Each week, Peninsula Business Services invite business owners, finance directors and senior management to take advantage of our national program of FREE Employment Law and Health & Safety Webinars.ma

Amanda Chadwick

Do you want to know how to manage sickness and mental health issues In The workplace? My free webinar will provide practical advice on working with employees who suffer in one form or another.

If you would like any further information or advice on managing mental health issues in the workplace then please call our advice service on 0844 892 2772 or contact us online.

Click Here for the Video Transcript:
Welcome to today’s webinar. I’m Amanda Chadwick, and I’m the senior speaker at Peninsula Business Services Limited. It’s the 29th of January today, and today we’re going to talk about managing sickness and mental health. What I’ve actually done on this webinar today, and I know you’ll be interested in it as well, is I’ve added some extra slides in here on lateness and flexible working rights, because a change is imminent. It’s going to come in spring. So I managed that in there.We did try to host a webinar last week on sickness, managing absenteeism, lateness and flexible working. We had a technical issue and the webinar collapsed halfway through. So I’ve included some of those slides because I know we have repeat offender listeners as well that might have logged on to listen to that and not heard the whole of the webinar. So I hope I help you today.

It’s going to be a long webinar … Well, long. I say long, but it actually goes quite fast when you’re listening. It’s going to be 45 minutes to 60 minutes, this webinar, because we are going to have a lot to get through. And don’t worry about taking notes, because these slides and the recording are available later on, on YouTube, so don’t worry about that as well.

So. How to manage sickness and mental health. Right. Okay. This is the agenda today. We’re going to go through facts, reasons for absence. We’re then going to address mental health. We’re going to talk about when short term becomes long term sick. We’re going to talk about the fit note, investigations and ways to prevent absenteeism. We’re then going to talk about useful documents and policies, managing stress. We’re going to touch on the working time regulations. We’re then going to get staff back into work. We’re going to talk about disability and equality, return to work after long-term sick, things to remember. We’re then going to focus a bit on flexible working and the changes that are imminent. We’re going to talk about lateness as well, and increases to its programme and our HR online.

So those are the things that we’re going to cover today. It is actually a jam-packed webinar, as I said, but you’re going to get loads out of it. What you have to remember, though, is I am giving you an overview on employment law here. Different things work for different companies, and also, with sickness and any elements of sickness, there’s no direct answer on it.

People say to me, “I’ve got somebody off sick; is this how I manage it?” It is easier if somebody has been there less than a year, less than two years. But again, you’ve got to look out for disability. Also, and it is harder when somebody has been there a long time, but you have to tick the boxes and you have to do things right. And you might not like what you hear, because it is long-winded. But at the end of the day, if you don’t do that, my experience and my advice to you is if you don’t do it and you don’t do it the right way, you will end up with a tribunal, and I can tell you in sickness and discrimination, it is a tribunal that is a lot of money that ends up being paid out.

Remember, we are here to protect the employer today. We’re here to protect the manager, HR and trustees; those people that manage those staff. We’re here as our substance, our company. Our mission is to help those people. There’s enough help out there for employees. We’re here to help employer, managers, and the senior people within companies manage things like absenteeism, mental health, and all other things with employment law, and health and safety.

So that’s the agenda for today. Okay.

Well, these are the facts, and this is something I have spoken about before. We can’t eliminate the sickness. It’s always going to be there. But we can control it. You’ll be happy to know we can actually control sickness. People are sick from work on average 6.5 days per year per person. That’s an awful lot of time off. And some companies, such as some councils, not every council, so please don’t think I’m tarnishing everyone with the same brush, but some councils a few years ago that I would be working with, they would have full sick pay and literally they would want one particular council that are working to reduce absenteeism . . . They would walk around the office and say, “Has anybody got their sickness budgets due.”

They saw it as an extra week’s holiday, but you see what happened? Whereas I might start within that company and I might start there, and everybody else is taking a week off sick, eventually, even if my work ethic is excellent, I’m going to join in, aren’t I? I’m thinking, “Well, they’re doing it. Well, I’m going to do it as well.”

So just remember. We’re going to talk about sickness, SSP, versus sick pay shortly, but remember people are absent from work on average 6.5 days per year. Sickness costs the economy £17 billion per annum and a portion of that figure is stress sickness, which we’re going to talk about shortly. At one point, one in eight sick days are not genuine, and some employees consider sick days a perk. 2.7 million more sick days are had by smokers, and 1.1 million lost work days. So 131 million lost work days.

Common ailments, which you always get, is coughs, colds, flus, for short durations. People handle it differently, don’t they? People might come into work with a cough and with a cold, and other people might take the time off. Especially my husband, might take a month off for a cold. So. Only joking.

The greatest number of days lost were for muscular skeletal reasons, so we’ll talk about that. So, not bothered. The reasons for absence might be, you’ll get the regular member staff. This is actually becoming more rare, but you do get them, people who aren’t even bothered about your company, they’re not loyal, they’re not committed, they just really take days off because they’re not really bothered. We can talk about managing that and the return to work interview shortly.

We’ve got people that are worried, people that might have a new training coming in, new product coming in, people that are worried about that. I always use an example of the doctor’s surgery where all three ladies went off sick. When we asked them why, has something happened?

Sorry. Just choking there for a second!

When we asked some of the employers what’s going on, you know. “Has something changed within the business?”

They said, actually, “We’ve got a new training programme. We’re going computerised now.”

And it was really, when we brought the women back in to talk to them and spoke to them, we found out that they were really, really worried that they were actually going to lose their job. They were really worried that they were actually not going to take the training. They were really worried about the new system, and it caused them to feel a bit stressed and threatened.

They hadn’t realised all three of them were going to go off sick, but they did. We got them back to work. We got them up and running on the training programme. They knew how to use computers, and they just underestimated their abilities. They were just frightened, and I think when you’ve been with a company for so long and changes happen you do get frightened. So that’s all it was.

And my experience in meditation is that a lot of these problems can be sorted out right in the very beginning if people spoke to their staff. And that could have carried on, couldn’t it? Somebody could have stayed off work on sick, cost the company lots of money, said it was stress, said it was depression, and quite likely might have been stress, and then the depression, through time off. And then it could have cascaded and built up.

But we solved it right at the very beginning by speaking to the staff and getting it all sorted.

So bullying and harassment, as well. If that’s the case, if it’s bully and harassment, I spoke on bully and harassment last week. I would like to see a policy in place anyway, for equal opportunities, bullying and harassment to clearly say to somebody they feel is being bullied and harassed that there’s a clear route. Now, there’s no point in my saying to you to have these routes in place, to have these policies in place, if you don’t keep your staff refreshed and know that they have them there.

And, you know, it’s about reminding people that it’s okay to say if you’re being bullied or harassed. It’s okay to say something is troubling you. There is a policy in place. We do have confidential helpers, and it’s letting your staff know that. It’s not having a policy in place and just forgetting it. It’s having one in place that people can use.

