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back to article Businesses believe tribunal system favours employees

Almost all employers think the current Employment Tribunal system favours employees over businesses, a new survey has found. Only 3 per cent of firms are satisfied with the current system while 97 per cent of companies think the system is weighted in favour of workers, the survey by law firm Pinsent Masons said. Pinsent Masons …

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Bears s**t in the woods!

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Silver badge

Of course the employment tribunal system is biased

Yes, to the employers! If you get fired unreasonably, and you are just a normal working class person, you are denied justice, essentially. At every stage your employer (even an international charity like my father's when he got unfairly dismissed) will drag its feet, and the spectre of a massive legal bill hovers over your head permanently. It seriously affected my father's health during the months of the process, with the stress and worry, and eventually the colourful-geometric-shape-based charity settled for a fraction of the true cost, because he just wanted it over and done with.

So yes, it should be reformed, but not to make it even worse on people.

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Unhappy

Indeed

I have to agree with the first poster - it's not rocket science!

My wife works in a HR-type area and sees quite a bit of this. She tells me that most companies will immediately fold and come to an agreement with the employee to prevent going to tribunal because the cost of the tribunal will almost always be higher than an informal settlement and the chances of the employer winning at the tribunal are very small anyway. This is true, even if it is blindingly obvious that the employee is having a laugh. Get a union involved and the employer may as well slash their own throat. And the larger the company, the more chance of them following this line of thinking.

For small companies, it's a real headache, because they simply do not have the resources to absorb the costs.

It's all a bit like the divorce court - "fair" and "just" has nothing to do with it. Not that I'm bitter, of course :-).

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Devil

And it is rightfully so

There are underlying reasons.

1. In the UK the employee has to exhaust all means before he goes to a tribunal. If you go to a lawyer this is the advice you are going to get. As a result conflicts are blown up out of all proportion.

2. It is bound to end up in tribunals because current best practice recommends mediating conflicts instead of arbitrating them. As a result conflicts recur. In a business it is a key to resolve a conflict and its reason to go forward, not to sweep it under the carpet.

3. On the average an average UK employee takes up 10 times the abuse of anywhere in the EU (been there seen that) and US (ditto).

So in fact, the system actually favours employers, not employees.

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Coat

Of course...

"Sixty-six per cent of employers recognised that the fear of receiving a costly Tribunal claim impacted on their management decisions and the way they managed staff," the report said.

ie. it prevents them from walking all over their staff. There are cases where the employer is the one taking the piss.

I was using my private car for works busines and it was later discovered that given the mileage I was doing, I shouldn't have been on casual mileage, I should have been on car allowance. The difference was about £4,000.

I took them to tribunal.

Case law stated that expenses are not a deducation of wages and despite the judge really grilling them (it was obvious to him that I wasn't taking the mick) the case law was cast iron and the judges hands were tied.

Even though they won, they didn't stitch me for their costs. I took that as a sign of guilt. The costs were instead shouldered by the tax payer.

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So you took the piss

You are missing out a lot of detail from this. For example, at the start were you given the option of casual mileage or car allowance? I suspect you were and instead of living with making that wrong choice you took them to a tribunal you had no chance of winning.

It's a pity that the taxpayer had to pay for your bad choices.

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Anonymous Coward

To conclude...

... it is a pity that the taxpayer has to pay a large sum of money for heads of services and management that can't manage public services, make bad choices over spending public money and try all they can to avoid blame and cover things up when they get it wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

Not me, gov.

No, I didn't take the piss. My employer simply copied someone elses job description and didn't actually tink about the job that I was doing. Not only that, I wasn't given any of the company policies when I joined.

It was only later, when I was reading the policy, that I discovered that my lazy head of service had got it wrong.

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Flame

Sometimes companies deserve it.

As someone who has just started an Employment tribunal against my former employer I feel a need to comment.

I was dismissed for a weeks absence in just under a year, thing was I was being investigated for cancer at the time which luckily I didn't have. I was also dismissed the night before surgery without HR investgating why I was ill and all of my managers who were kept informed claimed to know nothing about my illness.

Maybe if the companies that abuse workers were actually fined for their breaking of the law instead of just damages awarded to the employee this would stop them abusing employment law.

Anonymous as I know the IT dept also read the Reg.

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FAIL

I can recognise bull when I read it.

And this is just a whole steaming pile.

Any business that took the actions you describe would not be in business for long. Every single one over a certain size (I've forgot how many but I think its about 50 employees) has a whole host of procedures that its mandated they follow in order to sack someone.

Mind you, good story, you managed to hit all the correct buttons. You know, cancer, absence through no fault of your own, evil bastards who lie and even an uplifting ending whereby you get the all clear from cancer.

The red tops would just love a story like this, when can I read it?

I wouldn't give up the day job though. Oh that’s right, its given you up.

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Devil

Actually I work for a similar company

As someone who has been through a disciplinary investigation where the managers similarly faked ignorance I suspect I know the company he works for. In fact, I most likely work for the same one.

