Whatever you do, don’t go to court

I’ve used this phrase more often than I care to remember, both to potential claimants and to employers. Unless you are a particular kind of person, an employment tribunal is not a pleasant place to while away the hours and days.

From the point of view of the employee, you never get what you really want, either in terms of money or justice. Also you end up focussing on an unpleasant part of your life when it would be much more fulfilling to look forward to the future. From the employers point of

View the cost of settling is usually no more expensive than the cost of fighting and winning a case, especially when you take into account the time spent on a case and the disruption to the company. I understand that sometimes an employer will want to make a stand so that people who have worked for you don’t make a claim just for the hell of it. But the number of times that happens is rare.

So what is the alternative? These days you can opt for a settlement agreement (formerly known as a compromise agreement) which is a well tried approach that both protects the employer from future legal action, and draws a line under the issue for the employee. However if you choose this route, be prepared to haggle (a very “un-British” thing to do) because most employees will get legal advice and will reject the first offer and ask for more.

So here are a few guidelines if you are an employer and you want to try for a settlement agreement:

1)      Start low, end low. Don’t offer a high settlement figure in the hope your employee will settle quickly. They will nearly always assume you have more money, and ask for more. A good rule of thumb is to calculate how much they would get if they were made redundant. You can check this on the ACAS website (www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay).

2)      Don’t make threats. If your employee has accepted that a settlement agreement is a good idea, they have already made the mental leap that they are leaving, they can still change their mind and antagonising them is a good way to achieve this!

3)      Put deadlines on offers, but be flexible. Often an employee’s advisor cannot comply with a deadline because they have other work commitments.

4)      If you do feel you are being “mucked about” be prepared to get the employee back to work when negotiations have stalled. The employee has already decided that they want to leave so coming back to work is the last thing they want to do.

5)      Don’t get hung up on side issues like the wording of references or confidentiality agreements, they rarely make a difference in the real world and can delay an agreement. And finally…

6)      Don’t get too emotionally involved, this is just business and you need to look to the future.

Obviously there will be occasions when these guidelines don’t apply or need to be “bent” a little, but the key to all of this is to make sure you have an advisor who is not only on your side but is also prepared to tell you the truth when you least want to hear it.

Returning from Maternity leave

This is a subject that regularly has HR experts taking a sharp intake of breath and running for cover. However in a couple of cases we have dealt with recently, a bit of honesty has reaped rewards. In both cases the jobs previously undertaken by the staff concerned had changed radically over the period of the maternity leave, and in both cases the company had come to me, concerned that the returner would not be able to do the job and with a cunning plan to “get round” the problem. We suggested being up front with the women concerned and ask them to come in for a Keeping in touch (KIT) day so they could  see how things had developed over the nine months they had been away. In both cases the concerns were resolved amicably: One resulted in the woman resigning, one resulted in the women asking to take a different job which both parties were happy with.

Discussing awkward issues with staff only works if both sides feel the other is being honest, trying to fabricate a redundancy where none exists or suddenly raising an issue that has never been a problem in the past, only serves to make the employee feel they are being conned, and nobody is receptive when they feel like that. If you like its similar to how an employer feels if a member of staff tells them how much they contribute to the business when they are regularly late and refuse to do additional work to help catch up or they consistently fail to achieve deadlines.

Of course there are legal niceties to observe, but as my mum used to say honesty is always a better policy than the alternative. You won’t always get what you want but at least (if it is handled properly) you won’t be in a worse position.

If you have a “cunning plan” for your employees you want to discuss with someone, give me a call, there’s a prize for the first person who convinces me it’s a good idea!

Changes to Tribunal Rules – Early conciliation

New legislation comes into force on 6th April. The official title of it is ‘The Employment Tribunals (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2014’-quite a mouthful but in brief the aim is to resolve as many employment disputes as possible without the need for an Employment Tribunal.

Anyone considering making a claim against their employer will be required by law to contact ACAS before they can proceed to a Tribunal. It will be a quicker, cheaper and less stressful way of resolving a workplace dispute.

As you probably already know, an employee has 3 months after the event they are complaining about to lodge a claim. When they contact ACAS , the clock effectively stops ticking for up to a month, with provision for a further 2 weeks if ACAS think the claim will be settled soon,  to allow time for the 2 parties to reach agreement.

If ACAS don’t think a settlement is possible they will issue an Early Conciliation certificate. This act starts the clock running again and confirms that the potential claimant has been through the required process. To lodge a claim at Tribunal claimants will need the reference number from their certificate.

