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The benefits of being a generous employer this Easter

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Looking at the shops, it really does seem as though Easter is the new Christmas.  Easter crackers, Easter biscuits, hot cross buns… And of course, the Easter Bunny will be frantically making his way across predicted snow-laden fields to bring us all Easter eggs.

What better time to give the gift of chocolate?

For a country facing an obesity crisis, this does not sound too healthy. But giving staff an Easter egg may stop the spirit of Scrooge setting in at this time of the year.

Although a chocolate egg is not likely to turn every employee into a little ray of sunshine and make them instantly more productive, it is a nice gesture. Particularly if you remember those that have special dietary requirements such as allergies or diabetes, and find an appropriate sort. If you are feeling really festive, how about an egg hunt in the office or a cake sale for your office charity?

Health initiatives in the workplace

Or maybe now is the time to be implementing a health and wellbeing programme in the workplace. As soon as people think of health and wellbeing programmes, they think “expensive gym membership”. But something as simple as starting a running or walking club can work. Be imaginative – you could even involve their family dogs – and it would be a great way for staff to lose those extra pounds gained from all the Easter treats. It would be a positive team building experience to boot.

Improving mental health as well as physical health

It is also a proven fact that regular exercise does help manage stress, and there is plenty of stress around to be managed.

Alongside a fitness initiative, providing staff with an employee assistance programme as part of an overall flexible benefits offering is a really cost-effective benefit. It is hugely beneficial for employees and the business.

So from all of us at The HR Dept, have a happy and healthy Easter.

How to deal with cancer in the workplace

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The prognosis for many cancers is now good but being given the diagnosis is still probably one of the most frightening things that can happen to anyone.

Fortunately, the law recognises how devastating it is and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, protects any employee or worker diagnosed with cancer regardless of whether it’s terminal.

The protection extends from diagnosis to being told they are in remission or clear and also extends to, if appropriate, their carers.

Talking openly about cancer

People are becoming more open about talking about cancer, with recent publicity with stars such as comedy legend Stephen Fry and actor Ben Stiller talking publicly about their battles with prostate cancer.

Most business owners would not wish to discriminate they want to be supportive but just genuinely do not know how to respond. Naturally as well as sympathy for their employee they do wonder how this will impact on the business and the rest of the team.

Most of us don’t know how to respond when someone says the C word and we worry about saying the wrong thing, sometimes we say nothing at all which is worse.

How to respond if your employee tells you they have cancer

There are some simple things you can do to help both the business, the team and the individual and the first of these is to understand the diagnosis and the treatment plan.

  • Ask them if they want to talk about her cancer diagnosis and treatment and explain you want to support them during this difficult time.
  • Be willing to listen and let them lead the conversation
  • Ask how you can help and be specific with ideas. For example look at flexible work patterns that could accommodate hospital visits and chemotherapy, radiotherapy or alternative treatment sessions. Accept that they may need considerable time off and plan ways you can cover this.
  • Ask what reasonable adjustments are needed
  • Keep your conversations confidential but agree what information can be shared with the team
  • Try to maintain a normal office relationship

Where to get further advice and support

Charities such as Australian Cancer Research Foundation offer tremendous support and information for individuals and companies and of course, your local HR Dept is there to help.

Preparing for the Easter break

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Easter is only a couple of short weeks away and now is the time to start planning about how to manage the break to keep the workplace running smoothly.

Schools will be breaking up and parents will be vying for time off around the holiday.

Keeping everyone productive

For the long weekend, it’s tempting for people to wind down before Good Friday. But it’s important that staff know what’s expected of them and that slacking off won’t be tolerated.

Motivating the office with an Easter egg hunt might be a nice seasonal team-building activity as well as getting people up and away from the desks. Staying fit and moving regularly can help the team be more alert and productive.

Checking the calendar

It’s important to plan ahead, especially if your business is open across the holiday weekend. Service gaps can easily happen if everybody takes the same week off!

Making sure that there are enough staff to cover any shifts can be tricky, especially when you must work out when people need to have their scheduled breaks.

