National Bullying Helpline


Tel: 0845 22 55 787

We are a privately run, nationally recognised, advice centre registered with the NCVO.



Who should read this page? Employers, managers, supervisors, team leaders and especially the newly appointed head of department.

FREE advice for line managers.

Would you like our FREE Step by Step Guide to Workplace (Grievance & Disciplinary) Investigations.

Whatever you need in the arena of employee relations or dispute resolution, we can probably help. All advice on the phone is FREE.

We work closely with Solicitors. Much of this work has been in the NHS and public sector. We are also well published, nationally recognised, having been featured in articles by; The Institute of Leadership and Management (on-line), WOMENS OWN magazine (January 2013), Personnel Today, People Management and other UK management guides.



Employers are urged to settle; to consider Settlement Agreements (Compromise Agreements), according to the Government.

Workplace disputes are an ever present challenge for employers, and if they are not resolved effectively, could lead to a costly employment tribunal claim say Miller Samuel Solicitors. We absolutely agree. Government are increasingly encouraged to resole disputes through the use of a mutually agreeable settlement, in order to reduce the number of cases referred to an Employment Tribunal. This is good business sense. It reduces legal costs and risk to the business too.


Settlement agreements (sometimes called Compromise Agreements, as they were once known as) are mutually agreed, legally binding documents which can be used to end an employment relationship. Under the terms of a typical settlement agreement, the employee receives a severance payment, and very often an agreed reference, in return for waiving their right to take a case to an employment tribunal on any grounds covered by the agreement.

Why use settlement agreements?
The Government believes that the use of settlement agreements brings a number of advantages:
• They enable a workplace dispute to be resolved without ending up in an employment tribunal.
• Employers gain peace of mind in knowing that they will not end up in a tribunal over any of the grounds covered by the agreement.
• The employee benefits by getting a severance payment and avoids having a dismissal in their employment history.


The Government consulted over the use of settlement agreements in September 2012, as part of its wider ‘Ending the Employment Relationship’ consultation. It has now published its response to the consultation, including a number of proposals with regard to settlement agreements:
• It will make template letters available to encourage the use of the new settlement agreements, alongside a statutory code of practice which will include an explanation of improper behaviour.
• In response to concerns raised during the consultation, the Government will no longer set a guideline tariff for settlement agreements. Respondents highlighted that this could set unrealistic expectations for employees, and could be viewed by employers as a maximum from which they would try to negotiate down.
• Instead, the Government will publish guidance outlining the issues that should be considered when deciding and negotiating the level of financial settlement.


As well as promoting the use of settlement agreements, the Government has also announced its intention to introduce a 12 month pay cap on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal. It does not, however, plan to amend the overall limit of the cap, which currently stands at £72,300.

“Employment Tribunals are costly for everyone, in terms of money but also time and stress,” commented Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson. “We need to tackle unrealistic expectations about the levels of compensation awards, especially when only one in 350 people who make a claim for unfair dismissal receive an award of more than their own salary, and the average award is less than £5,000.”
“Tribunals should be the last resort not the first port of call,” she concluded.


If you have a problematic employee situation and would like to seek expert, FREE, advice, call us to day on 0845 22 55 787.


Bullying in the workplaceOne aspect of bullying in the workplace which is often overlooked is the effect that it has on the rest of the company.

The reality is that if bullying is left unchecked it spreads a feeling of intimidation and resentment across the entire workforce resulting in a loss of respect for the management team.

Word soon gets around that there is a problem which is either being dealt with in an unsatisfactory way or even worse, being ignored. As an employer you have a legal responsibility to ensure that all staff are looked after properly and in this enlightened world where everyone seems to know their rights you really can't afford to bury your head in the sand.

Experience shows that the resultant publicity which goes hand in hand with any court case can do the reputation of the company real harm. The sad fact is that most companies within the UK will have a problem with bullying at some time. We understand this and can advise employers on how to either deal with this issue or even better, how to stop it arising in the first place.


UK Statistics produced recently by the ILO (International Labour Organisation) show that 49,000 people lost their jobs in the three months to November 2010. The total number of people out of work came in at 2.498m. Whilst this was down from the previous month, it was higher than the period June to August 2010. For some organisations, it is a very worrying time. Delivering bad news is never easy - whether it is as part of a dismissal process, a redundancy programme or simply because the recession has hit hard and annual salary increases have been frozen.

If you are delivering bad news but would like to deliver some good news that will take the 'heat out of the situation' we may be able to help.


