Last week the Ministry of Justice published the current average waiting times for employment tribunal hearings, which make for sobering reading. Currently, the average waiting time for a first hearing is 335 days for a single claim made by one employee; and 388 days for multiple employee claims, such as large equal pay claims.
These are substantial waiting times for those involved – with the likelihood of a hearing hanging over the parties and potentially affecting their mental health and wellbeing. A prolonged delay in resolving a dispute also prevents all parties, but particularly Claimants, from moving on with their lives.
From an employer perspective, Tribunal claims could see time diverted away from the business and its people, with reputational risk attached to an adverse result.
Chris Brazier, employment partner, B P Collins, advises on what can be done to help reduce the possibility of going to a tribunal.
If you’re an employee:
Seek advice early on
Seeking advice from a lawyer at an early stage in proceedings will ensure your case is prepared correctly. In our experience, this will usually speed up the process and will place you on a more equal footing with your employer.
Early advice should also result in a clear strategy being formulated, with that strategy based on a clear understanding of the potential outcomes as early as possible.
If you’re an employer:
Prevention is better than cure so, ideally, you should have company policies covering all the main human resources issues, with this backed up by regular training to help ensure that you know how to deal with common situations and take a consistent approach.
As employment law is subject to changes in legislation and through case law, employers are well advised to keep contracts, policies and procedures under regular review and to take advice where an issue may turn into a dispute.
For both parties:
Settlement via ACAS or a settlement agreement is a hugely effective way of resolving disputes. Both parties can propose settlement at any time and understanding the value of the claims is key in seeking to ensure that a fair settlement is secured.
For a settlement agreement to be legally binding, individuals must obtain independent legal advice prior to signing.
B P Collins will never pressure its clients to settle. Lawyers provide advice, but remember it is your matter and it is you who gives the instructions.
Judicial mediation is another alternative way of resolving a dispute between parties without the need to go to a full hearing.
Whilst this will involve issuing proceedings, an employment judge may agree that mediation could resolve the issues with the help of employment judges who are trained mediators. In our experience, judicial mediation has become an extremely effective way of resolving disputes.