How Do You Cure Compliance Headaches?

HeadacheShared Parental Leave, Flexible Working and Fit Notes are all examples of recent Government legislation that makes managing a workforce more complex. It can make compliance and avoiding accusations of discrimination a real headache.

I recently read a press release from the CIPD that discussed the challenges the administration of the proposed legislation on shared parental leave will bring. One of issues is that parents will be allowed the flexibility to take the leave when they feel they need it.  This makes it difficult for employers to plan recruitment requirements and cover for the leave and has led to a proposal that parents should give 8 weeks’ notice prior to taking leave – which would alleviate some of the pressure on the employer and that was seen as a fair request by the CIPD.

Another issue is that that there are different notice periods for paternity pay and leave that inevitably causes confusion to both employer and employee.  To address this confusion another proposal has been made that parental leave is aligned with the notice period for paternity leave and pay at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of child birth, which the CIPD also support.

From 2014, the statutory procedure for considering flexible working requests will be replaced by a requirement on employers to deal with all requests “in a reasonable manner” and in a recent article in Personnel Today I read how ACAS  have issued a draft code around dealing with these flexible working requests. The draft code is designed to be easy to understand and simple to use. It comprises 13 principles that will be taken into account by employment tribunals when considering cases arising out of the flexible working legislation. Managing a flexible workforce can be tricky for employers and the system must still be seen as fair for it to work. If you want to find out more you can find a copy of the draft ACAS proposal here.

The Fit Note legislation which was brought in two years ago to help manage employees back to work following sickness leave, has already run into difficulties because doctors felt they  were too busy to manage the ‘fit-note’ process and, also felt they didn’t know enough about the employee’s work or workplace to be able to make the call on what arrangements or changes should be made for someone returning to work.

These compliance headaches can be reduced. With the right workforce management tools, employers can have the automation, information, and visibility to foresee when their organisation could be at risk of litigation or the subsequent financial challenges. Automated tools can help them keep pace with Central Government and industry regulations so you can apply appropriate policies and rules easily, and correctly, to facilitate compliance. Employers will also have a reliable record of all employee information to document that these policies are being applied consistently and fairly throughout their organisation.

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‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly…Not!

christmas hangover..At this time of the year what with norovirus, ‘flu and other bugs around, together with post Christmas party hangovers and surreptitious shopping days being taken – unscheduled absence is a real problem for organisations across the UK. So today I thought I would revisit the Government’s independent review of sickness absence and see whether the recommendations have been implemented and what employers are doing to help manage this kind of absence.

According to the Department of Health, employers are spending around £9 billion in sick pay and related costs and over 140 million working days a year are lost to sickness absence.

The Government’s review Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence’ which was commissioned in November 2011 looked at how employers and the State could share the costs of sickness absence and made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the existing system. The review claimed that the reformed system of sickness absence management it advocated would save employers £400 million per year, the State £300 million a year and boost economic output by up to £1.4 billion.

In April 2010 the Government  decided the old ‘sick note’ was not ‘fit’ for purpose and replaced it with the ‘fit note’. The idea being to improve rates of return to work by including a ‘may be fit’category – where doctors had the choice of advising patients that they were fit for a ‘phased’ return to work if their employer could work with them. There’s been a very mixed response to the ‘fit note’ (which I covered in my blog ‘Are Fit Notes Sick?’)– particularly from Doctors who understandably don’t have the time, or the knowledge of people’s job, workplace etc to be able to give any guidance and so err on the side of caution or simply leave it to the employee to make the judgement call as to whether they are fit for work.

The review suggested that, for longer term sickness absence, an Independent Assessment Service should be set up. The service would be provided by approved health professionals, subject to quality controls and could be accessed if a person reached a certain time-threshold of absence by either a doctor or the employer. I can see it would have to be a system that would be accepted as fair and used consistently or there would be some pretty harsh criticism.

 Other incentives were also recommended including favourable tax implications and new insurance products aimed at encouraging attendance and reducing the cost of absence.

It all seems too hard to me, and we are still waiting to see what the Government’s response to the review has been, but in the meantime I will refer you to my previous blog which talks about the 10 Top Tips to Reduce Absence and remind everybody that you can’t manage something that is not measured.

Happy Christmas Everyone!