July 4, 2021

5 reasons businesses are taken to employment tribunal – and how to avoid them!

Employment tribunals require time, effort, often cost money, and can hurt your reputation as a business. Check out the top five reasons for tribunal and how you as a business can avoid common pitfalls.

Hybrid working policies

Hybrid working is the latest buzzword for organisations emerging from the pandemic, but what we don’t talk about is that it can unwittingly lead to discrimination and therefore, the risk of employment tribunal.

It is argued that hybrid working policies risk creating a level of exclusion in teams. Those who chose to work from home – such as mothers with caring responsibilities or people with disabilities – may do so in part due to protected characteristics. Some older workers may be more likely to have larger living spaces and resources to enable comfortable home working. So if there is any perceived unfairness in the way a business has organised remote working, it could disproportionately affect them and end with a claim of indirect discrimination.

The idea of ‘present privilege’ refers to those in the workplace being more likely to be involved in spontaneous office discussions, their work being more ‘visible’, and giving them better access to senior stakeholders.  Unless care is taken, they could end up being in pole position for pay rises, promotions, or other opportunities. As a business it is important to ensure that hybrid working doesn’t leave remote teams out of the picture.

Discrimination

That leads us nicely onto our next topic: discrimination. There are laws in place to ensure that employers don’t discriminate for  a number of reasons, including: gender, disability, religion, marital status, age, race, or sexual orientation. With the best will in the world, lots of employees get treated differently, even unfairly, compared to one or more of their colleagues. This can be because of a lack of communication or sometimes an unconscious bias in respect of their protected characteristics. Sometimes, as above, something the employer wants to do with the best of intentions has unintended consequences for a particular group.  If this can’t be resolved within the premisses, this will often result in employment tribunal.

It’s important as a business to actively review policies and plans and highlight the importance of equalityto managers and all employees.

Unfair dismissal

Whether it’s a disgruntled employee, or an employee with a legitimate case, accusations of unfair dismissal are a legitimate concern for many organisations. Perhaps an employee feels they have been unfairly dismissed as a whistle-blower, due to a flexible working request, or down to a dodgy redundancy process – there are an abundance of reasons an employee may feel they have been unfairly dismissed.

It’s important to ensure that the correct process is followed when dismissing an employee and that this is accurately documented and held on record.

Breach of contract

When we think about a breach of contract, we often just think about an employee not rocking up for work and it impacting the business. However, a breach of contract can work both ways. There are a lot of reasons that this topic might be brought to employment tribunal. Most usually this concerns payments due in law or in the contract of employment such as travel expenses, holiday pay or correct notice or notice pay.  As an employer you must pay attention both to what is included in employee contracts, and to employment legislation so that you understand your obligations and can avoid being taken to tribunal for breach of contract.

Redundancy pay

One type of contractual payment that’s high on the agenda of many organisations at the moment is redundancy pay. It’s no surprise that if your employees aren’t paid, are paid incorrectly, or don’t receive their redundancy money they are going to be pretty narked. And if you’ve done something to nark off one of your employees you might be taken to tribunal. It’s even less of a surprise when someone who is pretty narked about not being paid goes to court to claim what is rightfully theirs.

In terms of redundancy pay, employees are entitled to statutory redundancy pay, as long as they have been with your business for two or more years.  Some employment contracts give additional rights too. If you as an employer refuse to pay , or pay less than the entitlement, an employment tribunal can order you to pay it and the employee can enforce that order. Therefore, it’s important to adhere closely to what is detailed in contract, remembering that the statutory provisions are the absolute minimum you will have to pay

Worried about the risk of employment tribunal and looking for advice? Check out our Employment Law Solicitors offering.

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About the author

Audrey Robertson

About the author

Audrey Robertson

HR Consultancy & Insurance Manager, Audrey, has a strong background in HR, Employment Law and related insurances in a career spanning over 15 years leading teams in-house and as a consultant supporting clients across retail, education and the B2B sectors. At Moorepay, Audrey heads up the Policy & HR Consultancy team as well as the insurance claims department. With a strong commitment and investment in employee wellbeing, having studied counselling and coaching, Audrey is a qualified Mental Health First Aider and supports our staff on-site.

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