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Who Has The Last Word?

A situation has come across my desk over the last few months which is one of those salutary tales, that my client has allowed me to share.  A member of staff, still on probation, is given full consideration of abilities and all the attributes that an employer seeks in a member of staff. Sadly, in this case, it was not a match made in heaven.

At the end of the period, way before any obvious employment rights had been accrued, a meeting was called and the decision was conveyed that this was the end of the road. Reasons were given and a verbal acceptance of the inevitable received. A letter was sent to confirm what had been said and that, as far as my client thought, was that. That is until sick notes started to appear in the post from the doctor for this “former” member of staff.

Calls were made, and not answered, letters were written, but still the sick notes came closely followed by a claim to a tribunal for unpaid Statutory Sick Pay!  Plus, a magical figure for “compensation”.

The meeting apparently never happened, the conversations were not had and the letters were not received. There was no option but to defend the claim. The matter was resolved, but not before much expense and anxiety had been expended. Whilst they would have undoubtedly won, the cost of proving the point would have been more than the cheque that was written.

There is no justice in any situation like this and I am sure there are two sides to every story.  But some simple measures may have put a swift end to a traumatic situation. The meeting was on a one to one basis. Had there been a third party to witness the conversation and a process agreed as to minuting the discussion,  then the position would have moved away from “one persons word against the others”.

Better still, had a letter been prepared to record the termination, and a copy receipted, the fact that the meeting was later denied, would have fallen at the first hurdle.

Procedures and records are dull, uninteresting things, but no matter how trusting you are, evidence is the key in an argument. A conversation may be clear to the parties, but in different versions. When there is no agreed record, positions can polarise to the point where a wasteful claim is brought and has to be dealt with.

Iain Thom
Kerseys