How to make sure you are on the right path

May is National Share a Story Month, so this month we’ll be sharing an interesting HR story a week and I hope you will share some of your stories or with us.

As an HR consultant, I always get asked about juicy scenarios, especially when I’m with other business owners or HR Professionals, normally I’m very discrete but I’m going to share (while anonymising the names!). I shared my own story in an interview with Bella networking, click here to check it out.

We started working with a new client who contacted us after receiving a lawyers letter challenging the way they had dismissed a member of staff, threatening to take them to the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. 

It turned out that Julie in their sales team had raised a grievance against her boss Andrew for sexual impropriety; they had been in a relationship (which he should have informed the company about) and when Julie ended the relationship, Andrew continued to attempt to be intimate with her in the workplace.

Julie’s grievance was not upheld, nor her appeal and so she produced a sick note for work-related stress stating that she was signed off from work for a month. As her manager was accused of improper behaviour, he didn’t contact her while she was off sick and neither did anyone else. A month later they received another sick note for a month. Another manager then wrote to Julie inviting her in for a meeting to discuss her sickness, Julie refused to come into the office as she felt uncomfortable and so they terminated Julie’s contract and advertised her role. 

The letter from the lawyers stated that my client hadn’t followed their own policy and that they had unlawfully withheld pay. 

I looked into the case and informed the client that had not handled the case correctly and would need to negotiate a settlement because:

  • During the investigation process, they suspended Julie but not Andrew which can be seen as apportioning blame.

  • Andrew’s manager investigated the case rather than an independent individual.

  • They did not have an appeal hearing, but reviewed the report from the initial investigation and sent a written response, which was not detailed in their own policy.

  • They failed in their duty of care to support their employee when she was signed off for stress.

  • Statutory sick pay was not paid to Julie while she was signed off.

  • Julie did not receive her contractual notice pay.

  • Julie was not given the opportunity to appeal to her contract dismissal.

It wasn’t entirely my client's fault, they had been working in the US and so were not aware of some legislative differences in the UK.

Luckily for my client, we were able to settle the case by paying Julie what she was owned and agreeing to the wording for her reference.

Lesson Learnt - It is important to ensure that you are aware of the correct process to complete when you have staff issues; failure to properly follow process is deemed as automatically unfair by the Employment Tribunal.

Schedule a call to discuss how we can keep you out of HR trouble here.