HR & Employment Law Insights

Helping family businesses, start-ups, charities, social enterprises, and other growing or established businesses throughout the UK make sense of HR and Employment Law challenges.

We understand that deciding who your outsourced HR provider should be can be a difficult decision, and we would like to help you with your decision making.

When it comes to choosing an HR Consultant you generally you have two main choices, a smaller independent HR consultant, or a larger HR organisation.

In this article, we have pulled together a list of important questions to help ensure that you choose the best HR consultant for your situation.

Choosing an Independent HR Consultant

What SLAs are in place to respond to enquires?

In our opinion, at the very least you should have a response the same day. The very nature of HR often means that when you need advice and support it is something fairly urgent, therefore having to wait a long time for a response is really not suitable for your business.

What provisions do you have in place when are on holiday or tied up with a client?

If you are paying for a service you should expect that service to be available throughout the year. You should check with an independent HR Consultant if they have any employees or associates who will provide cover in their absence in line with SLAs you have already agreed. You should also check that any associates or employees are suitably qualified to support your business.

Do you have the capacity to provide the service we are looking for?

You should find out how many clients they already have and what percentage of their time do they have available to support your business.  If you are paying for a service, you need to know they have the capacity to cope with the additional workload.

Do you have terms of business we sign up to?

We do not feel that you should be signing up to any long term contracts, therefore you should ask to see their terms of business. If you were choosing an insurance provider or accountant you would expect to see terms and conditions and it should be no different with an HR Consultant. This gives you clarity on the services you would be purchasing, and if you are tied into any contract.  If you are asked to sign a longer term contract, you should be asking why and what benefits this would bring to your business.

What experience do you have?

It is our opinion that an HR Consultant should have at least 5 years experience of working in a senior HR role. This is because they will need to advise on risk, influence senior managers and directors, share best practice around similar scenarios and demonstrate their competence in a specific subject matter.  Sometimes they may have to tell you the business owners things you might not want to hear, therefore previous experience around these situations would be useful.

What qualifications do you have?

HR Consultants should hold a professional HR qualification such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Someone who has achieved the Chartered Fellow status of the CIPD (FCIPD) has already demonstrated they have operated at a senior HR level for at least 10 years, therefore you can be sure they have the relevant experience plus qualification to support this.

What type of industries have you worked in previously?

Whilst it is not essential that a good HR Consultant has worked in your industry you should be checking what industries/sectors they have worked in to establish if they can offer commercial advice to help drive your business forward . For example, if your business is fast moving such as IT and Technology, then you will want to establish if the HR Consultant can cope with the speed of change.

Do you have any HR Specialisms?

HR Specialisms include

  • Recruitment
  • Employee Engagement
  • Employee Retention
  • Restructuring and Redundancy
  • TUPE
  • Training and Development
  • Employee Relations
  • Trade Union Negotiation

Dependent on your requirements and the type of business you are you may want to check what Specialisms they have which will benefit your business

In your search for an HR provider, you may encounter larger HR companies offering support and advice.  Here are our tips on the questions to ask, helping you choose the right provider.

Choosing a larger HR organisation

Who will I be dealing with each time I call or email?

As a busy business owner or manager, you don’t want to be explaining the context of your business each time you call. Therefore, you should be asking who will be managing your account.

Will I have a dedicated HR contact?

Whilst it is not essential to have only one person looking after your account, we feel that you should only be dealing with up to 2 or 3 people as that allows you to build a good business and working relationship with these people. This allows your HR company to provide commercial, practical and business focused advice that is right for you.

What is the duration of the contract?

You need to be absolutely clear what you are signing up to. Some companies will insist on a 3 or a 5-year contract which can automatically roll on if you do not cancel 6 months before the renewal date. Therefore, you need to check this fully before agreeing on terms. It is our view that should not have to sign up to any long term contract as there could be so many changes to your business in 6 months, let alone 3 or 5 years.  If there is a contract duration, you should be checking this out fully and what benefits this would bring to your business.

Can I cancel the contract early if my business circumstances change?

Your business circumstances may change, such as reduced headcount or increased headcount where you might find a need to employ an HR person.  In these circumstances, you need to check if you can cancel your contract if and when this situation arises.

Are there any financial penalties if I cancel early?

We do not feel you should be penalised if your circumstances change or you wish to change provider, therefore it is important you check this out.

Will you be able to support me on-site with any issues that arise?

A lot of customers tell us that they understand the process but need help on what and how to say certain things. As such, you may want your HR provider to attend a meeting with you to coach you through a process and you should ask if this is included as part of the service.

If so, is this included in the price?

Some HR Consultants will charge an hourly or day rate and if you are going to be charged you should be fully aware of this cost.  Some companies may include this in your overall monthly fee so it's important you are fully aware of these costs.

What experience do you have working face to face with line managers?

It is our opinion that it is straight forward to give advice over the telephone and via email but is very different being involved in a meeting face to face such as dismissal or redundancy where so many emotions come into play, therefore, anyone supporting these meetings must be able to demonstrate they have significant experience in this area.  This is where an HR Consultant can really add value to your business.

What qualifications do you have?

HR Consultants should hold a professional HR qualification such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Someone who has achieved the Chartered Fellow status of the CIPD (FCIPD) has already demonstrated they have operated at a senior HR level for at least 10 years.  Some Consultants may hold employment law certificates, so it's worth checking these out.

What type of industries have you worked in previously?

Whilst it is not essential that a good HR Consultant has worked in your industry you should be checking what industry they have worked in to establish if they can offer commercial advice to help drive your business forward . For example, if your business is fast moving such as IT an Technology then you will want to establish if the HR Consultant can cope with the speed of change.

Further considerations

We have acquired a few clients who were previously with larger corporate HR companies and here are some general comments which should help you ask the right questions:

  • You could be dealing with a different person every time you call about an HR matter.  This can sometimes feel a little impersonal and if you are calling in regards to the same matter each time you may find that you are having to repeat yourself for the advisor to understand the scenario.  This takes up too much time and prolongs the situation I’m dealing with.
  • Where we have employment tribunal protection, the advisors don’t offer commercial advice.  We feel they are only interested in protecting the insurance policy and don’t offer any solutions that allow us to manage the situation we are facing.
  • The advisor does not understand my business or understand my frustrations.  The advice appears to be text book and focuses on what I can’t do rather than offer a solution as to what I CAN do.

At The HR Booth, we understand what it’s like to give support to a small business. We’re a small business too and understand business owners have so many things to deal with – we can relate to this!

I hope this information will help you in selecting the best HR solution for your business and good luck!

Alistair.