Manchester Based HR Company, Personnel Solutions Share Their Top Tips on How to Avoid Expensive Employment Law Mistakes

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Manchester HR Consultants, Personnel Solutions share their tips on how to avoid expensive mistakes in the workplace.

A tribunal can award compensation of 2 or 4 weeks pay (at the tribunal's discretion) where a statement has not been provided. Be sure to provide the employment details in writing

Manchester HR Consultants, Personnel Solutions share their tips on how to avoid expensive mistakes in the workplace.

1. “We don’t usually bother putting things in writing”
It is important to record the terms of the employment relationship in writing. Verbal contracts often end up in disagreements and employment disputes. Employees are legally entitled to receive a written statement of particulars of employment within 8 weeks of commencing employment.

“A tribunal can award compensation of 2 or 4 weeks pay (at the tribunal's discretion) where a statement has not been provided. Be sure to provide the employment details in writing,” advises Jane Carroll of HR Company, Personnel Solutions.

2. “People are always absent through sickness and I can’t do much about it”
High levels of absence cause serious problems in terms of efficiency, productivity, profitability and morale.

“Employers should measure attendance and adopt a robust absence management procedure with the use of return to work interviews to gather information and deter non-genuine absence. Capability or disciplinary sanctions should then be used as appropriate” recommends Jane; partner of the Manchester based HR Company.

3. “I haven’t any disabled employees so I don’t need to bother about disability discrimination law”
The definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010 is varied. For example, heart disease, chronic arthritis and epilepsy are all conditions that are likely to be a disability under the act so care must be taken when determining what constitutes a disability.

It is unlawful to discriminate unless this can be objectively justified. The obligation to make reasonable adjustments is a crucial part of disability legislation.

“The employer is required to take reasonable steps to avoid any disadvantage and a failure to do so may result in discrimination. Reasonable adjustments may include time off to receive treatment or a change in working practices. Compensation in discrimination claims is unlimited” advises Jane.

4. “I’m not really happy with him, but he’s not that bad”
Concerns should always be dealt with at an early stage to avoid issues escalating and employees accruing unfair dismissal rights. The purpose of a probationary period is for both the company and employee to determine whether the job is suitable for them.

“It is vital to have a formal and documented process to justify any remedial or termination decisions and to eliminate claims of discrimination” Suggests Jane of Manchester HR Consultants, Personnel Solutions.

5. “It was gross misconduct so I fired him on the spot”
Employers can dismiss employees without notice but it is not considered fair to dismiss an employee on the spot with no investigation or disciplinary hearing. The ACAS code of practice sets out the procedure to be followed.

Employment tribunals will take the code into account when considering cases. The procedure is an important aspect and tribunals will often find dismissal decisions procedurally unfair. Tribunals are also able to adjust any awards made in relevant cases by up to 25 per cent for unreasonable failure to comply with any provision of the code.

The maximum award in unfair dismissal claims is currently £72,400.

6. “She’s only been with us a few months so she can’t claim unfair dismissal”
For employees who join after the 6th April 2012, there is a two year time period before they receive ‘normal’ unfair dismissal protection. Employers often feel ‘safe’ dismissing during this period and often fail to follow any structured procedure.

“A proper procedure should always be followed. A documented process helps defend against claims of discrimination which can be brought at any time.”

“Employers should also be aware of claims for unfair dismissal relating to the assertion of a statutory right, for example, raising a working time issue or taking emergency leave which employees need no length of service to bring” added Jane of Manchester HR Consultants, Personnel Solutions.

7. “Just ignore her – she’s always moaning about something”
“Many workplaces have one but employers shouldn’t ignore the comments of the office complainer. It is best practice to tackle verbal grievances head on to ‘nip it in the bud’.

Moans may be related to a more significant issue for example workplace stress, bullying and harassment and employers who fail to confront may be at risk of escalating issues such as constructive dismissal and discrimination claims” said the Manchester HR Services provider.

8. “We assume if they are here, they are OK to work”
Under UK immigration rules, it is a criminal offense to employ a person who is not entitled to work in the UK. Employers can be fined up to £10,000 per worker for employing illegal workers.

Knowingly employing an illegal worker can result in a 2 year custodial sentence and an unlimited fine.

“Copies of employee passports, ID’s and other specified documentation should be retained on file” recommends the Manchester HR Services provider.

9. “Written policies and procedures are just for big companies”
HR policies are for all size of company. They ensure that clear guidance is readily available to management and employees so that expectations and rules are understood and acknowledged. Importantly this can help employers defend tribunal claims as policies provide a good management guide for dealing with issues in line with legislation and also help prove that employees understand company rules.

Certain policies and procedures are specifically needed to comply with the law for example formal disciplinary and grievance procedures and a written health and safety policy for any organisations with five or more employees.

10. “She’s a nuisance, let’s make her redundant”
This is the sort of situation which is cropping up increasingly during the recession. Employers with issues with an employee’s capability or conduct often use redundancy as an ‘easy fix’ dismissal route.

If an employee can prove that redundancy isn’t the real reason for dismissal then an employment tribunal is likely to find the dismissal unfair and with the maximum award in unfair dismissal claims standing at £72,400, this can be an expensive mistake.

“Crucially the employer needs a clear business reason for redundancy, for example financial loss, in order to justify” advises Jane of the Manchester HR Consultancy.

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