Posts Tagged ‘people management’

What do the recent Government changes in redundancy mean for the employer?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

Redundancy Changes September 2021

The Government has announced that the suspension of sections of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 will be lifted at the end of this month. It will also introduce a new special redundancy payment for those impacted.

The Government has confirmed that Section 12A of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967, which suspended certain sections of the Act, will not be extended beyond 30 September 2021. The provision was introduced as an emergency measure in March 2020 to effectively suspend an employee’s right to seek redundancy if they had been laid off or put on short-time work due to the measures required to limit the spread of COVID-19 for the duration of the emergency period. It has been extended six times.

In addition, the Government has announced that it will make a special payment of up to a maximum of €1,860, to workers who have lost out on reckonable service while temporarily laid off over the course of the pandemic and who are made redundant. To support employers, where they are unable to pay statutory redundancy to their employees, the State will fund these payments from the Social Insurance Fund on their behalf. The Government states that a flexible and discretionary approach will be taken in relation to the recovery of these payments and in many cases the debt can be repaid over a number of years.

Reckonable service – employees

“Reckonable service” is the service that is taken into account when calculating a redundancy lump sum payment. It is important to note that reckonable service is a separate and distinct matter from the qualification threshold. An individual must first meet statutory qualification criteria before becoming eligible to receive a lump sum. As matters stand, a period of lay-off within the final three years of service before redundancy is not allowable as reckonable for the purposes of the calculation of this payment. Furthermore, it is the employers’ responsibility to pay statutory redundancy payments in the first instance.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has received legal advice to the effect that imposing the cost of the layoff period (if it were to be allowable as reckonable service) on employers would give rise to constitutional issues and is fraught with legal risk. Such an approach is also in direct conflict with the strategic aim of wider Government policy since the start of the pandemic to minimise financial hardship on businesses with a view to preventing permanent job losses.

Key points for employers:

  1. Selection criteria used in a redundancy process must be impersonal and objective, and applied fairly and uniformly;
  2. Caution should be exercised when using selection criteria based on performance, as these will be subject to extra scrutiny by an adjudication body. The criteria cannot be used a “cloak” to weed out a perceived under-performing employee and cannot be implemented in such a way as to target an individual;
  3. Particular caution should be exercised by smaller organisations when using selection criteria based on performance as the employer may be in a position to identify easily, in advance of setting criteria, who might be performing well and who might not; and
  4. Employers should give consideration to all alternatives to redundancy – and should use “creative thinking” when considering alternatives to redundancy.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Can employers force employees to come back to the workplace?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

Getting employees back into the workplace

There have been a lot of queries on whether employers can force employees to come back whether on a full time or hybrid basis and what rights the employees have.

Essentially, employees are obliged to meet the terms of their employment contract which will state where the normal place of work is. While during the pandemic this changed for many employees, now that the guidelines are to phase back into the workplace, this will now be applicable again.

However, we are advising employers to act cautiously. Before implementing any changes we recommend developing a plan based on your specific business needs and the circumstances and needs of your employees. There is no one solution that will work across all businesses and for all roles. Collaborate and communicate with your employees and agree a plan. If at that point terms and policies need to be changed, they should be done so with the full agreement of both the employer and the employee.

5 Key Points to consider when returning to work

Anxiety

In the transition back to a new routine post-pandemic, virtually all employees will likely have personal challenges competing for their energy and attention. Preparation and showing care, kindness and wellbeing will be key success factors. Ensure managers are ready for this, and know what supports are available.

Induction

With everyone socially isolating for over a year, there will need to be an induction and integration process to support people on returning to the workplace. Regardless of whether individuals are coming back to an onsite or hybrid model, how things work, COVID-19 response, where things now are, use of desks and equipment will have changed for many.

Collaboration

Big gaps emerged during the pandemic around team working, collaboration and innovation (CIPD HR Practices in Ireland 2021). These have to be purposefully built into time onsite and blended working models, so time at the workplace provides face-to-face engagement, both formal and informal. If everyone is working blended, things like face-to-face meetings, team collaboration, have to be planned so the right people are on site on the right days.

Equality

Equality and parenting/caring issues will have to closely managed. This will require close monitoring and interventions to deliver equality and fairness, and attract and retain minority groups. Hybrid working is a positive way to enhance flexibility. Employees have more choice over when, where and how they work, and employers will be able to attract and retain a more diverse pool of employees and those with skills in demand.

Culture

One of the biggest challenges for leaders and managers will be the culture – bringing people together again around a common mission, purpose and ways of working. A gap has already emerged between those working remotely and essential onsite workers in some companies so getting everyone to re-engage on a common agenda will be critical.

 

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

How can I successfully manage meetings in a hybrid working world?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

How can I successfully manage meetings in a hybrid working world?

As employees start to return to work in a Hybrid model, it is important to ensure our communication practices are up to scratch and inclusive of all parties across the workplace, no matter where you have employees working from or when they are working.

