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Employment Practices at Lombard Vehicle Management

Volume 575: debated on Tuesday 4 February 2014

The Humble petition of Anna Kelly, a former employee of Lombard Vehicle Management,

Sheweth that Lombard Vehicle Management was owned in part by the Royal Bank of Scotland; the practice and culture of management at Lombard Vehicle Management was of a very poor standard; further that this culture included bullying practices by management and that mechanisms in place to support staff through human resources failed.

Further that examples of these failings and culture include the fact that targets set for the Petitioner in her role were met, a target of 98%, verifiable through management records, yet she was criticised for failing to achieve these targets and placed on an action plan; further that her sexuality and character were referred to in meetings in a negative way by management; further that meetings of a grievance meeting were distorted; further that the Petitioner’s salary was suspended without just cause or reason three days into a period of sick leave which was in breach of her contract; further that the Petitioner’s Head of Department received advice that the Petitioner should not have had her pay suspended and refused to discuss this with the Petitioner or respond to requests to have the pay suspension lifted, despite being an employee of nine years with good attendance and only 10 days of absence due to sickness that calendar year.

Further that it is of concern that the union involved in this dispute was unwilling to take the aforementioned companies to tribunal because of the disparity between the union’s resources and the aforementioned companies despite the Union having advised the Petitioner; further that the Petitioner was badly treated; further that the Human Resources department noted on the Petitioner’s file that she wished to withdraw her grievance, which was not the case.

Further that it is of particular concern that the aforementioned companies saw fit to hold two grievance meetings, one in a local public house and another at a hotel bar at Birmingham Airport, both public places; further that the Petitioner’s pay was withheld on a second occasion for a week due to her team leader holding on to a medical certificate; further that false statements about the Petitioner’s attendance, attitude to staff and targets met were placed on the Petitioner’s HR file and that Lombard Vehicle Management failed to comply with their own sickness absence policy and dignity at work policy.

Further that this culture and the failings by Lombard Vehicle Management resulted in the Petitioner taking voluntary redundancy in order to escape the workplace environment and bullying nature of her management.

Wherefore your petitioner prays that your honourable House take measures to ensure that the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lombard Vehicle Management are investigated for their lack of concern for workers wellbeing and rights, taking particular notice of the de facto public ownership of both companies and the duty of companies, whether in the public eye or otherwise and further prays that Parliament urges the Government to revisit the issue of employment rights to ensure that disputes between employers and employees are not weighted so heavily in favour of employers and further prays that the House urges the Government to request that the companies look again at the issue of compensation.

And your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by John Hemming, Official Report, 19 November 2013; Vol. 553, c. 19P.]

[P001298]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:

Whilst sympathising with the situation in which the petitioner has found herself, individual employment disputes are ultimately matters for the tribunals and the courts to decide and they are not open to Government intervention.

Where there are disputes in the workplace, such as those described by the petitioner, the Government are keen to see them resolved at the earliest opportunity to avoid the cost and stress to both parties of formal procedures and, ultimately, perhaps going to tribunal. Where possible, we want to see the employment relationship is preserved.

Where problems cannot be resolved using internal procedures, third parties may be able to help to resolve a dispute. Under mediation, for example, which is a voluntary process, an independent and impartial third party helps two or more people in a dispute to try to reach an agreement.

ACAS has a statutory role to promote the resolution of claims, or prospective claims, to an employment tribunal. Where no claim has yet been submitted, this service is referred to as “pre-claim conciliation”. It is a free service available to employers and employees in appropriate circumstances, where they have been unable to resolve the dispute by other means (such as internal grievance, discipline or appeal procedures). It is delivered via a network of ACAS conciliators across Great Britain.

The ACAS helpline advisers will be able to identify whether a particular case may be suitable for referral to the pre-claim conciliation service, and if so, will put the parties in touch with a conciliator.

More information on options for resolving disputes can be found on the ACAS website at: www.acas.org.uk.

However, where disputes cannot be resolved without recourse to tribunal, it is committed to ensuring that the system operates as efficiently and promptly (for all parties) as possible.

The gov.uk website provides information about how to apply to an employment tribunal.

The petitioner also raises issues in relation to bullying and harassment. The Government make it clear that bullying and harassment have no place in today’s workplace environment and are unacceptable wherever they occur. The Government strongly condemns such behaviour and believe employees should be able to work without fear of encountering bullying from their employers, fellow employees or anyone else.

Legislation provides safeguards for employees against harassment in the workplace. This covers harassment on the grounds of sex (including sexual harassment). Race, Disability, Religion or Belief or Sexual Orientation and Age. In addition, protection is provided by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (where intentional harassment is made a criminal offence), and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (where harassment is made a criminal offence and victims have a right to damages). Employment law is complex and the Government, through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), has a national helpline offering advice to both employers and employees: 0845 747 4747.

I can assure the petitioner that we know that when an employment relationship breaks down it can be traumatic for both the employee and the employer. So we are implementing a range of measures designed to encourage employees and employers to talk to each other before a relationship irrevocably breaks down.

The introduction of Early Conciliation next April will build on the success of the ACAS’ pre-claim conciliation process. All prospective claimants will have to submit the details of their claim to ACAS before going to an Employment Tribunal. Early Conciliation will help employers and employees resolve their problems early, through clear communication with the help of ACAS conciliators. We also intend to introduce Financial Penalties in April next year. This will give tribunals the discretion to levy a penalty of up to £5,000 on employers who commit an aggravated breach of employment law. Financial Penalties are designed to target employer behaviour that is malicious, deliberate or negligent.

As our reforms are being implemented, we will work not only to ensure that employers understand the new rules but also how to get the best out to their staff. ACAS will have a strong role in this, ranging from one-to-one support on the telephone to online tools and guides. Officials are therefore working closely with experts from ACAS to develop a better understanding of how we can support employers to get the best out of their staff whilst maintaining a workforce with high levels of wellbeing.