Author Archives: debbie

  1. How to Deal With Dismissal Meetings – 10 key tips

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    A recent TikTok Video of an employee being dismissed has gone viral, prompting criticism for the way the dismissal was handled, so if you find yourself having to dismiss someone, there are steps to take to make it easier for all parties.

    How to deal with dismissal meetings - ten key tips

    Brittany Pietsch believed she knew what was coming as her colleague had been dismissed 30 minutes earlier, so she decided to record her meeting.

    The meeting was held online, with two people she had not met before and despite Brittany repeatedly asking, they did not explain why she was being let go.  Cloudfare’s CEO, Matthew Prince later responded via X “We fired ~40 sales people out of over 1,500 in our go to market org. That’s a normal quarter. When we’re doing performance management right, we can often tell within 3 months or less of a sales hire, even during the holidays, whether they’re going to be successful or not.”

    In my opinion, dismissing 40 people out of 1,500 in one quarter should never be “normal”.  That’s not 40 names. That’s 40 human beings.

     

    Reasons for Dismissal

    Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, UK employers can only dismiss for one the following reasons:

    1. Conduct
    2. Capability or performance
    3. Statutory illegality/breach of statutory restrictions
    4. Redundancy
    5. Some other substantial reason (SOSR)

    It is essential to follow a fair procedure and this blog is aimed purely at the dismissal meeting itself. For more information about reasons to dismiss and procedure, please contact me.

    Key Steps

    1. Dismissal should not come as a surprise

    In the video, Brittany says that she was constantly being given positive reassurance from her manager and she felt her dismissal came out of the blue.  Clear, open, ongoing feedback is important to help employees grow.  Discuss and find ways to support them to improve because dismissal should be a last resort.

     

    1. Be Prepared

    If you have decided dismissal is your only option, it is essential to plan ahead.  What are you going to say and what are they likely to say to you?  How will you respond?  What will happen to their notice periods and what payments will they receive?

    Consider what you will do once the meeting is finished.  Do they still have access to your social media or other important accounts?  If they drive a company car which you will ask them to leave, how will they get home? Is there any important information you need?

     

    1. Involve the right people

    The right people must be involved and that would usually mean the employee’s manager plus one other.  If the manager does not have the experience, contact me for guidance.  Alternatively, give them the role of note taker so that at least the manager is available to answer questions and is seen to be taking ownership of the decision.

     

    1. Break the news in person

    Never break the news in writing. You have no control over when someone is going to read the message and how they will interpret it or if they will even respond.  You do not know the situation they are in when they read it and have no way to react to any change in circumstances.

    Online meetings should be a last resort.  You have no control over who else is in the room and your employee can simply hang up.  Once the camera has been switched off, you have no way of knowing what their true reaction is.  As uncomfortable as it may be, an in-person meeting is by far the best way to break the news.

     

    1. Treat everyone with respect

    Never lose sight of the fact that they are a human being.  They deserve to be treated with respect, humanity and compassion.

    Have the conversation in a confidential room, where others cannot see what is happening.  Hire a room, if necessary.  Switch off your phone and make sure you will not be disturbed.  Have some tissues close by, just in case.

    Think about how they will exit the room with dignity when the meeting has finished.  How can you make it easier for them to retrieve their personal possessions?

     

    1. Pace Yourself

    You may have been dreading this meeting for days and want to get it over and done with.  However, that gives the employee little time to process.  Whenever I prepare a guidance for a meeting, I deliberately include questions to the employee.  These are designed to provide breaks and give them the chance to speak.

     

    1. Collect equipment and keys before they leave

    If they have key items of Company property, such as keys, laptops, security passes, make arrangements for these to be collected before the end of the meeting.  This can be so much harder once they have left the building.

     

    1. Capture everything in writing

    Take minutes of the meeting as these could prove vital at an employment tribunal.

    Send a letter of confirmation as soon as possible. This should include the outcome of the meeting, pay arrangements and what to do with any remaining equipment.  If applicable, send them a copy of any restrictive covenants from their contract.  Please contact me for help with this.

    If the employee has been dismissed as a result of disciplinary action or redundancy, they should be told of their right to appeal.

     

    1. Don’t make them work their notice

    If your employee was not right for your role before you dismissed them then why would you expect an upset version of them to work effectively for you?

     

    1. Inform their colleagues

    Colleagues should not be left to wonder why someone is no longer working there.  Tell your team that the person has left the business but never say they have been dismissed as that should remain confidential.

     

    Dismissing an employee, for whatever reason, is not something to be taken lightly. Please contact me before taking any action.

