(HR) Human Resources for Small Businesses

When you run a small business, taking on and managing staff can be one of the hardest things to get your head around. Here are a few of the basics that you need to get right.

Employment contracts – This 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 the terms and conditions of their employment within two months of them starting with you.

National Minimum Wage – Almost all workers in the UK aged 16 or over are legally entitled to be paid a minimum hourly amount. The rate is reviewed every year and usually increases in October. Click here for the current rates.

Holidays – All employees are entitled to a minimum amount of time off per year. For full time employees the maximum is 28 days. You can 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.

Pensions – Since July 2012 changes have been brought in. Every business will have to provide eligible employees with a qualifying pension scheme and make minimum levels of contributions into it. Talk to pension providers to find out when you need to set up your 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 risk for employers, so you should make sure that you follow the correct procedure and take advice.

These are just a few of the things you need to know. It’s best to deal with issues before they become big problems, so if you need any more advice, please do get in touch.

Zero Hour Contracts – What Do You Need to Know about Them?

Some companies, especially those in retail, have a huge spike in labour needs in November and December. What are the options for dealing with this?

Here are the most common ways of coping with seasonal labour requirements.

Agency workers – where an employment agency deals with the administration involved in fluctuating workforce needs. You can pay the agency for these services, but it can be a cost- and time-effective solution.

Traditional fixed-term contracts – these are not quite as flexible as the other options, but short-notice provisions are often inserted into the contracts.

Zero hours contracts – as the employer you are under no obligation to offer work and (generally, although not always) your employee is under no obligation to accept any work offered. This provides both parties with greater flexibility.

Increased overtime (including weekend work) – the viability of this option depends on how much more labour is needed.

There has been a lot of negative publicity surrounding the use of zero hours contracts. Are they even legal?

Many zero hours contracts do not give workers full employment rights. It is difficult to construe an employment relationship when neither party has to provide and/or undertake work. Seasonal working is a good example of when zero hours contracts can be used effectively. Fluctuations within the busy period mean that the employer may require the flexibility that only zero hours contracts provide (if recruiting direct). Recent bad press surrounding zero hours contracts relates mainly to large organisations using them for their core workforce. While not unlawful, there is a growing belief that having core workforces working zero hours contracts is an attempt to short-circuit employment rights legislation.