So, while you may not believe it there are a few household fortune 250 names which fit that description.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: I can recognise bull when I read it.

Sorry, but I've known people in similar positions - have "too much illness" and you're out irrespective of reasons. In some cases someone could have had many years service with a good record, but none of that is counted when they go through a bad patch.

So I call bull on your bull.

However, I have heard stories the other way round - where employees (or would be employees) do take the wee-wee. One was a story my bosses from some years ago likes to tell. They'd interviewed for an internal accounts person, and gave the job to a woman. A male candidate took them to a tribunal for sex discrimination.

The panel asked him why he believed he'd been discriminated against. His reasoning was that he was clearly the best candidate for the job. When pressed on why he believed that to be the case, his only supporting "evidence" was that the other candidates were women !

For some reason he lost.

As for me, I've been on the receiving end of "unreasonable treatment" by a previous employer. Re the comments about a US owned company, ours was a UK company, but partly US owned. I can assure you that everything said there is true, they really don't get that there's anything wrong with a "Hi Fred, enjoy the weekend - don't come back Monday" approach to getting rid of people. Thankfully I've been in a union for many years, and so had the benefit of their support. The negotiator allocated to me told me that it was a matter of pride that he'd never in his whole career ever had to resort to a tribunal. Even he was taken aback by the managers he was dealing with, the HR manager was described as the slipperiest person he'd ever dealt with in his life - but he still negotiated a settlement that I believe was fair to both sides.

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Unhappy

@ Indeed 09:54

Employers do settle because of the cost and PITA of going to a tribunal. It doesn't mean that they agree with the employees 'gripe'. An employee can give notice to leave, they can just walk out at the chance of forfeiting their months pay but if an employer has a crap person it is so difficult to get rid of them.

You can follow all the performance reviews and appraisals you like but if the employee disagrees and doesn't want to leave a job where they are obviously not enjoying and/or can't actually do to a sufficient level then the employer is over a barrel – that situation is so biased towards the employees and ends up costing small businesses a lot of money they can ill afford. They then see the carrot of 2-3 months tax free pay.

It's not easy on this side of the fence, we're not all big fat cats trying to screw everyone for everything they have despite what the gutter press seem to keep implying.

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Unhappy

Employees rights

Employees have all the rights, because Employers have all the power. They determine your performance, your (lack of) pay rises and bonuses, they tell you what to do, make most decisions about your working conditions and location outside of your control, and internal grievance processes are run by their staff. Only the threat of tribunals keeps employers as honest as they are.

In my experience, many employees that are treated badly don't bother to claim.

At one of the companies I worked for (run from the states) , they decided to fire the "lowest 10% performers" one year. They determined these by secret ballots of team leaders and longer term employees, and then got rid of those employees without redundancy processes or performance warnings etc. The fact that most of the team leaders and long term employees were among the lowest performers seemed to escape them , this was just used to get rid of people that were disliked by one or more of the chosen raters in actuality.

Threats to immediately withdraw stock options (worth a considerable amount) were used to bully employees that were "fired" , those that objected would have these withdraw immediately, losing any money they were worth. Those that accepted being illegally fired without due process got to exercise them within a couple of months.

Despite all this, only one employee I know of went to a tribunal. I imagine it was settled for a considerable amount, as it was all hushed up after that.

The company was ofc still hiring more people in the same roles as those that were "fired"

Companies run from the states often dont seem to grasp the concept of employees rights (apart from discrimination of course)

For my experience, UK employees don't grasp the concept of rights either.

I imagine they had more expensive tribunal cases after that, as the standard of HR improved a little while afterwards and this kind of thing stopped happening.

I was not affected by this directly btw, but a friend of mine who was amongst those illegally fired said that he couldn't be arsed contesting it as it was easier to get another job.

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Never really understood...

.. why anyone should have an expectation of an everlasting job. Three months seems like a reasonable period of notice to give anyone. Wave goodbye to a whole industry of lawyers and bureaucrats and we'll all be better off.

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FAIL

Tribunals, Employers and Employees... nobody is well served at present.

This is a double edged sword. I am in favour of employees being protected (I am an employer), however, there is also a significant issue with employees being able to make cliams irrespective of true merit, using opportunist measures to make a claim.

The biggest issue is that as it stands, employees are not required to provide any real proof or take any real cost for making the claim at all. While I am not advocating that the employee should be handling over hundreds to a solicitor just to make a claim (there are numerous reasons why this isn't reasonable), I think "no win no fee" is a particular blight - they're never interested in the true merit, they just take on a case and can cause costs to the employer (irrespective of guilt), and often this causes an out of tribunal settlement because it is the cheaper option.

The problem with defending something if you're innocent is that it can often cost more than just settling up on a "no blame accepted" basis. That's bad because (a) it means true justice is not done (true justice means fair hearing to BOTH sides), (b) smaller employers in particular are adversely affected when they've done nothing wrong, both in repuation and financially where they may not have huge resources, (c) employees who've had no wrong done will pick up some tax free cash (it sounds good, but the reality is that's bad for everyone in the long run), but of course (d) the solicitors are raking it in though baseless claim handling.

If an employee wants to take someone to tribunal, that's fine, but they should have to:

(a) provide some form of evidence and substansive claim

(b) they should not be allowed (as they are at present) to just tick all the boxes about harassment etc as an added bonus (if there was no issue, how can an employer really show there was none - you don't document non-events!)

(c) need to pay some form of "case" charges

(d) be properly liable that should the case be found as frivilous or non-substanciated forced to pay some form of costs - it may not recover the employers cost I guess, but they should suffer for false claims.

Anywhere else a false claim is fraud...

Employment Law is a shambles, and it is genuinely unfair on GOOD employers, not good enough to make sure justice is done for BAD employers, and doesn't actually serve employers or employees well at the end of the day.

Even in Small Claims Court, I have to pay a fee to start a case (which when I win I normally get back!), yet somehow employment tribunals cost nothing. Something is totally wrong there!

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I don't understand the problem

If they're redundant - make them redundant

If "their face doesn't fit" why weren't they let go during the probationary period?

If they're being dismissed for a valid reason, it can't be too hard to justify.

Quote - "they should not be allowed to tick all the boxes about harassment" - except when they have been harassed, I assume. Who decides that? You, the employee or the tribunal? It can't be you. Therefore its the employee who decides if they've been harassed, & the veracity or otherwise is tested in the tribunal.

I assume that as you are an employer, & you're complaining about tribunals, you have actually had problems with your employees taking you to tribunal fraudulently or "frivilous or non-substanciated"(sic) claims. If not, what are you moaning about?

Tell you what though, if I was employing *you* I'd tell you to brush up your proofreading/spelling skills - not a very good example to set is it?

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Devil

He would say that, wouldn't he

seems to cover the employer's reaction.

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Devil

100% correct

Bear shits in woods rather more copiously than the employer-biased bear at the top of the comments

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Pardon?

I just meant in what way is this news, not the validity of the results?

Not sure how you read any particular bias in this.

Bit like when you read an article saying "paper hand drying towels are more hygienic than blowers" and it is research sponsored by the Association of Paper Towel Manufacturers!

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Childcatcher

It cut sboth ways

Employers 'try it on as well'

I was one of 300 or so other employees who were illegally dismissed by our company (after it went into administration, but was still trading). The administrators employed top London lawyers and tried every procedure they could think of to block our claim. We had to get barristers to pursue our claim in a tribunal. After about 15 months the admistrators did an about face and said they did not have any grounds for dismissal without notice and so would not now contest the claim (though they did argue some technicalities).

We won (and the judge agreed very much with our case and dismissed the technicalities). We should have had a large 'award' except when a company is in administration it does not have to pay such awards. Instead the goverment gives the claimants a 'token' sum.

I guess a quicker process would have helped, but don't make it harder for employees.

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Coat

Keeping the talent

As an employer we do everything we can to keep creative, hardworking, intelligent people....unfortunately you normally can only pick one of those options.

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Silver badge

And with an attitude like that...

...toward your staff, I can't imagine why you don't get the great people.

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Flame

@ I can recognise bull when I read it.

I agree large companies do have procedures in place and the company I worked for did have them but they only work when they are followed. When they fail to follow them it's time for the Employment Tribunal as it is pretty much the only course open.

You seem to assuming that everyone follows the law. We have employment laws to stop these things happening but just like making murder ilegal people still do it.

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Good!

"Sixty-six per cent of employers recognised that the fear of receiving a costly Tribunal claim impacted on their management decisions and the way they managed staff," the report said.

Good! That means it is working as a preventative measure.

Too many ill-trained inexperienced managers believe that they can unilaterally end the employment at their whim, deserved or not. Most employers who end up at the tribunals are banged to rights because they simply have not followed proper procedures.

When it comes to Wrongful Dismissal, the most an employee can get is the correct money owed to them plus a 25% bonus. That almost makes it worthwhile for the employer to try it on, with not a lot to lose, gambling on the fact that some employees will not pursue a claim.

The existence of tribunals prevent breach of contract cases etc ending up in even more costly courts.

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@ Paul "Good"

I don't think you are right on the plus 25%, but you haven't taken into account the other costs to the employer. They have to pay the legal and court costs of both sides plus there is the length of time they have to spend preparing their case. That is why many employers 'give in' and just pay up even when they know they have a strong case; they just want to get on trying to run their business with good staff that they want and also staff who want to be there.

It's simply cheaper and less aggravation; a number of employees know that as do the numerous employment lawyers working on a no win no fee basis. A different kind of ambulance chaser.

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FAIL

sure it does

cost to employer = huge

risk to employee = negligible

votes lost due to policy = none

eerm ya

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