Posts Tagged ‘Employer’

Watch On Demand Webinar ‘Transitioning Back to the Workplace’

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

This webinar provides expert guidance from Fredericka Sheppard and Joyce Rigby-Jones, joint Managing Directors of Voltedge, and Karen Hernandez from Enterprise Ireland, about the steps companies should implement to support the smooth transition of employees back into the workplace. You can also learn about the supports that are available from Enterprise Ireland.

Throughout the webinar the speakers discussed:

  • The role of the employer in ensuring the continued health, safety and wellbeing of employees.
  • Communicating & engaging with employees around their return to the workplace
  • Resource planning & restructuring of roles and responsibilities
  • Supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

You can watch the webinar replay, view the slides and the Return to Workplace guide here.

Podcast: Co-Managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones chatting with Linda Ward

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Voltedge Co-Managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones is chatting with Linda Ward, MD at Retail Renewal about how retailers can support their employees and what you need to put in place before you can open the doors to your shop.

This podcast is all about helping retailers to come to terms with the new reality of trading during a pandemic. When can you reopen? What do you have to do before you reopen? What level of turnover can I expect? When will trading be back to pre-pandemic levels? How can I make my customers and staff feel safe?

Linda: So what are the most important steps that people need to take now in terms of retailers going back trying to re-open their stores and thinking about all the things that they have to do? In relation to the staff that they employ, what are the most important steps that they need to take in that area?

Joyce: The most important thing is to look at this as a major continuity plan and put in place a plan and appoint a contact. We are advising all our clients to appoint a Covid-19 Coordinator; that person will take on the role of making sure that the organisation is in tune with what’s happening or that they’re following all the government and HSE advice that’s coming down the line. So the Coordinator is really pushing out information to the employees, keeping them on track, being a point of contact if they have any concerns.

So if an employee is worried about something, they can go directly to this person. In a small retail environment, that’s probably going to be the owner, but in some organisations is going to be a senior person who will take on that role and very much drive it. The really important thing is to make sure that employees know what they’re doing in terms of Covid-19 and how to deal with that in the workplace, and this Coordinator will drive that behaviour and remind them constantly of what is important in terms of the social distancing, the hygiene aspects but also how to deal with each other and customers, as they start going back to work. 

Linda: So before they get to that point of going back to work, what are the three steps, what is the sort of preparation that an employer can do and what sorts of things do they need to be thinking about before they open the doors and before they bring the staff back in?

Joyce: The employer has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for their employees so it’s vital that they think about this. They should do a risk analysis, they will be putting in all the physical issues and actions that you’ve been going through with them in terms of shields of prospects but really they need to look at the risk analysis if one employee has backup support, have they kept maybe a couple of employees separate so that they are doing either shifts or having people coming in at different times so they’re not in contact with each other, and may want to look at checking their employees’ personal details – do they have their emergency contact person, have they got their correct addresses and phone numbers etc. and also they need to be looking at whether their employees have any issues with regard to coming back to work, perhaps they have an underlying illness themselves or maybe they’re living with someone they have concerns about.

The employer needs to be empathetic about this and actually understand personal situations, so we really need to be very close to employees and understand what’s going on in their personal lives. They may be delighted to come back to work or they may be quite scared so the owner/manager and the Covid-19 Coordinator, whether they’re the same person or not, they really need to be talking to them one-to-one and finding out how they’re going to come back. We have a pre-return to work questionnaire which is a questionnaire just checking if the employees are ready to come back and that they haven’t got any reason not to come back, and that is always important to check out as well. 

Linda: So that is like a questionnaire you’d give out to your employees before they come back to make sure that they’re ready and happy to come back and not suffering from any symptoms presumably? 

Joyce: Exactly. They’re confirming that to you and obviously, on an ongoing basis, you’re going to be checking this with employees but it means when they come back, you know that there is no issues and you are not going to worry about them coming back. 

Linda: And what about any sort of induction training that you need to give staff or anybody that is coming back to work in your organisation?

Joyce: It’s very important that you have a plan of action to ensure that you’re giving them all the information they need in terms of the protocol of return to work which the HSE and the gov.ie have given. The NSAI also have a very detailed document which goes through this but basically, what we’re trying to do, is reinforce the safe hygiene elements of returning to work but also talking to the employee about whether they need to bring in their own lunches, whether they need to look at how they’re going to get to work because potentially they shouldn’t be using public transport and also things like how do they deal with a customer if they’re in a retail environment, perhaps if they come up too close to them, how do they actually react, what do they do about this; so it’s a practical view as well of the issues that will arise in the workplace when that employee starts back again.

Linda: It sounds like communication is going to be really really important.

Joyce: Communication is key and I think that every owner or manager should be putting a Covid-19 communication discussion on the agenda every single day, so reminding employees what they need to be doing in terms of their own hygiene and also reminding them about what they need to do if customers come in, to say what they need to say to them and also talk to them about any risks or concerns they have, so it’s really a daily issue. Owners shouldn’t assume that employees know this and understand everything; they should assume that they need to be talking to them every single day until they’re absolutely confident that this is just a natural part of our normal working life again.

