More people are looking to the Employment Tribunal for recourse to resolve disputes arising from their employment.
194 applications were received by the tribunal between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2011, resulting in an increase of 15% from last year's figures.
Tribunal chairman David Le Quesne believes this increase is due to the ongoing difficult economic climate, which is placing pressure on employers to reduce costs and on employees to retain their jobs. There can be little doubt that the current economic climate is stress-testing the most resilient of trades and businesses, and that the fall out is likely to cause an additional number of employment-related claims, but is this the only reason for the increase?
Another reason may be the evolution of the tribunal and the law it applies. The tribunal is seen as a more comprehensive forum for dealing with employment disputes and its ascension is considered to be very much in tandem with the brisk development of Jersey employment law. For example, the law was amended significantly in 2011 to move with the times and address the issues surrounding the well publicised increase in redundancy situations. It now helpfully sets out an employee's entitlement to a redundancy payment, provides for paid time off to seek, or arrange training for, future employment and provides a means of enforcement for these provisions.
The tribunal's powers in relation to unfair dismissal awards have also been amended so it has the power to reduce the compensation potentially payable to an employee if that employee has contributed in some way to his or her dismissal. The tribunal also has the discretion to order the re-employment of an unfairly dismissed individual instead of ordering a financial award when it is just and equitable to do so.
The next big step for Jersey employment law and the tribunal is considered to be the implementation of anti-discrimination provisions. The Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service (JACS) has said that it deals with about 350 cases related to discrimination issues each year, for which there is currently no recourse. It is anticipated that anti-discrimination laws will be in force by the end of 2012.
There are also improvements behind the scenes. The tribunal's administration moved from the Department of Employment and Social Security to the Judicial Greffier (who provides administrative and secretarial assistance to the courts in the Island) and this is expected to greatly assist the day-to-day running of the tribunal. A working group was recently established to review how the tribunal operates and report its findings to the chairman and the Minister for Social Security. The tribunal's website is also currently being reviewed, and work is progressing on transferring the tribunal judgments onto the Jersey Legal Information Board website, making the tribunal decisions more accessible.
The tribunal is becoming an increasingly important consideration for both employers and employees. The dynamic nature of employment law in the Island means that both groups are well advised to seek specialist legal advice when confronted with an employment issue for practical guidance and to ensure they understand the latest position.
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