The perfect time to make some HR resolutions

With your employees returning from the festive break, this is the perfect time to make some HR New Year's resolutions.

By Emma Swan, Taylors Solicitors.

Take time to consider our suggested key tasks for the start of 2014, all of which have the common goal of protecting your business from unexpected or avoidable costs and claims.

How many are already on your 'to do' list?

1. Reflect on last year's employment issues and experiences If you experienced any significant employment or workforce issues in your business during 2013, spend a few hours this month reviewing the cases again and the issues that arose. Ask yourself whether they could happen again.

Although this may sound simple, not all employers make the time to do this and take stock of lessons learned. History is a great educator and perhaps the best predictor of future events.

2. Ensure your employment contracts with all employees are relevant, up-to-date and protect your business Can you honestly say that every one of your employees has a contract of employment that reflects their actual terms, is up-to-date and protects your business from issues such as ex-employees poaching your staff, your customers and your ideas?

You should review your contracts of employment, especially for those who have been recently promoted and those who have been with your business for a number of years and whose job may have changed or whose contract may need updating in relation to employment law developments.

3. Introduce a Social Media policy Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn...the social media storm continues. Make sure that you have sufficient guidance in place to ensure employees understand what you consider to be acceptable use of social media and the consequences they might face if they don't adhere to the rules.

4. What about your other employment policies and procedures? Are they legally compliant, up-to-date and properly implemented? The past few years have seen some significant changes in our equality laws and in the laws relating to handling disciplinary action, as well as in a number of other key areas. If you haven't updated your policies appropriately, make some time to do so soon.

5. Which colleagues would benefit from additional training in essential areas of people management? Your written procedures may be 'spot on' but what use will they be if your managers have not been adequately trained in using or applying them in practice?

Training appropriate personnel in essential areas of employment law compliance must be an essential part of your risk assessment strategy.

6. Review and re-assess your long-term sickness absence cases Do you have any employees who have been absent for a significant period on health grounds?

The New Year could be an opportune time to involve occupational health, or the employee's GP, in securing a successful return to work. If you have obtained medical advice before, is it time to get a new report to take into account any change there might have been in the employee's medical condition or their own view of their fitness for work?

Don't forget that employees on long-term sick leave are entitled to accrue and carry holiday leave forward to the next year, even if no specific request has been made to do so.

7. Review whether your newer employees are making the grade Employees who joined your business on or after 6 April 2012 will qualify for protection against ordinary unfair dismissal only once they have reached their second anniversary with you. Bear this in mind as you appraise the performance of your less-able newcomers; once they have accrued two years' service, it becomes significantly less straightforward to part company. Emma Swan, Employment Partner at Taylors, can be contacted on 01254 297930 or by email at emma.swan@taylors.co.uk for a no obligation discussion of your business' needs, including employment and HR legal services and bespoke training.