Guest blog by Peninsula Employment Law Director Alan Price
Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show the number of single claims received by employment tribunals between October–December 2017 increased by 90%, compared to October–December 2016.
When the Supreme Court outlawed tribunal fees in July 2017, it was expected that the number of tribunal claims being made would increase as there was no longer a financial barrier, in some cases of over £1,000, for potential claimants. The statistics show that claims have increased and have continued to increase since the Court’s decision, with 16% more single claims received in October-December 2017 compared to July-September 2017.
As claims continue to rise, employers need to ensure they are following lawful practices within their businesses and are providing staff with the correct employment rights. The latest statistics reveal a 65% increase in the number of unfair dismissal claims being made, compared to the same quarter in 2016/17, showing ex-employees are increasingly challenging the fairness of their dismissal. When fees were in place, some employers may have adopted riskier practices because they felt safe from a potential claim. They should now ensure they are aware of the laws around these issues and are acting lawfully e.g. by following a fair procedure and having a fair reason before dismissing staff. Updated training may need to be provided to internal managers to ensure decision-making processes are not giving rise to potential claims.
Claims have also significantly increased in areas such as equal pay, where there was a 359% increase compared to the same quarter in 2016/17. There has been intense publicity on the issue of pay and gender with multiple equal pay claims being brought against private sector retailers, such as Asda and Tesco, and gender pay gap reporting highlighting the issue of pay disparity within workplaces. Focus on this issue is likely to increase as the gender pay gap reporting deadline is reached, the 4th April for private sector employers, and reports are made public.
Employers can put rules in place to stop employees talking about their pay and salaries, however, this is unlikely to engage staff and could lead to a detrimental impact where employees start gossiping or talking in secret amongst themselves. Additionally, employees have a right to ask colleagues about pay where they are investigating whether they have a valid equal pay complaint. Instead, employers who are required to produce a report can make positive use of the voluntary narrative to outline the reasons why any gender pay gap exists and set out the steps they will take to reduce or remove the gap. Alternatively, open communication and transparency around pay will ensure employees are aware decisions are being made fairly and lawfully.