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Lifequake Moments: Strategies to Support Employees Through Grief

Lifequake Moments: Strategies to Support Employees Through Grief

It’s an unfortunate inevitability that loss and the grief, will affect every one of us at some point. And whilst it might not seem the most cheery subject to bring up on a wet November morning, there’s a) never a right time to bring it up and b) perhaps one to store away in the files until you might want to re-visit. 

While the death of a loved one is often the cause of grief, it’s important to remember that grieving is not ‘one size fits all’. Studies have found that all kinds of life-changing events can cause feelings of grief. These can include the end of a friendship, the loss of a job, the loss of a pet or a decline in health. Likewise, many different factors affect how we grieve and why, including the support we receive.  

And that goes for the support of colleagues and employers as well as friends and family. 

As a business leader, the process of supporting employees through grief can be one of the most difficult and delicate tasks you’ll face. This is why it helps to have a more comprehensive understanding of what employees value most when grieving in order to formulate how you would provide support in such an event. 

Keep reading for some key strategies on how to support employees through grief. 

Look Beyond the Legal Requirements

Here in the UK, there are certain legal requirements for employers to follow when supporting employees through grief, but only for bereavement. 

Legally, employers must grant two weeks’ bereavement leave to employees following the death of a child under 18 years old and for dependents (such as a parent or partner) you must grant a ‘reasonable’ amount of bereavement leave. Given that in most cases, there is no legal right to any paid time off for bereavement, it falls to you as employer to determine what you feel is ‘right’. 

As a compassionate and emotionally intelligent leader, you can commit to doing more than the bare minimum, something which will be welcomed by any of your team experiencing such loss, as well as other team members who are aware. 

Instead of letting these limited and vague legal requirements guide you, think about the support you would want to receive following a loss. This isn’t always financial and could be in the form of a reduced workload, greater schedule flexibility, or emotional support.  Factors such as the size of your company may limit the leave and benefits you can provide. But there shouldn’t be a limit on the patience and understanding your company offers to grieving employees. 

Formalise Your Procedures for Supporting Employees Through Grief

Whatever decisions you make, we recommend creating a set of formal guidelines detailing how you and your company will support employees through grief. Keep some level of flexibility in it (I know of one business I worked with who spelt out the number of days paid leave provided upon the death of  a very specific list of different relatives which felt a tad too prescriptive) however doing so allows you to take a proactive and considered stance, rather than rushing to react to situations as and when they arise and allow your managers and team members to review rather than just try and ‘fill in the blanks’. 

Creating a framework for supporting grief encourages an environment of awareness and acceptance around the subject. You might also consider some kind of sensitivity training for your employees about the effects of grief and how best to support a grieving colleague.

And for employees who need support through grief, knowing that there is a policy already in place shows that you understand the complexities of loss and grief and are willing to honour that through formal procedures and guidelines. Requesting that support is then less likely to make them feel as though they’re ‘asking for a favour’ rather than getting the support they’re entitled to. 

Following a significant loss, paid time off can be beneficial as it gives your employees the time and space they need to grieve in private. In cases of bereavement and certain traumatic life events such as divorce or loss of a home, they may also need to use this time for attending the funeral or making arrangements.  Knowing that they won’t lose out financially also avoids adding to their stress and forcing them to come back before they’re ready.

Consider Non-Financial Support

But financial help isn’t the only way to support employees through grief. You should also consider how you can help by offering emotional support.

Loss and grief are sensitive topics that call for a delicate touch from the moment your employee makes you aware of the situation. Beyond offering your condolences and reiterating the leave they’re entitled to, ensure that they feel valued and supported as a person as well as an employee. 

Help you can offer include regular check-ins, an open-door policy, and colleague support networks. 

Giving Time

One of the best ways to support your employees through grief is by being patient and listening to what they need. Some people may want to return to work to keep themselves busy. But for those who need more time, you might consider offering reduced hours or more flexible schedules. Easing workloads and adjusting expectations can give your employee space to heal following a loss. 

Although this can seem risky when running a business, planned absence is always preferable to unplanned absence. As well as supporting your employee’s healing process and fostering loyalty, addressing the issue head-on allows you to plan effectively to ensure the work still gets done. 