  2. Four-Day Working Week – is it good for business?

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    From June to December 2022, a global trial has been taking place into the four-day working week.  It has now reported some impressive findings. Would it be right for your business?

    Why a Four-Day Working Week?

    The study looked into the impact of completing 100% of the work, in 80% of the time, for 100% of the pay.  In other words, working four days per week for the same pay.

    Many roles, including HR, are fluid. When I worked four days a week, I always felt I did a full-time job in part-time hours.  There was less time for procrastination.  Less time in meetings I didn’t need to be in.  More focus on what I needed to get done and by when.  In other words, I just got on with the job.  Day five was precious to me.  It gave me time to do the things I wanted for myself and my family.

    The Trial’s Findings

    The study by UK think tank – Autonomy, the University of Cambridge and Boston College found the following:

    • 92% of participating organisations will continue with a four day working week.
    • Revenues stayed broadly the same (rising an average of 1.4% over a six month period).
    • 39% of employees reported being less stressed.
    • 71% of employees reported having less burn out at the end of the trial.
    • 57% of employees were less likely to leave the company.
    • 65% less sick days were taken.

    In these times when we are much more conscious of employee well-being, it seems a like a four-day working week could bring benefits all round.  It could lead to a better work-life balance for employees and make companies more attractive to great staff.

    Considerations for a Four-Day Working Week

    It won’t be suitable for every business.  However, if you want to trial a four-day working week, I would recommend you think carefully first about:

    • Securing employee buy in. Ask for suggestions and input from your team.
    • Be clear about your expectations for the work. What key targets will they still need to meet?
    • Be clear about how you will measure the success (or failure) of the trial. Keep employees appraised throughout.
    • How would you like to arrange the days? For example, would everyone have the same day off or different days?
    • If different days, what can you do to improve communication?
    • What can you do to  improve efficiencies?
    • Do you need to retain some flexibility so that urgent matters can be covered?
    • What about those that already work a shorter working week? If their hours stay the same, their pay will need to be adjusted.
    • Recalculate holiday entitlement.

    As with any significant change, I would suggest you start with a six-month trial. Be clear that if it is not successful, you will revert to current hours.  If the trial is successful, you will need to confirm the changes to their contracts.

    If you would like to find out more, please contact me.

  3. The great holiday carry over and how to solve it

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    The closer  year end gets, the more I am asked about high levels of outstanding holiday entitlement. This year, I expect the issue to be much worse than usual.  With high levels of unused entitlement carried over from COVID and difficulties recruiting, I can foresee panic stations ahead.

    Please note, for ease, the figures in this blog are based on an employee working 5 days per week.  If your employee works less than 5 days per week, the figures should be calculated pro-rata.

    What is the Statutory Holiday Entitlement?

    Employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday per year.  This is made up of:

    • four weeks set by the EU
    • an additional 1.6 weeks set by the UK Government.

    For employees working 5 days per week, this equates to 28 days per year (including bank holidays, if applicable).  There is no automatic right to take the 8 bank holidays off.  For many they will be a normal working day.

     

    Can you carry over unused entitlement?

    Employees should be encouraged to take at least 28 days’ holiday per year.  To demonstrate you have done this, send reminders throughout the year.

    The four weeks of EU holiday entitlement must be used in a single leave year.  You can agree to carry over other holiday entitlement if you wish.   However, you have no obligation to do this provided you have given reasonable opportunity for them to take their leave (unless see * below).  If you do allow leave to be carried over, set a limit on the number of days and when they must be used by.   Otherwise, it can get out of hand.

     

    What if someone is on leave?

    When someone is on any form of leave, they continue to accrue holiday entitlement, as if they were at work.  This includes maternity leave, adoption leave and long term sickness.  *If they do not have the opportunity to take the leave in that holiday year because of a long-term absence, it must be carried forward to the next.

     

    COVID and carrying over holiday entitlement

    In 2020, the Government recognised that many people would not be able to take their holiday entitlement due to COVID.  Some employees were on furlough and their employers did not require them to take leave and others were too busy to the take the time off.

    Because of these difficulties, a law was brought in allowing employers to agree to up to 20 days’ holiday entitlement being carried over for the next 2 years.  It has to be stressed, this was the employers’ decision whether to allow this, it was not an entitlement.  It should only have been offered to people who were not able to take their holiday entitlement due to COVID.

    Unfortunately, as we approach the end of that second holiday year, many have still not caught up.

     

    Can I pay employees for unused holiday entitlement?

    You can only pay employees for unused holiday entitlement in the following circumstances:

    • With their agreement, for any extra contractual holiday that you give.
    • When they are leaving your employment.

