The employment law team at Norton Rose answer questions on workplace issuesRace Discrimination Q: I provided a reference for anemployee after he left my company’s employment and he is intending to sue mefor race discrimination. Can he do this? A: Section 4(2) of the RaceRelations Act 1976 (“RRA”) makes it unlawful for an employer todiscriminate against “a person employed by him”. The 1997 case ofAdekeye v Post Office decided that this phrase referred only to a personemployed at the time of the discriminatory act, not to a person who was nolonger an employee. However, Coote v Granada Hospitality Limited threw doubt upon this. BelindaCoote brought a sex discrimination claim against Granada, alleging that she hadbeen dismissed because of her pregnancy. Although this claim was settled,subsequently Ms Coote had difficulty finding employment and alleged thatGranada had failed to provide an employment agency with a reference. Ms Coote then brought proceedings claiming that this was a reaction to herprevious complaint and amounted to unlawful victimisation contrary to section 4of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (“SDA”). The European Court ofJustice ruled that the 1976 Equal Treatment Directive did protect formeremployees from retaliatory measures taken by the employer after the employmentrelationship had ended. Following that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”)decided that the SDA could be construed in such a way as to allow Ms Coote toproceed with her claim. As section 4(2) of the RRA is worded in a similar wayto the relevant section in the SDA, it was thought the law concerning an act ofdiscrimination which had taken place after the end of employment could bechanged. However, the recent case of D’Souza v London Borough of Lambeth(“Lambeth”) suggests otherwise. D’Souza had brought a successfulclaim of unfair dismissal and race discrimination having been summarilydismissed by Lambeth. The Employment Tribunal ordered his reinstatement but it was not practicablefor Lambeth to comply with the order. D’Souza subsequently presented anotherclaim to the Employment Tribunal alleging that Lambeth’s failure to reinstatehim was a further act of race discrimination. The Employment Tribunal followed the position as outlined in Adekeye v PostOffice, and rejected D’Souza’s claim on the basis that the RRA does not coverdiscrimination that occurs after the end of employment. The EAT felt compelledto follow that case as it was a Court of Appeal decision, however they did so”without relish”. The EAT said that the Court of Appeal may wish toreview the decision in the future, however the EAT could not change the law. In consequence, if your employee is threatening to sue for race rather thansex discrimination over a reference that was provided subsequent to thetermination of his employment (however terminated), at the moment he would notbe able to pursue the claim. Employers should be aware however that thesituation is likely to change in the future and carefully worded referencesalways make sense. Paul Griffin PFI/PPP transactions Q: Does TUPE apply to PFI/PPPtransactions? A: Generally speaking, thesetransactions are structured in such a way that there is a change of employer,therefore attracting the operation of TUPE. Often, the principle difficultylies in identifying those individuals who will be caught by TUPE and ensuringthat excess employees do not transfer across. These transactions are made morecomplex by the presence of third party contractors whose employees are oftenengaged in the undertaking that is to be transferred to the private sector. If the location of the employee’s job changes on a PFI/PPP transaction thenproblems arise when the new location is a significant distance from the old. If(for example) hospital PFI transactions involve a new build, the private sectoremployer should be aware of the difficulties inherent in moving employees. Caselaw holds that a contractual mobility provision does not override a redundancysituation within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Peter Talibart Compromise Agreement Q: When making a severancepayment to an executive in a Compromise Agreement, when is it taxable and whenis it free of tax? A: A severance payment (forloss of employment and whether a redundancy or not) is free of tax up to£30,000 if it comes within the exemptions set out in sections 148 and 188 ofthe Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988. The key is that it is a genuine exgratia payment with no strings other than the obvious one of preventing afuture dispute. It used to be the case that you couldn’t agree a “genuine” severancepayment in advance but the Inland Revenue is now more relaxed about this andyou can both anticipate the departure of an executive and agree the futurelevel of a payment and still obtain the tax exemption, provided that thedeparting employee is not tied into consultancy arrangements or otherobligations in the compromise agreement itself. In order to retain the tax exemption employers should therefore take greatcare that the compromise agreement is not used as a vehicle for asking theemployee to enter into commitments that are not already anticipated in thecontract (for exanple, existing and ongoing restrictive covenants would bequite reasonable but new covenants would not). The tax exemption is not available in cases of early retirement and theInland Revenue does expect to see a clean break. At present the tax authoritieswill also, on the authority of EMI v Coldicott, refuse to treat any severancepayment as free of tax if there is a pay in lieu of notice in the individual’scontract of employment. This may change in the light of the recent Court ofAppeal case of Cerebus Software v Rowley. This is therefore a clear point to watch out for and if the severancepayment is taxable, an employer’s National Insurance contributions at some 11.9per cent is payable as well. Inland Revenue practice is that provided payment is made to an employeeafter the P45 is issued, then, in addition to the first £30,000 being paid freeof tax (for a genuine severance payment), the balance need only be taxed atbasic rate, leaving the employee to pay any marginal tax that is or may becomedue. This assists the employee’s cash flow and where the payment obligationarises in a new tax year and no alternative employment is obtained in theshort/ medium term, there may be no higher rate tax due. In addition to the first £30,000 being free of tax we would often advisecompanies and employees alike that, in appropriate cases, this threshold caneffectively be raised by the sensible use of pension enhancement, outplacementconsultants (tax free for employees with at least two years’ service) and thereimbursement of the employee’s legal fees (also a tax free benefit). Tim Russell Disability Discrimination Q: I employ an individual who hasbeen diagnosed as suffering from ME – does that mean they are protected by theDisability Discrimination Act 1995 (“DDA”)? A: A person has a disabilityand can therefore claim protection under the DDA if he or she has a physical ormental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his orher ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A Code of Practice hasbeen issued by the Secretary of State to assist employers in putting the DDAinto practice in the workplace and this provides assistance on the definition. Although case law has shown that ME is a physical impairment for thepurposes of the DDA, an employee has to go on to demonstrate that the illnessitself has lasted or is likely to last more than 12 months (ie, the illness islong term) and that it affects the employee’s ability to carry out one or moreday to day activities. The Code of Practice identifies normal day-to-day activities as mobility,manual dexterity, physical coordination, continence, the ability to carry orotherwise move everyday objects, speech, hearing or eyesight, memory or abilityto concentrate, learn or understand and perception of the risk of physicaldanger. With ME, it is likely to affect such aspects of day-to-day activities asmobility and memory or ability to concentrate, although depending on theseriousness of the condition, there may be additional symptoms. But the factthat an employee has ME puts an employer on notice of a potential disabilityand best practice dictates that an employer treats the employee as if they areprotected by the DDA so as to mitigate against any problems. Nicola Philp ImmigrationQ: We often receive applicationsfrom Commonwealth citizens who say they are here as a working holidaymaker.What does this mean and can we employ them in any role?A: The working holidaymakercategory is available to Commonwealth citizens aged 17-27 who want to come tothe UK for an extended holiday of two years. A working holidaymaker has toobtain permission to enter on this basis before he arrives in the UK and ispermitted to work in the UK provided his employment is “incidental”to his holiday.A working holidaymaker is not permitted to pursue a career or professionwhile he is in the UK. In practice, this means that he is entitled to take ononly low level jobs such as bar and restaurant work, secretarial work etc. Aworking holidaymaker is not permitted to take a position for which specialistskills and knowledge or professional qualifications are required such asaccountancy or law.Further, the requirement for employment to be incidental to the holidaymeans that a working holidaymaker is permitted to work full time for only 50per cent of the time he is here i.e. for 12 months out of 24 months. Full timework is deemed to be 25 hours or more per week. Alternatively, he may work parttime for the whole time he is here.Therefore, an employer is limited as to the nature of the work it can offera working holidaymaker. Even if the job meets the skills threshold, theemployer must make it clear that employment will be limited to 12 months on afull time basis if the working holidaymaker has not worked before in the UK. Ifthe working holidaymaker has worked for another business in the UK, for examplesix months, subsequent employment should in turn be limited to six months toensure that he does not work for more than the permitted 12 months. Clearly an employer who employs someone for more than the permitted lengthof time or in a skilled role runs the risk of being found liable under S8Asylum & Immigration Act 1996. A working holidaymaker who is found to beworking in breach may be liable to be removed from the UK. Following the review of the work permit scheme and the relaxation of thequalifying criteria it is now easier to obtain full work permits for workingholidaymakers who may be required for more skilled or managerial positions inthe UK. If the working holidaymaker and the position on offer meet therequirements of the work permit scheme, an employer may wish to considersubmitting a full work permit application, rather than run the risk of eitherparty contravening UK immigration law.Caron Pope Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Questions and answersOn 1 May 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.
Research bank opens upOn 1 Jan 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article The Learning in Business Research Associates (Libra), an independentresearch body in the e-learning sector, is making its resource data, researchand information available on request. The material, some of it previously commissioned by e-learning vendors, canenter the public domain six months after it has been made available to theorganisation that commissioned it. The material relates principally to the UK e-learning market and varies fromresearch on the key issues in the instructional design of e-learning materialsto measuring the return on investment from projects. “In some major corporations where there may be thousands of learners,ROI is becoming a major issue. The cost per head could, in theory, drop to afew pounds,” says Libra MD Vaughan Waller. “But on top of that, you have to add the significant cost of a learningcontent management system and all the work involved in planning andimplementing the whole project. To bring a sense of reality to the e-learningindustry, it is important to disseminate reliable, accurate information – ifonly to set it against the hyperbole that seems to prevail in thissector.” For details, call Libra on 01992 634244. www.thelibra.com Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.
HR will not escape the growing reliance on technology as companies seek tocut costs and make employment policies available directly to employees. According to Watson Wyatt, a global HR consultancy, the top trends in eHRshould be 1. Enhanced workplace portals and intranets 2. Increased access to more workforce segments 3. Greater reliance on ROI (return on investment) tools 4. Growing focus on optimising current HR systems 5. Increased use of virtual workplaces 6. Decision support tools 7. Business continuance planning 8. Increased standardisation of XML (extensible mark-up language) dataschemes and structure 9. Attention to small cost-saving measures that add up 10. Demand for better integration and collaboration between vendors www.watsonwyatt.com Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. e-HROn 1 Mar 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.