We have developed our top 10 tips for hosting engaging and effective meetings:

PURPOSE: Be clear about the purpose of the meeting (such as decision-making, information-sharing, collaboration) and check it’s suited to a hybrid approach. Communicate the intended outcome so everyone can prepare and are clear about the purpose – set expectations from the start.

INCLUSIVNESS: Avoid ‘presence disparity’ so that those present are not treated differently to those joining remotely. Take steps to involve remote participants by providing everyone with a chance to speak, use first names to be inclusive and personable.

EQUALITY: Ensure everyone has an equal voice, don’t just default to people you can see or those in the meeting room. Use tools and technical functionality like chat or hand-raising for example and explain how questions or comments will be answered at the beginning of the meeting. Make sure remote participants can contribute throughout – don’t just bring them in at the end.

TRAINING: Provide refresher training on facilitating meetings, to include all types of meetings and ensure you provide training on the tools and functionality now available on various platforms.

INDIVIDUAL TEAMS: Encourage and support teams to establish their own principles for hybrid meetings. This may include how often they should meet physically and for what purpose, what technology to use and how to ensure that communication is inclusive of all attendees.

CONSISTENCY: Decide which form of communication is important. There are various communication channels you can use, not every communication will need to be a meeting. Consider if there are other opportunities. There are many different ways to communicate – but using too many channels can be overwhelming. Agree a primary channel for each particular purpose, such as one platform for online meetings, and one for messaging. Check that everyone knows how to use them fully.

TECHNOLOGY TOOLS: Make use of smart technology (asynchronous) tools that allow people to contribute without having to be at the meeting (such as Slack or chat functions in platforms like Microsoft Teams. This provides schedule- and location-flexibility, and reduce meeting time as alternatives to having hybrid meetings.

LOCAL CONVERSATIONS: Don’t allow those in the meeting room to begin side conversations that remote participants cannot hear or take part in.

USE OF EQUIPMENT: Avoid using equipment in the room (such as a flip chart or visual aids) that those attending remotely are unable to properly see. Present slides via the remote technology in use.

BEFORE AND AFTER MEETINGS: Don’t start in-person conversations before the meeting starts (or remote participants have joined) or continue conversations after they have left.

A successful meeting will be engaging, have clear objectives, actions, outcomes and a purpose.  In a hybrid working world it is even more important not to lose sight of these and to put some extra energy and thought into the planning and execution of meetings.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Can I change my employees’ terms & conditions when they are working remotely?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

Can I change my employees’ terms & conditions when they are working remotely?

Permanent or temporary changes to terms and conditions of an employee’s contract can occur:

  • With the employee’s consent.
  • Without the employee’s consent, but in reliance upon a contractual provision allowing for changes of the contract, such as a variation or mobility clause.

Variations with Employee Consent

The provisions of an employment contract most affected by the impact of COVID-19 relate to remuneration, working hours and location of work.  Remuneration and working hours are fundamental terms of any employment contract (as is work location but to a lesser degree).  It is a general principle of contract law that the terms of a contract cannot be altered without the agreement of both parties, meaning that unilateral alterations of these provisions by an employer would generally amount to a breach of contract.

Employers must also consider the statutory protections afforded to employees.  Reducing an employee’s pay and without consent may also expose employers to claims under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 before the Workplace Relations Commission, or employees may resign and claim constructive dismissal.

To implement a valid reduction in pay or working hours, without the risk of legal challenge, employee consent or agreement should be sought.  In practical terms this should involve communicating with employees regarding the financial impact of COVID-19 on the business, outlining the rationale behind the proposed changes and consulting with the employees well in advance of the proposed changes to obtain the necessary agreement to reduce pay or working hours.

Once consent or agreement has been obtained, employers should record the agreed variation to the terms and conditions in writing.  This can be done by way of a side letter or addition to the contract which must be provided to the employee no later than one month after the change takes effect.

Variations Through Reliance on Terms of Contract:  Flexibility and Variation Clauses

Many employment contracts include a flexibility or variation clause that aims to allow employers to vary the terms and conditions of employment without any input from an employee.  While the existence of such a clause in an employment contract may be of some comfort if changes are proposed, it should not be relied upon in isolation to impose changes without consultation.  The Irish Courts, while accepting, that in certain circumstances alterations to terms and conditions are necessary for commercial effectiveness, have consistently held that such clauses must be exercised reasonably. It is generally accepted that such clauses are intended to permit minor non-material changes, which do not relate to core terms, such as updates to reflect changes in law or statute or a change in a work practice. Imposing pay cuts, even of a temporary nature, without consultation or consent, by reliance on such clauses is unlikely to be viewed by a Court as reasonable.

Variations: Mobility Clauses

With remote working, or some form of hybrid arrangement between home and workplace set to continue, many employers have already taken steps to reduce the capacity of their physical workplace.  Reliance on a mobility clause post lockdown to relocate employees to work from home permanently, or, to introduce a hybrid working arrangement where employees are opposed to such changes is not without risk of legal challenge.

In order to successfully rely on a mobility clause to introduce significant changes to a work location, employers should provide employees with as much notice as possible of the proposed change, provide detail on the commercial rationale for the proposed changes and afford the employees an opportunity to make representations in respect of the changes before introducing such measures.

