Blue Tree HR Newsletter June 2024

Everything you need to know about menopause in the workplace

Experiencing menopause at work can be challenging for a number of reasons, and the physiological and psychological symptoms of menopause can vary greatly from person to person.
While menopause isn’t explicitly a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2020, a recent landmark employment tribunal case (Mrs M Lynskey v Direct Line Insurance) found that menopause symptoms can, in fact, be considered a disability if they have a long-term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
A key takeaway from the case is that it may be possible to discriminate against employees experiencing menopause symptoms, by refusing to make reasonable adjustments and by penalising them for poor performance.
The ET ruled that the employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for Mrs Lynskey’s menopausal symptoms – namely: low mood, anxiety, mood swings, poor self-esteem and impact on memory and concentration – and that these symptoms were legally classed as a disability. This led to unfavourable treatment and her resignation.
Case Summary

  • The employee joined Direct Line in 2016 and had performed well for four years. However, in 2019, she began to experience menopausal symptoms, including poor concentration and memory issues and was also frequently tearful.
  • After initial support, in 2020 she was transferred to a lower paid role, rather than reasonable adjustments being made to her existing role. She struggled with the new job, including difficulty with accessing computer systems, experiencing ‘brain fog’ and struggling for words.
  • In 2021, she was told she would not receive a pay rise and her performance was criticised, wrongly attributed to low confidence.
  • Subsequently, she was placed on a formal performance-improvement and, although she had repeatedly mentioned her menopausal symptoms, her manager claimed there were no mitigating reasons for her performance.
  • She resigned the next year, claiming against Direct Line for unfavourable treatment and lack of reasonable adjustments.

Menopause Policy
Therefore, it is crucial to build an inclusive culture that encourages open discussion about the menopause, along with a supportive environment both in the office and when working at home. Having a menopause policy that educates, informs and helps people show understanding to their colleagues, without awkwardness or embarrassment, is a great place to start.
Our latest guide covers everything you need to know about these changes.
Get in touch for your FREE copy.


Easing the Work-Life load for Deliveroo drivers

Deliveroo has launched two exciting new initiatives to lend a helping hand to its rider community, free and flexible childcare hours and a new education and skills programme.
The partnership with childcare app Bubble offers 15 hours of free childcare to 1,000 riders, allowing them to work flexibly and effectively juggle caring responsibilities with busy schedules. Deliveroo is also teaming up with Lynx Educate to give riders and their families access to over 1,500 educational courses, including languages, data and business management, and sponsoring 100 riders to pursue higher qualification certificates.
These strategies form part of Deliveroo’s ongoing commitment to support rider growth, development and wellbeing, and deliver the kind of benefits that facilitate a good work-life balance. We hope this positive step inspires other leading market giants to consider the best ways to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for their workforce, ease the work-life burden and recognise the importance of career and skills advancement.
https://hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/diversity-news/deliveroo-offers-free-childcare-hours-to-riders/374848


A pain in the neck (and back) for UK Workers

Did you know that, since 2019, the number of cases of neck and back problems causing economic inactivity in the UK has risen by an astonishing 28%?
As highlighted in a recent report by health and safety experts, Blue Trolley, back problems are causing rising economic inactivity across the UK due to long-term sickness. Worryingly, lower-paid employees are particularly vulnerable as they are taking longer periods of sick leave for back issues.
This raises serious concerns about the impact on both individuals and the economy, and shines a light on the need for employers to take preventative and urgent action.
Blue Trolley has provided some valuable guidance for employees and employers to prevent long-term back issues. This includes highlighting the risks associated with work through health and safety training and risk assessments, maintaining good posture and using the right equipment to safely handle heavy goods, taking regular breaks and having a healthy lifestyle. Early intervention and a proactive approach to workplace safety is crucial in mitigating the long-term consequences of back problems in the workforce.
https://hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/28-rise-in-long-term-sickness-from-back-problems/374730


Businesses are increasingly relying on contractors to guide them through the uncertainty of the current economic landscape. Recent findings from specialist recruiters, Robert Walters, reveal that 32% of employers intend to ramp up their hiring of contractors in 2024, attracted by the benefits of flexibility, specialist expertise and cost savings.
Although some challenges persist, the shift towards contracting shows that employers are taking a pragmatic approach to remain competitive and resilient in the face of rapid change.
https://hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/recruitment/1-in-3-employers-lean-towards-hiring-contractors-in-2024/374790


How to celebrate Pride Month without corporate “rainbow washing”

Observed during the month of June, Pride Month is an annual celebration across the globe that celebrates the resilience, diversity and contributions shown by LGBTQ+ communities every day of the year. For employers, it’s an important event and sends a clear message that your organisation is an inclusive place to work where everyone feels valued and respected.
While Pride is notably marked with colourful outdoor parades and marches, displaying a rainbow flag or simply changing your logo could lead to accusations of “rainbow washing”.
This is a term to describe making superficial gestures without authentically showing commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and equality in practice. It can be seen as piggybacking an awareness month, which could lead to anger and disengagement, and it’s also harmful as it detracts from the true meaning of Pride – a protest against discrimination.
Here’s some suggestions for how to meaningfully celebrate Pride Month, avoid backlash and ensure that your efforts during this month can make a positive and lasting impact for your LGBTQ+ colleagues.

