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Employment Tribunals – Roundtable Report

29 November 2012     London
Hosted by theHRDIRECTOR.
Chaired by Jason Spiller.

Delegates
Scott Young, HR Manager – Big Lottery Fund
Beverley Smith, Head of HR Operations – Hermes Europe
Gemma Reucroft, Head of HR – KCOM Group
Andrew Willis, Head of Litigation – Croner
Amanda Beattie, Litigation Specialist – Croner
Peter Banks, Managing Director – PSM

The ETS has been under considerable stress and has struggled to cope with the steady increase of cases that go to tribunal. Many employers are disillusioned with the service and few would disagree with the Government directive to overhaul the ETS as part of the on-going Employment Law reform.

Government has published its paper on reviews policies and procedural changes in the ETS as a part of a broader Employment Law reform and predictably both legal practitioners and employers have welcomed some of the new measures but equally criticised others.

Typically what are the key reasons that employment issues are ending up in court?

Scott Young: I wouldn’t say we’ve experienced an increase particularly. I looked at the claims stats from the England and Wales Tribunal Service and there’s been a drop from last year, in fact a 15 percent drop. My understanding is that the issue with claim volumes comes from a backlog of cases waiting to go through the system, rather than a spike in claims. The time it takes from a claim being submitted to being processed is frustratingly long.

Beverley Smith: We unfortunately have seen an increase but it’s not from employees. We are a logistics business, and the people who do the final mile delivery are self-employed contractors, and in the last couple of years, we’ve seen them submitting claims that they are employees, presumably on the back of feeling uncomfortable about the economic situation, or they’re trying to make their position a bit more secure.

Gemma Reucroft: That’s something that we’ve had a few times in recent years and actually we have been successful in defending what are complex claims. We took action by actually putting a management agent in between us in the contract, as it gives us an indemnity.

Andrew Willis: We saw a big spike in our cases at the end of 2009, the first financial crisis. Businesses shed a lot of staff at that time and that generated claims, but since, there has been a reduction in the number of single claims. The other issue that’s fed into the overall picture has been the number of multiple claims brought. equal pay claims, holiday pay claims for example, have artificially inflated the numbers. Single claims, they have remained fairly steady.

Has the new regulations had time to impact on trends?

Amanda Beattie: The changes are speeding things up, things like; taking witness statements as read, having Judges sitting on unfair dismissal cases, they are getting listed quicker. What we’re seeing is once the ET has the claim form we’ve submitted, it gets sent out to the Respondent, and comes out more often than not with a Notice of Hearing, certainly with the simpler cases. Something that we didn’t use to see.

Andrew Willis: The changes in qualifying period for unfair dismissal has been in effect since April, but only affects employees starting new employment on or after 6th April, so it will be a long time before the effects are felt. I guess the question is, what will employees with under two years’ service do? We already have a pretty good idea, because people with one years’ service already bring alternative claims.

Beverley Smith: We had an employee who unfortunately parted company within two months of him commencing employment, and he submitted a claim on the basis of religious discrimination. It went nowhere but that didn’t stop him from doing it.

Gemma Reucroft: In my experience, people will try and use another claim, be it discrimination, protected disclosure, or indeed any other things that allows you to bring a claim, without the requisite service criteria. I have attended full hearings with very weak claims and I believe there’s a reluctance by tribunals to strike out weak claims.

Amanda Beattie: I think we’re going to see an increase in the more complicated cases, which are actually going to clog up the system. The usual hearing would be three days maximum, if you’re looking at discrimination or protective disclosures, those types of claims, typically are three to five days. So what once was expected to reduce the amount of claims and the length of hearing time, wilI increase with more actual hearing time spent on complicated claims brought in because of the two year service criteria.

What is leading to this increase in spurious claims, do you think people are thinking they have nothing to lose, or is it that organisations have been settling early and employees have cottoned on to that?

Amanda Beattie: I think people see it is a bit of a cash cow and at the moment, there is no financial consequence to them. Plus if they can’t claim unfair dismissal, due to length of service, they’ll take another route.

Beverley Smith: Recently we dealt with a case didn’t contain any solid claim, but they had debated on social network sites, and they had been egged with the suggestion that the business would pay up to save face. Social networking is an issue to watch out for.

