Employment relations is often described at best, as a confusing maze, but often when you’re up against deadlines and other commercial realities, it’s usually thought of as a minefield. Well, it doesn’t have to be.
Peace of mind
What do our clients want from us in terms of helping them comply with employment legislation? Well it’s peace of mind, we think this means:
1. Appropriate employment documentation, which is fit for purpose, this includes:
- Staff Handbooks (whether contractual or not)
- Processes, policies and procedures (for example, social media; bribery; flexible working, family friendly working)
- Contracts that allow employer influence over composition of notice periods and future competition (for example, garden leave, restrictive covenants)
- Letters, checklists and templates to support common employment processes (for example, offer letters, job descriptions, appraisal forms)
2. Expert advice (whether remotely or on-site), on common employment processes including:
- Recruitment and selection
- Absence management
- Maternity/Paternity/Adoption Leave
- Managing poor/under performance
- Dealing with conflict
3. Case Management, providing ‘hands-on, on-site’ support covering issues such as disciplinary, grievance, capability (including sickness absence):
- Guidance and support for managers
- Seeking informal resolution to workplace issues
4. Mitigation of risk, for example at the end of the employment relationship whether performance (including capability) or conduct related; redundancy or resignation. Including:
- Implementing a thorough and compliant process
- Advising on settlement agreements
- Identifying alternatives to termination
- Dealing with references
In theory, the relationship between employers and employees is a straightforward transaction – money and/or benefits are given in return for work and/or services performed.
In practice, difficulties and pitfalls leading to legal challenges can arise at every stage of the employment relationship:
- Advertising and interviewing (Yes! Even before recruitment has taken place.)
- Selection and appointment (Aagh! How to reject unsuccessful applicants legally.)
- Induction, probationary periods (Really? Prevent costly mistakes arising.)
- Managing performance (Why bother? Ensuring the right work gets done in the right way.)
- Promotion, succession planning. (Why not me? Avoid disputes and grievances.)
- Restructuring, reorganisation, redeployment, redundancy (How? Minimise risk.)
- Ending employment (It’s not fair! Keep employment tribunals at bay.)
- After employment (Oops! Should have ensured company confidentiality.)
When people work well together everyone benefits including the business – and good employment relations, despite its complexity, volume and many sources, is very worthwhile as it protects both employer and employee.
However when you’ve a business to run, manage, develop and keep going, staying abreast of current employment legislation and practice is probably not at the top of your list of things to do. And if it were, you’d no doubt be working in HR!
What is critically important though, is that your organisation should be legally compliant at all times and in whatever it does. Besides being essential employer responsibility, understanding relevant legislation is one thing (though not always achieved) but implementing it and making it work for your company is another. An added bonus of course, of being a good employer, is that your company is seen to be a great and fair place to work – it helps you to attract and retain good staff.