Ten Top Tips on No fault dismissals

Most smaller businesses do not always have the access to HR support for all sorts of reasons.

a. they don’t think they need it or

b. they don’t think they can afford it.

The government is considering whether those with fewer than 10 employees should have the ability to dismiss employees without going through the formal procedure in return for paying a set amount of compensation. The idea, which is currently being reviewed, is to give those businesses the confidence to dismiss underperforming employees without the fear of getting a claim for unfair dismissal. Opinion is divided as to whether it will reduce claims but there are steps employers can take to reduce their exposure whatever the outcome of the consultation.

1. Get your Policies and Processes in order
Have clear and up to date policies in place on matters such as absence and performance management, so employees know what is expected of them and the consequences of not reaching the required standard. Ensure they are applied consistently to prevent any claims of discrimination (which require no minimum period of service and would fall outside the scope of ‘no-fault dismissals’ in any event). Ensure all managers are trained in what is expected of them in relation to line management responsibilities. Don’t assume they know.

2. Actively monitor performance so that any issues are resolved early on
Remember that as long as the process is fair and genuine an underperforming employee can still be dismissed without compensation and, if this is done within the first 2 years of service, if employed after 1st April 2012, then they will be unable to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. The higher threshold will only apply to those starting employment on or after 6 April – the change is not retrospective

3. Show employees that you take grievances seriously
Carry out a full investigation, do not play lip service,  and respond to the employee in accordance with the ACAS guidance. Deal promptly with allegations involving bullying, and any form of discrimination. Ensure that you have suitably equipped personnel to conduct the investigation, if not secure the services of someone who will provide an unbiased and fair approach.

4. Investigation is crucial in demonstrating fairness
For conduct or capability carry out as much investigation as is reasonable in the circumstances. For capability involving ill-health this would include obtaining medical evidence.

5. Redundancies can result in unfair dismissal claims.
However, these are less likely to succeed when it can be shown that there was a redundancy situation, a fair method of selection (including how the pool was selected, and a clear system for which of the employees was then made redundant) and consultation with the employees including considering alternatives.

6. Always hold a meeting.
Give the employee the opportunity to put their case in response at a meeting, make sure they are informed of their right to be accompanied and they need to be given the opportunity to appeal the outcome (the right to appeal applies to any sanction with the exception of a genuine verbal warning).

7. Is it worthy of a dismissal?
When considering the sanction for the employee decide whether it is appropriate to instead issue a written warning, or a final written warning (for more serious cases), or consider alternatives such as a demotion. In cases of gross misconduct, dismissal without notice is fine if you can be shown to have acted reasonably.

8. Be clear on your reasons
When contemplating dismissal, be clear whether it is for conduct, capability, redundancy, breach of a statutory requirement or for ‘some other substantial reason’ (such as a breakdown in trust and confidence or relationships). Ill health dismissals for example could fall under conduct (e.g. unauthorised absence or where the illness is disputed), capability (long term ill-health) or SOSR (short term intermittent genuine illness or not meeting the required attendance standards).

9. Don’t just act reasonably – show it
Make sure that you have documentation to show that you have acted reasonably throughout. This would include details of the investigation and minutes of all meetings and letters sent to the employee.

10. External help and support

Seek advice from ACAS or consider entering into yearly retainer agreements with solicitors or and HR consultant so that you can have certainty of cost and can use them to request advice as and when you need it.

Acknowledgement: Hill Dickinson Solicitors

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Health And Safety Update – RIDDOR

RIDDOR (Reporting of Injury, Disease, Dangerous Occurrence Regulations)

From 6 April 2012, the requirement to report over-three-day injuries will change to seven days. From April, you only have to report injuries that lead to a worker being incapacitated for more than seven consecutive days as the result of an occupational accident or injury (not counting the day of the accident but including weekends and rest days). This new report must be made within 15 days of the accident. (Incapacitation means that the worker is absent, or is unable to do work that they would reasonably be expected to do as part of their normal work.)

