Advice for Employers on Avoiding Tribunal Claims

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Employment tribunal cases have sky rocketed since fees were abolished in July 2017, by as much as 130%, according to the Ministry of Justice. In fact, with the courts struggling to keep up with the overwhelming number of claims, the Judicial Appointments Commission announced that it would recruit 54 new employment judges in a quest to keep up with the increased demand and backlog!

Going to court causes a lot of stress for both parties – the preparation is long and time consuming with uncertainty for months and sometimes years waiting for it to be resolved. Costs for employers to defend a tribunal can run between £10,000 and £20,000 for just 3 days, this is in addition to the labour and time spent beforehand, not to mention the payout if the claimant is successful. With all of this in mind, employers need to look at their role in helping reduce the number of cases being heard in court.

There are steps that Companies can take that are at the very source of their procedures, operations and culture. Robust policies and HR procedures that are in line with current legislation are a good foundation from where to start, with regular reviews to keep them up to date. Be proactive in keeping abreast of employment law changes and then ensure these are reflected in your handbooks, policies and procedures. Make these documents easily accessible to Managers and employees, perhaps on an online portal so that they are followed. The most important part of your HR practices is perhaps not in its writing or the crossing of t’s and dotting or i’s, it is in the communication and filtering down of the information to the employees. Tiny things can escalate due to misunderstandings; perhaps someone does not follow a procedure correctly, someone says the wrong thing or simply because problems are ignored or not spotted – before you know it, they have reached boiling point.

Many areas can be addressed to minimise the probability of going to a tribunal. Some examples could be making sure Managers are thoroughly trained in grievance and disciplinary procedures. Provide equality and diversity training to everyone, so that this isAP) a core value in day-to-day work life and all HR practices such as recruitment or redundancy procedures. Ensure that all employees have a Contract of Employment and any changes to hours or wages are covered by issuing variation letters.

Having all the paperwork and procedures in the world will not replace the need for the human side of running a business. Focusing on employee relations and creating a culture of conversation will help your people feel they can turn to their Manager or colleagues with a concern. Dealing with an issue appropriately from the outset will hopefully prevent a problem from evolving into one that that the employee feels can only be resolved in court.

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