The recent consultation paper issued last week by the Employment Forum on disciplinary and grievance procedures and best practice should be compulsory reading for any manager or business owner, according to Jacqui Richards of Compass HR Offshore.
It’s been issued to help employers and employees understand their obligations, responsibilities and entitlements under the Employment (Jersey) Law and provides practical guidance as well as updating the Codes of Practice first issued in 2005.
Employment practices, from the drafting of contracts to the payment of wages, termination of employment, rights of redundancy and minimum rest periods, are all now regulated by statute and it’s essential for employers to ensure their policies for the recruitment, employment and exiting of staff comply with best practice.
In 2011, the most recent year for which full figures are available, the Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service (JACS) dealt with nearly 10,000 enquiries from concerned employees and employers and, with new laws due on immigration and discrimination this year, it’s never been more important for businesses to ensure they’re abreast of current legislation, says Ms. Richards.
And it’s not only the private sector that has to look to its policies and procedures, with States workers up in arms at the conduct of the States Employment Board in ongoing pay negotiations.
“In its last full year report, the Employment Tribunal reported that it dealt with nearly 200 complaints, of which 88 per cent related to unfair dismissal. Worryingly for employers, 27 of the 55 cases which went to a full hearing were settled in favour of the employee, with significant impact to the business in terms of financial cost, time, disruption and reputational damage,” added Ms. Richards.
Encouragingly, JACS has indicated that, while the overall number of enquiries dropped slightly in 2012, they dealt with a greater number of enquiries from employers seeking guidance, particularly those classed as smaller firms.
“It’s not just the final outcome that’s important as employers have to fully understand all aspects of the disciplinary, complaints or consultation process, especially when the current climate has led to a number of redundancies and the need for contracts to be renegotiated. For example, failing to allow an employee to be properly represented at a disciplinary or grievance hearing can mean you may be liable to pay them four weeks’ wages as compensation.”
A further consideration is the potential impact on staff recruitment and retention resulting from employment disputes with disgruntled employees, especially with the growth of social media and the ease of access to information, or misinformation.
“One of the dangers employers face, especially small businesses, is that some of the tasks traditionally associated with HR and compliance are carried out by generalists or managers with other responsibilities who may not be up to speed on latest developments,” explained Ms. Richards.
“That’s why it’s essential to keep abreast of what’s happening either through the regular employment law updates that are issued; ongoing training, workshops and qualifications, such as the Jersey Employment Law and Practice qualification offered by Compass and Voisin law firm; or by seeking guidance from JACS and other qualified professionals at an early stage.”
“If businesses are not fully aware of their legal obligations as employers then the consequences can be dire, and ignorance has been shown to be no defence in tribunal proceedings.”