For more information see Health and Safety website http://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/reporting-change.htm

Employment Updates April 2012

April has seen some changes in the area of employment, so this month’ blog provides a snapshot of those changes including Statutory payments,  legal changes plus other reminders for changes that have occurred over the past few months.

Statutory Pay increases

From 1st April 2012 the Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay will increase from the current rate of £128.73 to £135.45 per week.  Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will increase from £81.60 to £85.85per week.

The weekly earning threshold for SMP, SPP and SAP will also increase from £102 to £107.

Minimum Wage increase

As from October 2011 the following increases apply:

Apprentice £2.60 per hour
Older than school leaver but younger than 18 £3.68 per hour
18 – 20 years of age £4.98 per hour
21 + years of age £6.08 per hour

 

Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure

Finally, the Government has announced a ‘fundamental review’ of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure, resulting in substantial changes to employment tribunal procedure as of 6 April 2012.

These are:

  • Employment judges will hear unfair dismissal cases alone in the tribunal, unless they direct otherwise.
  • The maximum amount of a deposit order, which a tribunal can order a party to pay as a condition to continuing with tribunal proceedings, will increase from £500 to £1,000.
  • The maximum amount of a costs order, which a tribunal may award in favour of a legally represented party, will increase from £10,000 to £20,000. Witness statements will cease to be read aloud and are to be taken “as read” unless a tribunal directs otherwise.

From 1st February 2012 the following applies

  • For calculating statutory redundancy payments, a week’s pay increases from £400 to £430.
  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will rise  from £68,400 to £72,300

Unfair Dismissal qualifying period extension

Current legislation requires an employee to have completed a period of 12 months continuous service before being able to lodge a complaint for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal. From 6th April this will be extended from 12 month to 2 years. Therefore anyone employed after 6th April will be employed under the new qualifying period, those employed before then will retain their 12 month qualifying period. However, please remember that complaints on the grounds of discrimination (age, ethnicity, gender, sexual preferences) carry no qualifying period and can be the subject of a complaint from as early in the recruitment process as the advert.

Parental Leave

Currently an eligible employee is entitled to take up to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave, which is normally to be taken before the child’s 5th birthday. It had been anticipated that by 8th March there would have been an extension on worker’s rights to parental leave from three to four months, this has been put on hold for the moment.

May Bank Holiday – it’s moving

The Spring Bank Holiday that would normally occur over the last weekend of May, has been moved to Monday 4th June so that it can be linked with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations on Tuesday 5th June.

The 5th June has been marked as an additional Bank Holiday, however, there is no automatic entitlement for employees to receive the extra Bank Holiday. Many employers are putting in place the same /similar arrangements as were agreed for the Royal Wedding last year.

Reminders

In addition to the above, employers should remember that all organisations and their officers and employees are bound by the Bribery Act 2010 and are liable for acts of bribery that are committed in the UK and abroad. If you or your staff are not familiar with this act, please contact me on lisa@triplethreesolutions.co.uk

From October 2012 auto-enrolment of all new employees into a pension scheme comes into force. The number of staff you employ will have a direct impact on when you will be forced to join a pension scheme. If you have not made a pension provision for staff then there will be an obligation to join the state sponsored National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) when the time comes.

Check out the government’s website for further details

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Pensionsandretirementplanning/Companyandpersonalpensions/WorkplacePensions/DG_183783?cid=Retirement%20&%20Pensions&type=sponsoredsearch&cre=homepage&pla=google

or speak with me, or your accountant or your independent financial advisor.

Organisations with fewer than 50 staff will be given additional time to prepare for the March 2015 deadline. Ultimately enrolled employees must contribute 4% whilst another 1% is made up of tax relief and employers will contribute a minimum of 3%. The requirements will be phased in with an initial requirement of 1% rising to 3% by 2017. Make sure you are planning now for this eventuality, time and tide wait for no man or woman!

 

Recruitment – top tips.

So you need to recruit someone into the business? It seems a rationale decision, you are expanding the business, you have noticed that you are working longer hours, getting home later, more customers/clients to see, those few people you do employ don’t seem to be able to take on any of the additional work you are currently doing. Those staff you recruited at the time you set the business up did a good job, but now that you are expanding and developing new markets, those staff, although still doing a good job, they don’t have the skills you need for continuing growth (or that’s what you think).

