Tribunals put emphasis on procedure over substance

Employment tribunals have become overly legalistic and do little to weed out weak and vexatious claims, according to a report.

The CBI’s Lightening the Load report, based on consultation with its members, reveals that more than half of employers think the tribunals system is too adversarial, with one-fifth stating the system was damaging to employee relations.

In one in four cases brought, companies felt they had to settle out of court, despite being advised they would win.

In total, 115,039 claims were registered in 2005-06, compared to 86,181 the previous year, according to official figures from the Employment Tribunals Service.

Two years after statutory procedures for resolving workplace disputes were introduced, employers believe too much emphasis is being put on procedure over substance. Also, too many minor disagreements are elevated into formal complaints.

Automatic findings of unfair dismissal should not be made just because employers fail to follow the statutory procedure to the letter, the report said.

“It is very concerning that tribunal cases are now much more likely to be decided on the unsatisfactory basis of compliance with technicalities, rather than the substance and merits of the case, and whether the employer has behaved fairly,” the report said.

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