By Kirsty Senior, Co-Founder and Director, citrusHR

November saw some key developments in Employment law, with everything from sick leave to holiday pay enjoying the limelight. Here we talk you through some of the key developments that we have seen this month, and how they might affect your business.

Verbal assurances and employment contracts - which takes precedence?

This first drew our attention in recent months thanks to an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case - which had first been brought to the European Human Rights Court - where an employee tried to argue that verbal assurances given in the recruitment process were not fulfilled, despite them not being included in their (signed and agreed) employment contract.
In the end, whatever is in the contract will always take precedence - after all, employees could claim anything was promised in their interview if that were not the case!

However to avoid the time and hassle of employment tribunals, it is prudent to include a clause within your contract which states clearly that your written contract overrules any claims made during the recruitment process.

Of course if you have agreed some pre-conditions with the recruit for when they take the role, you should include this within the contract and ensure that they read through and understand it thoroughly before signing it.

The government's new Fit For Work scheme

If you have had employees off sick for longer than four (continuous) weeks, then this will apply to you.

The government has planned to introduce a new scheme, which should come into effect in late 2014, to help employees on long term sick leave to get back into work. This will work on the basis of an assessment of the employee by an occupational health professional, and then advice via phone or on the web as to what they should do next. Going through this process saves employers time and money, and a Return To Work plan will be shared with the employer to help give them information on the process to get their staff back into the workplace.

Whilst in my experience longer term sickness is not all that common in smaller businesses, it's great news that there will be practical support available to help should this occur. If you can't accommodate a Return To Work plan though, you have to give good business justification as to why not or risk a discrimination claim.

If you don't think you can accommodate it and are considering implementing a capability procedure, it may be worth waiting for the Return To Work plan to be issued before starting any formal processes.

Holiday pay and overtime

This is something that is going to be on employers' minds in the coming months, and is something that has been widely covered all over the internet, but the final word on the subject is still yet to be set in stone. Until that time there are some things to consider if you have been giving regular overtime to your employees.

Although we don't see it as likely that many small businesses will be affected, if you think it does affect your business I would suggest looking at ways to restructure overtime, commission, bonuses etc. to reduce and (hopefully) remove the impact of paying more by holiday pay.
As we're entering the final month of the year, many will have other concerns than the employment law changes or rulings that we have seen in recent weeks. Nevertheless it's important to stay up to date to ensure that you don't encounter any issues with your HR.