HR seems to be the bane of many employers’ existence.
Do you feel stressed about how to attract and retain the best talent for your organisation?
Do you start sweating when you think about how to discipline an employee for misconduct?
Are you having sleepless nights wondering if you will end up in an Employment Tribunal?
Unfortunately, many employers answer yes to these questions.
Here are some of the most challenging aspects of HR that employers struggle to deal with.
1 Changing legislation
It can be hard to keep on top of all Employment Law changes and ensure that your organisation is legally compliant.
In April 2017, there were some key changes including increases to the national minimum wage, statutory pay rates and compensation limits and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and gender pay reporting. Are you complying with these changes?
2 Claims in an Employment Tribunal
Facing legal action in Employment Tribunals is one of employers’ greatest fears. Often, it is the case that employers have a good reason for dismissing an employee, but they face with claims for not following a fair procedure.
In cases of misconduct or performance, employers often trip up as they do not follow the steps set out in the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. Although it is not legally binding, if it is found that the employer has unreasonably not followed the Code, the compensatory award may be increased by up to 25%!
In redundancy situations, there are certain elements which are crucial to a fair redundancy process, such as warning employees of redundancies, creating and applying fair and non-discriminatory scoring criteria, consulting with employees and thinking about suitable alternative employment options. Getting the selection or consultation process wrong can render the dismissal unfair.
In cases of dismissals for long-term sickness absences, it can seem like an impenetrable maze. An Employment Tribunal will look to see that you consulted with the employee and explored how to support them back into work; made the necessary reasonable adjustments; sought medical evidence that confirmed that the employee is not likely to return at all or for a prolonged period and you warned the employee that their long-term absence could lead to dismissal.
3 Disciplinary procedure
Often employers have a number of doubts about the disciplinary procedure. How do I investigate an allegation of misconduct? Who can accompany the employee in disciplinary hearings? Who should conduct each stage of the procedure? If they commit an act of gross misconduct, can I fire them on the spot?
In cases of misconduct, there should be at least one meeting with the employee, the employee should be allowed the right to be accompanied to formal disciplinary meeting and be given the right to appeal.
An employer has the right to summarily dismiss an employee for gross misconduct. Employers often erroneously think that “summarily” means you can fire someone on the spot, but in reality, you still need to follow a fair procedure. If you do dismiss them instantly, it is likely that you will face a claim of unfair dismissal.
4 Sickness absence management
Employers often are at a loss on how to reduce frequent short-term absences, deal with long-term absences, dismiss malingerers and manage disabilities in a fair way. The answers should be found in your sickness absence policy, which lays down the process for reporting absence, acceptable levels of attendance by way of trigger points and the ill health capability procedure.
Grievance can also be a massive headache as employers struggle with how best to handle them to prevent them escalating further and harming employment relationships.
In many cases, the issue can be resolved quickly and efficiently by talking through the problem and without resorting to formal procedures. When formal procedures are required they need to be investigated and appropriate action needs to be taken to resolve the issue.
6 Contracts of Employment
Another area which raises many questions for employers is Contracts of Employment. Do I need to provide them to staff? Should they be drafted by legal experts? Do I require employee’s consent when I want to make a change?
Contrary to popular belief, a Contract of Employment does not have to be in written form to be legally valid, but if you entered into a Contract of Employment verbally, you are still required to provide each employee whose employment is to continue for more than one month with a ‘statement of written particulars of employment’. The law provides what must be included in this statement, therefore it is advisable to get it drafted by a lawyer to avoid mistakes. In most cases, employers will need to consult before making a change as making changes without the agreement of the employee may be considered a breach of contract.