Increased legislation and higher levels of compensation are causing a sharp
rise in the number of tribunals brought against employers.
The Engineering Employers’ Federation announced last week that it handled
almost one-third more cases in 1999, on behalf of employers, than it did the
The number of discrimination claims went up by nearly 22 per cent.
The greatest increase was in disability discrimination claims, which went up
by 38 per cent between 1998 and 1999.
Compensation levels rose too with tribunals awarding more than £10,500 in
half of all discrimination cases. Only a third won awards of this level in
Awards for injury to feeling averaged at £5,231, compared to £2,916 in 1998.
Richard Linskell, legal adviser at the federation, said cases are becoming
more complex as employees make claims under several different laws at the same
"Whereas basic unfair dismissal claims were the norm, they now
frequently include two or more separate claims, such as discrimination and
breach of contract," Linskell said. "The more claims that companies
have to deal with the more effort they have to put into defending them and the
longer tribunal hearings last.
"This is a significant added burden which distracts managers’ attention
away from running businesses at a time when they are under great competitive
Anne Minto, HR director at Smiths Industries, said the increase in damages
means there is more at stake for both sides, making it harder to sit down and
resolve the problem.
"This is an extremely taxing time for HR. Tribunals used to be much
less formal, but few go ahead now without lawyers and an extremely experienced
HR person involved."
She added that there is unlikely to be a let up in the trend.
"Employers just have to accept that we live in a much more litigious
society. We just have to make sure we understand what is in the legislation,
that policies are kept up to date and that clear direction is given to the line
managers who have to deal with it."