Query from a friend (JF) – who has just moved from the role of Operations Manager to Managing Director of MD of a small manufacturing company (30 people). I’m not an HR law expert, but have been coaching him during his role transition, mainly around people skills and interactions, and he feels comfortable asking my advice.

A supervisor took time off last week to look after a sick (disabled?) child and when he queried whether or not she wanted to take the time as time in lieu or unpaid, she blew up and said the previous MD had told her she could have time off as and when she needed … but this was never written down or formalised in any way.

She can be a real stirrer when unhappy, so he’s concerned – and he’s not a natural ‘people person’ and is not sure what to do next.

My advice was to be firm – has to be either unpaid or time in lieu at present (or it’s the thin end of the wedge!)as his decision will set a precedent.

Flexible working would be difficult for them given the nature of the manufacturing processes and the fact that most of the 30 people are specialists, but it would be worth looking at, though I think the child care thing is unpredictable in this case.

As part of a multinational corporation, they have corporate support on finance, sales and marketing and manufacturing, but it’s left to the site to do its own HR stuff, though they have no HR professionals on site – the previous MD handled all this. He’s currently checking what written procedures on this are in place at present – if any.

I knew the previous MD and he was getting a bit demob happy in the last 6 months before his retiral and also prone to agreeing ‘nice’ things without thinking through the consequences…..

Any other suggestions?

Sheila B, Dalgety Bay
Sheila Browning