Compassionate Leave in the workplace.

One of the many questions we get asked in relation to compassionate leave in the workplace by our clients is what is the law in relation to ‘bereavement / compassionate leave’ and what should they provide to a member of the team when informed and is the topic of our current blog.

Firstly you should ask yourself what is your company policy (if you have one) and what has been the Precedent in the past when people have told the company of a recent death or the need for compassionate leave?

The next question should be: Does it affect a close relative or dependant? If yes then an employee is entitled as a minimum to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work without notice to deal with emergencies affecting their dependents under the Employment Rights Act.

‘reasonable’ can vary depending on the situation and can be anything from one day to attend a funeral to up to a week to plan an event for close family members.

Kim Pattullo – a partner in the employment team at Addleshaw Goddard comments further:

While this can help an employee to focus on arrangements and the funeral itself, it is often once the funeral has taken place that they require additional support. Shock or the sheer exhaustion of dealing with a protracted illness can have a severe impact. While some people will appreciate the structure and distraction of work, many others suffer from anxiety and depression following bereavement.

With more staff staying in the workplace for much longer than previous generations, this is a situation that managers will encounter increasingly often. The question is: what more can employers do to assist at such a difficult time?

For employees who suffer from mental health illnesses such as depression, it is important to have a line of communication between them and the their line manager. Where possible, an early referral to the business’s occupational health provider is crucial, both as a pathway to accessing other medical assistance and in securing the best chance of the employee successfully returning to work in the future. The objective should be to have a referral and appointment within four weeks of the diagnosis of depression. This is an extremely delicate conversation to have with someone so recently bereaved.

For an employee who wishes to have the distraction of work, there can be issues with performance, which can dip substantially on their return. At this point, managers have a key role to play in discussing the support the employee wishes to have. A return to work discussion about workload levels and weekly catch ups are recommended, and it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the team member. You also need to consider whether the employee has a mental health condition that would qualify as a disability. If so, there will be a requirement to make reasonable adjustments and not to take action that would discriminate against the person’s disability.

Financial matters can add greatly to the stress and anxiety experienced by a bereaved employee. The loss of a loved one who was the main breadwinner can have a devastating impact on them and their family, especially if there was not time to put financial affairs in order. Only by talking to them will this come to light. Some employers may be able to help with zero-interest loans or by directing the employee to additional sources of support and advice.

Managers and HR professionals are the key to dealing with staff struggling with bereavement. They can provide support and pass on vital information to the employee, including the fact that employee assistance programmes are much more than just telephone helplines. It will be for the manager or HR to tease out whether the employee has financial worries caused by their change in circumstances. However, employers must ask themselves this: have managers and HR professionals been trained to engage in these sensitive discussions with confidence?

Matthew from Consensus HR comments “In these difficult times it is vital that employers have a clear policy that is easy to follow and states what the procedure is for all members of the team so as to ensure in difficult situations that the appropriate action is taken and no further stress put on the individual or the business. Clear guidelines ensures that all members of the team are treated the same and managed accordingly. I always suggest that a clear documentation trail is also kept with payroll as unfortunately from past experience it has been known for a number of grandparents to pass way!”

If you wish to discuss your current policies / procedures in relation to compassionate leave or any other area of your companies HR Policies & Procedures give us a call (01462 621243) or fill in the ‘Contact Form’ and we will contact you asap.

 

 

Holiday are coming!, Holidays are coming!

 

As the well-known tune goes, although for different holidays (Christmas), employee’s holidays are soon to be coming in their droves due to the summer school holidays.

This is when the Policies & Procedures you have in place to manage employee holidays becomes extremely valuable.

 

 

The Law:

Everybody is entitled to a holiday, which is covered legally by the Working Time Directive, which stipulates that a full-time employee is entitled to 28 days holiday per annum pro-rata (Including Bank Holidays). This is accrued from day one of employment.

Failure to pay when either employed or once they have left employment is classed as ‘un-authorised deduction of wages’ and is an area that is common for former employees to take their employer to an Employment Tribunal. This can be done from day one of employment if somebody is owed monies regardless of length of service.

Policies & Procedures:

Companies should have a clear set policy for employees to use that states what the minimum notice is for applying for holiday and what needs to be completed for this to be accepted. An employee’s holiday is their legal right as explained prior but it should be noted that it is a request when they request their holiday and not a definite as business demands take precedence. However employers should also remember that it is in their business interests to ensure holiday as requested is granted, so as to ensure an employee uses their yearly entitlement up and also for the moral of the team.

A clear holiday form should be used that sets the standard clearly and should be granted on a first come, first served basis dependent on company needs with two copies of the form produced, one for the employee & one for the employer and their files. Both should be signed with the required authorisation to confirm it has been agreed.

Matthew from Consensus HR states “In my time within operations and HR, I have worked for quite a few businesses where the holiday procedure is not clear and has had to be amended due to people booking their holidays with the holiday company prior to having authorisation from their employer. Employees need to be aware that a booking for a holiday should not be made until their holiday at work has been authorised as if the holiday cannot be authorised they could lose out financially.

Our last blog titled ‘The Temperatures Are Rising!’ explains the legalities in relation to heat in the workplace.

