Rise in tribunal claims - what does this mean for you?

SSF Business Consulting

Most employers fear that envelop from the Employment Tribunal Services landing on their desk. No matter how diligent you are most employers will have experienced this at least once, if not then you’re one of the lucky few.

On 26 July 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the regulations introducing tribunal fees in July 2013 were unlawful. Employment Tribunals stopped accepting fees and on 15 November 2017 the Government opened a fee refund scheme which resulted in numerous claims for refunds being submitted for Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeal Tribunal fees paid between 2013 and 2017.

Despite the four-year period when employees were charged a fee to put in an Employment Tribunal Claim; as employees are becoming more informed about their rights and their employers’ obligations, tribunal claims continue to rise. The Ministry of Justice recently published provisional tribunal statistics for the period of October to December 2017, which clearly show the continuing rise in claims and some of the key indicators were:   

  • Single Employment Tribunal claims received have increased by 90%  
  • Single Employment Tribunal claims disposed of have increased by 21% 
  • The backlog of single Employment Tribunal claims has increased by 66%  
  • Multiple (where Claimants complain of a number of breaches in Employment Law) Employment Tribunal claims received have increased by 467%, which is an abnormal statistic and falls outside the normal pattern of 25,000 cases for the same period in 2017. 
  • Since the launch of the Employment Tribunal refund scheme in October 2017 to 31 December 2017, 4,800 applications for refunds were received, and 3,400 payments with a total value of £2.8m were made.

Employees tend to consider submitting grievances and tribunal claims when they feel demotivated and not engaged. Given the continuing rise in tribunal claims, it is crucially important for employers to keep their employees engaged and informed by having a robust People Strategy aligned to the Business Strategy, with strong Employee Engagement and internal communication processes. This is especially true when your business is evolving.

What does this mean for employers?

When employees feel that they are being kept out of the loop or are being treated unfairly, when your business seems to be doing well or investing in your future; employees often will feel more and more disengaged and demotivated if they don’t see that same investment in them and your People Plan. They are more likely to put in a grievance or even more seriously an Employment Tribunal Claim!

If employers are not able to respond quickly enough to disengaged and demotivated employees, the rise in grievances and Employment Claims will continue to prevail; and the abolition of Employment Tribunal fees in 2017 means that the number of employees taking their employer to Employment Tribunal will also continue to rise. Can you afford to ignore this?

As you try to implement your Strategic Business Objectives for 2018 and beyond, whether this impacts growth, diversity, restructure or even downsizing, are you thinking about aligning these changes to you People Strategy? Do you even have a People Strategy?

Failure to think about your People Strategy when you try to implement your Business Strategy will only make any things worse for any disgruntled employees. If you are not thinking about employee engagement and motivation whilst you are trying to implement your Strategic objectives you will not succeed to realise the benefits of this.

More businesses fail because they can't adapt quickly enough to the pressure dealing with change, and the implications of this on your employees. Whether you are considering employing more staff or letting staff go, training good leadership teams you implement your vision; and implementing processes to underpin their growth strategy; without employee engagement and motivation you will not realise the full benefits of your Business Strategy and you will potentially attract more employee relations issues, grievance and at worst Employment Tribunal Claims.

Do you know what the maximum Compensatory Award for unfair dismissal, which is unlimited for certain automatically unfair dismissals, for example, health and safety or whistleblowing?

  • From 6 April 2017: £80,541
  • From 6 April 2018: £83,682

Even the maximum Basic Award for unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy payment is

  • From 6 April 2017: £14,670 (30 weeks' pay subject to the limit on a week's pay)
  • From 6 April 2018: £15,240 (30 weeks' pay subject to the limit on a week's pay) 

​As a business can you afford to pay out these types of compensatory payments to employees? Or will these types of compensatory awards mean the end of your business?

Can you afford to ignore this?

How Can You Avoid This?

You can avoid wasting your time, money and the stress that this will put on you and your team, by working with your employees, getting them involved in your journey, and using their skills and capability to help you to implement your strategic objectives.

A robust People Strategy, encompassing employee engagement and motivation; a good Resourcing Strategy and a strong Communication Strategy aligned to your Business Strategy for 2018 and beyond will help you to avoid the pitfalls and not be one of the Tribunal statistics. When most businesses and management teams are doing what they are good at day in and day out; they fail to really think about the People implications that then lead to more problems that they are not prepared for; or don’t know how to resolve.

Don’t be reactive and only deal with the problems after they have happened. By being more proactive and being prepared you can avoid the pitfalls, have a more engaged workforce and be much more successful with the time to continue to do what you do best!

As a strong Business Partner, working as a Virtual People Director, SSF Business Consulting have partnered with many clients to support their Strategic Business Transformations and Organisational Design Changes; HR & Employment Law Consultancy Services; and Leadership Development Training. By helping them to design, develop and facilitate the successful implementation of their People Strategy, we have collaborated with them to make sure that the implementation of their Strategic Business objectives successfully, avoiding tribunal claims and mitigating risks.

SSF Business Consulting Offer Consultancy Services providing support with Business Transformation and Organisational Design; Employment Law and HR Consultancy Services; and Leadership Development. It’s always better to be prepared and be proactive rather than firefighting after the event.