Most employers nowadays offer some form of mental health awareness in the workplace, but is enough being done to address the implications that the menopause can cause?  The menopause can arguably be closely linked to Mental Health, considering it can lead to anxiety and depression and can affect every woman differently.

The menopause can have affect women emotionally and physically, as well how they perform and interact with colleagues and customers in the workplace, which can affect their absence levels and work productivity.  Some of the more common symptoms include night sweats, insomnia, lack of concentration and forgetfulness which can lead to problems with work performance, difficulties in making decisions and a decrease in an employee’s confidence levels.  Therefore, providing a supportive and understanding culture could potentially lower the Employer’s risk of a claim for sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Employment Tribunals

The first successful employment tribunal concerning the menopause was in 2012 and was in the case of Merchant v BT plc whereby the employee alleged that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of her gender when her employer failed to deal with her menopause symptoms in the same way that it would have dealt with other medical conditions. The employment tribunal held this discriminatory and unfair and said that a man suffering from ill health with comparable symptoms from a medical condition (in this particular case, affecting concentration) and with performance issues would not have been treated in the same way.

Previous case law has recommended that employers should take medical information into account in situations of capability and employers tend to seek advice from an employee’s GP and / or Occupational Health.

Considering more woman in the UK are now returning to work after having children and working later in life, employers would be wise to put in place the means to support their female employees through menopause transition.

How can employers help?

There is much advice and support for employers available and Solve. Can offer your business support when a women is going through the menopause.  Below are some useful hints and tips to get you started: –

  • Highlight menopause as part of a wider occupational health awareness campaign, so that all employees know that their employer has a positive attitude to the issue and that it is not something women should feel embarrassed about as well as providing guidance on how to deal with the menopause.
  • Sickness absence procedures should make it clear that they are flexible enough to cater for menopause-related sickness absence. Women should experience no detriment because they may need time off during this time.  Employers may choose to record sickness related to the menopause as an ongoing health issue instead of a series of short-term absences, which will ensure that the Absence Management Procedure will not be invoked unnecessarily and in turn will provide peace of mind to employees when discussing their health concerns.
  • Raise awareness amongst your leadership and management team of how menopause symptoms may affect women in the workplace.
  • Provide women in the workplace with information on how they can get support for any issues that arise as a result of the menopause. Because of the way society treats the menopause, many women will feel uncomfortable going to their line manager, especially if it’s is a man, and other options should be available. This may be through human resources or a welfare officer. Many employers have Employee Assistance Programmes that can act as a go-between and therefore, employers should communicate their Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
  • Where possible, aim to accommodate flexible working requests that will help women manage their symptoms, which can include exhaustion, anxiety and depression because of sudden changes in their hormone levels.
  • Consider giving employees the means to adjust the temperature e.g. provide a fan, ensure that employees take their rest breaks, and provide cold drinking water.
  • Where appropriate, refer female employees to occupational health.  And ensure that managers are aware of reasonable workplace adjustments that may be necessary to support women who are experiencing the menopause.
  • Promote physical activity, making full use of wellbeing opportunities as an added value benefit by some healthcare and group risk providers.

For help and guidance on any health related concerns, contact us at Solve.

Employer Right to Work Checks

The world is going through a phase right now of increased hacker activity, and as companies we need to respond and show that we are taking steps to protect employees. Here is a quick outline of 4 basic steps you can take to do that.

1. Data Encryption

It’s becoming more and more advisable that all data for your company is kept on an encrypted hard drive. This essentially is a locked hard drive that requires the unique key to open it. It’s easier than ever now to make use of high level security features with online cloud storage making huge strides towards online security for your data.

2. Keep what you need, nothing more

Part of the data protection act requires that we don’t keep data we don’t need, and though companies follow this rule, generally, well, we could tighten it up for ourselves, and make a distinct effort to not keep data on an employee we really don’t need or could do without. By reducing what we keep on our employees we reduce the amount of information a hacker might get hold of. Mothers maiden names are now so dangerous due to their overuse as “secret question” answers. We can get better at this!

