This autumn’s HR agenda

There are a number of key issues that HR teams should be looking at this
autumn as part of their general strategic approach to employment law. This
article outlines four of those key issues.

Revamp disciplinary and grievance procedures

The Employment Act 2002 will come into force next year. It will incorporate
a statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedure and a statutory grievance
procedure into every employee’s employment contract.

Employers need to ensure that every aspect of these statutory procedures are
included in their own wider disciplinary and grievance procedures. In
particular, this will mean any dismissal that takes place at any time, whether
during the first year of employment or not, should comply with the statutory
procedure. If they do not, all dismissals of staff with more than a year’s
service will automatically be unfair.

Employers must train managers to understand the days of casual dismissals of
employees with less than a year’s service will be over. Instead, formal
statutory procedures must be followed in every case.

Auditing in relation to fixed-term employees

The Fixed Term Employees Regulations came into force on 1 October 2002. They
afford fixed-term employees with legal rights to be treated no less favourably
than comparable permanent employees, unless such treatment is (strictly)
objectively justifiable. One statutory way of objectively justifying less
favourable treatment will be to show that the terms of the overall package are
no less favourable. Employers will also need to ensure fixed-term employees are
informed of any internal vacancies for permanent employment and are given equal
access to training.

Data protection

This is rapidly becoming the ‘hot’ issue for HR departments. Careful
consideration should be given to the Codes of Practice currently being issued
by the Information Commissioner. Policies and procedures on data protection
should be devised and disseminated – in particular, how to deal with
third-party requests for information, and personnel file requests by employees.

Domestic works councils

By March 2005, all businesses with 150 or more employees will be obliged to
have information and consultation mechanisms in place that cover all staff in
relation to planned expansions, downsizings and changes to terms and
conditions. Elected staff bodies will need to be established for the purpose,
with appropriate procedures for the information’s dissemination across the
workforce. This issue will radically change the way information circulates
within most businesses, so start preparing for it now.

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