Guest Blog: HR-Top Tips from Croner Advisors’

We asked our advisors to address some of the most common queries they receive via our advice lines. Here’s what they came up with:

Top Tips from Croner’s HR Advisors

1. You must give an employee their contract on day one of employment

It’s surprising how many business owners contact us with no employment contracts for their employees. In some cases, an employee has been working for them for many years and still has no formal contract!

While you don’t need to have a full, written contract on day one of employment, you at least need a statement of main terms (SMT). This should include details, such as:

• Length of notice required to terminate contract
• Terms and conditions
• Place of work
• Details of benefits, financial or otherwise
• Details of probationary period

This change was brought about by the Good Work Plan in 2020.

Failing to provide an SMT from day one of employment is a breach of employment law. Don’t put yourself at risk of a claim. Provide an SMT for legal compliance, then provide a full contract and handbook for best practice.

2. You can make an employee take annual leave

Legally, there is structure in place to make your employees take annual leave. To do this, you must provide notice that is double the length of the period you wish them to take. In other words, if you want them to take three days off, you must provide six days’ notice.

This means you must plan ahead if you intend to do this, as trying to make an employee take annual leave the following day could easily result in a claim. If you’re unsure how much annual leave your staff are entitled to, you can always use our calculator.

3. Remind staff to take annual leave

Sticking with the theme of annual leave, we noticed that a lot of businesses find themselves in a sticky situation towards the end of the year. If staff still have outstanding leave to take at the end of the year, you shouldn’t just pay them of.

You could carry holiday over into the next leave year, but this may result in further issues. For example, if you do this for one employee, you must do it for all of them to avoid discrimination.

A lot of employers don’t actively encourage staff to take annual leave. It’s obvious why—more time in the office means more productivity. Right?

Well, failure to take leave can result in burnout. This, in turn, will impact productivity. Even if staff avoid the burn, it could still end in a heated exchange when they find out they can’t take the last of their holiday at the end of the year.

So you should encourage staff to take annual leave instead of stockpiling it. Just  make sure you don’t go too far the other way and begin badgering employees to take leave.

4. Conduct investigations before a disciplinary – and do them right

It is tempting, especially when misconduct occurs, to jump straight into a disciplinary. However, you should conduct a full investigation before any disciplinary meeting.

This is the case even if all you are issuing is a written warning.

It is also the case even if you have first-hand proof of the misconduct. You may find it frustrating—fruitless even—but it’s the law. Failure to do this could result in a tribunal claim.

The exception for this is gross misconduct. In these cases, you may suspend the employee while you conduct the investigation. If there is a safety risk to the employee, or their colleagues, it’s practical to suspend the employee.

To follow best practice, we’d recommend an impartial individual conducts the investigation. Another individual should conduct the disciplinary meeting based on the findings of the investigation. This helps to avoid bias and discrimination.

5. Return to work interviews – do them!

If you’re having trouble keeping track of your staff sickness absences, then try conducting return to work interviews. It’s a great way to let the employee know that this period of sickness is over and has been logged.

Then, if an employee goes back on sick leave following this, they cannot argue that it is the same period of sick leave. Doing this could mean they claim statutory sick pay (SSP) despite not meeting the threshold for payment. Bear in mind, this can be acceptable, such as when an employee forms a period of incapacity for work. Holding return to work interviews can help establish genuine capacity.

In cases of genuine sickness absence, the interview will help you readjust the employee to the workplace. You can identify reasonable adjustments and plan a schedule for returning to work. It also has the added benefit of making sick leave easier to track. You can download a free return to work interview template here.

More tips from our expert advisors
Our team of consultants have a range of insights into how to manage your workforce more effectively and efficiently. You can contact Croner as part of your APHC membership. For more details head to the members only area of the website: APHC Member Login | Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors