Employment tribunals have been a popular topic in the industry since the independent body, the Law Commission, recommended that they should be given powers to:
Award up to £100,000
Deal with disputes where employees are still in work
Double the claim period to 6 months in response to the pandemic
The significance of these changes could be huge after COVID-19 starts to lessen. Disgruntled workers who have worked excessive hours or feel mistreated will have a longer period to raise their case, in addition to an anticipating rise in unfair dismissal claims, discrimination and redundancy disputes. The resulting pay-out of this could terminate your business’ chances of recovery.
If you can’t settle a case within the workplace and you are forced to escalate, you best be prepared. Giving evidence against a potential colleague or friend can be an unsettling experience.
To help get you started, we’ve collated some top tips so that you can keep your cool.
It goes without saying that it is vital to represent your organisation well in front of the judge – and the first step is knowing the right etiquette.
We’ve all seen plenty of films that depict a tribunal and, for those that have never experienced it first-hand, that may be all they have to go off. But life isn’t an episode of Judge Judy, so how should you act?
Simply put, you want to come across as professional, competent and likeable.
Be punctual – arriving at least 30 minutes before you are due
Follow all instructions
Address the judge/panel correctly – as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’
Show respect by standing whenever the judge and panel enter or exit the room
It is also important to remember that you are being analysed from the get-go, not just when you’reholding the floor. You will need to be conscious of your body language and refrain from showing frustration.
Although the system itself is not designed to trip you up, some people end up tripping over their own feet due to nerves – this is perfectly normal. However, to present yourself as a pro, communicate effectively with our handy tips below.
Give Straight Answers to Straight Questions
A common mistake we often see is the need to fill silence.
Although it’s important to provide sufficient detail in response to a question, the judge will normally indicate whether they have understood or need you to expand further. Therefore, be conscious of not waffling and remember to speakslowly and clearly to illustrate that you are calm and collected.
Don’t give the opposition any leverage with your position – ensure you display confidence in your case.
By using language, such as “would have,” you indicate uncertainty in your own statement. Instead, use less assuming language that reassures the judge that you remember, such as “I did…” and stick to the facts.
In the case that you don’t remember, or you’re not sure, it is best to be upfront about your weaknesses rather than covering them up.
Direct Your Answers to the Panel
When you’re answering a question, regardless of who asks, it is important that you reply to the judge or panel. This can feel quite unnatural at first. Remember, you are trying to help the judge see your way, not the opposition, so direct your answer accordingly.
TOP TIP: Point your feet in the judge’s direction to remind yourself where to look when you speak!
Giving evidence can feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re friendly with the person/s in question. However, it is your sworn oath and legal obligation to tell the truth, so do not be swayed by any personal bias you may have.
When answering a question, take your time to think through your reply. If any evidence you provide is found to be false or inaccurate, no matter how small or unrelated to the case, the opposition will try to use this to define your character and determine how trustworthy you are.
Again,this is not a memory test. If you don’t remember, be honest and admit it rather than making assumptions or guesses.
Using the Bundle
It is standard procedure that relevant documentation, referred to as the ‘bundle’ will be collected ahead of your tribunal date. Any document that is likely to be referred to should be placed into a bundle for use by the judge, witnesses and other relevant parties. It may include items, such as:
Evidence of loss of earnings
Evidence of misconduct
Previous communications and efforts to resolve the issue
You will have access to a co
py of the bundle in advance, so be sure to take the time to familiarise yourself with this and mark relevant pages if necessary. It is also recommended to re-read your witness statement the night before, to ensure you have a clear recollection of events.
During the hearing, if it would be helpful to refer to the document, ask to do so and take a moment to remind yourself before speaking.
As a respectable professional, you’ll have likely been exposed tosome office conflict or butting heads. However, this may seem like horseplay after being exposed to a distressed and angry opposition at a tribunal, so it is important to be resilient.
Providing evidence at an employment tribunal can be an uncomfortable experience but remember not to take it personally – it is the opposition’s job to question your character and discredit you and the judge’s role to determine a just ruling.
It’s not nice having someone doubt your honesty, competency and professionalism. However, it is important not to become frustrated, offended or visibly upset. The opposition will look for weakness and exploit this.
