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Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 13-19 May, is an ideal time to think about mental health, tackle stigma, and find out how we can create a workplace that prevents mental health problems from developing and protects our employees’ mental well-being.

As businesses increasingly recognise the impact of mental health on productivity, engagement, and overall organisational success, HR professionals play a pivotal role in fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment. In this article, we consider the significance of Mental Health Awareness Week from an HR perspective and explore strategies to promote mental well-being in the workplace.

Understanding the Impact

Stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout are common challenges that employees may face, often exacerbated by work-related pressures, organisational culture, and personal circumstances. Recognising these challenges is the first step toward creating a workplace culture that prioritises mental health.

The CIPD’s Health & Wellbeing Survey 2022, showed the most common causes of stress at work. The top 4 factors were:

  • Workloads/volume of work
  • Non work factors – relationships/family
  • Management style
  • Non-work factors – personal illness/health issue

It states that half of organisations (51%) take a strategic approach to employee wellbeing, while 36% are ‘much more reactive than proactive’. As in previous years, mental health is the most common focus of wellbeing activity. Access to counselling services and employee assistance programmes remain the most common wellbeing benefits provided. Financial wellbeing remains the most neglected area.

HR’s Role in Fostering a Supportive Culture

HR professionals are instrumental in driving initiatives that promote mental wellbeing within the workplace. They serve as advocates for employees, ensuring that policies and practices are in place to support their mental health needs. Here are some key ways HR can contribute:

  • Policy Development: HR should collaborate with leadership to develop comprehensive mental health policies that address issues such as flexible work arrangements, carers’ leave, and access to resources like counselling services. HR can also support in ensuring that relevant policies are up to date with the latest UK Employment Legislation.
  • Training and Education: Organising workshops and training sessions to raise awareness about mental health and equip managers with the skills to support struggling employees effectively. Mental health Champions are an effective way to promote and encourage support at work. The charity Mind have created a Mental Health Champions Toolkit to support organisations to develop such a scheme.
  • Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs): Implementing and promoting EAPs that provide confidential counselling and support services to employees facing mental health challenges.
  • Promoting Work-Life Balance: Encouraging a healthy work-life balance by emphasising the importance of taking breaks, utilising holidays and avoiding overwork.
  • Creating a Supportive Environment: Cultivating a culture of openness and support where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health issues without fear of judgment or repercussions.

Initiatives to Promote Mental Health Awareness Week

The week itself is an opportunity for some specific initiatives to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to supporting mental health. Here are some ideas:

  • Virtual Workshops and Webinars: Organise virtual workshops and webinars focused on topics such as stress management, resilience-building, and self-care strategies.
  • Guest Speakers and Panel Discussions: Invite mental health professionals, advocates, or individuals with lived experiences to share their insights and stories, fostering empathy and understanding among employees.
  • Wellness Challenges: Launch wellness challenges focused on physical activity, mindfulness, or nutrition to promote holistic wellbeing.
  • Peer Support Networks: Facilitate the formation of peer support groups or buddy systems where employees can connect, share experiences, and provide mutual support.
  • Communication Campaigns: Launch internal communication campaigns using emails, newsletters, and social media to share resources, tips, and personal stories related to mental health.

Measuring Impact and Continuous Improvement:

It is also important to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health initiatives and gather feedback from employees. Regular surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one discussions can provide valuable insights into what’s working well and where improvements are needed. This feedback loop enables HR to refine future offerings or benefits and develop new initiatives, tailored to the evolving needs of employees.

For specialist HR support with any of these issues, please contact Helen Couchman in our team on 07799 901 669.

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The announcement earlier this month that the Princess of Wales was undergoing treatment for cancer reignited discussions about the delicate balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s interest in their personal affairs. We look at similar implications for employees who are away from work unexpectedly and consider what employers should do to manage this.

Kate Middleton’s decision to share her diagnosis publicly was undoubtedly a courageous one and sparked an outpouring of support and empathy from around the world.  However there was also a sense that as speculation reached fever pitch she was left with little choice. Her experience serves as a reminder of the complexities surrounding privacy for those in the public eye.

When employees are off sick or are suspended during an investigation in the workplace, there can be similar considerations about how much information can and should be shared, which need to be handled delicately. Some level of communication will be usually be required, whether that is to clients, colleagues or other stakeholders. This can become more pressing when the rumour mill kicks in and it becomes apparent that there is unhelpful speculation surrounding an absence.

