How to Overcome Workplace Disruption and Common Employee Management Challenges

Published October 17 2023

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Effective employee management is the cornerstone of a thriving workplace. However, it comes with its fair share of challenges that employers need to navigate. From travel disruptions caused by strikes to school closures and managing temporary closures, these challenges require careful planning and a proactive approach. In this guide, we will delve into these common employee management issues and provide practical insights to help employers overcome them.

Struggling with Staffing

Tackling No-Show New Starters:

Securing a new recruit can be a cause for celebration, but it’s not uncommon for candidates to back out, leaving employers in a lurch. This can be frustrating as there’s often no recourse. To prevent this, strive to maintain an attractive and competitive workplace. It’s not just about pay; factors like flexibility and career progression matter. Stand out with a positive workplace culture to retain potential hires.

Managing Employee Overtime:

Different months often see increased reliance on employee overtime. Ensure you have opt-out agreements for adult workers who may exceed the 48-hour weekly limit, including overtime. Don’t forget mandatory rest breaks, which still apply in most cases. Check your contracts for any enhanced rights regarding rest. Clarify pay arrangements to avoid disputes.

Handling Fixed-Term Employees:

Even short-term, fixed-term employees should be treated fairly. Issuing a contract of employment is crucial, and remember that not renewing a fixed-term contract counts as a dismissal. Seek advice before the contract ends to avoid legal issues.

Addressing ‘Holiday Hoarders’:

Some employees may delay booking holidays, leaving a surplus at year-end. Remind them to plan and utilise their entitlement. Most will respond well to gentle nudges.

These challenges can test an employer’s mettle, but with proactive strategies and good communication, they can be navigated successfully.

Navigating Travel and Rail Strikes

Understanding the Impact

Travel strikes, such as those affecting public transportation or rail services, can significantly impact an organisation’s operations. When employees face difficulties commuting to work due to strikes, it can result in delays, absenteeism, and decreased productivity.

These disruptions affect not only the employees directly impacted but also the entire workforce. Projects may be delayed, deadlines missed, and customer satisfaction compromised. Additionally, employees who do manage to make it to work may experience increased stress and frustration.

Employers need to be proactive in understanding the potential consequences of travel strikes and have contingency plans in place. This may include flexible work arrangements, remote work options, or temporary adjustments to work schedules. By addressing these challenges effectively, employers can minimise the negative impact on their business operations and maintain employee morale.

Proactive Measures

  • Communication: Keep employees informed about potential strikes. Encourage them to plan alternative routes or telecommute when possible.
  • Flexible Hours: Offer flexible work hours to accommodate delayed commutes. This flexibility can ease the stress of dealing with unpredictable strikes.
  • Remote Work: Where feasible, allow employees to work remotely during strike days. This ensures that work continues despite external disruptions.

Managing School Closures and Strikes

The Impact on Working Parents

School closures and teacher strikes can pose significant challenges for employers. When employees have children affected by these disruptions, it can lead to difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities. This may result in increased absenteeism, requests for flexible work arrangements, or last-minute schedule changes.

Employers must be prepared to address these issues proactively. Implementing flexible work policies, such as remote work options or adjusted schedules, can help employees manage their childcare needs during these disruptions. Clear communication with employees about available support and resources is crucial.

Furthermore, understanding that employees may be facing added stress and anxiety due to these circumstances is essential. Employers can foster a supportive workplace culture by acknowledging these challenges and offering assistance where possible. By taking these steps, employers can maintain productivity and employee morale during school closures and teacher strikes.

Supportive Measures

  • Flexibility: Implement flexible work arrangements, such as adjusted hours or telecommuting, to help parents manage childcare responsibilities.
  • Paid Time Off: Offer additional paid time off or allow employees to use accrued leave for unexpected childcare needs.
  • Temporary Childcare Solutions: Explore options like on-site childcare or partnerships with local daycare centres to provide temporary solutions during school closures.

Example: 

An employee has said they are unable to come to work because the school/nursery is closed or other childcare arrangements have broken down. Is the employee entitled to time off?