And I think the other issue is just being careful about how they’re looking at other things like holidays, and this has been a big issue for many employers – what do we do about holidays? We can’t go away, we can’t go to Spain or anywhere else so all the employees who had planned their summer holidays are going to say – well I don’t want to take them because I don’t have anywhere to go. Employers need to have a plan in place that addresses this, so they need to look at potentially asking employees to maybe take a couple of days a month away and also planning for at least a five day break from work in the next few months because we all need a break away even if we are going to be sitting at home, we need that break from work. So planning holidays, looking at the number of holidays that all the employees have, do an assessment, look at what you need to do about this and then start talking to the individuals and tell them that you may not be able to carry holidays to any great extent in 2021, so they need to be aware about this.

Linda: I think that’s true. I think the last weeks have been quite intense in many ways and, just talking personally, I had planned to go away for two weeks at Easter time to see my family and I couldn’t go because I couldn’t travel so I worked through those two weeks but I really miss the break and I really feel now that I haven’t had a break since last September really. I am going to take a break in ten days time and I am going to spend it sitting in the garden reading a book but at least it will be a break from the day-to-day routine and it will be a different way of being in the same place I suppose. I think it’s quite important that people actually do take that time just to be, because it has been a really stressful time for an awful lot of people and a very worrying time; living with uncertainty is not easy. 

Joyce: I totally agree with you, and even though we sort of think – well, if I take a day off, I might just gonna sit at home – well, maybe that’s what you need to do, maybe you just need to relax and do something different; we’ll have some of the shops open again shortly and we need to really be supporting our local retailers as well so maybe we go out and go to the garden centre and do something like that. It is something an employer needs to plan and they need to be talking to the individuals about this.

The other issue that Voltedge was looking at, when we were looking at the whole Covid-19 issue was the Covid-19 Curve and this is a curve that was originally devised for people going through a bereavement or a major grief and it was developed by a lady called Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969 and it shows the way we go through different phases when we’re going through a major crisis which we’re going through now, and we start off at the shock phase, which I think we all did way back in February when we heard that this virus was coming, and then we move into some sort of denial and we think it’s not really going to affect me, and then we realise that it is affecting all of us hugely, and then we end up moving into the frustration part of the curve, we maybe have never worked at home before, or maybe we’ve been laid off and we have to sit at home, we’re very worried and really concerned about what’s going to happen to our jobs. Often some people will go deep into a depressive time and feel very low, we’re missing our friends and family, we can’t see our close family and that’s been extremely difficult for employees, so again, employers need to be thinking about this.

We’ve all been through a lot of stress, we all need support, this isn’t a time for being difficult, we all have to help each other. When we’re coming out of the curve though, we’re moving into experimenting and thinking of innovative ways of how we’re going to live and deal with this uncertain world, and we’re seeing wonderful ideas coming through in the retail and other sectors where people are thinking of ways to make sure we can move forward and get used to a different reality. And we will get there, we will eventually get to a stage where this is the new normal and we will be used to it, but it’s interesting, some people will fall backwards, down the curve again, they’ll have a bad day and they’ll feel very low, and it’s up to us to understand that and bring them back up and help them move along the curve.

Linda: I can identify with that. I identify my feelings along that curve too. Just to get back to another practical thing of what retailers need to think about, what should they do if somebody comes in the shop one day and they say ‘I think I might have some symptoms, they might be Covid-19 symptoms but I’m not sure’ – what should the retailer do in that situation? 

Joyce: I think the immediate thing is to refer them to the guidelines in the HSE and they should immediately self-isolate if they think there are genuine risks of a Covid virus case. The employer should be saying to that individual ‘you need to go home, self-isolate, call your GP immediately and talk to them about what happens next’.

Linda: It also really highlights the need for social distancing and all the hygiene measures that there are advised during various protocols and how important they are, and how, if you follow them, they actually do work. There’s still a chance that, even if you have the right protocols in place within your workplace, some of your employees could still be exposed to the virus somewhere else, but if everybody did their bit in trying to keep the protocols in place, then we’re going to minimise the spread of the virus. 

Joyce: Yes and we know that there are lots of businesses that have continued to run the essential businesses and they have managed to control this really well and there is no reason why even a small employer can’t ensure that their workplace is very safe. But it is a constant reminder, it’s constant communication, and if you have a case that arises, that maybe somebody has picked up the virus somewhere else, you’ll have a plan and a risk analysis done so that if Joyce or Linda are going out sick, you have replacements, you have a back-up plan, you’re ready to run with it, so it’s all about the planning, preparation and communication.

Linda: What I’ve been taking from our conversation is the fact that communication and empathy is really important to understand where your co-worker or employee is coming from and to really reflect back to what their concerns are and make sure you address them. Empathy is needed because everybody is in a different situation. Some people might have a difficult home life or they might have a vulnerable person at home, so as an employer, you need to be aware of that and to respect that in a way that possibly pre-Covid we may not have done in quite the same way. 

Joyce: You are quite right, pre-Covid we would have been saying there are GDPR issues, for example that we shouldn’t known a lot of information, we don’t need to know information about our employees, their home lives, but actually, with Covid-19 upon us, this is the time when employers need to have enough information to ensure that they can manage the employee, support that employee, and if it means knowing a bit more about their personal lives than before, that’s what they need to be doing.

