Preparing against employment claims


Following the high profile ‘constructive dismissal’ case brought against Sir Alan Sugar by his Apprentice and recent statistics from the Tribunals Service showing a spike in unfair dismissal cases last year, local law firm  Gardner Leader advises businesses on the best way to handle employment litigation.

Figures released on 15th April 2013 from the Tribunals Service show that around 15,300 claims were made between July and September 2012 compared to 10,600 claims in the three months before. The rising figures have generally been credited to people making claims ahead of the Government’s proposed employment law changes, expected this summer, which include a fee of between £160 and £250 to make a claim and a further £950 if the case reaches the Employment Tribunal. Currently it is free to submit a claim.

According to employment law specialist, Gardner Leader, the threat of employment litigation remains one of the biggest worries for businesses despite the Government’s employment legislation changes.  This is  view that was echoed by local business leaders at the law firm’s Roundtable Event earlier this year.

Gardner Leader’s  advice to businesses is not to be daunted by employment law – be prepared.

Employers should have clear employee contracts and clear policies and procedures in place that align to UK legislation and are adhered to at all times.

Legislation changes enforced last year now mean that staff employed after 6 April 2012 must have worked at a company for at least two years before they can make an ordinary unfair dismissal claim (but be aware that there is no qualifying period for some claims, for example, discrimination claims).

Despite this change to the law, employers should always have a three month initial performance review with any new starter, followed by one every six months to assess performance. The details of the discussion should be written down and any matters arising should be addressed.

If the matter is serious, then issue a warning in line with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Code of Practice and the company’s own procedures.
If an employee does need to be dismissed then ensure that there is a fair reason to do so such as are they capable to do the role?

If faced with an unjustified, unfair dismissal claim or threat of a claim, it’s worth responding and outlining the strength the company’s defence as early as possible as this may put the employee off from pursuing the case.

Julie Taylor, employment specialist at Gardner Leader, comments:” Unfair dismissal claims act as a constant pressure on businesses. But if an employer follows the correct dismissal process and there’s a fair reason to ask the person to leave, then there’s a good chance that the employee will drop the claim at an early stage.  However, as with the claim against Lord Sugar, there will always be those who want their case heard by the tribunal regardless but businesses should get some reassurance from the new fees to make a claim. These new charges should go some way to putting people off pursing a case with little chance of success.”

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