Our View: Protecting yourself is just as important as looking after your staff… says Anna Bunting – employment partner at Davis Blank Furniss, Manchester.

In the current economic climate, more and more employers are finding themselves with tricky employment tribunal claims as redundancies and staff restructuring become a necessity. This isn’t great news so it’s now more important than ever to have strong and effective employment practices in place.

No-one would disagree that good people are the cornerstone of every successful business. Having a productive and motivated workforce is every boss’s dream but that utopia isn’t always easy to achieve and usually requires a firm but fair management approach.  

Employers will be faced with potential disputes; whether they relate to disciplinary, grievance or dismissal matters. Even successful businesses have bad times and may need to consider reducing the size of the workforce.

It’s widely accepted that employment law is a minefield and with tribunal claims on the increase, and further law reform due later this year, employers that ignore their legal obligations are making a big mistake.

Every day I hear many employers say that they don’t have any ‘bad’ employees or they are ‘only a small business so don’t need to worry about contracts of employment or the risk of claims. Unfortunately, this can mean that they have been lucky so far and a discrimination claim with unlimited damages may only be just round the corner. It’s not about scaring employers but I cannot emphasise how important it is to ensure that companies protect themselves.

Well drafted contracts of employment and policies that are tailored to the specific business can make all the difference. And in tougher times, it is also important to consider whether additional protection such as restrictions on competition and the use of confidential information should be in place.

Robust policies and procedures can also help managers get the HR process right in the first place thereby avoiding any future tribunal claim based on procedural errors. If managers are unlucky enough to have the responsibility of HR bestowed on them, then having good resources and tools available can help to reduce the amount of time spent dealing with the issue, and with any future tribunal claim that is avoided as a result.

Once these kinds of systems are put in place they must then be regularly reviewed and updated so they continue to be effective. Making an ill informed decision to save a small amount of time and money could be the biggest false economy.

If you this resonated with you then please drop Anna a note via Anna.bunting@dbf-law.co.uk  or give her a call on 0161 832 3304.

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