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HR Practitioner’s Diary: The revival of Jurassic Park

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HR Consultant Sue Kingston files her latest report from the HR front-line and reveals the tales of a sexual harasser brought to book together with a bogus sickness claim that has raised a few eyebrows; read on to see all this and a sneak preview of her latest stats – boyfriends, weight and chocolates consumed!



Month: December 2005
Happy New Year to one and all. I hope you have all had a splendid time and are ready for the HR challenges you will face in 2006. Here’s how I ended the year.

At the crossroads
The food processing company I assist have quite a dilemma on their hands. They are desperately attempting to write a new business plan as the company has seriously floundered over the last two to three years due to the Directors ‘going to sleep on the job’. In my usual style let me introduce Benny, Miss Diane and Amy Turtle – can these three people get a business plan together – no is the answer!

Prior to Christmas I had to lay off five of their staff due to poor trading levels. The souls in question only had temporary contracts in place which have simply ended earlier than anticipated.

Thankfully three had alternative jobs within a week and the other two returned to Poland for the festive season.

I have reduced my services to them and now only provide HR support one day per week – at least it gives them another saving!

They are due for reassessment for the Investors In People accreditation at the end of February, but I have had to request an extension to May, as the company needs are a priority in terms of time and focus on more business critical aspects.

They have decided to ‘park’ the business plan until the end of the first quarter – not sure if that is going to help them! In the meantime, their innovation strategies have not really got off the ground and the competition is having a great time snapping up more and more business whilst my client struggles to get to grips with ‘going to sleep on the job’!

Seriously though, it is quite sad to see a company struggling like this and frustrating that my limited input doesn’t allow me to help them to turn the business around. They have no investment budget and it is seems to be a case of too little, too late. They literally are at the crossroads and any wonderful retirement plans Benny, Diane and Amy had are now under a very real threat.

I shall stick with them for as long as is viable, but suspect 2006 may not be all they hope and dream for.

The lesson to be learnt is not to get too complacent in business and always be aware of the competition out there – it can get fierce.

The cold shoulder
A long terms sickness case I have been dealing with is proving to be an ongoing burden to my client. Janet has been signed off for five months now with a frozen shoulder and prior to Christmas I had discussed with her the possibility of requesting a medical report to assess her ability to return to her role as a production operator. I suspected two things in that Janet had a pattern of absenteeism and was also ‘playing the system’. She has done exactly as I thought!

She returned to work, as per her doctor’s instructions, on 1 December 2005 having accrued some 15 days holiday. On the 7 December Janet chose to take her holiday entitlement before the end of the year, which meant she only physically worked five days in the month – now there’s a surprise!

Had Janet remained off sick to the end of the year she would have lost her accrued holiday for 2005, as it was, by returning when she did it meant she could take full advantage of the situation and enjoy a prolonged Christmas break!

Interestingly this ruling may change over the next 12 months in that legislation could allow an employee to retain their entitlement and carry it forward to the following year or they may even receive payment at the end of each year in respect of accrued holiday. Does anyone have any thoughts you would like to share on this potential change in law?

Janet was due to return to work on 3 January 2006 and we are going to watch with interest as we anticipate she will go on sick leave with the same complaint very quickly.

The medical report request is ready and waiting!

Pamie quits South Fork
A marketing company I assist in Kent have an ongoing challenge regarding a very strong personality clash between a newly appointed Managing Director and a Business Development Director – both female.

Sue Ellen has made Pamie’s life very difficult since joining in October 2005 because it was her perception that Pamie was after her job. The reality is that Pamie was not interested remotely in Sue Ellen’s job and was trying to do her best to achieve her own directive as Business Development Director.

This was also compounded by Sue Ellen feeling left out, because Pamie’s relationship with another colleague, Lucy, was very amicable both at work and externally too.

A month ago I sat them all down individually and endeavoured to encourage them to communicate in a better way. I also tried to dispel any insecurities with regards to Sue Ellen and her perceptions. Unfortunately my efforts would appear to have not been sufficient as these characters have become so ingrained in their status battle.

As a result, there are no real surprises here.

Whilst circumstances did improve briefly at the ranch, Pamie has decided, in her mid ‘forties’, that she no longer wants to answer to anyone other than herself and has resigned. Her intention is to freelance in the marketing industry as a business development specialist.

The dilemma my client now faces is finding a suitable replacement as the characters in place are very competitive and the risk of a repeat situation in relation to personality clashes is quite high.

