Employing people is essential to many businesses and often your ‘Human Resources’ are what set you apart from your competitors. Therefore in order to grow your business it is essential you recruit and retain the best staff you possibly can, however with this comes the risk of tribunal claims being made again you.

Many people who run small businesses perhaps feel that they do not need any HR support or advice, however the cost of getting it wrong can be extremely damaging, especially to small businesses.

There is a huge raft of employment legislation out there and legislation is almost constantly being changed and updated. Therefore it is important as the owner of a business to ensure you are to date with employment legislation.

Current tribunal limits

From 6th April 2015 the limit you could be liable to pay if you lost a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal is £78, 335 (except for cases where the unfair dismissal is for whistleblowing or certain health and safety issues)

For discrimination cases there is no upper limit!

  Maximum Award Average Award
Unfair Dismissal £3,402,245 £11,813
Race Discrimination £162,593 £11,203
Sex Discrimination £168,957 £14,336
Disability Discrimination £236,922 £14,502
Religious Discrimination £22,762 £8,131
Age Discrimination £137,000 £18,801
Sexual Orientation Discrimination £27,659 £8,701

Tribunal figures for unfair dismissal and discrimination cases 2013 – 2014

Top Tips

1. Ensure you have clear policies and procedures and that staff have access to the policies and procedures, they could be available on the Intranet or given to staff in a staff handbook.

Staff should also all have a ‘Written Statement of Particulars’ in other words a contract of employment. This is an essential document and should be signed by both parties.             

2. Follow your own procedures, it may sound obvious but if you have gone to the trouble of producing these policies and procedures then it is important to ensure that you follow them. This will ensure consistency, which is something tribunals will look favourably upon.

3. Ensure managers are trained to deal with any issues which arise including carrying out investigations and dealing with disciplinaries and grievances.

4. Have a fair recruitment system, ensure that your recruitment procedures are transparent, that you are carrying out shortlisting in a fair way and that you are offering the job to the most suitable candidate –remember if a candidate feels they have been discriminated against you could find yourself in a tribunal.

5. Have a clear pay system which does not discriminate against individual parties. Job evaluation systems are very effective in grading jobs based on the tasks that are carried out. This ensures that pay grades are set against this rather than the people who carry out the job, therefore ensuring consistency and avoiding ‘favouritism’.

6. If you are dealing with an issue which you are unsure about or have no previous experience of, contact ACAS or a professional HR Consultant for further advice and support.

7. Deal with issues as and when they arise, do not put them off as often they can escalate into larger problems

8. Keep up to date with employment law, generally changes are introduced twice a year, April and October but there are also smaller pieces of legislation that are introduced throughout the year.

9. Keep a paper trail- if you do end up being taken to tribunal, the panel will want to see a clear paper trail. Keep notes, keep copies of letters, ask employees attending meetings to sign a copy of the notes to confirm their accuracy.

10. Know your options – Even if an employee or ex employee does wish to take you to tribunal, issues can often be resolved before they actually get to this stage. 

Article by Erica Avison of Vivid HR.

Contact 07944 674165.

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