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The Supreme Court’s decision that fees to access the employment tribunal system are unlawful is a game changer for employees and employers.
Prior to the introduction of fees employment related claims were four times higher than they are today. Today’s decision is likely to spark a huge increase in claims for employers, possibly returning to the highs previously recorded. Employers had complained about spurious claims, wasting time and money. Employee bodies argued that fees prevented claims with merit from being heard. Both sides have a point.
What now for employers? How should they respond? Here are some thoughts and tips from our Head of Employment, David Bradley, who has practised law in this area for 30 years and has seen the rise and fall and likely rise again of employment claims;
1.Do not be side tracked by the prospect of an increased risk of claims. Continue to do the right thing. Think and plan, yes but if the decision affecting the workplace is correct and appropriate, take it.
2.Review your processes and the resource applied to managing your work force. Procedures do not have to be gold plated, just fair and robust with a sensible line of decision making.
3.Take advice as necessary to balance management requirements with the rights of employees. Advice does not always have to be over cautious. Skilled advisers will offer a solution.
4.Spurious claims are a risk. Resist the temptation to settle, even at a nuisance level. Unfortunately, some employers gain a reputation as a “soft touch” and the problem escalates. Committed and loyal employees can also become disillusioned with a management approach that does not tackle the issue. There is often no harsher judge of an errant employee than a fellow employee!
5.Tribunals do have systems designed to help weed out spurious claims and costs can be awarded (contrary to popular belief) against claimants pursuing unmeritorious claims. Use the tools available as appropriate and encourage those representing you to fully explore these options. In appropriate cases pressure can be applied.
6.Review any insurance backed defence products. Will premiums rise as a consequence of increased risk? Did the premiums fall when the risk fell after fees were introduced? Is the advice received unnecessarily cautious, to avoid the risk of claim or a claim reaching a tribunal hearing?
7.Support managers and fellow employees who might be required to give evidence. Tribunals are often described as an “informal” judicial environment. To most people who may never have had first-hand experience of giving evidence it is a daunting prospect.
In some respects, this will be back to the future but the underlying principles of good management should continue to hold firm.
For more information on any of the issues raised in this article or for advice on employment law matters in general, please contact David by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01484 821 500.