Following a few simple precautions will help reduce the likelihood of problems.
According to the study, SME employees are almost twice as likely to bring an Employment Tribunal claim as larger firm employees and SMEs lose cases mostly because the right procedures aren’t followed.
Simon Dawson, the managing director of Hiring and Firing, which aims to speak to SMEs in simple language about employment issues, says: ‘Small to medium-sized businesses have special problems that often get them in a fix. Employees are frequently friends or family so discipline can be difficult to deal with.’
Many problems can be avoided if businesses use the principles behind employment law to their advantage. SmallBusiness.co.uk and Simon Dawson offer these precautions to consider:
Be there for your employees – A small business manager may have to be out finding work or dealing with clients; this is almost the same as an absentee landlord and can lead to lots of unattended problems that irritate staff. Methods have to be used to ensure small things don’t build up, and that in the manager’s absence there is no in-fighting or bullying.
Have well-trained staff – This is essential for any business, but can be too expensive for smaller firms to send staff on external courses. A business can train its own staff in lots of ways, such as having one member of staff helping another going to other small businesses to learn – but it has to be thought out so it builds on the job at hand and doesn’t take people away from their work unnecessarily.
Don’t discriminate – Judge people on what they deliver, not on assumptions about their race, religion, age, colour, disability or sexual orientation. In these cases it is illegal but discrimination of any sort is bound to lead to future problems.
Communicate – Ensure everyone knows the outcome of their actions. Are they appreciated and secure, or is their job in jeopardy because of their work? If you have to speak to a member of staff about performance, good or bad, make sure that you approach the subject sensitively – you don’t want to alienate any of your employees.
Use mediation – Having a third party listen to both sides of a dispute can help to work towards a resolution that suits everybody involved. It aims to help people to resolve their issues without feeling embarrassed or undermined by external intervention. This is very beneficial in work-based problems between staff, family-business problems and high emotional problems.