Tribunal tribulations cannot be ignored by HR

As if tribunals weren’t enough of a headache for HR, now we hear that the odds could be stacked against employers actually winning their cases – especially if an HR representative is present.

HR professionals who contacted Personnel Today claim that if an HR person acts as an advocate in a case, there is less chance of the employer winning the tribunal. And anyone making a fuss about this allegedly risks being blacklisted. They argue that while tribunals were meant to simplify proceedings, the whole process is mystifying and frustrating.

There are several ways of looking at this: it could be sour grapes on the part of HR professionals who have lost cases. Or it could be cynicism about the legal profession’s ‘old boy network’ – although any accusation of bias is stoutly defended by those chairing tribunals, who claim to be “scrupulously fair and impartial”.

Either way, it is hard enough to win tribunal cases – where the employer is usually guilty until proven innocent – so having experts on your side is generally a good idea.

But, as we all know, every year employment law becomes more complex, and lawyers themselves admit that work in this area is extremely lucrative for them. And while knowledge of employment law is an essential part of HR’s remit, it is not the whole job. Lawyers, on the other hand, can manoeuvre nimbly through the intricacies of employment legislation and put forward persuasive and eloquent arguments in areas that may trip up HR.

Whether practitioners are forced to attend tribunals, or whether you offer to go, perhaps HR’s focus should be on how you can really help an organisation, by creating and encouraging exemplary employment practices that keep employers out of tribunals in the first place.
However, that doesn’t mean HR should put up with perceived injustice. So what should HR do: turn up and fight, or bow out gracefully? Let us know your thoughts on personneltoday@ rbi.co.uk.


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