Sexual harassment – your role as an employer

This is an excellent article by Kirsty Harvison about the steps you need to take now to proactively ensure your workplace provides a safe working environment for your workers.

It talks about sexual harassment but the issue is even bigger – bullying, aggressive behaviour, victimisation and turning a blind eye are work-related issues that you need to address.

It’s the law now, not simply a nice to have anymore. And it’s not HR’s job – it’s yours, as the employer.

HR’s job is to help and advise you on how to take proactive steps towards providing a safe working environment.

Do not think that because no one is reporting sexual harassment that it’s not happening in your workplace.

This is a common mistake – the “no news is good news” syndrome.

Please get in touch if you need help with any aspect of what’s discussed in this article:

https://community.hrdaily.com.au/profiles/blogs/if-respect-work-is-not-on-your-board-amp-executive-agenda-it

David Wurth

16/6/23

Important changes affecting pay secrecy, gender equality and enterprise agreements

What you need to know

The Australian Government has recently made major changes to the fair work legislation which affect a number of existing rules and have introduced new workplace laws (which have various start dates).

Changes that apply now

These changes fall within the following categories: job security, gender equality measures,  enterprise agreements and enterprise bargaining, the abolition of the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission) and the ROC (Registered Organisations Commission), and small claims process.

1. Job security

1.1       New workplace rights on disclosing pay and workplace conditions

With effect from 7 December 2022, employees shall have new workplace rights to:

  • either share or not share information about their pay and employment terms (such as their hours of work)
  • ask other employees (whether with the same or different employer) about their pay and employment term

However, employees cannot be forced to provide such information if they do not want to. These rights remain even after employment ceases.

These rights apply to an employee who enters into a new employment contract on or after 7 December 2022 or existing employees where the contract of employment does not include pay secrecy terms inconsistent with these new rights.

If an employee’s existing employment contract has pay secrecy terms that are inconsistent with the new workplace rights and the contract is changed after the new law comes into force, the new workplace rights apply to the employee.

Impact on your organisation

As an employer, you cannot take adverse action (such as dismissal) against your employee either because of these rights or to prevent these rights from being exercised.

Consequences

  • The Fair Work Ombudsman may take enforcement action including court proceedings for alleged breaches of these provisions
  • You could face penalties for non-compliance

Further information

Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman’s page on pay secrecy

1.2       Prohibiting pay secrecy

New laws
With effect from 7 June 2023, pay secrecy clauses cannot be included in employment contracts.

Impact on your organisation

  • Pay secrecy terms that are inconsistent with these new workplace rights cannot be included in employment contracts or other written agreements entered into on or after 7 June 2023
  • If you use an award or enterprise agreement or employment contract which has a pay secrecy clause, after 7 December 2022, that clause will have no effect and remain unenforceable (regardless of when the agreement was made). This also applies to employment contracts in effect before 7 December 2022 if the contract does not include a pay secrecy clause or includes such a clause and the contract is changed

Consequences

  • The Fair Work Ombudsman may take enforcement action including court proceedings for alleged breaches of these provisions
  • You could face penalties for non-compliance

Further information

1.3       Unlawful job advertisements

With effect from 7 January 2023, job advertisements cannot include pay rates that would breach the Fair Work Act or a fair work instrument (such as an award or enterprise agreement).

Impact on your organisation

  • As an employer, you cannot include pay rates that undercut an employee’s minimum entitlements
  • When advertising pieceworker positions (where an individual is paid according to the quantity of work produced) where the employee would be entitled to a periodic rate of pay (such as an hourly or weekly rate of pay), you must specify the periodic pay rate applicable or state in your ad that a periodic pay rate applies
  • The impact of the timeframe is that regardless of when the ad was originally posted, the requirement applies from 7 January 2023 (which covers ads posted earlier than this date)

Consequences

You could face penalties unless a reasonable excuse for non-compliance is provided.

