Employers awash with tribunal claims

Jun 20 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

One employer in four has faced an employment tribunal claim in the past two years after disciplining an employee, with one in five facing a claim after an employee grievance, latest research has suggested.

The survey by the specialist journal IRS Employment Review has also found the most common causes of disciplinary action are poor attendance, poor performance, conduct or behaviour problems and bad timekeeping.

Employees were most likely to take a grievance over bad relationships with their manager or a colleague, it added.

The figures appear to contradict research published last month by law firm Peninsula suggesting that employment tribunal cases brought against employers fell by almost a quarter last year.

The IRS research also looked at the impact of changes that came in last October aimed at preventing employees from going to a tribunal unless they had first taken their claim through their organisation's internal processes.

Nearly all employers – 98 per cent – now had written disciplinary and grievance procedures in place, it found.

Half had changed to their grievance procedure, and nearly half – 47 per cent – had changed their disciplinary procedures as a result of the statutory changes.

HR professionals typically spent 10 per cent of their time dealing with disciplinary and grievance issues, and they believed line managers spent a similar amount of time on the issue.

Most believed their organisation's policies were fair and only 42 per cent thought they could take a more preventive approach.

Some 83 per cent of the organisations polled said they trained line managers to help them deal with grievance and disciplinary matters.

External lawyers were the most common source of advice on grievance and disciplinary issues, with the conciliation service Acas coming second.

IRS Employment Review managing editor Mark Crail said: "Employers have put an enormous amount of work into updating their disciplinary and grievance procedures over the past year.

"Training remains important, however, and it is essential that line managers know when and how to implement the policies," he added.

"Employers must recognise that a certain level of expertise needs to be developed in-house in this area; early intervention will help prevent disciplinary and grievance matters from escalating."