Can Employees Who Refuse to Accept Changes to Terms and Conditions be Lawfully Dismissed?

Section 6.1 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977-2015 (the Acts) provides that dismissals are deemed to be unfair for the purpose of the Acts unless “having regard to all the circumstances, there are substantial grounds justifying the dismissal”. Can a dismissal for refusal to accept material changes to terms and conditions, which an employer claims are essential to the survival of a business, qualify as “substantial grounds” so as to make the dismissal lawful?

The commercial rationale and full effect of the proposed changes should be sufficiently and clearly explained to employees.  Given the importance of fair procedures in the Irish context, it is likely that the procedural fairness followed by an employer in seeking to introduce changes to fundamental terms of the contract will be critical.

Consideration should be given to the extent to which the burden of the proposed changes is being shared between management and employees below management level.  Ideally any changes should be across the board and not targeted at lower paid employees or middle management while senior management remain unaffected. Targeting specific groups of employees can also lead to potential discrimination claims and should be avoided.

Key Takeaway: Engage and Consult

To avoid potential claims, employers who propose to implement changes to employee terms and conditions, on a permanent or temporary basis, should consider putting in place arrangements to engage and consult with them in advance.  Where agreement cannot be reached, evidence of reasonableness, consultation and negotiation by the employer will be critical in successfully defending any legal challenges that may ensue.

 

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Emerging through Covid-19 Guide: Remote and Blended Working

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

Developed by Voltedge Management HR consultants and Enterprise Ireland, the Emerging through Covid-19 Guide provides an overview of flexible, hybrid and remote working models and provides insights on how companies can manage these new ways of working to suit their business needs.

Please click HERE to download the guide.

Probation – I have an employee who is being promoted; can I put them on probation?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

I have an employee who is being promoted; can I put them on probation?

Probation is a period of time at the start of employment, usually the first 6 months, where the employer assesses the new joiner’s suitability for the role and if they should be appointed to permanent employment.

When an employee is moving roles or being promoted within the organisation, probation cannot operate in the same way as it would for a new joiner and therefore any issues that may arise must be dealt with in a different way. An employee with less than one years’ service does not have the same protection under the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977.

This is an issue that often arises with internal moves, as unsuccessful recruitment with internal candidates is much more tricky than dealing with an external candidate who has little employment law protection.

The employer needs to consider the length of the employee’s service under the unfair dismissal act.

3.—(1) This Act shall not apply in relation to the dismissal of an employee during a period starting with the commencement of the employment when he is on probation or undergoing training—

  • if his contract of employment is in writing, the duration of the probation or training is 1 year or less and is specified in the contract, or
  • if his contract of employment was made before the commencement of this Act and was not in writing and the duration of the probation or training is 1 year or less

An employee with more than 1 year’s continuous service has protection against unfair dismissal and therefore cannot be put on a probationary period in the same way as a new external recruit.

However, although existing employees cannot be put on the same kind of probationary period as new starters, this does not mean that their development in their new role cannot be monitored, and regular review meetings and monitoring are still a good idea. If an employee is promoted, it is logical to assume they are a valued and dedicated member of the organisation. If they are now not performing as expected in their new role, it would be worth the manager discussing with them what has gone wrong and giving them an opportunity to improve.

It is potentially possible for new roles to be on a trial period, but that would need to have been made clear from the outset. If the employer uses a trial period they need to make it clear how long the trial period is, and what happens if either party feels the trial period has been unsuccessful. For example, the employer could specify that the person would return to their previous role. It is important to give this careful consideration, because often the previous role will have been filled, or the employee may not want to move back to their previous position.

In situations where an employee has been redeployed as an alternative to redundancy there is a statutory 4-week trial period (under the Redundancy Payments Act 1967), and if the trial is unsuccessful, the employee can leave and still get their redundancy payment. This statutory period can be extended by agreement between the parties, but that would need to be carefully documented.

If there is no trial period in place (and assuming the employee has no interest in going back to their old role) then it would be a question of going through a performance management process with the employee in their new role, i.e., setting clear objectives and review periods, and after a reasonable opportunity to improve, issuing a series of warnings eventually culminating in dismissal. Alternatively, the employer could take advice about the option of offering the employee a Settlement Agreement, as they may be able to reach an amicable settlement which could be more cost-effective than months of management time spent on performance management.

Key Takeaways: It is crucial that employers set expectations prior to the employees’ commencement in the role. The employer should provide clear goals, give constructive feedback, and have an open and frequent channel of communication. For any future internal moves, it would be worth getting a clear trial period in place. This should be included in the terms when an existing employee is offered a new position within the organisation.

 

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

What is Sickness Presenteeism? What are the Implications?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

What is Sickness Presenteeism? What are the Implications?

The dramatic rise in working from home as a result of the pandemic looks likely to become a permanent feature for many organisations, at least for part of the week. But while this brings many benefits to both employees and employers, it’s also likely to lead to an increase in working while ill. In the long term, this is not good for employees’ health and will require companies to actively encourage their employees to take time off when ill.

