Common pitfalls of employing people and what to do about them...

As an HR Consultant there are some pretty common scenarios that I come across regularly.

  1. Not setting out the employment relationship or terms clearly.

I do talk about this a lot but it's important to set out the expectations on both sides from the outset. If you don't then you could find that what evolves isn't what you thought you had agreed to and all of a sudden that zero hours worker or contractor is actually classed as an employee due to the way in which they are working.

You can take a free IR35 questionnaire here if you aren't sure. However get contracts in place and make sure they are up to date. The small cost of this massively outweighs the consequences of getting this wrong.

2. Not carrying out a proper disciplinary procedure

Quite often I will be approached by an employer who will say that they have an employee where there is persistent misconduct. In their mind they are moving towards dismissal. They will tell me that they have given them warnings prior to this point. When I review the paperwork I find that these warnings have been issued with no investigation or disciplinary hearing and we then have to start from scratch.

Make sure you have a disciplinary procedure and follow it, if you don't have one or can't afford to get one written then use the ACAS Code of Conduct and guidance. You cannot give a formal warning without holding a disciplinary hearing, the purpose of which is to give the employee the opportunity to respond to the allegations and for you to then make a decision as to the appropriate action to take.

3. Not carrying out an impartial investigation

A grievance has been raised or you have an issue where misconduct has occurred. You speak to those involved, think you have a good idea of what happened or you were a witness to something yourself. So you press ahead with formal action and then things get messy.

You need to make sure that whoever carries out an investigation is impartial. Sometimes this could be someone in the business at the appropriate level who has not been involved previously. Sometimes it's better to get an external HR Consultant to do this. Make sure that all witnesses are cautioned about confidentiality to avoid collusion and get them to sign their witness statements.

4. Not consulting on changes to someone's job, location or in a redundancy situation

Again, often I am asked to come in and help with redundancy situations and when I tell the employer that they need to factor in a consultation period they tell me they don't have time for this. Failure to consult means that the redundancy process and subsequent dismissal could be seen as unfair in an employment tribunal.

Factor this time in, get help early on if you are going to outsource to an HR Consultant. We aren't trying to complicate or delay things we are just trying to minimise any risks for you. You also need to consult on things like minor changes to job descriptions, this doesn't have to be a drawn out process.

5. Rushing the recruitment process

Recruiting takes time, screening applications and interviewing takes you away from the day job. So you invite a couple of people in and after a short chat think yep they can do the job and make an offer. You want them to start asap and they seem ok so that's a done deal. Then after a few months you find that they aren't a good fit or that they don't have the skills that you require.

It's really worth setting out your criteria clearly before you start. Then measuring against this in interviews. Take the time to think about questions that don't just focus on competencies but also that bring out their values, work ethic and approach. Honestly in the long run this time is well spent.

These are just a few examples and I am sure my HR colleagues could site more. For solutions to any of your HR or people problems get in touch