Sunday, 1 July 2012

Why it is naive, bordering on stupid, not to be represented in a disciplinary hearing

Emma has worked in a major supermarket since leaving school 19 years ago.  After 18 years without any sickness absence, life became very sad last year following the death of one close family member, and the serious illness of another. Emma has become depressed and has had four periods of sickness during - as our employers put it - " a rolling twelve month period".

Back in March this year, a disciplinary hearing was held to discuss absence as the "trigger points had been exceeded".  A first written warning was issued, which was later overturned on appeal.  The reason? Depression is covered under the Equalities Act, and the grocer had a legal responsibility to consider what "reasonable adjustments" it could make. They'd failed to consider this. It was agreed that monthly meetings would take place to support Emma, and the warning was binned.

Fast forward to last week.  Emma had been unlucky enough to suffer an accident at work and needed a few days off while the swelling died down.  Now the manager is very clearly pushing for a formal warning to be issued. and is not being pleasant.  Rumour has it that the manager is still smarting that the warning she'd issued in March was overturned....

I point out that while it is very good that the employer has identified the "reasonable adjustments" Emma needs, it is at best unfortunate that these have not yet been implemented (not one monthly meeting ever took place, despite many efforts from Emma to sort them out).  I point out the obvious - that it would be unreasonable to discipline Emma for absence in these circumstances - that the important thing is that we get the reasonable adjustments implemented and trust that this will have the desired effect of improving attendance

The grumpy manager then calls an adjournment.  I smile drinking my coffee with the smug satisfaction that a manager who ten minutes ago knew exactly what she was going to do - no longer does!

Ten minutes later we have our decision - no action to be taken


* This is a typical example of how the Equalities Act can be used to help workers
* Workers cannot rely on laws to help them.  In this case, having a representative present forced the employer to consider the law.  The law is usually pointless unless there is somebody there enforcing it for you
* It is naive bordering upon stupid not to be represented in any disciplinary situation

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