Are you breaking employment laws? 10 common mistakes that businesses make

Do you know about the recent changes to dismissal claims, flexible working, sick pay, holiday pay and more?

Get in touch with me if you want to know more – Justin Sadler, Solicitor.

And now, here are the top 10 common mistakes…

1. Not having a written contract

Some businesses piece together terms of employment from verbal exchanges, emails, and general day to day activity. This makes it tough when problems arise, but it is also a breach of employment law. Written contracts of employment must legally be provided within two months of the start date. Working times, holidays, sick pay entitlements and notice requirements have to be set out in clear terms, so that both parties know where they stand.

 2. Not dealing properly with redundancies

There is a strict legal process for dealing with redundancies. If more than 20 redundancies are to take place, you must consider electing employee representatives and brief anyone that is impacted by the proposed changes (not just those that at risk). In any event, you must also consult each individual staff member affected, be fair when selecting your redundancies, give the correct notice/pay (taking heed of any contractual rights), handle appeals, etc.

 3. Not dealing properly with grievances

Grievances can start as small problems but can soon become time-consuming and potentially expensive battles. The law requires the employer to set out a grievance procedure and communicate it in writing to all employees. It must specify who the employee should talk to about a grievance and how they should communicate with them. It must set the time limit for each step of the process and highlight each step in detail.

4.  Not keeping up to date with employment law

Employment law changes so often that it is a full-time job keeping up with it all. Business owners and managers can easily miss all the changes that take place. Laws that have changed recently include unfair dismissal claims, flexible working, sick pay, tribunals, holiday pay. Fortunately, a well-informed and professional solicitor can help you avoid expensive mistakes by informing you of what changes are coming up and how they might affect your business.

 5. Not providing rest breaks

Do you know about the three types of rest breaks to which employees are entitled? Perhaps you are aware that workers must have at least an unpaid rest break of 20 minutes within each 6-hour period of work. However, workers also have the right to 11 hours of rest between working days or shifts and 24 uninterrupted hours each week. It is all too easy for business owners to break the law unless you know all this.

6. Not giving proper and due notice

Dismissing an employee without giving proper notice is classified as wrongful dismissal. There are minimum periods of notice the law requires, and your employment contracts must tell your staff everything they need to know about these notice periods – for example, how much notice they must give and how much they will receive. If your employee has been working for more than one month but for less than 2 years, you have to give at least 1 week’s notice. For 2 years and more, it is 1 week for each year worked – up to a maximum of 12 weeks. The law takes precedent over whatever your contract says – even when you have a contract that says an employee has four weeks’ notice, when they have been working five years or more, you must give them one week’s notice for every year they have worked for you. If your contract is more generous than the statutory minimum, you must honour that.

7. Not investigating disciplinary matters properly

Disciplinary matters which are not investigated fully and fairly, and dealt with promptly and properly, can open you up to claims of unfair dismissal. Your disciplinary rules and procedures must be in writing and given to all staff, with full details of acceptable and unacceptable conduct. When problems do occur, your investigation must establish the facts fairly and thoroughly. In misconduct cases, you must believe the employee guilty of misconduct and have reasonable grounds for that belief.

 8. Making unilateral changes to employees’ contracts

Sometimes there are business reasons to make changes to contracts such as new technology or new products. However, you need your employees’ consent. Changing a staff contract without agreement, means you could have constructive dismissal and breach of contract claims against you. You must consult on changes, and if it is not possible to get agreement, then in some cases you may end up dismissing the employee. This means you absolutely must follow the correct dismissal procedure.

9. Indirect discrimination

Employers can be guilty of indirect discrimination. This is when you put someone with a protected characteristic – such as disability, maternity, age, sexual orientation, marriage or race (to name but a few) – at a disadvantage. Indirect discrimination may be lawful if you can show that there is an ‘objective justification’ for it. For example, the armed services high level of fitness discriminates, justifiably, against those with specific health problems.

10. No ill health absence policy

Small businesses are extremely vulnerable when it comes to staff being off sick, so you must have an effective policy for tackling absence. A full sickness and absence policy will give all your staff a roadmap for handling minor absences and may deter those who make a habit of being absent. It will also keep you legal, guiding you through the formal warning steps which may lead to dismissal – if it becomes necessary.

If you need any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Justin Sadler on 0118 958 9711.

Further reading

Employment Law

Employment Law Testimonials

The importance of your employment status

Beware of the Restrictive Covenants in your Employment Contract!

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