Further information

Visit the Department of Employment and Workplace Relation’s fact sheet on prohibited job advertisements

2. Gender equality measures

2.1 New protections

With effect from 7 December 2022, there are new protections affecting breastfeeding, gender identity, and intersex status at the workplace.

Impact on your organisation

As an employer, you are prohibited from taking adverse action against current or future employees because of these changes.

Consequences

If an employee experiences adverse action in relation to the above, they can make a complaint through the Fair Work Commission (the FWC) which has the power to start court proceedings for alleged breaches of these new protections

Further information

2.2       Equal remuneration principles and orders

New principle

With effect from 7 December 2022, the Fair Work Act now has a new equal remuneration principle that guides the consideration of equal remuneration and helps the Commission issue pay increases to workers in low-paid, female-dominated industries. The FWC may now make an equal remuneration order on its own accord or on application.

2.3       New workplace sexual harassment laws

New laws

With effect from 6 March 2023, workplace sexual harassment is prohibited under the Fair Work Act. This applies to workers (employees, contractors, work experience students, and volunteers) and people conducting a business or undertaking.

Impact on your organisation

As an employer, you must understand what constitutes workplace harassment, and manage any such harassment at the workplace. This includes mitigation, remedial action, compliance, regular employee training as well as assessment, and monitoring of the issue.

Consequences

  • An individual or company can be liable for sexual harassment committed by an employee (or agent) in connection with work unless they can prove that reasonable steps were taken to prevent such harassment
  • The Commission has expanded powers to address disputes including arbitration and the power to start court proceedings
  • An individual can pursue civil proceedings if the FWC is unable to resolve the dispute
  • An individual who believes they have been sexually harassed at work may make a ‘stop sexual harassment’ application to the Commission

Further information

Read the Fair Work detailed article on new workplace sexual harassment laws

3. Enterprise agreements and enterprise bargaining

 

The process for terminating an enterprise agreement has changed with effect from 7 December 2022. The FWC must terminate an enterprise agreement if one of the following applies:

  • the continued operation of the agreement would be unfair for the employee covered or
  • the agreement does not cover any employee or
  • all the following applies:
    • the continued operation of the agreement poses a significant threat to the viability of the business and
    • terminating the agreement is expected to reduce the risk of terminations of employment and
    • if the agreement has terms about termination entitlements, the employer it covers guarantees the termination entitlements to the Commission.

All agreements, still in operation, which were made before the commencement of the Fair Work Act will automatically sunset (terminate) on 7 December 2023.

Impact on your organisation

  • As an employer, you are still permitted to terminate an agreement with the consent of employees as per existing rules
  • If you have such an agreement, you can apply to the FWC to extend the sunset date by up to 4 years at a time, provided certain conditions are met
  • You are required to notify in writing, before 7 June 2023, affected employees about the upcoming termination unless the application for extension of time is made

Consequences

  • The FWC has the power to start court proceedings for breaches relating to the guarantees of termination entitlements and breaches for failure to notify about sunsetting agreements
  • If the guarantee is breached or there is failure to notify the employees about the agreement sunset, you may face penalties.

Further information

Visit the Fair Work Commission’s website on enterprise agreements

4. Abolition of the ABCC and the ROC

With effect from 6 February 2023, the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission) and the ROC (Registered Organisations Commission) have been abolished.

Impact on your organisation

All ongoing legal matters currently before the courts shall now be transferred to the FWC. Employers may seek workplace advice, information, and assistance from the FWC. The same reporting and compliance obligations remain.

Further information

5. Enhanced small claims process

With effect from 1 July 2023, the monetary cap for recovering unpaid entitlements (via the small claims process) will increase from $20,000 to $100,000. More details will be announced shortly on the FWC’s website.

Further information

Visit the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations fact sheet – Amending the Fair Work Act small claims process.

Do you need advice or support?

More details on these issues above will be clarified on the FWC’s website shortly.

If you require advice or have questions pertaining to these changes and compliance measures, please contact David Wurth, Director at Wurth HR.

Email:  david@wurthhr.com.au
Phone: 1300 900 741

 

Workplace harassment awareness

Hey, bully! I am calling you out.

