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Employment Law - Our top 10 tips

Employment Law - Our top 10 tips

22 December 2016

Back to Basics

Employers and business often get caught up in the complexities of employment law, keeping up to date and tying themselves in knots about following a fair procedure in accordance with the relevant policy. But what about the basics, the bits people often overlook when recruiting for a new role?  The importance of the job advert, the interview and the initial documentation.  That’s why we have put together 10 top tips which we will share with you over the next few weeks.  These tips include simple, straightforward guidance about the initial recruitment, interview and contractual engagement of a new member of staff:

1. Draft the job advert appropriately – what do you want your new member of staff to do?  Put some thought into the experience you require, the elements of the role, any special features or qualifications required?  Do not request applicants from a specific age group, ethnic minority etc. unless you have taken relevant advice and have been advised that you are not at risk of discrimination;

2. Have criteria to apply to CV sifting – and make sure this is applied evenly as this ensures you treat people fairly and you can justify any decision made on candidate selection.  Make your choices for interview based on CV and key skills rather than any personal attributes you may be aware of;
3. Interview preparation – draft a list of questions that explore the candidates’ experience and their CV.  Make sure that all of the questions are drafted so that they are objective and impersonal.  Make sure you read the candidates’ CV in advance – even look them up on LinkedIn, it can help corroborate their employment history;

4.The interview – if in doubt as the questions that have been prepared.  This will ensure fairness when it comes to scoring the candidate after the interview.  Avoid personal questions about family life and ill-health as this can lead to allegations of discrimination – of course show interest if either topic arises but do not be the precipitator of questions that could lead to an awkward silence.  Once the interview has taken place make sure that a fair scoring criteria is allocated and that score sheets are retained.  Candidates often ask for feedback and these can be used to provide constructive guidance.  Make sure you can, if it were asked, justify your choice of candidate in line with the role profile and other candidates interviewed.

5. The Offer Letter - The offer letter sets out the job offer confirming the role and key terms, it is not a contract of employment and, as is sensible, should be conditional on receipt of satisfactory references.  You do not want to make an unconditional offer of employment for it to be accepted without having done your homework on your potential new employee. 

6. References - Always always get references, it’s imperative.  You wouldn’t rent your house out to someone without making checks first so why would you employ someone in your business without at least confirming their employment history is as is stated on their CV.  Most businesses will only give employees a standard reference but this at least confirms job title and length of employment.  Some may decline to give a reference and this may be a warning sign.  If a bad reference is forthcoming you may wish to follow this up and also speak to the candidate and ask why a poor reference may have been received.  On the basis of a conditional offer of employment you can withdraw this on receipt of unbecoming references.  

7. Contract Timing - Once you have received satisfactory references and your candidate has accepted the role by way of the offer then you can send out a draft contract of employment. You have two months within which to issue the contract.

8. Key Contractual Clauses -  A contract of employment is governed by section 1 Employment Rights Act 1996. In order to serve its purpose it should contain: 

  • Parties names
  • Start date
  • Job title
  • Salary
  • Annual leave entitlement 
  • Notice period 
  • Sickness provisions
  • Any benefits
  • Pension entitlements 
  • Reference to disciplinary and grievance procedures 
  • Variation clause should you wish to make changes
  • Deductions clause if you overpay an employee for example.

It is also sensible to include confidentiality provisions to protect your commercial data, restrictive covenants if an employee could leave the business, join a competitor and cause loss or damage, and also a job description to ensure clarity for both parties. Get it right from the outset and it makes the working relationship and its termination much more transparent.

9. The contract – what is contractual and non-contractual? – so the clauses within the Contract of Employment are those that both parties agree to be bound by.  On signing a Contract of Employment with an employee you are agreeing to pay them x in exchange for them carrying out x role and they will also receive x amount of holiday and either party must give x amount of notice to terminate the Contract.  If either party breaches the terms of the Contract then a claim for breach of contract can be brought against the offending party.  Therefore think carefully about other clauses in your Contract and whether you want them to be contractually binding?  An example is disciplinary and grievance procedures – the contract of employment will make reference to both of these but it is rare to have the whole procedure in the contract because most employers do not wish for it to be contractually binding as this could amount to a breach of contract claim in its own right.  Most disciplinary and grievance procedures are contained within a Handbook and are for guidance purposes but not deemed to be incorporated into the contract.  Another example is bonus – are you offering a contractual bonus that is payable year on year subject to certain criteria being met or do you wish to exercise a discretionary bonus scheme which, if managed properly, may only be payable in certain circumstances. 

10. The  first day! Induction! - Introduce your new employee to their colleagues!  Make a good impression, show them where they can make a cup of tea and the general workplace mechanics.  Ensure you have a robust induction process that involves training that is relevant to the role.  You don’t want to have a disheartened employee on your hands on the first day!  Make sure you do your paperwork as well, passport copies, signed contract returned, up to date address and bank details, next of kin and P45? It may be easier to have a starter ‘checklist’ that you use as a guide to ensure the first day goes smoothly.

If you need some expert advice with an employment law issue, call 01908 304560 and see how we can help.