Employment and HR

Employment and HR is a vast area of law in which our solicitors can provide advice and guidance on. It regulates relationships between employees and employers and ensures a business is efficient and well regulated.

Kidwells offer Employment and HR packages and HR Health Checks so you can have peace of mind your business is running smoothly.

 

We can advise you on a range of factors which will enable employers to monitor and enhance employees performances. We’ll show you how training and social media are both useful tools to train your employees and improve their performance at work. Performance and absence management and feedback can be given through employee appraisals which are beneficial in rewarding employees and encouraging them to achieve business goals.

 

There may be times where grievance and disciplinary procedures are necessary. These instances may lead to tension in the workplace and ultimately employment investigations. We encourage mediation to amicably solve these issues however, this is not always possible and employment tribunals are unavoidable. However, we will offer support and representation throughout the proceedings.

 

Our solicitors can also provide guidance on employment contracts, changing terms of employment, settlement agreements, early conciliation and employment law.

Employment contracts

Forming the foundation of the employment relationship you have with your employees is vital

A contract of employment is the beginning of a relationship between the employer and employee. It is integral that the employment contract accurately sets the scene and expectation of both parties for the duration of the term.

It is important to have well-drafted employment contracts as an employer as this forms the foundation of the employment relationship you have with your employees.

Drafting employment contracts at the start can prevent time-consuming disputes later on. Additionally, it can also reduce the risk of grievances as each party is aware of their rights and duties. Therefore, should any issues arise, drafting well written policies can assist to effectively manage the issue to achieve resolution.

Whether you are looking to update existing contracts or whether you are looking at drafting completely new ones our dedicated Employment law team not only has the knowledge of employment contracts but also the experience of implementing new ones, as well as changing contracts for organisations across a very broad range of industries.

  • We can recommend contractual terms to make your life easier and protect your position as an employer. For example, deductions from wages, payment in lieu of notice, garden leave etc. We can review and update your contracts.
  • As an employer you may make changes to an employee’s contract of employment however you must inform and consult with the employees regarding the proposed changes. You must give the employee a written statement containing details of the change at the earliest opportunity. It must be no later than one month after the change.
  • It’s best practice to support contracts of employment with an Employee Handbook. This outlines the organisation’s position in relation to areas such as company cars, sickness, whistleblowing, conduct, appraisals etc.
 

Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 states:

“Where an employee begins employment with an employer, the employer shall give to the employee a written statement of particulars of employment.”

“The statement must be given no later than 2 months after the beginning of the employee’s employment.”

  • It is a useful tool for managing staff effectively;
  • It prevents misunderstandings;
  • Employees will know what is expected of them; and
  • Failing to issue a written contract prevents you from specifying rules or conditions to which your employees must adhere.

If you fail to provide a written contract of employment an employee can make a claim to the Employment Tribunal. A failure to provide a contract can lead to an award of 2-4 weeks’ pay compensation in the Employment Tribunal. An employee cannot bring a standalone claim for a failure to provide a written contract of employment.

Common problems for failing to provide a contract of employment include:

  • Misunderstandings;
  • Disgruntled/unhappy employees;
  • Stress;
  • Anxiety;
  • Anger;
  • Frustration;
  • De-motivation;
  • Absence from work;
  • Poor morale;
  • Poor employee relations;
  • Loss productivity;
  • Poor performance;
  • Insecurity;
  • Complaints;
  • Grievances;
  • Resignations;
  • Disputes;
  • Damage to reputation; and
  • Tribunal claims.
  • Name of employer and employee;
  • The date the employee’s employment commenced;
  • The date on which the employee’s continuous employment began;
  • Pay and the intervals at which remuneration is paid (weekly/monthly);
  • Hours of work;
  • Holiday entitlement;
  • Holiday pay;
  • Job title or a brief description of the work the employee is employed to do;
  • Sick leave and pay entitlements;
  • Pensions and pension schemes;
  • Notice periods;
  • How long employment is meant to last and also the date when it is to end;
  • Job location;
  • Whether any collective agreements affect the terms and conditions of employment; &
  • If required to work outside the UK for a period of more than 1 month:
  • The period for which they have to work outside the UK;
  • The currency in which remuneration will be paid;
  • Any additional remuneration payable to them and benefits; and
  • Any terms and conditions relating to their return to the UK.

