Tag Archive | "Staff"

MAKING FAIR DISMISSALS

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MAKING FAIR DISMISSALS


Deciding who makes the cut and telling those who haven’t is never easy. Here are a few tips to smooth the process

No employer likes to make employees redundant. Unfortunately, as the recent decision for 100 planned redundancies at the AA illustrates, and the announced Andrew Page branch closures might mean, sometimes difficult decisions do need to be made.

For the process to work properly, it is important that redundancy dismissals are handled sensitively and in accordance with the law. Any employer that fails to comply with its legal obligations during a redundancy situation could face complaints from employees and claims for compensation for unfair dismissal as a result.

WHAT IS A REDUNDANCY SITUATION?
In an employment law context, redundancy has a very specific meaning. To summarise, the statutory definition of redundancy identifies three sets of circumstances that amount to redundancy situations – a business closure; workplace closure; or reduced requirements of the business for employees to do work of a particular kind.

There is no mandatory procedure laid down by legislation in England and Wales for fairly dismissing an employee for redundancy reasons. Instead, employers must follow a fair procedure involving individual consultation. Dismissal decisions must be fair and reasonable. Case law has determined various principles of fairness that an employer should follow in order to reduce the risk of employees pursuing claims for unfair dismissal.

Generally, these principles require an employer to give employees early warning of the risk of dismissal; consult with employees (and the union if required); identify an appropriate “at risk” pool for redundancy; draw up and apply fair selection criteria; and give consideration to alternative employment.

CONSULTATIONS

First, an employer looking to make a number of employees redundant must check whether the obligation to engage in collective consultation exists. Where there is a proposal to make 20 or more employees at one site redundant within a 90-day period, the employer must engage in collective consultation with a trade union. If no trade union is recognised for that particular employer, then an employee representative will need to be elected, with whom the employer will need to consult. The employer will also need to notify the secretary of state of the number of planned redundancies.

Employers should seek specific advice in circumstances where multiple redundancies are planned as there are a number of obligations.

Even where a collective redundancy situation does not arise, consulting with the employee(s) at risk of redundancy is absolutely vital and will be central to the fairness (or otherwise) of the decision to dismiss. Consultation should be genuine and take place at a time when the employer can properly consider the employees views and suggestions – that is, before the final decision is made.

THE “AT RISK” POOL
Before selecting an employee or employees for redundancy, an employer must consider what the appropriate pool of employees for redundancy selection should be. Otherwise the dismissal is likely to be unfair.

There are no fixed rules about how the pool should be defined and, unless there is a collectively agreed or customary selection pool, an employer has a wide measure of flexibility here.

The question of how the pool should be defined is primarily a matter for the employer to determine and, provided an employer genuinely applies its mind to the choice of a pool, it will be difficult for an employee (or a tribunal) to challenge the choice.

Factors that are likely to be relevant to identifying a pool are the type of work is ceasing or diminishing; the extent to which employees are doing similar work (possibly even those at other locations); and the extent to which employees’ jobs are interchangeable within the workforce.

SELECTION CRITERIA AND SCORING
Once an employer has identified the employees in the at risk pool, it will need to apply selection criteria to determine those at risk of redundancy. To do this, employers will need to develop appropriate selection criteria. The criteria, which of course must be objective and fair, might want to look at things like disciplinary record, length of service and performance. Criteria which relate to protected characteristics such as age, disability, religion or sex must be ignored.

The employer will need to mark each of the potentially redundant employees according to the finalised selection criteria.

Different weighting can be given to different criteria. It can also be useful to ask different managers to independently score employees in the at risk pool in order to ensure objectivity.

ALTERNATIVES TO REDUNDANCY
In many cases, consultation between employer and an employee who is at risk of redundancy will be focused on finding an alternative to dismissal on redundancy grounds. Employers should be prepared to discuss the steps that it has taken, or has considered taking, to reduce the risk of (or number of) redundancies. This might include things like a recruitment freeze and terminating the engagements of agency workers before embarking on the redundancy process.

