Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the average number of sick days taken by UK workers fell to 4.1 days in 2017. This is a significant reduction from the average of 7.2 days in 1993 when the data was first collected.  At first glance this could be viewed as positive news for businesses, ACAS suggests that sickness absence costs the UK economy £17 billion a year.  

However, how much of this decrease is explained by employees coming into work when they are unwell?  

A recent Work Foundation report has found that “presenteeism”, or sickness presence, could account for as much if not more of a loss in productivity than sickness absence. Increased presenteeism can be linked to stress, anxiety and depression. A 2018 CIPD/Simplyhealth survey showed that Presenteeism has almost trebled since 2010. A thousand participants responded to the survey which revealed that 86% had observed employees in their organisation coming into work unwell over the past 12 months. 

Rachel Suff, Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the CIPD, said
 “In order to encourage a healthy workplace, organisations need to look beyond sickness absence rates alone and develop a solid, evidence-based understanding of the underlying causes of work-related stress and unhealthy behaviour like presenteeism. Without this evidence base, efforts to support employees and improve their health and well-being will be short-lived.” 

What Can My Organisation Do To keep Control of Presenteeism? 

1) Encourage a culture that encourages good attendance when people are well but expects unwell employees to stay at home and recover. Those in leadership roles can help this by setting a good example. 

2) Be supportive to employees returning to work after a period of sickness absence.

3) Develop a policy on both absenteeism and presenteeism and make sure everyone in the organisation is aware of it.

4) Be aware of the signs of stress and mental health in particular and ensure managers are trained and supported in this regard. Colleagues can also be encouraged to look out for each other and spot any warning signs.

5) Introduce a technology such as absence management software that can help organisations spot trends,and uncover underlying health issues such as stress. 



Staff Appraisals


Most organisations have an employee appraisal system of some kind. Appraisals are a great way of getting a dialogue going between employee and manager. A diarised time gives an employee opportunity to be able to talk about their achievements, identify training needs, make suggestions and listen to feedback from their manager. Previous goals and targets can be reviewed and new objectives set.  It is important that employees are given some time to prepare and that if an appraisal meeting is cancelled for some reason, it gets rescheduled promptly and goes ahead. 

How often should appraisals happen? 

Appraisals are often undertaken annually and this is reasonable timeframe. Whilst the annual appraisal provides a formal time to have a discussion, this shouldn’t be the only opportunity for an employee and manager to get together and regular catch ups are a good way of aiding communication and offering a manager important insight into how the organisation is functioning. 

Don’t wait for an appraisal to share positive feedback – it is motivating for employees to hear when things are going well and shorter weekly catch ups for example are a good time to give brief positive feedback. The same applies for negative feedback –  performance issues these should be addressed promptly as they arise.  

Who should carry out an appraisal? 

Line managers most commonly carry out staff appraisals. It is important that any staff conducting appraisals are confident to do so and have received adequate advice, support and, where necessary, training. 

Some organisations use other forms of appraisal such as “bottom up” where employees colleagues give feedback, or 360-degree appraisals where feedback comes from a variety of individuals such as customers, colleagues, managers and suppliers. This gives a comprehensive view of performance but is obviously a more time-consuming process.  

Preparing for an Appraisal Meeting 

  • Set aside proper uninterrupted time and ensure an employee has been given adequate time to prepare and think about what they want to say.   
  • To help you both, it is useful to have an appraisal form or template for an employee to complete prior to the meeting   
  • Put an employee at ease and use some positive comments to open the discussion 
  • Listen carefully to what employees have to say – this is their time.  
  • Highlight achievements and set goals based on these strengths. 
  • Where goals are set, ensure they can be monitored and measured and that your employee is clear about goals are to be achieved. 
  • Use an appraisal form or template and ensure that employee gets a completed copy following the appraisal and an opportunity to add their own comments 

Are appraisals necessary in a small organisation? 

The benefits of an appraisal system apply to any sized organisation. Small businesses should not be overly burdened by the appraisal process, and a simple procedure put in place will be effective and add value. 

The Heat Is On… Working in Warmer Weather.

SUN 2Most of us welcome some warmer weather especially after what feels like a particularly long winter. Weekends and holidays are one thing, however working in the warmer weather is not always such a pleasant prospect particularly if the workplace isn’t a comfortable place to be. So, what do employers and staff need to consider when the temperatures rise?  

What is too hot?

In the UK there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to be, rather advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. What is reasonable depends on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air conditioned office, etc).  

The HSE offers further guidance on workplace temperatures including details on carrying out an optional thermal comfort risk assessment if staff are unhappy with the temperature. 

Keeping Cool at Work water

Employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces, although where it available it makes sense to use it. Other sensible solutions might be to offer fans or if there are blinds or curtains then using them to block out sunlight. Those employees working outside should wear appropriate clothing and use sun screen to protect them from sunburn.  Employers must provide suitable drinking water in the workplace given that it is important to stay hydrated.  

