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Telephone: 0131 336 1619

Free EnquiryEmployment Tribunal Solicitor Edinurgh

Worries over rise in types of employment claims

The Tribunals Service has released its latest batch of statistics for the year ending March 31st 2009 - and the numbers make alarming reading.

The statistics record the types of employment tribunals brought throughout the year and across the country, and show a marked increase in the number of unfair dismissal claims brought against employers. Unfair dismissal claims are up 29% and Breach of Contract claims rose by 31% (usually brought around allegations of insufficient notice given for redundancy). But the biggest single increase centred on claims for redundancy pay, up a staggering 48% on the previous year.

Recently, Scottish firm Spirax Binding, which ceased trading at the end of 2008, was ordered to pay former employees compensation after a tribunal declared it had breached the terms of the Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act by failing to notify staff over impending redundancies. Spirax Binding are just one of hundreds of companies hit by the recession whose bosses face similar situations.

Due process

Although the overall figures showed a decrease in the total number of claims brought during 2008-09, it was the sharp increase in the number of individual cases that has caused concern. It seems that the public is now far more aware of the tribunals process and, in a time of economic uncertainty, are using it to their advantage. This is not to say that claims for unfair dismissal are being brought for less than legitimate reasons, but it may have deeper implications for a deterioration in relations between workers and bosses as the economic crisis continues. The sheer number of claims brought for redundancy pay is a clear indication of this, as everyone worries about job security and finances should the worst happen.

It is regrettable that the services of specialists in employment law have never been more in demand, and that looks set to continue the longer the UK stays in the doldrums of a recession that has hit the average worker hard. Companies faced with empty order books and rising costs often have no choice but to close the doors, and this can happen at very short notice. However, it does not justify the fundamental rights of workers being rode roughshod over, and all employers have to realise that due process has to be carried out, no matter how bad the circumstances. In 48% of cases last year, that due process wasnít adhered to, hence the mountain of claims for redundancy pay.

Compliance is essential

The call has gone out, particularly in the hard-hit manufacturing sector, for bosses to ensure that they comply with the letter of the law on employment rights. Redundancies may be inevitable, particularly when companies are faced with tumbling profit margins and a dearth of new business. But that cannot be a legitimate excuse for throwing the rulebook out of the window. Employers have a duty of care to every employee, and that includes during the traumatic period once the 'I regret to inform you' letters have gone out. If in doubt, talk to an expert is the advice that everyone is being given during these testing times.

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