In 2010 doctors and employees saw the introduction of a so called “fit note” or “Statement of Fitness for Work” as opposed to the old system of providing a sick note, which simply states the reasons for a particular illness together with its anticipated duration. This new approach will give the employee and employer greater flexibility in terms of a phased return, altered hours, amended duties and workplace adaptions.

ACT OF GOD (or VOLCANIC ASH) - PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR EMPOYERS. Last year Employers were faced with a dilemma of what to do in practical terms when staff were unable to come to work effectively through no fault of their own. Stranded staff were delayed returning from holiday due to an 'act of god'. This is neither the employee nor the employers fault. The key issue for many employers, is whether they are required to pay staff for the days when they are unable to catch a flight home. Ultimately, it is the employee who is responsible for getting to work and if an employee has failed to turn up for work due to cancelled or delayed flights he or she has no automatic right to be paid (unless their contract of employment states otherwise). However, in taking this strict approach, employers may wish to balance this against potential negative consequences such as a reduction in staff morale. This may particularly arise where staff are stranded as a result of business-related travel and employers are advised to treat such situations leniently.

FLEXIBLE APPROACH: Alternatively, employers may choose to take a more flexible approach by agreeing to treat the time off as special paid leave or requiring the employee to take the time off as paid annual leave so that he or she is not out of pocket. If the employee has already used up their leave entitlement for that year, employers may wish to consider allowing them to use up next year's entitlement.

CASE BY CASE MERIT: As different employees may be off for different lengths of time, from one or two days to a week or more, employers may choose to consider their approach on a case-by-case basis. However, employers should ensure that they treat similar cases in a consistent manner in order to avoid opening themselves up to a grievance or allegation of discrimination.

REGULAR CONTACT: Finally, in order to minimise any disruption insofar as possible, employers should ask employees to keep in regular contact to advise of their likely return date so that they can arrange suitable cover. Employers should encourage two-way communication with employees and as flights begin to get off the ground again, employers may wish to advise employees of reasonable timescales within which they expect to see them back at work. Where possible, employers may also wish to consider requesting that employees work remotely by using hotel or airport business facilities or via their blackberries/laptops (assuming employees took them along on holiday).

POLICY: Whilst it is certainly not often the case that employees are kept away from the workplace by clouds of volcanic ash, there are a number of other situations, such as the travel chaos during the 'big freeze', or flight cancellations due to terror threats or other Acts of God, where employers will have to adopt a similar approach. In order to be prepared for any similar issues in the future, employers may wish to consider developing a catch-all policy dealing with 'no fault' absences from work which gives clear guidance for staff and sets expectations for all parties at the outset.


Changes to employment law tend to kick in every year.

The Statement of Fitness for Work (see above) is just one change. Additionally, changes were made to Paternity Leave, Data Protection, Pensions, Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions and we see the introduction of New Pension Scheme Allowances. Additionally, employee's now have new rights to request time off for study or training - this applies to employers with 250 or more employees (extending to all employees from 2011).

Training: The new 'time off for training' applies to al employers with 250 or more employees but this will be extended in 2011 to include all employees. Employees must have more than 26 weeks' service and the purpose of the training must be to improve their effectiveness at work and the performance of their employer's business. Employers are required to follow a procedure set out in The Employee Study and Training (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) Regulations 2010 and The Employee Study and Training (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2010.

Paternity Leave: New regulations give parents of children due, or matched for adoption, on or after 3 April 2011 greater flexibility in how they use maternity and paternity provisions through the introduction of Additional Paternity leave and pay. There will be more choice and flexibility for parents. This may be of concern to smaller business. For full details;

Data Protection: From 6 April 2010 the Information Commissioner has the power to find organisations up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Pensions: The minimum pension age increases from 50 to 55 unless retirement is on the grounds of serious il health, or the member has a protected pension age or the member started taking benefits before 6 April 2010. Meanwhile, the number of years needed to receive a full state pension reduced to age 30.

Income Tax: There are reductions affecting personal income tax allowance which become effective from 6th April 2010. National Insurance contributions lower earnings limit for class 1 contributions will increase from £95 to £97. The upper earning limit remains at £844 per week.


If morale is low within your department or company, or if you are accused of being an organisation that condones bullying, we can refer you to members of the CIPD who are experienced investigators and mediators. We work with a number of HR organisation's and Chartered Fellows of the CIPD that specialise in providing independent investigation services. The referral process is open and transparent and you can place the business with a company or individual of your choice.


