A contented workforce is key to employee retention and the success of your business

Employees are a firm’s greatest asset, and they’re probably the most expensive, too. So why is it that some employers and managers seem hell bent on treating their staff so poorly? Why do they create them-and-us divisions without a care?

Having a unified and happy workforce is critical to success. Employees can make or break an organisation. Staff don’t have to go the extra mile, they can upset your customers and they will leave for other opportunities, taking both knowledge and customers with them. Any manager worth their salt knows that recruitment of replacements is both expensive and disruptive.

There are five common causes of employee malcontent and they follow in no particular order. The first is company sick pay being withheld in situations where the employer has discretion over the payment. This can appear arbitrary.

Next are sometimes bitter disputes over pay in relation to hours worked, what constitutes overtime and workers feeling that they are simply not being paid enough. The internet has made salary and pay more transparent, and staff consider it their right to be paid the market rate. Third – and this can be a big problem – is inconsistency in treatment. Lawyers see on many occasions situations where an employee feels they are always given the worst tasks to complete, have not been allowed time off at short notice when others have in the past, or have not had the perks that others have been given in similar circumstances.

Fourth on the list is an employee who thinks their workload is too great or that work has not been distributed evenly. And last, there is what some term as “bullying” by managers and colleagues.

So with the scene set, why do employers make mistakes? The greatest generator of employee malcontent comes from employers not following what the law requires. That’s understandable because employment law is often complex and not well known. However, if you treat staff with empathy and respect, you rarely give them a reason to check to see if you are treating them in accordance with the law. It is not appreciating this point that leads to common mistakes, which, in turn, lead to disgruntled staff, grievances being raised or, worse, employment tribunal claims.

The most obvious solution to counter discontent is for employers to take time to consider the impact of a decision on an employee. Explain the reasons for the decision and listen to any objection the employee may have about the decision. Pharmacies that consider all of the above will see greater harmony and fewer claims.

Lee Ashwood is a senior associate in the employment department of Eversheds

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