REVIEWING TRIBUNAL FEES – THE EMPLOYER’S FRIEND OR FOE?
A visit to a tribunal may seem a good last resport but in real terms, distraction, time and money loss employment tribunals are worthless as a last resort. By the time it gets that far serious damage is done to a small business and the good will of any employees, regardless of where you place the blame.
In 2013 tribunal fees payable by the claimant were introduced, meaning that a claim would involve an initial outlay by the claiming party of £1200 (initial fee of £250 and a £950 hearing fee). We’re told that the aim of this was to:
- encourage the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution
- increase the Tribunals’ efficiency
- reduce the burden on tax payers by asking people using the service to pay
At that point many employers breathed a sigh of relief – surely this would see off most speculative claims.
Fewer Claims in 2015
Certainly there have been far fewer claims submitted (in the first quarter of 2015 there were about a third of the claims submitted compared with the first quarter of 2013) but experts have been questioning whether people still have access to justice.
Let’s all pitch up into the tribunal then – got to be good for business
OK, it may just be me but shouldn’t we actually start by examining what caused the problem, to prevent these cases recurring, rather than just decide to stick a plaster over the hole in the system?
What is it that ails our relationships with staff?
Why were there over 20,000 claims submitted in the first quarter of 2015? Particularly relevant when you think that we have compulsory ACAS Early Conciliation which applies to most Tribunal Claims (claimants have to notify ACAS of their intention to make a claim and ACAS uses Early Conciliation to try to achieve a resolution between employer and employee).
Some ideas on why we get it wrong
From my own experience one of the most fundamental issues is around the employment contract – or lack of it! As a lawyer, of course I like things to be in writing – it makes everything clear to all parties so that they know who’s responsible for what and it avoids misunderstandings. A tatty piece of a paper posing as an employment contract that only scrapes by with the absolute minimum of information is not going to cut it as a document presented to a tribunal.
Even-handed behaviour and treatment laid out in writing is not that difficult – follow it and stay safe
I also like policies and processes. If you set out what you are going to do in a policy and follow that process, then provided you’ve kept some evidence along the way (notes, copies of emails etc) it should be fairly easy to resolve almost any dispute.
An argument doesn’t have to end in tears in the workplace
No I don’t believe that I am living in a world where there are no disputes, or that a hug will automatically resolve any disagreement, but I do like a bit of good old fashioned common sense. If you’re on a journey with someone it makes sense to know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there and who’s doing what.
Stop penny pinching when the stakes are high
It also fazes me that employers often wonder if the cost of a contract of employment and staff/employee handbook is really worth it? Hello! As employers we are probably paying circa £25,000 to employ someone and we now baulk at £200-300 to get the relevant protective documents in place. I spent about an hour online lining up the quality and warranty comparisons of the various makes and models of fridge before finally making my purchase. Really? We do that with a £350 fridge and yet we’re not looking at protecting a £25,000 investment. Some of us may well be a little insane.
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