How to protect your business from the rising risk of the employment tribunal

Employment Tribunal cases, which are recorded and reported on a quarterly basis, have been showing a steady increase since ET fees were abolished on 26th July 2017. The number of single claims has been increasing quarter on quarter, with only one quarter showing a slight dip (from 8,900 to 8,500) before rising again. In recently published statistics, there were 9,500 single claims, a rise of 6% when compared to the same period in 2018. The figures are brought into greater context when compared with the same period in 2017, prior to the ruling which outlawed employment tribunal fees, when the number of cases was 4,300.

These statistics certainly indicate that employees are increasingly prepared to bring claims now that fees have been abolished. So what steps can you take to protect your company from the risk of being taken to tribunal?

There are many problematic areas of employment that could potentially give rise to employees making a claim, ranging from unfair dismissal through to bullying and harassment. The first step you should take is to ensure that you have a full set of policies and procedures in place and that these are up to date.  As a starting point, a contract of employment that is relevant to the job role should be issued. There are a whole host of policies and procedures that your business should cover, just a few suggestions are listed below:

  • Absence – sickness, lateness, medical appointments, holidays and other leave
  • Equal opportunities and discrimination
  • IT, Social media and device usage
  • Disciplinary and grievance
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Family policies – maternity, paternity etc
  • Health and safety
  • Dismissal and end of contract

A systematic approach to record keeping is also essential – from employee absence records through to detailed information relating to any disciplinary procedures. The most common reason for tribunals is unfair dismissal claims, so in the event that this sort of claim is made against you, being able to prove that you have taken the correct steps is essential. Using an HR management system such as breatheHR can significantly reduce time and effort spent on HR administration, ensuring that you have up-to-date, accurate information at your fingertips.

Even with all of the correct documentation in place, you can’t always account for the actions of your team. Training line managers so they are aware of employment laws and how they should deal with and speak to staff can go a long way to preventing issues occurring.

If an employee does make a claim, you should be aware that prior to reaching the employment tribunal, employees must first contact ACAS to enter into Early Conciliation (EC). This is an opportunity to reach settlement between the two parties. Be sure to take this process seriously and take advice on your options. If the process fails, the employee is then able to lodge a claim with the employment tribunal. So be sure to consider all your options – although you may not want to settle, in doing so you could save a great deal of time and potentially cost, so it may just be worth the compromise.

For more information or assistance of tribunal-proofing your business, please get in touch with us.