Did you know that 2nd February was ‘National Sickie Day’ in the UK? How did that affect you? Well here are my 7 Steps to reducing absenteeism to help in the battle against lost time –

IT IS known that the first Monday in February sees an estimated 350,000 British workers take a not-entirely-justified day off sick. For some it’s to attend an interview to fulfil that New Year’s Resolution to change jobs, for others it’s to beat the January blues. Either way their absence causes issues to any business be they big or small so here are my 7 steps to help reduce absenteeism

  1. Record It

Even the simple task of logging how many days are lost, by whom and when will help your business understand not only if you have a bigger attendance problem, but also if there are any key culprits and help establish a potential cost to your business of those lost days.

  1. Have an Absence Policy

This will formalise the company’s expectations in terms of reporting procedures, payment terms, what constitutes ‘excessive’ to you, and what actions will be taken in those circumstances.

  1. Carry out return to work interviews after EVERY sickness absence

After periods of absence these return to work interviews allow you to determine whether an employee has any underlying concerns, whether there is a pattern to their absence or if absent for a longer period whether they ae able to return to their duties and if modifications to their duties are required.  It also sends a clear message you take absence seriously. Imagine, if it was just a sickie, having to sit down with your line manager to ‘explain/excuse’ your absence! A return to work interview will also assist in an effective return to work and will help you determine if you need to consider disciplinary action (this may depend on the employee’s record).

  1. Consider alternative ways of working

With the technological advances today we have the ability to allow certain individuals to work online/remotely if, for instance, they have cold like symptoms. This makes complete sense from both the employee’s and the employer’s point of view; the employee is able to work from the comfort of their own home and doesn’t have to commute when they feel under the weather but are well enough to still contribute, and the business reduces the chances of the cold/flu spreading as well as not losing a worker to sickness.

  1. Ask leavers to identify problems

Do an exit interview when your employee leaves the company – when they have achieved that new role they went sick for the interview 😉 – to help identify any issues that are making your team members unhappy as disengaged unmotivated employees take more sick days. Those leaving are more likely to be honest in such chats if they are leaving the company anyway.

  1. Foster a culture of open communication

When your employee feels a sense of responsibility for their work and loyalty to their team, they’re much less likely to phone in sick on a whim because they don’t want to let their colleagues or your clients down. The idea is that they become more willing to talk openly to their manager if they have a health issue to ask for support from the company and understanding from their peers.

  1. Encourage work-life balance

By providing your managers with training in how to support your staff to achieve a more positive work-life balance you can help combat absenteeism. Additionally you must ensure that employees are aware of policies and programs available to help with work-life balance.

So how would you suggest tackling sickness absence in the workplace? For more help and advice contact us at www.threedomsolutions.co.uk or follow us on twitter @3domSolutions


WHEN I worked in corporate world I used to dread the holiday season. I was guaranteed to be embroiled in some disciplinary matters after the company office shenanigans turned sour. The grabbing of the Training Manager by one of the engineers for a snog on the dance floor, the lusty glances of two married (to other people) co-workers turning into something more and being caught in flagrante in the cupboard, or the fisty cuffs after one too many beers! Yep that’s right; the snog, marry, avoid consequences of what you all think is just a harmless opportunity to mingle.

a christmas snog

According to an Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) survey of UK managers and workers

  • Almost 9 out of 10 workers (87 percent) have seen colleagues drink too much
  • And 48 percent have gone to work with a hangover after their office party

So please (and I hate to be the ‘bah humbug’ amongst you all but…) take the opportunity NOW to set the parameters for the party and give clear guidelines to all your staff of expectations.

