Reactions To Redundancy Which Managers Need To Plan For

I have supported employers with redundancy programmes for over two decades now, and I have seen a huge variety of reactions from employees when they face the news.

There is not one answer and nobody can guess or predict the emotions felt by someone else when they are dealing with redundancy.

What are some of the common reactions to redundancy?

Redundancy can feel like bereavement and the individual needs to grieve. Even if it is voluntary, it can still engender a feeling of loss.

It is a frightening time for many people.  They worry about finding another job.  Especially when many others are jobseeking at the same time.   Often there are money worries as well.  Redundancy payment only goes so far  – and often is nothing like the amount people are expecting.

Those who lose their jobs – through no fault of their own – may feel a sense of failure. They wonder if they could have somehow prevented it – especially if they have been through a selection process and scored less well than some of their peers.   They might even feel shame and dread the reaction of family and friends.

Some feel anger, borne from fear.  They feel that they have been let down by the Company and their hard work has gone unrecognised. They might threaten legal action.

Some employees might welcome redundancy

The odd one is happy with the situation.  They have plans for their future and were only hanging on at work in the hope of some redundancy pay.  These are the ones who might volunteer for redundancy, but they may also be your best workers who have no fears about finding other work.

A manager could see any, some or all of these reactions to redundancy. Most people probably feel a mixture of all these emotions.  And some people may not show their emotions.  Or they may stifle their natural reactions.

And what about managers?  What are their reactions to redundancy?

My experience is that redundancy consultation is among the most difficult conversations a manager has to have with the team members.

Nobody wants to give bad news.  And in most cases, you can expect that it is bad news. So you are probably dreading the meeting yourself!  On top of that, you might be apprehensive about the reaction you will get.

In some cases, the manager may also be concerned about his or her own role.  Their job might also be at risk of redundancy.  Or they may just be concerned in case it is going to happen to them soon. If the Company is in such straits that it is making jobs redundant, can it survive?  Will their job be safe?

Additionally, the manager is likely to have built some kind of relationship with the employee.  They may be grieving the loss of a good employee.  Or concerned  about whether the employee can find another job.  They will be worrying about future team dynamics without that individual.  There could be some concerns about how the work will be distributed. What can be changed or stopped so that the remaining team can function?

The survivors will also have reactions to redundancy.

What about the people who survive the redundancy and remain in the Company?  How are they going to feel?

Of course, their overwhelming reaction will be relief that their job is safe.  If there has been a selection process, some may even feel superior and falsely proud that they were scored high enough to stay. Or there may be some who are frustrated because they would actually like to have left with the benefit of a redundancy payment.   And any of them might wonder when/if there will be more redundancies in the future.

Teams will be concerned about the workload. What about the work which was done by the redundant employee?  How will that get done? Will they need more training?  If so, some may be happy, others may worry.

People will also be grieving the loss of a colleague.  A familiar face no longer there. Some will be friendly with the departed person.  They might feel aggrieved on behalf of their friend.  Others may be relieved that a difficult colleague is no longer there.

Others may also have reactions

There are also others who may have some reactions and emotions about redundancy.  For example, customers and clients of the Company. Particularly if the redundant employee was client-facing.  Or suppliers may have a relationship with specific employees. This can also have an effect on business.

There may be others who will have emotions and reactions to redundancies .  When companies are planning for redundancies, they might find it helpful to think about all of these reactions and how to deal with them.  This will help the business to quickly get back to some productivity following the redundancy programme.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to talk more about dealing with redundancy, – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR consultancy business – JMA HR.  She helps small businesses (2 – 50 employees) to communicate successfully with their employees to build a happy and productive workplace.  She runs a 4 week online programme to help you plan and execute your redundancy programme with kindness and care.   Or she can offer a bespoke solution for your specific business and issues.

We Wish You A Merry – And Inclusive – Christmas

Christmas is an inclusive time.  We welcome friends and relatives and want to include everyone in our celebrations. But Christmas means different things to different people.  We all go a bit mad at Christmas, I think – in a positive way.  We spend far too much money – and worry about the consequences in the New Year.  Many eat and drink far too much and often regret it.  But there is always January to start that weight-loss plan, or to go without alcohol.

Of course, for Christians, it is a time of great celebration and the Christmas religious services are special.  They are also amongst the best-attended during the year. There are beautiful carols and hymns and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

But what about all those who don’t want to  – or are unable to – celebrate Christmas with everyone else?  How can employers ensure that they are treated fairly and feel included at this time of year?

Some things which make an inclusive Christmas at work

As employers, we need to be aware of some of the areas which might cause arguments at work.  Alternatively, some of our staff may be unhappy about Christmas celebrations in the office and would prefer a different approach.  Some may be unable, physically or mentally, to enjoy the celebrations.

There is no need to be a kill-joy.  Christmas is a wonderful time when most of us feel generous towards others.  It would be a shame to bring in rules and regulations which change that feeling.  I am certainly not advising you to stop people from celebrating.  But it never hurts to consider how everyone is affected.

In some workplaces, Christmas is a time when people use up annual holiday.  Some businesses shut down over the Christmas period.  Other companies find that Christmas is the busiest time of their year and they cannot allow people to take time off, other than the bare minimum.

