04 March 2019

With spring in the air and the new financial year approaching, many businesses will be taking stock and planning for the upcoming year.

Whatever happens with Brexit, basic employment rights and obligations will not change – certainly not in the immediate term. Employers will still have obligations towards employees – e.g. not to discriminate or to dismiss unfairly. Employers will still be able to manage those who are not performing, have unsatisfactory absence levels or who have acted in a way that amounts to misconducted or gross misconduct – provided always that proper processes are followed.

2018 saw a significant rise in claims at the Employment Tribunal - 165% in the April-June 2018 quarter. In 2017/2018, the average awards in successful claims ranged from 15k to £31k – the highest award being £415,227.

With the corresponding costs in defending those claims, not to mention the management time diverted from the business, it’s as important as ever to ensure your business is up to date. So start with an audit of your documents and practices;

  • Ensure your contracts are fit for purpose and reflect accurately the job, duties and payments and the status of the employee or worker. Include flexibility in hours and duties to meet business need in the uncertain future economic climate. Provide for deductions for overpayment of salary and for reasonable restrictions to protect your business if key employees leave.
  • Check your staff handbook. Does it include provisions for GDPR and an Equal Opportunities policy? Are staff aware of the policies and are they followed? If not, update it and ensure you communicate changes to all staff.
  • Review your staffing levels. Do you have the right numbers and the right staff in the right place? Has anything changed or do you anticipate any change that might make a restructure or adjustment necessary? If so, get advice early so you can plan adequately and follow the correct process.
  • Are your managers trained to deal with any disciplinary matters or grievances that might be raised? Do they understand the process and will it be applied properly and consistently? Consider appropriate group training – either in house or outsourced. This will not only give managers confidence in dealing with difficult situations but will reduce the risk of incorrect procedures or unreasonable decisions that could lead to claims.

Taking time to look at even just some of the points above will go some way to ensuring your business is in good shape for 2019 and beyond.

For more information or further advice on employment or HR matters, contact our Head of Employment Dawn Gallie on 01935 846233 or