So, also, children, trends, knowing your staff independently. If somebody is never off and suddenly they start going off with the children, then maybe it’s because that person has got a child that is struggling to start nursery or going to school when they first start in infants. Maybe it’s something like that. Look at the trends. Especially around September. Look at the trends. Look at things that are going on. It’s harder when it’s a larger company. So HR, if you’re listening to me, I know you depend more on your managers to let you know what’s going on. You generally get involved in lots of cases when it’s got out of hand, but try to educate your managers to spot and know their staff.

If there’s something bubbling, if sickness, lateness and issues like that are showing, it’s easier to handle it at the very beginning, and it’s also costly to handle it at the very beginning.

And then we’ve got personal issues. We’re going to touch on those and mental health in a moment, but debt, relationship issues, and disability as well. We’ve got cancer, HIV, stress, depression, arthritis, autism, and dyslexia, deafness, things you can see and things you can’t see. That would be classed as a disability, and then the short term illness as well, which is just days here and there, long-term illness, and then pregnancies as well. Those are reasons for absence.

You might not know somebody is pregnant, but you, again, strengthen your policy on pregnancy and strengthen your return-to-work interviews. You will find out about your staff as soon as they come back into work. We’re going to talk about those policies later on.

So, other work. We mentioned this. I did a webinar yesterday on health and safety. If you haven’t caught it, you might want to catch it on YouTube. It was about other work and the work and time regulations, and how that impacts some people. Now, if I’m riddled with debt and I’m struggling to pay my bills, I might take on another job to make ends meet.

The problem with that is I could be exhausted when I’m working for you, cause an accident. It could affect my sleeping pattern. It could effect my depression, my stress. So it’s about finding out about other work. So I like to see in everybody’s handbook a term and condition that says things such as, “If you want to work elsewhere, please apply in writing.” Or, “You can’t work elsewhere, depending on the business.”

That way, when somebody lets us know of the other work, we can manage it effectively, that we don’t breach the working time regulations. But also, as the main employer, I don’t know if you know this, but as the main employer you are responsible anyway for getting the hours of the other work that they do and adding them to the hours they do for you, and to make sure that you comply with the work and time regulations. All this, if you’re not doing it, adds to an employee’s defence, okay?

If I’m saying, “I’ve had a breakdown because of work. I wasn’t allowed to take all my holidays. I worked incredibly long hours. They let me. They didn’t monitor me under the work and time regulations. Ultimately I had stress and depression, and I’m blaming you.”

It just adds to the package, really, and the evidence they’ve got against you.

So when I’m saying, “Do return-to-work interviews,” that’s defence documents. For me, when I’m saying, “Put other work in your handbook,” that’s a defence document for me. When I’m saying put a statement in your handbook about disability short term illness and pregnancy, that again is another way of a defence document for me. And we will talk about this later on, under documents.

And then, reason for absence, people aren’t content and happy with your health and safety. They’re worried for their life. They’re worried they’re going to have an accident. You’re cutting corners because we’re coming out of a recession, and then, obviously, other personal issues. Other personal issues for me, where I struggle, not getting to work, but struggled with things, would be teenagers. Oh, my goodness. I’ve had two of those now, and I have to say, it’s really difficult nowadays in some of the aspects of mobile phones and technology, finding a chat. Hearing texting, beep, beep, beep, at 3:00 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning, 5:00 in the morning, and then in the end thinking, “Am I dreaming?” And then getting out of bed. It has interrupted your night. You’re not quite figuring out what that noise is, but it is actually your child on the mobile phone until the early hours when they should actually be getting a good night’s sleep because they are in their final year at school.

I’m just seeing that with my 12-year-old now. So I’ve had two that have gone through that, and now a 12-year-old. So, it interferes with your asleep and so now we’ve banned mobiles, end of, they get confiscated as soon as they go upstairs, that’s it. They’re not having a mobile near the bedroom. It helps with exams. That, again, is personal issues. Teenagers. Moods. That’s just some example of other personal issues. It might be that they’re a carer for somebody. It might be that one of their relatives is calling or in hospital, and this is where, I think, you need to speak to your staff, okay, and find out ultimately what’s going on. Or have something, like an employee systems programme, which we’re going to talk about later on.

So. I’ve pinched some of these slides from my colleague. He deals with mental health. So, mental health background. Not something that people feel comfortable with. The mental state which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. And you get different people.

Like, in my family, my mother, and it runs in our family … My mother, myself, my daughter and her daughter have all suffered with extreme hyperactivity, and also, you know, not a mental illness, but hyperactivity. I know that when my mum was younger they put her in the back of the classroom with it because she was so hyperactive, and in fact she wasn’t your normal mother. She would wake you up, like, at 6:00 in the morning and say, “It’s the teddy bear’s birthday today.”

And it’s great, because we would have a birthday party every single day of my life, and the dog’s birthday. So she was, I think, out of what you would call normal factor. But not have mental health issues. She was really hyperactive.

Now, when it came to me I was seen as a troublesome child, but very good at school. But very hyperactive, again. But when it came to my daughter they tried to put her on Ritalin to try and steady her mental state, and I wouldn’t have that. I just thought, well, I’m going to embrace the way she is. That’s the way she is, and at the end of the day I’m going to manage it like I managed it and my mum managed it. Just hyperactive people and don’t have boundaries in some places.

Now, that’s maybe not a normal person, but what is normal, anyway? There are different people throughout our lives that we meet that we might not think as normal. And lots of people function with a mental health problem going into work every day, and actually have more commitment to work than other people that haven’t got a mental health problem do. And also what we’ve got to remember that often mental health problems such as depression and stress, especially, they can be managed with medication.

So we’re going to talk about some of the illnesses in a moment, but the mental state really dictates the way that which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. Like for me, if things in my family life are always extraordinary because we have lots of people, there are lots of things going on. It’s like EastEnders and Coronation Street rolled into one in my family and my extended family.

However, if you meet somebody else like my husband, who has only got one sister, and he is completely quiet, read all their life and comes from a very quiet family. But then just to have maybe a red letter arrive at the door is stressful.

And in some people’s lives that could be extremely stressful. So its how do you manage, and how people cope. Different people cope with different things differently.

Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. Mental health conditions can emerge suddenly or gradually over time. So it might be a trigger factor, something might happen. It could be, actually, the death of a family member, a close family member. It could be something that has happened to them.

Persistent mental health can be classed as a disability. So, you see, we also have what is and what is not a mental health condition. So things like learning difficulties, dyslexia, Asperger’s syndrome, any chronic fatigue, autism and epilepsy, although some people get confused and think these are mental health problems; they are not. And then we’ve got stress, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder. These are classed as mental health conditions. And then we’ve got schizophrenia and psychosis, and obviously they would require extreme medical attention in some cases.

I know particularly my friend, she won’t mind me saying, but I’m not going to say her name. She has had one child, who is now 21. Literally she works in the intensive care department. She’s absolutely brilliant with her job, but at one point in her life she had to be sectioned and had electric shock treatment. It sounds absolutely barbaric now. Why did she have it? Well, she’s completely normal, married, happy. She had become pregnant. Really looking forward to the pregnancy. Did everything possible, parent prep classes, and gave birth to her child, and then suffered the most severe form of psychotic postnatal depression.

