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Conditions of Service - Why Do My Staff Keep Leaving?



I employ 5 full time staff, the longest serving member of staff has only been in post for 20 months and she has now handed in her notice! Turnover is a clearly a major problem for my business and my clients complain or go elsewhere every time an employee leaves. Can you offer me any advice?

In last months article I attempted to give a range of possible options for Employers to adopt to attract and retain staff and that advice is appropriate to your current position. Some staff turnover is inevitable and unavoidable. Staff leave jobs for a number of reasons for example:

  • Move from the area
  • Promotion
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Change of career

I have recommended carrying out EXIT INTERVIEWS with staff who are leaving. They can speak openly about their positive and negative experiences and what factors might have influenced their decision to leave. More importantly they can have the opportunity to suggest what might have made them stay.

The Law

There are no specific pieces of legislation regarding "leavers". Staff failing to get through their probationary periods may reflect poor recruitment.

When this occurs its worth reviewing your recruitment and selection methods. High turnover may be linked to bullying or reflect an environment where new staff aren't given access to new clients or don't achieve their targets due to circumstances beyond their control. Staff turnover unsettles clients but also inhibits the development of a team identity which is vital to commercial success.

Points for Consideration/Helpful Hints

Many employers see legislation such as the minimum wage as providing "the going rate" rather than the minimum. It is obviously vital that you research the local market circumstances. If you pay the minimum wage without any form of commission you will clearly be vulnerable if a competitor pays more. Bear in mind staff normally talk to colleagues and compare wage rates.

There are many options and variations available in terms of commission for example rather than individual targets which can enhance teamwork.

Some employers offer improved terms and conditions to staff for length of service or one hundred per cent attendance.

In addition, whilst the Working Time Directive requires you to give full time staff four weeks (20 days) leave. If you include Bank Holidays then staff have only 12 days leave which they are free to use. If your business requires staff to take one weeks leave in, for example, October/November staff will have only seven days left. It is natural to assume this may be unattractive to staff. Extra days holiday cost the business but may be more valued by some staff than increased salary, particularly where staff have a partner or children.

Employers have no obligation to pay Occupational Sick Pay when staff are absent, the only requirement is SSP. This can hit staff hard as the rate is only £108 per week. Even a weeks occupational sick pay at their full rate can be attractive. This extra allowance might be offered to staff once they have achieved two years service with full attendance.

Most importantly, do your staff receive regular appraisal? It is tempting to ignore appraisal if you see staff on a daily basis, however there is no substitute for a formal meeting with staff where you can have an open discussion regarding targets, development needs, the employees desires and concerns. One hour of your time twice a year is highly valued by staff as countless research articles have demonstrated.

Finally, what is your view regarding flexible working? Historically, many owners take the view that they need full time staff and that staff's career goals and non work demands/family commitments are not their problem.

This perspective, whilst unenlightened, isn't fundamentally illegal. Much of the workforce is female and, if you adopt this perspective then you should not be surprised by the fact that staff choose to leave for pastures new. At least if your staff know you will adopt a considerate approach to requests for more flexible hours you will have made progress.

Why not arrange a staff meeting with your remaining staff and ask for their views as to why staff are leaving, after all they work alongside them!

David Wright Personnel

Phone - 01302 563 691

Mobile - 07930 358 067