But there are some things to consider – some people may want to have additional time off at Christmas to attend events at their children’s schools, or to take part in religious activities.  Whilst some others may want to save their holiday.  Some want to use it at a different time of year.  They may want to have time off at a different season for other religious observance, not Christian festivals.  Or they may prefer to work when everyone else is off and it is quiet on the roads or in the workplace.  With a bit of planning, it should be possible to accommodate all of these needs.

Jingle all the way

Even if you have a general rule not to have music in the workplace, Christmas is a time when people ask for an exception.  Many of us like to listen to Christmas music while we work.  But others are very sick of the same music which is played in shops and everywhere else at this time.  Some may prefer carols and religious music.  Many might prefer no music at all. Some may find it more difficult to hear and communicate with others if there is music.  To be inclusive at Christmas, we need to try and accommodate all these needs.

Of course, it is impossible to please everyone.  So you may need to allow music between certain times only.  Or allow people to use their own headphones and devices so that they can listen but don’t disturb others.  Or you may have an agreement that there should be music all the time, or no music at all.

They come from the East, bearing gifts

Christmas is a time of giving.  We like to give gifts and cards to each other and this happens at work as well as in our private lives.   Some people give a card to all their colleagues, some don’t give anything.  Alternatively, some like to give to a charity instead of giving cards.  Additionally, many workplaces organise a “secret Santa” pool where a gift is bought anonymously for a name pulled from a hat.

All of these things are fun and an employer who did not allow such things would be open to criticism from the workforce.  But not everyone wants to take part in this giving.  Some may have a religious objection.  Some may not have the money to join in.  Others may just find it pointless.  It is important that nobody is forced into taking part.

zxAnd you definitely need to ensure that people are not criticised or made to feel uncomfortable if they choose not to participate.  We can be very cruel to each other, especially where people may have different cultures or traditions from our own.  As the boss, your job is to ensure that people can enjoy the festivities, but are not excluded because they choose not to do so.

Eat, drink and be merry

There are other potentially difficult areas to get right for an inclusive Christmas.  Food and drink can cause all kinds of problems.  It is natural and fun to bring in some extra chocolate or mince pies or biscuits at this time of year.  Many places also have Christmas parties, either within the workplace or externally.  This is also likely to mean alcohol flows and far too much rich food.  Of course, it is all part of the fun and should not need to be restricted.

But you need to think about those who do not wish to be involved.  It is fine if someone prefers to stay away from a party.  Or if someone declines food or drink.   And it might be a good idea to make sure everyone knows that it is acceptable for someone not to be involved.  It is about personal choice.

What can I do to ensure everyone is included?

Anyone who regularly reads JMA HR articles will already know that my first advice is to consult, consult, and then consult again.

If you want your employees to feel included, then you need to find out how they feel about your planned festivities.  Maybe their choice is not to be included,  and that, of course,  is a personal decision.  It may be that the best way to include everyone is to allow them the freedom to exclude themselves.

Another major issue can be colleague pressure.  When we are having a great time, we want everyone around us to have a great time too.  But sometimes it is hard to understand that other people may not enjoy our way of celebrating.  Your communications with employees must emphasise that it is not acceptable for people to feel forced into joining in.  Nor is it acceptable for people to be criticised or ignored because they choose a different way.

Lonely This Christmas

While I was researching this article, I came across an old news item from The Guardian newspaper.  This looked at how non-Christians celebrate Christmas.  Although this piece was written a few years ago, I imagine that nothing much has changed.

The overwhelming message from this article was positive.  Everyone thinks of Christmas as a time to spend with family and friends.  I think that chimes very well with the Christian message of this time of year.

But it did occur to me that not everyone has family or friends.  Or people may not have family near enough to spend time with them at Christmas.  I think there is one thing which every employer can do to ensure an inclusive Christmas for their workforce.  We need to know and understand our employees.  We need to open work to them, if that is their refuge at this time of year.  Or at least let them know the alternatives.

Many charities are glad of help at this time of year.  Or churches and other religious organisations open their doors to provide food and company for the lonely.  Some restaurants and cafes open to provide coffee, warmth and companionship to homeless (or lonely) people.  Find out what is going on in your location, so you can advise your employees.  Encourage those on their own to volunteer their services. They can then choose not to spend Christmas on their own.  That would be the very best inclusive Christmas gift an employer can give.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

How To Plan A Happy Workplace Christmas

Christmas should be a really happy time of year.  It is a holiday period and we all look forward to a break from work.

Or do we?

For some people, Christmas is a nightmare.  For others it can just be a time of chaos and confusion.  Some think it is no different than any other time of year.  Others wish it would all just be over quickly.  Some want it to be Christmas all the time.

Employers have an added dimension.  We need to try and keep productive, but allow our staff some leeway and time to enjoy themselves.  But what should we allow, or not allow?  What are the pitfalls that face us as Christmas approaches?  How can we make sure our business doesn’t suffer over the holiday period, but our employees have a great time?

How should employers start to plan for Christmas in the workplace?

There are so many things to think about which can make working at Christmas either great or horrible.  It can be your most successful time of year, or your slackest time.  Of course, you may not always be able to plan which of these is the case.

Do your employees want to be at work at Christmas?  Or not?  Do you have enough volunteers to cover peak times?  Or do you need to work out a rota?  Can you allow everyone to take time off or holiday over the period?  Maybe you need to stop all annual leave.  What about time off for religious festivals?  What about time off to support family activities (school carol concerts, nativity plays)?