She had to be sectioned, and actually she had electric shock treatment. But after that, it completely cured her. She was amazing, and literally within a few weeks she felt so much better and was back to normal.

It does sounds extreme, but what I’m trying to point out here is, you can be completely normal and then suddenly you can suffer from mental health through no fault of your own. It simply can happen, hormones or whatever. She went back to work a few weeks later after that.

So. Mental health and the impact. We’ve got popular misconceptions. They’re unusual, but they’re not. We have learned that they are not unusual. Lots of people have had them. One in four of us will suffer mental health problem in our lives, and it could be something like a relationship difficulty.

It could be a relationship breakdown, a marriage breakdown. It could be fighting over children when a marriage has broken down. It could be as the result of debt that somebody set as a mental health problem. It could be personal problems. It could be the burden of caring for somebody. There are all sorts of reasons why there are mental health problems in somebody’s lives. So it’s not unusual, and it does affect the bottom line.

Mental health problems cost over £30 billion a year just on their own alone with time, interviews, etcetera. So we need to manage it. We need to look at it and manage it.

So. Okay. Mental health. Ninety-one million days lost per annum to mental health problems. Nearly half of all long-term sickness and absence is caused by mental health problems, and we’ve got presenteeism. I don’t know how you pronounce that. I can’t even say it. The more I say it the more confused I’m getting. But what I would explain that for, as, is where, especially in the category where somebody can’t afford to be off work, where you will get people coming to work. They turn up on time. They are in work, but they’re not all there. In their head they just can’t concentrate.

If you’ve got a lot on your plate, if you’re worried about a relationship where it is broken up, or, say, a marriage has broken up and you don’t want that. Especially if you didn’t want that marriage to break up as well, so you don’t want that marriage to break up. You’re fighting to get your partner back, and then as a result of that, that person has left and you’re struggling to pay your bills. And then on top of that you’ve got the children to think about, and schools, and then, are you going to keep your house? Etcetera.

There’s just so much going on in your head that you need the money to pay your bills and go into work, and then you can’t do the work that you’re paid for. They say it’s called presenteeism, but I would say it’s lack of dexterity. That’s how you would spot it. Somebody is in work, but they’re not doing the work.

That’s a terrible position to be in. They’re coming in because they need the money, but genuinely could do with some time away from work to get themselves together. So, mental health issue here, and that costs 15.1 billion per annum.

So, symptoms. Let’s look out for those. When somebody is in work and they’re not doing the job they should be. The way you’re going to identify that is we’re going to talk about this later on, under the right documents and policies. But you would notice that if you were to do one-to-ones regularly, appraisals, and if you know that member of staff as well. And I can think of a lady that I was working with. It’s very similar to what I’ve just spoken about. This lady owns a company, and she says, “I’ve got this receptionist that works for me,” and she said, “I’m having real problems with her. What has happened is she’s had a baby, she’s gone off on maternity leave and she came back to work quite suddenly after having the baby.”

I think it was four weeks after giving birth she came back to work, or six weeks after giving birth she came to work, and then really quite quickly afterwards became pregnant again. During that time, she says, her husband left her and left her for another woman. She found herself struggling and she said, “One of the problems is this woman has been with me since she left school. She has been with me a long time, and I’ve seen her through leaving school, young adulthood, meeting her husband, engagement, marriage, babies, etcetera.

She said, “So I feel really connected to her and I feel quite loyal to her. She’s never, ever, ever off sick. But the problem I’ve got is what I’ve just described to you know. She’s in work. She’s making mistakes. There’s a lack of dexterity about her. She looks really, really unwell, and I really want to talk to her about it. But I just don’t know how to.”

So anyway, how when we forward this is we spoke to the lady and we actually brought her in. We spoke to her about … We could see … You speak to somebody like that you have known as a friend, really, as well as an employer. We had spoken to her and said that we had noticed that there was a difference when she had had the second baby. We understood that she had lots of problems going on. We felt that she didn’t look very well, and maybe, when had she last been to the doctors, and blah blah.

We spoke to her as she opened up and said she had a lot on her plate, both financially, struggling with the two children, keeping her job going, which she couldn’t lose, and also she was worried about losing her job. The employer also asked if she had looked at other hours. She was quite willing, the employer, to actually look at condensing hours, maybe looking at flexible working and part-time.

She said the employer actually helped her find out what benefits she would be entitled to. She did put her hours down, so she didn’t lose money, and also what she did is, the employer agreed with the lady that she would pay her a two weeks’ leave, full pay sick pay to take some out to get things sorted, but also at the same time to visit the doctor because she looked awfully tired.

What came out of this was the lady had severe anemia, which would affect tiredness, and also irritability. It would affect her going to sleep and waking up, and also, the doctor prescribed her medication for mental health, but also medication for anemia.

The lady came back to work after couple of weeks off. She came back to job share. They got two receptionists. Three years later down the line I can tell you now the lady is in amazing health. She has a job where she works flexible hours. The two children are growing up, and it’s actually quite a happy story.

It could have been, if not managed properly, a very sad story. But in this case what the employers got is a dedicated individual they kept, but at the same time we’ve got two people doing the same role, which works brilliantly, because both are working mums.

If one is off for a child the other one covers for them. So they have two outstanding members of staff, and it is actually a very happy story. So it doesn’t have to be a sad story with mental health or illness or sickness.

So why are we uncomfortable talking about mental health at work? Well, I think it’s seen as a criticism, isn’t it? It’s a bit of a weakness. Weak, unreliable, two in ten feel mental health is due to a lack of willpower. And that’s not the case. It’s where you really can’t cope with everything that’s going on. And I think the easiest thing to do when your mind is so busy is just to make the most of what is and what isn’t important. I think that’s a really simple way, sometimes of dealing with some of the issues. What is important and what isn’t important?

And because it’s not visible it’s therefore disturbing. Because what we don’t do, if we can’t see it, we can’t understand it, and what happens with mental health is if it’s not visible we don’t actually believe somebody is sick. Then we get the Facebook scenario where we have somebody who is off sick, who has got mental health problems, stress, depression, and they are in a bath on Facebook with bubbles around them and drinking a bottle of champagne and their employer doesn’t think they’re ill.

It’s something you can’t see, mental health. And then you’ve got the British stiff upper lip attitude where people aren’t embracing mental health and understanding it, and knowing that it is there. Just go, get on with it, it’s mind over matter. And 43 per cent said they would feel uncomfortable talking about mental health to their manager.

So it’s making it more open in the work place, isn’t it? And why are managers uncomfortable talking about mental health at work? Well, they might feel partly responsible because they might have bullied that person. That might be one of the reasons. They just don’t have the confidence or knowledge to deal with a mental health issue. They’re scared as well, treading on eggshells, that this might become a discrimination case.

