4 Weeks to Becoming Compliant in Health & Safety | Week 1 Appoint a Competent Person

Under Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999:

Every employer shall, appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements imposed upon him under UK Health & Safety legislation.

When seeking competent assistance employers should look to appoint one or more of their employees, with the necessary means, to provide the Health & Safety assistance required.

If there is no relevant competent worker within the organisation or the level of competence is insufficient to assist the employer in complying with Health & Safety Law, then the employer should enlist an external service or person.

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The Health and Safety Executive define a competent person as someone who has sufficient training, experience and knowledge and other personnel qualities that will allow them to assist you effectively in your health and safety responsibilities. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need.

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The 12 Myths of Christmas

myths-banner-long1. Workers banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office

  • Provide staff with suitable step ladders to put up their decorations and everyone can celebrate Christmas without a fuss.

2. Indoor Christmas lights need a PAT test every year

  • Following precautions and checking for signs of damage will mean a bright Christmas for all to enjoy.

3. You can’t throw sweets out at a panto

  • Oh yes you can!!!

4. Santa needs a seatbelt in his sleigh

  • No No No! He doesn’t.

5. Second hand toys can’t be donated for ‘Health and Safety’ reasons

  • As long as items are clean and in good condition, yes they can.

6. Shopping centre Christmas trees scaled back or replaced by artificial trees because of       Health and Safety

  • Health and Safety law exists to prevent injury at work not to ‘cut down’ the festive spirit.

7. Seats removed from shops – to stop shoppers resting their feet

  • As long as crowd management is controlled and seats are located in sensible places, seats can stay in the shops.

8. Carol singers are a Health and Safety risk

  • The guides provided to carol singers are not Health and Safety requirements and more common sense.

9. Children banned from throwing snowballs

  • As long a sensible approach to risk management is followed and practical action taken, all is well in the snow world.

10. Clearing snow from outside your business or home means you are likely to be sued

  • HSE encourage a common sense approach and think people shouldn’t feel prevented from helping others and their community.

11. Health and Safety prevents the tradition of putting coins in a Christmas pudding

  • The only concern is what goes on in your workplace not what you put in your puddings!

12. Health and Safety ruins Christmas!

  • Health and Safety laws exist to prevent people being seriously injured or made unwell at work. Not to put a stop to the Christmas vibes.

Source: HSE

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Employee Life Cycle: Step 8 Grievance & Disciplinary


  1. How to recognise a grievance?

Although the Acas code says that a grievance should be in writing the prudent employer should take up a grievance if its communicated to them by;

  • Email
  • Told verbally
  • Raised on their behalf by trade union representative, legal adviser or even family member
  • In writing.

If in doubt, ask the employee themselves what they meant.

  1. When do they arise?

Normally they arise when an employee directs a complaint to their line manager, a manager who is there or HR. However, they can arise out of;

  • A resignation letter
  • An exit interview
  • In a return to work interview
  • At an appraisal
  • In giving a witness statement for another matter

The list above is not exhaustive and one does not have to look at every statement critically but if you read or hear something that strikes you as a grievance – make enquiries.

If in doubt, ask the employee themselves what they meant.

  1. How to handle – formally or informally?

Responding informally to a grievance may be appropriate and may in fact be part of your grievance process.

It may just be the employee and manager discussing privately the concerns or issues of the employee. Before going down this path, the manager needs to be able to answer the following in the affirmative;

  • Is it a suitable matter to dealt with informally?
  • Is the employee happy to deal with the matter in this way?
  • Have we re-assured the employee that should the informal path fail, they still have the right to use the formal grievance procedure

Certain issues will require that we deal with the issue formally, e.g. bullying and harassment, derogatory comments by colleagues toward each other.

How do we do that?

The Acas Code states that you should:

  • “arrange for a formal meeting to be held without reasonable delay after a grievance is received, and
  • carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case.”

It is considered appropriate to arrange a hearing within 5 working days (or what your own rules require).  If the matter is complex or requires greater time to investigate properly then take the time in order to conduct a proper investigation.

If there is going to be a lengthy investigation, make the complainant aware of this and keep them abreast of the conduct of the matter.

  1. Conducting a formal grievance

If the grievance is going to be dealt with formally, we will need to;

  • Acknowledge receipt of the grievance
  • Invite the complainant to a grievance hearing
  • Appoint an investigating officer
  • Reschedule if the original date is not satisfactory
  • Accommodating employees with certain needs e.g. a disability

At the hearing itself, the investigating officer will need to;

  • Open the meeting
  • State its purpose and the process
  • Outline the complaint
  • Ask the complainant to add anything they think is relevant to the conduct of the investigation
  • Sum up the meeting and outline next steps
  • Adjourn the hearing
  • If possible, give a date when an outcome is likely to be given.

