At the end of July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the Employment Tribunal fee system was unlawful. The system was immediately withdrawn and now prospective claimants need not pay anything to commence their claim. The latest Employment Tribunal statistics have been released showing the anticipated increase in claims has occurred, with claims made in the last quarter of 2017 up by 90% on the same quarter in 2016. So what should employers be doing now to mitigate this risk? We have some practical suggestions:
1. Regularly review contracts and policies – it is extremely important to make sure that the documentation between the parties reflects the reality of the situation. Disputes often arise where the documentation is not clear or changes to the employee’s role or job description are not properly reflected in writing. HR policies can quickly become out of date through developments and changes in the law and should be reviewed annually as a minimum.
2. Manage performance issues as they arise – all too often we hear of employers wishing to dismiss someone who has been underperforming for some time. Instead of addressing the problem at the outset, employers can allow matters to fall by the wayside until the situation becomes critical and they need to dismiss the employee. It is much easier and safer if a full performance management process has been followed beforehand.
3. Closely monitor grievances and other employee relations issues carefully – a grievance can quickly escalate into a case of constructive unfair dismissal if not dealt with swiftly and effectively. Often grievances get “stuck” within a business leaving the employee feeling sidelined and without recourse so make sure the person dealing is proactive in their approach.
4. Treat employees fairly and equally – disputes frequently arise where employees are treated differently and without apparent justification. An employer must be able to justify any disparity in treatment with reference to non-discriminatory considerations.
5. Adhere to the law and ACAS guidelines – commonly employers slip up on procedure and documentation when it comes to disciplinaries and dismissals. Obtaining the assistance of a legally qualified adviser early on will ensure that the employer puts itself in the best possible position to defend any potential claims with confidence.
6. Alternative resolution of disputes – a situation doesn’t always have to end with a claim. The parties can avail themselves of the ACAS Early Conciliation service or “protected conversations” can be had with an employee when a dispute arises, allowing the parties to come to a resolution without resorting to Tribunal.
If you would like further details on how we can assist you with defending Employment Tribunal claims or with any other employment law issues, please get in touch with a member of our employment team on 01702 338338 or 01277 500123.