Andrew Willis: What probably drives behaviours is, first and foremost, a sense of injustice. They’re not quite sure what law has been breached, but they feel wronged and they seek advice. If the adviser determines the circumstances support a claim, but the claimant has insufficient length of service to claim unfair dismissal, he or she will consider whether other types of claim, such as discrimination, can be pursued.

Scott Young: I’d speculate that because people now have instant access to lots of information about their rights, claimants, particularly if they’re unrepresented, will go on websites or forums and  believe they have a case. There’s a general trend here about access to information and awareness of rights.

Gemma Reucroft: When you see unrepresented claimants, cases are more protracted without legal advice, guidance and sensible dialogue.

Andrew Willis: Claimants without representation are more likely to plough on in a misguided way, and of course the first thing that often happens in those cases is that they’re listed for a CMD. In other words, respondents often have to incur the costs of a day in hearing just to get to the bottom of what the claim is about.

Is there anything in the newly introduced policies that looks like it’s going to tighten this up, close the loopholes?

Andrew Willis: Judges hearing cases alone and witness statements being taken as read is having a positive impact on time, but I do get the sense it can sometimes lead to rough justice though. It’s odd that unfair dismissal claims were picked as the type of claim which could be heard by Judges alone because they’re probably the claims that benefit most from the input of lay tribunal members bringing their experience of the workplace to bear.

Amanda Beattie: The issue is, where do they go after that judgment? if the claimant is not happy and they think it is rough justice, the only other route is either to have the decision reviewed by another Judge, and it would then go up to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Now it’s so difficult to bring a claim at the Employment Tribunal Appeals Tribunal and to win, they would have to establish that no other reasonable Judge would have made that decision, or made an error of law.

Andrew Willis: It depends on what has driven the change, if it’s cost-saving, and if unfair dismissal has been selected because that’s the “bread and butter” claim, then it’s difficult to see how they might reconsider.

Beverley Smith: We’ve been to tribunal with just the Judge sitting an unfair dismissal and I felt quite bad for the claimant, because they were representing themselves and they didn’t understand the legal principles.

Andrew Willis: Traditionally no fees have been charged and the reasons for that are obvious. Claimants are normally in a much weaker position in terms of resources anyway, and the likelihood is they are not working. Finding money to pursue a claim is not going to be easy.  Some will be able to claim exemption from the fees but it won’t be easy to do that either.

Gemma Reucroft: Few people will be able to claim exemption. I think one of the real issues I see in this system is the cost of administering the fees themselves. We don’t know how many people are going to try and claim exemptions and the complexity of it.

Beverley Smith: We had to close an entire site, made redundancies, and they tried to claim unfair selection. They did so because a lawyer had rung them up and said “you might have got enhanced redundancy terms but I can get you another £10,000 in addition to that”. The case was being driven very much by the lawyer but other than that, people who have left, and have left for redundancy as opposed to being dismissed, don’t claim against us.

Andrew Willis: There’ll be huge pressure to settle cases, more so than now, for two reasons. Firstly there’s a proposal that all claims will go to ACAS first, to allow the opportunity for pre-claim conciliation. Secondly, if nothing is resolved by that process the claimant will have to pay the first fee when lodging the claim at tribunal, increasing the pressure to settle through ACAS.

Gemma Reucroft: What does concern me is particularly low level claims; the Working Time Directive, Wages Act for example. The cost of the claim might actually outweigh the value of the claim itself. For example somebody not getting holiday pay. For want of another example, then it may be quite easily rectified but if not, the £390 which I think is the full price for a low level claim for the first hearing, it might actually be more than the claim is actually worth.

Amanda Beattie: Those that are out of work, will be on Income Support, so they would get an exemption anyway. I have issue with the ACAS pre conciliation fee, which gives undue pressure to settle low merit cases.

Scott Young: It depends on your operating environment, but we have introduced a mediation process in our business and we find it can be very effective. We’ve had instances where relationship breakdowns and grievances could well have turned into claims, and the power of an apology and getting the parties talking through mediation has avoided claims.

Often the individual is encouraged not to listen, that’s a big first stumbling block.

Scott Young: You have to be realistic about the potential for a successful mediation outcome, but our experience suggests it’s worth considering, particularly early on.

Beverley Smith: It seems that whatever route we go down the tribunals are going to end up with more money in their coffers and the employers are going to end up paying more, whether that’s for mediation processes or paying the fees.

