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The risk of employment tribunal claims is an ongoing concern for employers. While it is not possible to avoid tribunals entirely when running a business, it should be noted that it is possible to mitigate the risk of a claim.

Why do claimants bring employment tribunal claims?

To try and minimize the risk of tribunal claims, it is important to understand why employees may bring claims against their employer. Here are some common examples of reasons that an employee may bring an employment tribunal claim:

  • Unhappy with internal processes and/or the employer is not following its own policies /procedures​
  • Feeling like they have been treated unfairly
  • Inconsistent treatment of employees
  • Feeling they are being discriminated against​
  • Being bullied or harassed
  • Failure to deliver on promises
  • Losing trust and confidence in their employer
  • Experiencing a bad working culture or atmosphere
  • Being overworked and undervalued

If an employer proactively assesses where issues may arise within the business, they can look to put measures in place to minimise the risk of issues arising and/or manage workplace before the need for a claim arises.

It is essential to deal with employee concerns without delay and have processes in place for dealing with them, otherwise the risk of increased management time, costs and tribunal claims will increase.

Below are 5 ways employers can look to minimise the risks of claims in the workplace:

1. Positive working culture

Tribunal claims often arise from situations where there is a general culture of bad working and hostile behaviour between employees.

As an employer, it is important to promote a supportive working environment so that staff enjoy coming into the workplace. It is evident that the happier a setting, the less likely that claims will arise, but an employer can not have complete control over what their employees do day-to-day.

As such, in conjunction with the promotion of a supportive work environment, an employer can encourage a ‘speak up’ culture.

This is promotes the feeling that any employee can come forward no matter the size of their issue. By dealing with the issues at the beginning of the conflict, can avoid small issues turning into larger problems for the business.

2. Put the right documentation in place and review it regularly

​Employers can be brought in front of the Employment Tribunal for procedural issues that can be easily avoided.

Employment contracts are now a day one right for employees. Therefore, the employers should make sure that they issue a contract of employment for every worker on day one of their employment relationship and ensure that the terms are consistent across similar roles.​

Another simple way to reduce disputes, is to create a staff handbook that clearly identifies the company policies and procedures, whilst also making sure that the whole business follows them.

The policies must be reviewed regularly and kept up to date with any changes in the law.​ There are many policies available to employers depending on the needs and size of the business, but as a minimum, employers should have disciplinary and grievance policies, equal opportunities policies, anti-harassment policy, data protection and a whistleblowing policy.

3. Training and development

Along with the correct documentation, it is important to ensure that senior/line managers, who have an active role in supervising, managing and mentoring, have the necessary training to deal with any disciplinary and grievance issues, and that they follow the correct procedures at all times.

If a manager fails to adhere to employment law when dealing with employment issues and/or acts inconsistently to other managers in the business, both they as an individual and the company can be liable for any resulting claim at a Tribunal.

Also, further training should be offered to all staff so that they are aware of company policies and what is expected of them in the workplace, particularly around equal opportunities and discrimination.

Those in managerial roles should also be able to identify when they need to take specialist advice on an employment issue or workplace situation. This could be because the scenario they are faced with may not have been an issue that they have come across before, or it may be a sensitive or complex matter or a repeat issue, which can be seen as a development area for the business.

An awareness of potentially disruptive workplace issues and the insight to request specific advice is an important step in the prevention of workplace issues escalating out of control and into employment disputes.

Having regular training is key to ensuring that managers are aware of what the correct policies and procedures are, which an be essential for resolving workplace issues promptly before any escalation.

4. Follow correct procedures and deal with matters promptly

Consistency is a key word for any employer, as any disparity can cause issues and has the potential to cause grievances amongst a workforce, with the potential for discrimination and/or issues relating to unfair treatment to arise.​

A fair and open management style that encourages communication can lead to higher employee engagement and retention, reducing common workplace issues. However, should an issue arise, such as an employee having a grievance about another employee, it is important that line managers deal with these issues quickly and reasonably to avoid the matter escalating.​

If a situation cannot be dealt with informally, employers should follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures as a minimum when handling employment disputes in the workplace and formal grievances.

The tribunal will consider the procedure followed if the case reaches an employment tribunal and it is therefore good practice to adhere to this statutory code. In an unfair dismissal claim, the employment tribunal may increase an award of compensation by up to 25% for an employer’s unreasonable failure to comply with any provision of the code.

5. Keep good quality records of your decision making

Records should be kept throughout the course of someone’s employment, not just at the point of the problem, including informal issues. Records can take the form of paper notes, text messages and even screenshots of social media posts.

However, employers should carefully consider what is written down about employees, as any notes may need to be disclosed to them should a subject access request ever be made by the individual or during a disclosure process.

In addition, you should also keep a formal record of any meetings with a staff member and follow up the conversation in writing for the record. These records are important to show who is acting as a reasonable employer. Not only can they help avoid an employment tribunal altogether, but they can also be vital in arguing a case in court should it come to that. Minutes should be taken at meetings, and conversations followed up in writing to confirm what was discussed. Keeping records will ensure all parties are fully aware of the situation.​

Speak to an employment tribunal solicitor

Are you an employer seeking guidance on contracts and handbooks for employees? Do you want to develop policies similar to those mentioned in this article, to help avoid the potential of an employment tribunal claim? Our solicitors can help. Contact our team today by completing our online enquiry form below or by giving us a call.

Key Contacts

Helen Watson

Helen Watson

Partner | Head of Employment Law

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Debbie Coyne

Debbie Coyne

Employment Law Senior Associate Solicitor

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