5 common HR mistakes and how you can avoid them

5 common HR mistakes and how you can avoid them

26 October 2023

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As an employer, your staff can be your biggest asset, but they can also cause you the biggest headaches. If you make mistakes with your HR processes, your problems may be compounded and could spiral into something bigger. Understanding common HR mistakes is crucial to the success of your business.

Keep reading to learn the five most common HR mistakes almost all businesses make and how you can avoid them.

1. No employee handbook or HR policies

Having an employee handbook, or even just a set of company HR policies, is vital as this establishes ground rules and a clear framework for how things are done.

An employee handbook is something that can quickly and easily be referred to so misunderstandings don’t occur and situations are dealt with consistently. If your business employs just one person, you still need to have policies on dealing with disciplinary and grievance issues. It’s also good to have other policies in your handbook for common HR matters such as absence, holidays, maternity and paternity leave, data protection and flexible working.

Employment law changes pretty frequently, so you also need to keep on top of changes and update your handbook as and when needed, or even better engage with an HR consultant and get them to do it for you.

2. No contract of employment

For various reasons, some employers don’t issue contracts of employment to their staff. Some don’t think they have to, some think that they aren’t worthwhile and others are trying to deliberately get people to do work for them without having to meet their legal obligations.

Regardless of the intention, employers must comply with the Employment Rights Act 1996 and a written statement of employment in particular must be provided to an employee on or before their first day of work. There’s a whole host of information that must be included in the written statement and ACAS provide a definitive guide. The information ranges from simple things like the employee and employer’s name, to pay, holidays and any training which must be completed by the employee.

By not providing a contract, employers are opening themselves up to legal action. Contract templates are widely available from a variety of sources and again, if you are unsure, it’s worthwhile spending some time and a small amount of money to work with an HR consultant who will create a bespoke, fully legally compliant contract for you and your business.

3. Non existent pre-employment checks

Pre-employment checks can help you to establish a number of facts about the new employee that you are about to recruit and some of these checks are legally required. If you are employing someone, they have to prove to you that they have the legal right to work in the UK and that check has to be carried out for all employees regardless.

The gov.uk website contains excellent guidance on carrying out these checks correctly. Failure to perform these checks can lead to a fine of £20,000 per illegal worker and a prison sentence of up to 5 years, so employers need to take this seriously in terms of the potential financial and reputational damage it could have for your business.

Some businesses carry out reference checks and these are generally pretty hit and miss in terms of the depth and value of information provided. It should at least confirm a prospective employee’s job title and dates of employment and this can be used t0 verify the information on a CV or application form.

If the role you are recruiting for requires certain qualifications, it’s a good idea to actually check that the new starter has those qualifications and can provide you with proof. In certain circumstances, you may also be permitted to carry out a check for criminal convictions. Hiring a new starter is time consuming and often expensive, but getting it right is important and can save you from issues once they have commenced employment.

4. Lack of training and support

From the start of the employment relationship, training and support for employees is vital, so they can deliver their very best performance, progress in their careers, and help to drive the growth and success of the business. Training and support includes things like induction, review meetings, discussions about career development and progress, going on courses or studying for qualifications as well as general support for an employee’s wellbeing.

Looking after staff in this way shows them that they are valued and if they feel valued they will be more productive, they will be more engaged and they will be happier at work. Employers who make the mistake of failing to provide adequate training and support are not going to get the best from their staff. Staff will be demotivated and disengaged. This can lead to low morale, unsatisfactory performance and ultimately, staff leaving which then gives employers the problem of high turnover and low staff retention.

5 – Avoiding difficult conversations and not documenting issues

Not everyone is cut out for having difficult conversations with staff about issues of performance, conduct or any other delicate matters, but avoiding these conversations is a common HR mistake that only serves to create further problems. By avoiding difficult conversations, issues are left to fester and more problems occur. They can go unaddressed and employees may rightly say that nobody ever told them that they couldn’t do X, Y or Z and that behaviour continued despite it being unsatisfactory.

If you or your managers tend to shy away from having difficult conversations, one way to resolve this is to put some training in place. Even when this type of discussion does take place, don’t let it happen and do nothing. As an absolute minimum, make some brief bullet pointed notes and give them to the employee afterwards to confirm the discussion and be sure to save a copy on the employee’s file too. If you don’t, and you need to take matters further, it will be a case of he said, she said.

Documenting issues, even in brief notes, provides a good record and it’s much more difficult to deny that conversations took place and the content of those conversations.

HRX can help you avoid these mistakes

These are just some of the common HR mistakes businesses make, but did you know HRX can help you avoid these? Get in touch with our expert team today to find out how, or sign up for your FREE 30 day trial to see for yourself.

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