What’s the Safest Way to Withdraw a Job Offer?

I have been asked a lot of questions recently about withdrawing job offers based on poor references, so I thought that I would write about it in more detail here. 

Can you withdraw a job offer once it has been made? What risks do you face as an employer if you change your recruitment plans?

Sometimes you will need to withdraw an offer of a job. The hiring situation may change because of a general recruitment freeze, a restructure within your organisation or a change of management. The funding for the post might have been withdrawn or you may become aware that the selected candidate is not suitable after all.

Job offers can be withdrawn after they are made, but there are risks associated with doing this. Withdrawing an offer because circumstances have changed looks like bad planning and could affect your company’s reputation. The employee may be able to bring a tribunal claim for breach of contract.

When is the contract of employment formed?

An employment contract is formed once an unconditional job offer is made and accepted. If you withdraw an unconditional job offer once it has been accepted, you are effectively terminating the contract and could be liable for damages for the individual’s loss.

Even though the individual has not started working for you, there will be a notice period due – just as with other terminations. Damages could amount to what the individual would have received if you had given proper notice – including any pay and benefits due.

What if your recruitment plans change?

If your recruitment plans change due to business needs and you have to withdraw job offers, you should notify the recruits as soon as possible to try to limit the damage and enable them to mitigate their potential loss. The selected candidate might not have resigned from their current employer yet. If they have, they may still be able to ask for their old job back – the sooner this is done the better.

Pre-recruitment checks and job offers

Most job offers are conditional on the new recruit satisfying certain conditions. The selected candidate may need to provide references or evidence of qualifications, or they may need to demonstrate their right to work in the UK. If the individual does not satisfy one or all of those requirements, you can withdraw the job offer without being liable for damages.

If you don’t make it clear that the job offer is conditional, and then withdraw the offer because the recruit has not satisfied one of your requirements, this will amount to a breach of contract and you may be liable for damages. Offers of employment should make absolutely clear that they are conditional on certain requirements being met. Failure to do so can be costly.

If you’re considering making or withdrawing a job offer and you want to make sure that you’re doing it properly, contact us first for some advice. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Zero Hours Update – the Latest Developments

A zero-hour contract is the name given to a type of contract, where an employer has the discretion to vary employee’s working hours, usually anywhere from full-time to “zero hours”. The employer typically asserts that they have no obligation to provide work for the employee.

There have been a number of changes made to the rules governing these contracts in recent months and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published some guidelines for employers, suggesting the following:

  • Zero hour contracts are only appropriate in situations where an employee is engaged in seasonal work or a one-off event
  • When recruiting, you should clearly advertise the job as a zero hour contract and inform any applicant that hours are not guaranteed
  • You should include within the contract whether you deem the individual an ‘employee’ or a ‘worker’, what rights they are entitled to, how work will be offered to them, and how the contract can be terminated
  • As an employer you should give as much notice as possible when you can’t offer work
  • This is addition to the fact that exclusivity clauses have been prohibited since May 2015. There is more about this in a previous blog here.

In addition to this guidance, the BIS’s Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 give more protection for employees on zero hours contracts. They will have a right not to be unfairly dismissed if the reason is that they have failed to comply with an exclusivity clause. There is no qualifying period of employment needed to bring such a claim. Zero hour workers have the right not to be subjected to detriment because of non-compliance with an exclusivity clause and if you breach these rights, a worker may issue a claim and seek a declaration or compensation.

What does this mean for you as an employer?

If you use zero hours contracts, then you should do the following:

  • Review your employment contracts
  • Audit your workforce to see if zero hours contracts are the appropriate contracts to use, in line with the BIS guidance.
  • Contact us if you need any help with sorting this out! Call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

How NOT to Interview Your Next Employee

Your business is growing and you’re looking to expand your team and take on a new member of staff. How hard can it be? Once you’ve advertised the position and collected all the CVs from the applicants, all you have to do is carry out a few interviews. But if you’ve never interviewed before, or you’ve had no formal training in how to do it, you need to be careful. These days there are many things that can trip you up during an interview. You can be sued by someone before they even start working for you, so this issue of Working Together looks at what you should not ask in an interview and what you can ask.

The key purpose of an interview is to assess the skills, experience and general background of a candidate, to help you make a decision on whether that person is the best person for the job you’re looking to fill. Interviewing is the most commonly used method of assessing prospective employees and it should be a two way process. An interview should be a forum through which each candidate can obtain information about your business and the job.