What steps should employers take?

Maintaining confidentiality and respecting the employee’s privacy rights while addressing the concerns of other employees can be challenging. Here are some options available to employers in such circumstances:

  • Communicate clearly with the affected employee: The employer should communicate with the affected employee directly. Ideally work with them to come up with a form of words that will be used. In some situations, such as suspension, often the less that is said the better and using the term ‘suspension’ should be avoided in most cases. In others, it will be a case of what the individual is comfortable sharing. Check back in with the employee after a period of time to check the messaging is still appropriate or if it needs updating.
  • Share that messaging as needed: Communicating the agreed messaging can help to dispel rumours and put a halt to speculation. Don’t dwell on the reason for absence but focus minds back to interim arrangements and getting back to business as usual. Think about how you will handle requests from employees to get in touch with the affected employee and have a response agreed.
  • Respect privacy: Employers should respect the privacy rights of the absent employee. While it may be tempting to disclose details about the situation to quell further speculation, doing so could create upset for the affected employee and give rise to further risks to the business.  
  • Address misinformation: If rumours are spreading that are false or damaging to the absent employee’s reputation, the employer should take steps to address and correct misinformation. This can be done through staff meetings, internal memos, or other forms of communication.
  • Enforce confidentiality policies: Employers should remind employees of the organisation’s confidentiality policies and the importance of respecting the privacy of their colleagues. This can help prevent further speculation or gossip about the absent employee’s situation. This is particularly crucial where employees are to be interviewed as part of an internal investigation and may therefore be privy to further sensitive information.
  • Maintain professionalism: Throughout the process, employers should strive to maintain professionalism and treat all employees with dignity and respect. This includes refraining from engaging in or tolerating gossip or speculation about the absent employee’s situation.
  • Obtain specialist support: If it is a particularly high profile or controversial absence that may attract media interest, involve your internal marketing and communications team if you have one or consider getting specialist support so press releases can be prepared as needed.

By taking these steps, employers can effectively manage rumours and speculation surrounding an employee’s absence, while upholding confidentiality and respecting privacy rights. Careful thought, clear communication and an adherence to policies and procedure are essential for maintaining a positive work environment.

If you would like support in managing a similar situation in your organisation, please contact Sarah Martin in our team on 07799 136 091.

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You may have seen some debate in the news about whether Menopause should be considered a disability. In this article, we provide a summary of the guidance that started the recent debate, consider the pros and cons of this approach and look at the practical impact for employers.

EHRC Guidance

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) produced new guidance in February 2024 and states that menopause could be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if the symptoms have a ‘long term and substantial impact on a woman’s day to day activities.’ The guidance confirms that a failure to make reasonable adjustments could leave employers open to challenges and claims. The guidance also reminds employers that women experiencing the menopause could be protected from discrimination on the grounds of age and/or sex.

The EHRC guidance refers to research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which found that 67% of women in work between the ages of 40 and 60 who are experiencing menopausal symptoms found that they impacted negatively on their work, including:-

  • Experiencing higher levels of stress (68%)
  • Being less patient with their colleagues (49%)
  • Being less able to concentrate (79%)
  • Being less physically able to carry out work tasks (46%)

There are helpful videos within the EHRC guidance, setting out the obligations for employers and looking at how employers can make adjustments in the workplace.

It’s widely known that in extreme cases, some women may feel that they have no option but to leave employment when they are experiencing symptoms such as those set out above and research has found that employers may be losing 1 in 6 of the women due to their menopausal symptoms. In its submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, the CIPD suggests that women in the age range going through the menopause (usually between 45 and 55) are often at the height of their careers. If a proportion of those women feel that they have no option but to leave the workforce, the UK economy is potentially losing skilled and experienced women from the workforce, which in turn may impact the gender and pension pay gaps, and reduce the number of women in senior leadership positions.

So what’s changed?

In some ways the EHRC guidance is nothing new.  It is already possible for the symptoms of the menopause to be considered as a disability via the disability discrimination definition within the Equality Act 2010. However, commentary around the idea that the Menopause could or should be treated as a disability is divided.  

