When I was an insurance agent I employed a team of five. Managing this team to keep them happy and productive was one of my greatest challenges, the greatest challenge was recruiting the right people in the first place! In my business consultancy, I regularly come across employment situations that cause frustration, I have come to the conclusion that there are few of us that have the right skills to cope, especially when you are not a large enough organisation to employ an HR specialist. There is a fear of upsetting someone, fear of not following current legislation, often this results in not taking any action at all which is the worst scenario, then frustrations boil over to make matters even worse!
So, where can you go for help?
- Join an organisation that can help e.g. the Federation of Small Businesses, annual subscription at present for up to four employees is £199 (+£30 joining fee). As well as a lobbying organisation members have access a 24/7 helpline and access legal document templates. There are other specialist organisations such as the Road Haulage Association and National Farmers’ Union so you may be able to access one suitable for your business.
- Some banks also offer an HR service as an add on for a charge, just be sure and check exactly what they are providing and at what cost (not that I don’t trust them of course).
- There are also some independent organisations such as Penninsula who as well as HR provide Health & safety advice. The HR service costs £135 per month for four employees, so this isn’t cheap
- Many solicitors offer an HR service but you need to check the terms & conditions and fee structure carefully before engagement (not that I don’t trust them of course).
- You can also subscribe to legal services such as Net Lawman and Simply Docs for legal templates.
So where can you go for help that doesn’t cost the earth?
- If you run a business undoubtedly you will have insurance often a package policy that wraps up a number of covers. What you may not know is that many insurers offer a ’free’ legal advice helpline and also a counselling service. These could well be hidden away in the small print so ask your agent/broker/insurer for guidance on this.
- An optional extra not often given as standard is legal expenses insurance. All businesses no matter how small should make sure they have this one in return for an additional premium. This insurance includes legal cover for employment issues, but there are two important conditions (i) the cover is not retrospective, the problem must have occurred after the policy was taken out, and (ii) you must follow their advice. So as soon as a problem occurs you must contact the Legal Expenses insurer immediately so they have a record of the incident/problem and when it first started, and you must follow their advice. For more complicated cases they will appoint a Solicitor to look after you.
- While on the subject of insurance personal legal expenses is nearly always included with your home insurance (but don’t take my word for it, check your policy first). Within this there is cover for employment disputes for yourself or a member of your family living with you, but this only applies to employees, not employers (except in domestic scenarios). A counselling service is an extra as well.
- You could contact the Fairford & Lechlade Business Club (email@example.com) to see if they can put you in touch with someone who may have similar issues and be able to offer peer advice.
- Lastly there is ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), a Government backed organisation. It is usually a condition of Legal Expenses Insurance that you follow their procedures, especially in respect of redundancy situations. The great thing about ACAS is that it is entirely free, although they do charge for training courses. They have a great website and a really useful helpline service. They have to be even handed as they give help and advice to both employees and employers. Their helpline number is 0300 123 1100. You can also subscribe to their newsletters, their training courses are highly recommended.
I suppose I should also mention that many Business Consultants specialise in HR and they can be useful for specific projects/issues, just be clear about their charging structure before engagement (not that I don’t trust them of course).
I have not mentioned the internet, simply do a Google search for your problem? Can be very risky especially if you only know a little about what you are looking for, and you must make sure you are looking at UK advice so you are following UK employment law.
I am amazed how many businesses I come across do not have employment contracts for their staff! You can have implied contracts but you as an employer must provide the principal statement of terms and conditions on the first day of employment and the wider written statement within 2 months of the start of employment.
Lastly documentation. It is really important to keep a clear and accurate record of misdemeanours especially time keeping, but also make a record of any important conversations which must include date, time and names of people in attendance. But be careful, you must stick to the facts, do not record opinions. Under the Data Protection Act employees can ask to see their employers’ file.
Bent Business Consulting
Disclaimer!!! Whilst every reasonable endeavour has been made to ensure that all information provided is accurate and up to date, I make no warranty or representation that this is the case. The above article is for guidance only and I do not accept any liability whatsoever for any actions or disturbance that readers may encounter having read the article. Professional or specialist advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to employment.