Hospital staff are increasingly facing violence and abuse from the public. RossWigham looks at a training initiative designed to help keep staff safeI did a shift myself on a Friday evening and it was pretty extreme. A majorbrawl had broken out in the town centre. Those involved ended up at the samehospital and the fight started again, despite their injuries.” No, this is not an episode from the latest TV drama, but a glimpse intoUnited Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs nine city-centre hospitals andsuffered 66 violent episodes last year. Security is hugely important. The speaker, Des Green, head of security for the trust’s hospitals inBristol, went back to the floor to understand the stark realities of working incasualty. “I had to restrain people who were already injured, until thepolice arrived,” he recalls. “It’s very difficult because you notonly have to protect staff and the public, but also people who are alreadyinjured and bleeding heavily.” Green was appointed after the trust had been served with a health and safetynotice which stated that the problem was becoming dangerous and seriouslydamaging staff morale. Specialist training formed the central component of a new £200,000 securityprogramme including CCTV, protective equipment, personal alarms and improvedliaison with police. It centres on tailor-made training to help the trust’s 11security staff deal with threats and learn sophisticated conflict-managementtechniques. “They were providing a viable response but needed more training. Wewanted to ensure security staff were operating professionally and werecompliant with Home Office rules and standards, using proper techniques,”says Green. The security officers have been issued with handcuffs, individually tailoredbody armour, slash-proof gloves and the trust is now considering issuing riotshields. Using the equipment properly and within legal guidelines requiredextensive training, with staff receiving regular updates every three months. “Training was absolutely crucial. We needed to equip them with theright tools so they didn’t get hurt while restraining people or going abouttheir duties,” explains Green. Staff also have to be taught their legal limitations and protocolsurrounding violent incidents. Green explains that because of the nature of thejob, staff have to perform an almost quasi-policing role. Naturally staff mustbe aware of the law. “We have to study the legal aspects around when staff have theauthority to use force, reports and procedural rules. We also try to instilrestraint and the need for a cool head because it’s crucial security staffdon’t over-react to an incident” he adds. Courses are provided by a specialist training firm made up of ex-policeofficers (which cannot be named). Training culminates in practical and writtenexams to check competency. This is backed with continuous on-the-job trainingand ongoing checks to ensure constant development. It also teaches staff thecorrect way to reporting incidents, collect evidence, and submit writtenreports. Training also has to stand up to scrutiny if anything does go wrong, soGreen logs every level of development. “If we ever have to appear in courtI can bring out all the training records to show what we do and how we doit.” Green says the training scheme has proved so fundamental to the running ofthe hospital that the security department in now going through ISOaccreditation. “I would recommend the training to others and in fact I’mhoping to establish this trust as a centre of excellence for security.” The security team had expected some adverse reaction from other hospitalstaff and patients but concerns that the appearance of uniformed guards wouldcreate a daunting atmosphere on the wards have proved to be unfounded. In fact, the trust’s HR director Anne Couts has received positive feedbackfrom staff who say they feel safer and have less concerns about security.”Patients and staff at the hospitals see that security has visiblyimproved. Security in the NHS has traditionally been low key but I’m sure othertrusts will follow us,” she says. Proper restraintTraining is similar to police techniques, involving classroomtheory and practical learning where staff practice on crash mats.”The main thing we focus on is the use of HomeOffice-approved restraining techniques. Specifically, we teach methods such asarm locks and holding grips,” says Green.At the outset the team went back to basics and initial trainingwas completed within two weeks. This was supplemented with regular updates,building up level by level.”You have to get the basics right to be able to progress,but all the training was done in full kit for realism.”All body armour is tailor-made for the individual so itis important to get it right,” says Green. Previous Article Next Article Defence strategyOn 1 Mar 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.
