Saturday, 8 January 2011

Employment Tribunals - interesting media coverage this week

Employment Tribunals have received an interesting and mostly critical "press" this week.  These tribunals deal with many types of employment-related claims; the law is complex and frequent changes are made.  A very interesting discussion may be heard on BBC's Radio 4 - "Employment tribunals broken"

The programme discusses matters such as
whether the system is loaded in favour of employees; the expense of the process especially where lawyers are involved; financial pressures on businesses to settle claims; absence of any fee for making a claim; "costs" which are rarely awarded (though they could be under existing rules) etc.  It appears that the tribunals have a backlog of some 350,000 cases.  It is argued that the system is "broken", that it can favour unscrupulous employees and that unacceptable costs are imposed on business.

The UK Human Rights Blog also looked at this issue as did Professor Richard Moorhouse in his Lawyerwatch blog.   Their expert posts merit careful consideration.

There are some serious issues here which should be examined thoroughly by the Ministry of Justice which has responsibility for the Tribunals Service.    It is interesting that the Ministry is pressing for greater use of mediation / conciliation in cases of marital breakdown but appears to be content to allow the employment tribunal system to trundle along when many of those claims ought to be settled by conciliation processes without resort to adjudication hearings before the tribunals.

A positive outcome to an employment claim seems to be that of Mrs Carol Hill who was dismissed from her post as a school "dinner-lady" - the Guardian 6th January 2011.   One wonders whether, in this complex area of law, she would have been successful in her claim had she not been supported by the Trade Union Unison?  The hearing - defended by the school in question - took 3 days.  There is to be a further 2 day hearing to decide on what remedy or remedies are appropriate.  Those facts alone should be a cause of concern about tribunal justice which seems to lack many of the advantages often claimed for it - i.e. cheapness, accessibility, freedom from technicality, expedition and expert knowledge.”

Law on the web carries information about Employment tribunals but, as ever, expert advice should be sought by those either bringing or defending claims.

Addendum 10th January:  See Solicitor's Journal - "Employer's charter to protect firms from claims."

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