Costly HR Mistakes (PART 1)

Being complacement with how investigations are conducted as well as not being aware of and acting on inappropriate workplace banter are just two of the areas in HR practice that can prove very costly to employers but can easily be avoided.

A recent article I read (People Management June 2015) highlighted HR’s ten most expensive mistakes.They certainly rang true for me and highlighted some common issues that I come across time and time again with my clients.  Here are some of them and how to avoid them being a costly mistake for your business.

  1. Brushing Off Banter – An employment tribunal in the UK held that an engineering firm had discriminated on grounds of age against an employee who was close to retirement by not stopping workplace banter which involved his colleagues calling him Yoda and his number plate being changed from OAB to OAP.  All employers have an obligation to monitor such banter to ensure that it is not offensive nor discriminatory and should have in place a clear Respect and Dignity at Work Policy that highlights what types of behaviours and comments are not acceptable in the workplace.  It is also important to act as quickly as possible when such behaviours come to light and in this regard managers have a particular responsibility to set and enforce standards.
  2. Failing To Issue/Renew Contracts – All  employees are entitled to a statement of their terms and conditions of employment within 2 months of the commencement of employment and in the event that a claim is brought in this regard 4 weeks pay will be awarded as compensation under the Terms of Employment Information Act 1994. In addition Fixed Term contracts that have expired must be renewed before the expiry date in writing to order to retain a legitimate fixed term status.
    Always issue relevant terms and conditions of employment at the outset and before contracts expire.
  3. Getting Investigations Wrong – The investigation stage of a disciplinary process is critical and it is important that an investigator focuses on making a finding of fact as to whether the allegations under review have occurred.  All relevant evidence should be reviewed with an open mind and the Investigator should not extend their brief in order to make decisions on subsequent actions that may need to be taken. One example of a costly flawed investigation  was highlighted in unfair dismissal case  (UD 1425/2012) in which an employee was awarded €30,000 because the employer placed significant emphasis on the statements taking during an investigation from two people that were not even present when the alleged incidents occurred and the one person that was present was a good friend of the claimant’s ex girlfriend who had made the initial allegation. Furthermore statements taken from witnesses who were present were completely ignored.