Mock tribunals can help firms make a strong case if faced with the real thing
TRIBUNALS were originally designed to be quick and fairly informal but because of increased employment legislation they have become increasingly long, formal and often complex.
To give human resources professionals and employers an insight into what actually goes on when an employment dispute can't be settled any other way, mock tribunals are a useful tool.
To be effective, they need to be as realistic as possible, examining hot topics or controversial areas of law.
For example, at our event next week, we will look at an unfair dismissal claim following the posting of comments on a social networking site.
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The format will follow that of a real hearing.
Although team members will take the part of the employee and employer, we do not follow any prescribed script, as occurs sometimes.
That means questions from the judge and the advocates will be a surprise.
As the tribunal begins, attendees will receive a bundle of the case papers seen by the judge.
I'll talk through them before the hearing starts, highlighting the key points a judge would consider.
During the tribunal, various issues will come to light.
One common mistake is for employers to put forward too much information, bringing several witnesses to testify to the employee's actions. This can often be irrelevant.
It's a popular misconception that the judge will decide whether the company was morally right to dismiss an employee.
Instead, he will assess whether the employer's actions were those of a reasonable company.
To do this, he will examine the company's disciplinary policies and procedures, establishing whether they have been followed and if they are suitable and up to date.
This is where many employers' cases fall down. One of the most frequent mistakes is failing to keep proper records during the disciplinary process.
Time pressures will often lead firms to use policies downloaded from the internet and then forget about them or fail to keep them up to date as legislation and workplace practices change.
After hearing all the evidence, we will adjourn to discuss the merits of the case and attendees will be asked to give their verdicts. I'll then make my judgment and put forward the reasons behind the decision.
Overall, the biggest lesson to be learnt on the day is the importance of having a robust disciplinary policy and ensuring that it is always followed and documented correctly. By doing so, businesses can greatly reduce the risk of appearing at a real tribunal.
The mock tribunal takes place at Quad, Derby, on Tuesday, December 4. Call 01332 331 631 or e-mail email@example.com for more information.