As we enter the next phase of the year, businesses across various industries are proactively assessing their achievements, pending tasks, and potential hurdles that may arise in the coming months. With a focus on addressing critical HR issues, this article will explore four pertinent challenges employers may encounter this Autumn.
1. Managing Flexible Working Requests during the New School Term
With the commencement of the new school term, some employees may seek flexible working arrangements, necessitating a well-structured response from employers. Here are three crucial points to consider:
- Statutory Entitlement: Employees with at least 26 weeks of service have the statutory right to submit a flexible working request. However, such requests are allowable only once in a 12-month period.
- Process and Permanence: Upon receiving a request, employers must follow a prescribed process. If changes are agreed upon, they are typically permanent in nature.
- Right to Request, Not Right to Have: Employers have the discretion to refuse requested changes on specific statutory grounds. It is essential, however, to exercise caution when declining requests to avoid potential discrimination claims, particularly in cases related to childcare, which may lead to claims of indirect sex discrimination.
If your business receives a flexible working request, we strongly advise seeking professional guidance before taking action. Here at Kingfisher, we can assist you throughout the process, offering vital information to help make informed decisions for your business and providing support in preparing necessary documents and correspondence.
2. Effective Management of New Apprentices
Onboarding new apprentices is a significant responsibility for employers. In England and Wales, here are two pivotal considerations for ensuring a successful apprenticeship:
- Appropriate Contract: It is imperative to issue an ‘apprentice agreement’ rather than a standard fixed-term employment contract to apprentices. Failure to do so may grant apprentices enhanced employment law rights, making dismissals during the apprenticeship more challenging.
- Monitoring and Support: To foster the success of apprentices, employers should be prepared to monitor and support them in acquiring the necessary skills and confidence. This proactive approach allows for the identification and resolution of any emerging issues.
3. Adapting to Changing Staffing Requirements
As business needs evolve with the seasons, employers may find themselves in a position where they need to make changes to their staffing. Whether contemplating redundancies or alterations to employees’ working hours, fairness and reasonableness are paramount. This entails engaging in consultations with affected employees.
The initial step, whether considering changes in working hours or proposing redundancies, is to formulate a comprehensive business case that outlines the rationale behind the proposed changes.
For further insights on navigating redundancies, creating a redundancy business case, or modifying terms and conditions, please get in touch with a member of our team today on 0333 996 0666.
4. Handling the Conclusion of Fixed-Term/Temporary Contracts
If your business employs fixed-term or temporary employees, perhaps to accommodate a busy summer season, and these contracts are nearing their end, it is crucial to plan for a smooth transition. Failing to renew such contracts constitutes a dismissal under the law, emphasising the importance of safeguarding your business interests.
In many cases, managing the conclusion of fixed-term or temporary contracts is straightforward. However, it is vital to consult with professionals who can provide context-specific advice.
If your business anticipates the conclusion of fixed-term or temporary contracts, please contact our team well in advance of the contract’s end date to ensure proper handling of the situation.
- What should I do if an employee requests flexible working arrangements due to the new school term starting?
If an employee requests flexible working arrangements, it’s essential to follow the statutory process, considering the employee’s eligibility and the permanent nature of changes if agreed upon. Remember that while you have the right to refuse requests on specific grounds, such as business needs, be cautious to avoid potential discrimination claims.
- Can I issue a standard fixed-term employment contract to apprentices, or is a specific ‘apprentice agreement’ required?
To protect your business and adhere to legal requirements, it is crucial to issue an ‘apprentice agreement’ rather than a standard fixed-term employment contract. Failing to do so may grant apprentices enhanced employment law rights, making dismissals during the apprenticeship more challenging.
- How should I handle staffing changes in response to seasonal fluctuations?
When your business faces changing staffing requirements, it’s vital to act fairly and reasonably. This often involves consulting with employees and formulating a comprehensive business case to explain the reasons behind proposed changes.
- What are the potential consequences of not renewing fixed-term or temporary contracts when they come to an end?
Not renewing fixed-term or temporary contracts is legally considered a dismissal. Failing to handle these situations properly may lead to legal complications and potential claims. It’s crucial to plan and consult with experts, like our team at Kingfisher Professional Services, to ensure a smooth transition and protect your business.
- How can professional guidance benefit my business in addressing HR challenges this Autumn?
Professional guidance can provide clarity on legal requirements, reduce the risk of errors, and help your business make informed decisions. Whether it’s handling flexible working requests, managing apprenticeships, addressing staffing changes, or concluding fixed-term contracts, seeking expert advice can save time, resources, and potential legal issues.
In conclusion, as we move into Autumn, it is prudent for businesses to proactively address these HR challenges to ensure smooth operations and compliance with employment laws. If you’re an employer and you require assistance or further guidance on any HR issue, please do not hesitate to reach out to our expert team on 0333 996 0666.