Coping with civic disasterOn 1 Mar 2003 in Personnel Today HR directors who have a clear strategy for coping with civic disasters canhelp limit the damage – and hone leadership skills in their organisation at thesame time, by Helen Vandevelde, Talent management consultantIf you want to discover how effective a leader you really are, just findyourself an emergency to manage. It does not matter whether it is a fire, aflood or a terrorist attack, you will not find a spotlight that exposes yourstrengths and weaknesses more glaringly. Yet emergencies throw up leadershiptests at every level of an organisation. It is this, rather than their rarity,that makes emergencies unique organisational events. Donald Norrie, county emergency planning officer with Cumbria CountyCouncil, says the ability to deal with an emergency has nothing to do with yourplace in the hierarchy. He once upset a chief officer (outside Cumbria) whoasked him what role he would suggest to her in an emergency. “I told herit depended on her strengths and weaknesses.” Planning and training for emergencies has been a long tradition in thepublic sector by virtue of its statutory status. But the private sector, too,is taking the issue more seriously, especially since 11 September 2001. Manycompanies ask for advice from local authority emergency planning units. In terms of planning, there is a temptation to develop a set of procedures forevery eventuality. That just clogs the organisation up with the bureaucraticsuperglue. “We don’t plan for plagues of frogs and locusts,” saysNorrie. Effective management of emergencies relies on people who can improvise, butfrom within a role allocated to them specifically for the purpose. For example,because several agencies are dealing with an emergency, communication betweenthem is critically important. So you need people who can take and pass onmessages reliably. Another group needs to deal with external enquiries. Human resources managers are at the heart of maintaining staff morale andwelfare. Some staff are unable to cope with the role assigned to them. Theyneed to be spotted quickly and put onto maintaining essential services.Personnel managers take the initiative in reorganising work patterns. Peoplehave to convert to shift patterns to maintain 24/7 cover. Backfilling has to beorganised. Other staff push themselves too hard. They need to be told to rest betweenemergency shifts. Their stress levels needs to be monitored and some staff willfeel a sense of bereavement as a consequence of, for example, their classroombeing gutted by fire, or by the distress shown by bereaved relatives. Some mayneed specialised counselling support for the trauma they have suffered. The main difference between the public and the private sector, is that thework of the public sector goes on for much longer and has a wider geographicalimpact. The private sector focuses on immediate business issues such asmaintaining continuity of service or manufacture. The public sector has torepair the damage done to communities. A number of companies offer to take on outsourced emergency planningservices, but this option has its drawbacks. Alan Brand, director of hotel andestate services at Henley Management College, says: “You need to haveintimate knowledge of your own operation. This isn’t something that someoneelse can do for you. “And it goes well beyond evacuating a building. Communicating with keystakeholders and managing the media are vital too, as are salvage. documentrecovery. systems recovery. and business continuity. The training foremergencies is thorough too. We got Buckinghamshire County Council in to helpus. We accessed all the tools, models and floorplans and we ran a simulatedtable-top exercise using a credible scenario. All participants got real valuefrom the exercise.” Training is essential when it comes to honing crisis management skills.Competent and confident people are usually good at exercising leadership in acrisis, but they have to work collaboratively – this is not the place for BruceWillis heroics. We all know about volunteer firefighters who create their own bush fires toget the credit for putting them out. Disciplinary procedures do not go into thedeep freeze during emergencies. Personnel managers have to deal withattention-seeking individuals who may exacerbate the crisis in just to givethemselves a platform to act as heroes. Most training is based on simulations. The challenge, as Cumbria’s Norriepoints out, is preparing people for things they have never seen in their lives.”We do it on the basis of the kinds of roles that are needed in anemergency: people ready to sift and collate information and, if necessary, passit into the public domain; dealing with the media; operating helplines – andknowing how to deal with members of the public who are quite naturally veryupset and often angry; and running a reception centre.” Managing a reception centre is not as straightforward as it sounds.”People have different priorities,” Norrie recalls. “Some insiston taking their rabbits or Rottweilers along with them. Others come home blinddrunk from the pub impervious to the fact that their house has been burneddown. We get drug users suffering withdrawal. You need to know how to manage aninteresting social mix.” n Helen Vandevelde delivers conference and in-house programmes on talentmanagement www.workingahead.com Related posts:No related photos. 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This week’s legal case round-upFinding new employment Tibbett & Britten UK Ltd v Burke, EAT, 27 November 2002, All ER (D)130 Employers can take some comfort from the employment appeal tribunal’s (EAT)approach to assessing compensation for unfair dismissal in this case. Burke, 57, resigned from his job with Tibbett & Britten and successfullyclaimed constructive dismissal. Since leaving his job, Burke had found newemployment via an agency, but it paid less. In calculating his ongoing loss, the tribunal concluded that Burke wouldhave remained in Tibbett & Britten’s employment until retirement at the ageof 65, and took account of the difference in pay between his former and currentemployment in awarding £54,836 compensation. Tibbett & Britten successfullyappealed to the EAT. The EAT held there had to be a finding, and an allowance, if appropriate, inrespect of whether Burke, having found relatively less well paid employment,would have been able to secure a better job on more favourable terms at somestage in the future, notwithstanding his age. Furthermore, the tribunal hadbeen wrong in making no discount for accelerated payment – it failed to takeaccount of the fact that Burke would have received future years’ salary as alump sum payment up front. Restricting employees in the future Arbuthnot Fund Managers Ltd v Nigel Rawlings, CA, 13 March 2003, All ER(D) 181 – This case should serve as a reminder to employers to check thatrestrictive covenants in employees’ contracts are appropriately drafted.Rawlings was employed as an executive director by a company engaged in fundmanagement and investment for private clients, trusts and charities. After Rawlings left his employment, the company issued proceedings seekingto enforce the restrictive covenants in his service agreement which preventedhim from: – Soliciting or dealing with any person, firm or company who had, within the12 months prior to termination, done business with the company – Soliciting or dealing with anybody who was a prospective client of thecompany in the six months prior to termination An interim injunction was granted which restrained Rawlings from acting inbreach of the restrictive covenants until the matter could be heard at a fulltrial. Rawlings appealed on the grounds that the restraint terms were too wide andhis appeal was successful in part. The Court of Appeal held that the terms ofthe restraint clauses in the service agreement (as reflected in the interiminjunction), were too wide. In particular, the use of the words “any person, firm or company”could be interpreted as meaning any person who was a client or prospectiveclient of the company. It could not have been intended to include all personswith whom the company had or was to have dealings, rather only those personswho were investment clients. The interim injunction was amended to restrain Rawlings from soliciting ordealing with any client who had carried out investment business with thecompany at any time during the 12 months leading up to termination. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Case round-upOn 1 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.
