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.

Disciplinary proceedings
Nothing seems to be able to budge the issue of discipline from the top of our poll! You remain consistently busy with the alleged misdemeanours of your employees and having to call them into investigatory hearings, gather any potential evidence against them, hold a disciplinary hearing and then come to a decision based on the evidence. We can never stress enough the significance of keeping a ‘paper trail’ of the proceedings – make notes, more notes, and even more notes, recording dates and times of meetings, names of people in attendance, photocopies of statements etc. Tribunals love to be able to see the facts in front of them to support your oral evidence.

Redundancy
The country does not yet seem to have pulled itself out of financial difficulty and this is reflected in the number of calls we are still receiving on the issue of redundancy. Redundancy doesn’t always mean the disappearance of a company from the market; these types of dismissals can also occur when a company identifies a more effective way of running its business, having a reorganisation resulting in the loss of certain roles. In either situation, there are procedures which must be followed. Appropriate consultation and a transparent selection procedure, where necessary, play a large part in a fair redundancy process, however it is caused.

Changing terms and conditions
As an alternative to redundancy, some employers are looking at downgrading some of the terms and conditions that their employees currently enjoy in order to decrease their outgoings. The calls we receive in this regard are commonly in relation to occupational sick pay, or pension scheme contributions. Simply going ahead and changing terms and conditions without the employee’s agreement is likely to land you in a lot of trouble. Once again, procedure is key and the correct steps must be taken before making any changes.

Retirement
Although we are now past the point of being able to issue new notices of retirement (that stopped in April this year), the topic of retirement will still be around for a while due to the wording of the regulations which repealed the default retirement age. It is still possible to retire employees under the statutory procedure provided that you beat the April deadline on giving the retirement notice so many of you are calling with your ongoing retirement queries.

TUPE
Another knock on effect of the current economic climate is the high number of calls we receive about businesses being bought out, and consequent obligations under the transfer of undertakings regulations. People who are employed by the company being sold will, where TUPE applies, automatically transfer over into the employ of the new owner and you must be careful how you treat their terms and conditions after transfer because attempts to make changes are in certain circumstances not permitted.

Annual leave
The number of calls we receive on annual leave issues has spiked recently now that we have reached school holiday period. You are receiving a lot of requests for annual leave at short notice from employees who have not already made arrangements for childcare over the holidays. Where you have rules about the taking of holidays, employees should adhere to them at every time of year in accordance with your minimum operating standards.

Grievances
Employers who receive complaints from their employees make up the next most frequent caller for advice. Commonly, employees have complained about the treatment meted out to them by you, as their employer, or the behaviour of their colleagues. 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 in hand immediately.

Agency workers
The implementation of new legislation governing the equal treatment of agency workers has had you calling in high numbers as you try to get a handle on your obligations under the regulations. Those of you who use agency workers to top up your staff numbers during peak times are keen to ensure you will not be acting in breach of the law when it is introduced in October 2011.

Family friendly entitlements
The introduction this year of Additional Paternity Leave and Pay has prompted a high number of calls from you, as your employees are now re-evaluating how they will spread the care with their partner of their new born children. The entitlement to a maximum 26 weeks’ leave in addition to the current 2 weeks’ ordinary paternity leave may well see more men away from work for longer periods in order to allow the mother of the child to return to work sooner.

Pensions
Although compulsory employer pension contributions will not be necessary until the end of 2012, you are already calling to make sure you are prepared for when the legislation is enacted. Although the vast majority of you will not be required to make contributions to your employees’ pensions until 2014 because of the phased implementation according to the size of business, it is useful for you to know the details of how much you will need to contribute, and when.

For more information on any employment law and health & safety issues please contact Peninsula’s Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.