  1. Commit to year-round inclusion. Show a consistent approach by reviewing your policies, initiatives and company benefits to ensure they are fully inclusive.
  2. Get people involved. Creating, or elevating, your LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group can transform the experiences of LGBTQ+ people at work. An ERG can provide useful peer-to-peer support, raise awareness and ensure accountability.
  3. Educate and raise awareness. Consider hosting inclusion workshops with an external LGBTQ+ advocate/expert, or webinars and events that cover the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, to engage and inform people.
  4. Share stories and realities – Invite colleagues to share their stories and experiences that provide first-hand accounts from a range of LGBTQ+ voices. Allies can then help spread the word that diversity is celebrated by your business.
  5. Listen to your employees. Avoid falling into the trap of second-guessing what people want. Speaking to your employees – both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ – about what inclusion looks like in your business will help ensure your strategy is right and help get people on board with your vision.

If you feel you’ve fallen short, don’t worry! Use Pride Month as an opportunity to pledge your commitment to being a more inclusive workplace.
Adopting these strategies will demonstrate to your organisation that LGBTQ+ inclusion takes place not just during Pride month, but every day of the year.


Q&A

Can I request evidence from an employee requesting statutory carer’s leave?
Put simply, no! The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 prohibit employers from requiring an employee to provide evidence to support their request for carer’s leave. Employees do not need to provide proof of their dependents’ care requirements.
If an employee clocks in 10 minutes late, can I make a deduction from their pay?
If it is specifically agreed in the employment contract, you may be able to deduct pay for lateness. However, before any action is considered it’s important to be fair and reasonable; explore the reasons for the lateness with the individual first (i.e. a family emergency) and always follow your own policies.
Can I demote an employee as a result of a disciplinary?
Depending on the reason, a demotion could be an outcome and a reasonable alternative to dismissal, if a contract clause permits this. However, it’s crucial to follow both a fair disciplinary procedure and your company policies to the letter. Always consult with the individual, obtain their agreement and only consider demotion if it’s proportionate to the findings of a full investigation. If justified, a performance improvement may be a suitable option.

 

HR Investigations

Watch our short video which outlines the process for workplace investigations.

If you need any support during a workplace investigation please get in touch.

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How can our HR services and solutions help your small business?

In the modern world of business, small companies can often face challenges when it comes to meeting their HR needs effectively.

Whether it’s due to having no capacity for in-house HR, not having the knowledge to provide effective HR or simply down to cost, there are a variety of reasons HR is less common in small companies.

Blue Tree HR Solutions understand that every small business has a unique set of needs and requirements. This is why we work so hard to provide a range of HR services and solutions designed to offer bespoke support at an affordable price.

From ad hoc HR services, retained HR support, and specified hr needs and tasks, to our HR consulting services for small businesses, whatever your company needs, we have the HR services and solutions required for the job.

Our HR services and solutions will optimise your HR operations, helping you create a better work environment and company culture for all, and driving long-term growth. Here’s what Blue Tree HR Solutions can offer your small business, and how they can help you.

Our packages:

Ad Hoc HR - Flexibility when you need it

Unlike larger enterprises, small businesses often do not need the same level of constant HR support. A SMEs HR needs will fluctuate, which is another reason why in-house HR can be difficult to maintain.

Blue Tree HR Solutions offers expert ad hoc HR services, giving your business the option of flexible support as and when needed. Whether you need support for a simple matter, a complex situation, or multiple issues all at once, our ad hoc HR service gives you the ability to call for help when needed.

Looking for cost-effective HR services and solutions that also offer flexibility? Find out more about our ad hoc HR.

Retained HR support - We can be a part of your team

Our retained HR services and solutions provide ongoing support and expertise to deliver exactly what your business needs.

Our retained package provides your small business with a dedicated HR professional who essentially becomes a part of your team without paying for the cost of a permanent in-house HR Manager. By working alongside your team, our professionals can better understand your company culture, allowing us to offer you bespoke assistance, guidance and proactive HR support.

