Frequently Asked Questions
Implement Business Change or Growth
Once you have a clear idea on what you’d like to change and why you will need to share your proposal with your team members and give them an opportunity to provide feedback or raise concerns as relevant. This is known as a consultation period and may include conversations with Union representatives or employee representatives where recognised. You would then review the feedback received, resolve concerns where possible and make any changes you felt were reasonable. In most cases a notice period then applies and a date confirmed for when the changes will be implemented. If you are improving your T&C’s and offering new benefits the process is likely to go very smoothly! However, if you are removing or reducing benefits your team may be resistant, especially if they will be worse off financially. We can advise on any change process and help you manage communication and practical aspects in a way which minimises upset at work, keeps working relationships positive and enables you to make the changes necessary for your business.
We can help you to have open and honest conversations with your team by facilitating meetings or providing a neutral point of contact. We can help you to explain why you need the changes to be made and how you need their help, alongside encouraging them to share concerns and aid your understanding of why they are resisting. The goal will be to find solutions which reassure and support your team whilst ensuring you achieve the outcome you need for your business. If the changes you are implementing are reasonable, genuine and legal and it would be inappropriate for you to compromise your business, sometimes it comes down to individuals deciding if this is right for them. We can support you with difficult conversations as needed and manage situations in a way which maintains positive relationships and your business reputation.
We can provide a fresh pair of eyes and ears, a sanity check or where needed a shoulder to cry on! Together we can review how your business looks, where it may be possible to cut costs without the need for restructure or redundancies and how you can support your team and make changes with least negative impact. Where redundancies are possible, we can support you and your team throughout the entire process including redesigning jobs, redeploying team members to alternative roles, or conducting interviews for brand new roles. We will also ensure that subsequent redundancy situations are managed appropriately
Growth can be an exciting but also scary time! For some this may mean becoming an employer for the first time and we can guide you through those important first steps. Together we can think about how your business may grow, what roles or skills you may need, whether you need a more flexible workforce and how you might need to restructure your team or recruit new members. You may need to consider which of your current team members are ready for promotion, who may welcome personal development to learn a new area of the business or whether you need to change your terms and conditions to attract the right candidates. Not only can we help you to plan, we can also help you to implement!
Resolve Workplace Problems
Personality clashes, or a break down in personal relationships, can often result in a difficult atmosphere at work. The first step is to try and resolve informally and ask them why they aren’t getting on at work and explore what they can do improve things and encourage a positive work atmosphere. You can also remind them the bottom line is you are paying them to do their job and need them to be professional. Explain why you need them to work together to support your business and give examples of how this is impacting others. You don’t need them to like each other but you do need them to do XYZ without arguing! Take out personal emotion, focus on how this is affecting your business and give clear instruction on how you need them to behave and interact whilst at work. If an informal approach fails to bring the necessary changes, we can help you to have another conversation which reminds them of what you need and clarify that if they fail to follow your reasonable instruction to work professionally together etc. they will leave you with little choice but to follow your disciplinary process.
Absolutely, we can work with you to understand the issue and help you plan the best way to manage the situation and which policy or approach may best apply. Together we can plan what you might like to say and how, what information you may need to have with you and how to let your team member know you need to speak with them. If you would like us to practically support you during the meeting we can join you and help facilitate the conversation as needed, including encouraging your team member to contribute and ideally helping you both to find a suitable solution and/or clarify next steps.
If sickness has lasted for 7 consecutive days or more your team member must provide a GP fit note on day 8. However, short term absence often lasts for less than 7 days, or they return to work on day 8! The key for managing this type of concern is to keep good absence records which not only detail the number of days off but which days (Monday, Tuesday etc.), reasons given and dates. This will enable you to refer to their absence history with confidence and base conversations on evidence rather than perceptions which may not be accurate. If absence levels are unreasonable and patterns emerging you can ask them to provide you with a fit note before day 8, however GP’s are not obliged to do this and may charge a fee, which the employer would be expected to pay. You can also ask them to bring their letter for medical appointments or procedures. You may also consider seeking advice from an independent occupational health advisor, which we can support you with. If informal conversation does not resolve the situation and you consider their absence is not genuine or is unreasonable, we can help you to follow your sickness absence policy or disciplinary policy as needed and request relevant medical information to help you make informed and fair decisions.
