Here, Ashton KCJ Employment Law specialist Hywel Griffiths, talks about the issue of employment tribunal claims.
The word on the block is that the number of Employment Tribunal claims made during the period April to June 2014 was 70% down on the number made in the same period last year and a third fewer than those made in the quarter January to March 2014. This is hardly a surprise. The Government has introduced hefty fees, which claimants must pay to bring Employment Tribunal proceedings, and made it a requirement that claimants submit to compulsory ACAS pre-claim conciliation. Even if these changes were not introduced with the intention of reducing the number of claims, they are certainly having that effect.
The Government has also introduced a cap of a year’s salary on the Employment Tribunal compensatory award, so, even after an employee has jumped through all the hoops to bring a claim and paid his fees, he will often find that his claim is worth a good deal less than he anticipated.
The question arises: in the current hostile climate, who is bringing Employment Tribunal claims? If my experience is anything to go by, the claims which are getting through are those made by claimants who are either very upset and/or very determined. Those who take the trouble to initiate a claim and pay the fee are not going to be easily fobbed off with a low-value settlement offer.
Pure unfair dismissal claims are becoming a rarity. Increasingly, unfair dismissal claims are coupled with a claim of discrimination of some form or another, on grounds of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or whistle-blowing. The value of discrimination claims is not subject to a statutory maximum. The cynical might say that this is the reason for their popularity. They also tend to be more complex and create more difficulties for an employer in successfully defending them.
The last few claims I have been involved in have all had a discrimination element. One lady alleged that she had suffered discrimination because she was a Jehovah’s Witness; I have recently defended a brace of claims in which a claim of whistle-blowing was optimistically included. I brought a successful claim for a client who considered he had been dismissed directly because of his age: the Employment Judge agreed with his view, assisted by some rather unfortunate words the employer used when effecting the dismissal.
My take on this is that employers need not be afraid to dismiss an employee when circumstances require it. However, it remains as important as ever for them to take the trouble to get the process right. It’s only polite – and it won’t half earn brownie points in Tribunal!
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Ashton KCJ employs 300 people in East Anglia and as such is one of the region’s largest and most prominent law firms. It has extensive geographic coverage, with offices in the main commercial centres along the A14 and A11 corridors – Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe and Thetford.
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