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With fair policies and the right documentation in place the risk of a tribunal is reduced significantly.
Employment Tribunals and how to avoid them
If you have your own business, large or small and you are not an HR professional how can you make sure that you will avoid an employee tribunal. Most tribunal claims arise due to the employer misunderstanding or not being aware of employment legislation, for example: Working Time Regulations (1998) & The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007, The Employment Rights Act 1996 and The Equality Act 2010 is another. An employer must also adhere to the ACAS code of conduct meaning that fair and reasonable processes must be followed.
Awareness of the law and the ACAS code of conduct is one thing, following the legislation and the code of conduct is another. An employer failing to follow the ACAS guidelines and a fair and most likely simple process is another major cause of tribunal claims, possibly leading to a decision such as ‘unfair dismissal’. A Company should have compliant policies, best practice would be to set these out in an Employee Handbook to ensure that all staff (and the employer) have a full understanding of what the fair process is to be followed. By having a Handbook with fair policies employers are much less likely to give an employee grounds for a tribunal claim against them.
Reforms expected to be introduced in 2020 (The Good Work Plan Reforms) stipulate that all employees and workers must have the main terms and conditions of their employment written within a contract by the date their employment starts. It will also be best practice to have written statements of employment beforehand to avoid any claim that could result from only having a verbal agreement or implied terms. A written contract, being legally compliant will help prevent an employment tribunal claim.
Equality and Diversity
Employers are being held responsible for their Employee’s discriminatory actions where they have failed to train their staff adequately.
The Equality Act 2010 allows claims against a company from not only their employees but also customers, job applicants and contractors. It is therefore best practice that a Company includes an Equality and Diversity policy within their Handbook to reduce the risk of their staff discriminating against anyone. The policy should also include giving equal opportunities to all, whether employees, job applicants or contractors. Employees need to be sure of an equal opportunity from the beginning: during the recruitment process, training and promotion opportunities.
Most employee disputes are caused by weak or inexperienced line managers. Having competent managers or allowing managers access to the right support to enable them to deal with any disputes whether – formal or informal – fairly and effectively will help prevent employees feeling aggrieved. If a dispute cannot be resolved informally a fair grievance process (the grievance process should be included within the Employee Handbook) should be followed according to the ACAS guidelines.
After following the grievance process and if a dispute or disciplinary issue cannot be resolved in house, an employee may raise a claim through ACAS. This does not mean that there will be an employment tribunal hearing. ACAS will try and provide a Conciliation Service to encourage both parties to resolve a dispute out of court.
If the dispute does end up going to an Employment Tribunal, the costs can be substantial and run into thousands of pounds. Business insurance is available to help cover the cost of legal fees and any awards made to an Employee. An increase to your annual policy could protect the business against a large one off cost that could have serious negative impacts to cash flow.
Steps you can take:
- Ensure you understand how employment legislation will affect your business.
- Ensure you understand the ACAS code of conduct and their Fair Process guidelines.
- Ensure you keep up to date with legislation updates.
- Ensure you have an Employee Handbook with policies to include: Disciplinary, Grievance and Equality & Diversity.
- Consider reviewing your business insurances to include legal costs and employment tribunal claims.