  1. It’s a ‘work party’ therefore they are effectively at work – let them know that work related social functions such as the Christmas party/lunch can be an extension of the workplace and the same standards of behaviour expected. Telling your HR Director she’s a ‘heartless unfeeling machine’ as you walk out into the cold night air will get you into bother! (yes someone really did that!)
  2. Brief out the absence procedures – tell them up front what will happen if they pull a sickie to recover from that handover.
  3. Remind the staff of your social media policy – inappropriate pictures hash tagged with the company name can cause reputational embarrassment, not to mention the potential harassment fall out from the object of that tweet/Facebook post!
  4. Ensure your disciplinary procedure is up to date – it needs to be clear on what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour and ensure when applying it you are consistent.
  5. Make sure everyone knows the Bullying and Harassment policy – a small reminder that offensive behaviour on the grounds of sex, race, age, sexual orientation, disability or religion and belief won’t be excused just because it happens at the party won’t go amiss. I was unfortunate to have to deal with a name calling incident between two colleagues – one thought it just a laugh, the other took real offence so it’s wise to make sure people know to check themselves.
  6. And with that in mind remind all of the drink/drive limits – and if they are not driving, just remind them again it’s an office function and being drunk drunk drunk may impact how people perceive them the next day – pointing and sniggering as they walk into the office is hardly career enhancing is it?

I have to admit it’s rare I get drunk at such an event; after all I’m just as likely to tell the staff what I think of them! So with a few up front actions you could prevent the post party disciplinary hangover.

WHY is it when I mention using an agency most of my clients start muttering about costs and rocking? My guess is that their previous experiences have been so dreadful they daren’t use an agency again! I aim to share a few top tips of how to get the best from the agency you choose as a follow on to my first and second parts in the series of Top Tips for successful recruitment.


So Agencies – If you are going to use an agency then do it properly!

  1. Choose carefully – You need to know the person you are dealing with understands you, your business and the job they are recruiting for. Give them the opportunity to demonstrate this. Meet them. They should make recruitment a painless process. As Monster.co.uk says there are some key questions you need to ask before deciding which agency to use. There is no right answer to many of the questions, it depends what’s right for your business.
  • Has the agency recruited for similar positions before?
  • Do you need a specialist agency or will a general ‘high street’ one suffice?
  • What are the credentials of the consultants that will handle your account?
  • Can they supply testimonials from previous clients?
  • Do they comply with recruitment industry standards?
  • Does the agency have a clear pricing structure?
  • How do their fees compare with the industry average?
  • What background checks will the agency perform on candidates
  • What role will you be expected to pay in the process
  • How much contact will you receive from the agency?
  1. Let them do their job – You will get the best service if, once you have chosen your consultant, you let them do the job. Don’t be tempted to use lots of different agencies either; agree the terms and agree what you get in that service, including timescales from the one you selected.       That commitment from you will gain better commitment from them. Recruitment agencies in general work on a ‘no recruitment, no fee’ basis. By using lots of other agencies you are just making it less likely that they be successful and therefore their commitment to finding you the best lower as their time could be for nothing. There are very few industries who work for nothing!
  2. Make sure they have done their job! – I would expect them to have done at least a first interview with each applicant prior to submitting their CV, not just run an advert and forward the response, or as one agency did with a client of mine – trawl the job sites, download a CV for someone looking for a job and send that through to claim a £4.5k fee! No -if I am paying for a service I want to have that expertise and service!
  3. Make sure they add value – If you chose the right one then they should have skills that you don’t so use these properly. For instance get them to help with the interview process, or ask them to indicate why they have selected that person against another; it is in their best interest for you to get the right person for the job. What are they bringing to the process that you don’t have?
  4. Work with them, not against them – Give the selected agency as much detail as possible on your requirements. This will help them select the right candidates and so provide you with a better service. As a minimum you should provide the following: job role, location, salary & benefits, job description/specification preferred start date and potential interview process. Then provide feedback for the CVs you have received and after any interviews; the more they know about what was good and what wasn’t the easier it is to find you someone. Don’t do as one manager I work with does as he hands back the CV with a ‘No’ on top. Get them to explain why that is a ‘no’ and share that with the agency. Listen to their advice, they will be the experts in the market (assuming you have chosen well) so if they advise you your expectations are unrealistic then move on quickly and be flexible for interviews etc – put yourself in the job seekers shoes again.
  5. Read the Ts & Cs – Take care to understand the fees and rebates. Many will insist the invoice is paid very promptly and may well not include a guarantee period for candidates who have worked on a temporary basis first. Most will offer a free replacement if something goes wrong (other than redundancy) but it will only be for about three months so make sure you manage the probation period carefully.
  6. Barter – I have yet to come across an agency that is not prepared to negotiate on fees (ok just the one that wasn’t). Just because it states 18% (or whatever), doesn’t mean it is 18%. It’s always worth a try. If you plan to use them frequently consider setting up a preferred supplier arrangement. This offers various benefits in service and/or price, in return for a commitment of business.       Remember too that the cheapest is not necessarily the best; consider the overall service/package on offer.