So when employees will hopefully be very open and say ‘listen I had difficulty getting into work or I am worried about a vulnerable relative’, that needs to be talked through and it needs to be looked from a risk assessment, but most employees are looking so forward to getting back to work, that it’s something they’re really happy to do and we want to facilitate that, but we have to, as employers, ensure that we are providing a safe and healthy workplace for them to return to.

Linda: And also in terms of it’s going to be safe and healthy for the customers too, because otherwise the customers are not going to come in, if they don’t feel confident that the precautions are in place, then it’s going to be difficult to attract people to come into your store.

Joyce: I think we’re seeing that already. Some stores are really excellent in terms of the way they manage their customers coming in and out and others aren’t and I believe that those stores that are really thinking through this and have good planning in place, they are the ones that are going to benefit from sales because customers will come to them first. And I know myself, even going to different supermarkets, I would be very conscious of the ones that are good and really looking after my health and safety when I go in as opposed to the ones that maybe aren’t so good.

Linda: It’s sort of bringing the whole transnational nature of retail into a very human space.

Joyce: I think so, and it will make us very different in the way that we treat employees and customers and that’s actually not a bad thing, I think it’s really good that we are knowing that we need to be looking after each other more and be much more considerate and careful and that’s a really nice thing so there are good things that will come out of this crisis. 

Listen to the podcast episode here.

The COVID-19 Curve

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

How can employers work through the Covid-19 curve and support their employees through it?

The COVID-19 virus has created a huge crisis throughout the world, and all businesses are having to take radical decisions on a daily basis.  We are all in completely uncharted territory, and we and our employees may be struggling both professionally and personally to find our way in these challenging and changing times.

Working off the original Kubler-Ross curve that was utilised originally in the 1970s (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 1969) for people going through grief, we have taken the curve and looked at the reactions that we and our employees may be going through.

We have taken our version of the COVID-19 Curve and considered the following:

  • Today – where are you now on this curve? As an employer hopefully you can move through the curve reasonably quickly as you need to be coming up the end of the curve to support your employees – everyone will work through the curve at a different pace. Some need more time than others, but as employers, we need to be driving positive behaviour and supporting employees as they struggle in the frustration and depression stages.
  • Phases & stages – recognise that each phase and stage is different and will pass. What can you do to help yourself and others move through each phase? By understanding where you and your employees are on this curve, you can provide the particular support they need e.g. if you have an employee who is really struggling and is depressed or feeling very isolated, you need to support them more to move to the next stage. Do you need to give more information or emotional support or is guidance and direction more appropriate at this stage?
  • Acceptance – by accepting our situation and moving to a more positive place, we can rationalise how we are going to continue to work in a changed world – and also make sure that there are the supports in place for ourselves and our employees. The world of work will never be the same again, so it’s vital to accept this and understand the implications. Employers have a responsibility to continually communicate to all employees as more details become available.
  • Integration – this curve gives us an understanding of the natural highs and lows we will all go through over the next few weeks and perhaps months. It will help us to understand and accept your own and others’ behaviours and responses and can give you a real understanding of why some people behave and react in certain ways.

Employers, and their employees, can have bad days and revert back to depression/frustration – they then need to work through the curve again to hopefully move to acceptance and integration.

Employers can significantly help employees by driving strong messages giving employees clear direction and strategic detail so that employees can feel they are getting more control over their working lives. In a crisis that none of us have ever experienced, the key to moving forward is to feel – both personally and professionally – that we are gaining some control over our lives.

Voltedge would like to reassure you that we are fully operational and there are no disruptions to our services. We are following government guidelines and have facilities in place to host virtual meetings and webinars in place of face to face meetings. We understand that each situation is personal to your needs, and we can work with you to customise a plan that works best for your business right now. We are available between 7am and 11pm on info@voltedge.ie, 087 220 1673 or 01 5252914.

RTE 1 Business Show with Richard Curran – Coronavirus in the Workplace

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Co-managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones was live on air on the RTE 1 Business Show with Richard Curran on the 28th February, discussing the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Below is an extract from the business show. You can listen to what steps employers should be taking here.

Richard: We’ve also been inundated with queries about the coronavirus and how it might impact workplaces. 

Joyce: We have to be prepared for this. We now have been told we are at high risk and we have to all make sure that we have the proper processes in place. For employers, it’s really important now to make sure that we have a contingency plan, that we put in a policy, if we can, for employees, and we really communicate, because employees are very scared and nervous. We have to be able to show that there are plans in place and that we know what we’re doing.

Richard: Should you have the option of working from home? Should your employer offer that to you, if for example, the coronavirus arrives or expands in Ireland and more people get it and people’s fears grow?

Joyce: Obviously, some employers are very well positions to do this anyway and they will have remote working policies that employees can work at home. Other employers won’t be able to do this, they will be maybe in hospitality, retail, manufacturing, it’s just not a possibility. So what they need is a plan so if there is a coronavirus outbreak in there or near to them, that they have a plan of action to make sure they can mitigate the risks and the problems that will be caused, and also what tot ell the employees, if it’s a case that you think you’ve met someone who might have it, is that good enough to not turn up to work? There must be a plan that you work through and you go to the HSC, work through their advice and make sure that you do in a controlled and managed manner. 

