Category Archives: Absence Management

Rageh Omaar unwell on air: What can employers do if an employee insists they’re well enough to work?

After ITV News presenter Rageh Omaar appeared to suffer a medical episode while anchoring the 10pm news on Friday, questions have been asked around the way in which his bosses handled the emergency.

Mr Omaar was taken to hospital following the News at Ten bulletin, and in a later statement he thanked viewers for their concern, saying that he “had been determined to finish presenting the programme”. ITV colleagues have reported raising concerns about Mr Omaar’s health ahead of the bulletin but said he insisted that he was well enough to present the show.

This raises the question, what can an employer do if an employee insists they are well enough to work?

Gavin Scarr Hall, Health & Safety Director at Peninsula, says “Employers have a duty of care to their employees so the final decision as to whether someone is fit to work should always lie with them. It’s understandable that an employee may want to continue working, whether that’s out of a sense of responsibility in their role, not wanting to let colleagues down, or not wanting to acknowledge any ‘weakness’. But it’s an employer’s responsibility to take the tough decisions when needed.

“In this case, it appears that concerns were raised, and medical attention was sought, but should Mr Omaar have had the final say on whether he was well enough to present, or should bosses have overruled him? Based on the evidence available and without knowing what was happening behind the scenes, I can say that watching him struggle to speak made for uncomfortable viewing and – as a manager – I would not have allowed him to continue.

“If you see a colleague who appears visibly unwell, this should be reported immediately to the resident first aider or the appointed person, as well as the colleague’s manager. If they need first aid, this can then be administered, or further medical intervention sought.

“It is important that a decision on return to work should only be reached after a careful balancing of obligations under the reasonable adjustment duty and the duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health & safety of employees and others.

“Carry out an employee wellbeing assessment that considers the nature of their work, how it is organised and managed. Take account of the employee’s physical, psychological, and social wellbeing and how that affects their ability to do their job. Use the information and advice in the employee’s fit note to clarify their fitness for work or as guidance on restricted duties before they return to work, attend a return-to-work review or before completing this wellbeing assessment.

“You should also consider whether there might be any long-term residual disability that could have substantial adverse effects on the person’s ability to carry out day to day activities. If there is, reasonable adjustment to avoid discrimination must be considered. “Should there be a health & safety reason that cannot be avoided the person should not continue in that role. You may have to consider alternative roles or, in the most serious cases, terminating employment.

“However, this step should only be made after the thorough examination of the possibility of adjustment have been made including additional health & safety precautions and in consultation with your HR support.”

Navigating stress and burnout in Operational Research

April is Stress Awareness month, an annual event organised by the non-profit organisation Stress Management Society to increase public awareness about stress, often seen as a modern-day epidemic.  In this article we explore the rise of stress in the workplace and offer tips for how organisations can support staff dealing with stress and burnout.

A global report[i] last year suggested that stress and burnout are the greatest risk facing organisations in 2024. The Workforce Resilience Council’s international SOS’ latest annual risk outlook highlighted that 80% of senior risk professionals predict that burnout will have a significant impact on employees this year.

In January, the chief executive of the charity, Mental Health UK, Brian Dow warned the UK risks becoming a “burnt-out nation” with a “worrying number of people” taking time off due to poor mental health caused by stress[ii].

 

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)[iii] , 1.8 million workers suffered from work-related ill health in 2022/23, with about half of the cases down to stress, depression or anxiety. What’s more, stress comes at a major cost for businesses –  a report by Deloitte[iv] in 2021 estimated the annual cost of poor mental health to UK employers has increased by 25% since 2019, up to £56 billion per year.

 

Stress levels in Operational Research

Stress can place immense demands on employees’ physical and mental health and affect their behaviour, performance and relationships with colleagues and, in the field of operational research, professionals have the propensity to suffer stress.  In Operational Research, people are working at a high academic level solving complex issues.  The demands of modelling, optimisation, and simulation, combined with the need to stay abreast of industry advancements, can create an intense work environment. Tight deadlines, high expectations, and the responsibility of providing actionable insights for real-world challenges contribute to the pressure cooker that OR professionals often find themselves in.

Additionally, the nature of the job, which involves intricate mathematical work and addressing multifaceted problems, can lead to mental fatigue and exhaustion over time. Burnout not only affects individuals but can also hamper overall team dynamics and the quality of output. Therefore, organisations need to ensure they have robust strategies and processes in place to mitigate the risks of stress and burnout.

