Delivering for the Nation campaign

Seven common work problems

Appraisals

The FDA deals with many queries relating to performance appraisals, particularly when there is a financial bonus attached to a specific box marking.

The FDA also advises and represents members who find themselves subject to inefficiency procedures as a result of a poor box marking. There is a legal pitfall in the performance appraisal process: the employer should remember that unnecessary criticism of the employee could lead to a breach of the implied term in an employment contract of mutual trust and confidence.

Harassment and bullying

Harassment and bullying, which should be treated as disciplinary offences, both involve behaviour which harms, intimidates, threatens, victimises, undermines, offends, degrades or humiliates.

Harassment is linked to discrimination laws and thus focuses on the age, sex, race, disability, religion or sexuality of an individual. And these problems are widespread, with 13% of respondents to a CIPD survey experiencing harassment or bullying in the past 12 months.

Employers' responsibilities to prevent harassment extend to social gatherings organised by the employer, such as work parties or outings.

A ruling by the House of Lords opened the way for many more people who are bullied at work to sue their employers for damages. No longer will workers have to prove that their employers knew or should have known they were being bullied and there is now no need to prove the bullying caused them to suffer from a recognised psychiatric illness.

Discrimination

Legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability, sex and race is now well established in the workplace. Legislation introduced in 2003 made it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, religion or belief.

Age discrimination, however, remains a significant problem at work, with a recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey revealing that 59% of employees believe they had been disadvantaged because of their age. It is estimated that age discrimination costs the economy between £19 billion and £31 billion a year in lost output.

On 1 October 2006, the Employment Equality (Age) regulations came into force. These regulations made it unlawful to discriminate against employees and job seekers because of their age.

Internet misuse

It is important for employers to put in place a policy that regulates the use of the internet and email. Usage may be for business purposes only or for some predefined private use. The terms of the policy should be made known to the employees and due warning given that it will be enforced. If pornography is accessed, there is a real danger that it will amount to harassment of employees who are aware of it, even if they do not see the images.

Disciplinary

Employees guilty of misconduct may be dismissed but this would be considered unfair unless fair procedures are followed. In October 2004 a statutory disciplinary procedure was introduced, which applies to dismissal, suspension without pay or demotion, but not to warnings. The procedure has three steps:

  • statement of grounds for action and an invitation to the employee to a meeting;
  • the meeting; and
  • appeal

Employees need to follow the procedure correctly and make all reasonable efforts to attend meetings. A failure on the employee's part to follow any part of the process may lead to a reduction in compensation of up to 50%.

Redundancy

Redundancy, as a fair ground for dismissal, covers situations where an organisation ceases to exist or its location is changing. A redundancy situation will exist where the type of work the employee was employed to do is no longer available, or where fewer employees are required to do that type of work. This covers any situation where the business is continuing but cutbacks are being made.