With the recent ruling that the existing Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful we can expect a large increase in the number of claims submitted (after the fees were introduced there was an immediate decrease of over 60% in the number of claims made). So how can companies minimise the risk of ending up in Tribunal? Here are our top tips
If you anticipate wanting to make deductions from an employee’s wages then ensure you have a written agreement in place (e.g. through an employee’s contract) that you can make such deductions.
Unauthorised deductions of wages claims are one of the most claims issued in the Employment Tribunal (and are also often issued in the County Court as a breach of contract claim) and, other than in the case of genuine overpayments, will always be upheld if no prior written right to make such deductions was in place.
Understand the Working Time Regulations, especially in regards to annual leave and holiday pay and rest requirements.
This is one of the more technical parts of employment law and if you are unsure seek advice before you act. For example you cannot refuse to may outstanding statutory annual leave on termination because an employee resigned without notice or was found guilt of gross misconduct.
Firstly employees have to complete two years’ service before they can bring a claim for ordinary unfair dismissal and this whole time (and not just any probationary period) should be utilised to ensure they are suitable for continued employment. Please note that the two year rule does not apply to discrimination claims or most claims for automatic unfair dismissal (e.g. dismissal because an employee was a whistle blower).
Secondly, if informal conduct or performance management does not work then move on to formal procedures correctly and issue warnings where necessary – this will strengthen your defence to any unfair dismissal claim if you subsequently dismiss the employee due to persistent poor conduct or performance.
Be open and up front about the reasons for dismissal, it is not uncommon for an employer to want to use redundancy rather than conduct or performance as a reason for dismissal (it feels less harsh) but you can often end up tripping yourself up.
Do not make assumptions based on health or age. Disability and age discrimination are the two most common claims made under the Equality Act and often arise as a result of making decisions based on the perceive rather than actual ability of an employee to do his or her role – please remember that a compulsory retirement age is almost entirely unlawful now and therefore any decision about an older persons suitability for continued employment must be based solely on actual capability and not age.
Ensure you have in place a valid contract of employment. A properly drafted contract should help avoid situations arising that can lead to Tribunal claims (see point one above) but also give rise itself to over a 1,000 Tribunal claims each year and can also lead to you paying an additional 2 or 4 weeks pay if you lose a claim.
By Guy Woodcock
If you don't have Microsoft Office, or Microsoft Word installed on your PC or Mac, don't worry - you can still use our products. You can get a free alternative from Open Office.
Open Office Org is open-source developed alternative to Microsoft Office, developed by a large software company called Oracle. Open Source means the company who build the software, allow 100% use of it, 100% free.
Since Open Office is specifically developed to be exactly the same as Microsoft Office, with all the same programs in the suite (Eg: Word, Excel, Access and Power Point) - it will freely open any Microsoft Office file-format. Meaning, just because a document was written in Microsoft Word, doesn't mean it can't be opened in another program. Open Office will do that, and vise versa.
To download and install Open Office;