Use it or Lose It!  Why you must remind employees to use up their annual holiday entitlement

What if your employees don’t take all their holiday entitlement within the year?  Surely, they lose the right to take the holiday? In most cases, yes, they lose the right to take the holiday, but it depends on various things.  Things such as the reason why they have not taken their holiday. Or what it says in their contract of employment.

If someone has been off sick and so has not been able to take their holiday, then you should consider allowing them to carry the remaining holiday over to next year.  Similarly, if they have been on maternity leave or parental leave then they will still have built up holiday entitlement.  So they must be given the opportunity to take it, or carry it over to next year.

Additionally, you may have a clause in your contracts of employment which allows people to carry forward some of their holiday until the next holiday year.

Isn’t it a good thing for the Business if people don’t want to take all their holiday?

 You might think your business benefits from the additional work you are getting if people don’t take all of their holiday.  After all, you have to pay them anyway, so if they choose to work, rather than take their holiday, then that is surely a good thing?

You should be concerned if people are not taking holiday.  My advice would be for you to find out what the reason might be.  You may not need  to look any further than your mirror.  If you do not take all of your holiday, then you are unconsciously giving out the message that you do not expect other people to do so.

Similarly, is there is a culture in the organisation that people regularly do not take all of their holiday entitlement?  If so, then individuals may be frightened of upsetting their colleagues if they take “too much” time off – even if it is their entitlement!  We all want approval and appreciation from those around us (particularly the boss) and some people may be fearful of the consequences if they do not conform.

What about wellbeing?

 Another major consideration should be the health and wellbeing of your workforce.  People need to have regular breaks from the workplace to maintain their emotional, mental and physical health.    If they are not using all of their holiday entitlement, then they are not getting the most from their opportunities to refresh themselves.

Although it appears that you are getting “more work” from people who are not taking all of their holiday, it may well be that you are actually only getting “more presenteesim”.  They may be in the workplace more often, but will their output be of a high quality? If they are tired, stressed and in need of a break, then they are not likely to be producing their best efforts on your behalf.

But how can I make people take holiday if they don’t want to?

 Of course, you cannot force people to use up their holiday.  But you should be encouraging them to do so.

If you and your managers lead by example and ensure you use up all of your holiday, then your employees will feel comfortable in doing the same.   Make sure you use regular discussion with your employees to reinforce the message that they should be using all of their holiday each year.

Regular reminders about using holiday should be issued during the whole year. You don’t want everyone to leave their holiday until the last minute and all rush to book it in the last quarter of the year.  Regular reminders should help to manage the flow of holiday requests.

Finally, in the third quarter of the holiday year, you could send out a reminder to the whole workforce that there is only limited time to use up their holiday and that you expect them to do so.

Not my responsibility

 You may feel that it is not your job as employer to be reminding people to use up their entitlement.  You do your bit by giving them the entitlement. If they choose not to make use of that, then that is their choice.  This, of course, is true – up to a point.

However, a recent legal case in the EU reminds employers that it is their responsibility “diligently” to give the employee the opportunity to take their holiday and to remind them of their right to take it.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

 

Five things an employer can do to improve work-life balance for their employees…

… and five reasons why they should.

There are several things you can be doing to help your employees achieve a healthy balance in their lives:

  1. The first thing you should do is to talk to your employees about how to achieve balance in their workplace and home lives. If you collaborate on a solution then it is more likely to work for everyone.
  2. Try to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Everyone has a different idea of what they consider to be a balance. What is great for one person could be a nightmare for someone else.
  3. Don’t expect your employees to work long hours for no extra reward. If you need people to work longer hours, then employ more people – or at least pay overtime.
  4. Lead by example. If you are in the office for long hours, then your staff will think that is what you expect of them as well.
  5. Don’t just pay lip service – actually be that flexible employer who expects your employees to have a balanced life.

What is the benefit of offering a healthy work-life balance?

  1. You can start to reap the rewards of increased productivity.
  2. You are likely to find your employees have reduced sickness absence.
  3. Your staff turnover may reduce and you will find it easier to recruit when people do leave.
  4. You will have an enhanced reputation as a good employer. Your clients will like that too.
  5. You are likely to find it is easier to cover a longer working day. Some people like to work early and others to work late. So you can be there more for your clients.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

 

How Can I Help? (to improve Mental Health in the Workplace)

Mental Health in the WorkPlace has hit the news again this week, with The Duke of Cambridge talking on this subject to employers and employees from a range of British businesses.

