How to avoid costly legal action against your business

Posted on 27th April 2016

When you’re an HR consultant, you often find yourself having in-depth conversations about how business owners can avoid legal action. Of course, we offer services that go way beyond this. We can help you to boost your profits, create a happier and more productive workforce, and achieve your big strategic goals.

Still though, steering clear of expensive and potentially reputation-damaging legal action is something that many leaders are very keen to do, for obvious reasons. If you’re worried about ending up on the wrong side of the law, then it’s important that you take some positive steps towards minimising the risk.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to keep your business practices compliant, up to date, and above board.

Know the law

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep up to date with the law. New pieces of legislation are passed on a regular basis, so it’s vital that you stay on the ball. The last thing that you want is to find out that new provisions came into force, rendering your existing policies and procedures unlawful.

This might seem like a huge burden, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider working with an HR consultant on a retainer basis. This will ensure that you get the information that you need well in advance, and are given useful, practical advice so you can make the necessary changes.

Consistently implement people policies

People policies are there for a very good reason. They outline acceptable standards of behaviour, make your expectations clear, and map out what will happen if a problem occurs. If you decide though that they should only be applied to some staff, some of the time, then you could be accused of discrimination – by far the most costly of claims as there is no limit on the award a tribunal can make and no length of service required by the claimant, in fact you don’t even have to employ them!

The bottom line here is that your whole workforce should be held to the same standards. You’ve no doubt spent a great deal of time creating and implementing your policies. They’re there to help you, so use them properly!

Always keep records

If any problems arise, having a comprehensive paper trail can be extremely useful. Your documentation should clearly outline the details of each stage of everyday employment situations, such as absences, performance discussions, grievances, and so on.

These days, you can find solutions that will allow you to safely store information of this nature online, or on encrypted systems. This isn’t always necessary, but it could save you time. Whichever route you decide to go down, make sure your records are up to date, accurate, and confidential.

Give your line managers the capability they need

As your business grows, it’s unlikely that you’ll be personally handling all people management practices. By ensuring your line managers have the HR training that they need, you could avoid finding yourself in a situation whereby your operations aren’t compliant with the law. It was this need that originally got me in to learning and development, as whilst working in healthcare I kept noticing that when things “went wrong” with employees it was very often because the manager did not know how to deal with difficult situations.

It’s down to you to make sure that your managers are consistently compliant. When you invest in your leadership team, you’ll find that many potentially volatile incidents can be quickly defused before they spiral out of control.

Not many business owners would intentionally break the law when it comes to how they treat their greatest asset – their people. But if you aren’t vigilant, you could find yourself in a tricky situation.

If you’ve decided that it’s time to put your niggling worries to bed once and for all when it comes to complying with employment legislation or training your management team, then get in touch. We can arrange an initial review of your existing practices through our FREE HR Audit or one of the training team can discuss your needs. Our number is 01536 251240 or feel free to email me directly: emma@gatewayhr.com.

Emma Wynne Character
Written by:
Emma Wynne
Managing Director