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Staffing for the upturn: How to avoid falling foul of employment law


A recurring theme in many of my conversations with clients over recent months has been the dearth of new talent available to their organisation.

With the economy in recovery mode, unemployment falling and a growing requirement for new skills, the competition for new people is fierce. It’s a buyer’s market with good candidates usually getting more than one job offer and firms having to fight to secure the best staff.

A recent survey by CIPD/Hays found that 62 per cent of UK employers reported a “war for talent” in the last year, up 20 per cent from the same survey in 2009.

Closing the skills gap

In fighting this skills deficit, many organisations are looking to reverse the measures they implemented during the preceding downturn when many were forced to reduce staff hours, work on a reduced number of shifts, or let go of some of their most experienced people.

We are currently advising a number of businesses seeking to reorganise their staffing to address this deficit. New skills are required, new positions and job descriptions are created and internal teams need to be reorganised.

This inevitably leads to some positions becoming redundant and the need to consult with staff. Surprisingly for many businesses, staffing for the upturn requires just as much diligence as scaling back in a downturn.

Staying on the right side of the law

Critically, employers need to ensure that proper procedures are put in place so that employment rights are not breached. This includes the statutory right not to be unfairly dismissed, the statutory protection that even part time workers have, as well as the right generally of all employees not to be discriminated against. Many employers are still unaware that a dismissal can, of itself, be an act of discrimination.

Employers need to take early professional advice to prevent potentially high value claims being made against their business. Getting it wrong has the additional financial cost of dealing with such claims and also lost business time.

Attracting the right people

As well as the internal reorganisation comes the issue of how businesses come up with a strategy for recruiting new talent.

Many are going to increasing lengths to not only attract staff, but retain their key employees. Some are turning to improved additional benefits packages to woo the workforce, such as gym memberships, private healthcare cover and better pension provision.

Introducing such measures also requires careful thought to avoid falling foul of employment legislation, particularly in resolving any discrimination issues that result from offering such benefits to some staff members and not others.

Again, it is prudent to seek early legal advice to ensure recruitment procedures, induction processes and employment contracts are legally watertight.

For more information on this subject, or any other employment law matter, please contact the Employment team on 01772 258321.

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