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HR 101 for Workshops: When things go wrong

By autotech-nath on October 7, 2023

Within a series of articles, Human Resources expert Julia Crawford from People Pillar provides practical advice on all things people related – here, she hones in on problematic staff and how to deal with them effectively.

Running a business can be really stressful. Especially when you’ve got an employee that’s causing you lots of issues. As an employer, it’s likely that at some point you might feel that it would be better for everybody to let an employee go.

Why might you want to let an employee go?

There are so many reasons you may want to dismiss an employee for. Sadly, many of them simply won’t fly when it comes to abiding by employment law. Before you take any action, it’s always advisable to do your research and make sure you’re not discriminating against an employee, or acting in a way that could land you in an unfair dismissal case.

Some of the acceptable reasons may be: Someone is underperforming, they’re not a good fit for the business, they’re causing problems – this may be bullying, harassment, or discrimination – not being able to do their job properly, violence, theft, vandalism (gross misconduct) or statutory restrictions – if a driver loses their license, for example.

Even in these cases there is still a process that you MUST follow before handing an employee their P45.

Disciplinary procedure – before you begin

Unless you’re dealing with gross misconduct, it’s unlikely that you can jump straight to firing an employee.

First, you must follow your disciplinary procedure, as outlined in your own disciplinary policy, and give your employee warnings, as well as the opportunity to put things right (if applicable). Never be tempted to rush this process. As much as you may want the employee out of the business, taking things too quickly can lead you straight to a tribunal.

As soon as you begin the process of dismissing an employee you should be taking notes and keeping a record of everything relating to that employee. This includes notes on their misconduct, performance, or other, and any evidence or investigation that you carry out to back up your accusation.

Written notes can be used as evidence that you’ve followed procedure correctly, and that you’ve carried out a fair process while trying to avoid dismissal.

If you can’t clearly prove the reason for dismissal, you may be accused of not acting fairly or not having a valid reason for your action.

Ask yourself: “Why do I need to fire this employee?” If you can’t simply explain the reason and evidence why, it’s possible that your motivation is unfair or even discriminatory. It is absolutely vital that you’re not discriminating against any protected characteristics, such as age, religion, or gender. Again, such motivation could land you at a tribunal.

Remember, while employees with two or more years of continuous service have a legal right to challenge your decision to dismiss them, but if the reason is discriminatory, anyone with any length of service can challenge you.

The process…

Once you’ve investigated and gathered any evidence you feel is necessary, you’ll need to arrange a disciplinary meeting. This should be in private, away from other employees’ eyes and ears.

You must invite your employee to attend the meeting, in writing. A letter should inform them of the time and date of the meeting, advise them of their right to be accompanied, and it should also state that dismissal could be a potential outcome of the meeting.

Outline the reasons for the meeting and why dismissal is a consideration. You should also provide the evidence you have so that your employee has time to review it before the meeting.

When the meeting begins, it’s your job to explain the allegations to your employee. Be as detailed and specific as you can, go over the evidence from your investigation, and give them the opportunity to comment and respond to it all.

At this stage, it’s very important to take notes. In fact, you should ideally have a note-taker present to allow you to give your full attention to the meeting. This person can also act as a witness on your behalf.

Expect there to be an emotional response from your employee. While this is normal, it’s important that you aren’t swayed by this and remain on track with your objectives. Have them written down in front of you as a memory aid if you think you might need it.

Once you’ve explained things to your employee and given them suitable opportunity to respond, you should adjourn the meeting. This is to give you adequate time to consider what they’ve told you and to make a final decision.

Explain what will happen to your employee and let them know how long it will take you to come to a decision. It could be later the same day, the next day, or even in a few days’ time. As long as you don’t have an unnecessary delay, while also giving yourself ample time to fully consider the situation.

Of course, the complexity of the situation may also have a bearing on how long your decision may take. Just make sure to keep your employee informed of when the outcome meeting will take place.

Remember, you will need to make a fair decision that is consistent with how you’ve acted in the past. If you’ve had a similar situation, it’s a good idea to look at how you dealt with that so that you don’t act unfairly.

You may find that, when it’s time for the outcome meeting, you still haven’t made a decision and you need additional time to gather more evidence or investigate further. That’s OK, but you need to communicate this with your employee as soon as possible and notify them of the new meeting.

Whatever your decision – to keep your employee or to dismiss them – you need to reiterate your reasoning and inform them of what is expected next. If you keep your employee this may involve a performance improvement plan, for example.

Follow everything up in writing and repeat what was discussed at the meeting. Remind your employee of their right to appeal and the date that this must be done by. If you’re dismissing your employee, you’ll need to inform them of their last day of employment, pay arrangements including annual leave, and the return of any work property.

Your do’s and don’ts checklist DO…

  • Have a valid reason for wanting to dismiss an employee
  • Make sure you’re not discriminating against any protected characteristics
  • Follow your own disciplinary policy
  • Give your employee adequate warnings before dismissal
  • Keep a written record of everything sufficiently
  • Investigate before a disciplinary meeting
  • Keep your employee informed at each stage of the process
  • Give your employee sufficient opportunity to respond to allegations
  • Take reasonable time to consider the outcome follow everything up in writing keep other employees informed.

DON’T…

  • Discriminate
  • Rush through the disciplinary process
  • Skip any steps
  • Forget to take notes and have a witness in your meetings
  • Be swayed by an emotional reaction
  • Be inconsistent with your decisions
  • Give other employees too much detail on the situation
  • Act alone if you’re unsure of the correct protocol or employment laws!

If you would like to discuss the above, or find out more about how People Pillar can help your business with HR, please do get in touch with Julia.

www.peoplepillar.co.uk

hello@peoplepillar.co.uk

01303 769 700

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Autotechnician is a magazine published nine times a year, delivering essential information to independent garage owners and technicians in the UK. Delivered both digitally and in print, autotechnician provides readers with technical, training, business advice, product and news, allowing our readers to keep up to date with information they need to run and work within a modern workshop.
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