A Manager’s Guide To Employment Law

Issue 56

It can sometimes be tough to be a manager

There are so many competing needs and pressures: a good manager should be an effective communicator, decision-maker, motivator, delegator, organiser, teambuilder, leader, negotiator and problem solver, all whilst having to work to both collective and individual targets and not forgetting to focus on their own personal development. It’s no wonder, then, that legal issues can be less of a priority for many managers who are just trying to get on with their jobs. However, it’s important that managers deal with the workplace challenges effectively as some can give rise to employment law issues. In every case, good practice will minimise risk to both the manager personally and to their employer.

This couldn’t be highlighted better than by the recent case of Retirement Security Ltd v Wilson. The Claimant in this case was employed to manage a retirement community by the Respondent. The Claimant was accused of serious misconduct by four duty managers and as a result she was suspended immediately. The Claimant’s manager sent her a letter inviting her to a disciplinary investigatory meeting, however this was delivered to the wrong address and the Claimant only received this letter one day before the investigation meeting was due to take place. The letter also did not give any detail of the allegations made against her, but instead listed general headings, such as “alleged theft”, “confidentiality”, “neglect” and “concerns from Directors”.

The Claimant attended the meeting and was assigned a more senior manager as a companion, despite not having requested this. Strangely, this senior manager subsequently chaired the meeting. The Claimant was also presented with evidence which she had not previously seen. Following that meeting the Claimant concluded that the Respondent had already made its decision that she was guilty of misconduct before any fair disciplinary hearing had taken place. With that view, she resigned and brought a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.

Her claim succeeded at an Employment Tribunal and was upheld on appeal, with the Employment Appeal Tribunal commenting that the process “had been so flawed that the Claimant could reach no other view than that the Respondent wanted to be rid of her”. It’s also worth highlighting that the employer itself described the disciplinary meeting organised by the Claimant’s manager as an ambush – not a great way to be describing the actions of one of your managers.

Maybe the Claimant’s manager was purposefully trying to get rid of the Claimant, and there have been other cases recently where this has happened, but it’s more likely that the manager did not know how to properly conduct a disciplinary hearing in line with the company’s policy so as to ensure it was a fair process for the Claimant. Had they received training on issues such as: what should be included in a letter inviting an employee to a disciplinary hearing; how to properly conduct a fair disciplinary hearing and how to implement the key principles from the ACAS Code of Practice, then the Respondent in this case may not have had to face the time, expense and stress of an Employment Tribunal claim.

We want to ensure that managers in your organisation are equipped to deal with these issues, so that you don’t face a similar situation. To help you ensure that your managers feel well equipped to deal with day-to-day HR and employment law issues, Collingwood Legal is hosting a one day interactive training and development session on Thursday 12th March 2020 at the Newcastle Eagles Community Arena on “Essential Employment and Equality Law for Managers and Team Leaders”. We will cover the key principles of employment and equality law and give practical guidance on how to manage an employment relationship from the beginning to the end in terms of legal obligations and procedural requirements. The programme will consist of user-friendly guidance to complex legal concepts and interactive workshop discussions dealing with fact-based case study scenarios. Previous attendees of this session have found it extremely useful and made the following comments: “interesting and informative event” and “brilliant as always”.

There are limited places available, so it is advisable to book early by contacting, Sue Graham on 0191 282 2881 or at sue.graham@

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