There are 5 straightforward steps that significantly increase your company’s chances of winning a tribunal claim.
Step 1: Take Advice
Take advice before you take action. If you want to dismiss someone you should always take legal advice because everyone who is dismissed can bring a tribunal claim. You need to know whether or not you will be able to defend it and, if so, how you are going to do so.
If someone resigns you should also take legal advice. They could also bring a discrimination claim or a constructive unfair dismissal claim. Be safe, not sorry.
Step 2: Take Complaints Seriously
If someone raises a complaint or a grievance, take it seriously. See it as an opportunity to sort out the concern in-house. Investigate it, either in-house or ask someone external to do so. Act promptly and under no circumstances ignore or trivialise it. Taking too long to respond to a complaint can be fatal. If you suspect that a claim is coming, involve your legal adviser and get her input sooner rather than later.
Step 3: A Thorough and Effective Response
If a tribunal claim hits, you need to swing into action immediately. Your Response must be 100% accurate and detailed. It must deal with each and every allegation and put your case forward as robustly as possible. Send it straight to your legal adviser so that she can begin working on the Response and guide you as to what information is needed. There are strict time-limits for defending a claim so make sure that you don't miss them.
Step 4: Gather Information
You need to gather all of the relevant information and documents as quickly as you can. This means gathering a 'bundle' of documents including letters, emails etc.
You will also need to identify your witnesses and speak to them about giving evidence. Your witnesses will be the dismissing officer and the appeal manager in a simple unfair dismissal case. In discrimination cases and claims of constructive unfair dismissal the witnesses can be anyone and so it is important to identify them as soon as you can.
Your witnesses are crucial to your success. Ideally your employment lawyer will meet them as soon as possible and take statements from them. She can then advise you on your chances of success and the right strategy to adopt.
Step 5: Careful Preparation
Preparing for a tribunal hearing is not easy. Your legal adviser will draft your witness statements for you and they need to be thorough and anticipate the Claimant’s case. Cross examination needs to be carefully thought through to achieve the outcome you want. Submissions need to be relevant and persuasive.
Tribunal claims are increasing in number but if you follow these 5 keys steps you will have the best chance of successfully defending them.