As business leaders we are faced with all sort of day to day decisions, but how to attract the right people with the right skills at the right time is probably one of the critical decisions that we make without very much thought. All we know is that there is more work needed to be done, bigger targets to achieve, less time in the day to do all the things we need to do to clear the ‘to do list’. ‘Hey Presto’ we need to get somebody – anybody – to fill the gap. I am not suggesting that as business leaders we deliberately set out to recruit poor employees who are not motivated or committed, but we do and can make hasty decisions that may mean we have mediocre performers that may not be capable of developing further than their current level of capability. How often do we hear that a member of the team who was such a good sales person or technical expert, is now failing because they have been promoted to do a bigger job that entails managing people – we promote on the basis of the ‘Peter principle’, that is to the level of the person’s incompetence. It’s important that when you recruit either internally or externally that you know what will be expected within the role and then apply an assessment process to ensure that you have the right person doing the right job.

According to Jim Collins in his ‘Good to Great’ book, one of the principles of a ‘great’ company is  First Who… Then What Collins says, “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” He uses the analogy of a bus driver to while describing how to create a winning team within your organization. He recommends that you first get the right people on the bus, and then you get the wrong people off the bus, then the right people in the right seats, and then figure out where you want to drive that bus. Hire people with characteristics you cannot easily instill. Focus on who you are paying, not how. He also recommends analyzing someone’s character, work ethic, intelligence, and dedication to their values before deeply analyzing credentials and practical skills

Let’s consider how some decisions to recruit are made. You have given some thought to the structure of the organisation and the people who are already in your employ. You have identified specific skills that are now needed within your business and so you write down what is needed in the form of a job description and the skills that are required of the person needed to do the job. Are we always that clear of the skills required to let someone new ‘onto the bus’? When did you last properly assess the skills of the staff who already work for you – are they the ‘right people but in the wrong seat’? Could this be an opportunity to let someone in your organisation use untapped strengths that you have not already identified. If you don’t currently review your staff and any potential job opportunities in this systematic way, you may miss out and lose good people in the future. Consider how this type of planning might help in the future growth of your business and team. Giving some thought to this early on in the process will help you to get (and keep) the right people in your business.

So what happened next? Consider the next two scenarios and determine what is likely to work best for your business. You have decided that you need to look externally so…….

a. You have met someone at a networking event or you have been told by a friend that they know someone who might fit the bill, they seem OK, they are not working, they can start straight away – BINGO – problem solved. You know what you’re looking for – you have always been a good judge of character. You arrange a drink after work to ‘talk a few things through’ and the deal is done – sorted in less than a week.

…OR

b. You either advertise the job yourself or use a third party to recruit on your behalf, using the job specification to write a compelling job advertisement or a job brief for your recruitment partner. You then interview a number of shortlisted candidates against the criteria agreed, make your decision based on criteria and evidence gained during that process. You may introduce other selection criteria at this juncture – assessment centres, psychometric profiling, presentations to name but a few. The process is allowing you to determine that the individual is:

  • capable of doing the work to be done
  • inclined to work the way the organisation would wish them to work
  • mutual obligations and  expectations which are clearly defined from the beginning of the employment contract.

Having considered the two scenarios described which method is likely to have the greatest effect on your business? Remember that from the moment you begin this activity you commence the employee engagement process – this sets the tone of the employee/employer relationship from the first exchange. It is important that whoever undertakes the selection process represents your business as you would expect to represent it yourself. Are you, or the person you have appointed, experienced in recruitment and selection processes?

Based on our experience there are some golden rules to consider, we have picked just 10. I am sure as you read them there will be others that you would expect to consider. Let us know, your comments are important to us.

