There’s an election on, so we need a political reference.

Albert Reynolds pic The late Albert Reynolds, former Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil famously said: “It’s the little things that trip you up”.  This certainly resonates with really interesting cases from the Decisions section of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) website.

Both cases draw upon the Organisation of Working Time Act which is actually a piece of Health and Safety legislation. The Act sets out that: –

  1. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the standards for working time and rest set out in the legislation are provided to the employee
  2. The employer is responsible for keeping leave, rest and working time records (prescribed in the legislation) to demonstrate that this has been done.

Most employers are (at least vaguely) aware of the requirement to keep records. In contrast, most are less well informed about the form and type of records to be kept.

We meet with many prospective clients that rely on payslips, pay analysis sheets, records from EPOS system logins and a variety of other types of record. It is very clear from the primary regulations that these are not, in fact, suitable and do not fulfil the Working Time Act record-keeping obligations. Recent case law has supported this view. For example, the case of Stablefield v Lacramiora, the Labour Court upheld a decision by the WRC adjudicator.

The key elements in the decision were that the Employer could not demonstrate that the requirements of the Working Time Act had been complied with as appropriate records were not maintained.

The employer relied on payslips and the pay analysis records but these were not accepted as evidence.

A similar problem arose for the employer in a different case – Betting Assistant v Bookmaker. In this case, the adjudication officer was very clear – and stated that it is not appropriate for the employer to attempt to put the onus on the employee to take their breaks and that there is an onus on the employer to provide evidence showing that the employee has taken breaks. The adjudicator went on to say that without records, there is no way in which the employer can refute the assertions of the employee. This position was endorsed by the Labour Court. The Employer, in this case, tried to rely upon EPOS records but the judgement was unequivocal in relation to these records:

“However, it is clear from the evidence adduced, that the EPOS system was not primarily designed to manage time and attendance and does not provide the functionality to record the time and duration of employees’ breaks.”

Both mentioned cases resulted in significant fines/compensation being paid by the employers.

What Working Time records are required to be kept by employers?

Employers must keep records of an employee’s hours worked on a Form OWT1 or in a substantially similar way. There is a specific exemption from the OWT 1 requirement for employers that use an electronic system of record keeping by clocking in and out.

There are a number of other exemptions for keeping records of rest breaks based around providing information and retaining records of the communications with employees. (See the WRC site for full details – or just talk to us).

The bottom line is that Employers need to approach their working time record-keeping obligations in a systematic and thorough fashion. Of course, HR Duo’s HR software fulfils all the requirements to comply with legislation and demonstrate compliance. The software also has the facility to record the communications records that are required should employers wish to utilise those exemptions.

Are you concerned about your own business’s compliance with the Working Time Act? Our free checklist is a good way to assess your status and identify areas that need attention. You can download it by clicking on the image below.

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Written by Florence Kenefick | Nov 7, 2019 3:35:32 PM

While it’s a great benefit for employees, business owners will definitely find the newly introduced Parent’s Leave regulations to be a significant burden, both financially and logistically. This will become more acute when the leave increases from six weeks to seven in 2021.

Business owners will have a number of decisions to make in relation to parent’s leave and to take particular account of whether or not they top-up maternity, adoptive or paternity leave to ensure there is no gender discrimination or bias.

What is the Parental Leave and Benefit Act 2019?

The bill will make two weeks paid Parent’s Leave available to all new parents in employment (and self-employment) from 01 November 2019.

How much will be paid to parents?

Parents will be paid (by the state) with the amount to be confirmed, but likely to be in the order of €250 per week. There is no requirement on Employers to top-up this amount.

The benefit is payable in addition to existing child related leave – maternity, paternity, adoptive and unpaid parental leave.

Who is eligible for Parent’s Leave?

The benefit applies to parents with at least one year of service with their employer whose child is born on or after 01 November 2019. The leave is non-transferable between parents. There is provision for adoption and for same-sex couples.

How does Parent’s Leave affect the employee’s rights?

Employers must treat employees on Parent’s Leave as if they are still in employment and taking of leave should not affect any of the employees’ rights and entitlements.

How long is the Parent’s Leave period

In this initial phase of implementation, each parent is entitled to two weeks. The leave must be taken within the first year (52 weeks) of the child’s birth or date of placement if being adopted. The minimum period that may be taken is one week, so the option is for either 2 x 1 week periods or 1 x 2 week period).

Operational aspects

If an employee wishes to take Parent’s Leave, they must inform their employer in writing as soon as is reasonable, but in any event, no later than four weeks prior to leave commencement. As an employer, you have no discretion in relation to timing of leave – the dates are the dates.

The employee may withdraw the notice given and must then give a further four weeks’ notice. However, the employee may postpone the leave at will with no new notice period required.

There are many other operational aspects covering complex situations including, inter alia:

  1. Early confinement
  2. Postponement due to illness
  3. Hospitalisation of the child
  4. Adoption placement dates
  5. Short or fixed-term contracts

Summary

While the measure in itself will be widely welcomed by prospective parents, the implementation of the measures will cause challenges for small and medium-sized businesses. The complex nature of the legislation and its interface with other parental-type measures means employers will need carefully worded and robust policies and procedures.

What can employers do to prepare for the new scheme?

Employers should prepare appropriate policies and procedures to ensure that they are compliant and ready to deal with any request. They should also consider the nature of their policy on maternity and paternity leave.

HR Duo advisers will be working with our clients to ensure they are up to date and ready.

In our recent survey, we learned that 69% of businesses find recruitment difficult and therefore, the loss of a member of staff can have serious implications. Conflict in the workplace is all too common and if left unchecked, increases turnover.

Statistics show that the average person spends 92,120 hours at work in their lifetime. For many of us, this will mean we spend more time with colleagues throughout the week than with family and friends, so if conflicts arise they need to be quashed before they have an impact on the wider business.

To help you navigate the hows and whys of tackling conflict and finding a swift resolution in the workplace, we have collated advice from HR professionals and Business leaders in the UK and further afield.

 

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

In the workplace individuals often come together in teams with a variety of levels of power, values, attitudes, and social factors. As these are often significant they can easily instigate conflict. For that reason, when dealing with conflict, clearing your lens from all other distractions and focusing solely on the perspective of the individual in question is essential as a skill to resolve issues. You will never get to truly understand the motive behind the conflict – no matter how many questions you ask –  if you’re not able to put yourself in their shoes.

Understand The Underlying Cause

When attempting to resolve conflict, invite the person causing it to sit down and attempt to discover the underlying issues behind it – what’s going on? Is the problem based on differing values or is it a simple misunderstanding? how would they like to resolve it to both their and your satisfaction? This involves asking great questions to diagnose the situation. At the end of the day, conflict often arises from differences in values, what’s important to one person may not be important to another.

Then Find The Middle Ground

Finally, knowing how to find a compromise is key. Don’t resolve the conflict to satisfy just your own agenda because it’ll only bring about more conflict. Think about it: from the moment you mention your concern to the individual your concern turns also into theirs. Imagine one of your co-workers being late to work every day. It’s tempting to resolve the situation quickly by telling them to be on time from now on. This might solve your problem, but because you haven’t taken time to understand their point of view it might not solve theirs. Compromise – which involves giving and taking on both sides – usually ends up with both parties walking away equally satisfied and being able to follow through on commitments to action.

Shaun Bradley is the Director of People at Perkbox.

 

#1 Lead by example

It’s important for the leadership team within any business to lead by example, especially when it comes to behaviour and attitudes towards conflicts. Consider investing in training programmes for your senior staff and managers to learn about how to handle difficult conversations and challenging team members.