3. Use dedicated online systems

We wrote a blog post a while back on using an HR Management System in your business, and while these can be practically rewarding due to simplicity, they offer security benefits. Essentially, you don’t store HR related data onsite, it’s elsewhere, and you can generally be assured that these companies are doing their best to keep this data safe, if they didn’t they wouldn’t exist long! While it’s common it’s not a given, so research the security of the system you are considering before you invest.

4. Keep it non digital

This seems drastic, and counter intuitive to what we are saying about HR Management Systems, but we aren’t saying don’t use them, just add an extra level of protection to some data by keeping it in hard copy only. It depends on what data your company needs, but it might be worth a consideration that not all data requires instant access, and it could be safer in hard copy only.

Research shows that workplaces designed with employee wellbeing in mind can play a role in reducing absenteeism, improve job performance, employee motivation and help with recruitment and retention. It makes sense, given we spend more time at work in atypical day than anywhere else. We have looked at some ways you can help make your workspace a healthier, happier and more productive environment for your employees.

1.Encourage your team to move throughout the day

Various studies link regular exercise to lower absence rates and improved job performance so simple touches like encouraging employees to use the stairs by posting encouraging signs and making sure your stairwell is freshly painted and clean. If you have parking make sure there are secure spaces for bicycles, if you have the space (and budget) you could install showers and lockers so that those who walk, run, or cycle to work, or workout at lunchtimes, can have a shower. Or, find out the location of your nearest local swimming pool and encourage employees to have a swim or use the showers there at lunchtime or before starting work.

2.Make sure your office furniture provides support

Give some thought to furniture design and layout. Ensure furniture you have is ergonomic to provide adequate support when working. Make sure your employees know how to adjust their office furniture to ensure it is comfortable as well as supportive.

3.Improve the environment

Buy some office plants to cheer up desks and workspaces. Certain types of plants filter out toxins from the air and improve humidity levels as well. Make sure you address any complaints about hot and cold spots from employees by providing extra heaters and fans. Make sure your work space is well-ventilated. If you can improve the air quality then research shows productivity can improve so choose paints and carpets that don’t emit toxins and check ventilation is adequate. In most cases the landlord has lease obligations to ensure working heating and ventilation systems.

4.Check out lighting solutions

Fluorescent lighting isn’t the only choice available now for overhead lighting – check out LED systems which allow you to adjust light intensity and colour throughout the day. Provide desk/table top lighting based on tasks your employees are carrying out to help make working much easier on their eyes. If you can have some natural light in some areas all the better.

5.Encourage healthy eating

We’re not advocating a ban on chocolate but providing a bowl of fruit for your employees daily / weekly or as a monthly treat may encourage healthier eating habits. Fruit is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre and can give an immediate energy boost.

6.Have a relaxing zone

Finally, have a space for your employees to relax away from their desk with comfortable seating and USB sockets for them to charge their devices. Providing free wi-fi is an added bonus and means employees can keep up to date in their breaks.

Thanks to modern technology it is becoming increasingly easier to search and find candidates that match the skills, qualifications and experience required for a role i.e. the ‘hard skills’ but what about the so called ‘soft skills’? It’s easy to forget these hidden factors such as social cohesion, personality alignment and interpersonal value tolerances. Whilst a candidate may have the necessary hard skills to fulfil the role it is also important to find out if they have the soft skills required to fit in with your organisation’s culture.

There are a variety of personality tests available to assess candidates. At Solve. we use the Thomas International PPA test to assess candidates work behaviours. The PPA can also be used to indicate the impact that a candidate may have on an existing team i.e. what will they bring to the team and will they fit in.

By assessing soft skills as well as hard skills an organisation will benefit in a variety of ways:

1. Creates a more cohesive team that work well together.
2. Better staff retention
3. Reduced recruitment costs as result of having to recruit less frequently
4. Greater job satisfaction for employees
5. Improved efficiencies
6. Decrease in ER issues

New survey results from National Accident Helpline, a claims management company have revealed the likelihood that a person with a life-changing injury will have to leave their job.

The company’s Life-Changing Injuries Survey, carried out in September 2016, states that of those who suffered a life-changing injury, over one in five (21%) had to leave their job.

Almost half of seriously injured people (46%) were forced to make lifestyle changes, while almost a third (29%) are now registered disabled.

