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When an employee goes AWOL to attend a protest

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Are you so passionate about climate change that you would be willing to let employees take time off to protest? Well, this Friday may test your views. It has been marked as a significant day for climate strike action around the world. Earlier in the year, the teen activist Greta Thunberg inspired schoolchildren to skip school – sorry, but you can’t strike from going to school! And the Unions backing this week’s event are calling for adults to support the action.

Even the most supportive employers will have concerns that this may affect business. So how should you deal with it?  In the interests of fairness, would you act the same way if the employee wanted to join other significant protests? What if it didn’t match your views?

Consistency in managing staff is very important. And employees need to understand the rules before deciding to go AWOL, because there must be a consequence. Their motivation is irrelevant.

If they have an approved holiday for their day of action it should be fine. Unless, that is, the media were to show your employee behaving badly whilst loudly proclaiming that they work for you. That could be considered bringing your company into disrepute. Let’s hope not.

Following a fair procedure

If they simply don’t show up for work and have been talking to colleagues about attending a protest, then the first step is to try to contact them and be sure to log your attempts.

Your absence policy will explain how they should report absence, and you can take disciplinary action if they failed to follow your procedure. However, it is more likely that they will pull a sickie. In this case, a return to work interview must be carried out. Do ring The HR Dept for help in handling this.

Harnessing employee energy

It is wonderful to have staff who are positively engaged in things like conservation and climate change. Perhaps looking at ways the company can support these activities will result in more engaged employees. By feeling that they are making a positive contribution, it may lessen the urge to go join a protest.

Getting a second opinion

If you are thinking of getting involved this Friday, or at a future community event, and would like a second opinion on your people planning, give us a call. Equally, if you have questions surrounding unauthorised employee absence, we can advise you on an effective and legal solution.

Is your employee retention strategy ticking the box?

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Irrespective of the ongoing Brexit saga, Ireland is approaching full employment. This sounds great on the news, but in practice makes it harder to find and keep good staff. Companies must be innovative to stand out from the competition and a good way to do that is to look at the overall package you are offering.

By 2020 a third of the workforce will be millennials. As with generations before them, they bring new ideas along with new needs from their prospective employers. Quick to adopt conveniences that make day-to-day life easier, they tend to be good with efficiencies, but can come across as impatient when pursuing change or climbing the career ladder.

Meeting the needs of your future workers

Often referred to as the “giving generation”, millennials are attracted to companies that demonstrate shared values. Encouraging and facilitating volunteering in the community will be hugely attractive. As will flexible working and the promise of a good work life balance. This can benefit both parties when planned properly.

Although they can be accustomed to job hopping whilst seeking their perfect match, this generation is also mindful that they are likely to be living and working longer.

Does your approach to retirement planning strengthen your remuneration package? With millennials making up a third of your future workforce, it could be helpful to make positive pension planning a key benefit of your retention strategy. Although legal, a compulsory retirement age can be off putting for those planning to work longer. It can also be risky on the grounds of age discrimination when not implemented correctly.

A good range of benefits, which need not cost a fortune, can make all the difference when advertising a role.

While pensions are not at the moment compulsory for employers to provide, it is widely anticipated that it will be compulsory in law in the coming years. It is however compulsory to provide your employees with access to a PRSA (pay related savings account). You could get ahead of the curve and set up a pension scheme for your team, this is a tax efficient way of giving your employees a benefit.

Finally, millennials do want a career path that includes plenty of mentoring alongside planned professional development. Both of which can be achieved through scheduled 121’s and flexible lifelong learning.

Planning for the future

Whilst employees are thinking about their future, you will also be thinking about the future of your business and who you need in place to drive success.

We have plenty of ideas on people planning and can advise on organisational structure, employee retention and much more. If you’re thinking ahead and could do with a second opinion before making important changes, give us a call today.

How to manage strong personalities in your business

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The first thing to remember is, there is no right or wrong personality type. And that employees with strong personalities have an important role to play in any successful business. As do those who tend to be more reserved. But without good management in place, dominant employees can disrupt the balance of your workforce.