Working from home allows employees to balance caring responsibilities and other non-work commitments with work demands, as well as reducing commute times and decreasing job-related stress. The benefits to organisations include increased productivity and a greater flexibility from employees to meet employer needs such as conference calls outside core office hours.

Employees who work from home also tend to take fewer sick days than those who are office based. Many actually appreciate the ability to work from home while ill, as it allows them to keep on top of their workload, while avoiding the strain of commuting to the office or working a full day. It also prevents workers spreading contagious illnesses to their colleagues – something at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment.

So working with a mild illness is not necessarily a bad thing. Known as “sickness presenteeism”, the decision is influenced by a number of factors. These include your company’s sickness absence policies (and how they are applied by managers), the employee’s financial pressures, whether there is paid sick leave, high workloads, tight deadlines and job insecurity.

Voluntary sickness presenteeism can have other positive benefits. If an employee has a chronic or long-term condition and wants to work despite their illness, supportive working arrangements such as flexible working or homeworking can help employees stay in the workforce and aids retention for the employer.

But if employees feel pressured to go to work despite being ill, research suggests it can have negative consequences for both the employee and the company.

A number of longitudinal studies, where researchers collected data from the same workers over a period of time,  found that working while sick can increase the risks of poor health in the future. It also increased the risk of workers having to take more time off due to sickness 18 months later.

Sickness presenteeism also has consequences for mental health. Research shows that if someone had worked while ill in the previous three months, their psychological well-being had been negatively affected. Some employees also felt down or irritable or found it hard to make decisions.

For some, this lasted another two months. Meanwhile, other research has found that working whilst sick increased the risk of depression two years later, even though the workers were not depressed at the first measurement point.

Role of the Employer

Companies generally want to keep employee absence due to sickness as low as possible, as obviously there is a knock-on effect on productivity, efficiencies and profit. Presenteeism (where the employee turns up but is not fully functioning – due to illness or other reasons) is often viewed positively if the alternative is sick leave, as employees will get some work done and their role will not need to be covered by co-workers.

Working at home makes it harder for managers to determine when employees are ill – so they are less likely to tell people to take sick leave. In order to keep sick employees from working, companies need to actively encourage employees to take time away from work.

As an employer, we also have a responsibility to ensure that genuinely ill employees are NOT attending work (wherever that work is) as there may be insurance implications – so this must also be considered when dealing with ‘vague, mild illnesses’. With any serious illness, it is very important that the employer ensures that the employee is not working.

A recent study found that workers diagnosed with acute respiratory illness or influenza during the 2017-18 influenza season were more likely to carry on working if they could work from home than those without the option. Perhaps not surprisingly, workers who received paid leave worked fewer days while ill.

A key aspect of research into sickness presenteeism is that often the seriousness of the illness is unknown. In many cases, employees can still work with minor illnesses (such as colds etc.) and it will not harm their health in the long term. But workers and employers need to be aware of the potential health risk of working through health conditions that require rest and time to recover.

Companies who concentrate on controlling sickness absence in the short term may be encouraging sickness presenteeism in the longer term and risk prolonging an illness or making a health condition worse. Just because we can work from home when we are ill, it doesn’t always mean that we should.

Key takeaways for employers:

Encourage employees to take the necessary time off when ill.   If an employee takes the decision to work from home while ill, check in with them to ensure they are not putting undue strain or pressure on themselves and make sure there is flexibility with their work schedules and deadlines.

Lead by example – managers in particular should show that it is acceptable to take the needed time off to recuperate from illness.

 

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Why is it important to have an OOTO message while on Annual Leave?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

The importance of having an OOTO during annual leave.

Holidays and time away from work are a necessity in order to be able to unplug and recharge. As research often tells us, disconnecting from work, office politics, and even checking email can ultimately help us to lead a more productive life. The Right to Disconnect gives employees the right to switch off from work outside of normal working hours, including the right to not respond immediately to emails, telephone calls or other messages.

Too often employees feel the tension of knowing they need to take a break but  fear that their time away will just lead to more work when they get back. While many factors play into this tension, there are small ways one can alleviate the stress of the return to work after taking annual leave.

One step to making annual leave more productive is placing a fitting out of the office (OOTO) email that establishes well-defined boundaries for time away from the workplace. OOTO messages that are written carefully and effectively can be a useful implementation that leads employees to establishing healthier work-life boundaries and working relationships. These little autoresponders built into our emails can give us the opportunity to make social contacts with teammates, customers, and retailers.

An OOTO message allows the employee to have peace of mind while they are away. Simultaneously it provides clear information, guidance, and expectations to clients. An OOTO message prohibits clients sending repeat emails with no reply, and no explanation. An OOTO is a courtesy to those trying to reach the employee and a deterrent to a build-up of unnecessary emails which may overwhelm the employee of their return to work.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

What should companies look at when considering implementing a four-day work week?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

To know if a four-day work week is right for your organisation there are many advantages and disadvantages to be considered. Communication with your employees will be crucial throughout the process and its very important to scope out what a four-day week means for your organisation.

