New Policies and Procedures
Alongside this host of predictable changes, there are also unexpected ones that you should ensure you’re keeping up to date with. As an HR practitioner, it’s your responsibility to understand and implement these changes.
Using the XpertHR legal timetable will help to inform you of any changes that you need to action in the workforce in advance. These often come as a result of new case rulings, though the government usually gives an adjustment period for changes to be actioned. This doesn't mean that you should wait until the deadline to address them, as this time is for you to plan and prepare for implementation.
Through the course of your HR strategy, you may also build in new initiatives for staff which also require documentation changes. These should also be outlined in advance to allow for allocation of resources. Phasing in new initiatives is preferable for HR, as it allows for due diligence and teething issues to be cleared up.
For overarching initiatives, it may be necessary to consult with a legal expert to understand any implications that may not have occurred to you. Attempt to implement policies fairly, without discrimination, otherwise you may be ordered to pay a penalty to workers that were not afforded the same opportunities.
When changing an employee’s contract, it’s also important to give appropriate consideration for the change. Restrictive covenants may not be upheld in court, so consider whether these are really necessary for your workers. Increasingly, courts are siding with ex-employees on restrictive covenants, as they can be seen as unrealistic and unreasonable.
Distributing this information is also a key part of this strategy, as you should have a plan in place to ensure all employees are made aware of these changes.
This doesn’t mean that you personally have to tell each employee individually, but you need a communications plan to distribute information through the hierarchy.
If you are planning large-scale changes, then consider the other documentation that this will impact. For example, if you change your sickness policy then consider if this should also be changed within employment contracts. Failure to do so could result in inconsistent information, which could be misinterpreted by employees.
For each change that you anticipate within your strategy, you should have a timeline and hierarchy for distribution. You should also include dates by which you’ll amend supporting documentation, such as employee contracts.
Legally speaking, it’s best to have employees confirm receipt of any new policy information. A simple signed and dated policy update can save a company legal troubles in the future.
In this case, workers pushed back against changes to the absence policy of the workplace, which was set out in their staff handbook and contract. The Department for Transport sought to change their absence policy to be less lenient, which was found to be to the detriment of their staff.
Although they used a unilateral variation clause, stating that these policies could be changed at any time, the High Court held that these could not be made to the detriment to employees without their consent.
The High Court also found that the employer had failed employees by removing previous versions of the contract from their internal systems. This meant that employees could not access prior versions of the handbook to examine any changes between versions.
- The Department for Transport were obligated to return to the previous absence policy.
- They were also advised to retain copies of previous documentation.
- All employers advised that vague unilateral variation clauses should be used with caution and should not be viewed as carte blanche to make changes to the terms of employment.