Here are some topics you should NOT ask about in interviews:

  • Marital status or marriage plans
  • Childcare arrangements
  • General family commitments or domestic arrangements
  • Actual or potential pregnancy or maternity leave
  • Their partner’s occupation and mobility
  • Any actual or potential absences from work for family reasons.

Employment tribunals take the view that these questions, if asked of a female candidate, indicate an intention to discriminate. Instead, you should ask questions that explore the ability to perform the job and they should be asked of all your candidates.

Interview Questions1

So what can you ask?

  • Your questions should check facts about background, test achievement and assess aptitude and potential
  • Ask specific questions on work experience, qualifications, skills, abilities, ambitions and strengths or weaknesses
  • Ask open questions, “what”, “which”, “why”, “how”, “where”, “when” and “who”, rather than closed questions
  • Ask questions that are challenging, but never in a way that may be intimidating
  • Ask questions that require examples of real situations that the candidate has experienced
  • Ask factual questions about past experience and behaviour.

Once you have gathered all the information you need, through open questioning, you should be in a good position to make a decision. Make sure your questioning covers work experience, qualifications, skills, abilities, knowledge, ambitions and strengths and weaknesses. Don’t allow gut feeling alone to determine the selection decision, because gut feelings are inevitably influenced by personal attitudes, and may result in unlawful discrimination. Focus on the requirements of the job and the extent to which each applicant’s background matches these.

I recently ran an interviewing skills workshop for one of my clients and some of their staff. If you’d like me to deliver the same thing for you, do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or clicking here.

Improving Performance Through a Probation Period

Taking on new members of staff for a growing business can be a costly and time consuming process – especially if you get it wrong. Finding the best person for your business is important, and many people think that they can sit back and rest once their new recruit arrives on their first day. But that’s just the start of it!

This blog looks at how to give your new employee the best start with your business.

You worked hard on crafting the best Job Description for your new team member. The adverts went out and the applications came in. You spent time interviewing potential candidates to join your team. Finally you found them – the perfect person to work with you. They even turned up on their start date. What happens next?

If you think you can just sit back and expect your new recruit to get on with their job and perform as you expect them to – with no input from you – you’ll be disappointed.

The first thing to do – even before a new employee joins you – is to decide on the length of their probation period. This could be between three and six months, depending on the type of work being done. The probation period is your chance to start assessing your new recruit; it’s their time to find their feet and get used to their new role. It is a vital tool in measuring the performance of a new employee.

Next you need to plan when you’re going to review their performance, during the probation period. Planning a review halfway through is a good idea – don’t leave it until the end. This allows you to take action if you’re in any doubt about their ability to do the job for which you have employed them. Their performance will only get better if you do something about it. They might not have understood the job that you need them to do, so this is the time to go over what you expect from them. It’s also a good time for them to air any concerns they might have about their future with you.

You should next plan to review the performance of your new recruit before the end of the probation period. This could be after five months, if the probation is six months in length. This gives you time to properly review their performance and plan any action that needs to be taken – such as training or development. This will put you in the best position to be able to confirm whether or not your new recruit will be staying on.

If you decide that they will not remain with you, and your employment contract is correctly worded, the notice period for a new employee is usually less than for someone who successfully completes a probation period. If they have to leave, you can quickly turn your attention to finding a better person to fill their role.

There is no legal requirement for using a probation period at the start of an employment contract. However, it is a very good way of making sure you get the right person for the job, after all the time and effort you put into the recruitment process. Just make sure that your employment contract explains all this and that you discuss the use of the probation period with anyone to whom you offer the job!

Three Stages to Successful Recruitment

Recently I’ve been helping some clients sort out problems that have arisen because they didn’t carefully think through their recruitment process, when they were taking on new members of staff. There’s a great deal that you can do to avoid the problems, so in this issue of my newsletter I’m going to cover some of the basics of getting recruitment right – especially if you’re taking on your first member of staff.

We’ll look at how to find the best person, then we’ll look at what to do when they start working for you and finally I’ll talk about what to do at the end of their probation. This three stage process will help you find and keep hold of the best people for your business – and avoid some costly pitfalls!

Part One – How do you find the right person?

So your business is growing and you’re getting busier and busier. You’re working longer hours, just to keep up with the work and the demands of your clients. You don’t want to turn business away, so you keep working all the hours you can, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Eventually, when your friends and family are really fed up of not seeing you and you’re completely exhausted, you decide it’s time to take on your first member staff. Click here to see what you should do next.

Part Two – How do make sure they get off to the best start?

