Why should I be concerned about Employment Tribunals?

Employment tribunals are a costly, time consuming and emotional experience for employers and that is just if you win. If you lose, it can be expensive.

In 2014/15, there were 61,308 claims made to a tribunal. In these tough times employees quite often look at going to a tribunal as a reasonable ‘punt’. The costs to them are minimal and there is potential to make some money.

Average awards last year for unfair dismissal were £6,955, racial discrimination £8,025, sex discrimination £13,500, disability discrimination £8,646, religious discrimination £3,180, age discrimination £7,500, sexual orientation £6,000. The average cost of defending an employment tribunal is £8,000 not including stress and potential reputational damage to the company.

The rising costs of employment tribunals are attributed to a lot of different issues. Employees quite often know more about the law than you do, they surf the net and sometimes come up with inaccurate ideas which nevertheless they insist on taking to the tribunal. Employment law itself is becoming more complex especially in the areas of TUPE (The Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment) and wage comparison exercises and some disability claims which lead to tribunals lasting longer..

How to avoid a Tribunal?

Consider the following:

1.  Regularly review all employment policies and procedures to make sure they comply with existing legislation
2.  Communicate, communicate and communicate with your employees to reduce uncertainty and avoid surprises
3.  Resolve grievances as soon as they arise use the formal grievance system
4.  If you have a disciplinary issue make sure the proper procedures were followed
5.  If you have a redundancy situation follow the 3 step procedure before you make anyone redundant
6.  For disability situations make sure you can be seen to have taken all reasonable steps to address the situation
7.  Use mediation and conciliation where appropriate

Tribunal fees

Claimants who issue a claim against their employer will be required to pay a fee.

The fees are £160 for level 1 claims (with a hearing fee of £230). Level one claims include claims for unpaid wages, holiday pay and redundancy payments.

For level 2 claims there is an issue fee of £250 with a hearing fee of £950. Examples of level 2 claims include discrimination, unfair dismissal and equal pay.

For appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, there is an issue fee of £400, and a hearing fee of £1,200.

Employment tribunal rules

There are a number of changes to employment tribunal rules including the combining of pre-hearing reviews and case management discussions into one preliminary hearing, and a requirement that a tribunal must, where appropriate, encourage parties to use alternative dispute resolution. The Tribunal also has the power to strike out cases which they believe have no reasonable prospect of success before any hearings have taken place.

Reduced cap on compensatory award for unfair dismissal

A cap of 12 months pay for the compensatory award in unfair dismissal claims will be introduced. This cap will apply where it is less than the overall cap, which currently stands at £74,200.

How can a Mediator help?

Mediation which is used in other civil law claims can be especially useful in preventing issues from escalating into full blown employment tribunals. You can use external mediators or train one of your staff in mediation techniques. It is a challenge to go down this route it does involve both sides really wanting to find a solution, it can also be used to negotiate an exit strategy for a disgruntled employee.

The government is giving ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) a further £37m over the next 3 years for additional mediators to be trained to act in this area. I am also attending workplace conflict resolution workshops. Mediation will be encouraged to resolve workplace disputes to lessen the burden on the  employment tribunal system..

Where to get help and advice?

Despite all this if you are asked to appear at a tribunal don’t be scared. Engage someone who is competent to represent you. You can contact me here >>> and if you can’t reach an agreement before the hearing, then go in there with your representative and be positive.

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