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Warning to employers as employment tribunal claims increase

Businesses in the region are being warned to take a few simple steps in order to minimise the risk of legal action against them, after it was revealed the number of employment tribunal cases has seen a sharp increase.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice for tribunals held between April to June 2018 show an increase of 165 per cent over the same period in 2017.

Experts at regional law firm Napthens are also reporting record numbers of tribunal claims being handled by its Employment & HR team following changes to the law – with fee income growing 15 per cent as a direct result.

Employment tribunals exist to hear claims from people who think they have been treated unlawfully, perhaps by an employer or even potential employer. These might be claims for unfair dismissal or discrimination, for instance.

In 2013, employment tribunal fees were introduced for the first time, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of claims as it became necessary to pay to proceed with a case. Last year, however, the Supreme Court declared the fee system was unlawful.

Kate Shawcross, associate solicitor in the Employment & HR team at Napthens solicitors in Kendal, reports that a year on since the changes, his team is advising on a record number of claims. She has given some top tips to help employers minimise the risk of claims being brought.

She explained: “We are receiving instructions from employers on a weekly basis to defend claims brought against them.

“The Supreme Court declared that the tribunal fee system was unlawful as it interfered with a common law right of access to justice. Official statistics suggest that since the decision, the number of tribunal claims has more than doubled.

“In the knowledge that claims are more likely, employers can take some simple steps to minimise the risk of claims including following their own procedures within their employee handbook, following any ACAS code of practice that is in place and, more importantly, taking proactive legal advice before making any decision that could give rise to a claim.”

The increase in activity is likely to lead to the growth of the Employment & HR department at Napthens with new team members expected to be brought on board as a result.