It is the new year, and 2023 has started with many a topic to explore in the world of HR. From more planned strikes across even more sectors, the ever-increasing presence of AI in HR spaces, and mental health at work becoming more talked about; we explore all of this in our HR Roundup for January 2023.
More Industrial Action
As discussed in our previous HR Roundup blog, strikes across the nation are becoming more commonplace. As well as action across the rail, emergency service and postal industries, the teaching and civil service sectors are now also undergoing industrial action. Schools across Scotland were affected by this in January, with England and Wales looking to follow in February 2023.
But what does this mean for HR?
The CIPD highlights the importance of HR to work effectively with trade unions – especially when considering that trade unions can often be a collective employee voice. Quite often, the trade unions will have the trust of their membership and can offer valuable insight into your staff’s perception of your organisation. As a result, it is a good idea to work collaboratively with any trade union representatives – this does not have to mean agreeing to everything they do and say! Keeping a mutual respect and an understanding between HR and trade unions will make any future partnerships or agreements much more plain sailing.
It is generally good practice to involve employees in developing your business strategy, so they know the direction your business is heading in. Strikes should be seen as a last resort by employees, and employers will benefit from collaborative strategic development to avoid the need for industrial action. If employees have a greater understanding and transparency within your business, they're probably more likely to accept the realities when asking for things like pay rises or other employment benefits. It is difficult for staff to accept denial of these requests when business decisions are made behind closed doors, especially when staff are affected by the rising cost of living.
Social Media and the Workplace
An important topic was brought to the forefront of UK news in January, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak coming under fire for his Instagram video post. In the video, the Prime Minister can be seen in the back of a moving car and speaking directly to the camera. However, many keen eyes spotted that he was not wearing a seat belt, which is against the law in the UK, and can carry fines up to £500.
This caused conversation about the Prime Minister of the UK breaking his own laws, with no clear consequence. He has since been hit with a fine and fixed penalty notice for this transgression. However, it brought to light the importance of employee conduct and its reflection on the employee’s business. This not only applies in the office and on your time off, but also on social media, as misconduct online can lead to issues such as disciplinaries and grievances. There have been many cases, such as with an IAC employee being fired due to an offensive Tweet she had made, of employees losing their jobs due to gross misconduct because of their social media etiquette. Ensuring your company has an updated social media policy within its staff handbook, clear guidelines on expected online etiquette, and understanding of how employees are expected to conduct themselves, will help to avoid any situations like the examples above.
Highlighting Workplace Mental Health
January is the month in which Blue Monday takes place, which is often regarded as the most difficult Monday of the year, being the 3rd of the year. However, this frame of thought surrounding this event has been challenged. Many mental health charities and experts spoke out against Blue Monday as being a marketing scheme created by holiday and travel company Sky Travel.
However, whilst many decried the use of Blue Monday as a marketing ploy, it also created conversation surrounding mental health. This was especially topical within professional spaces, due to many of the ‘reasons’ for Blue Monday relating to the workplace – such as distance from payday after the holidays, and finally settling back into the work routine having taken an extended break for the festive period. As a result, many HR professionals and mental health advocates discussed employee mental health and gave advice about mental wellbeing. Charity group Samaritans promoted #BrewMonday, which encouraged workplaces to hold a coffee and tea morning to facilitate open conversation about mental health. Others shared their experiences with their mental health online to encourage others to seek help or advice should they feel they needed it, and to erase stigma about asking for help.
As well as making sure your employees are happy and healthy, it is also beneficial to your business to support the mental health of your staff. For example, employees who are suffering from bad mental health may need to take time off work to recover, and this can result in long-term absences. This then translates into lost productivity, and therefore extra costs to the business. During the pandemic, for example, employers lost £17b due to mental health related absences. By taking preventative measures and supporting employees, you are lowering the likelihood of mental health related absences.
The topic of burnout was also in the spotlight in world of work due to the resignation of New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Further discussion was generated by this event concerning burnout in workers, and many employees discussed their own experiences with this phenomenon, which has a profound impact on one’s mental wellbeing.
AI and the Metaverse
The end of 2022 saw a sudden rise in popularity of AI due to the release of the software ChatGPT, which is an AI powered bot that can generate impressive conversation and content. Whilst discussions have suddenly arisen concerning how this type of AI tool can benefit content writers, marketers, and recruiters, it has also come to the forefront of discussions about the future of HR.
ChatGPT’s applicability toward HR department has been defined as helping to assist with query resolutions, improving employer branding and supplying useful analytical insights into HR-related data. The AI-powered tool can also help cut down administration time for HR departments so that they can focus on the more human-side of the profession.
With these kinds of possibilities, it is no wonder that many HR professionals are regarding AI as a vital tool in the future of HR. Another thriving technological advancement that has started to become featured in HR and its processes is the Metaverse, which can be used to hold more immersive virtual interviews, and can also be used for holding meetings and inductions between different offices or for any remote employees.
After the landmark decision by the Supreme Court concerning Harpur v Brazel, confirming that part-year staff are entitled to receive 5.6 weeks statutory holiday pay, another holiday pay claim has been heard. In December 2022, the Supreme Court heard the case of Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland v Agnew, surrounding whether history holiday pay claims can be considered if there are gaps of three or more months of periods of underpayment if they form a series. As a result, we may see another landmark ruling concerning holiday pay in 2023, so keep your eyes out for any more changes in policy.
Written by Eleanor Holmes
Eleanor is a marketing executive at myhrtoolkit who writes on topics including HR technology and software, workplace culture, and marketing advice for HR consultants.