Nobody wins in an Employment Tribunal

At the time of writing Philip Hammond is stressing that his experience of working with Europeans is that collaboration brings better results than confrontation. Boris Johnson seems to favour a “Trump-type” approach. The jury is out as to which will work best in Brexit – but what about in employee relations?

As an HR professional, I favour collaboration as the better means of resolving employee issues. In my view we need to identify mutual interests and avoid, wherever we can, adopting an adversarial approach. Adversity is a slippery slope which can lead to resolution in an Employment Tribunal. There the only true beneficiaries are members of the legal profession. This is because, in most cases “winning” at Tribunal, for an employee, is a poor victory. It means achieving little more than what may be scant compensation for all the time, stress and effort involved. Few realise this, unfortunately. “Winning” for an employer means not having to pay that compensation. But, instead, having huge opportunity costs (from time spent on a case) and, quite possibly, substantial legal fees as well.

This is why we favour non-confrontational language in every policy, procedure and employment contract. Careful phraseology in all correspondence with employees sets the scene. The tone should be designed to create the basis for sound relationships. That is relationships with the very people you want to work hard on your behalf. It is why we ask clients to “flash across” us any potentially contentious correspondence.

Naturally, some conflict in employment situations is inevitable. But where we assist you in dealing with serious conflict, we are always careful to remember that these are human beings with whom you are working. Adversity does not work well and often raises the stakes unnecessarily. Of course collaboration is not always appropriate, sometimes confrontation is needed. We believe though, that by demonstrating respect for individuals, the risk of adversarial relationships is minimised; winners all round.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

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