 

Navigating stress and burnout in the OR world

 Stress is something most people feel at one time or another when dealing with the challenges of life. The NHS[v] highlights that during periods of stress the body releases a hormone called adrenaline (often called the “fight or flight” hormone), which usually gives people a boost or motivates them to act quickly. While sometimes this can enhance a person’s performance, it can be damaging if stressful periods become the normality.

 

What are the signs of stress to look out for? 

 The HSE[vi] highlights that if employees acting differently, it can indicate they are stressed. The signs for managers to look for in teams include arguments at work; higher staff turnover; more sickness absence; decreased performance and more complaints and grievances. Other signs are a change in how someone thinks or feels such as mood swings; being withdrawn; loss of motivation, commitment and confidence; and increased emotional reactions such as being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive.

 

Emma Capper, UK Wellbeing Leader at employee benefits firm, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing said, “The key is being able to spot these signs and put the right interventions in place early is essential to preventing issues from escalating. Most jobs involve some level of stress, but when the impacts are compounded by lack of support and resources, tight deadlines and long hours, burnout can be the result.”

 

Tips for managing stress and burnout in the workplace:

 Howden has put together a free guide for tackling employee stress and burnout, which organisations can download by visiting: www.howdengroup.com/uk-en/employee-burnout. Here are some of the top actions they suggest:

 

  1. Invest in line manager training– managers are the first line of defence and training them to spot the early signs of stress is imperative.
  2. Speak to the affected employee – find out more about the reasons behind stress and burnout. It could be related to the workplace (volumes, pressures, and prioritisation), home life (having young children or caring for an elderly relative) or something else. A good understanding of the issues means that line managers, HR or employers can help.
  3. Train mental health first aiders– these are dedicated people within the organisation who employees can go to for practical support and advice.
  4. Introduce Wellbeing Action Plans– when a mental health condition is identified set up a plan. This tool allows line managers to help employees – and employees to help themselves.
  5. Offer flexible working – Making reasonable adjustments at work for an employee suffering with their mental health is important and employees have a legal right to ask for changes to be made to their job or workplace. Hybrid, part-time, flexi-time or condensed hours may support a better work-life balance.
  6. Use free resources– there is a wealth of information readily available. For example, the mental health charity, Mind has free resources which can be shared with managers and employees, including guidance for managers on how to support staff experiencing a mental health problem.
  7. Mind and body sessions– introduce sessions on mindfulness, massages or stress management techniques, plus encourage exercise which is a great stress reliever. Discounted gym membership or suggesting activities such as lunchtime walks or company-wide fitness challenges to support teamwork and collaboration are a great idea. Line Managers could also adopt walking 1-2-1s as a way of supporting physical activity whilst checking in with employees.
  8. Check and promote what’s already available– Critical Illness, Private Medical and Group Income Protection policies often offer a range of services that provide mental health support for employees when they need it most. Most also offer Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) which are designed to support the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of employees, that include telephone and often face-to-face counselling.

 

In embracing Stress Awareness Month, organisations can take proactive steps towards fostering healthier work environments. By initiating conversations, implementing supportive measures, and utilising available resources, companies can pave the way for enhanced well-being and productivity. Let’s turn Stress Awareness Month into a catalyst for meaningful change in how we address stress and burnout in the workplace.

For more information on Stress Awareness Month, visit: www.stress.org.uk/national-stress-awareness-month.

References

[i] https://www.strategic-risk-global.com/people-risk/burnout-is-the-greatest-risk-facing-organisations-in-2024-how-to-tackle-it/

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2024/jan/22/mental-health-uk-burnt-out-nation#:~:text=Mental%20Health%20UK’s%20chief%20executive,are%20complex%2C%E2%80%9D%20he%20added.

[iii] https://press.hse.gov.uk/2023/11/22/hse-publishes-annual-work-related-ill-health-and-injury-statistics-for-2022-23/

[iv] https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consulting/articles/mental-health-and-employers-the-case-for-investment.html

[v] https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/mental-health-issues/stress/

[vi] https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/signs.htm

Aon and Vitality find gender wellbeing risks challenge DE&I progress among UK employers

  • Women more likely to feel fatigue
  • Men more likely to drink over 14 units of alcohol per week and smoke more

Analysis of new employee data from Vitality, in collaboration with Aon plc (NYSE: AON), shows key imbalances between genders at work in the UK, which, if left unchecked, can challenge employers’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) progress. The findings come from a survey of more than 8,500 employees in organisations across the UK to determine Britain’s Healthiest Workplace.

