Employers must set record straight after bad publicity

Too many
firms unnecessarily expose themselves to damaging publicity during employment
tribunals, lawyers warned this week.

Alan
Jones, human resources partner at law firm DLA, says employers need to take the
initiative when faced with cases likely to attract press attention.

Cases
alleging sexual harassment are sometimes subject to reporting restrictions. The
press, however, is free to report in their entirety cases featuring claims
about practices such as workplace drinking, fiddling expenses, or overcharging
of customers.

As a
result, employers are often faced with a choice between damaging publicity and
allowing what they consider an untruthful allegation to go unchallenged.

Jones
said, “The allegations may be unfounded, scurrilous and salacious – meat and
drink to the press – but if they are given in evidence in the tribunal they can
be reported word for word.

“It may be
that at the end of the tribunal the chairman finds that the witness was
unreliable, the evidence given was untrue and the case is thrown out. But the
public will only remember the salacious details, which can be damning to the
company.”

Jones
recommends a proactive approach for companies unwilling to let dishonest
allegations lie on the record. One approach is to try to settle through Acas or
admit the case on very narrow and controlled grounds, such as procedural
failings.

Alternatively,
he advises calling in PR experts to pre-empt the publicity. “If you want to
face up to allegations, call a press conference and make your point of view
known first,” he said.

By Helen
Rowe

www.dla.com

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