Gemma Reucroft: A statement referred to mediation as a low-cost method of resolving disputes and I’m not always convinced it is. ACAS typically charges about £1000 a day. I appreciate you don’t have to use ACAS, you can have internal mediators, but again they need to be trained and qualified.

Scott Young: It depends on the organisation and circumstances really. We have successfully trained mediators and I’ve done mediation myself. We’ve also tried using external mediators but our experience has been they’ve been expensive and not worked as well.

Andrew Willis: Employers will just sit out the pre-conciliation stage because they’ll know that if the claim goes further, the employee will have to pay a fee. Early mediation can be effective because a lot of the more complex discrimination claims tend to evolve out of disputes and personality clashes. But once you get into the tribunal process, whether it be ACAS pre-claim conciliation or the tribunal system proper, mediation can be less attractive as an option.

Do employers actually trust the ETS law in this instance?

Beverley Smith: Once a claim goes into a tribunal, unless we are absolutely adamant that we’re   going to fight it all the way, I know at some point we’re going to to pay some money to make that case go away. Do I have faith in the tribunal system, that it will protect us? No. We are very reasonable employers and I don’t think it protects reasonable employers.

Gemma Reucroft: Taking the decision to go to tribunal is a difficult one for any organisation no matter what your size, bad press, the potential of an adverse judgment costs you a lot of money.  Often you know up front that you are probably going to end up settling it because it is just cheaper and easier.

Beverley Smith: It’s a commercial reality that as soon as a claim hits my desk, we’re probably going to pay some money out. That’s just how it is.

Amanda Beattie: That’s because employers always normally instruct representative, unlike claimants, they don’t have to instruct but they usually do and so that’s going to be the legal cost straight away.

Scott Young: Because we are responsible for public money we often need to seek approval, so don’t have the level of flexibility and discretion to revert to early financial settlement. Where we might look to settle, those types of decisions are often later in the process. So we often have in mind that we might have to go all the way when a claim is lodged. We take the view that mediation is worth a try because we know that we’re unlikely to be able to take those commercial decisions about settlement early on.

Gemma Reucroft: When your issue is entrenched, there’s a real unwillingness to just be in that room with the individual and to engage in that level of dialogue.

So a third-party mediator surely would be more effective. Also do Trade Unions assist or hinder?

Gemma Reucroft: I’m not convinced it made any difference, we’ve offered both internal and external and the reluctance has typically been the same. Ultimately, mediation doesn’t work unless it’s voluntary. I’ve also seen reluctance when the issue has been between a line manager and a report, again the more reluctant party is quite often the manager.

 Scott Young: Trade Unions can be a mixed challenge with mediation because of confusion about where they fit in and so there’s a lot of groundwork needed with the Unions to make it work well.

Andrew Willis: Scott, can you recall cases in which you’ve seen internal mediation or pre-termination mediation either head off a dismissal or termination or a tribunal claim?

Scott Young: Absolutely. There have been quite protracted grievances where employees have made it clear they were minded to make a claim, but by having mediation and it resulting in apologies and actions to improve the situation, claims haven’t materialised.

Gemma Reucroft: My experience has always been the agreement is quite powerful and tends to stick because of the significant amount of effort that usually goes into getting it. I think perhaps I’ve got quite a negative view on it because of my own experiences.

Has the changes in the employer/employee relationship helped or hindered in mediation?

Gemma Reucroft: If something goes to tribunal the relationship is completely broken down, it’s untenable once that claim hits so I think mediation is really the only chance that you can do to have any hope that the employment relationship can continue.

HR Directors never tire of saying “yes there were redundancies but we all remain friends, there was understanding due to our fair handling”.

Gemma Reucroft: You can have sensible dialogue with people when they’re exiting your business it can be done with dignity and it can be done in a generally positive manner, but that’s obviously not always the case.

Beverley Smith: It depends on the psychological contract, it doesn’t matter what’s in the actual contract, it’s how someone expects to be treated. As long as you treat them that way, you generally avoid the claim. Finding out from the individual exactly what’s in their psychological contract is fairly difficult sometimes.

Andrew Willis: If it’s going to be effective mediation has to be at that early stage. I think once you get into the tribunal system, each side has set out their stall and it is almost too late, at that point is nearly always about agreeing a settlement figure.

Amanda Beattie: I think the Government did try to bring some kind of internal mediation many years ago with the dreaded statutory grievance procedures and that you had to report a grievance in order to bring a claim.

