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Annie Hayes

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HR Practitioner’s Diary: Driving me crazy

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Having a life, is not a concept that all bosses can grasp; this week Sue Kingston introduces the concept of the Working Time Directive to a Chief Executive that expects round the clock service while seeking your advice on how to deal with a reference request for a certified alcoholic.



W/C 22 August 2005:
With the school holidays nearly over (hurrah I hear from some parents out there), there’s no doubt we will see a burst of Christmas merriment appearing in the high streets and around every corner, but for the time being I’m getting in as much golf as I can before the cold, wet weather starts. Once again I have faced one or two quandaries this week.

“You belong to me”
Said the Chief Executive to the chauffeur!

I faced another dilemma this week, this time with a boss whose idea of working around the clock leaves something to be desired.

The Chauffeur (Parker) asked me where he stands with this type of comment made by his boss (Penelope) said in all seriousness!

Parker is at Penelope’s beck and call 24-7. He is on call to take her whenever and wherever she likes. The service also extends to other members of the Board as well as Penelope’s family.

If Parker is enjoying a family get together of his own, or a night out with his mates, he cannot enjoy a drink in case he gets a call from Penelope wanting a lift somewhere.

Does anyone have any experience of this? I’d be interested to hear what contractual advice you may have.

Whilst appreciating that the Working Time Regulations give Parker some form of protection and guidance, it is slightly concerning that Penelope feels she is above them. She is not interested in the rules and demands that Parker be on call around the clock. Is this fair?

One for the road?
I received a call from a company who had a problem with an employee (Sue Ellen), whom they suspected of being under the influence of alcohol whilst at work.

Sue Ellen only operates a PC and thankfully nothing trickier that the fax or photocopier is involved, so at least the risk is minimised until the situation is resolved.

Over a period of time the standard of Sue Ellen’s work had worsened as had her time keeping.

Her colleagues had also noted that Sue Ellen regularly spent her lunchtime in a local pub, by herself. She would read the paper whilst enjoying a sandwich and a few drinks.

By the afternoon her concentration was clearly suffering and she would regularly go to the ladies toilets to use her ‘mouth wash’. Sue Ellen’s colleagues were aware of the constant smell of alcohol on her breath.

Thankfully the employer had kept a log of events. With a potential disciplinary there is nothing worse than not having an accurate recording of evidence, so I always congratulate companies who have the fore thought to carry out this very important task of information gathering.

Sue Ellen was invited to an investigatory meeting to discuss her work performance and time keeping.

During the meeting we were able to ascertain, through prepared and careful questioning that Sue Ellen did indeed consume anything upwards of six units of alcohol between getting up in the morning and leaving work at five thirty. After that time she continued to drink into the evening, but wasn’t prepared to say to what extent.

Her husband was on the verge of leaving her as he couldn’t cope with her problem and she had refused to get help, she did not consider the drinking was an issue. She simply saw it as a way of getting through each day and couldn’t imagine a day without her ‘prop’.

Sue Ellen did admit, however, that her bottle of mouthwash actually contained Vodka – she offered no excuse for this!

Given that she had been with the company only five months, she sensed the ‘cat was out of the bag’ and resigned on the spot.

We did ask if she had considered seeking help to cope with getting through the day in a different way, rather than resorting to alcohol, but she resisted the suggestion and said she would rather move on. ‘Fight or flight’ syndrome!

We could do no more at this stage. However, two days later an agency phoned for a reference, but wanted to speak ‘off the record’ as they suspected Sue Ellen might have a ‘deeper’ issue.

So what should you do?

I’ll see what your responses are then let you know the outcome next week!

Committed to the end
I’m encountering more and more employers who are prepared to invest in their staff in terms of training and benefits. This is an interesting development as there seems to be more value now in retaining employees for longer periods and, who knows, we may see a return of the ‘gold watch’ at retirement. An old tradition which appears to have slipped into time itself.

I have recently written a tuition policy for a client and it has already been put into action which is great news. A member of their team who has been with them for three years has expressed an interest in taking some accountancy exams and, thanks to the new policy, the employer has been only too happy to oblige and sponsor her through the personal development.

The policy does have various obligations in respect of the employee should they leave the employer within one year of completing any such course, but this is always a good point in terms of obtaining real commitment from the individual.

I have the task of preparing the sponsorship letter for Karen and will get her to sign an agreement to the terms and conditions of the sponsorship.

Karen has been a ‘square peg, round hole’ character. She originally joined the company as part of the customer service team, but found that she wasn’t comfortable working on the phones. Fortunately we managed to develop her into an accounts role and she has flourished.

It is always one of my favourite challenges to fit a square peg into a square hole making everyone happy.

Karen is one of those young ladies who will probably remain loyal to her employer for many years as she likes the stability and security. If her employer continues to invest in her enthusiasm I believe she will turn out to be a real star.

Had a fun week in other ways too, in my usual style!

Vital Stats:
For all of those ‘singletons’ out there:

  • Weight – 9st 9lbs (I’ve sussed how to maintain it, but need to get shifting again!)

  • Chocolate – two chocolate muffins (not at the same time) – to celebrate the end of the tiling and grouting – my ‘Italian’ bathroom is becoming a reality, but my nails are ruined!

  • Wine – three glasses (one whilst enjoying a luxurious bubble bath surrounded by my lovely new tiles – oh the simple things!)

  • Cider – two glasses after playing golf in temperatures of up to 30°C.
  • Boyfriends – one date – enjoyed Chinese take-away with Charles followed by DVD of Twelfth Night. I have a ceramic splinter (from tiling) in my foot and was tempted to ask if he could use his veterinary skills to remove it! Shyness took over as we haven’t even progressed to holding hands yet, let alone letting him loose down there!

  • Golf – Tournament tomorrow and, yes, I am the only lady player again – ho hum!

  • Deep thoughts – Why is that I can find other players’ golf balls but mine disappear into thin air?

Keep it simple everyone and enjoy your week ahead!


More diary entries:


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