Recruitment can be a long, expensive and time consuming process. After all the effort of finding the right person to join your team, you want to help them settled in as quickly and smoothly as possible. Some new staff have been known not to show up after the first weekend, or even on their second day and you don’t want that!

Particularly if you’re taking on your first member of staff, take the time to plan their induction. Make sure they have somewhere to sit and a computer to work at – if that’s part of their job! Find out what to include in your induction training here.

Part Three – What do you do at the end of their probation?

The first thing to do is to make sure that you have actually agreed a probationary period with your new employee. Three months is the minimum and works well for simple jobs, but this can go very quickly. A six month probationary period is a good length of time for you to decide whether or not you want to keep your new employee within your business. Click here to see what else you need to do at this stage.

Recruiting can cost a lot in terms of time and money; getting it wrong can cost even more. You can avoid the pitfalls by following this advice. If you have any specific questions about recruitment for your business, do get in touch.

Three Stages to Getting Recruitment Right – Part Three

In three blog posts I’m covering some of the basics of getting recruitment right – especially if you’re taking on your first member of staff. First we looked at how to find the best person (click here if you missed that post or would like to read it again.) In Part Two we covered what to do when your new recruits start working for you, which you will find here.

In this blog, the final part of the series, I’ll talk about what to do at the end of their probation. This three stage process will help you find and keep hold of the best people for your business – and avoid some costly pitfalls!

Part Three – What do you do at the end of their probation?

The first thing to do is to make sure that you have actually agreed a probationary period with your new employee. Three months is the minimum and works well for simple jobs, but this can go very quickly. A six month probationary period is a good length of time for you to decide whether or not you want to keep your new employee within your business.

The next thing to do is to book a meeting with your member of staff, once a week during their probation period. Put something in the diary at the same time every week for a few months, especially if you don’t work closely with them. If you don’t see them every day, then this is a good way to check in with them. It’s your chance to find out how they’re getting on – are they reaching their targets, or are there parts of their role that they’re struggling with?

What happens if they reach the end of their probation and you’re not happy with their progress? You need to take action! You can extend their probation period, to give them time to work the performance issues you’ve identified. If you’d been having regular meetings, you’ll know early on if there’s something wrong and be able to do something about it. Don’t leave it until the end of their probation period to tackle an issue, or spring the surprise on them!

And if you are both happy? Then you’ve got a fully fledged new member of staff on your team. But don’t think that you can just sit back and relax! Being a boss/manager of people is an ongoing job that doesn’t finish at the end of probation. We’ve talked more about useful tools like appraisals, performance plans and setting targets in other blog posts – just use the search box on the front page of this blog to find what you’re looking for.

If you have a specific question about one of your employees, do get in touch for a chat and some advice.

Three Stages to Getting Recruitment Right – Part Two

In three blog posts I’m going to cover some of the basics of getting recruitment right – especially if you’re taking on your first member of staff. Last time we looked at how to find the best person (click here if you missed that post or would like to read it again.) In Part Two we’ll look at what to do when your new recruits start working for you and in the third blog, I’ll talk about what to do at the end of their probation. This three stage process will help you find and keep hold of the best people for your business – and avoid some costly pitfalls!

Part Two – How do you make sure they get off to the best start?

Recruitment can be a long, expensive and time consuming process. After all the effort of finding the right person to join your team, you want to help them settled in as quickly and smoothly as possible. Some new staff have been known not to show up after the first weekend, or even on their second day and you don’t want that!

Particularly if you’re taking on your first member of staff, take the time to plan their induction. Make sure they have somewhere to sit and a computer to work at – if that’s part of their job!

Induction training must include the following elements:

  • General training relating to your business, including values and philosophy as well as structure and history
  • Mandatory training relating to health and safety and other essential or legal areas
  • Job training relating to the role that they will be performing
  • Training evaluation, including confirmation of understanding and feedback about the quality and response to the training.

You will also need to take up the references that they provided you with, check the qualifications they say they have and confirm they have the right to work in the UK. (The law about foreign workers has changed recently – there are more details here.)

Acas has produced a very useful Induction Checklist which will give you more ideas on what to cover during induction. You can download it here.

In Part Three of this series we’ll talk about what you need to do once your new recruit (who really is the right person and has started off well) reaches the end of their probation period.

Three Stages to Getting Recruitment Right – Part One

Three Stages to Getting Recruitment Right – Part One

In three blog posts I’m going to cover some of the basics of getting recruitment right – especially if you’re taking on your first member of staff.

First we’ll look at how to find the best person, then we’ll look at what to do when they start working for you and in the third blog, I’ll talk about what to do at the end of their probation. This three stage process will help you find and keep hold of the best people for your business – and avoid some costly pitfalls!

