Last month I wrote about the impending online publication of all new employment tribunal decisions. In particular I highlighted the importance of this development for employers, notably SMEs, who might find that they have details of their businesses and procedures exposed to an extent not seen before. Appeal judgments have been available for years but this is the first time that first instance employment tribunal judgments have been made easily accessible by the general public.
The system is now live at www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions. So what are the first impressions? Well, it’s easy to use and, as I expected, there is a powerful search facility. A search of “Liverpool” produced two employment tribunal decisions, one concerning claims of direct race discrimination and unfair dismissal against a local nursing home. The judgments are available as downloadable pdfs.
There is also an RSS feed. Those familiar with the technology will know that RSS is generally regarded as standing for “Really Simple Syndication”. It is a way in which websites, blogs and even email clients such as Outlook can take automatic feeds from the website so that new content is automatically added whenever the page is updated. It is therefore a way in which the published tribunal decisions will reach a much wider audience than just those who happen to visit the government website.
It will also be possible for people to set up background searches, for example using Google Chrome. Google, like many other search engines and related tools, has a feature which allows people to set up alerts so that they are emailed whenever the relevant search term appears. Professional organisations have even more sophisticated tools for news gathering and this new resource will dramatically increase the range of content available to be accessed by them.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the website is that the content is not confined to new judgments. Available judgments date back as far as May 2015 so it must therefore be assumed that there is no time restriction on the judgments that may be published. Presumably judgments will be added over time so there remains a fair chance employment tribunal judgments from some time ago could suddenly appear.
The real problem for employers is that, even if claims are successfully defended, the details in the judgments could expose operational details which they would much rather keep to themselves, such as security, HR procedures and financial information. For example, an employer having engaged in a redundancy exercise might find that financial details relating to the business and used to support the need for redundancies might be disclosed and discussed within the judgment.
A further problem is that employees can often make multiple claims with a view to putting maximum pressure on the employer/former employer. For example, discrimination claims are often made in conjunction with a complaint of unfair dismissal and even if the claims are unsuccessful and shown to be without foundation the fact that the allegations have been publicly aired and considered is often sufficient to cause reputational damage even if they are ultimately rejected.
Then there are the cases in which employers think that they have gone to considerable lengths to follow correct procedures but find that they have lost on a technicality, which everyone then gets to find out about.
As I highlighted last month, the advent of the publication of employment tribunal decisions provides the perfect prompt for those SMEs who haven’t already done so to make sure that they have adequate employment law support and insurance. In most cases insurers will be content to recommend settlement in borderline cases and, for those claims that do proceed to a tribunal, it is more important than ever to ensure that legal representation is available and properly funded. You can find out more about our competitively priced services by clicking here.