IGA News

Human Resources Q&A - September 2018

Human Resources Q&A - September 2018

31 August 2018

HR support is included as part of your IGA membership. As well as guidance from the member helpline team, and legal team if needed, a full HR toolkit can be found in the IGA Members Area. This includes example contracts, work policies, disciplinary procedures and letters, terms and conditions, job specifications and more.

Q: a male employee has just confided that he has been diagnosed with cancer. He feels fit enough to continue working and wants to try to have as “normal” a life as possible. However, he has said that he is likely to need time off for treatment and he will try to give me as much notice about this as possible. I feel unsure of how to properly support him through this time. What advice do you have?

A: In asking what you need to do to support your employee it sounds like you are already on the right track! As his employer it is important that you are supportive whilst your employee is going through what will be a very distressing, confusing and stressful period. There will of course be occasions when he will need to attend treatment although there will be set appointments for this. There is no way of knowing how he will feel following treatment and he may need more time off after one appointment than he does after others.

These changes in feeling and wellbeing could be physical or emotional, so remember that even if he “looks” well he may not feel up to the job on some occasions. One important thing to establish from the employee is whether he wishes the illness to remain confidential. He may not want colleagues to know about his illness, as he may not be ready to talk to people about it. Alternatively, he may be comfortable with his colleagues knowing as he might think it will help them to understand why he is taking time off or why he is feeling down on some occasions. This decision is his alone and whatever he decides you should respect his wishes.

It is important for your to be aware that anyone who has cancer, is in remission from cancer, or who has had cancer previously but is now cured, is classed as disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Under the DDA, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person because of their disability. Finally, you should also be prepared to be flexible and make changes to his role and working hours to help support his desire to remain in work. He may wish to take some of his time for treatment as sick leave, or perhaps an agreement can be made for flexible working to accommodate his treatment. These are issues that you will need to discuss with him to see what works best for your both. For more information on how to support employees or colleagues with cancer you can visit the Macmillan Cancer Support website, or contact automotive charity Ben. For more information about the Disability Discrimination Act and supporting employees who are classed as disabled visit www.gov.uk/browse/disabilities.

Q: Please can you help? I have what I am sure is not an unusual problem but have no idea how to tackle it, as I have spoken to several people and the response is always – “rather you than me!” the problem concerns an employee who has bad body odour. A couple of employees have approached me about this stating that everyone is talking about it, but they are all afraid to raise it, as they (and I) do not wish to offend the employee. But the bad odour is offending a lot of other people. How do I tackle something like this and am I allowed to bring this up with the individual?

A: This is always going to be a tricky one. No matter how you approach the individual concerned, it is likely that they are going to be embarrassed, upset or angry. Ultimately, they will be offended in some way, but the problem does need tackling and it is one that all managers dread dealing with and often approach in the wrong way as a result.

Many feel that the best way to approach this problem is to speak to the team or business as a whole, and remind employees as a group of the importance of personal hygiene etc. However, often the person in question has gone “nose blind” – they are unware, and so don’t do anything about it. The best approach therefore is to be direct and honest. Choose your words carefully to try and avoid embarrassing or upsetting them. This may be a problem they are aware of and have just been too afraid to seek help/ Or they may have no idea about it and it will come as a complete shock to them.

Use the traditional “sandwich” approach for this situation, begin with something positive about their work and then explain that you need to discuss a sensitive issue with them. Don’t say “people have mentioned” as they will just be more upset that people have been talking behind their back. Explain that their body odour has been noticeable lately and ask them if this is something they are aware of. If they say they are, then ask them what they are doing about it. They may already be speaking to their doctor as it is a medical condition.

If they are not aware, then this is the time to remind them about a fresh change of clothing and more frequent showers. Feel free to advise them to visit their doctor if they think there may be an underlying problem. Be honest with them about the fact that it has been a difficult conversation have and tell them that you hope you haven’t offended them. Be aware that there could be many reasons for the problem, which may be medical (mental or physical), personal, or possibly related to a change in home life or place of residence. Be prepared to offer support on any number of things. And remember to try and end the conversation on a positive not but without detracting from the importance of any actions the employee is now required to take. Good luck! For more information about body odour as a medical condition, visit the NHS body odour webpage.

If you would like your question to be featured, or need help with any aspect of HR, you can contact us at enquiries@rmif.co.uk or call the member helpline on 0845 305 4230.

For further resources, including example policies, disciplinary topics and advice notes, visit the HR toolkit in the Members Area of the IGA website.