Using the company credit card to pay for cat sitters, asking to work from home to watch sports, and equating the importance of childcare with the need for a nail appointment – these are just a few of the weirdest requests HR departments around the UK have received.

A community survey conducted by CIPD course providers, DPG, has uncovered some of the weirdest and most wonderful requests and queries ever sent to HR and Personnel staff across the land.

Paul Drew, Managing Director at DPG, said, “to celebrate the launch of DPG’s Level 5 Online Programme, we researched some of the strangest requests that DPG’s online community have received to provide advice (as well as a little comic relief) for HR specialists.”

Aiming to highlight just how much goes on unseen in the world of HR – some of which you will hardly believe are true – DPG has also created a visual representation of some of the strangest emails their community have received.

Here are some of the weirdest requests submitted by the DPG community:

Cat cover:cat-expenses

Depending on company policy and the individual’s position, this request may actually have a solution that satisfies both HR and the employee – although we don’t think there’s many companies out there that would allow this on the expenses account.

Instead, suggesting that the employee takes annual leave is the obvious solution, so we’d recommend starting there. If this isn’t an option and the employee’s position and workload allows it, arrangements could be made for the employee to work from home for a few hours a day.

Requesting a ‘sick’ day:up-late-too-tired

Context is important here, as it might be that the employee is dealing with a bereavement in a way that is not immediately obvious, for example. Speak with the employee to find out as much as you can about the nature of the request.

If it turns out that they simply burnt the candle at both ends, there are a couple of things you could do. You could consider offering them an unpaid day off or, if your policies permit, you could allow them to come in a bit later in order to catch up on some sleep. Many companies, however, might see this as a lack of commitment.

Can I start late?…..Need to get my nails done:nail-requestFull marks for trying here but, unfortunately, health and beauty treatments are not normally the sort of thing that flexible working arrangements are made for. This request should probably be dealt with by stating that flexi-time isn’t for such occasions clearly and affably, and suggesting that a half-day of annual leave is one solution.

The hypothetical arrest:convicted

This issue has to be dealt with carefully in order to avoid being accusatory as, whilst to some this may appear suspicious, it may actually simply be innocent curiosity. In this case, it’s best to outline the company’s policy clearly and suggest the opportunity for a private chat if there are any concerns.

In any case, these scenarios would require a different train of thought to your day-to-day activities. There’s a wealth of guidelines, legislation and advice out there to help with many of the requests and queries you’re likely to come across in HR, but sometimes you can’t fall back on this, and will need to approach the issue logically.

We spoke to Scott Agostini, a Director of HR, about the best way to deal with some of the ‘out there’ requests. He said:

“It’s good to try to generate a two-way dialogue with the employee to make sure you understand the motivation behind the request. This is usually an area in which managers start making assumptions. Then, when you talk to the employee, make sure you tell them that you will be putting the request through some decision-making criteria.

  • “The first area that you consider with a request is the impact on your customer/client. Could there be any impact on their experience if we grant this request?
  • “After that you consider the effect on the business operations. Will there be a substantial negative impact on our ability to complete our objectives?
  • “Then finally you consider if granting this request is something that you can do for everyone in the company. Will this start a precedent that we can support as an organisation?
  • “With these three things considered – in addition to the ubiquitous, “are we required by law to grant this request?” – you can usually cover all of the potential objections that management might throw at you about granting a request OR you will have compelling reasons to give the employee about why the request could not be granted.”

Paul Drew, Managing Director at DPG continued:

“Part of working in HR is taking the usual with the unusual. Dealing with weird and wonderful requests can be entertaining (and occasionally taxing), but maintaining a professional outlook is the most important factor.

“It’s important to strike a balance between being open to out-of-the-ordinary requests and maintaining a level of standards. Sometimes, however, you might just have to disappoint the employee making the request.”


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