Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Experts need to keep their distance

Human resources experts must remain impartial when it comes to disciplinary procedures and not attempt to influence the final outcome, a Telford solicitor has warned.

John Mehtam, who leads the employment team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, said HR staff were essential when it came to supporting any management team dealing with employment issues.

“But there is a real difference between supporting a fair and balanced process, and influencing the final decision in a case, and it’s vital that HR experts maintain an objective and clear-headed approach.”

John’s warning follows a disciplinary case where an employee was investigated after possible misconduct over his expenses and using hire cars inappropriately.

“The employee’s manager received initial advice from the company’s HR department that led him to draft a report including a number of favourable findings about the employee’s behaviour. He said he was satisfied that the misuse was not deliberate and that the employee’s explanations were plausible and consistent.

“But after speaking to the HR team further, his final report was much more critical of the employee who was eventually sacked – an employment tribunal rejected his claim of unfair dismissal, but the employee appealed.

“And at this point, the appeal committee backed his claim, as it was clear that the favourable comments had been completely removed and replaced with criticisms.

“They said that HR had appeared to try to persuade the manager to take a more critical view of the employee’s conduct and to reject his explanation that he had simply made mistakes – a reason which the manager had previously appeared to believe.”

John said the committee ruled that anyone facing disciplinary charges and possible dismissal was entitled to expect the appropriate manager to take the decision.

“They should not be lobbied by other teams or departments on how they should view the employee’s actions, and the employee should be given adequate notice of any changes in the evidence so they can deal with them accordingly.

“The case showed that the HR team had been directly involved in the decision-making process which was outside their remit, and it’s a warning to other experts to keep their professional distance.”