Mike Norman makes a plea for training specialists to use common-sensecommercial approachI’m on a training course’ is a declaration which, despite legions ofresearch proving its worth, is guaranteed to raise a cynical eyebrow. So why does training still suffer from this credibility gap in somequarters? The profession has done much to overcome its image as provider ofnothing more than a nice lunch and a day out of the office with an earlyfinish. But in my experience, internal training departments are stillsuffering, and I’m certain there is a lot they could do to make theirorganisations take them more seriously. One recent example of a ‘fully-booked’ internal training course, which onthe day yielded just six delegates for the four facilitators present, summed upthe problem. Many internal training departments are simply not as business-likeas they should be, and accept being treated like poor relations by theircolleagues. It is time for an outbreak of common sense and commercialism. Resources are the first issue. The cost per training day must be kept to anefficient minimum, and there are a number of ways to achieve this. The numberof training days yielded by permanent trainers should be maximised to the pointwhere they are providing at least three or four delivery days a week. If you haven’t got the workload to sustain this, should they really be onpermanent staff? If they are delivering too few a number of days, the goodemployees are likely to become demoralised and leave you anyway. And don’t concede to trainers’ excessive design and preparation timerequests. One good commercial example was when one of my customers wasnegotiating with an overpriced management development company, and asked:”If you have done this course before for many other customers, why are youcharging me for 50 design days?” Another of my customers’ permanent training team has convinced managementthat Mondays and Fridays are bad training days. Yeah right, for whom? Runningprogrammes over weekends, including Sundays and Bank Holidays, promotes a clearmessage that you are serious about learning. Linked with this is the need to boost delegate numbers. The training worldseems to believe that six to eight students is the maximum any trainer cantake. In some cases, it wouldn’t be appropriate for the class size to be anybigger (such as for presentation skills courses), but in others, a good tutorshould be comfortably able to teach 10 to 12 at a time. While it’s true that some airlines have given overbooking a bad name, usedwisely, it is a principle that works to avoid empty seats. Overbooking tacklesthe fact that people will always cancel. Induction courses are normally wellattended, with senior and management training days having the most acutecancellation problems. Tracking your delegate numbers closely will determinehow much you should overbook by. If you’re not comfortable with overbooking,running an active waiting list is another way to avoid wastage. I’m always amazed by the ease with which people cancel internal training –often on the morning of the course itself, citing overwork and othercommitments as their reasons. I wonder if they ever cancel their holidays forthe same reasons? These excuses may well be true, but the message coming over loud and clearis that it doesn’t really matter because it hasn’t cost anything for them ortheir department. Had they cancelled an external training course at such shortnotice, financial penalties would have been imposed – and it’s time internaltraining departments did the same. Just as all training should be chargedinternally, stiff cancellation fees should be an ever-present deterrent againstno-shows. Part of our company complained to our chief executive that it wasridiculous that we, as the internal training department, were chargingcancellation fees of 100 per cent for less than one week’s notice. Our chief executiveagreed that it was ridiculous – he said it should be 200 per cent. The need for training to be relevant and to meet the needs of theorganisation, following extensive consultation, is taken as read. But it shouldalso be recognised that no matter how relevant and well-delivered, trainingwill be undermined if costs and inefficiencies are at an unacceptable level. It may be wishful thinking to suggest internal trainers should become asimportant in the organisation’s collective mind as the department that paystheir salaries, but that level of indispensability is not a bad one to aim for.What is beyond doubt is that departments have to sharpen up their act, or riskdeath by inefficiency. Mike Norman, managing director of Reed Learning www.reed.co.uk/learning Related posts:No related photos. Close the credibility gapOn 1 Nov 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article
How does your cost-per-hire compare?By Personnel Today on 27 Jun 2013 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. XpertHR is researching the key recruitment metrics used by UK employers, including statistics such as time to hire and cost per hire. Take part in this short survey and receive:a free copy of the summary research report – containing valuable benchmarking charts – as soon as it is published; anda complimentary copy of the 2013 XpertHR report on digital recruitment as soon as you have completed the survey. If you have any queries about this confidential research, please do not hesitate to contact Michael Carty by email or on 020 8652 2250 (direct line).