The development courses will encourage your senior team to listen to people speak, take on board points of view and address employee worries calmly and effectively. Conflicts can occur when there is a clash of viewpoints, values or morals within the workplace so it’s important to listen before you react in any difficult situation to minimise the conflict further.

#2 Clear communication

A lack of clear communication in the workplace can lead to uncertainty, a sense of misdirection and an increase in stress – all factors that, when combined, are likely to result in conflict. By clearly defining roles and levels of responsibility, you’ll avoid any conflict arising as a result of decision-making and delegation of work. Plus, staff will be able to be more productive and at ease in their roles.

Healthy relationships at work are the key to a successful and rewarding organisation so, if disputes are occurring, considers using companies such as ACAS and CIPD to help with the creation of disciplinary procedures.

#3 Finding a resolve

Mediating between both parties involved in the dispute is a quick way to get to the root of the problem; not only will this allow employees to be vocal about their concerns, it will also enable you as an employer to highlight any arising issues you have in the company.

Having an impartial person that can understand both parties arguments and make a fair judgment on the outcome of a conflict has a number of benefits including restoring relationships in the long run.

Gavin White is the Managing Director at Autotech Recruit.

 

The following are my top tips for restoring harmony and defusing potential conflict issues:

  • Plan things in advance; think about the goal of the conversation and the words you will use. What does the other person need?
  • Is it the right time for this conversation? If you’re both too angry, pause and delay the conversation until you’re both calmer and able to think more rationally.
  • Stay calm and be open to the other person’s point of view.
  • Share perspectives on what the issue is. What are the facts, what are the feelings and perceptions of all people involved?
  • Express yourself without assigning blame. Listen to the other person without trying to defend yourself and criticising them.
  • Work together to problem-solve. Ask questions like “What do you think we should do about this?” and “What will make this easier for both of us?”

Anna Shields is co-founder and director at mediation and conflict resolution specialists Consensio.

 

To keep morale high and avoid conflicts, Bain and Gray have installed a buddy system in the office to encourage teamwork and to avoid issues escalating.  Each consultant has a buddy who assists with personal development and deals with any issues that are thrown up as well as areas for improvement. They also believe in a ‘praise and train’ approach which co-founder Emily Bain says is tried and tested:

‘We have found that staff always benefit from regular praise and updates on how they are performing.  It’s the little things that matter.  We also give the team achievable incentives to meet group targets as these pull them together and reward them for working together effectively.  Regular ‘events’ also boost morale, these range from days out, group training and activities that bring everyone together and focus them on key areas of development.  We also run an incredibly successful annual ‘wellness week’ where staff enjoy a company-funded health benefit each day; sessions with a nutritionist, a doctor, a masseuse, and a group yoga session amongst other things.’

Emily is a founding Director of recruiters Bain and Gray.

 

Workplace conflict can come in a number of forms, including outright bullying, constant arguing, clashes of opinion and incivility — a silent disease that can spread through an organisation and cause a huge amount of disruption. However, with the right performance management processes in place and the right training, conflicts can be reduced and dealt with swiftly, to avoid damage to your company culture and morale.

  1. Don’t avoid workplace conflict

According to a UK study of more than 1,500 employees, 91% of workers thought their organisations didn’t adequately deal with workplace bullying. Many managers and HR executives turn a blind eye to internal conflicts, believing that as the individuals involved are adults, they can be left to resolve the conflict on their own. This is a dangerous and short-sighted approach that essentially equates to conflict avoidance — and workplace avoidance is a calling card of a terrible manager.

Conflict is a performance management issue that should be recognised and addressed head-on before it has the opportunity to escalate and become toxic. Conflict needs to be approached in a structured way and employees need to feel that their opinions and thoughts are being heard and respected.

  1. Managers should be given appropriate training to deal with workplace conflict

Just because a manager has been appointed or elevated to a particular position, this doesn’t mean they have the necessary skills and training to address and resolve workplace conflict. As such, HR should always provide training to managers so they know what processes and protocols to follow, should a conflict arise. People management isn’t just a HR responsibility — managers play an integral role, but they need the necessary building blocks to be able to combat it.

  1. Let employees know that they will be listened to and their opinions will be respected

Communication is key in relation to workplace conflict resolution. Employees need to know they are going to be heard and have their opinions respected. They also need to feel able to approach their managers, without fear of being brushed off.

To keep the lines of communication open and honest, managers and employees should have regular one-on-one meetings and performance discussions. During these meetings, managers should encourage employees to open up about conflicts and grievances that might be affecting performance, engagement or morale. Managers should also provide private spaces where all the necessary parties can get together and, in an informal environment, discuss points of agreement and disagreement. Discussion should always focus on facts, rather than veering off into personal attacks.

  1. Set clear behavioural expectations and make them part of your company culture

Company culture, morals and values will filter through an organisation and impact employees at every level. Make it clear that outright unhelpful and destructive conflict will not be condoned in your business. Show employees how you deal with conflict in a healthy way and, in time, conflict will become less of an issue within your company.

Stuart Hearn is CEO and Founder of Clear Review, a performance management software company. Stuart can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

The key role of the leadership of a company is to create clarity and understanding about what are the values of the business and how these translate into actions. These need to be understood and shared by everyone so that when the leader is not there, which is most of the time, they are still are applied.

The values of an organisation set the rules by which it lives and defines the corporate personality and the culture. If the values are unclear there will be conflict and anxiety because people will not be sure what makes them a villain and what makes them a hero in the organisation.

If everyone lives by the same rules, the same values then people trust each other. If there are not shared values then at the extreme there is anarchy and generally, people do not feel part of a coherent whole. Shared positive values also allow people to feel a pride in the organisation that they work for.

Not only do there need to be clear values but they need to be ranked in order of priority so that when there is a conflict between, for example, being on time versus doing a really great job everyone agrees what is most important. This avoids conflict because people will have a shared understanding of how they should behave. In our Responsible Organisation Charter© having values that translate into behaviour and systems across the organisation is the first principle as it is fundamental to creating a harmonious organisation.

Sarah Brown is a Corporate Values Strategist and co-founder of inspire2aspire.

 

Teams now can be extremely diverse; you could, for example, have multiple generations working together in one team. That there will sometimes be disagreement and conflict is inescapable. There are, however, ways to manage conflict effectively.

In a conflict, there are three things. Interdependence between those in conflict, the perception in how each party sees the conflict and their part in it and resources that usually start the conflict off in the first place, like money, power or prestige. When attempting to deal with conflict your ultimate objective is to minimise harm and encourage positive outcomes, and the skills you will need are communication, negotiation, mediation and decision-making.

From a communications perspective, consider that it is your role to listen and attempt to understand the conflict as perceived by the different parties involved. It is important to encourage those involved to not apportion blame but instead focus upon facts as much as possible.  Mediation skills allow to you to encourage different parties to hear each other without expressing your own personal standpoint, and negotiation allows you to find a mutually acceptable outcome. Where a mutually acceptable outcome isn’t possible, making a decision that is grounded in fairness and understanding is the next best thing.

Try to prevent conflict arising by creating an environment that encourages positive communication. Be clear about job roles and responsibilities, have systems in place that allow employee feedback and ensure managers have the skills that they need to lead effectively.

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, a multinational private training company.

 

Conflict in the workplace is all too common. Here are 3 tips that will help you handle them.

Have an Escape Plan

We want to prevent any outbreak of fire, but in case it happens, it’s good to have a plan. Similarly, we want to prevent an outburst of conflicts, but in case it happens (and we know it does), it’s good to have a plan for handling it. It gives us information about the steps we need to follow.

TIP: create a step-by-step guide for co-workers on what to do in case of a conflict. Let them know about it or even involve them in the process of preparing it.

