Instigating change – New Year resolutions

January is often seen as the time for instigating change, so consider the following New Year resolutions:

1. Signed Contracts

Do all your employees have appropriate and signed contracts of employment in place? The law prescribes that certain information be provided in writing to the employee within the first two months of their employment. This includes things like their rate of pay, holiday entitlement and place of work. Some slightly less obvious details should also be included, such as whether any collective agreements relate to their employment and who they should raise any appeal to if they wish to challenge a disciplinary decision. In an ideal world, such statement of employment terms should be signed and returned by the employee. Whilst provisions contained in an unsigned version can still be held to be binding, it is an area ripe for dispute. Express acceptance by way of a signature removes this potential headache.

Finally, are the contractual terms up to date and relevant? Often you find that an employee has received a promotion but no additional protections have been agreed, such as post-termination restrictions on the solicitation of customers and employees. This can leave the employer exposed when that employee then leaves. Ensure that the documentation you have in place is fitting to the circumstances.

2. Appropriate Policies

Handbooks can be a great way of communicating information to employees about their rights (for example, family leave and pay rights) and responsibilities (e.g. rules about their uniform) as well as information about the employer’s internal procedures (such as disciplinary or grievance processes). However, the danger is that such policies can quickly become out of date.

Firstly, employment law changes fairly rapidly. By way of example, family rights continue to evolve. Whereas previously only one parent was entitled to be off work on paid family leave at any one time, now both the mother and father can be off work at the same time using shared paid parental leave.

Secondly, the employer’s own personal circumstances should continue to influence and shape Handbook policies. For example, if there has been an incidence of, say, sexual harassment in the workplace, you may wish to tighten up the wording of your equal opportunities policy or, if you are experiencing a lot of staff problems caused by snowfall, you might want to introduce an adverse weather policy so that employees know what is expected of them in those circumstances.

3. Workplace Training

Having internal policies is all well and good, but do your employees actually understand and observe them? It is always prudent to get employees to sign an acknowledgement confirming that they have received, read and understood the policies contained in any Handbook. However, that should not be the end of it. There can be legal and management advantages in going further by ensuring that employees fully understand the policies, particularly those like the equal opportunities policy and anti-harassment and bullying policy. Believe it or not, this can actually help you defend a discrimination claim brought by one of your employees. Hopefully it will also result in the smoother running of your business too.

It is therefore sensible to ensure that each employee (or at the very least, each employee who has management responsibility) receives appropriate training. Include such training as part of any induction processes for new joiners and also have regular refresher training for existing employees.

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This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice.  If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.