Start 2017 the Right Way: HR New Year's Resolutions

06 Jan 2017

The build-up to Christmas can be a busy time for a lot of businesses, meaning that HR issues are sometimes put on the back burner. January can offer a chance to catch one’s breath and tackle some thorny issues with renewed enthusiasm. 

If you are feeling suitably revived after the Christmas break, here are some suggestions for your HR New Year’s resolutions to tackle in 2017. 

1.  Review your HR policies

It is a good idea to check what you have in place and whether it needs to be updated. Many businesses will identify a need to review, update and add to their existing Employee Handbook. Policies and procedures have often developed and been added to over many years, so it is important to check that everything is consistent. Undertaking this audit will ensure that your policies are up to date; IT and social media in particular are areas which are constantly changing, and there have also been changes in the law regarding variable holiday pay recently. You will also be able to demonstrate that you have monitored and updated your policies (which is important if such polices ever come before an Employment Tribunal’s attention!). 

2.  Review your contracts

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. For the reasons that reviewing your policies makes good business practice, you will also want to review your contract templates to ensure that they are compliant with current employment law and practice.

3.  Consider harmonisation of your contracts

Often businesses employ their workforce under different types and forms of contracts. Standard contracts change over time, so employees will have different terms and conditions depending on when they joined. If you have had employees transfer in from other companies, that may have added an extra layer of complexity. Just understanding which employees are on which type of contract is a great place to start, and will allow you to identify any potential problems and need for harmonisation. For example, an employee who joined on a contract suitable for junior staff may have now worked their way up to a managerial position, and therefore you may need to introduce terms regarding conflicts of interests and non-competition. 

4.  Review restrictive covenants

Are your restrictive covenants fit for purpose, both for existing staff and newcomers to the business? Restrictive covenants must always be bespoke, both in terms of what business interests require protection, and in terms of the particular threat posed by the individual exiting employee. Important questions to ask yourself when reviewing your restrictive covenants include; Have changes in law and technology created new risks or new business interests to protect? Has the business changed so as to create new risks or business interests to protect? Has any employee been promoted or changed their role so that they pose a greater risk and therefore need more extensive restrictions?

5.  Review any long term sickness

Employees on long term sick leave can sometimes be overlooked and, in the worst cases, forgotten. At best this can be costly in terms of continuing pay and benefits that accrue, and at worst this could lead to litigation. It is therefore important to undertake a regular audit of such staff and commence processes to support their return to work, or to lay the foundation for a fair medical capability dismissal. The New Year provides a great premise to contact staff who have been out of the business for while.

6.  Review any performance issues

Discussing poor performance with an employee is always a difficult conversation to have. This is why managers often put it off until the situation reaches crisis point. The New Year can be a time to grasp the nettle and start dealing with the issue before the situation becomes untenable. Does your business have a performance management policy, and if so is it being followed? Ultimately, HR is often reliant on managers bringing these problems to their attention, so it’s worth checking to see if managers need any refresher training or additional HR support to make them feel comfortable dealing with the issue. 

7.  Consider any staff training needs

As mentioned above, your policies and procedures can be in great shape, but do the relevant people within the business know how to use them? Do your managers need some refresher training so that they are confident to deal with a disciplinary, a grievance, or a poor performance process? Have you had any problems that could have been helped by some business-wide equal opportunities training? If you know that restructuring or outsourcing is on the cards for your business in 2017, could your HR team use a refresher on TUPE? 

8.  Be aware of data protection changes

Last year the EU introduced wide-ranging changes to data protection, which will be in force in member states from 2018. This new regime will be backed up by increased enforcement powers and higher fines for non-compliance. So now is a good time to undertake an audit of your data protection processes, which will ensure that you are complying with the law as it currently stands, and that you are ready to make any changes to comply with the new requirements.   

9.  Will you be affected by gender pay reporting?

We are expecting legislation in April 2017 which will require employers with 250 or more employees to publish statistical information about their workforce’s pay and bonuses. If your company is affected, you need to start thinking now about how you will gather and present this information. 

Collyer Bristow’s Employment team can help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. If you need any assistance in reviewing your documents, providing training, or advising on any individual cases, then do not hesitate to contact us. 

Additional information