Within a series of articles, Human Resources expert Julia Crawford from People Pillar will provide practical advice on all things people related – including contracts of employment, employment policies, recruitment, absence management and redundancies. Here, she provides checklists on the fundamentals.
Running a small business means that you must be a master of everything. That’s even before you have started selling anything. Whether your business is a micro business that is hiring its first employee, is more established, or growing quickly, you need to be HR aware. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees rarely have any HR support. Instead, it’s likely that it will be an Office Manager who
has dabbled in HR over the years, who draws the short straw and takes on this responsibility.
Whilst it is great that someone is looking after HR, it also creates a risk that leaves you open to legal challenges if it’s not done correctly. It also takes them away from their ‘day job’. If you’re not quite big enough to have an Office Manager, then this responsibility likely falls to you and the last thing you want is to be bogged down dealing with responsibilities you hadn’t bargained for. This all takes you away from running your business and doing the work that you love.
Typically, business owners start thinking about HR when:
1) The things on the ‘too difficult’ pile are building up
2) Something has gone wrong and you either have a grievance,
disciplinary or an Employment Tribunal claim to respond to
3) You are starting to think about the longer-term plans for your business.
If you have employees, it is vital you stay on top of, and adhere to, employment law. But what does that mean? Simply put, employment law provides legislation on all the areas that affect both employers and employees. This covers things like dismissal, discrimination, pay and even holidays. It’s designed to protect both parties – looking after employee rights and safeguarding employers’ interests – keeping and maintaining a fair relationship between the two. UK employment law details what should be covered in a contract of employment (we’re talking disciplinaries, notice periods, holiday entitlements etc.) and it protects employers by ensuring that everyone has a clear record of the agreement. It also works to protect employees by making sure they benefit from fair hiring procedures, pay, and by setting out what is expected of them. Simply put, employment law is a huge area of the legal system and covers every part of the employer/employee relationship.
From the moment a candidate applies for a job, they are covered by employment law. It keeps them safe from discrimination based on a set of nine protected characteristics (as outlined in the Equality Act 2010). When they move on to employment they are then also protected by health and safety laws too (as per the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974).
You may be surprised to learn that many businesses don’t currently have all the right policies in place to stay protected though. There are more still who have policies that haven’t been updated since they were written. The problem with this is that if a situation arises where that policy is required, no-one knows where they stand. That can cause even more problems for both parties. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re writing policies in reaction to an event. You want to know that if or when that situation arises all of your policies are legal and up-to-date.
You would be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by the thought of getting your business up to date with employment law. It can be complicated and it’s constantly evolving. But it’s always worth keeping in mind that these laws are in place to protect businesses, outline their obligations to their employees,
and advise about the protections you have as a business owner.
This checklist covers some of the most important areas your business needs to be aware of and will help you to take the right actions to abide by rules and regulations, and make sure your people are doing the same. If you find your business falls short on some of these areas, or you think it’s time for a
professional review of your policies and procedures, we’d love to help you get up to date.
Policies and procedures