Whitehall HR failings over unfair dismissals cost £628,632 in 2006-07

Basic HR failings cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds last year as one in four civil servant sackings brought to appeal was found to be unlawful.

The annual report of the Civil Service Appeal Board revealed that the total cost of the 65 unfair dismissal awards in 2006-07 was £628,632.

A record 409 appeals were received against dismissals last year, of which 260 were heard. Of those heard, 118 were sackings on disciplinary grounds, and 84 were dismissals due to poor attendance.

Board chairman John Davies said HR professionals in government departments were still not following standard procedures – a year after he warned of the problem.

Damaging failures included not writing letters to employees explaining why they were facing dismissal, not offering workers a hearing before a conclusion was reached, and not dealing with disciplinary cases quickly enough.

Davies, a former HR director at Barclays Bank, said: “Some departments and agencies are still not paying sufficient attention to the standard statutory dismissal procedures embodied in the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004. If these are disregarded, the dismissals are automatically unfair, and there is a facility to award additional compensation in such circumstances.”

The strongly worded criticism will further increase the pressure on Whitehall HR departments, which are already under fire. Several capability reviews have highlighted poor people management and inadequate HR provision at the heart of government failings.

In one overturned case last year, a prison officer who was sacked for assaulting a prisoner was made to wait five months between his first and second disciplinary hearings. He became one of 12 staff who were reinstated to their jobs.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “While the percentage increase represents only a small number of cases, this report reflects the Cabinet Office’s commitment to HR best practice.”


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