By Max Clarke

Businesses that don't train their managers to engage fully with employees and comply with the latest employment legislation leave themselves open to costly and time consuming employment tribunals, Bibby Consulting & Support has warned.

The specialist in employment law and health and safety legislation was responding to the new 'Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals Statistics 2010-11' published by the Ministry of Justice and the HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

The main finding of the report was that the number of employment tribunal claims overall went down last year by 8 per cent from the previous year, which is great news for Industry. However, there were significant increases in claims relating to the European Working Time Directive (up by 20 per cent), age discrimination (up by 32 per cent), and regulations for part-time workers (almost trebled).

The report also showed that of the 244,000 claims that were concluded, the largest number (39 per cent) related to unfair dismissal, breach of contract and redundancy, while 16 per cent of claims were for unauthorised deductions and 11 per cent were for equal pay.

Michael Slade, Managing Director of Bibby Consulting & Support, said: "It is good news that the overall number of claims has gone down, but it is very worrying indeed that there has been a major increase in complaints relating to part-time working and age discrimination.

"On closer examination of the age discrimination awards the figures are staggering. While the average awards made for race, sexual orientation, sex, or disability discrimination run at £11,551, the average award for discriminating based on age was £30,200, almost three times the average of all other claims. Clearly, this should be a major watch point for employers who should review their current policies and levels of staff training and competence to ensure they are not left vulnerable to such claims."

Another interesting point from the report showed that around a third of claims are withdrawn before they get to tribunal – this suggests that a substantial number of workers are making claims that have no substance. Business owners and senior managers should be asking themselves what makes employees do this and how the problem can be tackled, Slade said. And even for claims that are withdrawn, managers will still have had to invest time and effort in preparing their case, taking their eye off things that would otherwise help to drive the business forward.

Slade added: "A happy workforce is less likely to want to take its employer to a tribunal, so companies need to get much closer to their staff. They need to have a process in place which enables employees to air their grievances without feeling the need to take legal action."

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