As some employers know to their cost, the pitfalls of employing staff can start even before an employee has joined. Employment law covers workers at the application stage of a job right through to the course of their employment and even past the point at which the contract of employment comes to an end.
At the outset, employers must ensure that positions are advertised in a non-discriminatory way. Job advertisements should not make reference to any gender, age, religious, racial or sexual orientation factor, unless in a very specific set of circumstances in which one of these 'protected characteristics' is a genuine requirement for the job. With the introduction of the Equality Act last year, discrimination has become a much more serious matter for employers, and if found guilty of discriminating against candidates, or indeed employees in the workplace, they could face limitless fines.
At the interview stage, there are further potential pitfalls in relation to equality and discrimination. It is unlawful for employers to favour one candidate over another because of a particular protected characteristic such as age, gender of race. The risks at this stage of employment are very high for employers and they must ensure that they follow a fair process in selecting the candidate who is genuinely the best for the job. The person responsible for conducting interviews on behalf of the business should have had training on equality and diversity to ensure that there can not be cause for a claim at this stage.
Once the employee has been appointed, the employer needs to ensure that the correct documentation and employment law contracts are in place and have been signed.
Even where the correct processes are followed, employers can find themselves on the receiving end of employment tribunal claims by disgruntled employees, even where those claims might have no merit. Some employers end up settling such claims for commercial reasons rather than accruing significant legal costs, which can feel like a victory for the employee.
If you have any doubts about your position and employing staff, you should always seek the advice of a specialist employment lawyer. Seeking advice at the outset rather than at the point when you are being pursued for a claim is by far the more cost effective option. Although employers may feel that the law is loaded in favour of employees, there are ways of minimising the impact this can have.
If you need any advice in relation to employing staff, or any other employment law matter, please do get in touch with us.