Author Archives: debbie

  1. You’re responsible for Sexual Harassment at Work

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    I don’t mean that headline as an accusation, it is a warning of what is to come. In the wake of the #MeToo campaign, the Government have been considering ways to prevent sexual harassment.  As someone who has experienced it a number of times during my working career, I say it’s about time.

    The Government have announced their intention to make employers:

    • take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment
    • require employers to take “explicit measures” to protect their staff from third party harassment.

    There is also the possibility that the time limit to bring a tribunal claim may be extended from 3 months to 6 months (for claims under the Equality Act).

    What is sexual harassment?

    Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature.  It has the purpose or effect of “violating someone’s dignity, creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the individual concerned”. Note, it is about how the recipient feels, not how the act was intended.  “Banter” is no defence.

    At age 15, I worked in a shop where the staff room was wallpapered with porn.  On my first day at a new employer in the City, I walked into wolf whistles on the trading floor.  No one said a word.  Just 3 years ago, someone stopped me on my way to a client and asked about my underwear.   Honestly, at my age I thought that was one thing I no longer needed to deal with.

    Sexual harassment can mean many things. It can include things like comments made, inappropriate touching or staring, social media posts or even stalking.  If you wouldn’t be happy if the act happened to your parent, your partner or your child, it’s probably not appropriate.


    What can employers do to stop it?

    One of the things the #MeToo campaign highlighted was just how embarrassed victims of sexual harassment feel.   They tend to wonder if they are going to be believed and may find it easier to leave a job, than make a fuss.  To protect your team and prevent harassment, you need to take the following steps:

    • Make it clear to everyone who works for you or uses your services, that you will not tolerate sexual harassment.
    • Provide appropriate training – management need to know how to recognise, deal with and prevent it.
    • Raise awareness – what is harassment? What should people do if they are concerned?
    • Have regular reviews with your team.  Encourage them to share anything that is making them feel uncomfortable.
    • Deal promptly with any allegations or concerns.
    • Offer support to anyone involved in a complaint.


    Why wait until the legislation comes in to take action in this important area? For more information, please contact me.

  2. How to attract good candidates without breaking the bank

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    Recruitment can be a challenge at the best of times but recruitment in a worldwide pandemic with an unpredictable economy?  That is a real challenge many businesses are facing right now. So how do you attract good candidates without breaking the bank? Here are my five top tips…

    What does the company need?

    Firstly, it’s important to evaluate the role. Is it a new or existing role? If so, do you really need someone full-time? Could part-time hours or a job share work? Could the duties be distributed to existing employees? These may seem like obvious questions but it’s easy to replace jobs as a like for like so consider what the company actually needs.

    Once this has been established, look in-house! Could you up-skill an existing employee? Could you put a referral scheme in place if an employee recommends a friend for the job?


    Sell your story

    Every company has a story behind it. Attract good candidates by sharing your story and making it relatable. Be completely open about the company’s mission, values and culture. Going to work isn’t about just doing a job. Prospective candidates want to know who they are working for, what they get in return, and they want to ensure the company’s values align with their own. Selling the story of the company is as equally important as the candidate selling themselves. Recruitment is a two-way decision.


    Raise your online profile

    Social media is huge now so make sure your company is visible. A vast majority of jobseekers will be active on social media or the internet at the very least, so it’s important to raise the company profile wherever it’s listed but especially on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed. There are so many options to list jobs free on social media but the real benefit here is that you reach a much wider audience to attract good candidates than job boards alone.


    Flexible and/or remote working

    We have seen a huge rise in flexible and remote working since the start of COVID19. Giving employees the flexibility to balance their home and work life is an incredibly attractive benefit. It increases the pool of candidates by radius and makes long distance commutes much more sustainable. In this day and age, having a good reputation for a healthy work/life balance is a great place to be.


    Attract good candidate with great opportunities

    Offer development and career progression opportunities where possible. Not only is it attractive to a prospective employee, but you are also likely to stand in a better position when it comes to employee retention too. Offering training courses or learning materials is a great way to attract good candidates because it shows that you’re invested in employee development.  With grants and levy’s available for many, this could be an attractive benefit with very little cost.


    Best of luck in finding the great candidates you need. If you need any further support, please contact me.

  3. The Cost of Conflict at Work

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    Many businesses experience conflict at work.  While some disagreement can lead to healthy debate, conflict can be disruptive.  According to a new ACAS report, it can also be extremely costly.

