One of Your Employees is becoming a Mum or Dad – Don’t Lose Sleep over it

child and parent

You’ve heard the great news that one of your employees is going to become a mum/dad but while you were congratulating them and jostling them about the extra responsibilities – rest-less nights and dealing with baby sick, you realise that as their employer you will most likely have extra responsibilities too!

If this is either the first of your employees to adopt/gain a child whilst working for you, or if it has been a while since the last arrival of a child for your company then it is good practice to read up on the current legislation.

There are several different kinds of parental leave and pay to consider in the current legislation that gives (prospective) parents the right to different amounts of time off and different rates of pay if they qualify:

  • ‘Maternity’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Ordinary Paternity’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Adoption’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Additional Paternity’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Parental’ Leave

Parents can also apply for flexible working and take ‘time off for dependants’ to deal with unforeseen circumstances and emergencies which come under separate legislation.

To ensure you are ready for your employee to become a parent (or have another child) you should know the answers to the following questions:

Laws and Legislation:

  • What type of leave and pay does your employee qualify for?
    • How long do they have the right to have off and when
    • How much do they have the right to be paid
    • Who pays for their time off and how
    • What details do you have to keep and how long for

Your Company:

  • Do your company HR policies for these circumstances work within the current legislation
  • Do you have sufficient, able staff to cover for the possible time off

Employee (Parent to be) Information:

  • When is the expected birth/adoption date
  • When do they intend to take their leave (where prior notification is appropriate)

For more information check out our help-sheet collection: Leave for Employee-Parents – covering pay, eligibility, notification rules and dates for maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave and more!

Winter – Still Causing Seasonal Shifts in Employee Absence – Can Human Resources Help?

winter traffic

We’ve come a long way since the seasonal changes in work patterns of the ‘olden days’ where the difference in hours of light and the drawing in of the coldest and wettest parts of the years reduced man hours dramatically. However, the man hours of many companies are still falling foul of winter mischief where the Human Resources department are not quite doing everything they can to combat this winter chaos.

If it isn’t the snow or heavy rain causing havoc, it’s the winter vomiting bug, winter depression or general heightened levels of colds and flu stealing our employees from work!  This also has a further knock on effect increasing employee stress (decreasing their productivity, and lowering their immunity, increasing the chance of them becoming sick as well), as they try to cover the extra work in an environment infested with the beginnings and tail ends of colds and flu.

But what can Human Resources do about the snow, rain and sickness? – Although they may perform miracles, Human Resources are unfortunately unlikely to have godlike powers and so cannot simply move the snow and rain around the paths to your company and make your employees immune to sickness!

However, what Human Resources can do, is change the way absence is dealt with; the following items may be worthwhile considering, if not already implemented, to improve your company’s man hours over winter:

  • Proactively encourage healthy living, and a positive working environment, especially during winter to help keep sickness and stress to a minimum.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and prepare ahead of time for weather hazards like snow and heavy rain. Can you help employees be able to safely make the journey into work? For the employees most likely to be affected, can you have plans in advance, for covering their work load?
  • Ensure that the workspace is clean and dry to reduce the chance of bacteria build up from winter bugs, and ensure a comfortable temperature for working conditions, or provide appropriate PPE to keep your employees warm and dry, and therefore less likely to catch a cold.
  •  Encourage employees to stay home if they are unwell with something that may be passed to other members of staff, such as colds, flu, sickness and diarrhoea, to reduce the amount of extra days that are lost with several employees catching a bug from just one member of staff ‘braving’ an illness and bringing it to work with them.
  • Where possible setup the ability for employees to work remotely (or to complete the work at a different date/time in lieu) in the case of snow days or days off ill where they are still capable of working, just not in a fit state to be at work. This remote work could include migration of tasks from another department that can more easily be done remotely. This would mean that the man hours wouldn’t necessarily need to be lost, just moved around to free up someone else to help manage the tasks usually performed by the missing employee.
  • Finally, but not least important, ensure your absence and return to work policies are clear and as effective as possible. Keep up to date with current legislation and advances in this area and make sure that your actions against absence are applied consistently and fairly – Check out our factsheet for more information on HR Policy: Dealing with Employee Absence and Return to Work Meetings

HR Policy (or lack of) still cripples Top Management Gender diversity!


