Workplace disputes and Industrial Tribunals

The impartiality of HR

The impartiality of HR

In recent times, there has been a movement towards increased team integration of HR staff with managers and employees; it may be there is an open plan office or HR staff may rotate around the different teams. This certainly appeared to be the case at a panel debate I attended during my first week of my CIPD course at Napier University. Three HR professionals from large, well known companies came to talk about perceptions and challenges in HR. One described that HR should be more solutions driven and that HR staff should have an acute understanding of the business and, therefore a strong relationship with the Manager – this was the key to success. However, could this close relationship with the manager and physical proximity to the rest of the team cause problems when employee or HR issues arise? We would argue that a degree of impartiality is essential, for a number of reasons:

  • • An HR professional should seek to maintain a neutral and impartial perspective when assessing a situation. Someone too immersed in the team culture and agenda, may not fully consider the wider implications for the business and may not be able to provide the Manager with a rounded, balanced view. For example, the external perspective we can provide looks across teams and departments and to the business’s wider sector in general.
  • • Fairness in a statutory process. In a smaller company which only has one HR member of staff, it may be that they should not be in every meeting throughout a process, even if simply taking notes or advising on process. For example, we would maintain that wherever possible someone who is involved in an investigation should be different to someone assisting with the disciplinary etc.
  • • Conducting a large scale investigation in a company relating to a type of disciplinary or grievance may require employees and external individuals to reveal discreet details, which they may or may not be comfortable conveying in a recorded meeting. As an outsourced HR company, we feel we provide an appropriate ‘sounding board’ through which to listen to these individuals and allow them to tell their story. It may be that the internal HR staff are implicated or that employees may not feel comfortable exposing themselves to someone from within the organization.
  • • There can also be a debate around whether the HR team should be invited to an employee’s leaving night, birthday etc – how close is too close? We believe there should be a degree of separation, otherwise there is the possibility information may be leaked or opinions or views about members of the team may be compromised or biased. However, we also accept that every company is different and therefore it depends on the culture and the preference of the HR member of staff, whether they feel comfortable attending. And remember where there is alcohol involved – more self control needs to be exercised…from everyone!

In conclusion, different companies have different ways in which HR is integrated into the team; with some it may be the HR individual visits each department once a week or every so often, so the employees can place a face to the name. Overall, we feel a degree of separation should exist for the purpose of impartiality – which we certainly provide.

Therefore, if you would like to enquire further into the impartiality of HR in relation to your business, please give us a call on 0131 225 7458.