Monthly Archives: January 2016

Engaging With Your Workforce

Engaging With Your WorkforceSUMMARY: Staff turnover can prove costly and also cause difficulties in attracting new recruits. It is therefore important that employers consider how they attract and retain the best talent.

Is it all about the money?

To have strongly defined recruitment and retention strategies an organisation needs to understand what motivates its staff.

Often it is mistakenly assumed that it is all about the money. This is not usually the case. One of our clients recently reported that an employee had turned down a job with a competitor, even though the salary was higher. The employee apparently had no qualms in turning down the offer because it was not just about the money.

Financial reward will undeniably play a significant role in any recruitment and retention strategy but there are many other factors which will influence an individual’s decision to stay or indeed join another organisation.

Why identify what motivates your workforce?

An organisation successful in retaining its current workforce is likely to be meeting the needs of its staff which, in turn, means it is probably also attracting new recruits. This organisation is likely to have taken the time to consider what drives individuals – identifying their needs, expectations, and values.

Whilst not purely a legal matter, we are often asked to advise on how an organisation can identify what is important to its staff and in particular, what steps can be taken to obtain employee feedback.

Taking stock, whilst providing an invaluable insight into what motivates individuals will also add further value – there is likely to be a greater feeling of inclusion leading to increased employee engagement; reduced absence levels; lower staff turnover; becoming known as a “good employer” to work for; less workplace conflict; fewer disciplinaries and grievances; less tribunal claims; increased productivity; higher profitability rates; and surprisingly some innovative ideas to improve the business may also be identified.

How to identify what makes a “great place to work”?

There are many different ways of gaining an increased understanding of the issues that are most important to individuals. For example,

  • through the running of employee forums, focus groups and staff meetings;
  • via suggestion boxes;
  • setting up dream/vision boarding exercises;
  • exit interviews; and
  • by implementing staff engagement surveys.

Staff engagement surveys usually offer the best opportunity to facilitate real business improvement on a more formal basis. Committing to such a formal process demonstrates to staff that they are being taken seriously. In turn, staff are more likely to want to contribute.

A survey can take the form of either a number of generic questions or more importantly, where needs and values are being identified, bespoke questions tailored to address particular or unique circumstances. Fundamentally, any questions must be aligned with the organisation’s overall strategy if the results are to add value. The results will also provide invaluable data to be benchmarked for comparison purposes including looking at industry specific data, to understand how the organisation performs alongside other organisations; this may be important when reviewing any recruitment and retention strategy.

Surveys can be carried out in a variety of different ways such as over the telephone, as paper based exercises or on-line. Some survey providers are now coming up with more creative ideas to get the required results. Important in all cases is that staff are provided with anonymity and the opportunity to offer their opinions on a confidential basis.

Before engaging in any exercise there are some key considerations:

  1. How will the process be managed and communicated?
  2. How will the expectations of participants be managed in terms of deliverable outcomes including sharing the results (warts and all)?
  3. Will there be a willingness to take action?

What might the results say?

The results of any staff feedback exercise are likely to identify that staff have a variety of different values.

If the focus has been on retention then it is likely to become clear that for many individuals money is not the main motivator. Increasingly catching up, and in some instances overtaking financial reward, main motivators are flexible working arrangements, homeworking, challenging and stimulating work, structured career development prospects and recognition for going above and beyond within peer groups.

The example referred to above supports these results; the employee cited a number of reasons for staying including a supportive culture, interesting and varied work, and a flexible working arrangement which provided a good work/life balance.

For some individuals money will be of paramount importance and for others it will be a flexible package. Get it right and the workforce will be more engaged and far more likely to stay; a highly engaged workforce is also likely to attract the best talent.

Contact Details

For more details please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

Misconduct & Punishment in Employment

Punishment at workSummary: Disagreement between employer and employee is as old as the very concept of Master and Servant itself. As a general rule, where disagreement ends with an employer forming the view that an ending of the relationship is the outcome it desires, there are some mandatory steps that will need to be addressed.

An employer seeking to dismiss an employee will generally have to consider 2 key areas of law:

  1. the first answers the question, what if anything is owed to the employee as a result of the ending of the employment? – the contractual question;
  2. the second, is the dismissal fair in all the circumstances? – the protection afforded to the employee by Parliament; the statutory question.

The first question is arguably the one to answer. Consider the case of an employer wishing to terminate the employment of an employee for misconduct who has a contract entitling them to 6 months’ notice. Except for where the misconduct is of such an extreme nature that it amounts to gross misconduct, ending the employment without payment is likely to give rise to a successful breach of contract claim.

