Five top tips for avoiding employment tribunals

Roger Spence of Harrison Drury outlines the measures that can be put in place to avoid employment tribunal claims.

They say prevention is better than the cure and it seems that rarely is this clichéd statement truer than in the area of employment law.

It’s hard for me to stop sounding like a broken record at times, but the best way to avoid any employment tribunal claims is to avoid any disputes arising in the first place.

If anyone is unsure as to the effectiveness of this piece advice, they just need to look at the results. There was not one single employment tribunal brought against any of my retained clients in 2012 because of the preventative work we had done with them.

While it isn’t possible to guarantee your business will never be taken to an employment tribunal, making the risk miniscule is simply a matter of good policy and practice. Here are my top five tips for getting it right:

1. Put the right documentation in place and review it regularly

It’s a legal requirement for an employee to be given a written statement of particulars of employment within two months of their start date. Properly drafted policies to support the contract will also assist with reducing the number of disputes in the workplace. Communicate these policies and procedures to staff to ensure they fully understand them. The constantly changing nature of employment law means that documents need to be regularly reviewed to ensure they offer an employer the best protection.

2. Follow the correct procedures

Make sure you follow your company’s procedure and the ACAS Code of Practice. If procedures aren’t followed properly it could lead to an employee’s compensation award at tribunal being increased. It is essential not to overlook the training that may be required for managers to enable them to deal with problems and follow procedures correctly.

3. Treat staff equally and fairly

Tribunal claims often arise from situations where an employer is entitled to take action against an employee, but they do not deal with it fairly. This can lead to a finding of unfair dismissal in favour of the employee which could have been avoided.

4. Don’t ignore the warning signs

Time and again I see employers who delay holding disciplinary meetings with staff because they would rather not have to deal with it. Whether it is a disciplinary or grievance situation, there are usually early warning signs that there’s a problem. Tackling these problems head on can prevent them developing into a dispute.

5. Keep written records of all employment decisions

These records are important to show you are a reasonable employer. Not only can they help avoid an employment tribunal altogether, they can be vital in arguing your case in court should it come to that. Minutes should be taken at meetings, and conversations followed up in writing to confirm what was discussed. Keeping records will ensure all parties are fully aware of the situation. Seek advice from an employment specialist if you are concerned about any employment situation. Should you receive a tribunal claim from an employee, speak to your legal advisers without delay.