Thursday, 29 August 2013

Video records need careful handling

A growing number of companies are now relying on video conferencing to conduct job interviews – so that they can keep a review of the conversations for their records.

The move, sparked by the widening availability of free computer software, has prompted calls from our employment law expert to ensure companies don’t fall foul of the law.

John Mehtam said: “A recent survey of human resources directors found that, in the past three years, 41 per cent have increased their use of video conferencing to conduct job interviews. They are taking advantage of improved hardware and software options which, in many cases, give the company access to applicants who don’t live locally.”

He added: “While this is all a clever, sensible and increasingly popular way of recruitment, it does come with a point of legal warning.

“You must always tell the job applicant that they are being recorded and obtain their express consent to comply with your data protection requirements, because the recording counts as their personal data. And you must also make sure you follow the exact same rules that you would apply if the person was being interviewed for a job face-to-face.”

John said: “There will be some Shropshire companies thinking this all makes perfect sense, but are worried about the cost implications.

“They need not, because as long as they have the necessary hardware like a PC, laptop, iPad or smartphone, the software you need to use – Skype - is completely free.

“To take advantage of its video conferencing facility, both you and the person you are interviewing merely have to have the camera enabled on their computer. And if you want to keep a record of the interview, there is a free video call recorder facility.”

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Mistakes can be costly

Directors must remember they could find themselves held personally responsible if their business makes a mistake, a local solicitor has warned.

Graham Davies is our senior partner and he said far from being untouchable, directors were likely to be in the firing line.

“When a company stops trading, generally any unsecured creditors will automatically lose any money or goods that they are owed. As a result of this, some directors believe that closing their business down could solve a whole host of problems. But in fact, taking the decision to bring down the shutters could lead to even worse difficulties and consequences.”

Graham said a prime example was the owner of a restaurant who was found to be employing several workers illegally. The UK Border Agency investigated and the company was ordered to pay a civil penalty of £25,000.

But the owner decided to transfer thousands of pounds out of the company bank account leaving insufficient funds to pay the fine, and he then declared the company insolvent and placed it into liquidation.

“The UKBA brought in the Insolvency Service and it did not take long to uncover the owner had taken in unlawfully transferring assets, which was a clear breach of his duty as a director,” said Graham.

“He has now been disqualified from being a director for eight years, which means he is unable to have any involvement with the promotion, formation or management of any UK company. The disqualification also means he cannot be a company secretary, or even become a non-executive director of a UK company. He’s banned too from being involved in a limited liability partnership and from acting as a trustee of a charity.

“It’s vital that directors are fully aware of their responsibilities and that it’s not just high profile cases that can trigger a disqualification – they can be given for lesser misdemeanours too including consistently late filing of statutory documents. Taking on a directorship is not a decision to be taken lightly, and brings with it a raft of rules and requirements which must be taken seriously.”

Friday, 2 August 2013

Christmas countdown is already here

Christmas is the perfect opportunity for Shropshire employers to save money – by insisting their staff take annual leave.

John Mehtam, our employment law specialist said even if an annual shutdown was not mentioned in their employment contracts, company bosses could enforce the rule.

But he warned that employers must provide as much notice as possible to ensure their workforce still had enough annual leave.

“If you find the days between Christmas and New Year are traditionally very quiet for your business, you may wonder what the point is of paying your staff when there’s not enough work to be done. So introducing an annual shutdown is an excellent idea which has many benefits including saving on heating and lighting costs.

"And even if there is no provision in your staff contracts for such a move, it’s still possible as you have employer’s rights under the Working Time Regulations 1998. You will though have to follow some very specific notification rules, or your directors could find themselves with all kinds of problems on their hands.”

In order to comply with the regulations, you must give any employees affected notice which is at least double the length of the annual leave you want them to take.

“So for two days’ annual leave you’d  need to give at least four days’ notice, and for a week’s leave, at least two weeks’ notice. If you do decide to adopt this approach, it’s far better to notify your employees as soon as possible.

"If you leave it until the statutory notification point, you could find some or all of them don’t have enough annual leave left, and can’t meet your annual shutdown requirements, so this is likely to defeat any cost-saving aims.

“You also don’t have to give the reason for the shutdown decision to your employees, although it may help the relationship with your staff if you do. Remember too that all staff must be treated equally and consistently, and that includes the directors. But if some directors need to be available during the shutdown period and not on annual leave, that’s perfectly justifiable.

“It may seem a crazy idea to be thinking about Christmas working arrangements in the middle of the summer, but now is the perfect time plan ahead and give your staff time to get used to the idea.”