Instead, focus on remaining clear and open to questioning.
Prepare for their attack
Below are a few common techniques that may be used to discredit or unnerve you by the opposition.
Pressuring you into inaccurate statements – often, the opposition may try and pressure you into a black or white situation when it may be a shade of grey. Ensure you look out for this and stick to your grounds.
They ask “is it possible that…” to try and lead you into an admission or inaccurate statement. It is important that you answer this factually but be careful of your language.
They may use cross-examinations to check your facts and statement.
They may interrupt you to disrupt your thoughts or try and elicit a reaction.
Your focus should remain on telling the truth and remaining calm. Try your best not to become frustrated, offended or upset. Although it can be upsetting having to escalate an issue, if you’re telling the truth, there is nothing to hide.
How do I become Resilient?
According to MIND, “Resilience is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing.”
The good news is, resilience is not a personality trait – it is something we must all takes steps to achieve. We can do this by making some adjustments:
Make some lifestyle changes
Look after your physical health
Give yourself a break
Build your support network
The charity MIND has some useful resources to help you get started here.
Need more advice?
If you’re preparing for an employment tribunal and you’re in need of some expert advice, please get in contact here.
Citizen’s advice also offers some helpful, free guidance that you may find useful on their website here.
Whistleblowing is the term used when a worker calls attention to wrongdoing within an organisation. If a worker exposes any information or activity that is illegal, unethical or incorrect, they are a whistle-blower and should be protected by law, as stipulated in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. In this article, we explain your responsibilities as an employer when it comes to whistleblowing, and why you need a comprehensive whistleblowing policy.
What is whistleblowing?
The law translates the term “whistleblowing” to “making a disclosure in the public interest.” If a worker blows the whistle on something that is in the public interest, that concerns something they believe has shown past, present or future wrongdoing, they will be protected and should not be treated unfairly by their employer. Examples of wrongdoing include:
• Criminal activity, such as fraud
• Health & Safety risks, accidents or malpractice
• Risk or damage to the environment
• Miscarriages of justice
• Your company is breaking the law
• Someone is covering up wrongdoing
How to deal with whistleblowing in your organisation
First and foremost, it is good practice to create a company culture that emboldens workers to speak up about any wrongdoing, without fearing penalisation. Workers are usually the first people to witness any wrongdoing and should, therefore, be encouraged to communicate. You should demonstrate at all levels of your organisation that disclosures are welcome and put in place robust systems to ensure workers feel comfortable and confident to do so.
It is not a legal requirement to have an official whistleblowing policy, but it is certainly best practice, as it demonstrates to workers that you are committed to openness and transparency.
A comprehensive whistleblowing policy will help you to:
• Identify wrongdoing quickly and efficiently
• Enable you to respond and investigate promptly
• Give you better control of information to help you make decisions and control risk
• Create a company culture committed to openness and transparency
• React to wrongdoing by utilising internal systems, rather than requiring a worker to go to a third party
What should your whistleblowing policy cover?
All organisations are different and as such, there is no standard whistleblowing policy you should adopt. You may have a variety of different policies for individual business units, a standalone policy, or a policy built into your code of ethics. There is often confusion as to the type of wrongdoing that should be disclosed so you should clearly outline the type of disclosures that fall under whistleblowing and direct workers to your grievance policy for any other matters. Your whistleblowing policy should also outline in detail the steps a worker should take when making a disclosure for them to remain protected by law.
There are several elements your policy should cover including, and not restricted to:
• The type of disclosures that are classed as whistleblowing
• Your procedures for handling whistleblowing
• The correct procedure a worker should adopt to blow the whistle
• Clarification that contractual ‘gagging clauses’ do not prevent whistleblowing
• The feedback a whistle-blower is likely to receive
• The time frame for dealing with disclosures
• Signposts to information or support networks to those thinking of whistleblowing, such as Acas, Trade Unions, Public Concern at Work or the Government.
The importance of communication
You should communicate your commitment to whistleblowing, and your whistleblowing policy, regularly and through a variety of means. This could be via your company intranet, company newsletter or through team meetings or 1:1s. Keeping workers regularly informed through communication and training will reinforce the importance of openness in your company culture.