    ACAS’ report, “Estimating the cost of workplace conflict“, has some sobering statistics.  It found:

    • In 2018  – 2019, 9.7 million UK employees experienced conflict at work.  The working population is c31 million people.
    • Only 5% of those people resigned.
    • The cost of recruiting and training their replacements was estimated to be £14.9 billion.
    • 40% of those that remained in their jobs, said they felt less motivated as a result.
    • Conflict related sickness absence cost £2.2 billion.
    • The management time spent dealing with employment tribunals cost c£282 million per year.
    • With another £264 million spent on legal fees.

    Conflict at work leads to poor morale, staff turnover and costs to your business.


    Potential Causes

    We all have our own history and beliefs that influence the way we look at things.  Some things that seem unimportant to us can be hugely significant to others.  Football is a prime example.  Many people have been glued to the Euros. Others can’t wait for them to be over.

    That’s the same with work.  One person’s necessary improvement can be another person’s unreasonable criticism.  Conflict can arise from many areas including:

    • resistance to change
    • ineffective communication
    • unrealistic expectations
    • poor work habits
    • personality clashes
    • poor working environment

    Potentially, returning from furlough may be a source of conflict.  “You’ve had all this time off while we have been working” V “everything has changed and everyone expects me just to get on with it”.


    Dealing with Conflict

    Conflict needs to be nipped in the bud.  If it isn’t, it can escalate and infect other people.

    Speak individually to those involved. Find out what is happening and what is concerning them.  Listen carefully and you may be pleasantly surprised at how small adjustments can make a big difference.

    Sometimes, encouraging them to understand another’s perception can be helpful.  Again, back to the football. As an Arsenal supporter, I cannot understand anyone wanting Spurs to win.  Spurs fans would, of course, not agree.  Our perceptions of exactly the same thing are completely different.  To a Chelsea fan, we are both wrong.

    If you have tried to resolve matters yourself and conflict still exists, you may want to try Mediation.  Mediation has proved to be a very effective way of resolving disputes informally and one where the parties stay in control.


    If you are experiencing a workplace conflict or would like to find out more about mediation, please contact me.

  4. What to do if your employee refuses to return to work

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    At long last, we can see signs of normality returning.  We can go back to shops, restaurants and even football stadiums.  Employers are reopening their workplaces.  However, what can you do if your employee refuses to return?  It’s a question I am increasingly being asked.

    For many businesses, long-term or indefinite homeworking may not be sustainable.  Equally, some employees cannot wait to escape working from their bedrooms.  For many, “going to work” has taken on a completely different meaning over the last 18 months.  While some welcome getting back to the office, others have no wish to do so.

    Consider why your employee refuses to return

    Covid-19 has had such a big impact across the globe and has affected people in different ways. The first thing to consider is why your employee refuses to return to the workplace. This could be one of many reasons including:


    • Anxieties around catching Covid-19 in the workplace.
    • The employee or someone they live with is considered clinically vulnerable.
    • They want to be fully vaccinated before returning to the workplace.
    • Their personal circumstances have changed.  Office working is no longer suitable for them.
    • The luxury of no travel. I don’t think anyone has missed the rush hour.
    • Change! They simply enjoy working from home and don’t see why they need to go back.


    Understanding why your employee refuses to return is a key first step.  Push too hard and you may lose a valued employee.  Work together to understand and address their concerns, you may find you have a more engaged employee, moving forward.  Proceed with caution, sensitively and flexibly where possible.


    What are the business requirements?

    From a business perspective, it’s important to consider the needs of the business. Does home working have a negative impact on the business? Could the business make it work? Given the current circumstances, send your employees a questionnaire to gather their input to help your decision making going forward.

    Once you have established the business needs, consider the individual needs of those who are refusing to return. What are their reasons and how can you support them? Could you meet in the middle with partial home working or a temporary solution and a phased return to work?


    What does the legislation say?

    If you have considered the above with no signs of progressing the conversation further, you can suggest the employee submits a flexible working request.  As with all flexible working requests, this should be considered in a reasonable manner and can only be refused, if you can demonstrate one of the eight reasons below:


    • Extra costs that will damage the business.
    • The work cannot be reorganised among other staff.
    • People cannot be recruited to do the work.
    • Flexible working will affect quality and performance.
    • The business will not be able to meet customer demand.
    • There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.
    • The business is planning changes to the workforce.


