Thursday, 11 February 2016

Why its More Aw Shucks thank Big Bucks for Starbucks this week

This week Starbucks is in the news but for all the wrong reasons. Defeats in Tribunals never make good news for employers particularly when delicate issues relating to disability discrimination are at stake.
HR commonly refer to employment issues as “internal matters” but they can go “external” very quickly.
The Starbucks case was just one of many queuing up to be heard in a London employment tribunal last year. This week, even before a decision had been taken on compensation levels, the case was all over social media and even made it to the BBC’s 9 O'clock News last night.
The complainant said Starbucks treated her like she was a fraud because of how she handled the paperwork and that she considered taking her own life as a result of her treatment. Generally, employment tribunals don't deliver huge awards -certainly not in comparison to the United States where even labour law judges are known to adjourn with a bag of noughts to calculate appropriate levels of compensation.
Starbucks may be worried a sizeable award is on its way now that the case has hit the headlines but the real damage has been done to its reputation which its PR arm will no doubt be working hard to  correct over the coming months.
They could start by letting it be known that each and every one of its staff is now doing equality and diversity training. This sort of training is something  it should have been doing for a long time already.  
In the old days of employment training (now called Learning and Development) for an employer to train all of its staff on a single issue was often nothing short of a logistical nightmare. This was particularly the case where an employer, like Starbucks,  had employees dispersed over a multitude of sites or with many workers on assignments in other parts of the country or even abroad. Nowadays, with the advent of online learning such training can be done very easily. Starbucks I’m sure, could provide each outlet (if they haven’t already done so) with a PC, laptop or tablet on which all staff could periodically complete online training – perhaps during a quiet period of the day in the corner of the cafĂ© no doubt with a fine latte in-hand.
But this welcome development in online learning has proved to be something of a double edged sword for employers. For Tribunals now know that such training is easy to do and therefore they expect to see evidence that it has been done. In pre-Internet days Tribunals were given to being far more flexible on the matter.

Of course, every employer should be doing equality and diversity training. Not just to keep themselves legally tight but because it should lead to a fairer workplace for all.

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