  • Unfair treatment of employees returning from maternity leave
  • Inflexible working hours not allowing for child-minding responsibilities
  • Unequal pay and bonuses for equal work performance across genders

These age old sex discrimination issues and more are still not being dealt with by HR policies. This is crippling UK businesses in their ability to feed high achieving female employees up the management pipe-line, leading to poor gender diversity in the top management positions.

Studies show that gender diversity in top management and board positions is good for business (i.e. McKinsey 2007: Women Matter) and also, probably not so surprisingly that men and women generally have complementary management qualities (i.e. Talent Innovations 2012). This combination of information makes it crucial for companies to ensure their top management includes a good split between males and females.

However, many top UK companies are not setting a good example for our smaller and younger businesses. Many are still working with the attitude of ‘more of the same’ and continuing the traditions of the ‘male, pale and stale’ for boardrooms and top management alike. On FTSE 100 and 250 boards, only 15% and 9% of seats respectively are held by women, and 11% and 45% of these companies have all male boards! (Women on Boards Report 2012) We are a long way from an equal split of 50% males and females on boards and also still a long way behind the leaders in gender equality at board level, Norway, at over 40% females on boards!

Six in ten university graduates are female in the UK and females are faring better on grades than males. Almost 50% of the UK workforce is female (ONS report 2012) yet the talent being shown at University level is being lost on the way to top management through poor HR or lack of HR policy to tackle the age old discrimination issues.

The largest gender pay gap shown in the ONS figures is occurring after the 30’s, after which age progression to top level management for the best and brightest has usually begun. Are HR Policies attempting to ensure that females can still progress their careers when they need time out to have a baby, or flexible hours to take responsibility caring for a child? Or are companies allowing females to be side lined who ‘choose’ to have a child?

The fact that 80% of part-time workers are female and that the median hourly pay for part-time work is almost 40% lower than that for full-time work (ONS 2012 Hourly-earnings) may put forward the possible conclusion that

  • companies are still not being as flexible as they need to be for females to continue with full-time work alongside family obligations
  • females are being forced into lower paid part-time arrangements for the sake of being better family makers
  •  companies are losing out on female talents and skills!

Check out our fact sheets for more information on why gender diversity in top management is important and how HR policy can help to break down the barriers to female career progression.

‘Christmas’ Work Parties – Disaster waiting to happen?

So you think you have the party planned out; where, who and when… but is that enough? Have you ensured that you are catering for everyone fairly and that health and safety and misconduct issues have been prepared for in advance?

Christmas parties are to celebrate business success for the year and to thank employees for their hard work, aiding employee morale and bringing teams closer together. Therefore, it is important to ensure that everyone is included.

  • Food/Set Meal Plan: Have you considered the different possible dietary needs for employees’ beliefs/religion or medical requirements? (Providing suitable food for vegetarians, nut allergies etc.)
  • Theme, decoration and activities: Is the plan in good taste for everyone? (E.g. visiting a local pub for a ‘booze-up’ may not be suitable if some employees’ religion is against the consumption of alcohol).
  • Timing: Are all employees able to come? (Maybe consider employees’ family responsibilities and when they are expected in work).

Health and Safety responsibility:

The party needs to be remembered for the right reason; that awesome time out with the team, not the time that employee was involved in an accident, so health and safety is paramount.

  • Have you made sure that all employees (and any invited significant others) remember to drink in moderation so everyone can enjoy the night and not have the health and safety of themselves and others jeopardised.
  • Have you considered pre-booking a bus/taxi service to and from the venue to ensure the safety of the employees and help to avoid the possibility of any post-celebration drunk driving.

