September 1, 2015

Tribunal rules HR Director unfairly dismissed!

Tribunal rules HR Director unfairly dismissed!Helen Marks


A recent case was heard in the employment tribunal whereby they found that the Director of Workforce and Organisational Development at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was unfairly dismissed after being subjected to a campaign of “sexual discrimination, harassment and victimisation”.


It is astounding that in this day and age cases like this are still being heard at the employment tribunal, isn’t everyone aware that firstly it’s unacceptable to harass an employee and secondly if you do, there is the potential for a claim to be raised? If not why not?


Here it was actually the chairman of the Trust who exposed the employee concerned to the catalogue of offences of which he was found guilty of, a man so senior in the organisation that he may not of had anyone that he himself had to report to within the Trust and be accountable to. In normal circumstances an employee who believed that they were subject to harassment of any form would raise the issue with their HR department, escalating it as necessary, but in this case the employee on the receiving end of the unwanted and inappropriate attention was actually the HR Director herself.


Regardless of whether it is the chairman, a line manager or the cleaner, harassment in any form is unacceptable and this is where you as a business owner has a responsibility to ensure that if it does happen in your workplace, that you have the policies and processes to deal with it so that it doesn’t end up getting as far as the case of Helen Marks.


The first step is to design a suitable policy within your employee handbook that covers what the employee should do if they believe they are being harassed. This policy should cover what harassment actually is and the forms it can take, the procedure that needs to be followed, whether it be informal or formal and the right of appeal.


If you have a robust policy in place then not only can your employees follow it if they have a complaint to make, but also your line managers can work by it when they are faced with having to manage a stressful and upsetting situation such as this. This way everyone is clear on what is going to happen throughout the process and situations will be dealt with consistently.


Ensure that if you have to invoke the process that you deal with it sensitively, efficiently and in a timely manner – remember bullying and harassment is in the eye of the beholder and just because you may see the incident as good old banter, it doesn’t meant that everyone else will.


Investigate the circumstances thoroughly, make sure you take notes and confirm your decision in writing. If you find that a claim of harassment is founded then you may be looking at disciplinary action against the accused party, which if the complaint is very serious could lead to dismissal. Again this is where you need a constructively written disciplinary policy within your employee handbook so that all are aware of what will happen if a complaint is substantiated.


So in summary, get your policies in your employee handbook right, don’t ignore it if you do get a complaint and deal with the situation in a timely and efficient manner – if you take these steps you will go a long way in mitigating any risk of employment tribunal claims against your company and of course the associated costs.


Read the full article here

HR Heroes