Employment tribunals exist to hear claims from people who think an employer has treated them unlawfully. Official figures show an increase in the total number of employment tribunal claims in 2016/2017 – up to 88,476 compared to 83,031 in 2015/16 and 61,308 in 2014/2015 – it’s more important than ever for employers to treat their employees fairly and within the law. Having the right workforce management systems in place can help reduce the reasons for claims being brought forward.
Employment Tribunal criticises employers’ employee records
This summer saw an employment tribunal rule that a former Royal Mail Group employee was unfairly dismissed from his job. The judge criticised the employer for dismissing Mr. A Vorajee, a postal worker with 16 years’ service, after they wrongly believed that he travelled abroad when he had been given special leave to look after his sick wife. Although Mr. Vorajee had previously booked annual leave and made a flight booking, he subsequently cancelled it to look after his wife when she fell from a ladder and hurt her back.
The case was complicated by the fact that after his period of special leave he did indeed travel abroad commencing his annual leave but he was detained abroad in a legal dispute and could not return to the UK until his travel ban was lifted. Although Mr. Vorajee kept in regular communication with his employer, Royal Mail dismissed him but then reinstated him upon local appeal. Further trouble then arose when the employer again dismissed him having examined further documents.
The subsequent employment tribunal found that the employer did not pay sufficient attention to the paperwork which Mr Vorajee had submitted.
The employment tribunal’s judgment states that:
“The employer should ensure that they gather all the available evidence and ensure that they are in possession of all the relevant facts so that they are in a position to make a decision about what action it takes against the employee.”
Procedural errors were found to have played a major part in the wrongful dismissal – if the paperwork has been dealt with properly then the claimant would not have been dismissed.
Common reasons for claims at employment tribunals include unfair dismissal, discrimination and unfair deductions from pay. Disputes arise frequently because the employer has not kept sufficient or orderly records or else, in the case of discrimination cases, they have not reviewed their data to ensure parity.
With the Supreme Court having this summer ruled employment tribunal fees (introduced in July 2013) unlawful, some employers now fear an increase in claims, especially those of a lower value where the fees served as a deterrent. While all would agree that access to justice is a fundamental right – it is a potential rise in groundless or malicious claims which employers fear most.`
It makes sense then for employers to review their workforce management systems to ensure:
- Any sick notes and other evidence is chased up, understood and on file.
- Absence data, including sickness absence, is up-to-date with supporting evidence.
- Line-managers reminded about HR procedures and absence policies.
- Time and attendance data is recorded accurately.
When workplace disputes arise about annual leave, sickness or other absences, it’s important to have accurate records and data to support the process.
The Chronologic Workforce Management System supports the gathering, tracking and reporting of a wide range of employee related time and attendance data.