For employers an employee or former employee bringing a claim against them in the employment tribunal is a problem best avoided.
The costs involved in dealing with such disputes, both in terms of financial burden and management time, can escalate quickly taking valuable resources away from the day to day running of the business. So is there anything that an employer can do to avoid such claims being made against them?
Of course there are steps which can be taken to minimise the risk. Ensuring you have good management procedures in place will help, as will providing your employees with Contracts of Employment and having an Employee Handbook which is easily accessible to employees. It will depend on the size of your organisation and the type of business you operate as to what areas those policies and procedures contained in the Employee Handbook will; cover but, at the very least, you should ensure that grievance and disciplinary procedures are clearly set out and are in line with the ACAS Code of Conduct. An Equal Opportunities Policy coupled with relevant training is also important to minimise the risk of discrimination claims.
When problems do arise, ensure that you follow your own policies and procedures and make sure that any meetings are documented. If your employee later brings a claim against your organisation those notes, taken at the time, will be invaluable as evidence.
The reality is that you can never be sure that an employee will not make a claim, however with the requirement that all claimants make an Early Conciliation Notification to ACAS prior to their claim being accepted by the Employment Tribunal an employer ought to have advance notice that a claim may be issued and should therefore have an opportunity to consider their position and whether defending that claim or settling it is more appropriate at that stage.
Once ACAS issue a certificate confirming that the Early Conciliation requirements have been met then the Claimant may issue proceedings in the Employment Tribunal.
It is important that employers seek advice from an experienced solicitor at the earliest opportunity when faced with a potential claim by an employee. In order to minimise the risk of future claims, and to ensure you are best placed to deal with them if they do arise, it is prudent to have an experienced solicitor review your employment contracts and existing policies and procedures on a regular basis to ensure they comply with current law.
For more information, please contact
Steven McGrath on 01842 757434