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Employment Tribunals Survey

April 23 2011 - Employers are concerned that they are vulnerable to frivolous or unjustified employment tribunal claims according to a Conflict Management survey published prior to a recent CIPD conference.

  • More than two thirds of respondents to the survey (69%) said that they had no effective protection against staff who made wholly unjustifiable claims to employment tribunals.
  • 61% had experienced employees claiming unfair dismissal and 'tagging on' a discrimination claim in an attempt to get extra compensation.
  • 55% said they had endured a complaint against their organization on malicious grounds.
  • 52% thought that the law on unfair dismissal should be amended to make it easier for employers to dismiss.
  • 54% supported more effective case management to identify 'vexatious' claims
  • 50% supported the move to require tribunals to award costs against losing claimants.

According to Mike Emmott, CIPF employee relations adviser:

"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.

"However the survey findings also suggest that recent plans outlined by the Government - to 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.

"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."

Other findings from the survey:

  • In comparison with the CIPD's last survey on this subject in 2007, the number of days spent by management and HR managing disciplinary and grievance cases has gone up from 13 to 18 days (disciplinary) and from 9 to 14.4 days (grievance).
  • Excluding HR, the number of days of management time spent on handling grievances in the public sector is 9 days compared with 5.5 days in the private sector.
  • There have been significant increases in the use of most forms of managing conflict, internal and external - disciplinary action (50%) and grievance procedures (48%).
  • 62% of respondents said their organizations were increased training for line managers in handling difficult conversations.
  • 70% use compromise agreements to avoid the risk of tribunal claims, with 52% stating that their use of compromise agreements had increased in the last two years.
  • Major reasons for using compromise agreements (other than to settle an existing claim) were:
    • to remove an employee on grounds of poor performance or misconduct (39%)
    • to avoid legal challenge in relation to redundancy (26%), and
    • to make it easier to remove senior staff without embarrassment (24%)
  • 49% of respondents said that their organization had increased the use of mediation in the last two years.
  • Median compensation payment under compromise agreements was £10,000, with 20.3% stating that the typical payment was £25,000 or more.
  • Total costs involved in concluding compromise agreements, including compensation, had a medium of £11,000.

Mike Emmott added:

"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.

"It is also positive to see that organisations are increasingly training managers to have difficult conversations. This is vital if problems relating to employees' performance or behaviour are to be nipped in the bud instead of escalating to the point where formal and often lengthy disciplinary action has to be taken."

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