Fear of tribunals stops firms disciplining staff

Half of small and medium-sized firms are “afraid” to discipline staff for fear of being sued, new research has found.

A survey of 1,100 employers conducted by employment law firm, Peninsula, found that nine in 10 respondents would discipline staff if they were legally confident. But eight in 10 employers also feared a wave of employment tribunal cases following an increase employee rights.

In January, business secretary John Hutton announced a clampdown on unnecessary employment tribunals by pouring millions of pounds into conciliation service Acas.The move followed news of an increase in employment tribunal cases to 115,039 in 2005-06 to 132,577 last year.

David Price, head of employee relations at Peninsula said many businesses were so convinced that employment law is weighted on the side of employees, they were afraid to tackle disciplinary issues.

“Employers are increasingly finding it difficult to approach the area of discipline,” he said. “They are afraid they will become embroiled in a long, drawn-out process and ultimately find themselves at an employment tribunal.

“Employers also need to have a clearly defined disciplinary and grievance policy, in line with the statutory code of practice,” Price added.

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