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Are your managers aware of high-risk HR situations?

For a busy business owner, experienced senior staff can be a great source of support. With good managers in place you can find peace of mind knowing that your business will continue to operate as normal if you are otherwise engaged.

You’ve no doubt trained them on systems and procedures. And you trust them to swiftly deal with customer complaints, technical issues and finish the day on a high by driving sales and motivating their co-workers. Job done.

But there is another very important aspect of being a manager, and that is knowing how to deal with people problems. With complex human emotions and diverse backgrounds in the mix, a company handbook won’t necessarily provide sufficient advice for them to resolve the various issues that can arise with staff members.

Managers who have not received the relevant training can be ill-equipped to identify the severity of an issue until it is too late. However confident they are in their position and ability to fight fires for day-to-day business, if they are lacking the knowledge required to spot potential conflict and address it in the right way, they can put your business at serious risk.

What sort of people problems do my managers need to be aware of?

Every business and its culture is different. And it takes time and experience to learn how to navigate people problems in a way that is both compliant and effective. Some issues carry more risk than others. We would advise that your managers, at the very least, receive training on how to deal with the following examples.

1.Risk of discrimination. An employee reporting that a co-worker has made insulting comments towards them, or treated them unfairly, could have grounds for discrimination. Not only against the employee but against your company. Shrugging it off as “just a joke” will not make the problem go away. In fact, it can make it worse. All senior staff must be made aware of the nine grounds covered by the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 Gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, membership of the Traveller community. Or risk a discrimination claim, known to reach thousands.

2.Workplace bullying. Workplace bullying is a serious issue that can have damaging effects on both a person’s health and the future success of your business. Complaints of bullying must be taken seriously, investigated and documented. Your senior staff will need assistance with how to support victims and manage perpetrators.

3.Managing poor performance. Telling an employee their work is no good or their attitude stinks, and expecting them to fill in the gaps, is not going to do anyone any favours. Your managers will need to know and follow the correct process for dealing with poor performance. It is only fair to the employee, their co-workers and your business.

4.Hiring and firing. Job ads and interviews must be legal and not leave any room for discrimination. That’s right, even before hiring a person you are open to risk of claims from candidates if they feel they have been treated unfairly. Refer to point one on protected grounds.

A manager might feel they are doing you a favour by firing a bad employee whilst you are busy elsewhere. But if they didn’t follow the correct procedure before doing so, you could be at risk of an unfair dismissal claim. This can cripple a small business. Pay outs have been known to involve up to two years’ worth of an employee’s salary.

5.Health and safety. Whilst it’s your overall responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, your managers will need to know how to spot hazards and respond appropriately. From hefty fines to jail time, it’s not worth forgetting. A health and safety risk assessment can help to identify potential problems.

A reassuring second opinion

Even after attending training, there will still be occasions when a second opinion is needed. That’s why we created our Advice Line. For those moments when you, or your managers, are ever in doubt with how to fix a people problem. Our Advice Line customers have unlimited access to phone and email support. No query is too big or small to call and we are there to guide you down the right path and steer you clear of risk. Need a second opinion on a people problem? Call us today.