The research shows gender imbalances in employee wellbeing across all groups – men, women and those who identify as “other”. For instance, the average amount of time lost due to absence was similar for men and women (6.4 vs. 7.2 days). However, when asked to self-report on productive time lost due to presenteeism, women felt they lost more time (47 days per year vs. 39 days per year for men).

When lifestyle data was examined, 32.5 percent of men self-reported drinking over 14 units of alcohol a week compared to 19.5 percent of women. Men also reported smoking more (9.2 percent vs. 8.3 percent women). By contrast, 29.4 percent of men said they had their blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol measured in the past 12 months, compared to 20.1 percent of women. Conversely, women reported undertaking less physical exercise compared to their male colleagues (42.8 percent vs. 33.4 percent) but were more likely to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day (52.2 percent vs. 42.1 percent).

In addition, more women reported having one or more chronic health conditions compared to men (45.3 percent vs. 36.4 percent), while also having more musculoskeletal conditions – at least two types – than men (64.4 percent vs. 52.2 percent). Feeling fatigued or very tired at least once a week was self-reported more often by women than men (57.3 percent of women’s to men’s 48 percent), as was the likelihood of experiencing burnout (22 percent to men’s 18.5 percent).

In the workplace, men reported that they were less likely to share the values of their employer (76.5 percent vs. 81.9 percent for women) and felt more dissatisfied with their job than women (31 percent to women’s 28.4 percent). There was a wide variance between men (50.8 percent) and women (33.6 percent) who said that their employer provides them with volunteering opportunities and supports them financially to do so.

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Survey also recorded responses from people who identified their gender as “other”; however, there weren’t sufficient figures to derive statistically significant conclusions.

Dr Jeanette Cook, principal strategic consultant for Health Solutions at Aon in the UK, said:

“There is a clear imbalance between genders across most metrics in this survey with the data suggesting that a lot of employers are not yet in the right place to manage the differences. Many studies have shown the benefits of having a diverse workforce – not least gains in productivity, performance, innovation and reputation. Companies cannot afford to be wrong-footed regarding gender variations in health and wellbeing needs.

“From a prospective candidate’s perspective, a future employer having a meaningful Employee Value Proposition is an essential consideration when choosing their next job. The balance for employers, then, is to ensure that DE&I and health and wellbeing programmes support retention and recruitment.”

Dr Jeanette Cook continued:

“These results show the challenges employers need to understand and overcome. For instance, we can see women self-reported losing more productive days due to presenteeism but is this due to different interpretations of presenteeism between genders? Women also experience more stress and exercise less. Men report a higher rate of alcohol consumption, but this may be a coping strategy for managing stress. What barriers might they be facing that makes this the case?

“A one-size-fits-all approach does not work with health and wellbeing. Employers need to look at their own data in context with industry insights to gain greater understanding of the issues that are present within their workforce and to build resilience. While there are some basic and common wellbeing needs, to be most effective, organisations will need to develop flexible wellbeing programmes specifically tailored to their unique business sector and workforce.”

Aon is the consulting partner to Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, which is available here.

More information about how Aon helps businesses build resilient workforces is available here.

References

Vitality surveyed 8,500 employees whose companies took part in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace research from 29 March to 30 September 2022.

Presenteeism is defined as working at less-than-optimal levels, which can only be assessed by asking individuals. The challenge for researchers – as well as employers – has been how to measure presenteeism. A consensus has emerged around a range of survey tools that can generate proxies. One widely validated tool for self-reported absence and presenteeism is the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI) questionnaire. The WPAI has been used in a wide range of studies to measure the loss of productivity from both general health problems as well as from specific conditions. In the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, the general health WPAI (WPAI-GH) has been used.

Under the WPAI-GH, the determination of presenteeism is made using the following question, on the basis of a seven-day recall period:

During the past seven days, how much did health problems affect your productivity while you were working? Think about days you were limited in the amount or kind of work you could do, days you accomplished less than you would like, or days you could not do your work as carefully as usual. If health problems affected your work only a little, choose a low number. Choose a high number if health problems affected your work a great deal. 

