The annual tribunals service report, like the final cricket averages or football league tables, always makes for fascinating reading. Who will be on the way up, on the way down or going nowhere?
Well it didn’t take a degree in punditry to predict that, in a time of recession, claims for unfair dismissal and redundancy pay would be on the up. And that those for equal pay would fall. The latter can be a rock-the-boat exercise at a time when many staff will be keeping their heads down for fear of redundancy, pay cuts etc.
Yet employers should not take comfort in the belief that it is simply rising lay-offs that are driving unfair dismissal claims upwards. The trend is also a reflection of how employers manage such situations and the events leading up to them.
The fact is many employers could have avoided the cost and hassle of unfair dismissal claims if they had taken more care when handling redundancy or disciplinary cases. It’s absolutely essential that employers have policies in place that guide their HR function and line managers step-by-step through the handling of such claims.
A slump may seem like the ideal time to offload some dead wood but it must be done by the book. Also, giving dismissed and laid-off employees some extra redundancy pay may not buy their acquiescence.
Truth is that costs are rarely awarded against former staff. This means there is little deterrent to put them off pursuing claims. Also, anecdotal evidence indicates that awards are rising as tribunals recognise it will take jobless claimants longer to find work. Yet these awards are hardly at Premier League footballer earnings levels. The modal award for unfair dismissal was in the range £1,000 to £1,999, with that applying in 420 cases.
Perhaps if these figures were more widely known, staff pursuing unfair dismissal cases might think twice before bothering.
John Charlton, editor