Since I’ve been in HR, I’ve watched a lot of porn

It wasn’t what I expected that’s for sure….
Lap-dancing clubs for corporate meetings
But having worked in some very male dominated environments it has been the subject of a number of investigations I have led that have often resulted in dismissal.  I can recall one guy that used the company systems to book an escort and others that sent shocking images to junior female staff for a laugh.

I can still remember in my early 30’s when I began working for a small merchant bank (that no longer exists) in the shadow of St Paul’s and going into the dealing room and just seeing a sea of porn on the screen savers.

In those days male traders still entertained male clients at Spearmint Rhino and it would pop out at lunchtime for a bottle of wine and to watch a quick semi naked dance before they slithered back to their desks.  You could always tell who had. They had a far away glint in their eye. It wasn’t nice.
Using lap-dancing clubs as corporate venues certainly excluded women even if one did get invites to go and watch and be one of the lads. Some women felt forced to do this to progress their careers as it was where lots of deals were done as well as recruitment. 
I’d like to say it doesn’t happen anymore but of course it still does.
Porn at work – hard to judge
In the days before the internet, you would not expect to see someone sitting at their desk reading Penthouse or something similar but there is a culture in some workplaces of highly inappropriate emails being passed around.
Now I say highly inappropriate because I am mindful that any pornographic image is probably very offensive to some people and that most people wouldn’t feel it was proper conduct in the workplace.  And of course it breaches the Equality Act as the employer has a duty to provide a positive working environment for all.
But it seems some people find this hard to judge.  Especially District Judge Timothy Bowles, Immigration Judge Warren Grant and Deputy District Judge and Recorder Peter Bullock who have all been removed from office for viewing pornography during working hours via the judicial IT systems.
Penalities are severe (or should be)
None of them work together so it looks to me like the Judicial IT department  have done a random sweep of their systems and picked this up.  Whenever I have done this in a workplace (after issuing a code of conduct and a warning) it has always picked up people mis-using the system and not expecting to get caught.  And it is gross misconduct which means they can be dismissed without pay. And they often are.
But often we don’t take senior folk to task enough.  So I’m delighted that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have concluded it was an “inexcusable misuse” of their official accounts and “wholly unacceptable conduct for a judicial office holder”.  I firmly agree. If you hold the office and take the salary you need to behave in a manner that is fitting. We should expect the same standards from MPs and anyone in a senior or responsible role.
What should you do if someone sends you an inappropriate email?
Delete it without forwarding it. To anyone. Even yourself at home.
What should you do if you receive a complaint that one of your employees has done this?
Don’t do what I heard recently and delete the inappropriate content.  That just makes you as the employer more culpable.  You must do an investigation and if appropriate discipline your employee.  Make sure your IT and Communication policies are fit for purpose and update them if not.

Shared Parental Leave – do you know what’s coming?

Paternity leave, parental leave and now shared parental leave…it’s no wonder employers can get confused as to when and how to apply all these different forms of leave. So here’s the lowdown on what this new shared parental leave is, when it can be used and what you need to know.
Shared parental leave is going to be available for the parents of children due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015. It’s a new policy that aims to enable eligible parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption.

Broadly speaking the way this will work is that the parent will opt out of her maternity or adoption leave/statutory maternity or adoption pay and opt into the shared parental leave/shared parental pay. This will then allow them to share the remaining time and leave with their partner.
So how does this actually work?
Here’s an example. A mum may have gone on maternity leave 2 weeks before her baby is born. Then 6 weeks after the birth she gives 8 weeks notice to curtail her maternity leave and notice of taking shared parental leave. This means she will have taken 16 weeks of maternity leave, which will leave 36 weeks of shared paternal leave available. She can now share this 36 weeks with her partner, so either the partner could take 20 weeks and she could take the remaining 16 weeks or they could both take 18 weeks together.
Who is eligible?
This is pretty straightforward. You must share care of the child with either your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter; the child’s other parent; or your partner (if they live with you and the child). You or your partner must be eligible for maternity leave/pay, maternity allowance, or adoption leave/pay You must also have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the EWC; be employed by the same employer while you take SPL; and have main responsibility for the care of the child (apart from any responsibility of the partner).
How is Shared Parental Leave requested?
Now this is where the rules get a bit confusing…
To request shared parental leave you first need to provide a Leave Curtailment Notice to end your maternity or adoption leave.
You then need to provide Notice of Entitlement and Intention to Take Shared Parental Leave. In essence, three notices are required:-
1.     The mother and the partner must each give their employers written notice of entitlement to SPL and ShPP.
2.      The employee must also provide a signed declaration
3.     The employee’s partner must also provide a signed declaration stating
It is inevitable that sometimes an employee is going to want to change their mind over how they want to split this leave. Now, they can do this but unsurprisingly this is going to mean they need to serve another notice of intention to take shared parental leave confirming estimated dates and what leave is available to them. It’s worth noting here that they can change their minds over this as many times as they want.
When an employee is ready to request the actual date of this leave they need to serve a period of leave notice. Employees need to give their employer’s 8 weeks notice of any leave.
One period of leave notice can include more than one block of leave. An employee has the right to provide a maximum of 3 period of leave notices. An important thing to remember is that if an employee wants to change the dates of a period of leave, they need to serve another notice of leave, which comes out of their maximum 3 period of leave notices.
During shared parental leave, all contractual entitlements continue apart from wages or salary. Pension contributions will continue to be paid when shared parental pay is being paid but not when the employee is on unpaid shared parental leave.
So what do you need to do to get ready for the 5th April?
Ensure you have a shared parental leave policy in place
Communicate with your managers so they are ready for questions coming from employees about this new entitlement
Maternity coaching
Maternity coaching is already an established practice and whilst still predominantly female led, at Amelore we are starting to see men join at least one of the sessions.  Coaching before, during and after maternity and potentially shared parental leave provides valuable space for employees to explore significant changes, increase clarity of thought and help really decide the best way of working for the future.
Need help with this?
Amelore can help design a policy that fits your organisation and provide the tools to upskill your managers so they’re ready for the inevitable questions that will start coming through.

