Advice on working from home
Occasionally I spend time working from home, it’s a good way to catch up with your work without the distractions that you would normally get if you were in the office. However you need to be disciplined, you need rules in place to ensure that working from home is both productive and works for you. I am actually very strict with myself when I work from my home office, firstly I try to be at my desk for the same time I would if I was in the office so anywhere between 8 AM and 9 AM. I may have some music playing in the background but very rarely will I have the TV on. I tend to find that media becomes a distraction and again it’s not something I would normally listen to in the office.
Although working from home does allow you to the freedom to wear comfortable or casual clothing, I try to look smart, my mind is in a business work mode so my appearance should reflect this. I will normally pour myself a cup of coffee, sit down at my desk and begin my work. The only distraction I may have is some background music however it is nice not to be disturbed by other people. I have a great management team in place at Peninsula Business Services who can normally answer any queries or deal with any problems in my absence.
It can be very easy to be distracted at home, I like to tell my wife and friends that I am not to be disturbed. My job is priority during the day as it would be if I was in the office; thankfully people realise and appreciate this.
At lunchtime I make myself a sandwich and pour another cup of coffee and then re-commence work. Working from home can be compared to either being in the office early or staying late once everybody has left the building, you experience minimal disturbances and interruptions, you are able to get so much work done. So those people who believe working from home is just an excuse to skive are incorrect. Yes it does happen, people will treat working from home as an opportunity to get out of work, but you need to be honest with yourself. You need to write yourself a task of what you need to achieve that day, what you wish to accomplish. You need to be disciplined, you need to have rules in place to prevent you from being distracted, and I find myself getting through all of the paperwork and jobs I don’t normally get the time to complete during work hours. I’m not saying working from home every day is the answer, and it’s certainly not for everyone, for some people there are too many distractions and temptations. In addition I certainly cannot work from home full-time, I need to be there for our clients and my fantastic team of advisers, plus I need to know what is going on at Peninsula Business Services, as a director my skills, judgement and expertise is needed at head-office; however once in a while is fine and it does enable me to catch up with my workload and schedule.
One final piece of advice, don’t be tempted to sit on the sofa and work on your deadlines, the boundaries between working from home and off duty time become blurred, you want to work in a separate part of the house, your own office if possible, you want working from home to have a separate identity to time off and chilling in front of the TV.
I hope my advice is able to assist and remember working from home once in a while can be good not just for yourself but for business.
How businesses can protect themselves against the threat of employment tribunal
In this short video I provide advice on where employers fall down when it comes to the employment tribunal system. All businesses need to ensure that they have watertight policies and procedures in place to protect themselves from the threat of tribunal.
Words of wisdom - how to ensure you have a trouble free Christmas Party
As we approach the holiday season many employers will be organising a Christmas party for staff, however it can create a headache not just in terms of cost but also from a logistical perspective; so let me provide you with some words of advice that will hopefully help ensure you have a trouble-free Christmas party.
The importance of obtaining professional HR advice
It has been a very busy day for me today, firstly I have been over in Ireland attending a Board meeting, I am managing director for Peninsula Ireland, a pleasure and honour. Secondly I have been busy speaking to the press today about the huge number of calls the Peninsula Business Service advisory service has been received recently from employers. In the week Monday 18th November 2013 to Sunday 24th November 2013 inclusive, Peninsula received 17,363 calls from employers.
Workplace HR issues continually create unpredictable problems for employers, of which thousands call the Peninsula advice service daily. The most common problems include absenteeism issues, conduct and disciplinary procedures. It is right that bosses look to seek advice on such issues, getting it wrong can land employers in hot water, even worse employment tribunal.
My initial advice to any employer is to check your HR terms and conditions, what policies and procedures do you have in place? Ask yourself whether they are watertight, can they stand up at employment tribunal, are the procedures you have in place enough to protect your business and have you acted fairly whilst following procedures you have in place?
If employers are unsure then we ask them to call us because we have a team of specialists from a wide background of HR practices that can advise. Employment Law is so diverse, I struggle to think how bosses get the time to learn it all especially when they are busy running a business. However with the influx in employee rights it is increasingly more difficult for employers to be able to dismiss someone without good reason and this is a key reason to why there has been an increase in the number of employment tribunals made from disgruntled employees.
