Flexibility versus security

We all define and identify ourselves with a role or title in life. Social media sites invite us to define who we are in our ‘bio’. It can make quite entertaining reading in some cases. Mine’s fairly straightforward “Mum, HR Consultant, Amateur Foodie, Interior Design Fanatic, Wannabe Novelist”. Subconsciously, these are listed in the order of importance and priority I rank these associations in life. More recently I’ve had to think consciously about these rankings. Earlier this year I decided, whilst still a Mum, as my little person was that bit older I might just return to employed and corporate life. An opportunity presented itself and so I did. The attraction of camaraderie, security and a good financial package sealed the deal. What I failed to acknowledge was a price can’t be put on flexibility as a (single) Mum. Children grow up and naively I assumed their needs for mum to be around would diminish exponentially with age. I was wrong. And the challenge of corporate life, wanting to be a committed employee yet being pulled to be there for my son’s needs have defeated me again. But that’s ok as it’s simply made me re-evaluate (again) what’s really important in life. Yes my work is – I’ve spent years building a reputation as an astute, commercially focussed HR Consultant to SMEs. But there’s a little person, growing up by the day, whose needs are changing and still needs mum around (but no cuddles at the school gates please!) that will continue to take priority. I’m fortunate enough to have a loyal client base and be able to build my freelance HR consultancy in and around his needs, to keep the wolf from the door. And for a bit of restbite from it all, I’ll cook and bake and read around nutrition and whilst the supper’s in the oven I’ll flick through Ideal Home magazine, get lost in home furnishings or maybe write a bit of that novel that’s been rumbling on for years. I guess the purpose of this blog is threefold – (1) we are all defined in some capacity by our family, work and social roles but don’t let any of those definitions defeat who you really are (2) the grapple of wanting to be a good enough mum and a credible, revenue generating professional whilst still finding time for the things we personally enjoy is a constant challenge (but not one that needs sympathy , it’s just important to recognise)  and (3) I’m back on the professional market, primarily seeking HR freelance projects (or I could help you with your living room colour palette instead!)


Flip flops in the office? I draw the line at mankinis!

With temperatures rising in recent weeks, the TUC have called for employers to temporarily relax their dress codes. It’s often soaring or dipping temperatures that prompt the debate about dress code, but it’s an important year-round consideration for all businesses.

In recent years we’ve seen the City dress code relax and it’s not unusual to be faced with someone from a professional services Firm wearing a collar with a notably absent tie. I’ve worked in two contrasting environments; one where the dress code was specifically prescribed for the customer facing employees, even to the extent that some high performing employees who didn’t quite scrub up were offered make over tips and style advice. The other, by contrast, was where anything went and you could rock up in jeans, converse pumps and a big baggy jumper and no one would bat an eyelid. My verdict…..there’s a balance to be struck and dress code is often sensibly aligned with the employer brand and service provision. It would be sensible, when developing a dress code to consider those two factors. It’s a fine line and always disappointing when a dress code equates to a corporate straight jacket and stifles a degree of individuality.

And as for dress code in these rising temperatures, common sense prevails and a slightly more relaxed approach might be appreciated by the workforce. Flip flops…..perhaps, but I draw the line at mankinis!

Turner HR Ltd is a professional HR and training consultancy, providing commercial, pragmatic and practical HR support to businesses. Website launching late summer. In the meantime, follow our blog, and @_TurnerHR on twitter. To contact us, call the office on 01823 240067 or email lucy@turnerhr.co.uk.

Have you heard the one about the extended holiday? “Sorry boss, but my flight was delayed”

It’s holiday season and no doubt most of your hard working employees will be heading off for a well deserved break in the sun. They’ve lodged their holiday request, you’ve agreed it, their ‘out of office’ is on and they’ve waved farewell to their colleagues for a week or two.

Then there’s the one who was due back today, who left you a voicemail this morning – “Sorry boss but my flight was delayed. Not sure when I’ll get back”. You might have imagined it but you’re sure you could hear ‘The Macarena’ playing in the background…..

It might just be worth referring to your top 5 tips for managing unauthorised absence:

1) WRITE IT DOWN – if you do one thing, and one thing only, make a record of the holiday dates agreed with the employee before they wave farewell to their colleagues and make sure you and the employee sign the record. Then you have agreed dates against which you can question any unauthorised absence.

2) ASK FOR FURTHER DETAIL – if their flight’s been delayed or there’s some other excuse for them not making it back from holiday in time, you are able to ask when they intend to get back, what arrangements they are making to get back to work and if in doubt, ask for their flight details just so you can check they are being true to their word. If it’s found they aren’t and photos pop up on social media sites of them enjoying one last tequila in Linekar’s bar on the day they were due back at work, then potentially this can be treated as unauthorised absence and dealt with via your company disciplinary policy.