I am not going to let you bully, harass or threaten the rest of the team here at this wonderful organisation. It has taken years to build this organisation and grow our team.

Everyone knows that sexual harassment and bullying can truly destroy a business, not to mention people’s lives. So I will do whatever it takes to protect the business we’ve built.

I know that the most important thing we need to do in operating this business is to remain proactive and mindful about everything that goes on inside. We need effective systems, processes and procedures that highlight our culture, what we will allow and what we will not. We need to walk the talk which means being clear about the consequences of actions we will not tolerate.

I know that it is simply not enough to draft a policy on this issue. It is not enough to provide random 15-minute videos for new starters to watch.

So you can expect that we will have regular team meetings on this issue. We will ensure that senior management and managers across all levels display and promote the behaviours we seek to enforce and support.

We will continue to encourage whistleblowing as a key element in this strategy. We understand how emotionally charged these situations can be, we know our people expect us to lead the way and we know that we need to display good behaviour.

And ultimately, all these actions, policies and procedures serve one goal – to provide a safe work environment for our people.

Our people will always be our top priority. There is no business, there is no growth or success or moving forward without our people.

For this reason:

  • we do everything in our power to create a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace
  • we provide resources, support and education to support our organisation and our people to better understand, prevent and address workplace harassment and
  • we take our legal obligations seriously, ensuring that we maintain our positive duty to prevent workplace harassment and victimisation.

So this is what you can expect at our workplace:

  • clear leadership on these issues including effective risk assessment and transparency
  • regularly reviewed clear, written guidelines and protocols that outline our policies on preventing and responding to workplace harassment
  • clear articulation of what constitutes workplace harassment and the ways in which this may occur
  • consistent written communication and regular training for everyone on these guidelines and policies
  • a thorough and transparent investigation process of any complaints as well as robust reporting and measuring activities.

For this reason, do not even think you will get away with anything here. Do not think that your  bad behaviour will be tolerated and that swift action will not be taken. Be very clear about what we consider to be threatening, unreasonable or abusive behaviour or even violence in the workplace.

There is no place in our organisation for someone like you.

Your General Manager

 

Wurth HR offers Workplace Harassment Awareness Training in the form of corporate in-house workshops. These are interactive 3-hour workshops available face-to-face or online. The training focusses on detection, prevention, mitigation and management of workplace harassment and bullying.

▶ Contact David Wurth on 1300 900 741.

Why managers need to sharpen their interviewing skills

I was excited about the latest hire for our sales team. Jill had come across as bright, capable and incredibly enthusiastic. Or so I thought. 4 weeks into her new role, she came into my office one morning to announce that she was leaving.

Just like that. She mumbled something about how the job was not quite what she thought it would be.

I was blindsided.

What was I thinking? Did I miss key signs in the interview process? Would I really need to go through the entire recruitment process all over again? Everyone in the sales team was raving about Jill, making plans, talking about changes and now, this happened.

This was going to be devastating and costly.  The worst thing was that I would probably lose credibility with my team and peers.

Change the team and the names and you will find that this is a repeat scenario many companies face as they embark on various recruitment drives.

We could perhaps discover more about why Jill decided to leave through an exit interview. But is an exit interview even worth the trouble or a waste of your time?

Instead, I recommend investing time on evaluating your recruitment practices to find out where things may have gone wrong in the past. Perhaps, you may be able to identify and address issues before they occur. One thing you should do as a hiring manager is radically improve your own interviewing skills.

Developing your interviewing skills

Samuel G Trull, in his Harvard Business Review article on effective interviewing, noted that a lack of adequate planning for an interview is the single greatest fault found in his studies of the interviewing process.

In effect, you require a framework to approach the interview process. A simple, yet effective, framework can be developed to:

  • provide you with a suitable interview script you can apply in each interview
  • identify what you need to look for in a resume
  • give you the tools to figure out what additional information should be obtained
  • compile a shortlist of key questions
  • identify which questions to avoid
  • discover the most common mistakes typically made at interviews and how you or your team can avoid these pitfalls.

