Archive | June, 2016


Every manager will have to call a disciplinary hearing at some point but there are some simple steps to make sure the process is fair and legal

Lee_AshwoodIt is often said that the best asset of any business is the staff. While that may be the case, having employees will mean that at some point their behaviour will fall below what is expected of them, either because they break a rule, do not follow a procedure, make a mistake or struggle to do something asked of them. As a manager or business owner, at some point in your career you will be faced with an employee whose behaviour is not what you wanted and you will have to consider how to deal with it.

A good starting place is your disciplinary policy. It will probably identify types of behaviour that you should think of as ‘gross misconduct’, that is behaviour so serious that it, if proven, warrants dismissing the employee immediately and without pay in lieu of any notice. Typically, you will find theft, dishonesty, violence, serious breaches of health and safety, gross negligence and so on, are considered to be gross misconduct. But what about behaviour that is not so serious?

Your disciplinary policy should also clearly identify what behaviour is considered to be misconduct, that is usually minor offences such as lateness, rudeness to colleagues or customers, appearance or minor breaches of procedure and the disciplinary action that may be taken for such misconduct.

Your disciplinary policy should provide for a staged process and even it is does not, it is the recommended approach by experts and also expected by Employment Tribunals should you ever end up there.
In most circumstances, the first stage is speaking to the employee informally about their behaviour. While you may be frustrated by the individual’s behaviour, at this stage in the process it is usually more effective to demonstrate that you are being supportive, want to understand what has caused their poor behaviour and look at ways to prevent it recurring. Remember that your goal is to correct their behaviour and not to alienate them – if you are struggling to decide on what tone to take, you should be thinking perhaps how you would like to be spoken to: with respect and calmly.

Ensure that you have somewhere private to speak to the employee so that you can have an uninterrupted, two-way conversation about their behaviour. Explain what it is of their behaviour that you are unhappy with and what standard of behaviour is required of them. Explain why their behaviour is not meeting that standard and what effect their current behaviour is having, for example on their colleagues’ morale or their team’s performance. Invite the employee to explain why they are failing to meet the required behaviour – do not interrupt and listen to what they have to say.

EARLY RESOLUTION Disciplining Staff
It may there is an issue that you were unaware of that you can help resolve. For example, the employee may reveal that their recent lateness for work is due to an issue with their current child-care arrangements. If you have approached the discussion in an amiable way and with an open-mind, when you get such an explanation from an employee you are well-placed to give them your support and, in return, receive their appreciation which should, in turn, maintain a positive working relationship. Continuing with the example, rather than disciplining the employee, you may choose to adjust their working hours, either temporarily or permanently, to help them.

In any event, by the end of the informal meeting, it is important that you have set the expectation for improvement and explained, albeit it in a nice way, that should the poor behaviour be repeated or continue then disciplinary action may be taken in the future.

In most cases, an informal discussion as has been described here will usually correct the behaviour and the matter will be resolved. However, if the informal approach is not successful, it is important that having a difficult conversation to avoid causing upset, you will inevitably have to speak to the employee at some point and the longer they have been allowed to behave unacceptably without challenge, the more likely they are to be aggrieved and uncooperative when action is taken. If the informal discussion approach is unsuccessful then disciplinary action will be needed and the employee will progress through the staged disciplinary process.

The next stage along the way is to rely on warnings, often on an increasing scale of: a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, a final written warning and, ultimately, dismissal. While that may seem straightforward, it can be difficult to decide at what point to take disciplinary action. You should always be consistent when disciplining employees, however, that can be difficult to achieve as it is rarely a case of “one size fits all” and the action you take will depend on the circumstances of the case. You would not consider taking disciplinary action in respect of an employee who has worked for you for 10 years and has been late on one occasion. By contrast, moving towards a warning is very likely in respect of an employee who has been with you for a few months, is regularly late for work without good reason and has been spoken with informally first.

At this point you may decide that a more authoritarian approach is appropriate given that an informal approach has been unsuccessful. The approach you adopt will ultimately depend on the nature of the misconduct, the individual employee and the stage you are at in the disciplinary process. If you are at the point of issuing a verbal warning then you may still be fairly informal in your approach. If the employee has continued to behave poorly and you are issuing a final written warning, you are likely to take a more authoritarian approach to emphasise the seriousness of the matter, particularly as the next stage in the process could be dismissal. When deciding the approach to adopt, always remember that your goal is to correct the employee’s behaviour and maintain a positive working relationship.

As you may expect, when proceeding with formal disciplinary action, it is important that you adopt a fair process. This is not simply for your benefit or that of your employees, but should you find yourself before an Employment Tribunal, one of the factors the judge will assess is whether the procedure you followed was fair and reasonable.