We can help you consider what has happened and whether an informal or formal approach is needed subject to what your policy says. For disciplinary matters, if the concern is serious and potentially Gross Misconduct you may need to suspend on full pay. Before any formal decision or sanction can be issued you will need to establish the facts and carry out a reasonable and fair investigation, which is proportionate to the issue. If the findings of the investigation support the allegation or concerns, a disciplinary meeting must be held and the opportunity given to discuss the situation with your staff member to ensure you have all the necessary information. Only then can a formal disciplinary sanction be given, including dismissal. The investigator and the decision maker cannot be the same person and you may need to consider which colleagues or contacts can help. We can support you throughout the process, providing letters, assisting with investigations, advising the formal meeting and ensuring you remain legal by giving the employee the right to be accompanied and right of appeal where relevant and removing unnecessary risk from any disciplinary situation.
Keep on the right side of Employment Law
We make sure that we stay up-to-date with employment legislation and based on years of practical experience can often spare you the unnecessary expense of legal fees when dealing with HR issues. We give advice which is legally compliant and will support you on how to practically implement your legal obligations within your business and ultimately find solutions which mean you don’t need legal representation! However, where desired or genuinely beneficial for you, we are always happy to work alongside either your own solicitor or seek advice on your behalf from our own contacts for the more complex or out of the ordinary issues. Where Tribunal claims have been received or where settlement agreements are being negotiated we will absolutely work alongside employment solicitors.
Legally, highly unlikely! Our key reply will be why, what’s happened! We can help you unpick the situation, clarify the nature of his contract and length of service with you, explore the reasons and then advise on the best way you can legally manage the situation and what your existing policies provide for. For example, depending on the actual problem, this may include suspension whilst a disciplinary investigation is carried out; may involve holding an urgent meeting to share concerns and make your expectations clear for what must change, or may lead to a final probationary meeting. As a legal minimum, you will be expected to fact find/explore issues, have at least one meeting to discuss your concerns and the legal right to be accompanied may apply, put reasons and outcomes in writing, and if dismissed ensure appropriate notice and a right of appeal is given. It is a myth that you can simply sack someone and remain legal. The term ‘summary dismissal’ means dismissal without notice but you must still take a decision following a formal disciplinary hearing based on the findings of an investigation.
Whilst in most cases employees need to have worked for you for 2 years before they can bring a claim of unfair dismissal this does not mean you can ignore the law or take risks without consequence. There are a number of reasons which are classed as automatically unfair, for example behaviour or reasons perceived as discriminatory, and claims for automatic unfair dismissal do not require a 2-year qualifying period. If you are in breach of contract or in breach of a statutory right, for example you fail to provide the correct notice period or fail to make correct payments, they can bring a claim for wrongful dismissal which also does not require a 2-year qualifying period. We’d also advise you to consider the risks to your business and professional reputation if you mis-managed a situation as you have no control over how your unhappy ex-employee will communicate with others! Regardless of length of service, we will always advise you to follow the legal requirements and act as a reasonable employer.
Once you become an employer, regardless of whether you have 1 member of staff or 100 team members, employment legislation applies to your business. We can help you understand what your legal obligations are and support you to take a proportionate response with appropriate polices to fit the nature and size of your business. People management doesn’t need to be complex and staying legal can be easily achieved.
There is no legal definition and it is open to interpretation. However, in general terms a Tribunal will consider whether you genuinely believed your reasons; whether there was reasonable ground to take action, whether a fair and proper investigation took place; whether an employee was placed at a disadvantage and what reasonable steps you took to remedy the situation and whether the action taken was proportionate to the actual issue. They will also consider the size of your business. What is deemed reasonable for a large corporate company with vast resource and budget will be very different to what they deem reasonable for a small, family run firm. In simple terms, establish all the facts, don’t make hasty decisions based on emotions, do the best you can within the resources available to you, follow your policies and don’t take legal short cuts, and be transparent, fair and consistent. Be the best employer you can be.
