good people practice

The Employment Team at Stephens Scown is well versed in providing support to businesses and employees when the employment relationship goes wrong.

This usually involves seeking ways to correct and/or compensate for a problem or a ‘wrong’ that has been done (or perceived to have been done).

Our team also works with clients to identify and implement Human Resource initiatives to ensure, as far as possible, that the employment relationship is positive and does not break down.  It’s the old adage that “prevention is better than cure”.

Our experience tells us that organisations who take a consistent and thorough approach to things like workplace policies, HR processes and documentation, and management and staff training are less likely to find themselves facing employment litigation.

Employee problems can take hours of management time to resolve.  Investing resources in good HR policies and practices at the outset can reduce the risk of future losses. With single Employment Tribunal claims for Q2 2018 up 165% on the same period in 2017, this should focus the mind!

Some examples of potential problems with employees that good basic HR practices might have avoided:

Employee Problem Prevention
An employer has concerns an employee’s performance.  The employee has more than two years service and performance has not been discussed with him/her before and appraisal records do not identify any concerns. A systematic and robust performance management process that includes appraisals and regular reviews should ensure that the employee either improves or faces formal action earlier.
An employee has been on sick leave for six months and their manager wants to terminate their contract.  Regular contact has not been maintained with the employee. No medical advice has been taken. If a good sickness absence management policy had been followed it is possible that the employee would already have had their employment terminated due to lack of capability. It is normal to have trigger points for undertaking specific interventions e.g. reviews, setting targets and medical referrals.
An employee has accused his/her manager of bullying and harassment. A clear bullying and harassment policy that is communicated to all staff and in which managers are trained, might have avoided the accusation.
An employee who was recruited via a short interview, who is a friend of another employee, has not proved to be a good fit for the role. A thorough selection process based on the role as identified in a job description and person specification is more likely to identify the most suitable candidates.
An employee is hired on brief terms agreed by email. No more detailed contract is issued. They’re later promoted to a manager role, again in an email confirming their new pay and title. Now they’ve resigned giving only a weeks’ notice. A more detailed contract issued at hiring stage, specifying a reasonable notice period; and updated contract issued on promotion, would have avoided this issue.


Studies have shown that having excellent HR policies and procedures in place increases productivity. Here are our top tips for good HR practices that can have a positive effect on any organisation (but particularly those of you reading that aren’t large enough to have your own in-house HR specialists) and avoid employee problems:

  • Have good HR Policies and Procedures that are regularly reviewed, refreshed and communicated, and written based on what you need to achieve within your organisation.
  • Review any Contract of Employment templates you use on a regular basis, to ensure they keep pace with the law, and with what you need that contract to achieve commercially.
  • Ensure all managers are familiar with and trained in managing HR Policies and Procedures. Where your managers don’t follow a reasonable procedure, you may run into problems which could result in expensive pay-outs.
  • Give serious attention to the benefits of a happy and engaged workforce, one which is less likely to bring employment claims. Simple steps such as regular one to ones, ensuring employee voice, and an open door policy can have a dramatic impact on employee relations and provide you with the opportunity to address causes of potential conflict at an early stage.


These are all matters we help businesses with every day. Our HRExpress team delivers pragmatic, ongoing HR and employment law advice and support so you can be confident that you are acting in line with the law and best practice. Our HR Consultancy team can also be on hand to support you with implementing the above practices, or through any dismissals or other internal procedures you are carrying out and can work with you ‘in-house’ to ensure that you take the right steps to limit the possibility of a claim.


Mark Roby is a HR Adviser in our Employment team and an experienced HR Manager. To contact Mark, please call 01872 265100 or email