Leading By Example: The Firms Sticking Up For Their Employees Through The Covid-19 Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world forever and as most of the world’s population opt to stay indoors and amend their day-to-day behaviour, businesses everywhere are taking a hit. Despite daily press briefings from the government making promises made of bailouts, benefits and business bankrolls, many companies are being forced to take a stand and take drastic, immediate action to ensure their survival. This is, unfortunately, often in the form of mass redundancies, forced unpaid leave for employees or temporary closure.

However, through every crisis, there lays opportunity; there are businesses out there shining a light on good practice and really taking care of their employees where they can. When the pandemic’s hold over the world is over, it’s these firms that will be considered good examples and exemplary employers. Of course, not everyone is in the position to take these measures, but where they can happen, and are, they’re fast becoming a guiding light in otherwise global darkness.

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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.

What is a duvet day and should we encourage them?

History of the duvet day 

It is said that duvet days originated in the UK in 1997. August One Communications introduced the scheme that allowed employees time off that was not pre-planned or sickness. The idea behind duvet days was to reduce the number of sick days that were taken, specifically the days when an employee is ‘pulling a sickie’.

Benefits of the duvet day 

Introducing duvet days can ensure that employees feel that they are being treated with respect. As a result they become more productive in the workplace. The scheme also allows employees to avoid lying to their employers, specifically on days where they are not in the right frame of mind to work. Promoting honesty in the workplace and not lying about being ‘sick’.

Drawbacks of the duvet day 

Idleness could be encouraged, and also a lack of responsibility for overindulgence the night before might become the norm in the workplace. If the duvet day does not offer any additional perks to retain staff, then perhaps it isn’t right for your company.

Adding duvet days to your business 

To add duvet days to your business you need to think of how you will make it work and also the steps you need to take to implement it. Below is a checklist of things you need to think about:

  1. Implementing a Duvet Day Policy – new and existing employees
  2. Number of days (majority of employers offer two per year)
  3. Time of year days can be taken
  4. Days of the week that can be taken

Duvet days vs mental health days 

In 2017 an employee was praised by her employer for taking a ‘mental health’ day. (Read about this story here)

But what is the difference between a mental health day and a duvet day? 

A duvet day in essence is a day that is taken when you are not sick but would like a day to rest and recharge yourself. Mental health days are a sick day and employers are encouraged to treat time of work because of mental health the same as days taken off for physical health problems.

While it may be easier for an employee to take a duvet day or say they have food poising to avoid having a conversation about mental health, all employees should be encouraged to talk to their employer to allow for potential reasonable adjustments.

Sickness absence management 

Having an employee call in sick is frustrating but inevitable. Employees will have sickness at some time and be unable to attend the work place. Stress as a reason for sickness is difficult to manage and it is on the increase, sick notes being extended and long-term sickness situations can be frustrating to manage. Frustration can come from feeling there is nothing that you can do about this, but there is.

What is imposter syndrome and how can you overcome it?

“We all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is”

Michelle Obama

Do you ever feel like a fraud? Are you ever overcome with feelings of doubt in respect of your capabilities at work? If so, then you could be one of the thousands of people who experience imposter syndrome.

I have just finished reading Michelle Obama’s book for the second time and this particular subject, whilst it certainly isn’t new, is one that so many overlook and it can be a really confidence knock. It was a part of her book that really resonated with me, many times in my career I have experienced not being taken seriously, that led me to think that there is a problem with how I present myself to others.

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How can HR put the Human back into Human Resources?

“We are not perfect human beings, nor do we have to pretend to be, but it is necessary for us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.”

With the world of work evolving at a rapid speed; the introduction of new technologies, increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion, as well as a more modern approach to leadership to name but a few. They all present new challenges to organisations, but if businesses are turning to new ways of working, then how can we make better use of our people?

Many HR departments and professionals are debating this very subject. When I first started in HR, my first role was as an HR Administrator, creating contracts of employment and printing off employee handbooks. One of my concerns with increased automation is the lack of entry level HR roles that may be available in the future, how can we attract people into our profession when the roles simply don’t exist? Could HR possibly be facing its own skills shortage in the future?

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