3) DEVELOP A POLICY – whilst at Turner HR we don’t advocate policy for policies sake, we know when it’s useful to have some guidelines in black and white. So develop a policy that outlines how, as an employer, you will handle different types of absence. Then if this case turns out to be one of unauthorised absence, there won’t be any surprises if it has to be dealt with formally.

4) CARRY OUT REGULAR RETURN TO WORK INTERVIEWS – in cases of any absence, try to get into the habit of making time to have a confidential 5 minutes with the returning employee. That way you can either ascertain whether the employee requires any further support returning from a period of ill health or personal difficulty, or, whether their absence was unauthorised. And we won’t bore you with the stats but there have been various studies which demonstrate that, by introducing this simple approach, cases of short term, intermittent absences, decrease.

5) MAKE A SENSIBLE JUDGEMENT CALL – ultimately line managers know their employees best. Don’t wheel HR out for the sake of it – if the line manager; knows the employee well, their track record with the business and whether this unexpected absence is a little out of character, often a sensible, informal word with the employee is adequate. We’re pragmatists and if issues can be resolved informally, via sensible 1:1 conversations, then all the better.

Happy holidays!

Turner HR Ltd is a professional HR and training consultancy, providing commercial, pragmatic and practical HR support to businesses. Website launching late summer. In the meantime, follow our blog, and @_TurnerHR on twitter. To contact us, call the office on 01823 240067 or email lucy@turnerhr.co.uk.


Unfair dismissal v Performance Management – media take heed!

Not many things in life bother me, life’s too short. But persistent, poor media reporting and unfounded sensationalism does.

This year, we’ve seen the media sensationalise the riots, compelling every ‘yoof’ with no direction in life to jump on the bandwagon. Then we saw them chastise the England rugby team (fair enough, if you’ve just married the Queen’s grandaughter – you probably ought not to stick one’s head into another woman’s cleavage) but in my view, the whole story was blown out of complete proportion. I would’ve preferred to understand why Johnno was still messing around with the squad three games into the tournament. And that brings me to today…..unfounded, ill informed reporting on the subject of unfair dismissal. And before I launch into why, on this occasion, I am well placed to comment (given my professional background and endless support I have offered to my broad range of loyal clients in managing issues of underperformance and developing managers to do so themselves) let me just climb onto my soapbox.

Let’s get one thing straight. Generally speaking an unfair dismissal case is rarely simple and clear cut and in the large majority of cases, there’s often a link to discrimination. For example, ‘I wasn’t dismissed for reason of redundnacy, it was because I’m in a wheelchair’. Or, ‘I wasn’t dismissed for misconduct but becuase I’m the only girl in the team and I refused to hang out in Spearmint Rhinos with the lads’. Trite, but illustrates my point – unfair dimsissal claims often have a link to discrimination – which any employee can make a claim against the minute they start with an employer. (Well technically, from the minute they apply for a job with a potential employer). That right’s not going to change. So will we see a decrease in the number of tribunal claims as a result of the two year threshold before which any employee can make an unfair dismissal claim…….? Unlikely, in my humble opinion.

Then the other debate raging is the proposal to remove the right to claim unfair dismissal altogether so that underperforming workers can be sacked with the pointy finger and the ‘you’re fired’ statement, Alan Sugar style. Whilst I’m a huge fan of Lord Sugar, this suggestion is ludicrous! There needs to be some sort of employment framework to which all parties – employer and employee alike, sign up to. And the emphasis ought not to be on whether there’s a right to claim unfair dismissal or not, but on encouraging sensible performance management techniques that reward the best and penalise the loafers. And, if that means dismissal because someone’s incapable of doing their job despite an adequate level of support, then so be it. (Yes people, sometimes life deals you a bum card!). I’ve succesfully implemented clear, transparent performance management schemes into organisations, which are simple  and pragmatic to administer. Provided expectations are clear, there’s no reason why shining stars can’t be identified in the first few months of employment and nurtured from there on in. And for those free-riding loafers, at whatever stage they might be in their career with the company, the cards are clear. I’ve experienced public sector first hand and yes, their performance management frameworks are almost non existent and in my view far too paternalistic. And for the privately owned SME (again, many of which I’ve worked with directly) where no-one can hide and the finances simply can’t afford to carry anyone, then pragmatic performance management techniques achieve the end goal. I could go on but I simply wanted to offer some context that the media have failed to acknowledge. It’s not rocket science – quite the opposite. Set clear, objective expectations and if the employee can’t make the grade, provided matters are handled sensibly and with dignity, free from unfair discrimination, free loaders will be a thing of the past.

Thanks for reading, it’s been a pleasure and do feel free to comment. I’m just off to pack the soap box away.