Ending up in an Employment Tribunal is every employer’s worst nightmare and whilst an employer can never guarantee that they won’t be sued by a disgruntled employee, there are things that an employer can do to give themselves the best possible chance of successfully defending a claim: five of which are outlined below.
- Process, process, process!
If you have cause to subject your employee to a formal process whether it be the disciplinary process, the capability process, the redundancy process or otherwise it is vitally important to actually stick to the process that you are following. Failure to follow process is one of the worst mistakes an employer can make as far as Tribunal claims are concerned and where an employer has failed to follow process without very good reason they are unlikely to succeed in raising a successful defence, even if they had a good case for dismissal on the face of things.
- Audit trail, audit trail, audit trail!
It is often said that if something isn’t written down then in the Tribunal’s view, then it didn’t happen. When giving evidence in Tribunal the more documentary evidence that an employer can point to in support of their case the much easier it will be to raise a successful defence. The same principle applies in the employment relationship and in the event of a dispute arising with one of your employees, if you are able to present written evidence of something having happened then it could be that this will be sufficient to prevent an employer pursuing any dispute which they may have further.
A significant proportion of Tribunal claims follow the termination of an employee’s employment. If an employer prepares their case for dismissal and plans the process to be followed, this will certainly reduce the chances of the dismissal being effectuated in a manner which expose the business to legal risk.
- Have an Equal Opportunities Policy in place
Without an Equal Opportunities policy in place, not only it is difficult for an employer to successfully defend against claims for unlawful discrimination it makes it very difficult for an employer to manage related issues within the workplace before a dispute arises. With the rise in mental health issues and mental health related absence, it has never before been so important to have an Equal Opportunities policy and implementation strategy in place in order for an employer to demonstrate that it is taking its legal obligations seriously.
- Be honest
If you have a tough message to give to an employee, then make sure you give it honestly. ‘Firm but fair’ is a good motto to work by. Honesty builds trust and respect and without it, you are always at risk of employee resorting to the Employment Tribunal for recourse.