What is the experience of OH practitioners when trying to give advice on managing employees with bipolar disorder? And what specific advice is helpful for managers? Jane Downey investigates.In her memoir An Unquiet Mind, the clinical psychologist and leading authority on bipolar disorder (or “manic depression” as it was referred to in the past) Professor Kay Redfield Jamison describes both her professional and personal perspective struggles and triumphs in trying to manage this often misunderstood, maligned and stigmatised condition.Redfield Jamison describes bipolar disorder “as an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it; an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide”.The “advantage” that Jamieson refers to could be interpreted as the creative temperament that is often associated with this condition and which no doubt has been fuelled by the number of celebrities across the artistic spectrum whose struggles with this condition have been either openly acknowledged or deduced from historical accounts of their symptoms and behaviours.A few of such luminaries include Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway from the world of literature; musicians Jimi Hendrix and Ian Curtis; maverick artists Caravaggio and Van Gogh, not to mention numerous figures from stage and screen.However, the vast majority of people with this condition are not celebrated artists, and there is a concern from certain quarters that this attitude can “glamorise” the way the condition is perceived.Novelist Matt Haig, when discussing this subject in an article in The Telegraph wrote that as a teenager he had viewed the suicide of Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s frontman, in this stereotypical way.However, in his mid-twenties Haig himself suffered a serious episode of depression where he states he did consider suicide. Fortunately, with support he recovered and, now nearing 40 and looking back at his youth and at the misconceptions he had about mental illness, he goes on to say that: “Depression is an illness. It is not a ticket to genius… You don’t have to be a creative maverick to have a troubled mind. You just have to be human.”Back in August 2015 a paper published in The British Journal of Psychiatry indicated that there is a possible link between intelligence, creativity and bipolar disorder. As part of the study, referred to as the ALSPAC study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children), scientists at the Universities of Glasgow, Bristol, Cardiff and Texas looked at data from children of the 1990s’ birth cohort.They discovered that higher childhood IQ, which was measured in the study at age eight, could indicate a risk of bipolar disorder in adulthood and was particularly associated with verbal IQ (VIQ).Professor Daniel Smith, the study’s main author, was quick to emphasise that it does not indicate that high IQ in childhood is a “clear-cut” risk factor for later development of bipolar disorder in adulthood. As he states, that there are other factors such as: family history of mental illness; childhood adversity; drug misuse and other serious life stressors to take into account.However, he did go on to say that: “Our finding has implications for understanding of how liability to bipolar disorder may have been selected through generations. One possibility is that serious disorders of mood such as bipolar disorder are the price that human beings have had to pay for more adaptive traits such as intelligence, creativity and verbal proficiency.”So, what is the experience of OH practitioners when trying to give advice on managing this particular client group? And what specific advice is helpful for managers when faced with employees who are struggling to manage this condition at work? To get a wider perspective, I spoke to two experienced practitioners from different backgrounds and work cultures.The consultant psychiatrist’s perspectiveDr Stephen Pereira is a consultant psychiatrist, CBT specialist and much sought-after speaker on mental health conditions. He has a varied (mostly London-based) clientele stretching from the arts to the world of finance, for whom he has provided a service since 2000.As such, he has wide experience and knowledge of managing the needs of employees from varied backgrounds. But he has also gained particular expertise in managing the needs of those from the legal and financial sectors. These, of course, are sectors that have a reputation for long working hours and attracting notably “driven” individuals, some of whom can resort to less than holistic methods of managing these demands.Although Dr Pereira states that the causes of a bipolar episode “are often biological” the triggers, especially in this type of environment, can in his experience be as a result of “an employee being perceived as a star trader/employee as when they are hypomanic they will characteristically display excessive energy, so they can often work to the early hours of the morning. Then following a couple of hours of sleep return to repeat the same cycle.”However, he goes on to state that “when they are exhausted and can’t complete and so are perceived by others and themselves as not delivering these perceptions can then often trigger a depressive episode in a vulnerable individual.”This situation Dr Pereira states can then result in some employees relying on illegal drug use to manage their symptoms. For the younger city worker this is likely to be MDMA commonly known as Ecstasy, and for the older one cocaine. The employee is unlikely to have recognised their condition, but they may get referred to him with symptoms of insomnia, high energy, impulsivity, low mood or excessive alcohol use.When asked about the frequency of this condition, Dr Pereira states that “although 2% of the population may fall into the classical bipolar l or bipolar 11 disorder, a further 5-6% of the population are now thought to have what is termed as ‘subthreshold bipolar disorder.” This means that they may have fewer symptoms or symptoms that endure for less time than the classical bipolar types discussed above. Nevertheless, these symptoms can still mean they are suffering from significant psychological symptoms, which could also include suicidal ideation.Dr Pereira states that this type of presentation, in his experience is not uncommon and, sadly, it is often diagnosed later in life when the condition has often “wreaked havoc due to wrecked relationships and unwise career moves.” He goes on to state “if this condition could be picked up earlier, these symptoms could be managed more effectively which would not only impact positively on their personal relationships