Em­ploy­ment law can be a mine­field


THE Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses (FSB) is the largest busi­ness sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion in the UK, with al­most 5,000 mem­bers in Greater Manch­ester.

Re­gional chair­man Simon Ed­mond­son of­fers its lat­est help and ad­vice...

A week on from a rather nasty snow event here in Greater Manch­ester, many small busi­ness own­ers may want to take stock of cer­tain em­ploy­ment is­sues that arose as a con­se­quence.

For in­stance, how many heard one of the fol­low­ing from em­ploy­ees last week: ‘can I work from home?’

‘I can’t get in to­day be­cause of the weather, what shall I do?’

Or: ‘Can I leave early to avoid the dis­rup­tion?’

And the old clas­sic: ‘My child’s school has closed due to the weather, can I go?’

So which should you agree to? Just one, per­haps two, maybe all of them?

Or should you just dis­miss such re­quests out of hand?

The truth is, I’m not sure, and frankly, I doubt most small busi­ness own­ers would be ei­ther.

I won­der how many, put in that po­si­tion, would just say ‘yes’ to all, fear­ful of get­ting it wrong?

Con­versely, how many say ‘no’ to all such re­quests?

How­ever, as the old say­ing goes, ig­no­rance of the law is no ex­cuse, and em­ploy­ment law is no dif­fer­ent.

Un­for­tu­nately for most small firms with­out a staffed HR team, the busi­ness owner usu­ally is the HR depart­ment, as well as chief cook and bot­tle washer.

Yet for busi­nesses, em­ploy­ment law is a mine­field, and one that’s con­stantly chang­ing, al­beit to­tally un­for­giv­ing for the un­wary busi­ness owner who falls foul of it.

Were you one of those em­ploy­ers faced with a ques­tion last week from a mem­ber of staff ow­ing to the win­try weather?

Did you know how to han­dle it?

When it comes to em­ploy­ment law, the is­sues are far and wide though and cover all top­ics.

Busi­nesses may face ques­tions from pro­posed ex­tra bank hol­i­days to the Equal­ity Act, from the phas­ing out of the de­fault re­tire­ment age, to the na­tional min­i­mum wage, agency worker hol­i­days, and the lat­est rules on ma­ter­nity/pa­ter­nity leave. Sound familiar? Drawing up doc­u­ments such as terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment, staff con­tracts and other legal agree­ments can also take up a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of the small busi­ness owner’s time and of course the pa­per­work must be legally sound.

It’s es­sen­tial that small busi­nesses pro­tect them­selves, and should al­ways have pro­fes­sional legal sup­port on standby.

The FSB, like other busi­ness sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tions, of­fers var­i­ous types of legal pro­tec­tion, from sim­ple 24/7 ad­vice line as­sis­tance from so­lic­i­tors, dozens of legal tem­plate let­ters, and even to legal rep­re­sen­ta­tions in em­ploy­ment tri­bunals and sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, should the worst hap­pen.

In this day and age, no cover is sense­less.

What­ever busi­ness you’re in, it’s not worth go­ing it alone when it comes to mat­ters of law.

FSB chair­man Simon Ed­mond­son

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