October 19, 2023
When workplace disputes are not resolved through negotiation or internal processes, employees may turn to employment tribunals to seek a resolution. The employer is then obliged to defend itself against the allegations raised by the employee. The process can be stressful and costly. In this article, we will provide an overview of the role of employment tribunals, an understanding of when and how employment tribunal claims are made, and what an employer can do to mitigate the risk of claims.
Employment Tribunals are the judicial body with responsibility for workplace justice. They are the main forum for deciding disputes between workers and employers and are part of the wider judicial system.
UK employers should be aware of the most prevalent types of claims that can lead to employment tribunal cases, including:
* Unfair Dismissal: Employees may bring a claim for unfair dismissal if they believe their dismissal was in breach of the employer’s statutory obligations.
* Discrimination: Claims of discrimination based on characteristics such as age, gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and maternity status are relatively common in employment tribunals and can result in the highest awards against the employer.
* Wage Disputes: Tribunals handle cases related to unpaid wages and holiday pay.
* Breach of Contract: Employees may bring a claim against their employer if they believe they have acted in breach of contract. The most common type of breach of contract claim is wrongful dismissal. Wrongful dismissal is where the employee alleges that the employer has failed to pay the appropriate notice pay under the contract.
Understanding the employment tribunal process is crucial for employers. Here is a summary of the key steps within this process:
Before an employee can file a claim, they are required to engage in ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) early conciliation, which aims to settle the dispute without going to a tribunal.
If early conciliation fails, the employee can submit a formal claim to the employment tribunal, outlining the details of their complaint.
The employer will receive a copy of the claim and must respond within a specified timeframe (usually 28 days from receipt of a copy of the claim), addressing the allegations.
A preliminary hearing may be scheduled to clarify issues, decide on jurisdiction, and issue orders relating to the management of the case.
If no settlement is reached, a full tribunal hearing will take place, where both parties present their case.
The tribunal panel will make a decision based on the evidence presented and relevant law. If the employer is found liable, remedies may be ordered.
To minimise the risk of employment tribunal claims, employers can implement the following best practices:
* Clear Employment Contracts: ensure employment contracts are well-drafted, outlining roles, responsibilities, and dispute resolution procedures.
* Compliance with Employment Law: stay informed about UK employment law, regularly review policies, and ensuring compliance with statutory rights.
* Effective Communication: it is important to maintain open and respectful communication with employees to address concerns and grievances promptly.
* Training and Awareness: train managers and staff on key points such as anti-discrimination, harassment, and employment law compliance.
* Fair Dismissal Procedures: having, and following, proper procedures can reduce the risk of litigation. However it is worth taking legal advice to ensure you remain complaint with legislation as far as possible and limit your risk when it’s not.
* Record Keeping: maintain thorough records of employment-related decisions and interactions with employees.
Being proactive in preventing disputes and seeking legal advice when needed can help employers minimise the risk of employment tribunal claims. As such, we can help employers with the following: