Amidst the complexities of the law, don’t forget– it’s human beings who bring claims

Our last ‘legal comment’ was about the various regulatory changes on the employment law horizon (see our September post, link to the right) and the government has just published its response to proposed reforms on retained EU law.  With so much change happening, it’s tempting to just focus on the law and not the people that these laws affect.

But as we regularly remind clients – it’s human beings who bring claims.

A claim is not automatically submitted somehow after an employer’s breach of a legal obligation – it requires a positive step by an aggrieved person to bring the claim.

Claims are brought by people. People who feel something. Usually a feeling that they’ve been wronged, not treated fairly, not heard, discriminated against or otherwise hurt or let down.

The legal breach is just the hook to hang their feeling of grievance on.

How someone feels is very particular to them – wrapped up in a whole multitude of complex factors: their past experience, the present situation, their background, their genes, their neurodiversity etc.

You can’t control how someone else feels, but you can be mindful of it.

It can feel overwhelming for an employer to navigate the complexities of human nature, rather than just being steered by the strict letter of the law:  “everyone is different, where do I start?!”

You can start by seeing everyone as a human being. We are complicated. No one will react the same in any situation. And we all have feelings, however obviously (or not) we show them. Treating others how we’d like to be treated is not the answer.

If you’re following an HR process, trying to implement change, consulting or anything else that affects the people in your organisation, ask yourself if you’re going about this in a human way. Are you acknowledging the other person’s feelings, genuinely giving them a voice and treating them with dignity, or do they feel ‘done to’?

All of this can be done in a human way within a legal framework.

Two very different approaches can both be legally compliant, but only one lands well and is truly effective. That’s the approach that considers all the nuances of a situation – the purpose, values  and culture of the organisation, and feels human.

There are incalculable benefits to taking a more human approach, but one clear benefit is risk management for the organisation as this approach is far less likely to lead to a legal claim.

Our comment

Being legally compliant is never the whole answer in employment/HR terms. It's just the framework - it's what happens within that framework that really matters.