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Managing clients – what if they don’t like your staff?

What should you do if the relationship between one of your clients and a member of your staff breaks down? Coodes Partner and Head of Employment and HR, Jeremy Harvey, examines some of the legal issues for client-facing businesses.

A recent tribunal raises some important issues about how employers should manage relationships between their staff and clients. In this case, the employee worked for a catering company and was sent to manage a client’s café on a business park. Following a fall in profits, the client demanded a change of staff. Her employer tried to find her a role working with one of their other clients, but none of these suited her circumstances. In the end, the business sacked her, leading to an employment tribunal, in which she claimed she had been unfairly dismissed.

Although this case related to a catering company, many employees work with clients or customers and the issues are relevant to many different businesses.

It is inevitable that relationships between employees and clients will occasionally become difficult. This may be because the client is not happy with the quality of work or it could just be a personality clash. The key is for employers to have systems in place to ensure that they are regularly monitoring relationships so that they can identify any problems as early as possible. This will then give the business the chance to address the issues with the member of staff – and the client if necessary – and come up with ways of tackling it. If problems are left too long, it will become much more difficult to save the relationship between the employee and the client.

In the recent case with the catering company, the tribunal could have been avoided if the issues had been identified earlier. The tribunal concluded that the dismissal was in fact fair, as the employer had done everything possible to try to find the employee a different role. Of course, it would have been far better for everyone if the issues had been identified earlier.

For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Jeremy Harvey, Head of Employment and HR at Coodes Liskeard office on 01579 325794 or

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