Tim Jones of Morgan LaRoche discusses the legal requirements nursery providers must meet when employing staff, and explains the benefits of a comprehensive employment policy…
Could you tell us a bit about Morgan LaRoche?
TJ: Morgan LaRoche was established in 2002 as a commercial practice by the nine founding partners, who had formerly been with a national law firm. Based in Swansea, South Wales, MLR combines its strong regional presence with a UK-wide and international practice acting for a diverse client base, ranging from SMEs to multinationals and the public sector. The practice has an established track record in the healthcare and daycare sectors. We are a recommended firm in the leading client guides to the UK legal profession and our work in this sector has been recognised in the Legal 500’s 2013 edition.
What legal requirements and matters of best practice should providers consider when employing staff?
TJ: There are a number of issues to consider. At the interview stage the job role criteria should be discussed to seek to establish suitability of applicant for the role. We always recommend employers include a probationary period clause in their Contracts of Employment to establish candidates’ suitability and to afford employers a ‘get out’ should it transpire the candidate is not suitable for the role. References should be sought from previous employers or other nominated referees, if not before the commencement of employment, during the probationary period. Induction training should be arranged, and the employee issued with a Contract of Employment detailing terms and conditions under which he or she is employed. It’s important to ensure that a DBS check has been carried out, and checks must be made to verify the staff member in question can legitimately be employed within the UK (costly financial penalties could otherwise arise). Ensure that guidance such as the DfE’s Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment is followed. You should also ensure that your nursery has policies and procedures to cover all aspects of employment law (usually found in an Employee or Staff Handbook) and these are made known to all staff.
How can an employment policy contribute to a successful business, and what problems can arise if a suitable policy is not in place?
TJ: Employment policies can not only fulfil regulatory/statutory/compliance requirements from an employers’ perspective, but also help employers and employees establish common goals. In the absence of such a policy management and communication issues can arise. Business interruption issues may occur through staff retention problems, and employers can potentially face Employment Tribunal claims on various issues from their employees. In the context of nurseries, this can create a risk of standards of service falling short of parents’, and Ofsted’s, expectations, and safeguarding issues.
How can Morgan LaRoche support managers in implementing and enacting an employment policy?
TJ: Our Employment Team is experienced in drafting and providing a wide range of policies to assist employers in running their businesses and on a bespoke basis, e.g. in relation to nurseries, where required. We can provide advice and support on policy issues arising within the employer’s business, and frequently provide Line Manager Briefing Notes on a variety of employment-related topics to assist our employer clients as well as regular newsletters and onsite training, if required. Our flexible working hours are such that our Employment Team members are readily on hand and available to support employers on any policy issues they require guidance and assistance with.
How can Morgan LaRoche support employees who feel they have been treated unfairly by their employers?
TJ: Unless already acting for the relevant employer – in which case due to professional practice rules we would not be able to assist the employee – our Employment Team is able to offer advice and support to employees in such circumstances. We can provide guidance and support to employees where such unfair treatment from the employee’s perspective involves them in disciplinary procedures. We are experienced in assisting employees in drafting Grievance Submissions to enable employees to air their feelings of unfair treatment with their employers through Grievance Procedures. Our Employment Team members can offer guidance and assistance to employees as to the manner, approach and detail in which to present their evidence on such an issue to their employers, and support generally regarding these types of issues tailored to the particular objective/goals of the employees concerned.
How affordable is it for employers and employees?
TJ: Our Employment Team endeavours to tailor a fee retainer arrangement to suit the particular circumstances of the particular individual seeking our support and guidance. We discuss with our clients at the outset what their objectives are in seeking our advice on a particular issue, which enables us to share our ‘cost vs benefit’ analysis. ‘Affordability’ is a subjective assessment – in our experience, depending on the nature of the issue and the objective of the client, the financial extent to which they are prepared to call upon our professional services varies greatly. In respect of a number of our employer clients, including nurseries, we offer an Employment Helpline Advice facility, including a variety of aspects of support on employment law-related advice and topics, which we discuss and by agreement tailor to the particular requirements of the particular client’s business. This facility has proved to be in demand from a number of clients in a wide variety of business areas. We discuss and agree bespoke Helpline facility arrangements with clients based on an agreed monthly retainer, the amount of which varies according to the nature of the advice and support required by the particular employer, the size of their business and the perceived volume of work involved from the arrangement.
How can nurseries and practitioners find out more?
TJ: Please visit our website, morganlaroche.co.uk, or call 01792 776 750 to speak to either myself or Emma Allchurch, for a no cost, no obligation initial discussion.