Why Take on Regular Employees?
Employment Seminar, 6 February 2014
Employment lawyer Ben Thornber (pictured) asked this rhetorical and thought-provoking question at a seminar for business people in Fife yesterday.
Speaking of the rapidly changing face of the workplace, with outsourcing, agency staff, freelancing, part-time work and zero-hour contracts all part of modern life, Ben Thornber, a principal with Thornber Employment Law, in Dunfermline, said: “Why take on regular employees?”
He said the reason companies still want employees is that they give continuity and the emotional ‘buy-in’ of employees who are willing to do more to help the business become successful. There were also greater levels of control and good managers should be able to direct employees much more easily. It was also about levels of trust, competence and communication about what was required.
Ben, also a member of the United Employment Lawyers network, was addressing a seminar attended by small businesses in West Fife in the Jock Stein Suite at Dunfermline Athletic Football Club.
“It looks like we will have different types of working and fewer ‘employees’ on the payroll. If you’ve got employees on your terms of employment, one big issue is, what do you do when you want to change these terms? How easy is it? After all, business needs are changing all the time.”
“Of course, the increasing regulation of employment law does make life more complicated. At the same time, there is more opportunity to engage your staff in a different way. This might not be in the traditional employment context, but there are other ways to get the work done – which is what we all need to do in businesses.”
“For example, there are more and more opportunities for home working. People can set up a remote office because of modern technology. There are contractors or agency people, all showing a different way of work.”
He conceded that there was now a European definition of a self-employed consultant and a self-employed worker. “The concept of a ‘worker’ has come from Europe and it is slightly looser than the term ‘employee’ and there have been a lot of cases about the difference between the two. Frankly, it is hard to see the difference and I haven’t seen a single, simple definition.”
Guest speaker Malcolm Mackay, the founder of United Employment Lawyers, spoke about the massive changes in employment law in the past 25 years. He said that employers and HR professionals law required specialist legal help because of the mass of legal changes. But he said that common sense in relationships goes a long way.
“If you apply some basic rules you are going to get a lot of things right. Employment law is a very human area of law and the best single rule is treat someone as if you are on the other side of the desk, and perhaps facing disciplinary action or even dismissal.”
He said SMEs had to be flexible about the changing working environment. He recalls that on the transfer of undertakings initiatives, which emanated from Europe, he had encouraged businesses to embrace the law from Brussels because it was going to happen anyway. He said it had the effect of making contractors in the privatisation process focus on whether they were ‘cost cutters’ or managers.
Comments from attendees
“Today I attended the Employment Relationships Seminar held by Ben Thornber. I’m really glad I went, I learnt a great deal and it helped to alleviate any fears I may have when employing people, writing contracts or dealing with anything HR related. There was a relaxed atmosphere where you felt able to comment and ask questions. I feel happier knowing that Ben Thornber is on the end of the line should I ever need help.”
“I found the seminar really interesting and it made me think about some of the hr issues we need to tackle in our business. The discussion about employees and social media was also highly relevant.”
W D Factors Ltd
“Many thanks to you and Malcolm for a very interesting discussion on modern employment relationships. It was really helpful and reassuring to hear from others about their experiences in managing staff, and great to have your input on how to balance what’s best for the business with what’s best and fair for employees.”
“Thank you very much for the breakfast seminar this morning, it was certainly a very good discussion following your introduction. It was good to hear like-minded individuals sharing their views, fears and experiences of the HR tangled web of legislation and all of the questions posed were certainly well handled by you and Malcolm. The format was relaxed and convivial and, I believe, encouraged a more open debate on some topical subjects. I look forward to attending more of your seminars in the near future.”
HR/Business Development Manager
Condies Chartered Accountants
“I found the breakfast seminar this morning very practical and informative. Although we discussed a few scary areas of employment law which might catch me unawares, I was reassured by Ben and Malcolm’s common sense approach in how to deal with hr matters. The format encouraged good discussion on topical issues and I would encourage others to attend future events.”
Custom House Property