Employee Health and Wellbeing HR Under The Spotlight – Your 3-Minute September Roundup


“Welcome to Spotlight HR’s monthly ‘bite-size’ look at the latest HR news and important legal changes affecting small to medium-sized businesses across the UK today.”

SEPTEMBER 2023. By Kimberly Bradshaw (CEO, Spotlight HR.)

Well, it’s the September roundup already, and the weather outside is looking positively balmy! This time around, we take an up-close look at stress-related absenteeism at work – and what to do about it. Cover some of the HR topics most in the news, including the knock-on impact of RAAC closures and the menopause tribunal that awarded a big payout last month. So, grab a cuppa and some dunking biscuits, and let’s get stuck in!

Dangerous RAAC – The HR impact of school closures on your business

RAAC school closures are disrupting routines for working parents, causing childcare issues and remote work challenges – with significant HR impact on SMEs nationally. Here are a few HR actions to consider:

  • HR actions involve inspections, contract reviews, and flexible work arrangements.
  • Employers may enforce annual leave or consider lay-offs based on contracts.
  • Employee lateness due to RAAC disruption should be handled with flexibility, as it may affect primary caregivers, potentially leading to indirect sex discrimination.
  • Employers must address the issue to avoid liability for breach of contract or other claims.

Here is a great article on the HR implications of RAAC. I suppose with RAAC being used widely in all manner of buildings up to the 1990s, the school closures we are seeing may very well just be the tip of the iceberg. As ever, our advice is to get prepared!

Sick leave – Stress-related time off work is on the up, so what can we do about it?

At Spotlight HR, we have been dealing with an abnormally large number of sickness absence issues with our clients. Shockingly, a report by CIPD and Simplyhealth reveals that UK employees averaged 7.8 days of sick leave, the highest in a decade and 2 days more than pre-pandemic levels! You can read the full CIPD well-being at work article here, but in roundup, here are a few take-homes on causes and some ideas on how to reduce high absence rates.

Leading causes include minor illnesses, musculoskeletal injuries, mental health, and COVID-19. Stress-related absence is significant, with heavy workloads and management style being cited as the main stressors.

Line managers can play a vital role in reducing these stress factors, however, they often lack skills and confidence. It’s worth noting that organisations with tailored support and training for line managers show significant improvement.

The good news is prioritizing employee health and well-being is increasing with:

  • 53% rise in those businesses with a well-being plan in place
  • 69% growth in senior leaders prioritising well-being
  • 43% rise in those offering ongoing post-COVID support

The drivers for what HR intervention would best suit your business will vary depending on the needs of your people. But one thing is certain: curtailing unnecessary sickness will make your workplace happier and more productive – whilst protecting your profits. Fancy a free chat to discuss your best options? Drop us a line.

Through the HR lens – Still on the absence theme, here are the latest ACAS guidelines

ACAS updated guidance on managing sickness absence last month. We have outlined the key points – as a reminder, so you know the measures now expected:

  1. Sick Pay: Employers should specify eligibility criteria, amount, duration, and other requirements in their sickness absence policy.
  2. Fit Notes: Fit notes are necessary for absences exceeding 7 calendar days. Employees should provide them on the 7th day of absence.
  3. Keeping in Touch: With mutually agreed methods and frequency, employers should maintain contact with absent employees to check their well-being.
  4. Doctor’s Reports: Employers can request a doctor’s report with employee consent, which can aid in decisions about fitness for work, sick pay, and insurance.
  5. Returning to Work: Open dialogue and return-to-work meetings are recommended to ensure readiness and support measures.
  6. Disability: Employers must make reasonable adjustments for sickness constituting a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
  7. Creating Policies: Employers are encouraged to have policies addressing various absence reasons, including sickness.

At Spotlight HR, we keep ahead of all the latest HR legislation and compliance, so you don’t have to. If your in-house HR team need assistance, or if you need to outsource your HR for a single discrepancy, or on a longer basis, we specialise in HR services for SME businesses – please get in touch.

Employment Tribunal in focus – Menopause payout making headlines.

Last month, a top insurance firm paid £65,000 at a tribunal for an employee’s menopause-related performance issues, highlighting the importance of workplace support.

Despite the dismissal of her claims for unfair dismissal, sex, and age discrimination, the lady’s complaints about unreasonable adjustments and unfavourable treatment due to disability succeeded.

Menopause-related performance challenges, reported in this case, had led to a role change at work, with financial implications. The tribunal suggested the employer could have made necessary adjustments. The compensation breakdown includes £23,000 for injury to feelings, £2,500 for aggravated damages, and over £30,000 for past and future earnings loss plus interest. Find out more about the tribunal’s findings here.

What is the take-home from this? Recognising menopause and mental health wellbeing in the workplace is vital and conflict avoidable. Contact us for advice on supporting your business and people effectively.

If you need HR advice or are affected by any of these issues discussed this month. We are here to help.

CONTACT SPOTLIGHT HR