The investigating officer will then need to make their enquiries, review the evidence and give their outcome.

If the decision is not in favour of the complainant, then they need to be told of this plus the reasoning for the decision and have this confirmed in writing with a right of appeal.

If the decision is in favour of the complainant, then they need to be told of this and the reasoning. If through upholding the grievance it requires further action against a member of staff, then we can state that the member of staff will be subject to further action but not the detail of such action.

If upholding the grievance requires further action in regard to the complainant, then the complainant should be given a plan of action as to the changes, e.g. a revision of salary grading.

  1. Other matters

What if the employee wants no action taken other than getting it “off their chest?”

It may be possible to do this but where the matter raised relates to a legal duty of care that obliges the employer to act, bullying and harassment, breaches of health and safety for example, then, the organisation will have to tackle the matter despite the complainant’s reluctance. One will need to explain this to the employee and do what one can to take their concerns on-board.

Lastly, may mediation whether internal or externally conducted assist in remedying the situation and therefore can the matter be dealt with outside the grievance procedure?


Disciplinary procedure

  1. A proper investigation

In relation to investigations, the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (‘the Acas Code’) states:

“It is important to carry out necessary investigations of potential disciplinary matters without unreasonable delay to establish the facts of the case. In some cases, this will require the holding of an investigatory meeting with the employee before proceeding to any disciplinary hearing.

In others, the investigatory stage will be the collation of evidence by the employer for use at any disciplinary hearing.

  1. A formal or an informal response

The Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (the Acas Code) says: “Many potential disciplinary or grievance issues can be resolved informally. A quiet word is often all that is required to resolve an issue. However, where an issue cannot be resolved informally then it may be pursued formally.”

It may not always be necessary to take formal action to get the required improvement.  A quiet word or guidance from a manger may do the trick.

That said, it may be the case that formal action is required. It is important to set out guidelines and train your managers on how to make that choice. This will a void inconsistency and the perception that the organisation is fickle and an employee’s treatment may be down to the discretion of a manager.

  1. Do we need to suspend an employee?

If we are conducting an investigation, we may need to consider if the employee should be suspended?

Often in cases of possible serious or gross misconduct the reaction will be to suspend pending investigation of the matter. But should we?  We should consider the following in weighing up whether to suspend or not;

  • Concerns that the investigation may be undermined by the employee’s continued presence
  • There is a serious breakdown in relationships with the employer. Fellow employees or customers and normal activities cannot be maintained
  • That the presence of the employee poses a significant risk to other employees or that other employees might pose a risk to the employee under investigation.

Suspension should not be an automatic response, but if an employee is suspended, it should be on full pay and for as short a time as is required to conduct a proper process.

  1. Can an employee be accompanied to an investigation meeting?

There is no legal right for an employee under investigation to be accompanied to an investigation hearing. However, it is possible to allow the employee a companion either under the disciplinary procedure. Often it is more straightforward to say that a companion is allowed at all stages of the procedure.

  1. People chairing the stages of the process

When conducting a disciplinary process, make sure that wherever possible that the people who conduct the investigatory stage, disciplinary hearing and appeal stage are different and have had no prior involvement in the matter.

Do not for example appoint a witness to chair the disciplinary hearing as the person having witnessed the alleged misconduct will be viewed as not impartial and it will create a major flaw in the process.

It is important that the process is seen as fair, even handed and impartial.Blog divider RAC

Employee Life Cycle: Step 7 Absence Management

  1. Have an absence/attendance management policy in place

All employers should have a policy covering the absence of employees and how to deal with such instances in place, for a number of reasons, including:

  • To have a resource that can be applied in an even handed manner to all employees and promote a consistent and reliable approach to dealing with such matters;
  • Employees who are subject to a disciplinary process for sickness absence often feel that the employer distrusts them or is by implication doubting that the illness is genuine. This will foster an atmosphere in which employee relations will suffer and often be poor;
  • While technically it is an example of poor performance, it differs greatly from other aspects of performance and different questions will be under consideration.
  • An employment tribunal regards using the disciplinary procedure as inappropriate for conduct which is not deliberate misconduct.

As well as the reasons above, it is helpful to have a specific policy for absence/attendance management in place.