How will the change in service period from one to ten years for both dismissal and claimant affect the contract relationship between employee and employer?

Andrew Willis: Well, as said, many claimants will look to pursue their complaints under other heads of claim. It won’t be easy for them, but those claims that do make it through the system will be more complex as a result.

Gemma Reucroft: I seem to recall that before the two year period got reduced to one year, Trade Unions were challenging on the basis of indirect discrimination.

Andrew Willis: There’s already talk of a challenge being made again on the basis that women tend to be in employment for a shorter period than men, this change impacts disproportionately on them. If it is effective at all, it will be an employer-friendly change, but people will find other ways to bring their claims.

Amanda Beattie: We already see it now with claimants with less than one year service. They bring different types of claims, such as whistleblowing.

Surely that is the job for those that review the efficacy of claims, the quality control of what goes to tribunal.

Amanda Beattie: Well that’s when the sift would be a better way of dealing with it, if a Claimant claims they were dismissed for an automatically unfair reason, such as making a flexible working application, the burden of proof goes onto the claimant in those types of cases, contrasted with “normal” unfair dismissal claims, the burden is on the Respondent.

Andrew Willis: The Underhill Review includes a proposal for a sift stage in tribunal, but a cultural change would have to happen for Judges to exercise that robustly.

Gemma Reucroft: My concern about the sift stage is, if the ET1 has already been issued to the employer, you have 28 days and even if that claim looks weak we have to start preparing a response and start incurring costs, if it’s already been sent to the employer, then that actually isn’t going to help.

Amanda Beattie: It has to be before the Respondent has to do anything, and it would only be in those cases where the claims are quite obviously very weak.

Peter Banks: I thought the whole point was to streamline and get things through quicker. There was an awful lot of consultation on this as well.

Gemma Reucroft: The consultations that have been coming through lately seem to have taken the dissenting views.

Scott Young: My understanding is that the CMD and PHR, can be combined. In previous claims we’ve had, it would have been very helpful and efficient in my view.

Andrew Willis: And that may facilitate an early strike-out of weak claims because at the moment, at a CMD, no determinations can be made, it’s a purely administrative hearing. At a PHR a strike-out can be ordered in appropriate circumstances, so that may facilitate the earlier sifting of weak cases.

What are opinions on fees for claimants and penalties for employers?

Andrew Willis: The biggest change will be the combination of pre-claim conciliation and fees that will really put pressure on claimants to consider settling early. We don’t see the number of disputes changing dramatically, it will be about how they are disposed of. At the moment it’s quite easy for a claimant to pursue a claim all the way to hearing as the chances of an adverse costs order are slim at best. Following the change there will be a real incentive on claimants to settle, either at preclaim conciliation or when the hearing fee falls due, great for the system as earlier settlement means tribunals disposing of more cases earlier.

But if you were given the deciding vote on whether to introduce fees or not?

Andrew Willis: Well the system has always been that claimants don’t pay fees because they’re not normally in a good position to do so, having lost their job in many cases. On a personal level I would say that sounds fair to me. However, I do understand the frustration that creates, that approach also creates an automatic “settlement pot”, because employers rarely recover their costs, regardless of the outcome of the case.

Amanda Beattie: We’ve all dealt with claimants that are living in a total different reality and you will not stop those with fees.

So let’s look at the other side of the coin, penalties for employers.

Andrew Willis: My personal view is that it’s a purely revenue raising exercise. It’s probably also been proposed in the interest of balance, because obviously the introduction of fees for claimants is a big change, so a sort of balancing provision.

But it’s a penalty for saying you haven’t done your housework properly.

Andrew Willis: Yes and it goes straight to the Exchequer so it isn’t compensation to anybody… it’s a fine effectively.

Amanda Beattie: In unfair dismissal claims you couldn’t recover aggravated damages or injury to feeling, which you could do in discrimination claims, and now if employers are going to get penalties that’s effectively flying in the face of that. Employers can also currently face penalties if they haven’t complied with the ACAS code of practice, with an increase in compensation payable of up to 25 percent.

Andrew Willis: Most cases either settle or attract compensation at low levels. The median award for unfair dismissal is below £10,000 so very few cases will be affected. But if you limit unfair dismissal compensation to one year’s salary, at what point does it become cost effective to say “you’re  finished, you’re out today, we’ll talk to you about compensation”, knowing that the maximum that person can recover in the absence of a discrimination claim is one year’s salary?

