Are you ready for employment claims?
Anyone who has been involved in litigation understands that it can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive, even if you have a good case. Here are three ways to put yourself in the best possible position to defend an employment tribunal claim.
Recognise red flags
Some claims come out of the blue, but there are usually warning signs. For example, you have dismissed an employee in contentious circumstances, or someone has resigned following a workplace dispute. These processes can give you an opportunity to resolve issues and mitigate risk before legal action starts, so before communicating a grievance or disciplinary outcome can be a cost-effective point at which to seek legal advice.
Understand the role of ACAS
Before making a claim in the employment tribunal, claimants must contact ACAS about the possibility of reaching a settlement through conciliation. Usually (but not always) the claimant will then authorise ACAS to contact the employer. Admin staff should know where to direct enquiries from ACAS.
Engaging in early conciliation is optional for the employer, and various tactics can be considered at this stage, so again, consider taking legal advice. ACAS continues to offer its services to the parties for the duration of the case and many are settled before they reach a final hearing.
React quickly to a claim
The first you hear of a claim might be when you receive official papers from the employment tribunal. Treat these with the utmost urgency. There is a strict deadline of 28 days to respond, regardless of the merits of the claim. It is important that your response is carefully drafted and comprehensive. If you do instruct solicitors, make sure they have copies of all relevant paperwork so they can provide you with the best possible advice.
Julia Gray is an employment lawyer specialising in advice for social care providers, and regularly defends her clients against Employment Tribunal litigation.
First published in Care Home Management Magazine, September/October issue 2022