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The Importance of being consistent

When entrepreneurs start up a new business, they might have one or two employees – or maybe even a few more in the early stages.  Managing them may be relatively straightforward if they are good and as passionate as the business owner with regards getting the business up and running.  There may be times when situations need people to put in extra hours to get the orders completed, but often this is rewarded by the owner, who may be happy for them to take time off in lieu.  Flexibility is the key to meet tight schedules as the business gets off the ground.  In these cases, the processes and procedures are often documented after the event and the systems evolve as the business grows.  Sometimes the paperwork takes a “back seat” as the seemingly more important tasks are focused on meeting customer demand.


Nevertheless, it is important to make sure that the essentials are in place – including employer liability insurance; that the checks have been recorded of the employees’ rights to work in the UK and that auto-enrolment pension requirements are in place etc.  The consequences of not doing these things could be very costly to the business – and may even bring it to a sudden halt if large fines are imposed.


Many businesses do these essential things, but then don’t make any changes as the business grows.  When you have more employees and are unable to manage each one individually any more, it is difficult to ensure that they are all being treated fairly and consistently without putting in place formal processes and procedures – particularly if you have managers in place looking after different teams.  If the managers use different criteria for making decisions in response to employee requests – e.g. for time off or for flexible working, you may end up with a situation in which different employees in a similar situation are given different outcomes.  Similarly if the managers decide on different action in cases where there are performance issues, you may find one employee gets a “quiet word” about the need to improve but the other may be put through a formal disciplinary process for the same misdemeanour.  When there is a danger of this happening, it can lead to employees believing that there is an inconsistency in treatment and they may assume that there are other reasons for the discrepancies – perhaps gender, ethnic background or religion.  The risk to the business is then potentially quite large as it may have to defend an allegation of illegal discrimination from a disgruntled employee and an uncapped tribunal award if they win.


However, there is a simple way to minimise this risk – put in place sound HR processes from the start and always think, “How would I treat others elsewhere in the company?” when making a decision.  Seek advice from your HR consultant about consistent treatment of your employees, and speak to the Employment Law team at SME if you receive contact from Acas about a potential tribunal claim.


For more information on this or any other HR matter, please contact Helen Astill from Cherington HR Ltd via

Added: 27 Apr 2016 14:24

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