How to Cope with the Threat of Tribunal | Mayo Wynne Baxter | Classic Consulting
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How to Cope with the Threat of Tribunal | Mayo Wynne Baxter | Classic Consulting

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Whether a claim is brought is entirely up to an employee. If there are issues to be judged then an employer will probably have to settle or attend a hearing. This is an unnerving prospect. ...

Whether a claim is brought is entirely up to an employee. If there are issues to be judged then an employer will probably have to settle or attend a hearing. This is an unnerving prospect.

This seminar will show how the defence to a claim starts before the claim is ever made. It will explore how thorough preparation is key to success at a hearing, that witnesses must be credible and consistent and will provide in depth analysis as to how cases are decided.

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How to Cope with the Threat of Tribunal | Mayo Wynne Baxter | Classic Consulting How to Cope with the Threat of Tribunal | Mayo Wynne Baxter | Classic Consulting Document Transcript

  • This  version  of  the  slides  picks  out  the  key  points  made  in  the  session  on  26  September.    The  accompanying  notes  do  not  cover  everything  that  was  discussed,  we  covered  too  much  ground,  but  will  act  as  a  prompt  with  regard  to  the  key  issues.   1
  • We  started  by  looking  at  the  raw  sta?s?cs  produced  by  the  Employment  Tribunal  Service.    The  actual  number  of  Tribunal  claims  fell  from  the  previous  year.    However,  there  are  s?ll  a  large  number  of  claims  made  each  year.    While  they  may  not  all  proceed  to  a  hearing  they  do  have  to  be  processed  and  the  Employment  Tribunal  Service  does  struggle  at  ?mes  to  cope  with  the  claims  as  a  result  of  being  under  resourced.    The  cost  of  the  delays  is  paid  by  the  par?cipants  in  the  proceedings.   2
  • The  average  awards  made  by  the  Tribunal  give  a  beBer  indica?on  of  what  is  at  stake  with  claims  than  the  headlines  made  by  large  awards.    While  awards  in  excess  of  six  figures  are  possible  it  must  be  remembered  that  they  are  largely  based  on  losses.    Most  people  will  not  have  incurred  huge  losses  when  making  a  claim.    Even  when  calcula?ng  averages  we  have  to  be  careful.    The  figures  on  the  leF  represent  the  median  average.    These  are  a  beBer  indicator  then  the  mean  average  listed  on  the  right,  which  can  be  distorted  by  one  or  two  very  large  awards.   3
  • More  costs  awards  are  being  made  and  there  is  poli?cal  pressure  for  even  more  to  be  made.    The  cap  on  the  maximum  amount  that  can  be  awarded  has  recently  been  doubled.    However,  costs  are  not  awarded  as  mater  of  rou?ne  and  will  only  be  if  one  of  the  par?es  has  acted  in  such  a  way  that  the  Tribunal  considers  that  the  other  party  should  be  compensated  in  some  way.    When  compared  to  the  amount  of  claims  there  are  the  number  of  costs  awards  is  very  small.    Both  par?es  have  to  bear  the  burden  of  their  own  legal  costs  which  in  turn  influences  thoughts  on  seBlement.    The  alterna?ve  would  be  to  have  a  system,  as  in  the  civil  courts,  where  the  winner  can  claim  costs  from  the  loser.    However,  not  all  is  perfect  in  that  world  either.   4
  • 5
  • The  first  line  of  defence  is  having  sound  policies  and  procedures.    While  it  may  seem  expensive  and  ?me  consuming  to  draF  them  and  follow  them  they  can  be  a  saviour  in  the  long  term.    Solid  procedures  act  as  a  guide  to  best  prac?ce.    An  employer  can  demonstrate  to  an  employee  that  they  are  doing  the  right  thing  and  this  can  help  limit  the  risk  of  the  employee  automa?cally  thinking  that  they  have  a  claim.    It  is  essen?al  to  follow  the  correct  procedure.    While  only  disciplinary  and  grievance  procedures  are  compulsory  it  helps  to  have  the  other  two  as  well.    Capability  issues  have  to  be  handled  differently  from  disciplinary  issues.    If  someone  is  genuinely  sick  then  they  should  not  be  disciplined,  a  properly  draFed  sickness  management  procedure  is  a  much  beBer  op?on.    Where  an  employee  is  not  genuinely  sick  then  the  employer  can  address  any  related  ac?ons  under  the  disciplinary  procedure  as  this  is  a  maBer  of  misconduct.   6
  • All  procedures  should  be  backed  up  by  good  notes.    If  there  is  a  mee?ng  with  an  employee  under  any  procedures  it  should  always  be  noted.    The  notes  are  essen?al  evidence  to  be  referred  to  at  a  Tribunal  hearing.    They  can  help  prevent  the  prospect  of  the  Tribunal  balancing  one  person’s  word  against  another.    However,  the  notes  must  be  clear.    If  a  Tribunal  cannot  ascertain  the  content  of  the  mee?ng  from  the  notes  then  problems  ensue.    It  is  essen?al  that  they  properly  list  the  points  at  issue  in  the  mee?ng.    They  must  clearly  show  who  said  what.    Finally,  the  conclusion  of  any  mee?ng,  and  what  is  expected  to  happen  thereaFer,  should  be  properly  noted.   7
