We were approached by an employer in the food preparation industry employing 23 staff. They had no contracts of employment in place and only a few policies and procedures. The employer had a number of problems
- He was struggling to get staff to be flexible enough to work the overtime needed to meet sudden peaks in order levels. He had previously not hit deadlines and incurred contractual penalties because of his inability to staff the shifts needed.
- The employer was frustrated about a significant lost time issue which was costing him nearly £30 000 a year. He had worked out that he could have employed another 2 employees with this wasted money. Or taken more money out of the business for himself.
- Staff were arriving for work at the start time of their shift. They then took up to twenty minutes to get changed into their protective clothing. He calculated that this was costing him nearly 2000 hours a year of unproductive time that he was paying for.
- At the other end of the day, staff were downing tools between 15 and 20 minutes before their shift ended to get changed. They would then stand around ready to clock out at the end of their shift.
- To grow his business this employer was trying to achieve industry accreditations to enable him to tender for more lucrative work. His lack of HR policies and procedures was preventing him from achieving the accreditations he needed.
We spent time with the employer and his two food production supervisors. We needed to understand how the business worked. What the employer felt he needed. What his customers needed from him. The historic problems that they’d had with some employees.
We discussed potential solutions with the employer to help him understand the different approaches and any associated risks. The employer summed up his limitations as:
- I’ve no time to do this myself. “I’m so stressed I’m going to implode”.
- I know what I want to do, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to do it
- I’ve got employees who have transferred in from another business that I bought who have written contracts and they’re in a union so I don’t know what I can and can’t do
- I always seem to finish up with half my staff on holiday in March using up their annual leave and me paying huge overtime payments in order that I can meet customer needs
- I’ve got some staff who seem to think that I have to work round them; I’ve even got a member of staff who won’t do certain shifts if they clash with the fixture list of the local darts team that he captains
- I don’t want to screw my staff into the ground but I do want them to work more effectively and help me build the business so we’re all still in work in 5 years’ time
With the permission of the employer we took the workload off the employer and worked with the two production supervisors to get the information that we needed.
- An organisation chart to establish a hierarchy of responsibility for day to day management of the staff
- Job descriptions for all grades of staff to define duties and responsibilities
- A contract of employment that gave the employer the flexibility that he needed around availability to work and confirmed the benefits staff were entitled to
- Bespoke contractual clauses around hours of work including defining what the start and end of the working day looked like i.e. staff had to be dressed ready for work at the start of their shift and clocked out before getting changed to leave work
- A staff handbook that contained policies and procedures to define staff behaviour. We addressed practical things such as how staff request holidays; the requirement that they take half their leave entitlement before the midway point of the year and that there was no leave allowed in December, their busiest time; the duty to report their return from sick leave a set number of hours before their shift started to avoid over-staffing together with the knowledge that if they didn’t comply with this they were likely to be sent home on unpaid leave if they turned up for work without notification
We supported the Supervisors through the staff consultation on the proposals, including meeting with union representatives with the Supervisors who were anxious about meeting with them on their own because they didn’t know how to respond to challenges they may make to any of the proposals.
The Company is now legally compliant with contracts and a staff handbook in place that supports what the business needs in order to grow.
There’s a management structure in place so that everybody knows who works where and who is responsible for what.
The supervisors are dealing with holiday requests and conducting the return to work interviews when people have been off sick
Everybody is complying with the requirements around start and finish time, so much so that the frantic need to get staff to do extra hours to meet customer demand has all but disappeared. They had the capacity in the business all along, it just needed our support to organise the workforce to deliver.
More importantly our client, the employer, has taken his first holiday in four years. We don’t need him to tell us how much better he feels in himself (although he does!), he is more relaxed when we speak to him , his desk is tidier, his face is less red, he shouts less and he smiles more!! A success all round.
We continue to work with this client on a retained basis as their professional HR provider.
Do you have an HR problem that you feel you need to get some advice about? We don’t charge for an initial conversation. Call us now on 01706 565 332, good advice saves you time, money and reputation.