Quick - need advice about an employee situation

(23 Posts)
namelessposter Thu 21-Aug-14 13:27:51

Need quick advice on a sensitive employee situation - will try and summarise the salient points!

We are the owners of a small services-based firm, currently 7 employees

One employee has been with us nearly 3 years, really good staff member, really value her - lets call her Anna for the purposes of this post.

Anna has always taken slightly more than usual numbers of sick days (say, 10 a year) and also arrives at work late quite often due to misc illness (another 10 or so times each year), and this is normally on Mondays and either when her active-service boyfriend is home from tours, or after she's been to a weekend away match supporting her football team. Some of these days will be genuine, others not so much - we don't enquiry too much and accept it as the pay-off for an otherwise good and committed team member.

This year she has been diagnosed with an ongoing medical condition requiring regular hospital appointments requiring roughly a half day every fortnight. 11 visits to date this year. She is able to answer some emails on her phone whilst in the waiting room and does so. Under contract, sickpay is at managers discretion and we have always paid it. Hospital appointments of course aren't covered by sick pay, but we have allowed her (without question) to take these appointments in work time and we haven't asked her to make up the time or take any of them as holiday. It is anticipated these appointments will carry on for anther few months at least.

Last week her grandfather was taken seriously ill and she left at Tuesday lunch time, and came back to work on Tuesday, after he sadly died at the weekend - so a total of 4.5 days out of the office. She dealt with some emails on her phone during this time (we didn't ask her to, and obviously it was nice of her to do this), but was obviously at very reduced capacity work-wise compared to being in the office. She has one other person in her department and they were on annual leave at the same time, so it obviously caused a bit of trouble managing with both of them out, but such is life and it was no ones fault.

We don't have a written bereavement policy, and when another employee lost their spouse to cancer this year, we gave them 3.5 weeks (all they wanted) paid and without question. This second bereavement event leave prompted me to draft up a policy, and checking online with other companies, 3 days for a family member (other than a spouse/child/parent) seems the usual amount, so this is where we've drawn the line, but I have said that of course we won't apply this retrospectively to her situation and the 4.5 days taken already will be given as full pay.

She needs a final day off for the funeral, next Friday. I have asked that she takes this day as holiday or unpaid leave. She feels that I am being very unfair and it should be full pay.

What do you think?

On balance, I think you should agree to her having the day off to attend the funeral on full pay.

I understand where you are coming from by introducing a policy on this, but for the sake of one day for a valued employee it is a little insensitive and risks souring your previous good working relationship with her. It is most likely not worth it for you to insist on enforcing this policy immediately.

The policy should apply to all new situations in the future though.

amyhamster Thu 21-Aug-14 13:55:39

She should take the day of the funeral as
annual leave

You've been very lenient towards her so far & tbh I'm stunned she's told you she feels she's been treated unfairly

amyhamster Thu 21-Aug-14 13:56:46

Even in the public sector we have to take hospital appointments as TOIL or annual leave
I think she's taking advantage tbh

I agree with the above,

You've always been very good to her, to change how understanding you are to her now, during a sad and difficult time for her - just seems mean

Although I do see where your coming from and it's definitely worth you drawing up policies and making your staff aware of them for the future so everyone knows where they'll stand going forward. Hth

lotsofcheese Thu 21-Aug-14 14:03:57

I think you have been more than generous with her; she has already had 4.5 days & is asking for another.

I work in the NHS & paid leave for bereavements is much shorter: 2 or 3 days for a sibling/parent etc. In these situations, someone is often signed off sick. But I would not expect to be paid for that length of time.

It is not taking advantage to expect the same treatment as previously, which has also been given to other employees, and this is also most likely contributing to her feeling it is unfair to now suddenly be told to take this day unpaid or as annual leave.

However the OP is right to review the need for clear policies in future to help prevent similar situations arising without clear guidance and to be fair to all staff and their business.

IMHO of course!

I would say this "bereavement event" is still in process and that the funeral day is the final part of it - so you should give her it for free, as you've said you wouldn't apply the new policy retrospectively.

namelessposter Thu 21-Aug-14 14:14:31

I don't think the death of a spouse, leaving behind two pre-school children, and where the widower is also the executor, requires the same level of compassionate leave as the death of a grandparent, although these things vary on a case by case basis.

We do already have many many policies dealing with lots of things. Just not, until this week, a bereavement leave policy. We've never previously needed one. Contracts just say ' at managers discretion' and my view, as manager was that 4.5 days was already pretty fair. Others think otherwise.

I think we're going to go for a broader scope 'special leave' policy covering leave that may be needed for all sorts of other circs as well, and with a cap on the amalgamated number of paid days across all types of event - hopefully this will help us manage expectations better in future.

onedev Thu 21-Aug-14 14:16:08

She sounds like she's taking the piss TBH. I'd make her take it as annual leave or TOIL - you've been more than generous already with what you've allowed. I'd also require her to take TOIL or A/L for her ongoing hospital appointments.

Good luck as she sounds like she has the potential to become a nightmare employee.

LemonBreeland Thu 21-Aug-14 14:21:00

I think you are being fair too. I see no reason why she can't take it as AL considering how many other days she has already had.

Good luck as she sounds like she has the potential to become a nightmare employee.

