By Jonathan Davies

Brushing off banter, making assumptions about maternity and car-crash consultations are just some of the top 10 costliest HR mistakes a business can make, according to a report by HR body CIPD.

Completing the top 10 were avoiding difficult performance conversations, not calling out harassment, getting investigations wrong, not minding your language, missing out on advice, doing dodgy disciplinaries and failing to renew contracts.

Speaking at the launch of an innovative, integrated HR product for small businesses, MLM Cartwright HR consultant Amanda Morgan explained how easy it is to fall into some of these costly mistakes.

Ms Morgan explained that one of the most common issues businesses complain to MLM about is not being able to fire someone who is underperforming. She said that many managers are uncomfortable with holding uncomfortable or difficult conversations with underperforming staff. That often leads to a normal, glowing appraisal making it difficult for managers to provide sufficient evidence to warrant a sacking.

“We all love a bit of banter,” Amanda said. But she warned that the line between laughing with someone and laughing at someone is becoming ever finer, and managers need to be ready to deal with any complaints. That, in-turn, led onto another costly mistake concerning language. Not necessarily bad language, but MLM warned that a blasé approach to banter and a comment like ‘oh pull yourself together’ could land managers in hot water.

Even if an employee is doing something wrong, failure to implement a policy and discipline them correctly could leave a business out of pocket. According to the CIPD report, fashion retailer ASOS accused a former employee of abusing staff discount and processing her own refunds. CIPD said: “A tribunal found that she had not been made aware she was contravening any policy, nor had she previously been challenged on her behaviour, so had continued to act on that understanding. Her award for unfair dismissal was increased by 10 per cent because the employer breached the Acas code.”

If a giant like ASOS can be caught out by these costly HR mistakes, imagine the damage that could be done to a smaller business.

Speaking to business owners, accountants and lawyers at an event in Cardiff, MLM launched their brand new service, MLM Adviser.

Aimed at small businesses with 10 — 20 or so employees, MLM Adviser gives businesses face-to-face access to a dedicated lawyer and/or HR professional who understands their business. In addition to strategic advice, MLM Adviser providers core HR support including the preparation of contracts, policies and procedures and assistance with disciplinary, grievance and performance and sickness issues.

With the average cost of a tribunal now more than £20,000, and that’s usually just for one employee, one-off legal fees are often unaffordable for smaller businesses. That’s why MLM Adviser uses a monthly subscription fee from as little at £160 per month. Even the most bespoke package costs £599 per month.

Amanda explained that rather than helping businesses to deal with problems when they occur, MLM Adviser also aims to help businesses prevent those problems from ever arising. Rather than using MLM Adviser to deal with an employee complaining that their grievance over office jokes wasn’t taken seriously, MLM Adviser can provide training to managers to ensure the complaint isn’t made in the first place. But in the event that you are unlucky enough to experience a tribunal, MLM’s fully qualified employment lawyers are perfectly positioned to assist.