You’ve no doubt heard the phrase ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question’, but people working in HR are often given to cause to wonder if that really is the case.
CIPD training experts DPG plc asked its community of HR professionals to anonymously share the most obscure requests they’ve ever received. Here are some of the strangest requests HR managers have received, and why some of them may actually be valid.
“Can I hire a cat sitter for my new kitten and claim it on company expenses?
Adrian Lewis, director of absence management software company, Activ Absence, who recently produced a video on the silliest excuses HRs received about staff sickness, said that pets often feature in odd requests to HR.
Lewis said, “One of our HR clients told us they’d had a request for a sick day because their hamster was unwell. People love their animals – it may sound ridiculous, but if you allow someone time off to take a dog to the vets, should you discriminate if their pet of choice is a fish, a hamster or even a reptile? It’s worth thinking about.”
“I just wanted to ask if I could come in late on Monday so I could get my nails done? Emma is allowed to come in later when she has to drop her kids off so it’s only fair.”
Lewis says, “Actually these requests could be considered by HR. Provided the job is capable of being done from home, or the time can be made up without impacting on productivity, sometimes a little flexibility can go a long way.”
“I was wondering if I could work from home this Thursday? The tennis is on and I’d really like to watch it live while I work.”
According to Lewis, research shows that flexible working improves staff loyalty. “Chances are if you say no to either of these requests, the staff concerned will have a bad attitude and spend all day being unproductive anyway, meaning everyone loses. However, it is vital that flexibility comes with agreed productivity targets and that those targets are met.”
“Just out of interest – how often do we do random drug testing, and is it compulsory?”
There’s no HR policy that condones illegal drugs. End of. The sooner employees are made aware of the company’s basic code of conduct the better it can be enforced.
“Since nobody on the team is taking a plus-one to the Xmas party, could I use some of the spare budget to have my hair and makeup done?”
HR managers need to have a strict policy in place when it comes to using company funds for personal errands to keep employees from dipping into the kitty when they feel like a makeover.
“I was up late last night and now I’m too tired to concentrate. Can I take this as a sick day?”
While this may seem like an odd request, Lewis believes the validity of this depends entirely on your HR policy. “Whilst this request, on the face of it, appears odd, at least its honest and she isn’t phoning in with a ‘tummy bug’,” he says.
Lewis says this is the perfect situation for a ‘duvet day’, where employees are either allowed to come in a few hours late, or take a flexible annual leave day from a ‘duvet day allowance’. Businesses that do have duvet days limit them to a set number of occasions, and encourage honesty.
“One thing is certain, making a tired employee come into work is not going to make them productive – but absence is expensive for businesses, so making an employee take it as staff holiday, or out of a duvet day allowance sends a clear message that you are flexible, but sick days are for sickness.”
As companies move towards having a more inclusive and diverse workforce, even the odd requests should be properly considered on their merits, although they may appear plain weird at first glance. No matter how flexible you want to be, some requests, like claiming for a cat sitter, or stating times for ‘random’ drug tests are simply not suitable – but others require more thought.