but also their employability.” However, quite commonly “GPs and even psychiatrists have picked up on their depression but not their hypomania unless the person mentions it as they often see it as part of their personality,” he adds. Dr Pereira goes on to state that people with this condition are at greater risk of suicidal ideation and self-harm than people with unipolar depression.Management of bipolar disorderDr Pereira stresses that early diagnosis is key to managing bipolar disorder effectively so that appropriate treatment can be implemented. This usually requires medication “as this is a biochemical condition and so it needs a biochemical solution”, he argues. Therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful, particularly “for mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but CBT is less effective for severe symptoms of bipolar disorder due to the difficulties an individual is likely to experience in engaging in therapy,” Dr Pereira states.Dr Pereira also recommends that psychoeducation, in other words the implementation by the individual of good self-management strategies (such as appropriate diet, regular exercise and good sleep hygiene and so on) is also a very important part of their management programme.However, Dr Pereira is also keen to stress the pivotal role organisations can and should play in supporting individuals with bipolar disorder, particularly line-managers. Like many practitioners who are responsible for supporting employees with these type of symptoms, Pereira has seen at first hand the difference a caring, supportive manager can make.As Dr Pereira puts it: “Undertaking mental health training is crucial for a manager not only to de-stigmatise stress (as we all get stressed) but also so that the manager realises the importance of noticing symptoms that may indicate all is not well, so that they are not frightened to ask employees ‘are you ok?’ and ask simple questions about wellbeing such as ‘are you sleeping well etc.?’.”Dr Pereira goes on further to state that a caring, holistic approach to management is essential for all employee wellbeing, or as he articulates it: “good management should promote an attitude of general caring for the individual not just assessing if they are delivering or not.”Dr Pereira also believes that employees with bipolar disorder can be high achieving and of considerable value to an organisation, so long as their talents are channelled appropriately with the right support in place.The OH adviser’s perspectiveMy second interviewee was Frances Harries, OH adviser who has worked in occupational health for more than 30 years. Her experience has predominantly being within local authorities.Like most OHNs over the years she, together with the OH physician, has provided occupational health advice to management on supporting a number of employees with bipolar disorder.There was one case that Harries remembers where the employee was having particular difficulties settling in to a new, fairly demanding role. Although the role was new, the employee had very good transferrable skills but there were certain aspects of the job that appeared to be causing her some anxiety, in the first few months she had raised absence.What really helped “was having a manager that listened to her and carried out a risk assessment so that a couple of tasks that were causing her anxiety were modified slightly without needing to make major changes to the role itself” emphasises Harries.Similarly, she believes that, from the employee’s perspective, what transformed her attendance and performance “was the employee gaining insight about her specific personal triggers which appeared to relate to staying later and later at work which then affected her sleep and would then often result in an episode of depression or hypomania.”Apparently after an initially bumpy start, the above support measures (particularly the supportive and creative approach of the manager) together with the growing insight of the employee regarding what issues triggered and mitigated their symptoms seemed to be what made the difference in managing their condition effectively at work.Over time the employee flourished in her role and, when there was the occasional hiccough, a supportive working environment, regular OH reviews and implementation of the employee’s personal “WRAP” (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) lessened the effect of symptoms and related absence (See table 1).Bipolar disorder as categorised in the past by DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition published by the American Psychiatric Association) could result in under-diagnosis of the condition. This was not least because a person’s symptoms did not always fall neatly into the defined subgroups arranged in terms of severity, for example bipolar 1; bipolar 11; cyclothymic disorder and so on.This meant that a large proportion of treated patients were classified as NOS (“Not Otherwise Specified”). DSM-5, the 2013 revised edition, although not perfect, is thought by many clinicians to be a more helpful classification system as it now includes, among other previously excluded groups, those who have subthreshold symptoms.However, although knowledge of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is very useful to the OH practitioner, particularly when up to 5-6% of the working population may be struggling at work with subthreshold symptoms, diagnosis per se is obviously not part of the OH remit.Nevertheless, OH does have an important role in giving the best advice to management and supporting an employee to function as effectively as possible should they present with related issues at pre-placement, whilst in employment, or following a period of related absence is very much part of our role.Bipolar disorder is a complex condition and, like other mental health disorders, an individual’s symptoms may not always fall neatly into the various categorisations. Its fluctuating and cyclical nature can mean that employees can often go for many years without a major episode. But much of this will depend on the particular type of bipolar disorder they have and whether they adhere to their specific treatment plan and self-management strategies as advised by their psychiatrist and mental health practitioners.However, from an employment perspective, as pointed out by Dr Pereira and Harries, what can be just as crucially important is whether the employee feels they can discuss their condition with their line manager. This can allow them to be properly supported by appropriate adjustments, some of which may often only need to be temporary.Ignorance about mental health issues is