Welcome to my autumn newsletter!
Contrary to popular belief HR doesn't have to be scary and most of the time using your common sense and being kind will lead to you to the right place!
If in doubt though, its best to take advice before things get in a mess so please do feel free to call or email me. I offer a 20 minute free advice slot so there's no need to muddle through.
In this newsletter I offer some advice about sickness and holidays, thoughts on employee wellbeing and a cautionary tale of Xmas parties as we begin to turn our thoughts to the next big festival!
Sickness and Annual Leave
Can sickness ever be holiday?
Did you know your employees can take their annual leave while off sick if they:
· are not physically able to work, but physically able to take a holiday?
· have a mental health condition that might be helped by a holiday?
· are off sick long-term and a holiday might help with their recovery?
They need to request their holiday while off sick, you can’t ask them to take it. If they do and you approve it:
· their sick leave is paused while they take holiday
· they get holiday pay while on holiday, not sick pay
After they’ve taken their holiday, sick leave can continue if they’re still not well enough to return to work.
What happens if my employee is sick while off on holiday?
They must report their sickness under your normal sickness procedures. They’re then able to:
· get sick pay for the time they were sick (as long as they are entitled to sick pay)
· keep the time they were sick to use as holiday another time
What if my employee is on long-term sick leave?
If they can’t use their holiday because they have been on long-term sick leave, they can carry over unused holiday (unless you allow more to be carried over). This holiday must be used within 18 months from the date it’s carried over. Some companies limit it to the 4 weeks statutory minimum too.
Should I have a policy and what should it say?
A policy is useful as it sets out your position if someone is ill or injured just before or during a scheduled holiday and should cover:
· Which days will be carried over
· What payments are due
· What evidence you need for certifying the sickness
· Will you pay company sick pay or change your rules so that SSP only applies if sickness occurs while on holiday (particularly bearing in mind the individual will also take this holiday again at a later date)
· How you will deal with suspected “abuse” of the process
Do contact me if you have any questions re this, or would like a policy drafted.
What is employee wellbeing?
This is a term that describes how a person's job affects their overall health and happiness. When you prioritise wellbeing, your employees are likely to be happier and experience less stress. In turn, when people are happy and healthy at work they're more productive and take fewer sick days.
So how do you turn your workplace into an environment that your employees want to work in and how do you protect their wellbeing, particularly if finding a budget for this type of initiative is challenging? Below are some which don’t have to cost the earth and which can be “mixed and matched” to suit your business.
1. Provide healthy snacks - consider providing healthy food like fruit, vegetables, nuts, smoothies.
2. Make taking a lunch break mandatory – ensure you lead from the top so that your employees know this is ok (especially if this would be a change to your existing culture).
3. If possible, have lots of plants and maximise natural light - natural light in the workplace shows that employees can experience less eyestrain, headaches and drowsiness. Plants have a positive effect on mental health by lowering anxiety and stress, improving concentration, and stimulating creativity.
4. Set up mental health resources - helping your employees to take care of their mental health is a great step towards enhancing their overall wellbeing and reducing absenteeism at the same time.
5. Organise a walking meeting - walking meetings are exactly what they sound like, instead of sitting down in the office, take your informal meeting outside in the fresh air – it worked for Steve Jobs and Aristotle!
6. Try out company exercise challenges - such as a “new habits” challenge where employees try a new kind of exercise
7. Set up situations for colleagues to mingle informally - you can't force your employees to be friends, but you can set up social activities that encourage them to get to know each other.
8. Start an employee recognition programme - occasionally we all want to be told that we've done a good job.
9. Invest in your employee's development regularly – not just job training but their personal development.
10. Plan team building activities – despite their cheesy reputation they've been shown to build trust, reduce stress, increase collaboration, and prevent conflict.
11. Make company-wide meetings a thing - they mix employees up which can generate higher productivity.
12. Consider flexible work hours – they can be easier to implement now with the rise in remote working and they contribute to a healthy work-life balance.
13. Start an employee volunteer initiative - many people don't have the time to volunteer but would love to give back to their communities.
14. Consider extended time off and sabbaticals - many people avoid taking extended time off because they're afraid that it might look bad or jeopardise their career. Promoting this is a great employee wellbeing initiative.
Making adjustments for remote workers
Consider the needs of remote workers when looking at wellbeing initiatives. With a bit of extra planning and care, you can implement ideas for all members of your teams regardless of where they're based. For example, team building days which mostly occur in the office or another location. Could you hold this virtually so that everyone can take part?
A Cautionary Christmas Story!
And finally ……. the Christmas party, a cautionary tale
You have organised and paid for a Christmas party for all your employees. Many are staying at a local hotel, At the end of the evening, your MD arranges taxis to the hotel where the party continues, largely funded by the Company. During the after-party drinks things became heated and an argument breaks out leading to a fight between an employee and your MD which leads to the MD punching your employee leaving him with serious brain damage.
Are you liable? Yes, said the Court of Appeal (Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd in 2018).
The employee argued that the after-party drinks were an extension of the workplace. The High Court originally agreed but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision. The MD was a senior employee who had full control of his staff, the argument was work related and he was wearing his MD hat. The Court of Appeal concluded that there was a connection between the conduct and the MD’s professional role. The Company was therefore vicariously liable for the injury.
This case highlights the fact that you can be liable for the improper behaviour of your employees at work events. You can’t completely remove any risk associated with such festive celebrations but you can minimise it by reminding them that such things as fighting, excessive drinking and inappropriate language and behaviour are not tolerated; highlight the possible consequences if they bring the employer into disrepute as a result of any social media post they make; monitor the alcohol consumption and provide soft drinks as an alternative as well as food.
You should always distance yourself from unofficial after-parties and make it clear that if employees decide to move on to other venues or continue after the official event ends, this is not endorsed by you as an employer.
You can dismiss an employee for behaviour at a Christmas party. However, you must be careful to follow the process in exactly the same way as you would if the behaviour had been committed during work hours.
I have a letter for you to issue to employees to just remind then - have fun, but not too much! Feel free to email me for a copy.