Some commentators welcome guidance for employers confirming their obligations around treating menopause symptoms as a possible disability.  Others, however, argue that the menopause is a natural period of transition for women and shouldn’t therefore be regarded as a disability. The menopause has not, so far at least, been classified as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act in its own right, in the way that pregnancy and maternity has, meaning that women have to rely on the legislation on the protected characteristics of disability, sex or age as the route for challenging any potentially discriminatory behaviour. A report by the Women and Equalities Committee, in July 2022, argued that the menopause should be designated as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 in its own right, but this change has yet to take place. Some commentators have suggested that using the disability route to challenge any discrimination may be limiting progress in this area and is based on a model which suggests that women’s bodies are in some way abnormal.

What does this mean for employers?

We will need to watch this space to see if any formal legislative changes are made to the Equality Act in this area. We anticipate that any such changes are likely to be a long way off. However, there is no question that the subject of the Menopause has become much less of a workplace ‘taboo’ over recent years and for employers this debate serves as a useful reminder to take the following steps:-

  • Policy – put in place or review policies around the menopause in the workplace to ensure that they are up to date and serve as living, breathing documents that employees know about and can easily locate
  • Training – train line managers on managers on the menopause so that they are better equipped to support colleagues experiencing difficult symptoms
  • Communications – be transparent with employees about the work being done within your organisation on the menopause; share resources, provide spaces for discussion and encourage open conversations to reduce stigma

For more information about how NQHR can help support your organisation to effectively manage the menopause in the workplace, please contact Caitlin Anniss in our team on 07909 683 938.

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April is stress awareness month and this year’s theme is ‘little by little’, which aims to highlight the impact of small positive actions on overall wellbeing. We consider the impact stress can have, how to be alert to it and what managers can do to support employees.

Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face. Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope at work can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance, conduct and relationships with colleagues.

What causes stress?

 With regard to the workplace, employees can experience stress as a result of several factors such as:

  • Excessive demands from their role
  • Their workload feels unmanageable
  • They feel out of their depth with the task(s) they have been asked to perform
  • Disputes with a colleague or manager

It can also be the case that if your employee is suffering from stress because of one factor then they become more susceptible to being affected by other factors, and so the list of stressors expands quickly.

What are the impacts of chronic stress?

Stress in minor-to-moderate doses may be expected, as the body is equipped to handle these reactions and some people find a modest amount of stress to be quite helpful and motivating. However, the problem arises with ongoing stress – which can have serious consequences. Chronic stress impacts the entire body and can harm wellbeing in the long-term.

Ongoing stress is a risk factor for heart disease, dementia, stroke, accelerated aging, depression, anxiety, insulin resistance, prolonged digestive issues, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

From a mental health perspective and in the context of work, stress can now amount to a disability within the Equality Act 2010. Chronic stress may negatively impact an employee’s:

  • Outlook on life
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Performance in the workplace
  • Quality of self-care
  • Attendance levels and absences

Recent statistics issued by the Health and Safety Executive reveal that 1.8 million workers reported they were suffering from work-related ill health in 2022/23, with approximately half of the cases down to stress, depression or anxiety.

With this in mind, it is important employers and line managers are alert to those employees who might be suffering stress.

Spotting the signs in employees

These may not always be obvious or even caused by work, but the signs will be there. For example, is someone taking more time off, arriving for work later or being more twitchy or nervous? A change in behaviour can also be a sign of stress such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive

Sometimes employees may even start self-medicating with alcohol.

What should employers do?

The first step is to talk with your employee. Being sensitive and supportive is key – they may not wish to talk about the situation or may not have identified the stress for themselves. Make time for a meeting in the working day and discuss the matter in private. Once the employee begins to share what they are experiencing, you should be open minded about how they might be feeling. Ask open questions and really listen to what you are being told. Try to establish the cause of the stress with the employee and work together on identifying possible solutions.

Although this is highly dependent on the cause of the issue and the circumstances of the employee, possible solutions could include:

  • Making temporary changes to work duties
  • Allowing the employee to work flexibly for a period to enable them to deal with a domestic issue
  • Discuss making an occupational health referral
  • Signpost them to your Employee Assistance Programme if you operate one
  • Recommend external agencies for additional support, such as Mind or the Samaritans

Importantly, arrange to follow up with the employee to discuss how they are doing and what further support they might need.

