Ten top New Year's employment resolutions

Think you're a good employer? Take a look at this checklist from the employment team at law firm Burges Salmon and make sure you kick off 2012 with your HR in order.

by Shelley Crofts
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Has it been a while since you last dusted off your employee strategy? Have no fear. We've done it for you.

We don't expect you to adopt all ten resolutions - although you will be highly commended if you do. Just select a handful to prioritise this year to make sure that you're not falling behind in employee best practice.

  1. Check your employment contracts are up to date. Can you honestly say, hand on heart, that every employee has a contract of employment that accurately reflects their current terms of employment? If the answer is no, carry out a review of your employment contracts. Check that they not only capture the correct job titles, salary and holiday entitlements, but that they also comply with the current legal requirements.

  2. Think about introducing a probationary period for new starters. Recent case law has increased the risk of a former employer being liable for negligent misstatement when providing references. As a result, most employers provide purely factual references which are often of little value if you are trying to assess a candidate's suitability for a role. Consider whether a new starter should be put on a probationary period in which their performance could be closely monitored and they could be subject to a shorter notice period during that time.

  3. Introduce a social media policy. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. the social media storm continues apace.  Make sure that you have adequate guidance in place to ensure employees understand what you consider to be acceptable use of social media and the penalties they might face if they abuse such social networking tools.

  4. Review sickness absence. Have you got an employee who has been absent for a significant period? Plan a coherent course of action and take control of the situation. The New Year could be an opportune time to get occupational health or the employee's GP involved in exploring their return to work. If you already have medical advice, think about whether it is time to get a new report to take into account any change there might have been in the employee's medical condition.

  5. Check the status of your fixed term employees. Where you have employees employed on a fixed term basis but you have missed the end date of the fixed term and they are still working for you, there is a risk that these employees will have become permanent and lost their fixed term status. Similarly, fixed term employees can automatically become permanent employees if they have been employed on successive fixed term contracts over a period of four years. Check whether you have any employees to which this applies to and whether you need to address this change in status.

  6. Review your poor performers. If you have any employees undergoing a performance management process, make sure that you are providing them with the support they were promised. If you don’t follow through with providing the agreed support, the process can stall and may delay your ability to carry out a fair dismissal should you need to.

  7. Check your anti-discrimination policies and training programmes. In April 2012, generally, the length of service required for employees to bring an unfair dismissal claim is going to increase from one to two years.  Before you breathe a sigh of relief, take heed. Discrimination claims do not require any minimum length of service before they can be brought. With this in mind, check that your equal opportunities policy is up to date and that it has been communicated to employees so you can show they are aware of what behaviour your organisation considers to be appropriate. You might also consider including training on equal opportunities or anti-bullying and harassment as part of your induction programme or as refresher training for existing employees as appropriate.

  8. Check the status of potential agency workers. The Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) came into force in October 2011, enhancing the protection afforded to agency workers. If you engage temporary workers, review your existing arrangements to make sure that, if they fall under the remit of the AWR, you are complying with their obligations.

  9. Review the policy wording for sickness and holidays. Changes to case law in this area have left it open for employees to claim back historic holiday. Check your contracts and/or relevant policies are up to date to ensure you have the most robust wording to defend claims of this nature.

  10. Go to the gym. Because no self-respecting list of New Year's resolutions is complete without it.


Picture: lucidtech

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