Businesses believe tribunal system favours employees
81% of companies said claimants had 'tried it on'
Almost all employers think the current Employment Tribunal system favours employees over businesses, a new survey has found.
Only 3 per cent of firms are satisfied with the current system while 97 per cent of companies think the system is weighted in favour of workers, the survey by law firm Pinsent Masons said.
Pinsent Masons' survey received 109 responses from public and private sector organisations that employ more than 500,000 people in the UK combined.
The survey was conducted in order to provide a "comprehensive and robust response" to a consultation launched by the UK Government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Tribunals Service into improving the system for resolving workplace disputes, the Pinsent Masons report into the findings said.
The current dispute system hinders effective management of personnel, lasts too long and is inconsistent, the report said.
"Sixty-six per cent of employers recognised that the fear of receiving a costly Tribunal claim impacted on their management decisions and the way they managed staff," the report said.
Tribunals should have more powers to weed out weak claims, the majority of respondents said, according to the report.
"Eighty-one per cent of respondents reported having received a claim which they perceived as a 'try-on', with 78 per cent regularly receiving such claims," the survey report said. "Even allowing for the possibility that employers only see their side of the argument, this is still worryingly high."
The survey said 81 per cent of respondents admitted to having settled weak claims because they deemed it cheaper than defending their case at a Tribunal.
Businesses are also concerned with the length of time it takes for the system to deal with claims, and the number of hearings that are cancelled at short notice, the report said.
"One possible solution is for more claims to be heard by a judge alone," the report said. "Eighty-seven per cent of respondents said that they supported the proposal in the [BIS and Tribunals Service] Consultation paper that simple unfair dismissal claims should be heard by a judge alone."
Employers believe that Employment Tribunal rulings vary depending on where hearings take place, the report said.
"Eighty-one per cent of respondents felt that Tribunals were inconsistent between the regions, with 58 per cent believing they were inconsistent even in the same region," the survey report said.
Mediation delivered a better outcome than contesting a claim at a Tribunal, 82 per cent of businesses that responded said, according to the report.
Most companies are in favour of a new measure being introduced to force disputing companies and employees to talk through issues before employees can make a claim, the survey said. Sixty-two per cent of respondents would like ACAS, the conciliation service, to be given the power to make recommendations following the pre-claim discussions, the report said.
"Increasingly we find that claimants are unrepresented and have unrealistic expectations of how much their claim is worth, fuelled by tabloid headlines about large awards to employees in the City," Jon Fisher, employment law expert at Pinsent Masons, said in the survey report.
"Guidance from ACAS that an offer is reasonable should help claims settle early and at the right level – particularly if there are costs consequences for claimants if they ignore the recommendation," Fisher said.
Government proposals to increase the period of service that workers need to have served before they can bring unfair dismissal proceedings against a firm to two years received 65 per cent support from respondents, the Pinsent Masons survey report said. Only 16 per cent of firms said that such an increase would encourage them to employ more staff, it said.
Proposals to charge a fee to bring a claim against an employer received 29 per cent of support from respondents. Other deterrents, such as Tribunals being stricter in not hearing cases that are not meritorious and being more willing to award costs against those bringing claims, were preferred by other respondents.
The government announced proposed changes to existing employment laws in January and asked businesses to comment on its plans.
"Our survey shows that change is urgently needed to restore confidence in the system," Chris Booth, Head of Employment at Pinsent Masons said in the company's survey report. "We will continue to engage with BIS and the Tribunal Service over the reforms which we hope will result from this consultation."
Copyright © 2011, OUT-LAW.com
OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Of course the employment tribunal system is biased
Yes, to the employers! If you get fired unreasonably, and you are just a normal working class person, you are denied justice, essentially. At every stage your employer (even an international charity like my father's when he got unfairly dismissed) will drag its feet, and the spectre of a massive legal bill hovers over your head permanently. It seriously affected my father's health during the months of the process, with the stress and worry, and eventually the colourful-geometric-shape-based charity settled for a fraction of the true cost, because he just wanted it over and done with.
So yes, it should be reformed, but not to make it even worse on people.
Employees have all the rights, because Employers have all the power. They determine your performance, your (lack of) pay rises and bonuses, they tell you what to do, make most decisions about your working conditions and location outside of your control, and internal grievance processes are run by their staff. Only the threat of tribunals keeps employers as honest as they are.
In my experience, many employees that are treated badly don't bother to claim.
At one of the companies I worked for (run from the states) , they decided to fire the "lowest 10% performers" one year. They determined these by secret ballots of team leaders and longer term employees, and then got rid of those employees without redundancy processes or performance warnings etc. The fact that most of the team leaders and long term employees were among the lowest performers seemed to escape them , this was just used to get rid of people that were disliked by one or more of the chosen raters in actuality.
Threats to immediately withdraw stock options (worth a considerable amount) were used to bully employees that were "fired" , those that objected would have these withdraw immediately, losing any money they were worth. Those that accepted being illegally fired without due process got to exercise them within a couple of months.
Despite all this, only one employee I know of went to a tribunal. I imagine it was settled for a considerable amount, as it was all hushed up after that.
The company was ofc still hiring more people in the same roles as those that were "fired"
Companies run from the states often dont seem to grasp the concept of employees rights (apart from discrimination of course)
For my experience, UK employees don't grasp the concept of rights either.
I imagine they had more expensive tribunal cases after that, as the standard of HR improved a little while afterwards and this kind of thing stopped happening.
I was not affected by this directly btw, but a friend of mine who was amongst those illegally fired said that he couldn't be arsed contesting it as it was easier to get another job.
Sometimes companies deserve it.
As someone who has just started an Employment tribunal against my former employer I feel a need to comment.
I was dismissed for a weeks absence in just under a year, thing was I was being investigated for cancer at the time which luckily I didn't have. I was also dismissed the night before surgery without HR investgating why I was ill and all of my managers who were kept informed claimed to know nothing about my illness.
Maybe if the companies that abuse workers were actually fined for their breaking of the law instead of just damages awarded to the employee this would stop them abusing employment law.
Anonymous as I know the IT dept also read the Reg.