Author: Diane Drover

March 2015 – The Gathering and CIPD Conference

Gravitate HR – Out and About!

The Gathering Conference – February 2015

On the 25th and 26th February, four of the team represented Gravitate at the Gathering Conference held in Glasgow at the SECC. The conference is held annually, organised by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and showcases companies from the third sector. We were there building relationships with organisations needing HR Support and spoke with many individuals and charities eager to know more about what we could offer.

Over the course of the conference we ran a raffle at our stand for the chance to win a fabulous £50 Marks & Spencer Hamper. The winner, Catherine Livingstone from Wylie & Bissett LLP was selected at random from over 50 entries!! A lovely way to start spring.

With many events running in addition to the exhibition area, it was nice to see some familiar faces, from Working on Wheels, Harper MacLeod, RHET and Foundation Scotland.

If you’re a charity or work in the third sector, please get in touch to find out how our team at Gravitate HR can support you with all your HR needs!

The Scottish CIPD Conference – March 2015

On the 5th March, myself and Morven Borthwick as Associate Members of the CIPD attended Day 1 of the Scottish CIPD conference as part of our professional development. The day consisted of several keynote speakers, a break out seminar as well as intermittent refreshments staged at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.

The speakers included: John McGurk, Head of CIPD Scotland; Peter Cheese, Chief Executive CIPD; Professor Dame Carol Black; Vance Kearney, Vice President HR Oracle; and Alan Watkins, Founder and CEO, Complete Coherence. Topics covered were Building a Profession for the Future, Improving Health in our Workplaces, A Bright Future in the Cloud and Creating Brilliance and Resilience for Yourself and your Team.
Key messages that got our minds ticking were:

‘Young people are key to our future’

‘Some 47% of jobs are under threat of automation in the next 5 years’

‘In 100 years, we have forgotten the importance of looking after the welfare of our employees’

‘A life of jobs, not a job for life’

‘Diversity and inclusion are business common sense’

‘It’s not about process and regulation but principles’

‘Stress and back pain aren’t diseases, they are the symptoms’

‘Mental health is connected to our wellbeing’

‘Work/life balance, good work and workplaces key to wellbeing’

‘If HR want to see what’s to come, watch Marketing. Companies start with their customers before moving attention to their employees’

‘How do you attract young people but retain an aging workforce?’

‘HR needs to evolve or die – lead by example!’

‘Learning is horizontal, development is vertical’

Christmas Party Season – HR Fear or Office Cheer?

Most staff look forward to the office Christmas party all year and why not! A chance for the majority of us to relax a little, they are a great opportunity for you to show staff how much you appreciate their hard work. However, with spirits running high (as well as the alcoholic kind!) you could find yourself managing Christmas Party HR issues well into the New Year.

Whilst encouraging staff to enjoy themselves at this festive time of year, preparation is key to avoid any HR issues arising and knowing how to cope when they do. Here are Gravitate HR’s top tips for keeping your staff (and yourself) on the right side of Santa’s list!

DON’T make attendance at your Christmas party compulsory.

The Christmas party may clash with non-Christian religious dates leading to discrimination on religious grounds, or sex discrimination if workers can’t attend due to childcare responsibilities. Don’t forget to invite any employees who are currently on maternity/paternity leave to avoid a claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination. All employees have a right to equal treatment so invite them all, including fixed term temporary workers, part-time staff and agency workers.

DO take into account different religions/age/beliefs/dietary or access requirements for your Christmas Party.

Although held at Christmas, the main aim is to say thank you to the whole of your workforce, not just those who celebrate Christmas or drink alcohol! Consider having soft drinks available for those who don’t drink alcohol, and vegetarian options for those who do not eat meat.

If you have under 18s working for you consider your venue carefully. For instance, it wouldn’t be advisable to hold it at a bar where no under 18s are allowed (this could lead to age discrimination). If there is no age restriction at the venue, remind anyone under the legal drinking age that they should not be drinking alcohol.

When booking a venue take into account its accessibility for any disabled employees. They must not be treated less favourably and ought to be encouraged, and able to attend in the same way as non-disabled employees.

DON’T encourage alcohol fuelled antics.

It’s a bad idea to provide free drinks for your staff all night. Set a limit to wine on the table, or a glass or two of fizz on arrival. Expecting staff to remain sober, particularly if you decide to provide free alcohol to employees could be unreasonable. However, staff who are drunk and behaving inappropriately could find themselves in a disciplinary situation, particularly if they are found to have damaged business interests or committed an act of misconduct. Clearly set out exactly what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable before the Christmas Party and remember you have a duty of care toward your staff, even at the party itself.