The big why driving this activity

You want to find the right person for the role and you want to do it easily and quickly. This requires you to put in place a robust framework that not only supports you throughout the recruitment process but enables good hiring decisions to be made. You want the insights gleaned from the process to be shared for the collective benefit of the team and the organisation.

As a manager, you’d like to be able to read between the lines and address issues as they arise. This requires building skills in active listening, knowing how to phrase questions and placing enough emphasis on the importance of non-verbal cues. You also need to understand how your attitudes and biases may affect the interpretation of information received from prospective new hires.

 

Wurth HR offers Interviewing Skills for Managers, a corporate in-house workshop. As an interactive two or three-day workshop available on-site or online, it will provide hiring managers with a framework for making good hiring decisions.

▶ Discover more about the workshop
▶ Contact
David Wurth for an obligation-free discussion on 1300 900 741 or email David directly:

david@wurthhr.com.au

Upcoming changes to paid parental leave

What you need to know

The Federal Government has recently announced major changes to the Paid Parental Leave Scheme (PPL).

The current scheme

  • enables parents to take time off work to care for a newborn or newly adopted child by providing income while they are away from work
  • this income is at the rate of the national minimum wage currently at $812.60 per week
  • incorporates two government-funded payments:
    • Parental Leave Pay (PLP): usually paid to mothers but may in some circumstances be paid to other eligible primary carers, providing eligible working parents with up to 18 weeks of payments
    • Dad and Partner Pay (DAPP): provides eligible working fathers or partners with up to two weeks of payments
  • both the PLP and DAPP are subject to an income threshold where those earning greater than $151,350 are ineligible for this scheme.

Changes to the current scheme

As a result of, among other issues, criticism for reinforcing outdated gender roles, changes and enhancements to the current scheme, as outlined below, shall take effect from 1 July 2023.

  • the PLP and DAPP payments will be combined and extended into a single 20-week payment at the national minimum wage which enables both parents to claim an equal amount of parental leave entitlements
  • under the new arrangements, the threshold limit will increase to $156,647 for each parent and there shall be a new $350,000 family income limit
  • fathers and partners will be allowed to receive payments under the scheme at the same time as they receive employer-funded leave, previously not possible
  • one parent could take the full entitlement or it could be shared between a couple, with the option for both parents to take parental leave at the same time
  • the 20-week limit will be expanded by two weeks starting from 1 July 2024 with parental leave pay increasing by two weeks each year until 1 July 2026 for a total of 26 weeks (or half a year)
  • parents will be able to take parental leave pay in blocks (such as one day at a time) with periods of work in between
  • PLP must be taken within two years of the child’s date of the birth
  • a “use it or lose it” approach is taken with this type of leave

What you need to do moving forward

Your organisation will need to understand the impact of the planned increases to the combined PLP and DAPP entitlement. Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that your employee handbook and internal structures, systems and procedures reflect the changes and applicable timeframes.

Information sessions should be provided on a regular basis to:

  • the HR team to ensure proper compliance with these requirements
  • managers who are involved in approving leave

Background information

To find out more about these changes:

Do you need advice?

Wurth HR provides advice to businesses to implement processes to manage HR changes such as this one. If you require assistance or have a question on this latest development, please contact David Wurth, Director at Wurth HR.

Email   :  david@wurthhr.com.au
Phone  : 1300 900 741

New paid family and domestic violence leave

What you need to know

From 2023 onwards, employees will be able to access 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave in a 12 month period:

  • full-time, part-time and casual employees are all covered
  • for businesses with 15 or more employees this new leave entitlement will start from 1 February 2023
  • for smaller businesses with a workforce of 14 or less it will be accessible to employees from 1 August 2023
  • up to 10 days of paid leave are available per year
  • this category of leave does not accumulate and renews each year on the employee’s work anniversary
  • family and domestic violence covers any violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by the employee’s close relative, current or former partner or a member of their household
  • such leave may be accessible during a period of other paid leave, that is, an employee may be able to utilise family and domestic violence leave during a period when they are on annual leave.