Gemma Reucroft: It does seem to suggest that those at the lower end of the income scale, the more vulnerable, could lose out significantly.

Scott Young: If we are going to go in this direction, there may be a temptation to treat people more like transactions and focus less effort on engaging them effectively and encourage them to be committed to the organisation, leading to a de-motivated labour force.

Andrew Willis: The big caveat is that there will be no cap on discrimination compensation. Given the number of discrimination claims that can be brought now it’s likely that everybody could bring themselves within one or more of the protected groups, age is a particular area where that’s applicable, so there will always be good reason to treat situations carefully and with due consideration. However, in a straightforward case some employers will think “we know what our maximum liability is here, let’s not waste time going through a capability process.

What is the likely impact if this already overstretched and under resourced service is not adequately supported?

Beverley Smith: We already struggle to get hold of ACAS, so if they are involved in preconciliation, it’s going to get worse.

Gemma Reucroft: In my experience, ACAS is that it’s very hit and miss, there are some excellent conciliators, but they are under pressure. There will need to be a significant investment in the service if it’s to withstand a whole new raft of responsibilities.

Andrew Willis: Although ACAS has  a statutory duty to contact parties to all tribunal proceedings to try to promote conciliation. I think the real issue is how much parties will engage with the process early on and, as I say, one view is that many employers may simply sit out the conciliation period knowing that employees will have to find the money to pursue the claim if it isn’t dealt with at conciliation.

So it is unlikely that ACAS will be able to meets its increased obligations?

Amanda Beattie: All ACAS is going to be doing is what it’s already doing, only earlier. There’s no reason why the employer has to even engage in the same way as the claimant does. We need a different form of conciliator in the pre-conciliation stage, to guide the process through, in a similar way as judicial mediation did.

Beverley Smith: I would probably suggest that they might need more training in determining the merits of a case, so that they could argue the relative merits with the respective parties because at the moment in time, they don’t necessarily do that.

Is it more a case of jurisdiction, what is and is not out of bounds?

Andrew Willis: There’s a fine line between providing information and advising somebody and I think that’s the line ACAS conciliators are reluctant to cross. They can’t cross that line and advise one party or the other, because then they’re no longer conciliating. So it’s a very difficult role they have to perform and a difficult balancing act.

Scott Young: I get the impression they are understaffed, under pressure and worried by these proposals, why wouldn’t you be really?

Andrew Willis: I think they may well struggle and it comes back to the psychology of a dispute and what parties are thinking, particularly at that early stage. I think it’s already been demonstrated through the failure of fixed conciliation periods that human nature dictates that many cases will not settle until the parties are at the door of the tribunal.

Gemma Reucroft: When you’re in dialogue with ACAS it’s all about settlement and, actually, whilst we may have to settle because we have no commercial option to do otherwise, there is something as an employer that I find hard to rationalise about that, that we’re being asked to settle a claim when we may feel we’ve done nothing wrong.

That should be no response, ACAS must be keeping cavy trying to stop claims going to tribunal, and unfortunately employers are paying the price.

Gemma Reucroft: Yes it’s often the case that, no matter how strong your position, settlement is still something that you feel often you have no choice but to undertake.

Amanda Beattie: Also you have the domino effect, that if you settle claims then it can have the effect of generating more claims because people think they’re going to get some money from you. Put in a claim and you’ll get £500. So when does it become cost effective to settle?

What are the implications of the change to protected conversation in tribunal claims?

Scott Young: Putting it bluntly, I don’t get it! I don’t see how it’s different from current compromise agreements, particularly with a similar scope for conversations to be deemed inappropriate or unprotected. Is it that the settlement agreements will lower the bar for conversations to be deemed protected?

Andrew Willis: You’re right; the proposed change isn’t as dramatic as it initially appeared to be. The outline proposals on protected conversations suggested that employers would have been able to raise any issue with an employee and not worry about the consequences. That was a considerable step, with employers only protected by the “without prejudice” label, if they are genuinely in dispute with the employee at the time the conversation takes place. For example, where the employee is facing a disciplinary hearing or where the employer is close to a redundancy decision, towards the end of a consultation period. The problem is, the proposal has been watered down to a degree, and I don’t think Government is even using the phrase “protected conversation” anymore. Instead, it’s been decided, that for reasons relating to European law, such evidence cannot be excluded in discrimination claims.

