/ Possible H&S Investigation, looking for advice

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So, received a phone call from our companies independent H&S company who visit our site periodically to carry out H&S inspections.

Generally it's only very minor things that get picked up and are easily sorted, however the phonecall this time was to request my attendance to an interview over an "ongoing safety issue" at a site I am responsible for. Apparently there have been a few complaints made and a discussion in our head office has led to this investigation being started. The incident can't be too serious as the interview isn't until Friday lunchtime but I'm getting pretty stressed out over what it could be.

To my knowledge there is nothing that has happened onsite, I have spoke with the main contractor, they have spoken with their own H&S people and no concerns have been raised over either my own, or my men's conduct onsite by any party on the site or even the surrounding neighbouring properties.

My office will give me no details of what the incident/s are concerning and all I have been told is that I must attend this interview on Friday to give a statement and that I am either partially or wholly accountable.

Allegedly lawyers are involved (not sure if its precautionary at this stage or if they just like making folk sweat) which is making me extremely cagey about giving an interview without some form of legal counsel present.

I'm concerned incase I am getting made a scapegoat for something, or incase I've well and truly ballsed something up and no-ones wanting to tell me.

Naturally the first words out my mouth are going to be "without prejudice" but I'm wondering if this is going to be enough?

I've asked as many folk onsite that may have any involvement in the issue and either they're all keeping me in the dark or (as i believe) they don't have a clue either!!!!

Was wondering if the usual collective wisdom of the forum could provide any helpful guidance on this matter?

Sure you understand that for obvious reasons this is getting posted under a new account...

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Oceanrower - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

1. "Without prejudice" does not mean what you clearly think it means and if you use it in this context, and anyone there has even a smattering of legal knowledge, you will look foolish.

2. Due to the above, get legal representation, quick.

Post edited at 19:07
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off-duty - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Get a lawyer. Don't give "a statement" in the course of an interview.

Generally (as a rule of thumb) statements are provided by witnesses, interviews are conducted with suspects.

As detailed, "without prejudice" is pretty meaningless.

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rogersavery - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Email the office or H&S company (or both) asking for more details before the meeting so you can prepare anything that is needed.

keep a copy of the reply (either hard copy or email it to a personal account (but only if your company allows this))

either you will get a response telling you exactly what it is all about, or if they don’t provide a response or respond but don’t tell you the details then that will strengthen any future case for wrongful dismal.

And remember if you are being kept in the dark then how can you be accountable for something you know nothing about. The only way you can be held accountable is if they can prove you knew about the issue and did nothing or made it worse.

If the meeting goes really bad you might not have access to company documents/emails after the meeting so take hard copies of anything that might be relevant ie previous emails about h&s issues at that site and your responses etc

Post edited at 19:14
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marsbar - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

So, you are responsible for health and safety, but you haven't been made aware of an issue?  

That doesn't make sense.  

Get proper advice asap. 

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balmybaldwin - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Get on to your union if you have one. If not get legal advice, and get a loyal trusted colleague to accompany you and make notes

I would suggest that if they have received complaints but have failed to pass them on to the person responsible to be investigated/corrected that it is whoever received these complaints who is at fault for any breeches of H&S.

It smacks to me of manoeuvring for constructive dismissal.

Not knowing what your position is, it's hard to say how to react.

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wintertree - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

The complaints that were made - why did they not come to you as a part of the normal reporting?

  • Because you are not in the management reporting line for such H&S complaints.  If that’s the case, it seems unlikely any blame should be pinned on you.  I might go to an interview by myself in this case.
  • Because you are in the reporting line but they concern you directly or indirectly and you’re under a microscope.   I would not go to the interview without a union colleague or a solicitor.

Who is conducting the interview?  Your employer or their H&S contractor?

For the interview: Remember the golden rules, keep calm, keep notes, if in doubt or flustered pause the conversation - ask for a rephrasing/clarification or have a drink from the thermos or bottle you took in for that purpose.  Use the moment to calm down and think about what they asked.  Try not to get in to mind games of guessing what they’re looking for.  Dress up a couple of notches from normal in smartness.  

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Ridge - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

This sounds extremely fishy. You've been summoned, via a phonecall, by an auditor employed by your company, to attend an interview, lawyers may be allegedly be involved but your company says you are already liable but not what the issue is?

email your manager, tell him you require a detailed breakdown of what this alleged issue is, why you have been 'summoned', and what your company alleges you are liable for. Tell them you are more than happy to attend, with legal (or union) representation, at a time which allows you time to discuss the matter with your legal representative. If it's a disciplinary issue tell them you want the allegations in writing and a copy of the companies disciplinary procedure.

The 'independent H&S company’ will have no enforcement powers and can't compel you to attend. This whole situation sounds very, very, dodgy.

edit. If it were me I'd be tempted to tell them it sounds serious, and I'll be contacting the Health & Safety Executive to ensure a full investigation of what appears to be a systemic issue with the company's processes is undertaken (N.B. That's just me and I'm an old git who Isn't desperate to keep his job).

Post edited at 19:25
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Wainers44 - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Hang on, so a company you are not employed by wants to talk to you about a matter they are investigating, but they won't tell you what it is?

The responsibility to comply with employment law rests with your employer and there are laid down processes for anything that comprises a disciplinary hearing. Common practice says this inc your right to have someone accompany you and a right to know the nature of the issue.

I would take a union rep or trusted colleague with the right common sense, not a lawyer. 

Note carefully what is said, especially what the purpose and what the possible outcome of the investigation is and take it from there. 

Alternative as they dont employ you is to politely tell them to get stuffed and ask your line manager or whoever you report to for a meet to discuss it. 

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Duncan Bourne - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I would suggest that this is an investigatory meeting (as you have not been made aware of the nature of the issues). Therefore they would be unlikely to do anything at the meeting but the results of the meeting may be influencial in taking it further if there is a charge of misconduct.

You must by law be informed of any charges brought against you and be given the opportunity to defend yourself.

http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2174

Nevertheless if you have a union rep take them in with you to ensure balance

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Stichtplate on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Ridge:

In a previous job I was involved in several internal investigations into accidents at work including one that had to be reported under RIDDOR. Never heard of the sort of carry on you're describing. Have you upset someone senior? Is your management team noted for nefarious dealings? Whatever, sounds like you're being set up for a fall of some kind and, as others have advised, I'd cannon up accordingly. Seek proper legal advice immediately. 

Edit: If it's not too much of an imposition, let us know what the deal is. Genuinely intrigued.

Post edited at 19:37
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Ridge - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Stichtplate:

> Have you upset someone senior? Is your management team noted for nefarious dealings?

Yes to both, all the time, but I'm not the OP

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Stichtplate on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Ridge:

> >A. Have you upset someone senior? B. Is your management team noted for nefarious dealings?

> Yes to both, all the time, but I'm not the OP

HaHa, if A follows B, then it's to your credit.

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blurty - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

This potentially sounds like a load of shit heading your way I'm afraid

looking on the bright side it could be that they just need your help to defend the company's position and they are inept wankers

They should tell you what it's all about so you can prepare for a constructive meeting. If they won't tell you what's going on you could get on to your line manager, and get them to sort it out. If he or she is not supportive of you then involve HR.

Asking  them under what procedure they wish to talk with you would be a good starting point, be open that their cloak and dagger stuff is making you worry and you want to constructively engage to sort out whatever the problem is.

Good luck

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Steve Clark - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If I were to guess, I’d say this is probably claim lodged by an employee (or agency labour) about something on the site. Possibly an unreported accident or some kind of exposure (dust, noise, havs etc.) They’ve gone to a solicitor, it’s arrived at your employer, they’ve sent it to their insurer and their H&S advisor/consultant to sort out. They will be following a process to collect the facts from people involved to decide the best way to deal with it.

The lack of main contractor awareness seems to rule out HSE involvement at this stage. They’d go straight to the big fish for maximum effect.

If it’s any comfort, a civil claim isn’t going to be any better for your employer as a business if they sack you. Just be aware of someone just above you pushing shit downhill to protect their job. 

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

As always folks thank you very much for the advice and replies.

Much of the advice is along the lines I was thinking but it’s good to hear from other sources.

The company I work for is quite small and owned by a few partners, one of whom I spoke with today briefly in the matter and was told that he wasn’t free to discuss the matter further (it was that person that informed me lawyers were involved).

Said owner is a compulsive liar, a bully in the workplace as well as being a sneaky fecker hence my concerns.

The HR in the company is a joke as if you have a complaint it’s generally against the owner and the attitude amongst the other directors is simply “That’s just the way “X” is...”

Basically if you don’t like it you can quit.

Currently looking at other options as I’m sick of the same old BS but want to leave on my terms for financial reasons as well as not giving them

the satisfaction at forcing me out.

I have already emailed the H&S person dealing with the matter this morning and followed up with a phone call. (A bcc copy of my email has been sent to my personal email address as well).

I’ve been told that I will get more information tomorrow on the matter by the H&S person.

I’ve worked professionally with them for a number of years and am on good terms so I believe they will play straight with me.

i’ve also been verbally instructed by my director that I just meet with the H&S people.

There’s a chance that this is my Director pissing about to try and stick something on the Main Contractor to try and screw them over a bit (they love a good lawyers letter).

Don’t have any union or a colleague that can attend but think it’ll just be a case of short, simple, carefully worded answers and make sure I don’t get rushed.

It’s a ball ache working for these types of companies......

Again folks thanks for the advice, will keep you posted.  

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daWalt on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

UK based (not sure if you are - I have my suspicions) it is incumbent on everyone to take responsibility for H&S. what this means in practice is if anyone sees anything undafe, no matter how junior they are, they should take action immediately. this would mean highlighting the issue to the person(s) themselves and those in charge.

it's Wednesday evening [ here any way ;-) ], if the issue was a serious threat to life they would look like a right bunch of proper charlies if someone came a cropper on the Thursday while they had scheduled to speak to you about it on Friday but wouldn't tell you what it is.

being related to an past incident is no reason to withhold - you would do the same thing the same way again and that could well be today, tomorrow or the next day. a secretive approach to safety issues helps no one  and is potentially dangerous.

I would point this out to them and demand an answer.

and in going to speak to them, get them to say what they want to say. say nowt in return and tell them you'll get back to them. there is no item that warrants an immediate answer or commitment - other than to stop work immediately for safety reasons.

Post edited at 20:31
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Stichtplate on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> Don’t have any union or a colleague that can attend but think it’ll just be a case of short, simple, carefully worded answers and make sure I don’t get rushed.

If there have been no injuries and no significant near misses then it's hard to see how they can stick anything much on you. Say nowt and hopefully you'll be right. Good luck.

Post edited at 20:30
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daWalt on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Wainers44:

> Hang on, so a company you are not employed by wants to talk to you about a matter they are investigating, but they won't tell you what it is?

absolutely.

tell them you can't attend because you're at work.

I am a wee bit at a loss as to what compels you to attend.......