Whether you need help setting up a new starter, need advice on managing a sticky situation or need guidance implementing your HR strategy, Blue Tree HR Solutions is here for your business with our retained HR services and solutions.

If you require a trusted partner to navigate the complexities of HR, contact our friendly team.

Blue Tree HR Solutions HR staff working at table with laptop outside

What we can help with:

Disciplinaries

While every disciplinary is different, the process of dealing with one stays the same to make sure all laws and regulations are followed.

The process can be sensitive, confusing and lengthy, as most involve an investigation, a disciplinary hearing and the option to appeal the decision.

By outsourcing your HR to Blue Tree HR Solutions, we can advise you throughout the whole process, making sure you keep in line with the statutory process and follow the current regulations.

From gathering evidence and ensuring procedural fairness to preparing all needed paperwork such as the outcome letter and minutes for your evidence pack, our help can make the process smooth and easy.

We are dedicated to supporting your management every step of the way, so that your company can confidently address disciplinary issues while minimising the risk of potential disputes or legal challenges.

Our goal is to help you maintain a positive and productive work environment while upholding appropriate standards of behaviour and performance. For more information on how our HR services and solutions can help you through the disciplinary process, contact us here.

Redundancies

Redundancies can be a challenging process for almost any business. Blue Tree HR Solutions can offer compassionate and strategic support to help small businesses navigate this difficult phase.


Our experienced HR professionals are experts in redundancy procedures and can guide your management from start to finish. From initial meetings to outcome letters, and everything in between, we can ensure that redundancies are handled with empathy and professionalism while sticking within HR laws and regulations.


In some cases, our professionals can provide advice on alternative options that can avoid redundancy – such as changing staff hours, moving staff to a new role, or changing their salary. By exploring these options, companies can minimise the impact on affected employees and retain valuable talent whenever possible.

HR lady helping woman complete contacts and documents - HR services and solutions by Blue Tree HR Solutions

Contracts of employment

A contract of employment forms the foundation of the employer-employee relationship, outlining rights, responsibilities, and expectations for both parties. These documents are highly important to get right in order to protect you, your staff and your business.


These documents will include all of the information the employee may need regarding working at your company – such as job descriptions, working hours, compensation, benefits, leave policies, and termination procedures. The documents will also cover terms and conditions and fundamental policies such as disciplinary, grievance, maternity and data protection.


Our HR services and solutions can help you customise contracts that reflect your unique requirements while ensuring compliance.

Grievances

Just like disciplinaries, the grievance procedure follows the same statutory process. Grievances require a formal investigation and an outcome meeting which may or may not lead to further action.

HR support from Blue Tree HR Solutions can aid your small business in conducting a grievance procedure that ensures fairness, confidentiality, and transparency. We prioritise finding resolutions that are fair and satisfactory to all involved while following strict laws and regulations closely.

You can rely on our expert services to provide advice throughout all of the above issues and many more. To find out how our HR consulting services for small businesses can help with issues you are facing, contact us here.

Why choose Blue Tree HR Solutions for your HR services and solutions?

We pride ourselves on being able to offer high-quality personalised HR. No two companies are the same, so why should their HR be? Here at Blue Tree HR Solutions, we avoid the one-size-fits-all approach and instead, offer HR consulting services for small businesses to understand their specific needs, challenges and goals.

We listen, analyse and customise to provide small businesses with a tailored HR strategy that is unique to them. By going beyond the cookie-cutter way of HR, Blue Tree HR Solutions can help businesses thrive and succeed in more ways than they ever imagined.

Blue Tree HR Solutions provides a wide array of HR services and solutions to address each and every specific need your business may have. By choosing to outsource your HR needs, as a small business you can increase efficiency, create a better work culture and environment for your team, and ensure compliance with the ever-changing employment laws and regulations.

Whether you need the flexibility of our ad hoc HR, the continuous support from our retained package or need HR consulting services for small businesses, our team will help your business navigate the complex world of HR, freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on what matters most – Growing your business.

To get started, contact the Blue Tree HR Solutions team today!

5 red flags that could be affecting your retention rates

Employee retention issues are a major concern for companies of all sizes. High employee turnover can result in a loss of productivity, reduced morale, increased workloads of remaining employees, and overall cost your company huge amounts of time and money over the years.

With the percentage of people quitting jobs without a backup at an all-time high in the UK, companies need to identify red flags that could be affecting their retention rates.

Blue Tree HR Solutions are experts at diffusing employee retention issues to help save money and time. In this blog, we will discuss five red flags that could be affecting your retention rates and explore how our expert HR solutions can tackle these problems.

