Bosses warned on employment 'myths'

Check first, fire later

Small firms have been warned that there are now so many different employment laws that they may be risking court cases by failing to keep pace with new rules.

Croner Consulting said that that due to a number of misconceptions, many employers are breaking the law when taking on and dismissing staff.

The consultancy firm revealed the UK’s "Top ten management myths" and suggested how bosses can get up-to-date to help avoid employee legal action:

There is no contract of employment if there’s nothing in writing - Even a verbal contract is a binding agreement.

Employees paid a monthly salary are entitled to one month's notice of the termination of their employment - The minimum legal notice period is one week per year of service to a maximum of twelve weeks, irrespective of how frequently someone is paid, but could be longer for more senior staff.

Employees with less than one year's service can be dismissed for any reason - There are now over 20 grounds where an unfair dismissal complaint can come from an employee with under one year's service.

Making someone redundant is easier than dealing with the real issues relating to performance - This risks an unfair dismissal finding especially if the worker is replaced shortly afterwards. Employers must show reasonable justification for a redundancy.

You can sack someone on the spot for gross misconduct without following any form of procedure - This is highly risky, leaving the employer open to an unfair dismissal claim. Workers should be given an opportunity to explain themselves at a properly conducted meeting before decisions are made.

Casual, agency and temporary workers never have employment status - Such workers may be classed as employees, especially if under the control of the 'employer' and working as part of their organisation, and therefore gain employment rights.

If an employee resigns without serving their necessary notice the employer is entitled not to pay them outstanding wages or holiday pay - The employee may be due outstanding wages or holidays and to withhold such sums would require a written term allowing for this, signed by the employee.

Employees must always be given Bank Holidays off work or receive additional pay for working them - Bank holidays are a matter entirely of contract. There is no right to them, or for extra pay, unless otherwise agreed.

Holidays do not accrue if the employee is on long-term sickness absence - Case law has now shown that, even if the contract says otherwise, workers continue to be entitled to accrue and take holidays, even if sick, under the Working Time Regulations.

An employer does not have to give the right of appeal if there is no one higher to hear the appeal - Even in such a case, allowing a review is sensible and allows any misunderstandings to be cleared up. Failure to offer any appeal will render most dismissals unfair.

Richard Smith, of Croner said that many employers get away with implementing bogus policies based on these myths because employees are often oblivious to many of their employment rights, but "employers cannot depend on this to remain the case and should be aware that employees are becoming increasingly savvy to their rights".

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