Employment Law Tips Every Business Owner Should Know
Starting a business and becoming your own boss can feel overwhelming at times. However, it can be just as challenging to become someone else’s boss, especially when you consider all the rules and regulations that come with being a business owner. In addition to managing the daily operations of your business, you also need to ensure you are compliant with employment law. This article will provide you with essential employment law tips that every business owner should know.
Employment law is crucial for both employees and business owners. It guarantees workers’ rights such as the right to a minimum wage, sick pay, and holiday entitlement. Recent legislation, such as the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act, also protects employees from unfair treatment, including harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Starting Strong with Statutory Rights
All employers must adhere to certain statutory rights, such as providing employees with the national minimum wage, statutory sick pay, and a minimum level of paid holiday (typically 5.6 weeks per year). The government’s website provides more detailed information on these rights and the responsibilities of employers.
When hiring someone, you are also required to provide them with a written statement of their main terms and conditions of employment on or before their first day. This statement can be in the form of a contract, letter, or email, as long as it includes essential information such as payment details, work location, hours, holiday entitlement, and sick leave policies. Additionally, it should reference the company’s grievance and disciplinary procedures.
Establishing Comprehensive Policies
Creating an employee handbook is especially beneficial for larger companies, as it covers all necessary policies and procedures. Essential policies include those regarding holidays, sickness absence, grievances, disciplinaries, and now, considering the changes brought about by the Covid pandemic, a home working policy.
While some policies are not mandatory, having them in place, such as maternity, paternity, and menopause leave, can attract and retain valuable staff. When drafting policies, HR professionals can assist, and external providers of HR support are available if needed. However, it is crucial to consult a lawyer when policies offer more than the statutory minimum to ensure careful wording and avoid potential legal claims.
Following Policies to Strengthen Your Position
Policies and procedures are only effective if they are consistently followed. Employees alleging unfair treatment will rely on the company’s adherence to their own policies during any potential claim. Regular reviews of all policies, at least annually or more frequently if there are notable legal developments, are crucial but often overlooked.
For example, the recent Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Businesses have a 12-month grace period to review and update existing policies to comply with the new legislation.
Creating an employee handbook if your business expands can also streamline policy communication.
Effective Communication of Policies
After drafting policies, it is essential to ensure easy accessibility to all employees. Communicating policies to new hires, providing regular reminders, and conducting training sessions to ensure understanding are crucial steps. Failing to keep policies up to date or ensuring employees are aware of them can lead to potential legal issues.
Clearly communicating your company’s stance on issues such as bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment sends a strong message to employees that such behaviors are not tolerated. This can help prevent incidents from occurring in the first place.
Written by Hannah Dowd, Employment Solicitor at Jackson Lees