Employment Tribunal Claims – Don’t Become Just Another Statistic

As an employer, whilst you may do your utmost to ensure you have a happy and effective team working for you sometimes, things do go wrong. When they do, an Employment Tribunal claim often ensues together with the legal costs and stress which goes with it. 

The sad reality of it is that these cases are on the increase.

According to the latest statistics published by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service in the period from January to March 2013 alone, there were an astonishing 57,737 claims accepted by the Employment Tribunals (equating to over 228000 claims per annum) – this represents a huge 36% increase in claims compared to January to March 2012.

The figures from this year also show that claims are taking longer to resolve. The average time it takes to dispose of a case in 2012 being 80 weeks.

 The figures for cases which were either settled, withdrawn or decided at a hearing show that in January to March of last year, over 9% more cases were disposed of than in 2012. 

There are a number of issues that practice principals need to be particularly aware of.

For example, it is common practice for principals to provide nurses with their uniforms. It is even more common for GDC registration fees and DBS checks to be paid for by the principal dentist. So what happens if the nurse decides to leave? They don’t return their uniform and the principal dentist has just renewed the GDC fees for another year? Some might think it is appropriate to deduct the cost of the uniform and the GDC fees from the last salary payment. 

However, unless there has been prior written agreement for this to be done, if the principal were to take that money out of the last salary payment, that deduction would be an unlawful deduction of wages and may well lead to a claim. Out of the total 57,737 claims made to the Employment Tribunal in January to March 2013, 15,859 of these were made for unlawful deductions from salary.

 Another example is where principal sells their dental practice and fails to consult the employees as required by the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employees Regulations (TUPE) which is a common error made by many employers unfamiliar with the TUPE Regulations . Unfortunately, in January to March 2013, there were 253 unfortunate employers who had claims against them for this particular breach.

Selling a business is not the only time a principal dentist will have to consult their staff. A sign of the recent economic times are the number of claims made as a result of employers failing to consult with their employees when making redundancies. 3,596 claims were made in January to March 2013 and 3,199 claims were made in relation to redundancy pay.

Finally, how many principal dentists reading this article have self-employed associates working at their practice? You may think they are self-employed but employment status is often challenged in Tribunals. If an associate has their contract terminated with no good reason, there is every possibility that they could submit a claim for unfair dismissal. If the associates were not given a written associate agreement or if that agreement was poorly drafted then it is most likely that they will be held to be employees and therefore have the right to claim unfair dismissal. 

There were a jaw dropping 49,036 unfair dismissal claims submitted to the Tribunal in January to March 2013. 

The statistics released do clearly show that more and more employees are willing to take their employers to Tribunal.

 Avoiding claims is not always easy however 30 years of experience has demonstrated to us over and over that having the right documentation in place and receiving the right advice at the right time can dramatically reduce the risk of practice owners becoming just another tribunal statistic.

GoodmanGrant Solicitors – specialist advisers to the dental industry.

Source – Tribunal Statistics quarter 4 – Jan-Mar 2013


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