Benefits:

By having a plan to handle conflicts a company acknowledges the conflicts are part of their work, which is normal. it shows a company is serious to address conflicts effectively and does not ignore them until they escalate. By being informed in advance, employees know what to expect when they face a conflict.

Cool Down the Heat

In the heat of the conflict, it’s easy to get carried away by strong emotions, saying things you might later regret. The chemical reactions in the body make it difficult to clearly articulate or listen with attention when under such strong emotions. This is the crucial moment to prevent the hidden danger – namely escalation of the conflict, where things get out of control.

If the emotions are not cooled down on time, the conflict can escalate like a wildfire.

Benefits:

By staying calm and giving the opportunity to all involved in a conflict to be heard without judgment acknowledging you see they are hurt by what happened reassuring them you trust they will be able to sort this out- alone or with a help of a neutral mediator offering them to talk with a mediator or person qualified in conflict resolution.

Focus on the Lesson

A big trap in conflicts is talking about what happened for too long. Why? Because everybody has their own story on what happened (assuming they’re right and the other one is wrong) it creates bigger frustration, emotions and passionate opposition (calling in the blame game). It stays in the past- and nobody can change the past.

TIP: Instead of talking about the spilt milk bring focus on what would you do differently next time, so you would prevent such situation from happening.

Benefits:

Each conflict is an opportunity to see what is not working or who is hurt but also to find out what do we really want, if we have goals in common and how can we reach them together. Focusing on the lesson from this specific conflict, we get one step closer to not repeating the same mistake again. This approach enables personal growth, team evolution and expansion of a company.

Simona Frumen is a Conflict Resolution Expert + Mediator

 

A less obvious, but more impactful way to handle workplace conflict is to manage your own emotional state. Conflict is normally stressful and puts us in a reactive, defensive state, which can make the situation worse.

If the conflict is on-going it can affect our sleep, which in turn can sap energy and clarity. This is a dangerous cycle and it’s important to break it. By doing so you are more likely to gain a clearer, more balanced view of the situation and respond in a more productive way. When you prioritise your sleep, you will be better able to cope with the conflict or even resolve it.

Here are some things you can do to create a better emotional state:

  1. Take time out. Consciously remove yourself from the environment for a day or two and do something you are likely to enjoy.
  2. Appreciate what is going well in your life, or the good relationships you have with friends and family. Studies show that daily mindful gratitude reflections can build resilience to stress.
  3. Recognise that you have coping skills and character strengths that might be useful at this time e.g. humour, determination, optimism.
  4. Listen to your favourite music or watch a funny movie. It can change your mood and improve your capacity to deal with challenging work situations.
  5. Reflect on some happy memories and savour them until you feel your mood lifting.
  6. Don’t skip meals. Missing out on breakfast or lunch can cause blood sugar levels to drop resulting in a state of being ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry). Avoid difficult conversations or colleagues if you are likely to be in this state – your reactions may be more extreme than you intend.
  7. Remember that this too shall pass.

Noel Clerkin is the Founder of Wiser Working, a resilience and stress management training company.

 

Most companies will have a benchmark of sensing the workplace climate by how many formal grievances have been raised. My view on this one is to inquire how much time are managers spending on dealing with conflict either between individuals or across dysfunctional teams. The best way of dealing with any disagreement or conflict is to nip it in the bud. Conflict is an opportunity it usually stems from the need to change.

Most would agree, we don’t enjoy dealing with conflict. Having those difficult conversations very often feels extremely uncomfortable – unfortunately, the longer it goes on, the worse it becomes. Once it has reached a point where an individual feels they need to escalate their complaint to raising a formal grievance, the relationship is then very difficult to restore and is usually finished.

Leaders and Managers need to be able to spot the signs quickly. Raising their Emotional intelligence, taking time to get to know their teams and solve issues quickly is important. Having great conversations with employees and really listening to what is being said is important. Asking the right questions at the right time get to understand what may be driving an individual to take a stance or to understand their view of the world. Whenever I am meditating I can guarantee you that it is never what has been presented as the issue entirely it is always something that may have happened years before which sits at the heart of it.

There are generally said to be five conflict resolving approaches:

  • Avoidance
  • Accommodation
  • Compromise
  • Competition

Managers need to be able to:

  • Build relationships – get to know your team individually make time
  • Actively listen – be in the moment
  • Have emotional intelligence – raise your self-awareness
  • Having great conversations with employees – open questions
  • Give regular feedback on the behavioural element of people’s roles
  • Share your observations

Pamela Whitehead is a Chartered FCIPD and Director of PJW HR Consultancy.

 

“Only three things happen naturally in organisations – friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires Leadership.” – Peter Drucker

How should people be managed at work? How can employees improve the competitiveness and efficiency of your organisation? How should conflicts of interest be resolved?   

The quality of workforce relationships impacts organisational performance and how employees experience their work environment.  A central tenet of ‘Positive Employee Relations’ is that employees’ terms and conditions include both the contractual arrangements and the managerial relationships to which they are subjected.

Employee relations occurs wherever people work. ER problems top the HR agenda in most organisations. It’s not just about the utilisation of human resources but the workplace experiences and expectations of both management and employees. ER operates in the space between conflicts of interest and cooperation.

It’s been found that Positive Employee Relations can be an intangible and enduring asset, a source of sustained competitive advantage.

How do you Achieve Positive Employee Relations?

  1. Ensure that your managers and supervisors know the law and are trained to spot issues and resolve conflicts.
  2. Treat all employees with both dignity and respect.
  3. Be upfront in dealing with employee sharing as much information as possible.
  4. Listen carefully when employees raise issues or come to you to discuss problems – give them your full and undivided attention.
  5. Establish fair systems and make consistent decisions based on your policies and rules – resolve issues as quickly as possible.
  6. Most importantly, be fair. Consider how you would want to be treated in a similar situation and make your decisions accordingly.

    Building positive relationships with employees can be done with relative ease. But knowing what to do is different from actually doing it day in day out. 

Click here to watch Jerome’s 3-Step Program video for resolving conflict in the workplace.

Jerome founded Forde HR Cloud, a HRIT platform that uses the most advanced cloud technology to bring a virtual HR office to start-ups and SMEs.

First impressions are everything and your Job Description will be the first time many of your employees will encounter your fledgling business. A basic Job Description usually contains the job title, duties, skills and competencies, a bit about the company and a salary. However, you’ll probably agree that ‘basic’ isn’t quite in line with your company vision.

Your workforce is one of your most important assets and you want to attract the best.

With this in mind, it’s worth investing considerable time to ensure your outbound communications are effective. In the long run, this will save you time and resources (after all,  recruitment is a time-hungry animal).

In our recent survey, we learned that 69% of business find recruitment difficult. As many as 3 in 4 SMEs struggle due to lack of applicants, or getting applicants at their intended level.

We are committed to helping small businesses with their HR challenges and providing easy to find, expert-advice online. So, we called upon our friends in the industry who kindly shared their wisdom and sound advice.

We asked them:

How Do You Write A Perfect Job Description?

Making the role stand out

There’s a deficit of attention in our information-rich world.  So cut to the chase: What is special about working in your SME? Avoid meaningless buzzwords and instead create a short story based on one of your existing employees. Here’s an example:

Nina was looking for work where she could stretch her imagination and learn whilst doing creative projects.  Nina found that because at SME Ltd, we thrive on flexible, adaptable and highly self-directed people.

Pitch at the right level

Describing the impact a role has can be of more value than a list of competencies, and a range of accountabilities.

Mihai wasn’t looking for another Head of Accounting role.  He wanted to be close to the people who needed sound economic advice, forecasting and investment management.  He found that with us because we understand our customers’ world and what’s the best out there to help them succeed in tough financial markets.