If a worker has made a disclosure, you should explain your procedures to deal with it and explain how you intend to keep them informed. Many whistle-blowers will expect to be kept in the loop and your policy should outline the information you intend to share with them following their disclosure. It is best practice for organisations to provide feedback on how their disclosure has been dealt with. Lack of communication can cause resentment or frustration from the whistle-blower and could result in them looking to a third party to take the disclosure further, a scenario you would probably wish to avoid.
It’s vital to be prepared
Whistleblowing should not be a source of fear in your business. By implementing a thorough policy, and instilling a culture of transparency, you will be able to deal with issues quickly and robustly before they turn into even bigger problems. For more information on your responsibilities as an employer, this guide from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is particularly helpful.
For further advice on implementing a whistleblowing policy, or if you have a case of whistleblowing with which you require professional support, we’re here to help. Call us for an informal chat on 0330 555 1139 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April is a big month for employers as a flurry new employment legislation comes into force. Small businesses are likely to be under added pressure as they struggle to comply with the colossal changes. CrosseHR has come up with a handy guide which looks at the biggest changes to employment law next month.
1st April – National Living Wage
Perhaps the largest change in employment law to occur this year is the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW); employers will be required to pay employees aged 25+ £7.20 per hour.
NLW applies to: employees, workers (inc. agency workers), casual labourers, agricultural workers and apprentices aged 25+
Failure to comply may result in a 200% penalty on funds owed, unless arrears are paid within 14 days.
A maximum penalty of £20,000 per worker can be applied
Non-compliance may result in the employer being banned from being a company director for up to 15 years
The Low Pay Commission will set all future rates
The government plans to raise NLW to £9.00p.h. by 2020
A recent survey conducted by employment giant Indeed shows that 77% of SME’s believe that the introduction of NLW will negatively impact their ability to hire new staff and grow. The care sector is believed to be amongst the hardest hit given many establishments require around the clock staffing. So what can businesses do to negate the rise in wages?
There are a few solutions;
Work smarter – this means an overhaul of current practices and increasing staff productivity. HR policy will need to be reviewed in order to maintain a happy balance between increased productivity and employee engagement. Providing targeted training to both employees and employers around policy changes will ensure compliance whilst maintaining morale and productivity.
Focus on skills – Recruiting more staff will no doubt be a problem for some SME’s and therefore getting the right person is more important than ever before. Understanding the needs of a particular role and effectively communicating that to potential candidates will be a priority as recruiting the wrong person will be more damaging given the introduction of NLW.
3rd April – Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay will be frozen
Statutory maternity pay and other parental leave pay are frozen for 2016/17 at £139.58 per week or 90% of the person’s average weekly earnings if the figure is less than the statutory requirement. The figure usually increases each year with the consumer price index, however there was a slight drop of 0.1% therefore rates will be frozen.
6th April – Statutory Sick Pay will be frozen
The weekly rate of sick pay will remain £88.45 for 2016/17.
6th April – Basic tax threshold will be increased
The new rate of basic income tax will be increased to £32,000. The government introduced a tax lock within the Finance (No.2) Act 2015 which sets that there will be no increase on income tax percentage in the current parliament, establishing a “tax lock”.
6th April – Employer National Insurance contributions abolished for apprentices under the age of 25
In a bid to make it cheaper to employ young apprentices George Osbourne announced that the government would be scrapping employers National Insurance contributions for apprentices under 25. The new exemption brought by the national insurance contributions act 2015 means employers will no longer have to pay class 1 NI contributions up to the upper statutory limit. The Government has provided an in-depth guide.
6th April – The New State Pension
The single-tier pension announced in 2014 under Pensions Act 2014 comes into force. The new state pension has strict rules around National Insurance contributions meaning there must be at least 35 years of contributions or the credited equivalent to recieve the full amount. The new pension will not be available to prisoner, except in exceptional circumstances and ends contracting-out schemes.
6th April – Limits on postponements for employment tribunals
6th April – New salary requirement for tier 2 workers (general and sports person)
Migrant workers who wish to settle in the UK will be required to earn at least £35,000. Workers in shortage occupations will be exempt as will Phd level scientists.