Sometimes, though, passion and ambition can be mistaken for disruption and can derail the workflow of a wider team. Not getting the results they had hoped for from their co-workers can leave dominant employees feeling unfulfilled or misunderstood. Should they turn up the volume if it didn’t work the first time?

On the other hand, quieter colleagues can start to feel confused about their own work. Interruptions from others and seemingly urgent requests from their passionate co-worker can halt productivity. Beginning as a slight annoyance, this can feel like a continuous knock at the door and lead to stress or conflict.

Considering the above, does an employee spring to mind? Depending on the size of your business, you may even have a few names who fit the description.

Every workforce includes a mix of personalities, but not every manager has received the training required to know how best to deal with them. So just as we did with the negative employee, we have identified some useful tips on how to manage strong personalities in the workplace.

Avoid silencing them in public

Hushing a strong personality in front of their co-workers will do little to solve a problem. The employee may argue back and cause further disruption. Their point is important to them after all.

Rather than asking them to keep it down, practice patience and offer a suitable time and place for their voice to be heard. If they persist, make it an immediate 121 to discuss their conduct.

Take the time to listen

After suggesting an appropriate time for them to air their views, be sure to follow through with the offer. If you don’t, they will pop up like a meerkat at the next available opportunity and your patience will really start to be tested.

Discuss communication and structure

Use the meeting to provide them with an outlet for their pressing issues, these may be a stream of ideas. Discuss appropriate channels of communication and how their needs fit into the wider priorities of the department or business.

If their ideas can’t be pushed through, add context and explain why. Or if you spot potential during the discussion, think about how you might like to benefit from their energy and enthusiasm in a different role.

The outcome of your meeting will form the basis of your plan moving forwards. A good aim should be for the employee to leave the meeting knowing how best to communicate their needs in the future.

You may also want to task them with some activities that channel their energy and determination in the best possible way. Advise them on how to consider their co-workers and think about the needs of their wider team when completing the tasks.

Getting the team to work together

If you can create an environment where each member of the team feels valued and understands each other’s preferred communication style you will really benefit from the different personality strengths. Myers Briggs profiling is a well-known and amazingly good way of achieving this. If you feel this would be useful, give us a call. We can advise on how best to manage all sorts of personalities, both effectively and legally.

Why lifelong learning matters to your business

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As a business owner you would have heard that training employees boosts productivity and can take your business to the next level. Which sounds great! If it wasn’t for the time it takes, the expense incurred and then the risk of them leaving with all that knowledge only to go and work for a competitor. Yikes.

The alternative would be that you save the money and the time on training and employees carry on as they are. Except that they start to feel stuck and unmotivated, perhaps even start searching for another job with better opportunities for development. They begin to lack enthusiasm with their work and become less committed to projects and customer service. Worse still, your competitors who invest in training now have the edge over your business.

So, whilst a training and development plan may have seemed like an unnecessary expense, it saves money in the long run. Oh, and about employees leaving with all that knowledge to work elsewhere? Training is known to improve employee retention and there are legal ways to protect your investment and business interests.

The problem with most workplace training

Is that it is irregular and can be out of date. Ever dusted off an old DVD, put it on in the staffroom and wondered why some staff didn’t retain any of the information? Aside from the fact that some of them may consider a DVD to be obsolete, this approach to training is limited and not going to give you the ROI you are looking for.

So, what will?

Lifelong learning can help

A successful training strategy will look ahead to identify the potential skills-gaps of the future, then aim to upskill current workers in order to close those gaps. A strategy for lifelong learning should not become obsolete because it continuously refreshes workers skills and adapts to the ever-evolving needs of the business. Rather than having everyone attend one training session and considering the job done, lifelong learning looks at regular and flexible training that can work around busy schedules.

Methods such as job shadowing and peer-based learning give employees the opportunity to apply learning to their actual working environment. Whilst deconstructing lengthy training seminars into bite-size sections can help them to manage their time and fit training around work.

Times have changed and so has effective workplace training.

Making it work for you

Devising and implementing a unique and effective training programme for your business can be a lengthy process. You’ll also want to be sure that your invested time pays off.

We can take this task off your hands. After taking the time to get to know you, your company and future business goals we can create you a training and development plan to meet your needs. We’ll assist with identifying potential skills-gaps and explain why certain clauses should be in your employment contracts. Contact us today to find out more.