I wrote a blog post on this subject back in May, but it bears repeating as there are things we can all be doing to help people cope.  Employers, in particular, can make small changes which will have a huge impact.  And why wouldn’t you, when it can also have a huge and beneficial impact on productivity and costs in your Organisation?

What can an employer do to improve mental health in the workplace?

Any organisation can – and should -create a Mental Health plan and then follow it and communicate it to all employees.  Here are some suggestions to help you to improve the mental health of your employees  and to combat mental health issues at work:

  • Create an open atmosphere where people feel they can talk about such issues. You can do this by making employees aware of what help is available and where they can access it. Facilitate open discussions amongst employees.
  • Ensure you offer enough breaks from work and make sure people take them. When we get engrossed in a piece of work, it is easy to skip lunch, or work late. But this can be counter-productive and lead to other problems.  Make sure people take regular breaks from work and have a change of scene.  Try and encourage a good work-life balance – and LEAD BY EXAMPLE.  If people see you working all hours and not taking breaks, they will follow your lead as they will think that is what you expect of them as well.
  • Try and give people interesting, varied work which they can excel at. This will increase their sense of worth and happiness at work.
  • Praising people when they do well, exciting them about challenges and opportunities, recognising them when they do well. All of these will help to prevent mental health problems from occurring in the first place. 

Supporting those with Mental Health issues

  • Think about appointing some Mental Health “First Aiders” or mentors.  They can act as a first port of call when somebody is in urgent need of support. As well as urgent issues, they can provide support and mentoring to those who have issues but feel they cannot approach you or their manager.  You would need to train these people, but it would be an investment well worth making.
  • If you manage people, or have line managers who support teams, then train the managers to recognise mental health problems and in how to manage such conversations.
  • The Mental Health Foundation provides a series of guides about dealing with mental health problems. You  can download these at no cost. Or you could order some paper copies to keep in the workplace for anyone who needs them.
  • If someone does disclose that they have a mental health problem, it could be made worse by other things.  Things such as money worries, fear of losing job, fear of taking time off, fear of talking about it. Investigate gently with the individual  – there might be something you can do to help with those concerns.
  • Offer access to a counselling service or at least a helpline.
  • If possible, provide a telephone in a private area, where an employee can ring a helpline or contact a charity for some help in an urgent situation.
  • Many Mental Health charities can provide support to you and your employees. Investigate the options which work for you and your company and provide details to your employees.  Provide a list of those charities to any employee who discloses they have a mental health issue.  There is a huge amount of help available for those who need it.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

 

Good People Managers – Top Tips from JMA HR

Setting a good example

When you are a people manager, others will take their lead from you and follow your example – so make sure you set a good one!   They will copy all your bad habits and characteristics as well as the good ones.  If you stay working until all hours, that is what they will think you expect of them as well.  If you come into work, even when you are feeling lousy, then they will think that is what they need to do as well.

So be enthusiastic about your goals and vision and bring your team along with you.

Show you care

One of the best people managers I have ever known made the effort to visit each member of her team (sometimes virtually, by email or text) and check in with them each day.  That simple gesture – sometimes nothing more than “Good Morning, how are you today?”- endeared her to her team and gave them a chance to raise with her anything which might be bothering them.  It showed she cared about them.

Don’t give out blame or shame

Even when there are disasters – and there always are some – there is always something positive to latch onto.  That is much more healthy than pointing a finger.  Find out what happened and why – that way you can prevent a recurrence. Even if you feel blame is justified, it is rarely helpful to point it out.  How you react can make your team love you or can damage your working relationships for ever – it is your choice.

Be Transparent

Share as much as you can about the vision, goals and direction of the company.  And do it regularly.  Celebrate when things go well and thank people.  Share the bad news, as well.  Your team deserves to know how things stand, and if they feel trusted they will put in the effort to help you recover.

Listen and learn

Communication is a two way street and you need to be able to listen to your team and hear their concerns, frustrations and share their achievements.  People need to feel they can raise anything with you, without fear.  If they can’t talk to you, they will gossip with others and the truth will get garbled.  Communicating in person with them will help them feel valued.  Ask them what they want – they might surprise you.

Invest some time in helping your employees to grow

Invest some time and effort in helping your employees to grow.  You will reap the benefits and they will thank you for it.