Develop Happy, Motivated and Productive Employees
The best thing to do is find out from your team what they would appreciate. It may be as simple as actually saying a public thank you, going out for lunch, providing free fresh fruit every day, early finish on a Friday, offering flexible working, giving them their birthday off, or allowing them to use the photocopier for reasonable personal use. These examples are classed as Trivial Benefits and are tax free. There are also several tax cost-efficient benefits you might like to offer such as salary sacrifice child care vouchers, pension contributions, public transport subsidies, access to counselling services, shopping vouchers or personal gifts which are not cash and are not related to the job (i.e. birthday present or wedding gift).
We can help you work out why it isn’t working, what you would like to see instead and what training you or your managers may benefit from to ensure future success. This might include exploring how you can provide feedback throughout the year and how you identify and deliver your teams personal development and training needs.
Having written documents like these help your staff to understand what they are expected to do, how their performance will be monitored, how they are expected to behave at work and what they can expect from you as their employer. They help you set standards, ensure you are managing your staff fairly and consistently, provide clarity on how problems will be dealt with and, in a lot of cases, help keep you legal.
Lead by example! Ensure you smile, get to know your staff, show genuine interest in them, provide cakes on a Friday, allow time for chat over a cup of coffee, have a casual dress code (where relevant), have music playing in the background etc. Whether your team enjoys being at work will also be determined by how well their manager communicates with them, how much autonomy and trust they are given and if they feel valued and appreciated in their job. You may also want to consider social events you can do as a team or perhaps getting involved in charity fundraising together.
Recruit and Retain Great People
We can help you decide what the job needs to involve, what skills or experience you need and how you can get the most from your recruitment process. If wished, we can also support you on the day with interviews and advise you when making your decisions. If you need help with advertising your role, we are happy to signpost you to recruitment agencies or liaise with them directly on your behalf as required.
You can ask the same core questions to everyone which explores the candidate’s skills, knowledge and relevant experience to date and ask individual follow up questions as needed to explore answers in more detail. Avoid any question which could be deemed discriminatory or irrelevant to the role and do not ask about sickness history or medical factors. If they have declared a disability, explore prior to interview whether any support would ensure they are not placed at a disadvantage on the day (e.g. wheelchair access, large print documents, additional time on tests if dyslexic). Do not discuss disability at interview and focus on their abilities, skills, knowledge and experience and, if they are a strong candidate, consider any reasonable adjustments you could make. If you would like help planning your interview questions, or indeed advice on other methods you could use to assess candidates such as presentations, work based activities or written reports, we would be happy to help.
Probation periods are not a legal requirement but they are a very sensible thing to include. We would always advise a period of 6 months and making it clear in the offer letter and contract that confirmation in post is subject to successful completion of the probation period. This period enables you to assess whether your new team member can do the job in the way you expect, provides time for feedback and training and, if problems arise, gives plenty of time for improvement. You can extend periods if needed and if improvement is not achieved dismiss on the grounds of probation without having to refer to your other employment policies such as disciplinary or sickness.
If your offer of employment has an appropriate and relevant ‘conditional to’ clause included, you can legally withdraw it should those provisions not be met. This could include confirmation being subject to obtaining medical clearance, DBS clearance, satisfactory references, proof of eligibility to work in the UK, clean driving license (where driving is a requirement of the role) or proof of qualifications where these are an essential or legal requirement. Under these circumstances you would not be in breach of contract and notice pay would not apply. If you withdraw an offer simply because you change your mind, or if your offer was ‘unconditional’ i.e. did not expressly include any subject to clause, you will be in breach of contract and liable to pay contractual notice. The candidate may be able to claim wrongful dismissal if notice is not paid or unfair dismissal if they feel the reason was discriminatory. Risks are higher if they have already given / worked their notice period with their previous employer and thus are now unemployed.
Yes, we can advise you on the type of contract that you might like to offer and help you identify what you would like your terms and conditions to be, how you wish to manage things like overtime, whether you wish to offer any contractual or discretionary benefits and provide you with a bespoke contract template.
Yes, you can either build in increased terms and conditions once your team have worked for you for a defined period to reward loyalty, for example after 5-years’ service they gain an additional 3-days holiday. Alternatively, you can review your terms and conditions once your business has grown and you can afford more. We can help you with communicating changes with your team and making variations to contracts where needed.