Redundancy is a form of dismissal and reasons include; the business is closing down or moving, there is a need to cut costs and so staff numbers need to be reduced, the job you were employed to do no longer exists or technology or new system ns has made your job unnecessary. It can still be a genuine redundancy if someone else's job disappears and they are moved into your job, making you redundant. This is known as 'bumping' but can be difficult for an employer to justify as fair. In a redundancy situation certain processes should be followed; a) the selection criteria should be fair, open and transparent, b) employees should be consulted, c) employee's should receive redundancy pay, d) employees should be given proper notice, and finally e) organisation should consider alternatives to redundancy.

Do not use sickness records as a main selection criteria when making staff redundant. Sickness caused by stress arising from bullying, harassment or discrimination should not be used as part of a redundancy selection criteria either. Take care not to discriminate under the Disability Discrimination Act. Also be mindful of 'last in last out' as this may be potential age discrimination. For advice on what you can use in a Redundancy Skills Matrix, see our advice on the Employer page.


"We are UK Conflict Resolution Experts"

Do you know what the minimum wage is?

Do you understand Redundancy Laws?

Are your line managers skilled in conflict resultion?

Call 0845 22 55 787

Call us for a copy of our FREE Disciplinary Check List


80% of Employers struggle with absence issues

1 in 4 people are currently experiencing bullying


8 out of 10 men would rather say they have flu than admit they are off work with stress.

80% of managers know that Bullying occurs in their workplace and despite this, 37% say they have had no proper training.

Absence, due to stress alone, is costing the UK economy £13.4 billion.


There are occasions when you have to call on the services of an external expert. See our Home Page for a list of dispute resolution service providers.

We work with Employment Law Solicitors, Mediators, Trainers, Coaches, Counsellors, Experts in Mental Health and Wellbeing and a whole range of Dispute Resolution Service Providers.

We observe ever-changing Employment Legislation.

We take a keen interest in Case Law and how this impacts on you.


If you need to conduct a confidential, impartial, investigation service, we can probably help you.

We understand the Overlapping Procedure Rule.

We understand collusion and we are aware of the risks to the business of collective bullying.

We understand the difference between Capability and Conduct - and how to separate the two where there are conflicting views.

We are able to support management with stress issues, stress-related sickness absence and/or increased turnover of staff.

We will help you to address cost/risk issues and reduce the risk of employment tribunals.

For further information simply CALL US ON 0845 22 55 787

STATISTICS: 33.5 million sick days lost p.a. due to workplace bullying at a cost of £14b in 2008 to UK businesses. 9 out of 10 people are affected by bullying! 80% of calls are Public Sector.

We specialise in bullying at work issues as well as bullying in the community, the home and in the playground. In particular we address Bullying at Work and conflict resolution issues. We specialise in this important area of employee relations.

Call the Helpline for FREE advice.

Much of our focus at this time is on the subject of Redundancies, Dismissals, Bullying & Harassment, Grievance and Disciplinary Investigations and mediation in the workplace.

Don't struggle, whether you are the bully or the bullied, we can help you.

Our website is packed with practical tips and advice to assist you.


If you are CIPD trained and your provide dispute resolution services, we would like to hear from you. Please write to us or call us today to enquire about our appointment process.

If you would like to know more about our 20-Step Investigation model, we would be pleased to hear from you.


Redundancy is the new terminology for dismissal during a National Recession. At a meeting of business leaders in Devon during the last UK recession, Lord Digby Jones, former Chairman of the CBI said: 'We are in for a very difficult 2009…but there are two things you should not stop doing, one is marketing and networking and secondly, don’t cut the training budget. You can’t come out of a recession without skilled people. Keep training people so we are ready for the upturn."

We would add that there is a third, crucial, thing that employers should not stop doing.

Employers MUST observe the welfare of staff during this particularly difficult time. Stress levels are rocketing presently and the recession is no excuse for failing to manage and monitor stress and morale. Far too many Companies believe they can 'cut corners' and use the recession as an excuse to make people redundant unlawfully, then increase the workload for remaining staff.

So, there are three things employers could do in this circumstance:
1) Market and network - maintaining competitive edge.
2) Train staff ensuring employee's work SMART so that productivity does not suffer - retaining competitive edge.
3) Ensure that any change management processes are lawful - observing employment laws and monitoring and managing stress levels, employee welfare and morale, at all times.


