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New Year, New Start, New Resolutions

View profile for Amy Edwards
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Let us start by first off wishing you a very Happy New Year!

As with every New Year, it starts with the normal New Year resolutions of “ I must lose weight,” “ I must exercise more…etc.”

…but what about New Years resolutions for businesses?

I’m sure January will be a busy time playing catch up from the festive period, but equally it’s a great time to think about your business plans for 2016, and what important tasks you have been putting off.  For example, how about reviewing your existing contracts and handbooks? When were they last reviewed?  Are they legally correct? Do they still work for you? We heard of contracts in 2015 which still referred to a default retirement age, something which was abolished back in 2011!

Consider the number of staff you employ, their job titles and responsibilities. Are your managers on the same contract as warehouse staff? If so, think about your needs as an employer and have it reflected in the contract to protect you and your business.

Without an effective contract in place, employers will struggle to recover money that an employee may owe them from over payment of wages. It also makes removing them from the business during their notice period difficult (either by making a PILON or putting them on garden leave). Finally without an effective contract, the protection of confidential information and the guarding against employees stealing customers or going to work for a competitor following the termination of their employment, is significantly more difficult.

Staff Handbook 

These aren’t a legal requirement like the section 1 statement of employment terms, but why do employment lawyers talk about them all of the time? The long and short of it is because it is a bible of policies that provides a framework, helps to prevent disputes and helps employees to perform effectively. 

Whilst there are certain policies that you should always have in a Staff Handbook such as Equal Opportunities and Disciplinary and Grievance procedures, you may also want to think about incorporating additional policies which you may not have considered years ago, but which may now be effective or necessary in your workplace following changes in society. Do you have a social media policy for example? 

More importantly and we can’t stress this enough, make sure your Staff Handbook is non-contractual.

Don’t forget that as with your contract, you will need to make sure the policies in your Staff Handbook are also updated in line with current regulations – for example, do you have a policy on Shared Parental Leave? Are you aware that Shared Parental Leave is likely to be extended to grandparents in 2018? How will you incorporate this within your existing handbook?

Employment Audit

Whilst you are carrying out a contract audit, now will also be a great time to check that each of your employees has the right to work in the UK. Do you have all the relevant documents that you need? If you need assistance in carrying out these checks, please contact us.

Hot off the press!

A law firm in Norwich has decided to give its employees an unlimited amount of paid time off. This follows on from Virgin’s announcement last year (who already pay a full year of maternity leave) to do something similar.

Even more surprisingly, Virgin is not the only large company to move away from fixed holidays – Netflix have also adopted this stance.

Virgin has a policy in place which allows salaried employees to take time off whenever they want and for whatever period they choose. The decision is therefore with the employee to decide if he or she can take the holiday – sounds like a dream come true for employees and a total nightmare for employers. Or is it?

Could this be the start of widespread change?  Is it something you would consider doing within your business?  

Amy advises that a well thought out and properly drafted contract of employment is a vital tool for employers. However, bear in mind that one size never fits all. It is likely that senior employees will need different contracts to those more junior employees (due to the inclusion of restrictive covenants and tighter confidentiality provisions) and what about an employee who has been promoted and moved up the business? Contracts will need to be updated not only to reflect legislative changes, and changes in the employer’s business but also to reflect an evolving employment relationship.

As a general rule…

  • Don’t forget to keep your contracts under review
  • Ensure you have the correct right to work documents for each employee to prevent hefty fines
  • Update your Staff Handbook with changes as they occur