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People Matter October 2017

Too sick to take leave?

A European Court ruling recently found that Francisco Pereda, a Madrid council worker, was entitled to rearrange a holiday because he suffered an injury just before leaving for it.

Francisco took legal action against his employer after being refused permission to alter his holiday arrangements on account of his injury. The European Court of Justice ruled in his favour, stating he should have been allowed to change his holiday arrangements and given the option to postpone his leave.

The ruling is being interpreted to mean that employees who fall ill, or are injured, just before their holiday should be entitled to swap their current holiday with sick leave. They should be permitted to take their holiday at a later date.

Some employer representatives are warning this could be open to abuse and have far-reaching consequences – particularly for SMEs with limited resources. This, of course, comes hot on the heels of other judgements concerning holiday rights, such as commissions and overtime being reflected in holiday pay.

The fundamental principle behind such cases is that all workers are entitled to sufficient holiday breaks from work, and should not be put off from taking them in any way. In this most recent example it’s deemed unreasonable that ill health or injury should prevent much-needed recreational breaks.

Our advice is that if an employee is sick before, or whilst on, their annual leave, to let them reschedule it. As an employer, you are unable to force an employee to take annual leave when they are eligible for sick leave – and most reasonable employers probably wouldn’t want to. Any statutory holiday entitlement that isn’t used because of illness should be carried over to the following year.

Don’t forget to ensure you take a fair and consistent approach to claims of being sick whilst on annual leave to avoid accusations of unfairness or discrimination.

If you need help with managing annual leave, give us a call.

The cost of employee fraud

Earlier this year a Bank of Ireland employee was jailed for 12 months for stealing nearly €150,000 from her employer.

Employee fraud is a costly and upsetting crime. Be aware that the most damaging cases tend to be perpetrated by senior staff of long-standing.

Mitigating the risk of fraud is a complex task encompassing many areas of your business. These include robust financial control; culture (where colleagues can raise concerns in confidence) and strong HR policies.

If you discover employee fraud you should report it as a crime. It’s then a good disciplinary policy that will give you the proper framework to handle it from an HR perspective. Outside, expert help is strongly advised.

It’s complicated. For a longer consultation, or a review of your disciplinary procedures to ensure they allow you to deal with employee fraud correctly, contact us.

How far can you go when monitoring employee emails?

A recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights declared that a business was wrong to fire an employee for using a Yahoo Messenger work account for personal use.

The Romanian engineer used the account to message his brother and fiancée, despite company policy saying that professional accounts may not be used for personal reasons.

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees respect for private and family life and correspondence.

The court ruled in the employee’s favour because the employer had breached this right to privacy.

This suggests that employers must give explicit warnings to staff if they want to monitor their internet use. This is potentially troublesome for employers in an age when boundaries between private and professional life are becoming ever more blurred due to social media and other digital innovation.

If you do feel it necessary to check the communications of your staff, ensure you strike a balance between prohibiting your employees from taking advantage of company assets, whilst not excessively monitoring private messages.

You must also make sure your employment contracts explicitly state that you are permitted to monitor their online activity in the workplace. If you don’t have this in writing, you could find your options restricted if you suspect improper behaviour.

We can help you get the balance right and ensure that your contracts and handbooks are written correctly to give you the powers your business needs, whilst staying on the right side of the courts. Get in touch with your local HR Dept to see how we can help you.

The impact of poor holiday planning

Ryanair has recently encountered staff scheduling problems, resulting in cancelled and delayed flights and as this has left the airline nearly £22m out of pocket it has been an all-round PR disaster. Ryanair claimed this was due to poor management of pilots’ holidays and if that were the case their HR team want to be taken to task.

With Christmas on the horizon, this is a timely reminder to make sure that the spacing of staff holidays is aligned with the needs of the business.

It will ensure you do not experience staff shortages during busy periods and avoid subsequent gaps in your service.

If you need help managing annual leave, contact The HR Dept. Our web-based HR Toolkit is a digital platform that makes holiday bookings easy for you and your staff.

It’s specifically designed for small businesses and removes the hassle of managing employee holiday bookings.

Menopause leave

The menopause is something that affects all women to some degree and even though Jenni Murray became famous for saying on radio ”Is it me or is it hot in here?” it is still a taboo subject.

We would suggest a sensible pragmatic approach and making reasonable adjustments for staff going through this potentially difficult time such as providing fans to even reviewing uniforms to ensure they are comfortable.

Employee wellbeing should be a high priority for any business – from stand-out life events like the menopause to more day-to-day happenings.

Mediation in the workplace

As they say, “it’s nice to be nice”. But in stressful situations sometimes people just don’t see eye to eye and arguments ensue, resulting sometimes in a poisonous atmosphere and even drops in productivity. If this occurs and a quick handshake won’t do the trick, mediation may be the best way forward.

Mediation can be a cost-effective and emotionally intelligent solution: bringing people back from the brink before you have to consider replacing staff who can’t work together. We all know what an expensive and time-consuming process recruitment can be.

As you’re probably aware, mediation involves a trained independent third party that helps the antagonists to come to an agreement.

In small organisations it is unlikely you have qualified mediators within the company who can find impartial resolution to disputes and for a long term solution this is what is required.

If you need to explore mediation, contact your local HR Dept. We can provide advice and even act as an independent mediator if required.

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