Post edited at 20:42
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BnB - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If they won't give you information in advance and you're unwilling to invoke legal support for reasons financial or even not to appear guilty, then I'd be inclined to attend the meeting (so complying with your employer's demand) and ask them to lay out the circumstances and any questions. Say nothing until they have finished. If it all turns out to be something minor then go along with the requests politely. If it sounds more serious, note their concerns and queries in writing and then promise to answer all their questions within a reasonable period having given due consideration to all the issues. Then leave the meeting. As long as you respond in a timely manner, potentially following professional advice, you will have shown compliance with the process.

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Timmd on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

A relative mentioned that in a trial involving Richard Branson, RB had written down what had happened or what had been said straight after the event, and how this was adequate enough as evidence.

Apparently hey did the same thing themselves when involved in something vaguely nefarious, but it didn't turn out to be needed. Making some kind of written or taped record of what is said may be a plan.

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Ian W - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

As others have said, this looks dodgy.

In addition to taking notes, and a representative / witness or whoever, record it, rather than make notes, although pausing things to take notes can put them off their flow. I suggest recording as there can be no doubt later (tribunal etc) what was and wasn't said. Notes are just notes, you may need verbatim. Most phones have recording capability. And make them know you are recording it, and intend using the recording.

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Yanis Nayu - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Sounds weird. This is not in response to an accident then? 

I would treat it as the early stages of a disciplinary issue and act accordingly. 

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Yanis Nayu - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to BnB:

> If they won't give you information in advance and you're unwilling to invoke legal support for reasons financial or even not to appear guilty, then I'd be inclined to attend the meeting (so complying with your employer's demand) and ask them to lay out the circumstances and any questions. Say nothing until they have finished. If it all turns out to be something minor then go along with the requests politely. If it sounds more serious, note their concerns and queries in writing and then promise to answer all their questions within a reasonable period having given due consideration to all the issues. Then leave the meeting. As long as you respond in a timely manner, potentially following professional advice, you will have shown compliance with the process.

This. 

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Dax H - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Some very good advice on here but BnB has the best.  Attend the meeting and say nothing until they have laid out their case then tell them you will get back to them. As others have said record the meeting.

Something definitely smells here. 

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Ian W - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

And as an addition to above, and I'm sure BnB will concur, if HR are involved, assume they are out to get you, and treat everything with suspicion. Follow his advice, and only answer direct questions you are absolutely certain of. Dont offer opinions or get into general discussions. Take away any questions, and make sure your subsequent answers are cast iron.

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Stichtplate on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Dax H:

You're on dodgy ground making an audio recording, unless both parties agree. Making contemporaneous notes is wise and gives you a little extra thinking time.

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dread-i - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

As has been mentioned above, I'd record it on my phone. You can be up front about it, which may or may not change the tone of the meeting. Or, you can be subtle and just lay your phone on the table, having set it to record before hand. If you do this, then put it into airplane mode first. If you get a call or txt the recording screen may show up when the phone rings. If you're the sort that takes a laptop everywhere, you can record audio on your laptop as well.

I'd listen to what they have to say. Repeat back key points, to be clear that you have understood it. Try and defer any tricky answers, 'I'd need to check x,y,z before I could give an accurate answer'.

Post edited at 21:45
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Ian W - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Stichtplate:

And if the other party disagrees, then note that fact.

Interestingly there is case history where tribunals have accepted evidence from covertly obtained recordings in such meetings. What they will likely not admit is evidence from recordings of private conversations, so only use that which was recordedin the meeting itself.

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Stichtplate on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Ian W:

> And if the other party disagrees, then note that fact.

> Interestingly there is case history where tribunals have accepted evidence from covertly obtained recordings in such meetings. What they will likely not admit is evidence from recordings of private conversations, so only use that which was recorded in the meeting itself. 

I didn't know that. This was brought up on numerous occasions during disciplinary meetings or H&E investigations and HR always reacted in a similar manner to vampires confronted with sunlight. In retrospect this was wholly in keeping with company management style. Personally speaking, I was of the mind that if you're being up front and professional, what's the problem?

Post edited at 21:58
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EarlyBird - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

As has been pointed out elsewhere by people whose knowledge of H&S is probably superior to mine the correct culture around H&S is one of openness and joint responsibility. As such I would expect you to be aware of any serious H&S failure for which you could be considered culpable and if you are not aware of any such issues then I find it hard to see how you could be considered culpable - unless you had been negligent and deliberately ignored an issue which you say you have not. If you were not aware of an issue how could you be expected to appropriately address that issue?

I also wonder why the independent H&S company is conducting an interview with you in circumstances where you have been told you are "partially or wholly accountable" for some unspecified failure - this sounds like an investigation that could lead to subsequent disciplinary action. If there is a problem with your conduct that is a matter between you and your employer and there are clear processes laid out in employment law to deal with that. It seems unusual for an outside company to be conducting an investigation that could lead to disciplinary action - if that's what it is - unless it was a responsibility delegated to them by your employer, and you have said that the investigation has been initiated following discussions in your office. If your employer has delegated this responsibility it doesn't absolve them of the responsibility to inform you, their employee, of the nature of that investigation and the potential outcomes.

If I were you I would ask your employer in writing what the nature of the investigation is and the potential outcomes. If they don't confirm its nature then that forms part of your evidence in any subsequent process. As has been said elsewhere keep a personal copy of any information or evidence you feel might be pertinent. I would also keep a written record of the process to date recording times, dates, what was said, by whom and any witnesses, also keep a copy of any emails etc.

I would also suggest you go and have a look at the ACAS website as that gives you a good overview of what you should expect in a disciplinary process. You can also give them a ring and they will give you advice.

Finally, I would identify the Trade Union that is active in your industry. I would join that union straight away then give them a ring and ask to speak to the officer that covers your area (industrially and/or geographically). Sometimes a union won't represent you retroactively but that is not always the case and they will almost certainly still give you some advice.

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Mark Edwards - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Take a recording device (mobile phone or Dictaphone) and an eraser. Place it on the table with the microphone side resting on the eraser. Inform them that you are recording the conversation for reference if required. If they object ask them the reason, then decide if you turn it off or not.

Why the eraser? I’ve been in a similar situation and the first recording was inaudible due to someone tapping the table leg with their foot. The first words the second recorded was “you bastard” being said so quietly I didn’t hear it at the time.

The suggestion of making notes is OK but in the heat of the moment will it contain all the nuanced wording and who’s to say your notes are a true representation?

Stay calm and try not to say anything unless you can really think through the answer (unlikely at the time).

Regard the first meeting as an information gathering exercise only. If there is anything they want you to answer, tell them you will answer their question after taking advice and in writing.

Good luck.

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Ian W - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Stichtplate:

Actually, covert is probably too strong a word but evidence so obtained has been accepted (i suspect the companys case would have been weak though....); i'd always advise saying " i intend to record this meeting, do you object?" if they do, then a tribunal will not be sympathetic to the refuser.

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tom_in_edinburgh - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If it was me I'd go but I would ask to record the interview and for them to state on the record what the scope of the interview was and whether they were investigating me personally for anything which could involve civil or criminal liability.

If they said they were investigating something which could involve civil or criminal liability I would refuse to take part without legal representation.  I would also ask them to reimburse any legal expenses I incurred in order to take part in their process.

If it didn't involve civil or criminal liability and they had not brought a lawyer into the room I'd co-operate but I would be extremely cautious and ready to end the interview the second turned nasty.

I did a few expert witness gigs in the US and got trained to give depositions to opposing counsel.   The main thing is provide the minimum responsive answer.   If they ask 'do you have the time' you say 'yes'.  You don't tell them what the time is, if they want that they need to ask 'what is the time'.   Every piece of information they get is the starting point for another sequence of questions so give them as little as possible.   It's their interview, they are against the clock, you can take your time. 

 If a question sounds unfair (e.g. 'when did you stop beating your wife') then don't answer, complain about the question and make them rephrase.   If there is any doubt about the meaning of the question make them be specific.  Always take a couple of seconds between them asking a question and saying anything.    Use it to think about whether the question is legitimate and what they might be after.   Pausing also prevents them getting a rhythm going and controlling the pace.   If they take a long pause after you respond then you don't need to fill the silence by volunteering more information.   If they want more information they need to ask another question.

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Andy Johnson on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Get a lawyer. Not a lawyer who represents your employer - a lawyer who represents you. If you're in a union then they may be able to help.

Don't say anything, ask any questions, attend any meetings, send any emails, or do anything, until you've spoken to your lawyer. Don't trust anyone to be on your side, except close friends and family, and especially not HR people.

And don't post stuff about this on internet forums for random unqualified  people to read and comment on. Might be worth asking UKC to delete this entire thread and your user ID.

Good luck.

Post edited at 23:24
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EarlyBird - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Andy Johnson:

HR are a management tool - and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense (well, not entirely)  - so that is good advice. There is advice the OP can get short of consulting a lawyer, with the resulting expense, through ACAS and potentially through a union. One important consideration for the OP when it comes to instructing a lawyer is that if this is a process with the potential for dismissal (a disciplinary process) - and that is ambiguous at the moment  - then the OP has the right to be accompanied in meetings by a Trade Union Representative but not by a lawyer. 

Post edited at 23:43
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Ridge - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Ian W:

> Actually, covert is probably too strong a word but evidence so obtained has been accepted (i suspect the companys case would have been weak though....); i'd always advise saying " i intend to record this meeting, do you object?" if they do, then a tribunal will not be sympathetic to the refuser.

Recording an interview is a contentious subject. I'm actual not sure refusal would go against them. Note taking is pretty much accepted.

A less than ethical person might record it anyway, then write it up and claim it as their note taking during the meeting...

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SenzuBean - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Steve Clark:

> If I were to guess, I’d say this is probably claim lodged by an employee (or agency labour) about something on the site. Possibly an unreported accident or some kind of exposure (dust, noise, havs etc.)

That's very worrying - dust and particulates are a serious issue. They'll take him into the interview room, interrogate him, and ask "but what have you done with grit!"

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Duncan Bourne - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to daWalt:

You raise a good point. If it is a H&S issue has that issue been addressed? It would be highly out of order for a H&S issue to be raised, that was serious enough to warrent investigation, and not inform anyone what it was about for a week pending such investigation. Say for example scaffolding was built using dodgy materials then the problem would be addressed first and an investigation follow. or if chemicals were being stored incorrectly. As site manager these issues should have been brought to their attention.

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Ridge - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to SenzuBean:

Wheres a 'groan' button when you need one.

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Pete Pozman - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Don't trust HR. Have someone with you. If it looks like a long process is starting up walk away on your own terms  

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Snyggapa - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

One thought - check your house insurance, credit cards, even car insurance and if you have any "premium" bank accounts to see if you have any kind of legal assistance cover. House insurance if you have it is maybe the most likely bet - they may have a "legal helpline" that you can call if nothing else and often they cover all family members not just the policy holder, if that's not you

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Billhook - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

As I understand it you've been invited to a meeting by a company who does not employ you?