Depending on your business environment and resources, you might consider offering a transition period back to a normal routine. This period could involve working from home more often or a lighter workload. You may also need to help them avoid situations, tasks, or environments that remind them of their grief. 

Use External Sources if Needed
Remember, as well-meaning as your intentions are, you may not always have the necessary training and tools to support a grieving employee in-house. 

Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can arise or worsen following a significant loss. If you notice worrying signs or become concerned that your employee isn’t coping well, don’t hesitate to take advantage of outside resources such as Cruse Bereavement Support or these useful contacts supplied by Mind. 

Also, if your workplace offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes access to a grief counsellor, you should ask employees if they’d like you to put them in touch. 

Devising Your Strategy to Support Employees Through Grief

Knowing how to support employees through grief can be difficult. Not least because grief is a very individual experience that often defies prediction or definition.  

But as an employer, by defining and formalising your company’s grief support framework now, you’ll be well prepared to provide the right kind of support for your employees when they most need it. 

For more information on tools and techniques to support and empower your employees, feel free to contact us via  hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call on 0203 627 7048.

HR Surgery: How To Manage A Grievance When One Comes Your Way

HR Surgery: How To Manage A Grievance When One Comes Your Way

“I’m sorry to send this email to you at the weekend, but I feel I need to raise something with you….”

In an ideal world everyone in your business would get on with each other, everyone would be in agreement on all things work related and no one would have conflict.  And then there’s reality….

In 2021, ACAS (the independent public body which offers free advice to employees on employment matters) received more than 650,000 calls from people, raising concerns or asking for help in how to resolve issues at work. And these are the ones which are either escalated or which weren’t brought before an HR team or manager. Whilst disciplinaries and grievances might seem like the ‘bread and butter’ of HR teams & what we are ‘known for’ ( cringe…), we’ve seen more of the latter appear in the last couple of years. It would appear that – in part at least – some of this is due not having the face to face contact to vent their frustrations which people typically have done, leaving them to instead move to more formal channels.

Typically if someone in your team has a concern at work they would either raise it with you or one of your senior team. Sometimes these are relatively small and easy to manage (“I don’t like where I’m sitting” – you’d be amazed at how many of these there are…) and other times they’re more complex & require more sensitivity  (“I’ve been treated unfairly and it’s impacted my mental health”). 

Many concerns we see relate to situations where someone in the team has been impacted by the behaviours of another in the team – colleague or their own manager – as well as about their role and what autonomy they have (or haven’t) got. But whatever the complaint and however it arises, when it does, it’s important to be prepared and know how to handle it to minimise the chances of the situation escalating in order to find a suitable outcome.

If you do receive an email like this (or even if someone comes to speak to you face to face), it can be tempting to groan inwards and hope you can ignore the issue and it will improve. But no good will come of burying your head in the sand and just like problems with your customers, you’ll need to work through it carefully to avoid escalation: if it’s important enough to someone to raise, then it’s important enough to be addressed.

Informal steps are a good way to try and resolve some grievances but there are some fairly serious areas where an informal approach isn’t suitable and you should always check with your team member if they are happy to try and resolve it this way anyhow, rather than assuming.

All businesses should have a grievance policy (it’s one of the three compulsory policies you must legally have)  so it’s worth brushing up on your own before you take any next steps. Also, it’s worth noting, that in technical terms, a formal grievance is submitted when it’s in writing , so Slack and Teams can still count….

Below are some suggested next steps to take if one does land in your lap & when following an informal process (which would always typically ‘shadow’ a formal one anyhow): 

1. Make sure that you are aware of all of the relevant information in relation to the complaint. This means speaking to the person who made the complaint and not only hearing their side of the story but checking out any facts to support it: what their concerns are and what (if any) resolution they are looking for. Whatever you do – avoid making assumptions: about their intent, the situation. Anything.

2. Next up: get your Poirot act on as it’s time for a bit of detective work (or ‘fact finding’ as we say in the trade). Typically this is something which is easy enough to do if it’s a simple complaint and involves speaking to those referred to in it and separating out what supports it, what doesn’t and what can’t be found. Try and do this in a sensitive way however to minimise the number of people involved and maintain the confidentiality of the individual.

