Many years ago I did a presentation to one of the most fierce critics ever – a group of 12 year olds who were considering a career in law. They asked far reaching and unusual questions (such as is there such a thing as space law – yes, there is) and how much do I earn (none of your business but good on you for asking!)

One of the most interesting questions was, what are the essential skills for being a solicitor, to which I answered that they are not much different from the skills you need to be a parent. They include patience, good communication skills, and the ability to read minds – or at least give the impression that you can.

I was thinking of this late last night, whilst in the middle of a row with my 17 year old son (conducted by social media as all communications with teenagers is done these days). I asked him when he was coming home. His answer was “never”. The problem was that he sent that message from his bed, only I hadn’t heard him come in, so I thought he was still out. I was worried that I’d fall asleep before he got home safely and then when he didn’t come home at all, and the police were questioning me the following morning, I’d instantly be labelled as a bad parent for not knowing where he was. (Perhaps I should add “vivid imagination” to the list of skills). He pointed out that I should have known he was joking, and when I said I wasn’t telepathic, he reminded me of all the times I had caught him out over the years because I WAS telepathic, although I think he actually meant that he thought I was a witch.

Like most parents, I usually did know what they were up to (like knowing that noise is bad, but silence is even worse!) and had eyes in the back of my head as well but that only works when they are little. Being telepathic is actually not a good skill to have as a parent of teenagers.  I don’t actually want to know what is going on in their heads.

As a solicitor, it’s not so much whether I am or am not telepathic, but of recognising that it is only necessary to deal with what has been presented to me.

For example, if an employee hands in their notice because they are not being treated well by a company which treatment is having an adverse effect on their health issues, that is only a significant problem for the employer if they knew or should reasonably have been aware that the employee had relevant health issues. It is not for the employer to ask, it is for the employee to volunteer.

Similarly, if the employee has a disability that requires reasonable adjustment, the employer is only obliged to make those reasonable adjustments if they are aware of the disability. You could take that a step further and say that it’s not just for the employee to say they have a disability but also what reasonable adjustments they might need. The employer cannot automatically be expected to know.

Having said that, if an employee felt unable to talk to their employer about their illness and needs, or perhaps didn’t know who to speak to or what the process was, the employee may have grounds for a complaint. The employer cannot be expected to be telepathic, but it is their responsibility to encourage good communication.

An employee can also argue that if an employer takes action against an employee for poor performance, such as dismissing them or failing/refusing to pay a contractual bonus, the employer is only justified in doing so if they knew of the employers’ concerns. The concerns should have been put to the employee, who should have been given sufficient opportunity to respond to them (rebut or accept them as appropriate) and given sufficient time to remedy the situation before any action was taken. Put simply, if you use “poor performance” as a defence to a claim for unfair constructive dismissal, but never raised it with the employee during their employment, a Tribunal is unlikely to believe you!

Which means that two way communication is essential in both employment and parenting, although you might not always like what you hear!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. I know what you’re thinking!