Borrowing from the pros: how big business handles staff shortages


Sadly for entrepreneurs and business leaders, staff shortages are an inevitable part of life. Even the most well-adjusted and happy workplaces can experience shortages whether due to those pesky winter sickness bugs or more complicated problems such as strike action, and these potentially expensive problems have a habit of cropping up at the most inconvenient of times. Big businesses also experience these issues, and they have a number of handy strategies in place that you can follow even if you’re a small business. Here’s the lowdown.

 Strong HR function

When the issue of an employee (or, indeed, employees) missing time from work first arises, it should be dealt with right away. Leaving issues to fester is a surefire way to lead to staff shortages in the long run, and that’s not useful for anyone. In a big business, a human resources (HR) team would deal with matters of long-term sickness, industrial action and more by speaking to those involved, researching the legal position and attempting to reach a solution. While it may not be affordable for your small business to hire a whole host of HR staff, the return on investment of hiring even just one part-time designated HR person is often immense.

Use of contractors

Increasingly, big businesses are using contractors to cover gaps in staffing provisions. It is believed, for example, that there are over a million contractors or freelancers currently at work in Britain. From IT to marketing, contractors exist in a whole host of fields – and the flexibility that derives from their self-employed status means that they’re happy to work for as long or short as your required contract terms are. You can also put your contractors under contract via an umbrella company, which means that you won’t have to take responsibility for taxation.

Your legal rights

Whether you’ve got a large corporation or a small operation, you’ve got some legal rights when it comes to staff not turning up to work. In the first instance, it’s better to try to resolve the issue through HR or by plugging the gaps with contractors – but if neither of these routes are possible for whatever reason, then it’s likely that you’ll have to think about more drastic measures. If an employee is off sick for the long term, for example, then they’re likely to be causing a serious staff shortage issue. It is possible to dismiss them, but it must be done in line with certain rules – such as thinking about whether they could carry out different work instead.

Whatever your circumstances might be, it’s likely that you’re going to experience a staff shortage at one stage or another. By looking to big businesses and seeing what they do, you can pick up top tips on how to handle it when it happens to you. From bringing in some contractors to investing in HR to manage the issues for you, there are plenty of options at your disposal.

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