For many, they are looking at how pre-existing arrangement and contracted hour’s between the employer and employee can be worked and completed over a 4-day period rather than a 5-day period.

Here are a few of the advantages and disadvantages companies are experiencing.

Advantages

  • Reduced costs

A four-day week can cut costs for everyone.

The obvious one is that, given the office would be closed for one extra day a week, running costs would see a significant drop.

Additionally, employees would be paying less to commute and would see cut costs in expenses like lunch and coffees during the day, too.

  • Happier employees

Having a three-day weekend leaves employees with more free time. Not many people will complain about that.

Having more time to do the things you love increases overall happiness and can help to increase loyalty to a company – it’s a win-win.

  • Increase in productivity levels

Discontent staff tend to distract their co-workers. The general theory behind a shorter week is that happier, more fulfilled employees are therefore more focused on their job when actually in the workplace.

Studies have found that 78% of employees could more effectively balance their work and home life. This was compared to 54% prior to the experiment.

  • Recruitment and retention

In the age of the millennial, being able to offer a more flexible work pattern is definitely a perk that persuades employees to stay at a company.

Knowing they’ll be getting a three-day weekend is one that keeps employees motivated week-on-week. It’s still a relatively rare offering and can be a great way to get the best talent through the door – and keep them engaged, too.

Disadvantages

  • It doesn’t suit every business model

Unfortunately, a four-day week model doesn’t suit every business. It’s an option that is only viable for companies who can re-adapt their whole business to a new way of working.

Adopting a different way of working is a big step, so you’ll need to consider whether or not a four-day week is right for your company. As mentioned communication will be vital during this stage. Ask your employees for their input and include them in the decision making process.

  • Longer hours and work-related stress

In reality, most employees on a four day week will most likely be expected to work the same number of hours, but in four days instead of five. In this case, shifts might be extended to 10 hours.

Longer days could have a significant effect on your employees’ stress levels and therefore their overall wellbeing and productivity.

  • Skipping Workdays Benefits Your Competition

The very possibility that an entire workday is now cut out from your schedule will seem extremely appealing to your competition. If they do not follow the trend themselves, they now have an entire day that they can dedicate to outperforming your organisation.

They may choose to contact your key clients and customers on a day where they won’t be able to get in touch with your employees.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Designing the workplace of the future – A new guide for all employers

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

The world of work was shaken to its core in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Ireland and hundreds of thousands of Irish workers had to suddenly work from home.

The slow and steady drive towards digitalisation accelerated sharply, and virtual meeting programmes such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams became commonplace. Now, 15 months on, and with the vaccination programme well underway, employers can begin to think about a return to the workplace – hopefully permanently. But the many lessons learned during the pandemic has had both employers and employees thinking about the future workplace – will we ever go back to the way it was? And do we want to?

Voltedge Management, in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, have produced a new guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19 – The future of work, which aims to help business owners think about the positives and negatives from the last 15 months and to use these to build a sustainable business model for the future. With many employees welcoming the idea of remote working into the future, either full-time or for part of the week, is it time for employers to recognise the positives of remote working and tie it into their company policy on a permanent basis? And if so, how can they make it sustainable?

“This is a follow-on from last year’s Covid-19 employer guide; last year we looked at the health and safety aspects of returning to work, while the theme of this year’s guide is around the future of work,” explains Karen Hernández, Senior Executive, Client Management Development at Enterprise Ireland. “During Covid, the workplace has changed, the nature of work has changed for a lot of people, and what employees expect from their employers has changed. Our aim is for all companies to be prepared to put in place the right structures and practices that suit their business needs and also the needs of their employees.

“A large portion of our client base experienced the need to rush into remote working when Covid-19 hit Ireland in 2020. There have been some advantages and opportunities associated with this; some businesses found they’re as productive, if not more productive when working remotely. This guide aims to help companies take what’s worked well over the last 15 months and create some sustainable practices and processes that work for everybody.”

The guide was developed in partnership with Fredericka Sheppard and Joyce Rigby-Jones of Voltedge, a highly regarded HR consultancy based in Dublin. “The objective with the guide is that it gives you a framework to start developing your own plan for the return to the office,” explains Fredericka. “All organisations are going to have their own dynamic, their own set of circumstances, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this. Our aim was to identify key pillars for organisations to use to develop structure and a suitable framework for their business.”

The importance of asking questions

A huge emphasis is placed on the need for communication with employees when making these decisions. “Employers need to engage with and actively listen to their employees, while also driving their business forward,” says Joyce. “This is intended as a broad guide, where employers can pick and choose the relevant pieces to them.”

“It’s very important that employees feel that they’re being heard,” adds Fredericka. “However, decisions need to be made based on a number of factors, and employee input is just one of those factors. Obviously it’s really important to manage expectations and sometimes it’s just down to how you ask the questions. Give them some context from a business point of view. It’s not just about the employees’ wish-list, it’s also about creating a sustainable workplace for the future.”