10 Top tips on getting recruitment right

  1. Make sure you know what skills you need to recruit, don’t leave it up to ‘I know what I want when I see it.’
  2. Have a clear job specification or role profile – for all parties involved in the process.
  3. If you have an external brand, incorporating mission and values, ensure this is used within your attraction campaign.
  4. Make sure the attraction strategy matches the needs of the business. Do you have time and inclination to advertise the role yourself, handle the response, deal with all candidates yourself, arrange interviews or do you use a third party to  handle on your behalf. If you don’t have the time, or the skills,  get someone else to do it for you – there  is nothing worse than trying to handle a response of 200 plus applicants in a poor way – it damages your company’s reputation from the outset.
  5. When it comes to interviewing the candidates yourself, ensure you have a consistent set of questions which demonstrates that you treat all candidates fairly, it’s good practice for 2 people to conduct the interview, making notes to assist with the  decision making process.
  6. Make sure that any other assessment tools used are relevant for the job being recruited. Why give someone a verbal reasoning and numerical test – if the job they are going to be employed to do doesn’t require those skills. Don’t test just for the sake of it – it has to be relevant.
  7. Have an agreed  set of criteria for selection purposes, so that you can determine the best person for the job based on their technical skills as well as broader  competencies required for the job. Remember Jim Collins’ recommendation – Hire people with characteristics you cannot easily instill. Focus on who you are paying, not how. He also recommends analyzing someone’s character, work ethic, intelligence, and dedication to their values before deeply analyzing credentials and practical skills.
  8. If no one meets the criteria – just don’t hire someone just for the sake of it. Start again. Wrong decisions may end up being costly, particularly if you need then to embark  on a performance management route, or ‘let someone go’ before the end of  their probationary period.
  9. You make a selection decision,  so make sure you take up references – use third parties to undertake this  activity if you don’t have the resources . Agree what references you want  to take that are likely to be a requirement for your business. Do you need credit checks, Criminal Records Bureau, Qualifications as well as employment  references.
  10. Agree the offer and ensure that  the appropriate paperwork is despatched and begin the preparation of inducting the new team member into the team.

Finally, if this is the first time you are embarking upon recruiting someone into your business, you need to make sure you have relevant documentation; contracts, terms and conditions of employment and a staff handbook, which describes what is expected or someone in your employ and what they can expect from you.

If in the past you have made recruitment decisions that have not been as successful as you would have hoped, or you are just thinking about recruiting someone for the first time and you need to know the implications, then call me on 07771 944676 or email lisa@triplethreesolutions.co.uk to have a no obligation discussion as to how ‘getting the right people on the bus’ forms part of your on-going recruitment strategy.

Getting people ‘off the bus’…. now that’s a completely different blog and conversation!!

How networking led me to meet the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mr Mark Rutte

So when I got up on Tuesday to attend a breakfast meeting of the Bramhall Business Club http://www.bramhallbusiness.org/ at Indulgence Bramhall (a cafe/bistro in the heart of Bramhall village –if you haven’t tried the food and fantastic ice-cream yet  -you should http://www.indulgencebramhall.co.uk/.) I hadn’t deliberately planned on meeting  H.E. Mr Mark Rutte,. Prime Minister of the Netherlands. So how did this occur?

The simple answer is Networking. For those of you who know me, I strongly believe that networking helps you to build relationships and brings you closer to those people you want or need to meet, whether in pursuit of a business connections or career opportunities. You can read lots of best practice and ‘top tips’ on how to network effectively, and those strategies are all good. In reality I really do enjoy meeting new people, and in my experience the meeting of those people has led me to all sorts of opportunities – and that is another discussion.

The saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. This phenomenon was explored during a programme I watched on TV a few days earlier. Derren Brown presented a programme based on an experiment following a ‘rumour’ that a sculpture of a dog in a park in Todmorden had the power to bring you luck if the dog was stroked. The premise was that those people who were convinced that they would be lucky after ‘stroking’ the dog,   lucky experiences seemed to follow.  Whilst those people who considered themselves unlucky never put themselves in situations, or seized opportunities, that might bring them luck.  The experiment identified that whatever your outlook on life  – lucky or unlucky – that’s what you will get. The same principle as ‘The Secret’ –whatever you ask The Universe, The Universe will deliver.