Have a think about start and finish times, and provide staff with details on public transport links or taxi numbers for getting to and from the party. Encourage staff not to drink and drive and remind them about the legal driving limit.

To prevent absences the following day, consider having the Christmas Party on a Friday if the office isn’t open on a Saturday and remind staff that unless there is a genuine reason for absence, it could be considered as ‘unauthorised’. Do be lenient with staff who are working the day after the Christmas Party, and do take into account how much alcohol was supplied by you as the employer!

DO remind staff about company HR policies concerning bullying, harassment and equal opportunities.

Remind staff of key HR policies before the Christmas Party and that any inappropriate behaviour on the night will be treated the same way as during work hours. Make sure all of your policies are up to date. If any inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour takes place, be quick to get a full and proper investigation completed before staff start disappearing on annual leave.

Office Cheer!

Hopefully the above will ensure that your Christmas Party is a successful and fun event, as well as minimising any risks of HR issues. If you do have any concerns or are looking for some advice, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or one of the Gravitate HR team on 0131 225 7458. Happy Holidays everyone!

Annual Leave, a Healthy Balance

Now that summer is over and the majority of us have taken our ‘summer’ holiday, it’s important for employers not to forget about the remaining annual leave employees have left to take.

A recent survey by Holiday Hypermarket found that the average British employee “needs” to take time off every 56 days or they begin to feel tired and stressed. Worryingly, 8 per cent of respondents said they had not taken any holiday in a 12 month period, with the majority only taking time off once or twice a year. Recent studies suggest several reasons for not taking annual leave, including project deadlines, pressure from co-workers, fear of falling behind with workload and a lack of money to go away on holiday.

With the growing use of technology, time off work can sometimes mean it is difficult for the employee to switch off. Some employees feel they don’t get a proper break due to being contacted by work, checking emails particularly on a handheld device, or doing work to prevent them from falling behind on return. In the end, the annual leave they were meant to have as a holiday to rejuvenate, is not a relaxing break but rather a stressful one.

So what are the effects? Without having regular and genuine breaks from work, a lack of time off can impact heavily on an employee’s well-being, causing stress, a drop in energy levels and motivation, and generally cause a feeling of being ‘run-down’. This can lead to sickness absence, a decrease in productivity and accuracy or the employee becoming disengaged with their work. However it is important to note that those left at work whilst their colleagues are away, also feel pressure to cope with work left by a co-worker. If this is the case and the majority of workers take their holidays in summer, it means that the overall workload will increase during the summer months. This is maybe one of the reasons why so many feel pressure to do work whilst on holiday.

It is therefore important to ensure that your company Annual Leave or Leave of Absence policy is clear providing guidance for both management and staff to adhere to. Management should be supportive of staff taking holidays, ensuring they have enough and regular time to recharge their batteries whilst balancing the needs of the business and workload. Some employers will stipulate a minimum and maximum amount of days that can be taken at the one time, so that it’s easier for the employee to take regular breaks rather than using too much annual leave in one go (unless otherwise approved).

Employees are entitled to 28 days paid holiday minimum (pro rata for part-time employees) and is accrued for the time they work. Britain’s 8 public holidays can be incorporated into the 28 days although remember, it is not a statutory requirement to pay for a public holiday if not incorporated. Employers must ensure the annual leave procedure is clear, outlining any options for sell-back and any increase related to length of service. Employers may also want to outline the steps and allowance for time off on other occasions, such as emergency leave, compassionate leave, jury duty, parental leave or time off for a dependent. If someone is off sick or off on maternity leave, it is important to ensure that the calculation and accrual of holiday entitlement is correct and also outlined in the respective policies.

It is recommended that annual leave normally be used completely prior to authorising unpaid leave, no matter what the circumstance. However, whatever your policy, the key recommendation is to ensure you have clear guidelines and recording procedures in place, and perhaps ask managers to remind staff regularly of their remaining balance to avoid any annual leave being lost and keep productivity high.

If you would like the Gravitate team to help you with the management of annual leave within your organisation then do not hesitate to get in touch on 0131 225 7458.

New to Gravitate HR!

New to Gravitate HR!

I moved to Edinburgh from Glasgow 3 years ago this October for an HR Officer post after obtaining an MSc in Human Resource Management. I gained a vast amount of general HR experience over the past 3 years, moving to an HR Manager role for a year before the opportunity arose to work in Gravitate HR.

I jumped at the chance to work here and knew it would be an exciting new challenge to work in a consultancy based environment. I am looking forward to working in a team of other HR Professionals, providing advice and support for a variety of clients. In my first couple of weeks with the company I have been introduced to clients, assisted with a variety of queries and reviewed contract templates.

I am looking forward to getting to know my colleagues and clients better in the coming months and am excited to be able to develop my career as an HR professional.