Avoiding Tribunal Claims

Here’s an unpleasant truth. You can’t stop (ex) employees lodging Tribunal claims. We’ve got some guidelines below on how to minimise them occurring, but there’s never a guarantee that you won’t be on the wrong end of a claim.

When Employment Tribunal Fees were introduced in 2013, they seemed, to us at least, to be a great idea. They meant that disgruntled employees had to be really quite confident in their chance of winning their case if they were going to risk what was a meaningful up-front expense of up to £1,200. Abolition of Tribunal fees last July, four years after their introduction, has put us back in the situation where employees will have nothing to lose if they decide to enter a claim; potentially reversing the 75% drop that we saw in Tribunal claims after fees were implemented.

Probably the main issue that this ‘nothing to lose’ position presents for employers is that the costs involved in defending  a Tribunal claim, including the time and aggravation to do so, makes it much less troublesome to simply come to some agreement and offer a cash settlement. Just responding to an ET1 can cost around £1,500 in solicitor fees. Of course claimants, and their advisors, know this.

Paying off an ex-employee is a slippery slope however. Once you set the precedent, it’s easy to get a reputation and become a target for further claims. We need to minimise the probability of a claim arising so make your cases watertight.

Processes & Procedures: If an employee is dismissed, there are recognised procedures that you must follow to make the process fair such as a proper investigation followed by a disciplinary meeting followed by an appeal. Even if your reasons for dismissal are absolutely clear cut, failure to follow the correct procedure immediately presents the employee with a case for unfair dismissal.

Records and Notes: Make sure that all meetings are recorded in writing and that all parties agree that notes are an accurate reflection of discussions held. Obtain signatures as evidence. It’s normal to have a note-taker but if you want to make a recording of a meeting you’ll need agreement from all parties. Your notes are your evidence which you must have in place to support your case.

Robust HR Practices: Constructive dismissal arises where an employee resigns due to treatment at work making his or her continued employment untenable. An un-consulted change of terms and conditions could amount to this. There can sometimes be a temptation to circumvent proper HR practices because they seem tedious and unnecessary; don’t be tempted. Following the proper procedure now will save you unnecessary aggravation in the future.

Rigour: Letting staff ‘get away’ with poor performance, bad time keeping, a bad attitude etc., will just make things harder in the long run as ensconced behaviour becomes acceptable and your attitude towards it is seen as custom and practice. Don’t leave any issues undealt with in the hope that they will improve. They won’t, and when you find yourself forced to take action it will be difficult to make anything stick. I can hear the cries of “victimisation!” now.

Consistency at all Times: Tribunal claims can arise if job applicants feel they have been dealt with unfairly; so you could get a claim from someone who isn’t even an employee. Ensure you apply all of the above throughout your organisation and working practices.

We offer a comprehensive Personnel Risk Assessment which looks at your current working practices and identifies any risks. For further information about this service, call us on 10452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

12 January 2018, 13:32