Have you thought about cultural diversity?  Your staff may not all want to celebrate Christmas or to have time off.  It maybe the case that they prefer to keep their annual leave for other occasions, or to have time off for other religious or cultural activities.  Can you accommodate all of these wishes?

Time out at Christmas

One contentious issue is time off work.  Do you want to close the business down for a few days?  And can you afford to do so?  If so, does everyone who works there want to have time off forced on them, or would they rather work over the holiday period?  If you are shutting down, has everyone got to use up annual leave?  Have they got enough annual leave?  Will you give extra time off?

Will you let people leave early on Christmas Eve, or do you expect them to work the full day?  Is your business going to be shut on Christmas Day, or will you be open as usual.  If it is the latter, how will you organise who works on that day?

Celebrations

Things you need to consider under the heading of celebrations are many and varied.

Your employees may want to have an office party, or a meal out.  You need to consider whether this should be in their own time or whether you will give additional time off.  You might want to contribute to the cost.

What about music in the workplace?  Some people like to have Christmas music while they work.  Others hate it.  Some like the popular Christmas music which is played on the radio and in shops all through December.  Others would prefer classical or religious music or carols.     Will you allow music all the time, or only at certain times, or not at all?

Many people like to bake cakes and food at Christmas and bring sweets, chocolates, cake or other food into the workplace.  Are you happy for that, or do you need to lay down some rules?  What about drinks?  You may not normally allow alcohol in work, but would you make an exception at Christmas time?  If so, what rules will you set around it?

Gifts and Giving

People like to give cards and presents to each other at Christmas and that, of course, is a personal decision.  But some workplaces organise a “secret santa” where each person receives a gift.  Of course this can be fun, but again you may need to set some rules about cost or type of gift.  Some people may choose not to take part and that is fine, but you need to make sure they are not made to feel uncomfortable about that decision.  I have been on the receiving end of some fairly questionable gifts through secret santa.  People think it is funny to give an offensive gift when it is done anonymously and it can be very difficult if it is not properly controlled.

This might be a good time of year to make some corporate contributions to a local charity or to encourage employees to volunteer to help others in some way.  Your employees and clients will be very supportive of you if you can give a little extra at this time of year.

Getting to Work and Flexible Working

Whether or not you already have a culture of flexible working, this might be a good time of year to relax the rules.

In the UK, the weather can be bad at this time of year and the days are short.  We have darker mornings and earlier evenings.  Travel can be difficult for people in the dark and in poor weather.  In the final run up to Christmas, there is the additional worry of drunk driving as many people have too much alcohol and don’t realise that one extra glass can make their driving very dangerous.

People have children who are taking part in seasonal activities and parents may well want to be able to take time out to attend a carol concert or school play. School holidays are an additional problem for parents to deal with and they may need some flexibility to manage childcare.   Or people may have other caring responsibilities, hospital visits or older people to consider.  Unfortunately, these arrangements can become more difficult at holiday times.

Strained Relationships

Christmas should be a time to relax and enjoy ourselves. But for many, the stress just piles on us before and during the holiday period.  There is so much to organise, so many calls on our time and our money. We sometimes dread spending time with difficult family relationships or unwelcome guests and we put pressure on ourselves.  All of these things can cause major health and wellbeing issues.

Additionally, the increased likelihood of colds, flu and seasonal illnesses.  Not to mention self-inflicted problems from too much alcohol or too little sleep.

All of these things are generalisations and will not affect many of us.  But they will definitely affect a large proportion of our workforce.

Giving employees their best Christmas ever

Christmas needs careful planning – as with so many other things in the world of work!

As always, if you want to give your employees the best Christmas present, then consult with them about what works and what doesn’t work.  You will never please everybody all the time.  But if you know what the majority of people want, then you have half a chance of giving them a happy Christmas at work.

And who will benefit most from that?  The employer, of course.

This could be your best Christmas ever!

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

How Office Design Can Increase Productivity

Office design is important.

Over the last three decades or so, I have worked in a variety of different offices.  One of these was a small private office, where there was only just enough room to open the desk drawer.  At the other end of the scale was a large open-plan office housing fifty people.   I have worked with a hot-desking policy. There have been times when I have worked in a co-working space.  Now I work at home.

I have worked both in the city and in a business park.  I have worked in a historic, listed building and a new, purpose-built office block.   The view I have looked at has ranged from a blank wall to rolling countryside to an industrial landscape.

All of these have advantages and disadvantages.  I could tell you which I liked best and why.  I can also tell you some stories about how they all made me feel (looking at a blank wall was incredibly depressing). But I cannot tell you what works and what doesn’t work.  We are all different, with different needs and experiences.  And so some environments suit one person, but not another.

The aim of this article is to help you understand how the environment we work in can affect our productivity.  There are some simple changes you can make which might have a huge effect on how well and quickly the work gets done.

Office design considerations

The Estate Agency, Savills, ran a Europe-wide “What Workers Want” survey  earlier this year.  This looked at how office design can affect the satisfaction – and productivity – of the people who work there.

The survey found that some of the key factors which affect productivity are:

  • Length and cost of commute;
  • Hot-desking;
  • Open plan offices.

Another important factor for a business to consider are the ability to work in a variety of workspaces.  Some other considerations are the provision of quality IT structure; natural lighting; plants; colour; temperature; smell.   An easy, but important, area to regulate is cleanliness.  It is easier to keep a work area clean if it is organised.  I have looked at the advantages of being organised in a previous article.

