Since the abolishment of tribunal fees for employment related claims in 2017, there has been a steady increase in the number of claims made by employees. This is confirmed in the annual report prepared by the Ministry of Justice which provides the following statistics: –
- From October to December 2019, single claim receipts increased by 25% when compared to the same period for 2018; and
- For multiple cases, receipts rose by 86% during the same quarter when compared to the same period for 2018.
The above statistics indicate that the overall claims trajectory is likely to continue to rise, which will understandably be of great concern to many employers. With an increased exposure to potential claims, employers should understand the importance of taking proactive steps to minimise the risk of claims being brought against them.
Here are our top 5 tips for preventing and defending employment tribunal claims:
Ensure you have appropriate policies and procedures in place.
A good starting point for all employers is to have clear terms of employment, policies and procedures. These documents will provide a basic framework as to what each party expects and what obligations and standards are required of each party. Often, disputes arise due to lack of clarity or understanding of relevant policies and procedures; so, with such documents in existence, employers have a point of reference when a dispute first arises.
Familiarise yourself with the law
Policies and procedures alone will not be sufficient and employers ought to ensure they, along with all other managers, have a clear understanding of employment law. Employment law is continually evolving so regular updates and training should be provided. One common mistake made by employers is the failure to follow disciplinary and grievance procedures. By law, employers are required to set out their grievance procedure in writing and share this with their employees. Where no grievance procedure exists then the guidelines outlined in the ACAS Code of Practice should be followed. Failure to do so, can result in up to a 25% increase in any award of damages.
Make use of the ACAS procedure.
All employees are required to follow the ACAS early conciliation procedure before submitting a claim to the Tribunal. This procedure provides an opportunity for an employer to settle the dispute without the need for lengthy and costly tribunal proceedings. Whilst settlement may not always be appropriate at this stage, employers should always consider the strengths and weaknesses of the case in order to determine whether or not an early settlement is possible.
Compliance with case direct ions
Upon receipt of tribunal proceedings, an employer must ensure they provide their ET3 response within 28 days, unless an extension has already been agreed. If an employer fails to provide a reply within this timeframe, then they risk not being able to take part in the proceedings. It is advisable to seek legal advice at this early stage as it is essential that the information contained within the ET3 response is accurate; any inaccuracies or inconsistencies can be detrimental to the employer’s credibility and to the outcome of the claim.
Preparation is key
Employers should ensure they start preparing for the final hearing as soon as possible. With employment claims, disclosure of documents is key and can be crucial to the outcome of a claim. Employers should retain all documentary evidence and should start collating further documents and witness evidence as early in the proceedings as possible.
With it becoming much easier for disgruntled employees to make a claim, employers should act quick and seek appropriate legal advice once proceedings are received. The financial impact on businesses can be huge and by dealing with the matter in the early stages can help reduce the potential costs which may be incurred.