Fit and healthy staff make for a fit and healthy company

This is part two of our wellbeing series. You can read our previous blog on how vital holidays are for a healthy workplace here.

As we head into summer, health and fitness come to the fore. We all start to feel more energised once the sun shines, and are more inclined to eat healthily, get out in the fresh air and do a bit more physical activity.

In the second part of a three-part series on wellbeing, this month we look at how employee health, wellbeing and engagement lead to organisational success.

“There is substantial evidence showing that employee health, well-being and engagement are important for organisational success” CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development

The Research Insight from which the above is taken states: There is substantial evidence showing that employee health, well-being and engagement are important for organisational success. If employees are in poor health and/or disengaged, there are potentially significant risks for their employer, such as: costs associated with sickness absence, presenteeism (employees present at work, but not performing because of health problems) and employee turnover, and the legal or reputational risks associated with employees taking a case to an employment tribunal or other litigation. Conversely, where an employer looks after the health and well-being of the workforce and engages employees, they can expect positive gains, including improved performance and productivity.

Holidays

We may be off work, but how many of us are, in effect, just away from our desks? The rise of smartphones and other portable devices means that even if we’re on the other side of the world, we are likely to see work-related emails and posts – and of course more likely to engage, even while we sit by the pool!

In a Harris poll of 2000 UK employees conducted for jobs review site Glassdoor last year, 51 per cent admitted to doing some work while on holiday. Of those employees who worked on holiday, 11 per cent said they were worried about getting behind with their workload; 10 per cent said were hoping for a pay rise; and even more worryingly – 6 per cent feared they would lose their job.

Creating a culture where employees either can’t or won’t switch off does nobody any favours. In the UK, workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks (28 days) paid holiday a year – a guideline intended to ensure their health and wellbeing. Workers who are always ‘on the job’ are more likely to fall prey to stress-related illness.

Employers can also risk falling foul of employment regulations, as staff who are ‘on call’ like this are not properly on holiday, and guidelines on working hours and holiday entitlements could be breached.

Productivity

According to research by Towers Watson (Fairhurst and O’Connor 2010), the happiest and most productive employees are those that enjoy both high levels of wellbeing and high levels of engagement. An employee who has a high level of engagement but whose wellbeing is not taken care of may be very productive, but is more likely to leave an organisation or simply burnout.

Those with high levels of wellbeing, but a lack of engagement, are likely to stay with the organisation for a long time, but are less likely to be committed to the company’s goals.

You may like to download and read a copy of their related strategy article: Employee Well-Being: Taking Engagement and Performance to the Next Level.

So, to keep your staff at their most productive, you need to take care of both their wellbeing and their engagement levels – and ensuring that they take ‘proper’ holidays is one way you can do this.

Three ways you can help staff take a proper break:

  • Ensure an appropriate handover to the staff who remain occurs before they go away.
  • Insist that texts or emails are only sent for very urgent matters.
  • Set up phones and emails with an out-of-office message and divert emails and calls to another member of staff for the duration of the holiday.

If you need clarity regarding holiday entitlement for your staff, or on any of the other points above, please do get in touch. Email us or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.

Six Ways To Spring Clean Your HR Activities

Do you spring clean your house (or better still, get someone else to do it for you!)? This is a great time to spring clean your business too.

The tax year has ended, so many companies will be breathing a sigh of relief – and this is a good time to take a close look at how your organisation operates. Here we focus on getting your Human Resources house in order…

1. Staff reviews

We’re a quarter way through the year now – yes really! So if you recruited new staff at the beginning of the year, they will be more than half-way through a six-month probation period. This is a good time to have a review with them; ascertain exactly how they’re getting on, and where they need more training.  There’s no point waiting until the probationary period is up – get them on the right tracks now. You can also gauge how they are ‘onboarding’, ie, getting used to the social and performance aspects of their job, and learning what skills, attitudes and knowledge will help them to function well within your organisation.

2. Attendance reviews

Poor attendance not only impacts on the record of the person who is not turning up to work, or arriving consistently late, but also has a knock-on effect on others within their team too and of course on the performance of your business. For a start, everyone has to pick up the work not done by the absentee, which can mean some team members become overstretched. If no action is taken against the culprit, it can also lead to resentment and can contribute to a culture where others think they too can exploit the system. Look for and address any issues now, before they become a real problem.

3. Look at time-saving software

How much time do you spend trying to keep track of staff holidays, sick days, meetings and so on? If you have various staff working shifts or part-time hours, it can be hard to keep track of what time off they are owed. Consider cloud-based personnel software, which can manage all your staff data and files, and let your staff request holidays using an intuitive calendar. Contact us or find out more by following this link.

4. Keep in touch

Make sure you keep in touch with staff who are on long-term leave such as maternity leave, bereavement leave or have a long-term health issue. The reasons for this are twofold: not only does it mean that they feel part of the team, and are kept up to date with changes within the company, social events and new job offers, but it also ensures that if they decide they won’t be coming back, you’re likely to hear about it sooner rather than later.

Ensure you have a good policy setting out how you manage KIT (Keep In Touch) days for those on maternity leave or shared parental leave. It should outline how the company will keep in touch with your people while they are away – and what information will be passed on, when days can be taken and what payment arrangements are in place.

5. Objectives and reviews

Taking a look at your objectives should not just be a once-a-year event. Schedule in set times for reviewing company goals and objectives. We know that the pace of change is fast and to keep up with some of your markets or customers you may need to tweak your goals from time to time. Do communicate and discuss the changes with everyone in the organisation as they can help to achieve your objectives if they know what is expected of them. The same is true for teams and individuals – regular one-to-one meetings ensure that you can identify any learning or development issues at an early stage, deal with any problems, and also offer praise, incentives and rewards on a regular basis, and it provides an opportunity for useful two-way feedback.