Help them to get promoted.   They will stay longer and the Company will benefit.

Set them free and they will fly high

There is no need to micromanage everything and everyone.  When you empower others, give them space and allow them autonomy, then they will surprise you with their achievements. If you are not flexible, they will not trust you and they will become demotivated.

If you let them know they are valued and you trust them, they will soon be reaching for the stars.

Be good at what you do, but even more be a good people manager

People are often promoted to management positions because they have good technical skills.  Which is great.  Your team will be able to use your skills as a point of reference.

But even more important are the “soft” skills which enable you to be a good people manager.  These are the skills which you may not already have when you become a manager.  The good news is that they can be learnt.

The key message for now is that you need to learn them, fast.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

 

Personal Financial Wellbeing – How Can You Support It?

Do you know about the personal financial wellbeing of your employees?

Earlier this year, I wrote a guest blog post for Nikki Ramskill, the Female Money Doctor.  Nikki is a medical doctor and she sees first-hand the effect that financial worry has on people’s health.  In my article I said that “A caring employer who wants to benefit from a healthy, happy and productive workforce should be thinking about how to provide financial advice.”

I am returning to this subject as it is dear to my heart and there has recently been a study by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) into employee financial wellbeing guidance in organisations.

This study looks into what employers can do to support the personal financial wellbeing of their employees and why they might want to.

Horror Stories

There have been recent headlines  about people who are holding down jobs but are homeless.  And there have been other stories about people who are in full time work, but below the poverty line.

Of course, these are the extremes, but many people are in debt and are unable to save.  They are struggling to pay mortgages or rent and to feed and clothe their families.  Other studies over the years have come up with statistics such as: 40 per cent of adults say they are not in control of their finances; only 28 per cent of people have a savings buffer equal to three months’ income and a third of employees state financial worries are their biggest concern.

All of this will inevitably have a negative impact on the health of your employees.  It will give them higher stress and anxiety levels and affect their ability to sleep, their concentration levels and their absence due to sickness.  If they are suffering, then your business is also suffering.  They will not be performing well.  Their decision making will be affected.  They will have a reduced ability to concentrate.

You may be paying well and providing other benefits on top, but are you aware of the financial health of your employees?  If not, then you may be missing out on a good way to improve productivity, employee engagement and your employer reputation.  There are many low cost or even cost-free ways to help your employees to enhance their personal financial wellbeing.  And if you help them, then you are helping yourself too.

How can I help?

You could start by setting up an employee financial wellbeing strategy.  This does not have to be difficult.  It would be a good start to look at all the help you already provide and put it all into an easily accessible package.  You probably provide help already, but not in a clear format.

You can also signpost employees to help which is available for them – usually at no cost.  There are all kinds of support mechanisms, debt counselling, financial guidance, pension advice, savings schemes, etc which is available if employees know where to look.

Sometimes all that is needed is some financial education.  People are frightened of managing their finances because they feel they don’t have the skills or knowledge.

But I don’t want to invade their privacy

In these days of enhanced data protection, identity theft, invasion of privacy, employers are nervous of enquiring into the personal finances of their employees. But you don’t need to know specific details, unless the employee wants to share it with you.  Additionally, you might assume that your employees have adequate knowledge to make decisions about their finances – especially if you already provide advice on things like pensions and flexible benefits. But the IES study found that that many employees would positively welcome some engagement from their employer to help them to resolve any difficulties they may be facing.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Work-Life Balance – What Is It And How Do We Find It?

We all strive for greater work-life balance.  Employers even use  “good work-life balance” as an incentive in their recruitment advertising.    But what does it mean?  And how do we achieve it?

What is a balanced approach?

The difficulty is that the phrase “work-life balance” means different things to different people.  To many, it means that they want the flexibility to take their children to school before starting work.  Or they want to leave early to collect them.  Many are willing to “make up the hours” in the evening, once the kids have gone to bed.

For others, it means only working for four days in the week.  Some take this to the extent of working “compressed hours”, where five days’ worth of work are squashed into four days.  Sadly this often means that 10 hour days or more are worked for each of those four days.  This can mean a longer weekend – but how much balance is there  during the four long working days?

Others again want the flexibility to work from any location they choose. This takes out travel time and, ostensibly, leaves more time for home and leisure activities, to balance against work time.  In reality, though, most homeworkers are hard at work for much longer hours than their work-based colleagues.  So the balance may be lost.

