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HCR Law Events

8 June 2022

Legal health-check – is the practice in order?

In a busy veterinary practice, it can be difficult to find the time to consider whether you have in place what is required by law to run your veterinary practice.

Employment contracts

All employers are required to set out key information in writing to employees under employment legislation, but the importance of written employment contracts goes far beyond legal compliance.

It demonstrates the terms which govern the relationship, entitlements and obligations. The requirement to provide a contract is now a “day one” requirement. Failing to do so attracts compensation payable by the employer of up to four weeks’ pay per employee.

In an industry where locum usage and self-employment often feature, the absence of an employment contract can cast doubt over employment status and lead to protracted questioning around how the employer-employee relationship operates in practice.

For instance, are the staff PAYE? Do they enjoy employment entitlements? Clear, accurate, and up-to-date written particulars will enable a swift assessment.

Holiday pay

Holiday pay has been a hot topic in employment law for a number of years, with high profile litigation concerning how to treat overtime and commission-based pay arrangements – and their impact on a normal week’s pay.

Where staff work fluctuating hours, holiday pay must be calculated with reference to an average pay over the previous 52 weeks. Adding in the complexities of calculating entitlements for part-time workers, many practices find holiday entitlement and pay difficult to perfect.

Against the backdrop of carrying over holiday not taken during the pandemic, and the nigh-impossible task of rota management and capacity for leave to be granted, many practices find holiday a minefield.

However, for employees to operate at their best and ensure high productivity levels, annual leave is essential to health and wellbeing. Ensuring the correct entitlement is available, taken, and paid accurately are key components in both retaining your staff and promoting adequate breaks from the busy practice schedule.

Employment – right to work checks

Conducting simple ‘Right to Work Checks’ are mandatory for all UK employers to prevent illegal working.

If checks are carried out correctly and in accordance with the codes of practice in the Home Office guidance (please refer to the link below), then a ‘statutory excuse’ against liability for a civil penalty (£20,000) can be relied upon if an employee does not have the right to work.

The following ways can be used to establish a ‘statutory excuse’:

  • Manual right to work checks
  • Identity Documentation Validation Technology (IDVT) via the services of an Identity Service Provider (IDSP) – this can be used by carrying out a digital identity verification check for British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport (including Irish passport cards)
  • Home Office online right to work check

Regulatory

The ways in which vets and veterinary practices can fall foul of regulatory requirements are many and varied. Health and safety, fire or environmental breaches are criminal offences in themselves.

Practising without registering with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons or dispensing veterinary medicine without registering their premises on the Register of Veterinary Practice Premises are severely punished.

Equally important in view of the high fines that can be imposed, vet practices should make sure that they are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office before they handle clients’ data.

Straying beyond a simple discussion of insurance products into arranging insurance for clients would take a vet into the highly regulated financial advice arena.

Statutory registers

If your practice is a limited company, then it is required by law to have a set of statutory registers which consists of the following:

  • Register of members
  • Register of directors and secretaries
  • Register of directors’ residential addresses, which will not be available for public inspection
  • Register of people with significant control
  • Register of charges.

Failure to keep statutory books is an offence by the officers of the company and the company itself. The register of members is also evidence of who the members of the company are.

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About the Author
Rebecca Leask, Head of Health & Social Care Sector and Birmingham office and Notary Public

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