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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Home Office may have breached employee “trust and confidence”, warn lawyers


The blame game taking place between the Home Office and the head of the UK Border Force serves as a reminder to employers of their duty to maintain “trust and confidence” with workers, lawyers have warned.

After being publicly accused by Home Secretary, Theresa May, of acting “improperly” by relaxing border checks for people arriving in the UK from outside of the European Economic Area over the summer, Brodie Clark is now suing her for constructive dismissal.
He claims that he was denied the opportunity to respond to the Home Secretary’s disparaging comments about him which, he attests, included being branded “a rogue civil servant” during a private briefing.
Lorraine Teague, an employment partners at law firm Shakespeares, said: “If Mr Clark’s claims are found to be correct, this would mean that his employer may have breached their duty not to undermine trust and confidence between employer and employee. This duty is an inherent part of all employment contracts.”
It also went without saying that disciplinary matters should always be dealt with in a private manner and procedures should be followed as appropriate, she added.
Teague cited three key ways in which employers could avoid potential claims for unfair or constructive dismissal:
  1. Beware of speaking to the media about employee behaviour unless there is proper cause: In a claim made against RDF Media Group Plc, the fact that representations made to the press about a worker were true was considered a good defence
  2. Keep disciplinary matters away from the shop floor: Reprimanding staff members in front of colleagues, in a manner disproportionate to their perceived misconduct, was the basis of a successful claim against Hilton Hotels International
  3. Take care if deciding to suspend an employee: Although many employers automatically suspend workers accused of serious misconduct, in the case of Hertfordshire County Council, it was found to be a “knee jerk reaction” that led to a breach of trust and confidence.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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