So this IS NOT a disciplinary meeting'   

You cannot be disciplined by any one other than your employer.  (and if it was he must give you warning of the nature of the meeting the charges etc., etc., beforehand, right to be accompanied (by an employee/colleague/union rep. only) and so on.- failure to follow ACAS employment law guidelines  will more often or not result in things going bad for the employer!)  And further more there must have been an investigation beforehand and this would normally involve  the subject being interviewe

  All they appear to have asked is for you  to attend a meeting over something you are, or maybe responsible for.  Your boss may not know much more himself.  If its not serious why should he?  The bit about your area of responsibility could simply be referring to a letter or phone call he's had saying they would like you present.

Your boss has told you that you should go. So go.

If you discover the meeting is going to be about something you may have had a potentially damaging part to play, ask if you can record it by your phone.  It is  likely they'll say; No, in which say you'll be taking notes for your own record.  That will slow it down to a pace which will give you plenty of time to think.  It is not 'illegal' to record meetings but you will get no where if you insist or try to record the meeting.  It is their premises and they can dictate the terms of the meeting - but it won't do you any harm to ask)

The meeting may, however be about a potential disciplinary matter of someone else in their company?  They now wish you to interview you so that your evidence may or may not be used in any disciplinary action against someone else.  I wouldn't necessarily inform someone about the purpose of this meeting unless I thought it terribly necessary.

Either way, you've got good advice how to handle the meeting from other posters - the less you say, if you think this is more about you, the better.

Do let us know the outcome.

Post edited at 07:55
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jkarran - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Surprise birthday party?

More seriously: I don't see that you have a choice but to go find out what it's all about. Do you have a union rep you can speak to or will your employer provide representation? I suspect until you know what it's about you're stuck with waiting, listening and saying little.

jk

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wercat on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I'd be inclined to ask for a written transcript to be made and supplied to you immediately/as soon as possible after the hearing in the event that it is anything serious.  One that can be read back to you at the end of the proceedings to check.  This will show that you are serious and covering yourself without being unduly combative.  You could still take your own notes to show you will be able to challenge an incorrect record.

This will cost the enemy time and effort but is entirely justifiable and without their compliance you can challenge the propriety of the proceedings

I did this before my redundancy meetings a few years ago and it was accepted by the organisation as quite natural given it was just me and a few of them.

Post edited at 11:31
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Ridge - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

On the subject of recording the meeting, IIRC you have to have the consent of the other party and they can refuse. Any tribunal can't infer a negative intent from that refusal. If you put a recorder on the table and they refuse to consent you're sat there like a lemon and it's a 'victory' for them, which puts you on the back foot.

Contemporaneous notes are the best option, (and if you happen to find a recorder has switched itself on somewhere, then that helps you write them up legibly later...).

I'm going to have to disagree with Billhook. This is not a normal way to approach someone to gather evidence, even if you're not the subject of the allegation. Make sure you note the dates and times of any conversations, who was present, and what was said from the point you got the initial phone call. Print off all emails (or bcc/forward them to yourself if that doesn't fall foul of some company rule regarding sending corporate emails home). Also get copies of every H&S audit the other company has ever done on the site in question, plus any correspondence. Keep the copies at home in case you're suddenly escorted from the premises.

I'd also email all your directors and the H&S company involved stating you are extremely concerned that there appears to have been a H&S breach at the site, and that you all have a duty of care to rectify the situation immediately. That puts them on the spot if they're refusing to provide pertinent information.

Post edited at 11:31
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DancingOnRock - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If lawyers are involved possibly a third party is suing for something that’s happened in the past. 

We had a guy drop a spanner and it made someone jump. 5 years later they sued for injuries. There’s nothing in the accident book but also no risk assessment of the job being done but a record of the job being done.

The company settled out of court. 

Ultimately as long as your people are doing risk assessments and method statements as they should then it’s not going to be your problem. 

I suspect it’s something as mundane as this has been picked up by the Audit and they’ll want changes to be made. 

As you know, a serious breech would have had the H&S down on site with work stopped. 

Post edited at 11:44
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As ever folks I am extremely grateful for the advice given thus far, this morning I received a phonecall from the H&S person leading the investigation.

This was after i emailed saying I was concerned and stressed about the whole affair and wanted a note of what it was about in written response, I am yet to receive a reply to the email though i believe the H&S person was trying to help out.

Apparently the matter is in relation to a couple of risk assessments not being signed off in relation to moving and handling and cutting operations.


At our last audit it was raised that a Risk Assessment was required for laying slabs which got completed and added to the file the same day. As to the cutting RA there is one on file though I'm not sure if an individual has missed it when signing things off.

I'm getting a strong feeling that they're trying to line me up for a disciplinary so they can get rid of me.

I do however feel that I have missed a sign off here or there, over a project that has lasted 5 months with no safety alerts then this is a massive over-reaction.

There are approximately 8 risk assessments, 2 method statements and 3 additional sign off sheets for manual handling, fire risk etc.

In my defence on Mondays, when new inductions and the usual graft of sign offs gets carried out I am expected to have travelled 280 miles (leaving at 4am) to be onsite for 9-9:30am. If I have missed a sign off I think there are some mitigating circumstances...

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balmybaldwin - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> In my defence on Mondays, when new inductions and the usual graft of sign offs gets carried out I am expected to have travelled 280 miles (leaving at 4am) to be onsite for 9-9:30am. If I have missed a sign off I think there are some mitigating circumstances...

Now that sounds like a genuine H&S failure by your boss

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Ridge - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent / rant on this given your post re: Risk Assessments not being signed off.

A Risk Assessment sat in a file, signed off or not, that no one has ever seen or adheres to is absolutely no use to anyone. What is important is the people laying the slabs or doing the cutting have been made aware of the risks, how to mitigate them and the appropriate safe systems of work and PPE.

I'd speak to your contractors and find out what real steps they have taken to ensure the safety of people carrying out these tasks, then get it documented to prove that safety was unaffected by what are minor technical issues. 

If they get snotty I'd then tell the jobsworth with a clipboard, a pristine hi-viz jacket, a spotless hard hat that's no doubt badly fitted and perched on top of their head and an obsession with box-ticking rather than workplace safety to go f*** themselves (but that's just me and not recommended for career retention or progression).

Post edited at 14:02
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MonkeyPuzzle - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

What is the setting-to-work procedure you should be following and what is your place in it? Is it your signature that's missing, or that of the leader of a working party on the site that you have overall responsibility for?

Post edited at 14:22
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MonkeyPuzzle - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to balmybaldwin:

> Now that sounds like a genuine H&S failure by your boss

Unfortunately it's a real blind spot of H&S management between client and contractors. Unless the client or contracting company is happy to pay for a half day on the Monday or for overnight accommodation and overtime on the Sunday then this is really difficult to enforce. Unfortunately for the OP, it's partly his responsibility to ensure they're fit to work, but knowing what the consequences are for saying "No".

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MonkeyPuzzle - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Ridge:

> A Risk Assessment sat in a file, signed off or not, that no one has ever seen or adheres to is absolutely no use to anyone. What is important is the people laying the slabs or doing the cutting have been made aware of the risks, how to mitigate them and the appropriate safe systems of work and PPE.

Agreed, but a fit-for-purpose Risk Assessment, informing a Method Statement, ideally contributed to by the working party but that is at least explained to, understood and signed on to by them is a useful thing.

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two_tapirs - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Don't forget that the role of HR is to protect the company, not the employees.  If they're involved but not involving you, then they're not looking out for you.

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To be honest the company’s that small there’s one person in charge of HR and they are usually overruled/talked/shouted over by the Director/Owner.

As I say this reeks of a storm in a teacup which is what makes me think it’s gearing up to build a case against me. I just want to make sure I don’t shoot myself in the foot!

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MonkeyPuzzle - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If it was found via audit rather than due to an incident then I can only see them issuing you with a performance notice/warning on making sure the RAs are all signed off in future. If they actually give a stuff they should be doing dip checks on site rather than auditing you after the fact.

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DancingOnRock - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I suspect he wants to make sure all the details are right. You’re the person who’s there to ensure he doesn’t get sent to prison if there’s a serious accident.

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Ridge - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

> Agreed, but a fit-for-purpose Risk Assessment, informing a Method Statement, ideally contributed to by the working party but that is at least explained to, understood and signed on to by them is a useful thing.

Absolutely, but in terms of safety it's the implementation that counts. Unfortunately many companies put form filling and establishing impressive processes above the hard work of implementing safety.

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Yanis Nayu - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

What do you mean by sign-offs?

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Deadeye - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Don't attend, or rather respond in writing, copying your manager, saying that you will not attend until they provide written details of the incident/concern in order that you may prepare for the discussion (and take legal advice as required).

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Yanis Nayu - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

I enforce H&S law, and I’m pretty sure all the serious/fatal accidents I’ve investigated have involved the use of contractors. 

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mark burley - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

As a bit of background I work in Machinery Safety and previously have experience as a Health and Safety Rep and Union Rep alongside my role in Production Maintenance.

For me, key is at the moment there has been no Riddor accident and HSE are not involved so no potential criminal proceedings, this can change at any time should there be an incident related to an incomplete or insufficient Risk Assessment. Any statement you give now could be evidence in the future.

Bnb has the best advice, go equipped to understand the position of your employer, take every precaution and say you will give a statement later given you haven't had time to prepare for the meeting.

I would be happy to help further away from the forum if needed though this isn't probably my forte. Also posting with my real name..

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MonkeyPuzzle - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Yanis Nayu:

Sorry, I don't understand what you're saying.

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Yanis Nayu - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

You were talking about blind spots in H&S mgt between clients and contractors - I was pointing out that in every serious or fatal accident I’ve investigated that has been an issue. 

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tev on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Your independent H&S company is paid by your boss to protect him personally from Section 37 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. If they're successful in pinning the blame on you, he'll re-hire them.

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Pete Pozman - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to wercat:

> I'd be inclined to ask for a written transcript to be made and supplied to you immediately/as soon as possible after the hearing in the event that it is anything serious.  

I've seen transcripts that are a complete travesty of what passed. I've also seen people try to refer to guidelines and due process and been completely snow-jobbed. A recording would be very useful. But walk away if it starts to get sticky. Constructive dismissal is very hard to prove or fight. There are many thousands of people who are entangled in Jarndice v Jarndice scenarios. 

I agree you should try to find out what's going on.

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DancingOnRock - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to tev:

That’s extremely harsh. 

What ‘blame’ is there? As far a we know there has been no accident. Although, as in my example above, ‘ambulance chasers’ thrive on people not completing the correct paperwork. 

I’m looking forward to reading that the OP’s worries are unfounded. Otherwise, you can’t pin the blame on one person, the blame lies right at the top of the company. Especially in H&S. 

