Feb 27 2018| Values | Human Data
by Peter Woodward Associate
Having chaired Employment Tribunals in Guernsey for over 17 years, and spent ten years as a panel member with the Jersey Employment Tribunal Service, I have found there is one universal truth with these proceedings:
The integrity of either an individual or an organisation, or both, will be brought into question.
When it comes to issuing judgements, we use relatively restrained language in describing the issues at play, often referring to a witness as being somewhat evasive. We may have picked up on certain behaviours such as:
Of course, we do like to believe that everybody is telling the truth on oath but, on occasion, cynicism can creep in.
Balance of Probabilities
Possibly one of the most damning factors of the Tribunal process is that the evidence of other witnesses is paramount. It is important to understand that by this point it is likely that we have formed the view that an individual, or a number of individuals from an organisation, have chosen to tell us falsehoods.
Sometimes it is apparent that one party has chosen to blacken the name of the other party with little consideration of the facts.
When giving such evidence, the party should consider the repercussions that providing falsehoods under oath in a small community such as ours can have, for example:
As Mark Twain wisely said, ‘If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.’
Simply put, if you have told a lie then you have to remember what lie you told and to whom!
Mechanical Box Checking is Not Enough
Of course, sometimes the employer has every reason to dismiss an employee and has made every attempt to do it fairly. We should have every confidence that they have told the truth to the Tribunal. However, even with such employers, there can be issues that go to the root of leadership integrity.
Case and point, ten years ago a finance case was brought to our attention where the employee had not been following the regulatory requirements of their role and was dismissed.
At this point, I must add that the employer seemed to have been duly and promptly reported to the appropriate regulator, and they claimed to have followed procedure so thought the dismissal was fair.
A junior manager gave evidence for the company, claiming the employee in question had not followed KYC procedure.
I was sitting as a side member and the Tribunal chair glanced at me, unsure of what KYC stood for. Fortunately, I knew it was the ‘Know Your Client’ protocol and said so.
Shockingly, the witness stated that he had always wondered what the initials stood for and had meant to check before giving evidence that morning.
I found this astounding; the witness apparently complied with the policy yet did not understand what it stood for. It occurred to me that the policy had been learnt in parrot fashion and that the witness had little comprehension of the need for such a policy.
Subsequently, one must question the integrity of a system where the rules are followed but the rationale behind them is not understood.
Quite simply, mechanical box checking is not enough.
It is the responsibility of the leaders to establish and foster the conditions – the culture - that create high levels of integrity. Our work empowers senior leaders to achieve this.