often at the root of poor management and, consequently, poor outcomes. Training, adherence to good mental health policies and an open, flexible approach are all key to enabling a manager to support an employee appropriately. However, as OH practitioners, we can and should be playing a major role in enabling this to take place.What the organisation can doProvide and encourage a culture that destigmatises mental health issues and places an importance on having good mental healthEnsure mental wellbeing policies and procedures are in place and implementedProvide training to managers and employees on mental health awarenessPut in place training and procedures in place for managers to combat workplace stressEnsure managers actively encourage dialogue with the individual and understand the importance of early interventionIf sickness absence occurs, ensure action planning is implemented early to support a positive return to workHave good OH support in place to advise and assist on the implementation of the above.What the line manager can doUndertake mental health trainingImplement good management – take an interest in the person as an individual not just their outputWhen a person is experiencing the early symptoms of a possible episode, discuss with them what temporary adjustments may assist them through a difficult period (flexibility and a little creative thinking can have a very positive impact on outcome)Refer to occupational health for advice on managing difficulties at work or related absence and liaise with HR so the employee receives optimal support.What the employee can doMaintain medication as advised by psychiatrist and ensuring attendance at reviews and blood tests etcPsychoeducation (ensure they are finding out more about bipolar disorder)Mood monitoring – to elicit when mood is swinging (apps can now be used to assist with this)Mood strategies – to help prevent mood swinging into a full blown manic or depressive episodeDevelop general coping skillsCognitive behavioural therapy(CBT) for depressionAim to maintain a good work/life balance, so have time for work, leisure and relationshipsReferencesRedfield Jamison, K, ‘An Unquiet Mind’ . Picador 1997, p6 The Telegraph, 04 March 2017Smith D et al, British Journal of Psychiatry Open, August 2015 View all posts by Jane Downey → Mental ill health accounted for more than half of sickness absence in last yearA total of 38.8 million working days were lost because of work-related illness and workplace injury in 2019/20, with more… Reply Together alone: staying well as OH practitioners in challenging timesDr Nerina Ramlakhan explains how occupational health professionals can balance supporting the health needs of employers and employees while, at… Jane, an absolutely spot on article. Dr Pereira almost describes my wrecked life (Not that I’m not fighting to put it back together!).Unfortunately I’ve not had the benefit of workplace support other than through lip service. I’ve made a solemn vow to change this for others. Through charity, giving talks, my business, it doesn’t matter how if it saves someone 3 suicide attempts, £21k of debt and the loss of several partners including the loss of the love of my life.Oh, BTW, I’m replying here for others to read and take on board that this needs to happen as part of chasing my goal. It’s a complex illness. People don’t always know when they’re becoming unwell. It needs to be understood. Up to 10% of people with bipolar take their own lives. Around 1:100 people have bipolar. People with bipolar need support. Working itself is essential to wellbeing. Sue Chapman 5 Aug 2018 at 5:04 pm # Previous Article Next Article Talking toolkits: unpicking Covid-19 return-to-work advice for occupational healthWith the UK now gradually reopening for business, organisations across the workplace health spectrum have been developing toolkits and resources… Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply.Comment Name (required) Email (will not be published) (required) Website Related posts: Supporting employees with bipolar disorderBy Jane Downey on 3 Aug 2018 in Anxiety, Stress, Mental health conditions, Disability, Occupational Health, Personnel Today About Jane Downey Jane Downey MSc (Org Psychiatry and Psychology), RGN, SCPHN (OH), OND is a senior occupational health practitioner at Richmond and Wandsworth Councils as well as a freelance occupational health and wellbeing specialist. One Response to Supporting employees with bipolar disorder
TagsiBuyingIPOopendoorResidential Real EstatesoftbankTechnology Share via Shortlink Message* Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink Full Name* Opendoor CEO Eric Wu and Chamath Palihapitiya (Getty)Even before Opendoor’s official stock market debut on Dec. 21, the iBuyer’s valuation soared to nearly $18 billion as Wall Street investors cheered its merger with a special purpose acquisition company.Shares of Chamath Palipatihiya’s blank-check company more than tripled Friday after it completed the merger with Opendoor. Previously, the company had an enterprise value of $5 billion when the deal was announced in September.Opendoor’s stock was priced at $29 per share as of midday on Monday when it began trading on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “OPEN.”“We are just getting started,” CEO Eric Wu wrote in a blog post.Read moreEric Wu is changing home buying Inside Opendoor’s balance sheet Can iBuying go the distance? Email Address* He acknowledged that Opendoor, like other startups, had its fair share of challenges and that its trajectory wasn’t a straight line. “As we look to this next chapter, we will continue to work hard when no one is looking,” he wrote.The company, founded in 2014, uses an algorithm to buy and sell homes for a fee of between 6 and 8 percent. It is the leading iBuyer, or instant home buyer, in a hot — but nascent — slice of the residential market, accounting for just 0.5 percent of U.S. home sales last year.Prior to the SPAC deal, Opendoor raised $1.3 billion from investors including SoftBank, Khosla Ventures, Lennar, General Atlantic and Access Technology Ventures.But the company, which is not profitable, reported a net loss of $339 million last year. When the pandemic hit, it suspended home-buying. To stem its losses, Opendoor laid off 35 percent of its staff and sold off a large chunk of its inventory.The deal with Palihapitiya’s special purpose acquisition company gave Opendoor $1 billion in cash, and the company plans to use that war chest to grow.Opendoor has projected $10 billion in revenue by 2023, and it said by capturing 4 percent of the U.S. housing market, it can be a $50 billion company.Contact E.B. Solomont