Employers could be left feeling powerless following the recent landmark ruling which abolished employment tribunal fees.
The Supreme Court ruling means that staff can now bring legal action against their employer without having to pay up to £1,200 in fees.
While this may be extremely concerning for business owners, they are not entirely vulnerable to endless legal threats, claims employment law expert WHO at CJCH Solicitors.
The expert, who HOW MANY YEARS’ experience in fighting for employers’ rights, offered his top five tips to help businesses safeguard themselves against employment tribunals.
- Clearly defined contract breaches
When drawing up the initial contract of employment it is crucial that unacceptable behaviour, which could constitute a serious breach, is clearly defined.
Examples of entirely unacceptable behaviour or acts in the working environment, or in relation to staff, equipment, or client relationships, should be clearly stated, with the consequent actions explained thoroughly for the employee to read.
If this is detailed and they have agreed to these terms, a subsequent legal challenge in relation to this would most likely be ineffective.
Furthermore, in instances where the employee’s claim is believed to be malicious or have aggravating features, they could actually face penalties of between £100 and £5,000 to the Government.
- Mitigate the risks
While employees cannot be prevented from bringing a claim, the risks of them being brought in the first place can be lowered.
Employers should consider altering the recruitment process to ensure they attract the right talent, whose aims align with that of themselves and the business. Training could also become a bigger factor in a bid to ensure staff feel adequately valued and equipped to perform their role and progress within the company. Appraisal policies are also integral to evaluating any issues and deal with them in an efficient manner before they become problematic.
Happy, fulfilled employees, who feel valued as less likely to bring a claim against their employer.
- Clear job specifications and guidelines
It is vital to have clear job specifications and employment guidelines when taking on staff. For example; if evening working is required, this must be stated clearly.
This could lead to consequent discriminatory proceedings if, for example, an employee is required to carry out evening working but is unable to do so due to family commitments, and was unaware of this factor from the start.
These guidelines must be universally adhered to, to promote fairness, and to help the employer avoid tribunal proceedings.
- Deal with issues swiftly
It seems self explanatory , however assessing and dealing with any issues quickly and sensitively, can help to avoid legal proceedings.
Give all employees the chance to discuss their concerns, in a fair and non-judgemental manner. All parties must be given the opportunity to be heard, to avoid an imbalance.
Following the ACAS Code of Practice, which advises in grievance and discipline in the workplace, can help to deal with issues effectively. This could also help to reduce any pay outs by 25% if an employer loses at tribunal.
- Unfair treatment
If an employee can prove that they have been treated unfairly they may have grounds to make a claim.
Unfair treatment includes, being dismissed for personal reasons, such as disability, pregnancy, or mental health; reporting health and safety breaches; raising concerns; or bringing a claim as part of a trade union.
If these reasons are cited during dismissal or grievance proceedings, it could leave employers particularly vulnerable to legal claims.