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BT: Support Arrangements for Hearings

30 July 2009

The CWU has received a number of enquiries concerning new Accenture HR Services (AHRS) support arrangements for BT case management hearings reported in a People News item circulated on 22 July 2009.

The article refers to when a member of AHRS will attend performance, grievance or discipline case hearings in person. The CWU did not receive prior notification of the changes in policy or the publication of the People News article.

In the article it states:

"In future, AHRS case specialists will not attend under performance, grievance or discipline case hearings in person unless the case is complex and/or there are sensitive issues. AHRS will continue to give line managers advice on how to bring cases to a successful conclusion. For complex cases and/or where there are sensitive issues and a specialist is required, the specialist can join by phone but only by exception agreed by an HR Business Partner (HRBP) will a specialist attend in person.

For gross misconduct hearings, AHRS will continue to attend in person without the need for HRBP sign off, except in BT Retail where authority will be needed for specialists to attend any case hearings."

"Line managers will now need to record the notes during the hearing using BT Conferencing services (MeetMe)."

The CWU believes these apparently unilateral changes undermine the reliability and credibility of the procedures. The CWU has expressed concern to BT because we are not aware of any dialogue taking place between on what is quite a fundamental change to how these procedures are managed. The concerns include:

  • the removal of the AHRS specialist,
  • new arrangements for determining the complexity or otherwise of a case, and
  • recording notes of hearings.

The CWU feels great unease about someone offering guidance aspects of a personal case, not being physically present, especially as it would be impossible to form an accurate impression of body language and linguistic nuances.

These developments seem to be linked to the "Case Management Trial" that the Union was promised further information earlier in 2009, but this information has not been provided.

BT has indicated a willingness to meet to discuss and consider the CWU's concerns.