Managing remote workers

Many employers are looking at keeping some sort of remote or flexible working practices in place – and offering this flexibility can be very positive when it comes to attracting talent. “Almost two-thirds of our client base are saying they find it hard to attract, engage and retain talent,” says Karen. “Companies need to consult and stay close to their employees and ask them what they want – and include aspects like flexibility as part of a value proposition to attract candidates.

“Many companies that we are working with are looking at some sort of hybrid model, where employees combine time working in the office and time spent working remotely, at home or in co-working spaces. There are huge upsides, such as accessing skills from different parts of the country that they never would have before – offering remote, flexible or hybrid working is attractive to employees.

However, this can be difficult to manage, and companies need to consider what works for the team as a whole as well as what’s right for individuals within those teams.”

“There’s a big need for management support and training, especially for middle and line managers and supervisors who are dealing with a remote workforce,” explains Joyce. “It’s difficult for them, but it’s important that they get it right. Ensuring your managers are confident in what they do, and in their engagement with their teams. We are hearing that companies are looking to bring their employees into the office more, but it’s about getting that blend right between remote working and the office. One aspect that we emphasised in the guide is the need to make sure you are not discriminating against employees who are not in the office environment.”

Identifying and managing issues such as burn-out and isolation is essential if companies are to offer some sort of remote working policy. “Companies that have regular check-ins and meetings with staff and use different methods of communication, such as video calls, emails and direct messaging are more likely to keep employees engaged when working remotely.  It’s also important for employees to have individual focus time, where they are able to detach from colleagues and concentrate on getting their work done without interruption”, says Karen.  “Long term, we don’t know enough about hybrid working for a definite ‘best practice’ but instead companies should pilot different ways of working – for instance, we have some companies who are trialling a ‘team days’ concept – having the whole team in for certain days of the week, then for the rest of the week, they’re working from home.”

Piloting the new workplace

The aim of the guide is to pose those broad questions that will help employers in every sector decide on the right workplace for the future of their business – but there is no need to rush into a decision. “The biggest challenge for employers is making the decision as to how you’re going to handle this working environment,” says Joyce. “Are you going to fully return, are you going for a hybrid, can you facilitate a full return in the workspace that you have? Employers need to make very big decisions, and very strategic, long-term decisions, so we’re suggesting that they talk to their employees about what they want and then piloting whatever they plan to do before they make any strategic decisions that will impact on the business going forward.”

Covid-19 has had a huge effect on how we work – but now is the time to use what we have learned since March 2020 to create a more inclusive, sustainable business model, one that pushes the business forward while creating a culture that values employees and their health and wellbeing more than ever before. This can only be a positive thing.

To download the guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19 – The future of work’click here.

What Will the New Proposed Bill on Gender Pay Mean for Companies in Ireland?

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

What’s in the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) Information Bill?

The Bill does not itself contain gender pay gap reporting obligations but creates a power to make Regulations mandating employers to report on their gender pay gaps. As such, the Bill is relatively light on detail and we can expect a consultation on draft Regulations quite soon after it becomes law. The Regulations are expected to provide clarity for employers on what will be required (see below), although there is the potential for delay because they will need to properly implement the requirements of the proposed EU pay transparency directive.

An organisation’s GPG will be significant when it comes to its reputation, recruitment and retention of staff, and client expectations.  Where GPG reporting will likely be a recurring annual requirement, with possible publicity around each year’s figures, an employer’s approach to its GPG and the measures it takes to narrow any gap must be considered.

Who will be affected?

The Bill currently provides that the Regulations will initially only apply to those organisations employing 250 or more, before reducing to 150 after two years and 50 after three years.

What must be reported?

As currently drafted, the Bill requires in-scope employers, including public body employers, to report on the difference in male and female remuneration as follows:

  • Mean and median hourly remuneration for full-time and part-time
  • Mean and median bonus remuneration
  • Percentage of all employees who have received a bonus or benefits in kind.

The Bill also indicates that additional regulations may be enacted to provide further clarity on:

  • The class of employer, employee and pay to which the regulations apply
  • How the remuneration of employees is to be calculated
  • The form, manner and frequency in which information is to be published

Unlike the similar UK legislation, affected employers will also be required to provide a narrative to accompany the reported figures in order to explain, in their opinion, the reasons for the gaps identified in their report and, significantly, to outline the measures that employer will take to reduce the GPG identified.

It is likely that the information will have to be published annually on both an employer’s own website and a publicly accessible government website (similar to the UK approach).

Will there be consequences for failure to comply?

Yes. The text of the Bill provides for sanctions for non-compliance with the appointment of “designated officers” empowered to investigate and prepare a report on how an employer prepared its calculations and reporting of final figures. These officers will be able to enter the business premises and seek copies of relevant information.

In addition, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) will have the ability to apply to the Circuit Court for an order directing compliance with the regulations. The revised Bill proposes to further extend IHREC powers allow applications to the High Court for enforcement orders.

Further, an employee may take a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where his/her employer is alleged to have not complied with the mandatory reporting obligation. The WRC can order a specified course of action to ensure compliance. Currently the Bill does not provide for any monetary sanctions for breaches, although it is notable that the Minister has referred to strengthening the enforcement mechanisms within the upcoming draft legislation.

