A database of Employment Tribunal decisions is now available online

Many businesses may not be aware that Employment Tribunal verdicts can now be accessed free on the government website. Verdicts from mid-2015 can now be searched by company, person’s name or jurisdiction code (i.e. breach of contract, equal pay act, sex discrimination, unfair dismissal etc.).

Employment tribunal hearings have always been public but this change to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is intended to make it easier for the public to find the information.

What will the impact be?

For the employees and workers… Some cases (like the Uber Tribunal) will have a big impact on workers’ rights so it’s in the public interest to publish the details. But more often than not, this isn’t the case. So what will change? The increased publicity could give employees and workers more bargaining power. However, some lawyers fear it could lead to ‘blacklists’ of employees who have taken legal proceedings. For example, recruiters may search the employment tribunal database as part of the recruitment process.

For the employer… Companies may face increased tribunal claims as employees/workers can freely research to validate claims and gain confidence before contacting lawyers. Many companies will be paying even closer attention to employment law compliance and may feel compelled to settle out of court in fear of reputational damage, particularly as the talent pool becomes more competitive with Brexit.

I’m sure unions will welcome this change in the interest of increasing transparency and bringing to shame bad employers. Unions claim the number of cases taken to Employment Tribunal has fallen by 70% since the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees in July 2013, mostly impacting low-paid women and ethnic minorities.

Most common Employment Tribunal claims can be avoided if you know what to look out for

Our advice?

  • Watch out for the differences between ‘employee’, ‘worker’ and ‘self-employed’ status. We’ve seen the repercussions of not doing so in recent cases: Aslam and others v Uber BV and others; Dewhurst (cycle courier) v CitySprint (UK’s largest courier company)
  • Ensure you follow the correct HR procedure, taking into account length of service. Full employment rights are subject to 2 years’ continuous service.
  • Avoid contract breaches by familiarising yourself with terms and conditions of employment.  For example, notice periods. Only in summary dismissal situations can you avoid paying the notice period.
  • Don’t ignore statutory provisions such as accrual of holiday during sick leave and maternity leave.
  • Introduce correct procedures to handle flexible working requests. Employers often get caught out on failure to comply with statutory regulations when confronted with a request.
  • Follow the appropriate procedure for dismissing employees fairly, avoiding the temptation to cut corners (probationary, redundancy, performance).
  • Consider ACAS Early Conciliation to try and resolve disputes at the earliest possible stage.

Remember, even if you have acted reasonably, there are certain areas that automatically fall under ‘unfair reasons for dismissal’. These relate to pregnancy, family, union membership or representation, being a part time or fixed term employee, and discrimination under protected characteristics.

To avoid reputational damage and potential costly settlements, contact Tassic. We provide advice, guidance and training on all aspects of employment legislation.