Group HR Director, Marcus Lamont, at National Accident Helpline, said: “It’s a shame to find out that more than one in five people with a life-changing injury have to leave their job. “This just shows how valuable it is for HR professionals to be properly trained in how to support employees who have sustained a serious injury.”

The survey builds upon data collected by the company’s Real Cost of Personal Injury Report, carried out in May 2016. This report revealed the wide-ranging issues suffered by those who had sustained a personal injury, along with the reasons for making a claim.

The Real Cost of Personal Injury Report showed that, contrary to public opinion, financial recompense was not the only reason for making a compensation claim.

Almost a third (32%) of those who made a claim said they wanted to make sure the same accident couldn’t happen to someone else.

• 47% were angry and / or frustrated with the person or company who caused their accident
• 37% were keen for the person or company at fault to acknowledge responsibility and apologise

You can find the full details of the Real Cost of Personal Injury Report, as well as their Life-Changing Injuries Survey, on the National Accident Helpline website.

National Accident Helpline’s Life-Changing Injuries Survey was carried out through Google Surveys in September 2016 and gained a total of 2,411 responses from people in the UK.

“If you know someone who’s suffered a serious or life-changing injury, National Accident Helpline’s serious injury information hub could help.”

Maintaining a healthy work life balance in any organisation is essential, however, the pace of our lives can make this difficult to achieve. Five ways that will enable employees to have a sense of wellbeing and reduce stress, whilst still maintaining high productivity levels are:

1.No More Late Nights at the Office
Research has proven that removing the company culture that celebrates employees working long-hours can help to achieve better productivity whilst assisting with individual work life balance. For instance: –

• Placing a time ban on sending emails after a certain time in the day;
• Inviting the arrival of the weekend with an early Friday finish;
• Introducing a shorter working week – Interestingly research has shown that there has been no drop in productivity yet has improved morale and staff retention.

Setting clear lines between working and personal time inevitably enhances staff productivity. However, that said, if the company is facing a surge in workload and staff are therefore required to work longer hours, it is important that they feel comfortable to ask for help along with the assistance of training opportunities for other team members, can be a good way to combat learning and delegation of unmanageable workloads.

2.Manage time spent in meetings
Attending meetings that go on longer than anticipated can often distract us from our essential day to day workload. Here’s some handy tips you can use to reduce the impact: –

• Staff can be encouraged to assess whether their attendance is absolutely necessary, or whether a post-meeting update would suffice.
• Promoting shorter concise meetings within the company will ensure that the meeting has a more direct focus.
• Changing the format of the meeting, for example asking everyone to stand, this changes the tone of the meeting and they can be kept to the point; or introducing walking meetings, which mean that the pace of the meeting is rapid and there is less need to digress.

3.Reduce the need to review emails
Studies have proven that employees have noticeably higher stress levels when using email. Here are some tips to reduce these: –

• Emails which individuals are copied into can be routed into a separate mailbox, leaving only the emails which are sent directly ‘To’ the individual in their inbox; and
• By switching emails off and scheduling a specific time in the day for them to be read, can reduce stress levels and enable employees to feel in control of their working day.

4.Eliminate distractions
There are a number of distractions in the workplace that can increase stress levels, which in turn make employees less productive. Here are some tips to reduce stress levels and increase the productivity of staff: –

• Introducing quiet working areas in the office can help those working on more contemplative tasks the option to not be distracted;
• Staff should be encouraged to turn off emails and mobile phones and disconnect from messaging and social media tools at the end of the working day; and
• Offering flexibility, such as allowing staff the option to work from home.

5.Drawing a clear line
It is important that work and personal life remain separate and the lines between the two do not begin to blur. Here’s some tips to help staff make the distinction:

• Encourage staff to leave work at work;
• Ensure that staff turn their work mobile and laptop off when work has finished for the day; and
• When an employee is on holiday or work has finished for the day, ensure that their email and remote access are configured to stop staff logging on.

To make ourselves healthier, happier and live a longer and more fulfilled life, we need to reduce our stress levels and get our lives in balance. The key is finding an appropriate amount of time for each, so that one side does not have a detrimental affect on the other.