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EarlyBird - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Pete Pozman:

Your points are good ones. Just because you are supposed to get a fair hearing doesn't mean you will. I've seen stitch up jobs which were plainly that but in which the employer was prepared to take the chance that the employee wouldn't pursue a tribunal claim. And even if you do go to tribunal don't count on it seeing things the way you'd expect - there is often a lot of leeway given to employers.  

However, proper process is important and if your employer, despite challenge (you mustn't construct traps), pursues an improper process it can be your strongest card if you have to go to court.

I would always assume the worst case outcome in these situations and prepare accordingly.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

So the truth will out;

The incident is as follows:

Recently a member of the office staff attendees site for a walk round and to review materials and plant items that were still onsite to arrange for uplift by a transport company.

Said person does not have a CSCS/CPCS card and was in as a visitor only.

I ensured they signed off on the Main Contractors visitor induction sheet and gave them a run down of our own companies induction as well which was also signed off on.

During the course of our walk round I was asked by the main contractor about tidying up some waste materials that was stored on site. To this end I had already arranged for 2 agency labourers to attend site.

1 didn’t show and the other left at 10am due to a “family emergency”.

I now had no spare labour to do the tidying work and a pressing deadline.

The person from the office offered to help and between us we were able to move a few small, light items which were later disposed of by others.

Some materials were left onsite as they were either too large/heavy or buried under other rubbish to remove.

At no point was the person left unattended, at no point did they remove PPE or work in a dangerous area.

However they hadn’t signed off on any Risk Assessments or manual handling assessments. I did say that I carried out a dynamic risk assessment at the time and that the person was at no point pressured to assist me with the works.

However I get the distinct impression that crosshairs are on me.

After the meeting/interview/interrogation it was the usual “How you doing, is there anything we can do to help you?” Chat which felt about as sincere as a kick in the balls.....

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Rick Graham on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

This whole sorry tale suggests that  you would be better off in another job somewhere else.

Best of luck.

Post edited at 15:43
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EarlyBird - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Thanks for the update. I think you're right to worry the crosshairs might be on you. It seems little enough to cook up a case around but it depends on the way they decide to frame it. It might all go away but I would prepare for the worst case scenario if I were you. The circumstances you outline above would be recognisable to your employer if they saw them so, as has been suggested elsewhere, I would ask the moderators to remove this thread as a precaution.

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In reply to EarlyBird:

Given the fact that my heads up my bum just now and there’s not a chance in hell that my work would stumble on this i’m Inclined to leave it up for a few days so I can re-read and better digest some of the suggestions made.

However, come next week I’ll probably ask for it to be wiped.

Thanks again folks.

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Stichtplate on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

This stinks of someone higher up the food chain with too much time on their hands, unnecessarily throwing their weight around (perhaps coupled with a pinch of "how dare anyone in a white collar muck in with the plebs? you're setting a precedent and someone might expect me to get my hands dirty").

To my eyes it looks like you did nothing wrong. At worst a minor infringement in aid of avoiding a bigger one.

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EarlyBird - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

That's your call. I sincerely hope this is a storm in a teacup. For your information I'm a Trade Union professional although I would stress I'm not a legal expert. If you do pull the thread and you feel I could be helpful please do contact me direct. If you're not already in a union do think about joining one - nobody should have to go through this kind of thing without someone on their side.

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In reply to EarlyBird:

Thanks for the offer sir, as I’m sure has become obvious this is in relation to construction industry works. I may message at a later date, as for now however I need to square a few things out in my own head first as i’m Sure you understand.

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EarlyBird - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Indeed. Good luck!

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tev on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> …the blame lies right at the top of the company. Especially in H&S. 

Yes, exactly. That's why the top of the company will lie, cheat, steal and blackmail in order to scapegoat their staff. I don't know how often Section 37 is used in anger, but executive/managerial types are very scared of it. Defaming their own employees (who can't afford to sue for libel) is a much more attractive option than is acquiring a criminal record.

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Billhook - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

The only way you could/should be dismissed for this fairly (the "However they hadn’t signed off on any Risk Assessments or manual handling assessments. I did say that I carried out a dynamic risk assessment at the time and that the person was at no point pressured to assist me with the works".),  would be if this omission would normally be classed as gross misconduct and it was the normal practice in your company that dismissal would normally result.

One important guiding factor in disciplinary matters - if it goes this far, is to ask' 'did the company follow its own procedures.  Are there any written disciplinary procedures?

So if this or similar incidents have happened before what were the outcomes? Gross misconduct & dismissal? , written final warning?, written warning? or simply a verbal warning? This would be the guidance that companies should adhere to in deciding what action, if any, to take.  And the company would/should also take into account any relevant mitigating circumstances.

But you'd normally be told next that it was being investigated as a potentially disciplinary offence and what specifically did you do wrong, and some senior manager would decide whether to take this to the next stage - the disciplinary hearing where you'd be entitled to to fair hearing and be accompanied by a colleague or 'trade union colleague' only. (Basically no outsiders).  ACAS has good guidance on disciplinary hearings and courts do take into account failure to follow ACAS guidelines.

It does seem like a storm in a teacup to me but I'm not familiar with your industry practices. I hope so!

(Ex HR manager and employment law advisor.)

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DancingOnRock - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

That’stge problem when people try to be helpful. Moving a couple of light boxes to help may not be considered by most of us to  be work.

I wouldn’t consider it to be construction work requiring any skills that an office worker wouldn’t already have. All office workers should be trained in manual handling techniques as a matter of course. Even picking up a box of photocopying paper should necessitate that. I’d say the only error you have committed is not asking if they’re trained and just assuming they are. I certainly can’t see that as gross misconduct.

The fact you didn’t allow them into the work area or go anywhere near the heavy materials is evidence of that.

I’d forget it and have a nice weeekend.

We had a guy help lift some electrical panels and one fell and caused some very serious injuries. A company wide email was sent telling all staff not to unload lorries in future. It just needs an appropriate proportionate response.

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marsbar - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If the thread is moved to the pub it isn’t as easy to find and will auto delete after a while.  

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Pete Pozman - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Good luck "Secret Name". Don't stay there too long . You have easy fluency with communication and should be able to promote your talents somewhere else  This business doesn't sound like it's worth the candle anyway  

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Steve Clark - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Sounds like trumped-up bollocks to me!

The fact that you carried-out a low risk activity in a thoughtful and safe way, with guidance and direct supervision but failed to record your risk assessment process is trivial. 

To be brutally honest, the root cause of this is the fact that someone left a load of waste on the site. If the H&S consultant was doing his job properly, he'd be investigating why the shite was left there in the first place. Someone has definitely not followed their RAMS by leaving it there. Why are they not following up on that? If you were responsible for supervising them, then you are at fault for not rectifying it earlier. 

If your company can't see the fact you have intervened in a positive way, I'd get the hell out. 

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Yanis Nayu - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to tev:

S37 is more likely to be used in small companies, where the director(s) tends to have more direct control. 

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In reply to Yanis Nayu:

The company involved does sound like it would fit into this remit.

As previously mentioned the Owner/Director likes to intervene at pretty much every level of the business.

Ciuld you elaborate a little more on this Section 37 clause please?

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Yanis Nayu - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

It’s where a director or manager can be prosecuted for an offence where it can be attributable to their act/omission/negligence. I think I can say with some confidence that the HSE  aren’t going to be bursting the doors in based on the scenario you described. It’s something I’d look at if there had been a serious or fatal accident in a small company where the director was very hands-on. Maybe in a bigger company if there was a complete absence of H&S controls. I would’ve thought what you’d described would most sensibly be dealt with by reminding you what the rules are. 

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Billhook - on 08 Feb 2019
In reply to Yanis Nayu:

"I would’ve thought what you’d described would most sensibly be dealt with by reminding you what the rules are."

My thoughts exactly! 

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RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Don’t listen to me or anybody else here. Giving legal advice to someone is illegal unless you are qualified, even on the internet. Which puts most people on here in breach.

Post edited at 00:17
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DancingOnRock - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to RomTheBear:

No it’s not. 

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captain paranoia - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to RomTheBear:

> Giving legal advice to someone is illegal unless you are qualified, even on the internet

Doesn't that mean you have just broken 'the law'? Or are you qualified to give legal advice...?

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Lusk - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> No it’s not. 


If the mighty Rom says it is, then it is.
Know your place, pleb.

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Oceanrower - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to RomTheBear:

> Don’t listen to me or anybody else here. Giving legal advice to someone is illegal unless you are qualified, even on the internet. Which puts most people on here in breach.

Rom, quick question.

At some point, you have obviously decided to stop making rational comments and, instead, thought you would just make shit up.

Could you tell me why, please?

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FactorXXX - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

> Rom, quick question.
> At some point, you have obviously decided to stop making rational comments and, instead, thought you would just make shit up.
> Could you tell me why, please?

Because he's Rom and that is what he does. 

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RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to captain paranoia:

> > Giving legal advice to someone is illegal unless you are qualified, even on the internet

> Doesn't that mean you have just broken 'the law'? Or are you qualified to give legal advice...?

No. You can give legal information, or legal support, but not give legal advice. Line is blurry I’d admit.

Post edited at 06:39
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RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

> Rom, quick question.

> At some point, you have obviously decided to stop making rational comments and, instead, thought you would just make shit up.

No, what’s irrational is to take legal advice from people who have no idea of what they are talking about on an Internet forum.

Post edited at 06:43
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wintertree - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to RomTheBear:

You appear to have severely misinterpreted the law in terms of your comment, but not as severely as you have misinterpreted whichever posts you think are in breech if the law.  

In particular go and read the Solicitors Act 1974 section 22.

I have seen a lot of posts that are both supportive and insightful (far more so than my earlier post - I have learnt some genuinely useful take away points from this thread).  I haven’t seen any posts that even come close to breaching the Act.

However, should you wish to argue with me, be aware that by your logic you are providing legal advice and are in breech of the law.

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DancingOnRock - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to RomTheBear:

> No, what’s irrational is to take legal advice from people who have no idea of what they are talking about on an Internet forum.

Well, I think you’ve clearly demonstrated  that it’s unwise to take some people’s advice with your last couole of posts!

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John W on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to wintertree:

Could we please use “in breach of” in future?

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Duncan Bourne - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

A few questions:

1. What would have been the alternative to moving the items? Given that the original two workers were unavailible and neither were any other regular workers.

2. Were you pressurised to move said items without the aid of proper staff? Could said items have been cordoned off?

3. Was a senior manager present when the decision to move the items and the moving took place?

From what you have said it seems to be more of a slap on the wrist than a lead up to dismissal unless they have said anything about keeping you informed of the results of the investigation or have formally issued a case for disciplinary action. Mitigating circumstances are the pressure you were under to complete the task (ie were you given the time to take your volunteer away to sign off on the risk assessment?), you did a dynamic risk assessment given that it was an unusual situation (ie normally the items would have been moved by regular staff).

