In this advice-led blog from ESP Law, we guide HR professionals through the minefield of things to avoid in 2018 if they’re to keep their job…
Failure to understand the business that employs you
As an HR professional, you need to understand the business you work for. This may sound obvious, but the type of business can have a significant impact on what is asked of you. This is more than knowing about the products or services provided. It is important to also understand the culture and what drives the organisation, in order to provide the best advice possible and the level of service that the senior management team expects.
For example, is your company large or small, cautious or willing to take risks? HR professionals are a key part of the team that helps deliver the aims of the company and so you should be fully immersed in upholding those objectives.
Failure to realise the importance of Tribunal fees being abolished
It’s difficult to overlook the fact that, on 26 July 2017 the Supreme Court abolished fees for Employment Tribunals. It was one of the most pivotal milestones in the 2017 HR landscape.
The introduction of tribunal fees was proven to have had a huge impact on the number of claims lodged – a 79% decrease in its first year. This consequently allowed HR professionals and legal advisors to take more risks with HR decisions and processes, because the chance of an employee taking a claim to Tribunal was relatively small.
Since fees have been abolished, claims to Employment Tribunals have steadily increased. When HR professionals are giving advice to managers and internal customers, caution must therefore be expressed, and the increased risk of a claim must be warned against. The danger of not doing so could prove extremely costly to the business.
Not preparing for the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)
The new data protection rules come into force on 25 May 2018. They will have a very varied scope of influence throughout businesses, and HR will not be immune from the impact.
For instance, the regulations mean that the £10 administration fee to process subject access requests can no longer be charged. This used to be a helpful deterrent to potential employees who were ‘fishing’ for evidence and, as such, requests were often withdrawn when the fee was requested.
The time limit to comply with subject access requests is also set to change, with a reduction from 40 to 30 days. Companies should therefore expect a significant increase in subject access requests and processes must be put in place so that those requests can be handled as quickly and compliantly as possible.
It may also be necessary to amend employment contracts, due to changes to consent rules for the handling of personal data and data subjects. This is because now, for example, employees have the right to object. This may have an impact on systems that utilise automatic sifting processes during recruitment processes, for instance, and clock in/out technologies that use genetic or biometric data such as fingerprints.
Not complying with Gender Pay Gap reporting
Large, private sector employers must publish their first Gender Pay Gap Report before 4 April 2018. The snapshot date is 4 April 2017 and so preparations should have been made throughout 2017 to gather the correct data in readiness.
If such detail has not yet been collated, HR and payroll professionals must work together closely to gather the metrics required and prepare any narrative that needs to run alongside.
Giving cautious, non-commercial advice to the businesses they work for
Increasingly managers and businesses are looking to their HR teams to provide them with sound commercial advice, but what does this mean in reality?
HR’s role is to inform, guide and advise, but responsibility for the final judgement should lie with the senior management team.
HR should comprehensively analyse the situation before any potential solutions can be delivered. The risks and possible costs of each option should also be clearly outlined so that the manager can ultimately make the final – yet informed – decision.
Employment tribunal awards can be significant and have a serious financial impact on an organisation, so failure to provide robust, commercial advice could prove incredibly costly for the HR professional and the business.
After studying law at Cambridge University, I trained at leading national law firm Mills & Reeve, qualifying into their employment team in 2002. I have extensive employment law experience, gained through advising both employers and employees on a wide range of issues, across an array of sectors – including but not limited to finance, education, hospitality, transport and retail. This diverse experience means I am ideally placed to provide advice in relation to professional conduct and regulatory matters.
I am now a senior solicitor at ESP Law, part of ESP Group – a very different employment law firm and HR consultancy business, with our own in-house legal and HR experts. Taking pride in our reputation for delivering sensible, straight-talking and practical advice – at the same time as being approachable and supportive – I am passionate about the way ESP works with its customers. By building on trusted relationships and providing prompt support at the earliest stage of any issue, we help ensure that sound commercial decisions are taken.
The vision for our business was to deliver an exceptionally personal, yet cost-effective service that truly meets the evolving needs of modern and forward-thinking HR teams and their organisations. I’m lucky to be among a team of very talented employment lawyers who work hard day in, day out, to make this vision a reality.