One of the big business stories last week was the ruling by the Supreme Court that the controversial fees for bringing employment tribunal claims are unlawful, a ruling that was hailed as a “massive win for workers” by TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
In 2013, the Government introduced the fees with the goal of eliminating frivolous tribunal claims from an individual or group who knew that they would have very little chance of being successful. According to figures provided by the Ministry of Justice, the number of employment tribunal cases in 2012 generally averaged at slightly above 5,000 total cases per month. However, after the ruling in 2013, the total number of cases averaged between 1,500 and 2,000 per month, the highest number being 2,210 in March 2014 – well below the average number in 2012.
The HR Perspective
There is likely to be a natural increase in employment tribunal claims following this ruling; however, that does not necessarily mean they have to reach the same levels as 2012 – there is more reason for employers to make their employees feel valued and also protect themselves from employment tribunal claims, and this is where the Human Resources function of a business can play a key role.
With regard to claims relating to the 9 protected characteristics for example, employers could introduce an Equal Opportunities policy or even refine the one that currently exists. Of course, the scope of employment tribunals is not limited to discrimination cases but this is one of many examples.
The Government’s argument that the introduction of fees would cut the number of malicious or weak cases is probably correct to a certain extent; but by the same token it has probably also prevented some workers from accessing justice following unfair treatment from their employer.
In order for employers to remain on solid ground when it comes to defending against (or indeed preventing) potentially expensive employment tribunal claims from current or former employees, there certainly seems to now be a greater need for clearly defined policies and procedures within an organisation to ensure that everyone within the organisation is treated in a fair and equitable manner.
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