Nursery Managers Get Tribunal Tips from Croner

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08 Jan 2014

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Dot 2 dot nursery insurance services and HR experts, Croner, recently joined forces to give nursery managers a first-hand experience of what it is like in an employment tribunal. Croner’s Litigation Manager, Zuraida Curtis, started proceedings by talking about what an employment tribunal is, the employment tribunal process, hearing and coping strategies and the financial implications of tribunal litigation. Armed with the facts, delegates then witnessed a mock tribunal, with key roles undertaken by audience members. The case in question The Tribunal was based on a fictitious scenario of a nursery room leader (the Claimant) who was dismissed for gross misconduct by the nursery owner (the respondent).  The Claimant brought claims of unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal (for notice pay) against the Respondent. What happened? The Claimant had taken nursery children on a trip to the local park. Due to adverse weather conditions, the Claimant sought shelter in a relative’s house and photographed the children contrary to the nurseries child safeguarding procedure. The Respondent cited various breaches of their policy and procedures and dismissed the employee for gross misconduct following an investigation and disciplinary meeting. The Claimant’s defence was that she was unaware of the various policy and procedures and that she had tried to contact the nursery for assistance but her call was unanswered. In cross examination by the Claimant’s Representative, it became apparent that there were various flaws with regards to the investigation and the disciplinary and appeal process.  The Judge preferred the Claimant’s evidence as the Respondent could not demonstrate that they had followed their own procedures. The Judge found that the Claimant had been unfairly dismissed. However the Judge also said that the Claimant had contributed to her own dismissal and therefore reduced the amount of compensation awarded to reflect this. Jackie Hyde, Director of dot 2 dot nursery insurance services, said: “Unfortunately, all too often nursery managers are faced with HR issues which lead to an employment tribunal claim being made. A tribunal equals a large amount of time, effort and resources, something nursery owners can ill afford in today’s climate.” Talking about the mock tribunal, Jackie said: “I don’t think they were prepared for how formal a tribunal is and how intense cross examination can be. Some delegates were also surprised that even though it appears clear that an employee has committed gross misconduct, procedural failings could result in a case being lost. “Dot 2 dot clients who attended the session not only had a fascinating insight into how a tribunal is conducted; they also learnt about the importance of recording keeping.” Following the events, delegates said: "I just wanted to say how valuable the recent Mock Tribunal Training was.  The information provided was extremely useful and prompted lots of thought into how our investigation and disciplinary procedures can be strengthened to avoid a tribunal situation. “The role play scenario gave an excellent insight into a tribunal hearing and what to expect should you find yourself in that situation. “The content and delivery of the day was fantastic and gave opportunity to ask questions and discuss how to deal with a real life situation.  The trainers were very approachable and honest which gave a relaxed feel to the whole day. Thank you and I hope to get the opportunity to be on a further training course in the future" Natalie McNamara from Shooting Stars Nurseries LLP “The mock tribunal brought what could have been a very dry subject to life and drove home some valuable learning points in a very effective way.  “We all felt sorry for the witnesses, the claimant and the respondent! At first glance it appeared to be a straightforward case of dismissal for a clear case of gross misconduct but it turned out to be a salutary lesson about ensuring that your practice follows your policies consistently, and that you have evidence that staff are familiar with those policies (with thorough inductions and appraisals).  The do’s and don’ts of how to conduct disciplinary and appeals meetings were also brought home, as were the perils of letting off steam in emails to friends and colleagues!  “All in all it was an educational and entertaining experience and I’m sure we all went away feeling much more confident about our ability both to avoid a tribunal in the first place as well as how to deal with one if it happens!” Zoe Raven from Acorn Childcare Ltd For more information, view our tribunal representation services.

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