Our 24 Hour Advice Service receives thousands of calls every week on every topic under the sun that employers come across with their employees. Here, we illustrate the topics that have recently generated the most calls to the Advice Service.

1) Disciplinary proceedings
Consistently the ‘winner’ of the highest call rate contest, disciplining employees is what our clients request advice on the most. Keeping clearly documented and detailed notes of any disciplinary procedure, including the investigation and subsequent meetings with the employee in question is essential for creating a reliable paper trail.

2) Grievances
Employers who receive complaints from their employees make up the next most frequent caller for advice. Commonly, employees have complained about the behaviour of their colleagues, or a belief that a fellow worker has been treated more favourably than they have. All grievances should be taken seriously and dealt with in accordance with contractual procedures. Escalation of a grievance can often be avoided if it is taken care of immediately.

3) Changing terms and conditions
Employers wish to change the terms and conditions of their employees for many reasons and in the current climate, it is often related to pay matters. We receive a high number of calls on this subject because changing contractual terms can be a risky business. Employers who contact us on this subject will be guided through an appropriate process to achieve the desired result in the least risky way possible.

4) Redundancy
We are still receiving a high number of calls in relation to making employees redundant. Redundancy, however, may not always stem from a loss of business caused by the current state of the economy, a decision to reorganise the business can also lead to a redundancy situation. Appropriate consultation and a transparent selection procedure play a large part in a fair redundancy process, however it is caused.

5) Wintry weather
It will come as no surprise that we had a large amount of calls recently about how employers should handle the problems that the snow caused! Most calls have focused on whether an employee should be paid for the day when they haven’t been able to get to work. Generally, a ‘no-show’ would mean that no payment is due, however, other aspects should influence your decision, not least the contract of employment.

6) Lay off
Also as a result of the snowfall, a huge number of clients have requested advice on whether a period of lay off can be implemented because they have had to temporarily cease operations. Client shouldn’t impose lay off without first checking that the contract of employment allows them to take such a measure.

7) Pre-employment health questions
A large amount of our clients are unsure about their continued use of pre-employment health questions since the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 and have called the Advice Service for guidance. Employers should generally now only send out a health questionnaire to be filled in by an employee or ask health related questions after a job has been offered, and not before. Although there are limited circumstances where questions prior to the job offer can be asked, specific advice should be sought before doing so.

8) Working Time
Recent case law on the interaction of annual leave and sickness has increased the volume of calls the Advice Service receives on this subject. The calculation of annual leave for part time employees or employees who start part way through the year has also been common. Quite often a complicated mathematical equation, especially since the increase of annual leave in recent years, it is important that clients get this right to avoid complaints from staff.

9) Retirement
The statutory retirement procedure is very often the reason why our clients call us. Because the procedure which allows employers to fairly dismiss an employee by way of retirement is so strict in its provisions it is very important that an employer complies with each part of the process to ensure a safe dismissal.

10) Extra Bank Holiday
The Government’s announcement of the extra Bank Holiday in April 2011 to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton created an influx of calls relating to an employer’s obligations in this respect. Employees will only be entitled to take the extra day off if their contract allows them to. In many cases, it won’t. Entitlement depends on the specific wording of the contract and this should be referred to in all cases.

If you would like any advice on the above issues, or any other employment law issues, please contact our advice line today on 0844 892 2772.