Employers need to check the documentation and policies that have in place. They should also ensure that they do not discipline someone without firstly following procedures, conducting it fairly and most importantly taking legal advice especially if they are unsure of what to do or how to handle the situation.
Remember that if you are experiencing any HR issue no matter how trivial you think it is then call my team of advisers on 0844 892 2772 and they will be more than happy to assist you. It is better to get professional advice than worry and have to deal with the problem yourself and run the risk of being taken to employment tribunal if you get it wrong.
What is the worst excuse you have heard from an employee who cannot attend work?
On the Peninsula Business Services Advice Service we do hear some unusual tall stories from employees calling in sick. Everything from the ‘dog eat the home key’ to ‘the bus has broken down and the next one will not be until tomorrow’. These are all true excuses but it does show that employees are willing to make up such excuses. However the strangest of stories always seem to be given to employers with the most relaxed absenteeism policies and procedures in place, who may not necessarily take a firm approach to absenteeism.
I was speaking to the press last week about Christmas parties and the knock on effect when people have too much to drink consequently phoning in sick the next day, how should you deal with such employees? Well the same way you would with any other employee that calls in sick, you need to be fair yet firm. If you introduce a tougher stance, conduct back to work interviews to all absent workers then you introduce a culture where workers know that they simply cannot get away with lame excuses for time off. You will also notice that your attendance levels will be more respectable and the excuses will not be as zany, although that is no guarantee. So as we approach the Winter months just ensure that your policies and procedures are watertight, make sure that your employees know that you take all absenteeism, whether it be genuine or non genuine seriously, this will hopefully reduce the number of sick days within your business. If you have any suggestions on how to prevent unauthourised sickness then let me know and I will mention them on the blog.
hronline from concept to product
I’m always amazed at how a product can be designed and developed from an original concept, take our hronline product. The idea was born from an email we received from a client who asked whether there was a way she could track employee performance and attendance whilst being able to identify issues and problems online wherever in the world. This made our creative team think, could we design such a product? After a number of months and numerous concepts we started to build our hronline product. What was an original idea of being able to track absenteeism and attendance issues was now beginning to take shape and develop into a useful online HR system. We reached the stage where hronline could keep track of employee records, performance and other vital information securely stored in the cloud.
Here at Peninsula, we are very proud of how hronline is utilised by thousands of businesses on a daily basis and one of the benefits is being able to access it wherever you are, providing you have an internet connection. So you could be away on holiday, but still have access to your employee details, records and other vital HR information. This goes to shows that an original concept, with brainstorming and input from your most creative people, can develop into a product that thousands of clients have come to rely on.
However, I also believe that it is very important that you take into account your clients and customers opinions and look into what it is they require. Listening to their opinions, discovering what it is that they want will keep you ahead and will also ensure that your clients rely on the products and services that you offer. It’s something we have been very eager to do here at Peninsula, develop a product on the back of client feedback. We’re not complacent with hronline, we always strive to develop, enhance and improve the product; we want our clients to be utilising hronline on a daily basis and we want them to rely on the product as if it is an extension to their personnel or HR department.
So if you would like to see how hronline can benefit your business, then follow this link for access to a FREE 14 day trial or give us a call on 0844 892 4408. hronline is a product that we are very proud of and I hope you find it equally as useful.
Changes to employment legislation
This year has been particularly busy in terms of both the introduction of new employment law; and amendments to existing rules,so let me explain what some of the changes are and how they affect you as employers and as always if you need any help or assistance then feel free to contact my team on 0844 892 2772 and we will be more than happy to help you. As I always mention it is imperative that you have watertight policies and procedures and ensure that you implement the below changes into your documentation and rules.
Employee Shareholder Status: Employers are able to offer employment to an individual on a ‘shares for rights’ basis. The employee must receive a minimum £2000 worth of shares in the company and will have no right to claim unfair dismissal; statutory redundancy pay or request time off for study/training. Other rules will also apply differently to them.
Pre-termination confidential negotiations: Employers can now offer a settlement agreement (formerly known as compromise agreement) to an employee where there is no existing dispute. Following the statutory code of practice on how to have a confidential negotiation means that the discussion will be inadmissible as evidence at tribunal in a subsequent unfair dismissal claim.