There is no ‘one size fits all approach to helping an employee with stress. It is often not a simple or quick fix. If left unchecked, it can have numerous consequences, but with ongoing support, it may be possible for things to improve for the employee, which in turn may well assist to get their performance in their role back on track.

If you would like our support in managing a stress-related situation in your workplace or to develop relevant policies and guidance, please contact Simon Martin in our team on 07384 813 076.

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On 6 April 2024, the widely discussed changes to flexible working will come into force, when the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 take effect. Here’s what those changes are, what they mean for employers and what needs to be considered going forward.

What’s changing?

If you ask most people what the changes to flexible working are, they will say that the service requirement has been removed, as that has been the source of most discussion and debate. In fact, the legislation is actually making more changes than perhaps people realise. A summary of these changes includes:

  • ‘day one right’ – currently employees can only make a flexible working request once they have 26 weeks continuous employment. From 6 April 2024, this becomes a ‘day one’ right.
  • Two requests – currently employees can only make one flexible working request every twelve months. With these changes, employees will be able to make two statutory flexible working requests every twelve months.
  • Timescales reduced to two months – the current timescale for employers to deal with flexible working requests is three months. This reduces to two months under these changes.
  • Employers will not be able to refuse a request until they have consulted with the employee
  • Removal of the need for employees to explain the effect of the proposed change on the organisation, or how that could be dealt with when making a request

The changes do not affect an employer’s ability to reject requests on eligibility grounds or for one or more prescribed statutory reasons.

What does this mean for employers?

With the removal of a service requirement and greater application opportunities, it is possible that employers may see an increase in the number of flexible working requests, so it may present a ‘numbers’ challenge in the first instance. Employers should ensure any requests received, are acknowledged and tracking systems are in place to monitor progress.

Perhaps of more critical importance is the consideration of the reduced timescales and what that means for internal procedures. To ensure compliance, it will be essential that meetings are scheduled and responses returned, including any appeal, within the two-month period. You can extend the timescales but only with agreement from the employee. But critically, managers should look to maintain momentum in reviewing requests to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Importantly the responsibility is now on employers to give careful consideration to the request, its impact and how it might be accommodated. You can ask your employee to consider these and make any suggestions, but you cannot make it a compulsory part of the process.

What should employers do now?

  • Review your flexible working policies to ensure that they reflect the new requirements. Put in measures and systems that support being able to deal with requests within the timescale required. This might include putting in tracking systems to monitor the progress of requests, as well as guidance documentation so everyone involved understands their roles and obligations in the process
  • Train line managers on how to handle flexible working requests in light of the new requirements, particularly providing guidance on how they might make best use of the meeting with their employee, to explore the request and how it can be accommodated
  • Communicate the changes to staff. Letting staff know that these changes have come in and you have adapted your policies accordingly, can be a positive step for employee relations and increase employee engagement

Whilst some employers may consider the changes in legislation onerous, it is important to remember the benefits of flexible working for both employees and employers:

  • Allows employees to proactively manage other commitments, leading to less time taken off
  • Wider pool for recruitment
  • Positive for employer brand and attracting candidates
  • Retention of experienced and valued staff who might otherwise have to leave if they can no longer work their existing work pattern
  • Can promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce
  • Enhanced morale and motivation

The new legislation will not change the core principles behind flexible working. It remains a tool for employees and employers to discuss possible changes to ways of working and how that might be mutually beneficial. What the changes will do is make adaptations to eligibility, timescales and internal processes for dealing with requests. By taking a proactive approach and updating policies and internal procedures, as well as refreshing line manager training, organisations will ensure they are best placed to respond to any requests that are received under the new legislation.

If you would like any support in dealing with flexible working requests, drafting policy and guidance material or line manager training, please contact Sue Meehan Boyes in our team on 07384 468 797.

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A number of changes to family leave come into force on 6 April 2024 – introduction of Carer’s leave and changes to existing legislation on paternity leave and pregnancy and maternity rights. We take a brief look at those changes, highlighting the important points for employers.