     

    What can I do now?

    Unless there is something in your contract that says otherwise, you may adopt the attitude of “use it or lose it”. However, this may lead to some very upset staff.  You should therefore consider the following:

    • Are there any opportunities to bring down the amount of outstanding holiday before your year end?  If you want to require someone to take annual leave you can do so, provided you give twice as much notice as the amount of time you require them to take off.
    • Does any of the entitlement relate to additional, contractual days? If so, should you offer to pay this instead?
    • Do you want to allow some to be carried over into the next holiday year. If so, set a limit on both the amount and the time by which to take it.  Be clear, if they have not taken it by then, they will lose it.  Make sure you send further prompts before your deadline to remind them to book the holiday.

    If this is an issue for you, the sooner you start to act, the better.  Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further.

     

  4. Making the most of performance reviews

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    Giving feedback is an important part of managing your team.  However, performance reviews shouldn’t be a tick box exercise.   This month’s blog looks at how to have effective reviews.

     

    Don’t wait

    Very few people look forward to performance reviews.  Giving constructive feedback is hard.  Employees tend to think they are going to get told off.

    Regular (monthly) one to ones can take the fear away. Employees have a good idea of how they are doing and concerns are addressed before they have the chance to grow.   Targets can be set and achieved, giving a sense of satisfaction for all.

    Preparing for the Review Meeting

    We are all busy in our jobs and it is tempting to defer a performance review meeting. However, what this says is that the manager thinks they have more important things to do with their time.  Never reschedule an appraisal unless you have absolutely no choice and make sure you won’t be interrupted.  Unless it’s a fire drill, it can wait.  Turn off your phone during the meeting so you are not distracted.

    Good preparation is vital.  It shows that you take the meeting seriously and have thought carefully about your feedback and their future progression.  It will also help you to listen properly and focus on the discussion.  You should:

     Be positive about the meeting.
     Make sure your employee knows what to expect and that they should prepare too.
     Clarify goals and obtain the employee’s buy-in.  They should feel motivated to achieve their targets.
     Look back and review achievements since the last appraisal.
     Have specific questions prepared.  Ask what training or development the employee thinks they need.
     Define new targets for the next appraisal period.
     Plan how these targets are to be reached,
     End on a positive note.  Even if performance is poor, be optimistic that goals can be achieved

    Well-being

    The employee may be saving up an issue to discuss at their performance review. Don’t forget to ask how they are, how they are getting on with the team, if there is anything at home which may affect their work performance. Offer support.

    Setting objectives

    Are the employee’s objectives actually measurable?  If not, how will you both know if they have been achieved?

    Be specific with the goals that are set.  If you ask someone to “increase sales”, if they increase sales by £1, that means they have met their target.

    Are the targets you are setting relevant or are you just coming up with something as it’s appraisal time? Are they realistic? What goals will improve the performance of the team? Do the targets tie in with the aims of the business as a whole?

    Make sure that the timescales are achievable. Be realistic about how long a task will take to complete.

    Importantly, check your employee agrees that what is being asked of them is achievable.  If they feel they have been set up to fail, they are never going to have the enthusiasm needed to succeed.

    Feedback

    Regular feedback is key and shouldn’t be reserved for the appraisal meeting. Using specific examples is helpful.  Employees should feel comfortable giving feedback too.   In a healthy working environment, both employees and managers are comfortable to give and receive feedback.

    In order to make the most of an appraisal meeting, both parties need to prepare. The meeting can then spend time focusing on moving forward.

    Follow up and follow through

    One of the most demotivating thing about reviews is taking out the last appraisal, only to find that nothing has changed.  That only leads to the question “what’s the point?” If you say you are going to do something, do it.  Otherwise, how can you hold your employee responsible if they don’t do what they said they would.

     

    If you would like more information, please contact me.

  5. What candidates want

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    It is a candidates’ market and many of my clients are struggling to recruit.  Employers are competing for talent like never before.  The impression you create is more important than ever.  A stable and attractive working environment will also help retain your existing team.

     

    Culture and reputation

    Potential employees will look at your reputation.  Diversity, inclusion and stability matter. Think about how you come across at an interview. Are you welcoming, organised, professional and enthusiastic about your business? Do you have a wellbeing programme? Are you demonstrating that you care about your employees? Is your recruitment process straightforward and efficient?   Good candidates may have several offers.  What makes them choose you?

    The importance of a good benefits package

    In challenging financial times, a good benefits package can make all the difference.  Extra holiday is a popular benefit.  How about a day off for their birthday?