If you wish to discuss your companies current Holiday Policy & how best to manage holiday requests going forward, contact us now by telephone – 01462 621243 or fill in our Contact Form.

Happy holidays!!

The Temperatures Are Rising!

What are the legal / best practices for businesses when it comes to their teams?

The British weather does not generally result in extreme temperatures but what about when this does happen and the team find themselves working in a hot environment?

What is the maximum temperature a workplace can be?

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 says that your employer must maintain a reasonable temperature where you work, but it does not specify a maximum temperature. There is a minimum temperature of 16°C, or 13°Cif your work involves considerable physical activity.

What steps can be taken?

Employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces. Instead they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures as outline in the law above.

In that respect the steps, which, employers can take, will vary from employer to employer but practical steps might include turning on air conditioning if it is available or using blinds or curtains to block out sunlight.

However, employers must provide employees with suitable drinking water in the workplace. There is no requirement that the water is chilled.

Can my boss tell me what to wear?

Yes, employers are allowed to tell their workers to dress in a particular way in the workplace, regardless of what the weather is like outside. This might be written into a contract or an employee handbook.

Although men in the workplace might feel unfairly treated if they are required to wear a tie the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that requiring men to wear a collar and tie did not necessarily amount to sex discrimination if that was the only way of achieving equal levels of smartness for men and women.

While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow “dress down” days. Such days allow staff to dress more temperature appropriately and can be a useful way of bolstering morale.

As temperature rise; so can tempers.

Employers should be sympathetic to their employee’s needs but equally employees need to remember that they are getting paid by their employer to work – even if it is uncomfortable.

At Consensus HR we advise our customers on these odd occasions when the weather is very hot to discuss the issues with the team and see if there is anyway of making the working environment more comfortable such as purchasing fans if they have none or getting some bottles of water put into the office for everyone to drink or even if its possible and members of the team wish to, take the afternoon off as holiday.

By discussing the issue with everyone, you can generally find a suitable solution that ensures the business continues to run but demonstrates that the business understands the implications of the heat and will try to ensure reasonably measures are taken.

For further support in relation to HR, why not give us a call today – 01462 621243 –  www.consensushr.com

 

Mental Health: The HR Perspective

mental healthMental health has been catapulted into the headlines recently, thanks to Mental Health Awareness Week (8 – 14 May) and royal revelations from Prince Harry about seeking counselling and his support of the charity Heads Together.

There is increased awareness and openness about mental health. How should employers recruit, support and/or manage employees who are affected?

 

Recruitment

An Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the Government Legal Service’s (GLS) mandatory test (used during recruitment of lawyers) was guilty of indirect discrimination. The claimant has Asperger’s Syndrome. Her psychiatrist had made previous recommendations (in relation to her university courses) that a multiple choice format test would not be appropriate for her. As the GLS test was not available in different formats, the claimant was severely disadvantaged during the recruitment process.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal acknowledged that the GLS needed to test the core competency of ability of its candidates to make effective decisions. However, it found that a psychometric test was not the only way to achieve this.

“It is valid for employers to assess the essential skills required within a job role, “explains Matthew Pinto-Chilcott of Consensus HR. “However, the test method should adapt to the needs of individuals.”

Support

Supporting mental health in the workplace can be challenging and the issues around it are complex. Therefore, it is important that employers are aware of their legal obligations and the issues that arise. Three key issues are involved:

  • Health and safety
  • Disability discrimination
  • Personal injury claims

Employers can manage mental health issues via two key approaches: having policies and procedure in place to deal with mental health issues, and supporting employees via training (for managers especially), return to work interviews and on-going support in the workplace and during periods of absence.

“Professional advice can ensure that policies support both the organisations and its people,” says Matthew from Consensus HR. “With growing awareness and openness about mental health issues, this step is increasingly important.”

Management

Clear, honest communication between employers and employees should determine the nature of support required and the best way to provide that help. However this path relies upon individuals being open about their mental illness. Often, people are concerned about revealing their illness to their employers, leading to deliberate concealment.

Concealment is potentially a problem right from the start as people are not obliged to disclose any health issues during the recruitment process. However Employment Law Consultant Kevin J Murphy explains that if there is a contractual requirement upon an employee to disclose medical conditions which may affect their ability to do their job and the employee has concealed it, there is action you can take.

He explains: “A deliberate concealment can mean that the contract is void if there was a requirement to disclose detailed within it. Further, an employer could rely on the employee’s dishonesty as a reason for dismissal, but might need evidence of their decision to hide their illness.”

“Any dismissal on either of these grounds should still follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures to assist the employer to evidence that the dismissal is not based on the employee having a disability – but their dishonesty.”

Matthew from Consensus HR adds: “By thinking through the functions involved with specific job roles and adding clauses to the contract of employment, employers can achieve protection for their organisations whilst supporting the individuals involved. It’s important to get the HR basics right.”

Mental health issues within the workplace is a complex subject and one that is very important to both businesses and people. Further details are available within our article: Employees with Mental Health Issues Face a Lack of Support and Discrimination.

mental healthIf you would like to find out more and discuss your organisation’s circumstances, contact Matthew on 01462 621243 or email info@consensushr.com for an informal, no-obligation discussion.