Get the right candidates

It’s often how it feels rather than what precisely you’ll do that will attract the right candidate.

Marsha knew she wanted to be in a place where you were given a tough assignment but all the support and opportunities to succeed.  We don’t interfere with how you want to work, we provide the conditions that help people flourish and keep our clients happy.

Ensure that who you hire, stays

Commitment and belonging mean more than entrapped by contract or stuck doing “just enough”.

Josh has been with us for 2 years and was our first hire into a customer liaison role.  Now leading our entire Customer Experience division, Josh is an example of how we’ve grown with our people. Creating opportunities is as much how we work as generating new business and increasing our impact in the marketplace.

Perry Timms is a Chartered MCIPD, Founder & Chief Energy Officer at PTHR and author of the newly published “Transformational HR”. In 2017, he was awarded “HR Most Influential Thinker”, following his high revered TEDx talk: The Future of Work.

Follow Perry on Linkedin here.

Adverts are as much about raising awareness about the company as they are about actually attracting people to work at an organisation. In fact, the return on adverts is typically quite low, especially if the company has a negative brand image elsewhere (e.g. people might research what it’s like to work at that company before actually applying) so it’s important to get your entire company message consistent and positive.

Get them excited

Your ad is about attracting people to want to talk to you so it should get someone excited. The key thing to get across in an ad is what the person applying stands to gain by getting this job (e.g. will they get specific training, will they work directly with clients/the business leaders etc). To get this right, you need to know your audience and what will appeal to them. You need to show some ‘upside’ to the candidate for applying to the ad.

Go beyond skills

It’s becoming increasingly important to convey how someone would feel doing the job they apply for. A list of skills that they must have doesn’t tell them what’s in it for them as an applicant, it just includes or excludes them. Absolutely include what skills are required but that should just be a part of the advert.

Make sure the advert is detailed

People often think that if they keep the advert light on details, they will attract a broader and larger population of people. An ad isn’t successful because of the number of applicants but because of the accuracy of the candidates on what you are looking for. Better off getting 10 relevant candidates than 100 of which only 5 match what you are looking for. People are more likely to apply for an ad if they know some detail about the environment they are signing up to, some detail on the job they will do and what they stand to gain. They are less likely to apply if there is little detail.

Keywords are your friend

Most job boards will place ads based on how many times you use the keywords in the ad (i.e. the title of the job and key skills required). People are more likely to apply for the first three jobs that match their search criteria so make sure your ad shows up in their searches by smartly using keywords throughout the ad.

Make the title simple

People don’t search for ‘fantastic opportunity’ when they are job searching. They search for e.g. ‘Marketing executive’. Have the job seeker in mind when writing the title. Think about what they would search for.-

Kunjal Tanna is the Director of LT Harper, a recruitment firm set up in response to a global skills shortage in the Cybersecurity sector. With 15 years experience working in the technology space, she specialises in placing highly sought after professionals with IT Security skills.

Follow Kunjal on Linkedin here.

Know exactly what you’re after

Be very clear in your own mind exactly what the role is and what it is you want the person to do, before even attempting to write a description. Asking for someone who is “good with customers”, or “can generate business leads” is not specific enough.

If you’re not 100% clear on your expectations, it can lead to moving goalposts or evolving the role once the hire has started. This leads to a decline in professional trust. Also, candidates can sense when an employer doesn’t really know what they want, and anyone with experience will know to avoid. The benefit of role clarity is that the description will be more appealing to the right people.

Make sure the JD honestly reflects the role

If a company is struggling to recruit, or the company needs to recruit with a sense of urgency, it might be tempting to exaggerate the positives of the role and/or gloss over some of more mundane expectations.

Whilst this may increase the number of applications, it may also increase your turnover rates if new staff feel the role hasn’t met expectations. This ultimately leads to a waste of time and resources. So, make sure you’re job description accurately reflects what the person will be doing day to day.

Set the scene

Build a future into the role, let the candidate see the opportunity to progress, grow and develop.

Be clear on the hierarchy and where the role sits within the company structure.

Bring desirable qualities to life by including both enablers to success, such as ‘Have a great personal and professional integrity and inspire this in others’ and barriers such as ‘Not fully ‘buying in’ to our company culture’ to let candidates know if they will be a good fit.

Use the department’s targets, company values and behaviours and hierarchy to cascade and bring alignment to roles, if the department head’s role is ‘Accountable for providing reporting and feedback to monthly management meeting’. It should follow that their direct report’s role may read ‘Responsible for providing insights and contributing towards department reporting’.

Rebecca Clough is the Managing Director of In Car Safety Centre, the UK and Ireland’s leading car seats specialists. She joined the company after 13 years in finance and procurement with Diageo.

Follow Rebecca on Linkedin here.

Writing a job description may feel like a chore but it’s one of the first pieces of literature a potential employee is going to read about your company and first impressions count.

You may think the ball is in your court with candidates wanting your job opening, but for the excellent people that your organisation really needs, you have to give an excellent impression at every step of the hiring process.

With all your employee communications you need to start with your vision. Where is your company going and why? This is important to get candidates who are motivated by your purpose and who will support it.

At Countingup we talk about creating a really simple way to run a business by giving every small business accounting and banking in one place. That’s our vision.

An employee wants to know where they stand in an organisation. At Countingup we refer to this as roles and goals.

  • Roles are what you do
  • Goals are the outcome of what you do

It’s important to let candidates know in a job description what their roles and goals are as this gives clarity of accountability and sets mutual expectations.

You could list loads of values and behaviours that you would like a candidate to have and they would probably all be worthy attributes, but we prefer to focus on just two that are key for us:

  • Are you committed to getting things done quickly and with excellence?
  • Do you speak the truth and listen with an open mind to improving?

The next step at the interview stage is of course ensuring that a candidate actually measures up to the template you’ve set out in the job description.

Tim Fouracre is the founder & CEO of Countingup, the new finance solution for SMEs offering accounting and banking in one place. Previously, Tim founded Clear Books plc., which provides small businesses with clear & simple cloud accounting and payroll software. 

Follow Tim on Linkedin here.

Writing a Technical Job Description

Writing a technical job description can throw up a number of challenges. This is commonly observed in specialist fields such as IT. If the prospective candidate can poke holes in the job description, it can be very off-putting. To the prospect, this is usually a sign that the company doesn’t really know what they want and anyone with skills and experience will know to avoid.

Therefore, whenever creating a technical job description, it is vitally important to avoid these common pitfalls:

Too broad

While we’d all wish to recruit that one person who can do everything, it’s not very practical to expect it. Try not to expect skills across multiple domains that have no relationship. For example, asking for an expert graphic designer who is also an expert software developer. People will be one or the other, but not both.

Too specific

Don’t fill your job descriptions with obscure minor skills, nor list them as must-have requirements. Again, this can occur when a non-specialist recruiter is handing a job and there is the potential to fixate on small details.

For example, competent web developers and coders can quickly pick up specific nuances between common code resources that are based on standard programming patterns. It shouldn’t really matter if they have hands-on experience with an exact resource if they have knowledge that is directly transferable from similar projects with minimal effort.

Too advanced

While you want to make sure the description covers all bases, try not to add requirements that aren’t essential, or ask for skills that rarely get used. This risks reducing the amount and quality of applications for the role. Unnecessary requirements deter people who are genuinely competent with the job’s main requirements, leaving the applicant list with a higher percentage of people who exaggerate their capabilities. It also pushes up the salary expectation while alienating junior applicants who are capable of doing the job.

Working with recruiters

Finally, make sure the person handling recruitment has a fair understanding of the role they are recruiting for. Seems obvious enough, but is often overlooked. This is particularly relevant to those in SMEs, whose businesses are often niche and specialist in nature.