For example, it provides a good tool for employers to deal with persistent or repetitive short term absence by way of a system of triggers and cautions/warnings.

In other situations, a policy of this nature can be invaluable in setting out the approach that the organisation will take in dealing with sickness absence (and specific types of sickness absence).

It also points out clearly, what is expected of employees.

It is also possible that an absence issue may trigger the disciplinary process. However, this usually only occurs where disciplinary issues have arisen through the absence, i.e. false sickness or dishonesty. Or an unreasonable refusal of the employee to cooperate with the management of their sickness absence through the policy.

  1. What your policy should include to be effective

A competent policy should cover the following aspects of managing sickness absence:

  • The rules for notifying ones’ employer of absence and supplying evidence of that sickness. If an employee is going to be absent due to illness, who do they call? Where do they call? When do they call?;
  • Outline the rules on sick pay and entitlements. For example, whether the organisation operates Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) or contractual sick pay and on what basis;
  • The absence/attendance process, including trigger points and procedures for reviewing patterns of absence;
  • Procedures for managing frequent short term absence where there are underlying medical issues/conditions;
  • Procedures for managing long term absence;
  • Holidays and sickness;
  • Medical report
  1. The absence/attendance management process – triggering a review

There is a need within the policy to set a level or pattern of absence that will trigger a review in relation to an employee’s absence.  There is no ‘yardstick’ or set figure.

A common method of measuring sickness absence is the Bradford Factor. The Bradford Factor is calculated as follows:

 (S x S) X D = B  {\displaystyle B=S^{2}*D}

  • B is the Bradford Factor score
  • S is the total number of spells (instances) of absence of an individual over a set period
  • D is the total number of days of absence of that individual over the same set period

However, an employer can use whatever parameters they wish to do so but your levels or parameters should not be punitive i.e. outside the scope of what ‘a reasonable employer would do’. It should not be so complicated as to cause an excessive amount of time being spent on reviewing cases of absence and practically should be set at a level whereby the people who infringe most are likely to be targeted (the worst 10-15% for example).

Please remember that thresholds or levels can be varied department by department as long as there is a justified reason for doing so, but it is often simpler to have one rule for all.

The procedure should also retain enough resilience and adaptability to guard against those people ‘playing the system’ and should include a term to the effect that an unacceptable pattern of absence will probably trigger a review (e.g. repeated absence around Bank holidays or Mondays and Fridays).

Trigger levels should not be “set in stone”. They should be reviewed and adjusted as the circumstances require.

Do not count unauthorised absence towards your levels. It is a matter of discipline potentially and should be dealt with under the disciplinary procedures.

Do not count pregnancy related absence.

Where there is an underlying medical condition or possible disability it may be that some or all of it may need to be discounted if it is related to the underlying condition.

  1. Return to work interviews

Return to work interviews can be a very effective tool in managing poor attendance and sickness absence. You can use them where there is no policy or even where there is a policy but they are not provided for within the policy.

It should be the aim of the organisation that every episode of absence will merit a conversation with the employee concerned on the day of their return to work or very shortly thereafter.

If done properly and effectively, they can help curb:

  • Absence through a bad attitude (The “I can’t be bothered” person);
  • It gives managers data and a forum to look at and discuss absence and its impact on them, departments and the business as a whole; and
  • It can reveal the reasons for absence and whether there are any underlying health issues that need to be addressed.
  1. Attendance/absence review meetings for repeated absence

With a view to having an effective system whereby an organisation can if the need arises dismiss an employee with unacceptable patterns or levels of absence, you will need to have a series of meetings and issue cautions (if appropriate) which will create record of a lawful nature to show an employment tribunal.

The meetings or hearings often follow this pattern:

  • Informal counselling;
  • Formal attendance hearing;
  • Final attendance hearing; and
  • Dismissal hearing.

The structure and process of these hearings will be akin to a disciplinary or capability procedure with the employee being sent a letter asking them to attend a hearing date, time and place, the nature of the matter to be discussed plus any evidence to be included and giving them the right to be accompanied.

If after the hearing the issuing of a caution is thought to be appropriate, then it should be issued.

  1. Cautions issued for absence

Remember that a caution for absence is not a disciplinary warning as you are not doubting that the absence was not genuine. The caution is to signal to the employee that their level of absence is not in line with company requirements.

Levels of caution:

  • First written caution
  • Final written caution

Remember that if a caution is issued, then there should be a right of appeal included in the written caution and especially where there is a decision to dismiss.

