In July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful in the case of R(Unison) v Lord Chancellor. Since then, the number of cases filed against employers has doubled, with 3,045 cases being filed in August 2017 alone.
The most common causes of action brought by an employee against their employer are:
Constructive dismissal: An employee terminates their contract of employment by resigning because of the employer’s conduct.
Discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, religion or belief, age, or sexual orientation.
The abolition of fees means that employees who are dissatisfied with their employer’s internal grievance procedure (or lack thereof) are more willing to take legal action to resolve issues arising from their employment.
Top Tips for Better Management to Protect Your Business
There are certain preventative measures which employers can take to reduce the risk of claims.
- Provide Employees With Relevant Documentation
When an employee commences employment at your business, you should provide them with a copy of their contract of employment and information relevant to their position such as a job description. You should also provide them with a copy of your staff handbook which will include policies on sickness absence and parental leave and disciplinary and grievance procedures. This will help you manage your employees in the best way possible.
The staff handbook sets out the standards expected of your employees and reduces the legal risk by making sure employees and managers understand the legal rights applicable to the employment relationship. Some policies where correctly implemented e.g. equal opportunities and whistleblowing policies can assist in defending some types of claims brought in the employment tribunal.
You must review the documentation regularly to ensure that it is up-to-date and reflects any changes to the law, your business or the employee’s circumstances. For example, if an employee’s job role changes, you may wish to issue them with a new contract of employment to reflect the change and any additional terms you may wish to include to protect the business such as requesting them to give a longer notice period if they are to resign if they have been placed in a more senior position and post-termination restrictions.
- Communicate With Employees
Regularly ask employees how they are and listen to them if they ask for help. Ensure that employees are praised when they excel and be considerate of issues affecting employees’ work lives and personal lives.
It may be beneficial to provide employees with feedback on their performance and give them opportunities for job development and promotion. You should also encourage employees to put forward their own ideas and provide feedback. You should implement any good suggestions or provide an explanation as to why you chose not to implement them.
- Address Issues Promptly
You must ensure that you take all grievances seriously and direct the employee towards the correct channels for the grievance to be investigated. Ignoring the employee’s concerns is unlikely to make the grievance disappear. Rather, this may strengthen the employee’s case against you. You should aim to deal with any problems raised quickly, fairly and consistently. Dealing with any issues promptly may avoid the situation worsening and avoid a lengthy formal grievance process.
As well as following your business’ internal grievance procedure, you should comply with Acas policy. Should an employee succeed with certain types of claim against your business in the Employment Tribunal, compliance with the Acas code of practice may reduce the amount of any compensation they are awarded by up to 25%.
- Take Legal Advice Promptly
The best way to prevent an employee bringing a claim against your business is to take legal advice before making key decisions e.g. the decision to dismiss an employee and how to handle a grievance that is raised.
Our experienced employment solicitors can advise you on how to terminate an employee’s employment fairly and how to deal with a grievance process fairly. Our HR Advantage legal package is a fixed fee service that can provide as much or as little legal support as and when you need it.
For advice on the above issues or any other employment issues, contact us on 0845 287 0939 or complete our online enquiry form.