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Who's running your company when you're away?

The recent festive holiday break has highlighted an area of business which is frequently overlooked in SMEs; that the lack of management cover and inability to contact senior management due to holidays or illness can result in problems.

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As a business owner, you probably don't get as much time away from the business as you'd like to and it is difficult to completely ‘switch off'. But, if you are getting a much-deserved holiday or spending any time away from the business, it's important to have a plan in place for how you'll deal with any crises in your absence. The recent festive holiday break has highlighted an area of business which is frequently overlooked in SMEs; that the lack of management cover and inability to contact senior management due to holidays or illness can result in problems. Obviously issues regarding finance, overdue accounts, customer business failures, etc. can occur at any time and may cause serious problems with the business if not handled correctly. However employment issues may also arise without warning and need to be dealt with promptly AND in the correct manner. Recently, our member helpline has heard of a number of cases where the owner and/or senior manager of the business not being available has resulted in employment issues, which should have been dealt with immediately. Serious issues which may require staff being suspended, or access to staff records being required to facilitate informed action being taken, may mean that the correct action is not taken in sufficient time to either rectify the situation, reassure other employees that employment issues are being handled correctly, or to prevent a re-occurrence of a similar problem. For example, a gross misconduct issue can become difficult to deal with if a delay of two weeks occurs before any investigation takes place, limiting the action that the employer can take on their return. The outcome of not being available may be expensive, time consuming and disruptive problems later, so it pays to put some thought into planning who will be responsible for these issues in your absence. The solution You should either have a proper management structure in place or, if the business size does not permit delegated authority, lines of communication should be in place to enable the owner to be reached when required. With internet access being so widely available and smart phones making email easy to pick up wherever you are in the world, there are now more opportunities than ever to stay in touch. In some cases we've heard about, staff may have been able to contact the owner or senior management, but didn't feel like they should disturb them. Make it clear to employees, or whoever you have delegated to in your absence, which circumstances you need to be notified of. If you have legal expenses insurance cover, such as that provided with Forum membership, a successful claim will be dependent on you following the right advice, so make sure whoever you delegate to knows who to contact for advice. For further guidance on this issue, members can call our helpline on 0845 130 1722.

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