The start of a new year is often the time for people to make new beginnings, which can mean starting a new fitness regime, learning a new skill or, most pertinently for business owners, your employees starting to look for a new job.
Even though eventually losing employees is an inevitable part of running any business, an unexpected or unwanted departure can cause disruption to a company’s operations – and depending on the role and attitude of the departing employee, it can have serious implications for the business.
Whenever they take on someone new, employers need to take proactive steps to ensure that, as and when the employee eventually decides to leave, they have the necessary protections in place for their business.
This starts with having a suitable contract of employment in place for the new starter to sign which covers off specific issues that might arise both during and after their time with the business.
Thought needs to be given to the appropriate probationary and notice periods, while consideration should also be given to including non-compete clauses within contracts, which seek to prevent employees from competing or, more reasonably, from enticing away your customers or staff for an agreed period after they move on.
Perhaps less obviously, acceptable use of technologies and social media along with data security ought also to form part of modern employment contracts and company procedures, not only because it is now so easy for anyone to copy and transfer data that might cause commercial issues for you, but also because of your business’s responsibility under GDPR regulations as to the safeguarding of personal data.
When someone does decide to move on, their departure can usually be handled smoothly if both sides take a professional approach, communicate properly and aim to part on good terms.
Depending on their role and how much customer contact and influence they have, it may be sensible for the employee to go on garden leave straight away or paying them in lieu of them working their notice period may be an attractive option.
Agree when you’re going to let customers know about your imminent personnel change and think about the sort of questions to which it might give rise before you make that call, as it’s always best to have solutions in place beforehand.
It also makes sense to change the passwords to any company social media logins that your departing employee has access to, and once they’re gone, to check that they’ve changed their own profiles to reflect the fact that they’re no longer working for you.
An amicable departure is, however, not always going to be possible and this is where you should be able to fall back on the clauses in the employee’s contract as the need arises.
Legal options are available if issues arise, but if you know that everything is in order beforehand, it makes it easier for everyone to avoid them.
Losing key employees is never easy, but having the right contracts and policies and procedures in place to mitigate the impacts of their departure puts businesses in the best possible position for avoiding the potential pitfalls of saying goodbye.
By Sarah Hall, partner in the specialist employment law team at Hay & Kilner Law Firm in Newcastle