Irish airline Ryanair became caught up in an annual leave blunder last year, leading to cancellations of hundreds of flights and millions of pounds of compensation, lost revenue and brand damage.

Getting the systems right

An HR admin management system can alleviate some of the hassle inevitably caused by the holidays. Why not try a free demonstration of our partner software PeopleHub? Get in touch with The HR Dept today to take it for a spin and get rid of those paper requests!

When does the unfairness start?

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It’s kind of obvious that no matter who does a job, they’d be paid the same. What does it matter if they’re male or female?

But boys and girls get the message very early on that men earn more, with boys on average being given 20% more pocket money than girls. So the message and inequality starts here. Research has also learned that boys are allowed more freedom on how they spend their money. Being paid less and having parents exerting control over how they spend their spending on their money is an introduction to being seen as of less value.

So it ’s not surprising to find out how many women are doing work of equal value as men but are paid less for it despite legislation. This is the campaign for equal pay and it is shocking that the fight is still going on.

Back pay claims surge

Equal pay is the law. Men and women must be paid the same for work of equal value and the cost of getting it wrong can be quite considerable. In the UK, some supermarkets are being taken to the court for nearly $200m in back pay.

Ms Hayes, chief executive of charity the Women’s Resource Centre, said: “We are here again, year after year lamenting the seemingly impervious issue of equal pay for men and women.

“Even though we have laws outlawing the practice of sex discrimination in pay, our progress is probably not even at a snail’s pace”

Come on employers instead of us just celebrating International Women’s Day let us make it the year that becomes the year of equal pay, starting with your children!

Equal pay for equal work

Getting it right is so important to avoid a huge employment tribunal claim. Get in touch with The HR Dept to find out more about how to make sure your staff are being paid equally.

Why companies who discriminate against maternity should be named-and-shamed

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In recent months the voice of women has been heard as they have rightly raged against pay inequality and sexual harassment and now women from all sectors of industry and levels are speaking out about the discrimination they face after having a child.

The law says it’s sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because of her pregnancy or because she wants to take, or has taken, maternity leave. This protection starts as soon as they apply for a job as no candidate can be discriminated against because they’re pregnant, nor can they be fired later because of it.

Exciting news turns to worry

54,000 women each year face bullying and downright discrimination. Some of these true stories from women highlight how prevalent the issue is and how backwards the thinking can be.

One woman was threatened with a wage cut: “My employers discriminated against me from the moment I told them I was pregnant. I work at hourly rate, not a salary and they tried to cut my pay due to pregnancy-related sickness.”

Another mother explained how she was bullied: “The biggest mistake I made was to tell my boss that I was two months pregnant, [from then on] I was pressurised to have an abortion. When I refused he promised to put me on the poverty line.”

Instead of being fired, one mother was forced to quit: “I had 24 hours to resign and sign a non-disclosure agreement. I was completely and utterly shocked, but the worst part was that it stated that I had to say the reason I had left was because ‘I couldn’t cope with the role’.

These are extreme examples but managing maternity leave properly and positively while limiting any negative effect on the company does require planning.

Name and shame

These horror stories should be consigned to the history books and modern family-friendly policies is the only way forward.

Getting expert HR knowledge can help avoid a huge cost at the Fair Work Commission.

The art of tending your HR garden

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To be a good people manager you really need to be a good gardener. The first part of planting a good herbaceous border is selecting strong and healthy plants that are suitable for the soil you are going to grow them in. Not much different to recruitment is it? For those plants to survive they need nurturing and you need to ensure they have the space to grow and blossom.

Not all plants will thrive in your garden

The nasty side of managing and gardening comes in the pruning and weeding. Amongst your beautiful blossoms and across that wonderfully manicured lawn are the dreaded weeds. This is why probationary periods are in contracts. If staff are struggling – and sometimes it’s simply because it’s not the right job for them rather than being incompetent – it is better to call it a day. Hold regular review meetings and give the training and support needed, but be honest.