So back to the day I met the PM of the Netherlands. After a good networking event at the Bramhall Business Club at Indulgence Bramhall, I followed up with a potential client, one that had contacted me originally via my website www.triplethreesolutions.co.uk, to learn that they were going ahead with my initial proposal. Great job. Steve my web designer (who I also met via networking) had really done a great job in making my profile on Google more visible. Check him out www.7comms.co.uk. I then headed into Manchester to deliver a Touch Look & Check (TLC) talk http://www.breakthrough.org.uk/breast_cancer/breast_awareness/ as a volunteer and TLC Champion for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  I had been invited by Anthony Gregory, Head of HR at Cobbett’s www.cobbetts.com, a leading law firm in Manchester, to present as part of their commitment to the Health and Wellbeing of staff.  I felt really positive and motivated after the event as I had presented to around 44 staff on this breast awareness campaign and the feedback was great. I met some really nice people and met with a few people who I knew from the firm.

I had already arranged to attend the networking event at Manchester Town Hall, arranged by– Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO) Manchester http://www.nbso-manchester.co.uk/ and the Netherlands Embassy in London. This event was to welcome the Dutch Prime Minister and Dutch Ambassador to the fantastic City of Manchester as part of a 2 day economic visit that saw them meeting David Cameron, Nick Clegg and business leaders in both London and Manchester.

I was invited to this event because about nine months earlier I had met Angelique Meyer, Chief Representative/Managing Director, from NBSO whilst at an IOD event for Women in Leadership. We had a conversation, exchanged business cards and connected on Linked-in. A few weeks ago I received an invite via the post and registered to attend the event. I have an interest in the Dutch and their country, as my eldest daughter is married to a Dutchman and lives in Amsterdam and is expecting her first child. I have visited Amsterdam on several occasions and have fallen in love with the City. My plan is to work between both Holland and the UK at as part of my on-going plans.

So back again to meeting the Prime Minister – I arrived at the Town Hall. Outside the Christmas markets were being set up in readiness for trading at the weekend and a splendid Orange Carpet was laid in preparation for the arrival of the delegation from Holland. The Town Hall is a fine example of Victorian splendour and I am always enthralled by the beauty of the building. As I walked up the magnificent staircase toward the reception it did cross my mind that it would be good to meet the Ambassador or the PM, but that thought quickly left my mind as I was greeted at the door by the staff of the Town Hall with reception drinks.

I started to chat to people, meeting both Brits and Dutch visitors.  I met with the Mayor of Rochdale and the lady Mayoress and we were joined by a member of the Dutch Press, Eric Vrijsen. I introduced myself to a gentleman, Craig Stoppard of Craig Stoppard Ltd www.craigstoppard.co.uk, we had a brief chat about our businesses and then moved into the main reception where the Prime Minister spoke to those present. I then spoke to a couple of people who were from the Dutch Consulate, and during this conversation a photographer asked me if I had a British business, my response prompted her to ask me to follow her, plus she asked if I had met anyone else in the room who had a British business. I sought Craig out.  When we joined the photographer (sorry I can’t recall her name and she didn’t have a card), she explained that she was trying to get a photo of the PM with a couple of British business people.  Craig and I were thrilled it was us!! Mr Rutte was truly engaging, we posed for a few photographs but he was genuinely interested in what we did, and if that is staged for political purposes, then he did it very naturally. We chatted for a few minutes and then Mr Rutte was asked to move on to talk to others in the room. Craig was thrilled that he had had that photo opportunity, so was I.

Why did I get picked out, perhaps it’s the red hair or just that I had that momentary thought that it would be good to meet the PM and The Universe presented that opportunity to me. Whatever the reason, I was on a high and revved up to meet even more new people in the room.

I met some really lovely, interesting Dutch business people, Jeroen Mol from Beyond Reality, www.beyondreality.nl David Linssen, Director of Business Development, Consolidated Media Industries www.cml-holding.com as well as a talented Dutch Sculptor, now living in Darwen, Lancashire, Marjan Wouda  ww.marjanwouda.co.uk. We were joined by a researcher from Salford University who chatted with Jeroen on how his business can support universities with technologies his company develops. There were great discussions on how people could and wanted to help each other as well as finding out a bit more about each other personally.