3. Once you have all the facts, you can start to look into resolving the grievance. Sometimes this will involve looking at any company policies or procedures which may be relevant, as well as taking into account any legal guidance or recommendations. Other times it might be that you find that there has been some wrongdoing and need to escalate it and take potential disciplinary action against another team member. At this stage, we would definitely advise talking it through with your HR guru to see what options you may have and how to mitigate any further risk.

4. If you haven’t already at this stage, we would recommend meeting with the person who made the initial grievance and discuss what you’ve found, what actions will be taken to resolve and why. It’s also a good opportunity to explain how the grievance procedure works and what the next steps will be if they are not happy with the outcome in this case.

If you’ve come to a resolution, happy days ( and this is the case in most situations), but it’s still important to follow up in writing so that there is a record of what was discussed and agreed upon. This can help to avoid future concerns and shows how seriously you’ve taken the complaint.

The steps above are just a guide: every grievance is different and so the process may vary slightly depending on the situation.

If you need a hand working your way through a concern someone has in your business or want to get up to speed on how different processes work,  drop us a line via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call on 0203 6277048. 

Fun police – Can I ask my employees not to travel abroad this year?

Fun police – Can I ask my employees not to travel abroad this year?

We’ve all been desperately looking forward to our long awaited summer holidays: jumping on a plane, feeling the instant heat when you land, seeing the bluest of skies, seas and pools that are yours for a week or two… Ah… bliss!

However with the sudden turnaround on Portugal’s ‘green’ list status many of us are still wondering if we should play it safe in the UK or risk going abroad.

The UK’s vaccination programme seems to be on track but the government are still being very cautious in committing to any guarantees as the global pandemic continues. So what are your obligations as an employer? Can you stop employees from travelling? and would you even want to?

From an employment law perspective, each employee is entitled to a minimum of 28 days holiday a year including any public holidays, which will be pro-rated for those that work part-time. This annual leave should be taken every year, although some employers allow an element of this to roll over if necessary. There is no upwards limit on holiday that you can add to your employee package.

The law states that people must give reasonable notice to take holiday which is normally twice the length of the time requested, eg: 2 weeks notice for a weeks holiday. However you do have the right to refuse this if it is a busy period or others in the team are away, or you have allocated holiday times to work with the seasonality of your business.

Traveling abroad for holiday

Q: Can I stop employees from going abroad on holiday this year?

While an employer can normally dictate when people take holiday, lawfully you have no right to dictate where they can go on holiday. If you are worried about the consequences of planned quarantine or last minute changes to government policy that enforce last minute quarantine for those travelling abroad you may wish to implement a specific policy to discourage employees from going. For example, to make it clear that any quarantine advice must be followed but they would not be paid during this time, or home working provisions are to be agreed and put in place before leaving so they can be accessed if necessary on their return.

Q: Do my employees have to tell me whether they are going abroad on holiday this year?

During these uncertain times it would be worth encouraging communication between staff and line managers or HR to ensure that the return process is as smooth as possible in the event of a return to quarantine. If an employee has been allowed to work from home throughout the pandemic, and could continue to do so on their return then it may be an easy conversation to have. However, if your staff cannot work remotely this may cause a problem. So having a clear policy on whether you require employees to use additional holiday or unpaid leave in the event of quarantine then even those that don’t speak to you should be aware of the consequences should the situation arise. There is no legal requirement to pay employers during quarantine (and they are not entitled to sick pay), but for staff retention and goodwill you may decide to have a discretionary case by case approach to this.

Needing employees to travel again for work

You may be in a position where International business travel is essential to your company. With this you are subject to the same red, amber and green lists as travel. Although you would have to factor in paid quarantine, possible additional hotel costs and pay for any tests due to local restrictions at the destination.

Certain very specific professions have modified or relaxed requirements when travelling back into the UK, but they are quite limited and vary across the UK countries; most people will need to comply with the default rules around green, amber and red list countries, even if travelling for work.

As an employer you have a right to request reasonable instructions be followed by your team, but in the current circumstances that is likely to depend on the destination and what the employee is being asked to do there. There is also the matter of how COVID-safe it is. Asking someone to travel to a red list country is unlikely to be considered a reasonable request unless there is a very compelling reason. So your employee may have the right to refuse to travel if they feel you are being unreasonable. As always good communication between all parties is the best policy here, you want your staff to feel safe and valued especially after such trying times.