How to manage a negative employee

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Negative employees can be real energy zappers. Their negativity can be contagious and halt productivity for the wider team. Blaming others for incomplete work or poor performance, holding up projects, criticising company procedures and complaining about, well, everything!

Have you got someone in mind?

Everyone has off days. A case of the Monday’s or a bad night’s sleep can be enough to throw the best of us off our usual course momentarily. But when it’s consistent, unproductive and somewhat toxic energy, you need to address it.

The risks of avoiding the problem

Persistent negative energy can impact the mood and stress levels of everyone, which can affect productivity and customer service. Anxiety feeds on pessimism and a chronic negative working environment can be harmful to both the mental and physical health of your employees.

You also run the risk of alienating customers and suppliers when letting negativity be the tone of your business.

Four steps to tackling negativity

We know that addressing negativity with an employee may be awkward and sometimes lead to a difficult conversation. If you have picked up on bad vibes in your business and are ready to approach the individual, read through our top tips first to make sure your process is effective and compliant.

1.Have a quiet word
Challenging an employee about their negative attitude in front of others could make the situation worse, it would be safer to have a private informal chat.

There is a chance that they hadn’t realised how their actions were being perceived. Or they may decide to use this opportunity to reveal a problem that they have been struggling with.

If they do reveal that there are genuine problems within the workplace, you can fix them.

2.Support and divert
If the employee fails to acknowledge their negativity and proceeds to blame colleagues, processes or anything but themselves, see if you can change their mindset. Explain the impact of their behaviour and suggest to them alternative ways of thinking. Make it clear they must change as the impact on the team cannot go on.

3.Schedule a follow up
Booking in a future 121 lets the employee know that you are monitoring their behaviour and wellbeing. Use the meeting to review any actions agreed from your previous catch up.

An unwillingness to change is bad for business. If you have tried to reason with the employee and they are not showing any signs of improvement, it’s time to start the process of exiting them from the business.

4.Consider the working environment
A proactive approach to dealing with negativity can include making small changes to the working environment. Natural light, vibrant colours and even plants have all been known to boost positivity, inspiration and morale. Could it be time to upgrade your workspace?

Eliminating negativity from your business is not only beneficial for your workforce, but for you too. Happy employees lead to better productivity, happy customers and more business. If you would like further advice or ideas on how to manage a negative employee, give us a call.

Is this meeting necessary?

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Have you ever stopped to ask, “Why are we having this meeting?”. If the only answer presented to you is “We always meet at this time every week.”, it’s time to put meetings under the microscope.

If you’re looking at ways to improve productivity you’re not alone. Reports tell us that workers typically lose 1 day a week due to unproductive meetings. In fact, these meetings are so unproductive that 1 in 10 admit to having fallen asleep!

Most meetings are planned with the best intentions. However, meeting to talk about an issue or topic with no structure or agenda in place will not produce the results you are looking for. The participants will also likely become frustrated that issues don’t get resolved and projects don’t progress, despite all the time spent meeting about them.

So whether it’s a meeting tradition that started on day one of your business which needs reviewing now your business has grown, or you can’t track down your senior staff due to them always meeting, we can help.

How to stop meeting for meetings’ sake

Before arranging or committing to your next meeting, ask yourself the following five questions.

1.What is the main objective?
Defining a clear objective and sharing it with participants ahead of time helps everyone to understand the main purpose of the meeting before they attend. This can aid meeting prep and can cut down time spent telling everyone why they were invited.

2.Who needs to attend?
It is best to keep meeting attendees down to a minimum. Invite only those whose input is required as they can subsequently share important information to interested parties. If the meeting objective was to obtain a decision, make sure the decision maker can attend.

3.When and where?
Try to avoid known busy times and steer clear of Monday first thing or Friday last thing if you want the full attention of your attendees. If you’re holding a meeting over breakfast or lunchtime, catering will prevent any bad decisions being made on an empty stomach.

If idea generation is the objective of your meeting, a new location can get employees thinking differently. Try outside if it’s a nice day or even offsite once in a while.

