DTM Legal’s Rebecca O’Sullivan offers some pointers for companies operating without a dedicated Human Resources department.
The role of an HR department in any business is the management of the company’s most valuable assets – its employees. However, it is not uncommon for businesses to function without one, increasing their risk of Employment Tribunal claims. Hopefully the following five tips will minimise that risk:
Employment Law is one of the most fast-changing laws in the UK and without having a fully trained HR professional on site to offer advice and keep your business up to date with the ever changing legislations, it can be an Employment Tribunal claim waiting to happen.
To mitigate the risk, ensure all of your contracts, policies and procedures have been drafted by an employment lawyer/HR expert (or at least fully checked by one before implementing) and ensure they are signed, understood and adhered to by all members of staff.
- Delegate/ Nominate a Manager to be responsible for HR
The normal fit for HR responsibilities would be that of Finance Manager as they are already responsible for employee welfare in regards to their confidential information, pay, holidays, sickness, etc. However, ensure that you provide them with training so that he or she has the qualifications and feels confident in taking on HR duties.
- Have a system in place to ensure a consistent approach
Staff handbooks contain policies and procedures which set out how businesses aim to operate and what they expect from their employees, but it is essential that systems are put in place to ensure this actually happens. Some businesses use online programmes which allow them to monitor, control and report on routine HR matters such as holiday planning, sickness and performance reviews.
They are simple to use with issues being flagged almost immediately to the employee and their line manager. These online programmes are a great tool for any firm that does not have an HR department (or the time to manually keep a track of such things) as they banish the uncertainty of knowing for sure if holiday requests have been approved, allow employees to monitor their own holiday entitlements and reduce the amount of unnecessary paperwork for the managers.
- Don’t leave things to fester – address issues immediately
Far too often ‘little issues’ are either left to sort themselves out or ignored completely and this can have an extremely demoralising effect on staff. If you hear the rumbles, it’s generally because there is something amiss, and not addressing the issue could cause bigger issues in the long run.
Resolving issues in a sensible manner, early on, can help staff feel wanted, respected and listened to. If left to fester you may end up losing a valuable member of staff, facing a costly recruitment exercise, and/or exposing the company to potential Employment Tribunal claims due to the business’ activity/inactivity prior to termination of employment.
- Know your limits
As mentioned above, delegating the role of HR to a manager in your firm can help you with the day to day running of the business, but you need to know the manager’s strengths and limits. These strengths and weaknesses also need to be recognised by the manager themselves. Training will allow them to oversee minor issues but you should ensure the manager knows the point at which to call an employment lawyer for advice and support.
Often the biggest issue employment lawyers encounter is that they were not contacted early enough! Many claims would not progress to Employment Tribunals if expert advice had been sought at an early stage.
For more information regarding HR and Employment Law, email Tom Evans or call on 0151 2301217.