Who should be able to call on the support of human resources staff?
Human resources or ‘personnel’ have a powerful position in the institution. They deal with the full range of employment issues from the appointment of staff and the issuing of contracts to promoting equality and diversity and ensuring that the law’s requirements are met in employment matters.
They are also available to advise and support in the handling of workplace disputes, grievances and disciplinary procedures. In most institutions they provide this support only to managers.
- This can lead to problems with fairness
- It can leave employees at a disadvantage in presenting their defence or arguing their case
Why not consider providing Human Resources support for individual employees?
How would this affect the role of Human Resources in contributing to the improvement of the institution’s systems and procedures.
How did I get sacked? Well, I was called in for a meeting about my ‘performance’. There was someone there from Human Resources as well as the head of department. I was not expecting that. It was worrying. She kept taking notes and she did not speak to me, she just leaned across and whispered to Professor X from time to time. Then a couple of months later there was a formal ‘hearing’. Noone explained to me what was going to happen. I was not sure what I was accused of exactly. The same person from Human Resources was there, only this time she was sort of presenting the case against me, with the Professor acting as a judge. I felt very frightened and I was not sure what rights I had to object to anything that happened. I did not have anyone with me so I did not know who to ask. They gave me a formal warning. Noone tried to make sure I was helped with the ‘performance’ problems. Then I got an email telling me there was going to be another hearing. The same person from Human Resources was there, only this time she was in the Chair. She explained that she would be making the decision about my future at the institution. The Professor was there too. He looked a bit uncomfortable I must say. She asked him to describe my behaviour and my failure to improve my performance since the formal warning. She pressed him quite hard. It was like one of those examinations in court you see in films. I did not know how to defend myself. They pushed some papers across the table to me. I had not seen them before. They seemed to be complaints from students about my lecturing style, but they had blanked out the names and the complaints were typed so I did not know who the students were. They asked me to comment on what the students had said. I asked if I could have time to read them properly and they said, no, the Professor had a meeting in half an hour and we had to finish by then.