  1. Adopt an attitude that stress is not a weakness and develop this culture within your department and/or organisation
  2. Ensure you are not suffering from stress yourself
  3. Analyse your management style and behavior. (We can help)
  4. Ensure the working environment is suitable. (Analyse your turnover and absence statistics)
  5. Help your staff cope with change - no matter how big or small
  6. Improve communications. Talk to staff. Observe your staff. Make yourself available. Walk the Talk ! Read In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters & Robert H Waterman Jr.
  7. Empathise. Think of yourself in your employees' shoes
  8. Do regular, informal, risk assessments on your staff to check nobody is subject to work related stress.
  9. Encourage staff to attend development courses and stress management courses.
  10. Praise your staff. Remember to say "thank you" (it costs nothing and goes a long way).

Remember, relaxed and happy employees will work more effectively, thus increasing their own, and the organisation's, performance and productivity.

The above creates an environment that promotes well-being.



Taken from the CIPD Factsheet August 2009

In their advice leaflet for employees ACAS give the following definitions of harassment and bullying. The terms are used interchangeably by many people, and although some definitions may include bullying as a form of harassment the legal definitions are more precise.

'Harassment, in general terms, is unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.'

'Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.'

The legal definition of harassment also requires the behavior to have 'the purpose or effect of violating people's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.'


Since October 2006 UK discrimination law has covered harassment on a variety of grounds including age, disability, colour, ethnic or national origin, race, religious belief or other similar philosophical belief, sex and sexuality.

Individuals are protected from discrimination both while applying for a job, during it, and in some circumstances, after the working relationship ends (for example in terms of the provision of a verbal or written reference). There is also protection for people against harassment on the basis of their membership or non-membership of a trade union and, in Northern Ireland, against harassment on the basis of political belief.

The legal position with respect to bullying is more complex as there is no separate piece of legislation which deals with work place bullying in isolation. If bullying occurs at work for a non discriminatory reason then there still is legal protection available. However, a myriad of different legal principles may be involved, for example:

breach of contract - usually breach of the implied term that an employer will provide reasonable support to employees to ensure that they can carry out their job without harassment and disruption by fellow workers
Common Law right to take care of safety of workers
Employment Rights Act 1996 (for example constructive unfair dismissal)
personal injury protection involving the duty to take care of workers arising out of the law of Tort
Health and Safety at work etc Act 1974
Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (dealing with special types of intimidation etc)
Protection for whistle blowers under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
Public Order Act 1986.
Protection from Harassment Act 1997
Human Rights Act 1998.


In April 2008, the Sex Discrimination Act was further amended to change the definition of sex harassment and to expressly include employer liability for third party harassment. The difference between sex harassment and sexual harassment is that sex harassment occurs where there is unwanted conduct related to the sex of a person with the purpose or effect of violating their dignity, and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. By contrast, sexual harassment occurs where a person subjects another to unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature (for example pinching a colleague's bottom or making lewd comments) again with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.


Within the context of some of the discrimination legislation employers may be liable if they unreasonably fail to protect employees from third party harassment, for example by clients or customers. The employer is only liable if they knew that the woman or man has been subject to such harassment in the course of their employment on at least two other occasions by a third party. It is immaterial whether the third party is the same or a different person on each occasion.


Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual (perhaps by someone in a position of authority such as a manager or supervisor) or involve groups of people. It may be obvious or it may be insidious.

Harassment and bullying can range from extremes such as physical violence to less obvious forms like ignoring someone. It can be delivered in a variety of ways – with or without witnesses, and be persistent behaviour over a period of time, or a one-off act and can include: physical contact which is unwanted, unwelcome remarks about a person's age, dress, appearance, race or marital status, jokes, offensive language, gossip, slander, sectarian songs and letters, posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems, isolation or non-cooperation and exclusion from social activities, coercion for sexual favors, pressure to participate in political/religious groups, intrusion by pestering, spying and stalking, failure to safeguard confidential information, shouting at staff, setting impossible deadlines, persistent criticism, personal insults.


Tackling workplace bullying and harassment is a joint responsibility of the organisation and individuals working within it.

An employer’s first responsibility is to put in place a robust and well communicated policy that clearly articulates the organisation’s commitment to promoting dignity and respect at work - see below for further details of the content of policies.

Individuals also have a responsibility to behave in ways which support a non hostile working environment for themselves and their colleagues. They should play their part in making the organisation’s policy a reality and be prepared to challenge inappropriate behaviour and take action if they observe or have evidence that someone is being harassed. Individuals can be personally liable to pay compensation and can be prosecuted under criminal as well as civil law.

