IT Projects and employment laws:
3 implications you must consider
All IT projects are about change. Very often that means not only changes in the technology in place, but also changes in the way people work. In some cases, those changes are so significant that they have implications on the employer-employee relationship. This article covers 4 key Human Resource (HR) management implications you must consider as part of your IT project in order to remain within the UK employment laws.
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First, it’s important to note that in the UK, what we refer to as “the employment law” is in fact a series of different parliament acts.
A change in the way people work could have implications from the point of view of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Employment Relations Act 1999, the Equality Act 2010, the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 or any of the other employment acts or regulations, and the statutory requirements flowing from them.
Changes to individual contracts
Changes to ‘individual’ contractual elements by law generally need to be undertaken by mutual agreement and cannot be imposed, but not always.
This needs to be implemented well and in a positive way otherwise employers can face costly Employment Tribunal claims for Breach of Contract, Unfair Dismissal and possibly Discrimination if employees feel they have been unfairly treated.
Any discrimination claims attract unlimited awards and fines from a Tribunal. These can be claimed from the first day of employment and so potentially more costly and risky to employers.
Changes to collective agreements
In addition to individual contractual elements that need to be understood, you should also review any ‘collective’ agreements that are legally binding when implementing changes to working practices, HR policies or terms of employment.
These could be associated with Trade Union Agreements or Staff Consultation Bodies or similar. Some will involve formal negotiation, others consultation and there is a difference so understanding this is important as to how to implement your HR and change action plans.
Excellent employee relations and engagement are key to implementing successful improvements and should help to stop those few who may be wanting to resist the changes resulting from your IT project, sabotage progress or those who are fearful of the unknown.
Health & wellbeing
Employee welfare and motivation is also crucial. For some, a new IT project means new shiny toys and is exciting. For others, the implications can cause uncertainty and hence some anxiety. It’s very likely that those impacted by your IT project will include both types of people.
Make sure to support good people who simply need a helping hand over these hurdles to continue to perform well. Mental health and stress can be well managed in many ways.
ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) and the Health and Safety Executive both provide excellent guidance on supporting mental health in the workplace. A well, happy and motivated employee is a productive employee. A stressed, demotivated and disgruntled employee is quite the opposite and will likely impact directly on the bottom-line profitability and shareholder value.
Don’t forget the HR Department
This may seem like a very obvious statement. But you would be surprised how many IT Project Managers don’t involve the HR Department soon enough, or even not at all. There’s often an underlying assumption in the project team that everyone is “trainable” and willing to be trained. And so, a training program is developed and rolled out as part of the IT project without consulting HR.
However, the reality is that some people may not have the relevant characteristics, skillset or competencies. Some may not be willing to change. Involving the HR Department and/or external advisors from the start of the project is a key success factor for all IT projects having an impact on employees. They’ll help you make sure all HR tools and techniques are aligned with the project’s objectives.
The list below highlights the HR Checklist we use at Digital Octopii to make sure our IT Projects fully consider HR implications and people are engaged in the change. Please note this list is not in order of priority. Many of those activities are interdependent and take place concurrently.
- Review individual contracts of employment for employees who will have to change the way they work
- Collective agreements if there are some in place
- Health and wellbeing
And don’t forget to talk to the HR department from the word Go.