In November the most notable change in trend of call topics can be seen in the steep increase of redundancy queries.

Although the festive period may not ethically be the best time to conduct these proceedings, sometimes the slowing pace of business doesn’t leave employers with a lot of choice and changes must be made for business to adapt.

We have also seen two new categories “contractual terms” and “formal grievance”. Find out below a common myth which surrounds contracts, and top tips to effectively manage a grievance.

Redundancy

Typical of quieter business periods, queries on redundancy have increased over the past month. While the pace of business slows, sometimes it is necessary for businesses to adapt and reduce staff.

Calculating redundancy pay is a factor which can often trip professionals up and contribute to an already stressful situation. The Redundancy Pay calculator can make these calculations for you.

Conduct

While conduct has dropped one place from last month’s ranking, it remains one of the most frequently discussed topics among Croner-i subscribers.

Managing conduct is part of the smooth running of business. Here are a few steps that you can take when behaviour gets out of hand.

  • Managing an employee with bad attitude: if you think an individual has breached the standards of behaviour set out in a policy for conduct, or another employee lodges a grievance against the first employee, an investigation must be made into these allegations. Don't ignore employees who are being unkind or hostile to others. Don't indulge their behaviour. The longer you allow an employee to behave in a negative way, the harder it will be to tackle their conduct.

  • Conduct a face-to-face meeting: ensure you have evidence, such as lateness statistics or a letter of complaint regarding their conduct. Rumours or gossip aren't enough. Meetings to discuss conduct can be awkward, even confrontational. Including a third party, such as a member of senior management, creates room for mediation and suppresses the chances of further conflict.

  • Severity of misconduct: many examples of employee misbehaviour can constitute misconduct — from sleeping at work to workplace violence. It's important to treat employee conduct with the deliberation it deserves.

Absence and sickness

Follow these key tips to handle some of the most common absence scenarios when an unexpected absence occurs.

  • Make every effort to contact the employee to ascertain the reasons for their absence.

  • If the employee claims to be unfit for work, remind them of the sickness absence reporting procedures and ask that they are complied with.

  • If you are unable to contact the employee, try instead their next of kin in order to try and satisfy yourself of the employee’s wellbeing.

  • If you are unable to make contact or if the next of kin confirms the employee’s wellbeing, you should next write to the employee. Confirm in this letter that you have had no explanation as to the reason for their absence, remind them of the sickness absence reporting procedures and ask that they contact you urgently to explain the reasons for their absence.

  • Investigate the circumstances around the employee’s absence on their return to work.

  • If appropriate, pursue disciplinary action in line with the company’s disciplinary procedures.

Contractual terms

A common myth exists within the realm of contracts — the misconception that verbal contracts are not valid contracts. The truth is that verbal employment contracts can be legally binding.

The danger of a verbal contract lies in the fact that it is very difficult to enforce if things go wrong. Just because an employee doesn’t have a written contract, doesn’t mean they have no terms or rights. You can verbally communicate what parts of the employee contract are legally binding, but they are more difficult to prove than a written contract.

If no terms are set out, either verbally or in writing, employees can expect implied terms. These include:

  • a safe and secure working environment

  • the right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday

  • recurring/standard company benefits (such as an end-of-quarter bonus).

Formal grievance

Managing a grievance correctly can mean the difference between a successful resolution and it escalating to an employment tribunal.

Here are our top five tips towards managing a grievance.

  1. The informal route: when the complaint is made, ensure line managers speak to the employee and look for a solution.

  2. Ask the right questions: start by exploring what outcome an employee wants. This focuses on working towards a solution.

  3. Moving to the formal route: if you can’t resolve the issue, the employee must put it in writing to take it forward.

  4. Seek advice: you must comply with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

  5. Representing your company: the employee’s manager is the most appropriate person. If it’s about the manager, then another manager or HR should take it.

To speak with an HR advisor for advice on any of the above topics, or any other employment law guidance, call 0808 1454 436.

Last reviewed 17 December 2018