Employment tribunal system in need of repair

Over two thirds of employers believe that the current employment tribunal system offers them no protection against employees who make wholly unjustifiable claims.

That is the finding of a new study carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The survey also revealed that three out of five respondents (61 per cent) have had experience of an employee claiming unfair dismissal and ‘tagging on’ a discrimination claim in the hope of getting more compensation.

Over a half (52 per cent) thought that the law on unfair dismissal should be amended to make it easier for employers to dismiss.

A similar proportion (54 per cent) also backed more effective case management to identify ‘vexatious’ claims, while a half supported the idea of tribunals awarding costs against losing claimants.

Seven out of ten employers used compromise agreements to avoid the risk of tribunal claims, with 52 per cent saying that their use of compromise agreements has increased in the last two years.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “This survey reflects the strength of feeling among employers about the failings of the current system for resolving workplace disputes. Despite many attempts in recent years to find a solution, the volume of tribunal claims has increased and employers believe they have no protection against weak or speculative claims.”

Mr Emmott went on to say that recent plans outlined by the Government, which would increase the minimum period employees serve before they can claim unfair dismissal from 12 months to two years, will have only limited impact on the number of claims. This is because many claims are linked to discrimination claims which can be made from day one of employment.

He continued: “The real problem is that the employment tribunal system itself is broken and its costs and benefits are wholly out of line. The Government needs to take a radical look at the existing machinery for protecting employment rights.

“It is encouraging to see that employers are increasingly using mediation to resolve workplace issues. Not only does the survey show that it is significantly cheaper than having to respond to tribunal claims, but a large majority of respondents say that it improves relationships between employees and reduces or eliminates the stress involved in more formal processes. In-house mediation, using trained managers and others, can reinforce a culture where people recognise they need to take some personal responsibility for sorting out their problems.”