Dealing with employee indiscretions during the cost-of-living crisis
There is no doubt that the cost-of-living crisis will have an impact on the HR and employment law issues organisations need to address and manage.
Employers and employees are under increased pressure due to the substantial increase in costs. But what if that increase in pressure leads to breaches of procedures or misconduct, do employers have to take the cost-of-living crisis into account?
Employers could be faced with an increase in misconduct or gross misconduct issues. Issues could include an employee fraudulently obtaining company or employee property or money. Theft can take many forms, for example, falsification of timesheets or expenses, theft of company assets or employee property or misappropriation of funds/embezzlement.
Regardless of a cost-of-living crisis employers should act fairly and consistently and follow their disciplinary procedure and start an investigation into the allegation/s. Theft or fraud falls under gross misconduct and advice should be sought on if a suspension from work is warranted.
If after the investigation a disciplinary hearing is warranted, consideration must be given to any mitigation discovered as part of the investigation or put forward by the employee. An employer needs to carefully weigh up if the mitigation will impact on the next steps and any disciplinary sanction. A sanction may still be appropriate even if financial hardship is cited as a reason for the misconduct/gross misconduct.
The cost-of living crisis can lead to mental ill health due to the increased pressure on an individual. Employers need to be mindful that mental ill health may fall within the wide definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010. Organisations are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ when an employee has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on an individual’s ability to carry out their normal daily activities. Managers may see an increase in absenteeism or a reduction in performance at work. It is important that managers receive training on the signs that someone may be struggling and on how to support employees with health issues including mental ill health. Read more: Eight ways managers can support their employees’ mental health | Moorepay
If you are interested in discussing your training requirements, please contact the Moorepay team.
Another example on how the cost-of-living crisis may impact on employees is the take up of second jobs to increase income. Look at what is written in your employment documentation to find out what your company view is. Should the employee inform you or request permission first if they wish to have more than one job? If employees take second jobs, employers will not normally allow any additional employment that directly competes or conflicts with their interests. It is important that your employees notify you of all the hours they work. This is to make sure there is no infringement of Working Time Regulations. Read: Second jobs | How many jobs can an employee have? | Moorepay
If an employer knows that an employee is working somewhere else and not taking rest breaks, this could put the employer at potential risk of liability (i.e. the employees hours of work could pose a risk to themselves or others and when the employer has taken no steps to remove the risks).
Action to take to help avoid employee issues
- Have regular one to ones with employees. Issues, including those relating to the cost-of-living crisis and mental health concerns, can be discussed. This gives an opportunity for the organisation to put in place support and signpost the employee to appropriate external assistance.
- Manage performance issues at the earliest opportunity and find out the reason for any underperformance. If an employee is reluctant attend a one to one, share their work or give their manager visibility on what they are doing, address this with the employee.
- Train managers on the signs that someone may be struggling and on how to support employees with physical and mental ill health in the workplace.
- Publicise and signpost your Employee Assistance Programme and its benefits if you have one in place. Have a look at Moorepay’s EAP here.
- Consider training employees to be a mental health first aider (What is a Mental Health First Aider? | Moorepay)
- Think about what your organisation can do to prevent fraud or theft. For example, implementing audits, rotating duties and ensuring employees are following the correct procedures.
- Remind employees of any contractual clauses and why it is important they inform you of any additional employment so you can meet your obligations under the Working Time Regulations. Ensure you have ‘opt out’ agreements in place for the 48-hour average working week maximum if needed. Keep records of hours worked.