February/March 2019

Action points for 2019

It is traditionally the time where we all like to make resolutions to make ourselves better people by the end of the year. What about your business? As business owners we should consider what arrangements we currently have in place and how we could make them (even) better over the year as well as what challenges our businesses might face over the next 12 months. Here are 4 key areas which should be reviewed this edition:

  1. Review your contracts of employment
    It is important to check that all of your employees have a signed contract of employment. Employees are currently entitled to a main statement of terms and conditions (which is the bare minimum) after 2 months continuous employment. Whilst this may be legally compliant, it will not protect your business if you have any concerns surrounding confidentiality of information, or post termination restrictions. If you have recently promoted a member of staff, the contract that they were previously working under may no longer be suitable. In that case, it would sensible to consider what further provisions are needed in the new contract; for example, a longer notice period or stronger confidentiality clauses.
  1. Make sure your staff handbook is up to date
    A staff handbook is essential when running a business and if you do not have one it should be on your ‘to do’ list for 2019. The handbook should contain all of your policies and procedures where employees can be directed to as and when necessary. Do your policies reflect the current legislation? Are you confident that your handbook properly sets out key policies such as a disciplinary procedure? Importantly, it can also help to protect the business should it face certain claims by employees such as discrimination if it clearly sets out what is not acceptable in the organisation. The size of the handbook is largely dependent on the number of employees you have; as a bare minimum you should include the following: disciplinary and grievance procedure, absence policy, anti bribery and corruption policy, equal opportunity policy, Data Protection Policy (incorporating GDPR obligations), whistleblowing and a health and safety policy.
  1. Consider how Brexit will affect your staff
    Like it or not, at the time of writing, the UK will leave in the EU in March either with or without a deal. What does this mean for your business? It is very hard to know what will happen post March and businesses should prepare for all eventualities. If you are facing uncertainty you may need to scale back on the number of permanent staff you have; this may including checking whether you have any lay off provision in your contracts of employment. There are strict legal obligations should you be considering making more than 20 redundancies in the space of 90 days or less; this includes a criminal penalty if you do not inform the Secretary of State of your intentions in time. On a more positive note, if you have EU employees that you wish to retain post Brexit, the government has announced this month that it will be scrapping the proposed application fee for each individual to stay in the UK post Brexit. A transition period will be in place until December 2020 but employers who wish to retain EU workers should be reassuring staff now that they will be supported if they wish to remain in the UK.
  1. Consider your use of consultants/contractors
    There has been a great deal of uncertainty regarding increasing number of people working in the ‘gig economy’. 2018 saw a number of judgements which ruled that those working for companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers should be considered as ‘workers’ rather then self employed individuals and therefore entitled to the associated rights such as holiday pay and national minimum wage.

2019 is likely to hail improved rights for workers; the government’s Good Work Plan, which was published towards the end of 2018, details commitments to enact several of the Taylor Review’s recommendations, designed to improve working conditions for agency workers, zero-hour workers and other atypical workers, although many of these reforms do not have specific timescales. As the year progresses, we can expect to see more draft legislation implementing aspects of the plan, but it is likely that most of the changes will take effect in 2020.

If you use consultants or self employed contractors in your business, now is the time to review those arrangements and to take advice as to whether there is a risk that these individuals may meet the ‘worker’ threshold. The government has also stated that there should be clarity around holiday entitlement. There have been a number of cases regarding entitlement to holiday pay, especially affecting workers. If you engage workers you should carry out an audit regarding their potential entitlement to holiday pay and the likely costs to your business.

So while 2019 may present a great deal of uncertainty, there are steps that we can take to minimise any unexpected surprises.

Chloë Leyland
Enhanced HR Solutions Ltd