4.What is the agenda?
An objective sets out why you are meeting. But an agenda with a clear time limit ensures you make the most of it. A meeting plan or agenda allocates time slots for all topics of discussion and can reduce the risk of overrunning or wasting time. Why not try meetings standing up or assigning someone with a stopwatch to be in charge of sticking to the agenda.

5.When to follow up?
Most meetings require actions or follow up. Without this it won’t be long before you are meeting again to discuss the same topic. A list of actions should be decided upon during the meeting and shared with all participants along with any important notes. Setting deadlines or committing to follow up dates will improve the likeliness of those actions being completed.

Need further ideas on transforming your meeting culture?

Applying this five-point checklist will cut down unnecessary meetings in your business and give valuable time back to you and your workforce. If you’d like further ideas on how to transform your meetings and increase engagement give us a call. Our experience is varied, from tiny start-ups to established brands, across all industries.

Could you be paying the price for incorrect payroll?

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A reminder for payroll cut-off pops up in your calendar. How does it make you feel? If you have someone in place to manage PAYE for your business, you might dismiss it without a second thought. But, if you are managing payroll yourself, it could be an unwelcome interruption to your day.

Holiday calculations, tax codes, leavers and changing legislation can make payroll a long and complicated process. The thought alone can instigate a headache.

Paying employees correctly and on time is not only a legal requirement but also an essential function of any successful business. To put it simply, you expect employees to turn up and work, and they expect to get paid. This agreement forms the foundation of your employment relationships. So if payroll goes wrong, it can cause all sorts of problems.

Whether an honest admin mistake or complications caused by a difficult situation with an employee, payroll problems can get ugly. They also come with a high price to pay. Along with time spent getting back on track can come back payments and sizable fines.

There are many tricky aspects of payroll to be aware of. We have listed some of the riskiest below.

Withholding wages

There can be times when an employee fails to complete work to the standard expected and you may feel it justified to deduct their wages. But be warned, this is a risky move. Failure to pay someone wages that they are entitled to is known as an unlawful deduction and can bring a claim against you.

In fact, docking wages is known to be a major cause of Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) claims and according to the WRC over €3 million in unpaid wages was recovered last year.

Inaccurate calculations

Using payroll software should give you peace of mind that calculations are accurate, and that PAYE is being processed correctly. But if the tool you are using does not meet the unique circumstances of your business, you could be at risk of underpaying staff.

This was found to be the case in a recent appeal ruling on the incorrect renumeration of junior doctors in the UK. The payroll software used did not accurately calculate data on rest breaks, resulting in millions of pounds in unpaid wages.

It can be a challenge to keep up with changing legislation on working hours, breaks and holiday pay. Anyone in charge of managing your payroll software needs to be informed on how to keep systems maintained.

Incorrect classification

We see this a lot. Labelling someone as self-employed but treating them like an employee means you could be incorrectly paying them. Some companies working with contractors have come under fire in recent years for this. You may be familiar with high profile cases involving Uber, Deliveroo and RTÉ.

Each employment status comes with specific entitlements and it’s important to know the difference when hiring staff for your business and processing payroll.

Need an expert eye on your payroll?

If processing payroll for your company has become a major pain give us a call. We’ll make sure you’re compliant and give you the time back to focus on developing your business.

Should you be paying your interns?

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Summer’s here, and along with the sunshine will come summer interns for many businesses around Ireland. But how should you pay them? Do you need to pay them at all?

In order to know whether you need to be paying interns, you first need to establish the type of internship that you have advertised. This is because the term “intern” in isolation does not provide you with the answer. Depending on the type of internship you are offering, the intern could be entitled to pay and further rights.

What is an internship?

Almost everyone has heard of internships. Perhaps you have even been an intern at some point in your life. But a varied approach to the employment practice over the years has skewed the definition for some. If your own internship was based on tidying up, taking lunch orders and not getting paid, you could be forgiven for thinking that’s normal.

An internship is a fixed period of work experience. It is typically of interest to students, graduates or those seeking a career change. It should provide an insight into a specific field or industry and typically offers on-the-job training. If an intern has performed well during their internship, you may wish to offer them a contract of permanent employment when the internship ends.

