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We’d all like to be thought of as great employers, it’s something that any business owner strives for. We understand that you want your staff to be happy and productive, and your company to be reputable and profitable. So it’s essential that your HR team has access to relevant and up-to-date legal advice.

We like to see ourselves in a supporting role for senior management and HR departments. Giving them the back up they need when facing day-to-day employment and HR issues, but we can also provide more should situations become complicated.

We have an experienced team of employment solicitors, who keep on top of everything new in the field. We can deal with disputes in a balanced way, hopefully guiding you through them early enough that they can be dealt with in a practical and cost effective way – before they become contentious.

Sickness absence

If an employee is ill, lots of issues can arise, especially if it leads to long-term absence from work. If you’re unsure of what the long term sickness employment rights are, or how to deal with a situation like this, it’s best to seek legal advice. You’ll want to treat anyone who has a long-standing illness fairly, but also do what’s right for your business.

We can help you in a number of ways, whether it’s giving you advice on drafting sickness absence policies and procedures or defending you against an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim.

Conduct an investigation

  • Investigate the nature, extent and likely duration of the medical condition causing the absence. Ensure the business has up-to-date medical evidence that gives a clear prognosis (obtained with the employee’s written consent). Consider whether to obtain the report from employee’s own GP or an independent health adviser
  • If the absence is stress-related, refer the employee to the business’s stress policy (if one exists) or any counselling services available. Consider whether dismissal could be avoided by changing the employee’s role or duties
  • If the absences are short-term and intermittent, your business should investigate if there’s an underlying cause. If necessary follow a capability or disciplinary procedure and set timescales for improvement and give warnings where appropriate
  • Keep confidential records of medical certificates, correspondence, telephone calls and meetings

Contact at all times

It’s essential to maintain contact with the employee throughout the investigation, especially when you receive medical evidence, are contemplating dismissal or considering what adjustments to make. Review the employee’s contract and keep lines of communication as open as possible.

Disability and reasonable adjustments

It’s important, for the purposes of discrimination legislation under the Equality Act 2010, to consider whether an employee is disabled. If this is the case you may want to make adjustments to duties or workplace to help them return to work, but you also have to consider if these adjustments are reasonable. Another alternative is to find a different job within the business that might suit them better.

Review the alternatives to dismissal

It’s always good to consider alternatives in these situations, so think about how important that employee is to you. Does their absence impact on the business or is it creating difficulties and extra costs? It may be possible that you can offer them a different role to solve the issue. You should also consider:

  • Their age, length of service and the circumstances surrounding the absence
  • Any action that’s previously been taken in relation to other employees in similar circumstances
  • Claiming under the terms of any permanent health insurance (PHI) policy or ill-health retirement if the employee has been absent long-term and is unlikely to return in the foreseeable future
  • Whether dismissal would have an adverse affect on any PHI entitlement the employee currently receives
  • Review the medical evidence to make sure it is up to date

Follow correct procedure

If you decide that dismissal may be necessary, write to the employee inviting them to a meeting, making it clear that the business is contemplating dismissing them. You should give the employee at least two days’ notice of the meeting, and the opportunity to be accompanied by a trade union representative or fellow employee. You should also:

  • Provide enough information about the circumstances the business is taking into account and the possible outcomes to enable the employee to respond meaningfully
  • Hold a meeting with the employee and give them the opportunity to present their case against the dismissal
  • Confirm the decision in writing. The letter should give the reason for dismissal, confirm their last day of employment and give them the right to appeal
  • Ensure the employee’s contractual and statutory entitlements are met and that they receive the correct pay entitlement, including notice and holiday pay
  • Hold an appeal meeting (if requested by the employee) and confirm the decision to the employee in writing

Workers holiday rights

All your employees are entitled to holiday, and rightly so, life today is hectic and we all need some down time. But you’re also entitled to make sure that company holiday policies and procedures are stuck to, so that your business runs efficiently and cost-effectively. We can advise you on a number issues surrounding the ins and outs of holiday entitlement including:

  • Generally, employees entitled to 28 days (20 days plus statutory holidays)
  • Part-time employees receive pro-rated entitlement

Plus, we can give you help on the more complicated issues surrounding holidays, including problems that can arise when employees are on long term sickness absence or what happens when commission and overtime come into play. There’s nothing that we can’t guide you through, and our team are happy to listen to any of your concerns.

Policies and procedures

HR and employment issues cover a wide range of diverse topics. As a 21st Century employer you need to know so much more about the rights of employees and how you and they use the workplace – from the perils of social media to how to keep your business running efficiently. We can talk you through policies including adverse weather conditions and whistle blowing, discuss whether procedures may or may not be contractual and help you put together documents for your staff.

At Lester Aldridge we can guide you through a whole host of policies and procedures thanks to our experience in the field. We want to make sure that you’re fully aware of how you and the people who work for you should be behaving, and make sure that this is clear to everyone.

We understand that procedures change regularly so to make this more cost effective for you we’ve put in place fixed/capped fees for reviewing handbooks and policies/procedures, so that you can keep up to date, without breaking the bank.

By listening to your employment and HR needs we can help you to become and remain the company that you want to be, supporting you at every level with sound commercial legal advice. Get in touch by filling out the contact form below.

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