Trouble at the Office: Time to Involve HR

It can be a difficult decision to know when to involve HR. Maybe you don’t want them “wading in” or maybe you think you don’t want to bother them with a “little niggle”, but the end result is that HR can be involved too late, which can cause many more issues than the original one. So make sure you involve HR early!

Cultural norms

It started as some jibes and name calling said in jest about a colleague, but these “innocent” antics developed into a cultural norm in the office. When a new starter joined the team, they fell victim to these antics, and were made to feel very uncomfortable resulting in them making an accusation of bullying and harassment under the Equality Act (with a likelihood of an employment Tribunal), and losing the new recruit. If HR had been involved early on, with some E&D training, the ‘cultural norm’ may have been different, and so not excluded the new colleague.

Being proactive

An employee started turning up late on a semi-regular basis, as they were a hard worker who made up the time, the manager turned a blind eye. Eventually, the employee went off sick with stress – it turned out they had been juggling caring for a sick relative with working full-time and had felt unable to ask for help. If the manager had asked HR about how to have a quick conversation early on, they would have discovered the problem and been able to offer some support rather than the situation escalating.

Ignoring an issue

Ignoring a grievance or appeal letter won’t make the problem go away – there can be huge repercussions. As soon as you receive a grievance, appeal or hear of a disciplinary issue, you should involve HR – it is our bread and butter, and we can help guide you through the steps to resolve the issue as quickly and effectively as possible.

Burying your head

Avoiding a performance management issue because it’s just too difficult or time-consuming to tackle is a regular offender. Each time, the issue gets bigger and does not go away – instead it becomes more complicated to deal with. A recent example was when a new line manager started to performance manage a long-serving member of staff, only to find herself accused of bullying because a previous manager had ignored the issue rather than tackle it. The employee suddenly found themselves being performance managed, and was understandably confused and angry, as they felt there had been no change in their performance hence the accusation. The net result was two very disgruntled members of staff (employee and manager) with one exiting the business at a great cost to the company. A quick call to HR by the original manager to get support in the performance management process would have saved a lot of heartache.

Not treating a matter as seriously as they should

Failing to listen to a grievance properly in it’s early stages could cause huge issues for an organisation. A minor complaint that could be dealt with informally, if dealt with properly at the start, can snowball into a convoluted grievance requiring considerable management time and effort to resolve. It may even lead to an employee exiting the business claiming constructive dismissal or frustration of contract – this is a costly position to find yourself in.

Not tackling sickness absence

A 5-minute return to work interview after every episode has been shown to significantly reduce sickness absence occurrences. It discourages people from taking ‘duvet days’ if their sickness is not genuine, as it is too difficult to lie to the boss. And if the sickness is genuine, those 5 minutes show you care and are genuinely interested in their well-being, and it can lead to more open conversations in the future if there is a health issue.

Not following through the whole process

Going through a disciplinary investigation and hearing, to then fail to issue the appropriate letter afterwards is a waste of your time. Without that letter, it does not matter what was said, there is nothing formal to back it up. The warning won’t exist.

Equally, failing to give the right to a colleague or union representative at a hearing, or giving the right to appeal, will end you up in hot water.

Keep accurate records – document the conversations you have had about someone’s sickness or performance, so that if you need to start a formal process, you can evidence the background, and what has already happened.

Getting too emotionally involved (allowing anger or frustration to get in the way)

You discover someone has been cooking the books, or they unfairly claim you are bullying them. You may well see the ‘red mist’ descend, but getting too emotionally involved, angry or frustrated will not allow you to make objective and legal decisions with the best interests of your business at heart. Firing them may be what you want to do, but follow the proper process first!

Forward planning

You have experts in the business – but what would you do if they left or fell ill? You need to ensure that their knowledge is shared amongst their team – either through succession planning, or training and development plans. Thinking to the future, could ultimately protect your business, and also develop your people.

Being too hasty

It is so important to select the right person for the job – someone who has the right skills as well as being a cultural fit. Recruiting the first ‘ok’ candidate because you desperately need the post filled, will cost you in the long run. If, a few months down the line, you find they can’t do the job, you have to performance manage them, or exit them from the business, and then start all over again with the recruitment process with the costs that that entails.

The recruitment process is overly hasty – interview for cultural fit, as well as right skills for the job. Get a second opinion.

Outdated (or non-existent) employee handbook

Businesses of all sizes need to have some form of an employee handbook – not having company policies in writing, or them being outdated, is asking for trouble! The policies need to be updated and communicated on a regular basis. And employees should sign to say they have read and understood them.

Contact us!

If some of these issues sound familiar and you don’t have in-house HR support, then Jaluch can provide you with external support with any of the issues in this Blast. We can update (and draft from scratch) employee handbooks, contracts, business protection letters etc. Get in touch and let us know how we can help …

Email us or call us today on: 01425 479888

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.

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