You can contact Voltedge Management directly with any queries or concerns you have on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie

The Benefits of Workplace Coaching

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Coaching is a powerful tool which can have a profound impact both professionally and personally on employees. We all perform at our best when we feel valued, motivated, supported, connected, trusted and happy. However, for many, the fast pace of life along with perceived and real expectations can manifest into stress and a struggle to be top of our game.

Whilst many organisations look at coaching as something more aligned with the development of the senior management and leadership teams, it can be enormously beneficial to all employees.  Ideally organisations will adopt a coaching culture whereby managers are trained to empower their teams to build their knowledge and experience and allow them to input into the business with confidence.

It’s important to remember that coaching is not training, counselling, mentoring or consulting – it is about taking ownership, performance and action. Coaching provides a framework for clear goals and everyone’s experience and needs are different. It is also important that the purpose and goals of the coaching are linked to the goals and objectives of the business. This will ensure it will be valued across the whole organisation. How can the results of the coaching impact the business?

Key benefits to the organisation

  • Employees become more self-aware as they develop the skills to progress into management and leadership roles.
  • It contributes to a more positive working environment which translates into more engaged, motivated and productive employees.
  • It can make it easier and faster to introduce change by enabling empowerment, participation and trust in decision making.
  • Helps build resilience and provides the tools to deal with conflict, difficult relationships and situations.
  • Coaching impacts talent management through increased retention rates and becoming an employer of choice.

Resulting in increased productivity and output

Fostering a coaching culture takes time and needs to be a key part of the organisation’s strategy in order to be successful. However, as the culture becomes embedded and the process becomes more consistent and valued, the organisation will begin to see the results.

Where do you start?

Voltedge can work with you to identify the areas that are causing most challenges and the gaps that are impeding the development and growth of your workforce. We will then develop a customised coaching programme that not only addresses these areas but is wholly aligned to your strategic business plan.

We have a panel of experienced coaches who work with diverse sectors, groups and individuals which means we can provide coaches who will match your needs. A successful coaching programme depends on the positive relationship between coach and coachee.

We can help to embed the culture into your workplace with “Lunch and Learn” style workshops and provide training for managers to enable them to coach their own teams.

If you would like more information on the Voltedge Coaching Programme please contact us on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie

The Importance of Having a HR Strategy

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

We often think that a HR Strategy is something that only large organisations have in place, but that should not be the case. A HR Strategy is critical for all types of business – be it start up, SME or larger corporation. Many studies have shown that companies who have well defined HR practices that align with the company’s business goals achieve greater results, improved financial performance and a more engaged workforce. Companies without a clear people plan are at risk of losing or never creating a competitive advantage. 

There are many different types of HR Strategies, but fundamentally, they are all based on the same principle of ensuring that the organisation can attract, engage, motivate and retain productive employees.  The key to a successful HR Strategy is understanding your business goals and ensuring you develop a clear people plan that will help you deliver the outcomes you need to be successful.

A cohesive strategic approach to attracting, managing and motivating your people will provide better engaged employees and ultimately aid retention. Having an appropriate HR Strategy in place means you are saving significant costs which can include the cost of having disengaged employees in the workplace, increased sickness or absenteeism and the cost of replacing employees. These potential cost savings along with the other benefits, such as increased profits and productivity provide a strong basis for developing a robust HR Strategy.

A good HR Strategy will identify and priorities the interventions that are appropriate to the size of your organisation (small, medium or large), the phase of growth of the business, the company culture and the financial resources available.

Voltedge can help you develop a pragmatic HR Strategy that will be relevant to your business, its industry and culture and will be designed to deliver practical and cost-effective solutions for your people. Call Ingrid on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie to speak to an expert.

Voltedge Top HR Trends for 2020

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

The working landscape is changing at such a pace with technology advances, the rise of the millennials, societal expectations and workplace disruption that attracting and maintaining employees is becoming more of a challenge.

Voltedge has identified the following trends that we believe are the challenges that employers are increasingly facing going into this new year and decade.  Recognising them and being prepared to confront and respond is going to be core to ensuring ongoing success and growth for all businesses.

1/ Strategic Workforce Planning

This might sound daunting and something that only large corporates do however planning is essential for any business and doesn’t need to be complicated.  Essentially it is matching your business strategy and your future plans with the people you currently employ and will employ into the future.  It is a process that aligns your business needs, challenges and changes to your people strategy.

Voltedge has worked with many clients to develop a methodology to analyse the workforce to identify current and future skills gaps. This provides a clear road map for employee development and the hiring of new talent to ensure alignment with the goals of the business and ultimately the success of meeting those goals.  We get very excited when we see the results of these strategic workforce planning projects come to life over months and years.  If businesses want to retain and gain talent they must be embedding them into the organisation’s strategy and making them an integral part of it.

 

2/ Diversity & Inclusion

We have read and talked a lot about this over the last couple of years, however we believe this is an area that is going to become increasingly more critical for businesses to have integrated into their culture and policies.  It applies to all types of organisations and the benefits of promoting and encouraging this type of environment leads to a much happier, positive and pro-active workforce.  There are lots of ways to introduce initiatives into the workplace, not only from a legal perspective but also socially and culturally.