An internship is not intended to be used to increase labour or resource by means of little to no budget. A falsely advertised and poorly implemented internship is exploitative and illegal.

Even with the above explanation, we know that employment relationships can be confusing. So to make sure you remain on the right side of employment law, we recommend a refresh on the rules for offering internships at your business.

When an intern should be paid

Each case must be considered in isolation but there are key identifiers that establish if the internship should be paid.

If the intern is carrying out productive work that benefits your business, they have likely entered into an employment relationship with you and will be entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and other benefits. This is especially true if they are expected to do so for an increased period of time.

Exceptions to paid internships

Whilst most internships these days will qualify for NMW, there are some exceptions. For example, those on government internships and students partaking in work-experience schemes as part of a course do not have to be paid. The student needs to be in full-time education for this to apply.

Although in this instance pay is not a legal requirement, we believe it to be a good incentive.

Other types of internships that don’t require pay include voluntary workers for a charity or fundraising body, and those who partake in shadow work which is for observation purposes only. If the intern is truly a volunteer they will have agreed to work for free and be able to come and go as they please. It has been known for employers to call a worker a volunteer. But be warned, incorrect classification is illegal and comes with the risk of imprisonment.

Do interns need a contract?

We believe it is best practice to have a contract for each person who works for your business, including interns. This is because a professionally drafted contract sets out the employment status and entitlements.

Additionally, contracts are a great way to communicate rules and expectations to workers. If any questions or doubts arise, they should do so before work begins.

If you’re preparing for an intern this summer and have some questions about the process, contact your local HR Dept today. We’ll help you legally recruit your new hire and advise on a comprehensive induction and training plan that is unique to your business.

Are your managers aware of high-risk HR situations?

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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.


Does your employee contract template do the job?

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Written contracts for employees may seem like burdensome paperwork. Yet another admin step prolonging your recruitment process. That is, until the full extent of their importance becomes clear to you when something goes wrong later on.

You may feel that a verbal agreement with an employee saves time. But it can also cause all sorts of problems for you should conflict arise later in the employment. A mere misunderstanding has been known to develop into a full-blown tribunal. And without a written contract, you’d be left with little protection.

A written statement of core terms, which employees are entitled to within five days of their start date, sets out the five core terms and conditions of their employment with you, however it does not protect your business in the same way as a contract. Therefore, it is wise to prepare a contract prior to an employee’s start date to reduce any misunderstanding before work begins.

A DIY contract can do more harm than good

Cutting corners with contracts holds as much risk as staffing your business with no contracts at all.

An employment contract is legally binding, but only if it has been drafted correctly. So, whilst an employment contract template downloaded from the internet might look professional, it won’t necessarily tick all the boxes for your business or provide you with the relevant legal protection.

Add to the mix a variety of working hours and shift patterns, which is commonplace with today’s approach to flexible working, and you potentially have an entire workforce without the right contracts. Dodging that minor paperwork pain can quickly become a major paperwork nightmare!

It is also important to note that template contracts can be out of date and not reflect the most recent legislative changes or case law. But how would you know? Are you confident about the employment status of your new recruit, are they a contractor or an employee? Their rights are different.

What should be included in employee contracts?

Your contracts will need to be compliant with Irish and European employment law and will be made up of expressed and implied terms of employment. They must include (but are not limited to):

  • Business name and address
  • Job title
  • Conditions of pay
  • Hours of work
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Notice period
  • Details of sick pay
  • Collective agreements and who to escalate with if they have a grievance or disciplinary matter.

Depending on the business function, you may want to include further policies in your contracts that discuss IT, security, privacy and social media use, to protect your business from harm.

Confidentiality and non-compete clauses come under scrutiny when a key employee leaves and goes to a competitor with your client list. If these policies are absent or not worded correctly, they stand little chance of giving your business any protection.

Additionally, policies that detail your companies approach to family commitments and employee well-being can form part of your recruitment and retention strategy and can also be included in contracts.

Getting peace of mind on HR paperwork

Seeking expert advice will provide clarity on which policies work well for your business. If you’re about to hire your first employee or would like to review your current employee contracts, we can help. Contact us today for peace of mind, knowing that your HR paperwork is on the right side of employment law.