For example, a classic mistake is when recruiters attempt to recruit JavaScript developers for a Java role. JavaScript is a completely different technology to Java; in the same way that English is different to French – both are European languages, but you can’t pass one off as the other.

Leon Brown is an award-winning education content developer & technology writer. He owns and operates nextpoint.co.uk, offering a no-nonsense and jargon-free approach to learning maths and programming skills through interactive software, content and training programmes.

Follow Leon on Linkedin here.

Recruiting talented individuals into your business is difficult enough, but did you realise that without a proper induction program for new employees, the struggle and cost could go to waste?

The induction is the chance to explain more about the company structure and it gives you the opportunity to make sure the new employee is familiar with their new surroundings. There is no underestimating the importance of proper induction in making the new employee feel comfortable and most importantly, welcome into the organisation.

Although implementing new hire induction program may seem like a time consuming and perhaps pointless task, it is actually far from it. Companies who implement new hire induction programs can actually improve their retention levels. Statistics show that 69% of employees will remain with the company for 3 years or more if they have a good experience with their induction. The rate of retention is double for those companies who have an onboarding process in place, than those without.

What is the purpose of onboarding?

Onboarding is not just good for retention levels, it also offers a number of other benefits. Productivity is also 50% higher for organisations with an onboarding process. If employees get the chance to learn about the role, have proper training and are made to feel welcome, they will be able to work more productively. If they are left to their own devices, have insufficient training and are feeling uncomfortable from day one, they won’t be productive and will not stick around for long.

This all comes down to the onboarding process.

What should be in the induction?

The induction process may seem long and arduous, but if you take it step by step, it won’t seem as complex. This step by step guide should give you a good idea of how to tick all the boxes during the induction program.

  1. Prepare for the new start

There is nothing worse than turning up on your first day to be told that IT haven’t set up your login or you don’t have a proper seat or desk. This creates a negative first impression and is likely to be highly frustrating for the new start. The only excuse for this is leaving it to the last minute, so make sure you are prepared for your new employee starting. Ensure you have all the relevant equipment and technology arranged and let any relevant personnel know about the new start. It is also important to speak to the new start and arrange the date and time with them and to welcome them. They will appreciate the contact and it will make them feel excited about joining the company.

  1. Complete paperwork

The new employee’s first day should start with them completing all the relevant paperwork, including their employment contract, bank details, P60 etc.

  1. Organisation information

As part of the induction process, you should explain the company policies and procedures to the new start. It is also important to show them around the building and introduce them to any relevant colleagues. It is also a good idea to give them a buddy, someone to show them the job and perhaps to spend breaks with for the first week. Starting a new job can be very intimidating, so any steps you take to make the new employee feel welcome will encourage them to stick around.

  1. The role

The induction process is a chance to explain what the job entails and what the expectations are. It can be a good time to set goals and to let the new start know the structure and who they will be dealing with.  Make sure you explain the culture to the employee, so they know how the company operates.

It’s worth circling back on this after the first few weeks to make sure that the role requirements have been fully understood. It’s easy for new starters to get overwhelmed with all the new information, so reiteration can mitigate any misunderstandings early on.

  1. Ongoing support

The induction and onboarding strategy should not just be one day or even one-month process, it should be ongoing until the new employee is fully up to speed with the job and the processes. Many companies make the mistake of only introducing a one-day induction and this is not enough if you want to retain your new employees.

The main aspects of the induction process are to ensure the new employee knows what the role is and where they fit into the organisation. It is also important that they understand what the expectations are and that they are not left on their own to wander around aimlessly on their first days at the organisation.

Any extras?

In addition to taking these steps, there are other ways to make your onboarding process more effective. You may wish to consider implementing tracking progress so that any mistakes can be dealt with straight away before they spiral out of control. It may also be worth setting your new employee up with a mentor who can train and support them.

For a host of additional thoughts and ideas to improve your onboarding process, read this expert round-up.

Effective Onboarding Strategies

Through structure and support, we will take care of integrating a new employee. More effective onboarding directly contributes to improvements in productivity and compliance, both for new hires and their managers. We provide support for the complete employee lifecycle from recruitment or expansion to exit. Get in touch for more information today.

When it comes to employee rights in the workplace, there is a general consensus that the law always swings in favour of the employee. But is that factually accurate?

In a word, no.

In fact, people are often surprised to learn just how few legal rights employees have (assuming that the employer follows due process).

The confusion stems from the subtle differences between “rights” and more common policies which are created at the discretion of employers. This leads staff to move from one workplace to the next and assume that the same policies will apply as their “legal right.”

So, what is the law and what is employer discretion?

Here we present a list of some of the primary examples to help you unravel myth from fact.

Staff are entitled to a one-hour lunch break

MYTH!

If an employee is aged 18 or over and works for more than 6 hours in a day then they are entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of 30 minutes (20 in the UK), not 60, taken during the day rather than at the beginning or end of their work. Any more than that is down to the employer.

Employers are obligated to allow staff time for short breaks (e.g. smoking, leg-stretching, etc.)

MYTH!

This is what the rest break is supposed to allow for. As for the oft-cited short “walking breaks” to get away from the computer, this is actually a recommendation, not a “right”. You can read more about it here.

In Summer temperatures, your staff don’t have to work if the office is too hot

MYTH!

In reality, there is no set maximum office temperature. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) did at one time state an acceptable zone “roughly between 3°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F)” however now it simply states that “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be “reasonable.”

Employers also don’t legally have to provide air conditioning and staff are still required to dress appropriately (be that a shirt and tie, or a uniform) unless they’ve been informed otherwise.

However, employers do have to provide a supply of drinking water, but it need only be drinkable tap water.

If the job requires unplanned overtime, employers are legally obliged to offer overtime pay

MYTH!

There is actually no legal basis for payment on the working of extra hours. Likewise, there are no minimum statutory levels of overtime pay. However, the average pay rate for employees must not fall below the National Minimum Wage and that is bound by law.

It is your employees’ legal right to take annual leave whenever they choose

MYTH!

As an employer, you have the right to refuse leave requests but employees are also entitled by law to their 4 weeks annual leave (20 holidays for a full-time worker). That means that if they are going to fall short of that before the leave year ends, then you are legally obliged to approve their leave.

Employees have the automatic right to receive bank holidays off work

MYTH!

Staff have no statutory right to take bank holidays off or for employers to pay them anything above a normal day rate for working a bank holiday unless information to the contrary exists in their contract of employment.

Some Bank Holidays are public holidays and some are not, for example, Good Friday.

Staff are legally entitled to any leave not taken in the year (i.e. leave that is ‘carried over’)

MYTH!

Employees who receive statutory leave don’t have an automatic legal right to carry over unused leave into the next annual leave cycle unless outlined in their contract.

In Ireland, annual leave should be taken within the appropriate leave year or with an employee’s consent, within 6 months of the relevant leave year. Further carrying over of annual leave is a matter for agreement between the employer and employee.

Employees don’t start to accrue holidays until they pass their probation period

MYTH!

New employees start accruing holidays from the day they start employment. The idea of a “probationary period” actually has no meaning in law. It has no effect on an employee’s statutory employment rights.

Employees do not accrue holidays while on sick leave

MYTH!

The European Court of Justice set a precedent in 2009 for workers to accrue statutory minimum holiday entitlement while on sick leave. They can also carry that leave into another year if they are too ill to take it or prefer not to take it during the sick leave period. Employees also have the right be paid in lieu for unused leave if their employment is terminated.

If an employee is ill during their holiday leave, then tough luck

MYTH!

If staff fall ill just before or while on their leave then they are entitled to take sick leave and keep their holiday entitlement for another time.

