The benefit of working with many business clients of varying sizes allows us to spot different trends, generally positive but often common mistakes made by business either on start up or when they are already running for a while. In this article, I will set out employment oversights small businesses can sometimes make, to help guide you from doing the same and succeed in managing your workforce and developing your business.

The provision of employment contracts

The law requires employers to provide all employees who engage in work with them for more than one month a written document stating their terms and conditions of employment. It can be so easy for employers to remember to provide the employee with a contract of employment; a common misconception is that the employee may not need a written document if they have been informed verbally.

Changes to terms and conditions

Sometimes businesses will need to change and adapt to market conditions requiring a need to make changes to contracts. However, employers need to obtain the employees’ consent; if you change an employee’s contract without agreement, you could be faced with claims for constructive dismissal and breach of contract.

Giving proper notice

There are minimum periods of notice the law requires you to give employees; this should be set out in the employment contract. If there is a conflict between what it states in the contract and the law, the greater of the two periods will always apply.

Dealing properly with a grievance

Grievances start small but can quickly escalate; they can be time-consuming and potentially expensive if not managed properly. Employers are under a legal obligation to set out a grievance procedure and communicate it with all employees. The policy must state who the employee should contact, the time limits and the process involved, step by step.

Disciplinary matters not investigated properly

Your disciplinary rules and procedures should be in writing and provided to all staff, with full details of what is and is not acceptable. If problems do occur, your investigation to establish the facts of the case should be objective and thorough. A failure to follow the correct process can have hefty consequences in an employment tribunal.

Managing absence

When setting up in business and particularly when business operations are small, employers are vulnerable when it comes to staff being off sick. A clear and comprehensive sickness and absence policy will provide clarity to both employer and employee when handling minor absences and hopefully help to deter those who might make it a habit or try to exploit the system. It will also assist should things become difficult and dismissal becomes necessary.

Providing proper rest breaks

Employees must be granted an unpaid rest break of 20 minutes within each 6 hour period of work. Workers also have the right to 11 hours of rest between working days and 24 uninterrupted hours each week.


Employers can be guilty of discrimination if their practices put someone at a disadvantage. The Equality Act of 2010 outlines a number of protected characteristics including disability, maternity, age, sexual orientation, marriage and race. Discrimination can be both direct and indirect.

Refusing flexible working requests without good reason

Employers must now deal with requests for flexible working in line with a procedure set by the law. The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 state that any request must be dealt with in a reasonable manner by the employer and within a 3 month period (referred to as the decision making process). Employers can only reject requests for one of 8 business reasons set out in the Regulations.

Dealing properly with redundancies

Dependant on the size of your company, the law sets out procedures that must be followed in the event of a redundancy. There is a duty to consult with employees and communicate the proposed changes. Redundant employees must be selected fairly give the correct notice and pay, and handle any appeals that may result.

While employment law can be complex and mistakes can easily be made, it’s important to remember that effective employee management not only creates a motivated workforce, but studies also show that business performance is in fact enhanced.

By Zee Hussain, partner and head of the Employment Department at law firm Colemans-ctts