Employee Conduct & Brand Image:

Damage control is required to ensure that company image is protected and that employees conduct themselves appropriately at the party.

  • A dress code may be of use to encourage a greater team feeling for the celebrations and to ensure that clothing choices are not offensive.
  • Have you made sure all employees (and any invited significant others) know what is expected of their behaviour (and that poor behaviour may lead to disciplinary action) to ensure that they remember to act responsibly whilst partying. Make sure a harassment claim isn’t something that needs to be dealt with after all the fun.

Make the most of your work Christmas party and ensure it is a morale booster to bring the whole team closer together rather than a black mark and a waste of the company money… Do the extra preparation now, and enjoy the extra free morale boost of the holiday season!

Related Link

Human Resources Aid: Example pre-party memo, for all employees, to help cover necessary information (and behaviour warnings)

Blog: ‘Christmas’ Work Parties – Disaster waiting to happen?
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Change Management: HR Policy overcoming the emotional hurdles to success?

Change Management Image - Hurdles to Success

What is the point of change management? You see a way you can improve the company services/products/profits, and you make the change, simple? Or is it?

Change can have negative emotional repercussions, on both employees and customers, no matter how well intended the changes are. This is why it is important for HR policy to be involved with change, and why change needs to be managed carefully.

For employees, they may have felt comfortable with the services or products they had the ability to provide, with the knowledge and processes they were used to following. Now they have to learn new knowledge and/or processes, requiring more effort to reach the same level of competency at their given tasks as they were capable of previously. Employees need to be able to see that the extra effort they are making for the changes is worth it for them. To share in the vision that the changes are working towards improvement in their company, boosting pride in their work and their trust in the ability of management, rather than reducing their morale and productivity.

For customers, they may be a one off shopper, or one that has been using your company for years, as a reliable source for a service or product they require: If they are uninformed about the changes being made, and why, any inevitable delays or reduced service or product quality during the transition phase would be unexpected and intolerable, causing customers to be frustrated and annoyed. Customers would only see the negative impacts on their services/products as a change towards company incompetence, and would most certainly cause customers to rethink if they would continue using your company, or if they would forward this negativity to other potential customers!

Change management involves effective planning and communication; both before and after changes are implemented, to not only reduce the negative emotional hurdles described above but to overwrite the negative thoughts with positive thoughts towards the change and the company itself. Change management assesses the impacts against the positive gains of a change and then works to (as the song goes) ‘accentuate the positives’ and ‘eliminate the negatives’.

In this case accentuating the positives means building the case for the change, why it needs to be done, what the vision for the future is, and how the change will improve the company. The important part is how you manage that change for the good of all involved.

Eliminating the negatives is probably the more obvious task. It involves ensuring that all possible required resources (people, company ‘systems’, communication services, time/timing and training/education etc.) for a smooth transition are available, making sure any change laws are abided by and ensuring everyone knows how the change will work, where and when. It is important to remember to inform not only employees what is to be expected but suppliers and customers, where the changes may affect their dealings with you. This way any expected negative effects can be minimised, and any unavoidable negative effects can have plans in place to work around problems before they occur, minimising any annoyance and frustration during the transition.

Change is an important factor in any business – make yours a positive experience. Check out our factsheet: HR Policy: Change Management Check List for more detail on making the most of your company changes and overcoming the emotional hurdles to success, or contact Amanda for HR Consulting on the subject of change management at

Combating Company Discrimination: Duty of Care or Potential for Business Improvement?

discrimination highlight

By law businesses have to watch their step with their policies and processes to ensure they are not discriminating against anyone due to a protected characteristic (treating less favourably, unless there is a legitimate aim with no other reasonable action to reach it); actual or perceived – age, race, religion, belief, disability, sex, gender reassignment or sexual orientation, or pregnancy, maternity, marriage or civil partnership.