    Being flexible, understanding and supportive may help you and your employee to reach the balance you need.  However, if you cannot reach a position that works for the business and your employee still refuses to return to the workplace, please contact me.

  5. New Holiday Headaches for Employers

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    The one thing that every one of us can agree on, I’m sure, is that we would like a holiday.  Preferably to somewhere warm and sunny.   However, this year is likely to present a whole new host of holiday challenges for employers.


    Overseas Travel

     At the time of writing, UK citizens are banned from all but essential travel abroad.  When that ban is lifted, it is likely we will be required to self-isolate on arrival back in the UK.

    I expect that, when restrictions are eased, there will be a rush of people looking to holiday abroad.  This will be on top of all those holidays that have been postponed from last year.  The requirement to self-isolate could prove to be a significant issue for those that cannot work from home.

    When it comes to agreeing holiday requests, you need to find out if they plan to travel abroad and if so, when and where they are going.   Are they allowing a period for self-isolation after they return?  Are they just hoping they won’t need to?  If there is one thing we have learnt from this pandemic it is to plan for the worst.  Assuming they must self-isolate, what do you need to have in place?

    If this will affect you, adjust your holiday booking processes now to find out this essential information.


    Holiday carry over

    You may have agreed to your employees carrying over additional leave they were not able to take last year due to COVID.  Some employees may have up to 20 additional days, which must be used within 2 years.  You cannot pay them for any holiday they have not used unless they are leaving your employment.

    If you have allowed your employees to carry over a substantial amount of holiday, think carefully about how you want them to take this.  If you let the situation drift you could be faced with a larger than normal backlog of holidays and/or a big bill when someone leaves your employment.

    You can require employees to take leave when you tell them to, provided you give twice as much notice as the amount of leave you require them to take.  If they are on furlough at the time, you must top their pay up to 100% of salary.


    Using Up Holiday Entitlement

    The Government are actively discouraging people from booking summer holidays abroad.  Your sunseekers may be banking on the situation changing later in the year.

    As we approach the end of any holiday year, there is often a panic to use up holiday entitlement. If people delay taking their main holidays to go abroad, this headache could be worse than ever.  Set yourself some targets throughout the year as to how much holiday you expect people to take and by when.

    As with all annual leave, it is up to you to agree when they take it.  You can say “no”.  You may need to if you see there is going to be an overlap of key employees due to potential isolation issues. No one likes their holiday request being turned down, particularly after the difficult year we have all had.   Make it clear to your employees that the likelihood of isolation is something you have to take into account.  They should therefore make their requests early and not book anything before their holiday request has been approved.


    This year it is not just your employees that need to plan for their holidays.  Take the time now to put new processes in place and make your employees aware of the particular difficulties you face. If you need any support with this, please contact me.

  6. How to plan your return to the workplace

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    A return to the workplace as we know it is now looking closer.  Happily it’s time to start looking forward.  This blog looks at what you should be thinking of now to return to your business normal.

    A return to the workplace

    The Government have been careful to say that vaccinations alone will not be enough to keep us out of another lockdown.  Therefore, you must continue to follow Government advice on social distancing, PPE and other working practices.  Before your staff return to the workplace, look at your COVID risk assessment again. Is it still appropriate?  Are there any additional measures you should put in place?

    If you have more than 50 employees and meet certain criteria, you can register to order COVID tests.  This could help prevent outbreaks in your  business.

    Has your fire prevention equipment been serviced recently?  Fire servicing companies will be busy post lockdown so if your service is overdue, book it now.

    Has anything changed?  If you moved offices because you needed less space, have you confirmed this to your team in writing?  Will you be adopting new practices?  Now is a great time to put them into place.

    Do any of your employees need to update their certifications, such as first aid, manual handling or safeguarding.  If so, can you get these completed online before they return to the workplace?

    What worked well?

    Many of us have found that some things have worked surprisingly well over the last year.  That being the case, why would you want to change them back?

    With so much disruption from the pandemic, many people have found a different work/life balance which works better for them.  According to a YouGov poll, 57% of people want to continue some form of working from home after the pandemic.  Talk to your team now to understand their feelings on this important issue.  Can you introduce a mix of home and office working and if so, how will it work?  Should there be core office hours/days?  What are the implications for the technology you need?

    Daily morning briefings have helped remote teams keep in touch.   Why not continue when you return to the workplace?  Always remember to include anyone who is working from home that day.