What impact does this have on your organisation and people?

This category of leave is accessible almost immediately once a person commences employment. Until such time that the new leave comes into effect, employees will continue to be entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave.

This leave is for enabling the employee to deal with the impact of family or domestic violence if it is not practical to handle it during work hours. It includes making arrangements for their safety, attending court hearings, accessing police services or attending appointments.

Employees will take their leave at their full pay rate (including incentive-based payments, bonuses, loading, allowances and overtime or penalty rates) for the hours they would have worked had they not been on leave.

Information provided by the employee to the employer including evidence of family and domestic violence shall not be used for any other purpose other than to satisfy the employer of the employee’s entitlement to such leave.

What you should do moving forward

You will need to establish and maintain new processes as well as ensure ongoing training of relevant personnel charged with administering these leave applications in order to:

  • ensure that employees are made aware of the availability of such leave and what steps they need to take to apply for such leave
  • periodically check for legal updates that may impact on these changes
  • ensure that privacy issues raised are dealt with appropriately
  • establish what appropriate notifications and supporting documents need to be provided by employees in accessing this leave
  • ensure that the organisation’s internal employee handbook addresses the provision of such leave, how it may be accessed and provide guidance on applicable timeframes for notice and evidence requirements.

To find out more, view the Fair Work Ombudsman news release.

Wurth HR provides consulting services to organisations, large and small, to implement processes to manage employment changes such as this. If you require assistance or have a question on this latest development, please contact David Wurth, Principal at Wurth HR.

Email: david@wurthhr.com.au
Mobile: 0407 451 382

 

Some useful HR tips for the end of year celebration

What could possibly go wrong?

Yes, December is nearly upon us again. You’ve probably already booked your venue for the annual celebration of your business’ stellar performance throughout the year. You want to thank your employees for their massive contribution and you probably feel like letting your hair down a bit too.

That’s great, but it’s prudent to have a few checks in place before the big event:

  • You no doubt already have strong policies on bullying and sexual harassment. Now is a good time to remind your people of these policies and to review what is expected of people generally when they attend a work-sponsored function
  • You should remind people a few days before the party of how you expect them to behave on the day itself
  • Make sure the venue you choose has a responsible serving of alcohol (RSA) policy that they strictly adhere to
  • On the day of the function ensure that at least one senior manager is present at all times during the function. It’s preferable if that person doesn’t drink at all. You might even solicit the help of any other non-drinkers, if they’re willing to keep an informal eye on things
  • Make sure you serve non-alcoholic drinks and plenty of food and water, keeping in mind any special dietary requirements
  • If anyone seems drunk they should be immediately cut off from the bar and sent home in a cab
  • Have a definite start and end time for your function and make sure people leave the venue when the time arrives. Don’t let people linger at the same venue. If they want to kick on, they should go somewhere else
  • Do not let anyone use their corporate credit card at a different venue. This also applies to you as the business owner, if you decide to kick on somewhere else. The idea is to separate your business from the social gathering, once the official party is over
  • Make sure people can get home easily after the event. You could set up a work Uber account and have a designated person available to book people’s trips home. Cab charges are a good alternative
  • Be sure to promptly and thoroughly investigate any complaints you receive about harassment, bullying or physical violence, as you would normally at any other time
  • Don’t forget, if you do close down over the December break, give employees at least a month’s notice and be prepared to answer questions about paid and unpaid leave, especially from your recently-hired employees who may not have enough accrued paid leave to see them through the annual shutdown.