Lack of career development

One of the most common reasons why employees leave their jobs is sadly due to a lack of career development opportunities. In a society that holds career development so highly, if staff do not feel they can progress, grow and develop themselves and their career in their current role, they can feel stagnant and stuck. This often leads to these employees seeking career development elsewhere.

To overcome this barrier that employees could be facing at your company, you should be making sure your employees have the opportunity to achieve career goals. This can be done by offering training and development programs, setting up clear career paths, and providing opportunities for advancement and promotion within your company.

If this is an area you do not feel comfortable in or need some extra help implementing these requirements, Blue Tree HR Solutions can help. Make sure to take a look at our expert HR solutions ad-hoc packages to see how we can help sort your employee retention issues.

Man and son enjoying time together while working from home

Poor work-life balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for the well-being and satisfaction of employees. When employees feel overworked and constantly stressed, it can lead to burnout and affect their overall health and happiness. Companies that fail to provide this balance will see a decrease in employee retention rates.

To better take care of your employees, try introducing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, flexible schedules, and job sharing. This can help your staff fit work and home into their day, instead of having work take over their whole life.

Encouraging employees to take time off when needed is a sure way to guarantee you are taking care of your employee’s mental health. A week off to help an employee de-stress will cost your company a lot less time and money than replacing said employee once they burn out.

Inadequate pay or no raises

Adequate pay is a critical aspect of employee satisfaction and retention. If an employee has been given more work or more responsibilities but is still on the same wage as before, they can feel angry and dissatisfied. Employees that have learned new skills and gained knowledge to perform at a higher level than when they started can also feel they are not being paid fairly for their skills. These employees are likely to feel undervalued and unmotivated to continue working for your business and will seek work elsewhere.

Blue Tree HR Solutions can help business owners experiencing these employee retention issues by helping to implement regular salary reviews. This ensures that their employee’s pay is reflective of their skills, contributions, and responsibilities. Our expert HR solutions offer other great approaches to addressing wage issues. Contact Blue Tree HR Solutions here to start building a loyal and dedicated workforce.

Poor management

Effective management and leadership are key to maintaining a productive and motivated workforce. Employees who do not feel supported or respected by those above them can become frustrated, disengaged and feel forced to leave. If employees’ jobs are being made harder than they need to be through a lack of direction and support by those who are meant to help, employees are sure to leave.

In this situation, improving your management skills will help improve your employee retention issues. Blue Tree HR Solutions offer expert HR solutions such as helping provide management training and coaching to help leaders develop the skills they need to effectively lead their teams. This type of training aims to improve communication skills, conflict resolution, and teamwork – which will help your leaders build a supportive and productive work environment.

Manager leading his team effectively to reduce employee retention issues

Lack of appreciation

Our last red flag to look out for that could be negatively affecting your employee retention issues is a lack of appreciation or recognition towards your employees.

If you are not taking the time to regularly congratulate, thank and show appreciation to your employees working hard to do the best job they can, you are – as a result – making your workers feel unvalued and unimportant. Nobody is going to stay in a workplace where they feel unneeded and unappreciated.

Providing regular feedback and appreciation to employees for their hard work and achievements is necessary and should be simple. If you are finding this difficult within your company (perhaps your team is so large it is hard to recognise achievements amongst your staff) Blue Tree HR Solutions can help. Get in contact here to see how our expert HR solutions can help you give your staff all the appreciation they deserve.

Contact Blue Tree HR Solutions to start addressing your employee retention issues

Employee retention issues can be a plague on your company. The root cause can be hard to identify and finding a fix can be just as difficult. If left untreated, employee retention issues will cost you time and money that should have gone toward the success of your company.

Blue Tree HR Solutions can help you weed out the red flags within your company and offer expert HR solutions that will battle these issues head-on. To improve retention rates, reduce turnover costs, and create a happier workforce, contact Blue Tree HR Solutions today!

Flexible Working and Managing Flexible Work Requests

Before the pandemic struck the world by a storm in 2020, flexible working arrangements were a nice-to-have perk. Remote employees were the minority, and most business leaders believed they could only nurture a productive workforce in the office. 

But everything changed overnight, and those working on-site were suddenly only essential workers. Even though the COVID-19 crisis is ending in most countries, including the United Kingdom, flexible work isn’t going anywhere. 

Employees Prioritize Flexibility

According to Statista, 4.27 million UK employees have employment contracts that allow flexible hours, making it the most common practice in 2022. Contrary to what employers thought, people like the post-pandemic workplace arrangements and wouldn’t return to strict schedules and solely office work. 

Another report found that the demand for flexible work is increasing, with 8.7 million full-time workers yearning for flexibility. Moreover, the younger generations would likely decline jobs with rigid working hours. 

