HR News December 2009
HR News for December includes details of the new ruling from the EU Court of Justice, which allows employees to reschedule their holiday if they are ill for part of their annual leave. Other stories include the change in law relating to paternity leave and pay, a report on how stress is a major cause of workplace absence and the need for HR managers to educate employees about flexible working rights.
Ruling on sick leave could be a massive burden for employers
The EU Court of Justice has approved a ruling allowing employees who go on sick leave during annual leave to reschedule their holidays, even if this means carrying holiday into a subsequent year.
This ruling will please many employees but displease many employers, particularly in the SME sector. In principle you can understand why HR professionals feel this is a proper and humane judgment, because an illness, in most instances, is out of the employee's control and recovery from some conditions is not exactly a holiday.
On the other hand, from a small or medium-sized employer's point of view, losing valuable 'work time' through sick leave and then a holiday entitlement, particularly at a time when there has been so much downsizing due to the recession, is likely to put a massive burden on the remaining employees.
Many employers are already in overdrive, trying desperately to recover from a long and severe downturn, where every employee becomes critical to meeting new orders and business success.
It is hoped that most employees will take into account circumstances in their particular organisation at the time, and ensure they take their holiday at a time that is convenient for the business and their colleagues, rather than insist on it at a time when it could adversely affect the business.
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Stress 'a major cause of workplace sick days'
Data showing that work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for an estimated 11.4 million lost working days in Britain in the past year is the tip of the iceberg, according to one expert.
Jenny Edwards, director of the International Stress Management Association, stated that while stress itself is not an illness it could exacerbate and contribute to other conditions.
"A lot of people are off sick with legitimate problems that are in themselves being caused or underpinned by stress but under a different name." She continued, citing muscular-skeletal disorders as an example of a condition, which can be caused or made worse by stress and tension.
Ms Edwards' comments come after the Labour Force survey from the Health and Safety Executive highlighted that, in the last year, 415,000 individuals in Britain believed that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill.
Recent research by consultancy firm Mercer revealed that the most common reason for staff absences was muscular-skeletal problems, followed by viral infections and stress-related illness.
This data highlights that companies can help raise awareness of stress by ensuring that managers are aware of the situation and trained not to regard stress as a weakness.
People 'unaware of flexible working rights'
HR managers need to do more to educate employees about flexible working rights for carers, a new study has suggested.
Government research shows that 82 per cent of adults are not aware that people who look after a spouse or relative have the right to ask their employer for flexible working arrangements.
It also revealed that 35 per cent of those asked have caring responsibilities, meaning some could be missing out.
Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, urged businesses to educate people about their rights, pointing out that this could help them attract and retain talented members of staff.
Parents of children aged 16 and under also have the right to request flexible working hours.
Paternity leave and pay is extended
Comes into force April 2010
Fathers will be able to benefit from up to 26 weeks' additional paternity leave if the mother of the child returns to work before the end of the maternity leave period to which she is entitled. This will be available during the second six months of the child's life and may be paid if taken during the mother's statutory maternity pay period. The Government intends that the legislation is to come into force in April 2010, with effect for parents of babies due from 3 April 2011.