But the principles are similar to dealing with a physical issue like muscular skeletal. You would have to go down the same route, access the medical records and look at programmes, obviously with someone’s permission; but look at programmes of ways of bringing somebody back into work, or a solution.

So mental health and their influences. These are the factors you can control. Obviously the workload, work variety, work relationships, their involvement in work, the culture of disclosure by letting people know we have embraced an open policy communicating the fact that we have an open door policy. And it’s all right, you can put posters up at work and have a mental health awareness week. But if those posters are left up all year round, you get used to these posters and you ignore them. So you’ve got to refresh the things that you’ve got at the workplace in different areas, make people aware that we have a mental health awareness programme, we are aware and we’ve got specialised people here that could help you, we’ve got confidential helpers, we’ve got an employee assistance programme. Everything gets on top. It might be you one day. You might be listening to me now and never ever had a problem. It might be you one day. Also, we’ve got bullying as well that can affect somebody’s mental health.

The overlapping factors you can try to influence is the money, their status, their friendships, a sense of purpose, the stress, the coping strategies and their lifestyle choices, and I’m going to talk about those shortly. The fact is, you cannot control outside of work. But you might point people, if you knew about it in the right direction as an employer, like that lady did, the employer with the lady whose husband had left her with the two small children.

You can’t actually control childhood experiences. Family relationships, addiction problems. We can point you and help you and put you in the right direction, finances, genetics, crime, housing, or bereavement, even.

Here we go. So what resources are available? We’ve got internal resources. You need to spot the signs and be a bit of a detective, really. The way you’re going to do this initially is by doing return-to-work interviews, which you know I bang on about regardless of how long somebody has been off; whether they have been off one day, whether they have been off for a week, half a day. I recommend return-to-work interviews because they control odd days. They help you look at people’s illnesses, and they are also, I have to say, a defence document when somebody lies and says that their depression or stress is caused by you and it’s caused by their home life.

By doing a return-to-work interview and asking that simple question, “Are you well enough to be in work? Did you visit a doctor? Why were you off?”

And if somebody says, “I was off for stress and depression. I did Prozac,” or something similar. They are covered under the Mental Health Act because they are taking a tablet as well. Also what you have to remember is that you’re keeping a note for your defence to show that you managed this. You may ask the question, “Is it work or is it home life?”

And they turn around and say that it’s actually home life that’s causing the problem. You’ve got written evidence that they have said it’s home life. They can’t then turn around and say later on when they’re trying to sue you that it’s actually work life that was causing it. You have got a document to use as your defence.

But again, you do the return-to-work interviews to manage sickness, to manage mental health problems and to manage absenteeism.

Spot the signs again. Lateness. If somebody is continually late, maybe they are struggling to get out of bed. Maybe there’s an issue and they are depressed. If you are doing KPIs, key performance indicators, and you know what the benchmark is within your company, somebody is underperforming all of a sudden. Well, you’ve got to ask yourself why they are underperforming all of a sudden, and it’s well worth talking to that person.

Resilience, it might be that they are not as resilient as other people, and they might actually be making mistakes. They might be tearful with work. There’s poor concentration. There’s irritability, bad tempered, and I know myself that I have worked with somebody that’s really, really laid back, and then all of a sudden lost their temper, effing and blinding in the office and threw a pen at somebody’s face. Completely out of character.

It turns out that person is the main carer for their partner at home. So it’s a bit of investigation work here. It’s a bit of speaking to somebody and saying, “Look, you nearly took that woman’s eye out with that pen. This isn’t like you, and this behaviour is not acceptable. It’s out of character for you. What’s going on? We need to know. We can help you, you know.”

And also lack of dexterity, mood swings. It might be sickness. As I said, poor concentration, making mistakes, bad tempered and tearful. So those are the things to look out for if you think there’s a mental health problem.

Engage with the problem. And as I said earlier on, using posters, policies and procedures, which might need amending if you haven’t got policies and procedures in place like a stress policy, like a capability policy that help you manage these situations.

Keep a watching brief. Keep a watch. Brief everybody. Create an open culture and promote it. You might have a mental health awareness day. You might have a mental health awareness week, and just have this open culture and promote it. And make sure people are aware that there’s no stigma attached to it. Anybody can suffer a mental health issue. And educate people.

So externally, I do recommend employee assistance programmes. They offer counselling right from the very beginning. In fact, on the first day, when you get a note that says stress, they can interact straight away with your permission and the employee’s permission and step in straight away to counsel somebody straight away and get them back into work, and with the employee’s permission, feed back straight away.

They can offer counseling as well, one to one, and then even occupational health help if you have access to that. And also keep it in touch with the GPs with the employee’s permission, and accessing their medical records.

So let’s talk about short-term absenteeism when it becomes long-term. What is short-term and what is long-term? Well, we look at it, and we think within our company, that long-term is when somebody has been off for six to eight weeks. It’s what’s reasonable as well. What is reasonable? If it’s like, bad stomach one minute, sickness the next, aching arm the next, aching back. It’s what is consistent. There is no straight answer on this. It’s what it says on the fit note. It’s why they are off, the reasons they are off, and also their consistency. What we would do then is we would shift to make medical capability, and depending on what you’ve got written down, remember, as I say, I’m giving you an overview of managing sickness, mental health and stress here.

It’s how you handle it within the workplace. So shift to medical capability, and as I said, I want to see capability policies and procedures in your handbook so that it helps you manage it going forward, makes it simpler to you.

So, the fit note. Okay. Let’s talk about the fit note. I was at an event, a face to face the other day. I had a GP there, and I work very closely with GPs. I do talks at GP forums. We work with the MDU, and with the fit note, the medical fit note, there’s this change. It was, with the introduction of the new Med 3 note, known as a sick note and it’s more recently referred to as a fit note. And he agreed with me, because doctors have between eight to ten minutes now to analyse somebody. And now to actually ask them about their employment so they can write a fit note out correctly.

They just completely do not have enough time. We’ve got saturation within areas of the National Health and medical centres and doctors surgeries. They have thousands of patients, and they have to jam pack each appointment in every single day. So they have to average out what the average appointment would be, and now, I don’t know about you, my doctor’s surgery, there are posters up that say, “One ailment per appointment.”

You think, “Blooming heck, I’ve got a bad foot and a bad arm, what do I do about that? Do I come back another day?” Because they have so much saturation they have to have an average. Otherwise somebody would be there for 25 minutes.

So the fit note. What I’m trying to get to here with the fit note is that they don’t have the time to fill it in and really, really investigate what should be put in. So you might see something just very sketchy, such as light duties only, and it’s down to you to find out what they mean by light duties.

So it does play an integral role in getting people back to work after a long-term sickness. The note is completed by the employee’s doctor after a discussion has taken place between the doctor and the employee. The doctor has to get an idea of the work the employee does, and the integral parts of it, in eight minutes. The updated form allows the doctor to indicate when the employee is fit for work. It may also indicate approval with certain criteria, brackets, light duties, that will aid the return to work.

The phased return to work, for example, two days a week instead of five, or with amended duties, which would mean the employee might only take up some of the original duties, but not others. So this is why it’s so important to do that return to work interview that I’m going on about.

