Outdated or non existent employment contract and employee handbook
This is one of the main reasons I am contacted by small and medium sized businesses. It is quite easy for existing documents to get out of date as the employment law changes frequently. Despite the implementation of the Employment Rights Act 1996 that requires an employer to provide a new employee with employment terms and conditions (contract) within eight weeks of starting employment, many business still do not do so. Failure to provide this document can lead to compensation equivalent to up to four weeks pay in an employment tribunal. An employee handbook sets out the guidelines and rules that all employees have to adhere to and should be drafted in accordance with current employment law. Outdated policies could lead to wrong actions being taken against an employee and a possible employment tribunal.
Lack of understanding with employment law
Since the 1990s there has been a steady stream of laws related to employment that have been implemented in the UK. Employee issues such as disability, pregnancy, discrimination, health and safety and pay can be complex to deal with. Many laws now contradict one another and it takes an employment law specialist to unpick the essentials for any given employee situation. The cost of failing to understand current employment law could lead to an employment tribunal.
A disciplinary matter needs urgent attention
From time to time a serious situation may occur in the workplace and it is important that, even if it is minor, that it is dealt with quickly. Certainly in agross misconduct situation it is often essential to suspend an employee or employees as soon as possible whilst a thorough investigation takes place. Time is of the essence to ensure that any important evidence is not hidden or destroyed. It is important to take urgent advice where you feel you are lacking experience of how to adequately handle these matters.
An employee is not performing well
So many businesses have under performing employees that they fail to deal with. Unfortunately this can impact on profits and employee morale. It is not nice for fellow employees to see a poorly performing colleague not being dealt with by management. The matter should be dealt with in a structured legal framework to try and get the employee back on track. It can be time consuming to deal with but ultimately the employee can be fairly dismissed if a performance management process fails.
You have no time to deal with employee matters
Dealing with employee issues can be very time consuming. With a problematic employee you have to meet with them and keep a paper trail of what you have done to try and manage the situation. Most business owners prefer to keep their focus on the business which is time consuming enough without have to deal with problematic employees which is where HR can help.
Bringing an HR consultant into your organisation should be done to achieve a specific objective. It may be a project that needs delivering eg a recruitment campaign, completion of a TUPE or redundancy project or to cover a maternity leave post. Whatever the company requirement, whether linked to strategic or operational HR objective there is an HR consultant to fit the bill, whether they be a generalist or specialist.
The advantages to bringing in an external professional can be buying in specific expertise just when needed. Many HR consultants have many years solid practical experience before launching into the world of consultancy. They bring with them a fresh eye on the workings of your company and can often offer new problem-solving solutions to issues such as staff retention or absence and provide tailored solutions. They are used to “hitting the ground running”, and can build key relationships quickly, establishing credibility and just getting on with the job in hand whether this be as a change agent or role caretaker or both.
Being an “outsider” an HR consultant tends not to get involved with office politics. Their decisions can, therefore, be based on benefits to the organisation, not whether it will upset the opinions of certain individuals. This is particularly important in any change management and organisational design project.
Using an HR consultant can save an organisation time and money. Time is saved by, for example, outsourcing a project that existing HR professionals in an organisation can’t spare from the usual day to day tasks; this can include delivering coaching or conducting 360 degree appraisal. A consultant can also be brought in on an ad hoc basis when no HR expertise exists at all within the organisation eg to conduct a disciplinary investigation or provide support on a poor performance issue.
Other cost savings can include not having a permanent member of staff on the payroll and if the work can be completed from home then office resources are saved.
A disadvantage of using an HR consultant can, on the other hand, be the potential expense. Depending on the level of expertise required, consultant fees can vary from £200 to £1,000 per day so companies need to consider what they can afford and negotiate the daily rate. To avoid escalating costs consideration should be given to defining a project cost eg as with management training.
To avoid any confusion a clear agreement and contract needs to be drawn up at the start between the company and consultant establishing clear goals with regular meetings built in to check progress. Clear responsibilities should be allocated to avoid any confusion. Fees and expenses need to be included as well as confidentiality issues and problem resolution.
Before recruiting an HR consultant, a company needs to have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve and draw up a project plan and brief for discussion. There should also be a job description and person specification. With the latter this provides the basis to recruit the right calibre of person. As the need for an HR consultant can often be at short notice, companies need to consider the best place to advertise or find the right candidate and consider a more streamlined recruitment process.
Once recruited the consultant should be provided with a robust structured induction to enable them to hit the ground running.