Part One – How do you find the right person?

So your business is growing and you’re getting busier and busier. You’re working longer hours, just to keep up with the work and the demands of your clients. You don’t want to turn business away, so you keep working all the hours you can, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Eventually, when your friends and family are really fed up of not seeing you and you’re completely exhausted, you decide it’s time to take on your first member staff.

But you’re too tired to think about it properly and you certainly don’t want to spend your hard earned cash having someone else do the recruitment. So you put the word out among your contacts and network that you need some help in your business. You’re not quite sure what the job would involve, how many hours it will be, or how long you’ll need them. But that doesn’t really matter does it? You just need someone to ease the burden – and quickly!

A number of people respond to your plea for help and you chat to a few of them. One of them seems quite nice and can start straight away, so you meet up to talk a bit more and then offer them the job.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?! Until you find out that your brand new team member doesn’t actually like doing some of the tasks you need them to do. But never mind, there’s plenty of other work to keep them busy. And then they ask about taking some time off for a holiday and one of your clients complains that some of their work hasn’t been done. Before long, you find yourself working longer hours than before you hired someone, just to check up on their work and correct their mistakes. The atmosphere in the office changes and you don’t look forward to going there in the morning.

That wasn’t supposed to happen – it’s your business and you’re supposed to enjoy what you do!

So how do you avoid all these problems? Do some planning! Think really carefully about the sort of person you want working with you and what they will do. Create a solid job description that includes the hours they will work. You can always start someone on part-time hours if you want to try them out. Most importantly, don’t leave recruitment until you’re desperate for help, as this will make you more likely to take on the first person who comes along, who you think will ‘do’. They probably won’t! If you have any doubts about a potential employee, deal with those doubts and take your time to find the best person for your business.

In Part Two of this series we’ll look at what to do when your new recruit (who really is the right person) starts working with you.

What Are The Latest Employment Law Updates?

What Are The Latest Employment Law Updates?

On 1 May 2014 we held our latest Employment Law Update workshop, when we looked at some of the recent changes that you need to know about, as an employer. Here is a summary of some of the changes.

  • Workers from overseas – from 1 January 2014, restrictions on working in EU states were lifted for Bulgarian and Romanian workers. Remember to check the right to work in the UK for all employees.
  • Employing illegal workers – from 6 April 2014, the maximum civil penalty for employing an adult subject to immigration control, who does not have the right to work in the UK, increased to £20,000 from £10,000. New guidance has been issued by the Home Office in the “Full guide for employers on preventing illegal working.”
  • Employment Allowance – from 6 April 2014 a £2000 reduction in the NIC bill for all businesses and charities has been introduced. HMRC has a calculator and information you can use here.
  • Employment tribunal fees – from 6 April 2014 some re-categorisation of claims has been done. As a reminder, Type A claims are £160 for the issue fee plus £230 for the hearing fee; Type B claims are £250 for the issue fee and £950 for the hearing fee. Type B claims include unfair dismissal. The Tribunal can order the employer to pay if the claim is successful.

These are just a few of the recent changes and we’ll cover more in future blogs. More changes will continue to be made throughout the year to Employment Law. To keep up to date, subscribe to our newsletter here, keep reading these blogs, or come to our next workshop, which will be held in the autumn.

Is Your HR Doing What it Should?

Is Your HR Doing What it Should?

All businesses that employ staff need a way of looking after them. It’s called HR, or Human Resources. Rather than waiting for a problem to arise and then dealing with it, good HR is proactive and preventative. Here’s how to make sure that yours is doing what it should, to protect you and your employees.

    • Have in place well designed policies and procedures that cover all your business needs and eventualities, which ensure every part of your business is operating like a well-oiled machine.
    • Prepare comprehensive job descriptions for every employee and evaluate them regularly.
    • Set objectives and targets to provide focus for all your staff on what you want them to achieve. Have short and long term goals and give your employees regular feedback on how they’re doing.
    • Give praise for work well done – in public, if necessary.
    • Deal with instances of poor performance before they become a major issue.
    • Keep up to date with the latest employment legislation. Always ensure you’re exercising your duty of care towards the welfare and development of your employees.
    • Talk to your employees and keep them informed, engaged and focussed on your strategic goals. Let them have their say and voice their concerns and ideas.
    • Provide opportunities for training and career progression wherever possible.

When you spend time looking after your staff, they will become more engaged and more productive. Use HR proactively and you can build a better workforce and a more profitable business.