Updated: May 7, 2022
I had a conversation with a client a couple of weeks ago where they said something that made my HR brain twitch. They said..."I don't believe in HR contracts."
The alarm bells started firing on all cylinders at this point for several reasons:
Employment contracts are required by LAW
There were literally no mechanisms in place for managing the team.
So when the client went on to say they were having trouble with employee conduct and wanted to change their contracted hours as a result of misconduct, we had to have a frank conversation.
The client was having issues with employee conduct because they had failed to set boundaries.
They hadn't outlined their expectations to the employees and then, when the mysterious expectations weren't met, they had no mechanisms in place to hold people accountable for their actions.
So the result was the employees doing what they wanted, and the client feeling incredibly stressed, burnt out and fed up.
The difficult thing about this kind of scenario is that the client naturally wants to punish the employees for taking the p*ss. But the fact of the matter is that you often have to look to yourself as the manager first.
It's like when a dog jumps up you - you can't immediately blame the dog. You have to look to it's owner to see how it's been trained...if at all.
If you don't set the boundaries, employees will push the limits until they find them for you.
So my client and I had this conversation, but I was feeling a lot of resistance.
The client was worried about rocking the boat. They were worried about the burden of "lengthy" HR processes. They were worried about whether their employees would sabotage the business if they set boundaries on things like timekeeping.
And I get it. These are all totally valid concerns.
But, like I said to this client...what's the alternative? The alternative would be the client continuing to feel stressed, overworked and paying people who aren't committed to the future of the business.
When we looked at how much money my client was wasting by allowing their employees to run amok, suddenly it seemed worth having an uncomfortable conversation.
But beyond the conduct issues, the big giant red flag still needed to be addressed.
Contracts of employment and HR procedures are not just for big corporate giants.
They are a LEGAL REQUIREMENT under the Employment Rights Act.
Sure - the more people you have, the more HR support you'll probably need.
But that doesn't mean that Josephine Bloggs with her 5 employees down the road won't benefit from HR support.
It also doesn't mean she can get away with failing to comply with the Employment Rights Act.
She can still be taken to an employment tribunal. Her business is still open to risk.
So the moral of this story is simple:
If you employ staff, ensure you have employment contracts in place and, if you're not an employment law expert, invest in support from a HR professional.
HR support is cheaper than an employment tribunal!
P.S. if you're a young and lively business looking for a taste of classic HR straight from the barrel, I have one Exuberant Essentials client space opening up on 1 February! Click here to apply!