For a while, there was good news for employers. Claim numbers had dropped by around 70% thanks to the controversial introduction of tribunal fees. It could cost an employee £1,200 to bring a claim – and that was on top of any legal costs they might incur. Many Claimants were deterred from claiming at all. Life was getting more comfortable for employers. Then came the Supreme Court’s surprise decision last summer that tribunal fees were unlawful.
Statistics now show that there has been a 90% rise in the number of tribunal claims since fees were ruled unlawful. To some this will be a sign of a supposed ‘claims culture’ returning. To others it will be a natural adjustment following the huge drop in claims when fees were introduced and will serve as evidence that people were denied access to justice while fees were in place. It is important to note that claim numbers are still below what they were back in 2013.
The message it does send out to employers is that if they fail to act appropriately or fairly towards their staff, they face a greater risk of ending up in an employment tribunal. So what can an employer do to reduce this risk? Here are 5 suggestions that spring to mind:
- Ensure that before you act, you take advice from a competent adviser who understands your business and your reasons for taking the steps you wish to take;
- Use probationary periods efficiently to identify whether the employee is suitable for permanent employment and do not be afraid to take tough decisions if they are not.
- Use settlement agreements to reach a resolution with an employee before it gets to the stage of becoming a tribunal claim.
- Insure against the cost of defending employment tribunal claims and any awards that are made at tribunal. Insurance providers will often require you to take advice from suitably qualified legal advisers before you act, in order for you to be covered for employment claims.
- Make sure those individuals in your organisation who manage staff are fully trained on what to do and say and what not to do and say.
It is never possible to guarantee that an employee won’t bring a claim, but by taking these steps, an employer will minimise the risks to their business in an environment where claim number appear to be recovering to previous levels.