    Also think about health cash plans, medical insurance, gym membership, season ticket loans, critical illness cover and private medical insurance.  Could you offer staff discounts? Do you contribute financially to staff social events?

    Additional benefits don’t have to cost a lot but can be very attractive.

    Career Prospects

    Good candidates want to know what they can expect from a career with you.  Explain the opportunities for learning, development and progression during the interview process.

    Regular appraisals and one-to-ones are great. You can use them to find out what your employee’s ambitions are and how you can support them. Are you giving enough feedback? Do you offer mentoring? Does your training strategy need an overhaul? Many workers will jump ship for better growth opportunities elsewhere.

    Attractive salary

    Many job adverts do not include salary information. Employers assume this will widen the pool of applicants.  In fact, it can have the opposite effect.  In a tough recruitment market, the information you provide matters.

    Employees are looking for fair financial compensation for their work.  If your vacancy doesn’t offer that then you are likely to miss out on good candidates.  If your employees don’t receive a fair wage, your turnover is likely to be high.  There are plenty of other opportunities for workers.

    Flexibility

    Many employees are looking an employer that encourages a good work-life balance.  This can mean remote options, such as hybrid working.

    The length and cost of commute is also an important issue for employees. Workers have been used to spending more time with family in recent years.  They have realised what they’ve been missing and are reluctant to give that up.

    Not all jobs lend themselves to homeworking so employers need to be creative when offering flexibility, for example term time working or shift swaps. Some employers currently trialling 4-day weeks.

    Many employees no longer wish to work awkward shifts missing out on family time.  This can partly account for difficulties airlines and airports are having with recruiting staff.  Is there anything you can reasonably do to change unpopular shift patterns?

    The world has shifted following the pandemic and candidate expectations have changed.  It is time to reconsider what you can offer.

    If you would like to discuss this further, please contact me.

  6. Parallel HR is 10 Years Old

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    This month marks a significant milestone for me personally, and for Parallel HR.  On 12th June 2022 Parallel HR turns 10 years old!  I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the ups, the downs and downright embarrassing things that have happened to me over the years.

     

    The beginning of Parallel HR

    In June 2012, Parallel HR was born.  I had no clients and I wasn’t really sure if it would work.  My accounts were handwritten into a book from W H Smith. Marketing and social media were completely alien to me.  If you had told me then just how many great businesses I would get to work with in the next 10 years, I wouldn’t have believed you.

    In search of clients, I started networking.  My first networking meeting was horrendous.  I won’t name the group I joined but let’s just say there was an annual fee involved.  At the meeting, I followed the lead of others and mentioned a training course I was running.  I was then told in my one to one that this was not the way they did things there.  I was very confused.

    My training course, HR Hurdles, had 12 attendees.  I was delighted that one of those attendees called me before the course even took place.  For the first time I thought, this might just work.  I’m hugely proud to say that company is still a client today.

    The lows

    Of course, the biggest low over these 10 years has been the pandemic.  The whole point of Parallel HR was that I wanted to work “alongside my clients’ businesses”.  I never wanted to be a faceless person at the end of a phone.  I wanted to be part of the team.  When the lockdowns hit, so were many of my clients’ businesses. Over the last 2 years, I have consoled many people in tears.  These people had never imagined having to make staff redundant.  Some were fighting to save a business while home-schooling.  Let’s be honest, we all had something going on.  I vividly remember one well-established business telling me they had £9 in the bank and no idea how they were going to make the next payroll.  I could have cried with them.

    A personal low for me was supporting 28 companies to make redundancies over a six week period as the first period of furlough wound down.  I never forget that each person is an individual and the impact this has on them.  I took on the work as I wanted to make sure everyone affected was treated in the most professional way possible.  However, I’m not a robot.  It took its toll on me.

    The highs

    In the early days, while still questioning my own ability to make this work, I took on a new client.  Within three days of signing the contract, I was forwarded a three page letter outlining a potential claim from a lady on maternity leave.  This became a huge turning point for me.  The company had taken the advice of a previous HR consultant in how they handled the situation and frankly, that advice had been diabolical.  I thought if that person can make it as an HR consultant, I certainly could too.  I take enormous pride in how we turned the situation.  From an awful position, the company kept a valuable member of staff and avoided a damaging employment tribunal.

    In 2015 I published my own book via the Endless Bookcase. While no longer available, I have to confess, I still flick through the pages sometimes to remind myself of particular points.

    However, by far the thing I am most proud of is that five people have told me they have been inspired by me to take up a career in HR. Wow!