In a recent case, the High Court decided that an employee who sent a pornographic e-mail from a work account had committed an act which entitled his employer to dismiss him without paying him the 12 months’ notice to which he was entitled. This was in spite of the fact that the sending of the e-mail was discovered some 5 years after it had been sent and only as part of a fishing exercise conducted by the employer, specifically to find a reason to dismiss.

It is extremely important that an employer intending to dismiss in these circumstances does not, after discovery of the conduct, behave in a way that would lead to a view that it had waived its right to dismiss in these circumstances.

By contrast, whether or not the dismissal was fair, in all the circumstances, would largely depend on the procedure leading up to the decision to dismiss. In short, did the employer have a reasonable belief in the guilt of the employee based on the employer having undertaken a reasonable investigation? Finally, whether the decision to dismiss in those circumstances, as opposed to applying some other sanction, was reasonable.

Tackling the risk of a successful unfair dismissal claim is a juggling act requiring an employer to engage in a fair procedure free from bias, permitting the employee an opportunity to properly understand the allegations, to address them and to be accompanied if requested.

Having managed all of that, dismissing the employee as a result of the allegations must, on an objective view, be action that a reasonable employer would take. Applying this thinking to the case mentioned above, while the age of the offence might not matter, particularly if the employer had no knowledge of it, the decision to go on a fishing expedition to find misconduct that would allow an employer to dismiss for gross misconduct and in so doing avoid the obligation to pay notice, may very well be considered unfair. This is so even if in so doing the employer would not be in breach of contract.

Other considerations:

  • Ensure that if contemplating dismissing for gross misconduct, and your policies define types of conduct that you consider fall within that category, the current offence does not fall outside it. In a recently decided case where a tribunal found the dismissal of an employee to be unfair, one of the factors that influenced the finding that the dismissal was unfair was the fact that the employer’s policy stated that the offence which the employee was facing would be dealt with by a maximum sanction of a written warning.
  • Ensure that you follow your own laid down procedures.
  • Ensure your investigation is thorough, including follow up investigations.
  • Ensure the process is well documented including witness evidence and statements.
  • Wherever possible, ensure that each level of the process is chaired by someone different.
  • Permit an appeal.

Above all, obtain proper advice and support.

Contact Details

For more details please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

New Protection for Zero Hours

Contract being tornZero Hours Contract

Zero hours contracts are contracts between an employer and a worker and/or an employee and provide that the employer is not obliged to provide them with any minimum working hours, and the worker and/or employee is not obliged to accept any of the hours offered.

A ban on exclusivity clauses since May 2015

Zero hours contracts have often historically included exclusivity clauses which prevent workers and employees from working for another employer. Whilst it remains permissible for a business to use zero hours contracts, exclusivity clauses in these types of contract have been banned since 26 May 2015.

New protection for workers as from 11 January 2016 

As of today, real protection has been introduced for those engaged on zero hours contracts which include exclusivity clauses:

  • zero hours employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed if the reason, or principal reason for their dismissal, is that they have failed to comply with an exclusivity clause. Employees do not need two years’ service to be able to bring their claim; and
  • zero hours employees and workers have the right not to be subjected to a detriment for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause.  A detriment could be the decision not to offer further work.

Where these rights have been breached, employees and workers may issue a claim in the tribunal and seek a declaration and/or compensation.

Are Legal Highs a Workplace Issue?

DrugsSUMMARY: Use of legal highs has increased recently – how can employers manage this in the workplace?

The increase in the use of legal highs is now widely publicised.  Given this increase, the reality is that some employees may be at work under the influence.  This could present employers with two main problems: impaired employee performance; and serious health and safety implications for both the employer and the employee.

Whilst some employers may dismiss this issue on the basis it is unlikely to be a significant concern for them, the following points are worth noting when deciding whether to be proactive:

  1. Many so called “legal highs” are actually illegal.
  2. The drugs can have the same effects on users as some more traditional illegal substances.
  3. During 2014 in England, such drugs were implicated in 129 deaths.
  4. Legislation is currently going through Parliament to ban the supply of these drugs.

We would therefore recommend the following action points for employers:

  1. Update policies – consider how this issue can be covered in alcohol and drugs policies.  Employers should have clear rules about coming to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol and about taking drugs or drinking at work.  Legal highs can be treated in the same way as other drugs would be.  If policies are unclear, this is the time to update them.
  2. Remind – remind employees attending work under the influence of drugs that the use of legal highs at work is banned and ensure that they are aware of relevant policies and the potential sanctions for breaching these policies.
  3. Educate – educate staff and line managers on the signs of drug use, what to be aware of and the action they should take.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this employment law article or if you would like an alcohol and drugs policy please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.