A is for Absence

Every business and organisation has to cope with staff absences. This can be planned, such as maternity/paternity leave or annual leave; or unplanned, such absences stemming from sickness or injury.

Whatever the cause of the absence, an understanding of management techniques and statutory legislation can greatly reduce inconvenience and losses to productivity. Well managed interventions, for example, can reduce sickness absence by up to one third.

If you’re interested to know how we can help you manage your absence more effectively please visit our website


Thinking about making New Year’s Resolutions?

It’s that time of year when we start to think about making New Year’s Resolutions. I can almost hear you groan….”What’s the point? New Year’s Resolutions are almost always broken before we reach the end of January.” But before we start, I just want to say that for the last five years, I have successfully kept my New Year’s Resolutions. I’ll share the secret of my success with you shortly.

Most of the articles you read about New Year’s Resolutions encourage the reader to make their resolutions as robust as a “SMART” objective. These articles encourage you to have a date by when you’ll have achieved your goal, be clear in what you want to achieve etc.

A few years ago the Efficiency Coach recently wrote the following:

“Did you know that only about 3% of adults have clear, written goals? 

These people accomplish five to ten times as much as people of equal ability and standing, but who, have never taken the time to write out exactly what they want to achieve…. ” 

So, we’re all encouraged to write SMART resolutions, but most of us, apparently, seem unable to do so.

And then, most articles fail to discuss or give us advice on how to overcome barriers and challenges. There’s nothing more depressing that failing to keep your New Year’s Resolution within the first few weeks of the New Year. As soon as you break it, or have a minor blip, your confidence drops; you doubt your ability to sustain the energy required to make your resolution successful. And so, most people give up.

Not me: I break all the rules when making my New Year’s Resolutions. My resolution for the last five years have been “To become a better cook”. There’s nothing specific about this resolution: cooking requires a massive range of skills from baking, to slow cooking. This resolution does not define or restrict me in any way. I don’t have to work at it every day – or even every week. Some weeks when work is really busy, I don’t have time to indulge myself in my hobby. There’s no timescale: so as long as I judge myself to be a better cook than 364 days ago, then my resolution has been successful.

So my advice is as follows:
1. Do something that will involve gradual improvement over the year.
2. Keep it vague.
3. Don’t commit yourself in terms of time.

Let me know what New Year’s Resolutions you’ve made this year.


For the last few years there’s been heavy snow during the winter months.  It’s likely that we’ll have snow this year too.  It’s best to prepare to both protect your business and to ensure that your staff what to do in adverse weather.  Below are a few tips to help you prepare.

  1. During “snow-days” staff are expected, wherever possible, to make all reasonable efforts to safely make their own way to work.  However, think about what impact the snow might have on your business.   Do you need your staff to come into work, or can they do some work from home?
  2. Let your staff know in advance whether or not they will be paid for that day’s work.  Most organisations state that “snow-days” can either be taken a holiday or are unpaid.  However, if you have arranged for the member of staff to work from home that day, then the day will be paid at the normal pay rate.
  3. Determine how you will communicate with your staff during adverse weather.  Set a time by which they will have to call into work to inform you whether or not they will be attending that day [and if so, what time]. Think about how this arrangement will impact your customers or clients.
  4. Most transport issues are generally confined to the “first 100 yards” of an employee’s journey into work. You should advise your employees to:
  • Not to park their cars on sloping driveways
  • Park on roads that are gritted and walking to and from their car
  • Make contact with colleagues who live nearby to arrange car shares
  • Check and use public transport services where possible

3 Myths about Dismissing Employees

A quick quiz:  answer either “Yes” or “No” to the following 3 questions:

1. If an employee doesn’t turn up to work for a period of time (unauthorised leave) then (s)he has, in effect, dismissed himself/herself?

2. Can an employee only claim unfair dismissal if they have worked for an employer for at least two years?

3. Can an employer dismiss and employee employee “on the spot” if (s)he has committed an act of gross misconduct?

Did you answer any of the above questions with a “Yes?”  All of the above examples of HR Myths.  

