A large number of employers have the challenges of rebuilding the business after the coronavirus lockdown and others also have to ensure that they have a plan to navigate the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. The last thing that is needed is an employment tribunal claim that, win or lose, impacts on a business in the form of time, money and often reputational damage. Daniel Theron, a partner, commented, "Organisations should remember that a discrimination claim, if successful at the Employment Tribunal, has no limit. Also, legal costs aside, the time that is needed to prepare for a Tribunal matter often involving several members of staff as witnesses, can be extremely costly to a business." He further remarked, "An Employment Tribunal matter can also have a demoralising effect on the workforce."
The Ministry of Justice quarter-four report shows that Employment Tribunal claims have risen.
Bullying behaviour in the workplace leading to claims for constructive dismissal should be avoidable as HR departments and managers should be able to head-off such behaviour before it gets out of control. All too often the beginning of the misconduct is viewed as joking or banter which is expected to be taken in good part by the subject. If such behaviour remains unchecked offensive nicknames, jokes, mockery can take a more sinister turn and morph into intimidation, ridicule and bullying. It is all too easy for the jeers to become so entrenched in the culture of the organisation that is it no longer recognised for what it is.
The culture of banter seen in sport, reported the media encouraging jibes such as those directed at the footballers Luke Chadwick whose appearance was commented on and turned into a running joke and Graeme Le Saux who was on the receiving end of homophobic abuse from Robbie Fowler regardless of the fact that he was not gay, all serves to normalise the acceptance of ridicule and offensive remarks.
All businesses should ensure that there is a firm policy to protect the firm from employment tribunal claims arising from such behaviour; strict transparent guidelines as to unacceptable behaviour coupled with zero tolerance towards any employees who breach the policy which offers managers a straightforward and uncomplicated process when dealing with conduct that may have the potential to lead to a claim.
However, there can be difficulties if it is the manager's abuse that causes the problem. Inadequate training and slack monitoring of senior staff can create a toxic situation. In the case of two hotel workers, Andrew Roberts-Evans and Martin Owen, a manager and chef respectively, at the Grapes Hotel, part of the Welsh Estates Group, Maentwrog in Snowdonia were obliged to share a twin-bedded room due to lack of separate staff quarters. Hotel owner Simon Buckley regularly taunted the two straight men quipping that they were a gay couple which both men found offensive and humiliating. Mr. Owen was made redundant and a replacement appointed almost immediately and Mr. Roberts-Evans resigned when he saw his job advertised in a trade magazine. The tribunal found that the two men had been wrongly dismissed addition to being subjected to sexual discrimination and awarded £33,165 to Mr. Roberts-Evans and £23,384 to Mr. Owen; however, there is little chance of receiving their compensation as the company has gone into voluntary liquidation.
Employers must invest in comprehensive training both themselves and their managers in order to prevent a completely avoidable financial and reputational body blow.
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