Implications of new ACAS guidelines
The method by which claimants' compensation is assessed remains unchanged by the repeal of the statutory dismissal, disciplinary and grievance procedures. However, says Martin Brewer at Mills Reeve, the Employment Act 2008, which came into effect in April and replaces the statutory procedures, gives employment tribunals discretion to increase or reduce compensation awards by up to 25% where the employer or employee has unreasonably failed to comply with the new Acas Code of Practice.
He said: "An example of an employer acting unreasonably would be if they dismissed an employee without sending them a letter or inviting them to a hearing."
In addition, Brewer says an employee who refuses to attend a disciplinary hearing because they are signed off sick could be, save for the most extreme circumstances, seen as acting unreasonably.
He added: "It is common in disciplinary or performance management cases for an employee to go off sick with stress. But a doctor's certificate only gives them time off work - it doesn't absolve their responsibility to their employer.
"Where a person is physically and mentally capable of attending a disciplinary hearing they should attend. The belief that employees are untouchable when they are signed off sick is a myth."
High-profile tribunal cases where large compensation awards are involved make for good headlines.
For example, news of last year's record-breaking £19m damages award to City lawyer Gill Switalski was splashed all over the national newspapers after a tribunal found she had suffered sex discrimination and harassment. It is being contested.Likewise, a tribunal's decision last autumn to award bank worker Balbinder Chagger £2.8m compensation for suffering racial discrimination made many a headline.
But just how do employment tribunal panels decide on these amounts, and what criteria do they use when awarding damages to claimants?