How can employers get ready?

There are a number of proactive steps that employers can take in advance of GPG reporting coming into law.

  • Trial run – identify the relevant employee groupings (quartiles) across the business and collate and analyse the payroll data attached to each quartile
  • Technology – assess whether the business has the necessary software and/or hardware to process the calculations required
  • Training – consider what types of training, ranging from payroll staff to HR teams and management, may be appropriate
  • Policies – review existing HR policies around recruitment and promotion.  Evaluate the business’ approach to remuneration and compensation to establish whether such policies indicate any unintentional gender bias. The implementation of a comprehensive flexible/agile working policy will be a core element in facilitating increased female representation in the labour market
  • Invest – explore ways to invest in your staff talent through upskilling and reskilling with a focus on gender diversity – in particular diversifying the leadership pool and implementing innovative methods around talent development and integration
  • Expert Advice – obtain legal advice to ensure appropriate compliance with the regulations (i.e. what elements of a remuneration package should fall within the definition of “pay”; what data protection issues arise; how can issues of equal pay or discrimination be best addressed)
  • Build your Team – identify the key stakeholders within the business that need to be brought together to comply with the reporting obligation and tackle the GPG identified. Input from and cross-collaboration between Finance, HR, Legal and Public Relations is advisable
  • Communication – while mandatory reporting specifies the information to be published, employers must be mindful of the internal and external messaging of both the existence of its GPG and the measures to reduce it, to minimise scope for employee grievances or claims

Separately, employers should consider who the key stakeholders in the business are likely to be. In order to be done properly, gender pay gap reporting normally requires the involvement of a team of people from across the business. These include: payroll (to obtain the pay data), HR analysts (to collect the people data); more senior level HR/ER (to understand the initiatives that can be created or which may already exist to reduce any gaps); and PR/comms (to assist with writing the report).

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Watch Webinar Recording ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’ in partnership with Enterprise Ireland

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Voltedge Management hosted, in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, the webinar ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’. The webinar discusses how Covid-19 has impacted the world of work,  how the changes brought about by Covid-19 impact your company and how you manage your employees, the practices you need to implement to continue to attract, engage and develop your employees in a post Covid-19 era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to watch the recording. 

You can also download the webinar slides here

Coinciding with the webinar, Voltedge and Enterprise Ireland have also developed the guide of the same name. Click HERE to download the guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’.

What do I do if employees don’t like the new workplace layout and their workstation set-up?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

What do I do if employees don’t like the new workplace layout and their workstation set-up?

When you are planning your new workplace, get the views and inputs from your employees early on so that they feel consulted and that their voice is heard. Continuous communication is key. Consider the logistics of the workplace both from an operational perspective as well as from an employee experience viewpoint. Make sure that employees are involved at all stages of the planning process and that they know what to expect when they return to the workplace. Regular meetings and updates about the new workplace layout could be a useful tool here. Remember that creating stimulating and pleasant workplaces will contribute to how employees work and how they perform.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Watch Webinar Recording ‘Tips For Employers Managing Remote Workers’ with Fredericka Sheppard

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

In case you missed the webinar ‘Tips For Employers Managing Remote Workers’ with Voltedge Co-Founder and Managing Director Fredericka Sheppard, in partnership with AccountantOnline, you can access the recording on the link below.

Some of us are experiencing working from home for the first time so there are still some considerations we need to make. Isolation, distractions, and lack of supervision are a real concern for some employees, and as a business owner, it may be your responsibility to promote a good remote working culture.

We recognise that many businesses are managing (newly) remote employees and so, this webinar will help you address your challenges with managing remote workers and highlight the opportunities within your organisation. The webinar provides tips and best practices to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees.

Topics Covered

1) Remote Working – what does that really mean for companies

2) Employer responsibilities and the need to build a good Remote Working Culture

3) Addressing Diversity & Inclusion in a virtual workplace

4) A review of the expected regulations on the Right to Disconnect and the Right to request to Work Remotely

5) Challenges and opportunities for companies and managers

6) Developing your own toolkit for a remote working strategy

Click HERE to watch the recording.

As an employer can I insist that an employee returns to the workplace if they do not want to?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

As an employer can I insist that an employee returns to the workplace if they do not want to?

Firstly they will need to complete the Return to Work form where they can state if they have a valid reason not to return, such as a vulnerable relative living with them or a health condition that would make them at risk.

You will then need to discuss this with the employee to understand any potential risks and what action might be taken to minimise these. It would be advised at this point to carry out a full risk assessment and, if necessary, consult with a medical professional, before making any decision.

As an employer, you are obliged to provide a safe working environment that complies with government health and safety regulations and in doing so the current advice is that you can ask an employee to return to the workplace on that basis.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Reimagining Ireland’s Talent Seminar CIPD Ireland

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

Join CIPD Ireland on 23 June for a half day of collaborative dialogue, as they explore the need to build momentum to develop the capabilities and roles required for the future, support access to work and reduce inequalities post Covid-19. Voltedge Co-Managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones will be one of the speakers.