The Early Conciliation service is free to both parties and either the claimant and/or respondent can decline ACAS’s services at any point. The ACAS conciliators are impartial and have up to date knowledge of the law to help to clarify the issues as soon as possible.

This legislation changes the rules relating to Employment Tribunals to facilitate the introduction of Early Conciliation.

It is hoped that Early Conciliation will save time and legal costs estimated at £64.6m a year and deliver a net benefit of £37m. There will be a further saving of £2.6m due to the impact of having fewer Employment Tribunal claims.

Please call if you have any questions .

Day 7 Last day and no Jaffa Cakes!

Let’s be honest, you don’t have to work somewhere for a long time to start enjoying it or connect with people. I understand the pain of leaving people for a new job role or store as I did it when I was 18 and working at McDonald’s and all I did when I found out was cry. But that was different, I wasn’t expecting that, this I was but it’s still pretty upsetting.

As I walked into the office, it was just me and Kieron, well not for long. He left after about 15 minutes for a meeting and then I was all alone. Ending my last day as a work experience person writing up reference forms and letters as well as completing the CV spread sheet. I’m surprised I wasn’t given scanning! Thought it would be my “goodbye” gift, the one thing I loved the most. Thankfully not.

Although I wasn’t alone, Jonathan turned up and made me a cuppa tea. How lovely of him. But the company didn’t last. After about 30 minutes he left as well. Quiet time again. All I had to keep me company was a bag of Aero orange bubbles. Rather have Jaffa cakes to be honest. Mmmm. I was half way through the remaining CVs when Kieron arrived. Hurrah! I had company again! That lasted about 3minutes as he shot of again. I feel like I’m the geek in the library at mid-night doing work when the odd person pops in says hi then goes again. *sigh* Oh well.

Once I had finished all my work, it was only just gone 1pm. Well that’s what I thought. As I was typing that sentence, I looked around for inspiration and noticed two sheets I completely forgot to do! And guess what…it was scanning! So I was left with my ‘favourite’ task. (Memory of a goldfish sometimes)  Anyway, let’s try that again. I have finally finished all my work which meant it was time to go home. I was lucky to say my goodbyes to Kieron earlier but I’m sure Andy and Jonathan will know when they read this.

My experience at Kieron Hill’s Employment Service has come to an end. It has actually been a very funny, enjoyable learning curve in my decision into full time employment. I have had proof that I love working within the employment industry and have learnt so many skills from the past month especially CV skills, covering letters and the law. Although this will be the last entry of my blog, this will not be the last you have seen of me. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open because one day when you send KHES an email or give them a call, it may be me that responds to you, no promises just hoping.

Thank you to Andy and Jonathan for your witty banter and bizarre yet funny conversations which kept me sane when I was completing brain melting tasks. Thank you to Kieron for the experience and time you have put into me. The skills and training you have given me that have allowed me to understand the employment industry in more detail and has let me experience it first-hand.  And thank you all for following my experience with me. I hope to speak to you all again soon but for now, so long .

Day 5 Revenge of the alarm clock

This was the first time I had seen 6am for a very long time. I think the last time was when I went on holiday and had to up at 5am for the flight although that was easy. I was excited and buzzing to leave! Not in this case, I was exhausted and I needed to be on time as we had a potential client to meet, but as usual when you’re in a rush or running late, public transport decides to play a game with you. Very frustrating! Nevertheless, I made it and even had time for a quick coffee.

We arrived at the meeting where we greeted one another. The meeting began in a friendly manner although in my opinion, I felt like I was at a family reunion. Laughs, smiles, excitement, like any reunion, great at the start yet never thought it would end. After the family gathering and ‘getting to know you’ part of the meeting had ended, the meeting commenced into the main reason why we were there, work. After nearly an hour discussing the issues the client had and giving advice, the meeting was over. Good timing I think, I had been staring quietly into space although I had attempted to write up notes, sadly this looked more like a letter from your doctor. What a mess… Anyway, the face to face approach towards this client and others was a more appropriate for the business needs compared to cold calls or pestering individuals who don’t need the service.

Once we returned to the office and settled in with a cup of coffee, (think I’m becoming addicted) I was greeted with an email from the client I had previously adjusted a contract for. To be fair the points they made were incredibly picky, my first thought was “are you kidding me you can’t change the word yourself.” Laziness but you pay me to do it…sort of.

