Mention Employment Tribunals and its enough to bring on a panic attack for many business leaders. But Employment Tribunals are in ones face daily as the media press the emotional buttons of one failing after another leading to monopoly money settlements.
In 2009/10 there were 236,100 Employment Tribunals, a 56% rise on the previous year. What is going wrong? Recession may have contributed to the explosive rise in cases especially where organisations failed to handle redundancy fairly. But equally responsible for the growth in claims is the litigious nature of society in current times and the ease with which a person can initiate a claim. In effect a person can make a claim electronically on the Employment Tribunal website in a matter of minutes and at no cost.
Defending an Employment Tribunal claim is becoming extremely costly and can easily reach five figures where legal experts are appointed to run the case and that excludes the heavy cost of tying up staff as witnesses.
So what are the options? Well first off is to ensure you do not experience Employment Tribunals by having in place an excellent human resources environment with proper policies and procedures and fair methods of dealing with complaints and conflict. You don’t need to hire your own HR practitioner as this activity can be undertaken by a competent HR Consultancy and usually at a far cheaper cost than hiring permanent staff.
If you want further peace of mind, you can secure insurance against the legal costs of defending at the Employment Tribunal and compensation costs if you are unsuccessful. This type of insurance normally requires that you receive sound HR advice during the events that led up to the Employment Tribunal and that you had the appropriate policies and procedures in place. HR+ offers such an arrangement which is cost effective and easy to introduce.
If you don’t want to take the risk of going through the Employment Tribunal or are unwilling to pay the legal costs of such you can try and settle ‘out of court’. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many organisations take this route which may be less costly, avoids putting staff through the difficult and stressful cross examinations that take place in the Employment Tribunal and minimises the risk of negative publicity for the organisation. If you take this route, my advice is to hire an expert negotiator or mediator to help you get the type of deal you can afford.
If you require any help with any of the issues covered in this article please call HR+ and we will be very happy to help.
Dr Hugh Billot
HR+ is a leading HR consultancy: for advice please call 01233 772431.
HR GO Recruitment offers solutions to all your staffing needs, temporary and permanent, please call 0845 130 7000.