For instance, 75 per cent of Gen-Z see flexible work as the number one employee benefit. Here’s why this arrangement is also beneficial for companies. 

Four-Day Working Week & Flexible Working

Top 3 Benefits of Flexible Work

1. Enhances Employee Retention

Today, flexible schedules are among the most sought-after employee perks and benefits. Many people would choose flexibility over a prestigious title or additional time off. 

Meeting employees’ needs and expectations is necessary for cultivating loyalty. Companies can retain workers and attract top talent by offering flexible schedules and remote work. 

2. Boosts Productivity

Employers often hold back from introducing flexible working because they fear it would affect productivity as they wouldn’t be able to monitor employees. But according to Gartner, 43% of workers are more productive if allowed flexibility.  Moreover, this work arrangement enables people to relax and focus on their assignments without office pressure. Many employees feel less productive on-site due to managerial micromanagement and team competition.

3. Improves Employee Engagement

Empowered employees are more engaged, and what’s a better way of empowering them than responding to their needs and ensuring they can choose a work arrangement that stimulates their creativity? Flexible working also shows companies respect and care about their workers.

People want to know their employers trust them to work outside the office and get the work done just as efficiently. That boosts their engagement and helps them enjoy their tasks.

How to Manage Flexible Work Requests

Acas 2021 survey found over 55 per cent of employers expect an increase in flexible work requests, as people wish to split their time between home and office. Even though companies have the right to decline, they should consider the benefits of flexibility and discuss it with their workers in more depth. 

They should be fair and objective, as most employees have reason to ask for flexible working, such as restoring work-life balance or preventing burnout. Employers can ask for a written flexible work request and discuss why the worker would prefer this arrangement. 

However, they should be clear about flexibility policies and what flexible work consists of in their companies. If employers have no relevant regulations, they should consider introducing them and providing all employees equal access to flexible working. 

Making flexibility a part of the company culture helps attract high-quality candidates and retain employees, especially working parents, students, minorities, and people from diverse groups. Whether you approve the flexible work request or not, it shouldn’t take a long time, and it might alter your employee’s contract. 

Flexible work has numerous advantages for companies and employees, but employers are often reluctant to introduce this work arrangement. Although business leaders often fear flexibility would impact productivity, loyalty, and commitment, people with access to this benefit are more engaged and motivated. 

Hence, before declining a flexible work request, consider the benefits. Besides improving employees’ work-life balance, it also helps instill trust and nurture lasting retention.  

How HR Consultants at Blue Tree HR Solutions can help with Flexible working

Flexible working requests and considering offering hybrid working and a more flexible working arrangement to staff and new recruits may seem like another headache for employers.  At Blue Tree HR Solutions we can help you implement a policy and support you during flexible work requests and help you find ways to make working hours convenient and beneficial for employers and employees.

If you require expert HR advice for small businesses then take a look at our ad hoc HR and retained HR packages. Feel free to contact our friendly team for more information. 

How expert HR advice and guidance can help resolve potential issues before they escalate.

As experts in HR advice and guidance, we here at Blue Tree HR Solutions believe the way forward is through a proactive approach in HR instead of a reactive one. We believe being proactive in HR saves the company money and time and gives you the tools to stop problems from developing and arising. In turn, this means lower stress levels for your employees and more time for productivity.
Sadly, many companies struggle to make the switch from a reactive strategy to a proactive one. This is mainly down to businesses and management not having the tools and knowledge to recognize problems before they occur. This leaves them stuck in a cycle of putting out one fire, only for another to catch light straight after. Luckily, Blue Tree HR Solutions are here to offer some expert HR advice and guidance to help you develop proactive HR strategies and tackle issues before they escalate.

Here are a few examples of when an issue may arise in the workplace, and how a proactive approach can help your company tackle these issues in the most effective way possible.

Suspicious sick leave pattern

If somebody seems to have a habit of being ‘sick’ on a certain day of the week, it may appear to be a small problem, but it could quite easily escalate. The remaining staff may get frustrated and have increased stress levels if they are having to pick up the slack in order to keep the company running smoothly. Staff may be annoyed that management is overlooking the ‘skiving’ employee and not dealing with the issue. This can also leave employees feeling like they’re not valued if they’re continuously expected to be overworked and will create negative feelings towards management for not addressing the problem, this could result in increased staff turnover.

A proactive approach to this scenario would be to track absences efficiently by keeping absence records detailed and up to date, which you can do easily by using the HR software found on our HR Software page. This gives you the power to spot any trends or patterns and address these before it causes an issue for other employees. Having Return to Work interviews following any sickness absence will mean there is a record. Then, depending on the circumstances, you can consider performance management or offer extra support to the employee.


