More from CIPD Ace 2021:
Statutory Sick Pay needs reform
Panelists at the session on how employee wellbeing has been transformed by the pandemic agreed that the UK’s Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) needs reform.
In February this year, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that the UK, alongside Malta, ranks bottom of all EU countries when it comes to SSP paying up to just 20% of people’s wages.
Though the government conducted a consultation on SSP provision earlier this year, it has so far decided against reform.
Nick Pahl, CEO at the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) called this decision a missed opportunity.
“We would like it changed, we'd like there to be more flexibility and increased sick pay levels, and the TUC rightly says that if you have higher sick pay then you're more likely to stay and return to work.
“There are benefits in terms of productivity too, it’s not necessarily just money going out of the business, it's about keeping people engaged.”
Disability employment gap still major problem
Disability charity Scope’s figures show one fifth of the working age population are disabled, but the rate of employment is much lower.
Jane Hatton, founder and CEO of jobs board Evenbreak, said: “There is so much missed potential an opportunity by not employing disabled people. They represent valuable talent organisations are not benefitting from.
“HR should look at its recruitment process at every stage and find the barriers. It’s not about changing the person, we’re only disabled because of the barriers put in front of us.”
HR should help line managers focus on purpose
The role of line managers was a consistent theme throughout the conference.
One of the big issues they are struggling with, according to Anita Lucas, head of management and leadership development at the British Council, is juggling people management skills alongside project delivery.
She said they’re seeing a lot of managers asking: ‘How am I supposed to manage people the way you’re telling me that we need to given all the pressures around delivery?’
“And really this comes back to, as an organisation, understanding the purpose of a manager," Lucas said.
“If you put the purpose of the role at the heart, that you are there to help somebody else thrive and develop, and that is your priority, the time you give to that is going to pay dividends going forward, because your team will be empowered, using their talents in the best way and your organisation will be thriving.”
HR needs to speak c-level language
In the afternoon of day two, panellists discussing what line managers need from HR and L&D tackled the ways HR can challenge the idea that it is the ‘organisational police’.
Decio Nascimento, divisional head of corporate HR at Apollo Tyres, argued: “I hear a lot people say we have problems at the top level with CEOs and middle management, and yes we do, but we also need to understand their language.
“When these people are talking about what they need to do, what does that mean for them in terms of meeting their budgets and meeting their targets?
“So the number one thing, if you’re not already at the table, you need to put that as your KPI.”
Right to disconnect is a leadership issue
Hybrid working was a frequent theme at this year’s conference, but how to make sure work caters for a range of hours while minimising out-of-hours work is a real challenge for HR professionals.
Karen Betts, CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association, said HR needs to be respectful of employee’s preferences.
She said: “We have to be respectful of the impact of potentially expanding working hours to fit everyone. It’s perfectly possible under hybrid working, but how do you make sure that doesn’t impact someone who finished at 5pm?
“We have to be careful and respectful of the time resource for the office of which we are paid, but also the time resource which is genuinely yours and needs to be protected from a mental health and wellbeing point of being always on.”
Betts also pointed to the extra work employees have picked up during the pandemic which may be causing them to work more hours.
She added: “Right to disconnect is a really important leadership lesson. No one asks you to do less.
“We have come out of the crisis and people are still working those extra hours. A really clear line needs to be drawn under that and employers need to notice we’re not in the depths anymore.”