This is a 0 to 10 scale, where 0 means health problems had no effect on your work, and 10 means that health problems completely prevented you from working. If you choose a presenteeism level of 2, for example, it means that you were fully productive for 80 percent of your working time, and that you had no productivity for 20 percent of the time.

About Aon 

Aon plc (NYSE: AON) exists to shape decisions for the better — to protect and enrich the lives of people around the world. Our colleagues provide our clients in over 120 countries and sovereignties with advice and solutions that give them the clarity and confidence to make better decisions to protect and grow their business.

Five strategies businesses can deploy to reduce long term sickness at work

Written by Emma Capper, UK wellbeing leader at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing 

The ONS figures were published ahead of the “Back to work” Spring budget, which included some positive health measures including a £400 million support package to improve mental health and musculoskeletal resources, and the expansion of the placement and support scheme for individuals with these conditions providing them with greater access to digital apps and offering businesses enhanced occupational health services.

The government’s plans may not go far enough as the fallout from the pandemic continues to affect access to diagnosis and treatment services. The NHS is overburdened, resulting in limited access to GPs and other services, leading to more individuals being absent from work due to ill health and struggling to receive proper treatment and diagnosis. While the government has outlined some plans to address this, employers play a big role in supporting not only their employees but the NHS as well.

Employers can take a more proactive approach to reduce absences by considering the culture they want to create in their organisation and aligning their  HR policies with it. For example, this could involve reviewing working practices to ensure employees can work to the best of their ability or reviewing their systems and processes.

What else do businesses need to consider?

1. Implementing a robust absence management policy

Companies need a clear and robust absence management policy that outlines the notification procedures and who is responsible for managing absence. It should provide guidance on policies and procedures, including flexibility for different conditions, individual circumstances and returning to work on a phased basis. It should specify the information employees need to provide, such as details about their condition, their expected absence duration and if they need to provide a Fit Note.

Having a good absence management system in place will help businesses to track, record, and report absences, and identify trends so appropriate action can be taken to manage absence levels.

 

2. Train line managers in absence management

Another important consideration is providing absence management training for line managers as they will be liaising with absent employees. It is important to assess whether they require additional support, particularly when they are having difficult conversations or supporting an employee or need training to manage such conversations.

 

3. Use Occupational Health

Does the business have access to an occupational health provider? If so, is there an established criteria for referring employees and are line managers aware of it so they can set expectations with employees when they hit certain milestones of absence?

Other key questions to consider are: Who is responsible for making referrals, and at what point should a referral be made? What information should be included in the referral? It’s vital to provide comprehensive details, including what has been tried, what worked and what didn’t, as well as details on the employee’s condition, and their role. The more information provided, the higher the quality of the response back from your Occupational Health provider will be.

If you don’t have access to an occupational health provider, consider finding one that accepts ad-hoc referrals for certain circumstances.

 

4. Group Income Protection & Added Value Services

If a Group Income Protection policy is in place, it is important to know what additional services the policy includes, such as early intervention support for employees, to help them return to work more quickly. These can and should be accessed well before the end of the deferred period that applies and certainly no later than half-way through.

Virtual GPs, app-based support, and Employee Assistance Programmes are also commonly included in policies and can be used pre or post-absence. These benefits must be communicated well so employees know what support is available and how to access it.

Group Income Protection providers typically offer rehabilitation support to assist individuals back into the workplace. Providers may also offer access to physiotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and other mental health therapies.

Encouraging employees to access these services can ensure employees are treated quickly and help facilitate their return to work much sooner and reduce pressure on the NHS). Providers can support partial claims and claims for shorter periods of absence – referring employees to these services early on, particularly for mental health and musculoskeletal conditions, can be beneficial as this may shorten the length of the absence considerably.

 

5.Private Medical Policies

Businesses need to make employees aware of any diagnosis or treatment options available to them through their private medical policy, and how to access it for faster treatment.

Emma concludes, “There are many measures businesses can take proactively to support employee healthcare and help to reduce absence, but it is key to remember, the early part of an employee’s absence is critical as interventions will typically have the most success – returning to work becomes increasingly difficult the longer an employee is absent. Providing early support to employees during their absence can increase their chances of returning to work – with this in mind, embedding a well-designed absence management strategy and supporting it within the company’s culture is key.”