There are lots of myths about relating to the dismissal of employees.  We can provide you with solid and pragmatic HR advice and answer all the questions you may have from managing unauthorised absence or issues relating to gross misconduct.

Can employees have extra time off when they are sick during their holiday?

You may have heard recently that there has been another European ruling which affects the way that we manage staff in the UK: Workers who fall sick during their annual leave are now entitled to take the corresponding period of paid leave at a later date. The ruling has immediate effect and it doesn’t matter whether you’re an SME or a large employer.

Employees have an entitlement of 5.6 weeks annual leave (including paid Bank Holiday) in each leave year. If an employee is on long term sickness absence and unable to take their annual leave, they can carry it over to the next leave year.

There are three steps you can take that will help you:

1) Ask your employees to comply with your sickness reporting procedures – eg to phone in to work on the day that they fall first sick.

2) If this is not be possible (particularly if the employee is on a long-haul holiday)  ask your employee to get a sick note from the doctor abroad to cover their period of absence.

3) You need to communicate these changes to your employees as well as updating your sickness policies so that it’s clear to your employees what your expectations are should they fall ill whilst on holiday.

Is your business ready for England’s Summer of Sport?

Euro 2012 has officially started, Wimbledon is around the corner and it’s only a few weeks before the Olympics commence.   Everyone’s talking about it, but have you taken time to think about what the impact might be on your business?

You will find that your staff request time off to watch their country at key events, and you may end up trying to juggle their attendance whilst still providing a high quality and response service to  your clients.   Below are a few suggestions that can help you with this:

1) Look at the working patterns within the team.

– Can your staff work more flexible hours during this period?  For example, they agreed to work “core hours” during the day, but choose to start or finish earlier so that they are able to watch their chosen event.

– Alternatively, if the nature of your business allows this, encourage your staff to swap shifts.

– You could ask your staff if some want to work overtime (or to accrue Time Off in Lieu) to cover the absence of their colleagues

2) Consider how you could ensure that your staff are able to watch key events whilst at work by offering special screening on premises.  Alternatively, you could allow staff to keeping track of events on the Internet, a TV or radio while they work

3) Ensure that you adhere to your legislative requirements.  If you offer special screenings at work, ensure that you have  a TV license.    Ensure that you are keeping within Health and Safety guidelines: for example, listening to the radio whilst at work could decrease an employee’s concentration and potentially lead to a workplace
4) Some businesses, particularly in London, will be impacted by the increase in traffic during this summer.   Journeys to work could take considerably longer than it normally does, and in the worse case scenario you might find that your staff are late to work.
Again, by speaking to your staff you can find ways around this.    Discuss the possibility of staff working from home or perhaps working at different sites which are closer to home or more convenient in terms of travel.

It’s important that that you are consistent across your business, regardless of the approach you decide to take .  If you put special arrangements in place, let your staff know that these are on a  temporary basis.  And ensure that you monitor and review the working arrangements.

We have a truly exciting summer ahead of us.  Talk to your staff, put plans in place and enjoy.

Is your business affected by the rain? There is a solution….

It feels like it has been raining for months, doesn’t it?

There are a range of businesses that are dependent on good weather – such as roofers, builders, gardeners, painters and decorators.   When the weather is poor, like it has been recently, many businesses owners find themselves instructing their staff to stay at home, as there is no work for them that day.   The staff  have a day-off with full pay, which can be very costly for the business.

There is a solution.   You can build a clause into your employee’s contracts that allows for a “workless day” .  This clause guarantees the staff a statutory pay of £23.50 per day during periods when there is no work – instead of being paid a full day’s pay.

The key points to note are:

  • You can “lay off” staff for a maximum of five workless days in any three month period.
  • Staff are not to undertake any work during their “workless day”.  Should an employee undertake any work then their normal rate of pay for that day will apply.

If you think that your business might benefit from a workless day clause, please give me call.