Last reviewed 14 November 2018

Throughout October, the most popular HR queries to our helpline continued to be absence and sickness. Conduct and settlement queries have seen an increase, but with TUPE and redundancy being more complex HR subjects, these continue to be frequent topics as in the top HR queries received in September. For bespoke advice on dealing with these matters, speak to a qualified consultant on 0844 561 8149.


Around 40% of UK employees have a work conflict each year — most often with their line manager (CIPD 2015). With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that conduct is the most common call topic.

Simply put, conduct issues revolve around the behaviour of staff. There are varying degrees of employee misconduct, so how a matter is dealt with should be a direct reflection of the severity of an incident.

Examples of general misconduct are lateness, inappropriate language, inappropriate clothing, internet misuse, and unreasonable resilience. Cases of serious misconduct will lean further towards violence, harassment, bullying, theft, fraud, and negligence, to name a few.

Wherever an incident stands on the spectrum of severity, it is important to avoid rash or impulse decisions — a fair and thorough process must always be followed. Procedural fairness is fundamental to how the Fair Work Commission decides on unfair dismissal cases. Should an unfair dismissal claim arise, employers must be able to substantiate every step made to reach a decision, so it is advisable to keep detailed notes at every stage as a starting point.

Settlement agreements

Having come into force in 2013, settlement agreements are legally binding agreements which set out the full terms of a settlement between an employer and employee. An agreement must be in writing and can be used to end an employment relationship on agreed terms.

In order to reach a settlement agreement, certain conditions must be met. This includes an employee receiving advice from an independent advisor, the advisor being identified, and applicable statutory conditions being met.

For both employers and employees, settlement agreements can be daunting. Therefore, it’s advisable to seek professional advice to handle the situation and proceedings in the most effective and productive way.

Absence and sickness

Winter seasons can have a bigger influence over absence rates than any other period. While summer months can entice employees away from work in favour of unauthorised holidays and sporting events, winter is likely to bring coughs and colds and, with it, time off.

Employers can go a long way towards encouraging and improving the health of employees. Simple yet effective measures can easily be put in place to do this, such as encouraging good hygiene, promoting balanced diets and regular movement, offering flu vaccinations, and putting practices in place to identify cases of stress and/or anxiety.


Unfortunately, some redundancy situations simply cannot be avoided. While it can be an extremely stressful situation for both employers and employees, following a streamline and formal process will minimise any negative impact on business, morale and reputation.

It is useful to know the top redundancy pitfalls for employers in order to improve prospects of conducting the correct process. These include absence of a genuine redundancy situation or failure to carry out a fair selection procedure.

As one of the most complicated HR subjects with high risk, employers are always encouraged to seek professional advice when navigating redundancy situations.


A TUPE process should be seamless for both employers and employees but it is important to know how dismissals tie in with the process.

The main purpose and intention of a TUPE transfer is to protect employees from losing their jobs or their right to specific terms and conditions. Any dismissal of a member of staff for a reason connected with a transfer will be automatically deemed unfair, unless the dismissal is for an economic, technical or organisational reason connected with a change in the workforce in terms of numbers or skills.

It’s also important to note that no redundancies should be carried out until after a transfer date. While ETO reasons are broad, the application and implications of these should be carefully considered and certainly justifiable.

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