Employment investigations

Investigations are used to manage conflict or investigate a grievance. Investigations differ in their nature and extent depending on the seriousness of the matter. They need to be conducted in a fair and objective manner.

The conduction of employment investigations is important for employers and employees

Investigations should be conducted when managing conflict between individuals, when an employee has raised a grievance or during disciplinary proceedings for example for misconduct. Investigations are an integral part of your misconduct or gross misconduct dismissal.

In order for a conduct dismissal to be fair you must have;

  • An honest belief that the employee was guilty of the offence;
  • That there were reasonable grounds for holding that belief; and
  • That these came from a reasonable investigation of the incident(s).
  • An employer should fully consider the matter they’re investigating and collect all necessary documents and evidence. They should then make an informed decision on it.
  • Procedural deficiencies in an investigation can lead to an unfair dismissal claim. Therefore, we emphasise the importance of fair and objective investigations.
  • Investigations can differ in length. Some may take several weeks depending on their seriousness, whereas some matters may take only days.

Investigations are undertaken to gather, establish and assess the facts surrounding a grievance or disciplinary issue. They are not part of the formal disciplinary hearing, however, they are an essential part of the process before making a determination as to whether to proceed to a disciplinary hearing and/or whether to uphold a grievance. Common situations which often require an investigation include;

  • receiving a grievance from an employee
  • allegations of bullying and harassment
  • potential disciplinary matters against an employee
  • concerns over company policies and procedures.

Employment investigations can highlight training issues and can result in dismissals and disciplinary action against employee’s.

Procedural deficiencies in an investigation can lead to an unfair dismissal claim and therefore it is essential that investigations are carried out fairly and objectively. The nature and extent of your investigation will depend on the seriousness of the matter and the more serious it is then the more thorough the investigation should be.

It is important to keep an open mind. The Employment Tribunal will expect you to show that you have conducted a careful, fair and objective investigation where complaints are made by or about employees.

Failure to investigate a grievance, complaint, conflict or conduct a fair investigation into a potential disciplinary case can led to a Tribunal claim. Employment Tribunals are incredibly costly in terms of time and money. The average cost of defending a Tribunal claim is between £10,000 and £15,000. This is just the cost of defending the claim. This does not take into account the cost and time to you of having employees out of the office and/or assisting in the preparation of the claim. It does not take into account the initial costs prior to lodging the claim, for example handling a grievance.

You do not want to face a successful Employment Tribunal claim purely on the basis that you have failed to follow a fair process by not conducting a fair investigation. In unfair dismissal claims the onus will be on you to show that you have carried out a reasonable investigation and that you have formed a reasonable belief from this investigation. Therefore the investigation is the backbone of your defence.

Employee Appraisals

Employee appraisals ensure that not only the employee but their manager/supervisor, are fully aware of the individual’s strengths, weaknesses and goals. Information is power, and so by utilising employees effectively and harnessing their own individual skill sets in the right way can only benefit the Company.

Employee appraisals are beneficial for you as an employer and your employees

Appraisals are an essential tool for Companies to monitor employees’ performance and improve the overall productivity of the business.

Employee performance is a fundamental issue for all businesses, as poor performance often means poor Company performance. Poor performance not only reduces productivity but can have a negative impact on the employees who work alongside the poorly performing employee and bring down their performance too.

A regular appraisal system allows you to assess your staff against set objectives, provide feedback on performance and establish mutually agreed goals. Regular appraisals can help identify performance issues at an early stage. Rewards for outstanding performance or remedies for poor performance can be established where appropriate using the outcomes of the appraisal.