Employment Tribunal Fees: Claimants must now pay a fee if they want to bring a tribunal claim. Employers must also pay a fee in relation to some procedural elements of a claim and can be ordered to repay the claimant’s fee if the claimant is successful. No fee is payable if the claimant cannot afford it.
Eligibility for Croatian workers in the UK: As a result of Croatia joining the EU, its nationals may come to the UK to work. However, employers must check that the individual has the required leave to work. Amendments to existing legislation
Unfair dismissal compensatory cap: The maximum amount that an employee can be awarded for the compensatory element of their unfair dismissal award has been adjusted so that he/she cannot win more than their annual salary, subject to an overall cap of £74,200.
Dismissal for political opinion: The qualifying service requirement to bring an unfair dismissal claim has been removed for employees who are claiming they were dismissed because of their political opinion. Protection against a dismissal for this reason is therefore available from day 1 of employment.
Protected disclosure/whistleblowing: Disclosures no longer need to make in good faith to be a protected disclosure but they must be made in the public interest. Employers are also vicariously liable for detrimental acts by staff towards employees who have blown the whistle.
Portable DBS checks: DBS checks (formerly known as CRB checks) are now portable which means that it is not always necessary for an individual to apply for a new DBS check when moving employment. Instead, a Status Check on the current DBS check can be done for free. Redundancy consultation periods: The minimum period of employee consultation when making 100 or more redundancies in a period of 90 days or less was reduced from 90 to 45 days.
Increase to Parental Leave: An employee’s entitlement to parental leave increased from 13 weeks to 18 weeks, to be taken in the first 5 years of the employee’s child’s life. For further clarification or assistance on the issue please contact my advise service at Peninsula on 0844 892 2772.
Preventing Monday morning blues.
Today it was a wet Monday morning, for many employees it was an effort to get out of bed and make the journey to work. The Peninsula Advice Service received a increased number of calls from employers experiencing a spike in absenteeism. It raises the issue that it is very important that you have in place policies and procedures to protect yourself from workers that take unauthorised absence. How do you differentiate between what is genuine sickness and unauthorised absenteeism, especially when it comes to employees who simply cannot be bothered to come into work. You will be surprised that employers who do not have firm policies in place experience greater numbers of unauthorised absenteeism. My advice to any employer is make sure you have watertight procedures in place, introduce a system that instructs all workers to follow when they are unable to come into work. As I have mentioned previously ensure that a senior member of management sits down with affected employees and conducts a return to work interview this will obviously act as a deterrent to prevent people from pulling a sickie; it will also ensure that your employees are well I enough to return to work. In our experience it does work, you will be surprised at the reduction in absenteeism from employers who implement such a policy.
As we enter the winter months we will experience adverse first weather conditions from snow to freak storms, this will consequently create opportunities and challenges. For many people it will be genuine reason not to make it to the workplace, however in any business you have a small number of people who are looking to take advantage of a situation having a policy. So having a policy in place will ensure that you are always looking at trends, identifying who are the most frequent offenders, those who are looking to take advantage of a situation. You and your senior management can review and analyse such figures and as a consequence do something about it. Whether it’s sitting down informally and having a chat with the individual concerned or taking disciplinary measures and ensuring that you follow your policies and procedures. So my final advice is get your procedures up-to-date, in place and ensure they are waterproof, implement them and communicate to all employees concerned, by doing this you will be deterring employees from taking unauthorised time off, I hope my advice helps your business.
Quoted in the press
I have had quite a busy day talking to the press about the importance of putting on a Christmas Party and how to ensure that it is trouble free. Here are some of the sources where I have been quoted.
Use the Christmas party as an opportunity to boost morale and increase productivity
The good news is that many employers will be holding a Christmas party for this staff this year, a significant increase on previous years. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the successes of the year and I think it’s great to celebrate for a number of reasons. I think after a challenging year it is right to let our hair down, think of the challenges and how as a business we have overcome them, additionally it is a great opportunity for people to gel, talk to those that they would not normally speak to, you will be surprised at how this brings people together. In the long term it can help with productivity and naturally boost morale. You also need to be very careful with people who may not celebrate Christmas, ensure that these individuals are not left our, allow them time to celebrate holidays that are related to their own faith, of course we do not wish to be a scrooge at this time of the year but we have to realise that we live in a multi-faith country and this should be respected. So by all means organise the Christmas party and remember that such an event can offer advantages to the workplace.