It may be easy to list a good chunk of extra costs in time and money that may be required to ensure that your company policies do not discriminate against anyone due to a protected characteristic:

  • Arranging broader accessibility to recruitment advertising
  • Providing alternative fair application and interviewing methods
  • Allowing for flexible working hours, differing holiday days and extra sick leave
  • Being ready and able to provide reasonable physical alterations to the workplace and equipment
  • Dealing with possible collaboration barriers stemming from communication difficulties or conflict from intolerance of different perspectives

Experiments conclude that teams with individuals of differing, complementary skills are more productive due to knowledge spill-over and organisation of tasks to the more suitable individuals to speed up completion. However, socially diverse teams are less productive due to poor external social connection and collaboration barriers.

However, I have not written this article just to spread doom and gloom about the duty of care required to combat discrimination in company policy and promote diversity and equal opportunities at work! So, time for the good news.

Employee diversity is attractive to a broader market through a more socially diverse company face, and effective communication skills and understanding of the needs of a wider community. Employee diversity also improves team problem solving and decision making abilities through a more extensive field of interests, (and therefore) skills, knowledge and viewpoints.

Promoting equal opportunities at work creates a fairer environment encouraging higher levels of motivation from employees that may otherwise feel they either have little chance of progressing, or are certain to progress without good performance due to discrimination. A fairer, non-discriminatory working environment also encourages a happier workforce as employees has a greater feeling of well-being at work.

The more switched on companies actively work policies to improve employee communication and integration to lessen the negative effects on base productivity. This combined with doing more than their duty to promote diversity and equal opportunities allows them to reap the high benefits from a diverse workforce of improved company outreach and performance, leading ultimately to improved brand value and productivity.

Check out our factsheet to find out more about Combating Protected Characteristic Discrimination in Employment Policy

Social Networking and Social Media: What does it mean for business?

social networking; collaboration, communication, fun, friendship and business or addiction, scams, harrasment, waste of time, and identity theft

– Facebook – YouTube – Twitter – Linked In – Google+ – Flikr – Digg –

Social networking and social media poses both threats to business and opportunities for improvement. Just how much social networking and social media affects your company and whether it has an overall positive or negative impact appears to be entirely in our hands, and how we deal with the possible opportunities and impacts presented?

Negative Impacts

Development of social media and social networking has put more games, gossip and friends at the click of an employee’s mouse button, further increasing company fears of employees wasting time, procrastinating during paid hours. Either turning a blind-eye to the skiving, and letting other employees pick up the slack, or overly restricting the use of social media and social networking can lead to resentment from employees and lowered morale. Judging just what is the appropriate actions to take can sometimes be difficult.

Procrastination is not the only issue to deal with, social media and social networking opens a lot of new challenges for management. Employees may need reminding that if they are watching social media to break up their work day, they still require breaks away from their computers for health and safety reasons. Some employees may also find it difficult understanding what behaviour is acceptable on social media and social networking, and need prompting to avoid acts of discrimination and bullying. Finally, as many viruses and malware are spread through social media and social networking, greater security may also need to be considered to protect against them and their harmful effects.

Positive Opportunities

Social networking tools provide free and quick communication avenues for exchanging messages with employees worldwide, providing a backdrop for simpler, more flexible collaboration and co-operation. Email, tweeting, instant messaging and blogging or podcasts and many other options are now available for ensuring you can keep your employees and customers up to date and in the loop wherever they are. Similarly social networking can be used to keep your company up to date with industry information, conferences and the latest innovations through linking with other professionals in your field.

With 80% of UK houses receiving internet and 2/3 of all adults in the UK using Facebook – just one of the many social networking platforms (OFCOM) social media and social networking is increasingly being used as businesses’ ‘marketing face’, to directly communicate with a large portion of potential employees and customers. This method largely cuts out the middle men (advertising and recruitment agencies) reducing time and money spent on marketing strategies.

Encouraging social networking connections to your company enables current, past, and future employees and customers to share experiences and feel a more personal (and therefore stronger) link with the company brand, this setup also serves as a strong communication line from the company to share useful branding messages with the public such as notification of company awards, special recognition received or any other positive messages.

