As an employer, there is a strong chance that at some point you will need to deal with legal issues. These might relate to unfair dismissal, redundancy, or discrimination. Hopefully you will be able to resolve any issues before they go too far. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid the kind of problems that end up in court or at a tribunal.
Take expert advice early on
Ideally, you should have a member of staff who is fully trained and qualified in HR and will be able to keep you right. But for many smaller businesses, this is not an option. It may, however, be possible to have an HR specialist on retainer, or one who will work as a consultant when required. Without that specialist knowledge, it is easy to make mistakes which are not only expensive but also stressful and time-consuming. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t start looking for advice until something goes wrong.
Employers have a duty to understand and comply with employment law as well as keeping up to date with any new legislation. The Workplace Relations Commission can help you to understand this complex field. There is a lot of useful information covering topics such as holidays, leave, equality issues, ending the contract of employment, and advice on where to find more information.
Avoiding problems from the start
The best strategy is always prevention. There are steps you can take to minimise the likelihood of legal issues. It all starts with recruitment. Make your interview questions as insightful as possible and always follow up references. It is also important that employees have a clear understanding of what is involved before they start. Information you provide must be written out in clear terms so that it can be easily understood.
Managers should have training in all policies, and compliance should be monitored. There is no point in having sound and fair policies if no one is following them. Also, if you don’t follow your policy it could weaken your case or even cause you to lose your case on a technicality. And be sure that your policies are right for your particular organisation and business area. If you find templates online make sure you adapt them to fit your own requirements. As well as policies regarding bullying and harassment and equality, you should also have a clear workable grievance procedure. Options for mediation can go a long way to de-escalating a potentially difficult situation.
It is worth taking legal advice before finalising policies and procedures. Casting an expert eye over them will give you confidence and highlight any potential problems or ambiguity. It is an investment which will in the long term save you time, money and a lot of stress.
Despite the best precautions, problems can still arise. If you have concerns, it is best to discuss them with a legal advisor sooner rather than later. Things can often be resolved more easily at the earlier stages. And if not, at least it you can take steps to avoid any action which could make your situation worse.