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January 2011 Newsletter

January 13th, 2011

10 Resolutions for 2011

Here are 10 suggestions of ways to navigate through any potential difficult HR issues which may arise in 2011.

1.    Identify “pressure points” and be ready to deal with them.
What are your plans for your organisation during the coming year? What will you have to do to get to where you want your organisation to be in January 2012? Will this involve recruitment? Acquiring another business? Redundancies? Relocating staff? Changing peoples jobs or contracts?

Do you have employees with sickness absence problems? Problems with punctuality? Are any employees struggling with new demands being made on them? Are there personality clashes between 2 employees who work together? Do you have someone who is perceived as “difficult” by other employees?

If these problems can be identified and tackled before they cause real problems, you will be better equipped for the future. You will either solve them, or if they are insoluble, you will at least be able to make some progress in removing them.

You don’t need to wait until something serious happens to take legal advice, a chat with your solicitor now will enable you to develop a strategy to deal with problems before they become a crisis.

2.    Have a contingency plan in place to cope with a downturn in business
VAT increase and cuts in public spending will mean some employers will be struggling to maintain their income. A contingency plan will enable you to survive a downturn by cutting your costs quickly if and when necessary. Now is the time to find out how long a redundancy process will take, how much notice you need to give and what it will cost you in terms of redundancy payments. Forward planning and early advice will also reduce the risk of an expensive Employment Tribunal claim.

3.    Introduce or extend systems to objectively monitor employees performance
Do you monitor timekeeping? Absences? Productivity? Do you carry out regular appraisals, and if so do you score your employees under various categories according to their performance?

This will assist in your ongoing management of your employees’ performance and provide you with objective information if you have to make redundancies in the future. The more objective the criteria you use the less chance there is of unfairly dismissing an employee.

4.    Ensure you have an absence management procedure
Properly implemented absence management procedures enable you to tackle problems in this area promptly and identify reasons for absences, which may have to be taken into
consideration if they are linked to an employee’s disability or care responsibilities

5.    Have a plan for “problem” employees
You may be aware of difficulties with certain staff, and the ideal time to think about how to deal with them is before they cause a crisis for your organisation.

If you find out now the HR implications for the steps you plan to take, you will be better prepared to tackle problems effectively and minimise the risk of future problems.

6.    Review your employment contracts
Do your staff have written contracts? Are they up to date? Do they truly reflect the reality of their status?

For employees, it is a legal requirement for them to have certain particulars confirmed in writing and for changes in these particulars to be confirmed in writing.

If any of your staff are not “employees” you may have difficulty in proving their “self employed status” without a written contract.

7.    Try to avoid losing important employees
Monitoring staff satisfaction is no easy task, but being sensitive to issues of conflict, lack of motivation, staff feeling taken for granted etc will help avoid loss of important staff, and the cost of replacing them.

8.    Identify what threats there may be to your business if key employees leave
What if a key member of staff leaves and joins a competitor? Will they be able to make use of sensitive information to help your competitors and harm you? It is possible to prevent or minimise abuse of sensitive information and damaging or unfair competition through incorporating restrictive covenants in their contracts. However, if these are too ambitious they will have no effect.

Properly drafted restrictive covenants for employees who have access to key information or develop good working relationships with your key customers and suppliers could become crucial for preserving your business in the future.

9.    Review your recruitment procedures
An employer can be liable for unlawful discrimination towards a potential employee who fails to obtain a job because of some “protected characteristic.” If your recruitment procedures can show that you select objectively and fairly, you reduce the risk of such a claim being made against you or being successful.

10.    Carry out a “diversity audit”

The extension of the scope of discrimination legislation in the Equality Act 2010 to cover “associative discrimination” and “perceived characteristics” mean that issues involving discrimination are more likely to emerge.

Knowing your workforce will ensure you are sensitive to issues which may arise with implications on management of staff.

For example, do any staff have disabilities which may require adjustments in their working environment or arrangements now or in the future? Do any of them have care responsibilities towards young, elderly or disabled relatives?

A fully developed set of policies and procedures may enable you to avoid liability for an employees unlawful discrimination towards another employee in the future.

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