Firstly, a very happy new year to all of you. I think it’s fair to say that 2019 is going to be a year like few which have gone before. So here, to try and make sure you are as prepared as possible, are a few of the HR issues to look forward to over the next 12 months.
Are you a worker? Sounds a silly question doesn't it? But a landmark case currently being considered by the Court of Appeal revolves around just that issue.
Whisper it quietly, but Christmas is fast approaching. I know it barely seems a couple of months since the last festive bash, but offices around the country are already gearing up for the annual Christmas shindig. They can, of course, be great occasions. Run properly they are good for morale, good for breaking down barriers and a chance for your staff to see a slightly more human side of their boss. But run badly, they can turn into an HR and employment disaster area.
We’ve all worked in situations where our colleagues rub us up the wrong way. Going into work can be a miserable experience if we know we are going to spend the whole day sat next to the office moaner spouting an endless diatribe of negativity. Equally, if we have to work with the office know-it-all for extended periods, even the most patient of us can start to feel a little weary. But most of the time we recognise that such tensions are a natural part of life and so we keep our head down, smile and get on with doing the best job we can. But what happens when those at the top of a company cannot bear to work with each other?
All present and correct? Not necessarily…. New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of lost working days due to absence in the UK has fallen to a record low. It seems the average UK worker took just 4.1 sick days last year, compared to a whopping 7.2 days in 1993. That must be good news for both employers and employees, right? Fewer days off means extra productivity for the boss, whilst more time at work would seem to indicate a fitter, healthier workforce. Well, as ever with these things, there is a hidden story to these statistics. And that hidden story can be found in the rise of what is known as presenteeism. Put simply, more and more of us are hauling ourselves in to the office when we are not really up to it.
The recent controversy surrounding Ted Baker boss Ray Kelvin raises an important issue. Mr Kelvin, you may remember, has temporarily stepped down from his post whilst an investigation is held into complaints he forced workers to hug him. Many claimed the hugs made them feel uncomfortable, whilst some also reported the kissing of necks and massaging of ears. Let’s be clear about one thing. No employee should ever be treated in a way which makes them feel physically uncomfortable. Sexual harassment concerns aside, you are hardly likely to get the best out of any member of staff whose nerves have been shredded in this way.
It’s over a year now since the #MeToo movement swept across social media in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. The movement had originally been founded in 2006, but shot to prominence after it was shared as a hashtag as women around the globe revealed their experiences of sexual assault, harassment and abuse at the hands of men. More than 12 months on, it’s fair to say the issue has fixed itself firmly on the social and political agenda. But that does not mean that the problem has gone away. Far from it in fact. An Everyday Sexism and TUC survey earlier this year found that 52 per cent of women say they have suffered some form of sexual harassment at work. It’s almost too depressing a figure to contemplate. Add to it the fact that around half the women who reported an incident said their employer took no action and you can see just how deeply ingrained the problem seems to be.
Looking forward to this year’s office Christmas party? Of course you are. It’s a great chance to let your hair down, get to know your colleagues a bit better and build up a bit of team spirit. And if you get the chance to have the odd drink or two into the bargain, so much the better. But here’s a statistic which may just be worth bearing in mind before you unleash yourself fully onto your workmates.
There are few of us who haven’t made mistakes in our lives. For some, this might have meant falling foul of the law and picking up a criminal record. And of course, this can be a real cause of stress and worry when it comes to finding a job. We are frequently asked if a job applicant must disclose a criminal record if they have one. The short answer is yes – if they are asked about it. But there is no legal obligation to offer details of a criminal record if the interviewer does not ask.
Constructive dismissal: What you need to know. Mike is not popular with his boss. Although he works hard and to a good standard, he frequently criticises management and is regarded by his colleagues as a negative influence in the factory at which he works. So when, without warning, he is moved from day to night shifts and told he must take it or leave it, Mike puts in a claim for constructive dismissal. He argues that his employer has changed his terms of employment without notification simply to get rid of him and wins his case at an Employment Tribunal. If Mike’s case sounds familiar to you, it might be that a claim for constructive dismissal is something you should consider.
When is being at work not being at work? Sounds like a daft question doesn’t it? But a recent Court of Appeal ruling has thrown the issue up in the air and made life a lot more uncertain for a huge number of workers. The case revolved around the rights of care workers who have to spend the night at their client’s homes, sleeping in so that they are on hand in the event of an emergency.