A game of two halves

Despite foul weather and an early start there was a full turnout from local employers at an employment law seminar held at Falkirk Football Stadium yesterday. Hosted by Fiona Munn and Fraser Tait of Falkirk Employment Law, and members of UEL, the seminar fulfilled its objective of applying a practical perspective to two issues – preventing problems in the workplace and dealing with them if they arise.

Fraser Tait reminded the audience of the importance of getting the basics right. “Terms of employment don’t need to be lengthy or complicated but they do need to be clear and capable of being understood by both parties”. He emphasised the importance of following your own procedures. “Sometimes employers feel that because they have issued terms and conditions of employment they don’t need to do anything more. That can lead to problems.The employer’s written procedures should always be the first port of call before taking any form of disciplinary action.”

He emphasised that although employment law is a complex field the application of the key principles of common sense, fairness and consistency will help avoid claims. “If you are considering taking action against an employee, ask yourself first how you would like to be treated in similar circumstances.”

For the second half Fiona Munn covered the topic of dealing with claims. She focused on the new mandatory conciliation procedures designed to reduce the number of claims that proceed to tribunal. “The purpose of the rules, which come into effect in April, is to promote settlements through conciliation at the earliest opportunity as it is quicker, cheaper and less stressful than tribunal proceedings” she said. “The combined impact of these rules and the introduction of tribunal fees last year will mean a dramatic reduction in the number of employment cases that proceed to a full hearing.”

There followed a lively discussion during which delegates exchanged experiences of employment law issues including involvement in tribunal hearings. A reduction in the number of tribunal claims was felt to be a good thing particularly from the point of view of small employers, on whom the cost of dealing with a claim can have a disproportionate impact. However a note of caution was sounded. The fact that the number of employment claims is reducing should not be seen as a green light to apply slack procedures when dealing with employees. Best practice should always be encouraged irrespective of the level of risk. It sets the right culture and is good for business.

Fortified by excellent bacon rolls and a dollop of common sense delegates braved the weather again to start the working day.

A few areas we probably all fall short on were highlighted. Food for thought!
Stephen Rowe, Alexander Adamson

Very helpful and useful to get a reminder on some of the basic principles.
David Wheeler, Drummond Laurie

I enjoyed the discussions and found the points raised very interesting.  Unfortunately I did not get round everybody but I am sure there will be opportunity for that at the next seminar. Thanks for organising and looking forward to the next one.
Rob Coverdale, Pertemps