Potential Employment Tribunal backlash for unprepared SMEs

26th July 2017

Employment TribunalBusinesses could see a potential significant increase in Employment Tribunals following a Supreme court ruling today, leaving many SMEs unprepared and exposed to new actions against them.

There is no doubt that the ruling from the Supreme Court that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced Employment Tribunal fees has reintroduced some basic fairness. The current system dissuades some people from bringing cases to employment tribunals because paying the fees would render any financial reward pointless.

The original intent when the charges were introduced  in 2013 was to reduce malicious and weak cases being brought against businesses and in that respect the £1200 fee has achieved that, reducing claim levels by 79%.

The danger now of course is that the Employment Tribunal numbers will rise by 400% to pre-2013 levels, and a rise in malicious employees ‘taking a punt’.

With the financial barrier of £1,200 removed will disgruntled employees choose to challenge their employer at Tribunal?

With a number of years austerity under our belt some companies have reduced HR coverage and now lack significant HR skills  and knowledge to deal with potential claims, leaving the business open to damaging and expensive Emplyment Tribunal claims.

Savvy SME’s, however have sought to cover themselves through cost effective external HR packages that provide specialist technical support and advice when needed. The advent of ‘on demand’ external HR advice is now readily available.

Justice minister Dominic Raab said: “The tricky, the difficult, the fluid balancing act that we’ve got is we want to make sure there’s proper access to justice, we want to make sure frivolous or spurious claims don’t clog up the tribunal and at the same time we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right way to fund it.” We absolutely agree with that but it will be interesting to see what happens.

Either way micro and SME employers should reassess what HR specialist knowledge they have in house, and what access they have to professional help.

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