Findings from a 2009 CIPD survey showed that those who experience bullying or harassment are more likely to be depressed and anxious, less satisfied with their work, to have a low opinion of their managers and senior managers and to want to leave their organisation. Employers’ responsibilities may extend to any environment where work-related activities take place. These can include social gatherings organised by the employer such as work parties or outings. An employer could be liable for events which take place on these occasions unless they can show they took reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

Employers should be especially aware of ‘Cyber-bullying’. Detrimental texts sent via mobiles or images of work colleagues posted on external websites following work events could amount to bullying. As this would be seen to have its origins in the workplace, the employer could be liable.

Employers and individuals can be ordered to pay unlimited compensation where discrimination-based harassment has occurred, including the payment of compensation for injury to feelings.


Policies, communication and training are essential. A well-designed policy is essential in addressing harassment. Policies should be agreed with union or employee representatives.

Policies should:

Give examples of what constitutes harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour including cyber-bullying, work-related events and harassment by third parties, explain the damaging effects and why it will not be tolerated, state that it will be treated as a disciplinary offence, clarify the legal implications and outline the costs associated with personal liability, describe how to get help and make a complaint, formally and informally, promise that allegations will be treated speedily, seriously and confidentially and that you prevent victimization, clarify the accountability of all managers, and the role of union or employee representatives, require supervisors/managers to implement policy and ensure it is understood, emphasize that every employee carries responsibility for their behaviour.

Policies should be communicated so that all employees:

Have been made aware – through induction, training and other processes - about their rights and personal responsibilities under the policy understand the organisation’s commitment to deal with harassment are aware of who to contact if they want to discuss their experiences in order to decide what steps to take, know how to take a complaint forward and the timescales for any formal procedures. The policy should be monitored and regularly reviewed for effectiveness, including: records of complaints, why and how they occurred, who was involved and where individual complaints to ensure resolution and no victimization. (Any such ‘dignity at work’ or anti-bullying policy should be co-ordinated with the organisation’s grievance and disciplinary policy which may be needed to deal with incidents which arise.)

Advice and counseling:

All employees should have access to speak in confidence about an issue they may have. This could be an employee helpline or a nominated person, who may be a trained volunteer colleague, to discuss their experiences in the strictest confidence. This can help complainants decide what course of action to take by exploring their options. The decision to progress a complaint should rest with the individual.

Mediation is an increasingly useful tool in managing conflict at work, including harassment issues where difficult personal issues are involved, and it is often one individual’s word against another’s. Mediators can come from outside or inside an organisation. A CIPD recent survey on conflict management at work shows however that only one in four organisation's use internal mediation. The survey also provides evidence that organisation's that provide mediation training receive fewer tribunal claims than those that don't.

Guidance and counseling can be offered to people whose behaviour is unacceptable, as well as those affected by being harassed. Simply punishing those responsible for the harassment risks isolating individuals who may not understand how their behaviour is affecting their colleagues. Sometimes people are unaware of, or insensitive to, the impact of their actions and counseling can help them to accept the impact of their behaviour, change behaviour or prevent further incidents. Being clear about what is acceptable behaviour at work, as well as defining unacceptable behaviour, will prevent ambiguity and stop harassment flourishing.

Informal procedures:

Some complaints may be dealt with internally and informally. In some minor cases it may be sufficient for the recipient of harassment to raise the problem with the perpetrator, pointing out the unacceptable behaviour. But if an employee finds this difficult or embarrassing, procedures should enable support from a colleague, an appropriate manager or a personnel department representative. A choice of contact should be available in case the person's manager is the harasser.

Formal procedures :

Formal procedures are needed if the harassment is serious, if it is the individual’s preference or where an informal approach has failed. Organisation's should have a clear formal policy to deal with all types of grievances and disciplinary issues including bullying and harassment and this should comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance matters.

Investigation :

Formal allegations of harassment, bullying or any intimidating behaviour should be treated as a disciplinary offence. Investigation procedures should provide:

a prompt, thorough and impartial response
independent, skilled and objective investigators
a companion for both parties if required
complaint details, the right to respond and adequate time to respond
a time-scale for resolving the problem
confidentiality in the majority of cases.
A record of complaints and investigations should always be made. These should include the names of the people involved, dates, the nature and frequency of incidents, action taken, follow-up and monitoring information. All sensitive information should be treated confidentially and meet the requirements of the data protection law.