The difference between termination during the probationary period and out of it can be a much longer notice period, which can prove to be expensive.

Constricting your business

Then imagine seeing a Japanese Knotweed around the perimeter of your house. Unless drastic action is taken, the whole building will be under attack. This happens when staff deliberately undermine your culture and their attitude affects the whole team. And worse still, it extends to poor customer service.

The other risk that comes from eradicating badly behaved staff is the fear that you get the process wrong and you end up facing an expensive tribunal claim.

Effectively managing redundancies

Pruning is like redundancy, and the key here is selecting the right branches or jobs that need to go. Many managers think redundancy is about individuals, but it is much more complicated than that. Huge care needs to be taken when drawing up selection criteria.

The key always is to follow the correct processes and never act in haste. Companies fall down because they rush things and forget to give the employee all their statutory rights, such as the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative. That’s why our customers love having their head gardener on hand to provide step by step guidance. And they also enjoy the peace of mind our unique legal expenses insurance provides.

Gardeners can improve productivity too!

According to a recent survey, well-cared for and well-maintained plants can boost productivity. The placement of one plant per square metre at eye level improves it by 20%. A well-planned display increases productivity by up to 38%, creativity by 45% and well-being by a staggering 47%.

Discover how The HR Dept can help you tend your HR garden, contact us today.

How workplace romances can put your business at risk

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While nobody enjoys telling Cupid where he can and can’t aim his arrow in the workplace, there are times when romance between two people may be inappropriate – such as a manager and their immediate subordinate.

Love is in the air

Although over half of Aussies have been in love at work, most of these romances fizzle out – with few turning into long-term relationships. Working long hours together can create the bond for a relationship, but how might that impact a business?

Personal arguments that every couple have can spill out into the workplace, which may leave surrounding colleagues feeling uncomfortable. This can create a stressful working environment for many.

Some of us enjoy a gossip and the relationships between co-workers can be prime subject matter, so it’s important to ensure this doesn’t go too far and reduce productivity. Malicious gossip is very corrosive to team morale and it can also start cliques and bring other problematic issues. Therefore, it’s worth making sure this doesn’t get out of control.

Tribunals and conflicts

If someone doesn’t consent to another’s advances, then a harassment claim may be raised. Sexual harassment is not love and it must be stamped out immediately. It’s the right thing to do and it can cost you tens of thousands at an employment tribunal.

Nine out of ten managers haven’t had any training on how to manage love in the workplace. And where there is a policy, almost all organisations ban relationships between supervisors and subordinates as it could create a conflict of interest and put the company at risk of a tribunal claim.

Arguments and conflicts can escalate into bullying and hostile work environments. Therefore, it’s important to have a policy that everyone understands. In turn this helps to avoid the loss of productivity and reduces staff turnover.

The HR Dept are here to help

The HR Dept can help you craft a ‘romance policy’ fit for your business. We give our clients pragmatic advice about what they can do, rather than what they can’t.

Get in touch today to avoid the problems that workplace romances can bring to your business.

One in seven bosses wouldn’t hire a woman who might have kids

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In a shocking indictment of how far women’s rights still have to go, one in seven bosses admit they wouldn’t hire a woman of child-bearing age. This is because of the fear that they might go on maternity leave.

Men (18%) are significantly more likely than women (10%) to think twice about hiring a woman in her 20s or 30s that might have children, despite maternity discrimination being illegal.

That rises to a quarter of businesses who “take motherhood into account” when making decisions about career progression, potentially hindering promotions and pay rises on nothing other than being a young woman who is able to have children.

This mirrors with a quarter of women who fell pregnant reporting that they experienced harassment and discrimination after telling their boss the good news.

How to stay on the right side of the equality law

Maternity law and maternity pay can seem straightforward, but even a small error can end up with a big legal case.

