One of the most frustrating aspects of running a business is the endless amount of red tape and form filling but what is more frustrating is finding yourself on the wrong end of an employment tribunal decision because of an avoidable error in your policies or procedures.
In today’s litigious world, everything you do is under scrutiny and it’s likely that if someone decides to take you to an Employment Tribunal, they will – and, if you give them the faintest glimmer of an opportunity, they will take it and use it against you.
In such an environment, every word that you rely on needs to be correct and comply with current Employment Law. Your contracts of employment, policies and procedures need to be accurate and must properly reflect your business.
In addition, the way you apply these rules in the workplace is just as important and needs to consistent with current Employment Law AND your own policies.
Tailor your policies and procedures
Many companies still rely on generic contracts of employment or employee handbooks but these are used by thousands of other businesses across the country that are nothing like yours.
Your documents need to be up to date, reflecting your specific working environment and reflecting how you apply your rules within that environment. Especially in an age where advances in technology (like email, social networking and CCTV) can have a specific impact on your employees and their behaviour.
This isn’t about writing pages and pages of inaccessible technical jargon. It’s about writing contracts, policies and procedures in simple language, that is clear and easy to understand.
It sounds easy and, to experts like us, it is. However, we see poorly written and risky contracts, policies and procedures every day and so do the judiciary.
The consequences of relying on these can be very costly.
A legal example
A recent case – Kuehne & Nagel Ltd v Cosgrove – highlights the importance of accuracy in applying your rules correctly.
The employee (Cosgrove) was dismissed following a positive drugs test at work.
The company’s policy allowed for dismissal for gross misconduct for an employee giving a positive drugs test but the employee was actually dismissed for being under the influence of drugs at work.
The employee won an unfair dismissal claim on the basis that they were not under the influence of cannabis at work (the judge compared the situation to having a pint or two of ale on a Saturday evening).
Kuehne & Nagel appealed the decision and the case was sent for a new tribunal hearing.
Once again, the conclusion of this hearing was that the employee had been unfairly dismissed. This was on the grounds that the reasons given by Kuehne & Nagel for their decision and the actual reasons for her dismissal were different. The employee was dismissed for being under the influence of drugs and their policy allowed for the employee to be dismissed for failing a drugs test.
The tribunal did reduce the award by 100% but it’s likely that the costs and inconvenience of reaching such an outcome were substantial.
Trust the experts
For more information about how we can help you ensure that your policies and procedures are up to date – and for access to the most accurate HR and Employment Law advice available – please call the Cream HR team on 01543 308642 or email firstname.lastname@example.org