  1. Managing longer term absence and underlying medical conditions

There are several things to remember when dealing with longer term absence. Crucial to this are:

  • Having and obtaining up to date medical evidence;
  • Conversing with the employee about their condition, getting their views and likely prognosis;
  • Establishing what the chances are of the condition clearing up wholly or mainly; and
  • What adjustments will need to be made if the condition falls within the definition of disability.

It should not be a case of “out of sight, out of mind”, and whilst we might consider using a system of cautions for unacceptable levels of absence, it would be generally better to manage the situation in the following manner.

Keep in contact with the employee –  it can be awkward to keep in touch with the long term sick as people often believe that the medical note/GP certificate places the employee beyond the managers reach and that employees might feel harassed. This is not the case. An employer has the right to manage an employee who is off sick and most employees appreciate ongoing contact from the workplace.

Having a clear procedure which the employee is aware of also means that an employee should be less suspicious of ongoing contact. Generally, first contact is by ‘phone but remember that meetings whether at the workplace, the employee’s home or another location agreed by the parties and depending on the employee’s condition. As a rule of thumb you may wish to speak to an employee by phone once a week or more and meet the employee once a month.

Getting the employee back to the workplaceadjustments are important as they can be very useful in getting an employee back to the workplace in some capacity. The sooner an employee can get back in to work, the greater a likelihood of a return to normal duties. Therefore, thinking of what can be done is good for the employee’s health and the employer.

  1. Getting a good medical report
  • First question, do I need to get a report?;
  • How long is the employee likely to be off?; and
  • How long has the employee been off and what’s the prognosis?

The answers to these questions will depend on the facts of each case of sickness absence. As a rough guide if the facts indicate that the employee will be away for 4 to 8 weeks or longer then a medical report may be a consideration.

The next point is if we are going to get a medical report who will provide it?

A report can be provided in a manner of ways;

  • Through the employee’s medical practitioner
  • Through an occupational health provider
  • Through the Government’s Fit for Work scheme
  1. Funding private medical treatment

Think about whether it is worth paying for the employee to receive certain treatment or investigations of their condition or illness. As well as showing support for the employee it can assist in getting a better picture of the condition and its prognosis and assist in a speedier return to work.

Many treatments are less expensive than one thinks and this need to be weighed against the cost of absence and the impact on the workplace. For example, say a scan can be done within 2 weeks privately but is a 6 to10-week wait through the NHS.

  1. Long term absence and dismissing an employee

The main risk in dismissing will be unfair dismissal unless disability is involved.

In order to successfully defend such a claim, you need to show;

  • You have complied with your absence/attendance policy;
  • You have obtained proper medical information which is up to date;
  • You have consulted with the employee and given reasonable warning to the employee that you are considering this course of action;
  • It is necessary to hold a formal hearing before dismissing an employee for sickness absence. This is to ensure that all the relevant facts and information is considered and that a fair and reasonable process has been conducted;
  • Prior to deciding to dismiss, are there any adjustments, redeployment to a different role, ill-health retirement or PHI available as an alternative; and
  • As this is a dismissal, the employee has a right of appeal.

What if the employee is disabled?

If the condition amounts to a disability, then the employee will have protection under the Equality Act 2010.

That definition is;

physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day- to- day activities.’

It can be difficult to assess what is or is not a disability. Therefore, it is important to gather the best evidence we can to help us in our decision. If in doubt you may wish to err on the side of caution.

A tribunal will expect the employer to have considered all reasonable adjustments not only to enable the employee to return to work but also adjustments where appropriate to any process for dealing with the employee and in considering a dismissal.

Reasonable adjustments are an ongoing process. It is not a matter of just having done it once and that is all. They need to be reviewed and re-assessed as the employee and their condition progresses.

Please remember that dealing with sickness absence is not “one size fits all” scenario. Although there may be similarities between cases, each should be looked at on its own merits. If you are dealing with a situation and are unsure on the best way to handle it please get in touch.

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Employee Life Cycle: Step 6 Capability and Performance Management

  1. Why is managing performance important?

Managing your employee’s performance is important as:

  • It is central to the relationship between managers and employees;
  • It can be a key element of good communication;
  • It fosters the growth of trust and personal development; and
  • It is central to how well your employees will be engaged in their work, and how well they will perform.

If your employees are engaged in their work, they are more likely to be doing their best for your organisation.

An engaged employee is someone who takes pride in their job and shows loyalty towards their Line Manager, team, and/or organisation and goes the extra mile, particularly in areas like customer service, or where employees need to be creative, responsive, or adaptable.

