Blog: Beware the delay!

Once again the world of professional cycling has given me a thought for a blog. This time it is the Chris Froome situation. As an update, on Stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) in September 2017 he gave an “adverse analytical finding” – essentially his urine test showed double the permitted level of Salbutamol. Salbutamol is a permitted substance (it’s the active ingredient in Ventolin inhalers, which are used by asthma sufferers) under the rules provided that (a) you don’t exceed the permitted amount of puffs that you take and (b) you don’t exceed the permitted levels of it in your urine.

Slow progress

This details of this case have been leaked to the media, which is why the cycling world is now talking about it. The position is that the ball is now in Chris Froome’s (and his team: Team Sky’s) court to explain how this happened but there is no deadline by which he needs to provide his explanation and they are suggesting it could take months before they respond. Under the rules, Chris Froome is still allowed to compete while the case is progressing, this means that in theory he could complete most of or the whole season and win all of the major races that he is going to compete in, including the Giro D’Italia (Tour of Italy) and the Tour de France.  He is one of the firm favourites in both those races.

The problem then is if Chris Froome cannot make a persuasive argument when his case is eventually heard, he will almost certainly receive a ban that will essentially annul last year’s Vuelta result and any events that he competes in this year. This means that there will be an air of farce hanging over any events in which he is riding this year, as you can imagine the race organisers and cycling’s governing body are not particularly happy, to say the least, about Chris Froome and Team Sky’s approach.  There is now talk of other teams boycotting races in which he is going to ride, it’s all getting rather silly.

Meanwhile in Employee Relations…

The current Chris Froome situation is a rather extreme example, therefore, of the problems caused by delay in dealing with important matters relating to allegations and conduct. The world of HR is a dynamic, fast moving environment and our experience is that delay in dealing with such issues is the enemy. This is for three main reasons.

First, delay can mean that the original incident often gets overtaken by events. For example, there will typically be an incident of alleged misconduct but if that is not promptly addressed then the “accused” may raise a grievance and it becomes gradually more difficult to see the wood for the trees.  You can find that the employee is then effectively setting the agenda.

The next reason is that memories fade, so the longer you take to deal with it, the weaker the evidence becomes.

The last and probably the most important reason is how an Employment Tribunal regards delay. Each alleged incident in a workplace effectively has a “use by” date.  If you allow matters to drift then you will have to explain to the Tribunal (months after the incident) why you are seeking to persuade them that you took matters seriously when your delay at the time perhaps indicated otherwise.

We are not suggesting that you rush things when dealing with disciplinaries and grievances, but it’s worth bearing in mind that a Tribunal will be expecting you to explain both your actions and your inaction, and delays are a powerful way of criticising you and your processes.

As ever, the best thing to do when a potentially significant incident happens is for you to call your friendly, knowledgeable employment lawyer ASAP and we help you stick to the right path and progress robustly through fair processes at a decent pace, which ultimately is best for all concerned.

Simon Martin
Partner

Email Simon or call 0117 325 0929