Carer’s leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 (SI 2024/251) come into force on 6 April 2024. These regulations will introduce a new statutory right to unpaid carer’s leave for employees in England, Wales and Scotland:

  • From 6 April 2024, employees will be able to take one week’s unpaid leave per twelve-month rolling, to provide or arrange care for a dependant with long-term care needs
  • The leave will be a ‘day one’ right, meaning that staff will not require a minimum period of service
  • The leave can be taken in one block or periods of a day or half a day
  • The leave is pro-rated to reflect an employee’s working arrangement
  • For the purposes of the regulations, a ‘dependant’ is defined as a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee who lives in the same household as the employee, or reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care
  • A “long-term care need” is defined as an illness or injury that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than three months, have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, or requires care for a reason connected with their old age
  • Employees will not need to provide evidence of a need to take carer’s leave, but employers will be able to ask staff to self-certify that they are eligible
  • Maximum entitlement is one week, irrespective of the number of dependants

Understanding its application in regard to existing family-friendly policies will be important for employers. For example, carer’s leave is distinct from existing legislation which provides for time off for dependants, which is intended to be used for emergency situations which typically last one or two days. By contrast, carer’s leave has a set duration of one week and is expected to be a planned absence. As such, employers can request that a period of carer’s leave be postponed, provided it can show that the existing request will have a serious disruption to the organisation. Importantly though, an employer cannot request cannot be refused.

Organisations should consider providing training to line managers to deal with requests for carer’s leave and provide guidance on its application.

Ensuring a carer’s leave policy is in place or is incorporated into any existing family friendly policies and procedures. Consideration should be given to creating relevant systems and documentation to support and track any applications.

Communicating the introduction of the new policy will also be an opportunity for employers to demonstrate their commitment to supporting staff deal with their caring responsibilities.

Paternity Leave

On 8 March 2024, the Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 came into force and is applicable where the Expected Week of Childbirth is 6 April 2024 onwards. Under the amendments:

  • Employees will be able to choose between taking two non-consecutive weeks of paternity leave or a single period of one or two weeks. Previously the entitlement was for one continuous block of either one or two weeks
  • Employees will be able to alter the dates of their leave, provided they give at least 28 days notice of the change
  • Employees will be able to take leave at any time during the first year following the birth or adoption, as opposed to having to take it within the first eight weeks after adoption or birth

Employers should look to ensure their policies are appropriately updated to reflect the changes in legislation and communicate the changes so that line managers and staff are aware of the revised entitlements.

Pregnancy and maternity leave – extending redundancy protection

Employees on maternity leave already have the right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy in a redundancy situation. The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, which come into effect on 6 April 2024 provide for greater protection against redundancy during pregnancy and for six months after return to work from maternity leave as well as certain other family-related leave. The main features of the amendments are:

  • The redundancy protection period (the right for pregnant women and new mothers on maternity leave to be offered suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation) applies from the point that an employee informs their employer that they are pregnant (whether this is done orally or in writing).
  • The redundancy protection period is extended to 18 months after the birth of the child (or adoption placement) for employees returning from maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave.

The changes in relation to maternity leave will effectively double the current period of redundancy protection from one year to around two years, assuming the pregnant employee advises the employer of their pregnancy at about the 12-week point and takes one year’s maternity leave. This could therefore substantially increase the number of employees who must be given priority for any suitable alternative vacancy on redundancy, particularly in workplaces where the majority of employees are women.

Where an employer is looking at possible restructures, they will need to ensure that redundancy processes take account of the extended redundancy protection period where any employees at risk of redundancy are pregnant or have recently returned to work from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

Organisations should also ensure that policies and procedures are reviewed to reflect the changes. Given the significance of the changes, it will also be important to ensure line managers are provided with training and guidance to understand the effect of the enhanced protections now provided.

For specialist HR support with any of these topics, please contact Sue Meehan Boyes in our team on 07384 468797.

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It’s a new year and what better time to invest in your people as they plan new year goals and achievements?

Why invest in Executive Coaching?

In the ever-evolving landscape for organisations, the need for exceptional leadership has never been more crucial.

Employees’ expectations have changed. They want to be empowered, listened to and asked for their opinion and they want to work in a collaborative way.

Many organisations have not identified this shift in expectations, resulting in greater levels of disengaged employees. Only 21% of employees are engaged according to a 2022 Gallup report.

Retention continues to be a challenge as well, with the CIPD reporting that 6.5 million UK workers were planning to quit their jobs in search of a better role in the Good Work Index 2022.

