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The words ‘Employment Tribunal’ have always caused fear in employers, but why?
The main reason is that most people fear the unknown. You will have heard horror stories about someone else’s experience (which you need to remember is a story), you “know” that it is going to cost you a lot of money and management time, and then there is the damage to your reputation when the world hears the tales your former disgruntled employee starts telling. It does not have to be like that!
You will be pleased to hear that since the introduction of Fees in July 2013, the number of individual claims submitted to the Tribunals has been steadily dropping. For the period January to March 2016 only 4,200 single claims were issued (compared with 54,704 in the same period in 2013 which was prior to fees being introduced). So the introduction of fees has certainly assisted in reducing the number of employees pursuing their (former) employers, although whether it has affected an individual’s access to justice is a whole different discussion which we will not go into today.
Another interesting statistic is that the average compensation awarded for unfair dismissal in 2015 was only £12,362 (with only slightly higher awards in relation to discrimination, with sex discrimination coming in at the highest at only £23,478). Things do not seem as scary now do they?
That said, the best thing to do is to avoid a Tribunal claim in the first place by having proper policies and procedures in place. You should also take early advice on any issue that you are unsure of or seems complex. It will save you money and time in the long term. But even the most experienced HR departments can find themselves in front of a Judge, sometimes through no fault of their own.
So what do you do to ensure that you give yourself every chance of successfully defending a claim and better still, getting the claim struck out?
Well preparation is key. Make sure you know ALL the facts, get ALL your documents in order, and take statements from all of the potential witnesses at the beginning.
Above all, make sure you take advice early, we cannot properly help you two days before your defence has to be filed (or 24 hours before a hearing – yes that has actually happened). We will work with you to identify the legal issues, fully prepare you for hearing and represent you at the hearing itself.
In todays webinar I was joined by Julian Allsop and Suzanne Staunton of Guildhall Chambers, who have a wealth of experience in representing clients in Employment Tribunals and between them have encountered everything! If you missed this webinar you can download the recording here if you have any further questions please do get in contact with me.
Also join us for our next webinar where I will be discussing Contracts of Employment, your opportunity to learn more about the key terms all contracts of employment should include. Register here.