August 12, 2015

What can happen if you don’t know the law…

What can happen if you don’t know the law…


This is an issue we come across a lot with or clients – a situation has been massively mishandled because they simply don’t have a clue about employment law and the possible ramifications.


We already know as a small business owner you are expected to be the marketeer, the accountant, the social media guru, the salesman etc. etc. as well as doing what you actually specialise in too! But the moment you employ staff then you are expected to have some knowledge of employment law and ignorance is no excuse at the employment tribunal.


Recently we have dealt with situations including redundancy whilst on maternity leave, failure to consult and honour the same terms and conditions, as well as trying to dismiss an employee for failing their probationary period whilst they are off work sick. Situations like this must be dealt with within the constraints of the law, otherwise you will fall foul of your obligations and that could end up being stressful and costly to you.


Above are just a small example of what we have dealt with recently and problems that we see from our clients on a daily basis. We are a small business ourselves and we know how frustrated you get with the endless issues that employing staff can have, sometimes really complex issues where there doesn’t seem to be a practical resolution or light at the end of the tunnel.


Just so you know, there can be serious consequences to not adhering to your employment law obligations – I’m sure you are aware that if you do mishandle a situation you can in the worst case scenario end up facing litigation at the employment tribunal. Costs for cases like this can be between £5 – £10k just in legal fees, let alone the time taken from your day and any other staff that are involved in preparing and attending the hearing, and of course there is the financial element of any compensation that is awarded. Unfair dismissal is currently capped at just over a maximum of £78,000 whilst successful cases for discrimination are currently uncapped.


If you are lucky enough to be able to sort a situation before it goes that far, you are most likely still looking at engaging an employment solicitor or employment law specialist to help you work through the minefield that is the law. But rest assured, it can be done – many a situation has been rescued from the clutches of the employment tribunal by good old fashioned communication and mediation.


Our advice to you is to develop a good gut feel for when a situation happens, like maternity leave, disciplinaries, grievances and absence due to sickness that involve your employees and know that especially if the area is contentious or where there are employee rights concerned that you probably should look into the matter further before you take any action.


Find out the score first before you do anything – if it involves your employees then there probably is legislation there to protect them and you must investigate further to ensure you are covering all bases. Most importantly don’t react in a knee jerk fashion, stay calm and call a hero!

HR Heroes