Human Resources (HR) is an often-overlooked aspect of business compliance, especially for the many businesses that operate informally. What’s more is that it can be confusing even for those businesses that are formally registered. To explain the importance, benefits and processes of HR compliance, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub sat down with Elizabeth Ntege, Executive Director of NFT Consult, to shed light on the ins and outs of HR compliance.

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is HR compliance for small businesses?

Elizabeth explains that HR compliance pertains to the health and safety of a business’ staff. Business owners are responsible for ensuring workplace safety and providing an environment free from risks and hazards to staff members’ health.

Seems relatively straightforward. So, why is HR compliance particularly important?

COVID-19 has put the health and safety of businesses at the front of public attention. According to Elizabeth, if you aren’t compliant with health and safety regulations, unsafe working conditions could result in the serious injury or even death of a staff member. If a business is found to be non-compliant with health and safety regulations, – for instance, if a staff member suffers a serious injury or death – a business may be closed by officials and the owner may at face imprisonment for negligence. Elizabeth maintains that the risks to your staff and to your business from HR non-compliance are very real “so, ignoring it will not [make it] go away.” There are also more positive benefits to HR compliance. Ensuring your business follows correct health and safety standards contributes to your business’ growth by allowing you to partner with larger companies – whether as contractors or as part of the downstream supply chain – who require these standards from their affiliates.

Now that we understand what HR compliance is and why it’s important, what HR compliance activities should businesses know about?

Elizabeth explains that the specific activities needed to ensure HR compliance for your business are largely dependent on the sector in which your business. For instance, a construction or mining company will likely have many more health and safety hazards than a management consulting firm. Nonetheless, as a business owner you “should always have someone on your team,” says Elizabeth, “able to identify the hazards and risks associated with the work you’re doing and [environment] you’re working in.” Whether a business owner hires an additional team member or chooses to assume the responsibilities themself, this person “should be able to provide your employees, especially in the informal sector…[with] the information and the training they require to do their job safely.” To help standardize the process, businesses should prepare safety policies and procedures then ensure they are enforced within your team and the people outside of your team that you may be working with.

Is there anywhere business owners can find more information about HR compliance?

Businesses have a few options here. First, they can hire an HR compliance consultant like NFT Consults to help guide them through the process. Another other option is to source information on their own. The Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE), the Ministry of Labor, and local city council licensing bodies such as the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) can all help with guidelines to support business compliance.

How do businesses achieve and maintain HR compliance?

Elizabeth explains that most businesses achieve and maintain HR compliance by meeting sector compliance requirements or by achieving health and safety certifications. The operational health, safety, and environment certificate is an internationally recognized compliance certification that most ISO-compliant business partners find desirable. In instances where companies cannot afford the certification, they can always adopt the procedures needed for that certification and simply implement them into their business operations. That way, if they are ever audited for health and safety compliance, any changes to processes or procedures will be quick and inexpensive as they “already had the processes running in the business.” Elizabeth says the best and easiest way to offer services to a particular industry is to adopt their health and safety procedures preemptively. That way, in the event that a business finds the certification process too costly, they will be proactively compliant with their industry standard and able to capitalize on potential future partnerships.