Employment Law: Ten Top Tips
Terms and Conditions
As a minimum you should provide all employees with a written statement of their Terms and Conditions of Employment within two months of their start date – this is a legal requirement. It's often the case that everything you need to provide will be covered by a 'Contract of Employment'. There are also additional clauses needed from April 2020 that not everyone is aware of!
Right To Work
Check eligibility to work in the UK whenever you take on a new employee – the fine for not doing so is £20,000 per employee who is not entitled to work in the UK and you could face 2 years in prison. General checks include studying passports or combinations of birth certificates and NI numbers. If you're not sure what documents to check (particularly if a non-UK citizen), visit the Gov website here.
Discipline and Grievance
You should always aim to have a non-contractual discipline and grievance procedure. It should be referred to in the contract of employment but can be outlined in a separate policy or employee handbook. If it's non-contractual then you don't risk breach of contract claims if you miss a technicality in following your own procedure.
Discipline and Dismissals
Follow the ACAS code of practice when dismissing and disciplining staff. In any unfair dismissal claim, the tribunal will adjust awards if they consider that you haven't followed the correct procedures.
Consider shorter notice periods in probationary periods. Others may have eg a one month notice but you may only want to make this one week in, say, a three-month probation period.
Pre-employment health questionnaires can only generally be used to help make reasonable adjustments for the recruitment process or because the nature of the job requires an understanding of health status. You can not generally enquire as to someone's health unless you can justify that the nature of the role means that you need this knowledge before deciding on whether to offer a role.
Be clear in the contract on whether benefits and car allowance etc will be paid during notice periods. Often there will be a pay in lieu of notice clause in contracts but this becomes a problem when you say that benefits won't accrue in the notice period but it isn't written anywhere!
Be clear on which parts of your handbook and policies are contractual and non-contractual to avoid ambiguity. If you have a contractual policy then it will be harder to amend it without getting the employees' consent.
Recruitment interviews should steer away from overt questions around childcare, illnesses etc that could lead the candidate to think you are going to discriminate against them. Keep to competency-based questions and tell them about the role and what it involves -if someone doesn't think they can comply with what you need ten they will take themselves out of the process on most occasions!
When drafting contracts, use words ‘discretionary’ rather than ‘entitled to’, use the word ‘may’ instead of ‘will’. Subtle differences in words go a long way when it goes to what is due or not to an employee.
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