Horrid HR - A Sad and Very Long Tale

Some of our clients are signed up with large companies who offer HR by phone. The key selling point is that their service is supported by insurance in the case of a tribunal claim. The advice given is often a bit on the soft side. As we're known for our robust approach, what tends to happen is that our clients come to us first for practical face-to-face advice, then phone the companies in question to try to persuade them to apply it. (They have to do that to ensure they remain covered by insurance). It can be very hard work and often (to our considerable frustration and that of our clients) they try to avoid taking a firm approach and pussy foot around.

A client who is signed up with one such company, X, has been trying to dismiss a woman on grounds of capability for almost five months now. There's no doubt that the employee won't be coming back to work, but will Company X act robustly? Will they heck as like...... after four and a half months of not achieving very much, I had to get very Headmistressy with them last week, and I'm delighted to say that some progress is now being made. While there is no legal duty placed upon an employer to get a doctor’s report, we are expected to do so if at all possible.

We wrote to the doctor in October. Nothing happened. We started calling the doctor’s surgery in November. Nothing happened. In December we started getting conflicting messages about the report being done/ not being done, being sent/ about to be sent. We didn’t feel too full of confidence and predictably, nothing happened. In early January we still hadn’t received anything so we wrote to the employee’s doctor and said we would make our own arrangements for her to see a doctor and there would be no need for her GP to produce a report.

The lady in question is something of a ducker and diver. She wouldn’t reply to letters or return phone calls and claimed that hand delivered letters constitute harassment. Company X accepted this without apparent question; I don’t agree with the argument. After several failed attempts to get her to see a medical officer of our choosing, we wrote again and said that if we hadn’t heard from her by close on 9th February, we would have to hold a formal meeting.

If we couldn’t find a way of making reasonable adjustments for her, this would start the process to dismiss. She didn’t reply to our letter, but as if by magic, a copy of the questionnaire sent to the doctor and allegedly completed by him, was faxed to us. We tried to get the original of the report, which was largely illegible, though it did say that the employee could not do certain things required in her job role.

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