Being discriminatory is bad
Think carefully about who to take on (being discerning is good), but ensure the factors you are influenced by are objectively fair ones.
Be alive to discrimination issues when advertising and recruiting for roles. Think about your advertisement and whether it is potentially discriminatory. Exclude physical characteristics from advertisements unless you can show they are a real requirement of the job and are proportionate to achieving a legitimate aim.
Consider whether age or religious requirements can be objectively justified. If you do use a restriction, clearly state the reason for this. Take care not to inadvertently use words that imply there is a restriction; for example, ‘young’ or ‘mature’ or ‘recent graduates’.
Finally, think about where you are advertising the position. Is your choice restricting the likely pool of candidates?
Right-to-work checks are good
The Home Office recently published updated guidance on how to carry out right-to-work checks and the potential penalties for failing to do so properly.
The guidance actively recommends that you check the right to work of anyone involved in your business – whether or not they are your employees. It states that there are “compelling reasons” for doing this, including the fact that the removal of illegal workers is likely to “disrupt your operations and result in reputational damage”. It goes so far as to suggest checking the right to work of all workers in your business, even contractors or the genuinely self-employed.
The legal basis for this new approach is unclear. The legislation governing right-to-work checks only applies to employees. But if you’re employing staff (even on short, fixed-term contracts) you’ll have to carry out right-to-work checks. Make sure you retain evidence of the check being carried out properly, so you can rely on the ‘statutory excuse’ should anyone be found to be working illegally.
If staff have any restrictions on their right to work (or on the number of hours they can work), you’ll also need to comply with those restrictions. For example, international students often have restrictions on the hours they can work during term time. It is all-too easy for students to take on extra shifts and for employers to suddenly find themselves in a situation where a student has started working illegally.
Training and sign-up is good
It’s an obvious point, but easy to forget when festive fever makes tempers soar and time fly faster than a globe-circumnavigating sleigh.
For example, it’s all very well for you to know what the Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires if and when someone returns that faulty dancing Christmas tree. But do your frontline retail staff know? What’s your own policy (if over and above the statutory minimum)? Do they know that?
If that promotion is so super-secret that it’s only ever spoken of in hushed tones in sound-proofed rooms, are you happy that all temporary staff working on it have signed up to confidentiality provisions (at some stage, somewhere)? And are you confident they understand this means they can’t sell photos of that top secret thing to the press?
You may have spent millions on your branding to convey that ‘message’ of ‘friendly and warm’ in myriad multimedia ways, but if no one mentions it to new frontline staff who remain frostier with customers than Jack Frost on a bitter December morning, you’ll have missed more than a trick come the January sales.
Getting the basics right is a start. Ask yourself: do new starters know what to do (and what not to do) and when, who to turn to with a problem – how to get out if there’s a fire? And can you show that they at least should know this?
Whatever your business, we wish it and you a happy and prosperous festive season.
Debbie Nuttall is an associate at HRC Law