How you treat employees during a time of crisis can speak volumes to them about the kind of person you are and how you think of those who work for you. Many surveys have found that in recent years, the reason for people leaving employment isn’t always the job itself but rather the people, specifically the management.
People leave people, not jobs, is a phrase you have likely heard frequently in recent years. Unlike generations of past years, the mindset of the collective workforce is shifting, and people are no longer willing to put up with being treated poorly by employers.
As such, handling difficult situations with your employees can put your head and shoulders above other employees and ensure your reputation and retention remains stellar and your employees know you value them.
There are many different reasons why you might need to offer employees extra support, from bereavement to injury or illness, change in the circumstances, or simply having struggles outside of work. Knowing how best to approach this and what you can do to help, not just your legal obligations can ensure your working relationship remains intact.
It’s ok not to be ok
Mental health has taken a front seat in recent years, and people cite the stress of tiger job roles or relationships with employees as the biggest source of stress in their lives. As an employer, try not to be the boss who has no regard for how their staff cope mentally and what they feel.
Make it part of your company culture that mental health is considered important and will be supported by management. Talk to employees, ask if they are ok and if there is anything the company can do. Providing mental health days, improving the work-home life balance, offering external mental health support and having access to someone for them to talk to can be beneficial in supporting your employees when they need it. Paying lip service by sharing mental health activities and then not following through can be more harmful than ignoring it completely, as you will be setting employees up to fail. So put an emphasis on mental health and let them know it’s really ok to not be ok, and you won’t think any less of them for admitting how they feel, nor will it affect their standing in the company.
Employers are legally obliged to offer sick pay to workers who meet the criteria. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is payable to employees by employers for up to 28 weeks. Employers can have their own internal sick pay policy with clauses and exclusions as set by them, but SSP must be offered to all employees who qualify for it by the employer.
Whether you offer more than this sum for certain periods is completely up to the company, but having plans such as Group Income Protection policies in place can help you to mitigate the cost of one or more of your employees being off sick for a long period and cover your expenses regarding wages at this time. Ensure your employees are aware of your terms and roadsides regarding long-term absences and reporting their illness and projected time off to ensure everyone is aware of their status and responsibilities.
Not everyone struggling needs time off, but they may need to adjust their working hours and schedule to accommodate the increased pressure at home. It might be that they need to dip out some days for medical appointments, rearrange working hours to allow for school pick-ups or drop-offs, or to come in later for a short period if they are struggling with early morning commutes for health reasons.
Being flexible as much as possible regarding their circumstances and your business type can help employees feel supported during this time and rely on the company’s support. The reality is people do have lives outside of work, and from time to time, their lives will impact their ability to work in some way. Being flexible regarding their working hours, location or requirements can help them stay working and reduce the pressure they may be under.
Sometimes people just need to know you care. You don’t necessarily have to fully understand what they are going through or know the ins and outs of their personal circumstances but being empathetic to their situation and allowing them to share what is going on without fear or judgement, or rebuttal can support your relationship and allow them to open up enough for you to be able to help them during this time.
The more you know about what is going on, the easier it will be for you to help them and support the company by adapting how you work. It will also ensure your employee is more likely to return if they have to take an extended absence and reduce the need to call out for fear of punishment for disclosing their external circumstances. Remember, while it might be an inconvenience for you, it was likely causing them more issues at home, so show empathy, be considerate of their needs and show them you are here for them.
It is no good waiting to help someone if it’s on the back of missed shifts or poor performance, and they are in line for a reprimand of any sort. This will likely put them on the back foot. If you notice a change in their behaviour, demeanour, or working habits, address it quickly.
Pull them aside and ask if anything is wrong and how you help them. This is especially important if you know they are unlikely to approach you with any issues they have. Make sure they know you are doing it for their well-being, and they won’t be in trouble. But by promising a change to help and putting measures in place quickly to support the employee in question, you can limit disruption while supporting them at the same time.
Don’t be the kind of boss people leave because you fail to recognise employees have lives outside of work. Be the boss who is there to support them when they need it and work to do what you can to get them back on their feet regardless of what they are going through. Everyone has hard times now and again, but as an employer, you can work towards finding a common goal, so your employees and your business can keep moving forward with a good relationship.