Making Sure to Sign on the Dotted Line – John GrantNews
Posted by: manpreet.boora 2nd October 2017
You overlook the importance of employee contracts and staff handbook at your peril. John Grant, joint founding director at Goodman Grant, tells you why …
What can you do when a former employee decides to set up a practice just around the corner from your own, recruiting their former colleagues from your office and reaching out to your patients? Not much unfortunately if you did not have a comprehensive contract with them.
When someone works for you, there is an implied duty of good faith between both parties, even if there was no written contract provided, including that the employees cannot work for a competitor. With no contractual clauses governing their actions in the future, they are free to do as they please when they leave – at a huge cost to you.
The lack of attention to employee contracts is confounding. Firstly, it breaches the terms of the 1978 Employment Protection Act, and its descendant, the 1996 Employer Rights Act; the latter stipulates that the main terms of the contract must be in writing and availed to the employee within two months from the start of their employment.
Ultimately, it is the principal’s responsibility to ensure contracts are in place. Without contracts for your staff, you are left stranded in a legal mine field. For example, your employee has the statutory right to claim a month’s salary for your oversight; in a discrimination suit, a tribunal would look harshly at the fact that you had not issued a contract. To them, it would appear that you have wilfully shirked your duties and responsibilities as an employer to your staff.
The contract is yours to draw up as you see fit; however, the 1978 Act stipulates the issues which must be covered including, among other things, working hours, the place they will be employed, and if they will be required to work anywhere else, their salary, holidays and, sickness pay, pension contributions, disciplinary procedures and the notice period to be given by you if you decide to terminate.
Importantly, there can also be the inclusion of a restrictive covenant or binding out clause that bars a former employer from competing against you for a specific period of time, as is commonplace for associates. Put careful consideration into defining each employee’s obligations and needs in their contracts.
The other essential employee document for any practice is the staff handbook. It should outline all of your important policies and procedures covering a multitude of issues, including, for example, antidiscrimination and equal opportunity policies. Without these policies in particular, you are putting yourself at risk once again. In a discrimination tribunal, you would be viewed harshly if you did not have an anti-discrimination policy in the handbook – and stand to be out of pocket at least £10,000 in the very likely event you lose the case.
Contracts of employment today must change with the times. In today’s world, it is vital to have a social media policy, so if an employee decides to bad-mouth the practice on social media engines they will be aware that they are potentially committing gross misconduct and putting their continued employment in jeopardy.
Get your contracts and staff handbook in order. If you don’t, you will run the risk of disaster sooner or later.
John Grant at Goodman Grant Solicitors – contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, visit the Goodman Grant website at www.goodmangrant.co.uk or call on:
Leeds office: 0113 834 3705
London office: 0203 114 2133
Liverpool office: 0151 707 0090
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