    The bizarre

    There was the time I tripped over a step while walking through a warehouse before delivering training. The thump as I hit the floor reverberated round as everyone looked up as I did the walk of shame.  I then had to deliver the training with blood dripping down my leg.  Of course, embarrassment meant I said everything was OK but really, ouch!

    Then there was the time I had sciatica.  I had to travel to Southend to see a client, stopping four times on the way due to the pain. When I finally got there, I couldn’t sit down.  The person I was meeting was really nervous until I bizarrely had to kneel through the meeting.

    Working with small employers, I sometimes have to hold formal meetings in unusual spaces.  I held a disciplinary hearing in the post room of a high tech company.  For the meeting, I was perched on a bar stool.  Unfortunately, I have a problem with my back which means I can’t sit straight for long.  Crossing my legs for the umpteenth time, I lost my balance and promptly fell off the bar stool.  I recall doing this in slow motion, calling out “I’m going, I’m going” throughout.  Remember it was a high tech company?  The post room was covered by CCTV.  Ever since I have dreaded seeing myself on TV on “You’ve Been Framed”, or similar.

    Who knows what the next 10 years of Parallel HR will hold, but thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey.

  7. COVID – What must employers do now?

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    COVID restrictions have been removed altogether but COVID has not gone away.  We are now in the stage we have to live with it, the same as with cold and flu of the past.

    Yes, COVID is causing fewer hospitalisations and we have to get back to normal sometime.  However, while some people have been asymptomatic, others had a bad illness.  Some of your employees may be concerned as they are vulnerable or live with vulnerable people.

    With that in mind, what are the implications for employers?

     

     

    What issues are you likely to face?

    In the days before COVID, if someone had a cold they would either come into work, sniffling and coughing or take the day off work, with “flu”.  In my opinion, the same thing is going to happen now with COVID.

    Until things really settle down, I can foresee the following being common issues:

    • People coming into work ill, not wanting to lose pay, infecting those around them.
    • Others refusing to work with or around them.
    • Some refusing to come into the workplace as they or someone they live with is vulnerable.
    • Concerns as to whether COVID is being misused as a reason to take a time off (eg if they have been declined annual leave).
    • Questions about pay and isolation.
    • Potential outbreaks of COVID among your team as caution naturally fades.

    As employers, you have a duty of care to your employees and also need to run a business. You should therefore be thinking now what your policy is going to be.

     

    COVID Protection measures

    Employers have conducted risk assessments and put measures in place to protect their teams.  These included regular testing, face masks and social distancing.  Just look around, many people stopped wearing face masks weeks ago.  After 1st April 2021, a charge will be introduced for tests.  From that point on, it is highly unlikely that your employees will be testing.

    Therefore, you should:

    • Revisit your COVID risk assessment. What measures do you need to keep in place?
    • Consider what you want people to do, if they have any symptoms. Can they work from home?
    • Have a supply of lateral flow tests to use if someone thinks they may have COVID or comes to work ill.
    • Consult with anyone who is vulnerable or particularly concerned.  If they want you to, can you do anything to support them such as move them to a less populated work area or close to a window that opens?
    • Keep your employees informed of your changing policies and ongoing expectations.

    We have learnt a lot about controlling workplace infections over the last two years.  By continuing the best of these practices, we may actually reduce absences from other common illnesses.

     

    Isolation

    Throughout COVID, the self-isolation rules have caused a lot of frustration. Not only for employers, but also for employees who are paid Statutory Sick Pay only.

    There is no longer a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive for COVID.  That means, unless they are ill enough to be off work, some may well come in, even if they know they are positive.  Medical advisors still recommend self-isolation for anyone who tests positive for COVID.

    I’d strongly recommend getting ahead of this situation and deciding on your policy.  For instance, will you:

    • Require anyone who has a positive test to work from home or self-isolate for a period?
    • Pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) only or full pay for a number of days, provided  they have a positive lateral flow?
    • Find another way to protect others around them?

    Note, staff who believe there is a “serious and imminent danger” to their health and safety can file a claim against their employer.

     

    What do I pay them?

    So far, anyone who has been required to self-isolate has been entitled to SSP from day one.  Some employers have been entitled to reclaim up to 2 weeks Statutory Sick Pay.  This rebate scheme will close on 17th March 2022.  Claims must be submitted by 24th March 2022.

    With effect from 25th March 2022, COVID absences will be treated like any other sickness absences.  In other words, there will be no eligibility for SSP until day 4 of absence.

    If your employee can’t work from home and presents themselves at work, but you choose to send them home, you have to pay their salary in full.  This is because you are denying them work.  A supply of  lateral flow tests may help you decide on the best course of action.

     

    If you have any questions regarding this, please contact me.