HR expert Laura Wright looks at how the right policies and culture might have made all the difference for the Post Office subpostmasters.
Following the ITV drama, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, the scandal which saw over 700 subpostmasters wrongly convicted of theft is making huge headlines.
Since 2000, hundreds of lives have been ruined after a devastating miscarriage of justice which has even seen some Post Office employees serve jail time, all due to the faulty Horizon accounting software.
In response to the public attention, the Prime Minister announced, on 10th January 2024, that there will be new legislation to exonerate the wrongly convicted subpostmasters, however is this too little too late?
So how could better HR have made a difference and what we can learn from the mistakes that were made.
Conducting a fair and thorough investigation
Investigating officers appointed to look into an issue such as this must be impartial and qualified to perform the role in order to conduct a fair process. Investigations need to be thorough, looking at more than one source of evidence, and conducted in a timely fashion.
In the Post Office Horizon scandal, it was evident that the investigation relied wholly upon the data from the Horizon accounting software and did not consider the witness reports from over 700 subpostmasters who denied the allegations.
Organisation culture and behaviour
According to the CIPD, organisational culture is an important concept to the people profession. HR staff play an influential role in organisation culture and should be challenging poor behaviour. Without a healthy workplace culture, organisations will be unable to effectively deliver their business strategy. Accepting that so many employees were effectively stealing from their employer, demonstrates that there was a lack of trust and respect, with damaging consequences.
Thankfully the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office has put this story in the spotlight and hopefully mistakes like these will not be made again.