  • An appraisal should be the opportunity to sit down to review performance over a period of time.
  • The appraiser’s role is to help ensure that the review of the employee’s past and current performance is fair and made on the basis of evidence.
  • There is no legal requirement to carry out appraisals, however, they are recommended. They allow the employer to recognise achievements and identify strengths, weaknesses, training needs, potential for promotion and development. Furthermore, they enhance communication between employees and managers.
  • Agree with the employee the date, time, location of the interview;
  • Give the employee a preparation form;
  • Ensure both parties have details of the key targets and objectives agreed the previous year;
  • Gather the information necessary for a meaningful discussion to take place, in particular, details of the employee’s actual performance;
  • Manage the appraisal discussion so that both parties can effectively contribute;
  • Be balanced, ensure that there are positives as well as any negatives;
  • Keep a record of positive and negative behaviour throughout the year;
  • Jointly agree key targets and associated objectives;
  • Complete the appraisal form after the interview and give it to the employee for confirmation of the content and to add any comments;
  • Return the document to the employee for any final comments following review and signature;
  • Carry out agreed actions; and
  • Monitor the employee’s performance on an ongoing basis.

As well as being conducted honestly and reflecting the employee’s true performance, there are important do’s and don’ts in order for appraisals to be effective. You should;

  • Keep a record of positive and negative behaviour throughout the year
  • Ensure both parties have details of the key targets and objectives agreed the previous year
  • Both parties should prepare for the appraisal by gathering the information necessary for a meaningful discussion to take place
  • Manage the appraisal discussion so that both parties can effectively contribute
  • Have balance and ensure that there are positives as well as any negatives
  • Jointly agree key targets and associated objectives
  • Following completion record and file appraisal documentation  
  • Carry out agreed actions and monitor the employee’s performance on an on-going basis.

However, you shouldn’t;

  • Treat it as a disciplinary meeting
  • View appraisals in isolation
  • Use them instead of performance management or disciplinary processes
  • Rush them
  • Just go through the motions’
  • Be bias
  • Be completely negative
  • Skirt over or fail to deal with any conduct or capability issues.

Employees and managers need to understand how they are performing:

  • To learn
  • For perception, for example, an employee may consider they are doing really well when in reality they are underperforming
  • To keep motivated
  • To feel appreciated
  • Clarity
  • Refining our potential
  • Maximise returns.

Failing to address workplace issues can cause a reduction in work, grievances, disputes and disruption. Additionally, it can create an unhealthy environment, a breakdown in relationship and difficulties disciplining the individual in the future.

Recruitment and Retention

An able and willing workforce is key to any successful business. Replacing staff is costly and disruptive.  High staff turnover can lower morale and productivity.

By starting out with the right steps you can match the best individual to the role and help them make it their own long-term. The recruitment of the right employee and keeping them is not a matter of luck.

Let Kidwells support you through your recruitment process, be protected against claims that can form at interview stage such as discrimination and make sure you’re not breaching any previous employment restrictive covenants. Learn how to obtain useful references and how to use them effectively.

Kidwells will guide you through the stages of recruitment at whatever level you deem necessary, from email advice to onsite conduct of interviews. 

 

The support will include:

  • Preparing a job description
  • Checking candidates credentials
  • On the job training
  • Employee engagement
  • Handling interviews fairly
  • Successful inductions
  • Pay, promotion and appraisals
  • Personnel files
 

Social Media at Work

There can be confusion over what is acceptable behaviour regarding the use of social media in the workplace.

The HR issues that can arise in connection with social media are endless, as are the benefits of having an effective policy in place setting out clear guidance for employees and managers on usage, ownership and consequences of any abuse.

From detrimental comments on Facebook, inappropriate videos on YouTube to ownership of business connections on LinkedIn the potential HR issues that arise are endless.

 

Assistance can include:

 

  • The risk of social media in the workplace
  • Social media policy and what to include
  • Linkedin – contact ownership and safeguarding the business
  • Training
  • Effective use of social media for employees and your business
  • Social media and recruitment: The Risks
  • Social media dismissals and employment tribunal approach

 

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