Managing staff can be very rewarding, but it is not an easy task. Here at Avensure, we support businesses across all sectors and of all sizes, yet when it comes to the challenge of managing people, there are themes that crop up time and again.
In this article, we explore the most common employer pet peeves (in no particular order) that our clients raise with us every day, along with some tips on how to overcome them.
Here Are 5 Employer Pet Peeves When Managing Staff
1. Sickness Absence: Navigating the Sick Days Maze
As the old saying goes, ‘nothing is certain except for death and taxes’, and as most employers will agree, employee sickness absence should also be added to this list.
All employees will be absent due to sickness from time to time. In fact, a recent CIPD and SimplyHealth study found that sickness absence is at a 10-year high in the UK.
Here are our top tips for managing sickness absence:
- Keep accurate absence records, including the reasons for the absence. ‘Sick’ is not enough; our online absence software will assist you. Learn more about our absence management software.
- Return-to-work interviews: even if the employee has been absent for one day, a regular back-to-work interview is crucial for tackling high absence levels. Return-to-work forms are available from Avensure.
- Short-term or general absences that are not related to disability or pregnancy can be managed through disciplinary procedures. Our experts can advise you on this.
- Keeping in touch through welfare meetings: when an employee is absent, especially if it is a long-term sickness absence, it is important to keep in regular contact. This is not harassment; it is part of your duty of care and can make a real difference to absence levels.
- Annual leave: employees can take annual leave when they are off sick. If someone is off long-term, remind them that they have annual leave that they may wish to take. We shouldn’t use annual leave to replace time off sick, but this can assist with avoiding a huge annual leave bill if the person leaves or is dismissed following a long-term sickness absence.
- Medical capability: if an employee is absent long-term, contact Avensure for advice on commencing the medical capability procedure. This is a means of establishing if the employee is going to be able to return to work in the foreseeable future or sustain regular attendance at work, usually through obtaining medical reports or referrals to occupational health.
2. Poor Conduct: Navigating the Discipline Dilemma
Poor Employee workplace behaviour accounts for the majority of the queries we receive here at Avensure.
Here are our top tips for avoiding messy disciplinary processes:
- A lack of investigation: one of the biggest mistakes employers make when it comes to disciplinary matters is not investigating workplace behaviour. Not only will failing to investigate increase the risk of unfairness, but it will also be a breach of your own disciplinary procedures, and considering you are disciplining someone for breaking the rules, this is not a good look.
- Poor note-taking—recording meetings is fine, but the recording will need to be transcribed and should only be made with the permission of everyone present.
- Don’t be a ‘judge, jury, and executioner’!
It’s important to be fair and unbiased when it comes to investigating disciplinary issues in the workplace.
One of the ways to get this wrong from the outset is to have the same person do the investigation, chair the disciplinary hearing, and then be the person to chair any possible appeal. It’s also vital to ensure that the parties involved in disciplinary proceedings have the authority to do so.
This is difficult for smaller businesses or where the person under investigation happens to be in a senior role. Exceptions can be made under these circumstances, and we can discuss this with you to help you decide the best way of managing a disciplinary investigation and procedure under these circumstances.
- Time delays: it’s important to act on allegations of misconduct quickly. This is especially important when dealing with allegations of gross misconduct, where there is often a requirement to suspend an employee from duty while an investigation is carried out. Where this process is delayed, and the employee is allowed to continue working, this can impact the fairness of any future decision to dismiss following the conclusion of the disciplinary procedure.
If witnesses need to be interviewed, it is also better to do so while the memories are fresh in everyone’s mind.
3. Lateness: Problems of Punctuality in the Workplace Solved
Much like sickness absence, employees will be late for work on occasion due to circumstances outside their control. However, if persistent lateness is not tackled properly, it can build up to a bigger problem and really upset staff morale.
Here are our top tips for managing employee punctuality at work:
- Have you issued the contract? It sounds obvious, but as well as being a legal entitlement from day one of employment, if the employee has a specific start time, the contract should state what this is. Likewise, staff rotas should be published in as timely a manner as possible to reduce the risk of confusion over when people should be at work.
- Are your absence reporting procedures up-to-date and communicated? It is vital that employees know when and whom they should call if they are going to be late or absent due to sickness. Take the opportunity to remind staff of the correct procedures they should be following.
- Investigate, investigate, investigate! It’s the employee’s responsibility to be mindful of punctuality in the workplace and get to work on time, but if an employee is repeatedly late, it is important to find out why. They may be struggling with their start time due to public transport, or their social life may be taking greater priority over their contractual commitments to you. Whatever the reason, it is important to find out what’s going on so the matter can be dealt with.
- The employee should be ready to start work at their start time! If an employee starts work at 9 a.m., then the employer should reasonably expect them to be ready to start work at 9 a.m. Employees rolling through the door at 9 a.m., having a 15-minute chat whilst casually taking their coats off and disappearing to make their morning brew—before you know it, the best part of their first hour has gone and little to no work has been carried out.
Employers shouldn’t expect their staff to arrive at work significantly earlier than their start time, but they should expect the employee to be ready to work. If this is not happening, then the employer is within their rights to tackle this as an issue of lateness and punctuality at work.
Remember, the employer sets the standards for enforcing rules and procedures in the workplace. You don’t have to watch the clock to the millisecond, but be sure to tackle poor punctuality in the workplace early to prevent it from escalating into a bigger issue.