  1. Identifying performance issues

 If you have concerns about an employee’s performance you should:

  • Undertake an assessment to decide if there are grounds for taking formal action;
  • Review their personnel file, including any appraisal records;
  • Gather relevant documents;
  • Monitor their work;
  • Interview them; and
  • Interview others confidentially.

It is essential that you investigate the reasons for underperformance. You should try and find out if there are any external or internal reasons for an individual’s poor performance. Have there been changes in the Company? Do they have a new Line Manager? Are they unsure of the work that is expected of them now? Have they lost confidence in their abilities? Or are there personal factors which are impacting on their work? For example, an employee may have had a recent bereavement you were not aware of or their child may be ill or their health may have deteriorated. Knowing the cause of the poor performance is key as this will help you decide how best to tackle it.

  1. Informal and formal approaches

 First instance and minor instances of capability should be dealt with informally through counselling or training. They should be addressed with their Line Manager as part of their day-to-day management. You should keep a note of any such informal discussions on the employee’s personnel file. These should be ignored for the purposes of any future capability hearings.

Informal discussions may help:

  • Clarify the required standards;
  • Clarify the level of performance expected;
  • Identify areas of concern;
  • Establish the likely causes of poor performance;
  • Identify any disabilities that may be affecting the employee’s performance;
  • Identify any training, or supervision needs; and/or
  • Set targets for improvement and a time-scale for review.

The formal procedure should be used for more serious cases, or in any case where an employee has failed to improve an informal warning. An employee would not normally be dismissed for performance reasons without previous warnings. Dismissal without previous warnings may be appropriate for serious cases of gross negligence. At all stages of the procedure an investigation should be carried out.

  1. Considerations during the process

When carrying out a capability or performance management procedure there are certain considerations which need to be thought about during the process. These are:

  • Disabilities – You must consider whether the unsatisfactory performance is related to a disability. If is then consider whether there are any reasonable adjustments that could be made, or making other working arrangements such as changing duties or providing additional equipment or training. You may even need to make amendments to your capability procedure. You should enquire whether they have any medical conditions which require adjustments.
  • Confidentiality – Aim to deal with performance matters; sensitively, with due respect for the privacy of the individual, and to treat any information confidentially. You must notify all involved in the process that they must treat any information communicated to them as confidential during this process. You should also normally tell the employee of the names of the witnesses whose evidence is relevant to their capability hearing.
  1. The purpose of the performance review meeting

 The purpose of the performance review meeting is to:

  • Set out the required standards that you consider the employee has not met, and go through any relevant evidence that you have gathered;
  • Allow them to ask questions, present evidence, call witnesses, respond to evidence and make representations;
  • Establish the likely causes of poor performance (including any reasons why any measures taken so far have not led to the required improvement);
  • Identify whether there are further measures, such as additional training or supervision, which may improve performance; and
  • Where appropriate, discuss targets for improvement and a time-scale for review.

If dismissal is a possibility, you should establish whether there are any further steps that could reasonably be taken to rectify their poor performance, and to establish whether there is any reasonable likelihood of the required standards of performance being met within a reasonable time, and to discuss whether there is any practical alternative to dismissal, such as redeployment to any suitable available job at the same or lower grade.

  1. Preparing for a performance review meeting

Before a formal performance review meeting you should ensure that your properly prepare for it. One of these preparations should be writing to the employee to invite them to attend the meeting. Your letter should;

  • Inform them of the date, time, and place of the capability hearing, as well as who will be present;
  • Give the employee the right to be accompanied;
  • Give them copies of any relevant documents and provide sufficient information to enable the employee to prepare their response, you should also ensure that sufficient time is given to do this;
  • Provide a copy of any relevant witness statements, except where a witness’ identity is to be kept confidential, in which case you should give the employee as much information as possible while maintaining confidentiality;
  • Provide a copy of the capability/performance management procedure or information on where it can be accessed;
  • Give the employee warning that a possible outcome might be a formal sanction under the relevant stage of the company’s performance review procedure (including, where appropriate, dismissal); and
  • Ask the employee to let you know if any reasonable adjustments need to be made in order for themselves or their companion to attend.
  1. During the meeting

During the meeting the employee should be given an opportunity to answer any allegations of poor performance or capability issues against them. They should be given the opportunity to provide any evidence and call any witnesses that can help them put their point of view across. The meeting should usually be carried out by the employee’s line manger but remember that you will need to have someone who is kept out of the process so there is someone to conduct the appeal should there be a need to. It is also best to have a note taker to take down minutes of the meeting which should be written up and then agreed by both parties. Where you have witnesses that are provided evidence against the employee, the employee should be given the opportunity to respond to any information given by the witness.

