Letters

first_img Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. LettersOn 5 Aug 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. This week’s lettersHow can HR rely on doctors’ diagnosis on fitness to work?When is an employee fit for work and when are they not? Answer: when theemployee decides and/or dismissal looms. I don’t know if any of your readers have experienced this, but I am becomingincreasingly concerned (actually, very annoyed) at the ability of doctors tochange their diagnosis of a patient’s (employee’s) health in a very short spaceof time – and in particular, where the employee is at risk of dismissal or hasbeen dismissed due to ill-health capability. In a recent case we were informed in writing by an employee’s doctor,(through the access to medical records route) that the employee would not befully fit to carry out his normal duties for up to six months. Similarly, inthe same letter, the doctor stated he would not be able to follow our normalshift patterns (which can include six 12-hour shifts in a row) without causinghim some detriment. In other words, the employee could not cope with our shiftsystem/working environment. We had supported this employee’s difficulties at work (caused by a roadtraffic accident unrelated to work) for some two-and-half years, includingallowing him to work half shifts for a period. However, when we received his doctor’s medical report in answer to specificquestions we had asked, the company took the decision to dismiss on the groundof capability because it was not prepared to wait a further six months. Therewere also issues around health and safety for him and our other employees andour general responsibility to maintain a duty of care etc. It should be noted that, prior to dismissal, we sought legal and furthermedical advice on the interpretation of a doctor’s letter. Both sourcesconfirmed that our interpretation of the doctor’s letter was correct. Imagine our surprise when the employee turned up to his appeal hearingagainst dismissal a week later with another letter from the same doctor, contradictingwhat he had originally written about the empl-oyee’s health. He can work12-hour shifts straight away and we don’t have to wait six months after all. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the employee had persuaded thedoctor to change his ‘story’ to help the employee keep his job. The doctor’sletters were a week apart. As a result of the doctor’s second letter we had toreinstate the employee. In my view, this case raises serious issues about the accuracy of doctors’reports and the ability of employees to influence their doctor’s view of theirmedical condition when the employee is faced with dismissal. Apart from the costs incurred by carrying out a lengthy dismissal processinvolving HR, line managers, doctors, occupational health, lawyers, union repsand company directors, the company is now left with the difficult task oftrying integrate this employee back into the workplace. Because of theconfusion created by the employee’s own doctor, we are still unsure whether heis fit and capable to do his job. In essence, employees who can be a potential liability to themselves andothers in the workplace can remain employed if the employee can persuade theirdoctor that their livelihood is at stake. It begs the question as to how you manage these kind of employees in theworkplace and whether there is any point in spending the money to obtainmedical reports which, after all can be altered if the company’s interpretationdoes not suit either the employee or their doctor. This is not the first time this has happened and I doubt it will be thelast. Paul Robertson HR director, Marriott Headhunters have moved with marketSimon Howard’s article on headhuntingin The Sunday Times (Jobfile, 22 June) strikes me as based on hearsay and rumourand I would like the chance to air my point of view through Personnel Today. In today’s market, headhunters are being far more flexible withtheir fee arrangements. It is now common to have a percentage fee rate based onan agreed average base salary (not package as suggested in The Sunday Timesarticle), where the consultant derives no benefit whether the offered salary isabove or below that agreed figure, ensuring an unbiased negotiation stage to anoffer. Additionally, Howard’s comments on the involvement ofpurchasing are also way off the mark. The key to any search is to get the rightcandidate for the role. If you don’t succeed in that, then the tenure of yourrelationship with a client will be short. The benefit to the consultancy of apreferred supplier list is the knowledge that you will access opportunitiesacross a company and will be able to build long-term, mutually beneficialrelationships – the key to future business success.As for his comment that recruitment companies complain of not beingtaken seriously, I can only surmise that his relationships are with companiesthat don’t deserve to be taken seriously. Any headhunter worth his salt will bea trusted business adviser who seeks to add value (and save a client time andmoney) by providing best advice, in an area where many people think they know alot, but often know very little.The article paints a rather poor picture overall of clients aswell. If the author’s view is that the client is a victim, and has no power inthe negotiation of terms and conditions, then he has again missed the point. Inthe current market, the balance of power markedly favours the client. At theend of the day, if the client doesn’t like what they are being offered, theycan go elsewhere. Making ill informed, gross generalisations about an industrysector in a newspaper as respected as The Sunday Times, is not what readersexpect.John BakerHead of Practice, Macmillan Davies HodesGet used to it: staff consultationis hereYour article ‘How will National Works Councils affect UK firms?’ (features,1 July) raises a number of issues which may have led to unnecessary panic inthe run-up to implementation of the Information and Consultation Directive.The article seemed to be designed to send HR professionals off totheir boards with proposals for employee consultation arrangements. We now havethe draft regulations, which clarify some of the issues raised. The Government has decided to introduce a ‘trigger mechanism’requiring 10 per cent of employees to request a consultation arrangement,before an employer has to respond. The arrangements havesome similarities to those that have been in place for trade union recognitionfor the past three years. Given that there were only 264 new recognition dealsin the first two years of this new legislation, there does not seem much of abasis for employers to panic. The term ‘National Works Councils’ may have turned out to be amisnomer – although, as drafted, the statutory arrangements may encouragenational-level discussions. As your article says, the directive requires thatconsultation must take place ‘at the relevant level of management’. The draft regulations, however, have elected to requireconsultation at the ‘undertaking’ level if voluntary agreements are not reached.This may mean large organisations finding they have to provide information to,and consult with, a committee of up to 25 people representing all theiremployees. For many, this is one good reason for reaching a voluntaryagreement, allowing more local discussions to take place. This appears to be anarea where the Government is keen to receive further opinions.To be effective and contribute to the success of anorganisation, consultation needs to be a business imperative rather than aresponse to legislation. Just as we all now expect higher levels of customerservice than we did 20 years ago, so we do all expect higher levels ofinvolvement in the workplace. The successful consultation arrangements will be part of astrategy to engage employees and contribute to organisational success.Increasedemployee involvement is here to stay. The forthcoming European Company Statute will require companiesto have arrangements in place before registering as a ‘European company’, andthe Kingsmill and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development discussiondocuments also propose that companies will be required to outline theirapproaches to consultation as part of their ‘human capital’ reporting.The legislation will be in force, but the successful works councilswill be those that are not simply implemented ‘because we have to’, but thosethat are introduced as part of a strategy to engage and motivate employees. Ifyou get a request from the required number of employees, you have probablymissed the point.Ken AllisonHead of HR Consulting, Bond PearceEditor’s reply: We have sincerun a detailed article on how, where and when you will need to properly informand consult with your staff, and when you need to set up a works council. Seeour 22 July issue p16, or go the features section of our website:www.personneltoday.comAlienating people defeats HRobjectiveI find the views of Dixons’ David Longbottom refreshing (Offmessage, 8 July). Any HR function that distances, or worse alienates, any of itscolleagues (note, I use the term ‘colleagues’ rather than ‘potential audience’)is surely defeating the prime objectives of the HR function.You cannot measure effectively what you do not understand, andalienation shows a lack of understanding for colleagues’ needs.People resources are, in my opinion, immeasurable in thecontext of the ‘bottom line’. One employee might have an attendance which isborderline, for example, but be very effective and productive. Another maynever have any time away from work, yet freewheels.We try to apply Key Performance Indicators and the like. tocapture and confirm this, but they will not capture ‘bottom line contribution’.We should not lose sight of a fundamental role of HR, to helpmanagers and supervisors achieve and maintain a competitive edge through theirpeople.Their understanding of the tools, properly applied pay,thought-out recruitment, and disciplinary procedures, is critical.HR professionals must surely stay close to all levels withintheir organisation. Understanding real needs allows the formulation of soundstrategies, with appropriate administration.Without this understanding, imposed strategies will be unlikelyto achieve objectives, and can be counter-productive in trying to fix thingsthat are not broken. Tom EnglandManager, health/safety & training, Mondi Paper Report on work-life balances leftwingYour sensationalist headline ‘Industry slams work-life balancereport’ (News, 24 June and News Analysis, 1 July), is one-sided.As expected, Ruth Lea’s report is considered and thoughtful andattempts to balance the left wing, clich‚-ridden, claptrap peddled by WillHutton and his ilk. Most professional HR people I know try to ensure the workenvironment is productive and enjoyable (the two go together) and work and‘life’ are not the separate polarised entities suggested by this ludicrousterm. As ever, there are people who jump on the bandwagon, and criticisecounter arguments with the vehemence which arises when self-interest isthreatened. Mike Haffenden Partner, Strategic Dimensionslast_img read more