Call it what you like, a helpdesk or support facility is a great one for companies to offer
Call it what you like, a helpdesk or support facility is a great one for companies to offer. A support facility for software and legislation is, often, a deciding factor in choosing which provider to use or which professional organisation to belong to or subscribe to. It is great to be able to pick up the telephone or e-mail a query and get advice from someone that is able to pass on their knowledge or just confirm an understanding.
As someone with a lot of experience of both using and managing various helpdesk / advisory offerings, I believe that these are not always used correctly. So, I thought that I would pass on my two top tips that everyone should consider when asking the help question in the first place or actually giving the advice.
However, there are a couple of overriding considerations:
• Not all support / helpdesks have an implicit knowledge of their client or membership base. Therefore, in order to get the best and most appropriate advice, it may be necessary to outline your query in the fullest possible way by giving all the relevant facts.
• Helplines are, for the most part, not financial advisors or employment law specialists. Therefore, they are probably best to always give advice with the damage-limiting words “based on the information that has been supplied”.
Here are my two top tips (my two Js):
Not all countries in the United Kingdom (UK) operate the same. This is a fact that is increasingly acknowledged, at long last. UK professionals need to be sure that the information they are giving or receiving does relate correctly to their workforce.
• I spent many years believing that the Employment Rights Act 1996 was the be-all and end-all of employment legislation. Often, it is – in Great Britain. It does not apply in Northern Ireland
• The Pensions Act 2008 is important legislation governing things such as auto-enrolment. Again, it does not apply in Northern Ireland.
Therefore, when asking or giving advice, UK professionals need to be very specific about which legal jurisdiction they are talking about. Questions such as “does this apply in Scotland as well” or “is this UK-wide advice” should be the norm. Further, the people giving advice should be advising things such as “this applies UK-wide” or “this is the situation in England but not Wales”.
It is so important that we recognise the federalised United Kingdom.
More so than ever, employers need to be in almost a defensive position when performing their day-to-day activities. This is because the penalties for non-compliance with legislation are greater than ever, with consequences that are not only financial but may also damage reputation – think of the “name and shame” lists that HMRC publish for example.
Therefore, when using an advice / helpdesk facility, UK professionals should ensure that they ask for links to the relevant guidance on things like Gov.uk. Even better, they should ask for the relevant legislative references. Preferably, these should be provided in writing.
This request should not come as too much of a burden for the people that manage advice / helpdesk facilities, as they should all have access to the most up-to-date legislation anyway. If they don’t have such tools available, I would question how they are in a position to attempt to provide help and advice in the first place.
Remember the two Js!