If you want to discuss any situations you may have, then drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048

Legal Eagles: Up and Coming Employment Law Changes

Legal Eagles: Up and Coming Employment Law Changes

It’s that time of year again folks…. This April new employment legislation comes into effect.

Here’s a quick summary of the new legislative changes coming into place this Spring:

  • Extensions of IR35 to the Private sector: this one is key if you employ a number of people through PSC (Personal Services Companies – also known as ‘umbrella’ organisations) as IR35 rules prevent contractors who are performing similar roles to employees, and working through PSC, from paying less tax and NICs than if they were permanently employed by these companies. From 6 April 2021, deciding whether IR35 applies becomes the responsibility of all private sector employers that in a tax year have: more than 50 employee; an annual turnover over £10.2 million; a balance sheet worth over £5.1 million.
  • Wage rises: Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on November 2020 that from April 2021, the National Living Wage would rise to £8.91 an hour (an increase of 2.2%) and be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time (previously the NLW applied only to 25 year olds and older). All other NMW rates will increase at the same time in line with Low Pay Commission recommendations.. Other rates also increase.
  • Statutory pay rises for maternity, paternity and other parental leave payments: to £151.70 per week
  • Gender Pay Gap reporting: Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees are required to publish information about the differences in pay and bonuses between men and women in their workforce, based on a ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April each year. Due to COVID, 2019/20 reports are suspended however companies now have to September 2021 to report 20/21.

For further help and advice on how legislation might affect your business, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call on 0203 6277048.

Image: Photo by Flickr – Maia Weinstock. LEGO legal justice team.

It Takes All Sorts – Encouraging Diversity & Inclusivity in your Team

It Takes All Sorts – Encouraging Diversity & Inclusivity in your Team

Stepping out of the North Sea on New Year’s Day after my short ‘dip’, I was grappling with changing back out of my wetsuit into dry clothes under an enormous (yet not quite big enough…) towel, when my family were greeted by some passers by on the beach shaking their heads and muttering “It takes all sorts” to each other. We smiled and nodded at them through chattering teeth with what I hoped conveyed a sense of more cheery New Year’s Day vigour than I felt at that particular moment (given both the temperature around us and the fact that due to misjudging the car parking vs beach entry point we were in for a ‘bit of a walk’ back to anything which resembled heating). And ignored the slight judginess that came with the phrase they’d just shared.

True, it might be slightly at odds to submerge yourself in near freezing water when you could have joined the masses on ‘a perfectly good walk’ to get you out in the fresh air and keep healthy, without the risk of pneumonia or (worse still) ‘hat hair’ for the rest of the day. And there was nothing particularly accomplished about our trip to the beach: no fitness records broken, no significant calories burnt (I did mention it was a ‘dip’ didn’t I??). But who’s to say with the many health benefits cold water swimming gives, that my version isn’t better for you? I just have a different view of what’s fun…

And it’s the same in any business to a degree. You need to have different points of view to see the options available to you: diverse perspectives and experiences which don’t mirror your own.

Over the past few years, it’s become clear that a key way to accelerate your business performance is to become more diverse and inclusive. Gartner found that the difference in performance between diverse teams was 12% more positive than non-diverse teams and Fast Company reported that those companies with higher gender diversity and engagement experience up to 48 – 56% stronger financial performance than others.

Yet ‘Diversity’ as a word in my experience has tended to anaesthetise or polarise many in SMEs. Either they zone out on the basis that it’s not something they need to concern themselves about (I’m not sexist/ racist/ ageist/ ableist so we’re doing good, right?),  they associate it with something that only ‘big’ companies’ need to get their head around or that it’s just too hard.

And I understand that to a degree. Because taking action on diversity and inclusivity isn’t passive and takes energy. Energy to sit and listen to other’s experiences who do not mirror your own view of the world, a growth mindset that is open to the fact that there is more you can learn on a regular basis and then take action to change what needs to. And who has any energy left after such a bumper year?!

But with increased data on the impact of diversity (from the positive it brings to the negative when it’s not present) and key world events such as the killing of George Floyd sparking candid conversations in the workplace, it’s not something anyone can ignore.

And there are many things you can do whether your team is made up of 5 or 500 people.

