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Smelly staff and chocolate benefits: Top HR Zone stories in 2006

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It’s been an exciting year at HR Zone. From smelly staff and employees with the plague to squishy babies and chocolate benefits, it’s been a busy time for HR. As the year draws to a close, Sarah Fletcher gives you a round-up of the top ten features on HR Zone in 2006.


HR Zone’s most popular story of the year:

1. What happened next? Dealing with smelly staff
The most popular story of 2006 dealt with the problem of poor body odour and involved a lot of unfortunate puns involving the employee causing a stink…

How do you tell an employee that his poor personal hygiene is making his co-workers drop like flies? We report on the outcome and learning points of this situation as experienced by a member who sought solace in the Any Answers forum. Sarah Fletcher asks if on hearing he smelled like a rubbish dump, did the offending employee kick up a stink?
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2. Childcare vouchers: are they worth it?
It seems that however much we hate watching other people’s children have temper tantrums in the middle of Tesco, women are still insisting on having babies. Childcare vouchers are becoming an increasingly popular benefit, but are they really worth it?

Childcare vouchers are promoted as a cost effective way of improving employee retention but are there hidden costs? Sarah Fletcher asks what the scheme really means for UK businesses.
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3. What’s the answer? Retirement and age discrimination
With new age legislation coming into force on October 1, age discrimination has been a hot topic this year. Legal experts explained how this would affect retirement.

Elisabeth Thirlby gets legal guidance from Helen Badger, an employment law expert at Browne Jacobson, and Shazia Ali, a solicitor at Mills & Reeve, on managing impending age discrimination regulations in relation to retirement.
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alarm clock4. Part time working: what’s the business benefit?
Work is just so time consuming. After a full day in the office there isn’t nearly enough time to spend with your family, friends or super size packet of crisps. But is allowing your staff to work part time just asking for flaky, uncommitted employees?

Part-time working is often believed to be the preserve of working mums, juggling nappies with pulling in a wage; but a recent survey by Cranet shows that it has now become an almost universally accepted way of working with 97% of organisations now offering it. Annie Hayes reports on the experiences and cautionary tales of those HR professionals that have and continue to manage part-time workers.
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5. Dealing with problem staff: should we rule by fear?
Without resorting to handing employees a baseball bat and telling them to sort out their differences in the staff car park, how do you manage workers that refuse to behave themselves?

Problem staff usually fall into two categories, those with below average performance and those with consistently poor records of attendance. Finding the best way to deal with these issues has been a topic of debate since the advent of the employee-employer relationship. Annie Hayes reports on how HR professionals in the field are handling those that fail to tow the line.
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6. What’s the answer? Fleas at work
If your workplace is infested with fleas (and no, I don’t mean certain colleagues – don’t be rude), what are your legal rights?

Ben Harding gets legal guidance this week from Martin Brewer, a Partner with the employment team of Mills and Reeve, and Helen Badger, employment law expert at Browne Jacobson, on sharing a workspace with those of the small, wingless and parasitic variety.
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7. Fighting the fraudulent sickie
If an employee persistently claims illness on a Monday morning and seems to be the unluckiest person in Britain – food poisoning one week, a touch of TB the next – how should organisations react?

Sarah Fletcher looks at strategies to combat suspicious staff sickness and its damaging impact upon business.
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8. 2007 maternity legislation – a step forward?
“Expectant mothers throw the psychological contract aside, often when they are taking time out of work for antenatal classes with all of their friends who are competing for the best package they can get from work,” argues HR manager Lynn Hebb. Do other businesses agree?

Changes to maternity legislation on 1 April 2007 include an increase in statutory paid leave from six to nine months, optional ‘keeping in touch’ days and an extension of the notice female staff must give to their employer when they wish to return from maternity leave. Sarah Fletcher asked HR professionals and industry experts how they expect these new developments to affect organisations.
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9. Benefits: What’s the alternative?
My ideal benefits package would involve enough chocolate to make me vow never to eat again, lots of stupidly overpriced shoes (yes, I am a walking cliche) and ‘sofa time’ (you can work that one out on your own); but what innovative benefits are companies offering and do they work?

With a tight labour market in our midst and fierce competition for key talent, organisations are being forced into being ever more inventive with their benefits. Annie Hayes reports on the range of ‘alternative’ schemes on offer in UK plc.
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10. Does psychometric testing work?
Psychometric testing tells us, in the words of the CEO of the organisation selected for Royal Mail’s recruitment programme, about “who should definitely be elminated from consideration”; but is it really just another fad?

Sarah Fletcher looks at whether psychometric testing improves the efficiency and quality of the recruitment process and how to implement it within a company.
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