Posted On / 02.01.2019

Get in Shape for 2019...

No, I don’t mean step away from the cheeseboard…

As we start the New Year, many businesses will be taking stock and planning for the coming year. Whilst writing, we really don’t know any detail of the impact Brexit will have. 

Whatever happens with Brexit, or the government, 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 against them and not to dismiss unfairly.  Employers will also be able to manage those who are not performing, have unsatisfactory absence levels or who are found to have acted in a way that amounts to misconducted or gross misconduct – provided always that the proper processes are followed. 

2018 saw a significant rise in claims submitted to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, unpaid wages, holiday pay and all types of discrimination (165% in the April-June 2018 quarter). In 2017/2018, the average awards in successful claims across all cases 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 the year as you mean to go on with an audit of your documents and practices;

  • Ensure your contracts are fit for purpose. That they reflect accurately the job, duties and payments and the status of the employee or worker.       Include flexibility in hours and duties to allow for any changes you might need to make to meet business need and adjust for the 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? Does it cover what you need for your business? Are staff aware of the policies and are they followed? If not, update your handbook and communicate the changes to all staff so they are aware of your work policies and what is expected of both them and the business.

  • Review your staffing levels. Do you have the right numbers and the right staff in the right place? Has anything changed over the previous year (or more), or do you anticipate any change in direction that might make a possible 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 across the board? If not, 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 being followed or decisions being made that could lead to claims against your business.

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 or visit our Employment and Battens HR page here.

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