Keeping Records for Employment Law

Don’t rely on memory – keep records

Employment Law is a huge area riddled with confusion – some would call it a minefield. There is so much that can be understood by custom and practice, so much that can remain unstated because it is implied, so much that is true as a matter of law which does not, technically, need to be written down. Fortunately there is plenty of advice on hand. The government website www.gov.uk contains all the essentials about what is needed and what is not although it does not recommend any simple solutions.

ACAS (http://www.acas.org.uk) is less cautious and has no hesitation in talking about better ways of doing things in its “Good practice at work” section.

For most people – employees and employers – things do go more or less right most of the time and it’s easy to ignore these good practices and just assume that problems  (should they arise) will go away. However, things can change very rapidly if problems lead to grievance or dismissal.

Unfair dismissal

One of the most common problems is an employee’s contention that the employer was unfair in dismissing them.

In order to dismiss an employee fairly, the employer must:

  • have a fair reason for dismissing them
  • show that the decision to dismiss is reasonable
  • follow a fair dismissal procedure

There are five potentially fair reasons for dismissing an employee. These are:

  • capability
  • conduct
  • redundancy
  • where the employee cannot continue in their post because this would break the law
  • some other substantial reason that justifies dismissal of the employee from the job they do

Keeping Records

This is the area where the simplest of solutions is often the most powerful: keeping records of everything that happens in relation to these five reasons in order to prove that your decision was fair.

If you want to avoid ambiguity and make it easy for your managers to manage, you must both have detailed policies and procedures and make sure everyone lives by them. If your employee has a contract of work stating clearly what their capabilities  and conduct should be  there can be no argument if they fail to meet those standards.

If you record discrepancies in attendance, time-keeping, effort or whatever else it may be, act upon these records and proceed logically and fairly at all times then there can be little grounds for an employee grievance. If a grievance is raised and its progress recorded then both parties know exactly where they stand and the employer has an automatic defence.

Conversely, if you, the employer, have no or poor records then an employee can protest their dismissal and expect to be successful.

So: the devil is in the detail and the more detail your system records, maintains and uses as a basis for management, the more likely you are to avoid workplace disputes and recourse to tribunal. It’s just common sense!

Here at Clearer Thoughts we offer a range of training and development programmes relating to Organisational Excellence, including Conflict Management , Dignity at Work and Discipline and Grievance. We have also made Employment Law the focus of our February and March Open Programme with a day on using IT for record keeping taking place on March 19. Click here to place a booking a make an enquiry.

Good luck and Happy Record-Keeping.

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