Is HR your Friend or Foe?

A few years ago I appeared in an article that the Guardian published in the sadly now defunct Work section.  It was written by the charming Mark King (who now edits Moneywise) and it upset SOME people.

Mainly people in HR.

Dear oh dear.

Here is the article.

At that time I was quite a regular commentator on the Dear Jeremy page as ExBrightonBelle (for anyone that remembers me) and Mark approached me as it was obvious from my responses that I was an HR professional.

I don’t think any of us can get away from the fact that HR serves the management team over the employees. And yes as much as there will be many positive things that internal HR functions can do, they will mainly be focused on reducing costs, getting rid of difficult people and keeping the management team happy.

You can see how from a staff point of view that given those facts they may well see HR as their foe. 

What has been hugely refreshing for me since I started my own business 5 years ago is that I honestly think it’s different when you are external.  You don’t have to deal with politics, you can make recommendations and improve things and often part of our remit is coaching and developing people.  Which you never get to do as an internal person.

The other thing we do a lot of which I love is bringing the brand in-house. The Brand very much being the domain of the marketing department when you are internal.  And those two functions don’t often collaborate too closely.  You can have a Brand bible and a Staff handbook and reading them it’s like two different companies.  So being external we can also be pretty creative. In fact we have to be really to compete – why else would people choose to retain us?

Of course we are not a traditional outsourced HR business because we insist on face to face contact and agreed attendance in the office. Yes we support remotely 24/7 (but we don’t have an advice line – you just call your HR lead directly) and yes we firmly insist on the correct on brand (yours not ours) paperwork and good governance structures (we don’t offer tribunal indemnity insurance because we have never lost a tribunal – not as a company or in the professional history of our founder Ruth Cornish – so why would we slow everything down in that way) because we just don’t do tribunals.

If reading this you are kind of curious about what we could do for your business please get in touch.  We’d love to hear from you.

The first of many…

On Thursday I did something for the first time.

I hired someone!

Weird really when you think I have worked in HR for 25 years.

But what I did yesterday was take the big and exciting step of hiring someone to work for me in my company.  Over the years I have probably hired thousands of people.  But never into my OWN business.

I started it 5 years ago but until now have worked with associates.  So very flexible, and it’s a model that can work for some.

Hiring someone has been part of a determined decision and a very thought through plan to grow from a busy consultant to a business.  Our first employee is someone who will focus on Business Development. We already have our second and third lined up – someone to manage Operations and someone to lead HR consultancy.

It hasn’t been easy to find the right person.  In the end we used an agency. I think that can really help when you are small and no-one knows much about you.  Having someone else to tell a story about you and your vision. We did try our own campaigns but we have also recently changed our name.

So I’d recommend that. 

We did a 2 stage process. The very talented individual we hired met me first 1-2-1.  She admitted that she wasn’t keen initially (our location) until she came in and saw our offices. Small but perfectly formed. Light, bright and colourful. But also hearing our story, my vision and plans.

A week later she returned to do a presentation about how she’d approach the job. We had also profiled her personality.  This is critical in my opinion.

On the wall beside my desk I have a map of the personalities of everyone that works in or closely with my business.  I know how people like to work and what they are good at.  And how they like to be managed. This means I can build a balanced team which is so critical in a small business.

I’m lucky that compared to the average SME I have at my finger tips everything one needs to hire someone. Not just the paperwork but the insight about the importance of induction and clear expectations and goals.

Getting the HR side of things right is an important factor for any small business.  I was privileged to get involved with in its earlier days which is now a very successful business that everyone has heard of it.  They wrote a second book last year called “Shape up your Business in 30days” which is a very useful guide for any business owner.  We advised on the HR side of things and the section on personality is very interesting.  I highly recommend you invest in a copy.