Advice on Common HR Issues for Managers and Employers: Part 2

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As an employer, the number of HR issues and queries that can arise daily are overwhelming for many, which is why businesses often look to outsource professional support with their HR issues.

Following on from a previous post where we offered some HR Advice for Managers and Employers across issues such as annual leave, pay for overtime and excessive lateness, we are tackling some more common HR issues that employers may face in the workplace with professional guidance on the best course of action from a legal standpoint.

If you do require further support with any of the issues discussed below, then we provide a HR Advice Line that connects you to a named HR Consultant who can talk you through the issue and deliver any documentation or on-site assistance that you need.

One of my employees has been absent on several occasions over the last three months due to illness. How do I manage excessive absenteeism, and can I request a note from the doctor?

Excessive sickness absence can be a headache, especially if it is having a severe effect on productivity/performance. But it is a sensitive issue, so you need to approach it with sympathy and understanding.

With any employee who is away from work with an illness, even if it is only for one day, you should conduct a return to work interview and ask them to complete a self-certification form to make sure that the employer is fit to be back at work. This is also the perfect opportunity to quiz employees who have shown patterns of absence over a short period of time.

You should consider if there are wider health issues which require adjustments to be made and, in this instance, you can request a note from a doctor. However, please note that employees can self-certify for up to 7 days and are only legally obliged to provide a note from a GP after this time frame.

If you would like more in-depth information regarding the health of an employee, then you can request this from their doctor once you have consent from said employee.

If you have not been able to get to the root of the issue during this meeting, and you suspect that they may be using illness as an excuse not to attend work, then you can provide them with a letter of concern to let them know that they are being closely monitored and further absence may lead to a disciplinary process.

This should, hopefully, deter any further patterns of absence.

You can read more about Managing Sickness Absence here.

One of my employees, who is an expectant mother, has become a lot less productive over the past few weeks and their decline in performance is affecting the business. What can I do?

It can be difficult to take action against an employee who is pregnant for fear of being accused of discrimination; however, if there is a clear, evidential drop in their performance then they should be treated just as you would any other employee unless they have already provided pregnancy-related reasons as to why this may be happening.

You should arrange a performance review meeting with the employee in which you can raise any concerns you have with their recent performance.

This gives them the opportunity to discuss any personal or professional reasons they may have for this decline such as problems with their pregnancy, family issues, health complications, feeling stressed at work etc.

Once the cause of the issue has been explained, you are then able to take appropriate action to help alleviate the issue or make any necessary adjustments to accommodate the employee.

Alternatively, if there is no clear reason for the decline in performance then you can implement a performance management system (if there isn’t one in place already) and set S.M.A.R.T goals for them which you should monitor closely.

If performance does not improve within an assigned amount of time, then you can progress this to a disciplinary issue.

To learn more about performance management, read our, How To Identify and Manage Under-performance at Work, blog post

One of my best performing employees is threatening to leave if they do not get a pay rise, but we cannot afford to do this right now. How else can I convince them to stay?

It is not uncommon for an employee to threaten to leave should they not get a pay rise, and this is made more difficult when it is one of your best workers.

Though best practice would be to carefully consider the request and whether the employee has earned themselves a pay rise and your business can afford it, if the latter falls short then you will find yourself in a bit of a predicament.

The best thing to do is to be honest with your employee and let them know that you appreciate their hard work and recognise their contribution to the business, but you simply cannot afford to give them a pay rise right now.

You can then offer them a pay review in another 6-12 months when you may be in a better financial position.

There are many other perks that you can offer as an alternative to a pay rise which are more financial viable and can put off a resignation until a pay rise is more practical; consider increasing their contracted annual leave by a day or two every year, giving them a one-off bonus or allowing them to work more flexibly.

It may not always be enough to convince every employee, but it does show them that you take their request seriously and you are willing to make adjustments for them to stay because you do value them.

For more information, read our How Often Should You Give Your Employees A Pay Rise blog

There has been a decline in performance in one of the departments although the team are still working hard. How can I improve morale and ensure that my employees still feel motivated?

Every business goes through its ups and downs and it can extremely challenging when a hard-working team are struggling to hit targets or meet their goals.

When a situation like this does arise, the most important thing you can do as an employer is make sure that your employees are still motivated and do not lose their morale during this period as this will only make things worse.

I want to recruit a new member of staff, but they are related to a senior employee. What can I do to ensure that there is no conflict of interest or bias when this person joins the business?

It’s always advised that you should avoid hiring someone who has a relative in the company especially if they are a senior member of staff because this will often cause complications.

However, there are ways to work around this with as little impact on your business as possible.

The first thing you should do is produce a conflict of interest form which both parties will need to read and sign before confirming employment. This will identify and disclose any potential conflicts with the interest of ensuring that both employees are aware of the repercussions should there be any foul play.

Also, you should consider placing the employee in a position or role within the business that will not have them working alongside their relative in any capacity including having their salary paid by them, this will remove any conflict of interest.

Once the new hire starts you should then closely monitor all goings on to ensure that there is no favouritism or bias being shown towards them which could upset or disgruntle the rest of the team. If you do suspect anything then address it as soon as possible by setting up a meeting.

If you require further advice on this issue or any of the above, then call us today on 0845 2626 260 and we can provide a free consultation for our HR advice line service.

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