A rise in the number of discrimination claims being brought against employers by new members of staff should encourage business owners to review the ways in which they bring new recruits onboard.
That’s the advice of Sarah Furness, partner in the employment law team at Newcastle law firm Hay & Kilner, in response to a growing trend she’s identified within the continuing rise in the overall number of employment tribunal claims being lodged against businesses.
While disgruntled employees have to have been in service for at least two years before they can bring most unfair dismissal claims, a discrimination claim can be lodged from the very first day that a new member of staff joins a business, even if they’re still within a probationary period.
Discrimination claims can even be pursued by unsuccessful job applicants, while some unfair dismissal claims, such as where an employee alleges they have been dismissed for whistleblowing or falling pregnant, don’t require two years’ service before they can be brought.
The overall number of employment tribunal claims being lodged has increased sharply since a Supreme Court ruling in July 2017 which found that the fees imposed by the Government for anyone wanting to pursue a tribunal claim were unlawful.
The most recent Ministry of Justice data showed a 14 per cent rise in the number of single employment tribunal claims being made in the second quarter of 2019, compared to the same period the year before, while the figure for multiple claims against a single employer increased by 19 per cent over the same period.
Sarah Furness said: “The vast majority of recruits integrate into their new teams without a hitch, but employers need to be prepared, and informed for, the times when things don’t work out as everyone had hoped.
“The notion that new employees who are still in their probationary period can’t make serious complaints is dangerously misleading and employers have to ensure their policies, procedures and staff awareness are all robust enough to minimise the chances of this happening.”
“The cost to businesses in terms of the management time and money involved in fighting any kind of tribunal claims can be very significant, and with the overall number of claims continuing to increase sharply, it is essential that businesses ensure their employment practices are comprehensive and up to date, and their managers are properly trained.”
Hay & Kilner is hosting a free seminar on Thursday 5 March at the Centre for Life in Newcastle on what proactive steps can be taken to manage new employees and how to tackles issues that may arise during their probationary periods.
The team is part of the firm’s bespoke HR Showcase bespoke training package, which uses interactive role play scenarios to highlight how business owners and management teams can prepare themselves and their staff to manage different workplace situations.
Sarah Furness added: “Workplace issues leading to claims often escalate to crisis point before the HR department is even aware of them, and it’s essential that all those responsible for managing employees are equipped with the skills to handle and hopefully diffuse people issues at an early stage.
“Offering training on how businesses can minimise the risks inherent in managing a workforce using role play will help them make stronger, more proactive decisions when any issues arise for real.”