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Employment is big business

There are approximately 30.9 million people in the UK in work. In Essex alone there are nearly 670,000 employed individuals with average full-time weekly earnings just over £500.  That equates to over £47m pounds being spent by business every day on employment alone in our region.

Whether a large multinational or a local family-run workshop, employment is one of the principal issues we have to deal with. Contracts and policies, ediation, disciplinaries, dismissals and employee relations are all part of the everyday workload for our managers and HR teams. Whilst many of us like to think our workforce is a happy and harmonious one, failure to address issues that arise, or failure to comply with legislation, can lead to costly and disruptive action.

A recent study by Acas has identified the issues that, as employers, we expect to be most pressing in 2015. Top of the list was Terms & Conditions with 31% of employers raising it as an issue. Second is Long Term Sickness/Absenteeism at 29%, Flexible Working and Maternity/Paternity Adoption both at 26% and zero hours contracts at 8%. Finally, only 2% of employers expect redundancy to be an issue.

Policies

Is your business fully compliant with regularly updated policieswith current employment legislation? Although staff handbooks containing company policies do not usually form part of the employment contract, we must remember that they are the method by which we can communicate expectations of performance and behaviour to our employees.

Employee Relations

Poor staff relations can lead to an unsettled and unmotivated workforce that is unable to perform effectively. It’s important to ensure that our employees fully understand what we expect of them within their role and that the company’s overall mission statement is clearly communicated.

Sickness & Absence

Sick leave costs UK employers around £39 billion per year and a loss of more than 130 million working days. Introducing clear absence policies and giving appropriate training to managers on how to deal with absenteeism can help to lessen the burden considerably.

When it goes wrong

Inevitably there will be occasions when even the best will in the world is not enough to prevent contentious issues arising. Be it a case of harassment, discrimination or bullying, gross misconduct or dismissal, the management (or mismanagement) of disciplinary issues can be expensive and time consuming. Mediation by either an internal or external mediator can be a very effective way of overcoming workplace conflicts, but in a worst case scenario you may unfortunately be looking at an employment tribunal. We see in the region of 1600 single claims each month to the Employment Tribunal and the average sum awarded in 2013/14 was in excess of £12,000. In fact the largest award was a whopping £3.4 million in an unfair dismissal case – an extraordinary amount, but food for thought nonetheless. It can take an average of 39 weeks to complete the Employment Tribunal process (or up to five years for a multiple case), time any manager will freely admit they cannot afford to lose.

Whether it’s in-house or outsourced, it is essential that your business has a comprehensive and efficient HR service. After all, your employees are one of your most valuable (and expensive) assets.

This article first appeared in the April edition of inbusiness magazine inbusinessessex.co.uk

 

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