Monday, 30 November 2015

Calculate your own cost of absence - print out and fill in!

Adrian asked us to prepare these for his speech at #CIPD15 -
we thought our readers may find it a useful tool too!
If you need any help, give the team a call on 01656 750858!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Infamous Spreadsheet Mistakes: why HR should think twice about using spreadsheets for staff holiday planning

The majority of SME's of between 100-500 staff that we speak to still use spreadsheets for managing things like expenses and staff holiday planning.

Everyone makes mistakes.  Spreadsheets are known to be fallible to human error - so for every one of  us who has made a mistake on the UK's most popular tool for staff holiday planning, (myself included!) here's a few famous blunders through the years:

London Olympics 2012:

The London 2012 organising committee made a decidedly unsynchronised error in its
ticketing process – leading to four synchronised swimming sessions being oversold by 10,000 tickets.

A member of staff had made a single keystroke mistake and entered ‘20,000’ into a spreadsheet
rather than the correct figure of 10,000 remaining tickets.

Fidelity’s Magellan fund:

An accountant omitted a tiny minus sign when entering a net capital loss of $1.3 billion onto a spreadsheet, meaning it got incorrectly treated it as a net capital gain….

The result - the dividend estimate spreadsheet was off by a mere $2.6 billion...

…..Unhappy shareholders did not receive their expected dividends.

The King’s Fund 

This well respected organisation was forced to apologise to the Welsh government after their Chief Economist John Appleby, in an article for the British Medical Journal, argued that the health service budget in Wales faced cuts of up to 11 per cent over three years, which was widely reported by the media.  

Appleby later issued a correction: 

“Unfortunately, a spreadsheet error which was only noticed after publication 
 exaggerated the real change in Wales’ NHS spending.  The correct figure is -8.3% by 2013/14 
(compared with 2010/11) and not -10.7%.”


One Kodak employee nearly got the bonus of his life, when someone made an error on a
Spreadsheet that calculated severance pay.

Kodak spokesman Gerard Meuchner said the hefty $11 million severance error was traced to a
faulty spreadsheet. "There were too many zeros added to the employee's accrued severance.
Thankfully it was an accrual. "There was never a payment," he said.

Lies, damned lies and spreadsheet errors

Reinhart and Rogoff’s paper, “Growth in a Time of Debt” was one of the world’s
most quoted research statistics – until students at the University of Massachusetts
tried to replicate the results.

The students discovered an error whereby Reinhart & Rogoff’s spreadsheet formula was
averaging the wrong columns…

Meaning economists worldwide were publishing flawed statistics… including…

Chancellor George Osborne 

The Chancellor used formulas based on the the aforementioned findings of  Rogoff and Reinhart to calculate his budget cuts.

This meant that a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90% saw growth of -0.1%, instead of 2.2%!

The Guardian described these flawed results as ‘embarrassing’.

Flintshire County Council

Flintshire Chronicle reported in 2010 that Flintshire County Council had over-allocated 
money to the county’s 12 high schools, creating a £1m loss

Results of the internal investigation were not published, but the Chronicle reported that
the mix-up occurred because someone ‘put money in the wrong column’ – and no one spotted 
it before the money was handed out…

Councillor David Wisinger, a governor at John Summers High School, commented: 
“If someone working for a public company had lost £1m they’d be sacked.”
When the town monster is a spreadsheet…

Town of Framingham

This US town overbudgeted by $1.5 million and had to use $600,000 in unexpected state aid to help fill that gap.

Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Kelley said a figure went missing as staff managed 
"monstrous spreadsheets."

Kelley said "I hate when we make mistakes. People are human and they do make mistakes, 
but I hate it."

Denbighshire County Council 

A clanger was discovered by Denbighshire County Council staff just before its annual audit, 
resulting in the council having to issue revised accounts.  A spreadsheet error had made a £21m (3.5 per cent) reduction in the assets shown on the council's balance sheet, because the spreadsheet had double counted some assets.  

Isn't it reassuring to know that many local authorities, who report some of the highest absence rates in the UK still manage staff absence data via spreadsheets…

The Good News

Spreadsheets are are by their very nature prone to human error, however when it comes to managing absence, they are also inefficient and not terribly cost effective.

For staff holiday planning, our cloud based alternative will eliminate errors and save time and money - it will also manage absence and any other types of leave too!

To find out more, contact us on 01656 750858 or visit our website

Sources: The Guardian
Flintshire Chronicle

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Absence management 'Nightmares Before Christmas'?

Anyone who knows me will know that my beloved husband is a big kid who absolutely adores Christmas - we don't have our decorations up yet this year, which is a first (they were up on 1st November last year), but he's already started playing Christmas songs in the car and the inevitable Christmas movie playlist has started.

I watched his first choice of Christmas Movie last night (no doubt there are more to come!) Mark always seems to start with 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.  It struck me that for many HR departments, the next month really will be an absence management nightmare!

