Successfully managing members of staff in today’s modern workplace is no mean feat. There’s a multitude of issues and employment laws that managers face on a day to day basis, from sickness absence to data protection. So I’m going to help you to navigate this minefield by explaining some of the key employment law regulations.
The importance of employment terms
All employees with at least one month’s service must be given a written statement of certain employment terms within two months of starting work. Preparing a contract of employment when you take on a new employee is the best way to ensure that you meet this obligation.
If you need to change some of the terms of employment further down the line, it’s important to obtain agreement from any employees who are being affected by the changes. Although it’s possible to achieve this agreement in advance, by allowing for minor or reasonable changes in the original contract, you should still send out a change to employment terms letter. This letter will either inform relevant employees that you’re changing certain terms (if agreed in the original contract), or else it will be your way of gaining their agreement.
Opting out of working time limits
As a general rule, none of your members of staff should work more than 48 hours a week, when averaged over 17 weeks. However, it is possible for your employees to opt out of this working time limit. You can use a working time directive opt out letter to obtain agreement from your staff to work more than 48 hours a week. But remember that you cannot pressurise employees into signing an opt out agreement and you need to allow them to withdraw their consent if they change their minds.
Managing staff absence
According to a report from the Office for National Statistics, over 130 million days were lost as a result of sickness in 2013. Although most employees will have to take off the occasional day as a result of illness, dealing with members of staff whose sickness absence is persistent or becomes excessive can be a very delicate issue. You need to tread lightly, as dismissing a member of staff on grounds of sickness can trigger claims of disability discrimination and unfair dismissal. It’s a good idea to set out a company policy regarding sickness absence in the employment contract or a separate sickness policy.
Another form of absence which all managers have to deal with regularly is holidays. Full time employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of holiday a year (including bank holidays). It’s important to communicate your company policy regarding holidays, dealing with issues such as amount of notice to be given. Just as with the sickness policy, this can be effectively set out in the employment contract.
IT, data protection and confidentiality
The amount of data handled by modern companies can be immense. It’s vital that you take practical steps to ensure that you are fulfilling your duties as a responsible employer with regards to the use of data, be it that of your staff or customers. You can adopt a communications and equipment policy, possibly in conjunction with a social media policy, to outline company rules on the use of IT as well as any monitoring that takes place. If you do monitor your staff, a data protection and data security policy can help to instil confidence in your employees and help protect you from any mishandling of personal data. Don’t forget to protect your own data and confidential business information using a thorough employment contract.
You have a legal responsibility as an employer to inform your members of staff how any grievances will be dealt with. Providing a grievance procedure to everyone at your company will not only fulfil this duty, but it will also help managers to deal with grievances and ensure that the process is consistently and fairly applied. There should be a reference in every employment contract to your grievance procedure.