I’ll keep you posted here.

Parents – battle of the sexes
I had an enquiry in the early part of December which involved a young chap and his partner splitting up. In this case the dad was literally left holding the baby. His partner decided she did not want the responsibility of the child after all.

Danny requested emergency parental leave from his employer only to be refused and told that parental leave applied only to mothers of children and not fathers. What planet are they on?

I pointed Danny in the right direction to get his information – the DTI website, and in turn he produced the relevant section to his employer, who then took a deep breath and apologised profusely to Danny.

I’m delighted to say that Danny took two weeks off, which his employer agreed to on full pay, in which time he was able to come to terms with his new circumstances and make suitable arrangements for child care. His situation has now settled down and he was able to enjoy Christmas with his little baby son, Joshua.

This really points out the basics of employment law that employers just fail to open their eyes and ears to. There is enough publicity surrounding new legislation such as parental leave, adoption policies, age discrimination and changes to maternity leave and benefits.

I do wonder why employers still take blatant risks and fail to protect themselves by failing to ‘get it right’ in the first place. It’s not rocket science, but some employers still behave like dinosaurs!

Lady luck ducks out on Daniel
A serial sexual harasser has finally been caught out. I’ve covered off this character before and, glad to say, his luck has run out.

A new employee, Fay, joined Daniel’s company. She is a vivacious, bubbly, attractive, 23 year old which triggered Daniel’s hormones somewhat!

For the first month Fay settled into her new role and things were going swimmingly, then Daniel started to apply unsuitable behaviour.

One minute he would put pressure on her to achieve targets and be quite directive and in the next breath would ask what she was doing at the weekend or that evening. He came out with statements such as, “I suppose you’ll be out on the pull this weekend and get yourself s…..d senseless” and “You could do with a mature lover to show you just how much fun you can really have!” Oh, the arrogance!

It goes without saying that Fay was feeling totally offended and vulnerable. She was unsure whether to complain or not as she was new to her job and feared she would lose it before she had even really got off the starting blocks.

As Fay did not directly report to Daniel, she decided to speak with her line manager, Julie, who in turn approached me.

Fay said that she did not want a fully blown grievance complaint, but that she wanted Daniel’s behaviour to be corrected so that she could enjoy her role and be successful in it.

As a result I proceeded with an informal investigation into the situation, this also resulted in the Chief Executive being made aware of Daniel’s behaviour.

The result, thus far, has been successful, in that Daniel’s behaviour has been corrected and he is no longer harassing Fay. All communication is through her line manager, Julie.

The Chief Executive took Daniel to task, as he had very strong feelings about a member of the Board behaving in a less than appropriate way. This meeting also uncovered the fact that Daniel has an anger problem – due to Daniel hammering the table with his fist and making irrational statements in objection!

As a result Daniel is being sent on an anger management course and has no doubt whatsoever that a repeat performance will result in his removal from both the Board and the company.

It’s is satisfying to see a tyrant brought into line! The only problem now is how to deal with his sulking!

Anyway, let’s see what 2006 has to offer us. I feel it is going to be a very interesting year in more ways than one.

Vital Stats:

  • Weight – 9 st 8 lbs (I’m going to aim to achieve 9st in 2006)

  • Chocolate – nil (have stressed no chocolate to be given as Christmas pressies)

  • Wine – far too much throughout the festive season (2006 has started with a de-tox)

  • Cider – same as wine scenario – whoops!

  • Boyfriends – well, Christmas and New Year were very different I not only had Ron around, but his two daughters too. Christmas was more meaningful somehow. New Year was a flop though, I fell asleep in front of the fire and Ron stood outside with the dogs, enjoying the fireworks and making his last cigarette last for as long as possible – new year resolutions and all that! My resolution is to hit my target weight and grow my business even more.

  • Deep thoughts – how many resolutions can be kept?

Keep it simple!

*Sue Kingston is a self-employed HR Consultant with 24 years HR experience. Sue can be contacted on T: 07966 216561 or at [email protected]

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One Response

  1. HR to the rescue
    “my limited input doesn’t allow me to help them to turn the business around.” Oh come on Sue, their commercial strategy has failed, they have no money to invest and they’re running out of cash. How exactly is HR going to help get them out of this? Sometimes we should be humble enough to recognise our own limitations, and that we may just be subject to forces over which we have no control.

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