Not worth the paper it’s written on

Not worth the paper it’s written on

We recently had a situation at a client who had been “too nice” to a new employee.

You might think it’s impossible to be “too nice”, but hear me out:

The client had employed his first female in his fairly new business.

In her first week of work, she was off one day sick and went home early another day.

In the first week!

He rang us and we discussed parting company with her, but at that stage we thought she had haemophilia, which would have been protected under disability discrimination.

He did a return to work interview with her where she said it was actually anaemia that was causing the problems (not a disability) but was then back at work for the rest of the month.


When the second month rolled around, she called in sick every day of the first week.

And when I say “called”, I actually mean, “got her mum to text in on her behalf”.

We decided to go ahead and terminate on the grounds of not following the sickness absence procedure.

There was one small snag in that she’d never been given a contract, and we couldn’t prove she’d seen the handbook, but we went ahead, dismissing her for not following the procedure.

A week or so later, our client received a reference request for her new job, which makes it highly unlikely that she’ll start a case against us.

There’s an important point here though: the contract was not worth the (electronic) paper it was written on because it had never been given to the employee.

Some employers feel uncomfortable asking the employee to sign the contract, if they don’t volunteer to.

The best way we have found to get things signed and start the working relationship on the right foot is:

  • Send them the electronic copy of the contract and handbook, as pdfs, before they start
  • Ask them to read the contract in full
    • Advise them that you will print out two copies for them to sign on their first morning
    • If they have any questions, please ask in advance
  • Ask them to read the most relevant sections of the handbook in advance
    • Sickness
    • Holiday
    • Code of conduct
    • Disciplinary
  • Also ask them to bring in their passport on their first day so you can take a photocopy (which of course you are already doing to avoid a fine of £20k for unwittingly employing an illegal worker, right?!)

Remember, your employees are not doing you a “favour” by working for you. It is a two-way street, and they always have the ability to leave, unlike us business owners!

Not worth the paper it's written on

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    If you are an employee and feel that you have been treated badly, then we strongly advise you to contact ACAS:

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    Simply get in touch and they'll provide you with clear and confidential guidance about any kind of dispute or query that you have about relationship issues within the workplace.

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