Equally, employers should provide details of any vacancies to employees who are at risk of redundancy in order to minimise the number of dismissals that might need to be made.

STATUTORY PAY
Lastly, when making redundancies, employers should bear in mind that employees are entitled to an SRP payment where they are dismissed by reason of redundancy and have at least two years continuous employment at the date of the dismissal. The calculation for this can found at: gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay

Managing a redundancy process to ensure fairness can be difficult. It is crucial that an employer carefully plans the process at its beginning and critically before consultation with employees begins. Getting it wrong can have a big impact – in addition to potentially facing unfair dismissal claims, a poorly planned redundancy process may end up alienating the workforce at a time when the employer requires everyone to be particularly focused on the job at hand and morale is low.

Posted in CAT Know-How, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (1)

EXERCISING CAUTION WHEN HANDLING COMPLAINTS

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EXERCISING CAUTION WHEN HANDLING COMPLAINTS


No matter what industry you work in, there will come a time when you receive a complaint based upon the services or goods you have provided.

Unfortunately, the automotive industry is no exception, and it can be easy to see such complaints as an unjustified attack on your company’s good reputation. In the heat of the moment, aggrieved business owners can jump to the defence of their company, engaging in a war of words with the complainant.

According to Gemma Carson, Head of Dispute Resolution at law firm Wright Hassall, they could do more harm than good: “Naturally, business owners can feel like they have a duty to protect their employees, and without thinking, fire back with an angrily worded email, expressing their displeasure with the original complaint.

“When emotions are running high, it is easy to get involved in a heated debate about the rights and wrongs, mistakes and failures, or actions and inactions of one party or another. It is at this point that things can escalate quickly and easily get out of control.

“The most serious issues can occur when promises or threats are made without due consideration given to any existing contractual agreements between the two parties.

“To reduce the risk of worsening the situation, there is plenty that can be done and it should start with a careful consideration of the content of the complaint. The pressure may be on, but take your time and ensure you make no commitments and no threats.

“Allow yourself time to properly cool down before sending a response, as emails sent while emotions are still running high have a nasty habit of biting back later down the line. “Instead, begin by drafting your email and save it to your ‘virtual mantelpiece’. This will give you time to review the situation and think carefully about what you want to say, instead of hitting back with a knee-jerk reaction.

“It is also important to check whether a service agreement and/or a contract exists between the parties. You should read any agreements carefully and check what they actually contain.“With an agreement in place, you may be able to respond to the complaint by highlighting any relevant contractual terms that may help you manage the situation.

DON’T IGNORE
“When dealing with a complaint, it is important to be proactive. By acting quickly, you can help diffuse the situation without the need for any legal involvement.

“Personal, face-to-face meetings will often help resolve issues before they can escalate. It is best to either raise the matter directly or if you suspect it to be more serious, to seek legal advice before you make contact.

“If it does feel serious, you should ensure you retain all of the relevant information relating to the complaint, including documents, correspondence and any products or specimen products from the same batch. It can help if you carry out and document any inspections of equipment or machinery.

GET HELP
“Seeking legal advice early on does not necessarily mean a serious legal dispute has arisen.

“Dispute resolution advice is very effective when delivered soon after the complaint is received, but your lawyers do not need to take an active role in the issue. They can offer strategic legal guidance focused on resolving complaint situations and diffusing potential disputes, whilst preserving the commercial position for the future.

“The most important legal factor to remember is that making a rash statement or taking a knee- jerk decision to stop providing your services or products, by sending that angry e-mail draft without first putting it on the virtual mantelpiece, may cause a serious breach of contract.

“If nothing else you risk a serious argument and potentially a threat of injunctive proceedings. In simple terms, a breach of contract can entitle the party affected by it to terminate the contract and then bring legal proceedings against you for damages.

“For this reason, sending that inflammatory e-mail without firstconsideringthe consequences could be a huge mistake that ends up costing time and money, both of which could be better spent managing or growing the business.

“Finally, where parties have become so embroiled that legal proceedings are not only threatened, but seem the only option, choose to work with experienced lawyers who understand commercial disputes and demonstrate a commitment to reaching an early, commercial and cost- effective resolution” concluded Carson.

