Monday, 27 August 2007

Bosses must check warnings

Company bosses across Shropshire are being warned to double-check written warnings given to staff before they fire anyone.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said relying on warnings which may be out-of-date could lead to real problems.

“You may have reached the stage where you know your employee isn’t right for the job – you’ve given them numerous written warnings and believe it’s time to let them go.

“But even though you believe they’ve reached the point of no return, you still have to follow the correct procedures before you can dismiss them without fearing a tribunal claim. Even if the employee has a history of similar behaviour, you cannot just sack them immediately.”

John said companies should check the employee’s contract, and as a minimum take the following steps:

*Tell the employee in advance that you are planning a hearing about the issues, and invite them to a meeting
*Inform them of your decision
*Give them the right to appeal

“But after the meeting, even if it’s clear that the employee cannot continue in their position, and if they’ve been given a final written warning for doing the same thing before, don’t just assume you can take drastic action.”

John said employers should check the worker’s file, as generally warnings were valid for a maximum of 12 months.

“If it has expired, even by just a few days, you cannot rely on it, as the dismissal will be seen to be unfair.
“Don’t assume either that you can just make all warnings last forever as the advice is that they should only last for 12 months – although you can reserve the right to extend final written warnings for serious cases.

“To make sure you don’t get caught out, date each warning and ensure the duration is clearly recorded – then you should regularly check your employees’ files and throw out any that have expired.

“As well as helping you to avoid mistakes, this will also ensure you do not breach the Data Protection Act.”