If any new evidence is presented, then the meeting should be adjourned so that this can   be investigated further by yourself or to allow the employee time to review the new evidence. You should give the Employee a reasonable opportunity to consider any new information obtained before the hearing is reconvened.

At the end of the meeting, you should adjourn the meeting and inform the employee of you next actions and when and how you are going to give the employee the outcome of the hearing.

  1. Set realistic targets and objective criteria

It is vital that employees know what is expected of them in relation to both specific and general targets. So set realistic targets and help employees achieve them within a sensible time frame by providing appropriate training and other support.

Objective criteria such as sales targets will help you assess performance, however, beware of comparing individuals with each other. Comparisons with performance in previous years can also be risky as the business climate may have changed or other circumstances may have changed. Sometimes performance is hard to assess which is why it is essential that you use a proper, fair and consistent process.

You will need evidence that the employee is, in fact, incompetent and underperforming.

  1. Give warnings

 If, after investigating and receiving support, an employee is still not reaching expected standards, it may be necessary to resort to issuing warnings. This should begin with a warning indicating how they are failing to achieve and what is required of them. They should then be given time to improve. The length of this period will depend on such factors as the employee’s length of service and the extent to which they are underperforming. Instant dismissal for poor performance can be justified however only for something extreme.

Generally speaking there are three stages to capability or performance management. These are:

  1. Stage 1 – first written warning or improvement note;
  2. Stage 2 – final written warning;
  3. Stage 3 – dismissal or redeployment.

It is also important to note that at each of the above stages the employee will have the right to appeal the decision.

  1. Common mistakes when dealing with capability and performance management issues

Listed below are the common mistakes that employers make during the capability and performance management procedure.

  • Ignoring poor performance or capability issues. The longer you leave performance or capability issues the more difficult they are to manage. If you tackle them as soon as they occur, you are more likely to resolve them satisfactorily.
  • Not making employees aware of what is expected of them. If you don’t know what is expected of you in terms of performance, then you will never know if you are performing well or underachieving. Suddenly being told that you are not performing when you are not aware of expectations can be very demoralising.
  • Thinking that a yearly appraisal constitutes performance management. Yes, appraisals are part of the process but managing an employee’s performance means much more than just yearly appraisals, especially for employee’s who aren’t meeting expectations.
  • Being critical without being constructive. If you are constantly berating an employee without offering any ways in which they can improve can be very demoralising and could potentially lead to a claim being brought against your company.
  • Treating everyone the same. Whilst you do need to ensure that you are making objective decisions there are some instances in which you need to consider whether there are any extenuating circumstances which may be the root cause.

Do you think Health & Safety is just common sense and anyone can do it?

Looking after a company’s Health & Safety is no easy-going job and this is where we can help. It is a vital part of your business that needs to be considered to protect not only your company but more importantly your employees and your visitors.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have quoted the following figures for work related injuries in 2014/15:

  • 142 workers were killed at work
  • 611,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries at work
  • Of these 611,000 workers, 152,000 workers spent over 7 days absent from work
  • An estimated 4.1million working days were lost due to workplace injuries

These figures are difficult to ignore and clear to see it takes more than just common sense to avoid an accident.

Health & Safety is the most important aspect for all companies to get right in a bid to help mitigate risk and improve compliance. It doesn’t need to be complicated but areas cannot be overlooked such as:

Did you know that any business must get help from a competent person to enable you to meet the requirements of Health and Safety law?

Your appointed competent person can either be an employee supported by an external Health & Safety resource or purely an external Health & Safety company.

By appointing Agility Risk & Compliance you will have peace of mind that your company’s needs are met with a good balance of training, skills, experience and knowledge, a complete package tailored to your business.

