Edie is the owner of a large restaurant that employs 37 staff. During the Covid-19 outbreak the restaurant closed and all 37 staff were placed on furlough. As Edie began to wrap up some admin and accounts work, she was shocked when she uncovered some serious problems. Edie needed advice and support to resolve them. She felt that her current processes were not adequate protection for her business and after some examination of them, her worries proved to be correct.
Edie had both short and long term problems when it came to HR processes. She uncovered while doing the accounts that one employee had been using the company account for personal spending and had charged the business over £1,000. The employee denied this when asked; however the evidence, including delivery confirmations from couriers seemed to confirm it. Edie needed to conduct a disciplinary process for the personal use of the company account and also wanted to deduct the amount taken from the employees final salary payment.
During my initial consultation with Edie I learned that there were no written contracts in place, despite it being a legal requirement from day one of employment (https://www.gov.uk/employment-contracts-and-conditions/written-statement-of-employment-particulars). Her employees worked a combination of both fixed hours and “as needed hours” (zero-hours workers) however no one had received a contract in writing.
There was no disciplinary policy or disciplinary procedures in place for Edie to rely on when it came to investigating the matter. During the investigation it became clear that this particular member of staff had caused a number of issues, however none were ever documented and no steps were ever taken to correct this behaviour before it got out of hand.
With my support Edie conducted the disciplinary and the outcome was dismissal for gross misconduct. Although Edie wanted to recover the money lost by the employee from her final wages, the absence of a written contract meant that this was not possible. Despite not being able to recover the money from the final wages we agreed to other legal steps that could be taken for recovery of the amount and made sure our investigation and evidence were robust for further legal action.
As a result of this eye opening experience, Edie immediately implemented a written statement of terms of employment (contract) for all staff members to ensure she was compliant with the legal requirements. The contract included a clause for being able to deduct from wages if required to.
We also implemented a new staff handbook with appropriate policies in place, including a disciplinary and grievance policy to ensure matters did not get out of hand again.
We implemented both a probationary sign off process and a performance management process so that Edie could better identify and address employment issues before they became serious.
By the beginning of July the restaurant was able to partially re-open and we brought half the staff back from furlough using the flexible furlough scheme to make up the hours and kept the remaining staff on furlough. Despite lockdown being a very difficult time for the business, it allowed Edie an opportunity to spend time in the business and realise where she was at risk for not having sufficient and adequate employment process in place, which is a very worthwhile exercise for a business to do.
If you would like to learn what your legal duties as an employer and the consequences for not performing the duties correctly are, I provide a detailed checklist in my Employment Essentials Guide.