  • We  discussed  at  length  the  problems  that  people  have  with  remembering  events.    As  humans,  we  only  really  recall  the  last  ?me  we  recalled  an  event.    This  means  that  our  recall  can  change  over  ?me.    Contemporaneous  notes  help  secure  the  recall.    The  longer  you  leave  making  the  notes  the  worse  the  recall  will  be.    If  a  party  has  only  made  notes  a  week  or  so  aFer  an  event  they  will  struggle  to  compete  in  terms  of  credibility  with  someone  who  made  notes  straight  away.  The  events  that  are  being  inves?gated  at  a  disciplinary  or  grievance  mee?ng  are  not  usually  recorded  in  wri?ng  at  the  ?me.    GePng  witnesses  to  apply  pen  to  paper  as  soon  as  possible  is  impera?ve.     8
  • This  slide  and  the  discussions  around  it  con?nued  the  mantra  of  having  proper  notes  and  documents.    WriBen  evidence  is  essen?al.    Why  do  lawyers  keep  going  on  about  having  contracts?    Because  a  well  draFed  contract  means  both  sides  have  greater  certainty  about  what  the  agreed  terms  are.   9
  • The  ET1  is  the  Claim  Form  and  the  ET3  is  the  Response  Form.    For  the  employer  the  ET3  is  the  first  ?me  that  they  get  to  put  their  side  of  the  story  forward.    A  Tribunal  will  refer  to  it  at  the  hearing.    It,  therefore,  needs  to  be  right.    There  is  only  a  limited  amount  of  ?me  to  complete  an  ET3  but  ?me  and  energy  must  be  spent  at  this  stage  to  make  sure  that  the  story  is  straight.    Any  subsequent  variance  will  undermine  the  case  to  be  made.    Make  sure  your  witnesses  fully  understand  that  what  they  have  to  say  at  this  stage  must  be  consistent  with  the  evidence  they  give  under  oath  at  the  hearing.   10
  • 11
  • The  burden  of  proof  in  the  civil  courts  and  the  Tribunal  is  at  a  lower  level  than  in  the  criminal  courts.    This  is  both  good  and  bad  news.    An  employer  will  be  expected  to  make  its  decisions  on  maBers  such  as  dismissal  on  the  balance  of  probabili?es.    As  useful  as  this  may  be  a  Tribunal  can  also  find  against  an  employer  using  the  same  threshold.   12
  • A  hearing  can  involve  a  lot  of  wai?ng  around.    Tribunals  will  not  see  the  witness  statements  and  documents  un?l  the  first  morning  of  a  hearing.    They  need  to  read  them  before  baBle  commences.    This  means  that  the  par?es  have  to  go  back  to  their  respec?ve  wai?ng  rooms  and  wait  for  the  reading  to  be  completed.    The  Tribunal  used  to  ask  witnesses  to  read  out  their  statements  but  this  is  now  covered  off  in  the  reading  session.    As  a  result,  the  witnesses  have  no  ?me  to  get  comfortable  and  will  immediately  be  faced  with  cross-­‐examina?on  under  oath.    Witnesses  must,  therefore,  be  properly  prepared  and  fully  familiar  with  their  statement  and  all  of  the  documents  set  before  the  Tribunal.   13
  • By  way  of  illustra?on  we  looked  at  a  couple  of  cases  based  on  football,  in  keeping  with  our  venue  (the  Amex  Community  Stadium  –  home  of  Brighton  &  Hove  Albion  Football  Club).    One  of  the  cases  that  we  looked  at  was  that  of  John  Terry,  the  Chelsea  and  England  footballer.    At  the  ?me  only  his  criminal  case  had  reached  a  conclusion.    We  also  looked  at  the  FA  Commission’s  outcome  on  the  Luis  Suarez  case.    Very  usefully,  this  case  set  out  how  the  Commission  dealt  the  evidence  and  the  approach  it  was  taking  to  arriving  at  a  conclusion,  something  not  usually  dealt  with  in  such  detail  in  Tribunal  judgments.    References  were  made  throughout  the  judgment  that  back  up  the  need  for  consistent  case  presenta?on  and  the  problems  that  can  result  when  different  versions  of  events  are  presented  by  the  same  side.    It  also  illustrated  how  much  can  be  read  into  the  way  a  witness  conducts  themselves  at  a  hearing.    When  it  came  to  the  John  Terry  case  we  looked  at  how  the  higher  burden  of  proof  can  influence  a  decision.    As  we  now  have  the  findings  of  the  FA  Commission  on  the  John  Terry  case  this  contrast  is  more  evident.    In  the  criminal  court  there  was  reasonable  doubt  on  the  part  of  the  Magistrate  and  John  Terry  was  acquiBed.    The  FA  Commission  was  judging  John  Terry  on  the  balance  of  probabili?es  and  found  him  guilty.    Interes?ngly  John  Terry  chose  not  to  give  evidence  in  person  to  the  Commission.    One  suspects  because  he  was  advised  that  this  may  show  up  some  inconsistencies  in  his  story  when  it  was  examined  at  the  lower  threshold.    Nonetheless,  the  Commission  shone  the  light  on  them  without  his  assistance  and  he  was  found  guilty  of  the  charges  he  faced.   14
  • These  are  only  the  highlights  of  the  changes  that  could  be  coming  our  way  with  regard  to  Employment  Law.    Further  proposals  for  change  have  arisen  out  of  the  Conserva?ve  Party  Conference.    Please  let  me  know  I  you  would  like  further  informa?on  on  the  proposals  for  change.   15
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