The decline in Employment Tribunal claims is welcomed by employers
The media and employers have welcomed the fact that the level of Employment Tribunal claims being brought has reduced by 80 per cent since Tribunal fees were introduced. Preventing spurious claims must be right. Those who abuse the system waste employers and taxpayers’ time and money and divert resources from those who genuinely seek justice. Employers too can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they are less likely to be forced into conducting the delicate balancing act of devoting significant time and cost in defending a spurious Employment Tribunal claim or be seen as an easy touch by opting for commercial settlement. However, the staggering drop in claims does have a worrying aspect. We suspect that the new fees regime has reduced claims as a whole, even genuine employment disputes. Also unfortunate is that higher fees must be paid to pursue claims like discrimination, whistleblowing and equal pay, so the more serious the wrong, the higher sum that the individual needs to pay to seek justice. Whilst our clients are always keen to comply with employment law and HR best practice, some employers might believe that they have a green light to ignore these things, because the employee will never be able to afford the Tribunal fee to bring a claim. The other worrying aspect of the introduction of fees is that it may inhibit genuine whistle-blowers, so preventing exposure of scandals like the Staffordshire Hospitals Trust. Not only does that lead to unacceptable injustice for the individual, but employers taking such a view are bound to come unstuck. Employers need to be more concerned than ever to comply with employment legislation. We have noticed recently that legal expenses insurers/solicitors’ firms are moving to cover Employment Tribunal fees on behalf of clients if a solicitor assesses the claim as having reasonable prospects of success, and then recovering from the employer at the Tribunal or by way of settlement. If employers do receive a claim, backed by solicitors, it is safe to assume that the claim is unlikely to be spurious and that they have a tough legal battle on their hands. It should also be borne in mind that the government recently introduced fines of up to £5,000, payable to the government, for employers who lose Employment Tribunal claims, where there is evidence of unreasonable behaviour by the employer. If you have concerns about complying with employment law or HR best practice or have received an Employment Tribunal claim, contact HR Insight Ltd for some advice.