Monthly Archives: March 2013

Changes to Unpaid Parental Leave

8 March unpaid parental leave

From 8 March the right to unpaid parental leave will be extended. The change is being made to implement a revised EU Parental Leave Directive.

Current position

Under existing law parents who have been employed for one year or more and who have, or expect to have, responsibility for a child have the right to take unpaid parental leave to care for their children in addition to any maternity, paternity or adoption leave they may qualify for.  This is currently an entitlement to 13 weeks’ leave per child, which can be taken before a child’s 5th birthday or the 5th anniversary of their placement for adoption, but, in the case of a child eligible for a disability living allowance, the entitlement is to 18 weeks’ leave to be taken at any time before the child’s 18th birthday. Although employers and parents can agree more flexible arrangements, under the statutory scheme, no more than 4 weeks’ leave can be taken in any one year and leave must be taken in one-week blocks.
What is changing?
From tomorrow, the Parental Leave (EU Directive) Regulations 2013 (the Regulations) will amend UK legislation to extend the total period of unpaid leave available to eligible employees to 18 weeks per parent per child. 

What You Need to Do?

Review your HR processes and employee handbook to incorporate this change.

10 Reasons Why Companies May Need HR Support

So many companies struggle on without the aid of an HR Manager or any form of HR support at all despite the constant increase in employment law.  However HR can provide invaluable support with so many areas of people management.  Here I have compiled a list of ten reasons why companies may need HR support.

1. Cost savings

HR can contribute to cost savings. One example is to implement an HR strategy that can support business goals making a business more efficient through the planned use of human resources.  Another example can be to introduce sickness absence management controls, the cost of sickness can be reduced which can be a huge expense to a business if allowed to get out of hand.

2. Managing performance

HR can help manage performance in several ways.  Business performance can be improved by the implementation of an integrated performance management system ie company-wide appraisal system.  With a top down approach with buy in from senior managers, all employees work towards the common goal to improve business performance through the fulfilling of their own personal objectives.  Performance management can also be about managing poor performance through a capability process where poor performers are either supported to improve or are performance managed out of the business with capability being a fair reason for dismissal.  HR can work with management to ensure that either of these processes are correctly implemented.

3. Provide guidance with employment legislation

Employment legislation is changing constantly and it is hard to keep up with the ever shifting sands that the government dictates and 2013 is no different.  However, it is the role of HR to stay up to date so that they can provide credible, practical advice to those they support.  HR should ensure that internal HR policies and employmee handbooks are kept up to date, they are well communicated to the workforce and training is provided to managers in their operation.

4. Help companies manage their staff fairly

Sometimes when the job just needs to be done, it can be hard for managers to recognise the need to treat their people fairly.  With HR guidance their obligation in this respect can be recognised.  A good manager will get the best out of their staff and that should be the norm to which all managers should work.  HR can provide much needed support when a manager is struggling with a particular employee problem.  Company HR procedures provide much needed guidance and HR can help with their intepretation.

5. Help avoid employment tribunals

HR is the guardian angel of companies and helps to keep them out of the employment tribunal through sound employment law advice.  HR procedures should always be followed and processes documented.  If a situation is getting out of hand HR can be there to help soothe the situation or can act as a mediator.  If they don’t have mediation skills they often have specialist contacts in this area.

6. Training & development

The development of skills is important for any company’s success and growth.  HR can help support training and development initiatives by assisting with a company-wide skills analysis, developing and coordinating a training plan, identifying training and development initiatives, delivering appropriate workshops or bringing in external training consultants where appropriate.  HR can work with management to ensure that training and development is both cost and time effective and help them recognise the value that training brings. strategy

7. Recruitment

A company is nothing without good quality staff and HR can provide support with recruitment processes whilst ensuring that equal opportunities employment legislation is adhered to.  HR can work with managers to draft adverts, identify an appropriate advertising medium, develop job descriptions, undertake shortlisting, develop interview processes and questions, organise assessement days and ability tests and take part in interviews.  HR can also provide all the essential supporting paperwork.

8. Employee engagement

Employee engagement is the modern buzz word.  In effect it is the wish of employers to have employees who do their best work and go the extra mile.  To do that employees need to be fully engaged with business goals and be motivated to do their best.  Employee engagement contributes to business profits so companies are highly interested in this concept.  A starting point can be an employee attitude survey coordinated by HR.  Once the results are known it will identify areas of the business that may need some improvement eg induction, reward, management style.