Amanda Beattie: There’s no protection if the employer acted improperly in any way, but I consider that there will be a great deal of litigation on what is acting improperly, as the claimant is always going to allege improper behaviour from an employer, they are taking a claim against, for unfair dismissal.

Andrew Willis: It means the whole conversation gets in front of the tribunal anyway, which is what sometimes happens now with alleged “without prejudice” conversations.

Gemma Reucroft: They would have to do the whole thing to determine whether or not it’s improper.

Andrew Willis: Exactly, claimants slip them in now. Where a claimant is properly represented it doesn’t happen, but in many cases they aren’t and that evidence does find its way before the tribunal in a number of ways. I’m sure the tribunals are careful to properly direct themselves not to  have regard to it, but at the same time tribunal members are human beings and if they’ve been  made aware of a particular issue or a particular slant on something there’s every chance it might have some effect, so it’s always been a high risk area for employers anyway.

Gemma Reucroft: Which poses the question, as an employer, would you ever use it – it strikes me you wouldn’t want to take the risk.

Amanda Beattie: The important issue is, what amounts to “acting improperly”, because in many cases employers will go down this route because they are looking to dismiss. Until we’ve got proper case law and definitions about what amounts to improper conduct the likelihood is these conversations will be considered by tribunals, because the mere act of just getting somebody in to the office and offering money might be said by many employees to be improper. Cautious employers will be reluctant to use this approach.

Andrew Willis: For that reason the most careful employers will not seek to rely on this, they’ll still follow a proper procedure. What it will give us later on, if we end up in tribunal, is another string to our bow in terms of trying to exclude unhelpful evidence if it can genuinely be said that the conversation was protected.

Scott Young: I do worry about the messages these new agreements could send out, we’ve probably all come across a manager who said they’ve done a without prejudice or they want to use one as a shortcut to proper process. Does this send the message that it’s OK to take shortcuts?

It hardly constitutes an effective form of protection does it?

Andrew Willis: Well it doesn’t you’re right, when people who don’t really understand the concept try to take advantage of it in that way they get themselves into all sorts of trouble and you must find that when you’re trying to advise at arm’s length.

Scott Young: It could also make it harder for us as professionals. It can already be difficult to persuade reluctant managers why a process is important to protect all involved. But with these new proposals, if they perceive it’s ok to take short cuts, then they probably will.

Is the Government directive of the “encouragement” of Compromise Agreements as part of the reform, a useful initiative or one that will encourage more claimants taking a chance on a quick result?

Andrew Willis: It’s the route we go down now; settlement agreements, compromise agreements. The majority of tribunal claims settle. It’s the way it’s worked until now purely because there’s always been a financial incentive, for employers to offer something because they’ve known they will have to spend money on representation anyway.

Amanda Beattie: This Government directive is just indicative of the whole thought process – there’s an increase in claims, we want to reduce that, so it’s pressuring both sides to think ever harder  about settling, claimants and respondents, so it still comes out of the employer’s pot, irrespective of merit.

What does the proposal of Rapid Resolution scheme, an alternative system to determining the straightforward tribunal and designed to speed up the resolution process, mean to procedure and outcomes for all parties?

Gemma Reucroft: Again, it’s about who’s going to pay for that, to what extent are people going to be willing to participate in it and is it actually going to fundamentally change anything? I’m not particularly sure it will.

Beverley Smith: It goes back to that emotive issue of what may in the employers mind, a straightforward position, in the claimant’s mind, is something completely different. So it would fall at the first hurdle because the two parties have completely different views on what’s going on.

Scott Young: It seems like an attempt to get the system to a point where it’s more efficient, but a lot of procedures are being added rather than taken away – this is counterintuitive to me. You’re going to have a tribunal system that’s going to have to handle money, determine what’s complex and what’s straightforward.

Gemma Reucroft: Government said it was going to try and do was make things more straightforward and simple and reduce red tape, but actually are we just making it harder?

Amanda Beattie: I don’t think they are making it any easier, I think they’re trying to change their tact to try and reduce the amount of claims.

With the ETS reform in mind, what is the most effective strategy and policies for employers to adopt when dealing with employment tribunals at all stages of events?

Beverley Smith: Avoid them, that’s your best strategy! Make sure you do everything to not end up in tribunal in the first place. Unfortunately, regardless of how well you treat somebody, if they have a vision in their head that they have been hard done by, they’re going to take you to tribunal.

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