Some useful HR/payroll information for the new financial year (1/7/22-30/6/23)

Minimum wage 1/7/22

$812.60 per week (5.2% increase)

$21.38 per hour ($26.73 casual)

$42,255.20 pa ($52,819.00 pa casual)

Unfair dismissal threshold 1/7/22

$162,00 (max payout is $81,000) – does not include Super, commissions or bonuses (doesn’t apply to people covered by a Modern Award. No cap for a general protections claim)

$77.80 to lodge a claim with FWC – bullying, unfair dismissal & general protection

Tax-free threshold on ETP 1/7/22

$11,591 tax-free plus $5,797 for each completed year of service Lump Sum D  (doesn’t apply if you are 66 or older)

Super maximum for employers 1/7/22

$240,880 pa ($60,220 per quarter)

Super

10.5% from 1/7/22 then .5% each year until 12% on 1/7/25

Payroll tax NSW FY23

5.45% ($1,200,000 threshold)

ATO mileage rate FY23

75c (was 72c in FY22)

These amounts are a guide only. Please double-check these figures with your accountant/payroll specialist before relying on them to calculate employee entitlements.

Super changes from 1/7/22

Most of you will probably already know that compulsory employer super contributions are increasing by .5% from 1/7/22 to 10.5%.

Some people’s salaries are expressed as a salary “inclusive of super”. Unfortunately, in my view, this means that employers will simply deduct more money from your take-home pay and send it off to the super fund you’ve chosen. You will end up with less pay in your hand as a result!

I strongly urge people when they start a new job to ensure that their package is expressed as a base salary plus superannuation. Eg $75,000 base plus 10.5% super making the salary package $75,000 plus $7,875=$82,875. That way, from 1/7 every year up until 1/7/25 (from this date super will have increased to 12%), you will receive more super from your employer without it affecting your base salary.

Casual threshold

The previous threshold requiring casuals to earn a minimum of $450 per month before being paid super has disappeared. This means that you will need to pay super for all your casual employees, regardless of how much they earn. There are 2 exceptions to this:

  1. If a casual employee is under 18 years of age they must work at least 30 hours per week before being eligible for super
  2. An enterprise agreement (EA) may override these new provisions so check the wording carefully if your workers are covered by an EA.

For some of you, this may mean paying superannuation to some employees for the first time.  You will need to provide these employees with a superannuation standard choice form.   If an employee does not tell you their choice of superannuation fund you will need to follow the superannuation stapling provisions.  A stapled superannuation fund is an existing superannuation account linked to an individual employee that they have used in previous jobs.

Please call me on 0407 451 382 or email:

david@wurthhr.com.au

if you have any questions about these changes. I’ll be emailing another document outlining all the other changes to salary thresholds and national wage case increases coming into effect from 1/7/22. Watch this space!

David Wurth

Wurth HR.

 

Excess Annual Leave

What to do when employees’ annual leave accruals go into excess


When annual leave accruals reach an excessive amount, can you force employees to take leave? An expert weighs in on the issue.

Now that state and international borders are starting to reopen, employers may soon be flooded with a surge of leave requests.

Most employees won’t have taken much leave over the past 18 months, and many could be hanging onto a build-up annual leave for a long-overdue holiday.

But annual leave accruals were an issue long before COVID-19 can cause headaches for employers, and they were an issue long before COVID-19. There are a variety of reasons employees might be hoarding their leave, including but not limited to:

  • They want to take a significant amount in one block for an important life event (i.e. a wedding, birth of a grandchild or an overseas trip).
  • They’d prefer to cash in their leave. (This is only permitted under certain awards. See the Fair Work website for more details).
  • They’re reluctant to take annual leave if they feel their workload won’t be effectively managed in their absence, leading them to worry that they’ll be flooded with tasks upon their return to work.

Excess annual leave accrual can be a financial burden for businesses as untaken annual leave is recorded as a liability on balance sheets.

So what can employers do to keep annual leave balances as close to zero as possible?

Can you force employees to take leave?

Employers can generally only instruct employees to take leave if they’ve accrued an excessive amount, or if the organisation shuts down for a block of time, such as at the end of the year.

“The basic rule of thumb is that the employer can direct an employee to take leave if they accrue more than eight weeks,” says David Wurth, Principal and Founder of Wurth HR. The period is slightly longer for shift workers, who can be directed to take leave if they’ve accrued 10 weeks.