4. ‘Inflexible’ Staff: Balancing Flexibility
Often, employers feel that they are the ones who are always required to show flexibility, whether that’s agreeing to take time off at short notice for appointments or accommodating last-minute annual leave requests or rota changes. However, when it is the employer who needs the employee to have a flexible and adaptable approach to work to cover for unplanned employee sickness absence, it often tumbleweeds all around.
Here are our top tips for arranging cover for staff shortages:
- Check out the contract! It’s surprising how many employers are not aware of the clauses within their own contracts that can assist them in tackling a staff shortage. Often, there are clauses in a contract of employment that require employees to undertake extra hours to cover for unexpected staff shortages, such as sickness.
These clauses do not mean the employee is forever at the employer’s disposal, but they can be useful if cover is needed quickly.
That is not to say that employees can be forced to work more than their contracted hours, but the best way to make these clauses work for you is communication, and this starts at the recruitment stage. So, when you recruit new staff, make sure they know that they may be required to have a flexible and adaptable approach to work, including additional hours.
- Be reasonable in how you go about arranging cover—for example, seeking employees to work voluntary overtime to cover for staff when they are absent due to sickness, where possible. Make sure that staff know how they will be rewarded, i.e., will they be paid for the extra hours or given time back to take off at another time? This is known as time off in lieu, or TOIL.
- Overtime: When using overtime, it is important that employers know the difference between the different types of overtime.
Voluntary overtime is the most common way overtime is worked in the UK. This is more of an ‘ad-hoc’ arrangement where staff work additional hours as and when required.
Compulsory or contractual overtime is set out in the contract of employment and is effectively an extension of an employee’s working hours. This type can be guaranteed overtime or non-guaranteed.
An example of non-guaranteed overtime is that if a task runs past its usual finish time, the employees may be required to work extra hours to ensure it is completed.
Guaranteed overtime is overtime that the employee is contractually required to undertake, and the employer is contractually required to provide and pay for the overtime hours. This type of arrangement is useful when, for example, contractual overtime requires someone to work a Saturday every month or work a late shift once a week, but it will not be suitable for short-term staffing problems.
Be aware that contractual, compulsory, or guaranteed overtime must be factored in when calculating and paying annual leave.
Be careful not to discriminate against workers who cannot work additional hours due to a disability or caring responsibilities.
- Mobility clauses
A mobility clause is where the employer can move staff across multiple sites or change work locations.
This can be a temporary move, which can be useful if you have a staff shortage at one location but not another, or the clause can require staff to relocate to a different location altogether.
Mobility clauses must be used reasonably, with consideration given to the following:
- The distance, travel time, and costs—if it is a permanent move some distance from the original work location, this may be a redundancy situation.
- The individual employee circumstances (carriage, school runs/carer responsibilities, etc.)
- Notice: aim to give as much notice as possible.
- Has the mobility clause been used before? If there is a mobility clause, but in the 10 years your employee has worked for you, it has never been acted on, this may affect the enforceability of the clause.
5. Annual Leave Headaches: Managing Time Off Requests
Employers will aim to be as accommodating as possible when it comes to approving annual leave, but sometimes, it’s just not possible to agree to an annual leave request. Perhaps you have too many people off on annual leave already, or the work levels are such that you need all hands on deck.
Whatever the reason, here are our dos and don’ts when authorising and declining annual leave:
- DO be fair and consistent when approving annual leave. A ‘first come, first served’ system is best to avoid allegations of favouritism.
- DO have a cap on the number of staff allowed off at any one time and stipulate a minimum amount of notice required. This will help you manage an annual leave request to avoid becoming short-staffed.
- DO ensure that if you expect staff to keep annual leave back for business closures, all staff are aware of this.
- DO ensure that all staff are aware of the rules regarding booking and authorising annual leave and that managers apply them fairly and reasonably.
- Don’t turn down an annual leave request on principle. While it is good practice to have rules in place, there may be occasions where the correct notice cannot be given, or you may need to allow someone to take the day off even though you are already at maximum capacity, e.g., at a funeral.
- Don’t impose unreasonable notice periods for booking annual leave or heavily restrict the number of staff allowed off at any one time. For example, it is not reasonable to insist someone give one month’s notice to book one day off. Likewise, if you are too restrictive on the number of staff you allow off, you will end up with a situation where your staff cannot take all of their leave in the annual leave year.
- Don’t be mindful that staff may request annual leave for religious observance. There isn’t an automatic right to take time off for this reason, but do bear in mind that many bank holidays in the UK are timed around Christian festivals and tend to have set dates, whereas festivals such as Eid and Hanukkah do not fall on the same dates every year. Please ensure that members of staff requesting annual leave for religious reasons are not treated less favourably.
Finally, Addressing Sickness After an Annual Leave Request Is Denied
This one really sticks in the employer’s craw! If you suspect that an employee is going to go off sick after their annual leave has been refused, you can turn down their request in writing and forewarn the employee that if they do not turn up for work, their absence will be unauthorised.
You can also forewarn them that if they subsequently call in sick, this may not be deemed an acceptable reason for their absence (unless it is genuine, of course) and that disciplinary action and loss of pay may occur. Avensure can assist with a letter for this purpose.
By addressing these common employer pet peeves with strategic approaches, you can create a more harmonious and efficient workplace for your staff and business. For personalised guidance and support, please contact our employment team. Simply click here: Avensure Contact!