – showing how the employee fits into the team and how their role fits with the organisation’s strategy and goals
- an awareness of other functions within the organisation, and how the employee fits within that
- meeting with key senior employees (either face to face or through the use of technology)
- health and safety information – this is a legal requirement
- details of the organisation’s history, its culture and values, and its products and services.
Hopefully, the new Pope will quickly settle into his new role with a well thought through induction procedure.
A recent newspaper article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-21753342 wrote about a project manager, Paul Marshallsea, who came home from a trip to Australia to read in a letter that he had been sacked by the charity, Pant and Dowlais Boys and Girls Club, for which he had worked for ten years.
Apparently he had been seen on TV saving some children from a shark attack – deemed to be a hero. However, whilst doing this he was, at the time, on sick leave from his job. The charity stated that they had lost all confidence in him. Whilst the charity may have done so, the action they have taken could lead to legal recriminations in an employment tribunal and they should have thought twice before taking such hasty action.
When suspecting an employee of misconduct or gross misconduct it is important to undertake an investigation first. In this instance the charity should have invited the employee by letter to a disciplinary hearing with the right to a companion. During the hearing the charity should have given him time to explain the situation faced with the video evidence of his trip to Australia, this would be part of the investigation process.
The cause of his sickness absence was stress. An employee off with stress does not necessarily have to sit at home feeling sorry for themselves. Sometimes on doctor’s advice they are encouraged to have a change of scenery and what a change of scenery Australia is when the UK is in the depths of winter. As part of the investigation into the situation the charity should have gained medical evidence from the employee’s GP or more preferably, an independent occupational advisor to establish whether the trip was part of a recuperation plan.
The hearing should have adjourned pending the receipt of medical information to inform the situation along with consideration of the facts provided by the employee of his conduct.
Only then should the charity have communicated their decision in writing being sure that they were making the right decision having analysed the facts, to him providing the right to an appeal against dismissal.
This procedure follows the ACAS Code of Practice and an employee at risk of dismissal is owed the basic right to explain his actions and have them investigated to avoid any potential miscarriage of justice.
By acting in haste, the charity may come to rue the decision it took in January to dismiss by letter. The price of its reputation with this now high profile news item may be too much. That is without any unfair dismissal compensation should Mr Marshallsea and his wife pursue an employment tribunal claim and win…..
11-15 March 2013 is National Apprentice week. It is the time when all eyes are on apprenticeships and it’s all about raising the profile amongst employers, individuals, teachers, parents and the media.
- · UK women have slipped from 33rd to 57th place since 2001 in international power rankings
- · 22.5% of MPs are women
- · 17.4% of the Cabinet are women
- · 11.1% of UK bank CEOs are women
- · 5% of Editors of national daily newspapers are women