“The other time is if the company shuts down over Christmas and New Year, so long as you’ve given them warning. You need to give employees at least four weeks’ notice, and you have to do that every year.”

In the interests of preventing burnout and supporting employees’ wellbeing, many companies strongly encourage their employees to take smaller chunks of leave throughout the year.

Over the last 18 months as opportunities for travel have been virtually non-existent, organisations have needed to emphasise the importance of taking time off to recharge – even if that just means taking a staycation.

Driving this message home is particularly necessary as the phenomenon of ‘vacation shaming’ has taken off in the last few years.

When bosses and colleagues discourage an employee from taking time off – especially during the pandemic when time off meant staying home, rather than booking a holiday – employees might associate taking leave with feelings of guilt and angst.

If employees are concerned about being inundated with tasks upon their return to work, it’s important to reassure them that their workload will be managed during their absence. [Have a read of HRM’s piece on company-wide week off for some ideas on how an employee’s work can best be managed while they’re on leave].

Employers often don’t give adequate attention to this, says Wurth.

“It’s so often neglected,” he says. “If an employee has had three weeks off and they’re going back to work to face 450 emails, and no one will have done X, Y or Z, that’s going to be stressful for them,” says Wurth.

“Management needs to be proactive and think about who will do that person’s job when they’re away. You need to manage the traffic of emails while they’re away too. Some companies don’t even think about this.”

He also thinks managers should be doing more to keep abreast of their employees’ leave plans, or reiterating the importance of taking time off work if plans for taking leave aren’t currently in the works.

Putting annual leave on the agenda for team meetings is part of this process.

“Just like you should be having work, health and safety as an agenda item, leave should be on the agenda too. It can just be a quick check-in,” says Wurth.

Leaders can also set a healthy example by taking short breaks from work to signal that they’re making their own mental health a priority.

HRM has previously written about introducing progressive offerings such as ‘life leave’ for employees to use for special occasions. The option to take a day or two off to move house or spend time with a grandchild might provide added incentive for employees to take time off.

It might also deter employees from hoarding annual leave in anticipation of a significant event, since they can tap into their life leave – an additional benefit provided on top of annual leave – for these occasions instead.

However, this won’t always address the issue of annual leave accruals.

“Some employees might say, ‘I’ll leave my four weeks of leave brewing there for the next three years, and it will grow into 12 weeks. And I’ll just take a day off for other life events,” says Wurth.

Some employees might need more of a nudge.

Incentives to prevent excessive annual leave accrual

To prevent annual leave accruals from creeping higher, companies could consider incentives such as:

  • Running a program for employees to reduce their leave accruals. Those who successfully achieve the predetermined goal can be granted an additional day of leave.

    Nick van Luyt, HR Strategy Consultant at The Common Society, suggests turning the campaign into a workplace competition, with the team that comes out on top receiving an additional day off.When clients he’s worked with have introduced a competitive element into their program, employees have felt “more control of taking the leave” rather than being “bitter about being forced to take leave”, he says.

  • Using commercial relationships with suppliers to offer employees travel deals or accommodation discounts.

    “You could say that all staff who have less than four weeks accrued can take advantage of this deal that we’ve brokered with x company,” says Wurth. “This kind of left-of-field thinking can help to save the company money in the long-run, and they’ll have better-adjusted employees.”This option isn’t only available to organisations through existing commercial relationships.Van Luyt suggests companies could also partner with local travel providers to highlight upcoming deals that might encourage employees to book in for leave.

  • Making the process of applying for annual leave as easy and seamless as possible. Some employees might be put off taking annual leave if there’s copious amounts of paperwork to submit. Keep it simple and easy for your employees – taking time off should be a restful experience, and the process of getting there shouldn’t create more work for employees.

Any incentive or campaign needs to be supported with ongoing education about the benefits of taking leave.

“It’s key to wellbeing,” says Wurth. “Employers should not be encouraging their staff to bank their leave for a big holiday, but reinforcing that smaller breaks are essential to mental health.”