If you own or manage a small or medium-sized business you no doubt feel that your knowledge of HR issues such as employment law, equality and diversity, HR policies, employment contracts etc. is very limited. This probably causes you a high level of anxiety in case you get something wrong which might have a major impact on your business.
This feeling is no doubt heightened by HR professionals who we hear regularly in the media expounding on the costs associated with such things as Employment Tribunals, and how easy they are to lose. There are also innumerable HR Consultancies on the internet all offering to provide services for you to ensure you are “fully legally compliant”, and also to “add value” by providing services that you never even knew you needed like the latest HR software, or an “HR Audit” of your company.
As an HR practitioner of over 20 years standing, and as one who currently works as an HR Consultant, let me tell you a secret. If you run your small / medium sized business reasonably well and you have no major staffing issues, then you do not need to employ an HR Consultant (usually starting around 500 per day), you do not need to “subscribe” to an expensive HR website, indeed you don’t really need to spend any significant amount of money at all on HR services! Here are the 10 reasons why:
- If you are competent enough to manage your business with all the complexities that entails, there is no reason why YOU can’t easily ensure you have a proper HR framework in place to support your staffing issues. You really don’t need an HR Consultant who is external to your organisation to tell you how to manage your staff.
- The risks of getting things wrong are massively over-hyped. HR Consultants and Employment Lawyers will fill you full of horror tales about the costs of losing an unfair dismissal claim at Employment Tribunal. The simple facts are that if you act reasonably as an employer, you are likely to spend far more on HR Consultants and lawyers trying to defend an Employment Tribunal claim than you would lose if the findings went against you! Employment Tribunals are really quite rare in the scheme of things, and if you do have a claim made against you by an employee, then if you have acted reasonably in your dealings with them you should have no fears in defending the ET yourself.
- HR Consultants are geared towards maximising their income rather than helping your business. This means that they will do their best to persuade you that you need to implement those products they support. A good example is HR software. Do you really need a bespoke HR System to record your employee details? An Excel spreadsheet or Access database knocked up in an afternoon might do just as well. If you do want an HR system you should shop around, there are a number of fairly cheap stand-alone systems out there which you could easily implement yourself.
- You do need to have proper HR policies in place to regulate how you employ your staff. However these days there is so much information on the internet you can easily find the information you need on there. If you get your information there, then there is no need to employ an HR Consultant to come in to your organisation and tell you the same things!
- There are some basic HR policies and procedures that you really need to have in place. These are in my view: Discipline, Grievance, Equality, Harassment / Bullying and Health & Safety. You may also want to add Induction and Training, and you will need some guidance on Maternity / Paternity leave and pay, and probably on Flexible Working. If you have a problem with sickness, then you should implement an Absence Management policy to address this. To be honest the easiest way to address all this is to produce a Staff Handbook which outlines all these policies and any other issues which you think are relevant for your particular circumstances. Our website has templates of most of the policies you will need – you can download and adapt these. We also have a full Policy Manual, and a template Staff Handbook. If what you need is not here, then you can easily Google it and you are likely to find something on the internet, or you can ask us if we have it. We do have lots of stuff which we have not yet put onto out web site. You really don’t need an HR Consultant to develop something bespoke for your organisation when so many resources already exist and can be adapted.
- The internet is a fantastic free resource for small / medium-sized businesses. From an HR perspective you can access all the information you could possibly need to ensure you have the necessary framework in place to support your staff. The UK Governments Business Links site is a great resource for employers. If you need Health & Safety information go to the UK Health & Safety Executive site.
- When recruiting, which you may not do very often, you may feel you need professional guidance. This is not necessary. Just be sure that the advert you produce for your vacancies is not in any way biased towards or against one or more type of person. It is often a good idea to let a colleague have a look at it just to double check you have not unconsciously missed something. At interview construct a list of questions based on the skills needed for the job, basically asking for examples of what the individual has achieved in that regard in previous jobs. Ask every applicant the same questions. Interview with a colleague and guard each other against any bias or discrimination creeping into your questioning. Make careful notes of the answers and how you have concluded who is the best candidate.
- When dealing with staffing issues, if you have a problem with a staff member, you should manage the situation as you would with any other business problem. That is make sure you gather all the information you need, review the situation and then take appropriate action. If this relates to disciplining a member of staff, just make sure you investigate properly and then apply your agreed disciplinary procedure. Just be sure you have good notes on everything you do.
- If you are faced with a staffing situation which is new to you and you are not sure how to act, you should flex your network of colleagues to see if anyone you know has experience of a similar situation. You can also look on the web to see if you can get guidance there.
- Don’t worry about being caught out by changes to employment law. To be honest these are so well trailed if you simply keep an eye on the press or in the UK the Business Links site noted above, or our site you will be certain to know what changes are coming and how they will affect you. It really is as simple as that.
In conclusion, if you are careful about any staffing issues and you ensure you implement a decent framework of up-to-date HR policies and procedures which meet your employment law obligations, then you should have no anxieties about getting things wrong and feel no necessity to seek expensive HR Consultant help.