Fail to prepare then prepare to fail

22 September 2015

There are good reasons why 24-hour legal helplines, an employment manual and online legal advice/documents service are provided to ARAG commercial policyholders: you have to be exhaustive with disciplinary hearings or could be slaughtered at an Employment Tribunal.

The message is coming through loud and clear. Recent cases show that examining apparently minute or bizarre complaints, following clearly defined grievance procedures, avoids problems later. Guidelines, procedures and advice to employees must be in place and adhered to, hopefully averting disputes and definitely before any might arise.

So, do people really yell “get out of here and don't come back on Monday”?

Well yes, they do. The boss of family-owned Commercial Storage Ltd must be kicking himself after doing just this. He had a row with a driver whom he had hauled in from holiday to set up a new truck he was taking out. The driver didn't return to work after the altercation and successfully won his case for unfair dismissal. The first time he was contacted by the company had been a few weeks after the dust-up, when his P45 arrived. There was a total failure to adopt any sort of fair procedure so it was an open and shut case.

At the other end of the spectrum was a hugely complex dispute involving a BBC World journalist who received a final written warning when he refused to put out news of the birth of Prince George on a Sri Lankan news service. A few months later he was sacked.

He alleged race discrimination but the tribunal looked for facts and couldn't accept that 'the views expressed by the claimant constitute a philosophical belief attracting the status of a protected characteristic within the Equality Act'. The 'royal' dispute was the tip of an iceberg involving ethnic disputes, alleged censorship and reporting bias, of human rights violations in Sri Lanka and heated arguments between colleagues and managers.

Whilst the tribunal sided with the journalist – that a final warning over the Prince George story was manifestly inappropriate – his subsequent dismissal over other matters was not. The deciding factors were cited as the numerous witnesses and enormous quantities of management time spent. There were internal interviews, several disciplinary hearings, analyses, reports and yet more disciplinary hearings where vast quantities of documents were pored over. As the tribunal reported: “by any standards this was a reasonable investigation”.

The moral is: commercial clients should make use of their policy 'extras' because ARAG provides far more than insurance alone.

News Archive