Top Tips for Avoiding Workplace Claims

Jane Crosby from law firm Hart Brown, and who specialises in employment law and commercial litigation, lists her top ten tips for avoiding employment tribunal claims.

  1. Ensure that contracts of employments are properly drafted and kept up to date. It is a legal requirement that employers provide employees with a written statement of terms no later than 2 months after their employment begins. There is certain information that must be contained in the written statement of terms which employers need to ensure is contained within their contracts.
  2. Have a staff handbook which is specifically tailored to your business needs and also contains policies which set out best practice on how your managers should deal with day to day personnel matters. An employment handbook should be an effective way of communicating employers’ and employees’ duties and obligations within the workplace thereby reducing any misunderstandings.
  3. Once a staff handbook is in place make sure that your employees are aware of all the policies and help them to understand the consequences if they breach any of these policies. Employers should treat staff fairly in accordance with these policies to avoid conflict.
  4. Provide training to your managers to help them understand the key principles in employment law and how to sensibly apply these in the workplace. Often managers who are very good in their specialist field, may not know how to effectively deal with an employment dispute, training courses are therefore a useful tool to help fill this void.
  5. If there is no alternative for employers but to follow a formal process, then make sure that procedures are followed in accordance with any contractual obligations and the relevant policies contained in the staff handbook. Also employers should ensure that disciplinary and grievance procedures comply with the ACAS Code of Practice. If employers fail to follow these ACAS guidelines then this could result in an employee’s compensation award being increased by up to 25 per cent by the employment tribunal.
  6. Consider mediation to resolve disciplinary and grievance issues. Mediation is a voluntary and informal service where an independent party helps two parties resolve a dispute. It can be used at any stage in a workplace dispute but may not be the best way forward in allegations of gross misconduct.
  7. There may be certain situations which are not easily resolved with difficult employees so employers should seek specialist employment advice at an early stage because this may avoid an expensive employment claim.
  8. Have a transparent pay, promotion and bonus structure in place to help avoid any equal pay claims.
  9. Allocate an individual in the business to periodically review all the policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with current employment law and also remain relevant to the business.
  10. Finally it may sound straightforward but this point is often overlooked by employers. When you see a problem developing, communicate with your employees on an informal basis at the earliest opportunity in an attempt to seek a resolution before the dispute escalates into a situation which could result in an employment tribunal claim. Disputes in the workplace should ideally be addressed at an early stage and employers need to take time to listen to their employees.