It can be challenging, particularly if there are individuals who are finding it difficult to embrace such diversity.  Short training courses can have a very positive impact to build awareness within the organisation such as Diversity in the Workplace and Cultural Differences.

 

3/ Flex Work Policies

Again not new news but increasingly flexible options are being seen as important and – for some – this is more important than salaries.  Therefore, this is not something that can be ignored if you are a business that wants to retain your employees and attract new talent. Particularly the younger upcoming cohort, the future of the workforce, are insisting on having flexibility whether that is working from home,  flexi-time, unlimited holidays or extended leave. Businesses are now having to rethink some of their terms and policies.  There is often a reluctance based on fear of introducing such policies however it is proven that they motivate the workforce and when employees are “on” they are “on”.

Employee policies and terms can be a minefield, if you are reviewing current ones or thinking of introducing new policies talk to an expert!

 

4/ Learning and Development

We provide many of our clients with learning and development workshops which are designed around the specific needs of the organisation.  This is so important, as most of us know rolling out generic training to tick a box does not work.  With the Irish talent market squeezed, holding onto good employees is increasingly more difficult.  Offering clear career paths and opportunities will help retain them and supporting their progression with relevant training will not only add benefit to the growth of the business but will motivate and embed the employee into the business strategy and future.  An empowered and engaged employee is productive and loyal.

These are just four areas that will be talking points for all businesses this coming year.  We will be bringing you more as the year goes on and can give you advice and support on any of these to ensure you are prepared. We’d love to talk to you about how we can assist, call Ingrid on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie to speak to an expert.

Voltedge Management

Your HR Questions Answered – The Festive Season

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively. Every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: What should I do for the Festive season to show staff we appreciate them and extend best wishes to their family too?

A: It’s a good idea to get ready for the Festive Season and here are a few ideas of things you can do to show your employees that you value them.

With only a few weeks to go, Christmas is truly upon us and so many of our client companies are already in planning mode to make this special time of the year a memorable one for staff and their families. Here are a few things that companies can organise to express their appreciation and gratitude for all the hard work and commitment during the year:

1. Decorate the Workplace– add some Christmas cheer to the workplace with decorations, a Christmas Tree and some festive treats.  It will put a smile on everyone’s face in the morning and lighten spirits even if it is dark outside.

2. Organise a Family Christmas event – whether it is an office Santa Experience, family tickets to the Christmas Panto, or tickets for Ice Skating, one of the many musical Christmas shows in the local theatres – it’s a great way for employees to share in the Christmas cheer with their loved ones.

3. Nominate a Company Christmas Charityand instead of sending Christmas cards and gifts, send a donation to your chosen charity or charities, and circulate some information on that charity to your staff and customers so that they too can appreciate the difference your donation can make to a worthy cause.

4. Organise the Office Kris Kindle– put a maximum monetary value to the gift or a theme for this year, and pick out staff names, so that no one knows who’s left their Secret Santa gift under the Christmas tree this year. Handing out the Christmas gifts can be a great end of work event.

5. Corporate gifts are often sent to the sales or marketing departments. A great way to share this out across the company, is to give a gift to each employee, pull a ticket from a hat and pick your gift, or you could use it as a fund raiser for charity or the sports and social club too. That way everyone gets to share in the corporate Christmas cheer.

6. Employer tax free Non-Cash Gifts. Changes made a few years ago now provide for employers to give employees up to €500 tax free as a non-cash gift in any one year. There are many voucher options and other types of gifts that can be considered by companies as a gesture to say Thank You and Happy Christmas.

7. Lunch and Dinner events: It can be a really good bonding treat for department managers to organise a department lunch out with perhaps an early finish to recognise the season of good will and say thank you for your support and hard work during the year. The Company nights out are of course welcomed social events on the annual calendar and it’s a great opportunity for a positive message from the leadership team – communicating a message of appreciation and sharing the vision for the future ahead.

8. Card or email: and of course, don’t forget the traditional and simple Christmas Card on the desk from you to each member of your team, with a personalised message, this can be a really powerful communication from any manager.

Whatever it is you are considering to mark the Christmas Season in your company, always make sure you are fair and consistent with your actions and you’re recognising and rewarding the right behaviours.

Q: We want to give staff a little bonus for Christmas, what’s the best way to do this so that so that they are not paying huge amounts of money in additional taxes?

A: The Revenue have very good guidelines on discretionary bonuses. Generally their advice is that a cash bonus at Christmas should be put through the payroll and PAYE/PRSI and USC applied as normal. Where the bonus is in non-cash form with a value not exceeding €500 PAYE/PRSI and USC need not be applied to that benefit (covered by the one off small benefit exclusion).

If you have a question on working time, rest periods or breaks, please contact us. We have a team of trained and skilled investigators and consultants who have extensive experience in this area and would be happy to discuss any issue of concern with you. Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.

Voltedge Management

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

It’s that time of year again, a flurry of activity between the Christmas parties and office lunches – it’s a really fun time to celebrate the year that’s been and to look forward to all that the new year holds in store.

