When dismissals go wrong

Ending the employment of an individual can be a stressful time, requiring tough decisions, information gathering, following applicable processes and, of course, the delivery of unwelcome news. In addition, there is always the possibility that an aggrieved employee, reasonably or otherwise asserts that their dismissal is unfair or amounts to an act of discrimination. What steps should any employer take when faced with a situation that could lead to an employment tribunal claim?

Employment Tribunal claims can be costly and very stressful for all involved. Ensuring that appropriate and reasonable procedures are followed prior to making any decision to dismiss an employee will reduce the risk of a claim being taken in the first place and will mean that even when one is brought, it is less likely to succeed.

Any issue raised by an employee should ideally be dealt with as soon as it arises, for example, if during a disciplinary an employee asserts that there is evidence that has not been considered, it would be wise to take reasonable steps to address that concern. Or if an employee during a redundancy consultation asserts that the selection criteria are unfair, it may be prudent to review the criteria and address the employees’ concern. Employees should, in most cases, be given the opportunity to appeal a decision to dismiss and a failure to do so could make the dismissal unfair. Appeal processes can also be useful in establishing whether an employee has a genuine complaint and in some cases can correct defects with the original procedure. In most cases, the first an employer will know of a tribunal claim is either correspondence threatening a claim, or a call from an ACAS conciliation officer, with this usually being a pre requisite to an individual starting a claim, in some instances it may be the receipt of the claim from the tribunal office.

By seeking advice at an early stage any employer will be better placed to understand any risk and potential liability, enabling them to consider making a sensible proposal for resolution, whether on a commercial basis or otherwise. Early advice may also help an employer understand any risk involved and start the process of gathering the evidence required for any proceedings. There are also strict time limits for responding to a tribunal claim and a failure to respond in time may mean that an employer is unable to defend the claim so it is important to seek advice at an early stage.

On current statistics, employment tribunals are facing a backlog, which is only likely to be made worse by the end of the furlough scheme, with some tribunals listing 2-3 days hearing for 2022. A fact that may make seeking to resolve claims, or indeed taking steps to address issues at an early stage and therefore avoiding claims a rather attractive proposition.

The Lawspeed Employment Team can help with all aspects of staff relation, whether this be redundancies, disciplinary processes, strong employment contracts or changing terms and conditions. Contact us on 01273 236 236 or info@lawspeed.com

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