How the journey to work can affect productivity

If you are thinking of moving your business, or if you are a start-up, then have you thought about the site of your office?

It is not as simple a choice as you might think.  For example, if you like peace and quiet you may want to place your business in the heart of the countryside.  But have you considered how your employees can get to work?  Not everyone can drive or wants to do so.  Your ideal employee may prefer to work in town, with plenty of public transport.

And for the drivers, have you considered the parking facilities.  The ease, cost and availability of secure parking is one of the major factors that people consider when they are job seeking.

As a business owner, you may consider that rent and availability of premises may be much cheaper and easier outside the city centre.  But if that means you cannot attract people to work for you, then your business is a non-starter. Even in the city, you need to be aware of the parking situation.  Some of your employees may be commuting for up to an hour and if that is a drive, they will want to be able to park easily and cheaply.  The Savills’ survey found that a high proportion of workers were concerned about the length, cost and ease of the commute to work.

Does a hot-desking policy work?

Hot-desking has become more popular in recent years.  Employers see it as a great way to maximise the use of desk space.  It is likely that a percentage of people will be away from work at any one time (on holiday, off sick, working elsewhere, or at meetings).  So hot-desking surely makes sense?

The Savills’ survey would suggest otherwise.  The number of employees who said that hot-desking harmed productivity was about one-third and this had increased since the previous survey.  More than half of the workers surveyed said that they would prefer to have a dedicated desk.  People like to personalise their workspace.  We are creatures of habit and like to work in a familiar setting. Specifically in the UK, 50% of workers feel that hot-desking has had a negative impact on their productivity and only 12% feel it has increased productivity.

Open Plan Offices

Open plan offices have become commonplace and many people believe that they encourage collaboration and so increase productivity. But a third of people in open plan offices feel that their workplace layout has a negative impact on their productivity levels.  This can be linked to other factors like smell and noise.

From a personal perspective, I have worked in open plan offices where people persist in having lunch at their desk.  If this includes a meal which has a distinctive and evident smell, others around may find this very distracting.  Even strong perfume or air fresheners in an open plan office can cause difficulties for some people.

Many workers are introverts and these people are less likely to be comfortable in an open plan environment.   Even the more extroverted among us need to concentrate on some tasks.  An open plan office is not going to be helpful where a job requires concentration rather than collaboration.

This is where it is important to provide a variety of workplace options.  An open plan office can be combined with some break-out spaces, or even some private offices available. People like to have the choice and some control over where they choose to work.  Few roles need to be done completely in one place or at one desk.  So good office design needs to give people options, including somewhere for some privacy.

Keep the noise down

As well as smell, noise can be a source of contention in an open office.  Some people like to work with background music or some noise.  Others cannot concentrate if there is noise, even if it is just subdued conversation elsewhere in the office.

The What People Want survey found that 83% of workers said that noise levels are important to them.   Leaders and managers need to consider solutions to some of these issues.   If you are designing an office, then you need to consider the acoustics.  But it may be difficult or important to change the physical aspects of the office.   It is never helpful to enforce a strict ban (on radios or music, or conversation).  But, for example,  you might want to consider allowing people to use headphones to listen to music.

What about the air that we breathe?

There are other office design factors which may impede productivity.  An important one is air quality.  Stale and polluted air can lead to tiredness, headache and difficulty in concentrating.   So the provision of fresh air in the office is really important.

Machinery, fabrics, building materials can all affect this.  An ability to open windows may be all that is needed.  But some buildings don’t have this facility.  It can also be a source of contention due to the temperature variation which can be caused.  Air conditioning might be the answer, but how fresh is the air which is circulated?  There may be a large cost implication for solving this one.  But it might bring a good return on investment in terms of productivity; absence and retention.

Human beings need to connect with nature.  More plants in the office can improve the quality of the air in the office and will also help the wellbeing of the employees.  Studies have found that plants  and natural light can have a major impact on productivity.

Small changes to office design can improve productivity

It is well documented that employers in the UK are struggling to increase productivity levels.  One place where we can make a difference is the workplace environment.

I am a big believer in collaboration and consultation in the workplace.  If you talk to your employees, then you will find out what works for them and what does not work so well.  No doubt, they will come up with some wildly impossible and expensive solutions.  But they will also tell you the small things which might make the biggest difference.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

The Truth About Employees, Divorce and Productivity

It  is well-documented that divorce can be one of the most stressful situations anyone can experience.  In the UK roughly 42% marriages end in divorce.  So it is highly likely that some of your employees will be going through a divorce at some time.

The thing about employees is that they are people first, with complex emotions and feelings.  We don’t just shrug off our feelings, like coats, and hang them on a hook when we walk into the workplace.

So how we feel at any one time or any particular day will affect our performance, concentration and productivity. Employers may not want to acknowledge this, and deal with it.  But good employers recognise that their workers have things going on which are probably more important than work -at least for the individuals.

Is there anything an employer can do for employees who may be facing divorce?

Legalities and changes in the Law regarding divorce

It has been widely reported that “no fault divorce” is to be introduced in the UK.  The intention is to end the blame game and make divorce easier for those involved.

This is undoubtedly good news and should lessen acrimony in divorce cases.  But divorce is going to remain unpleasant for those who go through it.  There will still be financial disputes and anxiety over children and access.  If your employee is going through a divorce their private life will be disrupted and their work will also be adversely affected.