Summary dismissal will not be fair just because it is on a list of items, the employer must take into account the context (section 98 (4) ERA)

Also failure to act can amount to gross misconduct so if a senior manager (person) was present then they would also bear the brunt of the responsibility for not ensuring you signed the volunteer off.

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In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Unfortunately in this instance I am the senior management onsite.

The trouble is my Director is quite happy to turn a blind eye to far more serious matters when it’s in thesis interest.

However recently I have come into conflict with them when they were trying to push for works to get done in unsafe weather conditions so I would argue that I have previously demonstrated good judgement in the face of bad instruction from my superiors.

Although if I bring that up at a disciplinary the Directors like to blow  a gasket as it was thenm that I was arguing with....

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wercat on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to RomTheBear:

No it isn't, but giving advice and holding yourself out as someone qualified to give advice is.

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captain paranoia - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> recently I have come into conflict with them when they were trying to push for works to get done in unsafe weather conditions so I would argue that I have previously demonstrated good judgement in the face of bad instruction from my superiors

Ah. I fear that might be the motivation for this current 'investigation'; you got in their way with your pesky H&S concerns, so they are trying to either get rid of you, or 'prove' that you don't always follow the 'proper' H&S rules. Hopefully, it's just the latter, and they're just trying to score a very childish point.

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Rick Graham on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> Unfortunately in this instance I am the senior management onsite.

> The trouble is my Director is quite happy to turn a blind eye to far more serious matters when it’s in thesis interest.

> However recently I have come into conflict with them when they were trying to push for works to get done in unsafe weather conditions so I would argue that I have previously demonstrated good judgement in the face of bad instruction from my superiors.

> Although if I bring that up at a disciplinary the Directors like to blow  a gasket as it was thenm that I was arguing with....

Tough. If it comes to any legal argument or proceedings the best policy is to tell the truth. However much it may hurt, telling the truth can only be found to be correct. Any outcome will only be better for yourself if you tell the truth.

It's also far simpler.

Post edited at 12:02
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EarlyBird - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

And if it came to a disciplinary hearing and this formed part of your defence then you would be able to argue that the Directors are not impartial and should not be chairing the hearing. 

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Duncan Bourne - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to RomTheBear:

> Don’t listen to me or anybody else here.

Oo that is great example of the "liars paradox"

But to clarify your statement legal advice is given by a lawyer in a legal context anything else is just advice. Legal advice refers to the written or oral counsel about a legal matter that would affect the rights and responsibilities of the person receiving the advice. In addition, actual legal advice requires careful analysis of the law as it applies to a person's specific situation - as opposed to speculation based on generic facts. It is illegal to "offer" legal advice ie to pose as a lawyer and especially to accept money for such advice. But it is not illegal to respond to a legal question with legal information. Advice from friends or family does not constitute legal advice. True legal advice forms an agreement between an attorney and his or her client based on a particular legal matter the client is experiencing.

source (amongst others)

https://hirealawyer.findlaw.com/do-you-need-a-lawyer/what-is-legal-advice.html

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Rick Graham on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

and does legal advice have to be honest and truthful?

i wonder how this would affect the ability of defence lawyers to do their job?

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Duncan Bourne - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

I believe so but that doesn't mean you can't "leave out things you are not aware of". ;-)

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Snyggapa - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

May be true in the US, doesn't seem to be true in the UK. Quote from the infallible Wikipedia...

In some countries, legal advice is subject to the possession of a specific licence; in others, it is simply subject to the general regulation of professional obligation and can be provided by any person, who will usually be legally responsible for the provided advice. The UK's Legal Services Act 2007 includes the giving of legal advice within the definition of unreserved legal activities, which means that it can be provided by any person not just an officer of the court.[7] However, if it is provided by a lawyer or another person authorised by one of the front line legal services regulators, then this activity is included within their regulatory reach.

And

http://www.legalservicesboard.org.uk/Projects/rationalising_scope_of_regulation/pdf/reserved_and_unreserved_lawyers.pdf

Which says:

Reservation  and  the  consumer There  is  evidence  to  suggest  that  the reserved activities remain  remote  to  most  providers  of legal services,  let  alone  consumers 2. The  majority  of legal  activities  are  not  listed as  “reserved activities” and  are  not  explicitly  required by  statute  to  be  brought  within  the  scope  of legal  services  specific regulation. This  includes  the  services that  most  people  use  and  understand  to  be  legal  services, and might  instinctively  expect  to  fall  within  the  regulatory  net  –  for  example general legal  advice, transactional corporate  advice,  will-writing  and  employment  advice. In  practice,  these  activities  can  be  provided by  anybody  who  wishes  to  do  so,  irrespective  of qualifications  or  expertise.  In  doing  so the general competition  and  consumer  protection  framework applies  but  not  the  additional requirements,  protections, constraints and  costs  of legal  services specific  regulation.    Research evidence  published  by  the  Legal  Services  Consumer Panel 3revealed that the  majority  of consumers  simply  assume  all legal activities  are  regulated and  so  at  a  high standard  of quality. 

It's on the internet so it must be true..

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Duncan Bourne - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Snyggapa:

Cheers for that clarification

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oldie - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> However I get the distinct impression that crosshairs are on me. After the meeting/interview/interrogation it was the usual “How you doing, is there anything we can do to help you?” Chat which felt about as sincere as a kick in the balls..... <

Fortunately I'm retired and out of this sort of thing. However there may be an element of self protection in your superiors' actions. They may hope to have to some extent covered themselves against possible criticism by enquiring if you have been given enough help, especially as you needed to use assistance from another employee.

Post edited at 17:10
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Billhook - on 09 Feb 2019
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I think the source you quote is American and does not therefore apply in the UK

Its largely irrelevant to this thread but anyone in the UK can give legal advice and legal information and be paid for it (I was) regardless of qualifications.  But there are some exceptions provided in law and you do note that.

 So in the Uk, for example, if you agree to leave employment  with a "settlement agreement" you must seek  qualified legal advice

It would be relatively common knowledge amongst the HR community that you can get more than adequate employment law advice from experienced HR practioners who have  spent a lot of time researching and advising employers.  Many specialist employment advisory services deliberately recruit from this background for their 1st hand practical knowledge, advice and experience.  The experience you gain in an employment situation means that you are more than likely to know far more about employment law than any non specialist high st. solicitor and just as much as a solicitor practicing employment law.

Post edited at 22:08
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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

So now getting summoned to a disciplinary this Friday where I’m getting charged with Gross negligence.

That along with the fact they’re trying to tag me as being in breach of our equality policy.

I admittedly said a few slightly sexist comments to a colleague who I have a good relationship with as banter.

the way it’s been written up makes me look a right swine.

Genuinely think I’m on the block, time to look up a Union rep.

:/

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marsbar - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Get your cv sorted.  

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artif on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Time for a preemptive strike. Hand your notice in (but don't work it) and walk, they sound like a lousy company anyway.

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neilh - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Bail out if you can. Subject to you needing references

Post edited at 18:53
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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Going to try and speak with an employment lawyer tomorrow to look at options.

Am currently on an SMSTS refresher course which they’re paying for till tomorrow afternoon.

It was originally binned last week then reinstated a couple of hours later.

The Director loves playing head games and it’s royally ****ing me off that he’s got inside mine just now.

The charges noted in the disciplinary letter don’t marry up completely with the witness statements so I believe there’s an argument for conjecture there.

Need to start going through a load of emails and legislation the next few evenings.

I still reckon it’s 50/50 whether it’s the bullet or, a final, double red, skull and crossbones written warning off them.

As far as I’m concerned, if I can, I’m going to do them some damage first and look into a constructive dismissal claim...

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artif on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> As far as I’m concerned, if I can, I’m going to do them some damage first and look into a constructive dismissal claim...

Personally, I wouldn't bother (concentrate your energy on getting a better job , rather than revenge), time to move on to pastures greener.

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daWalt on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> As far as I’m concerned, if I can, I’m going to do them some damage first and look into a constructive dismissal claim...

don't bother, it's a waste of your time and effort and will only rile you further.

stay calm, be polite, keep your dignity and move on.

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Deadeye - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> made a few sexist comments

> going to do them some damage

Could you let us know who you are so we can avoid hiring you please?  Sounds like they'll be well rid to be honest.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

To put that into context, I called the person, who I also regard as a good friend, “my glamorous assistant” as they had been helping me with a task.

When taken in the context I wasn’t being an arse and they laughed it off and told me where to go as they normally would so didn’t think much of it at the time...

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Michael Hood - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

"My glamorous assistant" isn't sexist in the actual words. You could have a glamorous assistant that was male, female or anywhere on the LGBTQ++ (or whatever it is) spectrum.

Only the context can make it sexist in which case make sure any disciplinary includes and records everything about the context that truly reflects what actually happened.

Q: was this comment witnessed, i.e. how did it come to management's attention.

Having said that, it really does sound like they want you out.  With that being the case, and it being a small company, do you really still want to work there.

If yes, then fight it. If no then maybe you should consider a settlement agreement. Whatever, you need some proper union/legal advice.

Good luck.

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Ridge - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

Is a settlement agreement what used to be a compromise agreement? If so could be worth the OP looking at. I was in a similar position just over 10 years ago, (Edit : vague details removed) Quite nice to be able to walk away with a lump sum and a non commital reference without having to slug it out in court.

Post edited at 22:25
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In reply to Ridge:

I think that’s the best I could hope for at this juncture.

As I’ve previously I am weary with the company (mainly due to the Directors bullying ways and the travel).

Would have preferred to walk than get pushed though, as well as leave with a reference.

Have just gone through some old emails and forwarded them to my personal account so I have evidence of some of the more damning emails I’ve received.

The main problem being is that the Owner/Director is usually too savvy  to write down anything too damning, more than happy to bawl and threaten down a phone line though.

Problem is making something like that stick...

On a side note I would like to say thanks to everyone for the support that’s been offered here, it has helped me rationalise and calm down a little.

Post edited at 22:40
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Pan Ron - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Easy to say from the sidelines of course, but I'll go against the grain here and say fight it.  They may be in a position where, by the book, they have you.  But you may also have enough to hold them by the balls too.  Then it becomes in their interests to at least settle.  Cvnts like these will keep getting away with it until people square up to them.   

For a bit of perspective, a good friend's husband jumped to his death from a bridge in France in December 2015.  His wife, my friend, was the unlucky member of the search party that found his body after a night of searching.  She had warned for months leading up to this that his employers were driving him to the edge and subsequent evidence pointed to sustained harassment of staff.  But everyone was too scared to speak up.  Sadly she, the second victim in all this, was the one left to drag it through the courts for the last 3 years...and still ongoing.  Unless people stand up to it, and take the pain in doing so, bad managers can act with impunity.

EDIT: by "fight it", I don't mean to keep the job.  I mean to make their actions as painful for them as possible and as positive for you as possible.  Take that as far as you can get the most from each end of that spectrum.  All while looking for another job.

Post edited at 23:11
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In reply to Pan Ron:

While I’m very sorry to hear what your friend has gone through I can fully empathise.

