Are your policies and procedures robust enough to protect you?
Recent statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that the number of claims made to employment tribunals has risen by a whopping 165% since the fees were scrapped.
Tribunal fees were abolished in July 2017, and a direct comparison with the same quarter this year shows a 165% increase in tribunal applications. In addition, over a quarter of claimants now represent themselves at tribunal as opposed to having legal representation, putting greater onus on the employer to fully prepare thorough and detailed casework.
This trend suggests that employers are more at risk of employees taking formal action against them for any number of reasons – which could include those such as unfair dismissal, breach of contract or discrimination. As an employer, if an employee takes you to a tribunal you will be required to produce the necessary evidence and information, not only in direct response to the claim, but also relating to their employment with you. For employees, the removal of fees and the increasing number of claimants not paying for legal representation, could mean they feel they have nothing to lose by going to tribunal.
The large increase in tribunal applications has resulted in huge backlogs with the number of outstanding cases in the first quarter of 2018 130% higher than the same period in 2017. In some parts of the U.K., tribunal dates for single day hearings are currently being set for 2020, and multi-day hearings for 2021.
Facing a tribunal hearing is potentially a very difficult and stressful time – both for employer and employee. Employers may feel unable to make changes or implement new processes without facing further scrutiny or may fear further backlash from other employees jumping on the bandwagon. Moreover, a tribunal is a slow process, with a likely timescale of over a year to worry about the impending court case and possible outcomes, not to mention the potential damage to brand reputation and future business.
So how can you minimise this risk and protect your business? The best advice for employers is to make sure you have good HR policies and practices in place in order to minimise your chances of being part of tribunal action altogether. This could range from ensuring your contracts, documents and policies are up to date, to reviewing your recruitment and selection process. Many organisations would also benefit from reviewing management and appraisal processes, ensuring line managers are trained to manage fairly and effectively. Having access to an HR professional who can provide advice and support early on when issue arises can often lead to early case resolution and a satisfactory outcome for all.
If you would like to discuss any HR needs and to see how we can support you in managing employment matters, please get in touch