Running a small business often means wearing many different hats and potentially making decisions without specialist advice. In association with Prosper², Simon Whitehead Head of Recruitment Law, and Nicola Young, Legal Director, both of Brabners LLP discuss how you can avoid potentially expensive and time-consuming HR mistakes.
HR legal experts offer practical advice for how employers can support employees and ensure smooth business continuation.
Support staff mental health
Positive action should include ensuring you are supporting the mental health of your employees. Suggestions include:
- Raising awareness and reducing stigma
- Running anonymous surveys
- Building online communities and employee networks
- Encouraging use of videos on calls
- Picking up the phone instead of sending an email
Comply with Covid secure guidelines
When it comes to bringing your workforce back into the office, “employers should ensure that they have done a risk assessment to make the workplace COVID secure and that they follow the COVID secure guidelines closely”.
Ensure you comply with safe Covid-19 compliance:
- Workers who can effectively work from home should do so; employers should not be asking or encouraging workers to come into the office
- Anyone else who cannot work from home can still go into the office
- Ensure that risk assessments have been done and the workplace is COVID secure, following COVID- secure guidelines closely
- React to any outbreaks (by following COVID-secure guidelines)
“Provided that you’ve completed a risk assessment and are comfortable that you have a COVID secure workplace, and if the employee has a good reason for not being able to work effectively from home, you can still allow them to work in the office.”
Future-proof your policies
Looking ahead to the future, Young provides advice for how to safely return your staff to the workplace and discusses ways you can future-proof working policies for the future.
Action you can take now to future-proof your policies include:
- Review your existing policies
- Set up an official homeworking policy to deal with: health and safety matters, information security and data privacy, supervision and management, homeworking equipment and expenses
- Amend sickness policy
- Revise disciplinary, grievance and performance management policies to cater for remote working
- Health and safety policy – reminder to staff
- Time off work – compassionate leave, time off for dependents, parental leave
- Flexible working – adopt certain forms of flexible working
“Employers that have got five or more employees have an obligation to have a health and safety statement, and should make it available to employees.”
Avoid unfair dismissal
If you have a genuine redundancy situation, you need to deal with it properly:
- Provide adequate warning and follow correct consultation procedures with affected employees: Tell staff and talk to them formally
- A fair selection process: ensure metric is objective and does not disadvantage a particular group
- Consideration of alternative employment
- Above all, make it a fair procedure and keep minutes of all meetings
Whitehead goes on to share ways you may be able to avoid having to make redundancies with a series of alternative suggestions, including:
- Contractual changes (changes to terms and conditions)
- Pension Scheme changes – decrease contributions, ensuring you comply with legal obligations
- Discretionary benefits – freeze them or reduce them
- Offer part-time working
- Decreasing pay/hours
About the speakers
Nicola Young – Legal Director at Brabners
Legal Director in Brabners’ Employment team, Nicola Young is an experienced employment lawyer who is active within the Sport sector.
She handles issues such as dismissals, redundancies, discrimination, TUPE, reorganisations, restrictive covenants, executive terminations and negotiated settlements. She also audits and drafts contract and policy documentation and represents clients in employment tribunal proceedings.
She works with a wide range of employers and employees and is experienced in acting for athletes, national governing bodies, sports agencies and professional clubs across a variety of sports.
Nicola has a strong background in all aspects of contentious and non-contentious employment law and has practiced for over a decade.
She regularly conducts seminars and interactive workshops to provide training in employment law.
Simon Whitehead – Recruitment Leader at Brabners
Leading on solutions to issues faced by business clients, Simon Whitehead is Brabners’ Recruitment sector leader.
Simon is an experienced employment lawyer who handles director/senior management disputes, exit strategies and settlement agreements, employment contracts and service agreements.
He also advises on redundancies and reorganisations, TUPE, outsourcing, employment tribunal claims, data protection issues, complex discrimination cases, post termination obligations, IR35 and status generally, as well as National Minimum Wage investigations.
In the recruitment sector he supports national and international recruitment businesses dealing with regulatory issues such as the Agency Workers Regulations, the Conduct Regulations, the GLAA and the issues arising from the Good Work Plan.
Simon has significant experience of supporting employers and recruiters of all sizes and regularly presents on recruitment and employment related issues at industry events.
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