Carey Olsen seminar examines managing employment tribunal claims

Posted: 13/09/2012

Rachel Richardson-Carey Olsen
Employers have been urged to act quickly and consider key factors such as reputational risk when managing employment tribunal claims, according to Carey Olsen legal experts at a breakfast briefing on Thursday, 6 September.

The breakfast briefing, which is part of the law firm's employment series chaired by litigation partner Mark Dunster, outlined how HR professionals should approach employment tribunals.

Advocate Dunster said: “It is integral that employers have an understanding of how to manage employment tribunal claims should they arise, even though relatively few cases end up in that forum.”

Senior associate Rachel Richardson (pictured) said that employers must respond to employment tribunal claims quickly and must carefully consider the disclosure of documents relating to the claim.

“It is vital that employers turn their attention to organising the documentation that they wish to disclose and do not wish to disclose as quickly as possible. Certain documents may attract legal or litigation privilege and so may be kept out of the disclosure process but everything else could end up before the tribunal and therefore made public. Documents should not be destroyed, and all relevant meetings and discussions should be noted and categorised as soon as possible as it could be months before a hearing is heard and memories will fade.”

Employers must also contemplate the commercial reality of defending a claim. Ms Richardson suggested that employers seek legal opinions to ascertain the likelihood of winning a case and then balance this against the legal costs and management time involved and the impact of media coverage on the organisation's reputation.

Ms Richardson reiterated that there can be much benefit in defending a claim where there are good prospects of success so as to prevent similar claims being brought in the same organisation and that, for this reason, it is vital to get a legal opinion as to the merits of a case at the outset.

Ms Richardson further noted that since 1999, 70 per cent of cases filed in Guernsey have settled before going to an employment tribunal, and employees are often aware of this when bringing claims. This reinforces the importance of employers understanding the commercial reality when responding to a claim.

She added: “Guernsey's employment tribunal hears a range of complaints including unfair and constructive dismissal; discrimination relating to gender, marital status and gender reassignment; victimisation in connection with sex discrimination; and failing to pay the minimum wage. The most common claims heard in Guernsey are cases of unfair or constructive dismissal.”

Ms Richardson recently became the first lawyer in Guernsey to successfully complete a Master of Law degree in employment law.

Carey Olsen's employment seminar series will continue on 28 November, with a breakfast briefing on How Best to Survive the Christmas Party and other Work Socials. This session, back by popular demand, takes a look at HR issues that can result from social events. It will cover relevant case law, health and safety legislation, and implied contractual duties of care. For more information, please contact EmploymentSeminarSeries@careyolsen.com


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