6. Holidays

It’s important that staff take their minimum statutory holiday entitlement. A good work/life balance ensures your staff get enough down time and family time so that when they are at work they can focus and perform well. Make sure your staff are booking and taking their holidays regularly throughout the year. Does your booking process work well? What system and software will you use? Again a cloud-based system can help with this. Consider our partner HR software system to manage time off – whether it is holiday or not – or get in touch for further information and assistance. If staff aren’t taking their holidays, look at the reasons why, and what you can do to alleviate them. Is their workload too heavy, are there too many project deadlines, are you short-staffed, or do some managers make it difficult for staff to take their holidays?

For help with your human resources requirements, issues and activities, please contact us for a no obligation discussion. Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.  Email us or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

How to manage maternity leave in your small business

“Managing maternity leave is a challenge for all employers, but the prospect of a key team member being away for up to a year can be a particular concern for small businesses,” says consultant Cecily Lalloo of Aylesbury-based Embrace HR, which provides HR advice and support to SMEs.

As Lalloo explains, roles within small firms are often more diverse, with one person having many responsibilities, special knowledge and established customer and supplier relationships, which can make finding a suitable temporary replacement problematic.

Employer concerns

“Owners need to be aware of the full range of employment rights that pregnant women, new mothers and new fathers have. There can be serious legal consequences if you get it wrong,” Lalloo warns.

If you lack knowledge about employment rights, Lalloo strongly recommends seeking tailored professional advice. “There are so many aspects – maternity leave and pay, flexible working requests, holiday entitlement, pension contributions, whether the employee keeps the mobile phone or company car, keeping in touch days, etc. There’s a lot of free information online, but many small business owners tell me they don’t have time to wade through it.”

Recruiting temporary cover inevitably involves additional cost and effort, and as Lalloo warns: “You don’t know if the employee will return after her maternity leave. More than one employee can be pregnant at the same time. All of these things can cause a small business owner concern when employees become pregnant, but effective management can minimise impact,” she stresses.

“Being supportive and having a flexible approach to employment can also ensure that talented, experienced and productive employees remain with your business after the birth of their child.”

Proper planning

Sue Tumelty is the founder and executive director of The HR Dept, which also provides HR support to SMEs via a nationwide network of 60 local offices. “The key to managing maternity is effective planning and good communication throughout,” she says. “Things don’t always go to plan, of course – things can change after the child is born.”

Tumelty advises starting to plan as soon as your staff member tells you she is pregnant. “Otherwise, before you know it they’re holding a baby shower and you still haven’t found cover. Talk to your employee and make sure important information about their role is written down for handover. If there can be a day or two overlap between them going on leave and their replacement starting, all the better.”

Statutory maternity leave

All pregnant employees are entitled to paid time-off for antenatal care and eligible employees can take up to 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave (26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave), which can begin 11 weeks before the expected week of the birth. Mothers don’t have to take 52 weeks’ leave, but they must take at least two (or four if they work in a factory).

Eligible employees can claim up to 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay (90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks, then 33 weeks at £138.18 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower).

Some employers offer more generous leave and pay. Employers pay SMP to the employee, and businesses whose total annual National Insurance contributions are less than £45,000 can claim all of it back plus 3%. This is deducted from tax payable to HM Revenue & Customs.

Recruitment and induction

Tumelty says the same rules and good practice apply when recruiting temporary replacements (“having a clear job description and person specification will help when considering applicants”), and you should aim to integrate the new person quickly and efficiently, providing guidance, support and training where necessary.

What about the employee on maternity leave? “Staying in touch with them is extremely important,” she stresses. “There are 10 statutory KIT [keeping in touch] days, which are a great way to make an employee still feel part of your business.

“The employee is paid for coming in, without it affecting their SMP. KIT days can be used for training, actual work or even business social events. After many months at home with their baby some mums lose confidence and KIT days are a great way of easing their journey back to work.”

Caution advised

Tumelty recommends phased returns at the end of maternity leave. “One or two days at first, then increased gradually. Don’t expect a returning employee to hit the ground running from day one. There will have been significant changes for them and possibly your business since they’ve been away.”

Tumelty sounds a final word of caution: “Occasionally, a client will tell us they prefer the replacement and wonder what they can do about it,” she reveals. “But if they dismiss the staff member on maternity leave, they risk being taken to an employment tribunal – and they will lose. Employers must be very careful, because pregnant employees are protected by discrimination law, quite rightly so.”

Common mistakes

So, where do small firms commonly go wrong when it comes to managing maternity? “Some delay unnecessarily, rather than starting to plan and act as soon as they’re told about the pregnancy,” Lalloo replies. “This can mean you end up recruiting the wrong person, meaning you’ll have to repeat the process, which wastes time and money.”

If you expect other staff members to take on additional responsibility, Lalloo recommends including them in decisions, otherwise they can feel resentment at the additional tasks they’ve just been handed. “I also advise creating a checklist of key tasks and a timetable so that the process is smooth as possible. Don’t leave things until it’s too late. Don’t forget – babies can arrive earlier than expected,” she adds.

Republished from The Guardian
Mark Williams
Tuesday 17 June 2014 07.00 BST
https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/jun/17/manage-maternity-leave-small-business
Photograph: Hugh Threlfall / Alamy