 

About Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing

Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (HEBW) provides strategic advice to consumers, SMEs and corporate clients on healthcare, protection, wellbeing, and pension benefits, both in the UK and internationally. HEBW is multi-award winning and widely recognised for its innovative and creative approach and employs nearly 200 people across the UK.

edays Launches People Insights Tool to Upscale HR Analytics for Global Businesses

Also unveils Mobile App to enhance employee experience & absence and leave visibility

edays, the leading provider of absence and leave management software has announced the availability of edays People Insights, an innovative data reporting tool powered by machine learning, to help organisations of all sizes to access, interpret and present people data in an easy-to-use, customisable and visually compelling format.

edays People Insights is a practical solution for HR directors, people managers, finance and operations executives to understand and make better use of their people data and improve business effectiveness. The new tool complements the edays absence and leave management software suite.

At the same time, the company has unveiled the edays mobile application to offer a convenient way for employees to submit leave requests, log overtime, TOIL (time off in lieu) and manage records on the go. This will allow people managers to approve leave requests via the app, log sickness absences and view group calendars to see who is off and when.

Chris Moseley, Co-Founder and CTO of edays said: “The growth of home and hybrid working along with the challenges of employee wellbeing, sickness and burnout are just some of the hurdles faced by employees, HR professionals and business leaders today.  Our mobile app has been designed with convenience and greater efficiency in mind for both employees and their managers. With edays People Insights, executives can now easily build, interpret, and share insights to better support employee welfare and organisational productivity.”

He continued: “This latest addition to our product suite, with machine learning at its core, provides HR teams, finance and operations executives with the people analytics, metrics and trend insights to make better decisions, meet compliance targets and improve the overall employee experience.”

edays People Insights saves time by eliminating the need for manual report building. It offers key stats widgets for quick access to information, comparison tools for identifying trends and patterns, customisation for looking at data by individual, team, location or business function and automation to simplify complex calculations and comparisons.

In addition to office environments, edays People Insights and the edays mobile app are especially valuable for employees working in the field, or in outdoor sectors, such as manufacturing, construction and logistics, allowing for reporting on specific locations, teams and activities, including overtime and hours worked, leave types, sickness rates and holiday entitlement.

edays People Insights and the edays mobile app are available now.

More information can be found here: edays People Insights and edays mobile app.

About edays:

Empowering HR teams at mid-sized firms and CHROs at enterprise organisations, edays is the world’s first and still most comprehensive provider of market-leading absence and leave management software and people analytics services. Founded in 2005, the UK-based company is recognised as the go-to solution for data and cloud-based HR support for absence and leave management that guarantees improved employee experience, greater organisational efficiency, and provides tools to support organisations with compliance both locally and globally. Used by global brands including AXA, Monster Energy, Barclays, and Renault to ‘make the complex easy,’ edays’ centralised and contextualised reporting and analytics covers everything from overtime to time off in lieu (TOIL), staff holiday booking to sickness tracking. This enables a personalised absence and leave management solution that helps everyone in the company, from frontline team members to the business owner to the C-Suite. The latest edays product suite innovation is a set of data science and machine learning solutions that provides HR teams with the people analytics, metrics and trends that will make it easier to manage and meet compliance targets, gives employees better experience, and enables the reduction of admin and paper-based HR processes. For more information, go to edays.

Top 5 most bizarre reasons for absence in 2022, as revealed by BrightHR

We’ve all heard some weird and wacky reasons for absence in our time. But in 2022, HR technology firm BrightHR had some particularly, let’s say eye-catching entries.

Here are the top five most bizarre words and phrases given as reasons for absence last year, as recorded by BrightHR’s absence management software.

  • Potentially inspired by the Netflix smash hit Stranger Things, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of people booking annual leave to go ghost hunting. The word ghost featured frequently in annual leave and sickness absence requests and spookily, so did alien abduction. Whether or not that was a genuine reason for absence is still up in the air…….

 

  • From food poisoning due to undercooked or ‘dodgy’ sausages, to people taking time off to attend Sausage and Cider Festivals, the humble banger sizzles swiftly into second place, both in terms of sickness absence and annual leave requests.