Regarding an employee’s request for time off due to school or childcare disruptions, it’s important to note that employees have a statutory right to unpaid time off for dependants. This right comes into play when an employee needs to address unforeseen issues with the care of a dependent, such as a child.

Employees should promptly inform you of the reason for their absence and provide an estimate of how long they expect to be away from work due to dependent care needs.

It’s crucial to understand that this provision isn’t limited to employees with children. Any employee who experiences unexpected disruptions in caring for a dependent, which could include elderly parents, is eligible for dependent care leave. This demonstrates the broad scope of circumstances that can trigger the need for such leave.

Weather Impact on Employee Attendance

Regarding employees unable to work due to adverse weather conditions or flooding, it’s crucial to first review employment contracts and past practices to determine if there’s a contractual right to pay during such circumstances. Legally, employees typically wouldn’t be entitled to pay in this situation.

However, as an employer, you have the discretion to consider payment for employees unable to commute due to adverse weather. While not legally mandated, this can foster positive employee relations. Ensure fairness and consistency among employees in such cases and explicitly state that any payment is at the company’s discretion. Be aware that regular payments in this context might establish a custom and practice, potentially obligating you in the future.

Depending on your business and the role, remote work might be a practical alternative. In such cases, employees should be compensated for their work.

Regarding employees requesting to use a day’s holiday due to adverse weather conditions, if they have sufficient accrued leave, you can permit this. It can benefit both parties by ensuring the employee doesn’t lose income, and it reduces accrued holiday days for later use. While you can suggest using a holiday, employees cannot be forced to do so unless proper notice is under holiday regulations.

Handling Temporary Closures

Facing Unexpected Closures

Unexpected business closures can disrupt operations and impact employees’ livelihoods. Employers can navigate such challenges by having a clear plan in place.

  • Communication is Key: Keep employees informed promptly and transparently. Explain the reasons for the closure and provide guidance on what they should expect.
  • Compliance with Legal Obligations: Ensure compliance with employment laws regarding notice periods, severance pay, and employee rights during closures. Seek legal advice if needed.
  • Supportive Measures: Offer support to affected employees, such as assistance with finding new job opportunities, resume writing, or accessing counselling services.
  • Financial Considerations: Budget for severance payments, accrued leave payouts, and other financial obligations to employees.
  • Record Keeping: Maintain detailed records of the closure process to demonstrate transparency and adherence to legal requirements.

By proactively addressing these aspects, employers can minimise the impact of unexpected closures on employees and maintain a positive reputation in challenging times.

Conclusion

In conclusion, navigating common employee management challenges requires proactive measures and effective communication. Retaining new recruits, managing overtime, and handling fixed-term employees demand a careful approach that combines legal compliance with employee well-being.

While challenges like “no-show new starters,” “holiday hoarders,” and unexpected overtime can be daunting, they are not insurmountable. By staying informed, implementing best practices, and fostering a positive workplace culture, employers can mitigate these hurdles and ensure the smooth operation of their businesses.

Remember, employment laws and regulations are continually evolving. Seeking professional guidance and staying abreast of the latest updates is essential to addressing these challenges effectively. By doing so, employers can create an environment where both the workforce and the business thrive.

FAQs

What are some common travel disruptions that can affect employees’ commutes?

Common travel disruptions include public transportation strikes, road closures due to accidents or construction, and adverse weather conditions that impact commuting.

How can I address employee absenteeism caused by travel disruptions?

You can address absenteeism by implementing flexible work arrangements, allowing remote work when feasible, and communicating with employees about alternative commuting options.

What steps should I take to support working parents when schools are closed or teachers are on strike?

Support working parents by offering flexible work hours, additional paid time off, or temporary childcare solutions. Consider developing policies that specifically address these situations.

How can I prepare my business for temporary closures due to unforeseen events?

To prepare for temporary closures, create clear emergency protocols, establish remote work capabilities, and maintain open communication with employees to ensure their safety and productivity during such situations.

Can I require employees to work remotely during a temporary closure or emergency situation?

You can require remote work if employees have the necessary resources and it’s feasible for the job. However, be mindful of individual circumstances, and make accommodations when needed to support employees during challenging times.