New Year, New Approach: Tips for Employers to Boost Business Success in 2024
As the New Year unfolds, all across the country New Year’s resolutions will be made and in many cases swiftly discarded. For employers, it’s an opportunity to take stock, carry out a review, and set out their stall for the new year. What New Year’s resolutions would assist your business?
1. Policy Reviews:
Welcome the New Year by revisiting and refreshing your company’s policies and procedures. Policies set out the standard expected of employees and the procedural frameworks that will be followed. A thorough review can potentially uncover gaps in Staff Handbooks and highlight the need for new polices that may be relevant to your business to reflect changes in best practice.
Legally, employers are generally required to have the following policies in place:
- Disciplinary procedures and rules
- Grievance Procedures
- Health and Safety Policy (if your workforce exceeds 5 people)
An Equal Opportunities Policy is highly recommended to ensure fair treatment of employees and to prevent acts of discrimination occurring in the workplace. The existence of such a policy can potentially provide a defence to a discrimination claim raised against the employer.
Likewise, having a Data Protection policy is essential given the current landscape and capabilities of technology. An employer should be clear as to how it will use personal data, and deal with difficult issues such as employee monitoring (CCTV, recording of phone calls etc).
2. Live it, don’t laminate it!
For employers who already have the recommended policies in place, it is important to review and make sure they remain fit for purpose.
When it comes to an employer seeking to defend a discrimination claim based on alleged acts of discrimination/harassment by one employee to another, it is not enough to have an equal opportunities policy in place. It needs to form part of the workplace culture. Such policies should be publicised, equal opportunities training should be provided to staff, complaints should be handled sensitively and taken seriously, and the company itself should set a good example. Simply putting the policy in a drawer and forgetting about it will do no good.
Why not make a resolution to roll out equality and diversity training this year?
3. Employee Contract Review:
It is common for existing employee contracts to have been drafted several years ago. Reviewing employee contracts is common practice for employers, whether in respect of annual pay increases or to comply with subsequent changes in the law.
Contracts should be kept under review to ensure contract terms are up to date, accurately communicated and in compliance with legal requirements.
Does the contract reflect changes in the law relating to holiday pay calculations? Is there a need for restrictive covenants for employees who are now, perhaps, in a more senior role than when the contract was issued? Careful review and consideration may highlight the need for change.
4. Mental Health Initiatives:
In the UK, nearly 1 in 7 individuals experience mental health challenges at work. Employers should acknowledge and provide support for mental health issues within the workplace. Fostering positive mental health enables employees to function effectively, and managing stress can help unlock employees’ full potential at work. Employers bear a general duty of care to uphold their employees’ mental health and overall well-being.
Measures such as mental health days and workshops, or nominating a designated mental health representative, help reinforce an employers’ dedication to employee well-being. Recognising and addressing mental health and work-related stress is increasingly important for employers to ensure their duty of care is not breached.
5. Take proper advice before acting
We often find that clients contact us for advice when an employee has resigned claiming constructive dismissal, or has been dismissed and then gone to ACAS, or has raised a claim. When employment has already ended there is a limit to what we can do to put right anything that has gone wrong.
It is vitally important to take advice before the situation becomes irreparable. BTO’s expert team of employment lawyers is available to assist with all HR and employment law queries. In particular employers should always act carefully, and ensure proper advice is available when:
- A grievance is lodged
- An allegation of discrimination/harassment is made, even informally
- The employer is considering dismissal, even of an employee with limited service or during a probationary period
- An employee intimates a Subject Access Request
- A letter is received from the employee’s lawyer
- A recognised Union is threatening a dispute or industrial action
If you wish, we can provide a retainer arrangement to help you manage your spend on employment law advice, and can, through our brokers, offer the option of insurance against the risk of employment tribunal claims.
BTO looks forward to working with you all in 2024.
This update contains general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.