Those organisations that do nothing to address these changing demands will lose their best employees, face higher employee costs and struggle to compete.

How can Executive Coaching help?

At its core, executive coaching is about cultivating excellence in leadership. It’s a personalised, results-oriented approach that fine-tunes the skills, perspectives and behaviours of senior leaders.

Executive coaching stands tall as a powerful tool to harness the potential of key leaders within organisations. It’s a strategic investment that yields substantial returns.  Executive coaching nurtures resilience, adaptability, and a growth mindset – qualities indispensable in today’s fast-paced environment.

For organisations, the advantages are clear. Enhanced leadership translates to increased team performance, better engagement, and ultimately improved bottom-line results. One senior leader said, “It has not only proved to be a useful exercise in terms of reflecting on my own path, but it has enabled us to really focus on the key aspects that will help drive the business forward“. It’s a domino effect, a well-coached executive inspires and empowers their team, creating a ripple effect of excellence throughout the organisation.

Executive coaching can help individuals in a variety of ways:

  • prepare for an imminent promotion
  • reflect and improve after not being successfully promoted
  • imposter syndrome
  • conflict resolution
  • time management
  • confidence
  • perfectionism, (the list is endless!)

Ultimately, coaching for employees at all levels contributes to a thriving culture – one that values growth, encourages innovation and fosters a sense of purpose. It’s an investment that pays dividends not just in productivity and performance but also in creating a workplace where people feel valued, inspired and fulfilled.

How does it work?

Before any coaching commences, a free ‘Discovery’ 20 minute discussion is held between coach and coachee, to ensure there is good rapport. If both parties are happy to work together, the coachee completes a questionnaire, highlighting useful background information and detailing areas they’d like to focus on during the sessions. Employers may request to have some input into the topics to be explored with the coachee. Most coaching ‘Assignments’ typically consist of six sessions – approximately every three to four weeks – although the frequency can be adapted to suit the individual.

Coaching is such a rewarding and transformative process, really allowing the individual to experiment, confide and grow. With so many benefits for both employees and employers, the new year could be a perfect time to consider what coaching could bring to your organisation!

To find out more, please contact Caitlin Anniss in our team on 07909 683938.

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At the start of this new year, I have been reflecting on mediations that I ran towards the end of last year. One common theme from those taking part was that they wished they had been offered mediation sooner.

In some cases, the conflict between the colleagues had gone on for well over a year – which made those involved dread coming to work. In one case the person said that when they came into work they would first check the staff car park – if they didn’t see the other person’s car they would relax and have a good day at work. If they did, then it really affected their mood and they would become tense throughout the day, as if they were almost mentally preparing for an argument.

In nearly all cases, the conflict affected all aspects of work and personal lives, leading to problems sleeping and impacting their own relationships at home. Usually, all those involved had endured a thoroughly miserable time and some had had periods of sickness absence. From the employer’s perspective, this conflict meant they had a less effective team.

Root causes

These were nearly always the same whatever the factual matrix: a lack of effective communication – having that difficult and exposing conversation. This had led to individuals making a series of assumptions and creating their own echo chambers comprised of certain colleagues, who instead of suggesting a resolution, had stoked the conflict.

In one case, during the joint mediation session, which happened in the afternoon, it became clear that the dispute was in fact based on a series of misunderstandings. It became apparent to them that there was in fact no real dispute, they agreed on a lot, which they were both very surprised to learn, and were soon apologising to each other for the miserable time the other had endured over the past months. This all happened within less than an hour. They spent the rest of the afternoon agreeing on a way to work positively with each other from then on. The discussion then turned to how they could make their respective teams work better together. The change in the atmosphere in the room was astonishing. This outcome was not unusual – mediation has a 90% success rate.

What does mediation involve?

  • Mediation is a relatively short process. It usually takes place over a day, with some pre-planning beforehand so the participants know what to expect. The day begins with individual sessions where each participant is encouraged and supported to write down the issue from their perspective and what they are looking to achieve going forward. The afternoon is a joint session where both parties come together to share their individual perspectives, listen to each other and generate opportunities for future working.
  • Importantly, solutions come from the participants themselves and they own the outcomes.

Could your organisation benefit from mediation?

