The head of the Employment Rights Tribunal is warning bosses to follow the procedures set out in the Employment Rights Act when seeking to fire workers.
Chairman and former High Court Judge Christopher Blackman, QC, put business leaders on notice this afternoon while handing down a decision in an unfair dismissal case in favour of former Acting Senior Settlement Officer of First Citizens Bank DebraBrathwaite.
Blackman said that one of the biggest concerns of the tribunal was that too many cases are coming before the quasi-court where employers are failing to go through the right processes for terminating staff.
“Employers need to look at their processes and not rely on practices that have no bearing to commonsense,” he told the hearing which was held at the Labour Department in the Warrens Office Complex.
The chairman of the three-member tribunal also expressed particular concern about the way in which human resources departments are functioning across the country.
In citing instances which he noted continue to be come before the ERT, the former High Court Justice has told human resources officers that their mandate was not only to represent the business, but the staff as well.
“Too often HR is echoing management’s views. Considerable work needs to be done in the industrial relations climate in Barbados,” the tribunal chairman declared.
Blackman also took employers to task for the manner in which they respond to invitations to attend hearings, blaming them for tardy response.
In handing down the ruling in the claim against First Citizens Bank, the tribunal declared that the former Acting Senior Settlement Officer was unfairly dismissed by her employer on February 8, 2016.
The chairman ruled that the bank’s termination procedure was fundamentally flawed.
Blackman said the judgment, which was given minutes after today’s hearing ended, will be delivered in writing in more detail in September.
He said the tribunal will determine compensation to Brathwaite later, considering she did not want reinstatement.
Brathwaite was terminated after 28 years with the bank, when she was found to have used its internal electronic information system to initiate an automatic transfer of $500 monthly from her personal chequing account to her personal savings account between 2013 and 2015.
The evidence revealed that such action contravened section 5.10 of the bank’s Handbook of Employee Policies, which stipulates that any “employee in breach of the policy on processing transactions to their personal account (s) will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal”.
This afternoon, the former senior staffer recalled pleading guilty to breaching the policy and had apologized for her action.
But earlier in today’s hearing, the tribunal chairman pointed to a number of key procedural flaws including not being cautioned by a senior management official about her rights during an initial meeting and having an internal hearing to which she was not invited to defend herself.
Tribunal Registrar Winston Chase told Barbados TODAY afterwards that the speed and timeliness with which cases can be concluded and rulings made, are the result of regular Case Management Conferences (CMCs).
Chase noted that CMCs are able to identify issues at an early stage, encourage parties to use dispute resolution where possible, encourage cooperation between parties, fix timelines for hearing of cases, give direction to ensure cases proceed effectively and efficiently and to ensure no party gets an unfair advantage by failure to give full disclosure.
The Registrar said he has 12 more cases on his desk to make ready for case management conferences covering the years 2015 to 2017 and for dates to be set for hearing.