This is also an opportunity to step back and make sure that, if one employee was to suddenly leave, your company has all the resources to manage until a replacement is found. If an employee’s sick leave is causing issues among other staff, this could be a sign that more measures need to be put in place to make sure all staff are supported if this issue did occur, either by recruiting extra staff or offering more training to existing staff.

Maternity leave

A member of staff is pregnant and is due to go on maternity leave. She has given you six months’ notice of her maternity leave. This gives you time to plan and prepare for her absence, by perhaps offering additional support and training to other staff or by recruiting maternity cover.
This is a proactive HR approach as you have communicated with the employee, figured out the best solution for both you and other employees, and put this into action so that when the employee does go on maternity leave, there are no issues to address.

Manage the small things, before they turn into big things.

A common problem among managers is ignoring warning signs or not wanting to deal with small, insignificant issues that aren’t considered serious. Here at Blue Tree HR Solutions, we know that the small things almost always escalate into big problems.
If an employee is acting out or keeps making questionable mistakes or decisions but nothing is addressed, this will inevitably make your life and all employees around them harder in the long run.

For example:

Week 1 – Employee A was caught on CCTV sleeping – nothing was addressed.
Week 2 – Employee A left work an hour early without telling anyone – nothing was addressed, although the line manager is aware.
Week 3 – Employee A was watching a film on his phone instead of doing his work. He was caught by a visitor, and it was reported to his line manager.

Watching a film at work may not constitute gross misconduct and instead, may only warrant a warning. He could not be dismissed fairly based on this one instance alone.
At this point, the employee does not know what he is doing wrong as he has not been pulled up on his behaviour, management is not impressed with his behaviour and wants to replace him, and other staff will be growing frustrated with his bad behaviour, as it may be disrupting their own work.
A proactive approach would be to have managed his performance using the disciplinary process from week one. If he had been given a 1 written warning at week one, then a second written warning at week 2 – he could be dismissed (depending on your policy) at week 3. Alternatively, after his first warning, he may have changed his behaviour and shown that he is an effective member of the team.
Unfortunately, as this situation was responded to in a reactive HR approach, it means his behaviour was ignored and not addressed until it caused a significant issue. This could have been avoided.

Prepare for the future with our HR advice and guidance

It’s inevitable that issues will arise in the workplace, but recognizing these before they occur is fundamental.
Being prepared and dealing with issues right to the source when they do occur, to assure they will not re-appear, is key.
The best way to plan for the future is to make sure that you are working in line with Employment Law, have all the correct policies in place, and assuring all of those in management positions are trained in people management.
Having HR advice and guidance ready and prepared means you can offer the correct support needed in any situation to assure the best outcome. This gives everyone the confidence that every situation’s process is fair and legally compliant.

Are you ready for some healthy HR?

There are countless benefits in how changing your HR approach can benefit you and your company. If you would like to get more expert HR advice and guidance, or you would like to give your company’s HR a refresh, get in touch with Blue Tree HR Solutions for the best HR advice and guidance for your business.

Four-Day Working Week – What it is and What to Expect

The four-day working week has gathered momentum recently. With countries such as Iceland and Japan successfully implementing this new way of working. The UK is also set to follow suit. The trial for the four-day working week in England is due to start in June 2022. Scotland will start the trial in 2023, and Wales will likely follow.

What is the Four-Day Working Week?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the four-day working week. There is concern from employees that they will need to compress their shifts, meaning they end up working longer hours. Employers are understandably concerned about the potential implications on productivity levels. The four-day working week means that employees work four days a week instead of five. The terms don’t change. They are paid the same salary and pension contributions but work reduced hours. The focus is on productivity rather than the number of hours spent working.

Benefits of Four-Day Working Week

We often hear people saying that they ‘never stop working, they ‘work 70 hours a week’ or similar. In our society, overworking seems to be a badge of honour. If someone tells us they only work 1 or 2 days a week, we naturally think of them as lazy or unmotivated. Of course, this probably isn’t the case, but, as a society, we have been programmed into thinking this way. Working hard means working over 40 hours a week while working less is simply slacking off. There is nothing to say that working longer hours means you are being any more productive than someone who works less, and in fact, there are many benefits to operating a four-hour week. Although the trial is yet to commence in the UK, we can gain some insights from studies on the new way of working in Iceland.

Higher Productivity

According to the report, the four-day working week resulted in the same or higher productivity. Employees working five days a week are more likely to be distracted throughout the working day by personal issues. Whereas, with the new way of working, they can take care of any personal tasks on their day off, making it easier to focus and concentrate on their work.

