Challenges for growing firms need not be insurmountable
Oct 15 2008 By Joe Thornhill
GROWTH in a business is a positive sign but can cause issues when accompanied by a corresponding increase in the workforce.
Given the plethora of employment legislation, together with the impact of case law, even small employers can feel overwhelmed by employment issues. This is particularly the case when they do not have the support of, or the resources for, a human resources department or even adviser.
However, help is available from a number of sources. The internet contains a wealth of free general information and where more specific advice is required, high standard but cost-effective employment advice can be obtained through retainer agreements or insurance-backed employment packages. Further, as the business grows, different solutions are easy to put in place to deal with employment issues.
But it’s not just the day-to-day employment matters that growing businesses have to deal with. If a company acquires another business as part of its expansion, it is imperative that the transfer regulations are followed.
This entails thinking ahead in respect of any changes to working conditions the employer might want to impose to ensure that there is adequate consultation, and also managing a group of employees who are likely to be on different terms and conditions following the transfer.
This in itself can be difficult, but attempts to harmonise terms are likely to be void and could be met with resistance unless there is a levelling up of terms and conditions as opposed to a levelling down.
Employment issues also arise when a business is restructured. Often posts need to be re-jigged with certain positions no longer required.
If the employer’s need for staff reduces, there will be a redundancy situation and proper processes must be followed in order to avoid unfair dismissal claims. In respect of recruitment, a robust process should be followed to ensure that discrimination does not take place – and, importantly, cannot be seen to have taken place, with successful candidates being properly inducted and given the right contractual documentation.
Employers also need to be aware that with success comes an increasing need to protect the business. It may be the case that the contracts of employment used no longer provide adequate security against an employee using confidential information or soliciting customers. However, new terms cannot simply be imposed on the employees and a proper procedure has to be followed which could ultimately lead to the employees being dismissed and offered re-engagement on the new terms.
But if the employer is proposing to dismiss 20 or more employees to effect the changes, then he will have to collectively consult with workforce representatives.
As can be seen, the challenges facing employers of growing businesses are many and varied.
However, they are not insurmountable and with the right advice and guidance, the path to continued growth can be clear.