Employment tribunals: How can your business avoid a red card?

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

11th July 2018

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With the World Cup and Wimbledon in full swing, businesses might be worried about the impact these major sporting events will have on workplace absences.

While throwing a sickie might be a one off, in some cases it might be a sign of something more serious – and this could lead to a tribunal.

Recent tribunal data has shown that the number of cases brought by individuals increased by 118% in the three months to the end of March 2018, compared to the same period last year.

While tribunal fees were in place, there were around 4,300 individual cases a quarter. This has risen to more than 9,000 in the most recent quarter. In a similar way to the use of video assistant referees in football to check decisions were correct, old cases where employment tribunals may have been necessary are coming under review again.

This increase can have a big impact on a business’s bottom line, with the most expensive tribunals ending up costing hundreds of thousands of pounds. Now we’re not talking about the price of a premiership football transfer, but you do need to make sure you’re doing everything possible to avoid an employment red card:

  • Use your employee data to make sure your players achieve their personal best. Football clubs track the performance of their players to make sure they’re playing to their best ability. The same goes for how you should monitor employee data. If an employee is underperforming or is regularly absent, this could be a sign of a bigger underlying issue that they may need help with. Reviewing employee data on a regular basis makes it easier to spot trends, and have early, informal conversations, before it gets to tribunal stage.
  • employment tribunals Make sure your team stays on side. Managers are often the first responders to HR issues so it’s important that they’re properly trained and feel able to make difficult judgement calls. Providing regular training and discussing HR issues with your managers will help ensure they’re able to handle any problems employees might be having, before they escalate.
  • Define your tactics and make your playbooks accessible. One of the most common causes of tribunals is not following a proper process. Make sure all staff are aware of where to find HR policies and who to ask for guidance if they’re unsure. Creating an online portal can help ensure policies are easily available and can also be used to track and manage cases. This provides managers with a clear evidence trail of how they addressed an issue with an employee; useful if it ends up in a tribunal.
  • Ensure you have the right backroom staff. We’ve seen the impact that not having a good manager can have on a football team – think about Spain’s shock exit to Russia in the World Cup. Spain sacked their manager just two days before their opening game. Businesses are no different and you need to ensure you have access to the right HR advice and experts to avoid unnecessary tribunals.

A rise in tribunals was perhaps inevitable given the legacy of cases that employees were reluctant to bring during the period of tribunal fees. However, businesses need to ensure they are not adding further unnecessary tribunals to the current caseload. These four steps are a starting point.

If you need advice on how processes, technology and people can help avoid costly tribunals, download our guide:

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