One of the biggest concerns raised by micro-businesses is, if they take on staff they will be subject to all sorts of rules and procedures. If you get something wrong, you’ll be taken to “tribunal” and end up having to pay out. This is often accompanied by tales of “my friend’s business had to pay out £££ to get rid of a useless employee”.
Just as the fear of crime is far greater than crime levels themselves, fear of employment law is far greater than the law. Yes, there are rules, but businesses work within rules all the time. Whether it’s around tax, advertising, building regulations, or safety. Sadly, employment law has been blown out of proportion by tabloid newspapers and companies wishing to sell “employment law solutions”. Those who want to trade on the ignorance of small business owners.
5 tips to ensure that you don’t fall foul of employment law
Start managing the people who work for you effectively.
01. Get the basics right.
That means having employer’s liability insurance, setting up a payroll to ensure that tax and national insurance are done correctly (most accountants offer this service) and ensure you have standard documentation ready (employment contracts, offer letters etc).
02. Set up simple procedures.
At a legal minimum you need a health and safety procedure (how detailed will depend on what your business does) and a disciplinary and grievance procedure (which you can take from http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2174). You may want to set up other rules that reflect your own individual business (e.g. dress code, professional standards, customer care) but these will depend on your industry environment and particular business needs.
03. Make sure you follow at least the minimum legal standards.
Pay the minimum wage, statutory sick pay, ensure that you give the correct amount of holidays and time off, give proper notice and provide a pension.
04. Focus your efforts when recruiting
When recruiting focus your efforts on what skills, experience and knowledge the successful person needs. In a small business their ability to fit into the team can be important too. Issues such as their race, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation etc are irrelevant. And if someone has a disability, consider whether you can make adjustments to allow you to employ them if they meet the criteria for the job.
05. Dismissing staff members.
If you do need to dismiss a member of staff, make sure that you are doing it for one of the five “fair” reasons (which are very broad) and that you follow a fair procedure. If you are unsure, see the ACAS code. (external link : http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2174)
Finally remember you are dealing with another person, not a machine. Think about how you would like your boss to treat you (and what was wrong with a boss you disliked!). Treat members of your team accordingly. Good staff can take your business far beyond where you can alone; staff who are badly managed can destroy your momentum.