Scarily I’ve felt that way more than once when I’ve been on the receiving end of  a telephone beating, thinking at least if I had an accident on a site it would get some payout to my family.

Thankfully I’m not in as dark a place this time.

My partner has been brilliant, they’ve already helped me to get started on looking elsewhere a while back though sadly no leads yet.

Another opportunity for a career change may also be on the horizon which would mean a substantial drop in wage but a massive boost in work/life balance and my general happiness.

Might just turn out to be the kick my life needs, just wish I had a bit more control over it, along with the reassurance that I could get a reference on the way out!

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EarlyBird - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Pan Ron:

I agree. Fighting it might be the best option. If this employer can get away with cooking up a case and getting rid of "Secret Name" that way why would they consider a compromise agreement? It's considerably cheaper just to dismiss. You need some leverage to get a compromise agreement.

"Secret Name" if you have access to union representation make sure you don't go into that disciplinary unrepresented. Legal advice is all well and good but as I have said previously you can't take a lawyer into the room with you. Going in with union representation sends a clear message to an employer that this might be a bit trickier than they expected. You can reasonably request a postponement of the hearing if your Rep can't make it on Friday. If you can't take a union Rep your options are reduced. That doesn't mean you have no options but they're likely to be pretty stark as I'm sure you're only too well aware. 

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EarlyBird - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Read this after posting my previous response. Maybe  your options aren't so stark which is great news.   It will be a shame that a bully is not confronted but you have to pick your fights.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Going to try and get legal advice today, unfortunately I don’t think I can get a union rep in with me as I’m not currently affiliated with any.

Unison require 4 weeks on the books prior to being called to represent at such things, I have less than 4 days...

Shame I can’t take a lawyer in dressed as a civvy....

Post edited at 07:26
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Sl@te Head - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> Another opportunity for a career change may also be on the horizon which would mean a substantial drop in wage but a massive boost in work/life balance and my general happiness.

> Might just turn out to be the kick my life needs, just wish I had a bit more control over it, along with the reassurance that I could get a reference on the way out!

I went through a similar rough time with my employer last year, it was a horrible process but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel

I did fight my corner as I was totally innocent and I did hang in there for a lump sum The lump sum gives you the luxury of being able to explore many new options and opportunities for the future....

Trust no one apart from your family and supportive friends, trust no one at work and do not trust the Unions! So no worries about not being a member just phone ACAS for advice.

Believe in KARMA it will be kind to you and it will catch up with the ones who have done you wrong...

Have you considered going off work with stress, all this will have had an affect on you to some degree.

Find some hard climbing projects to take your mind off things, its surprising how hard you can climb when you're really pissed off

All the best.

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subtle on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> Another opportunity for a career change may also be on the horizon which would mean a substantial drop in wage but a massive boost in work/life balance and my general happiness.

> Might just turn out to be the kick my life needs, just wish I had a bit more control over it, along with the reassurance that I could get a reference on the way out!

I also went through a similar tale to yours, I however decided to resign but chose to work my three month notice period - during this I (thankfully) managed to find alternative employment, albeit one with a substantial drop in wage, also a substantial drop in responsibility, but it turned out to be a great boost to my work/life balance - turns out that we could suffer the drop in income (we were lucky in that respect) and are all now far far happier for that decision.

It still wasn't a great experience, or a part in my life that i will look fondly back on, but it genuinely worked out for the best, although i realise it may not work that way for everyone.

Good luck, stay strong, and use the support of your family.

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The New NickB - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

You mention Unison, is this Public Sector. That wasn't the impression I got from the rest of the thread.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Now getting told that I need to go down to Wales for the next 2 days when they know my partner and I have our first appointment with the obstetrician on Thursday!!!!

Stress is getting ridiculous.....

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Sl@te Head - on 12 Feb 2019
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artif on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> Now getting told that I need to go down to Wales for the next 2 days when they know my partner and I have our first appointment with the obstetrician on Thursday!!!!

> Stress is getting ridiculous.....

I'm telling you to go climbing.

You need to take control, for your own peace of mind.

Either quit (which sounds like what they want ) or tell them, (politely) that you cannot got to Wales for personal reasons.

They are not in control of your life.

Post edited at 13:04
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TheDrunkenBakers - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Ive worked for tw*ts likes these in the past (assuming that there is only one side to this story and that they really dont have a reason to bin you off).  In my line of work it often comes with a change of manager who wants to bring in their old cronies and makes everyone's life hell so that they leave rather than having to be managed out.

Personally, if a company has needlessly put me through a load of stress and anguish due to their own political nonsense then I would be tempted to take them for everything I could get.  The problem with this approach, and Ive seen it in my close knit industry, is that when you are known as the employee who goes legal it can be hard to find more work, regardless of the facts.  Perhaps get another job before you do this so that you aren't left with nothing.

And as nobody has mentioned this yet, check your home insurance policies to see if you have added the additional legal expenses cover or whether this forms part of your standard policy as this could save you lots of money.

If you have nothing to lose and you feel that you could stand up against unfair dismissal scrutiny then why not chance your arm and ask for a compromise agreement where you take a sum of loot and leave with no fuss.  You could take them to court and win, but you could also lose.  Perhaps asking for a settlement would mean you get paid off but don't need to risk your day in court.  Or, if the money is irrelevant and you just want to see your view of justice served then take the bastards to the cleaners.

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TheDrunkenBakers - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> Now getting told that I need to go down to Wales for the next 2 days when they know my partner and I have our first appointment with the obstetrician on Thursday!!!!

> Stress is getting ridiculous.....

OK, see my last post which I posted before seeing this. They have now raised the stakes.....

If you have an important, no crucial, Drs appointment which they have known about and have approved then I think you need to show the approval and politely decline.  If they really cant give a valid reason, copy the correspondence, take phone pictures and have this ready as further evidence of workplace bullying.

Whilst playing career Russian roulette and standing at the Last Chance Saloon, perhaps you could fight fire with fire and take a more 'assertive' position.  My brother was being bullied by a small minded middle manager (professional drawing office) who was friends with the directors of the business and thought he could do what he wanted.  Enough was enough and with nothing more to lose, he took this manager to one side at a quiet moment and  made it quite clear that his behaviour was to stop and the consequences of it not stopping whether he worked there or not.   It did stop and bought my bro bought enough time to find another role.

Probably wont work if its the owners of the business, perhaps.

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In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Problem with this is that all approvals for my time off have been verbal despite my requests for written confirmation (although one verbal confirmation was witnessed by an independent witness, though I am now dubious as to their reliability).

I genuinely am getting stressed out my head with the whole situation and am considering a doctors line but am wary as to how this may affect future employment options given the timing...

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Ridge - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

There's not monitoring/booking system for time off?

I don't suppose you sent any "Re: Your verbal confirmation of time off on.." type emails?

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In reply to Ridge:

I did that yesterday morning actually.

Generally it’s acceptes that if it’s an afternoon and you’ve played it with the next man up the chain it’s okay.

However, given current circumstances they are now just out to hurt me with this out of spite.

My presence would not be required on the Thursday.

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EarlyBird - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Sl@te Head:

That's a bit of sweeping statement about unions and potentially poor advice for the OP. ACAS can advise but they won't be going into a hearing with you.

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JimR - on 12 Feb 2019

I think you sound stressed and need to go to a doctor to get a sick note? 

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EarlyBird - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to The New NickB:

Construction. I would have suggested Unite rather than Unison and they might have different criteria for representation. 

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In reply to EarlyBird:

Just off he phone with Unite, they have the same criteria that you must be a paid up member and on the books for at least 4 weeks before they’ll represent you.

Appreciate the suggestion though, now off to the lawyers to give them £175 for an hour of them probably telling me all about the points noted above....

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Duncan Bourne - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

This is a useful site for legal info

http://www.lrd.org.uk/

At this point I would say that a union wouldn't be much use, many have rules about not taking on on going cases with new members and may not be able to offer the support you require.

Also

https://www.thompsons.law/search?query=misconduct&filter=All&page=1&allResults=off

Good luck.

Post edited at 16:17
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elsewhere on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Any possible grounds for delaying the meeting until you've been in the union for 4 weeks?

Good luck.

Post edited at 16:14
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Sl@te Head - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to EarlyBird:

> That's a bit of sweeping statement about unions and potentially poor advice for the OP. ACAS can advise but they won't be going into a hearing with you.

My advice was based on my own and a friends experience. I will say it again, I personally wouldn't trust the Unions! Btw I was a trained Union Rep myself and as a rep your role with regard to attending a meeting is to simply be there as a witness. The OP isn't currently a member of a Union so seeking advice from ACAS (as I did myself) is a good bit of advice imho.

Post edited at 16:32
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EarlyBird - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Sl@te Head:

Well, that's your experience. I know plenty of people who've had very positive experiences.

And you are plain wrong regarding the role of a union Rep in a hearing. 

I don't disagree with you about the OP contacting ACAS - in fact I gave the same piece of advice myself further up the thread.

Post edited at 16:33
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Jenny C on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Some life insurance policies include legal cover (eg life cover attached to your mortgague) - worth checking. 

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Duncan Bourne - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Sl@te Head:

In this instance the unions won't help I agree, the case is already running. In this case ACAS and good legal advice are the best ways to go.

But saying don't trust the unions is not going to help anyone. Without strong unions you are on your own. I speak as a union rep who has seen very similar cases have very different outcomes and the key factor was union membership.

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Sl@te Head - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to EarlyBird:

Can't be bothered to debate this with you!

My intention with posting was a good one, and that was to offer some advice and moral support to the OP as I know from experience how tough things are for him and his family right now.

Post edited at 16:41
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EarlyBird - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

That's a shame. If you can take a colleague into the meeting with you rather than going in alone do so. Even if they only take notes. I accept that this might be difficult particularly with a bullying employer as a colleague might not want to stick their head above the parapet. Do you know of any friends or family who are themselves union Reps (with accreditation) who might be prepared to go in with you? I'd also be interested to know whether the letter inviting you to the hearing advised you of your legal right to be accompanied by a TU Rep?

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Duncan Bourne - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to EarlyBird:

In a hearing a union rep is there as a witness and to ensure that correct procedure is being followed. It is the job of the union rep to gather information on the case (very often information that the client has little access too) and help the client present the best case. In the actual hearing it is the client who is being addressed and who does the speaking but a union rep may, with the clients permission, clarify any points and, perhaps the biggie, negotiate an outcome between client and management.

That being said a lot depends on how badly they want to sack or keep someone. An industry looking to downsize is a bigger challenge than one struggling to keep staff

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EarlyBird - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Sl@te Head:

I'm not interested in debating this with you either. But please try to make sure your advice is accurate and based on more than personal opinion. 

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La benya - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Has it been mentioned how long you have been in the role? Any less than two years and you have no protection against unfair dismissal, only discrimination. 

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marsbar - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to elsewhere:

I wonder if 4 weeks signed off with stress would help.... 