After the procedure :

Where a complaint is upheld it may be necessary to relocate or transfer one party. It should not automatically be the complainant who is expected to move, but they should be offered the choice where practical. Where the perpetrator is transferred, no breach of contract must occur or a claim of constructive unfair dismissal could arise. Although not always necessary, if a complaint is not upheld, a voluntary transfer of one of the employees may be offered if required. These must be consensual and dealt with on a case by case basis and if no move of either party is to take place it is important to check the harassment has stopped and there has been no victimization or retaliation.


'Achieving high levels of performance from people at work is essential in today’s competitive market place. Organisation's should treat any form of harassment or bullying seriously not just because of the legal implications, but because it can lead to under-performance at work. Eliminating all forms of harassment and bullying makes good business sense. A workplace environment which is free from hostility enables people to contribute more effectively to organisational success and to achieve higher levels of job satisfaction. People cannot make their best contribution when under fear of harassment, bullying or abuse.

An organisation’s public image can be badly damaged when incidents of harassment occur, particularly when they attract media attention. This can affect relationships between an employer, their current and future employees, as well as their customers. Organisation's must address the human or systemic failures that may foster a climate where bullying is acceptable.

The conflict which harassment creates should not be underestimated. Employees can be subject to high levels of stress which can reduce engagement and may lead to higher labour turnover, increased sickness absence and less productive and effective teams. Find out more about stress in the workplace in our (CIPD) factsheet'.

An organisation’s public image can be badly damaged when incidents of harassment occur, particularly when they attract media attention. This can affect relationships between an employer and their current and future employees, as well as their customers.

An organisation’s goal should be to develop a culture in which harassment is known to be unacceptable and where individuals are confident enough to bring complaints without fear of ridicule or reprisal. Everybody needs to feel responsible for challenging all forms of harassment and for upholding personal dignity.

For further guidance on how to promote a positive culture at work and identify the key issues and people that need to be addressed, CIPD members can use a new practical tool on addressing workplace bullying'.

Useful contacts
ACAS, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Equality and Human Rights Commission

1.ACAS. (2009) Bullying and harassment at work: guidance for employees. London: Acas. Available at:


We appreciate that the UK economy goes through a recession from time to time. This impacts on SME's and Employers. It is only natural that employers will be looking to make cut-backs at times such as these. Here are some tips before you make changes that have a Contractual bearing:

  • Benchmark, find out what other employers are doing to address the recession.
  • Ensure there is a Variation Clause in your staff contracts before making changes that will impact on contractual terms (such as altering shift patterns, cutting hours etc). Consider the risk to the business of constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal compensation is £63,000 presently - and that does not include the hidden costs such as legal fees, disruption to the business, management time etc.
  • Consider Equality and Fairness procedures. Do not discriminate. Ensure management decisions are sound and are neither selective nor biased. Document decisions and ensure the business case is lawful.
  • Ensure Statutory and in-house Policies are followed and that you adhere to change management processes if you do need to make adjustments. Consult and involve Trade Unions or Works Council's where relevant.
  • Seek employee involvement at the outset; Ask the workforce for ideas. Introduce an Employee Reward scheme for 'cost cutting ideas' that are implemented and prove effective!
  • Ask staff whether they would be prepared to take a temporary pay reduction as an alternative to facing a redundancy process. This is not an unreasonable request right now. This reduction should be % based so that those on a lower income are not overly stretched financially at this difficult time.In return for cooperation, reward loyalty with bonuses and other incentives when business picks up and when the UK economic recession improves.
  • Consider career breaks or sabbaticals (staff take an unpaid holiday but do not lose their job). This gives staff an opportunity to travel or take an extended break.


  • Address performance, SMART working and overall productivity. Ensure it does not slip.
  • At the same time, observe STRESS levels. See LAW section; Dickins v O2.
  • Place a freeze on recruitment.
  • Place a freeze on hiring temporary staff.
  • Place a freeze on overtime - keep meetings short.
  • Place a freeze on advertising.
  • If someone resigns, conduct a thorough and documented process to assess the necessity to re-employ. Consider a job share or a restructure at this time.
  • Address training needs presently. Without compromising the business, place a temporary freeze on training that can wait 6 months.
  • Cut excessive and/or unnecessary executive bonuses and expenses.
  • Consider a Utility Operational review; send all post out second class (it will still get there). Switch off lights and computers at night and when the office is unattended.
  • Sorry folks, cancel that Xmas party - at least put it on hold. Consider a summer BBQ instead.

If things become dire, seek voluntary redundancies before embarking on a heavy handed downsizing exercise.



Members of NCVO - National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Updated 17-10-2014