Vulnerable workers  

Hot weather can make workers feel tired and less energetic especially for those who are young, older, pregnant or those on medication. Employers may wish to give these workers, more frequent rest breaks and ensure ventilation is adequate by providing fans, or portable air cooling units.

Dress code in the workplace during hot weather  

While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow “dress down” days. This does not necessarily mean that shorts and flip flops are appropriate, rather employers may relax the rules in regards to wearing ties or suits. Relaxing the dress code can help people to keep cool and retain morale.

Morale Boosters

When it is particularly warm employers can acknowledge the conditions by perhaps offering the occasional perk such as ice lollies or drinks. Small incentives can help keep spirits higher as well as the temperatures.


Women In Work – Which Century Are We In?

Pregnancy 2 image

A study by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has shown that many employers need more support to better understand the basics of discrimination law and the rights of pregnant women and new mothers. Chief Executive of the Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, called the results “a depressing reality.” The study also suggests that many employers have “antiquated” views on hiring women.

Revealing that attitudes of many businesses are decades behind the law, the survey of 1,106 senior decision makers in business found around a third (36%) of private sector employers agree that it is reasonable to ask women about their plans to have children in the future during recruitment.

The new statistics also reveal that six in 10 employers (59%) agree that a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant during the recruitment process, and almost half (46%) of employers agree it is reasonable to ask women if they have young children during the recruitment process. Despite the practice being illegal since 1975, research by the business department and EHRC in 2015 found the number of women reporting this kind of discrimination increased between 2005 and 2015. The Commission is calling on employers to put a stake in the ground to eliminate these attitudes and, more importantly, pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace for good.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for human resources and people development, said: ‘Much more needs to be done to help organisations improve their people management practices, particularly smaller firms, given the most negative attitudes to pregnancy and maternity in the survey are among those with 250 or fewer employees. Investment in manager capability is essential to challenge unlawful, short-sighted and unethical practice.’

Here are some myths and realities around pregnancy and maternity legislation:

Myth: I have just found out my new recruit is pregnant, can I sack her?
Reality: It is automatically unfair to dismiss a female employee because she is pregnant, no matter how long she has been employed.  
Myth: It is perfectly reasonable to ask a job candidate if they are pregnant or not.  
Reality: Employers must not ask a candidate questions of a personal nature unrelated to the role and their application.  
Myth: An employee on maternity leave can’t work.  
Reality: An employee can work up to ten “keeping in touch” days during maternity leave. They can be really useful for things like training and team meetings.  
Myth: An employee can’t ask to work flexibly when they return to work from maternity leave.  
Reality: Most employees returning to work from maternity leave have worked long enough to request flexible working.  
Myth: Once back from maternity leave an employees rights are reset.  
Reality: An employee returning to work from maternity leave keeps all their rights and does not return to work as a new employee.  

For more information and advice visit the ACAS website

If you need help or guidance around any issues of discrimination, or with writing policies or procedures, please get in touch with us at Charlton Associates on 01242 254466.   

“Thanks but no thanks” – Importance of a Positive Candidate Experience

Why-Employers-Dont-Respond-after-Job-InterviewsRecruitment is a time consuming part of our HR day. Eyes set firmly on the goal – filling a position quickly and getting the right person in place to get started on the job in hand. In the everyday world of a busy organisation it is all too easy to make your job offer and move on, focussing on the successful new hire.  But hold on…. what about the other candidates? After all, they have put time and effort into applying, have set some of their day aside to come in to meet you, often having taken time off from their current job. Most people will have put in some preparation time, learning about your organisation and practising answers to questions they’ll potentially be asked. Perhaps part of the process was to  prepare a presentation prior to interview?

Getting in Touch

Most organisations, we hope,  will be contacting those who were unsuccessful at interview. But sadly this isn’t always the case.  A notification of being unsuccessful at interview is the bare minimum that should be provided. Aside from showing courtesy and fairness to the person who has invested time and effort into applying, what message are you sending about your organisation if they don’t hear from you again? Giving a positive candidate experience will ensure that even those disappointed over the outcome of their interview can come away with a favourable view of your organisation.  And importantly your reputation will remain in tact. People don’t tend to keep quiet about their experiences, often telling their family and friends and their wider social circle on Twitter and Facebook too. Who knows when an unsuccessful candidate may become a customer or an ambassador for your brand.

Organisations can be short of time and resource. There can also be the fear of delivering bad news which is not nearly as attractive as the “positive” bit of making the job offer! We can also be afraid of repercussions.  However giving some proper, accurate and meaningful feedback to those unsuccessful at interview is worth the investment.

Delivering the News

PhoneOnce you have made an offer and a successful candidate has accepted, don’t delay in contacting those unsuccessful at interview. Whilst there may be some disappointment, individuals will appreciate an unnecessary delay and they won’t be left hanging on wondering how they did. Most candidates will appreciate a personal approach so a phone call with some meaningful feedback is an effective way of communicating.  Feedback should provide unsuccessful candidates with compelling reasons they weren’t selected to move forward. The feedback should be constructive and help the job seeker to be better at their next interview. Using examples will help you to explain your choices. Of course it is important that concise and accurate notes have been made during the interview process to make this task an easier one. It can be helpful during the feedback to suggest useful and positive ways that a candidate might be able to improve for future interviews. It is important that candidates do no come away deflated by the feedback, but that they feel they have been taken seriously and can learn from the experience.

