HR & employment disputes

You receive anecdotal evidence that one of your staff is viewing inappropriate material. Someone accuses their manager of sending offensive emails. There’s a dispute about whether time sheets have been tampered with. A employee’s planing to set up a rival company, perhaps taking clients with them. If you suspect this is happening, or has happened, we can help you prove it. Even the most careful employees will leave evidence of their activities and intentions. Our expertise in knowing how to collect and preserve data, where to look within that data, and how to reconstruct files can be key to safeguarding your business and taking effective action against rogue employees. Situations like these call for analysis of computers, mobile phones and company servers to reveal what was sent to who, when and what was done with it – was it printed, saved, deleted or forwarded to colleagues?

Case study

A large financial institution had dismissed a senior managing director due to performance issues. The dismissed employee began legal proceedings against his former employer, claiming unfair dismissal. Forensic Control was asked to look at the person’s computer and hard drives. We revealed thousands of pornographic images that had been downloaded to his work laptop and then transferred to personal USB drives. Time-line analysis revealed that the searching and downloading of the images was exclusively carried out during office hours. We also found evidence of the subject using the laptop to order illegal items. The report we produced for our client provided the evidence to reject the claim of unfair dismissal.

To find out how Forensic Control can assist you with your investigations in this area call 020 7193 3324.

HR disputes necessitating investigations may be arise from a wide number of areas:

  • Alleged fraudulent activities criminal and civil
  • Investigations prior to an internal enquiry into an employees’ grievance
  • Investigations prior to disciplinary action against an employee
  • Long term sickness caused by work related stress
  • Equal pay
  • Unfair dismissal
  • Redundancy pay
  • Discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, age, religious belief or sexual orientation
  • Breach of contract
  • Working hours
  • Unauthorised deductions from wages
  • Written statement of terms and conditions
  • Failure to inform and consult in a redundancy or business transfer situation

Some of these HR issues are covered in further detail below

Bullying and harassment

You should take bullying or harassment complaints seriously as you can be held liable for harassment suffered by your employees at work or at work-related events. Therefore, you should know, and make known to your employees, what approach you will take, for example, by issuing a policy that:

  • Encourages victims of bullying or harassment to come forward, in a way that provides a way to bypass the bully or harasser
  • Combines an informal route to complain within a formal procedure to be used when the matter cannot be resolved informally and balances the interests of the victim and the alleged bully/harasser
  • Tells staff and trains managers as to what they should do if they become aware of someone being bullied or harassed – see the page in this guide on drawing up an anti bullying and harassment policy

Bear in mind that a claim could be malicious – to investigate it thoroughly and fairly you should:

  • If possible use an impartial, trained investigator
  • Consider suspension of the alleged bully or harasser on full pay while the investigation is carried out
  • Allow both parties to be accompanied to a hearing by a representative of their choice
  • Make it clear that both parties have the right of appeal

When you are dealing with a case of bullying and harassment, decide carefully what action you are going to take – whether against the complainant or bully/harasser. This could be:

  • counselling or training
  • an informal or formal warning
  • suspension
  • transfer – only the guilty party should be transferred
  • dismissal

Trade unions may have a role in cases of bullying and harassment. They can provide:

  • support for claims
  • guidance and support for the complainant or the alleged bully or harasser
  • accompaniment to hearings
  • help in eliminating a bullying culture

Handling grievances

Introduction

Even in well-run businesses, it may sometimes be necessary to deal with employee grievances. Therefore it’s crucial that you have written grievance procedures. If problems do arise, these procedures should help you and your employee resolve them within the workplace. They should also ensure that you deal with employee grievances fairly. Your rules and procedures should be set out in writing and follow the good-practice principles set out in the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. Failure to meet either of these requirements may result in extra compensation for the employee if they succeed in a tribunal claim. This guide outlines what you need to put in your procedures and how to handle grievances issues in practice.

Preparing for a grievance hearing

Before you hold a grievance hearing you should:

  • Read through your grievance procedure so that you apply it correctly.
  • Carry out a full investigation if necessary, eg where the employee is accusing a colleague of sexual harassment.
  • Make sure you have all relevant facts and documents available for the hearing.
  • Arrange for someone to take notes.
  • Arrange for another manager to attend the hearing to act as a witness to the proper conduct of the hearing.
  • Arrange a suitable time, date and venue for the hearing.
  • Give the employee plenty of notice of the meeting so they can prepare their case and consult any representatives. Remind them that they have the right to be accompanied at the hearing by a colleague or trade union official.
  • Inform any manager and witnesses who may need to attend.
  • Obtain witness statements from any witnesses who will be unable to attend the hearing and share them with the employee.

Some of the information from this page is from the Business Link website and is used under the terms of the Open Government License.

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