How to avoid Unfair Dismissal Claims

Employment Tribunal Statistics show that the unfair dismissal claims in 2013/14 totalled 28,528, only superseded by Working Time Directive Claims.

However, during the same period the maximum awarded at an Employment Tribunal was in relation to an unfair dismissal claim. The award totalled £3,402,245.00. Whilst the average award is much less it makes for frightening reading when it is so easily avoided. Although there is generally a statutory cap on awards, this does not apply when the dismissal is for raising certain health and safety issues or for whistleblowing.

A failure to follow the correct process can also allow the Tribunal to adjust any awards made in relevant cases by up to 25 % for unreasonable failure to comply. In the same vain, the Tribunal can also reduce any award to a claimant by 26% should they fail to comply with the relevant code.

Dismissal should really be a last resort in any organisation and many grievance issues or potential disciplinary issues can be resolved without the need for formal processes if your business has clear policies and practices, open lines of communication and fair and transparent system for dealing with any failures against these policies and practices by either the employer or the employee.

However, should a disciplinary process be required or a grievance raised you should ensure that you deal with the issues promptly. It is good practice to document and agree any minutes/notes of any discussions or meetings in relation to the disciplinary process.

A full investigation should be undertaken and no final decisions should be made prior to having all evidence to hand for consideration, this includes presenting the employee with investigation notes and allowing them to respond to the same. You must ensure that you give employees relevant notice of any investigation meetings, detailing what the issues are and what they can expect from the meeting.

You also need to ensure that you allow employees to be accompanied to any formal disciplinary or grievance meetings and you should have a provision within your policies for appealing any formal decisions made.

You should ensure that you act consistently in relation to situations to promote fairness and ensure that your policies and practices can be referred to when faced with disciplinary issues. If the issue is something that you have not covered in your contract of employment, handbook or policies is it time to re-visit them?

At CH Legal, our employment team can assist you with any policies or HR resources you require for your business to protect you from becoming an Employment Tribunal Statistic. Contact caroline.tomlinson@ch-legal.co.uk for more information.