Welcome to the ‘New Normal’ for Offices and Workplaces

It’s clear as the country begins to ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and life begins to take on some semblance of what it was before the pandemic began, whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like, it will be in place for quite some time. Dependent on a workplace’s operating situation throughout lockdown and after, of course, arrangements for employees will vary hugely. But there are some things all employers should bear in mind when re-absorbing furloughed staff and making their best efforts to resume business-as-usual – and here’s my top pieces of advice.

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Spread kindness like confetti – HR acts of kindness is back!

After a lot of reflection time and given all that we have been through in recent months, now more than ever, kindness is an essential element needed in our workplaces and our every day lives.

Kindness is the key component to a healthy, successful, and well-balanced life. These elements are all essential to our overall wellbeing and kindness is something that we do because we can, not because we should or are obligated to.

For many of you HR acts of kindness will be a new concept but it was actually founded in 2016 after the Brexit result brought so much divide and upset. Since then HR acts of kindness has appeared in Be Kind Magazine, has influenced behaviours at work all over the world and all through simple acts of kindness and there’s plenty of opportunity to get everyone involved!

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How do you handle employee sickness over the bank holidays?

Christmas may seem like a distant memory but as we draw closer to the long Easter weekend, a lot of employees like to take annual leave to extend this further and take time out to unwind. This shouldn’t be a problem but throw some ‘suspicious’ sickness absence into the mix and things can quickly get out of hand.

To help you be fully prepared, I have put together some handy guidance to help take the pain out of bank holiday headaches!

What happens when an employee requests holiday?

All holiday has to be approved through your established booking system, in line with your company’s holiday policy and minimum cover required. If you don’t have a policy in place, contact me and I’ll help you get one suited to your business requirements. It may be an opportunity for you to once again draw your employees attention to the authorisation process and make sure it is clear. As a responsible employer you also need to encourage your employees to take their holiday on a regular basis, to ensure they are having adequate breaks and leisure time away from the work environment. It is good practice to manage and monitor holidays that have been taken, to avoid a surge of holiday requests at the end of your company’s holiday year.

What happens when an employee calls in sick over the long weekend?

All sickness needs to be dealt with consistently. The employee has the obligation to notify you within the specified time in line with your absence procedure. The timing of their absence cannot be questioned, and whilst unfortunate you will need to source cover last minute to account for the additional person not working for you during this time. If the sickness absence day happens to be the day before the bank holiday (which they were not scheduled to work) you would record the absence for the one day, and then the bank holiday in the usual way. Meaning that the employee would get paid for the bank holiday as normal. It is illegal to withhold this payment of wages.

The important part of managing any absence is the return to work interview on the morning back to work. This helps you to gather information and discuss the absence in more detail. You should also take the opportunity to examine the employee’s absence record to see if there are any patterns or if their absence is becoming too high. This could then trigger the requirement for a further, potentially more formal conversation with them.

What to do if an employee takes the bank holiday weekend as sickness, having been refused a holiday request?

Whilst this doesn’t occur on a frequent basis, it can happen. We have a really useful letter template available for our clients to take control of this situation. If you issue this letter to the employee prior to the ‘time off’ in question, you have made it crystal clear that if they take the time off it will be unauthorised unpaid leave and could lead to disciplinary action taking place.

Brightening up Blue Monday

A bit of fun to start our working week! It is safe to say that we can all pretty much agree that Monday is not the most exciting day of a week, and it is always hard to get back into the swing of things at work after a nice relaxing weekend.

Today is labelled “Blue Monday” which is officially declared as the most depressing day of the year (unless you really didn’t grab that essential Black Friday purchase of course!)

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How can flexible working help your business?

“Women are working more, men are understanding their value as caregivers, women are primary breadwinners—I mean, we could go on and on and on. Things are different. So we can’t keep operating like everything is the same, and that’s what many of us have done. And I think it’s up to us to change the conversation.”

Michelle Obama

As an HR Consultant, if I had £1 for every time a client said to me that “flexible working is only for parents” I would be a very wealthy lady!

The most common question my clients ask is “how can flexible working help my business?” so if you are thinking just that, then read on!

Whilst flexible working is traditionally associated with working parents, we must acknowledge that the world of work is changing and with that, we are seeing a shift in the demographic in society (a third of workers will be over 50 by the end of 2020) therefore the myth around flexible working being just for parents, is simply that, just a myth! Now everyone has the right to request their employer to work more flexibly, which means that change for businesses is inevitable.

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