Do you have any employees who are having an ongoing dispute with a colleague or manager? How long has this been going on for? If it has not been resolved through dialogue, then it may be festering. A festering conflict can, and often does, lead to workplace tensions, grievances, sickness absence and all the other hallmarks of an unhappy working relationship.

With its high success rate and relatively short timescale, mediation could provide a compelling and effective solution. It’s important to remember that it is a voluntary process – you can’t require them to do it. If you can get agreement from both parties to participate in mediation, then it might be one of the best things an employer can do for your employees’ wellbeing.

To find out more about mediation, please contact Accredited Mediator, Simon Martin, in our team on 07384 813076.

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World Menopause Day is observed annually on October 18th. For HR professionals, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the work being done within their own organisations on this issue and a chance to foster inclusive workplaces by addressing the unique issues that menopausal employees encounter.

The menopause, a natural phase in a woman’s life typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, brings about physical and emotional changes. In the workplace, these changes can manifest in various ways, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and cognitive changes. These symptoms can significantly impact an employee’s performance and well-being.

So, how can we best create a supportive workplace?

  • Awareness: The first step for HR professionals is to raise awareness among employees and managers about menopause. Offering workshops or information sessions can help eliminate misconceptions and reduce stigma.
  • Flexible working: Consider implementing flexible working arrangements, allowing employees to adapt their schedules to better manage their symptoms. Remote work options, adjusted hours, or reduced workload during difficult periods can make a significant difference.
  • Review your policies: Ensure that your organisation’s policies, including sickness absence and performance management, are menopause-friendly. Adapt them if needed and consider introducing a menopause policy.
  • Training for managers: Provide training to managers on how to support employees going through the menopause. Encourage open and empathetic conversations, making it easier for employees to discuss their needs.

There are many benefits of a menopause friendly workplace. Providing a supportive work environment is of course best practice. It also has benefits for your organisation, including improving retention rates, reducing absence rates, and improving the engagement of your employees.

World Menopause Day 2023 is a timely reminder for HR professionals to prioritise the well-being the issue of the menopause in the workplace. By taking proactive steps to raise awareness, adapt policies, and provide support, you can create a workplace that empowers women to navigate this natural life transition with confidence and dignity.

For further advice or guidance, or for training for line managers around the menopause and the workplace, please contact Caitlin Anniss in our team on 07909 683 938.

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Imagine a situation where an employee of yours is accused of serious sexual offences outside of work that doesn’t involve any work colleagues.

At first glance, a default approach might be to say that what happens outside of work is a private matter for the employee and so does not and should not affect their employment. But, it’s often more complicated than that.

In this sort of case, an employer may want to be mindful of three possible scenarios:

  1. Whether the employee’s behaviour outside of work affects, or may affect the organisation’s reputation.
  2. Whether the employee’s alleged behaviour impacts on whether their colleagues would want to work with them.
  3. If your organisation is subject to the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) rules, then a third question might be about transferrable risk. While the considerations about this are beyond the scope of this piece, it is definitely still worth seeking advice about.

It’s worth remembering also, that the employment law test to arrive at a decision is on the balance of probabilities. This is a lower bar than the criminal test which is beyond reasonable doubt. This means that employers can and should arrive at their own conclusions and not have to feel that they need to wait for, or follow, the judgments and decisions in any criminal case. A word of warning here though: if the police are involved, you need to ensure that you don’t take any steps that the police might claim prejudices their own investigations, so it’s important to open a dialogue with them at an early stage.

This is a very complex area, which has become tricker with the arrival of social media and people commenting on a difficult situation. We recommend you should avoid any knee jerk reactions and promptly form a team who will deal with the process. If the incident has become widely known then let employees know who will be dealing with it and, for instance, designate a point of contact who will deal with media queries.

The standard advice regarding a disciplinary process also applies of ensuring a separation of roles, so someone should be given the task to investigate the matter, someone else (ideally more senior) should be given the task of hearing any disciplinary, should that be necessary; and then a third person (more senior still) should be identified as an appeal hearing manager.

It goes without saying that it is also sensible to take advice. Your organisation may well be facing this challenge for the first time whereas we have got experience in dealing with these matters.

For further advice and guidance on this matter or other HR related concerns, please contact Simon Martin in our team on 07384 813 076.