As part of a fair process, you should ensure that an investigation is carried out to establish the facts (for example, the dates an employee has been late and how late they were each time). The nature and extent of the investigation will depend on the circumstances of the case – it may simply require the employee in question being asked questions (with notes of what is said being taken) or it may need witnesses such as colleagues to give statements, records checked and CCTV footage reviewed.

If, once you have established what appears to have gone on and why, you decide disciplining the employee remains a possibility then the employee should
be invited to a disciplinary hearing. If possible, the person who conducted the investigation should not be the same person to conduct the disciplinary hearing. The disciplinary hearing should be arranged promptly whilst giving the employee sufficient time to prepare; a minimum of 24 hours’ notice is usually provided however your disciplinary policy may provide for a longer period or you may decide a longer period is needed due to the particular circumstances, for example, when there are numerous investigation documents.

When holding the disciplinary hearing, allow the employee to respond to the allegation against them and comment on the evidence; this is the employee’s opportunity to state their case and you should listen and consider their response – you must keep an open mind. Once you are satisfied you have addressed all points, adjourn the disciplinary hearing to consider your decision. Once you have decided on the appropriate action, for example, to issue a first written warning, reconvene the disciplinary hearing to confirm your decision to the employee. Once the disciplinary hearing has been concluded, you should also confirm your decision in writing and, where a warning has been issued, confirm when the warning will expire.

Finally, whenever any disciplinary sanction is imposed,the employee should be given the opportunity to appeal. Where possible, the person who has conduct of the appeal hearing should be different to the person who conducted the investigation and disciplinary hearing.

In most cases, you will see an improvement in the employee’s behaviour before you have exhausted the process. However, if that is not the case, then you will need to consider terminating the employee’s employment as a result of their repeated misconduct. This is understandably a difficult decision to make and will be a last resort. Unfortunately, as a manager of people, you have to make difficult decisions and providing you have followed a process of warnings, you will know you have given the employee ample opportunity to improve before such action is taken.

The consequences of failing to dismiss an employee fairly in the eyes of the law are quite severe. An Employment Tribunal can order you to re-instate them into the job you dismissed them from or re-employ them in a different job. Commonly though, employees do not want to return so they seek compensation with the tribunal being able to order you to pay them up to a sum equal to their annual gross pay (under £78,335) with another 25% added if you fail to follow a fair procedure as set down by ACAS in its Code of Practice on Disciplinary Procedures.

The employee should be notified of the disciplinary hearing in writing and the letter should confirm:
■ The allegation against them;
■ They have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative;
■ The potential outcome of the hearing, for example, a first written warning; and the date, time and location of the hearing.
The employee should also be provided with a copy of all of the documents collated during the investigation.

Posted in CAT Know-How, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (0)


Renault_Laguna II (2001-2008)

Occasionally a vehicle model will turn out to be the gift that keeps on giving for the aftermarket. In last months magazine we mentioned the number of K-series head gasket sets that were sold when Rover 200s ruled the roads, but we could also have talked about R53 Mini PAS pumps, Vectra alternators or many other part numbers that for a time dominated the replacement market.

One car that was known as being problematic when it came out of warranty is the second-generation Renault Laguna. A few years ago it was famous for numerous small but significant electrical gremlins that would lead to odd instrument readings or limpy running, many of which were eventually traced to a poor design of sensor plug. As these cars range between eight and sixteen years old you might think that survivors would be few and far between, but in fact TecAlliance data suggests that more than 60,000 are still on UK roads. Families continue to hold this range in high regard thanks to the NCAP five-star rating and comfortable ride.

Rear axle bushes are prone to premature wear and require replacement in all instances. Wear is often identified by knocking from the rear suspension whilst driving over uneven surfaces or through cornering. The Renault Laguna II axle bushes are handed items and Motaquip recommend that they should always be replaced as a pair.

The Renault Laguna II can experience what might appear to be a failing crankshaft sensor but is actually poor or corroded terminals in the sensor plug. Elta Automotive explains that there are two versions, a black and a blue version. The original black version was prone to coming loose causing the usual symptoms of crankshaft sensor failure including difficulty starting, stalling, misfires and acceleration issues. The modified blue version was introduced to address these issues. Cambiare offers a kit to overcome this problem; this includes a new crankshaft sensor and multi-plug, since replacing just the sensor will not guarantee to fix the problem.

Cambiare also mentions that a fall of power below 2000rpm and failure of the temperature gauge to register variations correctly, possibly accompanied by fault code P0115- could be the result of a broken wire close to the temperature sensor rather than a failed part and advises technicians to bear this in mind as part of their diagnostic routine. Reader Steve Stokes says that rear electric handbrake wires chafing in the wheel arch often cause problems as do the fan switch and motor.

Laguna 1.9DCi engines can experience oil leaks from the oil pressure switch. Cambiare recommends technicians to check the oil pressure with an external gauge before replacing a leaking switch as it has been known that a sticking oil pressure relief valve can result in the generation of a higher than specified oil pressure. This increases the risk of leaks via the pressure switch and/or the turbo seals, leading to premature turbo failure.

