Is the tail wagging the dog?

Imagine a world where your customer care strategy and marketing plans are entirely confined to making sure you don’t get sued for product liability, misleading publicity or getting sued for price fixing.

Imagine that your packaging, PR, marketing, customer service were all designed by lawyers to make sure you could never do or say anything that meant you would lose in court. What sort of a business would you have? What sort of people would want to be working in it? Would you?

When it comes to employment law, compliance is often seen as the only goal. The business sets its people management goals and policies and then the lawyers look at them for compliance. Compliance can then become an unwanted burden on the business, imposing bolted on ‘solutions’ to legal problems that are viewed as externally imposed.

Many organisations have contractually binding statements that mean they are always in breach of something. Others set out worthy aspirational statements that only serve to frustrate individuals who are being treated in a very different way.

The compliance mode often puts HR in the ‘no department’ forcing HR to say ‘you can’t do that’. Managers can try to bypass HR in order to ‘get something done’ creating further needs for control and systems and more ‘you can’t do that’. Other managers do nothing, knowing they cannot comply with ‘best practise’ and leave underperforming staff alone to the detriment of all concerned.

Creating good relationships with your employees – individually or collectively allows you to build bridges and dialogues that avert most legal problems. People claim unfair dismissal because they feel unfairly treated, not because they have analysed the finer points of law. We often forget that the under performer can be viewed as a burden by their colleagues who will feel unfairly treated despite the fact they rarely sue about this.

Good employee relations feed into good talent recruitment and retention and keep legal problems at a low level. You can either talk to your employees at work or in tribunal! Either way talk is not cheap.

How does all of this fit into today’s emergency with lay-offs, health scares and redundancies making a mockery of anyone’s longer term plans? This is a great time to start matching the business needs, people management and contractual base of the business to create a tool for success. There simply isn’t the time or staffing for complex processes so now is a good time to create simple documents and procedures that give you the rights and standards that you need to make your business work.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at ways to make employment law work for your business and options for the future. Your comments and questions are welcome.

Add a comment, follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/annabelkaye or email info@irenicon. co.uk with comments, employment law issues and questions you would like to see featured. Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060

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