This week’s lettersEmployees are most likely victims of tribunal systemI read the article ‘Bully boy tactics’, (Personnel Today, 15 June) withgreat interest. It accurately communicated the adversarial nature of tribunals,but I was astonished by the message that the system’s main victims are therespondents [at a tribunal]. Some claims will be frivolous or vexatious, but where an applicant isprofessionally represented, one would also expect them to be advised of theirclaim’s prospect of failure. Unlike respondents, applicants usually do not havethe funds to employ counsel, and would not do so in the knowledge that theyhave little prospect of success. Many tribunal claims are genuine and, in a dispute involving an unexpectedcareer break or worse, applicants look to the tribunal system as a safety net.Such genuine and serious claims are often resisted, and when they are,applicants are often intimidated by the respondents’ use of a solicitor. It iscommon for the unrepresented and often unemployed applicant to face high-handedand oppressive treatment from the respondent’s representative. Those ‘bully-boy’ tactics are apparently justified by the belief that theywill force a withdrawal of the claim through stress, lack of will or lack offunds. Where the applicant continues and is successful, those tactics canbackfire, resulting in an award of aggravated damages. Where an employer and employee have entered a dispute almost by accident andwithout animosity, it is likely that they can resolve it themselves withoutrecourse. The ‘conflicts’ that come before tribunals are perpetuated where one partyresolutely denies a genuine claim, and the ‘legal wranglings’ begin where aparty is defending the indefensible. The wranglings are a deliberately appliedtool for steering discussions away from relevant facts and questions.Consequently, the tribunal panel is left to process a huge volume of confusinginformation, and sifting out the facts becomes a tedious task. Amid thisdistraction, and quite possibly when the panel has grown tired or even bored, apersuasive representative can win the day on their submissions alone. Elaborate and diversionary defences to quite simple claims appear to havebecome routine. They are a product of professional legal advice that has moreto do with what a respondent can ‘get away’ with, rather than whether they areliable. The main beneficiaries of the modern system are, without a doubt, thelegal representatives. Acting within the law does not require detailed and extended knowledge ofcurrent legislation, but is down to good, old-fashioned common sense andreasonable behaviour. This is what a tribunal panel will favour. Adrian Melia Independent consultant I have just read your article about employment tribunals (‘Bully BoyTactics’, 15 June). I am a member of two support groups for people who have been bullied in theworkplace by management. Your article did not highlight the fact that if youend up in a tribunal, you have clearly not tried to resolve a claim bymediation. Acas figures show that about 77 per cent of submitted employment tribunalclaims do not go to tribunal. Tribunals can be successfully avoided byimplementing the Health and Safety at Work Act, proper grievance andinvestigation procedures and efforts to hear employees’ problems in theworkplace. Most employees who end up in my support groups claim that HR either tried tosweep the matter under the carpet or pretend they did not receive the initialclaim. Olusola Fadero Member, Bully Online In Canada, my organisation is reviewing and updating its policies relatingto harassment. Recent legislation in Quebec regarding ‘psychological’harassment (Personnel Today, 22 June) has merely served to reinforce ourcommitment to comprehensive policies and nudged us towards embracing a broaderdefinition of harassment. The bulk of policies have historically dealt with the more visible forms ofharassment – sexual and racial. Psychological harassment can be more subtle andmay be more difficult to define, detect and prevent. And yet, it may be moreprevalent and damaging. In this respect, the introduction of new legislation bythe Quebec Commission des Normes du Travail has raised the bar in dealing withhostile and unwanted behaviour in the workplace. Bruce Thew President, Ceridian International Some people rely on working longer hours I read with interest your legal opinion (29 June) regarding the UK’s opt-outof the working time directive. My husband normally works 60 hours a week as a security officer. He is paidjust above the minimum wage. If he was forced to work 48 hours a week, it wouldhave a severe effect on us financially. It’s not by choice but necessity thathe continues to work 60 hours a week, to make ends meet. To save up forholidays or any unforeseen expense, he has to work up to 84 hours per week. Who will make up the shortfall in our weekly income when the UK is forced toabolish the opt-out? Details supplied Blanket smoking ban is not the solution It is all very well calling for a blanket smoking ban, but the effect on theclub/bar industry will be huge. I thought we lived in a free country and thatsmokers and non-smokers alike should be catered for. This ‘nanny state’ legislation will benefit no-one, and half of theanti-smoking ‘fascists’ probably wouldn’t visit a pub or club if soft oralcoholic drinks were being given away free. Details supplied Firms failing to see untapped resource I was not surprised to read reports that the Royal National Institute of theBlind has identified that more than 90 per cent of employers may be breakingthe law by discriminating against blind and partially-sighted jobseekers(Personnel Today, 22 June). Employers are failing to make the most out of the resources available tothem to support both visually impaired and disabled applicants. As companiesmove to online recruitment, there is a danger that they leave themselvesexposed to falling foul of legal requirements to provide a level playing fieldfor all applicants. Organisations must consider and take action to address these issues now, notonly to meet the demands of new and changing legislation, but also to ensurethey can attract and access quality candidates to support their business in thefuture. Lesley Nash Director, Changeworknow We must keep trying to get diversity right The Commission for Racial Equality’s Interim Report issued in June, whichinvestigates the police force’s diversity practices/policies, raised somepoints that should be addressed (Personnel Today, 22 June). Under the Race Relations Act, there is no excuse for the lack of raceequality plans, and the report does well to criticise the failure to monitorthe composition of the workforce. This is the most basic requirement for makinga diversity policy work. However, there were some worrying remarks in the report concerning diversitytraining. A sheep-dip or one size-fits-all approach to training will neverproduce the desired results. People need to identify their own unconsciousattitudes and prejudices before their behaviour can change. It is also really important to remember, however, that many police forceshave made great efforts to address diversity issues and will continue to do so.Establishing a living, breathing culture that respects and encourages diversity(rather than simply producing guidelines and rules to eradicate open prejudice)takes time and sustained effort. We will not see results overnight and therewill be setbacks, but this does not mean it isn’t vital to keep trying. Jon Whitely Head of diversity, Pearn Kandola Ann Summers turns the tables on sexism I read in your 22 June issue a letter regarding the recent ‘sexist’ advertfor Ann Summers. Does the author, Steve Chilcott, not realise that women’s sexuality has beenused and abused for hundreds of years to sell things, so it’s about time thetables were turned? Besides, the model in question has a great physique and should show it off(and presumably is being paid for his efforts). He obviously doesn’t have aproblem with it, so why should anyone else? Andrea Hill HR adviser, Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust Editor’s note: The tone of Steve Chilcott’s letter was decidedlytongue-in-cheek – in response to letters about a previous Ann Summers’ advertisementin Personnel Today – and should not be interpreted in any other way. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. LettersOn 13 Jul 2004 in Vexatious claims, Personnel Today Comments are closed.