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Getting off to the right start: Safeguard your business when taking on new staff

The days of the employment process being a one-way street in favour of the employer are long gone. There is now a lot more focus on culture and, more tangibly, watertight protection for the rights of workers.

When it comes to the process of appointing a new employee, it’s arguably more important than ever to make sure the partnership is a natural fit in order to form a long and successful relationship – with conditions and expectations acceptable and desirable to both the employer and the employee.

At the heart of this is a clearly-defined, unambiguous and mutually-agreeable contract right at the start of a new employee’s time with a company.

While for some the signing of a contract may feel like an arbitrary process the fact is that it is an essential legal document that, when produced correctly, can act as a crucial reference point and potentially save a business thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours of time should a case ever be made against them.

Of course a contract also gives an employee security and faith that they are working for a responsible and employee-conscious employer – in effect, a contract is a two-way street which offers protection for all.

Not only does this create a positive climate of trust, understanding and expectations from the get-go, it is also of fundamental importance from an employer’s perspective in ensuring a robust and demonstrable HR process that protects it from a legal perspective.

Employee rights are bound by law, with such legislation becoming ever-more visible and demanding. Ensuring your employee contract is watertight is essential in terms of both protection against employee of former employee complaints and protecting against reputational damage.

Being considered a fair and supportive employer has an abundance of benefits and, equally, developing a contrary reputation can be extremely damaging and can both harm employee morale and productivity as well as discouraging potential future talent.

While setting out and agreeing contracts at the start of employment can seem relatively easy, those put together without the expertise or in-depth knowledge of employment law and of employee rights can be opened up to challenges and claims that have the potential to threaten the financial stability of a business.

So what are the key rights of employees that need to be crystal clear in any employee contract? Here are just a few important elements to consider:

  • National Minimum Wage
  • Workplace pension
  • Paid holiday
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave and Pay
  • Shared Parental Leave and Pay
  • Statutory Redundancy Pay
  • Protection against unfair dismissal

Building these elements into a contract and having the confidence that it is compliant and watertight can be daunting and on occasions risky, if certain elements of a contract are worded in a way that can be open to interpretation – increasing the likelihood of a dispute and/or legal claim against a company.

Even if a business has a dedicated HR department and/or professional it is often a sensible step to work with a dedicated legal adviser.

Utilising legal advice can give a business the assurance and peace of mind that their contracts are fit for purpose, fully compliant with the most up-to-date legal requirements and, importantly, are effective, fair and clear from both an employee and employer perspective.

Hopkins Solicitors specialise in employment law and can help businesses with a raft of employment-related services – including contracts.

Contact our experienced, professional and down-to-earth team today to discover how we can safeguard your business against employer disputes and ensuring you are fulfilling your contractual responsibilities.

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