Read in more depth about this on our social networking and social media factsheet

Have your say on what you think social media and social networking means to business… Do you think it is something that needs protecting against, something to embrace, or a bit of both?

Improving Employee Morale: Do your employees know you value them?

employee reward pen

Just paying an employee for their work is not enough to ensure they continually give 100% commitment. If employees feel under-valued then employee morale will be lowered. Low employee morale causes slower, poorer quality productivity, more absence days and loss of experience, skills and knowledge if employees decide to leave for a job that makes them happier. Most companies know their employees are valuable but many don’t successfully show it.

Organising budget staff parties, ‘paper plate’ awards and pep-talks works on fixing the symptomatic unhappiness not the causes of low employee morale. These can temporarily boost morale for a few employees but can also cause extra issues too. Staff parties can cause friction with staff that would rather not spend free time with work colleagues, or who would prefer the money used to pay for bills. ‘Paper-plate’ awards; company logo pens, certificates and other generic prizes for overtime, exemplary work etc. back fire by showing little understanding of the real value of your employees. ‘Thanks for making the company thousands of pounds! To show our appreciation, here’s a pen!’

Successfully dealing with low employee morale is not ‘fixing employee unhappiness’, it’s about treating your employees in a way that shows you know how valuable they are: Valuing your employees for their skills, knowledge and expertise, working to use your employees full potential and showing appreciation with rewards as valuable to the employees as their work is to your company. Only by tackling the underlying issues that make employees feel under-valued can you ensure that low employee morale is turned around for all employees and for good.

  • Make your workplace a positive, enjoyable place to be
  • Give your employees job satisfaction and pride in their work
  • Show your employees ‘real’ appreciation for good work with rewards of value to them
  • Empower your employees by really listening to their ideas and acting on them
  • Help your employees reach their full potential by giving them opportunities to broaden and strengthen their knowledge and experience with ongoing training

All these steps work together to ensure your company treats your employees as the valuable assets they are– higher employee morale = more productivity! (and a much nicer atmosphere for everyone to work in).

For more information on ensuring that you are doing your best to keep your employees motivated and productive check out our factsheet: HR: Getting Employee Morale measures right!

Is your HR Policy allowing your Staff Appraisals to be effective?

appraisal thumbs up or ok sign or constructive criticism thumb down

Staff Appraisals are a great tool for problem solving and gives the perfect opportunity to give constructive feedback & staff praise as deserved/required. Is your HR policy set up to make your staff appraisals effective and if so are you using staff reviews to their full potential?

Companies often know that annual staff appraisals should be done but the actual time and resources to do so often mean they are put on the back burner. The resulting staff review may become a hurried tick box exercise (at the umpteenth request), or never even done. This means that the vital one-on-one employer-employee communication of this exercise – providing positive work incentive, advice for improvement and an opportunity to bring forward any unheard work issues – is lost! There is little doubt that continued appraisal abuse like this will lead to reduced staff morale and productivity.

Preparation takes too long to fit in my busy schedule if I don’t just tick the boxes!

As an employer, you probably want to receive the full potential of giving constructive feedback and praise in your annual reviews. To do this each individual employee’s strengths, weaknesses and progress must be identified for discussion in the review. If you have only a couple of employees then this task may not be too difficult, however, accurately keeping track of additional employees over time quickly becomes an arduous and/or timely task.

I’m not an elephant; I can’t accurately recall every employee’s progress over an entire year!

The incentive of imminent review in preceding weeks may spur extra productivity from an employee but it is important that these weeks are not the crux of the review. An effective annual appraisal addresses ongoing work including accurate recall and discussion of the employee’s performance, effort and progression over the entire year (not just the last week or so). With this in mind, thorough preparation should be completed before each annual appraisal to ensure the feedback fairly reflects the year’s work of each employee.

It is so time consuming to make annual appraisals effective that if it wouldn’t be so detrimental I would remove them from the HR policy completely! …So what can be done to ensure that the full potential of staff appraisals is reached whilst making it more cost effective?

Quarterly reviews may be the hot-fix for your HR policy. Performing quarterly reviews alongside your main annual review gives immediate production boosts:

  • ‘Imminent review incentive increasing production’ four times a year instead of once a year
  • Higher levels of ongoing positive work attitude encouraged by more timely praise
  • Faster improvement of work standards, where needed, through more regular constructive feedback
  • Work issues caught sooner avoiding some problem escalation
  • Higher effort levels from employee loyalty due to stronger direct positive employer-employee contact

Hang on a minute – I thought we were looking at increasing cost efficiency? Simple math tells me that holding quarterly reviews would mean four times the amount of effort required?

Now we are at the real meat of the matter. Quarterly reviews are not a duplication of the annual review, they are an aid for the annual review (as well as providing the other positives stated above). The idea is to combine four simple quick tasks to replace one longer, complex, and in some cases (where constructive feedback is strongly required) rather daunting task.

It doesn’t take an elephant to recall the productivity, punctuality, work relations etc. for just the last three months of an employee’s work, and jot down a score and praise/feedback for each. Each consecutive quarterly review notes can then be compared to the previous review to accurately determine progress during that period. This is a much simpler task that may require a couple of minutes thought rather than a complex consideration of a whole year’s ups and downs.

Finally for the annual review, the quarterly notes can be combined as hard evidence to give an overview of the full year (in particular this may be a great aid in companies where annual reviews also mean pay reviews). Essentially, using the quarterly review method, a more effective staff appraisal system is provided whilst splitting the work load into simpler, quicker segments easier to fit into a schedule – no more skipped or wasted reviews!

Ongoing checks on staff – Right to Work

right to work documents

You may have completed the required right to work checks when you first took on a new employee, and thought that’s where your duty ended for avoiding prosecution for hiring illegal workers. Did you realise that in some cases further checks must to be performed on an ongoing basis? Does your HR policy ensure your company covers the necessaries to avoid heavy fines and, or prosecution?

Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006:
You are breaking the law if you employ a person who does not have the right to work in the UK.
Under Section 15: An employer not completing the necessary checks can be charged a civil penalty of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they have hired.
Under section 21:
An employer knowingly employing an illegal worker can face criminal prosecution leading to the possibility of up to 2 years imprisonment and, or an unlimited fine!

Certain documents, such as a passport showing the person is a British citizen, provide a statutory excuse for the entire length of a worker’s employment. With a statutory excuse, if the employee is subsequently found to be an illegal worker, the employer may avoid the charges and, or prosecution.

Right to work documentation that does not give a clear indication that the person has a permanent right to work in the UK only provides the employer an excuse for 12 months. For this type of document the employer must repeat the checks at least every 12 months to renew their excuse.

An example for this would be where the document is a Home Office issued letter indicating that the person can stay in the UK and is allowed to do the work in question (in combination with an official NI document).

Remember, duties from the 2006 Act apply to anyone who starts working for you on or after 29 February 2008. Also, the previous 1996 Act means that you should have already acquired appropriate Right to Work documents for all employees that started working for you between 27 January 1997 and 28 February 2008. Do you have the correct documentation required for all relevant staff?

So, as an employer, to have an excuse (and avoid possible fines and prosecution):

  • Correctly carry out the required checks on acceptable documents before a person starts work
  • Repeat the required checks for any person whose documentation does not show a permanent right to work, at least every 12 months, or sooner, if a person’s limited right to work is due to expire before the 12 months deadline.
  • Ensure to keep within any restrictions on the type of work and, or, the amount of hours they can work.
  • Do not under any circumstances employ an illegal migrant worker knowingly.

Note: A person’s Right to Work documentation only needs to be kept for 2 years after the employment of that person has ceased.

Related Factsheet

Right to Work Checks – Avoiding Employment of Illegal Workers