Mock Tribunal Takeaways
Last week, our HR Consultancy team headed to London to attend a fantastic mock tribunal hosted by BDB Pitmans. Here, our Senior HR Consultant, Hannah Savill, discusses her key takeaways.
So far, I have never had to attend a tribunal or prepare for one (which I am very grateful of!). Although it was a mock run through, it was quite shocking how ruthless this process can be for everyone involved.
I took a great amount away from this day. There were some really important points that stuck out for us as a team, which we continue to share and encourage day to day with the businesses we support.
We at Stellamar prioritise working closely with our clients to support them throughout the vast expanse that HR covers, and the employee relations issues that can arise. One integral part of what we do is to help businesses stay clear of tribunal action by helping them create better workplace cultures and processes.
So, here is a summary of my key take away points:
Evidence on the day
A crucial factor that resounded from the mock tribunal was that appropriate and relevant evidence provided on the day can add valuable weight to your case. This may sound obvious, but it is something that can really weaken your case if it’s not there. For example, if there are issues with an employee’s conduct, such as their attire or time keeping, where are you documenting these events/conversations? If they aren’t documented, how can you prove they have happened?
How many “off the record” conversations are you having with employees? Do they now need to be “on record” so that there is a diary of events to refer to?
A key phrase I was bound by during my nursing career was “If it isn’t documented it didn’t happen”. I still keep this in the back of my mind every day.
How accurate are your notes during any meetings? Do they capture a true reflection of the conversation/discussion? Is there proof that the notes have been accepted by those in the meeting?
It’s simple processes like these that can severely impact your stance – whether this is at a tribunal or not.
Policies & Procedures
How up to date and relevant are your policies and procedures?
Businesses often think a blanket approach can deter any potential issues. However, this isn’t always the case. Employers must be aware of the potential risks of indirect and direct discrimination if their policies aren’t fit for purpose or tailored to their workforce and working practices.
Are the policies and procedures actually being followed correctly?
It’s great to have them in place, but if you decide to dismiss an employee without following the correct procedure, you instantly put your business at risk of unfair dismissal claims, and potentially claims of discrimination.
Further reading: Why employers need to be wary of having blanket policies.
Annual appraisals often bring dread to both employee and employer. They take up time and effort and are generally a tick box exercise which doesn’t provide much in terms of valuable information. Looking at performance in retrospect isn’t ideal and can make it tricky to address issues. In these cases, questions like “why didn’t you bring this up 6 months ago?” can often arise.
Regular reviews with employees can help pick up performance issues, set achievable performance goals and tweak the route an employee is working towards. They also allow for more regular highlights of achievements, which are great for morale!
The carrying out and recording of regular reviews is a fundamental task and allows for action to be taken when issues are identified. They also help to build a case should there be a requirement for steps to be taken towards a capability or disciplinary procedure.
If performance issues aren’t being recorded in a consistent and suitable way, you will struggle to argue the dismissal of someone at a tribunal.
Acting in a fair & reasonable manner
Look at your business decision making – is it inclusive, fair and reasonable?
Discrimination against any of the 9 protected characteristics is unlawful, however there continues to be businesses who directly and indirectly discriminate against employees.
It is not okay to oversee an employee for a promotion because they work part-time due to child care commitments. However sadly, this still happens. Decisions like this are eye wateringly costly to the employer and awfully damaging in many aspects of the employees life.
Conversations had can act as evidence in an investigation or tribunal setting. It’s advisable to follow verbal conversations up with an email. As well as ensuring the person has fully understood the conversation, you also get documentation it’s happened.
Clear communication sets out expectations. Certain communication may need to include the entire workforce. Be mindful of this if you have employees who are on family leave (maternity, paternity or parental leave etc). Just because they aren’t there doesn’t mean they can be left out of important updates and conversations.
You may be thinking “well that’s common sense”. However, these are often factors which get pushed aside in the busy day to day and can land your business in hot water. This is why we at Stellamar stand on our HR soap box and ring this home to businesses.
Decent documentation will act in your favour if things do progress to a formal situation or tribunal process.