Top HR queries received in 2018

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2018 arguably brought about some of the most influential employment law developments and cases of the last decade. Guaranteed to shape the future of business and the wider economy, movements such as Brexit, GDPR, gender pay and other prominent changes are likely to be felt by generations to come.

For our year-end HR advice line feature, we reflect on the most popular call topics discussed by Croner-i subscribers in 2018.

Your dedicated advice line can always offer pragmatic guidance on the below topics, as well as the larger case law developments to come. Call 0844 561 8149 to speak with a qualified consultant.

Redundancy

Figures revealed by the Office for National Statistics towards the end of 2018 paint a relatively positive picture of the UK's labour market.

Most notably, there were an estimated 32.48 million people in work, 79,000 more than for May to July 2018, and 396,000 more than for a year earlier.

Despite these figures noting a positive trend, many employers often have no other choice but redundancy proceedings in order for a business to survive.

When a company needs to make cuts and let some staff go, there are always some employees who are able to keep their job. And for some staff, alternative roles can be found, perhaps in a different team or one of the other offices. The staff who are kept on are not eligible for redundancy pay.

This includes those who stay in their role and those who make a switch, such as to a different department. It's important to remember that if an employee is offered a fair alternative role, and they turn it down, they are not owed redundancy pay.

Conduct

Conduct routinely appears in the top five topics Croner-i subscribers are calling about. As such a wide category, there are many elements within the realm of conduct which cause confusion and concern.

Perhaps the most troublesome consideration is when behaviour outside the workplace attracts attention for all the wrong reasons.

Can an individual's actions outside the workplace lead to dismissal? What are the right steps to take when addressing conduct which did not occur during working time?

A library of case law exists which illustrates the different routes employers have taken to handle misconduct of this nature. For example, one of the most renowned cases on misconduct outside the workplace is The Post Office v Liddiard.

In this case, the claimant was a postman convicted of assaulting a French police officer during a World Cup tournament. He was subsequently identified by a national newspaper, and was dismissed for bringing the Post Office into disrepute.

The Court of Appeal held that it was relevant to consider whether or not the individual's conduct had brought the employer into dispute.

It is important to consider incidents on a case by case basis, as there are many risks of taking action on the grounds of misconduct outside the workplace.

Absence and sickness

In 2017, the Office for National Statistics reported that the average number of sick days taken by UK workers fell to 4.1 days, with the most common reason involving minor illnesses such as coughs and colds (accountable for 26% of the total).

While we wait for the 2018 statistics to be revealed, the debate of absenteeism versus presenteeism is attracting more attention.

When an employee is absent, their colleagues may take on an extra load of work, taking away from their daily tasks and making the workforce “thinner” on the ground. However, some argue that the alternative can be even worse for productivity should an employee come into work when sick.

This poses the risk of fellow workers catching the illness, and inflicting a greater absence rate than if an individual was to stay at home. According to ERS, over three in ten organisations reported an increase in employees coming into work ill in the last 12 months.

Putting proactive measures in place can be much more effective than suffering the negative impact of an ill workforce. Further advice and recommended steps can be found through the helpline.

Contractual terms

Generally, contractual terms insinuates the written clauses documenting what is expected of an employee. As covered in previous features, these clauses are essential to set out rules, policies, and will always act as a “safety net”.

However, as Brexit generates more momentum and we approach deadlines, many will be advised to review their existing contractual terms as any and all changes are revealed by the Government.

Brexit is highly likely to impact current practices, for example free movement and potentially arrangements with foreign workers. We await to hear of any concrete changes, but 2019 looks set to force a number of changes upon employers and their contracts.

Disciplinary procedure

A multitude of situations can result in disciplinary action being taken. Follow these top ten tips to manage disciplinary procedures correctly.

  1. Investigation: You must conduct a reasonable investigation to ensure any action you take is fair.

  2. Seek advice: Look at the Acas Code of Practice recommendations or call your helpline.

  3. The investigating officer: Must not be connected in any way to the allegations.

  4. No delay: The investigation must not suffer any unreasonable delays.

  5. Suspend the employee: Only if it is absolutely necessary to ensure a fair investigation takes place.

  6. Arrange an investigatory meeting: With the employee and take detailed notes.

  7. Interview witnesses: Take detailed notes of their statements.

  8. Collect documents: Everything connected to the allegations must be collected as evidence.

  9. Prepare a document set and witness statement: Submit to the disciplinary hearing, and to the employee, in advance of the hearing.

  10. The meeting: The employee does not have a statutory right to be accompanied but your procedure may state they can.

Advice

To speak with an HR advisor for advice on any of the above topics, or any other employment law guidance, call 0844 561 8149.

Last reviewed 10 January 2019

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