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

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KEEPING THE RIGHT PEOPLE


Holding on to the best candidates means more than just money says Andy Savva

Andy Savva

Savva has run various large independent garages and has been a troubleshooter for underperforming franchise workshops. comment@haymarket.com

One of the greatest challenges facing garage employers today is discovering and retaining good technicians, reception personnel, as well as support staff such as administrators, valets and drivers.

As a former garage owner, I know how difficult this can be.I realised early on in my business career that focusing on recruitment, selection and retention was one of the most important steps towards building a successful business.

The implications of poor recruitment selection decisions for the business as a whole can be catastrophic and so often visiting garages up and down the country I find staff members who are placed in positions without the necessary skill set for the job they are doing.

Why this is? Well the answer is garage proprietors are reluctant to pay a salary for the right person, so they end up recruiting people without the right skills and then asking them to fulfil jobs that they are just not capable of doing. You may ask me: ’What’s the right salary?’ Well my answer to that is clear.

If you have identified the correct person with the right skill level and pedigree, why not ask them what they would like to be paid to work in your business? That’s exactly what I did, and guess what? It always caught people by surprise because they were never asked that before. They never knew what to reply back to me, so I used to ask them what their current salary was, and when they replied back £32,000, I’d say well we are in luck then because I’m prepared to offer you £36,000, is that ok with you? If only I could take a picture of look of happy shock on their faces.

SALARY CAP
If you are going to worry about £2000 or £3000 per year, per employee or have salary cap for specific positions or any roles for that matter you will never attract the right person in an already under skilled sector. My attitude was find the right person and offer them a package they could never say no to.

You don’t just want to compete on money to get and keep the best candidates though. You want to demonstrate that you have created a workplace that attracts, retains and nourishes good people by doing things like providing an adequate staff room, and acknowledging good work. There are logical and consistent operating policies and procedures. You provide them with the correct tooling and equipment to carry out their duties, and let them know that they will be a respected team member who will be asked their opinions before business decisions are made that could affect them.

Illustration of a mechanic clinching holding spanner wrench looking to the side set inside shield crest on isolated background done in retro style.

MISSION SHARED
Do they understand your vision and values? If it’s a yes to all the above before you know it your creating a retention environment. Why would they want to leave you? Where would they go? Are there many other garages offering the package they currently have? Above all I insisted on a culture of openness and shared information. I wanted my team to know where the company they were working for was going and what it will look like in the future. I wanted my employees knowing how their specific jobs fitted into the grand scheme and what they can do to help my business get to where I wanted it to go. My experience taught me if you operate in an open environment where information is shared you will certainly benefit from higher retention rates. I would have failed if I knew my employees had thoughts like:

  • “It doesn’t feel good around here.”
  • “I don’t get the support I need to get my job done.”
  • “They wouldn’t miss me if I were gone.”
  • “I am not paid enough”

The lack of opportunity of staff promotions in most independent garages can create problems as some employees who are ambitious to progress in their career positions are very much restricted. This was always on the back of my mind, and to be honest, there was not much I could do in this area if a particular employee decided to leave for a senior role which I could not offer, however hard that was for me seeing them move on, although luckily for me, this only happened a couple of times. My overall goal as an employer was to make my business a place where people wanted to come to work. A place of discipline yet fun to be in and a place where everyone respected each other to cultivate a feeling of family.

These are the fundamentals that are needed to succeed in recruiting and maintaining a stable group of team members. Yes, I may have been the owner of Brunswick Garage and the driving force behind so many ideas however none would have been implemented without my wonderful team that I assembled.

Posted in CAT Know-How, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, NewsComments (1)

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DISCIPLINING STAFF: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW


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.

POLICY
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.

DEALING WITH (MIS)CONDUCT
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.

NEXT STAGES
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.

AUTHORITARIAN APPROACH
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.

FORMAL WARNING
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.

SANCTION
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.

GETTING IT WRONG
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)

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