A large part of my working week is spent travelling around Kent and Medway providing HR advice to SMEs, charities and associations.
Companies reach out for all sorts of HR advice. Here are some examples of the HR problems faced by Kent businesses in the last few weeks.
Mental health is one of the most common issues I come across. Employers know they need to try and support their employee, but also need to run an efficient business. Often they are scared about what they can ask the employee and don’t know how to manage the situation. The business I met with had an employee off ill with mental health issues, but needed someone in the office doing their job. As mental health can often be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, employers must tread carefully.
Whilst specific advice varies from case to case, as a rule an employer should normally look to obtain an occupational health assessment to judge whether the employee is capable of doing their job. If they aren’t, a capability based dismissal can be started.
A common issue within the ‘trades’ is the lack of control businesses have when the use subcontractors. Because the subcontractors are not paid through PAYE, and are not employees (with the associated benefits), they are free to pick and choose when they work. This can give the business issues when booking jobs and keeping their customers happy.
I met with an electrician company, and explained the benefits of bringing some of their subcontractor onboard as employees. The next stage was to explain the importance of having up to date SMTs and a comprehensive employee handbook which will give the owners the control that they desire. This might include absence management, social media, CCTV, harassment and disciplinary policies.
Often the trickiest staff problems to deal with revolve around their interactions, especially if the problems are very minor but constant. It is natural for an owner not to want to get involved in trivial issues, but quite often it is best to nip these things in the bud. This is where having an outsourced HR provider at hand is very useful. Getting that outside opinion combined with expert advice on the best course of action to follow can save business owners time and stress.
When I visited a retailer in Kent, their staff ‘bickering’ issue had escalated somewhat, and their existing HR Consultancy had failed to provide advice that was of any help to the situation. The matter in hand involved accusations of a co-worker having an affair with an employee’s partner. This naturally made things very difficult within the workplace. I explained how we would work proactively with the business to restore harmony, which could, if required include a dismissal using the ‘Some Other Substantive Reason’ (SOSR) criteria.
Dealing with Different Cultures
They say it is lonely at the top. Sometimes business owners need some back up and this was exactly the case when I visited a care staff agency in Medway. Although many of the employees were from the same Nigerian heritage as the owner, she was struggling to explain how some of the cultural beliefs were not acceptable excuses when working in the UK. The particular example she cited was the belief that cats were evil spirits, with staff refusing to go to provide care if there was a cat in the household.
We were able to support her tackle this unusual human resources issue by holding her hand through the necessary processes to address these problems. I feel part of the benefit was, allowing her to say to her staff, ‘I have discussed this with my HR support company’, so that the employees realised that this wasn’t an issue that could continue.
No Jab No Job
I’ve come across my first ‘No Jab, No Job’ tribunal claim. These cases are fundamentally based around the fact that employment had to be terminated where a carer (or NHS staff member), did not get the COVID-19 vaccine. It will be interesting to see how this type of claim progresses – many of them are going to be grouped together, with several test cases being chosen, so that precedent can be set. The claim against my prospective customer was based upon discrimination against the carer’s beliefs. Whatever the outcome, the result could have huge implications on future vaccine-linked dismissals.
This wide range of issues is what makes my work enjoyable – each day is different. By providing a solution to their issues I get to see genuine relief from business owners who can once again focus on their day job, whilst allowing us to take care of HR and employment law issues. Do you run a business based in Medway or Kent, and want to discuss HR support? Get in touch with me using this contact form.