Finally ensure that you have thanked a candidate for the time they took to apply and for coming in to meet with you. No one wants to hear bad news but if your feedback is delivered properly with meaningful information and sincerity, a candidate can feel a whole lot better than receiving a generic thanks but no thanks email, or worse still hearing nothing at all.

GDPR is fast approaching. What does it mean for you and your business?


What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect from 25th May 2018. It is the biggest change in data protection laws for 20 years, replacing the current Data Protection Act and is a new set of rules governing the privacy and security of personal data laid down by the European Commission.

What is the aim of GDPR?

The new regulations have been designed to give power back to individuals over how their data is processed and used, and protect their privacy. Individuals will be able to request that businesses delete personal data that is not necessary or accurate. Additionally, individuals gain the right to access a readable copy of any data a company has collected about them and can object to their data being processed.

Who will be affected?

Any group that processes the personal data of European residents must comply with the new law. Businesses and organisations not complying with the new laws could receive huge fines of up to 4 per cent of their annual global turnover.

What do HR need to consider?

GDPR will tighten the rules for gaining consent from employees to process their personal data. Consent now needs to be explicit, informed and given. HR departments should think about what reasons they could use to justify processing employee data, such as needing to do so to perform a contract or to comply with a legal obligation.

What counts as personal data?

Information related to an employee such as names, photos, bank details, email addresses, personal information or medical records qualifies as personal data.

Do I have to get an employee’s consent to retain personal data?

Companies may process employee data on the basis that it is necessary under their employee contract or to fulfil an employer’s legitimate interests. However, the conditions for consent have been strengthened so consent that was obtained as part of the terms and conditions of employment contracts may no longer suffice.

Explicit consent may need to be given by employees for the retention and processing of sensitive personal data so it’s important to assess this between now and May 2018. The GDPR also means that ‘data subjects’ have the right to withdraw consent at any time.

What will HR do if there’s a data breach once the GDPR is in force?

Under the GDPR, organisations will need to disclose a data breach to the appropriate authorities within 72 hours, unless the data is encrypted or doesn’t identify individuals. If the breach poses a high degree of risk to the rights of the individuals concerned, the business will need to inform the people affected as well.

What about data security?

It is important to review security provisions and to consider any potential issues that could arise because of the way that data is stored. Depending on the extent of the sensitive data processed, it may be necessary for companies to appoint a Data Protection Officer to oversee data processing activities within their organisation.

What steps should we take in HR now?

Review your data protections processes and procedures and identify any areas of concern. (Part of this process is to create an inventory of all the personal data that you hold and assess the reasons for its retention.)

Engage with your workforce and make them aware of the new rules and their rights. This will make it easier to obtain any consent you require to hold their sensitive data. You’ll need to look at how you acquire, obtain and record declarations of consent from your workforce.

Review employment contracts and documents to look at whether this meets the requirements for consent going forward.

Where can businesses get help and advice?

The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK released a set of guidelines to help businesses prepare for GDPR.

It also recommends that companies review privacy notices and ensure there is a plan in place that allows them to make any necessary changes to be in compliance with GDPR.

Flexible Working


Flexible Working

In the UK the idea of flexible working has taken hold and new figures from the consultancy Timewise show that 63 % of permanent, full time staff have some degree of flexible working, including those who often work from home, make use of flexible working patterns or work reduced hours. The main reasons put forward as to why workers would wish to work flexibly included increased control over their work/life balance, reducing their energy-sapping commute, allowing more time for leisure and study, and more opportunities to care for children and other dependents.

The survey dispels the common misconceptions that flexible working is only for women with children, or those with parenting responsibilities.

Karen Mattison, MBE, joint CEO of Timewise, said: “The fact that flexible working has been seen as a women’s issue has not done women or businesses any favours. The research shows once and for all, that flexible working is a preferred way of working for both men and women at all stages of their working lives.

Employer Benefits

 Research conducted by Vodafone involving 8,000 global employers and employees reported that 61 per cent said flexible working had “helped increase company profits.” It found that SMEs in particular had been overwhelmingly convinced about the business benefits of flexible working.

The data also revealed 58 per cent believed flexible working policies have a positive impact on their organisation’s reputation.

So, who can request Flexible Working?

Since the law changed in June 2014, staff can apply for flexible working even if they don’t have children or act as someone’s carer.

Any employee who has 26 weeks’ continuous service is entitled to make one written request for flexible working within a 12-month period. There are some exceptions, for example, if they are a member of the armed forces or an agency worker. However, if they are an agency worker who has employee status, has been continuously been employed for a period of no less than 26 weeks or is returning to work from maternity or paternity leave they will be able to make a request.

Will this be a Permanent Change?

Yes, although an employer and employee can agree a trial period first. A temporary arrangement can be negotiated too.


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