Monday, 17 December 2007

Tribunal claims increase

Shropshire employers are being warned to make sure they’re fully prepared for potential employment tribunals after a huge increase this year.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said national statistics had shown a massive rise in claims for equal pay and sex discrimination.

“The figures for 2007 also include age discrimination for the first time ever, with almost 1,000 claims since the legislation came into force in October 2006. So it’s important that employers take steps to protect themselves as the trend looks set to continue.”

John said companies should make sure they kept employment terms and conditions up-to-date for all their staff, including changes to salary and working hours.

“You should also have a discipline and grievance procedure in place, and more importantly, make sure your staff know it exists and how it works. Train your managers and supervisors to deal with problems as soon as they arise, always following the right procedures, and keep your staff informed of any changes that could affect their working day.”

John said employers should always be seen to be fair in their dealings with their staff, and if redundancies were necessary, they should help the staff affected to find new jobs.

“And no matter how serious the incident may be, never dismiss staff on the spot – there is always a procedure that must be followed.”

“The national increase in the number of employment tribunals is a warning to companies that they need to be fully prepared for possible claims, and that keeping up-to-date with ever-changing legislation is the only way to run a business.”

Young people at risk

It’s not just elderly people in Shropshire who need to worry about age discrimination – younger workers can be at risk too.

That’s the message from John Mehtam, from our Employment Law team.

“For possibly the first time in the UK, an employment tribunal has ruled that a 20-year-old woman was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of her age. This really is a landmark case, as it shows that age discrimination protection applies equally to younger people and more senior staff.

“Hopefully it will give younger people in the workplace the confidence to stand up for their rights, and help them realise they have the backing of the courts.”

John said it was important though that staff were aware that although a discrimination case like this was largely the same as one for an older person, there was also a justification clause.

“This means the younger worker and their lawyer will need to prove beyond doubt that the issue of their age was used to justify the discrimination, and not just that they felt that to be the case.”

But he said that although the case was likely to raise awareness of the issues, it was unlikely to lead to a huge increase in the number of claims.

“Despite the age discrimination being introduced over a year ago to protect workers of any age, statistics show that the majority of cases have been brought by older workers. Younger workers though should be reassured that if necessary, the law is on their side too.”