An employer should consider the recommendations of fit notes seriously to see if they can be accommodated, and accommodating them would definitely signify a nearly, a return to work than if they couldn’t be accommodated. Because if they can’t, the fit note should be treated as if it had said the employee was not fit for work. So that’s the fit note.

So investigations and ways to prevent absenteeism anyway. Let’s get policies and procedures in place, okay? Capabilities, sickness reporting, how do you ring in sick? So don’t text in, phone in, and then have really strict guidelines on the sickness procedure. I hate hearing it when I speak to people and they say, “Oh, I have a problem managing sickness. I’m not getting a sick note back. I haven’t heard from them. They haven’t rung in.”

And generally it’s because they haven’t got the right promises and procedures in place. So make it really, really strict here. I need to know before the shift starts, especially in the care sector, of people that deal on head counts. It might be that you might say you can’t text in, which I think is incredible, and brilliant to have in an employee number. It might be that you say you have to send a sick note in, or a fit note, within so many days. So you put in your guidelines and structure that helps you work your business and manage sickness in your handbook, and make it strict. Say this is part of the contract so they don’t breach it.

Make sure you’ve got the right policies and procedures, like return-to-work interviews. Make sure that you’ve got an absence report and procedure so you can easily manage and have access to it. And you can calculate how many days somebody has had off, very quickly, as swiftly when you need to, and then you can produce it and use it as evidence when you’re having a return-to-work interview.

Have capability policies in place. They are helpful. They work with you to get the right person back into work. But make sure that you’re working with them on their illnesses and sickness, and knowing what route to follow, whether it’s training, it’s a capability issue, it’s a conduct issue, it’s a medical issue. They helped you with that.

And then we’ve got return-to-work interviews, and as I said, they’re defence for health and safety, they’re defence for managing sickness and absenteeism, and we use it especially for health and safety. It may be that, for example, I was off sick last night. I’m never off sick. I was vomiting. I was dizzy. I went home. I was ill. I rang in sick the next day.

The next day, what you don’t know is, I went to the GP, they gave me the injection and the drug that stopped me vomiting, but also stopped my vertigo as well. I went home after the injection. I felt great, so the next day I went back into work. I then got in a car, or a vehicle, or a lorry, or a coach-load of kids, crashed and injured or killed people. It’s your responsibility to find out about that. That is why it’s so important to do a return-to-work interview.

Find out what’s going on. Get others to adopt it, and it’s also, when it says it at the bottom, a legal document. And then also the Bradford Factor; some people use it, some people don’t. It gives you guidelines of when you should process to the next stage.

Regularly agreed communication is excellent, especially if somebody is actually suffering from a mental health problem. Because if you’re feeling depressed or stressed, or some kind of mental health problem, and you’re at home and you’re suffering anxiety or something like that, then you’re sat at home and you’re paranoid. You’re thinking, “Well, they’ve been talking about me at work. They don’t believe I’m off sick.” You might feel paranoid about it. You might make yourself feel a little bit worse. So, regular and agreed communication can help somebody feel wanted and respected and needed.

So flowers, a get well soon card, or a home visit, agreed with them, and just send them flowers to say, “I hope you get well soon. I’m thinking about you.” The get well soon card, or, as I said, the home visit as well.

You might say, I think if somebody is suffering stress or depression, you might give them the option of a home visit. If I had somebody come around to my house from work, I would be cleaning for two days, me. I would be so paranoid about them judging every spec of dust. I couldn’t care less about the family, but it’s just somebody from work I would be, like, polishing everything.

So imagine if somebody that is already feeling unwell and sick and depressed, or just long-term feels, and they feel that you will judge them on their house, and maybe you might give them the option to visit your home, or, if it’s more convenient, we can meet you at a local cafe near to where you are, or somewhere where you choose to feel more comfortable. And then, also, I keep going on about it. The employee assistance programme. So you can control the situation. Remember that.

So we’ve got other ways. Engagement. The other ways you can prevent absenteeism is by having engagement in the first place, and making the staff happy. Recognition and buy-in. I think this is where my presentation cut off last week, so let’s hope we don’t wind up jinxed.

I don’t know if you watched the film yet The Wolf of Wall Street. I know he was the Wolf of Wall Street, and I know he rips of people off, but the one thing I can say about him is his staff loved him. They bought into the company. They bought into him, and he recognised them.

It doesn’t have to be costly to recognise staff members. It could be just simply changing somebody’s job title. It’s as simply as that, okay? And making sure you just keep performance indicators, you have regular appraisals, so you’re finding out what’s going on with somebody and it gives you a chance on a one-to-one basis of them to open up to you.

If somebody is doing just enough as per their contract, you might want to speak to them and introduce measures to help them increase, and wonder why they’re doing just enough as per their contract. It might be commitment enjoyments. So think about cheap ideas for reward. Just think about one tiny incentive every month that probably can play in back anyway.

It might be, get discount vouchers. There are all sorts of things that you can do to reward your staff to get them to love their job in the first place. This is one big area that I’ve worked on for many years, rewarding staff for motivation incentive schemes. It is really something I love doing. If you want to catch my webinar on incentives, rewards and motivation, you might want to go on YouTube and have a look at that one.

Conduct versus capability and sickness, and then have the policy for that. Then managers’ responsibility as well, relying on your managers to spot ways and come up with ways of recognising the staff, making the staff happy, and managing them through the KPIs and appraisals. And making them do in their job description, not just saying doing it, but making them do it by putting it in the job description so it becomes an essentially part of their job that they have compulsory return-to-work interviews when somebody is off sick. So we have to speak to the person.

Then we’ve got top-line responsibility and support. So letting the top line level directors embrace the fact of mental health and absenteeism, and giving them the responsibility and support to the managers below them, and then obviously what I’m thinking of as well is having the investigations, but tracking it as well. We’ve got a service that’s HR Online. If you’re not using it, it’s absolutely amazing. Top of the range. There’s nothing quite like it on the market. An online service where you can actually manage and track absenteeism to see who is in, who is off today, plan ahead, pick up rotas, and to be honest with you there isn’t anything like it on the market. And if anybody is interested in what we do with the HR Online, we actually do a have a free trial at the moment, and take my details at the end if you’re interested in that.

So investigation is a way to prevent absenteeism, while sickness pay, SSP versus full pay. Now the reasons I go into completing change, full pay to SSP, is not because in lots of cases the company can’t afford it. It’s just that people are manipulating it and actually, just really, really exploiting the full sick pay and taking it off all the time, and actually banking on, “I’ve got four weeks’ sick this year. I will take that, and then it won’t touch my regular wages.”

It’s amazing once the full sick pay does finish how many people return to work. For me, I’m really not against of for SSP versus full pay. I think it’s all down to monitoring.

If you monitor, and you do return-to-work interviews and you’re managing your sickness levels, and you’re saying to people, “We don’t tolerate this,” then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t full pay people sick pay, because you can monitor it. Okay? But you’ve got to monitor it. You’ve got to know when to turn around and actually take it down the route of investigation and disciplinary.

