Category Archives: Grievances

Resolving Employment Disputes

10032845_mSUMMARY: What do you do when a tribunal claim is brewing…. Fight or Flight?

Whilst the number of tribunal claims are down, claims are still happening; unfair dismissal claims still prevail but often more complex issues such as discrimination and whistleblowing are involved.

Being on the receiving end of a tribunal claim can feel acutely painful from both a time and costs perspective. The following are a few simple do’s and don’ts to help manage a dispute which is brewing.

DO consider all the options for dealing with a dispute or a tribunal claim.

For example:

  • Acas Early Conciliation

Before a claim can be started an employee must contact Acas; Acas will then establish if the employee and employer can resolve the dispute without the tribunal’s intervention. Neither party has to participate in the process and if settlement cannot be reached, the employee is then free to claim.

Even if there is no interest in settlement, this process may serve as a reconnaissance exercise to understand more about the employee’s complaint in preparation for defending any subsequent claim.

  • Defend the case

Some employers may prefer not to shy away from the gaze of the tribunal because the complaint requires a robust response.  For example:

  • there is no case to answer;
  • the employee’s settlement expectations are unrealistic; or
  • there may be important financial and commercial considerations. Disabusing staff of a settlement culture may be one reason. Broader issues may also be at stake, which relate to pay, hours and holidays.
  • Judicial Mediation

Mediation has the advantage of taking place in a less formal setting in comparison with a full tribunal hearing. The mediator, an employment judge, will work with the parties on a confidential and without prejudice basis to explore if there is a way of resolving the dispute.  The parties are free to discuss their differences and consider the options for resolving the dispute, without the fear of their discussions being repeated if the mediation fails.

Agreement can be reached on matters which a tribunal would not be able to address. For example, the employee leaving, an apology or a reference being issued, or the employee being provided with assistance to find another job.

From an employer’s perspective a satisfactory commercial outcome, without having to concede its position can often be achieved.

  • Settle the case before the hearing

Once a tribunal claim has been issued, the Acas conciliation service will still be available to consider with the parties whether there is a solution. Settlement agreements can also be used.

DON’T ignore a tribunal claim once received.

Employers only have 28 days from the date when the claim is sent to respond to the tribunal setting out why the claim is disputed.  A response will usually be rejected if received after the expiry of the 28-day time limit.  Possible consequences are that a judgment could be issued without the employer being able to defend its position. This could be costly as compensation for discrimination claims is uncapped, and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal from 6 April 2016 is the lower of £78,962, or one year’s pay.

Until and unless settlement is properly concluded, a response must always be filed.

DO consider ways to limit an employee’s opportunity to bring a claim in the first place.

Effective ways to reduce the risk include:

  • having legally compliant contracts of employment and policies and procedures;
  • introducing a robust appraisal system and ensuring current job descriptions exist;
  • communicating to staff the expected workplace standard of behaviour to reduce the risk of harassment and discrimination claims; and
  • dealing promptly and fairly with grievances and whistleblowing complaints.

DON’T forget …..

…. if a dispute arises, a sound strategy, which acknowledges the needs of your organisation and the merits of the complaint, will go a long way towards finding the right solution, whether that be a hard fight in the tribunal or a quick exit via the settlement route.

Contact Details

If you would like to identify the right strategy for your employment disputes, please contact a member of our Employment Law team:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

Engaging With Your Workforce

Engaging With Your WorkforceSUMMARY: Staff turnover can prove costly and also cause difficulties in attracting new recruits. It is therefore important that employers consider how they attract and retain the best talent.

Is it all about the money?

To have strongly defined recruitment and retention strategies an organisation needs to understand what motivates its staff.

Often it is mistakenly assumed that it is all about the money. This is not usually the case. One of our clients recently reported that an employee had turned down a job with a competitor, even though the salary was higher. The employee apparently had no qualms in turning down the offer because it was not just about the money.

Financial reward will undeniably play a significant role in any recruitment and retention strategy but there are many other factors which will influence an individual’s decision to stay or indeed join another organisation.

Why identify what motivates your workforce?

An organisation successful in retaining its current workforce is likely to be meeting the needs of its staff which, in turn, means it is probably also attracting new recruits. This organisation is likely to have taken the time to consider what drives individuals – identifying their needs, expectations, and values.

Whilst not purely a legal matter, we are often asked to advise on how an organisation can identify what is important to its staff and in particular, what steps can be taken to obtain employee feedback.

Taking stock, whilst providing an invaluable insight into what motivates individuals will also add further value – there is likely to be a greater feeling of inclusion leading to increased employee engagement; reduced absence levels; lower staff turnover; becoming known as a “good employer” to work for; less workplace conflict; fewer disciplinaries and grievances; less tribunal claims; increased productivity; higher profitability rates; and surprisingly some innovative ideas to improve the business may also be identified.

How to identify what makes a “great place to work”?

There are many different ways of gaining an increased understanding of the issues that are most important to individuals. For example,

  • through the running of employee forums, focus groups and staff meetings;
  • via suggestion boxes;
  • setting up dream/vision boarding exercises;
  • exit interviews; and
  • by implementing staff engagement surveys.

Staff engagement surveys usually offer the best opportunity to facilitate real business improvement on a more formal basis. Committing to such a formal process demonstrates to staff that they are being taken seriously. In turn, staff are more likely to want to contribute.

A survey can take the form of either a number of generic questions or more importantly, where needs and values are being identified, bespoke questions tailored to address particular or unique circumstances. Fundamentally, any questions must be aligned with the organisation’s overall strategy if the results are to add value. The results will also provide invaluable data to be benchmarked for comparison purposes including looking at industry specific data, to understand how the organisation performs alongside other organisations; this may be important when reviewing any recruitment and retention strategy.

Surveys can be carried out in a variety of different ways such as over the telephone, as paper based exercises or on-line. Some survey providers are now coming up with more creative ideas to get the required results. Important in all cases is that staff are provided with anonymity and the opportunity to offer their opinions on a confidential basis.

Before engaging in any exercise there are some key considerations:

  1. How will the process be managed and communicated?
  2. How will the expectations of participants be managed in terms of deliverable outcomes including sharing the results (warts and all)?
  3. Will there be a willingness to take action?

What might the results say?

The results of any staff feedback exercise are likely to identify that staff have a variety of different values.

If the focus has been on retention then it is likely to become clear that for many individuals money is not the main motivator. Increasingly catching up, and in some instances overtaking financial reward, main motivators are flexible working arrangements, homeworking, challenging and stimulating work, structured career development prospects and recognition for going above and beyond within peer groups.

The example referred to above supports these results; the employee cited a number of reasons for staying including a supportive culture, interesting and varied work, and a flexible working arrangement which provided a good work/life balance.

For some individuals money will be of paramount importance and for others it will be a flexible package. Get it right and the workforce will be more engaged and far more likely to stay; a highly engaged workforce is also likely to attract the best talent.

Contact Details

For more details please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.