9. Help with change

Change is an every day part of life and companies need to change from time to time as the business world moves on.  HR can support change management processes in various ways.  With a company re-structure to improve efficiency, HR can work with senior management to develop a new reporting structure and  new job descriptions to provide strategic support.  HR can take part in operational consultations with employees affected by the re-structure.  HR can advise on redundancy and TUPE implications where appropriate.  HR can also assist with minor changes in the workplace such as a change to terms and conditions which require consultation and agreement from employees. Working with managers they can ensure the correct legal procedure is undertaken.  HR can provide the paperwork to support the process.

10. Help with reward

Rewarding staff fairly is highly important to for employee retention, get it wrong and staff will leave in their droves.  Although financial reward is important for many people, it is not the be all and end of all of going to work.  Non-financial reward can be just as important eg job satisfaction, challenge, etc. and HR can work with managers to help them recognise this important element of employee reward.  Along with pay there are employee benefits which can make up total reward eg holidays, bonus, company car and they can be just as important.  Sometimes it might be beneficial to recruit a compensation and benefits expert to help support HR in what can be a specialist area.

No – A Very Powerful Word?

One of the first words children learn is the word “no”. They use it to try and gain power over their parents.  Yet when they become adults it becomes one of the hardest words to say to anyone.  No is small yet powerful word with negative connotations however, it can allow individuals to express themselves in a positive way.

It is easy to say yes to everyone.  Saying yes makes life easy.  There is no conflict when you do, but the implications may not necessarily be easy.  Saying yes to everyone and everything leads to a stressful life.  Individuals who take on too many tasks and projects often ultimately find out they can’t cope; no one can do it all.  They may want to achieve great things, but ultimately they may then lose respect because they under deliver or can’t deliver at all.  Failure does not feel good to anyone.  Not being able to say no because you don’t know  how or you feel you will offend someone will do you no good at all.

Being assertive means you can refuse to take on extra tasks, but doing it so that it does not cause offence.  The message is conveyed to the other person in such a manner as you are not aggressive and you are not passive.  You need to appear confident yet not bullish and you should speak slowly and clearly.  Look the other person in the eye even if you feel nervous.  Assume good body language – sit up or stand tall.

It’s essential to understand what is important and to set priorities.   You need to prize your own values and be true to yourself.  Being organised means a person understands their goals and sticks to them.

Saying no allows a person to take control of their life and ensures good time management.    Saying no to your boss can often be difficult, however, they may not realise that you are under pressure.  In such circumstances if they bring along another task or project for you to undertake then sometimes something has to be said if it’s going to be too much.  If time is a priority then perhaps your boss should decide what you need to do next – so ask them to make the decision if that is the case. Saying no allows a person to negotiate and come to a win win situation.

By taking charge and undertaking good time management a person can take control back again and life becomes less stressful.

So the next time someone asks you to do something think before you say yes.  You may have to say no.

Dress Code at Work – Does It Really Matter?

During a conversation recently the topic of clothes at work came up and whether it is appropriate to wear certain items of clothing at work.  A well known public sector employer who has daily contact with members of the public was discussed.  It had been observed during a hot spell of weather that the staff were dressed very casually with flip flops and strappy tops whilst dealing with members of the public.  Such attire begs the question what impression does it give of the organisation and should it be allowed.

Having a dress code in place can help set standards within an organisation. A failure to meet even minimum standards can lead to a disciplinary.

Some companies provide a uniform for their employees to wear which helps promotes corporate branding and so they can be identified by the public.  In these circumstances it’s important to have a clause in a dress code policy that requires the employee to take care of items of clothing that the employer has provided eg in relation to its maintenance and cleanliness.  Sometimes employees fail to do so and the provision of repeated sets of uniform will be costly to an employer so a policy outlining actions they will take in respect of failing to look after it, is important.

When developing a dress code an employer must consider that when it is applied it does not discriminate against anyone either directly or indirectly.  Restrictions on dress need to be justified.  For example tying hair back needs to be health and safety reasons or to promote a company’s image for smartness.  Customer facing roles could dictate specific type of clothes with a ban on jeans which would also enhance an organisations image.  A ban on head wear needs to be justified bearing in mind that certain religions require this be worn at  times.  In such instances some flexibility should be required.

A dress code policy should contain guidance to employees about suitable dress on MUFTI days and dress down Fridays so that staff do not dress inappropriately wearing, for example, offensive T shirts, low cut tops or very short skirts.

The main question to ask is whether what an employee wears will affect their ability to do their job.  A dress code should be non-contractual and contained within the employee handbook which would give some flexibility to make changes from time to time.