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The benefit of HR audits

One of the best ways any employer can minimise the risk of a claim is to ensure that their internal HR practices are up to scratch

09 October 2018, at 1:28pm

With the abolition of fees in the employment tribunal, there has been an increase in employees bringing claims against their employers in every sector. Anyone who has faced a claim brought against them by an employee or former employee will understand the management time and expense that goes into defending a claim, taking you away from running your business and looking after your client’s animals.

How does a busy practice identify their risk areas and keep up to date with the ever-changing HR requirements? How can you have confidence that your working practices will protect you should a claim be brought by an employee? One way is to have an HR audit carried out by an expert outside of your practice.

What is an HR audit?

An HR audit is a review of the current policies and processes which identifies the risk and prepares an action plan for improvements over time. The benefits of carrying out a regular HR audit are significant. It helps the practice to minimise risk and comply with professional standards, encourages consistency and gives comfort that the HR side of things is taken care of, leaving the practice to focus on the animals and business development.

What does an HR auditor do?

An auditor comes into the practice, learns about the workings of it, talks to the managers and employees and gets a real feel for how the practice works.

They review all existing contracts of employment, policies and procedures, bonus structures and recruitment processes, and ensure the practice is compliant while recommending any changes needed, both from a compliance viewpoint and a practical viewpoint.

Finally, findings will be reported back. Advice will be given on what could be done to avoid future risk and the urgency or otherwise of remedying a situation: What happens if nothing is done? Is there a financial risk if no change is made? Are there other matters identified which are more pressing to resolve? An auditor can also help put processes in place to ensure that, going forward, records are kept up to date. As solicitors, auditors understand what the law requires from employers and the consequences of failing to comply with the obligations.

Does your practice need to have an audit?

There is no legal requirement for any business to have an HR audit performed. However, by doing so, you are ensuring that if a claim is brought against your practice by an employee, you will have the best tools available to defend that claim.

An HR audit report can be tailored to meet the practice’s specific requirements. Examples of the areas that can be covered are:

  • Recruitment
  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Working time
  • Holiday
  • Discipline and grievance
  • Performance management
  • Absence management
  • Record keeping

How often an audit should be carried out will depend on the size of the practice and the turnover of staff. Generally, a bi-annual review is recommended to ensure that the practice remains on top of compliance.

As part of the audit, it will be necessary to talk to some employees; it is essential to get a feel for the practice and to understand any concerns of both management and employees. Some may feel that employees would not like the idea of having an external auditor review their practice.

The auditor will take time to explain the process to employees and ensure they understand that by having an audit carried out, you are ensuring that staff are being treated fairly, that you are complying with legal obligations to them as their employer and that it is a positive thing which can only benefit all concerned.

The purpose of an HR audit is to act as a system of checks and balances. In a busy practice, it is easy to overlook changes in law and for matters to drift. Auditors work with existing HR representatives to help them provide the best service they can for the practice and ensure that nothing has been overlooked. As solicitors, they come at this from a different angle, assessing the risk to your practice and minimising it for you. They aim to work as an extension to your existing team.

Clare Riches specialises in employment law. She is a solicitor at Rudlings Wakelam who works with many veterinary practices, providing advice in relation to their employment issues. Clare is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association and deals with all aspects of employment.

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