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Human Resources

3 Common Reasons an Employer Would Contact an HR Consultant

Christine Batten, PHR
by Christine Batten, PHR on July 30, 2015

HR ConsultantCan you think of some common reasons why an employer would contact an HR consultant? While there may be hundreds of situations that arise when you may wish to consult with an HR professional, in this article, we wanted to touch on some important topics.

Employment laws have increased protections for employees over the years, and individuals have recognized this and become more litigious as a result.

So, along with dealing with the human aspect and managing people, policies and procedures, HR can also involve managing risk. This means ensuring you have all your ducks in a row before making certain moves.

1.) Risk Management

In general, any time you are considering taking an adverse action against an employee – whether it be a pay reduction, disciplinary action or termination – it is best to consult with an HR professional first. This is because almost any of these decisions can pose a risk to your organization.

Now, remember the term we’re dealing with is risk management, not risk avoidance. Unfortunately, there’s not really anything employers can do to completely avoid lawsuits or allegations of wrongful employment acts. This is why good HR management involves the ability to “fast-forward” to consider potential consequences of your actions before you take them.

2.) Employee Allegations

Likewise, the consulting process cannot promise to completely prevent your employees from making such allegations against you. So again, you want to discuss all your options and risks to be sure you have all your ducks in a row before taking any adverse actions. In other words, the focus need not be “How can I avoid getting sued if I terminate this person?” but rather, “If I terminate this person and they sue me, will I have a defense?”

A crucial step in ensuring that you would be prepared to defend such an allegation lies in your documentation. Not only handbooks, policies, procedures and forms, but written accounts of any issues or incidents you have had with employees. After all, in HR they say:

“If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.”

3.) Scenario-Specific Advice

Now you might be saying “I am familiar with the labor laws and I’m well aware of what I can and can’t do.” This is great, but laws are primarily written for 2 reasons:

1) To tell you what you are required to do; and

2) What you are prohibited from doing  

What the laws will never tell you is what you necessarily should do in particular situations. So the consulting process will assist you with the application of the laws on a scenario-specific basis.

For example, we know that employment in 49 states is generally “at will” and you can terminate someone at any time without a reason. But these decisions are risky— so what you want to determine is, under the specific circumstances at hand, whether you should terminate the employee at that time (or what you should do first before taking the action).

Also, as you probably know, any time you’re dealing with people’s money, things can get sticky. So when you are making decisions about employees’ pay, be sure to consult with a professional first to avoid any costly mistakes.

The Takeaway

We hope you will entrust an HR consultant to guide you through every aspect of your HR program. After all, before you take any actions involving humans, you should first make sure you know where your ducks are!

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Christine Batten, PHR
Christine Batten, PHR

Christine has over 20 years of HR related experience with a background in labor and employment law.