And then we’ve got accruing holiday pay. Remember, people can accrue holiday pay during maternity, but sickness as well. What I would say in your sickness procedures is that, and this refers to when somebody is off sick. They go away on holiday and then they turn and say, “I was sick whilst I was holiday. I want to have my holidays back.”

I would have a term or condition in my handbook that says, “If this is the case, I want a sick note, a fit note, a letter of incapacity from the doctor you saw whilst you were on holiday.” Yeah? And you could even pay for that.

Again, we spoke about mistakes made by Facebook, and then the fit notes, the end fit notes, and managing that. Linking sickness and absenteeism to an overtime in core hours. What you might want to do is, especially in shift work, is when we deal with sickness, and I know one company I saved £27,000 in one year for, is putting things in place where if somebody is entitled to, can get overtime at the weekend, you don’t encourage sickness during the week just to get double time at the weekend.

So what I would say is something like, “If you don’t meet your core hours in a month you don’t qualify for overtime.” So they’re not allowed overtime unless they’ve actually met the core hours in their month. And those core hours include sickness. Absenteeism would include dependent’s leave as well.

So. KPI is used for medical capability. And treat all absences differently. You might end up going down the same route, but treat it as a fresh absence.

So what have we got now? We’ve got useful documents and policies. The health questionnaire. I spoke about this yesterday. I speak about it every other day. The health questionnaire should only be issued when somebody is offered the job. The health questionnaire should give you an indication of how well somebody is, if they’ve got any problems, and if something shows up in their health questionnaire, ask them about it. It could be managed. They could suffer from epilepsy, but they might not have had an attack for three years. But they feel they’re obligated to tell you that they’re taking medication.

So the health questionnaire should say that it’s a legal document because we would use that as a defence where somebody might have lied about a medical condition to get a job, and it’s a defence document for you to prove that you didn’t know about it.

Watch what questions you ask in an interview. Be careful. If somebody says, “I’ve had stress, depression or a mental health issue in the past.” Don’t say, “This job is not for you, then.” Be careful what you ask. Steer away from health questionnaires at the interview. It’s illegal to do anyway, but definitely steer away from health questions at the interview, okay?

And when you advertise a job put as much information there as possible. Always utilise application forms, again, another legal document only if it says it. And on the application form you’re sticking to standard questions, which you should do as well in your interview using your job specification and your job description.

We’ve then got the Bradford Scale, and make sure when you do have the Bradford Scale and you are using it, you need to adapt it for pregnancy, sickness and disability.

Then we have the capability policy, the stress policy written for you. Make sure that it is industry specific. We have a different stress policy for somebody who works in a hospice, for example, or somebody who works in an office. So different policies for different businesses. Make sure you’re doing the return-to-work interview to stop your odd days, and making sure that you’re doing it for health and safety purposes as well.

Absence procedure and management, and absenteeism, as I’ve said, again, I’ve highlighted it again, make sure that written into that is a link to the core hours and overtime.

When you are managing stress, what you’ve got to remember is that there may be outside influences. A quarter of the UK sickness figures are attributable to stress. They can cause short spurts, then long-term, and an employee could still be working, like I said, the lack of dexterity. Poor performance and mistakes are the first highlight for you that somebody is suffering from stress or depression.

If somebody has got low morale in the office it does have a knock-on effect on everybody, so it needs to be managed straight away, and again, introduce the new AP system. Keep a paper trail through the HR in line.

When you’re managing stress, make sure you are abiding by the working time directive. It is the biggest complaint in tribunal. If you are managing stress, make sure you’re looking at the working hours, other work. Make sure that you’re monitoring that people don’t do more than 48 hours a week, and if they do they opt out. Make sure that having the right work breaks, they’re taking their holidays, and we don’t just want a paragraph on breaks. We want a big section on how they take their breaks.

One particular client of mine writes games for all that staff, games for Sony, Playstations, etcetera, and there’s a certain type of personality in an IT department, or somebody who has a love of computers, and they see it as their dream job. It is their dream job, so they are not bothered about taking a break, but they have to take breaks. Also, these types of people that are, in some cases, ultrally intelligent; is that a word? Ultrally? Have I just made that up? Extremely intelligent. Addicted to their job. Quite insular people, in some cases, but also as well susceptible to mental health problems. So what we’ve got here is we’re going to make sure these people do take work breaks. So we’re going to ensure it. The industry that they work in, and the demands of the industry, and the long hours, that even though they love it, and they probably go home and game as well. So we need to make sure that they take a work break from that computer that they’re working on. Ensure it happens.

Again, different breaks, and how you manage it, and how you do it, for different types of jobs. Again, holidays, ensuring people take the holidays. We can backdate six years the payment of holidays, the tribunals can. So we’ve got to make sure they take holidays, and remember, it’s your business. You can dictate when somebody takes their holidays. I want a jam-packed holiday procedures and request procedures, and I want to make sure that people are taking their holidays.

Think about the other working implications, company requirements, expectations. You know, smartphones and email response. I’m in bed, you know, and I should get an alarm clock. But who uses the mobile phone now as an alarm clock? Everybody does. And then you get somebody who emails at 1:00 in the morning, and your phone wakes you up. Yeah, somebody sends a text on a work only phone, and you think, “What the hell are you doing? Why aren’t you in bed anyway?”

Just because you’re doing that doesn’t meant to say I’m going to respond to you at 1:00 in the morning. So make sure that people know what the company requirements are and expectations. You might want to write that down in your handbook. Just because you receive an email at 1:00 from somebody you know … I don’t know why they are emailing at 1:00 in the morning, but they do. Just because you receive an email at 1:00 or 9:00 at night doesn’t mean to say you have to respond, and try to look at the job role and the responsibility, the admin role to PA. This is somebody that has grown within a company, and has so much work now, because they were admin. Now they are PA. Now they are health and safety as well, and HR, and Christmas party, and stock, and payroll, and auditor, and problem solver.

So have a look at the job role and responsibilities if somebody is showing signs of stress. Remind employees of a healthy work–life balance as well, because I find that I get more work done … Because I told you I’m hyperactive. It’s that, I have more work, I get more work done at home. Because at work people are talking to me, I’m talking to them, we’re talking about at work, people asking me can I do this, can I do that, then we chat, we do other things. So when I’m at home I get tons of work done.

So the mind improves with a healthy work–life balance as well. But I’m not answering the phone after 6:00 if the shift finishes at 6:00.

Targets, make sure they are attainable, because that can stress people out. Stress is not always work-related, and remember that. It’s not always a bad thing.

So now we’re going onto the working time regulations. I’m just going to really just rip through this, really. I just want to give you the guidelines of what the working time regulations are. If you hear people say the working time regulations or your working time directive – ‘directive’, they’re talking about Europe-wide. Working time regulations is the word we use in the UK, and in general the working time regulations provides rights to a limit of an average of 48 hours a week on the hours of work that can be applied to work. Though individuals may choose to work longer, but they have to opt out. It’s a piece of paper, okay?

