From the very first paragraphs in the introduction, this book entitled 'Happy Working Relationships - the small business guide to managing people and employment law' caught my interest.
It announces that its aim is to add to the selection of advisory books available for small businesses by including HR in the already well-covered list of finance, marketing and strategy. This may very well be so, but I think it would also prove useful for anyone working in a larger company, particularly non-HR managers who feel restricted by procedures and notions of fairness. The book keeps jargon to the barest minimum and states its limitations in that it covers all aspects of the employment relationship but not very deeply. By necessity, therefore, it provides a common sense view of all aspects of recruiting, managing, employing and ultimately dismissing staff in a way that is completely untrammelled from the culture, politics and divergent interests of larger organisations. Initially I found the structure of the book a little artificial as it equates the various stages of the employment process with those of a romantic relationship – from searching for a partner online to divorce, acrimonious or otherwise. Reassurance This approach does make a lot of sense, however, and it also helps to keep the writing completely grounded and relevant. In his introduction, Simon Jones states that he wants to give a quick overview of the topic and he certainly appears to have been successful in this aim. An index would have made the search for possible exclusions easier, but I can say that, within the book’s 110 pages, he manages to cram in topics as diverse as Border Agency rules governing eligibility to work in the UK; the difference between an employee and a contractor; pro rata bank holidays for part-time workers; time off for public duties; resignation without notice and compromise agreements. The chapter headings start by referring to the legal considerations of anyone considering taking on their first employee, before move logically through recruitment; contracts; management and team dynamics; sickness and other absence; discipline and grievance; resignation and dismissal; redundancy and tribunals and (in the aptly-titled ‘the Extended Family’ section) TUPE and trades unions. Finally, under the title ‘Happy Ever After’, the book advises that managers should by no means be put off employing people, before providing them with a nicely selected list of websites for further information, which include Business Link and ACAS. In my opinion, this work should provide small business managers with a great deal of re-assurance that taking on staff is not as perilous as some might make it out to be. The danger for HR consultants, on the other hand, is that its concise and extremely readable writing cuts through any mystique and could lead to diminished demand for their services, particularly fire-fighting ones. If it helps to enhance basic management processes generally, however, that will be no bad thing, not least because it should free up HR professionals to focus on boosting business profitability and good practice.
The reviewer this time was Jeremy Badcock, business manager at Redlands Surgery and director of consultancy, JLB HR.