Improved Wellbeing

Another positive outcome of the four-day working week was improved wellbeing, including less stress and burnout and a better work-life balance. Fewer hours at work equates to more time at home and enjoying family life.

How to Cope with Four-Day Working Week

For a business, especially an SME, the prospect of a four-day working week being implemented may seem overwhelming. It may be that you are already struggling to get through your workload, which adds another layer of challenges. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you manage your employees and your workload, should the four-day working week come to fruition in the UK.

Reduce Distractions

Many distractions can corrode time, and by reducing these, you can also help employees manage their workloads more efficiently. For instance, you might consider reducing the number or length of meetings or switching phones onto voicemail at set times throughout the day. Distractions waste time and reduce productivity.

Manage Expectations

If you are worried about the implications of the four-day working week on your clients, be open and honest with them. Advise them of the hours your employees will be working and when they can expect to be able to contact you. Open and honest communication is always the best way of working.

Project-Based

The average person may only be productive for three hours a day. Ultimately, most employees spend a significant amount of time on pointless tasks, such as eating, social media, texting, or taking breaks. The idea of anyone working 8 hours a day and being productive for this period is an illusion. Instead of focusing on the number of hours employees work, use a project-based working method. Assign tasks to your employees that you expect each day, and in this way, the number of hours they work won’t matter.

If you want to discuss the implications of the four-day working well or think of implementing this before it comes into force and needs some expert HR advice and guidance or HR support for business, you can contact Blue Tree HR Solutions at info@bluetreehr.uk and 07516 335 419.

How to Manage an Employee Grievance

As experts in HR advice and guidance, we receive a lot of queries from managers regarding employee grievances and how to manage these appropriately. Grievances are essentially a situation where an employee feels that they have been mistreated. A grievance often occurs between two staff members, or it could be against company policies, such as working conditions. Businesses need to take any grievance seriously and document the entire process. 

If you are unsure how to deal with a grievance, our step-by-step guide should help inform you.

  1. Mediation

A grievance can quite often be managed through mediation. For instance, if an employee has made a remark that another employee is unhappy about it, it may be that the situation could be resolved informally. However, if it is a serious situation, for instance, if it involves bullying or harassment, this step may not be sufficient in dealing with it.

2. Grievance Meeting

If the situation cannot be resolved informally, you should hold a meeting with the individual who has raised the grievance. It will allow you to get some more information and discuss how the employee would like to take the situation further. You should advise them of their right to be accompanied by a representative at the meeting. 

Example of Grievance:

Lucy feels she is being excluded by her manager, who is not inviting her to the weekly meetings with other team members. They have also been out for lunch, and she has been left out of this too. She has reached a point where she wants to raise a grievance about her manager’s behaviour. However, she does not wish for mediation as the situation has been going on too long.

3. Investigation

It is vital that you don’t just take sides when dealing with a grievance; you should only ever judge the situation by the facts. Grievances can often come down to hearsay, so getting all the information before you move forward is essential. For instance, if an employee has raised a grievance, find out if there is any written evidence of the exchange or witnesses who may have overheard. 

Examples of Evidence:

Asking team members if Lucy has attended weekly meetings and lunches. Has there been any discussion about why Lucy has been missing from these? Has anyone raised concerns

4. Disciplinary Meeting

If an employee has raised a grievance against another employee, and evidence supports it, the next stage would be a disciplinary meeting to discuss the situation with the other party involved. You should also inform them that they can be accompanied to the meeting.

Example of Disciplinary Meeting:

At this stage, you would speak to the manager and find out why Lucy has been excluded and provide any evidence you have for this from your investigation. Consider it from the side of the manager too

5. Decision

The next stage is the final decision you have reached following the investigation and the meetings. Then, you should arrange another meeting with the instigator of the grievance to discuss the decision you have reached and the other party.

Example of Decision:

As there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that Lucy has been deliberately excluded, which is a form of bullying, you feel there is no choice but to dismiss the manager. You cannot employ someone that is exhibiting this behaviour.

6. Appeal

There is the right to appeal this decision. In this case, another meeting should be held, and if possible, it should be undertaken by someone not involved in the rest of the meeting.

If you would like to discuss an employee grievance or have any other issue regarding HR support for business, you can contact Melanie of Blue Tree HR Solutions on 01787 695084 or by emailing her at info@bluetreehr.uk.

Employment Law Changes in 2022

As the new year kicks off, employers must be aware of upcoming changes to the employment law and adjust their policies and procedures. These are some of the employment law changes in 2022.

