HR BLOG: HR myth busting!

HR has more than its fair share of myths and misinformation! Could it be the ever-changing legislation and case law, the conflicting pressures that many SME business owners face or simply the fact that we are in the business of people problems? It’s probably down to a combination of all three.

Here, we dispel a selection of the most common HR myths that our experts around the country encounter.

“You can’t make a pregnant employee redundant.”

Yes you can. However it must be a procedurally fair process. Be careful though that there is no risk of sex discrimination in the selection process. You also need to be mindful that once a pregnant employee goes on maternity leave, they have extra legal protection by having first option on any available positions that they are qualified to do if placed at risk of redundancy. Get HR support!

“No one can take you to tribunal without two years’ service.”

Now this is a really dangerous one because, yes they can – and for a range of reasons. For example: discrimination related to any of the nine protected characteristics, underpayment of wages like the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage, breach of working-time regulations in terms of holiday pay or a breach of contract.

“You don’t have to give part-time staff the same benefits as full-time staff.”

Part-time staff must suffer no detriment, and so must have the same benefits as full-time staff (or broadly equivalent ones if the same are not possible). Many benefits can be pro rata for part-time staff, such as holiday allowance.

“Casual and zero-hour staff do not get holidays.”

All employees and workers accrue statutory holiday from day one. This is 20 days plus bank holidays.

“I can decide if I want someone to be self-employed.”

Oh no you can’t, as Uber and Pimlico Plumbers are finding out. There are strict rules for deciding the status of people in the business. It is unhelpful that HMRC and employment law rules are different in deciding if someone is an employee, a worker or self-employed.

“I can’t contact sick employees.”

As an employer you have a ‘duty of care’ to keep in touch with a sick employee when they are signed-off to see how they are doing. This doesn’t mean daily calls and emails as this could lead to a harassment case. Regular contact should not just focus on their return to work, but their well-being, and if any reasonable adjustments can be made to help their return.

“If an employee has a fit note for two weeks, they can’t come back before the end of the two weeks.”

If your employee wants to return to work before the end date on their fit note this should be discussed. However, in some cases you may not be able to agree an earlier return for the employee due to required workplace adjustments. Therefore the employee should stay off work until the end date of the fit note.

“You can fire employees on the spot.”

Well, if they had shot a colleague it would probably fall within a range of reasonable responses. But usually the Acas code for disciplinary and grievance should be followed.

“Employees don’t have a contract unless there is something in writing.”

Express terms can be agreed between both the employer and employee in written or verbal communication. So, salary at the interview and pay rise promises at the Christmas party can count!

Alison Schreiber runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington franchise, and works with a number of businesses across PBP. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.