 What effects am I likely to see on my employees?

The most likely effect on your employee is stress.  This may mean loss of concentration and increased anxiety.  They may use work as a refuge from the storm in their private life.  If they are engaged and involved in their work, it may indeed be a relief from the stress.  But it is more likely that they will only pay partial attention to their work.

The divorcing employee is likely to need to make court appearances, maybe multiple times if there is disagreement about financial aspects or access to children.  It may be that the employee is going through a change in their living accommodation, or the sale of a jointly owned house.  They are very likely to have increased financial worries.

How can an employer help employees who are divorcing?

There are some practical steps an employee can and should take to support their employees through a divorce.

This is an example of a situation which can be greatly helped if you already have a trusting and effective relationship with your employees.  If they trust you or their line manager, they will be more open about their personal circumstances.  You can build on that trust if you provide practical and relevant help to them.

The first issue is with regard to financial management.  Divorcing couples need to exchange financial information and often need documents to confirm details of salary, benefits, bonuses, pension arrangements.  An employer can help by providing that information quickly.

Some more ways an employer can help

Another issue which will affect your divorcing employee may be the need for time off work to attend court hearings in relation to the divorce, especially if it is an acrimonious divorce.  There is no legal requirement that you give paid time off for this, but you may wish to allow them to use up annual leave, or take unpaid leave.  Or a generous employer may wish to give additional paid leave (but you would need to give this some thought to ensure fairness to other, non-divorcing, employees).

However well an employee may be dealing with a divorce, you would be well advised to keep an eye on their mental health.  These will be stressful times for them and we all react differently in such circumstances.  Some of this will depend on how acrimonious the divorce is and whether there are children involved.   It may be helpful  to think about how to provide counselling or employee assistance if you do not already have such a scheme in place.

Benefits for the employer in supporting an employee through divorce

If you have a positive relationship with your employees, they are more likely to be honest with you about an impending divorce.

How can you provide practical and relevant support to them?  If you can do so, the situation is likely to resolved more quickly.  This is a benefit to the employee, of course.  But that also makes it better for you.

A reduction in the stress of the situation may lead to reduced likelihood of ill-health absence.  The employee will be more focussed at work and more able to concentrate.  This has a positive effect on their productivity.

There are more benefits for the employer

The secondary effect is loyalty.  An employee who has had support from their employer through a difficult personal situation is easier to retain in the workplace.  They will not want to risk moving to a less understanding workplace.

Your reputation as a caring and good employer will also be enhanced.  This will have a positive effect on recruitment and employee satisfaction.

Being kind to our employees and supporting them through difficult times is not only good for them, but it is also good for us as employers.  We all want to be cared for and cared about, and that includes employers.  And it doesn’t hurt the bottom line, either.

 If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on supporting an employee through a difficult time in their personal life, then  contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

WARNING: What you must know about your contractors before April 2020

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the UK Government’s consultation on the introduction of IR35 tax rules.  This is in relation to contractors in the private sector. If you use contractors in your workplace and you are a medium or large sized company, then you need to prepare for these changes.

Many employers remain unaware of these changes. If you do know about the changes, have you discussed them with your contractors? Have you agreed on their taxable status?

The Government announced in July that the consultation had finished and changes would be effective from April 2020.  Tax and National Insurance payments for contractors will become your responsibility.

It is best to avoid the blanket payment approach

These rules were brought in for the public sector back in 2017. Most public sector employers decided to tax their contractors as employees.  But they did not give those contractors the other benefits of employment. As a result of this approach, many contractors stopped working in the public sector. Public sector employers now find it much harder to attract contractors. Where they do still use contractors, they often have to pay a huge amount more than before.

What are the tests which prove whether or not a contract worker is genuinely self-employed?

Unfortunately for employers (and contractors), the only real test is in employment tribunal. There have been several high profile cases about employment status and there are likely to be more.

There is no hard-and-fast rule which shows that one person is genuinely self-employed. But there are some indicators which the Courts will consider in these cases. So it would be wise for employers to consult with their contractors about these issues.  This will help to determine how their tax should be calculated. Not all of these indicators apply to every contractor.  But they can give a guide to the true status of employment.

Some of the factors

  • Can the individual work at times and from a location to suit themselves? Or do you require them to be at a specific location, at specific times.  Do you require a set number of hours? If so, then that would indicate that you are their employer, not their client.
  •  Does the individual use their own equipment and tools? Or do you expect them to use tools and equipment which belong to your company? Again, this would indicate they are employed by you. If you are happy for them to use their own tools, this is another indication that they are not your employee.
  •  If you provide skills training, this might indicate they are considered an employee. Especially if you require them to undertake such training. A true contractor (supplier) should already be trained and skilled in what you need.  So it should not be necessary to provide any skills training for them.
  • Is there an expectation that you will continue to provide work once the specific job has been completed? Alternatively, are they expected to do work for you, other than what is specified in the contract? Or do you expect them to continue to be available for work for you once the project is done? Any of these things would suggest “mutual obligation” between you. This indicates that they are an employee.
  • What happens if they are unavailable (off sick or on holiday)? Do you allow them to provide a substitute to do the work while they are off?
  • Are your contractors free to do work for other companies at the same time as they work for you?
  • Do you provide transport, uniforms or other “employee benefits” for your contractors?  For example,  can they use a company subsidised gym or restaurant?

