As the owner of a small business, it can seem daunting to keep track of all the changes to employment law. There are a few key areas which you need to keep up to date with in regards to employment law for small businesses.
A Conservative MP came under fire in June 2011 for suggesting that disabled workers should be paid less than the minimum wage. This caused a real stir for all parties. But it did raise some important questions about the minimum wage.
While you are loosely at liberty to pay your workers whatever you like, it must comply with minimum wage. The minimum wage currently stands at £4.98 for 18-20 yrs and £6.08 for workers over the age of 21 yrs.
The salary you pay your staff should be consistent across your whole business, as well as needing to comply with the national minimum wage. This involves offering a wage based on the job and position within the company, not a persons gender.
Aspects of discrimination
Discrimination can occur at any stage of the recruitment and employment process, from hiring to firing. It is vital that small business owners are aware of what is required of their company by equality and diversity legislation.
Discrimination can be both direct and indirect. Direct discrimination would be not taking someone on because of their gender or race for example. Indirect discrimination is applying an unnecessary condition to employment e.g. you have to be over 6ft tall, excluding many women.
As the owner of a small business, you are also responsible for protecting your employees from third party discrimination which may occur. Whether it is your employees or clients making sexist or racist jokes, you are responsible in an employment tribunal.
Working hours and annual leave
It is important for any business to abide by regulations set for working hours and leave. If you do not take heed to such restrictions you may find yourself faced with costly employment tribunals and a bad reputation.
Make sure your employees work fair hours, and take regular breaks from computers. They are also entitled to fair holidays, sick pay and leave. This can include taking a day off to attend a funeral or nurse a sick dependent. The law also requires you, as the employer, to consider requests for flexible hours which are reasonable.
Sickness and sick pay
There are laws that surround sick pay and a fair amount of guidance material. It is important to strike the balance between treating sick employees fairly, and monitoring occasions where ‘sickness’ is being used to cover an unauthorised absence. Employees have the right to claim statutory sick pay (SSP) which as their employer, you should respect. Statutory sick pay can be paid for up to 28 weeks and is a flat rate pay for long term absence.
As employer it is your job to stay up to date with employment legislation and changes to it which may occur. It pays to abide by such legislation as it can cost you dearly if you don’t.