    Business travel

    After a year of zoom meetings, the way we do business is going to change.  Your  team may not need to go out to as many meetings.  If so, what implication does this have on their work?

    Alternatively, you may see this as an opportunity to catch up on business travel.  If so, check whether any additional insurance or precautions need to be put in place.  Remember, employees may need to be quarantined on arrival in the UK or abroad.

    New joiners in lockdown

    Any additional staff who joined you remotely will have missed several key stages of their induction.  It is important to go back over the stages you have missed to help them settle into their new circumstances.

    Arrange for them to be shown around the premises.  Remember things such catering dos and don’ts, fire and first aid procedures as well as introducing them to key colleagues.

    You will need to check their original passport or other documentation to confirm their right to work in the UK.

    Your new employees may have met their colleagues online but missed out on the nuances that make teams tick, such as chatting about common interests, how they have their tea and the little things they find annoying.  Social distancing permitting, how can you help your new colleagues catch up?

    Get reacquainted with the workplace

    To some extent or another, everyone has had difficulties during COVID.  Your team may have concerns about their finances, family, anxiety about returning to work or have suffered a bereavement.  Managers should be tasked with holding return to work meetings with every individual in their team.  Focus on their wellbeing and any concerns they may have.  If you don’t already have one, consider offering an employee support programme. Many companies offer this as  part of a wider benefits package.

    You may need to organise some refresher training, especially if you are bringing people back from furlough.  You’ll need to make people aware of any changes in services, processes, and supplier arrangements.

    You will also need to arrange retraining in your fire procedures and to do a fire evacuation test.

    Be sensitive to how different people have been affected by COVID. Some people have been furloughed on a reduced income for sometime, while others may have been working harder than normal to keep things running.  The uneven nature of this may lead to tensions.

    Now is the time to look forward and plan for the return to the workplace.  Good luck and please do contact me if you need any support.


  7. How to promote good mental health at work

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    Mental health and wellbeing are something that we should all take care of at the best of times.  I took a proper break over Christmas and it made me realise just how exhausted I was.  I’m sure many of you felt the same.

    In December, there was a feeling of collective relief that 2020 was over. In January, we all realised the problems had far from gone away.  I think it is fair to say everyone is feeling the strain.  Now more than ever, we need to take care of our own and our employees’ mental health and wellbeing.


    What can you do to help your employees?

    Keep communicating: Regular meetings remind them they are part of a team.  In fact, some have found that, by making having regular meetings, communication has improved while people have worked from home.

    Reach out regularly:   Are they finding home schooling tough?  Do they live alone? Are they worried about someone close to them? Do they have mental health issues? If so, a friendly chat and a coffee may be just the release they need.  It may be good for you too.

    Give recognition: Make a habit of recognising team members and calling out their good work.  Feeling noticed can turn a bad day around.

    Be creative: Make time for team socialising.  It is easy to always be working in a virtual World.  We all need a bit of downtime too.  It could be coffee and cakes or something more creative.  Remember, some of your team may not see anyone else outside of work.

    Manage expectations: keep your employees informed of what is happening in your business and how it affects them.  False rumours fill empty spaces.


    Practical Help

    Mental Health First Aiders are trained to support people who are showing signs of struggling with their mental health.  I personally found it a challenging but enlightening course.  St John’s Ambulance continue to run these courses.

    Make your employees aware of any employee assistance programmes you have. These are often available through benefits packages (eg Perkbox), private health insurance and health cash plans (eg Healthshield, Westfield Health).  If you already have these, publish details to your team.  If not, they are reasonably priced and can provide welcome additional benefits.

    You may feel it appropriate to support your employees with a course of counselling.  If so, always choose a qualified counsellor.

    The NHS’ Every Mind Matters website has an interactive quiz to give you personalised tips.  Mind have some great practical information and tips too.


    What can you do to help your own mental health?

    While you are looking out for everyone else, please don’t forget yourself.

    Keeping eating and drinking properly.

    Make time and space for you to unwind.  I know that’s difficult but you can’t be under incredible pressure indefinitely.  Like everyone else, you need a release. Build regular exercise into your day and give yourself time to have fun.  My daily walks have become more important than ever.

    Stop checking your emails.  Have a switch off time when you turn away from work.  You will feel much fresher for doing so.


    While there is light at the end of the tunnel, we all need to look after our mental health. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further.