CrosseHR has developed it’s services to respond to changes in legislation and can provide a number of sensibly priced solutions to SME’s. Our services ensure compliance and resilience in the face of the changes, these include;
Recruitment: scoping the role, person specification, advertisement language, shortlisting, negotiation of rates
CrosseHR provides solutions and dedicated support to employers in all sectors and specialises in SMEs. View the full list of our services or call 0330 555 1139, you can also email one of our specialist advisers email@example.com. We will be helping employers throughout the country comply, to keep updated with how others are reacting to the changes follow us on twitter.
In a world where information is just a key stroke away attacks to reputation online can be devastating for both individuals and businesses. Within larger organisations there are whole teams which work to protect online reputation and brand, however what about SME’s and not-for-profits who don’t have the resources available to monitor and protect their image? Fear not CrosseHR has come up with some handy tips to protect your reputation online;
1. It starts with you
The information you put online allows people to make presumptions about who you are personally and what your company represents. Often people can be the makers of their own grief by posting things online which may even have been intended to be private, but is actually publicly available and gives the wrong message. The one rule to live by is that everything you do online; the messages you send, the pictures you post and the things you comment on can be made public. There are countless examples where online messages are sent and then exposed online by it’s recipient. HR departments regularly have to deal with Facebook posts by employees which don’t comply with company ethos, not to mention the flurry of inappropriate images which have become the norm amongst young people and daters. So how do you avoid this mess? It’s simple; with everything you do question what would my employer think of this? Or if you are an employer, what would my mother think of this? By asking yourself these questions it will make you consider the content of posts before you post them and prevent you from getting an ominous email from HR on a Friday afternoon.
2. Set all personal social media profiles to private
Setting profiles to private will prevent information being indexed by search engines. Indexing is when Google or another search engine takes information you have put online or information another person has put out about you and makes that available to anyone who searches for you or your company. The last thing you want when someone is Googling you are webpages and Facebook posts which show you or your company in a bad light. Follow these steps to make your personal accounts private;
a) Go to the top right hand corner and click the padlock sign.
b) Click on the “see more settings” link.
c) You will be brought to this page.
d) At the bottom it asks whether you want search engines to link to your profile, make sure this option shows up as “no”.
e) Click on ‘Limit Past Posts’, this will limit the audience of your previous posts.
f) Make sure that only friends can see your future posts.
a) Click on your profile picture
b) Click on settings.
c) Click security and privacy.
d) This page will appear, click ‘Do not allow anyone to tag me in photos’, this will prevent anyone tagging you into an image that you wouldn’t want to be associated with.
e) Click ‘Protect my Tweets’, select this option if you don’t want your tweets to be publicly visible to anyone, by doing this you limit those who can see your tweets to just people you have approved.
f) Ensure all other options are not ticked.
3. The right to be forgotten
A relatively new feature to Google is the ability to be forgotten by asking Google to review and delete web pages from it’s results. The feature comes after a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights on data protection and currently users can ask Google not to display web pages containing their name where the page in question is irrelevant, no longer relevant, excessive or inadequate. If when Googling yourself, which we all at some point do, you find something that’s unfair or just plain wrong you can ask Google to omit it from their results by filling in a simple online form.
Google and other search engines display a certain number of results per page, therefore logic dictates that the more quality content you put out the more of that space will be occupied by you. By consistently creating and publishing online content you can knock detrimental results down to later pages which are seldom read. The ultimate goal is to have so much unique quality content that any attack on your reputation wouldn’t get close to page one of the results.
5. Contest your reputation online
If you do come across something contact the site the content is being hosted on, as well as doing a Google request (above). The last thing a site administrator wants is libellous content on their site and often a quick email will result in it’s swift removal. If the site is operated by the person creating the content then it is also a good idea to contact them asking them to remove it. If all above attempts fail it is a good idea to contact a solicitor who will be able to advise you on further action.
CrosseHR can advise on a range of HR issues including dismissals, tribunals and employment law. If you are experiencing issues with an employee’s online behaviour or want to develop your policies on responsible media use then CrosseHR can help! Call 0330 555 1139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, you can also view a full list of our services here.