Personnel Today recently reported Five costly employment tribunal awards and how to avoid similar claims. Citing the “ability of organisations to follow the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures” as a common theme, the issues included: senior employees raising concerns; failing to hear a grievance; flaws in disciplinary investigation; failing to provide the accused with details of allegations; suspension and dismissal without reason being given and failure to follow process.

In my experience, a key component in preventing costly conflict at work, in addition to following due process, is accurately establishing the facts of each case to help inform the most appropriate way forward. Personnel responsible for establishing these facts may be HR professionals, managers or external specialists, and all need the skills, abilities and knowledge to ensure that any fact finding exercise / investigation is relevant, in both depth and scope, to the particular case under scrutiny.

The tribunal awards reported in the Personnel Today article also serve to demonstrate the need for business wide recognition of the importance of accurately establishing the facts of any particular case.

It is always unwise to try to predict, or second guess, the outcome of any case; it’s highly likely there will be a variety of potential scenarios. It is only careful consideration of the available evidence and accurately establishing the facts that can influence decision making which is in the interests of relevant parties and robust business practices.

Consequently, it is crucial that budgetary constraints and people resources do not have a negative impact on decision making at the outset of any fact finding exercise, and that budget holders understand the value of authorising a fact finding investigation that is appropriate to the particular case.

Coreen Nugent
Director, Opt for learning

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