Letters of the week: time-wasters should cough up

I am
pleased that some form of risk is likely to be introduced for applicants at
employment tribunals (News, 21 November).

Since the
increase of the upper limit of awards at tribunal, many disgruntled former
employees see the tribunal system as an easy option for financial gain.

Often,
firms will make a commercial settlement on applications that bear little
resemblance to the actual circumstances of dismissal. While this makes good
short-term business sense on an individual case basis, it does not bear up in
the long term. It just encourages others to follow suit and try a claim – any
claim.

This
situation constipates the tribunal system, increases costs for business and
unjustly tarnishes the genuine applicants, serving no one’s interests.

There has
to be some consideration for the level of potential award against applicants
and their assets, although the proposal for a maximum of £5,000 will not cover
the costs of a professionally run defence by a respondent. A figure double this
would be more realistic given the employer’s true costs – and the fact that
awards against applicants at the maximum level are likely to be few. Awards are
one matter; recovery another – and no doubt another day in court.

If
introduced, this initiative will be most welcome. It will not end all of our
frustrations, although it should at least reduce the number of time-wasting
claims.

Chris
Sharpe

Human
resources manager

European Helpdesks

 

Keep tribunals in perspective

How my
heart bleeds for those poor firms who are forced to attend employment
tribunals. It’s as if none of them ever faces a legal challenge except from
disgruntled ex-staff with no case.

The CBI
should be ashamed of itself for supporting tougher rules on time-wasters (News,
21 November). Most firms face legal challenges every day that have nothing to
do with employment.

There is a
simple reason why employment tribunals have become time-consuming and
expensive: the increasing use of barristers and solicitors to prepare and
present cases.

I know
employment law has become embroiled in regulation, but it’s not rocket science.
Such activity is all down to laziness – it’s easier to hand the case to a legal
expert. Personnel staff have become further removed from the sharp end; now,
there’s a real danger of lawyers becoming involved at even earlier stages in
the employment process.

We’ve been
conned into believing that the only way to win a tribunal is to bat harder than
the opposition. So in troop the barrister, the instructing solicitor and
assistants, all of whom have to justify their role – and be paid.

But who are
they facing? Non-represented tribunal applicants or, at worst, a trade union
official. Hardly justifies all this legal firepower, does it?

If we want
the tribunal process to be more efficient, we should review the need for
expensive legal advice and stop pointing the finger at a few off-the-wall
applicants. The fault can easily be laid at the employer, who ratchets up costs
for no good reason.

Jim
Hoggart

Reading

 

We
need to focus on the key issues

The answer
to your question “Will the proposed DTI measures help prevent frivolous
claims?” (News, 21 November) is yes – and about time, too.

I’m with
CMS Cameron McKenna’s John Renz when he says, “It is the process that costs us
so much time and money. It means we have to take our eye off the ball and end
up managing failure.”

When
employers dismiss for good reason, and do it properly, that should be it.
Manufacturing in the UK for export markets is being devastated by the strength
of sterling and needs to keep focused on success to have any chance of
survival.

Eric
Anderson.

Via
e-mail

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