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EarlyBird - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Helping the member to present the best case covers pretty much everything short of answering questions on the member's behalf. Representing a member is much more than being a simple witness. I agree that a lot depends on how fair the employer is - I have represented members on extremely serious allegations where the employer has accepted mitigating circumstances because they were committed to just outcomes; and conversely I have represented members where there was virtually no case to answer and they have been dismissed because it was a process that was not entered into in good faith in the first place - the intention was always to dismiss and a case was constructed to that end.

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Pan Ron - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to EarlyBird:

Seems fair advice.  

The company making the case against him will likely be there in numbers and in an already intimidating situation, surely having some form of support there would seem necessary.

The bottom line is he needs more time to evaluate his situation, gather evidence and ensure he is being treated fairly.  Being under pressure to answer questions now, that maybe there is no obligation to answer, would be lessened with someone else present.

I really don't know the legality of this, but in these circumstances its highly likely that the dictaphone app on my phone, which I was playing with just prior to attending the meeting, would accidentally end up staying on in my pocket during the meeting. 

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Duncan Bourne - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to EarlyBird:

I quite agee. There are no hard and fast rules.

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Duncan Bourne - on 12 Feb 2019
DancingOnRock - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Pan Ron:

I don’t think it’s illegal to record a conversation without the third party’s agreement. Worst case it’s a breach of privacy.

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Billhook - on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Wow!  No surprise to you but I was hoping that it was a storm in a teac cup.

You've some excellent advice there.  I'll just go through and try to clarify a couple of points made (in no particular order).

a)  Drunken Baker mentioned Compromise Agreement - basically away of them paying you off without the hassle and from a company point of view a guarantee that'll you'll not hit them with an Unfair Dismissal claim! which will cost them time and money to defend.

b)  Constructive Dismissal.  Where the employee terminates the contract with or without notice by reason of the employer's conduct.You must walk out immediately the conduct has occurred and the conduct must be quite serious or a series of breaches leading up to a point which can no longer be sustained.  Winning these cases is quite hard and generally impossible if the company is following their own procedures.

c)  Going to Wales.  No!  You must be given enough notice to defend yourself.  In my view, if Friday is the day they've set then you have not time - and I can't see how you can do that if you're in Wales.

d)  Obstetrician.  I'm not up on this but there's a possible link to discrimination/pregnancy and reasonable time off to attend appointments.  I'm not quite sure whether that extends to accompanying your wife/partner but ... ?  (I assume you are not female!  ;-)  )

e) Pan Ron/Duncan Bourne mentioned going with a colleague..   Definitely take a colleague with you.  You never know. It will at least make the person presenting the evidence a little more circumspect perhaps.

d)Dictaphone.  Lovely one that.  Perfectly legal, but the company would be worried if they thought you'd recorded a meeting just in case they said something they'd later regret.

e).Duncan Bourne's = excellent link re procedural matters about notification of meeting etc.,  Excellent link - most HR folk read that.  I did!!  Ask for more time anyway.  I don't think they have given you sufficient time to prepare regardless.

As Pan Ron said, you can also make it awkward for the company.  from a company perspective, I'd go sick.  Really difficult that one.  They'd have to pay you CSP if you were entitled by contract.  It takes time for the company to deal with (gives you time to negotiate a settlement agreement).  Oh, and they MUST give a you a right of appeal!!

Good luck.

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elsewhere on 12 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

if you need some time a gp may find you are quite genuinely sick with stress.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Yet again folks thanks for all the input.

I’ve now spoken with an employment lawyer and have been advised to keep my powder dry regarding some of the discrepancies I’ve noticed in their statements.

We’be discusses pros and cons of going sick, constructive dismissal, getting fired et al.

What I have been advised to do for the time being is listen to what’s said on Friday before deciding on an action.

I have also spoken with ACAS who I found to be extremely helpful and enlightening.

I think best case scenario I get given an offer on Friday to leave, worst case I get bumped. 

If they do bump me then I feel that I have some ammunition that I can use in an appeal/unfair dismissal claim which may in turn force a settlement.

Given how bloody twisted the owner is though there’s also every chance that they’ll try and drag the thing out and cost me a fortune in legal fees.

Theres bugger all I can do between now and then, just need to suck it up.

Again thanks so much for the messages of support, sounds corny but it does give you a boost to hear of others getting through this kind of BS and being all the happier once they’re on the other side.

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lorentz - on 13 Feb 2019
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I don't have anything to add... But just wanted to lend you my support through a stressful, worrying time.

I worked for similarly C**tish employers in a different industry, who made life less and less bearable for those of us that couldn't afford to leave and go freelance. I Sucked it up for 7 years and was finally made redundant along with my remaining colleagues. We all transitioned into freelance life and have come out the other side happier.

Whatever happens with your pending case, focus on the fact that "this too will pass," and life will be better on the other side. The transition can be daunting, but it sounds like  you know already that there is a good future out there waiting for you to take the step!

All the best.

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In reply to lorentz:

Interesting, I have been given two differing accounts of the events from the same witness.

One contained within the incident report and one which seems to be a standalone.

The standalone account is considerably more damning in its content and claims over my comments but it’s very much a case of my word against theirs.

Question is where do I stand when confronted by 2 differing witness statements on the same event from the same witness???

I’m sure everyone understands that I would like to keep this point based on legal fact and not simply opinions.

I appreciate all the assistance thus far but I believe this could be a crucial lever in my case and want to use it appropriately.

Post edited at 16:49
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Duncan Bourne - on 17:39 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

How much different are the accounts?

Which came first the incident report or the stand alone?

First of all with regard to any statement recorded the further from the event it is the more likely it is to be mis-remembered/influenced. So a statement at the time would be more likely to be the true one. But in this case I would say that it is more grounds for calling into question the validity of both statements by pointing out the contradictions.

Alas it has the feel of a kangaroo court to this. Best of luck

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EarlyBird - on 19:25 Wed
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I agree with this.

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Blue Straggler - on 22:08 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I have no advice but have been following this thread. Best of luck tomorrow 

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In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I believe that the initial Witness statement in the incident report is the first statement taken.

The second statement, which has been typed up, looks suspiciously like it has been coached.

In addition I bumped into the person who was present when I allegedly called the claimant “my glamorous assistant” and asked them if they recalled me making any defamatory remarks.

They have no recollection of this and said they felt sure they would remember if I had made such a defamatory comment, especially if it had caused distress to the claimant.

Said person has also said they would be prepared to sign off on a witness statement to this effect should I require it at a later date which gives me some hope.

Have also drafted out a timeline of events upto now which looks more than a little cynical in terms of my employers behaviours and actions.

Telling me the day after the accusation that I need to go to the other end of the country for the 2 days leading up to my hearing, knowing fine well that I will be driving back up the evening before so will most likely be tired for the meeting...

The whole damn thing stinks of manipulation, should it go to a tribunal at a later date I hope it is as apparent as it feels.

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elsewhere on 22:24 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Good luck. There's a lot of people here on ukc rooting for you.

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dread-i - on 22:51 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

>Said person has also said they would be prepared to sign off on a witness statement to this effect should I require it at a later date which gives me some hope.

I'd get it done sooner, than later. You could film the witness, with their consent, making their statement. You wouldn't' need to type it up, they wouldn't need to sign it and there could be no question of its authenticity.

If it's a small firm and the atmosphere is toxic, they may not be so willing to come forward at a later date.

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wintertree - on 22:57 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If you read this - stop!  Put your internets down and do what you can to rest and sleep.  Difficult the night before a confrontational meeting I know.  The only thing that makes it worse is well meaning people patronising you about it...

Don’t give the f——r at the top the satisfaction of seeing you angry or upset tomorrow.  Don’t get drawn in to side arguments.  Keep your position simple, cool and fixed.  

My suspicion is they are using the complaint about your comment to wind you up and get you off balance before moving on to the health and safety issue, which is the one they want to use to undermine your position.  That is where you need razor sharp focus and calm.  

If this is the case, you might try and defuse the “banter” issue.  Something along the lines of “I said XXX to YYY.  This is within the normal bounds of our friendship.  However having heard the complaint I now realise that other people are not privy to the details of our friendship and can interpret my comments wildly differently to how we did and to how I intended.  I further realise how how my comment could set a negative example for other employees”.  Use it to repeat what you did (and by omission what you did not do), treat it as a teachable moment, be regretful, and if the HR person has any backbone or integrity they would consider that “mission accomplished” and a positive outcome.

Good luck for tomorrow and watch out for that pit of destructive anger in your gut, when it starts to surface remind yourself of the other more important things you have going on.

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In reply to wintertree:

The hearing isn’t till Friday.

I fully agree all the nonsense that’s been thrown my way has been down to either try and force me to quit outright before the hearing (which would be the directors style) or at the very least an attempt to throw me significantly off-balance.

One of the main reasons for using this forum as I have been is to vent and get this **** off my chest as anonymously as I can so I don’t take the full brunt of it into the workplace.

Given the way this has been handled by my employer and I fully intend to leave once this has been resolved.

I just want to try and get it resolved at least partly on my terms...

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wintertree - on 23:24 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> The hearing isn’t till Friday.

Don’t mind me, I thought tomorrow was Friday...

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EarlyBird - on 23:40 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Good luck! Wintertree's advice about not letting them knock you off balance is good - to that end don't be afraid to ask for an adjournment if you need to collect your thoughts or cool off. It is reasonable for you to do this and it would be unreasonable for them to deny you an adjournment of a few minutes. Get it recorded if they don't accede to a reasonable request. As far as possible you need to be in control of the momentum of the hearing - this won't be easy. Use the paperwork they have sent you as the template for your defence - perhaps bullet point the primary elements of your defence (once again adjourn if you need to to refresh your memory). If they introduce any fresh evidence to which you have not been party prior to the hearing refuse to engage with that evidence  - there should be no surprises on the day as you will not have had the opportunity to prepare a defence. Again, good luck!  

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Tyler - on 23:55 Wed
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Sorry, nothing to add other than best wishes, you've been dealt with appallingly and I hope this gets resolved swiftly and to your relative satisfaction.

Incidentally I was on a work call the other day, there was a presentation by someone senior (large multinational) who referred to someone in the room as their glamorous assistant, I've no idea if the person they were referring to was male or female. I can't see it as being anything other than a common, now days, gender neutral idiom (in fact I'd find it strange and a bit po faced if someone didn't add glamorous when referring to someone assisting them, it's just one of those phrases!)

Post edited at 23:58
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Duncan Bourne - on 06:55 Thu
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Keep notes on everything, get you own witness statements.

At this point I would absolutely call in sick (stress) and not go to Wales. It is not giving you time to prepare and I suspect would not at this stage make much difference to their view if you didn't go

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JamButty - on 13:23 Thu
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> Keep notes on everything, get you own witness statements.

> At this point I would absolutely call in sick (stress) and not go to Wales. It is not giving you time to prepare and I suspect would not at this stage make much difference to their view if you didn't go

Beat me to it,  keep a record of everything,  even if it is handwritten notes of verbal conversations.