As the economy starts to reopen, we in the people profession need to start thinking and addressing:

  • how jobs and roles are changing
  • the skills required for the future
  • what steps need to be taken to further develop the labour force, so it is ready for the future, and
  • how can we influence the value proposition of Ireland to attract talent

Leading on from our annual conference, this dynamic and collaborative seminar, which is FREE to all active members and conference delegates, is designed to further support the learning in the new changing world for our members and wider community

The sessions will discuss:

  • How good is Ireland at attracting the talent we need?
  • What are the labour market challenges post-Covid-19?
  • How are jobs changing and evolving?
  • How do we ensure that we are building the skills required for the future?
  • How can inclusion enable the delivery of your talent strategy and culture?
  • How can the people profession deliver on these issues at a national and organisational level?
  • Where do we, as a profession and a nation, go from here?

Don’t miss out on your chance to contribute to championing a better future and register now!

Note: Conference delegates will be notified directly

Please Note

Cancellations MUST be notified in writing.

A cancellation fee of 25% of the full fee will apply to cancellations received up to 16 June 2021. No refund can be made for cancellations received after 16 June 2021. A substitution may be made at any time.

CIPD reserves the right to cancel or reschedule the event or change its associated programme or substitute a speaker. In the event of cancellation, liability is limited to the amount of registration only.

For your security and peace of mind, CIPD and its subsidiaries will not supply your details to any organisation for marketing purposes. By submitting this request you confirm that you agree to the use of your information as set out in CIPD’s privacy policy. We reserve the right to include your name in a list of delegates at the event.

Non-members may click here to sign up to receive our e-newsletters which will keep you up-to-date with HR news in Ireland as well as CIPD Ireland events and survey research.

Professional photography and video production may be taking place at the event and these images may be used on future promotional materials for CIPD. Please note that by attending the event, you are giving your consent for your image to be used on any CIPD promotional materials.

Please click here to register.

Workers to get at least 10 days paid sick leave phased in between now and 2025

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

Welcome to our weekly Q&A – if you have a question email us at info@voltedge.ie.

Workers to get at least 10 days paid sick leave phased in between now and 2025. What you need to know as an employer.

 

  1. The government’s statutory sick pay scheme will be phased in over a four-year period, starting with three days per year in 2022, rising to five days payable in 2023 and seven days payable in 2024.
  2. Employers will eventually cover the cost of 10 sick days per year in 2025. The statutory days a minimum level of sick pay a company must provide but they have the freedom to offer more.
  3. Sick pay will be paid by employers at a rate of 70% of an employee’s wage, subject to a daily threshold of €110. The daily earnings threshold of €110 is based on 2019 mean weekly earnings of €786.33 and equates to an annual salary of €40,889.16.
  4. An employee will have to obtain a medical certificate to avail of statutory sick pay, and the entitlement is subject to the employee having worked for their employer for a minimum of six months.
  5. Once entitlement to sick pay from their employer ends, employees who need to take more time off may qualify for illness benefit from the Department of Social Protection subject to PRSI contributions.
  6. In regard to the requirement that a doctor’s cert, employers can “choose” to trust their employees and not require one but that it is “reasonable” to include it in the Statutory requirement.
  7. The legislation will expressly state that this does not prevent employers offering better terms or stop unions negotiating for more through a collective agreement, including agreements already in place.
  8. The new sick pay legislation follows similar measures already introduced to enhance employment rights including paternity benefit, parental leave benefit, enhanced maternity benefit, treatment benefit, and the extension of social insurance benefits to the self-employed.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at info@voltedge.ie or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.

Voltedge CMD Joyce Rigby-Jones speaking at the CIPD Ireland Employment Law Seminar

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

Voltedge Co-Managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones FCIPD, M Inst D will be speaking at the CIPD Ireland Employment Law Seminar this Thursday 25th of March.

Designed to bring you up to speed with the latest legal developments, topics will include remote and blended working, returning to the workplace, equality and discrimination risks, the future workplace, data protection and the raft of proposed upcoming legal developments.

Voltedge CMD Joyce Rigby-Jones will be part of a panel of experts at ‘StartUp 2021’

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Voltedge Co-Managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones FCIPD, M Inst D will be part of a panel of experts at ‘StartUp 2021’. The event will help Irish founders in the early stages of building a business with sessions on raising funds, mastering digital marketing, making sales, exporting and more.

Voltedge CMD Fredericka Sheppard talks about the importance of switching off on The Business RTÉ Radio 1 RTE

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Liam Geraghty and Voltedge Co-Managing Director Fredericka Sheppard talk about the importance of switching off on The Business RTÉ Radio 1 RTE.

“All the services show that productivity has been up during #Covid19 but it’s not sustainable long term. Establishing some good practices where you’re actually giving employees permission but also actively encouraging them to take time off, step away from their work station, make sure that they have sufficient rest time and that they’re taking their annual leave will enable people to come back refreshed, with more creativity and a clearer mind.”

Listen to more tips from Fredericka Sheppard here.