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HR Spring Clean

April 16, 2024

Believe it or not, the sun is in the sky. It hasn’t rained for at least 12 hours. After a despairing few weeks (should that be months?) on the weather front in Scotland, I am optimistic that Spring is finally here!

As such, now is the perfect time to undertake a bit of spring cleaning. In the world of work, there are many things that employers can do in this regard and below are my top 3 HR spring cleaning tips:

  1. Review and update your contracts of employment.

Contracts of employment can often seem to be nothing more than a tick box exercise. However, as with all contracts they are incredibly important, particularly where a dispute arises over what terms and conditions an employee is actually working under.

Reviewing your contracts allows you to:

  • Make sure the contract is still appropriate and in keeping with the work and role carried out by the employee. This will ensure good housekeeping as well as providing for proper compliance with a business’s data protection obligations (by ensuring the personal data held about an employee is accurate).

It can also allow for the business to make sure that the employee’s terms and conditions keep pace with their career development. For example, if an employee has been promoted on a number of occasions and now holds a senior role, ought they to be subject to post termination restrictions which would protect the business if they left? It may well have been inappropriate to impose these obligations when the employee started employment. Undertaking an audit of written agreements can catch these potential gaps in what your contracts provide for.

  • Allow you to take stock of any significant changes within the business as a whole and ensure that your contracts are keeping up to pace with these. For example, one client I recently advised had introduced a bonus scheme part way through its financial year. It did this by sending an email to all staff advising them how the bonus would operate. However, that email was vague in certain places and, come year end, that uncertainty led to many employees disputing what entitlement to bonus they had. A review of the formal contract of employment would be a great way to ensure that these issues can be addressed and provide greater certainty to both parties.
  • Finally, carry out a review of all staff’s terms and conditions to provide a good overview of how different benefits packages compare. If discrepancies have arisen due to salary negotiations taking place on an individual, piecemeal basis, it can lead to employees receiving varying rates of pay where they carry out the same or similar roles. That in turn can create the risk of discrimination and/ or equal pay claims. Auditing this information can be a valuable exercise for employers to go through as it allows them to be proactive to try and address these differences before they lead to complaints from employees.

    2. Employee appraisals.

Management of employee performance has always been a bit of a blind spot for employers. We regularly get queries from clients where they have reached the end of their patience with a particular employee and want to move them on. When asked what process has been followed previously, far too often the response we receive is: none. This significantly limits the options available to manage that situation quickly (without throwing money at it).

Appraisals are the best way to ensure regular communication between the employer and employee about their performance. While many companies will have appraisal systems in place, now is a great time to review whether your business’s internal process is adding value and being used properly.

Initially, this will involve ensuring managers are undertaking appraisal meetings. A strong appraisal process needs to be more than a rambling chat, however. Businesses should make sure that these meetings are being conducted in a constructive way where meaningful feedback and discussion is being had about the employee’s performance, any issues they feel ned to be addressed and allowing them to set out their ambitions for the forthcoming period.

3. Employment engagement survey

And while thinking about hearing about what employees have to say, another useful exercise which can assist a business is that of undertaking an employee engagement survey.

While contract and appraisals are more black and white, nuts and bolts matters which HR covers, taking steps to ensure there are not underlying problems within the workplace or any problematical cultural issues which are affecting the productivity of the business can also be of real value.

Carrying out surveys is easier than ever given the range of (often free) online tools available. If there are particular issues which the business has identified as needing attention or remedial action, getting employee feedback on those areas often assists in implementing the best solution.

There is also a benefit to be had in engaging with the workforce and making it clear that the business values their opinion on the way in which it is run.

So as Spring has sprung, why not adopt these 3 practices and make hay while the sun shines (being sure to clean it up afterwards!).

If you have questions or need any advice please get in touch with Blackadders Employment Team, working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and across Scotland.

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

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