If employees are off ill then they must provide evidence, such as a doctor’s note

Not entirely true…

In Ireland employers typically seek medical certification after 3/4 days’ absence.

In the UK, this rule only applies if an employee takes more than 7 days off work ill. Less than 7 days falls under the process of “self-certification.” Within this, employers often request that staff complete a self-certification form when they return to work, but this is not mandatory.

Employers don’t have to pay accrued annual leave to an employee who is dismissed for Gross Misconduct

MYTH!

Employees are always entitled the annual leave they have accrued even if they are dismissed part way through a holiday year cycle, and yes, even if dismissed for Gross Misconduct.

I can dismiss someone on the spot without notice if they’ve committed an act of Gross Misconduct

MYTH!

If the particular situation of Gross Misconduct is serious enough then you can “instantly dismiss” an employee but you still have to follow disciplinary due process giving the person an opportunity to respond to allegations, the right to appeal, etc.

 

An employer can sack anyone with less than two years’ service in the UK and 1 year’s service in Ireland for any reason

MYTH!

This common misunderstanding stems from the fact that employees with less than two years’ service in the UK or 1 year’s service in Ireland can’t claim for unfair dismissal. However, they can claim for “wrongful dismissal” from the very first day they start working if an employer has breached their contract of employment.

Employees are entitled to paid time off work for compassionate leave

MYTH!

Employers are not legally required to give their employees paid time off following a bereavement unless set out in policy or contract. Staff are entitled to a “reasonable” amount of time off unpaid (or paid if a policy of the organisation) on the death of a dependent like a parent, spouse or child. But most employers are good people and that is why compassionate paid leave is so common.

Resignations need to be accepted by employers

MYTH!

In reality, resignation is a decision made purely by the employee, in a similar way to dismissal which is made purely by the employer. So, in the same way that an employee can’t refuse to be sacked, an employer can’t refuse a resignation.

However, it is good practice to accept formally a resignation.

Employees are always due a redundancy payment

MYTH!

Only employees with at least two years of continuous service are entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. If the employer offers them a job as an alternative to the one being made redundant which offers the same or suitable terms and conditions, but the staff member unreasonably refuses to accept it, only then may they lose the right to redundancy pay even if they have reached the necessary service threshold.

Having said all that…

It’s clear that there are a great many assumptions made by employees, and indeed employers, about staff rights which are in reality, business-specific policies and not law.

It’s also clear that a great many employers are accommodating, if not outright generous when it comes to keeping their workforce happy. A culture based on trust and respect makes sense of course, for an effective business in the long run.

We encourage all employers to be generous while using the freedoms available to create a comfortable culture for your employees by whatever means you see fit.

It is worth remembering that it will be your policies then, and not the legalities, which ultimately make you a great employer.

What key pieces of knowledge should a small business owner be equipped with when it comes to employment law?

It’s a good question because employment law can be confusing for all employers, but particularly for small businesses and start-up owners. The whole area consists of a mix of complex regulations in a landscape of ever-changing legislation that is challenging to keep up with.

While business owners are not expected to be experts in legal matters, there are a number of legal implications that you should be aware of, at the very least.

So, we hope our advice helps in the short term, until your business reaches a point where it must engage in more formal legal procurement. We also offer advice on taking those first steps to acquiring professional legal services when the time comes.

Why is employment law important?

The old adage about prevention being better than cure is not just applicable to our health, it applies equally to employment law, not least because of the very real financial impact that businesses have faced on the wrong side of judgements.

It’s all too easy to assume that headline cases are the exception rather than the rule. But this is particularly untrue for small businesses in the UK. SMEs are said to encounter as many as eight legal issues per year (according to lawbite.co.uk).

A YouGov survey of SMEs has predicted an estimate industry loss of £13.6 BILLION a year – the financial cost of not taking care of legal business. The survey found that almost half (43%) of the legal issues that occurred for SMEs had resulted in individual case-costs of £5,000 or more. That’s a big bill for any small business.

Unfortunately, the costs can run a lot higher than that. For example, in 2016:

  • The highest sum awarded in a tribunal claim was £1,762,130 (in a sex discrimination claim)
  • The highest award for an unfair dismissal claim was £470,865
  • The average award for unfair dismissal was £13,851 (up by about £1,500 on the previous year)

Such cases are rising in occurrence because employees are proactively educating themselves in the area of employment law. Workers want to know their rights. Everyone’s an expert now. So too are those who would seek to exploit it.

Not considering the legal side of HR within the business can result in a vulnerability which is easy to exploit. Some of the most common complaints and claims are as follows:

  • Unfair dismissal or other dismissal related risks and workplace rights claims
  • Reasonable notice of termination when there is no written contract of employment
  • Backpay or an award breach where employees are paid a “flat rate” or salary without the correct written agreement
  • Payroll related claims, e.g. wage deductions without authority or incorrectly calculated leave pay.

The important thing to remember though is that many of these legal issues can be avoided.

The most common risks noted above can be mitigated simply through crafting the correct contractual documents and following procedures lawfully.

But with only 12% of the industry thinking these legal issues will ever happen to them, there are a lot of risks being taken through ignorance or avoidance of employment law issues.

Foreseeing and avoiding these risks also becomes even more vital as your business grows.

What SMEs should do to comply with employment law?

There are many practical steps you can take, and knowledge you can acquire, to arm yourself in the area of employment law. We have summarised some of the simplest steps regarding the most commonly-found issues here;

Recruitment

When it comes to recruitment in employment law, the easiest advice to follow (yet often overlooked) is the simple keeping of records. By documenting the decision-making process, you can show – if required – why you chose a candidate for a particular role, or why you chose to dismiss someone.

When hiring, you must focus on the role requirements and be able to prove you didn’t discriminate (because that is illegal).

Surprising to some, an employee enters into a contract as soon as they accept a role. This applies regardless of whether the offer is in writing or signed. Therefore, it can be a good idea to state that you are not in a position to offer a job during the interview process, just to mitigate any misunderstandings. Like-wise, in any written job offer, explain that the contract terms will follow at a later date.

Within the first two months of employment, you must provide full employment T&Cs covering:

  • Pay
  • Working hours
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Job title (or description)
  • Place of work

Also include a line that entitles you the right make amendments for instance, the right to change the place of work. Otherwise, you may be in breach if you were to relocate. Any changes you do make to the contract have to be with consent of the employee or you risk being sued for constructive dismissal, or breach of contract.

Employee Rights

By default, employees have a number of standard rights which are implied and therefore don’t need to be spelled out in black and white. There are also rights which you can’t impact as an employer. Ultimately, you can’t jeopardise a relationship based on ‘trust and confidence’ with employees and they too have a reciprocal duty to serve with honesty, integrity and due diligence.

  • You have a duty to provide a safe and healthy working environment.
  • Your employees have the right to a reasonable amount of privacy
  • Employees retain the right to call out any wrongdoings by an employer and can sue for full compensation should doing so result in any negative losses onto them such as demotion, or dismissal

In the event of the employee leaving, all staff are entitled to a notice period once they have been in service for over a month.

  • For one month, they get one week
  • After two years, they get two weeks
  • And so on, up to a maximum of twelve weeks after twelve years

Employees also have the right to keep their jobs should the business change hands. Any job losses could be classed as unfair dismissal.

Disciplinary and Grievance Issues

The disciplinary and grievance procedures need to outline who an employee should contact if they have a discipline or grievance issue and what steps will come as part of the process. These procedures must be fair and reasonable and should follow the Acas Code of Practice.

A good tip for avoiding such issues in the first place is to ensure your employees know the kinds of behaviours and conduct that would qualify for disciplinary action. Let them know the grounds on which an employee would be dismissed from their job including issues like gross misconduct, unauthorised absences or being convicted of a crime.

