I’ve been astounded at the number of employees using our online chat service. The service was set up to support managers, but more and more employees are accessing the chat. They are employees who find that routine HR is not conducted in a proper manner in their firm, resulting in problems. Have we been chatting with your staff?
Many interactions cover problems relating to disciplinary, grievance and redundancy dismissals. Here are a couple of observations from these chats.
Follow Your Own Processes
Firstly, many managers don’t follow their own processes and procedures. And often these processes and procedures embrace poor practice, specifically when dealing with disciplinary procedure and resulting potential dismissals.
In addition, some managers call a disciplinary hearing just short of the two-year service trigger. We can only assume that this is done to prevent the employee bringing an unfair dismissal claim, since they won’t have the qualifying two years’ service. The meetings appear to be hurried, wrongly called and conducted in dubious ways. It may just coincidentally be that the issue resulting in the disciplinary occurred toward the end of the two-year period. But the manager is playing a dangerous game in relying blindly on that cut-off since there are occasions where the employee is protected without any time limit.
Discrimination claims can be made at any time and do not require a qualifying period of service. Whilst the compensation (at tribunal) for lost earnings is similar to an unfair dismissal, there is no cap on the amount that can be awarded for injury to feelings. This can lead to costly mistakes by managers.
In addition, if the dismissal procedure is contractually binding for all employees then, by ignoring the company procedure, even for staff with less than two years service, this constitutes a breach of contract. There is no qualifying period of service for breach of contract claims.
Ending Fixed Term
Secondly, another area where managers come unstuck is in ending a fixed term contract. Logically, a fixed term contract ends on a fixed date. From an employment law perspective, whilst the fixed term contract does indeed end on a fixed date, it is still a dismissal. The dismissal procedure must be followed. This means using the company processes and procedures in place before taking action to end any employment contracts. Termination done wrongly could be unfair.
Meetings need to take place – as managers, you can’t just wave goodbye on the final day and assume all will be well!
Finally, I’m not advocating that disciplinary action and dismissals should not take place. Nor am I saying that there are issues with fixed term contracts. Both are useful management tools.
What I am advocating is that a fair, reasonable and appropriate process is always undertaken whenever a manager acts. If this is done, irrespective of the length of service of an employee, irrespective of the contract type, the dismissal will likely be fair.
If, for example, someone has done something that constitutes gross misconduct then, provided that the disciplinary and dismissal processes was fair, it makes no difference whether the employee has been employed for one year and eleven months or two years and one month.
If your business is in the UK, give us a call for a free consultation and let us talk to you about how you can ensure your processes are robust and fair and that your managers use them properly.
Then we definitely won’t be chatting to your employees!