CRYSTAL CLEAR RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES
Point 4 in the series My 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance
As your business evolves and your team of employees grows, you start to realize there is a minefield of responsibilities, possible issues and grey areas of their rights as employees, and your responsibilities as an employer.
If these are not defined, documented and communicated clearly and promptly you could be sitting on a time bomb when the first misunderstandings and disputes arise in the work place.
When people start to feel unsure or frustrated you run the risk of a fall in motivation and employees are less likely to go the extra mile to see the business succeed. Once your staff step on the downward spiral to the law of minimum effort – only wanting to come in, do the work, go home and collect their pay at the end of the month – you will find it difficult to rebuild confidence, trust and loyalty amongst your team.
Here are some key things you can embed in your company culture to build a secure work place, where everyone is crystal clear on their rights and responsibilities – whether that’s the employer or employee.
The first and most important aspect in building a culture of trust and respect is to have open communication. Give employees a sense of worth by ensuring they understand their right to come and ask at any point. This doesn’t have to mean an open door policy 24/7/365, but if your staff know they can come to you in the first instance with an issue, or if they’re unclear about their rights or responsibilities, it will avoid conflict or confrontation in the long run.
Some companies, fix a certain day or afternoon of the month for clinics, where employees can come along knowing they can have a confidential one on one, and talk through any doubts or concerns they may be having over a particular topic.
Access to Straightforward Advice
With so much free information and advice available through ACAS, membership organisations (Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Business etc) as well as networking events held by local employment law solicitors, there is simply no excuse these days for not knowing what the latest regulations are. Use these to full advantage, and help your employees understand where they can find further information if there is anything they’re still uncertain about, or would prefer independent advice.
Within the company, make sure your staff know where they can access information about their workplace rights and responsibilities. Make available your printed manuals in a defined location, or give everyone read only access to a shared drive on your company network. The important thing is to ensure they all know where the information is and that they have a right, and a responsibility to read and adhere to it.
Employment contracts are essential if you want to avoid misunderstandings, and should be standardized for everyone in the company. The first rifts normally occur when workers in the same positions end up on different contracts when businesses don’t review older contracts and bring them in line with latest versions. Some interesting points that many employers may not be aware of are:
- The contract is the agreement between an employer and employee, defining the basis of the employment relationship.
- Most employment contracts do not need to be in writing to be legally valid – obviously it’s better for both parties if they are though.
- A contract starts as soon as the employee accepts their offer of employment. Even if no written contract exists, or the employee chooses not to sign their contract, by starting work the employee is accepting the terms and conditions offered by the employer
- Recent legislation now requires the employee to receive their written statement of terms and conditions BEFORE starting the job.
- An existing contract of employment can be changed, but only with the agreement of both employer and employee.
The key things you should make crystal clear in the main terms and conditions are the Date Employment Commences, Pay, Working Hours, Holiday Entitlement, and the type of contract (permanent, full time, zero hours etc).
Whilst not a legal requirement, the Employee Handbook can be a valuable document in defining the expectations of the company, and bringing together all the policies, procedures and other topics such as Dress Code and Expense policies that are not normally covered in the main statement of terms and conditions. Legal advisors recommend that, at the very minimum, the Employee Handbook should include your
- Equal Opportunities Policy
- Disciplinary Rules & Procedures
- Grievance Procedure, and
- Health & Safety Policy
From my previous experiences I would also recommend including company policies and guidelines for:
- Dress code
- Internet and Social Media guidelines
- Drug and Alcohol Policy
- Data Protection Policy
- Restricting personal use of company Telephone, Mobile phone, Email and Internet.
As an employer you are perfectly within your rights to insist on a Dress Code within the workplace, so long as you have reasonable grounds for these. You do have to ensure your dress codes are non-discriminatory, and do not restrict expression of religious faith.
Some of the more difficult scenarios I’ve witnessed causing discord between the worker and the employer, especially in client facing roles, are excessive facial or body piercings, body art (tattoos), aggressive hairstyles, and too casual clothing.
Whilst you may allow more freedom in certain environments such as the fashion industry, or a creative workshop, they can often intimidate clients or other employees. As a business you need to decide the image you wish to portray of your company before setting out the guidelines for your codes and policies.
Employees often use social media sites to discuss work issues, or post photos and other information relating to the company they work for, which could be construed publicly as representing their organization. Again, using guidelines to prevent embarrassing or adverse publicity online, is better than having to do damage limitation if your business is dragged through the dirt due to unfortunate posts online after a drunken office party.
Crystal Clear Communication
As the business owner or manager, you should make it clear to your employees right from the outset, that all staff members have a responsibility to ensure workplace harmony by raising queries or highlighting issues as soon as they come to light, rather than festering and allowing the problem to become a grievance.
In summary, and as you’re probably becoming aware, I’m a great advocate of the ACAS guidelines, The ACAS* markers of clear rights and responsibilities suggest:
- Organisations have clear and accessible written statements of rights and responsibilities for employers and employees
- All policies and procedures are openly communicated and reflect the culture, value and expectations of the organization.
- Employers and employees have access to good quality, straightforward advice and information.
- Organisations are clear on their written and unwritten expectations and values, particularly relating to behaviours.
Next Time …….
Point 5 of The 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance
All is not fair in love and war – Or Business
What constitutes workplace fairness may be difficult to define. What ‘feels fair’ will vary from person to person, and from one workplace to another. And what may seem unfair to an employee may seem essential to delivering business outcomes for an employer. Next week’s blog will help you find ways and means to ensure your business culture is a positive experience for both parties.
For further reading about some of the references in my blog, and to help you and your Managers, I can thoroughly recommend the following:
YOUR NEXT STEPS TO GREATER PRODUCTIVITY
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