Once finished, I completed the mileage claims and expenses spreadsheet to help organise the finances. He probably picked the wrong person for the job. Maths is worse than having to do research! Some of it was such a waste of time. When am I ever going to use algebra on a daily basis! Whose idea was it to incorporate the alphabet with maths anyway! Maths is complicated enough! I don’t want to have to sing my ABC’s as well…Rant over. It wasn’t even that bad, all I had to do was enter numbers into a spread sheet. Panic for nothing.

It was nearly time to end, but then I was given the world’s most dreadful task…scanning, “Zzzz.” Half an hour later, at least half of it was complete but thankfully I didn’t have to do anymore until tomorrow. Result! After waking up at 6am, and returning home at 6pm, I thought “wow, I can’t believe how awake I am,” the next thing I knew it was 8am. I knew it wouldn’t last long.

Work experience Day 2

My second day started off in the same enthusiastic manner as my first day and surprisingly I was awake for once, well after about three cups of coffee. My first activity was to produce a document about the new laws coming in March and April to send to clients to make themselves aware of the changes and prepare themselves for what will soon be expected of them. Once I sent it over to be approved, my nerves kicked in and I just stared while it was being read. I felt like a child presenting a macaroni picture of an owl to their parents waiting for a round of applause. Childish I know, but I was given the thumbs up of approval. Thank god.

Afterwards, I filled in several letters for a client’s new recruits to congratulate them on successfully getting a job, their starting dates as well as asking for them to produce references on arrival. It went well, until I forget to put some of their names on the address, forcing me to start again. Once I sorted myself out, I adjusted a contract for a client. It wasn’t a difficult task as I first expected it to be therefore I was able to complete this exercise very quickly and successfully and therefore sent it back. All I had to do was wait.

My final task for the day included arranging all the documents on Share Point, allowing easier access to specific files. This was a task I wasn’t looking forward to do but once I started I understood the benefit of having these files organised. It was a brain dead task, making me slowly fall asleep. After nearly 2 painful hours and my brain gradually turning into mush, I had finally organised all the documents into their own file. At last! After an hour of making up strange scenarios in my head, Kieron returned to the office where I presented him my work. He was impressed. Thank god, No way did I want to do that all again!

Once the clock struck 5pm it was the end of another day at the office. Generally, it wasn’t too bad. I was pretty chuffed at what I had produced although there were tasks I found myself drifting asleep too but like any business, there will always be the jobs no one wants to do, so why should they waste their time doing it, the work experience person looks bored, give it to them!

New Face in the Office on Work Experience

After a long and exhaustive recruitment process (my wife told me her CV was good so I’d better take her on), I have offered a work experience placement to Abi Finneran for 4 weeks. Rather foolishly I asked her to write a blog of her experiences! so here is day 1.

Day one

During my first day working for Kieron Hill, I was welcomed with a positive enthusiastic greeting as I settled into my new environment. This would be my first time I’ve worked in an office environment, working alongside only a small number of individuals but I was keen to learn the trades of working in a human resource environment.

The first thing I learnt was using Share Point as a form of storing and sharing work with each other quickly and efficient. How exciting. I was set the task to complete references letters for employers. While I was completing this, I would over hear conversations between Kieron and his clients discussing current issues they are experiencing. He would then discuss the issue with me and ask for my own opinion on the situation. Sometimes these discussions could go on for a while (he does like his rants) but it made me understand how ever daft some of the situations can get, they still need to be sorted correctly.

I was later asked to complete a basic disclosure online of an employee for a client. This was the first time I had ever completed a CRB document which I found interesting as I had always wondered how it worked and looked therefore doing it for a client was the perfect opportunity to experience the procedure in completing this documentation, although the wording of the document was so bizarre, I had to contact Disclosure Scotland just to work out which address they wanted. Talk about time consuming.

Once all the admin work I was set was completed, I conducted research into the new employment laws being enforced throughout 2013. Research in my eyes is incredibly boring. It usually takes me weeks before I actually get around to opening a book as the T.V is always more attractive. Although for the first time in years I was actually interested in what I needed to look up. After I had found the articles and viewpoints on the new laws, another deep discussion was formed and for the first time all day, I actually knew what I was talking about (it shocked me as well).

Overall, I did find my first day very enjoyable and learnt a variety of new things I wouldn’t expect to find in a HR department as well as certain issues raised by clients and the best way to handle the situation correctly but in all honesty, I was so exhausted all I wanted to do was go to bed.