HR’s dismal dismissal record blamed on flawed laws say public sector chiefs

Public sector HR chiefs have defended the profession following a damning report on basic HR failings, and pointed to serious flaws in the dismissal procedure instead.

Last week, Personnel Today revealed that one in four civil servant sackings brought to appeal was found to be unlawful, costing the taxpayer £628,632.

The report by the Civil Service Appeal Board said government departments were still not following standard dismissal procedures, introduced in 2004.

However, Pauline Lawrence, head of HR at Hertfordshire Police, told Personnel Today: “The fact that the dismissal procedures are being repealed – that they didn’t work in the first place – means the system has got in the way.

“I’m not saying HR is perfect, but you are looking in the wrong place for the problem: it is the system that needs changing.”

Barrie May, head of workforce strategy at Hull City Council, said it was managers’ responsibility to make sure people were dealt with properly when it came to dismissals.

But Angela O’Connor, chief people officer at the National Policing Improvement Agency, said a number of HR professionals in government departments were not sufficiently qualified. She said a greater drive by the HR profession across all sectors was needed to ensure better qualified personnel.

Appeal cases highlighted in the report needed to be addressed on a case-by-case basis by the Cabinet Office to determine what went wrong, O’Connor said.

“It could be that HR departments are overloaded or that people lack the necessary skills,” she added.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, agreed that employers had struggled with the procedures. “No employer has had a good word to say about the regulations,” he said.

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