One of my clients approached me recently to ask how to manage the increasing absence in his company due to workplace stress. This subject has been an ongoing litany in my years of working with organisations since becoming an HR professional. Hands down absence makes up over 70% of the casework that most HR professionals deal with on a daily basis or in some cases assist managers with dealing with.
The Health and Safety Executive (www.HSE.gov.uk/stress) states that stress at work is a major issue and they define work related stress, depression or anxiety as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressure and demands placed on them at work.
Let’s examine this major issue in greater detail and as the old adage states that numbers don’t lie, let’s see what the statistician has to say about this major issue. The most recent Labour Force Survey in the UK for 2014/15 state that:
440,000 – total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety
9.9 million days – number of days lost to this condition alone!!!
23 days – the average number of days lost per case
Where are the cases – Public sector industries, health and social care, public administration and defence!
I don’t know about you but these stats make for grim reading! Not only is this a major issue but if we look at the sectors where this major issue pervades we are in serious trouble! Our essential services are at risk and our future is at risk. Education and health are well known to be high risk sectors for work related stress, not only are we eroding our present but we are ill equipping the generation of the future!
But is it really this grim? After all people still turn up for work every day and life goes on but at what cost? 9.9 million days in monetary terms could fund the budget of some third world countries! That is how much productivity is being lost in real terms not to mention the financial strain on organisations and the government’s budget.
It’s not very surprising that the respondents in the survey cited workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support as the main reasons for absence due to work related stress, depression or anxiety.
So how can employers work to combat this problem? Again at the risk of repeating myself from earlier posts, it’s not rocket science! Here are a few tips which can prove effective in managing stress related absences in the workplace:
- Ensure there is a robust sickness absence management policy in place that is written in plain English, easy to understand and implement and that both managers and staff are trained on this.
- Carry out stress risk assessments in the workplace.
- Develop your employees’ awareness of how to manage stress by offering workshops on this topic along with tools of how to cope with it like mindfulness etc.
- Monitor absence and record instances and follow this up! There is no point in having data that just sits there, use it to inform and address issues.
- Put a wellbeing policy in place if you do not already have one, encourage the social and healthy aspect of work, offer employee benefits that promote a healthy workforce.
- Limit uncertainty in the workplace over job security as much as possible.
- Ensure the communication channels both down to employees and up to management remain open – give employees a voice and act on suggestions where appropriate.
- Celebrate your successes.
Glenn HR can help you to develop policies about this issue and also provide tailored training in the workplace on how to identify and manage stress. Contact us to discuss your requirements at www.glennhr.co.uk
At some point in everyone’s life they will come across individuals whom they find difficult to get on with or work with.
This could be down to personalities clashing, applying a halos and horns effect when you first meet someone or genuinely the individual deemed to be difficult simply poses issues to make working or interacting with them difficult and challenging.
What we all need to remember is that no one is born difficult. What we perceive to be difficult or challenging behaviour is simply behaviour that has been learned over time and if it has been learned it can unlearned.
There is a popular children’s poem by Dorothy Law Nolte which goes:
If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
I learned this poem as a child in primary school and it has always stuck with me over the years and in many ways is very relevant to how we go about dealing with those perceived to be difficult in the workplace. If an individual has only ever known bad management styles, they will learn challenging behaviours; if an individual has suffered discrimination they will learn to be intolerant of the slightest hint of such behaviour or even to interpret innocently made remarks as discriminatory and react badly.
Problem behaviour should be viewed situationally. If you have an employee who is normally helpful, creative and committed who suddenly will not attend meetings with you without their union representative present or suddenly begins to demand that every conversation is recorded, take a step back and assess the situational problem rather than deciding you have a difficult employee on your hands! Some behaviour are short lived and may need no further action than an altering of your perception of the problem. Communication is key to finding out from the individual what the problem is so that if required you can work with to change the behaviour that is causing a problem and modifying the situation if necessary.
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So last week the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that an organisation which read its employee’s personal messages sent while he was at work was within its rights to do so. Shock, horror! (Actually this is poorly timed sarcasm on my part!).
