Taking on Staff and Navigating the Employment Minefield

Businessman conquering adversityHaving owned and managed an HR consultancy for 17 years, I sometimes think I have seen and heard it all. But the reality is I haven’t – as what I have had to accept is that you never really know what is around the corner – with every single worker in this world bringing to their workplace their own personal baggage and unique set of challenges. (Consider this latter phrase a bit of an under statement!)

And it’s dealing with all of these challenges that can be the making or downfall of the best of us. So, in this blog, I wanted to set out just a few words of wisdom for you around things I have learned the hard way. That way, you should be better positioned to lead your business through the employment minefield.

1. Family and friends can only take you so far

By all means ask family and friends for advice and support, but be really wary of trying to grow your business without recruiting people (employed or self-employed) who have the right skills and experience. Whilst they will invariably be enthusiastic and cheap, your family may not have the required skills or experience. You have to balance short-term cash flow needs with long-term strategic requirements ( i.e. keep costs down as you grow but not so much that you limit your ability to grow).

2. The perils of outsourcing

Another often used strategy to minimise costs in a new business is to rely on associates, contractors and other self-employed individuals. I can see the benefit in this but be wary of issues such as their availability (if you don’t give full commitment to them, why should they give it to you?) Over time, will they acquire an employment status without you being aware of that happening? And are you able to fully protect your business with confidentiality or restraint of trade clauses due to not issuing them with a contract?

3. Contract capers

If you do employ people, be wary of cheap employment documents available on the web. I saw one of these documents recently that had cost an employer £100. This document had a clause in it that said in the event of termination of employment, for whatever reason, no notice would be required to be given by either party. The employer was, not surprisingly, shocked when I said that as an employer, under no circumstances can you issue a contract that forces an employee to give up any of their statutory rights (notice being one if those). In my opinion, that contract was not worth the paper it had been printed on – £100 very badly spent, indeed.

4. Before you confirm …

If you offer someone a job, always include a six month probationary period. Many contracts talk about a three month probationary period,  but it is truly remarkable how many can put on a good act as a wonderful employee for three months but then really show their true colours once probation has been completed. So raise the bar and always have a six month probationary period.

5. Go with your gut

Listen to what your gut tells you about people. I know the lawyers hate that but, really, we all have good instincts – if only we learned to rely on them more. If someone doesn’t feel right do not give them endless chances but, instead, deal with the situation. The number of times I have heard people say ‘If only I’d got rid of them 2 years ago.’ Don’t let it happen to you!

6. Have the knowledge

Never let an employee make you feel as though your back is against the wall. If an employee is claiming discrimination, breach of contract, unfair treatment (or even just hinting at these things), get on the internet and do your research. You need to know as much employment law as your employee does if you want to feel in control.

And if ever you get stuck, my personal mantra is ‘There is always a solution to every problem; never give up, you just have to keep working away at the problem until the solution is found’.

If you need support with any policy reviews, recruitment or advice on anything mentioned in this blog, please do call us for competitive rates and commercial support.

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