Chances are, you’ve already heard about this morning’s landmark at the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that the fees which have been imposed upon employees in order to take a case to tribunal are unlawful. Not only will such fees be prohibited going forwards, all fees already paid are to be reimbursed.
To say the impact this ruling will have upon organisations will be dramatic could be, if anything, an understatement.
A very different workplace landscape
Back in 2013, when the Fees Order came in, I, like many of us, was also working in HR. Prior to this, the number of claims lodged with the Employee Tribunal was almost four times the level it has now dropped to. It made for a very different workplace landscape. There was the administrative burden, of dealing with a much greater volume of claims – some of which, inevitably, would be weak, yet still required the same amount of effort in order to assimilate and respond.
But I also believe there was a degree of rigour in ensuring employees were treated fairly and appropriately, which I fear, despite the many advances we have made within our businesses since, that some organisations may have lost, using the Fees Order as an excuse to take their eye off the ball.
Behaving as decent human beings
On a human level, it should be really quite simple. Treating our employees well shouldn’t be about compliance with legislation, or a fear of employment tribunal claims. Treating our employees well should be nothing more than us behaving as decent human beings; about acting towards others as we would wish them to act towards us. We have a whole raft of legislation which deals with how to manage conflicts between employer and employee. Almost none of that would be necessary if we could simply consistently behave towards each other in a manner which was fair, compassionate, and transparent.
Sadly, though, it remains necessary, because of those organisations which are still run by fear and blame. I have been lucky enough to have only ever worked for great employers over the last decade. I know from the frequent soundbites that I hear from others that that is still, regrettably, not the norm.
Great employee experiences
Which is completely illogical, because we know that it is not the organisations run by fear and blame which excel. By contrast, it is those organisations which consistently deliver great employee experiences, designed to engage their employees, which exceed their targets and outperform their competitors. If your employees are afraid to come to work and afraid to take risks in pursuit of achieving something incredible… then you are doing something very wrong.
Back to today’s ruling. Whilst there may be some HR professionals out there who will view it with concern, I would urge you to take only positives from it. It is a victory for fairness, equality, and decent treatment for all. Inevitably, we will see the number of tribunal claims start to rise again. But if we are already doing the right things by our people, for all of our people, then these will be unfounded, and as such we have nothing to fear.
The single biggest competitive advantage we have
For those organisations who have perhaps used the Fees Order as an excuse to cut corners, it is time to get your house in order. Employees are not merely an organisational asset who can be treated as such. They are people: real, dynamic, passionate and entirely unique people. And, as such, they are so much more than just an organisational asset. They are, when we get it right, the biggest single competitive advantage each organisation has. Look after your people… and they will look after you. They will look after your business, the business they are proud to be a part of. And they will deliver results: time, and time, and time again.