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Today is National Stress Awareness day - 2nd November 2016
Did you know…
- That stress is the single largest reason for long-term absences in the UK?
- Non-manual positions tend to have a higher rate of stress absence than manual positions?
- Nearly a third of organisations reported an increase in stress related absences over the past year?
Stress at work and stress related absences are a growing concern for many employers across a range of sectors. But what can we do to change this? How can we reduce stress levels or at least, better support our employees who are suffering from high stress levels?
Well, lets look at the top 3 causes of stress:
- Family & personal issues
- Management style
It’s important not to over load staff with an endless list of tasks to get through in a day. It’s also important not to give to little work. You need to find the right balance of workload so employees are busy but able to manage. Recent studies have shown that working long hours increases the likelihood of high stress levels and therefore lower productivity. Whereas working 6 hours a day can improve productivity.
2. Family & personal issues
We all have personal issues outside of work which can be difficult to ‘leave at the door’. Can you be flexible with working hours or allow holidays at short notice for staff going through personal difficulties? Some companies offer private counselling services that staff can access at any time and for any reason.
3. Management style
It’s important to train your managers on both people skills and HR procedures. Well trained managers will be able to support and motivate staff increasing productivity and job satisfaction.
If you can address the causes of stress, then you can reduce it consistently.
The top 3 ways to manage long-term absences are occupational health involvement, return to work interviews and trigger points system to review absences. Well trained managers will be able to identify when to use each of these tools and how to use them effectively. Please click here to see our training calendar to find a suitable course for your managers to attend.
Pulling a sickie? (case law March 2016)
We all know it goes on and sometimes it’s all too obvious. But what can employers do about it?
Employees have the legal right to be absent from work due to sickness and to receive Statutory Sick Pay. But if the sickness isn’t genuine, do these rights still apply? In a recent case between Metroline West and Ajaj 2015, a dismissal for non-genuine absence was tested through the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
Mr Ajaj was employed by Metroline West as a bus driver. He claimed to have had an accident at work in February 2014 where he slipped on a wet floor. He was subsequently signed off by his GP due to the injury caused by the fall.
Following a prolonged period of absence, his employers became suspicious about the alleged injuries and arrange for covert surveillance of Mr Ajaj while he attended an absence management meeting at work. This was followed by further covert surveillance in April 2014 which showed him carrying out tasks which he claimed were beyond his physical capabilities.
Mr Ajaj was disciplined and dismissed for his conduct in misrepresenting his ability to work.
The Employment Tribunal:
Mr Ajaj made a claim of unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal and surprisingly won his case.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT):
Metroline West made an appeal to the EAT. The EAT concluded that Mr Ajaj’s actions had amounted to dishonesty which can be taken as a fundamental breach of contract due to it being the heart of the employer/employee relationship and therefore deemed the dismissal to be fair.
While you may suspect employees of pulling a sickie from time to time, you must be able to demonstrate that beyond reasonable doubt, the employee is making a dishonest representation of their condition and inability to work. While covert surveillance may seem a bit extreme, you can use it in some circumstances. Social media sites are also a good way to check up on absent employees but it’s important to have a social media policy in place too. Medical advice may be obtained from the employees GP, with their written consent, or from an occupational health advisor. As with any dismissal, it is vital to follow a full and fair investigation and dismissal process. Use your company disciplinary policy and make sure it complies with current statutory guidance.
How we can help:
You can't do that!
If only I had a pound for every time someone has said "you can't do that" to me, I would be a very rich woman today!
It's common that when staff think they can get away with things, they may be a little bit upset when you start to lay down the law. This is even more common when you have policies and processes in place that just aren't being following by some department managers.
So how can you change that? Easily!
First of all, send the offending managers on refresher training to remind them of HR policies, why the exist and how to apply them. Then, simply remind all staff that there are policies in place that need to be applied consistently throughout the company. You can re-issue key policies or post a summary of them on the notice board with reference on where to access the full policy. Give it a couple of weeks to make sure that everyone has had enough time to review the policies ask any questions. Then start following the processes.
For example, if you want to crack down on multiple short-term absences, follow the process above then start having return to work meetings and stage 1 absence meetings with staff as required. When you tell them that you will be making a record of the meeting that will be kept on file and any further absences may lead to disciplinary action, you may well hear them say "you can't do that". This is when you politely remind them that you can in fact to that and you will if need be. Refer them to the policy for review and offer to answer any queries regarding the policy that they may have.
Remember, you have the right to manage your staff and it is important that all department managers follow the same processes and apply them consistently.