I have already connected with Craig on Linkedin and arranged to meet up later in November. I will connect with the other people I met there and who knows where those connections will lead. You may even be reading this blog, so hope you like it.

In between these meetings, I also managed to meet with Graham Clarke, UHY Hacker Young, Manchester, a contact I had met via 4 Networking plus I also managed to deliver on some paid work that day.

Great day all round. My message is to never under estimate the power of networking.

As well as the great people I met, how cool will it be when, at some stage in the future, I will be able to tell my Dutch grandchild that I met their Prime Minster just before they were born.

Thanks to NBSO, IOD, Linkedin and other networks that led to my meeting with Mr Mark Rutte. I look forward to a long relationship with Holland and its people.

10 top tips to consider when arranging an end of year party

1. The invite

Remember that Christmas is a Christian holiday, so do not insist that all staff attend the Christmas party.  An ‘end of year party’ may be more appropriate, but do not pressure someone to attend if they don’t want to on the grounds of religion. If the event is out of hours, also remember that some people have family responsibilities that may prevent attendance.

Secret Santa gifts, although a fun way of exchanging gifts, if inappropriate (notably underwear and sexy toys) may cause offence. These types of gifts  have sparked complaints in the past. As a precaution ask staff to ensure that all gifts are inoffensive.

2. Decorating the office

Use a stepladder to put up decorations – no skateboarding on a swivel chair across the office please.  Don’t hang the tinsel on computers or other sources of heat; and don’t decorate emergency exit signs.

The TUC and Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) warn that your insurance may not cover damage caused by untested electrical equipment – so despite the fact that they brighten up the office on cold, miserable winter days, do remember to switch off those tree lights before going home.

Other festive hazards, and yes it’s hard to believe, include; party balloons, they can kill around 3.6 million people in Britain who suffer from some degree of latex allergy. Over 1,000 people were injured by Christmas trees in 2002, so make sure they are
secure and won’t be knocked over by people passing by or pulling cables.

Fresh party food should be kept in a fridge before the party; use paper cups, not glasses; move computers out of range of spillages; and avoid indoor fireworks, flaming puddings, candles and smoking. You would be amazed what some people will do to light up the party – make sure they don’t ‘light up the building’.

3. Free booze

Employers providing free drink or putting a credit card behind a bar should be careful. In one case, three employees of the Whitbread Beer Company got drunk and had a fight after a seminar on improving behavioural skills. They successfully argued that their resulting dismissals were unfair. A relevant factor was that the employer had provided a free bar – and thus condoned their behaviour. Also remember that not everyone drinks alcohol, ensure that there are drinks to suit everyone’s preferences.

4. Age limits

Keep an eye out for the apprentice or junior in your office. Employers and managers alike cannot allow under-18s to drink. In an extreme example, an employer was found responsible for the death of a girl at the office party due to alcohol poisoning.

5. Tables and photocopiers

Now those of you who traditionally like to dance on desks, beware that this activity is likely to cause damage to property and people.  It amounts to misuse of company property, additionally you can fall off the table and severely hurt yourself, you don’t want to wind up in hospital for Christmas. Photocopying of body parts and other leisure activities on such surfaces may result in misuse of company property. Make it clear that such activities will not be tolerated or that certain parts of the office are out of bounds on the night of the party.

6. Don’t ignore drugs in the loos or anywhere else for that matter.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, it is an offence for an employer to knowingly permit or even to ignore the use, production or supply of any controlled drugs, from cannabis to cocaine, taking place on their premises. There is also the possibility you will be in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

7. Misguided by mistletoe

Your staff policies on bullying and harassment and discrimination still apply at the office party. Just make sure everyone knows this and knows what they are. This is one reason why mistletoe is dangerous. A survey reported by ContractorUK found that, while 80% of women would laugh off a pass made by a male co-worker, boss or client, 13% would lodge a complaint. One person’s perception of a ‘bit of fun’ is another’s perception of ‘harassment’.