When checking the non-illumination or permanent illumination of the brake lights, the problem could be the result of the brake light switch detaching from its mounting bracket. The switch is located under the dashboard on the passenger side and could simply be dislodged by a passenger stretching out and pressing on the carpet under the glovebox. The engine speed can vary for a variety of reasons, but one of the first places to check must be the accelerator pedal sensor.

The credit cards style chip ‘key’ for this range caused problems almost as soon as the model was launched. Notably, there is no way to get into the vehicle if the battery goes flat – and that the key can lose its code if left flat for too long. Hopefully your customer will have the spare key, which can be used to restart the car and will recode the main key.

Many aspects on the front suspension are known for failing prematurely, including the front coil springs says QH The Laguna II has relatively long springs so it is important to use quality replacements. The suspension arm bushes are also known for wearing rapidly. This wear can cause the control arm to be misaligned and affect camber.

There’s nothing particularly weird about the auxiliary and drive belts, according to Dayco and INA, though both companies point out that the idler and tensioner should be changed at the same time and the crankshaft pulley should be checked for operation. However, the specified replacement intervals on these vehicles is not a guideline – they will break if left on the vehicle for too long. Corteco say vehicles are likely to require a Torsional Vibration Damper (TVD) upgrade in the near future as these components are near the end of their operational life.

On Petrol 1.6 petrol models the alternator pulley rubber damper insert can fail due to tensioning issues, resulting in a noisy unit, and on Diesel 1.9DCi models fluid ingress can cause failure of the alternator according to Autoelectro.

The RMI-F say that all variants can have the ABS light on, but mysteriously have no fault codes stored. This is traced to water damage to the ABS module, which is situated behind the front bumper on the left hand side. The Federation also points out that models with the DCi engine can suffer intermittent loss of all instruments. This is usually traced to a poor earth connection bottom of the A-pillar from the instrument unit. The 2000-on Laguna was one of the first vehicles to have a TPMS system as standard, but the technology behind it is best regarded as ‘experimental’ – they rarely work.

Posted in CAT Features, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, NewsComments (1)


Recall for Zafira B models

Recall for Zafira B models

Vauxhall has announced a recall for Zafira B cars after an electrical problem caused some of the vehicles to burst into flames. This follows on from the VM’s voluntary check earlier in the year, for which it blamed the problems on ‘improper repairs’.

The latest call back has caused more confusion for who’s to blame for starting the fires with the VM’s previous claims highlighting third parties had carried out improper repairs to the vehicle’s blower motor resistor.

According to the VM, the recall will focus on “improving the robustness of the system” instead of replacing the resistor and its fuse, which the firm started doing last year. The recall will also involve replacing the current ‘soldered fuse resistor with a wax fuse resistor to reduce the opportunity for manipulation’ according to a statement.

When the recalls are complete, all vehicles will have a new wax fuse resistor, a new blower motor and a new moulding at the base of the windscreen to address water ingress.”

Stuart James, Director of the Independent Garage Association, responded to the allegations: “I have not seen any evidence that indicates that it’s a third party repairer fixing the faults. They’ve made an allegation but no evidence has been produced at this stage”.

Although the aftermarket has come under fire from the previous allegations, James is confident that this shouldn’t affect independent garages going forward: “Whilst the media have picked up on repairs being carried out by the aftermarket, I don’t think most consumers will take much notice. It’s just one party blaming another and I think consumers are smarter than that”.

Comments on social media seem to back this theory up. One poster on the Mail Online website said: “My local ‘stealership’ hardly has the motivation to do what’s on the service schedule let alone go off on a tangent and play around with the electrics. Vauxhall, your excuse is rubbish! I think the words you’re struggling to find are ‘poor design on our part.’

Vauxhall advises all drivers who haven’t had work completed from the first recall to take their cars to their nearest dealership for servicing.

Posted in Blogs, Garage News, News, UncategorisedComments (0)



valeo fte stitchThe owner of hydraulic component firm FTE Automotive has announced that the company is to be sold to Valeo, subject to the usual legalities.

Established in the late 1940s, the firm has been owned by a number of private equity companies in recent years. Current owner Bain Capital acquired it in 2013 from PAI Partners. In turn, PAI acquired the company in 2005 from HG Capital who had owned it since 2002. HG acquired it from Dana Corporation.

In  recent times, FTE AutomotiveThe company won the 2016 PACE Award (premier Automotive Supplier’s Contribution to Excellence) for its lubrication oil pump and the PACE Innovation Partnership Award for its cooperation with a major German OEM.


Rothschild and Goldman Sachs advised Bain Capital on the transaction. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Greg Whitaker's diary, News, UncategorisedComments (0)

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