We also provide a 24/7 Advice Line where our dedicated consults can advise and support you 24hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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Employee Life Cycle: Step 5 Development

  1. How can learning and development help your organisation

Developing your employees is a long-term process consisting of learning and training that can help your members of staff to acquire skills and knowledge through a variety of different methods. Developing your employees’ abilities and skills can have numerous different benefits to your organisation. Some of the benefits that can be afforded by investing time and money into your employees are:

  • Achieve business objectives – you may be lacking the skills necessary in order to achieve your business or departmental objectives. Developing your employees can help your organisation gain these skills and therefore achieve your objectives;
  • Win contracts – some potential clients may require you to have specific qualifications or skill sets. Developing your employees can help to gain these skills and may put you in a better position to win the work;
  • Motivate employees – Investing time and money into your employees can motivate them and make them more loyal to you. If you are investing in them, they are more likely to invest in you;
  • Improve employee retention – motivated, happy employees that feel valued are more likely to stay with you than ones who aren’t happy in their roles;
  • Reduce risks within your organisation – in order to reduce H&S risks, or tackle unwanted behaviour in the workplace, a level of training may be needed; and
  • Increase your employer brand – by presenting your company as one that invests in its people can help portray you as a desirable company to work for. This can help you become an employer of choice and is likely to increase the level of candidate that you get applying for vacancies.
  1. Methods of development

There are many different approaches that you can take when developing your employees, there are also different situations in which learning can take place. The main categories that need to be considered are:

  • Internal or external. The development action can either be implemented by someone internally, i.e. another employee or manager, or externally by an outside organisation. The aims of the development action and the skills that already exist within your organisation will determine which is the most appropriate.
  • Group or individual. The development action can either take place as a group or on a one-to-one basis. This will obviously depend upon how many people require to take part in the learning.
  • At the place of work or away from the place of work. The development action can either take place at the place of work or away from the place of work. Classroom learning can be useful for theoretical learning, whereas learning in the work place offers a much more hands on and practical approach.
  • Formal or informal. Whenever you decide that there is learning that needs to take place and implement a plan to action this learning, this will always be formal learning. Whilst you cannot have ultimate control over informal learning you need to be aware that it does take place. You need to also take actions to ensure that the informal learning does not contradict your policies and procedures. Informal learning will happen between colleagues and whilst can be useful, sometimes bad habits can be passed from one employee to another, which can be problematic.
  1. Internal methods of development

As was mentioned [yesterday?] there are both internal and external methods that can help to develop your employees. The different types of internal methods are:

  • On-the-job training. This is usually done one-to-one or in small groups in the work environment so that the learner can get a hands-on experience. The trainer will often show the learner how to do the task, then the learner will be observed and directed whilst carrying out the task. It is important that the person who is passing across their skills is following the correct procedures for the tasks and isn’t cutting corners. This is especially important when it comes to health & safety issues.
  • Coaching and mentoring. Coaching and mentoring is a great way for employees to learn from each other. A mentor can pass across knowledge about the company and the role and can offer support and guidance when it is needed. It can be a great way to develop employees so long as the mentor has the time and is invested in helping develop their mentee. It can also be a positive and rewarding experience for the mentor.
  • Job rotation, secondment, and shadowing. All these methods of learning can be incredibly beneficial to the learner and the organisation. The process can help to create discussions and for new ways of thinking to be developed. However, if an employee is in another department for a long period of time then you need to ensure that that employees workload is being taken on by someone else. This may mean that it is shared amongst the rest of the department if they have the capacity to do so, just remember not to overload anyone with additional work.
  1. External methods of development

As was mentioned previously there are both internal and external methods that can help to develop your employees. The different types of external methods are:

  • External courses can help develop or introduce skills that are not already in your organisation or are too complex for people within your organisation to deliver. They also can create a protected time for learning where the learner doesn’t have to worry about ensuring that they are doing their usual role whilst also trying to concentrate on the learning or have to do it in their own time.
  • Formal education and qualifications. Formal education and qualifications can help the learner gain vast amounts of knowledge around a specific subject area. They will also usually provide the learner with some sort of accreditation which may either be a legal requirement or can help when taking on new work. These causes may not suit every learner.
  • Outdoor learning. Outdoor learning, such as orienteering courses and other outdoor type activities, can be very useful for team building and leadership development. These types of learning help to develop softer skills, such as, team work, leadership and other skills that aren’t necessarily connected to a particular role within your organisation. In it is important that you do not use an outdoor learning activities that will exclude anyone from participating.
  • Distance learning and e-learning. Access to distance learning and e-learning is flexible and can be done at the learner’s convenience. Whilst this can be a major advantage to this type of learning it can also be its biggest downfall. Some learners may find it difficult to put aside the time in order to complete the learning. It is also more difficult to ask questions and check understanding than face-to-face learning.
  1. Which method is best

Over the last couple of days, we have talked about the different methods for developing your employees. But which method is best? There isn’t a one size fits all answer to this. There are both organisational and learner considerations which need to be thought about when deciding which method is best.