An extreme example of such misbehavior involved a man telling a female colleague that she “needed a good man,” adding that he would like to try her out in bed. At the Christmas party, the man pulled her dress down and made disparaging comments. A claim of sexual harassment succeeded and an award of £10,000 was made for injury to feelings.

The laws on discrimination apply at the office party regardless of location. So when one man told a female colleague, “f****** hell, you look worth one” at an after-work leaving event taking place in a local pub, the tribunal had little difficulty in ruling that it was in the course of employment and therefore discriminatory.

Employers can find that they end up paying for unwanted advances between co-workers if tribunals characterise the behavior as evidence of a culture of vicimisation or harassment.

Sometimes misconduct will be clear. In one case, a senior manager drank heavily at the Christmas party, assaulted some colleagues and told the director to “stick his f****** job up his arse.” He was thrown out and broke the window of a pensioner’s house.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, his claim for unfair dismissal failed. But don’t overlook the behaviour of others. For example, if your party budget extends to an after-dinner speaker, choose carefully. A comedian performed for one company, the host hotel was deemed liable for the offence caused to Afro-Caribbean waitresses by the comedian’s racist jokes.

8. Manage expectations

Alcohol can cause some people to do and say ‘daft’ things, ensure that your staff don’t underake ‘performance reviews’ during the office party. In one case, an employee claimed his boss had promised him a higher salary “in due course” during a chat at the Christmas party. His pay remained static so he quit and claimed constructive dismissal. The employer won the case but only because the nature of the promise was vague. It was a lucky escape as a promise made at a Christmas party is still a promise.

A similar issue is the Christmas bonus. If you have paid a discretionary Christmas bonus for several years, staff can argue that it has become contractual through custom and practice. So if times have been tough and you can’t afford to pay a bonus this
year, tell staff why you feel unable to pay it and try to agree a solution. ACAS suggests that you could offer to pay a proportion of the bonus or stagger payments in the next few months; or you could offer to pay the drinks bill at the Christmas party (but be mindful of Top Tip 3 & 4).

9. Getting home

If a member of staff has clearly drunk too much at the office Christmas party and plans to drive home, don’t let them, the employer needs to take responsibility. ACAS points out that he has a duty of care to his employees – and because it’s the company’s party, he must think about travel arrangements. Consider ending the party before public transport stops running; or provide the phone numbers for local cab companies and encourage staff to use them. This doesn’t mean you have to pay for the cabs, just make sure that there are cabs available.

10. The morning after

If the party is mid-week and people are expected in work the next day, ACAS recommends that you provide plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food. Before the party, ensure that all staff know that disciplinary action could be taken if they fail to turn up for
work because of over-indulging. The alternative is to arrange for an evening when there is no work the next day.

Liquid lunches are another risk. If there is urgent work to be done, disciplinary action may be appropriate if staff are late back to the office or intoxicated. But bosses must be careful: a history of festive tolerance could be used as evidence that disciplinary action against an individual is unfair.

Also ensure that proper procedures are followed. At an Ardyne Scaffolding Christmas lunch in the early 1990s, a worker returned a few hours late to work after drinking too much. It was the day before the Christmas holiday was due to begin. Ardyne Scaffolding
saw this as gross misconduct but decided to tell the employee after he had sobered up – which meant waiting until after the Christmas holiday. The worker learned of the dismissal through gossip during the holiday and claimed unfair dismissal. He won. The Employment Appeals Tribunal decided that, while it was reasonable to wait for Mr Rennie to sober up before being told that he would be dismissed, and while the holiday had complicated matters, this did not justify a failure to follow a clear procedure.

When all is said and done, it is about taking a sensible approach to dealing with events surrounding this holiday period and any event arranged by the Comapny. So instead of ‘Bah Humbug’ let me wish all of my readers a very HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON and enjoy ‘the do’.

If you don’t recognise any of the policies I refer to in this blog, contact me and I can help you ensure that you have the appropriate policies in place and help to minimise the risks associated with these events. lisa@triplethreesolutions.co.uk

Statistics and legal references obtained via www.Out-Law.com