One of the most common employment law risks for businesses involve claims for unlawful or unfair dismissal. In general, employees who claim they have been dismissed for “unfair” reasons must have two years’ service, but for some cases the length of service can be irrelevant.

A related case type is “constructive dismissal” where an employee can sue if they feel you made it impossible for them to continue to do their job, or where you breached a fundamental term in their contract. They must raise a grievance first, though.

Top Take-aways and Advice:

Prevention is better than cure while investing in legal support can be difficult to assign value to until it’s needed in an emergency, the numbers that exist should act as fair warning.

Documentation and contracts many issues begin because of the lack of documentation, or because documentation isn’t correct or legal, or because it is breached by an employer, even if breached unknowingly. Taking advice and proactively covering this aspect of your business will serve as a stable foundation.

Up to date knowledgethe area of law that regulates relationships between employers and their employees is constantly being updated to stay in line with modern practice, European law and case precedents. You aren’t expected to be a lawyer but it is advisable to keep abreast of the basics and resources like the CIPD can help you to do that.

Health and safety one of your employees’ most basic rights is to be provided with a secure, safe and healthy working environment. This is also the area of employment law that includes issues which can pose a real physical risk to people and so it should always be a priority, even if the main crux of your business doesn’t involve manual labour.

Hiring and firing when employees are joining or leaving the business, maintaining records and following due process is the key. Focussing on the requirements of the role, and not discriminating in hiring is essential. When dismissing employees, the rules are similar. You cannot discriminate and you should have clear procedures and follow them properly.

Employee theft within the workplace is on the increase. In the retail sector in particular, employee theft is estimated by the Global Retail Theft Barometer figures to account for over £2billion in lost revenue in the UK alone. Investigations are extremely sensitive and have to be conducted in line with fair procedure. Seek specialist advice before undertaking an investigation.

Don’t expect help from the police or CPS though they are often our first contact when we feel we’ve been legally wronged, their resources are stretched. Add to that the fact that business crime isn’t the highest priority when it comes to protection of life, especially when it’s internal crime. The crown prosecutions service cannot justify supporting your case if your own policies and processes have let you down.

Recruitment survey bring welcome news to recent graduates, especially those who may be struggling to find their ideal role.

Recently, we surveyed over 100 CEOs and Managers across small and large businesses, to find out what issues they faced when recruiting new staff.

The results showed that 69% of businesses struggle to some extend when recruiting and there is a wide range of reasons why.

While recruiters face challenges in filling empty roles, graduates face challenges in securing them.

In the UK alone, Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 2015 data showed that almost 16,730 were out of work six months after leaving university and over 60,000 students were in “non-professional” roles, meaning they were overqualified for the work they were doing.

The results of the recruitment survey, however, show surprising opportunities for job-hunting graduates that may just address some of the biggest traditional hurdles to workplace entry:

Applicants Stand-out in an SME

According to the recruitment survey findings, students who target their application efforts towards SMEs stand a higher chance of having their CV read and considered.

  • 27% of SMEs cited “lack of applicants” as a key reason why they couldn’t fill roles within their businesses, compared to just 16% of larger businesses.

That means a graduate CV could be sitting in a much-reduced competitive pile of applications at an SME. Securing such a role could also offer the opportunity to join a small team in a growing business and experience more areas of it than the traditional single specialist department in a big corporation.

This experience early on could help graduates find their personal passion and strengths more quickly.

Landing a Job Without Experience

The recruitment survey found that attracting job applicants with the rights skills is an issue for businesses big and small, with 44% of all businesses claiming it as their biggest challenge.

Obviously more well-known companies receive greater volumes of applications; however, they feel inundated with applicants who don’t meet their requirements.

  • 35% of big businesses stated that “lack of skills or experience” in applicants was a challenge in their recruitment.

It is no secret that the more real-world job experiences an applicant has, the more employable they become. A university degree – while often a requirement for many roles – doesn’t take the place of relevant work experience.

Often graduates lacking in experience after years of study will find themselves either struggling to secure relevant interviews or doing work for which they are over-qualified.

With the aforementioned issues SMEs have in terms of attracting applicants, there is obviously a better chance of them considering hiring a less experienced graduate and training them for the role.

In fact, many businesses proactively seek grads as there are many advantages in doing so. The trouble for the grads is the sheer number of them. There’s a supply and demand issue, especially when it comes to the more obviously places to apply.

In the recruitment survey, small businesses respondents confirmed that a lack of applicants and tighter budgets for salaries lowers the bar and makes them more open to developing their employees.

  • 25% of small businesses cited an investment in training and development as the method they use to attract talent to their companies.

Taking advantage of this training and development could actually help graduates get a bigger leg up their chosen career ladder, more quickly, than those who enter traditional big-name businesses.

  • None of the respondents from larger business cited training and development as a recruitment strategy. 
  • However, 33% said “being a big, known brand” was their greatest recruitment asset

Competitive Salaries

Another regular complaint amongst graduates – whether in work or job seeking – is that the salaries advertised for graduate roles are too low.  The labour market data proves that it still does pay to get a degree at university (on average young graduates are more likely to be employed and are paid an average of £6,000 a year more than those with no degree).

However, it is equally true that graduate salaries haven’t risen with inflation.

A young graduate in 2008 was typically earning around £24,000. In 2015 a young graduate was still typically earning £24,000.

The recruitment survey confirmed that some businesses both big and small (16%) did find salary expectations a challenge when they were recruiting.

But it would be untrue to assume low salaries of the SME sector only, as a significant proportion of SME respondents said they actually offered larger salaries in order to compete in the market and attract applicants.

  • 33% of SMEs who responded to the survey said they offer larger salaries in order to be competitive in their industry.

The Future is Bright for Graduates

Every year a new batch of graduates will flood the job market, applying for all the easiest to find roles at the most well-known companies.

And with so many employers citing skills and experience as a recruitment issue, businesses know they have to look beyond qualifications to hire great staff.

In this competitive job market, the most successful graduate job hunters will be those seeking out their industry SMEs who are more likely to read CVs, have softer expectations in terms of experience, with many focussing on benefits like training and development to entice applicants and some offering rewarding salaries too.

Sending targeted applications to SMEs and demonstrating a clear desire to learn, develop and contribute, could be the key to graduate job success in 2017.

Previously referred to as Industrial Relations, Employee Relations is a practise which focusses on both the individual and collective relationships in the workplace.

The practise focusses on managers, training and supporting them to nurture trust-based relationships with their teams. In doing so, the intention is to generate a positive work culture which improves the overall productivity and output of a business, as well as it benefits the employees personal well-being.

As Employee relations specialists, our values are expressed in ‘Positive Employee Relations’.

Positive Employee Relations

Positive employee relations are about: –

  • Communications (ongoing and focused);
  • Employment procedures (particularly grievance and disciplinary);
  • Negotiating style (based on mutual needs);
  • HR culture (based on marketplace success).

Employment procedures are there to deal with difficulties that arise in the employment relationship and at some stage all employees will have issues that will cause them concern. This can be due to the behaviour of work colleagues, the attitude of managers, the operation of a Company policy, thwarted ambitions and a whole host of other reasons.

Even the most perfect of organisations can leave staff experiencing difficulties feeling alone, isolated, de-motivated and frustrated.  However, recognising the value of positive employee relations, a good organisation will ensure that these feelings won’t persist and fester by addressing the staff member’s complaint quickly and fairly and at the lowest level possible within the organisation.