This is not an absolute or exact science

The answers to these questions can help you and your contractors decide on the fair way to deduct tax and National Insurance. Should it become clear that they are an employee, then you may need to offer employment terms and conditions and benefits. If you do not do so, then it is unlikely that the individual will be prepared to continue to work for you.

Your discussions  – and their answers – might indicate that they are a true contractor or “supplier of services”.   This will not guarantee that HMRC does not investigate further, of course. But your records of these discussions and their answers will help to show that you have investigated their employee status and have valid reasons for your decision.

Discussions sooner rather than later

If you want to avoid last minute decisions about the status of your contractors, then you need to start these consultations now. Otherwise you might face significant disruption and loss of talent at the last minute. Many public sector organisations are still facing skills shortages. Some are finding it hard to attract and retain contract workers.

The Government has developed a tool to help businesses to decide on the tax status of their employees. There has been some criticism of this Check Employment Status For Tax tool, but it may help employers and their contractors to make an informed decision.

 

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information on dealing with this – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR . She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

Too Hot To Work – Temperatures In The Workplace

When temperatures rise, people often think it is “too hot to work”.

Temperatures in UK have been very high in the last few days.  The hottest August Bank Holiday ever was recorded.   So what is the law about temperatures at work?  And what can employers do to keep it comfortable?

What are the legal requirements about temperatures in the workplace?

The simple answer is that, in the UK, there is no law which specifies maximum (or minimum) working temperatures.  There is no law which says when it is too hot (or cold) to work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that “in offices or similar environments, the temperature in workplaces must be reasonable”.  The requirement on employers is that they must keep the temperature at a “comfortable level”, known as thermal comfort.  They must also provide clean and fresh air.  There are six basic factors which affect thermal comfort.

The six basic factors affecting thermal comfort

Each individual person has different levels of comfort and can be affected in different ways from others.  The most commonly used and obvious factor is air temperature.  This is easily measured, but it can be affected by the other factors.

Another environmental factor is thermal radiation.  This is the heat which radiates from a warm object.  This may be present if there are hot pipes, machinery or other heat sources in a workplace.  This has more influence than air temperature on how we lose or gain heat.   Direct sun is also a source of thermal radiation.

The speed of air moving across a person (air velocity) may help them to cool down. For example, if there is a fan or moving air through an open window.  Humidity is another factor. If there is water vapour in warm air, this can result in humidity and people feeling “sticky”.

There are also a couple of personal factors which affect thermal comfort.  A person may feel more or less at a comfortable temperature, depending on their clothing.  Too much clothing or safety clothing – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be a primary cause of heat stress.

The final factor is the individual’s work rate.  The more physical work we do, the more heat we produce.  Individual physical factors such as size, weight, age, fitness level can all have an impact.  We are all different and react differently to changes in temperature.

What can employers do to keep temperatures in the workplace at a comfortable level?

There are a number of things which employers can consider to make the workplace more comfortable when the temperature rises.   You may already be doing some things and others are simple to implement.  Some things to consider are:

  • provide desk fans
  • allow flexible hours/early starts so people can choose to avoid working at the hottest times of the day
  • where possible, encourage people to open windows
  • if you have air conditioning, make sure it is maintained and working
  • allow relaxed dress codes
  • keep blinds closed to avoid direct sun
  • move workstations away from any hot machinery/pipes, etc
  • insulate hot pipes and machinery, where possible
  • ensure that risk assessments include considerations about temperatures in the workplace
  • provide fresh drinking water (preferably cooled)
  • allow regular breaks for people to cool down
  • allow flexible, remote or home working
  • provide clear guidance on all of the above to employees

As always, I would advise you to consult with and collaborate with your employees.  They may have some more ideas about how to be more comfortable at work during periods of extreme temperatures.

One final thing for employers to think about, is when to  carry out risk assessments.  In particular, if you receive several complaints from employees about the temperature in the workplace and their discomfort, then you must carry out a risk assessment and take appropriate action.   For further advice, see the Health and Safety Executive website.

What about jobs which involve extreme temperatures in the workplace?

There are some types of work which create extreme temperatures in the workplace, regardless of the season.  Some manufacturing processes, for example, can have serious effects on health if the temperature is not managed properly.

In such an environment, it is critical to undertake risk assessments. If your Business involves people working in very high or low temperatures, then you should seek further advice from the Health and Safety Executive or a professional health and safety expert.

 

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

Invisible Disability In the Workplace

According to the charity, Scope, there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK.  Nearly 1 in 5 working adults are disabled (19%).

You may look around your workplace and struggle to see many disabled people.  There might be someone with a wheelchair or maybe someone who uses a stick.  But on the whole there are few visibly disabled people.  And therein lies a huge problem.

What is invisible disability?

Because we cannot see any evidence of a disability, we don’t always realise it is there.  If someone walks and talks and appears to function well, we do not see the pain they might be in.  Or the exhaustion they are feeling.  We don’t know the mental anguish they live with, or the anxiety and fear they might have.

Many people have a condition, illness or impairment which causes difficulty on a daily basis.  If that condition lasts at least 12 months, then this is the legal definition of “disability”. Those people might need an adjustment to help them deal with life more easily.  This could be something in their daily life, such as the use of a parking space to lessen the distance they have to walk.  Alternatively,  they might need a seat on public transport.  In the workplace, they might need an adjustment to enable them to work more effectively.  This could be a change in their duties, or a specific chair.  It might mean altered hours, or regular breaks.  It could be a fan, or heater, or footrest.

