Answers to the Most Common Human Resources (HR) Questions

Ed Hussey - Menzies Accountant

Ed Hussey – People Solutions Director

Please note that, to keep things brief, our answers are general and do not address the full complexity of each issue. They should not be relied upon as advice and we will accept no related liability. Please do contact us for more information on any of the topics covered.

Q. Do I have to give someone a written contract of employment?

A. Yes. You are required to set out certain basic information about someone’s employment within the first 8 weeks of employment. We suggest however that you go further and include some additional terms that will clarify the relationship and protect the business. If terms are not written into a contract, they can be implied based on custom and practice. It is better to be specific whenever possible!

Q. What do I need to pay someone if they are leaving?

A. You need to make all contractual payments up until the date of leaving, so this includes:

a) Salary and benefits.
b) Payment in lieu of holiday entitlement accrued to the date of leaving – or a deduction if the employee has exceeded their pro-rated allowance.
c) Commissions and bonuses earned, unless otherwise expressly agreed in the rules of the scheme.
d) Payment in lieu of notice – if applicable.
e) Reimbursement of any genuine expenses accrued during employment, subject to them being claimed in the normal way.
f) Any Statutory Maternity Pay that is owed.

Check carefully that you have fully met your obligations for payments, otherwise a claim for wrongful dismissal may arise.

Q. How much notice do I have to give someone if I am dismissing them or making them redundant?

A. You need to give someone the greater of a) their statutory notice entitlement or b) the notice entitlement that is stated in their contract of employment. If, however, you are dismissing someone for Gross Misconduct, they will not be entitled to notice. Take care in these cases however to follow the correct procedures and be able to justify a gross misconduct decision.

Statutory notice periods are as follows: Those with continuous employment of at least one month but less than two years are entitled to at least one week’s notice from the employer. Employees with two years’ continuous employment or more are entitled to one week’s notice for each complete year, up to a maximum of 12 weeks’ notice.

The minimum notice to be given by an employee with at least one month’s continuous employment is one week.

Q. What are the grounds on which someone can claim unlawful discrimination?

A. Current, ex and prospective employees can claim discrimination in respect of nine protected characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

Q. What is unlawful discrimination?

A. Discrimination is where a person or a group of people have suffered a detriment, either directly or indirectly, because of one of the nine protected characteristics i.e. age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

Q. What is unlawful harassment?

A. Unlawful harassment is when one person subjects another to unwanted conduct, including but not limited to conduct of a sexual nature, related to a relevant protected characteristic which has either the purpose or effect of violating that person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. The relevant protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Q. What is unlawful victimisation?

A. Victimisation happens when one person subjects another to a detriment because they have, are thought to have, or might carry out a ‘protected act’. You carry out a protected act when you, for example, make a claim of discrimination, or support someone else in doing so, or provide evidence as part of an investigation into discrimination.

Q. Do I have to accept a request for flexible working?

A. No, but you do need to take is seriously, deal with it in a reasonable way and notify an outcome to the employee within a 3 month decision period. Employees with more than 26 weeks continuous service can make a request. You should take reasonable steps to consider it including meeting with the employee (unless you are granting the request straight away). You can only turn down a request for one or more of 8 reasons set out in the relevant legislation, being:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • a planned structural change to your business.

Contact Menzies People Solutions team

For more information or guidance on dealing with these common HR issues or to discuss more complex situations, contact Menzies People Solutions team.