It can also be the time where we encounter some tricky work issues, even for the most seasoned of managers. Take a few minutes to look through this best practice guide and help make sure your team and your company have a fun and enjoyable Christmas season, building on your sense of shared purpose and success and recognising the contribution and hard work from everyone.

Step 1: How can I prevent issues occurring?

  • Before a Company run or sponsored event, remind staff that they should abide by company policies – even when they are not on Company premises.
  • Ask managers to be vigilant at the event to ensure good conduct and behaviour is being observed.

Consider how you provide alcohol as an employer at a company event – there are options that can be helpful such as using a drinks voucher system instead of a free bar.

 Step 2: Do the company policies apply outside of work too?

Yes, your company policies extend to cover work related events. The most relevant policies that apply in these circumstances include: Social Media, Dignity at Work, Harassment and Bullying, Disciplinary and Grievance policies.

Step 3: What do we do if we receive a complaint?

Complaints should be dealt with in the normal manner through your grievance, disciplinary or other procedures. Dealing with any issues as quickly as possible should also help minimise potential issues.

Here are a few other important areas to think about this time of year.

Managing Public Holidays

1. Which employees are entitled to a public holiday?

 An employee’s entitlement is dependent on the nature of their contract:

  • All full time employees are entitled to the public holiday regardless of length of service
  • Part time/casual employees are only entitled where they have worked at least 40 hours in the five weeks ending on the day before the public holiday.
  • What payments are employees entitled to for a public holiday?

Employees who qualify for public holiday benefit will be entitled to one of the following:

  • A paid day off on the public holiday
  • An additional day of annual leave
  • An additional day’s pay
  • A paid day off within a month of the public holiday

It is at the employer’s discretion to decide which benefit will apply.

2. How do I calculate public holiday pay?

  • Employees who work the public holiday or who are normally rostered to work on the day the public holiday falls, then they are entitled to the equivalent pay as the last working day before the public holiday falls.
  • Employees who are not normally required to work on the day the Public holiday falls are entitled to one fifth of their weekly rate of pay.

Payment for a Public Holiday is regular payment including regular shift allowances, but not variable pay such as overtime

3. Are employees entitled to payment for a public holiday if they are leaving employment?

If an employee has worked the week ending prior to the public holiday AND they have worked for the employer for 4 continuous weeks, then they are entitled to payment for that public holiday even though their employment has finished.

3. If the public holiday falls on a weekend what do we do?

If a Public holiday falls on a weekend it does not automatically move to the following Monday as a lot of people might assume. Employers have a number of options:

  • Move the public holiday to the following Monday: The most common approach is to move the public holiday to the next working day and give employees that day off.
  • Recognise the public holiday on the day it falls: If an organisation normally works on a public holiday, the organisation can provide the following to the employee for working that day: A paid day off within a month of the public holiday, OR a day’s pay in lieu, OR an additional day’s pay.

Employers must give employees at least 14 days’ notice of how they will operate and which benefit will apply to them.

Time Off During Adverse Weather

1. If an employee cannot come to work due to bad weather, do I have to pay them?

If the organisation is open for work and the employee cannot attend, then they are not entitled to payment for that day. You can give employees the option to take a holiday day as an alternative to unpaid leave, although you cannot force them to take a holiday. Having an ‘Exceptional leave policy’ in place is good practice to cover you in the event of these occurrences.

Employers can also look at alternatives for the employee, if appropriate:

  • Can they work from home?
  • Can they perform their duties on an alternative day?

2. If our place of work is closed due to bad weather, do I have to pay employee?

Yes, if the employee is available for work then they are entitled to pay for this day, even if the premises are unable to open.

If you are unsure about what arrangements to put in place in your own business, get in touch today with one of our HR experts, and we will guide you through these topical subjects so that you too have a happy and jolly Christmas season. Contact us on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie.

Voltedge Management

World Mental Health Day

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Each year, the 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day.

Everyone of us goes through difficult episodes throughout our lives, and we all have different ways of dealing with our emotions and feelings. And many live with a mental health illness that is kept hidden for fear of stigma and discrimination.

Recent campaigns are trying to change how we view mental health and encourage people to seek help. We have no issue with getting regular check ups at the dentist and doctor.  Mental health should be no different, but we need to keep it checked too.

Often it’s the little things that can have an enormous impact.  Here are some little reminders to help in times of need, from yourmentalhealth.ie.

 

You can order printed poster and postcard packs at HealthPromotion.ie.  As an employer, having posters displayed in the workplace promoting awareness will encourage employees to be more open and share their issues with you if there is a culture of openness and honesty.

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Employment Status – The Importance of Getting It Right

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Employment status is increasingly important as modern working practices, such as in the ‘gig economy’, become more commonplace. Employers need to understand what their responsibilities are in this new environment, not least because of the legal risks involved if they don’t.

A worker’s employment status is not a matter of choice. It depends on the terms and conditions of the job. Usually it is clear whether an individual is employed or self-employed. If it is not obvious, the checklists below will help in deciding this.

It is important to note that the legal tests for tax (including social welfare) purposes and to determine employment rights are not the same. When looking at the criteria, you must consider the working conditions and the employment as a whole. The main question will always be whether they work ‘as a person in business on their own account’. This will help decide if the person is a free agent with economic independence from an employer.

