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People Matter November 2017

Managing staff in times of emergency

In October this year Hurricane Ophelia battered Ireland, causing three deaths, mass power outages, and transport chaos.

Met Éireaan advised people to stay at home and this raised an important question regarding employee rights. Should staff be paid for time they are forced to take off due to national emergency?

There is no law that provides complete clarity, and consequently no simple answer. If a dispute were to arise – let’s assume because the time off is not paid – the standard test in court will be to see whether the employer acted reasonably.

As an employer, your first point of reference should be to see if there is a clause in your employee policies that would cover this. And if there is, the answer is simple – follow it.

However, if this is not covered in your policies, then there are a range of options that you could consider.

The first is to pay your staff regardless. This will largely depend on the economics of your business. If you were to do this, you will still need to consider certain nuances. For instance, how should you handle staff who would have been on unpaid absence anyway, such as unpaid sickness or parental leave? You should not feel that you must pay these too. They were not scheduled to work so are not missing out because of the national emergency. There’s no reason why they should profit from it.

If you decide to impose unpaid leave, there are various ways you could soften the blow of lost wages. Giving staff the chance to take the time off as part of their holiday allowance is one option. Or offering paid overtime to make up the lost hours is another. Either of these options could help demonstrate reasonableness.

Such drastic events do not happen frequently, but when they do, having well written policies may give you the framework to manage them effectively and fairly. For help reviewing or writing your contracts and handbooks, contact the HR Dept.

Do we really need mandatory retirement ages?

Who says you have to slow down when you get older? After all, Michael D. Higgins is 76 and President Trump is 71 years old. Some jobs require experience to be done effectively.

In Ireland there is no default national retirement age, but the most common mandatory retirement age in contracts is 65.

Some countries ban mandatory retirement. So are companies in Ireland missing out on talent? What are the pros and cons of arbitrary retirement?

Older workers have much to contribute to the workplace. They can bring skillsets and experience that are hard to find elsewhere. Recent studies show that being active and working later in life brings many benefits, such as remaining healthier for longer.

But the downsides of letting people work on include limiting the promotion opportunities for the next generation and making succession planning more difficult (without set timeframes).

Need to review your retirement policy? Call us.

Are your employees workaholics?

Having dependable, hard-working employees is a good thing, right? Staff with a strong work ethic contribute to your organisation with their reliability and willingness to take on new challenges.

But there is such a thing as working too hard. Starting early and finishing late each day will take its toll eventually. Being a workaholic can have significant health consequences and a direct effect on a person’s happiness and wellbeing.

So how do you spot a workaholic?

Some of the signs are obvious, whereas some are more subtle. First in, last out and no lunchbreak should be easy to spot. As is someone’s outward behaviour if they are showing signs of stress, bad moods or fatigue. But what about symptoms that are masked? These could include a lack of hobbies and interests and constantly checking emails.

If you have a workaholic employee, management intervention may be required to prevent them burning out. So, what can you do?

Effective time management is a skill and can really help employees to think clearly and work smartly. Prioritising important tasks over less-important ones (even if they appear urgent!) is one technique, as well as concentrating on one task at time. Delegation is another, sometimes difficult, but valuable skill.

It might be necessary to review a job role to see if it is too much for one person. And at the same time ensure they have the discipline to be only working on projects that are directly related to their allocated tasks.

For guidance on managing workaholic employees or ensuring your employees are not burning out, contact The HR Dept.

Is presenteeism the bug in your office?

With winter drawing in, you might worry that the number of sick days taken by your employees will soar. Only four days or so were lost to sickness per worker last year, which is the lowest since their records began. Are workforces getting healthier? Or is ‘presenteeism’ endemic in the workplace?

Presenteeism is when employees come into work despite being sick enough to justify staying at home.

It can be counterproductive to have people working when they are unwell – through being ineffective and spreading illness. A third of workers believe they’ve caught a cold from a ‘mucus trooper’ colleague.

Balancing absenteeism and presenteeism is a fine art – but worth getting right. For help with sickness policies, contact us.

Irish businesses boosting pay

A survey from Ibec, the business representation organisation, found that three quarters of Irish companies are planning to increase basic pay in 2018.

Alongside this, 43% of companies are intending to increase staff numbers next year. This is great news for the Irish economy.

Recruitment and pay increases should be planned carefully to align with objectives and budgets.

If you’re considering pay rises or new recruitment, this is a great time to have your contracts professionally reviewed to ensure they’re delivering for you as well as your staff.

Advice line supporting employers

A study for Shannon Chamber found that more than a quarter of Irish employers experienced a workplace dispute in 2016, and one in five experienced personal injury claims.

35% of employers who experienced a dispute were referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or the Labour Court.

Such disputes can be a drag on HR resources and upsetting for business owners and managers.

The best way of handling disputes is to stop them happening in the first place. Well written polcies are a good place to start.

And with our retained employer advice line, you get unlimited insured advice to help prevent disputes starting.

If you follow our advice from the outset, you’re even covered for any tribunal costs or awards.

Contact us for more information about our retained advice line.

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