Employment tribunals: How to protect your business

Blogs 24 Mar 2021

Our guide covers the common causes of employment trials and what your first steps should be if you find yourself faced with one.

Three people sit at a table but are only shown from the shoulders down

Running your own team is rewarding, but if you find yourself being taken to an employment tribunal, it can be daunting, stressful and costly.

From July to September 2020, The Ministry of Justice reported the highest levels of single employment tribunal claims since 2013/14, with the number of tribunals expected to rise this year due to the impact of coronavirus and the end of furlough.

Our legal experts from FSB Legal Protection Scheme explain what is involved in an employment tribunal, the issues that could cause one and the added protection available for FSB members at no extra cost.

What is an employment tribunal?

An employment tribunal takes place when your employee, or potential employee, believes you have treated them unlawfully.

Claims are heard by a tribunal independent of government and could include cases relating to issues such as unfair dismissal, discrimination or unfair pay. You may have to pay compensation if you lose the case.

What could cause an employment tribunal?

There are several issues that could lead to someone taking you to an employment tribunal.

  • Not having a contract of employment, or having one which is unclear, leading to confusion regarding the employment relationship
  • Outdated contracts which haven’t been changed in line with changes to your business operations, such as opening times
  • Slow or late action in response to complaints such as discrimination
  • Failing to follow codes of practice when dealing with disciplinaries or grievances
  • Poor handling of inadequate performance leading to claims of unfair dismissal
  • Not having professional help to advise and guide you to make the right decisions quickly and effectively

I’m facing an employment tribunal, what should I do?

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) will contact you if someone is making a claim against you and offer to solve the issue through conciliation. If a resolution isn’t reached, you’ll receive a letter about your claim, which you must respond to within 28 days.

FSB members should contact the legal advice line before taking any action.

At the hearing, you may be asked to produce documents such as contracts of employment, pay slips, details of a pension scheme and any relevant meeting notes.

You’ll need to present your case to the tribunal, but you can ask someone else to represent you, such as a lawyer.

What extra protection is available for FSB members?

Find out more about the legal protection offered to you through your membership.

 In addition to 24/7 legal advice from our employment solicitors, you’re also protected by our employment tribunal representation cover.

For employment disputes, cover includes legal representation, basic and compensatory awards, and certain financial penalties (Section 12a, Employment Tribunals Act 1996).*

“I saved thousands in legal costs”

FSB member Dan Worsley, a partner at Worsleywear, shares how his membership not only saved him thousands, but gave him access to expert guidance throughout an unfair dismissal case.

Within 12 months of joining, I used the FSB Legal Protection Scheme and was able to access defence in an unfair dismissal case.

I made one phone call and from there FSB held my hand every step of the way to ensure I didn’t make any wrong moves. Even though I won, the expenses are still high with an employment tribunal, so having the insurance protection was excellent. My case was complex but I had guidance throughout.

Just one intervention by FSB as in my case with the unfair dismissal claim saved me £20,000 and more than covers the subscription I will pay throughout my business life, and that’s only a small part of what FSB does.

You can find out more about how FSB membership has supported Dan here.

Legal expenses insurance that doesn’t break the bank

Protect your business against the unexpected. FSB Legal Protection Scheme is designed just for small businesses and is backed by 24/7 legal advice, expert tax guidance and online support - all at no extra cost.

find out more

*Please note, this does not cover pursuit of an action. For memberships that started after 1 November 2020, there is no cover for claims where redundancy, alleged redundancy or unfair selection for redundancy occurs within 180 days of the start of membership.