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Hello everyone, Captain Detail, Rob Tice, here.

As you’ll be well aware by now, the Precept weekly blog is our chance to shout about our personal achievements. Well, this week, I want to shout (and shout loud) about 2 HUGE recent achievements – one professional and one personal…

On a personal level, and this is big …I actually survived 2 nights of camping in Wales!!!  In fact, the whole family did!!!  We were generally lucky with the weather, but we did experience rain (and stayed dry!) and generally had a lot of family fun staying in a field for 2 days – when you think about it that way it’s a very odd thing camping isn’t it???  No less than six meals prepared and cooked and actual sleep enjoyed, although we did discover our air bed has a hole in….but I am putting that down as a success!!!

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On a professional level, our recent achievement is no less monumental…..our recent nomination in the Business Desk’s Business Masters 2023.  I am so proud of the whole team who have worked so hard to make Precept the business that it is – doing law differently is our motto and we are definitely achieving that.  We have been nominated for small business of the year and the awards evening is mid-October.  Win or lose, it is great to receive this nomination as a real benchmark of what we have achieved at Precept – all of us…we really are a powerful force to be reckoned with!!

But that’s enough about me and Precept. Times aren’t so great for every business. In fact, you may have seen in the news recently that everybody’s favourite homewares store, Wilko, is facing some pretty serious financial problems and the company very sadly announced that it would be entering into administration. At this stage, there is hope that it may not be the end for Wilko.

But what might this mean for you?

Well first and foremost your business hopefully won’t ever find yourself facing the sort of situation that Wilko are facing but if you do find yourself at the point of considering administration, it’s a good idea to get the experts in! Whilst we’re experts in many things, helping organisations with winding up or going into administration is not our area. If your organisation is facing those sort of issues though, please don’t bury your head in the sand: let us know and we can help with the employment-related aspects and signpost you to other experts as needed.

Now, where we can definitely help is trying to get your organisation back on track when things aren’t looking quite so great. We’re talking redundancies here where things aren’t looking great and you’re having to think about reducing head count, or it may be that you are looking to restructure in some way, due to changing working practices or new technology.

A formal redundancy exercise is not something any of us want to go through.  There are some really handy steps that you might not have thought about, to try and avoid redundancies in the first place. Let me run you through those quickly:

Naturally reducing headcount

You could look at restricting recruitment. this can be an easy, cost-effective mechanism to reduce costs and when combined with natural turnover of staff, it can often help in rocky economic periods.

Or how about withdrawing job offers? If you’ve already recruited, you could look at withdrawing job offers. If they’re signed up to a contract of employment and have a start date in place, you’ll need to make sure they get the proper notice. Otherwise, you just need to confirm that the offer is withdrawn. It’s always a good idea to explain why the offer is being withdrawn to avoid those pesky discrimination arguments cropping up (remember – the Equality Act applies equally to job seekers as well as workers!)

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But if you don’t want to lose new recruits altogether you could look at postponing their start date. Some employers offer a gesture of goodwill in the form of a one off payment to incentivise new joiners to put off starting but that is not required and won’t be appropriate if you’re facing tough economic times. Remember if there’s already a signed contract in place, you’re going to need to get the new join’s agreement to postpone their start date and issue a variation to that contract.

Temporary stoppages and reducing hours

Reduced work levels often mean employers have to adopt temporary stoppages to avoid redundancies.

Some employers have contracts in place that allow for temporary “lay offs”. Lay-offs allow employees to remain employed whilst reducing staffing costs for employers.

Employees should only be laid off for as long as is reasonably required. If they are laid off for an extended period, they may become eligible for a redundancy payment.  So keep an eye on that!

If you don’t have a contractual right to lay-off then to try and enforce a period of lay off is likely to be a breach of contract and if no pay is provided, an unlawful deduction from wages, which is best avoided!

In the absence of anything else, you could try to get staff to agree to a period of unpaid leave. Where you’re doing that, make sure you record staff’s agreement in writing.

In a similar vein to temporary stoppages, some employers have contracts of employment that allow for short-time working. What does that mean I hear you ask? It entails reducing the hours employees are working with a corresponding reduction in pay. This means employees are guaranteed some work and a proportion of pay. Sometimes, a little of something is better than a whole lot of nothing!

Again though, you really need to make sure you have a contractual right to put staff on short-time working or otherwise get staff to agree. Otherwise, you can face claims for breach of contract/constructive dismissal/unlawful deduction from wages.

Be careful with how long you leave staff on short-time work though because employees who are on short time for four weeks or more can claim a redundancy payment in much the same way as those who are laid off.

Above all, if you’re in that really horrible situation where you might be thinking about redundancies, we strongly recommend you get in touch – the sooner the better. We can talk you through the intricacies involved in each of the stages above and, if it’s not enough, we can lend an expert ear to guide you through the rocky road that is redundancy situations – making the process as simple as possible.

The sooner the better is the moral of my tale here – the earlier you take our advice, the more we can help you and the easier we can make your life – and that’s the dream right!?!