Balancing the cost

If balance can be achieved by reducing working hours – then who should pay for it?  When people are less stressed, healthier, happier and more refreshed, they are likely to have a raised level of productivity.  This makes a good case for employers to continue to pay their employees for a full week, even when they have reduced their hours.  If we are still getting the same work for less hours, then why wouldn’t we be prepared to pay the same for it?

Of course, the difficulty is that many employers need to provide their service for full working hours, or even 24/7.  In those cases, they would need to employ extra people to cover the hours. So any benefit the employer may get from improved productivity and better quality work will be negated by the cost of additional staff.

So would people be prepared to take a reduction in their take-home pay, if this meant that they worked fewer hours and had more time with their families?  It is not that easy.  Many people live on a knife-edge where their salary is only just enough to pay for all of their expenses.  More leisure time is likely to equate to larger expenses and so a pay cut is often not really practicable.

A reduction in working hours does not necessarily bring balance

A large proportion of the workforce is already working part-time.  Others are balancing caring duties with work.  Many work in the gig economy and so are employed on an ad-hoc basis.  Others work for themselves, or as contractors.

Technology doesn’t help.  It is too easy to be “always available” to answer that one email, or take that one call from the other side of the world.  Even when we are on holiday, many of us find it impossible to leave work behind and so take our laptops and smart phones with us.

If reduced hours don’t work, how can an employer help?

There are several things you can be doing to help your employees achieve a healthy work-life balance:

  1. The first action you can take is to talk to your employees about how to achieve work-life balance. If you collaborate on a solution then it is more likely to work for everyone.
  2. You should try to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Everyone has a different idea of what they consider to be a balance. What is great for one person could be a nightmare for someone else.
  3. Don’t expect your employees to work long hours for no extra reward. It is fairly normal for people to work unpaid overtime – especially if they have reached supervisory positions.  Many employers don’t expect this, but most of them accept it and do not take steps to discourage it.  If you need people to work longer hours, then employ more people – or at least pay overtime.
  4. Lead by example. If you are in the office for long hours, then your staff will think that is what you expect of them as well.
  5. Don’t just pay lip service – actually be that flexible employer who expects your employees to have a balanced life.
  6. You can start to reap the rewards of increased productivity, reduced sickness, reduced turnover and happier staff.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

 

 

Increasing Productivity – Not My Problem

It is well reported in the press that the UK has productivity problems.  Productivity levels have not increased since before the financial crisis in 2008.

Small  and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 90% or more of the private sector and most are aware that there is a productivity problem in UK.  They always believe the problem lies  with “other employers” and none can see that it may start in their own business.  There are many and varied reasons why productivity is low in UK, but some of it is because owners/managers of small businesses don’t recognise that they need support from HR.

They all talk about business challenges, not people challenges.  A quick search on Google for the most common business challenges reveals: recruiting and retention; technological changes; Governance and legislation; Trust; financial management.  All of these challenges can be helped by good HR support.  Other challenges include Brexit; the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR); gender reporting.

What help can HR provide?

If you have read earlier articles we have published, you will already know some of the areas where HR intervention can help your business to grow and increase productivity – particularly in retaining staff and so reducing staff turnover and recruitment costs.

I have been talking to a variety of different employers in the last few weeks, as part of my search for feedback on the support that JMA HR could provide to them.

The response I hear quite often is that the business (whatever it is) “is too small to need HR support” or “never has any HR problems”.  This is nearly always followed up by a story about a tribunal case they have had to defend, or some particular people-related issues which they have dealt with themselves “without needing to pay for HR”.  They have quite often paid for legal advice and representation though.  Of course, this has not factored in their time or lack of experience in these issues.  It may seem cheaper to “do it yourself” but is it going to be quick, effective, a good use of your time, or to prevent further issues?

Where HR help is needed

Several employers had taken legal advice but not been prepared to pay for HR support.  This is interesting as the legal advice is generally about “cure” and HR support is generally about “prevention”.  There is, of course, an overlap, but my question to employers is whether it is better to spend at your own pace, and at a level you can control, on HR support?  Alternatively you risk getting it wrong.   You may well then have to  spend  on legal advice and support when it becomes urgent and at a level over which you have no control.

If you keep reading our articles, you will get support (at no cost) on a variety of issues which you may face from time to time.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.