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!

How to Handle Disciplinary Issues and Help Employees Improve Their Performance

It is important to handle any disciplinary situation quickly, fairly and appropriately.  Small businesses often find it easier to deal with an incidence of misconduct informally particularly when the issue is minor in nature.  Hold an informal meeting to ensure that the employee understands why their behaviour has been deemed unsatisfactory and seek agreement/agree steps to ensure that the behaviour does not continue or recur. 

If informal warnings have not produced the desired result and the unsatisfactory behaviour continues, the next step is to arrange an investigation by an impartial Manager.  An investigation should include review of HR records and any previous warnings/issues that may have occurred, talking to other Managers with knowledge of the misconduct and interviewing any witnesses.

Should the investigation indicate that there is a disciplinary case to answer then you will need to invoke a formal disciplinary procedure.  Most companies operate a 3-stage process: (1) written warning, (2) final written warning, (3) Dismissal.  There is no legal obligation to start at the beginning of the procedure.  The type of warning issued will depend on the seriousness of the offence.

In the event of an act of gross misconduct, i.e. an act of such a serious nature that it fundamentally breaches the contractual relationship between employer and employee then you have the right to dismiss the employee immediately without notice or pay in lieu of notice.