National Minimum Wage

The rate of the National Minimum Wage will increase to £9.18 for workers aged between 21 and 22. The rates for workers aged 18-20 will increase to £6.38 and £4.81 for those aged 16-17. Statutory sick pay will also increase to £99.35 per week. The National Living Wage is also set to rise to £9.50.

Parental Leave

There will also be an increase in the rate for statutory maternity, shared parental pay, adoption, paternity, and maternity allowance to £156.66 per week.

Right to Work

Full right to work checks will return from 5th April 2022. During the pandemic, employers had the right to carry these out remotely.

Holidays

The bank holiday, which would typically fall on 30th May, will now be on Thursday 2nd June 2022, in line with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. There will be another bank holiday on the 3rd of June 2022. Employers will need to check contracts to understand if their employees will be entitled to this day.

National Insurance Contributions

The National Insurance Contribution will increase by 1.25% from April 2022, and this will apply to all employed adults in the UK. Tax rates on shared dividends will also increase by the same.

Family Friendly Rights

The Employment Bill announced in 2019 is expected to be passed in 2022. In this Bill, there will be the introduction of statutory neonatal leave and pay for the parents of babies that require neonatal care. It will also include the extension of the redundancy protection period for employees on maternity leave. The period will increase for up to six months after returning to work. Carer’s leave will become a statutory right. Employees with caring responsibilities will be entitled to take one week of unpaid leave per year from the day they start employment.

Third-Party Harassment

Third-party harassment laws are also expected to change in 2022. It will include an extension to the period for raising tribunal claims and enhanced protection against third-party harassment. Third-party includes clients, customers, and members of the public.

There are some changes to the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 expected, with the Government currently consulting on the reforms. Some areas the Government are looking at include:

  • The right to request flexible working to be available to employees from the day they start.
  • Assessing the business reasons for rejecting flexible working requests and whether these are still applicable.
  • Understanding whether employers are looking into alternative working arrangements if they reject flexible working requests. 
  • Increasing awareness of flexible working and the benefits it offers.

If you would like to discuss the changes to the employment law and what these mean for you or if you need assistance with contracts, or any other HR advice and guidance, you can call us at 01787 695084 or email info@bluetreehr.uk.

How to Ensure Your Culture is Supporting Mental Health

The average person spends over 13 years at work. Let that sink in.

With the time we spend at work and our lives constantly moving at a staggering pace, it is no wonder that mental health is such a problem in society these days. We spend our time at work trying to juggle phone calls, emails, meetings, and that’s before we sit down and do some work. It is no wonder that many people end up feeling stressed and find that their mental health is suffering. That’s why it is so important to ensure that you are creating a culture that supports mental health. According to a report from Benenden, only 23.8% of employees said their employer speaks to them about mental health.

Listen to your Employees

If employees are telling you that they are overworked or struggling to cope – listen to them and take it on board. There is no point in piling work on someone if they are unable to get through it, as instead of increasing productivity, it will have the opposite impact and you will be dealing with employee burnout. If employees have any concerns, don’t just dismiss them, make sure you take them on board and try to deal with them positively.

Lose the Stigma

There is a lot of stigmas attached to mental health. If someone breaks their leg, they’ll get all the sympathy in the world. However, if someone says they feel anxious, depressed, or generally low, they will either be avoided or met with disbelief. As an invisible illness, it can be difficult for people to comprehend unless they have suffered from it themselves. It is important to lose the stigma attached to mental health. Make mental health a part of your culture, and actively use the words and introduce training so people are familiar with it. If an employee is off with these types of problems, make sure you speak to them on their return and find out what you can do to support them. If an employee says they are staying off with mental health issues, the chances are that this is true. Even if it is mental health problems relating to feeling anxious about going to work.

Recognise Employees

You should always show your appreciation for your employees, even a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way to helping mental health. Your employees are people, they are not robots, and they need to feel that they are valued in some way. Employee recognition is key in any organisation. Employees don’t want to feel that they are just making up numbers, they want to feel appreciated. This is even more important if your employees are working remotely.

Provide Development Opportunities

Employees need to feel that there is a clear development plan in place. A structure that can help them meet their goals. If they don’t have anything to aim for, their mental health may suffer. For SME’s this can be more challenging, but there is no harm in setting out the potential areas of growth.

Awareness of Negativity

One negative employee can have a hugely detrimental impact on other employees, and it is important to be aware of this so you can deal with it quickly. Regular check-ins can help you identify any issues with negativity or poor morale within the company.

Mental health should be at the forefront of everything you do. An awareness of your employees and their mental health should always be a priority. If you would like to discuss changing or improving your workplace culture, or have any questioning regards to HR support for business then you can contact us on 07516 335419 or email info@bluetreehr.uk