Our case studies demonstrate a number of ways in which we can support your HR needs within a small business context. These are real life examples of how MHR Manager has found solutions to disputes and human resources issues for SMEs that required HR support when problems arose. Click on the name below to read about the kinds of employment issues that might arise for a small company, and how MHR Manager devised effective solutions that avoided the need for legal action, and helped both parties to come to an agreement.
Managing poor health and absence is always challenging but particularly so when the underlying problem is connected to a mental health issue.
Our client was frustrated with Sarah who was not performing her job well, making mistakes, upsetting her colleagues and taking excessive sick leave. Her manager spoke to me because he wanted to start managing her poor performance with a view to dismissing her. It was at this initial meeting with her manager that I was alerted to the fact that she was displaying symptoms which might be connected to stress, anxiety and/or depression. Because depression is likely to be considered a disability, it was crucial that any performance discussions with her were managed sensitively.
In this particular case, I already had a good rapport with Sarah so acting as the HR Manager it was appropriate for me to speak with her privately to express concerns about her performance and absence from work. By building trust, being honest and showing empathy, Sarah was comfortable telling me that she was suffering from depression. She was anxious that our conversation remain confidential but I encouraged her to allow me to advise her line management and how we could then support her return to full health.
I arranged for Sarah to meet with a specialist Occupational Health doctor and he made recommendations about 'reasonable adjustments' which would be helpful to Sarah as well as providing her with advice on coping strategies and access to self-help groups.
With support from all sides (which included a lighter workload and regular meetings with me) we began to see a gradual but steady improvement in Sarah's health and her performance and behaviour at work, albeit with the occasional setback. By supporting Sarah personally and educating our client to understand the issues around mental health as well as the legislation of equality, we were able to navigate past all the very real hazards.
In this example, Sarah has been able to return to full health and continues to work successfully for our client. Sadly this is not always the case, but following a robust process like this example is also central to putting in place the framework to allow for a fair dismissal on the grounds of poor health should there be no alternative.
Some of our clients contact us the first time because they have an employee difficulty but others, like Aaron, get in touch because they are planning to grow their business and want to ensure that they have all their 'HR ducks in a row'!
In cases like Aaron's, we will spend half a day with you to conduct an HR audit - identifying where there is a need for legal compliance or the introduction of good processes to avoid future pitfalls. We will prepare an HR Plan which details our recommendations, timescales and costs. You are then able to tackle these projects in your own time or ask us, or other HR professionals, to do it with or for you.
We have helped Aaron to implement many of the activities on his original HR Plan which have included an Employee Survey to increase levels of engagement, recruitment of key individuals, Performance Development Plans, absence management, communication and team building events. We are continuing to work with Aaron on other HR projects.
Difficult Employees, Misconduct and Dismissal
John had always been a challenging employee. He seemed to 'know his rights' and when he behaved badly would often taunt my client, daring her to sack him, but saying that he would sue her if she did. My client was scared that any dismissal of John would result in a tribunal claim. She had lost a case at tribunal five years earlier and did not want a repeat of this, under any circumstances.
John took advantage of this situation, often turning up for work late or being rude to customers. My client would start disciplinary action with him, but John would then behave perfectly for six months while his 'warning' was live. Sometimes John would take time off work for stress. My client was frustrated as she knew that John was taking advantage of her and playing games, but he seemed to know the rules and was always one step ahead and quick to give an excuse or a threat.
However on one occasion John was caught exceeding his driving hours and not taking the correct rest breaks. This was an illegal act and would have resulted in both the individual driver and the company being fined had he been caught. My client did not want to allow this behaviour to be condoned in any way, but was worried that taking disciplinary action against John might result in more problems.
I examined the information she gave me. My client was certain that however fair and reasonable she was, John would challenge her decision and cause trouble. However I was concerned that if she allowed John to get away with excessive driving hours, she was potentially setting a poor president for the future and it would be unfair to discipline or dismiss other employees for similar misconduct.
I encouraged my clients to suspend John while a full investigation was carried out. I then conducted a disciplinary meeting on behalf of my client, and adjourned this meeting over a weekend in order to fully consider the evidence and the mitigating facts that John was able to share. After careful consideration, the meeting was reconvened and John was dismissed for gross misconduct.
At every stage of this process, I kept thorough meeting notes which were shared with John, letters providing John with the right to be accompanied and the right to appeal and copies of all the evidence were supplied to John. I also took advice from my Employment Lawyer contacts to ensure that every alternative had been considered. This is a case which John is unlikely to be able to challenge, and even more unlikely that he would find any legal representation. But should he decide to represent himself to raise a tribunal claim, the thorough paperwork that I have ensured is in place will provide a clear and thorough history in the 'bundle' and will demonstrate the fair and consistent way that John's dismissal was handled.
Our client Jo had lost a couple of big contracts and realised that in order to stay viable she would need to reduce her staff overheads. She anticipated that she had to make 5 members of staff redundant, which was 25% of her workforce.
Sometimes redundancy situations can be straight-forward, perhaps when there are only 1 or 2 jobs to be lost and the staff do not qualify for statutory redundancy pay or protection from unfair dismissal.
In this case it was not straight-forward. All of Jo's staff had worked for her for 5 years' or more and all did very similar job roles. This meant that we had to plan and manage the redundancy process carefully, ensuring that the communication, timescale, selection criteria and scoring against these criteria followed the legislative rules but were also pragmatic to enable the business to keep operating.
The process was not easy. Understandably, none of the staff wanted to lose their jobs and a couple of employees challenged the criteria and the selection process via the consultation process, but the planning and due diligence had been thorough and the process had been applied consistently.
Although making staff redundant is distressing and unsettling, it is critical that all staff are treated fairly and reasonably. Our client was very satisfied with the transparency and honesty of the communication and process.