 

  • They may have been extinct for millions of years, but that doesn’t stop dinosaurs taking third place on our list. From taking time off for museum visits to throwing dinosaur parties for little ones, it’s clear that these prehistoric creatures continue to fascinate and entertain.

 

  • We can certainly see a lot of clown-ing around with our fourth entry. From a fear of clowns making people too scared to come in to booking time off to attend clown school, employers will clearly need a sense of humour when they hear some of the excuses people give for not attending work….

 

  • And finally, the dog ate…..it’s an excuse as old as time. Who, at one time, hasn’t tried to get out of an assignment by blaming the dog? And it seems many an innocent pooch is still taking the blame long after their owners enter adult life. While some absences are certainly genuine, with people taking time off for emergency vet visits after the dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have, others are much more tenuous. It appears ‘the dog ate my bus pass’, and ‘the dog ate my timetable’ are fast becoming the adult version of ‘the dog ate my homework’.

 

Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, says, “Employees are free to do whatever they want with their time off, and this certainly shows. It’s great to see life returning to normal again with people prioritising time with families and looking to pursue their hobbies.

“However, we’ve also seen some quite frankly laughable excuses for absence and the side-hustle continues to be an area to watch for many employers. As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, it’s only natural that people will look at ways to make extra money. But when the so-called side-hustle starts impacting on employees’ full-time roles then that becomes a concern.

“Unplanned absences can cost business around £522 per employee, so it’s important to make sure that all procedures are followed properly. Encourage employees to take their full allocation of annual leave and make sure that any periods of sickness absence are followed up with return-to-work meetings, ensuring that staff are healthy and fit for work as well ensuring reasons given for absence are genuine.”

Handling Common Employee Scheduling Issues

Managers are required to handle scheduling issues on a routine basis. Aspects like leave, sick leave, overtime, shift work, and absenteeism all play havoc with an orderly schedule. While software is available nowadays to track every scheduling type, some scheduling issues require management intervention as well. We discuss how to handle common employee scheduling issues.

Coming To Work Late

Some employees are habitually late for work while others may have an occasional crisis that makes them miss their starting times. This can be very annoying when you have daily morning meetings with your staff or customers arrive before you are at full capacity to serve them. The same employees are often slow to return from lunch and generally practice poor time management.

Admittedly, some employees behave in problematic ways deliberately to get back at managers for real or alleged misdeeds (such as calling an employee in for frequent tardiness) and some employees have a passive-aggressive approach to perceived unfairness. However, the majority do not handle their time effectively.

Employees should be called in after the second incident of late-coming and informed that it will not be accepted. They should be advised to set their alarms for earlier or arrange other transport to ensure time-keeping is adhered to. The meeting should be noted on the personnel file for the employee so that exit procedures can begin if this continues.

Managing Overtime

Working hours are generally limited to 48 hours a week, although there are exceptions. If your business requires frequent overtime, you may be understaffed and exhausting your current employees, especially if their contracts require them to agree to work above the limit. In the long run, you could lose valuable employees with this practice.

On the other hand, employees may volunteer for overtime and go over the stipulated hours to increase income. If you pay more for overtime, you may exceed your staffing budget.

Shifts, Leave, and Sick Leave

It can be tricky to manage annual leave and shift work. This gets more difficult when employees swap shifts without management approval. For instance, they could exceed their hours, and you may have to pay overtime.

Bulk leaves should be prepared once a year, with employees being allowed to ask for two alternate periods. When dealing with out-of-turn requests, employees should be informed that leave is a right but when they take it is dependent on the job requirements. The manager should decide based on the seriousness of the need for leave and staffing levels.

When an employee is off sick, depending on the nature of the job, it sometimes involves rearranging entire shifts to provide adequate staffing. This is a common problem in call centres unless you have temp staff you can call in. Otherwise, service levels drop, and the manager is asked to explain to their seniors why they have not managed staffing levels better. You should always have a backup plan.

Abnormal sick leave must be dealt with by following the legal process.

Software Solutions

You can purchase time tracking software and software for scheduling employees. This will allow you to avoid exceeding an employee’s overtime limit and keep your salary budget on track. A system will keep track of days of leave already taken and the sick leave quota.

Managers should not be hesitant to use the applicable procedures to deal with employees who abuse time off.

ToHealth wins national accolade for new DNA and epigenetics testing venture

A new health screening venture aimed at improving employee wellbeing and reducing workplace absenteeism has won a national accolade.

