This week’s letters

HR needs to stop counting sicknotes

It is interesting to see, in the continuing debate about rogue GPs and
stress, Julia Fraser suggesting that ‘when work is enjoyable and rewarding, the
hours fly by’ (Letters, 9 September).

Consider this in relation to another letter writer, who asks where is the
stress in a manual task involving the ‘repetitive stacking of product’, the
basic requirement being ability to count to 10?

The fortunate ‘stressed out personnel manager’ who writes has clearly never
done this type of job. I have, and can assure him that it is extremely
stressful to be treated as a robotic moron with no initiative – and I thought
the Hawthorne Studies, as long ago as before the Second World War, had
indicated that work might be more than performing repetitive tasks for low

There are very few ‘meaningful’ jobs these days and those who are fortunate
enough to have one might give thought to the others who don’t.

Fraser is surely right that if people are fulfilled, the result is a prosperous
economy and ‘unstressed’ people. But to achieve this requires a major cultural
shift in the Western world, which currently looks not to improve the lives of
the many but to enrich the lives of the few – usually those working in big

If HR people really want to make a difference they should stop counting sick
notes and start to see how they can really serve their fellow human beings as
well as their organisational paymasters.

Mary Louise Brown
Department of Human Resource Management, Aberdeen Business School

Barometer poll was a ‘smoking gun’

Your poll on whether there should be a blanket ban on workplace smoking was
bias and aimed at the converted (News, 9 September).

I would wager that most participants are non-smokers and naturally will vote
to ban smoking.

Organisations are not run as democracies, so if the vote is massively in
favour of banning smoking, it does not mean it is right, or expedient, or good
practice, or proper in any other way to do so. It merely means the majority of
the people polled voted that it should be banned. I have no doubt that given a
poll about salary levels, we would all vote that they needed increasing.

History is littered with failed examples of bans from those who have tried
to impose their will upon people who simply enjoy whatever it is that is being

I am an HR manager in a factory employing 400 staff. Before we implemented
anything we undertook a survey and found that 50 per cent of the workforce were
smokers and most of those who did not smoke preferred to sit with those who

We segregated the canteen into two parts, smoking and non-smoking, and we
implemented a non-smoking policy by designating a small number of specific

These areas are properly ventilated and as comfortable as any non-smoking
rest areas, thereby ensuring that smokers do not feel like lepers. They are all
part of the workforce team.

I have been a non-smoker for seven years now, after suffering a heart
attack. Unlike the many ex-smokers I know – often the biggest advocates of
smoking bans – I believe that, to get employees to comply, compromise is more
effective than coercion.

John Haynes
HR manager, TRW

Share responsibility to move forwards

Further to Dr Peverley’s insight into the frustrations facing GPs (News, 2
September), while the article was certainly interesting, what HR managers
really need to know is not why certificates are granted, but what happens if
they are refused?

Are GPs required to report these incidents and if so what are the
ramifications? If we are given an insight into this side of the problem then we
might be able to understand the true dilemma facing GPs.

While I agree with Mark Godfrey’s opinion that organisations should take a
proactive approach (Letters, 2 September), there needs to be some kind of
shared responsibility that could lead to a win-win situation for GPs and

It appears that GPs who frequently sign off individuals at will are simply
allowing their own medical expertise to be undermined by malingerers.

As result, employers and the NHS are being stretched to the limit.

Name supplied
Public sector HR officer

Dismayed by a lack of understanding

While we fully understand the problems illness can bring, especially to
small firms, we were dismayed at the comment "We cannot force them back to
work before their sicknote runs out. Very frustrating" (Letters, 2
September). Surely no well-led UK company would even consider employing that

In great places to work, it is far more difficult to ensure that loyal and
conscientious staff take the recovery time they need, and return fit, feeling
their employer has shown appreciation by supporting them when they most needed

George Edwards
Head of strategic development, Institute of Leadership & Development

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