Scottish Borders Council

Agenda item

Councillors Role in Staff Matters

Presentation by the Executive Director HR giving an update on the role, guidance and training given to Councillors and Officers on Staff Disciplinary Appeals and Employment Tribunals and the monitoring of these decisions.  (Background documents attached).


With reference to paragraph 3 of the Minute of 24 September 2018, the Chairman welcomed Ms Clair Hepburn, Service Director Human Resources and Communications, and Mr Iain Davidson, Employee Relations Manager, to the meeting to provide Members with a greater understanding of Disciplinary, Appeals and Employment Tribunals.  Mr Davidson began by explaining that Members could potentially be involved in hearing Appeals as a member of a Staffing Appeals Committee.  These Committees, membership of which was selected from an Appeals Panel, heard all appeals against dismissal, or against the decision of a Director.  Currently there were only 14 Members on the Appeals Panel (13 males and one female) who had undertaken the necessary employment law training, and had received relevant policies and guidelines on conducting investigations.   Guidance to Members was given by either Ms Hepburn or Mr Davidson who attended the Committee.  There was also a pre-meeting where Members could discuss any areas of concern and any employment law issues.   Mr Davidson highlighted that the role of the Committee was to review the previous decision to ensure that proper processes had been adhered to and that Managers had applied Council policies in a legally compliant manner.  It was not the role of a Staffing Appeals Committee to re-hear the original hearing.  Mr Davidson then referred to the role of Council officers as either Investigating Officer or Commissioning Manager, both of whom had undertaken (face to face) Disciplinary & Grievance training, with guidance in relevant polices and support at Hearings provided by HR.  Following an investigation, a report was prepared for the Commissioning Manager, the findings of which were reported to any subsequent Disciplinary Hearing.


9.2     Mr Davidson then referred to Employment Tribunals explaining that a dismissed employee could bring a claim for unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal.  There were no fees payable and no requirement for legal representation. The Tribunal was chaired by an Employment Judge whose role was to decide if the Council had reached a reasonable decision and had followed a fair procedure.  A Tribunal was an onerous process for any witnesses, and HR offered support and guidance, explaining the process, set up, relevant documentation and gave an opportunity to clarify any questions in advance.  During the period 2012 – 2018 there had been 21 Employment Tribunals, 14 of which had been dismissed (Council was successful), five withdrawn, one settled, and one upheld (Council was unsuccessful).  In response to questions, Ms Hepburn advised that following a Tribunal there was a debrief and every judgement was scrutinised and discussed within HR, the Corporate Management Team and the relevant Department, which could potentially lead to a change in policy or guidance.  As this process was an operational matter, there was no requirement to feedback to Council.  However, as a result of a recent unsuccessful Tribunal, an HR Advisor was now present during any investigation.  Ms Hepburn agreed to feedback any other changes made to process which had been implemented. With regard to the lack of female Councillors on the Appeals Panel, the Chairman of the Panel, Councillor Mountford had undertaken to promote the role and Councillor Thornton-Nicol also offered to speak with her fellow Councillors on this matter.  The Chairman thanked Ms Hepburn and Mr Davidson for their presentation, congratulated them on their successes and for providing reassurance that lessons had been learnt from the unsuccessful Tribunal.



NOTED the presentation.


Councillor Anderson left the meeting during the above presentation.


Supporting documents:



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