The DNA and epigenetics testing service launched earlier this year by ToHealth, a division of preventative healthcare specialist PAM Group, was named Wellbeing Initiative of the Year at the Workplace Savings and Benefits Awards.

The awards, now in their 10th year, recognise employer and provider excellence. This year’s ceremony took place at the Marriott Grosvenor Square in London.

ToHealth’s DNA and epigenetics testing is carried out using one saliva sample, from which 1,000 types of DNA are analysed.

The results show whether a person is prone to developing a host of health conditions, such as diabetes, and how they can tailor their lifestyle to lower their risk as well as their biological age.

A person’s DNA holds the essential information about their development, function and growth, and cannot be changed. Epigenetics, however, adds another layer of information, enabling a person to identify how their lifestyle and environment impact the way their genes work, which can increase the risk of illness.

Each test result provided by ToHealth comes with personalised recommendations to support individuals with potential risk areas, including gut and heart health, immunity, injury risk and mental health. All of these help people to understand their biological age versus their chronological age.

The hyper-personalised genetic information and recommendations are accessible via an app, giving individuals an advanced insight into their health at the touch of a button and empowering them to improve their wellbeing and stave off the threat of disease, helping in turn to reduce workplace absenteeism.

ToHealth managing director Kerry-Dene Ihlenfeldt said: “We are passionate about empowering employees to thrive in the workplace. To be recognised with this award gives great kudos to our amazing team for their tireless work, and to our clients for their willingness to trust us to deliver services that improve the wellbeing of their employees.

“We work in partnership with our clients to ensure we offer a tailored and robust service that enables colleagues to perform at their best. Increasingly, businesses and organisations are focused on finding ways to improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce, and understand that prevention is better than cure.

“Our DNA and epigenetics screening provides a personalised and proactive health solution that enables employees to manage their own physical and mental wellbeing, reduce the risk of disease and improve longevity.

“Through testing, an employee can learn how to play the cards they have been dealt to their advantage, how their behaviours and their environment impact on them, and what lifestyle changes they need to make.

“We have an industry-leading offering which makes a tangible and positive difference, and we are immensely proud that this has been reflected with this prestigious national honour.”

ToHealth is partnering with testing company Muhdo for the offering.

The accolade is the latest for Warrington-based PAM Group, one of the largest occupational health, employee assistance and wellbeing providers in the UK. It offers a range of integrated services to public and private sector clients, supporting more than a million employees at over 1,000 businesses and organisations.

The Queen’s funeral will be a bank holiday – what do businesses need to know?

A bank holiday has been announced for Monday 19th September, the day of the Queen’s funeral. Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, looks at the HR considerations.

“The Government has stated that the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral will operate in the same way as other bank holidays which means there is no statutory right to a day off. Employers may wish to look back at how they have treated extra bank holidays in the past and do the same now. The difference is that there has always been lots of notice for previous extra bank holidays which isn’t the case with this one. To understand the baseline position on time off, contracts of employment need to be checked to determine whether employees have a contractual right to time off even if they don’t have a legal right.

“If a contract states that an employee has the right to 20 days’ annual leave plus a day off on 8 bank holidays and lists the bank holidays, there is no contractual right to time off on the day of the funeral because that won’t be one of the days listed.

“When looking at contractual wording, it’s important to check for any other flexibility built in which might allow employers to move things around. For example, contracts which state “8 public/bank holidays” but does not list them, or “8 public/bank holidays as listed, or other days as determined by us” may allow employers to give employees this extra day off but require them to work on another public/bank holiday.

“Of course, where contracts don’t include an automatic right to time off, employers can choose to give it as a day of paid leave in addition to the contractual entitlement, or have people book it off out of their entitlement if that is how the business normally works. Government guidance encourages employers to be sensitive to requests for the day off.

“London is expected to be particularly busy over the next week, placing extra demands on hotels, hospitality venues, security staff, emergency services and public transport. Similarly, other organisations, such as florists and memorabilia manufacturers, will see an increase in demand. Employers in these areas may have to consider putting a temporary freeze on staff taking annual leave.

“Employers can also cancel pre-booked annual leave, so long as they give the employee the same amount of notice as the duration of the leave. I would suggest doing this only as a very last resort as it can have a negative impact on morale and motivation.

