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People Matter January 2018

When Cupid’s arrow strikes the workplace

February is just around the corner and this means that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Whilst this is generally considered to be a day of love and happiness, it can have a negative effect on your business. Only 12% of company managers have been provided with training on managing workplace romances, so let’s look at some of the issues.

Employees falling for each other isn’t rare – a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 43% of HR staff have encountered workplace romances. SHRM also found that 99% of employers with policies on workplace romances state that romantic relationships between supervisors and their staff are not allowed. After all, the superior’s impartiality and authority will be compromised, and this can affect a team’s morale. You certainly don’t want employees accusing a manager of weakness or favouritism – and this is if the relationship doesn’t turn sour with the problems that it could bring!

As written about in so many classic novels, unrequited love is difficult to handle. If an employee ‘has the hots’ for a co-worker who does not feel the same, any pestering must be dealt with the moment the issue is raised. The last thing you want is a sexual harassment case at the WRC brought against your business.

Some of us enjoy a gossip from time to time, but unfortunately the relationships between co-workers can be prime subject matter. Ensure this doesn’t go too far and reduce productivity. Malicious gossip is very corrosive to team morale. It can also start cliques and bring other problematic issues. Therefore it is worth making sure this doesn’t get out of control.

Even if you don’t have an official policy in place and are seeing an office romance blossom, it may become necessary to remind the happy couple to remain professional whilst they are in work. And if you think it’s required and fits the culture of your business, you could draw up an office policy on romances. For help writing a romance policy, contact The HR Dept.

Managing staff throughout the Six Nations

The Six Nations is one of the most highly anticipated tournaments in the rugby world. And whilst many rugby fans will want to support their country this February and March, it’s important to ensure your business isn’t impacted by the matches.

If you think it will be an issue, remind employees in advance what standards are expected. Most matches will be played on weekends, so if you employ weekend staff, remind them not to come into work under the influence or hungover.

Some businesses choose to show matches in the workplace. This stops employees surreptitiously checking the score on their phone every few minutes. Another option would be to encourage flexible working – perhaps even a day’s holiday would be appropriate for avid fans.

If you want to make sure your absence planning and staff policies are up to scratch, or you want to sin bin someone for bad behaviour, contact The HR Dept.

The importance of a sexual harassment policy

With the latter part of 2017 being taken over by claims of sexual harassment and the #MeToo social media campaign, it’s essential to handle any employee claims of harassment correctly. Dealing with them in the wrong way can result in you finding yourself in court – the cost of which can end up bankrupting a small business!

The Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2015, deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. They define harassment as unwanted acts, requests, words, gestures, or the production of material that violates a person’s dignity.

All businesses should have a Code of Practice on sexual harassment. This should be an accessible and effective policy which covers harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace. It must also include a complaints procedure that’s available to any employee who feels they have been a victim of workplace sexual harassment.

Clients, customers and business contacts who interact with the employees of a company should also be aware of sexual harassment policies. These policies could be prominently displayed in business contracts and state that the agreement can be terminated if the client subjects an employee to sexual harassment.

For the sake of people inside and outside of your business, it’s important to have these policies in place. They help to ensure your employees feel safe and secure in the workplace and enables them to work productively without fear of harassment.

But having and communicating a policy is only the start. If any claims arise you must follow it to the letter.

For advice on writing and implementing a sexual harassment policy, contact The HR Dept.

Ryanair looks to avoid strikes in Ireland

For small businesses, strikes often seem a remote possibility. However, trouble can arise when you least expect it, causing major disruption for businesses and their customers.

Ryanair are now engaging with trade unions in a bid to avoid strike action through collective bargaining.

It’s helpful for everyone involved to know where you stand on strikes, trade unions and collective bargaining. You can do this by writing it clearly in your employment contract so there is no confusion.

If you are having problems with trade union members, or their representatives, please contact us for a no-obligation discussion about the strategies for dealing with industrial relations in your business.

The battle against bogus self-employment

Technology is increasingly impacting the workplace and, as in many other countries, is blurring the employment status of many Irish workers.

There is a feeling that some companies are wrongly classifying workers as self-employed – allowing them to avoid paying certain taxes as well as not offering the benefits a full-time employee would receive.

The Protection of Employment (Measures to Counter Self-Employment) Bill has been drafted to address this issue. Will it go too far in limiting employment options though?

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) stresses that the use of self-employed workers in good faith is one of the few employment options that offer flexibility to both the employer and employee.

It’s an issue under the spotlight. If you want advice regarding whether your independent contractors truly are self-employed, contact The HR Dept.

Lost in translation

An Irish employer lost a tribunal case after they refused to allow a Latvian employee an interpreter during a disciplinary process, maintaining it was not necessary.

However, in a move the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) described as contradictory, they had asked her to take a literacy test over concerns about her ability to speak English. They reserved the right to terminate her contract if she scored poorly.

Whilst the WRC did not find the employer guilty of separate charges of victimisation or harassment, they were found guilty of discrimination, and the employee was awarded €8,000.

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