A pregnant woman can take up to 18 weeks as maternity leave and must be allowed to return to the same (or similar job). However, some examples of where problems can start, include:

  • Singling out pregnant employees for redundancy.
  • Mishandling requests for flexible working when returning from maternity leave (or assuming flexible working or job sharing would be wanted).
  • Inappropriate comments about pregnancy that amount to harassment.
  • Health and safety breaches against pregnant employees.
  • Penalising a woman who is sick during pregnancy.
  • Not paying maternity leave correctly.
  • Basing recruitment decisions on a family situation.

Contact The HR Dept for advice

The best way to safeguard against maternity discrimination claims is to get in touch with The HR Dept. We can provide you with solid practical advice so that if or when an employee does become pregnant, you know what to do and how to deal with it.

Stop the fakers making it!

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The CV lands on your desk and it shows the perfect candidate, qualifications, skills and experience –  you sigh with relief. But at this point you must stop and check!

This is because businesses across the country are unwittingly employing frauds who chose to buy their qualifications from diploma mills. It’s becoming an increasing problem. It is reported that 38% of CVs from applicants aged 25-32 included embellishments.

Who is at risk?

Smaller companies are often a big target for the fakers as they’re less likely to be able to verify qualification certificates. Applicants can therefore appear well qualified and be paid more.

Whilst purchasing a fake diploma is not illegal, using one to apply for employment constitutes fraud and could result in a prison sentence.

In regulated sectors like education, medicine and finance, checking candidate’s academic and professional qualifications is mandatory and necessary, as bogus qualifications are dangerous. In other roles you may think that the person’s relevant experience is more valid – but if they lie about this, what else will they lie about? Do you really want someone you cannot trust in your company?

Precautions are essential

Always ask candidates to bring all their qualification certificates to interview and then wait for the excuses. “I have just moved house and not unpacked yet” is a favourite.

Check the highest and most relevant qualification, as this is the one most likely to be questionable. Ask in depth questions about the course and where they studied to test their knowledge. If you are still in doubt, check with the university or use a professional referencing agency.

In a lot of fraud cases, the pieces of paper might look genuine but they aren’t verified or validated.

This may seem like an additional cost to an already expensive recruitment process. But bogus qualified staff can seriously damage your reputation.

Ensure that contracts include clauses to deal with dishonesty in recruitment so that their employment can be terminated.

What else do I need to think about when hiring staff?

There’s so much! For a chat about how The HR Dept can help your business grow through recruitment, just get in touch.

Plan to avoid staff shortages after Australia Day

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Not too long until Australia Day brings in a long weekend, but how can small businesses avoid staff shortages and possible shutdown?

Small break, big cost

Chucking a sickie on the day before or after the public holiday might seem innocent enough, but the Australian Chamber of Commerce warned that 180,000 fake sick days were taken at a cost of about $62m.

The key to keeping employees at work is clear lines of communication. Set the expectation that you recognise people might want to extend the weekend and offer to be flexible with holiday requests or offer alternative days off.

Small businesses experienced similar pains when Anzac Day last year fell on a Tuesday – and more people than usual phoned in sick the day before!

Tips on managing sickies

Our HR experts have some top tips on how to clamp down on the fakers this Australia Day:

  • Remind staff before the holidays of how to report sickness – Make it clear that being hungover is not a valid reason to not turn up, and ensure your employees know that ‘I didn’t know who to ring, so I just didn’t turn up’ isn’t an excuse. If managers are away for longer weekends on Australia Day, make sure there’s a clear policy of who they should report to and how to inform them they are sick.
  • Book in a ‘return to work’ meeting – If staff are off sick, check in when they return. You can ask them about their illness, how it was treated and if there are any adjustments needed to help them ease back into work.
  • Check social media – If someone phones in sick and then checks in online at the nearest bar, chances are they might be faking it. Seeing if they went out for the day or suddenly felt well enough to go out partying can go some way to provide evidence for an investigation.

The HR Dept can help you overcome sickies

Sickness is a part of the workplace and people are human and come down with illnesses. But hopefully these tips will go some way to help you reduce the number of fake sickies pulled this Australia Day.

If you need help on how to investigate or discipline staff that might be faking it, get in touch.