This is one of the reasons I would still let her have the funeral day paid, bearing in mind her other absences and how water tight your other policies are...

areyoubeingserviced Thu 21-Aug-14 14:24:30

The fact that she believes that you have been unfair speaks volumes.
IMHO , you appear to have bent over backwards to accommodate her.
I would just ensure that your policy is made known to ALL members of staff . In fact, get them to sign an agreement stating that they have read and understand the policy.
FWIW. I think she is taking her job for granted.

Roussette Thu 21-Aug-14 14:35:45

I would explain the policy and suggest that out of the previous 4.5 days taken, 1.5 are either unpaid or taken as holiday and that of course the funeral day will be paid. That way, she might feel it is fairer as she is just going to latch on to the fact you wouldn't given her the day off paid for her grandfathers funeral (even thought she has already taken 4.5 days!). I think any funeral for a family member should be paid. Giving 3 days is very generous!

I do think 10 days sick leave every year is taking the p**s! That's like having 2 weeks extra holiday every year. I appreciate she is coping with a health problem but when you run a company of just 7 employees, that effectively means your workforce is reduced by more than 15% for an extra two weeks a year, let alone staff holidays.

pilates Thu 21-Aug-14 14:51:14

It does sound like you have been more than fair to the point where she is taking the piss. Just because she is good at her job doesn't give her the right to take advantage of you. There could be someone out there who is equally good (or better) who doesn't take so much time off and is punctual. I think you need to be firmer.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Thu 21-Aug-14 18:28:47

Taking the personalities out of it....

One employee took 3.5 weeks of compassionate leave, the other subquently took a few days and during the "bereavement period" a policy was produced which limited the number of days meaning the funeral wasn't covered.

For the sake of a day I would let her take it. Then introduce the policy after and communicate to staff that it is now in place.

I think that would seem fairer IMHO.

I appreciate you weren't inviting comments on her sickness etc. But it does sound like it could be tightened up. As another poster said if another employee does the same it could have a very negative impact.

Finally, unless you have changed lots of details this thread might be recognisable to the person in question? There are a few specific things etc. Might be worth asking for it to be deleted..?

Muskey Thu 21-Aug-14 18:35:13

I am sorry but I do think she is taking the mickey out of you. You sound as though you have been fair but is it really worth it to loose a good employee for the sake of one day. Going forward I would apply the new policy but perhaps not be so lenient with her in the future

Ellypoo Thu 28-Aug-14 12:47:48

I too agree that she seems to be taking the piss slightly, however I would address it after the funeral.

Give her the funeral day as paid, but then introduce the policy to all employees, including making up time/taking a/l for appointments, making up time if late in, max number of paid sick days per year etc. I think that bereavement times shouldn't be set out in policy and should be at managers' discretion - as you said, time for a spouse/child/immediate relative requires considerably more time than for a Grandparent, but specific situations will be different.

Good luck.

IntheYear2525 Thu 28-Aug-14 12:54:54

I also think that it would be easier to bring in your new policy at a time when it doesn't need to be implemented straight away. It's more difficult to do it in between a death and funeral, partly because she is in mourning and less likely to view the policy objectively and more likely to take it personally. But also because she might have made different choices if the policy had been in operation for a while before her grandfather became ill, she might have saved up a few holiday days for instance.

rookiemater Thu 28-Aug-14 17:23:50

I agree with other posters - I would let her have the funeral day as paid leave, it seems a bit sour grapes to change the policy just now and when all is said and done it's not as if she really has a choice in attending her own grandfathers funeral or not.

In future I would be pulling her up more on her random late days and introducing an attendance policy. 10 random illnesses in a year is too much - in our organisation if someone had this level of sickness they'd probably have been let go by now, regardless of how good they were when they were in.
This may not apply to her ongoing illness as this may be covered under DDA as a long term condition.

Sandiacre Thu 28-Aug-14 17:31:52

Ten random and unconnected illness events would have triggered official meetings with the sickness policy kicking in after three absences in a rolling year in almost all of my ex workplaces. These were huge employers though.

You need to sort our your workplace policies to protect everyone, employers and employees.

She is taking the proverbial with bells on.

Onesleeptillwembley Thu 28-Aug-14 17:33:32

She is absolutely taking the piss. She's had (ok, it's now retrospective) her time off and more, very generous for a grandparent. She needs to take the funeral as annual leave, and frankly, I'd stop paying all her 'sick' leave, maybe not the current appointments, especially as you know, yourselves, that she's also taking the piss with that.
You've been too soft and look what her attitude now is!
I promise, she will get worse, and you could be left in a nightmare situation. Get a grip of the situation now, it's the ideal time since you're already looking at your policies.

WeAllHaveWings Thu 28-Aug-14 18:00:01

Our work has parent/sibling/spouse 5 days and I believe that is generous compared to some. Grandparent 1 day. Everything above that annual leave, TOIL or signed off sick.

Hospital appointments annual leave or TOIL.

more than 3 sicknesses, referral to OH and warning.

Regular unplanned late (where flexi working not agreed) warning

She's pushing the boundaries and you are too soft. Need polices in place and all employees treated the same/fairly. Good luck as she ain't gonna like it after getting away with it for so long.

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