This may end up down a route where you could be looking at constructive dismissal.

Good luck if you do go,  but I agree one serious option is to see your doctor.

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Blue Straggler - on 13:30 Thu
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I have no advice but have been following this thread. Best of luck tomorrow 

Sorry, I got my days mixed, up, I meant best of luck for Friday but hey have some luck today too

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

I’ll take all the good luck I can get at this point, still on site at the moment and have a minimum 4.5hour drive ahead of me.

Partially my own fault as I should’be got things done onsite quicker but my heads been an utter mess today, genuinely struggling to think clearly.

Post edited at 17:02
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Ridge - on 19:51 Thu
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

That sounds shit. Best of luck tomorrow. Just walk in there, listen to what they say and keep a clear head. No rash decisions or outbursts. You're better than they are.

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Pan Ron - on 19:59 Thu
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If they're making some BS claim against you and the blood pressure starts to rise, just ask them if they can repeat it slowly again from the start or don't mind spelling one of the more difficult words for you [while you diligently write notes] ;-)

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Billhook - on 20:32 Thu
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Just to reinterate a couple of points made:-

a) Conflicting witness statements - on face value its essentially up to the company which they believe after both sides have made comments.

b) Its normally seen as 'good practice' to sign witness statements but it really isn't a crucial point unless someone denies they wrote it.  If someone didn't sign a witness statement and I needed to confirm it, I'd simply have a very short adjournment and get the person in to verbally confirm they signed it or dictated it, etc., 

c)  Winter Tree's Agree his point about the statement regarding your colleague as being glamorous is within the bounds of friendship, unless of course she felt uncofortable! with the comment.  But its small beer in the scheme of things.

d). Duncan Bourne and Pan Ron have both said go sick.  Don't forget you can self certificate for 7 days(?).  It means the company must re-schedule the disciplinary, and it would also give you the edge if you suggested a settlement/compromise  agreement (they give you a cash amount to walk away and not take them to a tribunal).  (But bear in mind the company only have to decide guilt or otherwise on "the balance of probabilities", rather than a court of law where it is "beyond all probabilities"

At the end of the day, unless you adored your job, its not (i hope) the end of the world.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

So.....

Meeting didn’t follow the issues set out in the letter that I received which threw me off slightly.

Spent a good bit of time trying to steer things back on track and was as valuations with my answers as the lack of sleep allowed.

Set out at the very start how stressed I was and how I felt I had been treated poorly in given adequate time to prepare.  I thing really said on their part to these issues, no offer of postponement either.

After 90 cagey minutes I get handed what I believe to be one of two pre-drafted letters, the one I was given was a final written warning, I think the other one might have had the phrase P45 written somewhere on it....

In my mind that suggests that the outcome was pre-decided which I believe goes in my favour should I wish to take things further...

Again folks, thank you so much for all the assistance and advice that has been offered so generously by yourselves.

Going to take the weekend to digest and mull things over.

Cheers.

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Ian W - on 12:05 Fri
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

If you were given a final written warning, then this must have been - in their eyes - a disciplinary hearing.

Whilst acknowledging that topics tend to wander, then it really should have been concentrated on whatever breach of regulations you were alleged to have committed. The one thing that certainly should not have happened is that you were given a any form of "result" on the day. A first hearing is just that. A first hearing. You are given the allegations and can make representations. They then must close the meeting to consider what has been said, and to decide what further action to take. Even if you say "yep, sorry, I shouldn't have done that; guilty as charged", then they should close the meeting if for nothing else than to decide what to do with you (NFA / recorded verbal / written / sacked / prosecuted etc etc), and you must be notified in writing of the outcome. 

So it seems as if procedure hasn't been followed. If you want to follow it up, see an employment solicitor. If you are looking for another job, a final written warning wont look good.......

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neilh - on 12:49 Fri
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Out of interest is the company losing money?

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EarlyBird - on 13:24 Fri
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Hi SNFOR, I think you're right to take a breath and consider your options. For clarity (when you get a chance) have you been dismissed? A P45 being handed to you, if that is what the envelope contains, suggests you've been dismissed. If that's the case it's a bit odd you've been handed a final written warning as that is disciplinary action short of dismissal. I would have a careful read of the letter and check if you have actually been handed a P45 as if not I presume your employer will expect you to turn up for work as usual on Monday.

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Pan Ron - on 13:32 Fri
In reply to neilh:

That would be my assumption. Looking for nefarious ways to dispose of staff, even where doing so screws over their future employment prospects.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Just to clarify, I was told that they had 2 letters pre-written.

I believe one of them would have been my dismissal, the letter I was handed, whilst still sitting at the table, contained a written warning.

Followed about an hour later by a revised letter to say that I was receiving a final written warning...

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DancingOnRock - on 13:44 Fri
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Did you record anything? Take any notes? Take someone in with you?

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captain paranoia - on 13:44 Fri
In reply to EarlyBird:

He was given a final written warning, He was not given the envelope he believes would have been a dismissal letter.

"I get handed what I believe to be one of two pre-drafted letters, the one I was given was a final written warning, I think the other one might have had the phrase P45 written somewhere on it"

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captain paranoia - on 13:48 Fri
In reply to Pan Ron:

> Looking for nefarious ways to dispose of staff, even where doing so screws over their future employment prospects

Agreed.

Which is a monumentally shitty way to behave.

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EarlyBird - on 14:14 Fri
In reply to captain paranoia/ Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Ah! Misunderstood. Always read the paperwork twice! - I should know better.

As has been said above the hearing should have confined itself to the allegations against you as outlined in the paperwork you received prior to the meeting. Also, it is usual to consider the disciplinary outcome following the hearing and ordinarily you would expect an adjournment so the evidence could be properly considered before a final decision is shared with you. That you were handed a letter outlining the disciplinary sanction at the conclusion of the meeting is an indication that your responses to the allegations were not considered. Both of the above failures of process are grounds for appeal if you choose to pursue that course. 

Post edited at 14:19
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neilh - on 15:02 Fri
In reply to EarlyBird:

Sounds like the person doing the interview had a prepared script to follow with options and fluffed it.

still not clear from the posters description what was said and given to him at the meeting.

he should write it down as fast as possible what was said. Usual practise is for the employer to follow up with a letter confirming key points. 

The points mentioned rightat the start are pretty much a non issue from a instant dismissal perspective.

Post edited at 15:04
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Rob Naylor - on 15:03 Fri
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> I believe one of them would have been my dismissal, the letter I was handed, whilst still sitting at the table, contained a written warning.

> Followed about an hour later by a revised letter to say that I was receiving a final written warning...

So have you been through the whole process? Normally as follows:

Formal verbal warning

This will be issued when an informal verbal warning has failed to deliver the desired results. It can also be used without a prior informal warning for a more serious disciplinary matter. All warnings are recorded on your file.

Written warning

This is issued when you fail to respond adequately to the formal verbal warning.

Final written warning

The final written warning is issued when you fail to react positively to the written warning. If the situation warrants it, it is also possible to be issued as a ‘first and final written warning.

Or was the incident complained of sufficiently serious so as to warrant issuing a "first and final written warning" straight off? Certainly an hour wouldn't be considered enough time to have not "reacted positively" to the written warning. It sounds as if they haven't followed correct procedures at all here. Unless it was worded as a "first and final written warning" then they're out of order. In fact the whole process sounds as if they're not behaving remotely in accordance with accepted disciplinary processes.

Post edited at 15:05
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Duncan Bourne - on 15:35 Fri
In reply to Rob Naylor:

I am in agreement here with all who say that proper procedure has not been followed.

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In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I’m sure everyone can appreciate that’s it’s been a hellish week upto this point.

For just now I’m sitting down having a few (lots of) beers and just trying to unwind.

Going to process things properly in the morning (afternoon) when I listen back to my “notes”.

Again that I you for all the advice and  messages of goodwill, it’s amazing how much of a difference these gestures can make.

I may request that the thread be pulled should I decide to take further action, in which case can anyone advise if there is a simply way of saving the contents of a thread?

For now though I think I’ve earned a beer..........

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elsewhere on 19:39 Fri
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

Check browsers for a save as option.

Post edited at 19:40
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Cretan Girl - on 09:30 Sat
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

I haven’t read all the posts, so apologies if this has already been suggested, but have you thought about contacting ACAS. They operate a helpline and their website contains loads of useful information about rights at work and employment procedures. They are impartial and advise employees as well as employers.

Good luck with whatever step you take next.

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teh_mark on 15:03 Sat
In reply to Secret Name for obvious reasons:

> I may request that the thread be pulled should I decide to take further action, in which case can anyone advise if there is a simply way of saving the contents of a thread?

Ctrl + S will allow you to save the page as-is in HTML format in most browsers, and you might also have the option of printing to PDF with Ctrl+P. Check that what you've saved is openable and complete though, just in case!

This thread is reminding me why I don't think I could ever go full-time employed again. Life is much less stressful when you can choose to work for pleasant clients and tell the less pleasant ones where to go. You have my fullest sympathy.

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Rick Graham on 16:26 Sat
In reply to teh_mark:

> This thread is reminding me why I don't think I could ever go full-time employed again. Life is much less stressful when you can choose to work for pleasant clients and tell the less pleasant ones where to go. You have my fullest sympathy.

My thoughts exactly .

Mind you, its nice to have a pension from a previous life on a salary, and paid holidays.

Ideally start a business that still makes money when you are on holiday.

I used to love it when a client says, " you can't say that ". The reply was usually along the lines of " I can say what I f..ing want as long as I take the consequences .

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browndog33 - on 22:48 Sun
In reply to Ridge:

Very well said.

Ive been asked to sign hundreds of risk assessments over the years but never been given the amount of time required to actually read them. More often than not I'm just asked to sign them .Its all an ass covering exercise.

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Neil Williams - on 22:57 Sun
In reply to browndog33:

> Very well said.

> Ive been asked to sign hundreds of risk assessments over the years but never been given the amount of time required to actually read them. More often than not I'm just asked to sign them .Its all an ass covering exercise.


Maybe I'm picky, but (with the exception of consumer software licence agreements which are much of a muchness and rarely enforced to the precise letter) I never sign anything without reading it - certainly not in a work context.

If that caused an issue with time, the time would have to be found.

Post edited at 22:57
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Sl@te Head - on 12:18 Mon
In reply to teh_mark:

> This thread is reminding me why I don't think I could ever go full-time employed again. Life is much less stressful when you can choose to work for pleasant clients and tell the less pleasant ones where to go. You have my fullest sympathy.

Agree so much with this, after my nightmare last year the light at the end of the tunnel was exactly this. It's a cherry picking pic 'n' mix career for me from now on I'm flying out to Finmark tomorrow for a couple of months, this wouldn't have been an option if I'd have clung on to my career which had turned sour. So to the OP all the best and it is true that there is definitely good that can come out of this.....

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