The point is that, as employers and as colleagues, we don’t know what we don’t know.  If we cannot see the disability, then it is an invisible disability (also known as a hidden disability).

How can we help?

The best way to help someone who is living with an invisible disability – or any disability –  is to ask them what helps them.   They know their condition and what constraints that puts on their life.  Through experience, they know what helps and what makes things worse.  They know when they need a break, or some different work, or a different seat.

But many people feel unable to talk about their disability.  There may be many reasons for this.  Sometimes they have faced stigma from work, from the general public, even from friends and family.  More often, they face a lack of knowledge and understanding.  We don’t want to appear stupid, so we don’t ask how to help people.  So we make assumptions about what helps – and those assumptions can be wrong.

Employing someone with an invisible disability

Employers have a huge role to play in changing the attitudes towards disability.  There is also a legal obligation on employers to make “reasonable adjustments”  in the workplace to support those with disabilities.  So what is a “reasonable adjustment”?  It is any adjustment at all which might make it easier for someone to do their job.  The best way to decide what is needed is to talk to the disabled person and find out from them.

If a person feels safe in the workplace and trusts their employer, then they are far more likely to explain their difficulties and be open about a disability.  This can open a discussion about any adjustments and support needed.  This has to be an ongoing process.  Things change, both in the workplace and in the individual’s life and medical care.  So the conversation has to be ongoing. The individual has to feel confident in bringing the subject up and airing their difficulties.  Then you can find a mutual and appropriate solution.

It may be (indeed, it is likely) that you already employ someone, or some people, with an invisible disability.  If you don’t already know about it, then that could be a sign that they don’t feel safe.  They may well be struggling on their own.  If this is the case, their performance will be suffering, or they may have attendance or lateness issues.  They may be having a high number of sickness absences.  They may be in conflict with colleagues.

Open the discussion about invisible disability

Some simple things you can do to make your workplace safe for people with an invisible disability include:

  • Give a clear message that it is safe to discuss disability (or other difficulties) at work. Cover it in induction, in regular performance discussions, and at every opportunity.
  • Review all your policies and processes and ensure they take account of people with disabilities and their needs.
  • Train your managers and other staff on the right approach to take and language to use.
  • Encourage your managers to have regular discussions with individuals in their teams to give an opportunity to raise any issues.
  • Put in place any adjustments which are needed to make work more comfortable for people.
  • Make sure your people feel valued (those with invisible disability, those with visible disability, those without).
  • Set up an anonymous suggestion box. Then people can make suggestions about things which might help them, without having to tell you about their disability.

Taking it further

If you are interested in more information about disability in the workplace, or want some support, then you might want to speak to an advisor who specialises in this area.

Roland Chesters is a Disability Development Consultant who, himself, has an invisible disability and is an inspirational speaker and advisor. For more information about the services he offers, see his website, Luminate.uk.com or contact him.

 

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR.  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

Climate Strike Strategies – 20 September 2019

Young people in the UK and globally have been taking action for climate change and now they are calling for adults to join them by walking out of work on 20 September in a global “climate strike”.

Employers would be well advised to prepare for this.  You have a little over a month now to consider what you will do if your employees take part in this action.

What is a climate strike?

This proposed action is called a climate strike as the intention is for people to take a day out of work in protest against climate change.

In employment terms, a strike is lawful where a workplace has a recognised union and the strike is a result of a dispute between the employees and the employer. There are strict (and fairly complex) rules about balloting for strike action.  If these terms are not met, the strike is unlawful.

The climate “strike” is not as a result of a dispute between employer and employees and many people who are intending to take part may not be part of a trade union which is recognised in their workplace.

What action can an employer take?

As with all things, my first advice is to talk to your employees.  Find out if anyone is intending to take part in the action.

If a significant part of your workforce is planning some action, then you need to consider what work will not get done that day and how you can cater for that.  Can you change deadlines, appointments, deliveries, etc?  You can discuss these plans with your employees and get their help and ideas to manage the workload for that day.

In terms of payment for the day off work, there are various options and it may depend on your own concerns (or otherwise) about climate change.     You could insist that anyone who takes part in the climate strike has a day of unpaid leave.  Or you could ask employees who intend to strike to use up a day of their annual leave allocation.  More likely is a combination of these.  This would mean they take a day of their annual leave, but they can choose to have a day of unpaid leave instead and use their annual leave another time.

You could be really generous and just give people an extra day of annual leave.  For those not taking part in the “strike”, you need to be fair and allow them an additional day of leave to take at another time.  You might even want to close the Business for a day and take part in the “strike” yourself!

Unintended Consequences

The hard line is that people cannot just choose to walk out of work and expect to be protected from unfair dismissal.  If they strike, there are well-established rules about how that is conducted.  Where a workplace has a recognised trade union, the employees may be more likely to comply with the rules, but where there is no such recognition, then there are real risks for employees who want to take action.

Where an employer is prepared to allow employees to use annual leave (or even unpaid leave), there are other consequences.  The work still needs to be done and if the whole workforce decides to take advantage of the extra day off, then employers might be left in a very difficult position.

Alternatives to Climate Strike

As an employer, you might want to get ideas from your employees about alternatives to climate strike.  The point of this action is to pressurise governments and businesses (and all of us) to take action to slow climate change.