If you have more than 48 hours a week, then you need to opt out, okay? 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave a year. This is for a full time worker. Eleven consecutive hours’ rest in any 24-hour period. Remember, there are exceptions there, okay? A 20-minute rest break if the working day is longer than six hours, and one day off each week. There is a limit on the normal working hours of night work, as to an average eight hours in any 24-hour period, and an entitlement for night workers to receive regular health assessments.

There are special regulations for young workers, which restrict their working hours to eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. The rest break is 30 minutes if their work lasts longer, lasts more than 4½ hours, and they are also entitled to two days off each week.

Any proposals to change patterns of working are best carried out in a consultative way, explaining the reasons behind such a move, and the benefits which may accrue to both the organisation and the worker.

Just remember that the Health and Safety Executive is responsibility to help the enforcement of the maximum weekly working time limit, night worker limits and health assessments for night workers. They control that. Health and Safety Executive does not, however, enforce time off, rest-break entitlements, or paid annual leave entitlements. So remember the poster you’ve got up at worker. I hope you’ve changed it to the new one, which is more user-friendly. They mention the working time regulations on there. They make it very simple. If an employee feels they that they aggrieved about it, they can make a complaint.

So, getting staff back into work. Let’s have keep-in-touch days with the employee. So agree when contact will be made and how. Maybe visit them, but offer to meet them at a neutral location if they don’t want an employer to come to the house. Get a medical opinion, obviously, with their health, with their consent. Look out for disabilities, and if there are no disabilities, dismissal is an option, but make sure it follows fair procedure, and that the employees are aware that their continued absence may result in their dismissal.

Remember, I’m giving you an overview here. It depends what their illness is, what route you followed. I’m just giving you an overview.

Right. Okay. It’s risky to dismiss one employee that’s still within a period of contractual sick pay. Still, it’s about reasonableness, so the decision to dismiss is about whether it is reasonable for the employee to dismiss under the circumstances. It is a myth that you cannot dismiss someone when they are off sick. Clearly it can happen, but it must be a fair procedure if they have got service to bring an unfair dismissal case. Especially when we’re talking both mental health here, we have to make sure we have followed every route, and you most certainly get advice, okay?

If you don’t want to dismiss, think about what adjustments you can make to get somebody back into work quicker. This could be compressed hours, flexible working. It could be shortening hours, altering the job, less tasks, training. This isn’t necessarily reasonable adjustments, though. The obligation to make those only comes into play when you are dealing with a disability. Remember when I said disability earlier on? Cancer, HIV, stress and depression, fall into disability, which is also a mental health problem.

But not just any adjustments, they can start later and finish later, for example. So we don’t have to adjust the job, yeah? We can just adjust the working hours to make somebody happy and get them into work. But always take guidance from what the fit note says.

So whether the return is with amended duties, working times or not, the employee is likely to feel disjointed because it is likely that there has been some change to the workplace during their absence, whether that be different personnel, difference premises or different structure. You should take the time to reintroduce the employee to the working environment, possibly by inviting them in for some time before they are due to start work so that they can meet their new team, for example, or familiarise them with their new routes work or way around the new premises.

Giving the employee the opportunity to see how the working day will pan out without the pressure of the normal working day will ease the employee in and help them get used to things bit by bit.

Being overfaced on the first day back by well hinder the success of the return, and carrying out a return-to-work interview with the employee will give you the chance to discuss individually any other work-related changes the employee needs to know about, and also allow a two-way discussion about any further needs, and requirements, in relation to their return to work, in addition to discussions about prior to the work return.

So returning to work after long-term sick. Phased return, flexible hours, part time working. There are some of your choices. Maybe a different shift, different job if it’s disability or not disabled. Contract change. So if you are changing the working hours, their terms and conditions, if you are changing something that’s going to reflect their terms of conditions, you need to change it, okay? But remember the legal implications.

And then, what about support meetings and communication when they come back into work? So just not allowing them just to go straight to work and forgetting about them, but especially in their first few days, meeting them just before shift-work finishes. I’m talking about how they felt, is there anything they want any support with, and it’s about communicating.

So the Equality Act 2010 also requires that you consider any reasonable adjustments needed to enable to the employee to do their job if their sickness, absence is because of a disability. So let’s remember that. Mental health does fall, in some cases, under the disability act.

Things you must remember. People can self-certificate for up to seven days. Don’t prejudge somebody. Investigate and use a paper trail. Treat all absences differently, with a fresh approach. The legal requirement is needed to gain those permissions and access doctor’s records, so I would make a note of that in your absence reports and procedures.

Employee assistance programmes are an added investment. They do save money, and HR Online is monitoring. So I hope you’re okay for another five minutes. I’ll just check how many people are here, because I do want to cover lateness. Because we’re on about lateness and reasons why people are late. It’s also about what it costs you, and it is under absenteeism here.

So, reasons. People say car broken down, alarm clock failed, slept in, phone battery went with the alarm, children. You know the reasons. The list is endless isn’t it?

We forgive, bit we don’t forget when somebody is late. Well, how many times do we forgive? It’s not just late arriving for work, but it’s also taking longer breaks and lunches that can add and actually affect the working day.

So how much money are we losing as a business? Well, work it out, you’ve got 100 staff, okay. So you’re a company with 100 employees. Twelve employees are persistently late to work by ten minutes each day, or late back off breaks, five minutes late, five minutes here. The average hourly pay is seven pound an hour. So if we’re looking at 120 minutes lost per day, two hours’ work, okay, at seven pounds an hour, we’ve got 14 pound per day lost, okay?

If we times the 14 pound by five days a week, that’s £70 a week. If they worked an average of 46 weeks, that’s just for argument sake, let’s say it’s 46. Times that £70 a week we’re losing off our staff with their breaks late, arriving late. We’ve now got 46 times £70 with lateness, just ten minutes each a day, is £3,220. Imagine what you could buy for your company with that.

So lateness does have to be controlled. So what I would suggest to you is if somebody is becoming late, speak to them first of all, set some rules in place, put your standards and expectations into a lateness policy in your handbook, and make sure it is clear and it is precise.

If you’re more than five minutes late we deduct 15 minutes’ pay from you, and do it if it is continuous. You know, if it’s more than 15 minutes late, half an hour’s pay from you. But if you are more than an hour late and you haven’t told us, we will send you back home. But we will get somebody else to do your job. We’re not paying two blocks of wages here.

I think you need to communicate to people. We need to train them about lateness and what it’s costing your companies. You might look at the working hours of somebody. It’s because of the train change on the bus route, or children, or school. So flexi-hour shifts, working hours, making the time up. You put standards of timekeeping in there, and you might want to mention that in your employee handbook anyway. Look at the working hours and shift patterns.

What you need to have in your handbook is any consequences of persistent lateness, that it can result in disciplinary action, and what disciplinary action would be taken under the disciplinary procedure. You will want to put in there as well how you monitor the timekeeping. For example, with a sign in machine or a clocking-in machine. How do you monitor it? Is it the computer that lets you know of the time they sign in, or is it the phone system that’s used when they sign on? Does it tell you what time they signed in, and that’s what we use to keep an eye on time keeping?

