The employment law and regulatory risks around employee supervision and performance management have grown considerably since the mass adoption of remote and hybrid working.

In the latest episode of our podcast, Employment Law Focus, partners Jonathan Rennie and Duncan Reed discuss the legal risks for employers and ways to bridge the gap.

1. Preferred working styles

It’s easy for employers to assume that everyone is leaning into the challenges surrounding the pandemic and home working, rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the job. However, there are various “working styles” that can be determined using a simple test, like Myers-Briggs. This is invaluable for managers and colleagues to know, as it helps to ensure that everyone is supported in their roles and not facing any barriers due to “opposite” styles being imposed on them.

Employers should ask themselves what they need to know in order to make a credible assessment of how somebody's performing at work, so that they can act upon it in a way that's fair.

2. Stress and anxiety

A change in performance is an indicator of stress or anxiety, so employers have a legal duty to try to find out what's causing that change in performance, and then adapt their management and supervision procedures accordingly.

See our accompany article on 10 top tips to manage employee stress.

3. Holistic approach

Especially in a virtual or hybrid working world, it can be difficult for just one person – say a line manager – to get a full picture of how someone’s doing at work.

Some organisations are taking a more holistic approach, making the most of the multiple touchpoints that an individual can have in a business – from their colleague, team leader and HR business partner to a mentor, buddy, mental health champion and so on – to get a better understanding and ensure that small signs, which can add up to something more obvious when combined, are not missed.

4. Encouraging openness

In order to discharge their legal duties, employers should consider how they can encourage a culture of openness and break down any barriers to open communication, because this will encourage people to speak up about any challenges they are facing in their role and seek support.

In the event of a claim, employers will also find it useful to have evidence of what they have done to encourage employees to speak up, and any support services they’ve put in place.

5. Bringing competency frameworks to life

The more remote the workforce, the more important it is for employers to bring traditional paper-based exercises to life, to get people more engaged in the business. This includes supervision and performance management, and helping people to understand competency frameworks.

6. Buddy schemes

Pandemic-induced remote working appears to have triggered a rise in mentoring and buddy schemes, to try and replicate the support networks that occur more naturally in the physical workplace. This is happening at all levels of the organisation, from trainee right up to the C-suite, and can be an effective part of that more holistic approach to people management referenced above.

You can listen to Employment Law Focus via the podcasts page on our website or your favourite podcast app. Please rate and review us if you’re enjoying the podcast, and subscribe so that you don’t miss an episode. We’d also welcome any suggestions for future topics.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at January 2022. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Date published

20 January 2022

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