The organisational considerations which you need to think about are:

  • The nature of the learning need;
  • The priority of the learning need;
  • Organisational culture;
  • Previous learning and development interventions; and
  • Budget available.

The learner considerations which you need to think about are:

  • Occupation and seniority of the learner;
  • Demands of the leaner’s job role and home life
  • Qualifications and educational background of the learner; and
  • Learner preference.
  1. How to justify

Spending on employee development is often not a major priority for organisations and is often the first thing to be cut during times of economic difficulties. Therefore, if you are wanting to spend time, money, and other resources on developing employees it is likely that you will need to justify this spending.

In some instances, the justification may be that it is a legal requirement. In cases like these it is likely to be easier to get the spend to be signed off. However, non-mandatory training may be a little bit more difficult to convince the powers that be that the development is needed and worthwhile. Therefore, you will need to be able to justify this spending. In order to do this, you should take the following steps.

  • Identify an issue;
  • Identify learning activities that could fix it; and
  • Create a business a case.
  1. Identify an issue and a solution

All organisations, no matter how well they are run, will have issues or problems which they need to overcome. In some situations, development actions can help to overcome these issues. Before you can determine this however, you need to understand the underlying cause for the issue. For example, you may have noticed a drop in productivity which may have been identified through a variety of KPI’s. The figures can show you that something is wrong but it cannot always explain the cause. A common cause for a drop in productivity is demotivated employees that feel undervalued.

Once you have established the underlying cause you can then look for a solution. Sometimes this may be something quite simple where processes and procedures need to be tweaked, in other instances development activities may help to rectify the problem. If a realistic solution is development of employees, you should then decide on the most appropriate method of learning for this. The things that need to be thought about here are the organisational and learner considerations and whether any development actions have previously taken place and if they were successful or not. This information can then help you to build a business case which we will be going into in more detail [tomorrow?].

  1. Create a business case

Once you have identified an issue and what development action could resolve it, you should then cost out how much the development action is likely to cost. You should take into account the cost of the activity, the time taken away from the workplace, and any additional factors, such as, travel and management time. Once you have done this you should create a business case that answers the following questions:

  • Why is the learning necessary?
  • How much will the learning cost?
  • When can you expect a return on the investment?
  • Do you really need to act?
  • Is there anything else that can be done?

You should also try and pre-empt other questions that may be asked of you when presenting your business case so that you have the information to hand to answer it. If you can prove that the development action is worthwhile to the organisation, then you are more likely to have it signed off. It is also important that you monitor the success of the action so that these can help to create your business case in the future.

  1. Training agreements

When you are putting employees on expensive and time consuming courses you may wish to ensure that you are reaping the rewards from your investment. There is a way in which you can do this, but you need to make sure that you have the necessary paperwork in place prior to the commencement of the development activity. If you want to recoup the costs of training courses in the event of an employee leaving then you need to put in place a training agreement, sometimes referred to as a training fee agreement. This ensures that you have the express written permission of the employee. Remember if you make deductions from an employee’s wages without their prior written consent this would be an unlawful deduction of wages.

However, there are certain instances in which you cannot use a training fee agreement. If an employee completes any mandatory training that they need in order to complete their role, then you will not be able to reclaim these costs. You also will be unable to reclaim costs for any health and safety training that the employee completes.

The training agreement should clearly lay out the terms in which the training is provided and in what circumstances training costs will be expected to be paid back by the employee. The repayment terms need to be reasonable and are usually on a sliding scale so that the employee pays back fees the longer they are with the organisation.

  1. Succession planning

Employees will come and go, this is the way that business is. However, there are times when someone leaving the organisation can cause turmoil and disruption. This is likely to be the case when someone senior, or with a specific skill set, leaves and there is no-one to take over their role. Obviously these roles can be filled via recruitment, however, forward planning can also help in these situations with the use of succession planning. Succession planning is the process by which you can identify and develop your current employees to fill roles where you know the current employee is likely to leave, whether this is because they have been promoted or they have expressed an interest to retire. It is vital that you remember that there is no longer a mandatory retirement age and therefore you should not assume that an employee is going to retire at 60, 65, or any age.

The employee currently in the role can help to mentor anyone who could potentially fill their role. This can help employees progress within the company and feel valued. It also means that if you recruit from within then the employee already knows the organisation’s norms, values, and processes. It can also help you to maintain skills and talent within your business as if an ambitious employee isn’t given the opportunity to progress within your organisation then they may look to move to an organisation where they can.

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