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HR and Employment Law in a GPs Practice

The inherent difficulties of operating a practice day to day are, of course, substantial. One area that can often be neglected in the pursuit of superior quality standards and patient care is HR and employment law.

While this question may present no problems when all is running smoothly, there is however a wealth of legal issues potentially lurking beneath the surface for the unprepared practice manager. So what can go wrong? 

Well…

The Contract 

The starting point for avoiding problems is, naturally, when a new starter is issued with their contract to define the employment relationship. Practice managers do however need to think carefully about the types of contracts they are issuing.  Employment contracts will be required for GP’s, nurses and administrators but ‘one size’ will never fit all and bespoke employment contracts will ensure each category of employee has contractual terms which are relevant to them.

Additionally, locums may be given a contract for services if they are believed to be self-employed, but this may not always be the case.  Dependent upon the manner in which a locum is employed, which may include employment through an agency, they may be a worker rather than self-employed.  Getting employment status wrong can be of detriment to the practice as dismissing someone believed to be a worker or self-employed contractor who ultimately turns out to be an employee, will leave a practice open to a claim of unfair dismissal.

The key for a practice manager is to always look at the day-to-day operational relationship of the parties to ensure any contract accurately reflects the working relationship to minimise the risk of a future dispute in the employment tribunal over status.

Restrictions 

To protect ‘trade secrets’ and highly confidential data, service agreements and employment contracts should contain appropriately worded restrictive covenants. This will deter former key staff (including consultants) from using your client data to start up their own venture!

TUPE

When purchasing an existing practice, it is important to realise that one is not likely to just be acquiring the bricks and mortar.  Under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (`TUPE’) employees will automatically transfer with the business being acquired. This also extends to `service provision changes’ which covers the outsourcing or insourcing of services between businesses. 

TUPE preserves the terms and conditions of employment of all transferring employees. Within a practice TUPE would apply to GP’s, nurses, receptionists and cleaners.  However, it is unlikely to apply to those working under a genuine contract for services such as self-employed locum.

Therefore, upon completion a new owner cannot think about changing any terms or conditions of employment unless they have an Economic, Technical or Organisational (ETO) reason for doing so. Ignoring TUPE may mean paying a hefty fine for unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal. 

Restructures 

Whether a practice restructures as a result of TUPE (see above) or redundancy, there are strict procedures which must be followed to ensure any dismissal is fair. 

A practice manager must consult and inform staff, ensure the selection of roles and people at risk of redundancy is undertaken fairly and allow staff the opportunity to comment on the situation, including serious consideration into any viable suggestions raised to avoid redundancy altogether (such as reduction in hours and/or wages). 

Failure to follow procedures could result (and you know what’s coming next) in an employment tribunal litigation. 

How we can help

So as you can see whether you are in the midst of purchasing a practice, restructuring or whether you are taking on a new employee, obtaining specialist advice is essential. 

Employment law is in a state of constant flux. The law changes so frequently that it is difficult for those in business to keep up to date with the intricacies of employment law whilst focusing on running a business. That is why we have developed myHR where our lawyers and consultants become your outsourced HR team. 

A subscription to myHR means you are provided with day-to-day support and advice on managing your staff on matters such as redundancy, disciplinary and grievance procedures and maternity leave. We are regulated therefore you have peace of mind when following our advice and can get on with what you are good at doing – running your practice. 

If you are a practice owner or manager and want to know more about myHR or want a free business MOT please contact us on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

If you would like to be kept up to date with employment law and dispute resolution updates, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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