Changes to bias law will boost claims, firms say

The
Government’s proposals to switch the burden of proof in employment tribunals to
the employer in discrimination cases will encourage spurious tribunals and
raise costs for employers. 

The
Institute of Directors’ response to the DfEE consultation paper, Towards Equal
Pay, argues that changing the European directive on burden of proof will give
staff a powerful incentive to launch tribunal claims against their employer,
even if the grounds for doing this were relatively weak.

The
consultation period closed yesterday and the directive on burden of proof will
be implemented into UK law on 21 July.

Richard
Wilson, the IoD’s business policy adviser, said, “We are concerned about
shifting the burden of proof directive so that the employer has to disprove an
equal pay claim.

“This
will encourage more spurious tribunal cases as the applicant will be far more
likely to bring a claim.

“There
will be huge costs in principle as this will put employers off contesting the
case and to settle out of court.”

The
paper outlines proposals to introduce an equal pay questionnaire to help define
claims, and cutting out unnecessary paper-work on multiple claims. Other
proposals were supported by the CBI and the IoD, particularly those to simplify
and speed up the tribunal system for equal pay cases.

Dominic
Johnson, head of employment relations at the CBI, said, “The general view is
that employers are supportive of the technical changes proposed for
streamlining equal pay tribunals.”

He
added, “Anything that speeds up the tribunal process and removes significant
legal costs is welcome. It’s a sensible package of proposals.”

By
Karen Higginbottom

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