How to determine if an individual is an employee:

While all the following factors may not apply, an individual is normally your employee if:

  • you control how, when and where the work is carried out
  • they supply labour only
  • you pay them a fixed hourly, weekly, or monthly wage
  • they cannot sub-contract their work
  • you supply the materials for the job and all equipment other than the small tools of the trade
  • they are not exposed to personal financial risk in carrying out the work
  • they do not assume any responsibility for investment and management in the business
  • they cannot profit from the management, scheduling or performance of the work
  • you set the work hours
  • they carry out work for you or your business only
  • you pay expenses to cover subsistence or travel
  • they are entitled to extra pay or time off for overtime.

 How to determine if an individual is self-employed:

While all the following factors may not apply to the job, individuals are normally self-employed if they:

  • own their own business
  • are exposed to financial risk (for example they may have to bear the cost of redoing faulty or substandard work carried out under the contract)
  • assume responsibility for investment and management in the business
  • can profit from the management, scheduling or performance of the work
  • have control over what, how, when and where the work is done and whether they do it personally
  • are free to hire other people, on their terms, to do the work which has been agreed on (i.e. they can subcontract the work)
  • can provide the same services to more than one person or business at the same time
  • provide the materials for the job or equipment and machinery necessary for the job
  • have a fixed place of business where materials or equipment can be stored
  • cost and agree a price for the job
  • provide their own insurance cover (for example, public liability cover)
  • control the hours of work in fulfilling the job obligations.

We recommend that employers conduct a review of all of their contracts for engagement of services so that they accurately establish the appropriate legal status.

Voltedge Management helps organisations develop user friendly contracts and template contracts to ensure the appropriate engagement of employees and contractors. We’d love to talk to you about how we can assist, call Ingrid on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie to speak to an expert.

Are You a Family-Friendly Employer?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Businesses can establish a work environment that enable employees to effectively balance and fulfil their work and family responsibilities at the same time.

Recently I was attending a meeting with a new client in their boardroom and thought I heard a  baby’s toy being squeezed. I assumed I was imagining it until it happened again, and then I looked across the room only to see a baby sitting in a cot in the corner playing. Her mum was one of the 2 people meeting me, and she said – oh yes that is my baby – my MD (who was with us at the meeting) is very good about allowing me to bring her in if I need to.

What a difference from 5 – 10 years ago – when women could not even consider taking much time off for maternity leave – whilst now most mothers can (with holidays and unpaid leave) take up to 12 months off following the birth of a child.

In the Irish Times recently, it showed a video of the Speaker of the Houses of Parliament in New Zealand, Trevor Mallard, feeding and comforting a 6-week-old baby of one of the MPs, whilst he still managed to control the session in the House. He hopes that he is setting the right example as New Zealand already has only the second elected world leader with its  Prime Minister  Jacinta Arden who gave birth and took maternity leave – she continues to champion family friendly policies throughout her country and beyond.

How can you be family friendly and continue to run a competitive, profitable, and engaging business for employees? Here are our 5 tips:

  • Embrace the fact that your female employees are as critical to the business as males, and that preparing for maternity/paternity/parental leaves in a positive way can be a real plus for employees – who will show more loyalty and dedication if they know that you are genuine in supporting them.
  • Make sure that your policies really are family friendly and not just covering a compliance need. Even offering a parent’s return to work course can be really helpful. Give a returning mum time to re-adjust by taking a phased return, and/or by having an induction plan (as if they are new employee – 12 months out is as good as starting a new job).
  • Have social events that give families an opportunity to be involved in the workplace- this doesn’t need to be costly. Many companies offer a ‘bring your child to work day’, ‘bring your parent to work day’ (depending on what your demographics are) – or organise a fun afternoon in the summer.
  • Consider flexible working if you don’t do it already- some companies have real difficulties with this as they need consistent working hours (Call centres, manufacturing line businesses etc.) but most businesses can allow some flexibility – even if it is only in place during term-time or summer time (early/late starting – time off at lunch to collect a child etc.) A flexible employer will find that this type of benefit is far more valuable than financial increases that only get taxed.
  • Encourage work-life balance – yes of course you want your employees to work smart and hard, however if they are working excessive hours, working at home in the evenings, taking conference calls late into the night – and trying to manage family life – they won’t have the energy for both – they will become burnt out and your business will suffer. Work-life balance can mean that you have happy, reliable, and loyal employees who value the culture you have developed.

We have a team of trained and skilled investigators and consultants who have extensive experience in this area and would be happy to discuss any issue of concern with you. Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.