“To keep up with increased customer demand, you may choose to offer enhanced overtime rates or incentives to work additional hours. However, it’s important to be mindful of the limits on maximum working hours and minimum rest breaks.

“The increased number of people in London will inevitably lead to increased travel times and widespread delays.

“Employers should cut some slack with employees who arrive late. The disruption should only last this week, so it’s reasonable for employers to make adjustments during this time.

“Understandably, employees may have genuine concerns over commuting across the capital during such an unprecedented and high-profile event. Be sure to listen to employee concerns and put adjustments in place during this time. Flexibility with start and finish times to avoid travelling during peak rush hours could be an option.

“In the rare event that employees are unable to get to work, employers should first consider whether they are able to temporarily work from home. If not, then discuss the alternative options of taking annual or unpaid leave. Do bear in mind that this is an historic event on a scale most of us have never experienced before, so a level of flexibility and understanding on both sides is paramount.

“Some sectors might need to consider bringing on new staff, in which case, the most effective approach to get employees in quickly could be utilising agency workers.

“So, that’s the logistical aspects covered.

“It should go without saying that employers need to be sympathetic.

“Recognise that the Queen’s death may be a difficult time for many. There have been genuine and profound reactions, which have taken some by surprise. Be prepared for heightened emotions and reduced concentration at work.

“It’s important to note that not all employees will be fans of the Royal Family. Whilst everyone is entitled to their opinion, it is worth remembering the acceptable standards of workplace behaviour. Creating a culture of inclusion and diversity means ensuring employees respect the differing opinions of their colleagues and interact with each other accordingly.

“If your business will remain open on the day of the Queen’s funeral, there will be no mandatory requirement to show the funeral in the workplace. However, I would advise that employers seriously consider the magnitude and historical importance of the event and be prepared for employees wanting to watch it. Communal viewing areas may help staff feel supported and united but, remember, not everyone will wish to partake so don’t make it mandatory.

“At 11am, the moment the Queen’s coffin arrives at Westminster Abbey, the nation will fall silent. Try not to schedule any meetings or phone calls at this time to allow employees to pay their respects.”

Thousands of businesses get new free rota planning tool from BrightHR to support rising costs

Staffing issues can cause havoc for businesses. Avanti West Coast has come under fire after announcing it is slashing timetables and suspending ticket sales due to severe staff shortages and sickness. We’ve also seen unprecedented delays at airports across the country for months now, causing havoc for travellers.

This might be on the extreme scale in terms of a scheduling mess up, and many businesses may never face such a combination of events that have led to this outcome. However, the lessons are clear. Getting staff rotas and schedules wrong can negatively affect a business both financially, reputationally and from a staff morale perspective.

Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, says: “The first step to avoiding issues like this is to have a rota management plan in place, to monitor and record shift patterns and absences accurately.

“For any modern business to run smoothly and accurately the best solution is a software one. However we know that rising costs are hitting businesses hard, so investing in new technology may not be an option right now. At BrightHR our goal is to make things as easy as possible for employers –  that’s why we are launching a new rota management tool completely free of charge.

“Many industries rely heavily on shift patterns or flexible/hybrid working and constantly changing rotas can cause headaches for many. We’ve designed this new software with them in mind, and it makes sense to offer it for free. All industries have been hit hard as people tighten their belts amid the cost-of-living crisis, nowhere more so than the travel and hospitality industry.

BrightHR Lite will ensure that employers are never left understaffed due to avoidable scheduling issues. We hope this will help businesses run more smoothly while making managers’ lives easier as well as ensuring staff get the downtime they need.”

Kate Nicholls OBE, CEO at UK Hospitality, says: “The tens of thousands of our members’ venues across the hospitality industry know all too well how quickly staffing situations can change, requiring constant changes to the rota which can lead to confusion, mix-ups, and overlapping shifts.

 “Rota management is pivotal for the functioning of a hospitality business and is one of the most important aspects of how bars, restaurants and cafes are run. BrightHR Lite makes rota management easier, by ensuring employees are constantly aware of which shifts they have been assigned and saving managers the trouble of drawing up new rotas when changes need to be made. This frees up time to focus on the many other challenging aspects of running a venue.

 “Gladly, we’ve moved on from having handwritten rotas on a wall and employees having to come in/call up to find out when they are working.”