A word in your shell-like
Times, they are a changing, and not just due to the virus. I know we are all so focused on the lockdown at the moment that it’s easy to forget that there are other things going on in the world, but many laws and legal practices are being made, changed and, of course, broken, in much the same way as they did before.
For example, when I was new into law, verbal warnings were common. You’d take a member of staff on one side, have a quiet, slightly informal word with them, put an attendance note on their file and then send them on their way. Whilst from a legal point of view it never felt very satisfactory, in many organisations this was how it was done, because this was how it had always been done.
It was also common for a company not to have any formal policies or procedures in place, and by the time they realised they needed them, such as when an employee made a complaint or issued Tribunal proceedings, it was often too late. Although this wasn’t ideal, the fallback position was simply to rely on ACAS’s standard rules, which was fine, so long as the business actually stuck to them!
So it was with interest that I learned this week that ACAS has formally removed reference to verbal warnings from it’s guidelines. That doesn’t prevent you from having them in your handbook, and it doesn’t stop you giving them, but it does give a very strong indication that they are not worth the paper that they are not written on. I could probably take that a step further and say that if your business is still giving verbal warnings, or more importantly, plans to rely on verbal warnings given, it increases the chances that a Tribunal is going to see your employment practices as being as up to date as telling you to get your cheque book out to pay the damages claim that is likely to be ordered against you.
So my advice? Move fast to get your employment law businesses practices up to date, sooner rather than later!
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Speedy service.