Your employees may have ideas about how you, as a Business, can make a difference.  There might be actions that you can take which have a greater effect for a longer time.  There are some very simple things which can make a difference.  Some you might already do, others you may not have thought about.  Things like recycling waste; replacing bottled water coolers with coolers plumbed into the main water supply; reducing thermostats by one degree.  Make sure you use local suppliers.

You may want to make a real difference in greater terms and this would involve looking at your company environmental policy – or setting one up.  You could instigate a review of all of your organisational policies and procedures to identify any impacts on the environment.  There may be smaller changes you can make immediately, or some bigger issues which need planning and financing.

You might even think about organising a special event on the day of the strike, to support the action.  Your employees would then feel they are making a difference, but without the need to join the strike.

Starting a dialogue about climate change

Every employer and employee will have a view about climate change.  If you start a dialogue between all parties, that is the best way to make a difference.

The last thing you need in your workplace is an unofficial walk out by your employees.  This could leave them in an untenable position, without legal protection.  The best way to prevent that is to start by talking to them.

This one day of climate strike could be the start of a new approach from employers (whether or not their employees join the strike).  That snowball could start an avalanche which really could make a difference.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit.  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

How To Change Your Corporate Culture So Your Profits Increase

Do you think you need to change your corporate culture?  If nothing is wrong, you may not think you need to change.  But just because nothing seems wrong, it doesn’t mean a change is not necessary.

Some time ago I worked with a company of about 300 employees who were spread across a number of different sites.

The Company had grown from a family owned and run small business and had built up a reputation for quality and innovation.  Sadly, to a certain extent, they were still relying on their good name and the culture had slipped in to one where people were just jogging along.  There was no innovation and productivity was getting lower.   Nothing was particularly wrong, but there was a general air of boredom and a lack of enthusiasm.

Additionally, there were petty squabbles among staff and people were quick to raise a grievance.  The rate of sickness absence increased for minor ailments.

Taking Action

The Board of Directors decided to combine the work done at the various sites.  Consequently they would move everybody to one site.  This was intended to decrease the overheads.  Additionally, productivity might be increased by bringing everyone under one roof.  Such was the thinking.

I was brought in to facilitate the site moves. I soon realised that these moves, in themselves, would not solve the productivity problem.  In fact, initially, things were likely to get worse.  Rebuilding teams from people who had worked in separate physical sites was a challenge.  Particularly as each site had its own, slightly different, culture.

Deciding to change your corporate culture

If you think you might need to change your corporate culture, then where do you start?

For us, the first step was for the Board to recognise that a change was needed. They could see that the different site managers had each had a different approach.  This had led to a stricter, slightly stifled regime at one site, whilst a couple of others had become lax and mistakes were creeping in.   The first need was to establish what the desired culture should look like.  Then we had to build a roadmap of how to achieve that, with milestones along the way.

Collaborating with employees

If you want to change your corporate culture, it is really important to talk to the employees.

We wanted to know what worked and what did not (and why).   The organisation was unionised and we worked with the Trade Unions.  But additionally, at each site, we set up a working group of volunteers to plan the site moves.  We sent out a survey, to be completed anonymously.  This was to gauge what worked and what did not.  We also used the Trade Unions to speak to their members and line managers to speak to their teams.

One critical factor was to communicate the plans and proposals.  We also provided some training on managing change.  Where individuals had specific concerns and issues, we held individual consultation meetings.  Along with practical issues about the move, we also communicated our desire to build a new, collaborative, culture.  We asked employees to work with us to outline our future direction.  Their suggestions contributed largely to our plans.

Accepting casualties

We found that not every employee shared our vision of collaboration and engagement.  Some decided that they did not want to move sites; some decided that they did not like the new “feel” to the Company.  We provided training and support, where applicable, to help people to adjust, but we also accepted that some would never settle and agreed to an amicable parting.

There were also a number of people who were content to continue jogging along at their steady pace.  They were doing a good job, but not an excellent one.  They were not disengaged from the Company, but were not actively engaged either.  We approached this by giving every opportunity for them to voice their opinions, give their ideas, get involved.

For many, we accepted that “a good job” was good enough and that these were the backbone of the company. We trained our line managers in spotting signs of disengagement.  We gave them the tools to engage with their teams.

For the minority of high-achievers, who were full of innovation and enthusiasm, we had given a chance to shine.   We subsequently found that the number of these high-achievers increased.

Walking the walk

The first step in this change had been to engage with the top team.  This continued to be an important step and is an ongoing need.  The team at the very top of a company needs to be the example they want to set.  The adage “be the change you want to see” is critical in business.

Whether or not it is a conscious decision, employees will always take their lead from managers. If your employees see you working long hours, they will do so too.  They will assume that is what you want from them.

If you fail to take a break, or if you send emails late at night, then that is also what your employees will do.  If you go into work even when you are obviously sick, then your employees will drag themselves in as well – and pass their germs to all and sundry.

Getting it right leads to other benefits

When we are shopping, we want to buy from responsible producers and suppliers. We want to feel comfortable with their ethos and approach.  In the same way,  employees want to work for companies which have a culture which they can fit into.  If you have a good reputation as an employer, then you will find that recruitment is easier for you.  You will be able to retain good employees.  You will have a lower rate of sickness absence.  It is likely that you will have fewer performance issues.  This will also have a positive effect on your marketing and will appeal to customers.

So you might want to change your corporate culture, even if you don’t think it is bad.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.