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People Matter November 2016

Uber headache for gig economy

On 28 October, Uber workers in the UK gained ‘worker’ status in a high-profile court case. It granted them entitlement to a raft of employee rights like holiday pay and the national minimum wage.  There is over 25,000 Uber drivers in London!  The UK employment law decisions are very persuasive here in Ireland as the legislation comes from Europe and we both have a ‘common law system’.

The ruling has sent shockwaves through the gig economy, where workers are self-employed rather than employed.

Do you have self-employed people working for you? Take notice. First of all, you are by no means automatically in the wrong if you use self-employed workers, however, they have to be genuinely self-employed not just used as a means for the employer to avoid paying National Minimum Wage, PRSI or taxes.

Because the use of bogus self-employed workers undermines legitimate employees, as well as key employment principles and fundamental rights.

Here are some key questions used to determine whether an individual should be considered employed or self-employed:
Do they work for other companies? Do they keep accounts and invoice you for the work they do? Must they personally carry out the work themselves or can they use a substitute?Are they subject to your disciplinary rules? Do they use your equipment? Do they provide their own insurance? Do they provide you with a tax-clearance certificate?

Don’t think having a self-employed contract will cover you if it does not truly represent the working arrangement. The Courts and the WRC can very easily spot bogus self-employed contracts.

Being a good employer means treating people fairly, which we believe is one of the fundamentals of building a successful business. There’s many an instance where using self-employed workers is totally legal and right for your business but make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and are legally compliant. We can help you with that!

The job no one wants

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has released a job posting for ‘the worst job in Ireland’ job which would be the assistant of the brash talking CEO who uses ‘fear’ to motivate staff! The job description takes a rather unorthodox approach by stating the attributes that aren’t required for the job “Manchester United supporters and cyclists…will be tracked down, tortured and shot”.

The following skills required for the job are “thick skin, Saint-like patience and (ego) massage qualifications”. The job has actually been listed as the ‘worst job in Ireland’, the Airline certainly can’t be accused of upselling!

Michael O’Leary previously has been critical of his employers stating that the wage gap between him and his employees should be wider because he works ’10 times harder’. OK it might all be one big joke, but it’s a good example of what not to put in your own job descriptions (if you want anybody to send you their CVs that is).

This isn’t just banter… this is M&S banter

The well-known advertising implies that M&S food is a cut above the rest. It’s regrettable to say that in one instance so was their workplace banter.

Banter’s tricky. Where do you draw the line between fun and offence? At M&S though, the line was left so far behind, you couldn’t see it.

A health and safety officer pleaded guilty to repeatedly exposing his private parts to female colleagues for a laugh! His lawyer called it grossly inappropriate banter as the judge sentenced him to a suspended prison sentence.

Worried about banter in your workplace? Call The HR Dept.

Can’t find the right talent

You don’t have to build a school, but it would probably help.

That’s exactly what iconic businessman James Dyson is doing. He says his company has an insatiable appetite for good engineers, so is spending big bucks this year setting up the Dyson Institute of Technology to produce them.

Ok, it’s an extreme example but the underlying principle of training your staff is sound and brings many benefits. Maybe you can’t find people with the right skillset, or they are out there but are too pricy. Taking on less experienced employees with a good attitude, and then training them up with targeted skills is a great way forward.

So let’s take a look at some of those benefits.

First, you get to choose exactly what training is given, so the end result is a perfectly-honed employee for your company.

Next, and this is partly where attitude comes in, you are giving back to the employee – helping them grow. So you should be gaining a fantastically motivated person, who buys into what your business is doing. This in turn should help with staff retention which represents a cost-saving in itself.

A further point is that training doesn’t have to stop. Once you’ve trained someone to a certain level, it may offer new opportunities for them to develop into a higher position. They can help drive the business forward beyond what you originally planned. And they can also use what they learn to help train your next recruit.

“But what if I invest all this money in training someone, and then they up sticks?” we hear you say. Our reply is that it would be better to train someone and see them leave than not to train them and have them stick around! And you may be able to build in some protection to this through your employment contracts, too.

Not many of us have €17 million in our back pocket to build a university, but training can start small and develop. For more ideas, call The HR Dept.

How to handle resignations

Look around your office. Is there anybody in there who you’d say you really couldn’t work without? So what would happen if they resigned? How you handle resignations may be crucial to your ongoing success. Here are some top resignation handling tips:

1. If you’re caught off-guard, keep your composure and book in some time to plan the exit.
2. When you talk, establish why they chose to leave and where they are going?
3. If they are leaving because they have a complaint about how they have been treated see if they wish to invoke your grievance procedure.
4. If they are leaving to join a competitor and you have a garden leave clause, consider using it. Sometimes it can be damaging to have someone hanging around.
5. If a resignation was made in the heat of the moment after a row with a colleague, let things cool down  and check that they actually mean it later.
6. Once you have accepted the resignation confirm they leaving date and final pay in writing.

Resignations are much easier to manage once you follow the process. Make sure you always look on the bright side, it’s your chance to take on fresh talent.

Drinking cultures

Two in five young workers (18-34) feel that abstaining from alcohol makes it harder to bond with colleagues. Some even worry it impairs career progression. This is according to a survey from the think tank Demos.

With Christmas parties (normally alcohol-fuelled) – imminent, it’s useful to reflect on alcohol in your workplace culture. There’s a trend for bottles of beer to be handed around some offices at 4pm on a Friday, whilst at others there’s an obligatory pit stop at a pub on the way home.

It may be good for unwinding, but think about who’s not involved too.

Could they be feeling excluded from the team? Are they missing out on key conversations? Some people don’t drink for religious or medical reasons, others just don’t like it. For a diverse, balanced workforce and all the benefits that brings, it’s essential to be inclusive and prevent non-drinkers from feeling alienated. For advice, speak to The HR Dept.

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