  • Re-think your strategy and be as intentional with planning diversity & inclusion as you are with planning out your sales.
  • It all starts at the beginning… So get real in your advertising and think about the words you are using to describe the candidates you are looking for. Make sure any job adverts are inclusive by checking for the sentiment they convey and don’t include a wish list which doesn’t actually describe what you are looking for. Is it really essential that this person has over ten years experience in a specific type of environment at a senior level? Because if it is, then you might have unwittingly just ruled out anyone who’s ever had a career break. Surely you want someone who’s delivered the best results and in which case, change your criteria (and your questions later).

  • Shortlist a blend of candidates: The next time you go to hire, ask the person helping you with your hiring to provide a representative group of candidates in the mix. It’ll be tough in some industries, but challenge yourself (and them) to do so.

  • Highlight the unconscious bias that sits in all of us: Make everyone who is interviewing candidates watch at least 3 of the videos in Facebook’s series of unconscious bias training. They take about 15 minutes each, can be watched over lunch and I guarantee will have people thinking more about their own unconscious biases and the impact of them. This isn’t a male or female ‘thing’. We’re all in this one together.

  • Promote those people who are underrepresented in your business. And I don’t mean promote them to a new role all the time. But promote and recognise their accomplishments, encourage them to showcase their work internally and externally and act as a champion for them.

  • Find role models to mentor these team members: if you can’t find any internal mentors then provide external help or encourage them to join networking groups in your industry where they can find support.

  • Offer greater flexibility. More so than ever people have opened up to the idea of flexible working, historically something which has helped women progress their careers.

It really does take all sorts to build a business. Well, a successful one at least.

If you want to chat about how you can encourage diversity & inclusivity in your team, then drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048

Image: Canva

What To Do When A Team Member Won’t Go Quietly

What To Do When A Team Member Won’t Go Quietly

Rejection is tricky. Whatever the circumstances.

We tend to think of rejection when it comes to matters of the heart, but there are many situations at work – promotions, restructures, redundancies, probations not working out – where it all boils down to the same emotions. And whilst most people don’t go ‘nuclear’ when told that they are not going to get what they want at work, sometimes people surprise you and they find all manner of ways of making their disagreement with your decision known….

Fortunately ransacking the office isn’t something I’ve ever seen after communicating that someone’s role has changed or ended and most tend to understand that situations change and ultimately accept a decision has been made (even if they disagree). But in some extreme cases – an employee refusing to accept the notice being given, threatening the people in the room, being physically aggressive and even contacting clients and other employees after the event with the intent to cause mayhem are all situations I’ve witnessed – there are always those outliers who just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

You can’t predict how someone is going to react to the news that you either don’t want them in the position or feel they are not right to be taking on certain things. However there are things you can to prevent or stop the situation escalating:

  1. Avoid emailing the ‘news’: If someone is up for a promotion or put a tremendous amount of effort into preparing for a presentation they want to give to a client, reflect that in the way you let them know it’s not going to happen & make sure you share this in a human way & not via text/ email. Ideally this would be face to face, but well, you know……
  2. Be clear on the reasons for any changes: always explain the rationale for your decision and how you came to it. Even if someone doesn’t seem like they’re listening to it, they may well recall it after when they’ve calmed down and are more capable of rationale thought.
  3. Prepare yourself for emotion: Someone’s ability to process any news at the time will depend on their own situation, wellbeing and resilience at that moment in time and so it helps to be prepared for all sorts. Sometimes this means having an actual ‘script’ that you can lean on to help out with key questions they might have or just being prepared to say to someone: “I understand that you don’t agree with our decision and I’m happy to speak to you about this in a couple of days, but for now, I suggest you take some time out to process what I’ve just shared”.
  4. Be respectful: just because the person doesn’t agree with your decision, you can respectfully listen to their views on this. Sometimes it helps them to process the ‘result’ and it is enough for them that you’ve acknowledged this.
  5. If all else fails… If someone really won’t take any transition well and you’ve spoken to them already, then the good news is that – unlike the US situation – you don’t need Twitter to suspend them for you. You can cut them off from all company systems straight away and remind them of the terms and conditions they signed which they are potentially breaching. Be specific about the terms they are breaching and what your next legal steps may be. They may threaten legal action themselves – it is their right to explore whatever options they see fit – but they don’t have to be on your company’s systems to do so.

If you want to chat through any potentially challenging situations, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or by calling 0203 627 7048 to have a chat.

Image: Flickr