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How to avoid an employment tribunal ...
How to avoid an employment tribunal

The British workplace is facing a shortage of employment law experts, partly because of increased legislation but also due to greater awareness on the part of staff.

British workers have more rights than ever before and they know it. Good employers should welcome this change as it will strengthen their relationship with their staff.

Key to being a good employer is setting up a strong psychological contract, but equally important is having a clear procedure to deal with grievances.

Emma Grace, a partner at solicitors Nelson & Co, says: 'Too many employers take disciplinary action without following a fair procedure. Without taking the precaution of giving a recorded verbal warning for a first minor offence, they will have already damaged their case should they then go on to dismiss someone later.'

She recommends the following steps:

-- Hold a full investigation of any complaint as soon as possible. Speak to all potential witnesses to build up an accurate a picture.

-- Hold a formal disciplinary hearing. The person in question should be advised of this

in advance and in writing.

-- Allow the right to a representative. If their chosen person is not available, you must adjourn for a maximum five days to allow them to attend. Your member of staff must be allowed paid time to consult with their rep before the hearing.

-- Treat the hearing as if it were an employment tribunal, even if it seems like a minor disciplinary matter.

Both sides should be able to put their case and bring forward witnesses.

-- Accommodate the member of staff's opinions. If they are convinced they've had a fair hearing, they are less likely to contest the result.

-- Make a note of everything said in the hearing, and record the outcome in a letter, making it clear what has been done wrong and what needs to be done in future.

-- Allow the right to appeal. This means that one senior manager or person in authority should not be part of the hearing procedure, so they can deal with any future appeal case impartially.

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