Employment Contracts – Are Your Contracts Compliant?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

With recent changes in legislation, there are more requirements on employers to issue contracts in a timelier fashion and also to be careful about content and wording – we list below some of the issues to look out for:

  • Issuing a contract: Employers must now give a prospective employee either an offer letter or a full contract within 5 days of commencing the job. There are a number of basic details that must be included so if you can’t get a contract organised quickly, we suggest that you issue an offer letter with the basic legal requirements setting out the 5 core terms (Name of Employee and Employer, Address of Employer, Expected duration of contract if fixed term or temporary, Rate and Method of calculating pay and Expected normal length of working day and week) and follow up with a full contract when you have this ready
  • Fixed-term contracts: These contracts are really beneficial – particularly for SMEs who can’t either afford to take an employee permanently or have a short-term need to cover. A recent ruling however has raised an issue that is important to be aware of. If you state in the fixed-term contract that you may extend it at the end of the contract period, but that there will be contingencies to be considered before you extend the contract – such as working certain hours, or completing satisfactory service – then the fixed-term contract may be considered void, as you are imposing contingencies on future employment that hasn’t been confirmed. In a recent case in the High Court a school was told that the fixed-term contract was not valid, as they had imposed contingencies that implied a permanent contract of employment – even though a fixed-term contract was given. So, ensuring appropriate wording in fixed-term contracts is essential.
  • Fixed-purpose contracts: This is an excellent way of covering particular situations – such as maternity leave, long-term parental leave, etc. However, it is essential that the terms are clear. If you employ an individual to cover a maternity leave, they should not be placed on other tasks, or transferred into other work/positions as this will breach the terms of the contract. Again, care must be taken in the application of this contract.
  • What if you have NO contract in place? Don’t panic- you are non-compliant, and the main issue is to ensure that you resolve this. Issuing retrospective contracts is certainly better than no contract – just take care again in the wording and the detail and take advice if the employee is unhappy or unwilling to sign the contract.

Employment contracts – well written and appropriate – are both essential and very valuable for both the employer and employee -so taking the time to ensure that they are compliant, appropriate and customised to suit the business – is really worthwhile. For further information please contact Voltedge for expert advice. Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.

Voltedge Management

New Parental Leave Regulations and Their Impact on Employers

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

New Parental Leave Regulations effective September 1, 2019 – employees will be entitled to 22 weeks unpaid parental leave which is an additional 4 weeks on current entitlements. This will then increase by a further 4 weeks to 26 weeks from 1 September 2020.

The new Parental Leave Act also increases the maximum age of the child for whom parental leave can be taken, allowing parents to take parental leave for children up to 12 years of age – instead of  8 years.

Employees will be able to take the leave in blocks, and this is clearly stated in the legislation, however many employees reach agreement with their employers to take the leave in other forms – such as 1 day per week.

Employers need to consider what is suitable for their business, as they will need to allow for parental leave, but also enable the business to run, and small organisations may find certain types of leave too difficult (such as an employee in a Call Centre or Manufacturing taking 1 day/week). The employer must consent to leave taken in other forms as opposed to 1 or 2 blocks.

Larger companies can agree to, and manage, fragmented parental leave, so it is vital to word the parental leave policy to ensure it is both compliant with the new legislation, but also workable for the organisation.

There is no data available on the number of employees availing of parental leave as it is unpaid (unless otherwise agreed by companies), however it is clear that many females avail of further parental leave at the end of maternity leave, and again to have more time with young children.

More data will become available from November 2019 onwards, as this new scheme will provide 2 weeks paid parental leave during the first 12 months of a baby’s life – this leave will be available for either the mother or father of the child.

Voltedge supports clients in wording their policies to ensure that the policies are appropriate for the organisation, as well as ensuring compliance.

Voltedge Management

Your HR Questions Answered

Monday, July 17th, 2017

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively and every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: I have an employee who has said that they feel bullied – what do I do?

A: If an employee feels they are being bullied the employer needs to be pro-active and immediately talk to the individual.

Questions to be asked:  

1)            When did this start?

2)            Have you had a number of incidents and can you give me details?

3)            Have you attempted to stop the behaviour of the alleged bully and what have you done?

4)            Have you talked to anyone else about this?

If the employee answers yes to the first 3 questions the employer needs to ask the employee if they wish to make a formal complaint or if they wish to keep the issue informal. If they don’t want to make a formal complaint the employer needs to still be confident that the issue is being resolved and not continuing, or put processes/resources in place to support the individual going forward.

If they wish to make a formal complaint, the employer will need to carefully follow their Bullying Procedure, appointing an independent investigator, ensuring fairness for all parties, and communicating clearly about the process.

Q: I want to recruit an employee for a few months but I don’t know what type of contract to offer them? Can I give them a contract that doesn’t have a definite date of termination?

A: Temporary contracts need to be carefully utilised to ensure that employers and employees are very clear about their responsibilities and the type of contract being applied. There are 2 main temporary contracts:

a) Fixed Term Contract: This is a contract with a fixed duration (e.g. 6 months) which is stated clearly in the written contract. If the employee is required after the termination date of this contract, employers should issue an additional contract to the employee, don’t let the contract roll over as this may result in an employee being entitled to permanency (after 12 months).

Fixed term contracts can be renewed for up to a maximum total period of 4 years, at which time the employer will have to make the employee permanent. The employer should also notify this employee of any permanent positions that they may wish to apply for.

b) Specified Purpose Contract: This is a contract for a specified purpose with no duration. An example would be a particular project with a finite life, where the employee is solely engaged on this project and leaves once the project is completed. The critical issue is ensuring that the employee is ONLY engaged under the strict terms of the contract and is not utilised for other work.

If you need advice on HR issues, drop us an email at info@voltedge.ie or contact the office for any additional information 01-5252914.