Disgruntled staff member? Beware of the Employment Tribunal

By now, it’s likely you’ll have heard about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to outlaw Employment Tribunal fees, effectively making it possible for employees to bring a claim against an employer without cost.

If you haven’t heard about the ruling, or would like to read about what this means for employers, you can take a look at our blog on the topic here.

There’s little doubt that we can expect to see the number of claims being brought to tribunal shoot up following this decision.  After all, claims dropped by an estimated 75 per centfollowing the introduction of these fees and if a disgruntled employee thinks they have a chance of some compensation, even if their grounds for a claim are somewhat ‘shaky’, there’s nothing for them to lose.

The fact is that employees are much more informed now than ever before as to the circumstances under which they can bring employment tribunal claims and some may try to use this knowledge to their advantage.  The enactment of the Equality Act in 2010 was widely publicised and employees know that they can’t be discriminated against for any ‘protected characteristic’ – be that their age, gender, race, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage / civil partnership, or pregnancy / maternity.

It has been documented that prior to the introduction of employment tribunal fees, some employees deliberately targeted employers to try and gain compensation for discrimination.  Where it comes to sensitive matters and these ‘protected characteristics’, employers that aren’t hot on documentation, such as meeting notes or interview notes, can find themselves lacking evidence to support their case.

That’s right – don’t forget that someone doesn’t even have to be an employee to bring a claim for discrimination – this can happen after a job application or interview!

Dismissals are also often a potential breeding ground for employment tribunal claims.  Where it gets to the point of a member of staff being dismissed, the relationship between employer and employee is likely to have broken down irreparably.  In a disgruntled mood, an ex-member of staff may decide to take their employer to tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal on the ‘off chance’ now that they no longer need to pay a fee to do so.

Any employment tribunal has the potential to cost employers in many ways beyond just monetary outlay; although this shouldn’t be glossed over – particularly in the case of discrimination claims, which are uncapped in terms of awardable compensation.  Businesses may also suffer costs in terms of lost management time and potentially reputational damage.

Without wanting to scaremonger, now more than ever, it’s vital to get your HR house in order.  Keeping a paper trail is essential for protecting yourself, as is having up to date and appropriate documentation, such as contracts of employment and employee handbooks, in place.

KMC Human Resources is an accredited partner of breatheHR, which is an excellent place to start getting your documentation in order, as well as freeing up valuable management time dealing with HR administration.

For help and advice on employment law practices, or if you’re interested in having us conduct a ‘health check’ of your HR, please contact us.

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