Business Law & Compliance

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Common legal traps that catch directors when dealing with employees

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(5) Treating complaints and grievances as something to be avoided

In a similar vein, directors tend to avoid dealing with employee complaints, which often start small and can usually be managed informally before they escalate into embittered, time-consuming battles. Rather than viewing complaints as adversarial, employees should be encouraged to raise concerns (for example in the whistle-blowing context, which alert businesses to matters which could otherwise be overlooked), which can then be dealt with either informally or by following the company’s grievance procedure.

(6) Overly generous sick pay

Some companies choose to offer company sick pay over and above the statutory minimum requirement. Whilst an important workplace benefit, overly generous sick pay could actually encourage employee absenteeism. Where an employee can be off on full pay, there is no financial incentive to be at work. Directors need to ensure that sick pay policies are well-considered. They should support employees on genuine sick leave, but discourage unwarranted absences which are sometimes used tactically by employees to avoid dealing with disciplinary and performance issues.

Bosses must ensure wellbeing of staff if they are to protect bottom line

(7) Inadequate employee engagement and communication

Employee engagement is critical to a company’s success. Whilst important business decisions require management time and consideration before tangible plans can be communicated to staff, it is important that employees feel engaged through the implementation of new business strategies and changes that will affect them. Clear, meaningful communications motivate employees to give their best in achieving the company’s goals. Directors should lead by example and adopt regular and appropriate forms of communication.

(8) Failure properly to protect data privacy

Whether it is keeping personnel files up-to-date and secure, informing employees how their personal data will be used, monitoring employees’ internet records or email accounts, or facilitating “bring your own device”, many managers can be unaware of the company’s obligations under the Data Protection Act. It is important that directors have at least a basic understanding of data privacy laws and how employees’ personal data must be processed from the start of, and throughout, the employment relationship.

But let’s get one thing clear, bosses are rarely bad on purpose – more often than not they are blissfully unaware that their staff liken their leadership style to Ricky Gervais’ infamous David Brent.

Sarah Thompson is an employment lawyer at the London office of international firm, McGuireWoods

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