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People Matter May 2017

How to handle bereavement in the workplace

Often you may be told to expect the unexpected. But expecting your employees to be faced with difficult or terrible news isn’t necessarily on the daily agenda.

Technically, the law doesn’t require employers to grant bereavement leave to their staff.Staff do however have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off to make funeral plans and other necessary arrangements in the event of the death of a dependant; but there is no right to be paid.Your compassionate leave policy is there to spell out your position on providing bereavement leave – paid or unpaid. If you do not have one of these please get in touch with The HR Dept and we can help you to set one out.

Having said all this, that’s just the law, so your compassion is absolutely key here. Showing you’re a caring and supportive employer is crucial to supporting affected staff and their colleagues. Businesses that empathise and show their staff compassion and leniency during such turmoil will invariably benefit through an improved employment relationship, as well as preventing any ill feelings upon their return.

Of course, most SME business owners would go above and beyond in tragic circumstances, but it’s important that your compassionate leave policy is set out and clear. First, to be consistent and second to manage expectations. Remember that there are different religious beliefs and customs for funerals which may affect the time needed as leave. Don’t leave yourself open to accusations of discrimination.

How to accommodate Ramadan

26th May to 24th June is Ramadan, a religious period observed by Muslims. Those participating in Ramadan will be fasting – from dawn until sunset every day. Employers should acknowledge this and makereasonable adjustments so they do not fall foul of the Equality Act 1998-2015.

You may want to consider a few issues that could arise. These could include fatigue caused by disrupted sleep patterns. Fasting can also reduce blood sugar levels, causing lethargy and irritability. And participants may be required to pray more often than usual throughout the working day.

One way to be accommodating could be to schedule demanding work for the morning. It is a good idea to inform other employees that Ramadan is taking place, and if you are arranging any social events, don’t be offended if people participating decline an invite!

Spotting an unhappy employee

In any organisation, however well run, sooner or later employees may want to leave for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it might be for the best – which is not an issue. But other times you may be at risk of losing a talented team member.

Holding regular appraisal/feedback chats can help you spot signs of unhappiness but an appraisal that discusses their career ambitions can identify risks. Even then, make clear that the door is always open to discuss issues.

If you know there is a problem you can see if you can fix it but encouraging openness can give you more notice time to plan their replacement. But ultimately, if they do resign you have to respect their decision.

Health and safety gone mad? Are you sure?

Health and safety (H&S) often finds itself on the receiving end of jokes and gags. To many it’s viewed as just another form of red tape.

But despite “’elf and safety’s” jobsworth reputation, it’s crucial to keep your employees safe and prevent work-related injuries from occurring.

Company policies and procedures are often  rightfully attributed to the health and safety requirements of the business. But that’s not always the case, it’s often used as an easy excuse for a business having and exercising particular policies in the workplace.

A prime example from the Twitter feed was when the Daily Mail reported that, due to H&S, a young girl had been put into isolation at school for having beads in her hair. The HSE tweeted, “’H&S regulations’ for beaded hair? @DailyMailUK are you sure? #bustedmyth”.

Taking health and safety seriously has major benefits for businesses, such as reduced costs, lower employee absenteeism, less likelihood of legal action, improved reputation of employee care and corporate responsibility, and (through all that) higher levels of productivity.

In 2015/16, an average of 25 working days were lost per 1000 people as a direct result of workplace-related injuries. So not only will your employees benefit from health and safety rules, so will your business. Win-win.

And if you get it wrong? There is the risk of fines, compensation and even jail.

We have a dedicated health and safety team at The HR Dept, so if you need help with this important area, get in touch.

How to remunerate sleeping shifts

On first thoughts, sleeping whilst working might sound cushy. But a recent BBC news article revealed that council-employed care staff working sleep-shifts might not be getting paid the statutory minimum wage.

Despite many of these shifts lasting up to 10 hours, some workers were paid just €39 for the whole shift. This meant it was likely some carers would only reach the equivalent of the National Minimum Wage each month if they worked additional hours on top of their normal rate.

In accordance with minimum wage legislation, employers must pay workers for the entire ‘sleep-in’ shift, if they are liable to be woken to deal with incidents.
We recently wrote a blog on working time and pay. Although it does vary case by case, if you get it wrong it will cost you!

If you are uncertain about pay legislation and working hours, get in touch and speak to one of our HR specialists.

References. How reliable are they?

Last year, Aussie radio hosts Hamish & Andy uncovered “the best bloke in the world” who was perfectly happy to give a job reference for a stranger. And (not knowing he was live on air) what a reference he gave!

Funny though it was, it drew attention to the validity of CV references and how much you can rely on them. As recruiting the right staff is crucial to the success of SMEs, it is certainly a concern.

Whilst we always recommend taking up written references, previous employers are often far more forthcoming about an individual on the telephone than they are on paper.

The HR Dept can help with all aspects of the recruitment process. If you need any help, get in touch.

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