I hope that helps your path through the minefield that is recruitment agencies. I’m now expecting a barrage of comments from my recruitment colleagues – be gentle with me !!

Dress Code


This week, ACAS issued new guidance about employee dress codes which employers might find useful. The key principles laid down in the guidance include:

Employers must avoid unlawful discrimination in a dress code policy (for example religious dress should be approached sensitively)

  • Employers may use a dress code policy for health and safety reasons
  • Dress codes must ensure equality between men and women. However it is noted that there may be different requirements applicable to each
  • Employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people

When drafting a dress code policy, employers are encouraged to fully consider the reasoning behind the policy. ACAS also recommend consulting with employees about it in some cases. Having a clearly drafted policy can avoid inconsistent practices being applied across a business.

the detail can be found here http://www.acas.org.uk/dresscode

If you would like some help drafting a policy just ask! info@threedomsolutions.co.uk

zero hours

Further consultation on Zero Hours Contracts

The Small Business, Enterprise & Employment Bill 2014 introduces (amongst other things) measures aimed at prohibiting the use of exclusivity clauses within ‘zero hours contracts’ – in other words, clauses which would prohibit zero hours employees from holding down more than one job. But the draft legislation does not prohibit other action intended to deter staff from seeking other work – for example, subjecting the worker to a detriment if they seek employment elsewhere. The proposed rules might therefore prove to be toothless in practice. The government has now recognised this problem. It has begun consultation on what anti-avoidance measures may be required.

Views are being sought on the following issues:

• the tactics employers are thought likely to adopt to circumvent a ban on exclusivity clauses;

• whether the government should do more to deal with potential avoidance, how that might be best achieved, and whether the government should legislate now or wait for evidence of whether avoidance is taking place;

• how potential avoidance could be dealt with;

• whether there should be consequences for an employer if they circumvent a ban on exclusivity clauses and, if so, what those consequences should be; and

• whether there are any potentially negative or unintended consequences as a result of the wording of the legislation.

If you would like assistance understanding zero hours contracts, please feel free to contact me at info@threedomsolutions.co.uk

(or them!)

I have shamelessly stolen this from the HP website as I thought it very pertinent –


Are bad email habits wasting your time? Are bad email habits distracting you, wasting your time, and causing miscommunications with clients, employees and others? Making a few simple changes to the way you handle email will help you improve focus, save time, and communicate more effectively.
[Cat Comment and quote – ‘bad habits are like a comfortable bed; easy to get into but hard to get out of’ – now’s the time to try]

Here are five (/six) bad email habits that could be holding you back and positive alternatives to get you moving forward.

Bad habit #1: Sending emails late at night, early in the morning, and on weekends. This sends clients the message that you’re on call 24/7, so they treat you that way—which ultimately stresses you out. It also sends employees the message that you expect them to be on call 24/7—which stresses them out.
Instead, try: Limiting the hours during which you and your employees send work-related emails. Prohibiting email from, say, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., will give everyone time to unplug, rest, and recharge.
[Cat Comment – I personally would echo this strongly! I made the mistake of doing this in a past life only to be told off for not replying one night as they had expected me to!]

Bad habit #2: Using email to discuss topics best suited to other means of communication. Overly complicated emails lead to confusion, while scheduling meetings by email leads to endless chains of “reply all.”
Instead, try: Finding alternate ways to communicate complex or sensitive subjects. Use calendar tools to plan meetings, IM or chat to discuss simple topics, and phone or in-person conversations to deliver bad news or hash out complex issues.
[Cat Comment – come on – who’s guilty of emailing their colleague sat next to them!? hand ups! Come on be honest!!]