From the volume of social media responses to this topic you would think that employees actually believe they were protected from this intrusion in the first place! Privacy at work? you may have none! Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your personal viewpoint we live in an ever increasing “big brother” society. If most employees took the time to read their terms and conditions of employment and the policies relating to their employment, they would find that it is increasingly quite common for employers to state within those terms that they reserve the right to monitor their employees’ emails, telephone calls and other forms of communication whilst at work or while using company issued equipment. Other forms of communication include social media sites, chat engines etc. This is even more likely to happen if you are known to work for the company on these sites and have friends or followers who conduct business with or have some interface with the company.
The smart employer usually adds a caveat that employees may use the internet or telephone for personal use during their breaks or lunch times but this does not mean such use may not be monitored.
In this particular case which has caused such furore a Romanian Engineer was dismissed by his employer for using yahoo messenger to send personal emails during working hours. The account was created for work purposes at his company’s request. He took his employer to court siting breach of his rights to personal correspondences and breach of both the constitution and criminal code by accessing his personal communications. His claim was rejected on the grounds that his employer had complied with dismissal regulations and that he had been informed of the company’s regulations. He appealed this decision claiming that his personal emails were protected under article 8 of the Human Rights legislation which gives individuals the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. His appeal was dismissed on the grounds that the employer’s conduct was reasonable and that they were entitled to carry out monitoring to find out whether a disciplinary breach had occurred.
So what does this case teach us both as employers and employees?
As employers we need to be transparent about how and when employees will be monitored. If monitoring does or will or can occur employees should be informed of this and preferably sign to say they have both been informed and understand what this means. Employers also need to be mindful that a culture of monitoring can demotivate the workforce and foster a culture of mistrust and undermine engagement in the workforce. Get the balance right and remember that employees in general spend the vast majority of their lives at work and it may be wholly impractical to ban all personal correspondences at work.
Employees should become familiar with their company’s rules on use of work systems for personal communications and follow them! Knowledge is power, do not fall foul and on the wrong side of a disciplinary table because you failed to read your contract and terms and conditions of service!
We live in a world with little or no privacy. If you can’t defeat the system, learn to work with it. You have the power to keep your private life secret. So don’t use your employer’s systems, devices, time or structures to conduct your private life if you wish to retain that right to privacy.
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What does 2016 have in store for us on the legislative timeline? well quite a few changes are on the agenda for implementation this year which will have an impact on businesses and individuals. Below I have outlined a few of the key ones but this list is by no means exhaustive. This guidance is meant for information purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice.
7 March 2016
New rules on regulatory references for the Financial Sector: new laws comes into effect which requires employers to obtain and provide specific disclosures in relation to specified roles in the financial sector. The regulations also require employers to update such references following an employee’s departure if issues come to light which fall within the scope of the specific disclosure.
Public sector exit pay becomes repayable: this bill provides that employees in the public sector who earn £80,000 or more who receive an exit payment and return to public sector employment within a year of leaving will have to repay such payments.
1 April 2016
Compulsory National Living Wage Introduced: The National Minimum Wage amendment regulations 2016 will introduce the National Living Wage which provides that adults age 25 and over will earn a minimum of £7.20 an hour.
6 April 2016
- Personal income tax allowance rises to £11,000.
- Employers National Insurance Contributions for apprentices under age 25 is abolished with immediate effect from 6th April 2016.
- Increase to basic rate tax threshold: this increases to £35,000 from 6th April 2016.
- Pension tax relief reduced for those earning £150,000 and over from 6th April 2016
- Salary requirement for tier 2 workers introduced: tier 2 workers on the points based general and sportsperson visa wishing to settle in the UK from 6th April 2016 will need to earn a minimum of £35,000.
- Single tier state pension introduced thus ending the ability to opt out of the state second pension scheme.
7 September 2016
New Whistleblowing regulations for the Financial Sector comes into force. Employers in this sector will be required to appoint a whistleblowing champion for the organisation and ensure that managers and employees all receive training on how to blow the whistle.
2016 … at some point
Mandatory gender pay reporting comes into force: employers will be required to publish information on differences in pay as it relates to gender.
Glenn HR Limited is an HR Consultancy based in Kent, England offering bespoke and tailored services to start ups, small and medium sized enterprises, schools, academies and larger organisations. We pride ourselves on our approach and our flexibility in supporting our clients to achieve their goals.
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