Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Time to review staff contracts and handbooks?

When did we last take a look at your HR documents?

The New Year is always a time to consider the future.  To pause and take stock, and to plan for the year ahead.  This New Year it may be a good time for us to look again at your HR documents to check that they are still fit for purpose.  There have been many employment law changes over the last few years, and organisations change and develop all the time, so it is possible that your HR documents are ready for an update or a general refresh.

Do you have a robust social media policy that still makes sense in terms of the rapid changes we have seen in that field?  Do you have enough flexibility built into your contracts to allow you to vary staff's hours of work or location?  Are their job descriptions up to date?

If you need any help or would like to arrange a review please do get in contact.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Stress or Depression?

Stress and Disability Discrimination

Employers tend to get very nervous when an employee goes off sick with stress - particularly if the note from the GP states "work-related stress".  And quite rightly so, as this could indicate that there is a poor culture, maybe even a bullying culture, within the workplace. 

But sometimes employees will suffer stress in reaction to something at work that they are just unhappy about but which most people would consider quite reasonable.  It could be that they face disciplinary proceedings for misconduct or are being tackled over their under-performance.  It is also true to say that some employees will "swing the lead" and get themselves signed off with stress, because its symptoms are well reported and it is easy to persuade some GPs to sign them off on that basis.

It is unlikely, however, that any employee who suffers stress will be considered to be disabled in legal terms.  Unlike depression, which is a clear clinical condition which can be long term and can impact massively on someone's ability to carry out normal day to day activities, stress is normally of short-term duration and is a reaction to a specific event or set of circumstances.  In Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, the Employment Appeal Tribunal considers this question and provides a very clear and in-depth analysis of the difference between the two conditions in the context of disability discrimination.  It also points out that confusion can arise when some doctors talk about employees suffering from "depression", when they actually mean "stress" or "anxiety", and the difficulty in establishing clearly whether a diagnosis of depression has actually been made.

Some employers and employees are reluctant to talk about stress, but it's normally best to treat it as you would any other illness, and try to talk openly to employees who disclose that they are suffering.  With support and the right treatment its effects can be well managed and any impact on work is often short-lived.

If you need any help with this aspect of people management, please contact us.