Bad habit #3: Setting alerts to be notified of every incoming email. Getting pinged every time you receive an email is distracting and makes you less efficient and productive.
Instead, try: Turning off alerts (unless you’re waiting for a very urgent email). Set specific times to check email, such as in the morning, before and after lunch and in the late afternoon.
[Cat Comment – classic time mismanagement advise – turn off the alerts as they distract you from the job at hand]

Bad habit #4: Using vague, unclear subject lines. Generic subject lines like “Hey” or “Meeting” or “Question” require recipients to open the email to see what it’s about and makes it harder to search for relevant emails later on.
Instead, try: Using specific, detailed subject lines to speed comprehension and save time.

Bad habit #5: Sending overly long and complex emails. With more users checking email on their mobile phones, an email that’s too long will likely never get read—it will just get ignored.
Instead, try: Limiting email length to five brief sentences, max. When more detail is necessary, use attachments.
[Cat Comment – don’t bore me, use bullets if there’s a lot needed to be shared or use paragraphs properly]

Also consider using email rules to automatically sort incoming messages so you can focus on the most important ones first, and un-subscribing to emails you no longer want to receive (instead of just deleting them every day) [Cat Comment – careful doing that as it often alerts the phishers that it’s a genuine email address].

[Cat Comment – Bad Habits #6 – read them before you press send, it saves time having to recall and resend when you realise you haven’t attached that attachment, you didn’t spell check it, or you xx’d at the end like your client was your mate!]

By changing your bad habits, you’ll gain control of your email, become more productive, and communicate more clearly with employees, partners, and customers.

What other bad business habits would you like to break? Let me know …

I just wanted to add my 10 pence worth of guidance to help my clients through these ‘interesting’ few days (can you tell from my tone I’m not the greatest football fan in the world!?)

With stats stating between 2.5 and 3 million working days being lost as a result of this global event we can’t ignore it (try as I might). So a few bullet points below

    • Flexible Approach?
      • Consider allowing shift swaps, short notice holidays or flexible working arrangements where they can make up their hours. Can you rota people to take turns?
    • Outfit & Behaviour Expectations?
      • Will you allow football shirts in customer facing roles? Remind your staff of the ‘being under the influence of drink or drugs at work’ rules, and remind them of what they can and can’t do on social media
    • Opportunity to treat staff?
      • Have you thought of treating this as an employee incentive? Giving them an extra couple of hours off if they do x, y or z?
    • Treatment?
      • Make sure you treat all requests for time off etc fairly and equally so you don’t fall foul of any of the ‘Protected Characteristics’ such as race (England vs Croatia games for instance) Sex (a man can have the time but you refuse a woman) or age (letting a younger man have the time to go to the pub with his footie team, but not an older man have time to go play golf) to give just a couple of (extreme) examples
    • Betting?
      • Will you allow sweepstakes, what are your rules about cash handling on site?
    • Absence policy?
      • Do your staff know what your policy is? Do they know to call in sick and by when, and the consequences if they do so? You should tell them that absences during World Cup will be closely monitored and any employee found to have flouted the rules could face disciplinary action. Manage it carefully
    • Live games?
      • Will you allow streaming through the computers, radios to be blaring out or even provide TVs in work areas? Your choice but think about it now and set the expectations
    • Last but not least – Enjoy!

At least most matches are after ‘normal working hours’ unlike in 2002, when games in Japan and South Korea were played in the morning before working hours, which might have added to poor attendance and lateness.  Yes it might encourage staff to disappear early or arrive late to work the next day after a heavy night, but with the help of the above you should be ready for it.

Now – who’s with me and cheering for Scotland? (She says hiding behind the sofa from her Scottish hubby who didn’t find that funny)

trust puzzle

WHEN it was on the news that the CEO of Yahoo had banned it every blog, article and journalist had an opinion on it – flexible and home working and the question of ‘to trust or not to trust’ employees who wish to utilize this way of working.

But let’s take a practical approach. Flexible or home working (for ease I will use the terms synonymously) is actually a really great method of working – for both the employee and the employer. I’m a staunch advocate for it, in the right place, with the right guidelines, for the right reasons and in the right roles.

