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09th January 2014

The Crucial Importance of Appeals

Importance of appealsAt first they seem an irritation. You’ve made the difficult decision to discipline or dismiss an employee and now you have to hear an appeal. It is as if the boot is on the wrong foot!

But appeals are an invaluable fall-back position. If the employee feels they have been treated fairly why would they appeal? On the other hand, they may even consider it is a “fair cop” but , for example, still feel dismissal (or other action) is too harsh. An appeal gives you chance to review the decision; it doesn’t mean you have to change that decision. Unless the original hearing was seriously flawed an appeal does not need to be a “re-hearing”.

There will always be some (ex-)employees who appeal just because they can, or because they have failed to grasp that they are engaged to work for their employer, not vice-versa. Those you will just have to hear out, unfortunately.

But why so important?

Tribunals or Employment Judges do not take kindly to an employee putting arguments to a Tribunal when they have not put those arguments to the employer first. So if an employer offers an appeal, and the employee declines the opportunity, Tribunals are likely to find in favour of the employer. Furthermore, if the employee takes professional advice, having not appealed, he or she may be advised against pursuing the claim. For the employer that is a great outcome.

Go further and encourage an appeal

In one Tribunal case I observed the employee had made a careless mistake. Although not a malicious mistake the consequences for the employer were severe. So the employee was dismissed on the spot. Instant dismissals, though not automatically unfair, are invariably found to be so. Had the employee appealed the employer would have had a second chance, but the employee didn’t. At Tribunal the employer protested that the employee could have appealed and the dismissal letter said as much. The Tribunal wasn’t having it. The dismissal had been so perfunctory that the employee was justified in feeling an appeal would have been pointless. The employer lost the case.

How to encourage an appeal

Someone not involved in the original decision should hear the appeal. If you are the owner, and carried out the dismissal, engage an HR adviser to chair the appeal. Don’t just tell the employee they can appeal. Make clear they will get a fair hearing chaired by a previously non-involved party. Employer Solutions regularly chair appeals on behalf of clients.

Malcolm Martin – QCS Expert Human Resources Contributor

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

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