Resolve the Complaint Quickly

Good day-to-day management ensures that the majority of complaints are resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of all concerned. Managers should be attempting to anticipate their staff’s grievance by capturing the complaints or potential complaints so that they can do something about it before they become problems.  The best managers respond quickly recognising that all complaints are potential disputes.

It is not always possible to find quick and easy solutions to employee’s complaints and a complaint that is not or cannot be resolved will be expressed formally as a grievance.  When managers know that employees are not satisfied with the response given to their complaints they should actively encourage them to formalise their concerns by registering a grievance.

Positive Employee Relations is managed through effective HR procedures, a coherent HR strategy and the careful management of the bargaining/ engagement relationship with employees and/or trade unions.

The management of employment relationships is a strategic issue. The most appropriate employment relationship required by your business strategy should be one which engenders a commitment to organisational aims, allows the employee to identify with the organisation and be more productive in the service of the goals of the organisation.

At its most effective, positive employee relations can support the development of managers by providing clear processes for managing grievance, discipline etc as well as ensuring that managers are trained in their best practice operation.

It supports communications that create shared understanding and clarity of decision making. Strong relationships are based on fairness, trust and mutual respect. These values are supported by employee relations processes, structures and procedures.

The business of work is a collaborative activity involving mutual dependencies and interests, even when conflict arises.

So, what are the elements of positive employee relations?

  • Good Communications
  • Trust
  • Managing perceptions and beliefs
  • An ethical approach
  • Clear expectations
  • Conflict Resolution

It works best when the capabilities of line managers have been enhanced in the areas of: –

  • Communications
  • Company Rules and Expectations
  • Work assignment
  • Conflict resolution
  • Self-awareness and personal impact

With enhanced capabilities, you get more regular engagements with staff, a higher level of professionalism, managing through the laws and regulations of the company and providing regular performance feedback become part of the day to day engagements with staff.

Poor Employee Relations

Some of the potential consequences of a poor employee relations climate include:

  • Greater use of representatives or employment forums even on minor work-related matters
  • Significantly higher use of management time on mundane operational matters
  • Adversarial, combative, low trust relationships between management and staff with no resolution apparent
  • Poor teamwork and integration of work processes
  • Employee absenteeism
  • Employee turnover
  • Litigation

The aim of positive employee relations is to create a culture where staff and managers may be assertive in the context of a shared understanding and positive commitment to the organisation strategy and their rights and responsibilities.

The culture can be identified as one of openness to change, flexibility, hard working and productive.

Positive employee relations are about aligned leadership and a basis for building congruence with the employee relations of the organisation and the leadership and strategic direction.

Do you require further support?

FordeHRCloud provide Employee Resolution expertise and support to SME employers to manage effectively employee relations. We provide guidance to enable managers to seek solutions, ask questions, and set up systems to pro-actively solve problems before they turn into time-wasters and legal risks. Get in touch for more information today.

At its core, the employment relationship is a legal one and it is critical that it is properly defined. While legislation specifies certain requirements, each company will have requirements which need to be codified in a contract of employment whether it is protecting intellectual property, health and safety, management of commercial information at the end of an employment relationship, the terms of a trial/ probation period etc.

A basic contract of employment is the legal foundation of the relationship that forms between you as an employer and the employees you hire.

If an employer neglects to create one at all, or develops a badly worded contract, then employees may have grounds to make legal claims against their employer under various pieces of employment legislation. In fact, if an employment contract doesn’t comply with the law, employees can claim up to four weeks wages. That is because there are rules and obligations in place about how you structure the relationship between employer and employee.
But while it is crucial to get this stage right, a basic employee contract is nothing to fear.

At FordeCloud we have created this guide to creating a basic employment contract, including the main terms and conditions you must include within it.

Main Terms and Conditions of a Contract of Employment

Main Terms

Section 3 Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 states that all your employees are entitled to a written statement containing their terms and conditions of employment. You must give them this within two months of their employment starting with you.

As minimum terms, you must include the following in this statement:

  1. Your full name as the employer.
  2. The employee’s full name.
  3. Your address as the employer (which can be either the address of the local/regional office the employee is based at, or the registered central office of the business. The term registered office is that meant by the Companies Act 1963 if you want to check this).
  4. The place of work (where the employee will be based). If there isn’t a specific location, then create a statement that sets out the required places, or places the employee is permitted to work at.
  5. The employee’s job title or the nature of the work they will be doing.
  6. The date that their employment will start (known as the commencement date).
  7. If the employment contract is temporary then state the expected duration, including an end date when the contract will expire.
  8. The method used, or rate, for calculating the employee’s salary. You must also include the pay reference period for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.
  9. State that the employee can request a written statement of the average hourly rate of pay for any reference period from the employer. This is under Section 23 of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.
  10. The intervals set out for when the salary / wages are paid (e.g. weekly, monthyl, etc.)
  11. Explain any terms and conditions that relate to their hours of work, including overtime.
  12. Then state the terms and conditions for paid leave that isn’t sick leave. This should include holidays also.
  13. Provide any terms and conditions relating to incapacity for work. This will include sickness, injury and any paid sick leave.
  14. The particulars of any pension scheme you have in place for your employees.
  15. State the period of notice an employee is required to give you if they wish to end their contract of employment. Also state the period of notice they are entitled to receive should you wish to terminate the contract.
  16. If there is any collective agreement which would affect the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment then reference those.
  17. The statement must be signed and dated for, or on behalf of, the employer. The employee must receive it within two months of the commencement date on the contract (their employment start date).

Main Conditions

As a minimum, we would recommend that you should include the following in all your basic employment agreements:

  1. A probation period and a policy to allow for extension to the contract.
  2. Disciplinary Procedure.
  3. Grievance Procedure.
  4. Sexual Harassment Policy
  5. Conditions for the use of the internet and mobile phones.
  6. Social Media Policy.
  7. Bullying and Harassment Policy.
  8. A retirement age (although you must be able to justify setting the age).
  9. Provisions for deducting pay to include issues such as damage caused to property owned by the employer.
  10. Flexible working policies around flexibility in duties, job location or start and finish times.
  11. A policy around layoffs and short time that includes non-payment of salaries during lay off and short time periods, except wages paid for time the employee actually works.
  12. A policy to review performance and review pay.
  13. A post-termination non-compete clause.
  14. A clause stating non-solicitation of your clients/customers after the employee’s contract ends.
  15. A confidentiality clause that covers both during the term of employment and post-termination of the contract.
  16. Data Protection.
  17. The right to alter or amend the contract.
  18. Provision for Garden Leave, particularly during the employee’s notice period, allowing you to require that they don’t attend work during that time.
  19. A clause that confirms the Employee Handbook forms part of the contract of employment or employee agreement and will be amended from time to time.
  20. Include a clause excluding the Unfair Dismissal Acts for any Fixed Term employees.

We would always advise that you have an Employee Handbook in place when hiring staff and providing a contract of employment to an employee.

This means that the contract covers the basic terms of employment and the handbook can cover matters such as grievance and disciplinary policies, sick leave, holiday leave and other special leave, and others.

To see our dedicated guide to creating an Employee Handbook see here.

You will see that many of the terms and conditions to include in a staff handbook are pretty standard, however there can be the need to tailor the procedures individually to each employer (for example, what suits a large corporate may not suit a small business, and vice versa).

Designing both your handbook and your contracts of employment require a combination of HR, Legal and Industrial Relations expertise and information. Our guide here is just that – a guide – so before acting or refraining from anything described above, we recommend you obtain specialist advice.

Still not sure where to start?

There is support and guidance available for even the smallest of start-ups and businesses with services like FordeCloud. We have devised industry standard HR Documents for SMEs and update them regularly to ensure your business is always in good hands. We also provide software for time and attendance management and support you through employee resolution issues, as well as more general on demand HR support.