Human Resources for Small Businesses

What are the basics that you need to know about, when you’re running a small business and taking on staff? Here are a few of the issues you need to consider.

Employment contracts – The contract of employment is the most important HR document you’ll have in your business. You’re legally obliged to provide every employee with a written statement of their terms and conditions of employment within two months of starting.

National Minimum Wage – Almost all workers in the UK aged 16 or over are legally entitled to be paid a minimum amount per hour. The rate is reviewed every year and the next increase takes place in October 2013. Click here for the full details.

Holiday entitlement – All employees are entitled to a minimum amount of time off per year. For full time employees this is capped at 28 days. You can find all the calculations you need to work out your employee’s holiday entitlement by clicking here. Some companies like to give their staff an extra day off on their birthday, if it falls on a working day.

Equality Act – In 2010, existing discrimination legislation was brought together into one Equality Act. All employers must comply with this not doing so can lead to unlimited fines at tribunal. Click here to read the guidelines.

Maternity law – This provides protection for pregnant and adopting women and those on maternity leave. You need to find out how these rules can help employers plan ahead and manage leave and pay, and how to claim back pay.

Pensions – Due to changes, from July 2012 you will need to provide eligible employees with a qualifying pension scheme and make minimum levels of contributions to it. Talk to pension providers to find out when you need to set up a scheme.

Statutory Sick Pay – When an employee is absent from work due to sickness for more than three continuous working days, they become entitled by law to receive Statutory Sick Pay.

Discipline and grievance process – When dealing with disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace, you should follow the Acas Code of Practice.

Dismissal procedure and tribunals – Dismissing an employee is fraught with risks for employers, so you should make sure that you follow the correct procedure and take advice.

If you need more advice on any of these specific topics, please get in touch. Don’t leave it until a small issue becomes a big problem!

Seven Steps for Dealing with Poor Performance in a Growing Business – Part One

Poor employee performance must be tackled if your business is to thrive. Here are the first of seven steps you can take to tackle poor performance. I’ll bring you the next steps in another blog next month.

When you’re trying to reach a higher level in your business, you’re only as strong as your weakest member. Dealing with somebody in your team who doesn’t live up to the standards you require is difficult, both legally and ethically. Before you show an employee the red card, be sure you have tried everything that is expected from you, the employer, to guide them and push their performance to a higher level. To deal with the matter correctly, there are a few steps to follow:

Step 1: Informal conversations

Your starting point for resolving issues should be to deal with them early and informally. Sit down and discuss your concerns with your employee. Use these meetings to encourage and develop the behaviour and performance you want.

Never automatically assume that the employee is at fault. Investigate the causes of poor performance before deciding what action to take. Your aim should always be to help your employee bring their performance up to standard.

Step 2: Offer support

Where your conversation reveals a cause that’s not the fault of your employee, your initial response should be to offer help and support. Regularly monitor performance, referencing the objectives and timescales agreed, where appropriate. You should offer ongoing support, even after the discussion; and keep records and notes of all informal discussions.

Step 3: Performance review meeting

If, following informal discussion and support, and from monitoring your employee’s performance, you don’t feel improvements have been made, you’ll need to follow a formal capability procedure. This procedure provides for a series of performance review meetings with the employee following which formal warnings may be issued.

You must give your employee at least 48 hours’ notice of a performance review meeting and ensure the arrangements are handled with discretion and confidentiality.

Make sure you’re accompanied at the meeting by a colleague or HR representative. Their role is to support you and take accurate notes of the meeting, enabling you to focus on handling the session fairly and appropriately.

There’s a lot to take in here, so I’ll write about the next stages to follow in a blog next month. If you need to deal with a poor performance issue, this will give you time to carry out steps 1, 2 and 3.

Should You Bother with Appraisals

Should You Bother with Appraisals

Why should you bother with appraisals? Because you don’t know if you don’t ask.

Essentially a conversation, appraisals are a very useful conversation when you want to get the best out of your employees and see your business grow. Useful for finding out information and giving feedback, appraisals are also a great opportunity for employees to reflect on their goals, objectives and contributions. Well conducted appraisals result in a better understanding of your team, allow positive changes and increase morale.

What you can find out from an appraisal:

  • There may be expertise or knowledge within your team that you didn’t know about
  • Some employees may feel dissatisfied with their role or may be struggling with their work
  • You may find some gaps in the knowledge of your employees
  • Maybe they are really happy and performing well!

What do you do with this information?

This knowledge allows you to sort out problems and make sure individual employees are the right people for the right roles. If someone is more suited to a different role, re-structuring will make a more effective use of the people you have.

You can organise training that is required to increase efficiency and encourage staff to share expertise with their colleagues.

When misunderstandings and communication problems surface, you can organise regular team meetings to keep everyone in the loop.

Getting your employees’ views allows you to find out what they need and gives them a sense of being in control of their job. Without talking to the people you work with you remain oblivious to problems that may be hindering productivity, motivation and ultimately the success of your business.

What can you tell your employees?

An appraisal is your chance to say “well done” or ask the questions to find out why an individual is not be performing at their best. Money is not always the best way to reward people for good work; recognition is extremely motivational. Appreciation and praise encourages loyalty and focus. Individuals who have received positive feedback about their work are more likely to give 110%.

So why bother?

Because regular appraisals make sure your team remains highly motivated and satisfied at work which ultimately increases productivity, reduces absenteeism and staff turnover. Carried out professionally and sensitively, they are an essential component of success in business.

To find out about how to carry out effective appraisals, book you place on the workshop I’m running in Henley on Thames on 11 September 2013. Click here to book your place online for just £12 +VAT.