The first dread for many is the end of annual leave year.  For those HR Managers still using spreadsheets or paper forms, this will mean a laborious end of year process that often takes days to calculate.  

The inevitable reporting ensues, who did and didn't take all their annual leave, who has taken how many days off sick and who (if anyone) is allowed to carry over their leave for the next year - all done largely manually.  The thought of all that admin is a mean burden that is no doubt pressing on hearts and minds at this time of year - you have our sympathies. 

That leads us to the second source of nightmares for the HR team - annual leave.  All of a sudden, everyone wakes up to find it's December and they haven't used all their leave entitlement.  It's often only absent mindedness rather than deliberate, but nobody wants to lose their leave if they can't carry it over.  A battle ensues to race the seasonal sleigh and get your request in first - and where clashes ensue, particularly when there is a 'no carryover' policy, the HR Manager is expected to juggle the roles of Mum, Judge and Boss in one.  

Of course, if you just give in and let everyone take a year's worth of annual leave in one month, you risk leaving yourself short staffed - and instead of unhappy staff, its unhappy managers - either way, HR is the fall guy - and if some of your team have to work over the season (like those who work in hospitality or care), you need the wisdom of Solomon to deliberate who works what shifts!

As if your HR team are not already stressed enough, those seasonal sniffles and the fallout from a month of partying combine to create a perfect storm for your overworked HR team, giving them additional absence challenges in an already stressful month.  When they finally settle down in front of their Christmas Dinner, those managers will have earned their entire salary in one month.

There is however a speck of light from Jack's pumpkin in the midst of the Christmas HR nightmare.  

Lots of the above challenges can be made a lot easier with cloud based software - users of our software have the end of year process reduced to a click of a button, you can use trigger alerts to remind staff to spread their annual leave throughout the year, and better absence management systems usually result in fewer sick days.

However, the end of year is always going to present a challenge for HR.  I for one will be raising a glass to the people-people who are often the glue that holds a business together in the 'seasonal season' - to quote Tiny Tim - 'God Bless them Every One'!


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The dog has eaten my car keys – our top 20 worst excuses for throwing a sickie!

As you know, Activ Absence attended this year’s CIPD Annual Conference and had a fantastic time catching up with clients and friends, new and old.

We also took the opportunity to compile a new list of silly excuses for sick days given to HR managers in this week's prize draw - these excuses may even find their way into our next 'silly excuses' video which we are hoping to make in 2016.

Over the two day event Activ Absence collated more than 60 genuine excuses managers had heard from their teams and shortlisted the funniest 20 excuses.

The top three excuses were:

“I don’t have the bus fare to get to work after my night out!”

“I dreamed I had come to work, so thought I was there and stayed asleep!”

“I went on a sunbed and got sunstroke”

Pet ‘emergencies’ were also high on the list – and not just emergency visits to the vet, with one employee demanding two weeks bereavement leave after the death of his pet cat and another taking a day off because his ‘hamster seemed sluggish’.

Naughty animals also seem to take the blame for many a late day or sickie, with excuses ranging from exotic animal bites to dogs fouling work clothes and eating car keys.

Activ heard a whole host of unusual injuries and ailments, from post coital injuries to bangs and scrapes – though perhaps the bravest excuse was ‘my boss has given me a headache!’

Absent minds also featured – forgetting where one parked one’s car, not washing work clothes, or losing shoes en route to work always seem to be common excuses.

The best excuse however came from Jacqueline Palmer at Carillion, who has won herself a bottle of champagne because her employee had honestly admitted they couldn’t come in, because they had been out drinking the night before and didn’t have enough money left to get the bus into work! The team were left shaking their heads in disbelief.

Adrian Lewis, Director, Activ Absence comments, “We can all laugh at some of the ridiculous excuses we’ve heard, and the bare faced cheek of some people who use the death of the same grandmother four times in a row, and even smile at the laddish humour of those who dare to phone in sick because their football team lost.

“However, the fact is, sickness absence is a serious matter that costs the UK £29 billion a year (1) and in the midst of a fragile economic recovery, that is money that is desperately needed by UK businesses to protect jobs and to enable us to compete on an international playing field that is sadly driven by cheap overseas labour and unethical work practices.

“Tackling absence certainly doesn’t require a big stick and a stern HR presence but it does require better processes and technology to help HR managers get on top of their absence management and be able to analyse root causes of problems.”

I don't have the bus fare to get to work after my night out
I dreamed I had come to work, so thought I was there and stayed asleep
I went on a sunbed and got sunstroke
I lost my flipflop down the side of a train, so I had to go home
I didn't have any clean clothes
My bed was too nice to get out of
Man U lost the premiership
I lost my car in the car park (there were only 20 spaces)
My television broke
The roof blew off my house
Goats got into my garden
I have a cotton bud stuck in my ear
Fell out of bed and banged my head
I have post coital soreness
I got bitten by a llama
My dog got lost in the snow
My cat had a miscarriage
The dog urinated on my suit
My dog ate my car keys
I don't think my hamster is well, he seems a bit sluggish this morning