If that’s the case you need to let them know, excuse it could be in the office for a good five or ten minutes before they actually sign in. You need to let them know how you judge their working day, and if and how your staff will have to make up any time they have missed if you’re not going to deduct it from them.

If they’re going to be late, who should they report their lateness to, and by when and what time? Monitoring, I can tell you now, decreases the lateness. But make sure you do include a penalty, and always discuss the reasons. Alternatives to work or allowances if there is a particular problem. Be fair and flexible. Don’t let things continue and deal with straight away.

You can make other staff discontented if the situation is ignored, and a formal route may resolve the situation. It might just be having a word with them and saying, “We’re not putting up with this. We will take it down the route of deducting your pay if you are late again.” And then, you catch your result situation.

But if the informal route fails, it may create grounds for more formal following disciplinary procedures. Now, we’re going to finish in a few minutes.

I’m going to put on focus and the extension to rights to request flexible working, because a lot of mental health or sickness issues can be because people are scared of asking for flexible working hours. So we’re going to be finished in a few minutes now, so don’t worry. I did say this was going to be a jam-packed webinar today. There is a lot to get through.

As mentioned, the right to make flexible working is supposed to be extended in April 2004, but yet we haven’t got a date. Because it was the 6th of April. It is now changed. So what I’m going to give you is a history; the history of the right to request flexible working.

It was introduced in 2003, and it gave a certain band of employees the right to make a request to their employer to amend their working patterns. But just remember with this, it doesn’t give them the automatic right to it. It is the right to request it.

Upon original implementation, the right to request only applied to those employees who were parents. That meant natural birth, adoption and fostering, or the guardian of the child under the age of five, or under the age of 18 if the child is disabled. The right also applied to those who were married to, or the partner, or civil partner, of those above.

Subsequent amendments to the legislation have resulted in a significant widening of scope. The right to request now applies to those with children aged 16 and under, under 18 if the child is disabled, and employees with caring responsibilities are now included in the scope.

So that’s a bit of the history. Most recently the right has been extended to include agency workers upon return from a period of parental leave. Shareholders also have the right to request within two weeks of their return to work for a period of parental leave, and a request to any of the time is not considered.

Regardless of who is making the request, they must have at least 26 weeks’ service at the date the request is made, and only one request may be made within 12 months. Flexible working can take various forms, and we have spoken about this throughout the webinar. Reduction of hours, reduction of days, compressed hours, home working, job share, flexi-working, term-time working, etcetera. People have exhausted every avenue. The statutary scheme provides the employees must make an application to their employer setting out the request.

I’ve given you details there. So it’s specifying the change, the date when they wish to start, what affect it’s going to have on the company. The employer, unless they decide without a meeting with an employee that the request will be permitted, must meet with the employee, discuss the request, and this meeting must be held within 28 days of the application.

The response must be conveyed to the employee within 14 days. The employer may refuse a request permitted refusal is on one of the prescribed grounds. For example, the burden of additional costs, detrimental effects on the ability to meet customer demands, and the inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff.

People have the right to request it, but they don’t automatically have the right to it. So the few plans they are going to have in this year, it was the sixth of April. It has now changed. So we’re looking around about spring anyway. As a result of the government consultation in 2011, the right to request flexible working will be made available to all of your employees regardless of care and responsibilities, or whether they have a child.

All eligibility criteria will be removed except for the 26 weeks’ qualifying search requirement, and we’re expecting this to come in in spring, okay. It was the sixth of April. It has now changed. From this date there will be no restriction on who can make a flexible working request, nor the reason behind the request. The following examples will therefore be permissible as a statuary request for the flexible working.

I put a few reasons on there, but as I said, don’t be frightened. People might put these requests in, but it’s up to you to say whether they can have it or not. So a grandparent might want to start later and finish early to drop off children. Parents of children at the university might want to pick them up on a Friday. Somebody might want more time with a dog. There are all sorts of things why people might want to work flexible hours. Don’t imagine a massive influx of somebody writing in, because I don’t think there will be.

So these are just some of the reasons. So the statutory scheme will be abolished, getting rid of the need to hold a meeting within 28 days and to inform of the decision with 14 days. The scheme will be replaced by a duty on the employer to consider requests in a reasonable manner within a reasonable timescale, and we’re looking to see a code of practice come in, which ACAS will produce. This will help you understand the element, and what reasonableness is required.

Guidance will also be published to assist employers to deal with conflicting requests received at the same time, and how employers can handle temporary changes to working patterns. The restriction of one statuary request per 12 months will remain. Currently, it’s also expected that the prescribed reasons for refusing a flexible working request will remain unchanged.

Okay. So we’re going to finish now, and I just want to say to you that first of all, one of the useful tools that we would recommend to use if you have the absenteeism problems, sickness, mental health issues, is an employee assistance programme. It has been proven to be a really cost-effective way of making sure employees have support if they’re suffering from stress, or an illness it increases productivity and it increases morale within your staff. There’s no point in having one if you don’t put up a poster to advertise it. Make sure you move that poster back and change it, and reeducate everybody.

Remember. It’s run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It allows the employee to access an experienced health clinician and full qualifications of a counsellor that has been fully accredited.

And I’m not going to go on, because it does help with debt, family matters, substance abuse and stress. We have our own employee assistance programme, and it is the only one that’s rubber-stamped by the stress management society.

Okay. And also, the HR online service we have available. It’s an online tool that helps you manage sickness and absence reporting. I think I’m going to finish there because I’m not going to go on, because we’ve gone over by ten minutes. If you have enjoyed my webinar and there is anything you would like to ask me about stress, mental health, other issues, our free trial with the HR online, or even the employee assistance program, contact me at amanda@peninsula-uk.com. That’s my email address, and that email address comes to me.

If you are a Peninsula client, again, make sure you’re using the advice line. Because any policies and procedures I’ve spoken about, and you would like just to write before you get into contact, always remember to quote webinar number 41.

We help over 27,000 people, employers throughout the UK. We’ve been going for 30 years. We are the largest employment consultancy in the UK. We are family run. We are in the top 100 companies to work for within the UK, and we were also feature in the Times as The Business Doctor on a Sunday.

We know what we’re talking about. We help people every single minute of the day. I certainly know what I’m talking about when it comes to stress and mental health issues, and how to manage them in the workplace. If there’s anything you would like to ask me, please contact me, Amanda@peninsula-uk.com.

If you would like to learn more about what Peninsula does, and how we indemnify and insure people, we currently, I think on average, we handle about three and a half thousand tribunals a year. We win 98 per cent of them, or it’s satisfactory. So if you want to know what we do and how we go about it, and you want us to manage your systems for you, and help you manage them, feel free to contact me. I can organise a free advice call, or an appointment, for free.

Thank you very much for listening to me, and I hope to speak to you again soon. Thank you.