My business partner stated in despair on reading the latest reported facts: “if home working is not effective then surely it is about the mind-set of the individual and how they apply themselves”. She agreed it may not be for everyone but wished as a nation we would “grow up and manage the individual, not manage and implement rules to the lowest common denominator”.  Blimey it’s not often I hear her that riled on an HR matter!

So, instead of banning it in its entirety, tarring everyone with the same brush, let’s put some things in place to help make it work.

Educate and train managers and employees alike. It’s not surprising that unsupportive managers are cited frequently in the research as a real blocker to creating a flexible environment. Coaching managers is therefore vital and will help to produce a consistent and fair approach across the entire organisation.

Communicate the aims and benefits of flexible work arrangements. It’s imperative to encourage better communication between employers, managers and employees so that employees and line managers are aware of organisational policies. But please avoid long lists of policies and processes. One key policy and one easy to follow request process will suffice.

Regularly evaluate what is and isn’t working and share success stories. Take time to review where flexible working is successful and compare that to where it isn’t to understand the differences and to identify what is preventing them from working elsewhere. By sharing any success stories you will engage the reticent managers and hopefully encourage more managers to try it.

Track performance. Implement a means to demonstrate the employee’s performance/work rate, be that working from home or working flexibly. There will be less concern and suspicion where sales targets are set, or daily/weekly to-do list statuses are shared, or status reports completed.  That way the organisation and the manager know and can monitor productivity.  One of the main reasons cited by Yahoo was that when they reviewed login times they were inconsistent with expectations – so be clear with the employee, tell them what is expected and advise that you can, and will check.

Introduce other means of communication to help. This is a chance to use new technology – Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime or other forms of videoconferencing – which can be used to reinforce the connections and to bring the team closer together.

Trial it. If nothing else, a trial will demonstrate whether it will work or not. Give the team a chance to see it in practice and the manager a chance to properly assess whether it’s realistic and practical. This can be as short as a month or as long as six months. Review it, tweak it and move on, accept it, or go back to a more ‘traditional’ way of working. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is my motto here.

Now, I personally would expect some give and take too. When I was returning to work on a four day week I did expect to be available on that fifth day. I wanted people to realise that I did take my work seriously and that I could and would be flexible, but that’s just me. Let’s be clear – a company can ask for that and try and mandate for it but it needs to be right for the individual too.

So, let’s go back to the original thought. Should flexible and homeworking be banned as we are managing to the lowest denominator, or with these simple steps can it be successfully implemented, be a useful tool for engagement and in turn increase commitment and productivity?

I am about to head north of the border, make a dash for the freedom to empty open beaches and spend time in competition with my children searching for the largest crab in the rock pools. Why because its school half term and I need a break.

But holidays can strike fear in the very heart of many an employee and their boss as they have ‘so much to do before they go’ and they will have ‘so much to do to catch up when they get back’.

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 23 08.27

So are they really worth it?


Because regardless of what you have to, or have not got to, do you need to take time and take a break to reflect, recharge and refocus. All things about becoming more resilient and being more able to cope.  So don’t put your holiday off – grab it and escape.

If you would like to find out more about resilience join us at our bitesize free seminar

Developing Resilience

November 6th 2013

Parkinson Room, 4th Floor, No1 Whitehall, Leeds
9am – 11.30am

Click here to book a place

Saw this and laughed out loud as I prep for our free ‘Developing Personal Resilience’ seminar on Wednesday 6th November in Leeds

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 21 06.52

It sums up beautifully what some companies feel about the ‘P’ word – Pressure.

They often discard it and dismiss it, ignore it or misinterpret it and that leads to all sorts of other issues. But lets remember there are valid business reasons as to why we should actually do something about pressure before it leads to the ‘S’ word of Stress – here’s just a few

  • improved staff commitment, performance, productivity, recruitment and retention.
  • supporting the legal duty to be pro-active and to take the initiative rather than simply adopting a re-active approach.
  • improved morale and so reduced absence levels and employee turnover
  • Cash flow through less/zero claims

Join us at our seminar to discover the legal reasons why we should support our staff, some more HR assistance and suggestions and get some top personal tips on how to handle it

book here http://www.threedomsolutions.co.uk/contact-form/booking.php?id=8



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